Extraordinary Popular Delusions And The Madness Of Crowds
The devil had sent her with a sledge hammer and a large nail, to drive into the good man’s skull. She had hammered at it for some time, but the skull was so enormously thick, that she made no impression upon it. The pious minister blessed God that his skull was so solid, and he became renowned for his thick head all the days of his life. Whether the witch intended a joke does not appear, but she was looked upon as a criminal more than usually atrocious. Seventy persons were condemned to death on these so awful yet so ridiculous confessions.
On the contrary, the duke expected all his pokers and fire-shovels to be made silver, and all his pewter utensils gold; and thought the honour of his acquaintance was reward sufficient for a roturier, who could not want wealth since he possessed so invaluable a secret. Aluys, seeing that so much was expected of him, bade adieu to his excellency, and proceeded to Bohemia accompanied by a pupil, and by a young girl who had fallen in love with him in Vienna. Some noblemen in Bohemia received him kindly, and entertained him at their houses for months at a time. It was his usual practice to pretend that he possessed only a few grains of his powder, with which he would operate in any house where he intended to fix his quarters for the season. He would make the proprietor the present of a piece of gold thus transmuted, and promise him millions, if he could only be provided with leisure to gather his lunaria major and minor on their mountain-tops, and board, lodging, and loose cash for himself, his wife, and his pupil, in the interval. This pretender to the philosopher’s stone was the son, by a former husband, of the woman Aluys, with whom Delisle became acquainted at the commencement of his career, in the cabaret by the road-side, and whom he afterwards married.
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When the clergy, for other reasons, recommended the Crusade, the people joined in it with enthusiasm. The subject of Palestine filled all minds; the pilgrims’ tales of two centuries warmed every imagination; and when their friends, their guides, and their instructors preached a war so much in accordance with their own prejudices and modes of thinking, the enthusiasm rose into a frenzy. The sums drawn from this source were a mine of wealth to the Moslem governors of Palestine, imposed as the tax had been at a time when pilgrimages had become more numerous than ever.
Among them I fell into still greater uncertainties; being, in fact, completely bewildered by the variety of operations which they shewed me. Spurred on, nevertheless, by a sort of frenzy or inspiration, I threw myself into the works of Raymond Lulli and of Arnold de Villeneuve. The reading of these, and the reflections I made upon them, occupied me for another year, when I finally determined on the course I should adopt. I was obliged to wait, however, until I had mortgaged another very considerable portion of my patrimony.
Lambert, the president of the parliament of Paris, told the regent to his face that he would rather have a hundred thousand livres in gold or silver than five millions in the notes of his bank. When such was the general feeling, the superabundant issues of paper but increased the evil, by rendering still more enormous the disparity between the amount of specie and notes in circulation. Coin, which it was the object of the regent to depreciate, rose in value on every fresh attempt to diminish it. In February, it was judged advisable that the Royal Bank should be incorporated with the Company of the Indies. The state remained the guarantee for the notes of the bank, and no more were to be issued without an order in council. All the profits of the bank, since the time it had been taken out of Law’s hands and made a national institution, were given over by the regent to the Company of the Indies.
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In connexion with two other young men as reckless as himself, named Mille, a Piedmontese captain, and one Destampes, or Lestang, a Fleming, he formed a design to rob a very rich broker, who was known, unfortunately for himself, to carry great sums about his person. The count pretended a desire to purchase of him a number of shares in the Company of the Indies, and for that purpose appointed to meet him in a cabaret, or low public-house, in the neighbourhood of the Place Vendôme. The unsuspecting broker was punctual to his appointment; so were the Count d’Horn and his two associates, whom he introduced as his particular friends. After a few moments’ conversation, the Count d’Horn suddenly sprang upon his victim, and stabbed him three times in the breast with a poniard.
The renown of his sanctity had gone before him, and he found every where an admiring audience. Thousands of people, who could not understand a word he said, flocked around him to catch a glimpse of so holy a man; and the knights enrolled themselves in great numbers in the service of the cross, each receiving from his hands the symbol of the cause. Devils were said to vanish at his sight, and diseases of the most malignant nature to be cured by his touch.11The Emperor Conrad caught at last the contagion from his subjects, and declared his intention to follow the cross. He was desirous, moreover, of testifying to the world, that though he could brave the temporal power of the Church when it encroached upon his prerogatives, he could render all due obedience to its spiritual decrees whenever it suited his interest or tallied with his prejudices to do so.
