The case of the ‘Drummer of Tedworth’ is one of the most famous episodes in the history of witchcraft. It involved a poltergeist which, in the early sixteen-sixties, haunted the house of John Mompesson, a landowner, excise officer and commission officer in the militia, who lived at North Tidworth on the Wiltshire-Hampshire border.1 In March 1662, Mompesson intervened in the case of a drummer, William Drury, who had requested money from the local constable at the neighbouring village of Ludgershall on the basis of a pass which turned out to be counterfeit. Mompesson had the man arrested (although he was later freed) and his drum confiscated; subsequently, in April, it was sent to his house at Tidworth. Thereafter, he and his family were assaulted by thumpings, tattoos of the drum and other noises. There were also scratchings, panting like a dog, sulphurous and other smells, and strange lights; in addition, objects were thrown around the room, beds were elevated, horses lamed and the like. These disturbances continued over several months into 1663, despite the fact that for part of this time Drury was incarcerated at Gloucester on a charge of theft. Meanwhile, the case became well known, and many people visited Mompesson's house to witness the strange occurrences for themselves.
The notoriety of the case stems largely from its central position in one of the most famous works on demonology ever published, that by the divine and apologist for the new philosophy, Joseph Glanvill. A lengthy narrative of the Tedworth case first appeared in the version of Glanvill's book entitled A Blow at Modern Sadducism. In Some Philosophical Considerations about Witchcraft, published in 1668, and it remained equally prominent in the omnibus Saducismus Triumphatus: or, Full and Plain Evidence Concerning Witches and Apparitions (1681), brought out after Glanvill's death by his mentor, the Cambridge Platonist, Henry More, who had encouraged Glanvill in his investigation of the case in the first place.2 Not only was the case prominent in the various editions of Glanvill's own book, it was further propagated by subsequent, more derivative demonologists, such as the New England cleric, Increase Mather, in his Essay for the Recording of Illustrious Providences (1684), and the Scot, George Sinclair, in his Satans Invisible World Discovered (1685).3
The significance of the case was increased by the attacks to which its verisimilitude was subjected. We shall encounter verbally-expressed scepticism about the case in the course of this article, but a scathing attack appeared in print in John Webster's Displaying of Supposed Witchcraft (1677), in which the ‘strange tricks related by Mr Glanvil’ were dismissed as ‘abominable cheats and impostures’, and to which the posthumous recension of Glanvill's book was intended as a riposte.4 Later, the events were criticized at greater length by Balthasar Bekker in his classic exposé of witch beliefs, The World Bewitched (1692–4), again inspiring discussion, notably by John Beaumont in his Historical, Physiological and Theological Treatise of Spirits, Apparitions, Witchcrafts, and other Magical Practices (1705).5 Thereafter, the case formed the inspiration for Joseph Addison's sceptical play, The Drummer; or, the Haunted House (1716), while its continuing notoriety is illustrated by William Hogarth's famous print, ‘Credulity, superstition and fanaticism: a medley’ (1762), in which a thermometer calibrating enthusiasm is surmounted by the figure of a drummer with the legend, ‘Tedworth’.6 Hogarth there associated such beliefs with Methodism, and the Tedworth case was indeed championed by John Wesley, whose family had been the victim of a similar poltergeist in 1716–17, and who reprinted Glanvill's account of it in the Arminian Magazine in 1785.7
In the nineteenth century, the Tedworth incident continued to be the subject of a mixture of curiosity and scepticism. Glanvill's account of it was reprinted by the antiquary, Sir Richard Colt Hoare, in his History of Ancient and Modern Wiltshire (1826), and by the spiritualist, Robert Dale Owen, in his Footfalls on the Boundaries of Another World (1860), while it was lampooned, along with comparable cases, by the graphic satirist, George Cruikshank, in his Discovery concerning Ghosts, with a Rap at the ‘Spirit-Rappers’ (1863).8 Subsequently, the episode received renewed attention in connection with a debate over the nature of poltergeists between A. R. Wallace, Frank Podmore and Andrew Lang in the publications of the Society for Psychical Research in the years around 1900, in the course of which various documents relating to it were reprinted.9 A further lengthy account was published in a comparable context by Harry Price in 1945.10 It has also featured in books on the history of witchcraft, such as Wallace Notestein's classic History of Witchcraft in England (1911) or, more recently, Rossell Hope Robbins's Encyclopaedia of Witchcraft and Demonology (1959), in which it merits a full-length entry, or Darren Oldridge's The Devil in Early Modern England (2000), which includes a long extract relating to it.11
Such accounts of the case have almost invariably been principally based on that published by Glanvill, but, since the early twentieth century, certain ancillary published sources have also been well known. One is a ballad about the case by Abraham Miles that evidently came out in February 1663, A Wonder of Wonders; Being a true Relation of the Strange and Invisible Beating of a Drum, at the House of John Mompesson, Esquire, at Tidcomb[sic]in the County of Wilt-shire.12 In addition, a report on the case appeared in two newspapers in April that year, Mercurius Publicus and The Kingdoms Intelligencer.13 These, together with a handful of brief references in contemporary diaries, letters and the like, will be alluded to as appropriate in the course of this article. Here, it is worth noting that the drummer's name is known only from the report in the newspapers, being nowhere given by Glanvill; this also reveals that he hailed from the hamlet of Uffcott in the parish of Broad Hinton near Swindon.14
However, what have hitherto been almost entirely overlooked are various accounts of the case which predate all the other extant sources; the bulk of these have survived only in manuscript, and a text of them is appended to this article. One is an unsigned account of the affair written by someone who had visited the Mompessons’ house and witnessed the events there, which survives among the state papers; although filed under 1667, it clearly dates from 1663.15 At one point, the experiences recorded overlap with Glanvill's as recorded in his later, published account of the case; indeed, the manuscript overlaps in general terms with Glanvill's work, although it is differently worded and the events are set out in a different order. It is thus possible, as we shall see below, that this is Glanvill's own earliest account of the case, the differences between it and his later published one being explicable in terms of its being out of his hands when he came to write A Blow at Modern Sadducism.
Much more significant, however, are various documents relating to the affair which survive in copies made by the Oxford antiquary William Fulman, which are now in the archive of Corpus Christi College, Oxford.16 These have also hitherto been virtually unknown with the exception of the first, a letter from the victim of the affair, John Mompesson, to the Oxford professor William Creed, which survives in two other copies. One of these is in the collection of another Oxford antiquary, Anthony Wood (who also preserved the only extant copy of the ballad about the case), where it is given the title ‘The Demon or Devill of Tidworth in Wilts, in the house there of Mr. . . . Mompesson’.17 The other is known only through a text published by Harry Price in 1945 from a manuscript in private hands which cannot now be traced.18 The group of documents copied by Fulman comprises this and two further letters from Mompesson to Creed, together with three associated documents: a commentary on the events at Tedworth, evidently also by Mompesson; a letter on the subject to him from his cousin, the Wiltshire M.P. Sir Thomas Mompesson; and a related letter from a neighbour to an Oxford don. Comparison of these with Glanvill's published account suggests that he relied on copies that he was given of various of Mompesson's letters to Creed – the printed version frequently quotes these earlier texts almost verbatim, and derives virtually all of its factual content from them.
Yet, what is crucial about these texts when they are compared with Glanvill's book is that they illustrate a quite different set of reactions to the events that took place at Tedworth in 1662–3 from those that have been familiar hitherto, showing an interesting pattern of evolution that Glanvill almost entirely elided in his composite account. In particular, Mompesson's own attitude seems to have evolved from a rather puzzled and anxious one to a more assured position as he was offered models of response and explanation that helped him to cope with the disorder in his house, although he was forced to reconsider his position when sceptical critiques of the phenomena emerged. The new texts thus valuably illustrate the process of constructing ‘narratives’ of witchcraft and related phenomena with which historians have recently become preoccupied, and especially the way in which a plausible rationale was sought for events, and how this might change.19 Equally interesting is the extent to which Glanvill's own position evolved, as revealed by the differences between the earlier and later recensions of his published account, which have also previously gone unnoticed. Having initially embroidered Mompesson's account to present the poltergeist at times almost flippantly as evidence of the reality of the diabolical realm, Glanvill later removed the light-hearted passages that he had inserted, evidently in response to the scepticism with which his book was received in certain quarters. All this will here be illustrated by a commentary on the newly-divulged texts and their relationship to Glanvill's magnum opus, while this also provides an opportunity to give a full narrative of the case, correcting certain errors, especially of dating, which have bedevilled accounts of it up to now.
