The Project Gutenberg eBook of Memorials of Human Superstition

This ebook is for the use of anyone anywhere in the United States and most other parts of the world at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this ebook or online at If you are not located in the United States, you will have to check the laws of the country where you are located before using this eBook.

Title: Memorials of Human Superstition

Author: Jean Louis de Lolme

Release date: June 21, 2022 [eBook #68362]

Language: English

Original publication: United Kingdom: Printed for G. Robinson, 1784

Credits: Turgut Dincer, John Campbell and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team at (This file was produced from images generously made available by The Internet Archive)



Footnote anchors are denoted by [number], and the footnotes have been placed at the end of each chapter. Many of the footnotes are long and spread over several pages. Several footnotes have footnotes themselves.

In this book the Table of Contents is at the end of the book.

The cover image was created by the transcriber and is placed in the public domain.

Some minor changes to the text are noted at the end of the book. These are indicated by a dashed blue underline.


Being a Paraphrase and Commentary on the HISTORIA FLAGELLANTIUM of the Abbé Boileau, Doctor of the Sorbonne, Canon of the Holy Chapel, &c.

By One who is not Doctor of the Sorbonne.

Honni soit qui mal y pense.


Page. 391.


Printed for G. ROBINSON, No 55, Pater-noster Row.


[Pg 1]


THE Abbé Boileau, the author of the Historia Flagellantium, was elder brother to the celebrated Poet of that name. He filled, several years, the place of Dean of the Metropolitan Church of Sens, and was thence promoted to the office of one of the Canons of the Holy Chapel in Paris, which is looked upon as a great dignity among the French clergy.

While he was in that office (about the year 1700) he wrote, among other books, that which is the subject of this work[1]. This[2] book, in which the public expected, from the title of it, to find an history of the particular sect of Hereticks called Flagellants, only contained an aggregation of facts and quotations on the subject of self-disciplines and flagellations in general among Christians (which, if the work had been well done, might however have been equally interesting) and a mixture of alternate commendation and blame of that practice.

The Theologians of that time, however, took offence at the book. They judged that the author had been guilty, in it, of several heretical assertions; for instance, in saying, as he does in two or three places, that Jesus Christ had suffered flagellation against his will: and they particularly blamed the censures which, amidst his commendations of it, he had passed upon a practice that so many saints had adopted, so many pontiffs and bishops had advised, and so many ecclesiastical writers had commended.

In the second place, they objected to several facts which the author had inserted in his book, as well as to the licentiousness of expression he had sometimes indulged; and[3] they said that such facts, and such manner of expression, ought not to be met with in a book written by a good Christian, and much less by a Dean of the Metropolitan Church of Sens, a Canon of the Holy Chapel, and in short by a man invested with an eminent dignity in the Church; in which latter respect they were perhaps right[2].

Among the critics of our author’s book, were the Jesuits of Trevoux; the then conductors of a periodical review, called the Journal de Trevoux. The poet Boileau, taking the part of his brother, answered their criticisms by the following epigram.

Non, le livre des Flagellans
N’a jamais condamné, lisez le bien mes Peres,
Ces rigidités salutaires
Que pour ravir le Ciel, saintement violens,
Exercent sur leurs corps tant de Chrétiens austères.
Il blâme seulement cet abus odieux
D’étaler & d’offrir aux yeux
Ce que leur doit toûjours cacher la beinséance,
Et combat vivement la fausse piété,
Qui, sous couleur d’éteindre en nous la volupté,
Par l’austérité même & par la pénitence
Sait allumer le feu de la lubricité.

The first opportunity I had to see the Abbé Boileau’s book, which is pretty scarce, but which I knew from the above epigram, and other books that mention it, was about ten years ago, in a town of Italy, where it was shewn to me by a Quaker, an Englishman, who lived there; not a Quaker, however, of the common sort, that is, a scrupulous observer of the duties prescribed by his sect; for he wore laced cloaths, and played admirably well on the flute.

Having since lighted again on a copy of the same book, I judged that its singularity, and the nature of the facts it contains, rendered it worthy to be laid before the public; and I had the thought of dressing it in vulgar tongue with the less reluctance, as, conformably to the confession I have made in the title-page, I have not the honour to be a doctor[5] of the Sorbonne. However, I found, upon a more attentive examination of the book, that the obscurity and want of meaning of that part of it which properly belongs to the author, who seems to have been as defective in point of clearness of head as his brother the poet was remarkable for that qualification, rendered a translation, impracticable.

The singular contradiction, for instance, between most of the conclusions our author draws from the facts he relates, and the facts themselves, is, (when it is possible to ascertain the meaning of such conclusions) really matter of surprise. The critics of our author, who were sensible of this inconsistency, had derived comfort from it, and hoped that the book would propagate but little heresy, since hardly any body could understand it. However, this very manner in which our author has composed his work, wherein he contradicts not only the facts he relates, but even his own assertions, sometimes two or three times in the same page, leads us to the discovery of his real design in writing it, and clears him from having entertained any views of an heretical or dangerous nature. He only proposed, it appears, to compile together facts[6] and quotations which amused him, and which he thought would also amuse the public; and he terminated them (or sometimes whole strings of them) with seeming conclusions and random assertions, in order to make the reader judge that he had a serious and even theological design, in making his compilation.

Another cause of surprise in our Author’s book, is, the prodigious incoherency of the facts themselves he has linked together. But in this respect, likewise, we discover, after a little examination, that his views were of a perfectly harmless kind, and that this singularity was not owing to any design of his own, as might at first sight be imagined, but only to the manner in which he proceeded in his work. His practice was, it appears, to lay down, at the same time, upon the paper, all the facts to his liking he found related in the productions of the same author; and at other times also, he introduced together, we may suppose, all the stories and quotations the discovery of which he had made in the course of the same morning[3].


A translation of a book thus made, was therefore, as hath been above said, impracticable. And as a number of the facts and quotations it contains are curious, either in themselves, or on account of the authors from whom they are extracted, I have at once enlarged my first plan, and thought of writing another book with the materials contained in that of the Abbé Boileau.

With the facts and quotations, therefore, supplied by the Abbé Boileau’s book, I have undertaken to compose this History of the Flagellants. With these materials, the quantity or number of which I determined neither to increase or decrease, I attempted to write a book; proposing to myself a task of much the same nature with that kind of play which sometimes serves to amuse companies of friends in winter evenings, in which sets of words in appearance incompatible with one another,[8] are proposed, and, without any of them being left out, or even displaced, are to be made into some consistent speeches, by the help of intermediate arguments. Such task I have, as I say, tried to perform, without setting aside any of the facts contained in the Abbé Boileau’s book: only I have taken great liberty with respect to placing and displacing such facts, as, without that indulgence, the task, on this occasion, was not to be performed. The work or problem, therefore, I proposed to myself, instead of being that which more commonly occurs, and may be expressed in the following terms: Certain arguments being given, to find the necessary facts to support them? was this: A certain number of facts, pretty well authenticated, being given, to find the natural conclusions and inductions which they suggest?

To this paraphrase thus made on the materials afforded by the Abbé Boileau, and to a few occasional sentences of his, which I have preserved, I have added an ample Commentary, in which I have introduced not only such facts as either my own memory, or other authors, supplied me: so that the Abbé’s[9] work, a twelves book, printed on a very large type, has swelled into the majestic octavo which is now laid before the public.

In composing this octavo, two different parts I have performed. In the Paraphrase on the Abbé Boileau’s work, I have, keeping to the subject, and preserving as much as I could the turn of my Author’s book, expressed myself in that style and manner, in which it was not unlikely a doctor of the Sorbonne, and a dean of the church of Sens, might have written: in the Commentary, I have followed my own inclination. Conformably to that which is often practised on the Stage, where the same player fills two different parts at the same time, by speedily altering his dress, I have, in the present work, acted in two different alternate capacities, as I changed sides: in the text, I acted the part of a doctor of the Sorbonne; and then, quickly resuming my former station, I expatiated and commented, in the note, upon what the doctor had just said in the text.

Thus much for the manner in which I have accomplished this work. With respect to giving any previous delineation of the substance[10] of it, it is what I find some difficulty in doing; and which, besides, I think would be useless, since I suppose the reader will, as readers commonly do, peruse this Preface only after he has turned the last leaf of the book: taking it therefore for granted that the reader knows, by this time, what the present performance is, I proceed to give an account of my views in writing it.

In the first place, I proposed to myself the information of posterity. A period will, sooner or later, arrive, at which the disciplining and flagellating practices now in use, and which have been so for so many centuries, will have been laid aside, and succeeded by others equally whimsical. And while the men of those days will overlook the defects of their own extravagant customs, or perhaps even admire the rationality of them, they will refuse to believe that the practices of which accounts are given in this work, ever were in use among mankind, and even matter of great moment among them. My design, therefore, was effectually to remove all their doubts in that respect, by handing down to them the flower[11] and choice part of the facts and arguments on the subject.

This book will likewise be extremely useful to the present age; and it will in the first place be so, the subject being considered in a moral light. The numerous cases that are produced in this book, of disciplines which offenders of all classes, kings as well as others, have zealously inflicted upon themselves, will supply a striking proof of that deep sense of justice which exists in the breasts of all men; and the reader will from such facts conclude, no doubt with pleasure, that even the offenders of the high rank we have just mentioned, notwithstanding the state by which they are surrounded, and the majestic countenance which they put on, sometimes in proportion as they more clearly know that they are wrong, are inwardly convinced that they owe compensation for their acts of injustice.

Being considered in the same moral light, this book will be useful to the present age, by the instances it gives of corrections by which different offences against the peace of mankind have been requited; the consequence of which will be the preventing of such offences. Slanderous wits, for example, to mention only[12] offenders of that class, writers of satires, epigrams, and lampoons, dealers in bon-mots, inventors of anecdotes, by reading the instances of disciplines by which such ingenious pastimes have, on different occasions, been repaid, will naturally be led to recollect, that all possible flagellations (to use the expression of the Alguazil introduced in a certain chapter of Gil Blas) have not been yet inflicted; and sudden considerations like this, which this book will not fail to suggest to them, will be extremely apt to check them the instant they are preparing to make their excursions on the reputation of their neighbours; and by that means the good name of many an innocent person will be preserved.

To the persons themselves who actually suffer from the injustice or wantonness of others, this performance will be of great service. Those, for instance, who smart under the lash of some insolent satirist, those who are disappointed in their expectations, those whose secrets have been betrayed, nay, even ladies, treacherously forsaken by those who had given them so many assurances of fidelity and eternal constancy, will find their misfortunes alleviated[13] by reading the different instances and facts related in this book: they will take comfort from the thought, that what has already happened may happen again; and cheer themselves with the hope, that flagellations will sooner or later be the lot of those persons who cause their uneasiness.

Being considered in a philosophical light, this work will be useful to the present age, in the same manner as we have said it would be to posterity. The present generation, at least in this island, will find in it proofs both of the reality of the singular practices which once prevailed in their own country, and are still in full force in many others, and of the important light in which they have been considered by mankind. They will meet with accounts of bishops, cardinals, popes, and princes, who have warmly commended or blamed such practices; and will not be displeased to be moreover acquainted with the debates of the learned on the same subject, and with the honest, though opposite, endeavours, of a Cerebrosus and a Damian, a Gretzer and a Gerson.

To the critical reader this book will likewise be serviceable, by giving him an insight into[14] the manner of the debates and arguments, and into the turn of the erudition, of foreign Catholick divines, at the same time that the information will be conveyed to him amidst other objects that will perhaps better amuse him: to secure this advantage, I have, as much as I could, preserved the appearance of our Author’s book, using, for that purpose, the titles of several of his chapters; only taking care to keep more to the subject than himself had done.

To the same critical reader this performance will also recommend itself, by the numerous passages from certain books which it gives him an opportunity to peruse. And the generality of readers will not be displeased to meet with a number of short specimens of the style of several authors whose works they never would have read, though they were once conspicuous on the particular line which they followed, and to be thus brought to some slight acquaintance with St. Austin, St. Jerom, and Tertullian, of whom they knew only the names, and with St. Fulgentius, and Peter Chrysologus, of whom they knew nothing at all.


In fine, to these capital advantages, possessed by this work, I have endeavoured to add the important one of affording entertainment; for, entertainment is a thing which is not by any means to be despised in this world. In order the better to attain this end, I have avoided offending against decency or religion; I had of myself too little inclination to be witty at the expence of either, especially the latter, to avail myself of the opportunities which the subject naturally offered; and I should think it a great praise of this book, if I were hereafter informed, that the graver class of readers have read with pleasure the less serious part of it, and that the other class have gone with pleasure likewise through that part which is less calculated for amusement.


[1] The title of the book is Historia Flagellantium, de recto & perverso flagrorum usu apud Christianos, 12mo. Parisiis, apud J. Anisson, Typographiæ Regiæ Præfectum, MDCC.

[2] Our author, who was rather singular in the choice of his subjects, had written another treatise De tactibus impudicis prohibendis, and another on the dress of clergymen, wherein he attempted to prove that they might as well wear it short as long.

[3] The same manner of writing is also to be met with in most of the treatises that were written in England, France, and especially Germany, about an hundred years ago, or more, when a mechanical knowledge of Latin and Greek books, and making compilations from them, was the kind of learning in vogue.


Page. 351.






The substance of the reasons given by the Abbé Boileau, for writing his Book. He seems to have been of opinion that voluntary flagellations were no very antient practice.

I AM not, I confess, without fear that the design I have formed of tracing the origin[18] of those Flagellations which have in process of time been introduced among Christians, will be looked upon as a rash undertaking, and that I may be accused of having, in that respect, fallen into the errors of the Protestants, whether Lutherans, or Calvinists.

In fact, those two Sects, under pretence of shewing their obedience to the commands of God, who orders the Israelites not to make incisions in their own flesh for the sake of the dead, trample upon all laws concerning Penitence, extinguish that kind of virtue which consists in repressing the lustful appetites of the flesh, and ridicule those mortifications and penances to which Tertullian advises us to submit.

Indeed, I am far from wishing to favour the relaxed Doctrine of Heretics. That kind of enthusiastic fury which the Calvinists manifestest, in the last Century, against the laborious exercises of the Monastic life, rather heightens, in my opinion, the glory of the Catholic Church. I think that the manner of the antient Anchorites of Syria, of Thebaid, and of Egypt, the purity of their virtue, and the surprising penances to which they submitted, deserve our utmost reverence, however impossible it may be for us to imitate them.


I have no other object in view, on this occasion, than to bring back those happy times of the primitive Church, in which the true Science of conquering lustful appetites flourished among our holy Forefathers. All I propose to myself, is, to render it manifest to every candid Reader, that those methods of doing Penance, which are in our days called Disciplines[4], were unknown in the[20] happy periods of the primitive Church. By Disciplines I mean here to speak of those voluntary Flagellations which Penitents inflict upon themselves with their own hands; lashing their own backs, or posteriors, either with scourges or whips, or willow and birch rods. A practice this, which, we are not to doubt, prevails much in the Societies of modern Monks and Nuns, especially among those who, under pretence of reformation, have abolished their antient Rules, and substituted new Constitutions in their stead.

But before I enter upon this subject, I must inform the Reader of two facts, which it is necessary he should know, at the same time that they are undeniable, and confirmed by[21] every day’s practice. The first is, that Penitents, as we have above-mentioned, both inflict those Disciplines on themselves with their own hands, and receive the same from other persons, either with scourges, or rods, or whip-cords. The second is, that those chastisements are inflicted on them, either on the bare back or shoulders, or on the posteriors: the former method is usually called the upper, and the latter, the lower discipline[5].