Upwards of six thousand of the very refuse of the population were impressed, as if in time of war, and were provided with clothes and tools to be embarked for New Orleans, to work in the gold mines alleged to abound there. They were paraded day after day through the streets with their pikes and shovels, and then sent off in small detachments to the out-ports to be shipped for America. Two-thirds of them never reached their destination, but dispersed themselves over the country, sold their tools for what they could get, and returned to their old course of life. In less than three weeks afterwards, one-half of them were to be found again in Paris.
He had not been many days at sea, when he was himself attacked with the malady, and obliged to return to Otranto, the nearest port. Gregory, who had by this time decided in the interest of John of Brienne, excommunicated the Emperor for returning from so holy an expedition on any pretext whatever. Frederic at first treated the excommunication with supreme contempt; but when he got well, he gave his Holiness to understand that he was not to be outraged with impunity, and sent some of his troops to ravage the Papal territories.
Richard met the bribe by another, and promised four pieces to every French knight who should join the Lion of England. In this unworthy rivalry their time was wasted, to the great detriment of the discipline and efficiency of their followers. Some good was nevertheless effected; for the mere presence of two such armies prevented the besieged city from receiving supplies, and the inhabitants were reduced by famine to the most woeful straits. Saladin did not deem it prudent to risk a general engagement by coming to their relief, but preferred to wait till dissension had weakened his enemy, and made him an easy prey. Perhaps if he had been aware of the real extent of the extremity in Acre, he would have changed his plan; but, cut off from the town, he did not know their misery till it was too late. After a short truce the city capitulated upon terms so severe that Saladin afterwards refused to ratify them.
Divination by the palm, so confidently believed in by half the village lasses in Europe, is of older date, and seems to have been known to the Egyptians in the time of the patriarchs; as well as divination by the cup, which, as we are informed in Genesis, was practised by Joseph. In comparatively recent times, it was pretended that by this means hidden treasures could be discovered. Onomancy, or the foretelling a man’s fate by the letters of his name, and the various transpositions of which they are capable, is a more modern sort of divination; but it reckons comparatively few believers.
Extraordinary Popular Delusions & The Madness Of Crowds Tuesday, February 9, 2021
He was philosopher enough to be contented with his venture, and set off the same evening for the Continent. The company’s stock, which had been at a hundred and thirty the previous day, gradually rose to three hundred, and continued to rise with the most astonishing rapidity during the whole time that the bill in its several stages was under discussion. Mr. Walpole was almost the only statesman in the House who spoke out boldly against it. He warned them, in eloquent and solemn language, of the evils that would ensue. It countenanced, he said, “the dangerous practice of stock-jobbing, and would divert the genius of the nation from trade and industry. It would hold out a dangerous lure to decoy the unwary to their ruin, by making them part with the earnings of their labour for a prospect of imaginary wealth.
He lived six years in this manner at the court of Frederick; but that monarch dying in 1670 he was left without a protector. The reputation of his great sanctity had gone before him; and he found many persons ready to attach themselves to his fortunes. All who were desirous of entering into the new communion took an oath of poverty, and relinquished their possessions for the general good of the fraternity. Borri told them that he had received from the archangel Michael a heavenly sword, upon the hilt of which were engraven the names of the seven celestial intelligences.
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Manuel Comnenus, the Greek emperor, successor not only to the throne but to the policy of Alexius, looked with alarm upon the new levies who had come to eat up his capital and imperil its tranquillity. Too weak to refuse them a passage through his dominions, too distrustful of them to make them welcome when they came, and too little assured of the advantages likely to result to himself from the war, to feign a friendship which he did not feel, the Greek emperor gave offence at the very outset. His subjects, in the pride of superior civilisation, called the Germans barbarians; while the latter, who, if semi-barbarous, were at least honest and straightforward, retorted upon the Greeks by calling them double-faced knaves and traitors. The Greek emperor, on his part, thought it compatible neither with his dignity nor his safety to seek the German, and several days were spent in insincere negotiations. These took the field with such vassals as they could command, and in a very short time an army was raised amounting to two hundred thousand men. Several nobles, three bishops, and his queen, Eleanor of Aquitaine, were present at this ceremony, and enrolled themselves under the banner of the cross, St. Bernard cutting up his red sacerdotal vestments, and making crosses of them, to be sewn on the shoulders of the people.