The principal documents may be presumed to have been copied by Fulman from texts once owned by William Creed, a Wiltshire cleric who was regius professor of divinity at Oxford from 1660 until his death on 19 July 1663, and who was also related by marriage to John Mompesson.20 Creed apparently intended to write an account of the affair, but his death prevented him from doing so, and instead it was Glanvill who undertook this task.21 In a letter to Henry More of 13 November 1663, Glanvill explained that Mompesson ‘was pleased to give mee all his letters, which were sent to the Doctor of the Chaire att Oxford, that contained an account of all the remarkeable perticulars of the whole disturbance’. On the basis of these letters he sought to compose ‘a perfect Narrative with some of my Remarques’, and in his published account he specifically stated that his narrative was ‘extracted from Mr Mompesson's own Letters. The same particulars also he writ to the Doctor of the Chair in Oxford’.22 The implication, therefore, is that Glanvill followed a directly parallel set of texts in the form of Mompesson's retained copies of these letters, which do not otherwise survive: this is confirmed by the fact that, as has already been noted, Glanvill's narrative of the events – although not his commentary on them – follows the texts published here almost word for word.
The core of these items comprises a series of letters signed by the man in whose house the disturbances occurred, John Mompesson. Its author, born in 1623, was the son of a clergyman of the same name who had held the parish of North Tidworth in plurality with that of Codford St. Mary, and who had been called before the parliamentary authorities for royalist sympathies in 1646.23 His uncle was the notorious Jacobean monopolist, Sir Giles Mompesson, while his cousin, Thomas Mompesson, was a Wiltshire landowner who had been entrusted, on his father's early death, to the guardianship, among others, of Sir Edward Nicholas, secretary of state to Charles I and Charles II, whose seat was at Winterbourne Earles in Wiltshire. In 1655 Thomas Mompesson had raised a force in support of Penruddock's rising and he thereafter went into exile in France before returning to England at the Restoration, when he regained his estates, became M.P. for Wilton and in 1662 secured a knighthood for himself and the Wiltshire excise farm for his cousin, John.24 Apart from the episode with which we are concerned, John Mompesson, who was buried at North Tidworth on 29 May 1696, is a rather shadowy figure, but he clearly played a significant role in the affairs of the village and its neighbourhood, for instance arranging a levy on his neighbours for poor relief in 1656.25
The first of Mompesson's letters to Creed, dated 6 December without year, but clearly from 1662, provided a narrative up to the point when it was written. It recounted the events that led to the case, namely Mompesson's intervention at Ludgershall in March 1662, when the drummer had attempted to obtain money from the constable on the basis of a forged pass, his arrest, the confiscation of the drum, and its subsequent dispatch to his house at Tidworth. It then laid out the trials that stemmed from this: over the following weeks Mompesson and his family – his wife, at least three children and his widowed mother, who was evidently permanently domiciled with them – were assaulted by various strange noises, which are detailed in the letter. There was an intermission while his wife was in labour, and following the birth of her child, but thereafter the disturbances recurred, now being targeted particularly on the children of the house. Mompesson specifically singled out the events on 5 November, when a servant had a tussle with a board which moved in a strange way and when the occupants of the house were affected by a strange sulphurous smell. It is clear from the account that, by the time the letter was written, many ‘strangers’ were visiting the house to witness the events that took place: indeed, Mompesson noted how these ‘have troubled me half as bad as the spirit’. Evidently these visitors included divines, who had already invoked witchcraft as a likely explanation of the phenomena.
Towards the end of the letter, Mompesson again referred to the drummer (although at no point does he name him, it is clear from other sources that Drury is referred to). He explained that he was by this time in gaol at Gloucester on a theft charge; that he had been in the parliamentary army (hence, perhaps, explaining the royalist Mompesson's initial suspicion of him); and that, although a tailor by trade, he ‘went up and down the Countrey to shew Hocas pocas feats of activity’, thus implying that Drury had an existing reputation as a ‘cunning man’. Mompesson also darkly indicated his intention to take matters further ‘as soon as he comes home’. Lastly, Mompesson requested advice on the matter from Creed and from another Oxford don, Thomas Pierce, president of Magdalen College, who had bought a large estate at Tedworth earlier that year, and whom Mompesson asked Creed to show what he had written.26 In a postscript, Mompesson added: ‘I have often thought that if any learned men had made these observations that I have done, he might have discovered much of the nature of these spirits’, thus alluding to the role which Creed might have taken had it not been for his premature death.
However, what is most striking about the letter – and what contrasts with virtually all subsequent accounts of the case, derived from Glanvill – is its tone. To some extent, there was a sense of puzzlement: initially, attempted burglary had been suspected, and even when the drumming came to the fore, Mompesson at first warmed to it with the enthusiasm of a militia officer (‘as truely and sweetly as ever Drum beat in this world’). On the other hand, what comes across most strongly is a sense of anxiety, almost of strain, about these strange phenomena, especially those that occurred from 5 November onwards. Apart from the noisome smell, of which Mompesson said ‘I must confesse I never doubted whether I should be able to stand my ground till that time’, we learn of recourse to repeated prayer sessions, involving the local minister, as a way of trying to remove the poltergeist. We also hear of Mompesson's concern that ‘many I suppose may be ready enough . . . to judge that this comes upon me for some enormous sin or other’. He answered this with a lengthy passage expressing his humility before God, acknowledging God's mercies to him and the grace that had strengthened him against these assaults, and warning others to ‘take heed how they censure others in these or the like cases, lest they prove themselves not so good as they should be’. He also showed a rather apocalyptic view of the devil's role in the affair.27
In its querulous tone, the letter bears some relation to the earliest source concerning the poltergeist that has been generally known, Abraham Miles's ballad, A Wonder of Wonders, which opened by urging repentance on the grounds that such events ‘shew Dooms-days nigh’. This rather apocalyptic attitude towards the case was echoed in a memorandum written a little later by Anthony Wood himself, who noted this and other cases of ‘the devill let loose to possess people’, along with prodigious births and other preternatural phenomena which he clearly found unsettling.28 Indeed, the apprehensive mood is reminiscent of the famous Mirabilis Annus tracts of the early Restoration, in which abnormal events were reported in an atmosphere of anxious expectation. Moreover, whereas the motivation for reporting such cases in those publications was clearly subversive, the fact that Mompesson and Wood shared this unsettled attitude is revealing of the prevalence of a similar mindset in the early years of the Restoration.29
The letter was sent to Creed via Mompesson's cousin, Sir Thomas Mompesson, and was accompanied by a letter of the same date from Mompesson to Sir Thomas which does not survive. What is extant is the latter's response, dated 11 December, evidently because John Mompesson later enclosed it with his letter to Creed of 4 January 1663. Sir Thomas's letter is revealing in illustrating the acceptance of the reality of witchcraft, and the degree of knowledge about it, to be found in the landed classes at the time – highlighting a further contemporary consensus which it is easy to underestimate in retrospect.30 He had consulted his mentor, Sir Edward Nicholas, on the subject, who, on the basis of a similar occurrence that he had heard about in France, offered an elaborate strategy for trying to flush out the witch (who, tellingly, Sir Thomas presumed to be female). This involved a large number of men slashing into the air at random with their swords in the hope of wounding her: it was possibly a garbled recollection of this piece of advice concerning the case to which John Aubrey later referred in connection with the question of whether spirits could suffer bodily harm, writing how ‘one advised Mr Mompesson of Tydworth, to shoot suddenly and at randome in the aire’.31 Sir Thomas made two further related points: first, that the plan should not be discussed in or near the house, since the witch was probably invisibly present even when it was not audible; and second, that more than one witch might be involved in a ‘Rendezvous’.