Now, that this latter kind of Discipline is a contrivance of modern times, is what I positively aver. It was unknown, as I shall demonstrate[23] to the Reader, among the first Christians; and it is moreover repugnant both to true Piety, and to Modesty, for several reasons which I shall deduce hereafter. I propose, besides, to shew that this practice is an offspring of Idolatry and Superstition; that it ought to be banished from among Christians as an erroneous and dangerous exercise; and that it has only been introduced into the Christian Church by ignorant persons, under the specious appearance of Piety and more perfect Mortification.

Painters, it seems, have not a little helped to establish and strengthen the practices we mention, by their pictures, of which Pope Gregory the Great says, in his Epistle to Serenus Bishop of Marseilles, that they were “the Libraries of ignorant Christians.” In[24] fact, we see they have never represented any of the antient Anchorites, without leaving some spare corner on their canvas, whereupon to place either whips or rods; instruments of which those holy Hermits had not probably made the least use during their lives, and about which they perhaps had never so much as entertained a thought.

A number of able Writers in the last century have, it must be confessed, also contributed to bring into credit the practice we mention. Considering voluntary flagellations in the same light as they did all methods in general of mortifying the flesh, they commended them, and procured them to be admitted. My design here is not by any means to question the good intentions of so respectable persons, who held the first rank among the Society of the Fathers Jesuits, and were looked upon, if I may so express myself, like so many Heroes in the Republic of Letters: but yet, on the other hand, I cannot be persuaded that it is unlawful to animadvert upon the ignorance and impudence of Painters, of which Lucian says that they were “as licentious as the Poets[6];” and to endeavour, if possible,[25] to obtain from the Prelates of the Church, that, since pictures are the books of ignorant[26] Christians, no Fables and lies be represented in them; and that such as contain notorious falsehoods be banished from those Churches and Chapels in which Jesus Christ, who was truth itself, is daily adored. At least this will be admitted, that truth has no need of the assistance of falsehood to protect it: supported by its own strength, it sets at defiance the attacks of both Folly and Sophistry.


[4] The word Discipline originally signified in general, the censures and corrections which persons who were guilty of Sins, received from their Superiors; and when Flagellation was to be part of those corrections, it was expressly mentioned; and they called such Discipline, as the Reader will see in the Sequel of this Book, “the discipline of the whip,” (disciplina flagelli). As Flagellation grew afterwards to be the common method of doing penance that prevailed among persons in religious Orders, the bare word discipline became in course of time the technical word to express that kind of chastisement: thus, the Reader will find hereafter an instance in which Flagellation, when too long continued, is called “the madness of too long discipline,” (longioris disciplinæ insania). And at last, those kinds of whips made of knotted and twisted cords, commonly used for the above pious exercises, have also been called by the same name; and the word discipline has become in French, for instance, the appropriated word to express the instrument of religious flagellation. Thus, in Molière’s Play, called the Tartuffe, or the Hypocrite, Tartuffe tells his Man, “Laurent, lock up my hair-cloth, and discipline, and pray that Heaven may always illuminate you.”

Laurent, serrez ma haire avec ma discipline,
Et priez que toujours le Ciel vous illumine.
Tart. A. III. Sc. 2.

[5] Sursùm & deorsùm disciplina.——All the Women (as the Writer of this Commentary has been told, when in Catholic Countries) who make self-flagellation part of their religious exercises, whether they live in or out of Convents, use the lower discipline, as defined above: their pious and merciful Confessors having suggested to them, that the upper discipline may prove dangerous, and be the cause of hurting their breasts, especially when they mean to proceed in that holy exercise with unusual fervour and severity. A few Orders of Friars, among whom are the Capuchins, also use the lower kind of discipline; but for what reason the Commentator has not been as yet informed.

Perhaps it will be asked here, how Priests and Confessors have been able to introduce the use of such a painful practice as flagellation, among the persons who choose to be directed by them in religious matters, and how they can enforce obedience to the prescriptions they give them in that respect. But here it must be remembered, that Penance has been made a Sacrament among Catholics, and that Satisfaction, as may be seen in the Books that treat of that subject, is an essential part of it, and must always precede the Absolution on the part of the Confessor. Now, as Confessors have it in their power to refuse this Absolution, so long as the Penances or Satisfactions of any kind, which they have enjoyed to their Penitents, have not been accomplished, this confers on them a very great authority; and though, to a number of those who apply to them, who care but little for such Absolution, or in case of refusal are ready to apply to other more easy Confessors, they scarcely prescribe any other kind of Satisfaction than saying a certain number of prayers, or such like mortification; yet, to those persons who think it a very serious affair when a Confessor in whom they trust, continues to refuse them his absolution, they may enjoin almost what kind of penance they please. And indeed since Confessors have been able to prevail upon Kings to leave their kingdoms and engage in perilous wars and croisades to the Holy Land, and to induce young and tender Queens to perform on foot pilgrimages to very distant places, it is not difficult to understand how they have been able gradually to prevail upon numbers of their Devotees of both Sexes, to follow practices which they had been so foolish as to adopt for themselves, and to practise, at their own choice, either the lower, or the upper, discipline.

[6] Dial. Ὑπὲρ τῶν Εἰκόνων—Καὶ τοὶ παλαιὸς οὕτος ὁ λόγος, ἀνευθύνους εἶναι Ποιητὰς καὶ Γραφέας. The Greek word ἀνευθύνους, used here, literally signifies that Poets and Painters are not obliged to give any account of their actions. Horace has also expressed a thought of the same kind with regard to them, in his Ars Poetica, “Painters and Poets have always equally enjoyed the power of daring every thing.”

Pictoribus atque Poëtis
Quidlibet audendi semper fuit æqua potestas.
A. P. v. 9, 10.

The complaints of our Author with respect to the loose which Painters have been used to give to their own fancy, when they have treated religious subjects, are well grounded; and persons who have travelled in Catholic Countries cannot but have taken notice of the freedom that prevails in their Church-pictures: hence a number of stories are related among them of Nuns, or other Women, who have fallen in love with naked figures of Angels and Saints, and of Men who have been led into extravagances by the passion they had conceived for certain statues, or pictures. As to errors concerning facts merely, and faults against the Costume, which our Author seems more particularly to allude to, in this Chapter, they are certainly very frequent in the works of Painters: even the first among them, such as Paul Veronese and others, are reproached with capital ones. On this occasion the Writer of this Commentary thinks he may relate what he himself has seen in a Country Church in Germany, in which a Painter, who had intended to represent the Sacrifice of Isaac, had so far availed himself of the potestas quidlibet audendi, mentioned above, that he had represented Abraham with a blunderbuss in his hand, ready to shoot his son, and an Angel, suddenly come down from Heaven, pouring water on the pan.



No persons, under the antient Law, inflicted on themselves, with their own hands, voluntary flagellations, or received them from the hands of other persons.

FLAGELLATION, there is no doubt, is a method of coercive punishment very antiently used among Men. We find it mentioned in the Old Testament, in the fifth chapter of Exodus: it is said in that chapter, that the Ministers of Pharaoh, who required from the Israelites a certain number of bricks every day, having found them to have failed in supplying the usual number, ordered them to be flogged; and that the latter complained of this harsh usage.

V. 14. “And the officers of the children of Israel, which Pharaoh’s Task masters had set over them, were beaten[7], and demanded,[28] Wherefore have you not fulfilled your task in making brick, both yesterday and to-day, as heretofore?”

15. “Then the Officers of the children of Israel came and cried unto Pharaoh, saying, Wherefore dealest thou thus with thy servants?”

16. “There is no straw given unto thy servants, and they say to us, Make brick: and behold we are beaten, but the fault is in thine own people.”—Now, I think that no commentary is necessary to prove that the flagellations mentioned here were not in any degree voluntary on the part of those who underwent them.

We also find mention made in Leviticus of the punishment of Flagellation: this is the punishment awarded, in the nineteenth chapter, against those who should be guilty of the sin of Fornication. “And whosoever lieth carnally with a woman that is a bond-maid, betrothed to an husband, and not at all redeemed, nor freedom given her, she shall be scourged; they shall not be put to death, because she was not free.”

The Hebrew words in the text, which are commonly translated by these, shall be scourged, are justly translated so, though in the version[29] of the LXX. they are only translated by the words, shall be punished[8]; for the punishment[30] used on those occasions was inflicted, as the learned Vatable observes, with thongs of ox-leather, that is to say, with scourges. To this I think it is needless to add, that the Israelites did not voluntarily impose on themselves the abovementioned scourgings, and that they never were suffered by any of them but much against their will.

In the xxvth chapter of Deuteronomy, the number of lashes which Offenders of any kind were to receive, was limited to forty. V. 2. “And it shall be, if the wicked may be worthy to be beaten, that the Judge shall cause him to lie down, and to be beaten before his face, according to a certain number.”


3. “Forty stripes he may give him, and not exceed; but if he should exceed, and beat him above these with many stripes, then thy brother should seem vile unto thee.”

Now, it is evident from the above passage, that the Israelites were very far from approving any cruel flagellations, like those which Monks in our days inflict on themselves with whip-cords filled with knots, or sometimes armed with nails or needles; since they were even forbidden to suffer their Brother to be too cruelly lashed in their presence. Nor was it the incisions made on the bodies of innocent persons before the altar of Moloch, or at the funerals of the dead, which God meant here to prevent; He even prescribed tenderness to the sufferings of a convicted offender, though he deserved the stripes that were inflicted on him. Therefore, if the law of God forbad any cruel excess in the chastising of persons who were guilty of crimes, much more did it disapprove that Men should unmercifully lash and flay themselves with rods and whip-cords. Indeed, the modern practice of lashing and whipping one’s self to the effusion of blood, is by no means intitled to our admiration. How could it be possible[32] that an unhappy Friar, who lives in certain modern Monasteries, should not have his skin torn from head to foot, since it is a constant practice among them to discipline themselves three or four times every week, during the whole time that the Miserere, the De Profundis[9], and the Salve Regina, are singing, with a melodious, though slow, voice; and that too so heavily, and in such earnest, that the rattling of the blows resounds on all sides?

Several persons, however, still insist that religious flagellations were in use among the ancient Jews, and draw, it must be confessed, strong arguments from the words of David,[33] in Psal. lxxiii. 14: “For all the day long have I been plagued, and chastened every morning[10].” But if we consider attentively these expressions of the Prophet, we shall find that they do not by any means signify that he lashed himself with a scourge every day, and all the day long. Those stripes of which he speaks are to be understood only in a figurative sense, and they only mean those misfortunes and tribulations which are frequently the lot of the righteous in this world: and indeed we see that David exclaims elsewhere, ‘For I am ready to halt, and my sorrow is continually before me.

Besides, we are to observe that St. Austin, a Writer of the highest authority, paraphrases the above-mentioned passage of Ps. lxxiii. in the following manner: “I am never free from afflictions from God; I discharge my duty, and yet I am beaten, &c.” Indeed the above is only the rational meaning of the passage in question; and we cannot with any[34] degree of probability infer from it (as certain persons do) that the practice of scourging one’s self voluntarily, and lashing one’s hide with rods and whip-cords, was in use among the ancient Hebrews, and that such a whimsical notion ever entered their heads. It is true that Philo the Jew, and Eusebius of Cæsarea, relate, that the Esseans, or Therapeutæ (whether they were a particular sect of the Jews, or are to be ranked among the first Christians, is not clear) were celebrated on account of the macerations which they practised; but then we are intirely ignorant of the methods which they used in order to mortify themselves, and we are no where told that they employed for that purpose either disciplines or whips.

Yet, this cannot be disallowed, that after the two Rabbins, Mayr, and Asse the Son, had compiled the Babylonian Talmud[11] that is to[35] say, about the 476th year from the birth of our Lord, new practices began to prevail among the Jews. Fascinated, I do not know by what kind of superstition, they began to use, contrary to their former customs, a sort of voluntary discipline; though, we are to observe, they never inflicted such discipline on themselves with their own hands. We are informed of the above fact, in the Treatise intitled Malkos, in the 3d Chapter of which it is said, that the Jews, after they had finished their prayers and confessed their sins (which were exercises they derived from their ancestors) used to lash one another with scourges.

John Buxtorf the Father, a Protestant Author, in his Book of the Judaic Synagogue, printed at Basil in the year 1661, describes the above practice of the Jews at some length, and says, That there are constantly two Men in every Jewish school, who withdraw from the rest of the Company, and retire into a particular place of the room where they are[36] met; that the one lays himself flat on the ground with his head turned to the North, and his feet to the South (or his head to the South, and his feet to the North); and that the other, who remains standing, gives him thirty-nine blows upon his back with a strap, or thong of ox-leather. In the meanwhile, the Man who is lashed, recites three times over the thirty-eighth verse of Psal. lxxviii. This verse, in the Hebrew language, contains just thirteen words; at every word the Patient recites, he receives a lash from the other Man; which, when he has recited the whole verse three times over, makes up the prescribed number of thirty-nine; and at every time he says the last word, he strikes his own breast with his fist[12]. This operation being concluded,[37] the Agent in his turn becomes the Patient, and places himself in the same situation as the other had done, who then uses him in the same brotherly manner in which the former had used him, and they thus mutually chastise each other for their sins, and rub one another, Buxtorf observes, like Asses.

Perhaps the Reader will be surprised that the Rabbins have limited the number of the stripes inflicted in the manner above-described, to thirty-nine, since the Law of Moses had extended their number to forty; but to this the Rabbins answer, that it is owing to the peculiar manner in which the punishment of stripes was inflicted in antient times. The ancient Jews, they say, used a scourge made of three thongs; one of which was very long, and went round the body of the person who was scourged, and the two others were a good deal shorter. Thirteen blows with this three-thonged scourge were given to the Patient; which, according to the Rabbins’ manner of explaining the law, made thirty-nine stripes in[38] all: now, if one stroke more had been given him, he would have received forty-two, which would have been contrary to the law of Moses, which says, “Forty stripes he may give him, and not exceed[13].”


[7] The words of the Vulgate in this place, are, flagellati sunt, which signify, were lashed with rods or whips: and in v. 16, flagellis cædimur, which has the same meaning.

[8] The Hebrew words in the text are: בקרת תהיה the Greek words for these, in the LXX. are, ἐπισκοπὴ ἔσται αὐτοῖς.—As I do not understand Hebrew, I shall not try to make any remark on the above Hebrew words, but trust for that to the sagaciousness of the reader; however, with respect to the Greek words that follow them, I think I should be greatly wanting in my duty to the Public, in my capacity of Commentator, if I did not communicate to them an observation with which those words supply me, which is, that there is a material error in the passage above recited, in our common translation of the Bible; for the Reader may see that the punishment of scourging, in case of fornication, is confined, in that passage, to the Woman solely; whereas the word αὐτοῖς, which is a plural word, shews that both the Man and Woman were to be punished alike; and instead of she shall, as our Bible is worded in that passage, it ought to be, they shall be scourged. This remark on the above singular alteration of the true sense of the Bible, to the prejudice of Women (supposing it is not an error of the press) naturally leads me to take notice here of the unjust disposition of Men towards Women in general, in all that relates to the mutual intercourse of the Sexes: a disposition that has induced them in modern times to impose humiliating penalties on such Women as are guilty of sins which the Men themselves commit with the utmost freedom, and thus to establish a mortifying difference, in that respect, between the two sexes, instead of that amiable equality which obtained between them under the Jewish law, according to which the Man and Woman who had committed together the sin of Fornication, were lashed with equal numbers of stripes.

[9] The Miserere is the 51st Psalm; and the De Profundis is the 130th, which is none of the shortest.