If he was little satisfied with the relation of my adventures since our first separation, he appeared still less satisfied when I told him I had formed a resolution to renounce the search for the philosopher’s stone. Of our eight hundred crowns, there remained but one hundred and seventy-six. When I quitted the abbé, I went to my own house with the intention of remaining there, till I had read all the old philosophers, and of then proceeding to Paris. “I had just got to the end of my money, when I received a letter from the abbé, telling me to leave every thing, and join him immediately at Toulouse.
The siege was abruptly abandoned, and the foolish Crusaders returned to Jerusalem, having done nothing to weaken the enemy, but every thing to weaken themselves. Here he heard, for the first time, of the mishaps of the German emperor, whom he found in a woful plight under the walls of Nice.
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The number of persons who confessed that they were employed by the Devil to distribute poison is almost incredible. An epidemic frenzy was abroad, which seemed to be as contagious as the plague. Imagination was as disordered as the body, and day after day persons came voluntarily forward to accuse themselves. They generally had the marks of disease upon them, and some died in the act of confession. Other prophecies were current, which were asserted to have been delivered hundreds of years previously. They had a most pernicious effect upon the mind of the vulgar, as they induced a belief in fatalism. By taking away the hope of recovery—that greatest balm in every malady—they increased threefold the ravages of the disease.
- They rectified the alcohol thirty times, till they made it so strong as to burst the vessels which contained it.
- He lived six years in this manner at the court of Frederick; but that monarch dying in 1670 he was left without a protector.
- Many valuable days were wasted in this discussion, the enemy in the meanwhile gaining strength from their inactivity.
- Blessed with a cast of characters that covered all the vices, gifted a passage of events which was inevitably heading for disaster, and with the benefit of hindsight, he produced a record that is at once a riveting thriller and absorbing historical document.
- —a house that people have thought it unsafe to pass after dark, and which has remained for years without a tenant, and which no tenant would occupy, even were he paid to do so?
- Peter, after he had performed all the penances and duties of his pilgrimage, demanded an interview with Simeon, the Patriarch of the Greek Church at Jerusalem.
The Crusaders fought with a blind fury, which fanaticism and suffering alike incited. Men, women, and children were indiscriminately slaughtered, till the streets ran with blood. Darkness increased the destruction, for when morning dawned the Crusaders found themselves with their swords at the breasts of their fellow-soldiers, whom they had mistaken for foes. The Turkish commander fled, first to the citadel, and that becoming insecure, to the mountains, whither he was pursued and slain, and his grey head brought back to Antioch as a trophy. At daylight the massacre ceased, and the Crusaders gave themselves up to plunder. They found gold, and jewels, and silks, and velvets in abundance, but of provisions, which were of more importance to them, they found but little of any kind.
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The patient was to repeat the 109th and 119th Psalms every day, or the cure would not be effectual. Since that day, the belief in witchcraft has fled from the populous abodes of men, and taken refuge in remote villages and districts too wild, rugged, and inhospitable to afford a resting-place for the foot of civilization.
Every day an ox was roasted whole in his spacious kitchens, besides sheep, pigs, and poultry sufficient to feed five hundred persons. His private chapel at Champtocé was the most beautiful in France, and far surpassed any of those in the richly-endowed cathedrals of Notre Dame in Paris, of Amiens, of Beauvais, or of Rouen. The great crucifix over the altar was of solid silver, and the chalices and incense-burners were of pure gold. He had besides a fine organ, which he caused to be carried from one castle to another on the shoulders of six men, whenever he changed his residence. He kept up a choir of twenty-five young children of both sexes, who were instructed in singing by the first musicians of the day. The master of his chapel he called a bishop, who had under him his deans, arch-deacons, and vicars, each receiving great salaries; the bishop four hundred crowns a year, and the rest in proportion. The name of this eminent man has become famous in the annals of alchymy, although he did but little to gain so questionable an honour.
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It was not till ruin stared him in the face that he awoke from his dream of infatuation, too happy, even then, to find that he had escaped utter beggary. Thus restored to his senses, his first thought was how to rid himself of his expensive visitors. Not wishing to quarrel with them, he proposed that they should proceed to Prague, well furnished with letters of recommendation to the Emperor Rudolph.