This is a crucial letter, since it seems to have suggested to Mompesson both a strategy for dealing with the phenomenon and a set of explanations to be tested which affected his behaviour over the next few weeks. The result was to give him a more confident and positive attitude, which is reflected in his second letter to William Creed, dated 26 December. This letter also suggests that the reaction to events of Mompesson and his family was galvanized by other explanatory strategies put forward at this stage by those who came to the house; these, too, seem to have influenced the nature of the events that were perceived to take place, and the language used to describe them. In particular, Mompesson mentioned near the start of his letter how ‘A neighbour coming and discoursing with my Mother, told my Mother that she had heard storyes of Fayries, that did use to leave money behind them in Maydens shooes, and the like’. This again seems crucial, since, if Sir Thomas (preceded by visiting divines, as it seems from the first letter) had invoked the commonplaces of demonology in relation to the case, this was supplemented by a folkloristic dimension of fairies and goblins and the stories of their erratic intervention in human affairs that circulated widely in early modern England.32 This, too, was reflected in the developments that now occurred.
Hence this second letter to Creed (which was also later to be heavily drawn upon by Glanvill), although still ambivalent, displayed a more optimistic tone than the first. It told how the drumming was replaced by a strange jingling of money round the house after Mompesson's mother sardonically riposted to the neighbour's story about the fairies that the poltergeist should leave them money in recompense for the trouble they had been caused. There was also the story of the door catch striking a little boy who went to relieve himself during the night (Glanvill bowdlerized the purpose of his mission, but otherwise recounted and embellished it). In addition, Mompesson was the source of a passage that Glanvill was to repeat and elaborate, concerning the confrontation between the spirit and Mompesson's servant, John, which Mompesson himself introduced in this letter with the phrase ‘I shall acquaint you with some Mirth we have with it’. On the other hand, what is apparent from these passages, but not from Glanvill's composite retelling of the story, is the extent to which the family's perceptions were affected by the advice they had now received. Mompesson actually used the term ‘Goblin’ to describe John's invisible adversary, while it seems likely that Mompesson approved of his servant's martial encounter with the spirit not least because of the extent to which it cohered with the strategy that Sir Thomas had advocated. In addition, the way in which the chinking of money at night picked up on a conversation at noon the same day clearly reflected Sir Thomas's comments about the spirit's being present and alert even when not audible. His words were reflected even more clearly in Mompesson's statement that they had discovered a ‘Rendezvous’ of spirits, exactly echoing his cousin's terminology, while also relevant was Mompesson's statement that they had ‘discoverd’ the spirit's fear of weapons and of ‘much light’, again suggesting an investigative attitude based on the agenda that Sir Thomas had set. The letter also gave information about Drury's magical practices that had evidently come to light over the intervening weeks, while, of the other details it divulged, it is perhaps revealing that the discovery of Mompesson's mother's Bible in the ashes of the chimney was seen as a ‘trick’, whereas earlier it might have been taken as a more sinister anti-Christian gesture.
On the other hand, Mompesson continued to complain about his plight, even if showing a more pragmatic attitude than in his earlier letter. Thus, he repeated his grievance about the problems caused by incessant visitors, mentioning how he had received requests for visits from ‘persons of great quality’. He observed that the disturbances meant that he was inhibited from going about his normal business since he was reluctant to leave his wife alone in the house at night. Perhaps most revealing was his complaint about ‘the unrulynesse of Servants who apprehend that if they leave me, none other will come to me, and so they are become my Masters’. Indeed, it is perhaps worth noting here the suspicion of certain commentators on the case that the servants may themselves have been complicit in the disturbances. One of these, the miscellaneous writer John Beaumont, heard a rumour that ‘it was done by two Young Women in the House, with a design to scare thence Mr Monpesson's Mother’, and, as we shall see, similar suspicions were voiced by Christopher Wren.33 Yet Mompesson responded to his problems with the same evangelical fortitude that he had expressed in his first letter, in particular voicing an argument which is not found there and which may have been suggested to him by visitors to the house, namely that the hardships that he had endured were worthwhile since those who visited the house were convinced of the reality of spirits.
By the time of Mompesson's next letter, dated 4 January 1663, he had received a response to his initial missive from his Oxford clerical advisers, Creed and Pierce, whose opinions on the matter he professed to value highly. Unfortunately, neither of their letters is extant, but from Mompesson's comments one can glean that, among other things, they must have told him, first, that opinions on the matter among Oxford intellectuals were mixed, and, second, that they did not altogether approve of the antics of John. It was to justify the latter that Mompesson now sent Creed his cousin's letter, many details in which, he significantly noted, they had ‘experimentally found to be true as the Letter mentions’.
Mompesson also reported further developments. One of these was the appearance of strange lights, also reported by Glanvill, although he did not note that it was specifically Mompesson's wife who saw one of them which was ‘very blue and glimmering, and caused as she thought some stiffnesse on her eylids’; another was the perception of a ghost in rustling silk. There was also the interrogatory knocking in the presence of various gentlemen: the spirit was invited to confirm by responding to a set number of knocks whether it was the drummer who had set him to work, which he duly did. On this, Mompesson gave a revealing commentary which Glanvill omitted in recounting the story. In part, this shows that the idea of prosecuting Drury mentioned in his first letter was still in Mompesson's mind (‘This I suppose is no evidence to a Jurie, for the Devil ought not to be believed’), but this was followed by a passage illustrating more clearly than ever how these phenomena were being interrogated in terms of commonplace early modern views about ghosts and the like: ‘yet I suppose it may be an argument that this Spirit comes not to discover any murthers committed, Treasures hidden, or the like’.34
Perhaps the most revealing feature of this letter is the lengthy passage that follows concerning some visitors who were sceptical about the whole affair. They were apparently the first to adopt this attitude, since in his previous letter Mompesson had specifically told Creed that ‘there were never any yet that came to see it, but were satisfied’; indeed, he argued that the devil had achieved something of an own goal in this respect. These visitors, however, were different. They smiled when the spirit initially failed to appear on cue, and they declared to two ministers who were present ‘their diffidence of the being of Spirits’. When the knocking ultimately did occur, they searched the room for crannies where someone might hide, and they requested Mompesson's permission to take up the floor boards, which he refused. They also ‘calld out Satan, Doe this, and that, and, Whistle if thou canst, or let us see where [whether] thou canst tell money, or make chaires dance, as we have heard, let us see it’. Mompesson's reaction was revealing of the difference between his attitude and that of these sceptics, who he thought were inviting God's wrath by their rather frivolous attitudes: ‘I protest I was afraid at their cariage, and begd of them to be more sober and to withdraw themselves’, he noted, although they took no notice, and he told Creed that ‘I shall be more carefull how I admit strangers for the future’. Worse still, they ‘departed with some kind of suspicion that what they heard was onely a cheat or a fancy’ for which Mompesson, as householder, was implicitly responsible, and he therefore ended the letter by protesting his rectitude in strongly evangelical terms, reiterating his hope that good would come of the affair by convincing unbelievers.
There are two further documents in the group copied by Fulman. One is a letter of 6 January 1663 from William Maton, a gentry neighbour of Mompesson's, who was to act as a deponent concerning the case when it came to the assizes later that year, to his nephew, Francis Parry, a don of Corpus Christi College, Oxford.35 (It is worth noting that it could have been through Parry that Fulman, also a fellow of Corpus, obtained the whole group of manuscripts.) Maton briefly recounted the strange phenomena that had occurred, ‘enough to convert an Infidel’, noting that the details could be obtained from ‘the Letter you saw of Doctor Creeds’. This may have encouraged Parry to make a brief trip to Tedworth himself, since the final document opens with a reference to ‘the day Mr Parry returned to Oxford’. This last item is not set out as a letter; instead, it gave a matter of fact narrative of the events in the Mompesson house on a daily basis from 10 to 21 January. It is almost like a kind of ‘natural history’ of the phenomena, intended to be kept as a record; it is perhaps revealing that, in his letter to Creed of 4 January, Mompesson had requested in a postscript: ‘keep I pray my Papers together’. The document divulged additional revealing details, giving the names of further visitors, in this case members of Wiltshire gentry families related to the Mompessons. It described Sir Thomas Mompesson's strategy being tried, with the spirit in Mompesson's daughter's bed being threatened by ‘naked swords’–‘but it was so swift that we could not thrust it without indangering her’. It also recorded the tormenting of a smith who shared Mompesson's servant's chamber and the strange heat by which the children's bedroom was affected, as later recorded by Glanvill, and gave certain other details that he did not bother to include. Chronologically, it is evidently the latest in date of this group of papers, and at this point the series terminates.