The singing of the Miserere seems to be particularly appropriated, among Catholics, to regulate both the duration of religious flagellations, and the time to which they are to be performed, as we may conclude from the above passage of our Author; and also from a passage of M. de Voltaire in his Candide, in which he says, that, when Candide was flagellated at Lisbon, by order of the Inquisition, he was all the while entertained with a Miserere en faux bourdon; which is a kind of Church Music.

[10] The expressions of the Vulgate are, fui flagellatus, I have been whipped. The Vulgate of the Old Testament is a very ancient Latin version of it from the Hebrew, corrected afterwards by St. Jerom, which is followed in all Catholic Countries.

[11] The Talmud is the Tradition, or unwritten law of the Jews, the Law of Moses being their written Law. This Tradition has, in process of time, been set down in writing; and two different Collections have been made of it: the one, in the Jerusalem School, about three hundred years after Jesus Christ, which is called the Jerusalem Talmud; the other, in the Babylonian School, five hundred years after Jesus Christ, and is called, the Babylon Talmud. The latter is that which is usually read among the Jews; and when they simply say, the Talmud, they mean the Babylon Talmud.

[12] Buxtorf, the Author from whom the above facts are drawn, is mentioned with great praise in the Scaligerana, which is a Collection, or mixture, of Notes, partly French, partly Latin, found in the papers of J. Scaliger, and printed after his death. Buxtorf is called, in one of these Notes, the only Man learned in the Hebrew language; and Scaliger adds, that it is surprising how the Jews can love him, though he has handled them so severely; which shews that he has been impartial in his accounts. Mirum quomodo Buxtorsius à Judæis ametur, in illâ tamen Synagogâ Judaicâ illos valdè perstringit.

[13] It is to be supposed, that the Jew Priests had been well freed for the above benign interpretations they gave of the law of Moses.



Voluntary flagellations were unknown to the first Christians. An explanation is given of the passage of St. Paul: I chastise my body, and keep it under subjection[14].

FLAGELLATIONS are mentioned so often as eleven times by the Holy Writers of the New Testament.


Of these, five relate to Jesus Christ. The first is in the xxth chapter of the Gospel according to St. Matthew, v. 19; and in the[41] xxvith of the same, v. 26. In the xvth chapter of St. Mark’s Gospel, v. 33. In the xviith chapter of the Gospel according to St. Luke, v. 33; and in the xixth chapter of the[42] Gospel according to St. John, v. 1[15]. No just conclusion, as the Reader may see, can be drawn from the above-mentioned passages, in support of voluntary flagellations, and of those Disciplines which Monks now-a-days inflict on themselves; since it is plain that our Saviour did not whip himself with his own hands: and we might as well say that we ought to inflict death upon ourselves, and nail ourselves to a cross, as that we ought to lacerate our own flesh with scourges, because Jesus Christ was exposed to that kind of punishment.

The other six passages of the New Testament in which whipping is mentioned, are, first, in St. John’s (c. ii. v. 15.) And when He had made a scourge of small cords, he drove them out of the Temple, and the sheep, and the oxen; and poured out the changers of money, and overthrew the tables. The second chapter is in the fifth chapter of the Acts (v. 40.) And when they had called the Apostles and beaten[43] them with scourges, they commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus; and let them go. The third place in which scourgings are mentioned, is the sixth chapter of the second Epistle to the Corinthians (v. 15.) St. Paul in that Chapter places Stripes among the different methods of persecution which were used against the ministers of the Gospel, and he moreover relates the sufferings to which he himself had been exposed. Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one: and in the next verse he says, Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck; a night and a day I have been in the deep. Fifthly, in his Epistle to the Hebrews (xi. 36.) the same Apostle says, speaking in general terms, And others had trials of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonments. Now, from all these passages no authority whatever can be derived to justify the practice of voluntary flagellation. All the persecuted persons above-mentioned suffered those beatings with rods, and those scourgings, much against their will.

The sixth and last passage in which whipping is mentioned, in the New Testament, is therefore the only one from which any specious conclusion may be drawn in support of the[44] practice of voluntary flagellation: it is contained in the first Epistle to the Corinthians (ix. 22); St. Paul in it says, I chastise my body, and keep it under subjection. Indeed this passage is well worth examining attentively. Several men of great authority have given it as their opinion, that the Apostle expressly meant to say, by the above words, that it was his practice to lash himself, in order to overcome his vicious inclinations. Among others, James Gretzer, an able Theologian and one of the Fathers Jesuits, vehemently asserts that the Greek words in the text literally signify, “I imprint on my own body the stripes or marks of the whip, and render it livid by dint of blows,” and the same Father supports his assertion by the authority of Septalius and Guastininius, two celebrated Interpreters of Aristotle, who, in their Commentaries, quote Gallienus as having used the Greek word in question (ὑπωπιάζω) in the same sense which he (Father Gretzer) attributes to St. Paul. To these authorities Gretzer moreover adds those of St. Irenæus, St. Chrysostom, Paulinus, and Theophylactus, who (he says) have all explained the above passage in the same manner as himself does: so that, if we were to credit all the comments of Father Gretzer, there would, indeed, remain[45] little doubt but that St. Paul meant to say, he fustigated himself with his own hands; and that he was thereby left an example which all faithful Christians ought in duty to imitate.

But yet, if, setting aside, for the present, all authorities on this head, we begin with examining attentively into the real meaning of the Greek word which is the subject of the present controversy, we shall see that it cannot have that signification which Father Gretzer pretends. In fact, let us examine if that word occurs in any other place of the New Testament, and in what sense it is employed. We meet with it in the eighteenth Chapter of St. Luke, wherein Jesus Christ says, in the manner of a Parable, that a Widow used to teaze a Judge with her frequent complaints, who was thereby compelled at last to do her justice; and he makes him speak in the following words: “Because this Widow troubles me, I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming, she weary me (ὑπωπιάζη μὲ.)” Now, who can imagine that this Judge entertained any fear that the Woman should flagellate him? Yet, we must think so, if the Greek word used in the Text (which is the very same as that employed by St. Paul, and on which Father Gretzer builds his system)[46] should always signify, as that Father pretends, to beat, or lash. If a literal explanation of that word, therefore, is in many cases improper and ridiculous, it follows that it is frequently to be understood in a figurative sense, and that it is then only employed to express that kind of hard usage either of one’s self, or of others, which is exercised without any mixture of real violence, or bodily sufferings. To this add, that St. Paul himself, when, on other occasions he really means to speak of blows and actual stripes, never once makes use of the word in question.

Besides, if in order rightly to understand the meaning of St. Paul, we consult the holy Fathers and Interpreters (which certainly is a very good method of investigating the truth), we shall scarcely find one who thought that St. Paul either beat or lashed himself, and in the above passage meant to speak of any such thing as voluntary Flagellation. St. Iræneus, Bishop of Lyons, though he has translated the words in question into these, “I chastise my own body, and render it livid,” has made no mention whatever of either scourges, whips, or rods.—St. Chrysostom likewise supposes, that the Apostle in the above passage, only spoke of the pains and care he took, in order to preserve[47] his temperance, and conquer the passions of the flesh; and that it was the same as if he had said, “I submit to much labour, in order to live according to the rules of Temperance. I undergo every kind of hardship, rather than suffer myself to be led astray.” It must be confessed, however, that Benedictus Haeftenus, in his Disquisitiones Monasticæ, quotes a passage from the above Author’s 34th Homily, by which he pretends to prove that self-flagellations were in use in that Father’s time; but the words which Haeftenus has quoted in Latin are not to be found in the original Greek of St. Chrysostom’s Homilies, and are therefore to be attributed to some modern Flogging-Master (Μαστιγοφόρος) who has lent them to him, by a kind of pious fraud. Other passages to prove our assertion, might be quoted from the words of Theodoret, Bishop of Cyrus, of Oecumenius, as well as several other Greek Fathers.

The Latin have also understood St. Paul’s words in the same sense that the Greek Fathers have done. Indeed I do not find one among them but who thought that St. Paul did not actually lash himself with his own hands. St. Ambrosius, Bishop of Milan, expresses himself on the subject in the following words. ‘He[48] who says (meaning St. Paul) I chastise my body, and bring it into subjection, does not so much grieve (contristatur) for his own sins, which after all could not be so very numerous, as for ours.’

St. Fulgentius, Bishop of Ruspe, and an illustrious Discipline of St. Augustin, on this occasion treads in the footsteps of his excellent Master, giving the same sense as him to the words of St. Paul. The following is the manner in which St. Fulgentius explains those words, in his Epistle on Virginity, addressed to Proba. “The spiritual Spouse of Virgins does not seek in a Virgin a body practised in carnal pleasures; but rather wishes she should have chastised it by abstinence. This, the Doctor of the Gentiles used to practice on his own body. I chastise (says he) my body, and keep it under subjection. And again, in watchings often, in thirst and hunger, in fastings often: let therefore the Virgin of Christ forbear to seek after pleasures which, she sees, are equally with-held from the widow.”

To all the above proofs, I know it will be objected that St. Petrus Chrysologus, archbishop of Ravenna, is clearly of opinion that St. Paul lashed himself with his own hands.[49] The following is the manner in which he expresses himself on this head, at least if we are to credit the account given of his words by that great Patron of flagellations, Father Gretzer, in his Book printed at Ingolstadt in the year 1609. “This St. Paul used to do, who wrote in the following words the title-deed of his own Servitude, I render my body livid, and bring it into subjection: like a faithful Slave, himself supplied the rod, (vindictam) and severely lashed his own back, till it grew livid[16].” Now, who would not from these words, thus standing alone, as Father Gretzer recites them, conclude that St. Paul really used to cover his back with stripes? But, if we consult the original itself, we shall see that St. Chrysologus meant no more than to borrow a simile from the punishment usually inflicted on Slaves; which punishment he mentions in the beginning of the very passage we discuss here, and of which Father Gretzer has artfully quoted only the conclusion. “After all (says Peter Chrysologus)[50] if the Servant does not awake early the next day, and rise before his Master, whether he be weary or not, he will be tied up and lashed. If the Servant therefore knows what he owes to another Man, the Master is thence taught what himself owes to the Lord of Lords, and is made sensible that he also is subject to a Master.” ‘This is what St. Paul practised, who wrote the title-deeds of his own servitude, and exposed himself to thirst, hunger, and nakedness. Like a good slave, he himself supplied the rod, and severely lashed himself.’

If we examine into the works of St. Hierom, St. Austin, Pope Gregory the Great, and other Latin Fathers, we shall find that they also understood, that St. Paul had expressed himself in a figurative manner. And it is only by misquotations, or arts of the like kind, that Father Gretzer, Cardinal Demian, and others, have attempted to prove that self-flagellations were in use so early as the time of St. Paul among Christians.


[14] As the disputes concerning religious flagellations have been carried on with great warmth on both sides, the two parties have ransacked the Scriptures for passages that might support their respective opinions; and the supporters of flagellations have been particularly happy in the discovery of the passage of David, mentioned in the preceding Chapter; and that of St. Paul which is recited here. By the former passage, the supporters of flagellations pretend to shew, that they were in use so early as the time of David; and that the Prophet underwent a flagellation every morning: by the latter passage, they endeavour to prove that self-scourgings were practised by St. Paul, and of course by the first Christians. As the literal meaning of the above two passages is wholly on the side of the supporters of flagellations, this, as it always happens in controversies of that kind, has given them a great advantage over their opponents, who have been reduced, either to plead that the expressions urged against them were only to be understood in a figurative sense, or to endeavour, by altering the original passage, to substitute others in their stead. The latter is the expedient on which our Author has chiefly relied in this chapter, and he strives to substitute another word, to the word ὑπωπιάζω, used by St. Paul when he said, he chastised his flesh; which is to be found in all the common Editions of the Greek New Testament. And indeed it must be confessed, that the above word is of itself extremely favourable to the promoters of self-flagellation; little less so than the words of Asaph, fui flagellatus (I have been whipped) mentioned in the foregoing Chapter; its precise meaning being the same as I bruise or discolour with blows: it comes from the word ὐπώπιον, which signifies a livid mark left under the eye by a blow: on which the Reader may observe (which, no doubt, will be matter of agreeable surprise to him) that what is called in plain English a black-eye, was expressed in Greek by the word ὑπώπιον. Besides trying to substitute another word to that attributed to St. Paul in the common Greek Editions of the New Testament, our Author produces several passages from Greek and Latin Fathers, to shew that they thought that St. Paul meant no more than to speak of his great labours, abstinence, continence, &c.

The principal end of this Chapter is, therefore, to discuss the interesting question, whether St. Paul used to flagellate himself: and I have preferred to give the above compendious account of the contest on the subject, rather than introduce the long discussion of Greek words, and use the whole string of passages from Greek and Latin Fathers, contained in the Abbé Boileau’s Book. By that means, the present Chapter has, for the sake of the Reader, been shortened to ten pages, instead of thirty, it must otherwise have contained.

[15] “And shall deliver him to the Gentiles to mock, and to scourge and to crucify him.” St. Matth. c. xx. v. 19.... “Then Pilate took Jesus, and scourged him.” St. John, c. xix. ver. 1.

[16] Hoc implebat Paulus, qui servitutis suæ titulos sic scribebat. Lividum facio corpus meum, & servituti subjicio. Præbebat vindictam bonus servus, qui se usque ad livorem, sic agens, jugiter verberabat.



The use of Flagellations was known among the ancient Heathens. Several facts and observations on that subject.

IT is not to be doubted, that flagellations had been invented, and were become, in early times, a common method of punishment in the Pagan world. Even before the foundation of Rome, we meet with instances which prove that it was the usual punishment inflicted on Slaves. Justin, in his Epitome of Trogus Pompeius, relates that the Scythians more easily overcame their rebellious Slaves with scourges and whips, than with their swords. ‘The Scythians being returned (says Justin) from their third expedition in Asia, after having been absent eight years from their Wives and Children, found they now had a war to wage at home against their own Slaves. For, their Wives, tired with such long fruitless expectation of their Husbands, and concluding that they were no longer detained by war, but had been destroyed, married[52] the Slaves who had been left to take care of the cattle; which latter attempted to use their Masters, who returned victorious, like Strangers, and hinder them, by force of arms, from entering the Country. The war having been supported, for a while, with success pretty nearly equal on both sides, the Scythians were advised to change their manner of carrying it on, remembering that it was not with enemies, but with their own Slaves, that they had to fight; that they were to conquer by dint, not of arms, but of their right as Masters; that instead of weapons, they ought to bring lashes into the field, and, setting iron aside, to supply themselves with rods, scourges, and such like instruments of slavish fear. Having approved this counsel, the Scythians armed themselves as they were advised to do; and had no sooner come up with their enemies, than they exhibited on a sudden their new weapons, and thereby struck such a terror into their minds, that those who could not be conquered by arms, were subdued by the dread of the stripes, and betook themselves to flight, not like a vanquished enemy, but like fugitive slaves.’

Among the antient Persians, the punishment of whipping was also in use: it was even[53] frequently inflicted on the Grandees of the Kingdom by order of the King, as we find in Stobæus, who moreover relates in his forty-second Discourse, ‘That when one of them had been flagellated by order of the King, it was an established custom, that he should give him thanks as for an excellent favour he had received, and a token that the King remembered him.’ This custom of the Persians was however in subsequent times altered: they began to set some more value on the skin of Men; and we find in Plutarch’s Apophthegms of Kings, ‘That Artaxerxes, son of Xerxes, sirnamed the Longhanded, was the first who ordered that the Grandees of his kingdom should no longer be exposed to the former method of punishment; but that, when they should have been guilty of some offence, instead of their backs, only their clothes should be whipped, after they had been stripped of them.’