The account of the case that survives among the state papers was apparently composed at about the same time as this undated document, and it must date from January 1663, despite the fact that it is filed under 1667.36 This gave prominence to the same events of 5 November as did Mompesson's first letter to Creed, but it went on to summarize some more recent developments, many, although not all, of them overlapping with the events recounted in Mompesson's subsequent letters: the most significant topic mentioned in it which is not to be found in any of the other documents is the episode when the phantom drummer was puzzled by a new tune. It also gave a more self-conscious gloss on the tormenting of the smith in the form of an allusion to the legend of the devil and St. Dunstan. This paper was evidently based on oral testimony rather than on the written accounts dealt with here, since events were presented in a different order and certain of them were conflated. (In this respect, it is perhaps to be compared with Abraham Miles's ballad, published in February 1663, which again recounted a selection of the events that had transpired, probably on the basis of oral testimony.37) However, the state papers account also included details of a visit to Tedworth by the author of the piece, who had witnessed the poltergeist in the children's bed. Although the events described overlap with those in Mompesson's letters, the tone of the piece is rather different: it is written in an impressionistic, almost journalistic way, describing the events, although ‘strange’, as ‘tricks’, and giving an impression of a ‘boisterous’ yet intriguing atmosphere. Its presence in the state papers implies that it was sent to court, perhaps with a view to arousing interest in the affair there.
Although the author of the paper is not identified, and although the extant copy is not in his handwriting, a strong candidate for its authorship is none other than Joseph Glanvill, since various aspects of the author's experiences in the children's bedroom as reported in this paper recur in almost identical autobiographical terms in Glanvill's published account of the case. Certainly, we know that Glanvill visited Mompesson's house in January 1663, since a letter is extant from him to the Presbyterian divine Richard Baxter, dated 21 January, which explains ‘I came yesterday from Mr Mompesson's house at Teidworth’– although it lacks a year, the letter is addressed to a house where Baxter resided only in January 1663.38 Glanvill noted that he had heard that Baxter would like an account so that he could publish it, evidently alluding to Baxter's interest in such matters, which reached its climax in his Certainty of the Worlds of Spirits (1691), although he had included briefer sections on related matters in earlier books.39 Glanvill added that ‘I came thither upon the same designe, & was an eye & eare witnesse of many thinges which the Infidell world will scarce beleive’, a narrative of which would prove ‘as palpable & convictive a Testimony against Atheism as this age hath afforded’. Indeed, he reported – perhaps consciously echoing the sentiments of Mompesson – that ‘some Hobbists who have been there, are already convinced, and those that are not so are fain to stick to their opinions against the evidence of their sences’. Although he added that ‘My occasions will not give mee leave at present to informe you of perticulars’, stating that Mompesson himself was ‘not willing to have a Narrative publish't, till the disturbance bee over’, it is clear that he was already at work on an account of the affair, of which the state papers text may represent the initial recension.
Glanvill's interest in the matter is not surprising, since in 1662 he had published Lux orientalis, in which he argued in favour of the Platonic doctrine of the pre-existence of souls, and hence an imminent and populous spirit world, a topic which established an immediate rapport between him and Henry More. Glanvill had already established himself as an anti-Aristotelian in The Vanity of Dogmatizing (1661), in which he made various respectful references to More but showed no evidence of acquaintance with him.40 Their friendship probably began when he sent More a copy of Lux orientalis, for which More immediately became an enthusiast.41 More had long been interested in witchcraft cases as evidence of the reality of the spiritual realm, and had devoted Book Three of his Antidote against Atheisme (1653) – dedicated to his confidante, Lady Ann Conway – to a series of lengthy accounts of such phenomena: it seems likely that Glanvill was inspired by this to his own comparable writings. On the basis of a letter from More to Lady Conway, dated 31 March 1663, we know that by then he had received ‘a narration’ of the Tedworth case ‘from a very sober hand, an eye witness of part of those feats’– almost certainly Glanvill.42 This might have been a text similar to that surviving in the state papers, or it might have been a fuller narrative bearing some relationship to the version which Glanvill was to publish in 1668, although it is not clear exactly when Glanvill obtained access to the documents by Mompesson which we have already surveyed and which his later account was to follow so closely.
It is perhaps worth noting here that, although the bulk of Glanvill's later account was based on Mompesson's letters to Creed, the latter part of it included some information not to be found therein, covering events of which one was dated ‘About the beginning of April, 1663’.43 The additional information included a handful of extra details about events that were covered in the letters, particularly the fact that the bible found in the ashes was open at the passage in St. Mark's Gospel concerning Christ's casting out evil spirits.44 Some entirely new events were described, including the spreading out of ashes on the floor and the appearance of a claw mark in them; the occasion when Mompesson shot at a pile of wood that appeared to move and blood was found; further assaults on the children of the house; the sighting by his servant of ‘a great body, with two red and glaring eyes’; the appearance of spikes in Mompesson's and his mother's beds; the story of a gentleman's money turning black in his pocket; and the occasion when a horse was found with one of his hind feet caught in his mouth, which had to be levered out by several men.45 This may imply that Mompesson sent Creed a further account which William Fulman failed to transcribe along with the others; alternatively, the details could derive from a letter from Mompesson to Glanvill himself. That his source was a written one is suggested by Glanvill's concluding comment: ‘After this there were some other remarkable things; but my account goes no farther: Only Mr. Mompesson told me, that afterwards the house was several nights beset with 7 or 8 in the shape of men, who, as soon as a Gun was discharged, would shuffle away together into an Arbour’.46
At this point it is appropriate to turn to events stemming from Drury's arrest and imprisonment at Gloucester on a theft charge, to which Mompesson referred in his first letter to Creed. Mompesson gave a fuller account of these events in a letter to the bookseller James Collins, dated 8 August 1674, which was published in Saducismus Triumphatus in 1681 – the details can be substantiated by references in legal and other records, including the newspaper report already referred to. Drury's case came up at the Gloucester assizes on 31 March 1663, where he was found guilty of stealing two pigs, successfully sought benefit of clergy, was condemned to be branded but had this remitted when he was sentenced for transportation.47 However, when he and others were put on a barge to be carried to the vessel in which they were to be transported, Drury jumped overboard and escaped back to Wiltshire, where he purchased a new drum.48 Mompesson had actually gone to Gloucester to learn the outcome of the case, and was on his way home when he learned of Drury's escape.49 He thereupon had him indicted as a felon under the Jacobean witchcraft statute ‘with suspicion of practising Witchcrafts, and so causing the troubles that had been in his house for above these twelve months’: this makes sense of his speculation on the validity of spectral evidence in his letter to Creed of 4 January 1663, and he recapitulated this evidence in his deposition.50 The evidence against Drury was heard before a Wiltshire J.P., Isaac Burgess, and Drury's and Mompesson's depositions were published in Mercurius Publicus and The Kingdoms Intelligencer in April 1663.51 The case came up at the Wiltshire assizes at Salisbury on 3 August. No official records survive, but, as Mompesson explained in his later letter, ‘the Grand Jury found the Bill upon the Evidence, but the Petty Jury acquitted him, but not without some difficulty’.52 However, Drury was still in trouble over his previous conviction and escape from custody; on his acquittal, he was not released but removed back to Gloucester gaol by a writ of habeas corpus to await the arrival of the judges of the Berkshire circuit on 19 August and an arraignment for his escape. He was again sentenced to transportation, and presumably began a fresh life in the New World.53
How much longer the disturbances at Mompesson's house continued is unclear. By this time, the new sources have dried up, but there is evidence from other sources. In a letter to More dated 13 November without year, but evidently written in 1663 (as is confirmed by a report of it in a letter of similar date from More to Lady Conway), Glanvill noted, in response to More's enquiries, that he had ‘very lately’ visited Mompesson, and had learned from him ‘that the Drummer was banished, and that since his banishment his house had been very quiet’. His report to this effect had been delayed by illness, and he went on to state that the day before writing to More he had received a letter from Mompesson ‘to desire mee to come over to speake with him about his old Troubler, which he sayes hath now invaded him againe. The house had been quiet 9 weekes during the absence of the Drummer; but he escaping as soon as he was come home, the disturber returned . . . Strange thinges are reported of the Drummer's escape, but I can yet give you no certain account’.54 The chronology of this is puzzling: the ‘one perticular passage’ that Glanvill said that Mompesson acquainted him with, and which he specifically noted occurred the night before he wrote the letter – a horse with its hind leg in its mouth – was recorded in Glanvill's 1668 account in conjunction with an event dated to April 1663. This could be the result of careless drafting, but it tallies better with what is known about Drury's movements from the legal records.
On the other hand, it seems likely that ‘strangers’ continued to visit the house and to be regaled about the events there. We know of two such expeditions through the account of them included by John Aubrey in his Natural History of Wiltshire, although unfortunately without indicating exactly when they occurred. Aubrey tells of visits to Tedworth, first, by his close friend, the lawyer Anthony Ettrick, and Ettrick's patron, the Dorset landowner Sir Ralph Bankes, and second, by Sir Christopher Wren and an unnamed companion. Bankes and Ettrick ‘lay there together one night out of curiosity, to be satisfied. They did heare sometimes knockings; and if they said “Devill, knock so many knocks,” so many knocks would be answered. But Mr Ettrick sometimes whispered the words, and there was then no returne’. Aubrey himself interjected at this point: ‘but he should have spoke in Latin or French for the detection of this’ (a standard trope of demonology). Wren also
lay there. He could see no strange things, but sometimes he should heare a drumming, as one may drum with one's hand upon the wainscot; but he observed that this drumming was only when a certain maid-servant was in the next room; the partitions of the rooms are by borden-brasse, as wee call it. But all these remarked that the Devill kept no very unseasonable houres: it seldome knock't after 12 at night, or before 6 in the morning.55
The case also attracted interest at court; indeed, it was possibly this which the account in the state papers had been intended to stimulate. In a letter to Lady Conway of 31 March 1663, Henry More not only claimed that ‘A gentleman that lives near the place and slow enough from believing any such things’ had affirmed ‘that this is certainly true, and that hundreds and hundreds of men could witness it’, but also reported how Lord Robartes, later earl of Radnor, ‘carryed Mr Montpesson himself to the King who heard all the story, my Lord being by, who after by Dr Carr a fellow of our Colledge, sent me particular notice of it, with the assurance of the truth thereof’.56 The case is referred to in the second part of Samuel Butler's satirical poem, Hudibras, first published in 1664, and evidently reflecting fashionable gossip of the previous year, which told how ‘some/Have heard the Devil beat a Drum’,57 while it also featured in a conversation about spirits with the courtier and diplomat, Lord Sandwich, ‘both at and after dinner’ on 15 June 1663 recorded by Samuel Pepys in his Diary. Pepys noted that Sandwich was
very scepticall. He says the greatest warrants that ever he had to believe any, is the present appearing of the Devil in Wiltshire, much of late talked of, who beats a drum up and down; there is books of it, and they say very true. But my Lord observes that though he doth answer to any tune that you will play to him upon another drum, yet one tune he tried to play and could not; which makes him suspect the whole, and I think it is a good argument.58
It was perhaps to adjudicate such conflicting opinions of the affair that two courtiers were sent down to Wiltshire ‘to examine the truth of it’, the queen's chamberlain, Philip Stanhope, second earl of Chesterfield, and Charles Berkeley, earl of Falmouth, on behalf of the king. We have a retrospective account of the matter by the earl of Chesterfield, who was clearly unconvinced, writing curtly that ‘wee could neither see nor heare any thing that was extraordinary, and about a year after his majesty told mee that hee had discovered the Cheat, and that Mr Monpesson (upon his Majesties sending for him) had confes'd it to him’, and expressing indignation that Mompesson was later to deny this. Noting Glanvill's subsequent publication of ‘the strang things that he saw, felt, and heard there’, Chesterfield added: ‘where probably having been frighted and deceived, he hath by his book endeavoured to deceive Posterity’.59
The king's further meeting with Mompesson, and his inducing him to confess to him, is unfortunately evidenced only by the earl's comment and by rumours that circulated at the time, but it seems highly plausible.60 Equally plausible is another development, regrettably only explicitly reported in an even less reliable source, a pamphlet on the case issued in 1716 in connection with Addison's play of that year, The Drummer. This stated, in connection with Chesterfield's and Falmouth's visit to Tedworth, that ‘unluckily, for the Credit of the Dæmon, no Noise, no Disturbance happen'd that Night; and upon this, the Earl of Rochester, and other Wits of the Age, endeavour'd to turn the whole Story into ridicule. It was pretended, That the House was rented, and‘twas a Device to beat down the Value; that it was a Trick to get Money from those that came to see the Prodigy, and the like’, although the anonymous author added that these arguments were rebutted by those who believed the phenomenon genuine.61 In fact, the sceptical arguments cited exactly echo the first two of those refuted by Glanvill in his commentary on his 1668 account of the affair, and it is quite likely that this simply represents a hack writer's embroidery of the earlier work, extrapolating from a reference to ‘something that passed between my Lord of R– and your self about my troubles, &c.’ in a letter from Mompesson to Glanvill of 8 November 1672 that was included in Saducismus Triumphatus in 1681.62 On the other hand, it may represent a genuine memory of Rochester's active role in promoting scepticism about the affair, which would be wholly in character.63
Be that as it may, there can be no doubt that scepticism both about the Tedworth poltergeist and about such phenomena more generally was widespread, and it was this that Glanvill's published account of the affair was intended to refute. Its progress was slow, apparently at least in part due to reluctance on the part of Mompesson, who, Glanvill told Henry More in a letter of 13 March 1667, ‘is, for reasons which I doe not know, grown cold & backward in the buisiness. I earnestly solicitt him by all opportunityes for the remaining particulars, but receive no answere to my importunityes, or such as are dilatory putt offs’.64 The Tedworth case was not included at all in the first version of Glanvill's A Philosophical Endeavour Toward the Defence of the Being of Witches and Apparitions (1666), which was reprinted in 1667 as Some Philosophical Considerations Touching the Being of Witches and Witchcraft following the destruction of the bulk of the first impression in the Fire of London. Only in the 1668 version, now entitled A Blow at Modern Sadducism, did an account of the events at Tedworth finally appear, and the fact that the narrative peters out at the point early in 1663 noted above may reveal not that the events really ended then, but that Glanvill had given up hope of the further particulars that he had been importuning Mompesson to provide.