We also find, that it was a custom in antient times, for Generals and Conquerors, to flog the Captives they had taken in war; and that they moreover took delight in inflicting that punishment with their own hands on the most considerable of those Captives. We meet, among others, with a very remarkable proof of this practice, in the Tragedy of Sophocles,[54] called Ajax Scourgebearer (Μαστιγοφόρος): in a Scene of this Tragedy Ajax is introduced as having the following conversation with Minerva.


‘What kind of severity do you prepare for that miserable man?’


‘I propose to lash his back with a scourge till he dies.’


‘Nay, do not whip the poor Wretch so cruelly.’


‘Give me leave, Minerva, to gratify, on this occasion, my own fancy; he shall have it, I do assure you, and I prepare no other punishment for him.’

The punishment of flagellation was also much in vogue among the Romans; and it was the common chastisement which Judges inflicted upon Offenders, especially upon those of a servile condition. Surrounded by an apparatus of whips, scourges, and leather-straps, they terrified Offenders, and brought them to a sense of their duty.


Judges, among the Romans, as has been just now mentioned, used a great variety of instruments for inflicting the punishment of whipping. Some consisted of a flat strap of leather, and were called Ferulæ; and to be lashed with these Ferulæ, was considered as the mildest degree of punishment. Others were made of a number of cords of twisted parchment, and were called Scuticæ. These Scuticæ were considered as being a degree higher in point of severity than the ferulæ, but were much inferior, in that respect, to that kind of scourge which was called Flagellum, and sometimes the terrible Flagellum, which was made of thongs of ox-leather, the same as those which Carmen used for their Horses. We find in the third Satyr of the first Book of Horace, a clear and pretty singular account of the gradation in point of severity that obtained between the above-mentioned instruments of whipping. In this Satyr, Horace lays down the rules which he thinks a Judge ought to follow in the discharge of his office; and he addressed himself, somewhat ironically, to certain persons who, adopting the principles of the Stoics, affected much severity in their opinions, and pretended that all crimes whatever being equal, ought to be punished in the same manner. ‘Make such a rule of conduct to[56] yourself (says Horace) that you may always proportion the chastisement you inflict to the magnitude of the offence; and when the Offender only deserves to be chastised with the whip of twisted parchment, do not expose him to the lash of the horrid leather scourge; for, that you should only inflict the punishment of the flat strap on him who deserves a more severe lashing, is what I am by no means afraid of[17].’

The choice between these different kinds of instruments, was, as we may conclude from the above passage, left to the Judge, who ordered that to be used which he was pleased to name; and the number of blows was likewise left to his discretion; which sometimes were as many as the Executioner could give. ‘He (says Horace in one of his Odes) who has been lashed by order of the Triumvirs, till the Executioner was spent[18].’


Besides this extensive power of whipping exercised by Judges among the Romans, over persons of a servile condition, over Aliens, and those who were the subjects of the Republic, Masters were possessed of an unbounded one with regard to their Slaves, over whose life and death they had moreover an absolute power. Hence a great number of instruments of flagellation, besides those above-mentioned, were successively brought into use for punishing Slaves. Among those were particular kinds of cords manufactured in Spain, as we learn from a passage in an Ode of Horace, the same that has just been quoted, and was addressed to one Menas, a freed-man, who had found means to acquire a great fortune, and was grown very insolent. ‘Thou (says Horace) whose sides are still discoloured (or burnt) with the stripes of the Spanish cords[19].’

A number of other instances of this practice of whipping Slaves, as well as other different names of instruments used for that purpose, may be found in the antient Latin Writers, such as Plautus, Terence, Horace, Martial, &c. So prevalent had the above practice[58] become, that Slaves were frequently denominated from that particular kind of flagellation which they were most commonly made to undergo. Some were called Restiones, because they were used to be lashed with cords; others were called Bucædæ, because they were usually lashed with thongs of ox-leather; and it is in consequence of this custom, that a Man is made to say in one of Plautus’s Plays, ‘They shall be Bucædæ (that is to say, scourged with leather-thongs) whether they will or no, before I consent to be Restio,’ or so much as beaten with cords[20]. And Tertullian, meaning in one of his Writings to express Slaves in general, uses words which simply signify ‘those who are used to be beaten, or to be discoloured with blows[21].’


Nay, so generally were whipping and lashing considered among the Romans, as being the lot of Slaves, that a whip, or a scourge, was become among them the emblem of their condition. Of this we have an instance in the singular custom mentioned by Camerarius, which prevailed among them, of placing in the triumphal car, behind the Triumpher, a man with a whip in his hand; the meaning of which was to shew, that it was no impossible thing for a Man to fall from the highest pitch of glory into the most abject condition, even into that of a Slave.

Suetonius also relates a fact which affords another remarkable instance of this notion of the Romans, of looking upon a whip as a characteristic mark of dominion on the one hand, and of slavery on the other. ‘Cicero (says Suetonius, in the life of Augustus) having accompanied Cæsar to the Capitol, related to a few friends whom he met there, a dream which he had had the night before. It seemed to him, he said, that a graceful Boy came down from Heaven, suspended by a golden chain; that he stopped before the gate of the Capitol, and that Jupiter gave him a whip (flagellum). Having afterwards suddenly seen Augustus, whom (as he was still personally unknown to several of[60] his near relations) Cæsar had sent for and brought along with him to be present at the ceremony, he assured his friends that he was the very person whose figure he had seen during his sleep.’ Juvenal likewise, in one of his Satyrs, has spoken of Augustus conformably to the above notion of the Romans. ‘The same (says he) who, after conquering the Romans, has subjected them to his whip[22].’


But, besides all those instruments of flagellation used for punishing Slaves, which have been mentioned above, and as if the terrible flagellum had not been of itself sufficiently so, new contrivances were used to make the latter a still more cruel weapon; and the thongs with which that kind of scourge was made, were frequently armed with nails, or small hard bones. They also would sometimes fasten to those thongs small leaden weights: hence scourges were sometimes called Astragala, as Hesychius relates, from the name of those kinds of weights which the Ancients used to wear hanging about their shoes. Under the tortures which those different instruments inflicted, it was no wonder that Slaves should die: indeed this was a frequent case; and the cruelty, especially of Mistresses towards their female Slaves, grew at last to such a pitch, that a provision was made in the Council of Elvira to restrain it; and it was ordained, that if any Mistress should cause her Slave to be whipped with so much cruelty as that she should die, the Mistress should be suspended from Communion for a certain number of years. The following are the terms of the above Ordinance, in the fifth Canon. “If a Mistress, in a fit of anger and madness, shall[62] lash her female Slave, or cause her to be lashed, in such a manner that she expires before the third day, by reason of the torture she has undergone; inasmuch as it is doubtful whether it has designedly happened, or by chance; if it has designedly happened, the Mistress shall be excommunicated for seven years; if by chance, she shall be excommunicated for five years only; though, if she shall fall into sickness, she may receive the Communion[23].”

(decorative end of chapter icon)



—— Adsit
Regula peccatis quæ pœnas irroget æquas,
Nec Scuticâ dignum horribili sectere Flagello;
Nam, ut Ferulâ cædas meritum majora subire
Verbera, non vereor.
Lib. I. Sat. I. v. 117.


Sectus flagellis hic Triumviralibus
Præconis ad fastidium.
Lib. V. Ode IV. v. 11, 12.


Ibericis peruste funibus latus.
Lib. V. Ode IV. v. 3.


Erunt Bucædæ invitò, potius quàm ego sim Restio.
Mostell. Act. IV. Sc. II.

[21] Verberones, Subverbustos.—The latter word literally signifies, burnt with blows: a figurative expression commonly used among the Romans, when they spoke of flagellations: thus, the words flagrum and flagellum, had been derived from the word flagrare, which signifies to burn, and Horace, in a passage that will be quoted in page 66, says, to be burnt with rods (virgis uri) for, to be lashed.


Ad sua qui domitos deduxit flagra Quirites.
Juv. Sat. X. v. 99.

This notion of the Romans, of looking upon a scourge as a characteristic appendage of dominion, was so general among them, as is observed above, that they moreover supposed the gods themselves to be supplied with whips; and even Venus had also been thought to be furnished with one. In consequence of this supposition, Horace, who, as we may conclude from thence, had cause to be dissatisfied with some trick his Mistress had played him, or perhaps only with her impertinence in general, desires Venus to chastise her with her whip, “Do, Queen, (says he, addressing Venus) do, for once, give arrogant Chloe a touch with your sublime whip.”

Regina, sublimi flagello
Tange Chloën semel arrogantem.
Od. 26. Lib. III. ad Ven.

[23] The absolute dominion possessed by Masters over the persons of their slaves, led them to use a singular severity in the government of them. So frequently were flagellations the lot of the latter, that appellations and words of reproach drawn from that kind of punishment, were, as hath been above observed, commonly used to denominate them; and expressions of this kind occur in the politest writers: thus, we find in the Plays of Terence, an Author particularly celebrated for his politeness and strict observance of decorum, Slaves frequently called by the words Verberones, Flagriones, or others to the same effect.

As for Plautus, who had been the Servant of a Baker, and who was much acquainted with every thing that related to Slaves, and their flagellations in particular, he has filled his scenes with nicknames[63] of Slaves, drawn from this latter circumstance; and they are almost continually called in his Plays, flagritribæ (a verbis, flagrum & terere) plagipatidæ, ulmitribæ, &c. besides the appellations of Bucædæ and Restiones, above-mentioned.

Sometimes the flagellations of Slaves, or the fear they entertained of incurring them, served Plautus as incidents for the conduct of his plots; thus, in his Epidicus, a Slave who is the principal character in the Play, concludes upon a certain occasion, that his Master has discovered his whole scheme, because he has spied him, in the morning, purchasing a new scourge at the shop in which they were sold. The same flagellations in general, have moreover been an inexhaustible fund of pleasantry for Plautus. In one place, for instance, a Slave, intending to laugh at a fellow-slave, asks him how much he thinks he weighs, when he is suspended naked, by his hands, to the beam, with an hundred weight (centupondium) tied to his feet; which was a precaution taken, as Commentators inform us, in order to prevent the Slave who was flagellated from kicking the Man (Virgator) whose office it was to perform the operation. And in another place, Plautus, alluding to the thongs of ox-leather with which whips were commonly made, introduces a Slave engaged in deep reflection on the surprizing circumstance of[64] “dead bullocks, that make incursions upon living Men.”

Vivos homines mortui incursant boves!

But it was not always upon their Slaves only that Masters, among the Romans, inflicted the punishment of flagellation: they sometimes found means to serve in the same manner the young Men of free condition, who insinuated themselves into their houses, with a design to court their Wives. As the most favourable disguise on such occasions, was to be dressed in Slaves clothes, because a Man thus habited was enabled to get into the house, and go up and down without being noticed, Rakes engaged in amorous pursuits, usually chose to make use of it; but, when the Husband either happened to discover them, or had had previous information of the appointment given by his faithful Spouse, he feigned to mistake the Man for a run-away Slave, or some strange Slave who had got into his house to commit theft, and treated him accordingly. Indeed the opportunity was a most favourable one for revenge; and if to this consideration we add that of the severe temper of the Romans, and the jealous disposition that has always prevailed in that country, we shall easily conclude that such an opportunity, when obtained, was seldom suffered to escape, and that many a Roman Spark, caught in the above disguise, and engaged in the laudable pursuit of seducing his[65] neighbour’s wife, has, with a centupondium to his feet, been sadly rewarded for his ingenuity. A misfortune of that kind actually befell Sallust the Historian. He was caught in a familiar intercourse with Faustina, wife to Milo, and daughter of the Dictator Sylla. The husband caused him to be soundly lashed (loris bene cæsum); nor did he release him till he had made him pay a considerable sum of money. The fact is related by Aulus Gellius, who had extracted it from Varro. To it was very probably owing the violent part which Sallust afterwards took against Milo, while the latter was under prosecution for slaying the Tribune Clodius, and the tumult he raised on that occasion, which prevented Cicero from delivering the speech he had prepared.

An allusion is made to the above practices in one of Horace’s Satyrs. He supposes in it, that his Slave, availing himself of the opportunity of the Saturnalia, to speak his mind freely to him, gives him a lecture on the bad courses in which he thinks him engaged, and uses, among others, the following arguments.

‘When you have stripped off the marks of your dignity, your equestrian ring, and your whole Roman dress, and from a Man invested with the office of Judge, shew yourself at once under the appearance of the Slave Dama; disgraced[66] as you are, and hiding your perfumed head under your cloak, you are not the Man whom you feign to be: you are at least introduced full of terror, and your whole frame shakes through the struggles of two opposite passions. In fact, what advantage is it to you, whether you are cut to pieces with rods, or slaughtered with iron weapons?’

Tu cum projectis insignibus, annulo Equestri
Romanoque habitu, prodis ex judice Dama,
Turpis, odoratum caput obscurante lacernâ
Non es quod simulas; metuens induceris, atque
Altercante libidinibus tremis ossa pavore.
Quid refert uri virgis, ferroque necari?
Lib. II. Sat. 7.

The above uncontrouled power of inflicting punishments on their Slaves, enjoyed by Masters in Rome, was at last abused by them to the greatest degree. The smallest faults committed in their families by Slaves, such as breaking glasses, seasoning dishes too much, or the like, exposed them to grievous punishments; and it even was no unusual thing for Masters (as we may judge from the description of Trimalcion’s entertainment in the Satire of Petronius) to order such of their Slaves as had been guilty of faults of the above kind, to be stripped, and whipped in the presence of their guests, when they happened to entertain any at their houses.


Women in particular seem to have abused this power of flagellation in a strange manner; which caused express provisions to be made, at different times, in order to restrain them; of which the Canon above-quoted is an instance. It was often sufficient, to induce the Roman Ladies to cause their Slaves to be whipped, that they were dissatisfied with the present state of their own charms; or, as Juvenal expresses it, that their nose displeased them: and when they happened to fancy themselves neglected by their husbands, then indeed their Slaves fared badly. This latter observation of Juvenal, Dryden, in his translation of that Author’s Satires, has expressed by the following lines:

‘For, if over night the husband has been slack, }
Or counterfeited sleep, or turn’d his back,        }
Next day, be sure, the servants go to wrack.’    }

Here follows the literal translation of the passage of Juvenal, in which he describes in a very lively manner, the havock which an incensed Woman usually made on the above occasion. “If her husband has, the night before, turned his back on her, woe to her waiting Woman; the dressing Maids lay down their tunicks; the errand Slave is charged with having returned[68] too late; the straps break on the back of some; others redden under the lash of the leather scourge, and others, of the twisted parchment.”

Si nocte maritus
Aversus jacuit, periit Libraria; ponunt
Cosmetæ tunicas; tardè venisse Liburnus
Dicitur; hic frangit ferulas; rubet ille flagellis,
Hic scuticâ.
Juv. Sat. VI.

The wantonness of power was carried still farther by the Roman Ladies, if we may credit the same Juvenal. It was a customary thing with several among them, when they proposed to have their hair dressed both with nicety and expedition, to have the dressing Maid who was charged with that care, stripped naked to the waist, ready for flagellation, in case she became guilty of any fault or mistake, in performing her task. The following is the passage in Juvenal on that subject. “For, if she has determined to be dressed more nicely than usual, and is in haste, being expected in the public gardens, the unfortunate Psechas then dresses her head, with her own hair in the utmost disorder, and her shoulders and breasts bare. Why is that ringlet too high?—The leather-thongs instantly punish the crime of a hair, and an ill-shaped curl.”