The 1668 recension dealt with the case in two sections. One was Glanvill's narrative of it, presented with a separate title-page, Palpable Evidence of Spirits and Witchcraft: In an Account of the Fam'd Disturbance by the Drummer, In the House of M. Mompesson, with the running head, ‘The Dæmon of Tedworth’. It was introduced by a dedication to the virtuoso and fellow of the Royal Society Lord Brereton, in which Glanvill urged the Royal Society to conduct ‘a Cautious, and Faithful History’ of spirits, of which this would no doubt form part.65 In addition, in the accompanying section, which in a further edition of the work issued later in 1668 was given a separate title-page, A Whip for the Droll, Fiddler to the Atheist: Being Reflections on Drollery & Atheism. Sent, upon the occasion of the Drummer of Tedworth, In a letter to the most Learned Dr Hen. More, D.D., Glanvill responded to sceptical arguments about the case, including those associated with Rochester and the wits in the 1716 pamphlet already quoted. He went on from this to attack ‘the Reasons men are so apt to cavil at this kinde of Relations’, which ‘are chiefly, I think, an affected humour of Drollery, and Scoffing, and a worse cause, ATHEISM’.66
It is in this context that we must now examine the relationship between the narrative of the case in Glanvill's book and the earlier accounts of it divulged here. That the published version was based either on Mompesson's letters or on virtually identical texts is shown by the exactness with which the two match one another. (In addition, the narrative of the encounter with the poltergeist in the children's bed closely echoed that to be found in the state papers.) On the other hand, Glanvill elaborated the earlier texts in various ways. To some extent he wrote in a more literary manner and elucidated matters for the benefit of the reader. In addition, he added at the end a lengthy disquisition on issues arising from the case. Thus, the probity of the witnesses, including Mompesson himself, was strongly emphasized, on the grounds that ‘the credit of matters of fact depends much upon the consideration of the Relators; and if They cannot be deceived themselves, nor supposed any wayes interessed to impose upon others, we may, and we ought to acquiesce in their reports’. There was also a riposte to the argument that the failure of the emissaries from the king and queen to encounter the spirit proved that it did not exist, by analogy with the fact that it would be unwise to presume that there were no robbers at large just because you had never seen one. In all, it made a point of describing everything that transpired with the greatest possible verisimilitude, on the grounds that ‘matter of Fact is not capable of any proof besides, but that of immediate sensible Evidence’.67 In other words, what we have is very much the discourse that we have come to see as characteristic of Restoration science, here put to strongly apologetic purposes in emphasizing the reality of the spirit realm against sceptics.68
Yet, what is striking is how both the anxious, evangelical tone of Mompesson's initial account and the strategy suggested in Sir Thomas Mompesson's letter to him are almost entirely elided. The ‘great mercy’ of the intermission of the spirit's activity during Mrs. Mompesson's childbirth became a ‘civil cessation’; the recourse to prayer just one detail out of many; while Mompesson's anxiety that some might see the affair as ‘the Judgment of God upon him, for some notorious impiety’ was mentioned only as further evidence of how this honest man had suffered, in conjunction with being accused of fraud.69 Even more striking is the way in which, at the points where Mompesson's account included codas recording recourse to prayer or querulous self-doubt, Glanvill instead introduced slightly whimsical asides, for instance suggesting that a temporary intermission in the spirit's activity occurred because ‘perhaps the Laws of the Black Society required its presence at the general Rendezvous elsewhere’.70 On the other hand, Glanvill took up and elaborated Mompesson's account in his second letter of the confrontation between the demon and Mompesson's servant, John, which (echoing his source) Glanvill introduced by begging leave ‘to be a little less solemn’. But he made it more literary in tone, altering the order of Mompeson's narrative to conflate two different passages, and embellishing the whole episode in terms of mock heroic:
There was John engarison'd, and provided for the assault with a trusty Sword, and other implements of War. And for some time there was scarce a night past, without some doubty action and encounter, in which the success was various . . . And for the most part, our Combatant came off with honour and advantage, except when his enemy outwatch'd and surprized him, and then he's made a prisoner, bound hand and foot, and at the mercy of the Goblin . . . But enough of plaisance upon the occasion of John's Chivalry, and Encounters.71
This elision of the serious tone represented by Mompesson's initial reaction to the case, and the complementary intensification of the more confident attitude reflected by his subsequent letters to Creed, reveals a telling shift in religious sensibility on Glanvill's part. What we see is a rejection of the pious introspection which we might be inclined to describe as ‘puritanical’, but which clearly reflected a broader mentality insofar as it was shared by a loyalist family like the Mompessons, in favour of a more assertive, self-confident attitude – cheerfully accepting and almost celebrating the reality of a divine dispensation in which God was pitted against a diabolical realm, and able to joke about it. Indeed, it is interesting that both Glanvill and his mentor, More, happily talked about ‘tricks’ and ‘cheats’ in this context, meaning not that these had anything to do with the human fraud that sceptics invoked in such cases, but that such trickery was only what was to be expected in the devil.72 Hence, it seemed only appropriate to use wit to give a little light relief to a narrative vindicating the reality of the phenomena involved, evidently reflecting the rhetorical use of humour to add ‘salt’ to a more serious argument.73
On the other hand, by the time that the revised version of Glanvill's account came out in 1681, it had been significantly altered, and this appears to reveal a further cultural shift, mirroring the way in which informed opinion on the case developed over the intervening period and the way in which Glanvill reacted to this. In fact, although not published until 1681, in the aftermath of the published assault on the veracity of the affair in John Webster's Displaying of Supposed Witchcraft (1677), the preface to the new recension made it clear that the revised version had been prepared some years before this, reflecting Glanvill's reaction to sceptical opinion orally expressed.74 We have already seen how the story was current that Mompesson had confessed to the king that the whole thing was a fraud, and knowledge of this seems to have become increasingly common. In a letter to Glanvill of 18 November 1670 Richard Baxter told him that:
Some gentlemen of quality and parts coming purposely to me, to heare what more instances I could give them of Apparitions and Witches than I have printed, (telling me of the very great increase of sadducees that will believe no other evidences, & importuning me (in vaine) to print the instances I gave them), when Mr Mompessons story (published by you) was mentioned on the by, they assured me that it goeth currantly now among the saducees (at court and the Innes of Court) that Mr Mompesson hath confessed that it was all his own jugling done onely that he might be taken notice of &c. I intreate you (from them) to acquaint him with the report, & wish him if it be false (not for his own honour so much as for their sakes that are hardened by it) to publish some vindication or contradiction.75
Stimulated by such reports, Glanvill took the trouble to solicit a letter from Mompesson dated 8 November 1672 which was published in the 1681 recension of Glanvill's book, in which Mompesson acknowledged
that I have been very often of late asked the Question, Whether I have not confessed to His Majesty or any other, a Cheat discovered about that affair. To which I gave, and shall to my Dying-day give the same Answer, That I must bely my self, and perjure my self also to acknowledge a Cheat in a thing where I am sure there was nor could be any.76
But worse was to come, since word seems to have got around that Glanvill himself no longer believed in the veracity of the affair. Now, there is not the slightest evidence that Glanvill ever had any such doubts; instead, it is tempting to see this as a clever ploy by the sceptics – and here one could well imagine the artful involvement of Rochester – which stimulated the serious-minded king's chaplain to telling exasperation as he sought to rebuff them, thus no doubt adding to the joke from their point of view. In the preface to the new edition of his book, in answer to the accusation ‘that Mr. Mompesson and my self, have confessed all to be a cheat and contrivance’, Glanvill wrote:
Concerning this, I have been asked a thousand times, till I have been weary of answering, and the Questionists would scarce believe I was in earnest when I denied it. I have received Letters about it from known Friends and Strangers out of many parts of the Three Kingdoms, so that I have been haunted almost as bad as Mr. Mompesson's House. Most of them have declared that it was most confidently reported, and believed in all the respective parts, that the business was a Cheat, that Mr. Mompesson had confessed so much, and I the same: so that I was quite tired with denying and answering Letters about it. And to free my self from the trouble, I at last resolved to re-print the Story by it self with my Confutation of the Invention that concerned me, and a Letter I received from Mr. Mompesson (now printed in this Book) which cleared the matter as to him.77
As an aside, it is worth noting that similar rumours seem to have been spread concerning a more august figure who had long been associated with the defence of the reality of witchcraft, the aristocrat and natural philosopher, Robert Boyle (who Rochester and his friends, incidentally, are known to have found something of a joke).78 In 1658, Boyle had orchestrated the publication of an English translation of an account of one of the most famous poltergeists in early seventeenth-century France, The Devil of Mascon. Yet in 1677–8, when asking Boyle for additional cases of witchcraft to include in the extended version of his book then in preparation, Glanvill wrote:
I have bin often told of late that you do now disown the story of the Devill of Mascon, & that a clear imposture hath bin discover'd in it. The like hath very falsly bin reported of Mr Mompesson, & my self, in relation to that story. So that I am apt to think that this also concerning you, may bee a contrived falshood, (for by such, <some> men endeavour to run down all things of this kind) & therefore I most humbly begge you would please to lett mee know, if there bee any truth in this so confident a report.