Nam si constituit solitoque decentiùs optat
Ornari & properat, jamque expectatur in hortis,
Componit crinem, laceratis ipsa capillis,
Nuda humeros, Psechas infœlix, nudisque mamillis:
Altior hic quare cicinnus? taurea punit
Continuò flexi crimen, facinusque capilli.

These abuses which Masters, in Rome, made of the power they possessed over their Slaves, were at last carried by them to such a pitch, either by making them wantonly suffer death, or torturing them in numberless different ways, that, in the beginning of the reign of the Emperors, it was found necessary to restrain their licence.

Under the reign of Claudius (for it is not clear whether any provision to that effect was made under Augustus) it was ordained, that Masters who forsook their Slaves when sick, should lose all right over them, in case they recovered; and that those who deliberately put them to death, should be banished from Rome.

Under the Emperor Adrian, the cruelties exercised by Umbricia, a Roman Lady, over her female Slaves, caused new laws to be made on that subject, as well as the former ones to be put in force, and Umbricia was, by a rescript of the Emperor, banished for five years. (l. 2. in fine, Dig. L. I. t. 6.)

New laws to the same ends were likewise made under the following Emperors, among which Civilians[70] make particular mention of a constitution of Antonius Pius (Divus Pius); and in subsequent times, the Church also employed its authority to prevent the like excesses, as we may see from the Canon above-recited (Si quæ domina, &c.) which was framed in the Council held at Elvira, a small Town in Spain, that has been since destroyed. But the disorder was of such a nature as was not to be cured so long as the custom itself of slavery was allowed to subsist; and it has been remedied at last, only by the thorough abolition of an usage which was a continual insult on Humanity: an advantage which (to be, once at least, very serious in the course of this learned and useful Work) we are indebted for, to the establishment of Christianity, whatever other evils certain Writers may reproach it with having occasioned.



The subject continued.

THE punishment of flagellation was thought among the Antient Heathens, as we have just seen, to possess great efficacy to mend the morals of persons convicted of offences, and insure the honesty and diligence of Slaves. Nor were Schoolmasters behindhand either with Judges or Masters, in regard to whipping those persons who were subjected to their authority.

Of this we have an undoubted proof in one of the Epistles of Horace; and it moreover appears that he had had, when at school, the bad luck of being himself under the tuition of one who had strong inclination to inflict that kind of chastisement [24]. ‘I remember (says he) that the flogging Orbilius, who when I was a boy, used to dictate to us the verses of Livius Andronicus—.’


Quintilian has also mentioned this practice of Schoolmasters of whipping their Disciples; and the severity which they used, as well as other considerations, induced him to disapprove of it intirely. The following are his expressions on that subject. ‘With respect to whipping School-boys, though it be an established practice, and Chrysippus is not averse to it, yet I do not in any degree approve it. First, it is a base and slavish treatment; and certainly if it were not for the youth of those who are made to suffer, it might be deemed an injury that might call for redress. Besides, if a Disciple is of such a mean disposition that he is not mended by censures, he will, like a bad Slave, grow equally insensible to blows. Lastly, if Masters acted as they ought, there would be no occasion for chastisement; but the negligence of Teachers is now so great, that, instead of causing their Disciples to do what they ought, they content themselves with punishing them for not having done it. Besides, though you may compel the obedience of a Boy, by using the rod, what will you do with a young Man, to whom motives of a quite different nature must be proposed? Not to add, that several dangerous accidents which are not fit to be named, may be occasioned[73] either by the fear or the pain attending such punishments. Indeed, if great care is not taken in choosing Teachers of proper dispositions, I am ashamed to say to what degree they will sometimes abuse their power of lashing: but I shall dwell no longer on that subject, concerning which the Public knows already too much[25].’

After these dismal accounts of Disciples flogged by their Teachers, and of the cruel severity used by the latter, the Reader will not certainly be displeased to read instances of Teachers who were flogged by their Disciples.

A very remarkable instance of this kind occurs in the case of that Schoolmaster of the Town of Falerii, who is mentioned in the fifth Book of the Decad of Livy. The Town of Falerii being besieged by the Romans, under the command of the Dictator Camillus, a Schoolmaster in that Town, thinking he would be splendidly rewarded for his service, one day led, by treachery, and under pretence of making them take a short walk out of the[74] gates of the Town, the children of the most considerable families, who had been entrusted to his care, to the Roman camp, and delivered them up to the Dictator. But the latter, incensed at his perfidy, ordered him to be stripped naked, with his hands tied behind his back, and having supplied the children with rods, gave the Schoolmaster up to them, to drive him back in that condition to their Town[26].

Another instance of the like kind is also to be met with in more modern times. The Tutor’s name was Sadragesillus, and his Disciple was Dagobert, son of Clotaire, King of France, who reigned about the year of Jesus Christ, 526. The transaction is related in the[75] following manner by Robert Gaguin, in his History of France. ‘Dagobert (says he) having received from his Father a Tutor who was to instruct him in the worldly sciences, and whom the King had made Duke of Aquitain, the young Man, who did not want parts for one of his years, soon perceived that Sadragesillus (such was the Pedagogue’s name) was much elated with pride on account of his newly-acquired dignity, so that he began to fail in the respect he owed to him, and grew remiss in the discharge of his duty. The Prince having once invited him to dine with him, and Sadragesillus having not only placed himself at table opposite the Prince, but also offered to take the cup from him as if he had been his companion, the Prince ordered him to be soundly whipped with rods, and caused his beard, which he wore very long, to be cut off.’ The above fact is also related by Tilly, Scrivener of the Parliament of Paris, in his Chronicles of the Kings of France.

In fine, to the passages above produced concerning the Flagellations of Children, from which we find that very great men have much differed in their opinions in regard to them, we may add, that King Solomon, that[76] Oracle of Wisdom, has, without reserve, declared in favour of that mode of correction. ‘He that spareth the rod, hateth his son; but he that loves him, chastises him betimes.’ The Greek Philosopher Chrysippus has afterwards manifested the same opinion. And Petrarch, who may be called here a modern Author, has also adopted the opinion of King Solomon; and, notwithstanding Quintilian’s arguments on the subject, has sided with the antient Moralist and Sage: “Correct your son (says Petrarch) in his tender years, nor spare the rod: a branch, when young, may easily be bent at your pleasure[27].”

(end of chapter mark)



... Memini quæ plagosum mihi parvo
Orbilium dictare.—Lib. II. Ep. i. v. 70.

[25] ... “Jam si minor in diligendis custodum & præceptorum moribus fuit cura, pudet dicere in qua proba nefandi homines isto jure cædendi abutantur; non morabor in parte hac, nimium est quod intelligitur.”—Institut. Orat. Lib. I. Cap. 3.

[26]Denudari deindè, Ludi-magistrum jussit, eumque pueris tradidit reducendum Falerios, manibus post tergum illigatis; virgas quoque eis dedit, quibus proditorem agerent in urbem verberantes.

The inhabitants of Falerii were so struck with the just conduct of the Dictator (Livy adds) that a total change of their dispositions towards the Romans was the consequence; and the Senate having been assembled thereupon by the Magistrates, they came to the resolution of opening their gates, and surrendering to the Romans; which was soon after effected.

[27] From the above-mentioned passages of king Solomon, Livy, and other antient authors, down to Petrarch, we may safely conclude that the practice of flagellating children has been followed in the world during a number of successive centuries; and we know from undoubted authorities, that the same practice continues in our days to prevail, especially among Schoolmasters. Nay more, very respectable Writers inform us, that Schoolmasters still possess the same strong inclination to exert their authority that way, as they did in the times of Horace and Quintilian.


Thus, Mr. Henry Fielding, a Writer who, better than most others, knew the manners of Men, in his History of a Foundling, represents Thwackum the Schoolmaster, as having, upon every occasion, recourse to his rod, and describes him to us as a true successor of the plagosus Orbilius.

Mr. Gay, another writer, who, too, was deeply versed in the knowledge of Mankind, expresses himself with still more precision on that head, and lays it down as an undoubted maxim, that the delight of a Schoolmaster is to use his whip. The opinion of that Author on the subject is contained in a song written by him: this song was composed in honour of Molly Mog, an Innkeeper’s daughter, at Oakingham in Berkshire: the verses are fifteen in all; and the name of Molly Mog is to be found in each of them, with a rhyme to it.

The School-boy’s desire is a play-day,
The Schoolmaster’s joy is to flog,
The milk-maid’s delights are on May-day;
But mine are in sweet Molly Mog.

However, the researches of our Author on the present deep subject, as well as mine in my humble capacity of Commentator, can bear no comparison, I think, in point of sagaciousness, with the discovery made by Thomas Perez, the Uncle[78] of Diego, who relates his own history in the third volume of the Adventures of Gil Blas, and who takes that occasion to mention the great abilities of his Uncle as an Antiquary. “If it had not been for him (says he) we should still be ignorant that children, in Athens, cried when their Mothers whipped them.”



Flagellations of a religious and voluntary kind were practised among the ancient Heathens.

WE have hitherto only treated of involuntary Flagellations, and such as were in all cases inflicted by force on those who suffered them. But besides Flagellations of this kind, there were others of a voluntary sort among the Heathens, to which those who underwent them, freely and willingly submitted, and which may indeed create our surprise in a much greater degree than the former.

Thus, at Lacedæmon, there was a celebrated Festival, which was kept annually, and was named the Day of Flagellations, on account of the ceremony that was performed in it, of whipping before the altar of Diana a number of Boys, who freely submitted to that painful treatment; and this Festival has been mentioned by a great number of Authors.

Plutarch, for instance, in his Book of the Customs of the Lacedæmonians, relates, that[80] he had been an eye-witness of the celebration of the solemnity we speak of. ‘Boys (says he) are whipped for a whole day, often to death, before the altar of Diana the Orthian; and they suffer it with chearfulness, and even joy: nay, they strive with each other for victory; and he who bears up the longest time, and has been able to endure the greatest number of stripes, carries the day. This solemnity is called The Contest (or race) of Flagellations; and is celebrated every year.’

Cicero, in his Tusculana, has also mentioned this custom of the Lacedæmonians. ‘Boys (says he) at Sparta are lashed before the Altar in so severe a manner, that the blood issues from their body. While I was there, I several times heard it said that Boys had been whipped to death; none of whom ever uttered the least complaint, or so much as groaned.’ And in another place Cicero likewise says, ‘Boys, at Sparta, utter no complaint, though lacerated by repeated lashes.’ Nay more; Mozonius, in Stobæus, relates that the Spartan Boys were rather pleased with these flagellating solemnities. ‘The sons of the Lacedæmonians make it very evident (says Mozonius) that stripes do not appear to them either shameful or hard[81] to be borne, since they allow themselves to be whipped in public, and take a pride in it.’

The Scholiast or Commentator of Thucydides relates the same things of the Lacedæmonian young men; and says that those among them who could bear the greatest number of lashes, acquired much glory by it. ‘And indeed (says he) the Flagellations are performed at particular times during a certain number of days; and those who receive the greatest number of stripes, are accounted the most manly.’

The Parents of the young men who were thus publickly whipped, were commonly present during the performance of the ceremony; and so far were they from discouraging their Sons from going through it, that, as Lucian relates, they deemed it a shameful piece of cowardice in them, if they seemed to yield to the violence of the lashes, and in consequence of this notion they exhorted them to go stoutly through the whole trial. ‘Indeed (continues Lucian) a number of them frequently died in the conflict, thinking it was unworthy of them, so long as they continued to live, to yield to blows and bodily pain, in sight of their friends and relations.’ ‘And to those who die upon those occasions, Statues,[82] as you will see, are erected at Sparta, in the public places.’

Seneca, in his Treatise upon Providence, has also mentioned those singular Flagellations which took place at Lacedæmon, as well as the conduct of the Lacedæmonian Fathers on those occasions. ‘Do not you think (says he) that the Lacedæmonians hate their children, who try their tempers by having them lashed publickly? Their very Fathers exhort them firmly to bear the lashes of the whips; and intreat them, when torn to pieces and half dead, still to continue to offer their wounds to other wounds.’

In fine, with so much solemnity were the flagellating ceremonies and trials we mention performed, that a Priestess, as Silenus of Chios relates, constantly presided over them, holding up a small statue of the Goddess in her hand while the young Men were lashed; and, to crown all, Priests were established to inspect the stripes and marks of the blows, and draw omens from them. ‘I am witness (says Lucian) that there are Priests appointed to inspect the lashes and stripes[28].’ To[83] this it maybe added, that these extraordinary ceremonies of the Lacedæmonians, which are here described, were preserved among them, notwithstanding the numerous revolutions which their Republic underwent, to very late times; and Tertullian mentions them as continuing, in his days, to be regularly celebrated every year. ‘For (says that Author) the Festival of The Flagellations is still in these days looked upon as a very great solemnity at Lacedæmon. Every body knows in what Temple all the young Men of the best families are lashed in the presence of their Relations and friends, who exhort them to bear to the last this cruel ceremony[29].’

Even Philosophers among the Greeks, I mean particular sects of them, had adopted the practice of voluntary Flagellation. Lucian relates in one of his Dialogues, that there were Philosophers in his time, ‘who trained young Men to endure labour, pain, and want; and who made the practice of virtue consist in these austerities. A number of[84] them would bind themselves; others whipped themselves; and those who were the most tender, flead their outer skin with instruments of iron made for that purpose.’

However, austerities of this kind were only practised by particular Sects of Philosophers, as hath been above observed; and the generality of them were so far from adopting such practices, that a great many ridiculed them. Of this we have an instance in the Book of the Life of Apollonius Tyanæus, written by Philostrates. In this Book, Apollonius is said to have spoken in the following manner to Thespesion. ‘Flagellations are practised before the altar of Diana Scythia, because the Oracles have ordered it so; now, I think that it would be folly to resist the will of the Gods. If so (Thespesion answers) you shew, O Apollonius, that the Gods of the Greeks possess but little wisdom, since they prescribe to Men who think they are free, to lash themselves with whips.’

Nor was the practice of those Flagellations to which the persons who underwent them willingly submitted, confined to the Nations of Greece; but the same had also been adopted in other Countries. It obtained among the Thracians, as we find in Artemidorus. ‘The young Men of noble families[85] among the Thracians (says that Author) are on certain occasions cruelly lashed.’

Voluntary Flagellations were also in use among the Egyptians. It even seems that this practice took its origin among them; and they used them as a method of atoning for their sins, and appeasing the incensed Deity. Herodotus has left us an account of the manner in which they commonly performed their flagellations, in the account he has given of the Festival which they celebrated in honour of the great Goddess. ‘After preparing themselves by fasting (he says) they begin to offer Sacrifices, and they mutually beat each other during the time that the offerings are burning on the Altar: this done, the viands which remain after the sacrifice is accomplished, are placed upon tables before those who compose the Assembly.’

The same Herodotus says on another occasion, ‘I have already related in what manner the Festival of Isis is celebrated in the city of Busiris. While the Sacrifice is performing, the whole Assembly, amounting to several thousands of both Men and Women, beat one another.’ To this Herodotus adds, that ‘he is not allowed to mention the reason why those beatings were performed[30].’


Among the Syrians, we likewise find that the use of voluntary Flagellations had been adopted; and their Priests practised them upon themselves with astonishing severity. Apuleius, in his Metamorphosis of the Golden Ass, relates the manner in which these Priests both made incisions in their own flesh, and lashed themselves voluntarily.