Of course, Boyle replied that, on the contrary, he believed as strongly in the Mascon story as ever, indeed that its truth had been confirmed by his conversation with ‘a learned & intelligent Traveller’ who had been there more recently.79 But what is clear is the effectiveness of the ‘contrived falshood’, in Glanvill's phrase. It seems likely that – inspired by the story of Mompesson's supposed confession to the king – someone was cleverly spreading such rumours. Moreover, Glanvill had no doubt that those responsible were the leaders of fashionable opinion whom he associated with the court and the coffee-houses in London, and especially with the circles of ‘wit’. He saw these as having a vested interest in presuming that all cases like that at Tedworth were fraudulent, and that it was inconceivable that God or the devil could intervene in the world in so direct a way. What is more, the rumours worked, in the sense that clearly the credibility of such beliefs was seriously undermined by them. This aspect of the case thus reveals the crucial role in bringing about cultural change of fashionable opinion; by comparison, the writings of a man like Glanvill were arguably more peripheral.80
It is interesting to study the reaction to this counter-attack of Glanvill and his posthumous editor, Henry More, as illustrated by the 1681 and subsequent editions of Saducismus Triumphatus. Apart from the inclusion of the letters and preface already referred to, the other principal changes were as follows.81 First, the elaborate dedicatory epistle to Lord Brereton was removed; Brereton had died in 1680, but, since the Royal Society had never responded to Glanvill's fulsome request for a natural history of ‘the LAND of SPIRITS’, this might have seemed something of a hostage to fortune in any case. More striking was the excision of the various direct and slightly whimsical allusions to the devil and his minions which Glanvill had introduced in place of Mompesson's outbursts of piety in the 1668 version, thus making a marked change to the overall tone of the text.82 Glanvill had himself complained in his 1668 text how his antagonists bolstered their case by ‘a loud laugh upon an idle tale of a Devil, or a Witch’,83 and it is almost as if he had now come to feel that the use of mirth as a weapon by the sceptics made it less appropriate for a humorous element to appear in the orthodox case.
On the other hand, Glanvill strengthened the detail on ‘matters of fact’, giving the names of certain people who had witnessed the strange events at Tedworth,84 while a similar motive impelled him to include more and more ‘relations’ of demonic activity in the world in the book as a whole. Equally interesting, additional detail was added concerning Glanvill's own experience of the poltergeist and his attempts to establish that what he felt and saw could not be explained away by fraud or panic on his part. He explained how
This passage I mention not in the former Editions, because it depended upon my single Testimony, and might be subject to more Evasions than the other I related; but having told it to divers Learned and inquisitive Men, who thought it not altogether inconsiderable, I have now added it here. It will I know be said by some that my Friend and I were under some Affright, and so fancied noises and sights that were not. This is the Eternal Evasion.
More striking still, in the course of giving extra detail about the strange scratchings that he heard, he stressed how he
searcht under and behind the Bed, turned up the Cloaths to the Bed-cords, graspt the Bolster, sounded the Wall behind, and made all the search that possibly I could to find if there were any trick, contrivance, or common cause of it; the like did my Friend, but we could discover nothing. So that I was then verily perswaded, and am so still, that the noise was made by some Dæmon or Spirit.85
Although the extra stress on fact was perhaps only to be expected, it is nevertheless interesting how the abandonment of wittiness was accompanied by this greater accent on verisimilitude and integrity. Arguably, Glanvill's emphasis on his own experiences, and the way he had been convinced by them, is indicative of a further trend in Restoration Anglicanism – the increased stress on sincerity and moral earnestness which was to become typical of latitudinarian divines.86
The new detail about the development of the case given here illustrates that it had an interesting trajectory. Having started as a symptom of the anxious, perplexed world of the early Restoration – the world of the Mirabilis Annus tracts – it then acquired a new dimension thanks to the input of the tropes of demonology and of fairy beliefs, as Mompesson was offered a strategy and an explanatory framework that helped him to approach the phenomena with greater confidence. This was then itself transmuted into the confident, rhetorical assertion of an orthodox agenda in the hands of Glanvill, with an appeal to ‘matters of fact’ being juxtaposed with a comfortably ironic tone in relation to the reality of the devil and his works. But what is equally important is the way in which both approaches were undermined by outright scepticism, of the kind that initially disarmed Mompesson in late December 1663. Although Glanvill and More believed that their synthesis of seriousness and wit might overcome this, instead it proved unstable, as more extreme forms of confident rationalism of the kind that Glanvill attacked in A Whip for the Droll undercut the assertion of factuality which lay at the heart of his case. It is thus interesting that, in evident response to this, Glanvill abandoned the less serious passages with which he had salted his original account, instead adopting the persona of injured truth-teller in his continued attempt to vindicate the reality of the phenomena against their fashionable detractors. From this single episode, we learn much about the history of Restoration thought.
1. John Mompesson to William Creed, 6 December 
- Top of page
- 1. John Mompesson to William Creed, 6 December 
- 2. Sir Thomas Mompesson to John Mompesson, 11 December 1662
- 3. Mompesson to Creed, 26 December 1662
- 4. Mompesson to Creed, 4 January 1663
- 5. William Maton to Francis Parry, 6 January 1663
- 6. Untitled and undated notes by Mompesson
- 7. Account of the Tedworth affair in State Papers
Based on William Fulman's copy of the text in Corpus Christi College, Oxford, MS. 318 fos. 161–2. This has been collated with (1) Harry Price's version of the copy of the letter formerly in the possession of H. Fetherstonhaugh-Frampton, J.P., of Moreton, Dorchester, but now untraceable, published in H. Price, Poltergeist over England (1945), pp. 394–8, and (2) the copy in the hand of Anthony Wood in Bodleian Library, MS. Wood 467, following item 2, entitled ‘The Demon or Devill of Tidworth in Wilts, in the house there of Mr. . . . Mompesson’. At the end of his copy, Wood has added the note: ‘I have a Ballad of this matter which came out in 1663.’
Collation of the three copies reveals that the Fetherstonhaugh-Frampton version is virtually identical with Fulman's, differing only in very minor ways, most of which can be explained as transcription errors, although in a few cases it has different readings which have here been recorded in endnotes. With Wood's copy, however, there are far more differences. Most of these have been ignored, for instance differences of orthography and punctuation (not least the fact that Wood throughout used an ampersand where Fulman wrote ‘and’) and various extra paragraph breaks. There are also innumerable minor differences in wording between Wood's version and the others – probably suggesting that Wood emended the text as he copied it – which have also here been ignored.87 In this text, only substantive differences of wording have been noted, including Wood's interpolations (and his misleading dates). Wood's text has been used to fill a handful of places in the text where Fulman left a short blank; these are here given in square brackets. Places where Fulman's text is damaged have been silently filled from Wood's version. For Mompesson (1623–96), Creed (c.1616–1663) and their roles in the affair, see above.
I cannot but take my selfe to be very highly obliged to you, in that you are pleased to be so respectfull of me in this businesse. My Wife and selfe were both much troubled as soon as you were gone, that we had utterly forgotten to acquaint you with it:88 I shall now give you a true Narrative of it, and as briefely as the nature of it will permitt me.
In the middle of Marchiii last, being at a neighbour towne called Ludgarshall, and at the Bailyffs house, I heard a Drum beat, and inquired the occasion of it, the Bailyff told me they had been with the Drummer, who had been with the Constables to demand money, by virtue of a Passe which he produced, but the Bailyffe thought was counterfeit, so I sent to the Constable to bring him from an Alehouse where he was, to the Bailyffes house to me, which accordingly was done, I then demanded of him by what authority he demanded money of the Kings Subjects, and how he durst menace them for not giving him money; he told me [he] had good authority and produced his Passe and a Warrant under Sir William Cawleysiv hand and seale and Colonell Ayliffes of Gretenham, persons I both knew well and was acquainted with their hand-writing;89 I presently saw it was forgd, I commanded him to put of his Drum, and told him I would seize that by my authority, and chargd the Constable to carry him to the next Justice of Peace to be proceeded against. The fellow then confest that he had gotten it to be made and beggd of me for his Drum. I told him, if I might understand from Colonell Ayliffe (whose Drummer he pretended to be) that he had been formerly an honest man, he should have his Drum again, but whereas he pretended to have been a souldier for the King &c: I could give no credit to a man taken in forgery. So I left the Drum at the Bailyffes, and the Drummer in the Constables hands, who upon much intreaty let him goe; About the middle of April the Drum was by the Bailyffe sent over to my house;v I was then preparing for a London Journey: Upon the fourth day of May when I came home againe from London, my Wife told me that my house had like to have been broken up, and they had been much affrighted in the night with thieves, I rejoiced with her at the deliverance, and after I had been at home three nights, itvi was come againe, so I arose and tooke some pistols in my hand, and went up and downe the house, and heard a strange noise and hollow sound, but could not see any thing: I must confesse I did at first doubt it to be what it proved to be, because I was confident no theives would adventure themselves in that manner. So then it came oftner, five nights,vii and be absent three, and in such course that we could guesse when it would come, and thumpe very hard all in the outside of my house, and constantly came when we were going to sleep, whether early or late.viii For a month it continued in the outside of my house, and then it came to the roome where the Drum lay, being my Mothers Chamber, where he was thrown under a board, for my children did use to knock and play with it, and shee delighting [in] their company caused it to be put there.90 There it would be foure or five nights in seven, and make very great hollow sounds,ix that the windowes would shake and the bedds, and come constantly within half an houre after we were in bed, and stay almost two houres, and when it came we could heare a perfect hurling in the aire over the house, and when it went away many times the Drum beat the same point of Warre that is usually beaten when guards breake up as truely and sweetly as ever Drum beat in this world and so continued in that roome for two months, I laying there all the time to observe it, and though I could take no rest at the fore part of the night, yet after two houres time (except it were now and then) it was all very quiett. We often tried what prayer would doe, and sometimes it would move a litle way, and sometimes it would not. After this it began to goe into other roomes over it,x and keep the same noyse still, though with some addition. Sometime it would imitate the happering of peasexi upon boards, the shoing of horses, the sawyers, and many others, but, God be praised, my Wife drawing neer her time of childbed, it came a litle that night she was in travaile and forbore the house for three weeks untill shee had her strength againe, and this was indeed a great mercy. We then hoped we had been free, but it returned with mighty violence and applied it self wholly to my youngest children, whose bedsteeds it would beat, when there have been many strangers as well as ourselves present in the roome, that we did at every blow expect, they would have fallen inxii pieces, and we hold our hands upon those bedsteeds all the while, and could feel no blowes /fo. 161v/ but feele them shake extremely, and for an houre together play the tune called Roundheads and Cuckolds goe digge, goe digge,91 and never misse one stroke,xiii as sweetly as skillfully as any Drummer in the World can beat, and thenxiv the Tattoo and severall other points of Warre. Then it will runne under the bed-teeke,92 and scratch as if it had iron talons, and heave up the children in the bed, and follow them from roome to roome, and come to none else but them. There being but onexv cockloft in the house where itxvi was never observed to have been above stayres, I put those children there, and put them in bed whilst it was faire day light, and it came before they were covered in their beds; The fift of November in the morning, it kept a mighty noise, and one of my men observing in the roome where the children lay that there was two boards stood edge long and did seem to move, he said to it, Give me that board;xvii the board came within a yard of him, he said againe, Nay, Let me have it in my hand; it came homexviii to his very foot, he shuft it back again to him, and so from one to another at least twenty times, but I forbad such familiarity: and that morning it left in that roome a sulphureous smell, which was very offensive, but staid not long: I must confesse I never doubted whether I should be able to stand my ground till that time, but, I thank God, we have no more of those noysome smells. At night Mr Cragge our Minister and many of my Neighbours came to me,93 we went to prayer by my Childrens bed sides, where itxix was very lowd, it went at that time of Prayer into the cock loft, and when we came away it returned, and in our presence and sight the chaires did walk about, the childrens shooes were tost over our heads, and every loose thing throwne about the roome, a bedstaffe was throwne at Mr Cragge and hit him in the legg, but so softly that a lock of wooll could not fall more softly. I perceived it persecuted those litle children so much [that I] lodged them at a neighbours,xx and took my eldest daughter about ten yeares old into my chamber where itxxi had not been in a month: as soon as shee was in bed, that was there too, and has continued so about three weekes, and still beats the Drumme, and let us knock at any time, it will hearken and knockxxii the same presently, and play any tune of the drum that we bid it: I was forc't the other night to bring my youngest children home, the house where they laid being full of strangers; and we could not remember that itxxiii had ever been in our parlour where we dine and sup, and therefore laid in some beds about the ground and lodged our children there, but the drum came, and they were pulled by their night geare and their hayre,xxiv each of them had a pluck and so away: I must I doubt remove them againe, for I see the devill has most malice, where there is most innocency.
I have often after prayer followd it and conjur'd it in the name of God to appeare to me & declare the reason of its troubling this place so, but I could never see any appearance neither any of my people.
Sir, you may imagine that I have reason enough to suspect this Drummer, by what hath been allready said; and indeed I had prosecuted him ere this but that I was prevented, for he layes now in Gloster Gaole for stealing of hoggs.94 When I inquired into his conversation, I found that he had been in the Parliament Army foure yeares, and when he came home he wrought a litle time at his trade, being a taylor, but continued not long at work, but went up and down the Countrey to shew Hocas pocas feats of activity, dancing through hoops and such like devices, but as soon as he comes home I shallxxv visit him, for I am informed that he spake words which if proved, it may goe hard with him.
Here have been many spectators as well Divines as others, persons of judgment, who doe all conclude it to be witchcraft, and the truth is, it doth so many anticke things impossible to relate, that there is no great question I think to be made of it. Yet I know we live in an uncharitable and censorious age, and many I suppose may be ready enough (and have been as I am told) to judge that this comesxxvi upon me for some enormous sin or other; for my own part I am far enough from justifying my self; I know I have deserved farxxvii greater punishments at the hand of God then these have yet been, but had my conscience accused me ofxxviii such particular crying sin I should scarcely have indured this, for sure my own guilt would have driven me farxxix enough from it, and men were best take heed how they censure others in these or the like cases, lest they prove themselves not so good as they should be, whilst they take others to be worse than they are. And sure the rule of Gods providence is no more revealed to these Censurers than to others. /fo. 162/
Besides if they doe but look on Gods mercyes to us in it (which I beseech him give us grace never to forgett) it may allay that severity of judgment in them; for when they see the Devil roaring and raging,95 and ready every night about our beds to devoure us, and no damage come unto us, they must needs conclude that we are defended by the mighty hand of God, and truely there have been many who have notxxx seemed lesse to admire the courage of this familie than the strangenesse of the thing; and indeed had we not been strengthned by the grace and power of God, we must have sunk under it, for many passages have been very terrible; but the same God that hath hitherto defended us, will, I doubt not, continue his goodnesse to us, and upon that confidence I doe resolve to keep my house as long as I can take any competent rest, and those smells doe not return, unlesse I may understand from you that you take it to be my duty to leave my house for a time, as some have perswaded me, wherefore if you please to send your opinion in that particular, or what els you conceive may be fitt for me to doe in the case, I shall with thankfullnesse receive it. I have acquainted my worthy freind the President of Magdalens that I have given you this account (which is very rude and much short of what hath beenxxxi acted) and I humbly desire you to let him see it,96 from whom as well as from your self either separatim or conjunctim it would be great satisfaction to me to receive what rules or directions you shall vouchsafe me, and I shall be carefull to follow them, and so with my hearty thanks to yourselfe and my own and my wives service to my Cosen your wife I take my leave and rest
Your faithfull Kinsman and reall servant Jo. Mompesson
xxxiiiI have often thought that if any learned men had made these observations that I have done, he might have discovered much of the nature of these spirits.xxxiv
It has taken our servants up in their beds, bed and all, and hath lifted them up a great height, and layd them down softly again, and layes often on their feet with great weight, sometimes the candles will not burn in the roome where it is, and though it come never so loud and on a sudain, yet no dog will bark: it hath been often so loud that it hath been heardxxxv into the fields and has wakned my neighbours in the towne. I have not been without strangers to heare it this many nights which have troubled me half as bad as the spirit; now it comes a litle seeming a farre off at eight of the clock in the night, and layes still at night till about five in the morning, and then it will drum us up, but it often changes its course, and has not mist one night these seven weeks.
This was written to Dr Creed Professor at Oxford, together with another to Sir Thomas Montpesson, whose answer followes.xxxvi