‘In fine, they dissect their own arms with two-edged knives, which they use constantly to carry about them. In the mean while, one of them begins to rave and sigh, and seems to draw his breath from his very bowels. He at last feigns to fall into a kind of phrenetic fit, pretending that he is replete with the spirit of the Goddess; as if the presence of the Gods ought not to make Men better, instead of rendering them disordered and weak. But now, behold what kind of favour the Divine Will is going to bestow upon him. He begins to vociferate, and, by purposely contrived lies, to upbraid and accuse himself in the same manner as if he had been guilty of having entertained bad designs against the mysteries of their holy Religion. He then proceeds to award a sentence of punishment against himself; and at the same time grasping his scourge, an instrument which those Priests[87] constantly wear about them, and which is made of twisted woollen cords armed with small bones, he lashes himself with repeated blows; all the while manifesting a wonderful, though affected firmness, notwithstanding the violence and number of the stripes.’ From all that is above related, it is pretty evident that those Syrian Priests used (or seemed to use) themselves, in this cruel manner, only with a view to raise admiration in the minds of weak and superstitious persons by this extraordinary affectation of superior sanctity, and thereby to cheat them out of their money. At least this is the conjecture made by Philippus Beroaldus, in his Commentaries on the Metamorphosis of the Golden Ass, who says, that those Priests were no better than Jugglers, or rather Cheats, who only aimed at catching the money of the Fools who gazed at them[31].


Nay, the opinion of the merit of voluntary or religious Flagellations, was in antient times grown so universal, that we find them to have also been practised among the Romans, who had adopted notions on that subject of the same kind with those of the Syrians and the Egyptians, and thought that the Gods were, upon particular occasions, to be appeased by using scourges and whips. An instance of this notion or practice is to be met with in the Satyricon of Petronius, in which Encolpus relates, that, being upon the sea, the people of the ship flagellated him, in order, as they thought, to prevent a storm. ‘It was resolved (he says) among the Mariners, to give us each forty stripes, in order to appease the tutelar Deity of the ship. No time accordingly is lost; the furious Mariners set upon us with cords in their hands, and endeavour to appease the Deity by the effusion of the meanest blood: as to me, I received three lashes, which I endured with Spartan magnanimity[32].’


But the most curious instance of religious Flagellations, among the Romans, and indeed among all other Nations, is that of the ceremony[90] which the Romans called Lupercalia; a ceremony which was performed in honour of the God Pan, and had been contrived in Arcadia, where it was in use so early as the times of King Evander, and whence it was afterwards brought over to Italy. In this Festival, a number of Men used to dance naked, as Virgil informs us: ‘Here (says he) the dancing Salii, and naked Luperci[33].’ And Servius, in his Commentary upon this verse of Virgil, explains to us who these Luperci[91] were. They were (he says) Men who, upon particular solemnities, used to strip themselves stark naked; in this situation they ran about the streets, carrying straps of leather in their hands, with which they struck the Women they met in their way. Nor did those Women run away from them; on the contrary, they willingly presented the palms of their hands to them, in order to receive their blows; imagining, through a superstitious notion received among the Romans, that these blows, whether applied to their hands or to their belly, had the power of rendering them fruitful, or procuring them an easy delivery.

The same facts are also alluded to, by Juvenal, who says in his second Satire, ‘Nor is it of any service to her, to offer the palms of her hands to a nimble Lupercus[34].’ And the antient Scholiast on Juvenal observes on this verse, that barren Women, in Rome, used to throw themselves into the way of the Luperci when become furious, and were beaten by them with straps[35].

Other Authors, besides those above, have mentioned this festival of the Lupercalia.[92] Among others, Festus, in his Book on the Signification of words, informs us, that the Luperci were also sometimes called Crepi, on account of the kind of noise (crepitus) which they made with their straps, when they struck the Women with them: ‘For it is a custom among the Romans (continues the same Author) for Men to run about naked during the festival of the Lupercalia, and to strike all the Women they meet, with straps.’

Prudentius, I find, has also mentioned the same festival in his Roman Martyr: ‘What is the meaning (says he) of this shameful ceremony? By thus running about the streets under the shape of Luperci, you show that you are persons of low condition. Would you not deem a Man to be the meanest of Slaves, who would run naked about the public streets, and amuse himself with striking the young Women[36]?’


All the Flagellations we have abovementioned were performed in public Solemnities, or with religious views of some kind or other;[94] but there were other instances of voluntary fustigations (as we learn from the ancient Authors) in which those who performed them were actuated by no such laudable motives; or at least, had no precise intention that has been made known to us. Such were the Flagellations mentioned by St. Jerom, in his Observations on the Epitaph of the Widow Marcella. In these Observations St. Jerom informs us, that there were Men in Rome silly enough to lay their posteriors bare in the public Markets, or open Streets, and to suffer themselves[95] to be lashed by a pretended Conjuror. ‘It is no wonder (says he) that a false Diviner lashes the buttocks of those blockheads in the middle of the Streets, and in the Market-place[37].’

And these Conjurors not only lashed the persons who desired them to do so, but they, at other times, would also lash themselves, as we learn from Plautus, though an early Writer; for those Flagellations we mention were, it seems, an old practice among the vulgar in Rome. ‘Pray, is it not (says an Actor in one of this Author’s Plays) is it not the Conjuror who lashes himself[38]?’

Another proof of the practice of those both active and passive flagellations which prevailed among the People in Rome, is also to be drawn from the above-mentioned Book of Festus, on the Signification of words. Festus, explaining in that Book the signification of[96] the word Flagratores, says, that this word signified ‘those who allowed themselves to be whipped for money.’ And M. Dacier, a person of consummate learning in all that relates to Antiquity, says, in his Notes on the above Author, that the word Flagratores signified likewise ‘those who whipped others:’ he adds, that this was the more common acceptation of the word[39].

Besides the flagellations just mentioned, which perhaps were also owing to some superstitious notion or other in those persons who practised them, we find, in antient Authors, instances of lashings and whippings performed in a way perfectly jocular, and as a kind of innocent pastime. None is more remarkable than that which is related by Lucian of the Philosopher Peregrinus. This Peregrinus (Lucian observes) was a Cynic Philosopher of a very impudent disposition. He lived in the time of the Emperor Trajan: after having embraced the Christian Religion, he returned to his former Sect: and then used frequently to lash himself in public in rather an indecent manner. ‘Surrounded by a croud of Spectators, he handled his pudendum (αἰδοῖον)[97] which he exhibited as a thing, he said, of no value. He afterwards both gave himself, and received from the Bystanders, lashes upon his posteriors, and performed a number of other juvenile tricks equally surprizing as these.’

We also find in Suetonius another instance of sportive lashings or slappings among the Ancients; and these, too, practiced upon no less a person than a Roman Emperor. The Emperor here alluded to, was the Emperor Claudius. ‘When he happened (says Suetonius) to fall asleep after his dinner, which was a customary thing with him, they threw stones of olives or of dates at him, in order to awaken him; or sometimes the Court Buffoons would rouse him, by striking him, in a jocular way, with a strap or a scourge[40].’

In fine, I shall conclude this Chapter with an instance of voluntary flagellation among the Ancients, which was not only free either from the superstition or wantonness above-mentioned, but was moreover produced by rational, and, we may say, laudable motives. The instance I mean, is that of the flagellations[98] bestowed upon himself by a certain Philosopher, mentioned by Suidas. The Philosopher’s name was Superanus: he was a Disciple of Lascaris; though past the age of thirty years, he had taken a strong resolution of applying himself to Science, and began at that time to read the works of the most famous Orators. So earnest was he in his design of succeeding in those studies which he had undertaken, that ‘he never grudged himself either the rod or sharp lectures, in order to learn all that Schoolmasters and Tutors teach their Pupils. He even was more than once seen, in the public Baths, to inflict upon himself the severest corrections[41].’

(end of chapter mark)


[28] Pag. 1002. Litt. C. μαντικὸς ἦν μαρτύρομαι δὲ, ἦ μὴν καὶ ἱερέας αὐτῶ αποδειχθήσεσθαι μαστίγων ἢ καυτηρίων.

[29] Pag. 158. Edit. Rig. Namque hodie apud Lacedæmonas solemnitas maxima est διαμαστίγωσις, id est, flagellatio. Non latet in quo Sacro ante aram nobiles quique adolescentes flagellis afficiantur, adstantibus parentibus atque propinquis, & uti perseverarint adhortantibus.

[30] In Euterpe, Lib. II. Cap. 42. pag. 113. Ἐφ’ ὅτω δὲ τύπτονται, οὐ μοι ὅσιόν ἐστι λέγειν.

[31] Whether those Priests whipped themselves in earnest, or only made a feint so to do, as Beroaldus suspects, is difficult to determine; but with respect to the incisions which they pretended to make in their own flesh, there is just ground to think that they only imposed upon their spectators, since a law was made by the Emperor Commodus, which Dr. Middleton has quoted in his Letter from Rome, by which it was ordered that those Priests should be made really to suffer the amputations which they pretended they made on themselves. Bellonæ servientes brachia verè exsecare præcepit. Lamprid. in Com.

[32]Itaque ut Tutela navis expiaretur, placuit quadragenas utrique plagas imponi. Nulla ergo fit mora; aggrediuntur nos furentes nautæ cum funibus, tentantque vilissimo sanguine Tutelam placare; & ego quidem tres plagas Spartanâ nobilitate concoxi.”—Pet. Arb. Sat. L. II.——The Story, as it is to be found in Petronius, is this. Encolpus and Giton had embarked, unawares, on the ship of one Lycas, to whom Encolpus had formerly given offence; and on board the same ship was also a Lady named Tryphena, who owed a grudge to Giton, by whom she thought she had on a former occasion been slighted. Encolpus and Giton no sooner discovered in whose ship they were, than they were afraid of being ill-used, and attempted to disguise themselves in the dress of Slaves, and for that purpose cut off their hair; a thing which (though they did not know it) was the worst of omens during a voyage, as it never was done but in a storm, in order to make offerings to the incensed Deities of the sea. Somebody spied Encolpus and Giton while they were performing the above operation; the rumour of such a nefarious act, in fair weather, soon spread about the ship, and the crew thereupon used our two passengers in the manner above related. Encolpus (as himself says) bore the three first blows with great magnanimity; but Giton, who was of a more tender frame, screamed so loud at the first blow, that Tryphena heard him, knew his voice, ran upon the deck, and instead of being moved by the sight of his nakedness, insisted upon the whole number of blows being given him: other passengers then took the part of the two culprits; which brought on a battle between them and the crew: at last the affair was compromised, and Encolpus and Giton were released. As for the latter, a Maid slave found means afterwards to fit him with a wig, and paste false eyebrows to his forehead, which made him appear as charming as ever, and Tryphena’s favour was restored to him.

[33]Hic exultantes Salios nudosque Lupercos.” Æn. Lib. III.

[34]Nec prodest agili palmas præbere Luperco.” Juv. Sat. II.

[35]Steriles mulieres februantibus Lupercis se offerebant, & ferulâ verberabantur.

[36] From the above sentiments delivered by Prudentius, we might be induced to think that only persons of low condition, in Rome, or even Slaves alone, used to run, in the festival of the Lupercalia; yet this does not seem to have been the case, and the lines of Prudentius appear to have contained more declamation than real truth.

The Luperci were in very early times formed into two bands, which were called by the names of the most distinguished families in Rome, Quintiliani and Fabiani; and to these was afterwards added a third band, called Juliani, from J. Cæsar’s name. Marc Antony, as every one knows, did not scruple to run as one of the Luperci, having once harangued the people in that condition: and if he was afterwards inveighed against, on that account, by several persons, and among others by Cicero, his personal enemy, it was owing to his being Consul, when he thus ran among the Luperci: a thing which, it was said, had never been done by any Consul before him.

The festival in question (which may surprise the Reader) continued to be celebrated so late as the year 496, long after the establishment of Christianity; and persons of noble families not only continued to run among the Luperci, but a great improvement was moreover made about those times in the ceremony; the Ladies, no longer contented with being slapt on the palms of their hands, as formerly, began to strip themselves naked, in order both to give a fuller scope to the Lupercus to display the vigour and agility of his arm, and enjoy, themselves, the entertainment of a more compleat flagellation. The whole ceremony being thus brought to that degree of perfection, was so well relished by all parties, that it continued to subsist (as has just now been observed) long after the other ceremonies of Paganism were abolished; and when Pope Gelasius at last put an end to it, he met with a strong opposition from all orders of Men, Senators as well as others. The general discontent became even so great, that the Pope, after he had carried his point, was obliged to write his own Apology, which Baronius has preserved: one of his arguments, among others, was drawn from the above practice of the Ladies, of stripping themselves naked in public in order to be lashed.—Apud illos, nobiles ipsi currebant, & matronæ nudato corpore vapulabant.

[37]Nec mirum si, in plateis & foro rerum venalium, fictus Ariolus stultorum verberet nates.” Lib. II. adv. Juv. Cap. XIX. & Lib. I. Apolog. adv. Austin. Cap. IV.—Reverà, non nates, sed nares (subjungit Author noster) legendum estimaverunt Erasmus & M. V. Reatinus; sed ex Codicibus Manuscriptis, nares in nates, denuò emendaverunt Grævius, & doctissimus Jesuita H. Rosveidus.

[38] Nùm obsecro, num Ariolus qui ipsus se verberat?

[39] Immò potius ii videntur fuisse qui flagris cædebant.

[40]Quoties post cibum obdormisceret, quod ei ferè quotidiè accidebat, olearum & palmularum ossibus incessebatur: interdùm ferulâ flagrove velut per ludum excitabatur à Copreis.

[41] This Superanus, who considered whipping as a necessary circumstance to make a complete education, has been followed in that opinion by no less a man than the celebrated Loyola, the Founder of the Order of the Jesuits. Ignatius of Loyola, after having led a military life, took it into his head, though past thirty years of age, to begin his studies; and in order to render his course of learning as complete as possible, he insisted, on a certain occasion, on the Master inflicting the correction of the School upon him, in the presence of[99] all the Boys. Some Writers have advanced, that Loyola was thirty-three years old, when he underwent the above flagellation; while others say, he was thirty-seven. On the other hand, certain Protestant Authors, in order to rob the Saint of the praise of humility he acquired on that occasion, pretend, that when he desired to undergo the above correction, he knew that the Professor had, of himself, resolved to inflict it upon him. The question is also examined in Bayle’s Dictionary, whether Ignatius of Loyola was served in the manner above-recited, at Bayonne, or in the Montaigu School, at Paris.

Molière, in his Bourgeois Gentilhomme, introduces just such another character as Superanus and Loyola. M. Jourdain, though a Man of a middle age, and without education, takes it into his head to be on a sudden a learned Man and a fine Gentleman: and in consequence of this fancy, fills his house with Fencing Masters, Dancing Masters, Masters of Music, Masters of Philosophy, and Masters of every kind. His Wife and Maid Servant, being very angry to see their apartments full of dust, and their floors covered with dirt, take him to task on that account, and the Wife, who is a sort of blunt, vulgar Woman, among other peevish expressions of her displeasure, asks him, “Do you mean, at your age, to get yourself whipped, one of these days?”—To[100] which Mr. Jourdain, like a true Superanus, answers, “Why not? Would to God I were whipped this very instant before all the world, and knew what is to be learnt at School.”

Madame Jourdain.

N’irez vous point un de ces jours vous faire donner le fouët, à votre âge?

M. Jourdain.

Pourquoi non? Plût à Dieu d’avoir tout à l’heure le fouët, devant tout le monde, & savoir ce qu’on apprend au Collège.

From the extensive use of flagellations that took place among the antient Heathens, the Abbé Boileau ten or twelve times draws the conclusion in different parts of his Book, that the first Christians held that mode of punishment in detestation, and never adopted it for themselves. However, the other Catholic Divines are very far from admitting this conclusion, nor by any means grant that, because certain practices were adopted by the antient Heathens, it follows that the first Christians abstained from them. They, on the contrary, say that the Abbé himself ought to know, that Christians have imitated several ceremonies of the Pagans, which they have sanctified by the intentions with which they perform them; and on this subject they quote Polydore Vergil, who remarks, that the custom adopted by Prelates, of giving the outside of their hand to be kissed, when[101] they officiate in their Pontifical dresses, the custom of making prayers for the dead on the seventh day after their burial, the offering of pictures to those Saints by whose assistance dangers have been escaped, &c. &c. are practices derived from the Heathens.

They moreover add, that even the Temples of the Pagans have been converted by Christians, to their own use; and on this occasion they alledge, among other instances, that of Pope Gregory the Great, who wrote to St. Augustin, Apostle of England (or rather to Melitus, with an injunction to inform the Apostle) that he must not demolish the temples of the idols in the above kingdom, but that he ought to preserve those which are well built (benè constructa), and after purifying them with holy water, and by placing relicks, appropriate them to the use of the Church.



Containing the most ingenious arguments of the Abbé Boileau. The practice of scourging one’s-self was unknown to the first Fathers of the Church; and also to the first Anchorites, or Hermits.

FLAGELLATIONS of different kinds being universally practised among the Heathens, this circumstance must needs have given but little encouragement to the first Christians, to imitate such mode of correction; and we may take it for granted that they had not adopted it. Indeed, we find that no mention is made of it in the writings of the first, either Greek or Latin Fathers; for instance, in the Epistles of St. Ignatius, the Apologies of Justinius, the Apostolic Canons, the Constitutions attributed to Clement the Roman, the works of Origen, the Stromats of Clement of Alexandria, and all the works in general of Eusebius of Cæsarea, of St. Chrysostom, of St. Basil, and of St. Basil of Seleucia. In all the above Authors, no mention, I say,[103] is made of flagellations; at least, of those of a voluntary kind; unless we are absolutely to explain in a literal manner passages in which they manifestly spoke in a figurative sense: we may therefore safely conclude, that the first Christians had no notion of those cruel exercises which prevail in our days, and that to flay one’s hide with scourges or rods, as is in these times the practice of numberless Devotees, in or out of religious Orders, were practices unknown among them.

So far, indeed, were the first Christians from approving the practice of self-flagellations, that they seem on the contrary to have entertained a notion, that their very quality of Christians freed them from any kind of flagellation whatever, as we may learn from the inscription in Latin verses that had been placed by them upon the column to which Jesus Christ was fastened when he was whipped: the following is the translation of that inscription: ‘In this House our Lord stood bound; and, being fastened to this column, like a slave, offered his back to the whip. This venerable column is still standing, continuing to support the fabric of the Temple, and teaches us to live exempt from every kind of flagellation.’


Vinctus in his Dominus stetit ædibus, atque Columnæ
Annexus, tergum dedit ut servile flagellis.
Perstat adhuc, templumque gerit veneranda Columna,
Nosque docet cunctis immunes vivere flagris.

Now, if the first Christians had been used to inflict daily discipline upon themselves, or to receive it from other persons, it is altogether improbable that they would have said that they were exempt from every kind of flagellation. The above lines, it may not be amiss to observe, were thought to have been written by Prudentius, who lived about the latter end of the fourth century. Fabricius, in his Edition of the Christian Poets, ascribes the same lines to one Amœnus, who lived in the eighth Century; and, on the other hand, Johannes Siccardus says, that Sedulius, who lived under the reign of Theodosius junior, is the Author of them. Be it as it may, it does not much matter on this occasion to know who has written them; it is sufficient to observe that they are very useful to confirm the assertion, as to the novelty of voluntary flagellations[42].


Arguments have also been derived by the promoters of flagellations, from those which Jesus Christ was made to suffer, in order to[106] prove that they were practised upon themselves by the first Christians. But though it may be a meritorious action to endure whipping with as much patience as Jesus Christ, and for causes of the same kind as he did, yet it is no proof that the first Christians had any thought of exposing themselves voluntarily to a punishment which had been imposed upon him by force. Besides, the first Christians could not possibly be induced by their desire of imitating Jesus Christ’s whipping (supposing they really had such desire) to flagellate themselves in the cruel manner that has since prevailed; for they did not think that the flagellation undergone by our Lord was in a very high degree painful, and they looked upon it as having been but an inconsiderable part of the punishment he was made to suffer. In fact, St. Chrysostom and St. Austin, as the Reader may see in their works, relate that Pilate[107] ordered Jesus Christ to be scourged after the manner, not of the Romans, among whom the punishment of whipping was inflicted with great severity, but of the Jews, who never suffered the number of forty stripes to be exceeded. And though the truth in that respect, has afterwards been better known, yet, it was only in latter times that the discovery was made, and that St. Bridget, a holy Nun, by means of a revelation she had on that subject, was informed, and thereby enabled to inform the world, that the two holy Fathers were wrong in their opinions, and that Jesus Christ had really been flagellated with great cruelty[43].


Besides those Fathers who have been quoted above, as having made no mention of flagellations in their writings, except in a figurative[109] manner, there are others no less commendable for their learning, who have been equally silent on that subject. St. Jerom, among others, deserves to have particular notice taken of him; and he once had, we are to observe, a very natural opportunity of mentioning voluntary flagellations, if he had had any notion of such a practice. I mean here to speak of the letter he wrote to Deacon Sabinus, in order to admonish him of his sins, and exhort him to repent of them. This Sabinus was a most profligate man, who was publicly known to have been guilty of the crime of adultery, and who had, in one instance, carried his wickedness so far as to attempt to ravish a girl in the very manger in which Jesus Christ had received the adoration of the three Eastern Kings. St. Jerom exerts the utmost powers of his eloquence in order to bring that[110] man to a sense of his crimes, and engage him to do a suitable penance for them, and yet he makes no mention whatever about whipping or discipline. Now, is it in any degree credible that he would, on such an occasion, have been silent as to the use of whips, leather-thongs, or scourges, if they had been commonly in use, and avowed by the Church?

The supporters of flagellations, however, urge that the same St. Jerom, in his Epistle to Eustachius, says, speaking of himself, ‘I remember to have many a time spent the whole day in loud lamentations, and to have only ceased to beat my breast when the admonitions of our Lord restored tranquillity to me.’ But this very passage, which is made use of to prove that voluntary flagellations were in use during the times of the primitive Church, manifestly proves the contrary, and that St. Jerom was an utter stranger to the use either of scourges or rods. It is true, he lamented, as he says, for his sins, and beat his breast, in order to expel by this natural method of venting his grief, the wicked thoughts with which he felt himself agitated; but in doing this, he employed, and could employ, only his fists: the short distance between his arms and his breast made it altogether[111] impracticable for him to use rods, thongs, straps, sticks, scourges, besoms, or whips.

Nor is any argument to be drawn from what is related of the same St. Jerom, that the Angels once fustigated him in the presence of God, and covered him with stripes, because he was fired with an ardent desire of acquiring the style and eloquence of Cicero: for it is evident, that this flagellation was imposed upon him by force, and as an involuntary chastisement. Besides (which would make it completely unjust to draw any inference from this fact) St. Jerom only suffered the flagellation in question in a dream, as himself with great wisdom observes, in his Apology against Ruffinus: ‘I was asleep (says he) when I promised before the tribunal of God never to engage in the study of worldly letters; so that the sacrilege and perjury he charges me with, amount to no more than the violation of a dream.’

If we peruse the History of the Lives of the ancient Anchorites of the East, we shall find great reason to think that they likewise were strangers to the practice of self-flagellation. Theodoret, Bishop of Cyrus, who distinguished himself so honourably in the fifth Council of Chalcedon, has, for instance, written the lives of thirty of these Solitaries, who[112] were particularly celebrated on account of the great austerities and mortifications which they practised, and who were afterwards on that account raised to the dignities of Priests or of Bishops; and yet, he has made no mention of their using either rods or whips, in the numerous and different penances which they performed.

Thus, we are informed in the Book of Theodoret, that St. James of Nisibe (who was afterwards made a Bishop) had voluntarily deprived himself, during his whole life-time, of the use of fire. He lay upon the ground; he never wore any woollen clothes, but only used goat-skins to hide his nakedness.

It is related in the same book, that St. Julian only ate bread made of millet, and that he abstained from the use of almost every kind of drink. St. Martianus never ate but once in a day, and that very sparingly too; so that he continually endured the tortures of hunger and thirst: this holy Man had, besides, a Disciple who never touched either bread or meat.

St. Eusebius used to wear an iron chain round his body; his continual fastings and other kinds of macerations rendered him so lean and emaciated, that his girdle would continually slide down upon his heels; and[113] Publius the elder, voluntarily submitted to mortifications of the same kind.

Simeon only fed upon herbs and roots. St. Theodosius the Bishop used to wear a hair-cloth around his body, and iron chains at his hands and feet. St. Zeno never rested upon a bed, nor looked into a Book. Macedonius, during forty years, never used any other food than barley, and was not afterwards raised to the dignity of Priest, but against his own consent. Bishop Abrahames never tasted bread during the whole time of his being a Bishop, and carried his mortifications so far, as to forbear the use of clear water.

The same Theodoret, continuing to relate the life of the holy Hermits, says, that some of them used to wear iron shoes, and others were constantly burdened with cuirasses inwardly armed with points. Some would willingly expose themselves to the scorching heat of the sun in summer days, and to the nipping cold of winter evenings: and others (continues Theodoret) as it were buried themselves alive in caverns, or in the bottom of wells; while others made their habitations, and in a manner roosted, upon the very tops of columns.

Now, among all those numerous and singular methods of self-mortification which Theodoret[114] describes as having been constantly practised by the above-named holy Hermits, we do not find, as hath been above observed, any mention made of flagellations: methods of doing penance, these, which it is hardly credible, Theodoret would have neglected to mention, if those holy Men had employed them[44].

(end of chapter mark)


[42] Our Doctor of the Sorbonne and Abbé Boileau (whose meaning is here faithfully laid before the reader) speaks with much confidence of the proofs he derives in support of his opinion, from the above Latin lines, which he adds he thinks he has done well and wisely to produce; and I have postponed to the end of his argument, to make any remark upon the subject, in order to let him enjoy his triumph a little longer. However, his whole reasoning is no more than a quibble on the sense of the word flagrum; which, indeed signifies a whip, but also signifies a lustful passion: both come from the verb flagrare, to burn; and flagrare amore, to burn with love: hence the word flagrans delictum, which is said of a Man who is caught in the act of debauching another Man’s wife, or as some Civilians express it, alienam Uxorem subagitans: from the above expression the French have made the words flagrant délit, which have the same meaning; and they say of a Man under the above circumstances, that he is caught en flagrant délit. The real meaning of the Latin lines above-quoted, is, therefore, that Christians ought to be free, not from every kind of flagellation, but from lustful passions. Those lines, it may be observed, together with the quibble contained in them, of which our Author has availed himself to support his private opinion, are in the same taste with the other productions of Monks, during the times of the middle age, and of the general decay of literature, when finding out quibbles and puns, and succeeding in composing acrostics, anagrams, and other difficiles nugæ, engrossed the whole ambition of Versificators: though, to say the truth, worse lines than the above have been written in that kind of style.

[43] Instances of revelations, like those of St. Bridget, concerning the person of Jesus Christ and his sufferings, are very frequent among Nuns; and, to say the truth, it is nowise surprising that they should, at times, have visions of this kind. As those Women who are destined to live in the condition of Nuns, are commonly, not to say always, made to take their vows at an early age, that is, at a time when their passions are most disposed to be inflamed, and when an object of love may be looked upon as one of the necessaries of life, this, together with the circumstance of their close confinement, induces a number of them to contract a real and ardent love for the person of Jesus Christ, whose pictures they see placed almost in every corner, who is, besides, expressly called their Husband, whose Spouses they are said to be, and to whom, at the final and solemn closing of their vows, they have been actually betrothed, by having a ring put on their finger. To the mind of such of those unfortunate young Women as have once begun to indulge fancies of this kind, the image of their beloved Spouse is continually present, under some one of the figures by which he is represented in the above-mentioned pictures; and his flagellations, and other hardships he was made to undergo, are, among other things, the objects of their tenderest concern: hence the numberless visions and revelations which Nuns, like St. Bridget, have at all times had upon those subjects: and several among them, whose love was more fervent, or who thought themselves intitled to some particular distinction from their Spouse, have even fancied, on certain occasions, that they had been favoured with a visible impression of his sacred Stigmats, that is, of the marks of the five main wounds which he received when he was put to death. The idea of those visible marks or Stigmats of Jesus Christ’s wounds, we may observe, was, in the first instance, a contrivance of St. Francis, who pretended that they had been impressed on his body during a vision he had in a remote place; and he prevailed upon his Monks, and other adherents, to consider them as emblems of a close affinity between him and our Lord, and as a kind of order of knighthood that had been conferred on him.

[44] Among those Solitaries who, as is above-mentioned, fixed their habitations upon the tops of columns, particular mention is made of one who was afterwards, on that account, denominated St. Simeon Stylites, from the Greek word Στύλος, a column. This St. Simeon Stylites was a native of Syria; and the column upon which he had chosen to fix his habitation, was sixty cubits high. Numbers of people resorted to it from all parts, in order to consult him upon different subjects, and he delivered his oracles to them from his exalted mansion. One of his methods of mortifying himself was, to make frequent genuflexions; and he made them so quickly, it is said, and in such numbers, that a person, who one day spied him from some distance, and attempted to count them, grew tired, and left off when he had told two thousand.


The existence of the above Hermit, as well as of those mentioned by our Author, together with the hard penances to which they submitted, seem in general to be facts pretty well ascertained; and the amazing hardships which the Fakirs in the East Indies, still continue in these days to impose upon themselves, make the above accounts appear the less incredible. However, they have been since wonderfully magnified in the Compilations of Lives of Saints, and Histories of miracles; especially in that called the Golden Legend, which is the most remarkable of all, and was compiled a few Centuries ago by one Jacobus de Voragine, and has been since translated into several languages: it is a thick folio book, bound in parchment, which is found at all the Inns in Catholic Countries.

The life of a Hermit still continues to be followed by several persons. Those who make profession of it, are Men who, like the first Anchorites of the East, choose to live by themselves, in places more or less remote from Towns, without being tied by any vows; they only wear a particular kind of habit, and perform certain religious duties.

Whatever may be the real or affected sanctity of a few of them, the whole tribe of Hermits, however, have not escaped the common misfortune[116] of Friars and Nuns, who have numbers of amorous stories circulated on their account; often for no other reason, we are charitably to suppose, than the additional degree of relish which they derive from the contrast between the facts they contain, and the outward life and professions of those of whom they are related. Thus, the celebrated La Fontaine has made the contrivance of a certain Hermit, for obtaining possession of a young Woman who lived in a neighbouring cottage, the subject of one of his Tales. And Poggio has related another story of an Hermit, which I think worthy of a place here, since this book is designed no less for the entertainment than the information of the Reader.

The Hermit in question lived in the neighbourhood of Florence. He was a great favourite with the Ladies; and the most distinguished at Court flocked daily to the place of his retreat. The report of the licentious life he led, reached the ears of the Grand Duke, who ordered the Man to be seised and brought before him: and as it was well known he had been connected with the first Ladies at Court, he was commanded by the Secretary of State to declare the names of all the Ladies whose favours he had received: when he named three or four, and said there were no more. The Secretary insisted upon his telling the whole[117] truth, and as he was very hard upon him, the Hermit named a few more, assuring that now he had told all. The Secretary then gave him threats, and again insisted with great warmth upon his declaring the names of all the Ladies; when the Hermit, fetching a deep sigh, said, Well then, Sir, write down your own: which words confounded the Secretary, and afforded much merriment to the Grand Duke and his Courtiers.



A few more of the Abbé Boileau’s arguments are introduced. It does not appear that self-flagellation made a part of the duties prescribed in the first Monasteries, during the times of the first establishments of that kind. The only positive instances of flagellations suffered by Saints, or the Candidates for that title, in the days we speak of, are those which the Devil has inflicted upon them.

IN the antient Monasteries of Egypt, and of the East, that is to say, in the first regular religious establishments which took place among Christians, it does not seem that self-flagellations were in use, and that they had any notion of those frequent lashings and scourgings with which Monasteries have since resounded.

In fact, we find that that Rule which commonly goes under the name of St. Anthony, who lived about the year 300, and was the very first professor of Monastic Life, is entirely silent on that subject. The same is to be[119] observed of the Rules framed by the Abbot Isaiah, who lived in much the same time as St. Anthony; of those composed by the Fathers Serapion, Macarius, Paphnutius, another Macarius, and several other very antient Rules, framed in the Monasteries of the East, which the learned Lucas Holstenius, Librarian of the Vatican, has published in his Code of Rules.

The Rules of the first religious Orders founded in the West, have been likewise silent as to the voluntary use of thongs and whips. The first Rule, for instance, prescribed to the Benedictines, that antient Western Order, does not mention a word about self-flagellation: and the same silence is to be observed in the Rules framed by Ovisiesius, Abbot of Tabennæ, by St. Aurelian, Bishop of Arles, by St. Isidorus, Bishop of Sevil, by St. Tetradius, and a number of others, whose Rules Holstenius has likewise collected. From thence we may therefore conclude, that Christians, in those times, had no notion of those beatings and scourgings which are now so prevalent; and that the upper and the lower disciplines were alike unknown among them[45].


The only Author of weight, in the days we speak of, who seems to have made any mention of voluntary flagellations being practised[121] in the antient Monasteries, is St. John Climax, who, according to some accounts, lived in the middle of the fourth, and, according to others, only in the sixth Century. This Author relates, that, in a certain Monastery, ‘some, among the Monks, watered the pavement with their tears; while others, who could not shed any, beat themselves[46].’ Several Writers have laid great stress on that passage, and quoted it as an undoubted proof of the antiquity of the practice of voluntary flagellation; yet I will take the liberty to dissent from their opinion, since other Writers have judged that St. John Climax only spoke in a figurative manner, and have translated the above passage, by saying that ‘those monks[122] who could not shed tears, lamented themselves[47].’


Regard for truth, however, obliges us to mention one or two instances of flagellations, which are to be found in the history of the antient Eastern Anchorites, written by Theodoret, who has been abovementioned; but those instances are such, that certainly no argument can be derived from them, to prove that voluntary flagellations were in use in the times in which those Anchorites lived.

One of those instances is to be found in the life of Abrahames. It is related in it, that the[124] Christian populace having attempted to seize the sheets in which the body of that Saint was wrapped, the lictors drove them back with whips. Now, it is obvious to every one, that the lashes which these lictors bestowed, to and fro and at random, upon those men who beset them, were not willingly received by the latter. And the same may certainly with equal truth be observed of the flagellations inflicted upon the people (which is the second instance mentioned by Theodoret) by the Collectors of the public Tributes, who, he says, used to collect them with scourges and whips[48].


To those instances of involuntary flagellations, during the times of the Eastern Anchorites, and the first Monks, we may, I think, safely add those which the Devil, jealous of their merit, has inflicted upon them: a case which has frequently happened, if we are to credit the Writers of those times.

In the life of St. Anthony, which was written by St. Athanasius, we read that that Saint was frequently set upon, and lashed in his cell, by the Infernal Spirit.

St. Hilarion was also often exposed to the same misfortune; as we are informed by St. Jerom, who wrote an account of his life. ‘This wanton Gladiator (says St. Jerom, speaking of the Devil) bestrides him, beating his sides with his heels, and his head with a scourge[49].’

A great many other Saints, which it would be too tedious to mention, have been exposed to the like treatment; and the priest Grimlaïcus, the Author of an ancient Monastic Rule, observes that Devils will often insolently lay hold of Men, and lash them, in the same manner as they used to serve the blessed Anthony.

Page. 126.

That the above-mentioned instances of the wantonness of the Devil, with respect to[126] Saints, were not willingly submitted to by the latter, needs not, I think, to be supported by any proof: it must certainly have been with great reluctance, that they felt themselves exposed to the lash of so formidable a Flagellator[50].

(end of chapter mark)


[45] Conclusions against the antiquity of the upper and the lower disciplines, are frequent in the Abbé Boileau’s book; though I have thought it unnecessary to lay them all before the reader. Against the latter kind of discipline, he has been particularly zealous; and, besides his usual charge of novelty, he has, on one occasion, taxed it with being a remnant of idolatry and Pagan superstition. This imputation has much displeased a French Curate, who wrote an answer to him: he thought it reflected on those Saints who practised the discipline in question, and he animadverted on the Abbé in the following terms. Quelle plus grande injure peut-on faire aux Saints & aux Saintes qui se disciplinent par en bas, que de dire qu’ils sont des idolatres & des superstitieux?... Peut on les deshonorer davantage, ces Saints, que d’en parler comme fait M. Boileau? ‘Can a greater insult be put upon those Saints of both Sexes who practise the lower discipline, than saying that they are superstitious persons and idolaters? Is it possible to shew more disrespect to those Saints, than speaking of them as Mons. Boileau does?’

With respect to the silence of the first Monastic Rules, concerning voluntary flagellation, it may be observed that it has been amply compensated in subsequent ones. The Carmes are to discipline themselves twice a week, and the Monks of Monte Cassino, once at least; the Ursuline Nuns, every Friday; the Carmelite Nuns, on Wednesdays and Fridays; the Nuns of the Visitation, when they please; the English Benedictines, a greater or less number of times, weekly, according to the season of the year; the Celestines, on the eve of every great festival; and the Capuchin Friars are to perform a lower discipline every morning in the week, &c. &c.

[46] Οἱ μὲν ἐν ἐκείνοις τὸ ἔδαφος τοῖς δάκρυσιν ἔβρεχον, οἱ δὲ δακρύων ἀποροῦντες ἑαυτοὺς κατέκοπτον.

[47] The above passage of St. Climax, like those of David and St. Paul, discussed in the 2d and 3d Chapters, has caused much disputation between the Assertors, and the Opposers, of the doctrine of the antiquity of voluntary flagellations. The Abbé Boileau has taken much pains, in his text, to prove that St. John Climax, notwithstanding the precision of the expression he has used, only meant to speak in a figurative sense; and he has for that purpose produced a number of authorities from different books, and entered into a long grammatical dissertation on the Greek words used by that Saint, in which he at last bewilders himself, and says the very reverse of what he had promised to prove. He has also bestowed some pains on different passages of other Greek fathers, which are as positive as that quoted from St. John Climax; and among others, upon one of St. Cyril, Patriarch of Alexandria, who expresses himself with great clearness, and says, he whips himself, and exhorts his friends to do the same.

However, notwithstanding the great precision of the words used by the above good Fathers, whether in speaking of themselves, or of other persons, we are not perhaps intirely to refuse to admit the assertions of the Abbé Boileau, that they only spoke in a figurative sense. It is not absolutely impossible that the passages which are quoted from them, though ever so expressly mentioning flagellations, beatings, and scourgings, were no more, after all, than canting ways of expression, like those commonly used by men who affect pretensions to superior sanctity; who take every opportunity of magnifying their sufferings, or those of their friends, though often of an imaginary kind. However, on this important subject, I shall leave the Reader to determine: I will only observe, that the most zealous Supporters of self-flagellation confess, that the same was never so much practised among the Eastern as among the Western Christians, as they had adopted several other means of self-mortification.

[48] Sir Robert Walpole’s Excise Scheme made a wonderful noise in this Nation; but we may safely suppose, that if flagellations, like those above-mentioned, had been made part of the project, the noise would have been still greater.

A fact, supplied by the Abbé Boileau himself, will be introduced in a subsequent Chapter, from which it appears, that Theodoret was not unacquainted with the practice of self-flagellation. The silence of that Author on the subject, in certain parts of his writings, only shews that that practice was not yet become, in his time, that settled method of atoning for past sins, which has been since adopted, and that a scourge had not yet been made a necessary part of the furniture of Devotees.

[49] Insidet dorso ejus festivus Gladiator, & latera calcibus, cervicem flagello verberans.

[50] Instances of flagellations bestowed by the Devil, occur frequently in the Books in which the Lives of Saints, either antient or modern, are recited; whether it was that those Saints, after having dreamed of such flagellations, fancied they had in reality received them, and spoke accordingly, or that they had some scheme in view, when they made complaints of that kind. St. Francis of Assisa, for instance, as is related in the Golden Legend, received a dreadful flagellation from the Devil the very first night he was in Rome, which caused him to leave that place without delay. And, to say the truth, it is not at all unlikely that, having met there with a colder reception than he judged his sanctity intitled him to, he thought proper to decamp immediately, and when he returned to his Convent, told the above story to his Monks.

Among those Saints who received flagellations, or visits in general, from the Devil, St. Anthony[127] is however the most celebrated. At sometimes the Devil, as is mentioned above, flagellated him vigorously; and at others, employed temptations of quite a different kind, in order to seduce him: thus, he assumed in one instance, the shape of a beautiful young Woman, who made all imaginable advances to the Saint: but, happily, all was to no purpose. The celebrated Engraver Calot has made one of those visits of the Devil to St. Anthony, the subject of one of his Prints, which is inscribed The Temptation of St. Anthony; and he has represented in it such a numerous swarm of Devils of all sizes, pouring at once into the Saint’s cavern, and exhibiting so surprising a variety of faces, postures, and ludicrous weapons, such as squirts, bellows, and the like, that this Print may very well be mentioned as an instance, among others, of the great fertility of the imagination of that Engraver.

Besides the persecutions which St. Anthony suffered from the Devil, he has the farther merit of having been the first Institutor of the Monastic life, several other Hermits having in his time chosen to assemble together, and lived under his direction; and though he has not expressly been the Founder of any particular Order, yet it is glory enough for him to have been the Father of the whole family of Friars and Nuns. In more modern times, however, his relicks having been[128] brought from Egypt to Constantinople, and thence transferred to Dauphiné, in France, a Church was built on the spot where they were deposited, and a new Order of Friars was a little after established, who go by the name of Monks of St. Anthony. These Monks form a kind of Order distinct from all others; but yet they have no less ingenuity than the other Monks for procuring the good of their Convent, as may be judged from the following story, which, I think, I may venture to relate as a conclusion both of this Note, and of the whole Chapter.

The Story I mean, is contained in the Book of the Apologie pour Hérodote, which was written about the year 1500 by Henry Etienne, on purpose to shew that those who intirely reject the facts related by Herodotus, on account of their incredibility, treat him with too much severity, since a number of facts daily happen, which are altogether as surprising as those that are found in that Author.

Before relating the story in question, the Reader ought to be informed, that St. Anthony is commonly thought to have a great command over fire, and a power of destroying, by flashes of that element, those who incur his displeasure: the common people have been led into this belief, by constantly seeing a fire placed by the side of that Saint, in the representations that are made of him; though this fire is placed there for no other reason[129] than because the Saint is thought to have the power of curing the erysipelas, which is also called the sacred fire (ignis sacer), in the same manner as St. Hubert cures the Hydrophoby, St. John the Epilepsy, and other Saints other disorders. A certain Monk of St. Anthony (to come to our point) who was well acquainted with the above prepossession of the vulgar concerning the power of his Saint, used on Sundays to preach in public, in different villages within a certain distance from his Convent. One day he assembled his congregation under a tree on which a magpye had built her nest, into which he had previously found means to convey a small box filled with gunpowder, which he had well secured therein; and out of the box hung a long thin match, that was to burn slowly, and was hidden among the leaves of the tree. As soon as the Monk, or his Assistant, had touched the match with a lighted coal, he began his sermon. In the mean while the magpye returned to her nest; and finding in it a strange body which she could not remove, she fell into a passion, and began to scratch with her feet, and chatter unmercifully. The Friar affected to hear her without emotion, and continued his sermon with great composure; only he would now and then lift up his eyes towards the top of the tree, as if he wanted to see what was the matter. At last, when he judged the fire was very near reaching the gun-powder,[130] he pretended to be quite out of patience, he cursed the magpye, and wished St. Anthony’s fire might consume her, and went on again with his sermon; but he had scarcely pronounced a few periods, when the match on a sudden produced its effect, and blew up the magpye with her nest; which miracle wonderfully raised the character of the Friar, and proved afterwards very beneficial both to him and his Convent.



Corrections of a flagellatory kind, inflicted by force, were however, though in very early times, the common method of correcting offences of a religious nature; and the power of inflicting them was possessed alike by Bishops, and the Heads of Monasteries[51].

IT must be confessed, however, that though self-flagellations made no part of the rules or statutes belonging to the different monastic Orders, founded in those early ages of Christianity, the same cannot be said of that method of correction, when imposed by force[132] upon such Monks as had been guilty of offences, either against the discipline of the Order, or against piety: an extensive power of inflicting such salutary corrections, having, from the earliest times, been lodged in the hands of Abbots, and the Superiors of Convents.

Nay more, we find that Bishops, during the very first times of Christianity, assumed the paternal power we mention, even with regard to persons who were bound to them by no vow whatever, when they happened to have been guilty either of breaches of piety, or of heresy. Of this, a remarkable proof may be deduced from the 59th Epistle of St. Augustin, which he wrote to the Tribune Marcellinus, concerning the Donatists. St. Augustin expresses himself in the following words: ‘Do not recede from that paternal diligence you have manifested in your researches after offenders; in which you have succeeded to procure confessions of such great crimes, not by using racks, red-hot blades of iron, or flames, but only by the application of rods. This is a method of coercion which is frequently practised by Teachers of the fine Arts upon their Pupils, by Parents upon their Children, and often[133] also by Bishops upon those whom they find to have been guilty of offences[52].’

Another proof of this power of flagellation, assumed by Bishops in very early times, may be derived from the account which Cyprianus has given of Cesarius, Bishop of Arles; who says, that that Bishop endeavoured as much as possible, in the exercise of his power, to keep within the bounds of moderation prescribed by the law of Moses. The[134] following are Cyprianus’s words. ‘This holy Man took constant care, that those who were subjected to his authority, whether they were of a free, or a servile condition, when they were to be flagellated for some offence they had committed, should not receive more than thirty-nine stripes. If any of them, however, had been guilty of a grievous fault, then indeed he permitted them to be again lashed a few days afterwards, though with a smaller number of stripes.’

From the two passages above, we are informed that the power of whipping, possessed by Bishops, extended to persons of every vocation, indiscriminately; and with much more reason may we think that those persons who made profession of the Ecclesiastical Life, were subjected to it. In fact, we see that even the different dignities which they might possess in the Church, did not exempt them from having a flagellation inflicted upon them by their Bishops, when they had been guilty of offences of rather a grievous kind; and Pope St. Gregory the Great moreover recommended to the Bishops of his time, to make a proper use of their authority. In his sixty-sixth Epistle, he himself prescribes to Bishop Paschasius, the manner in which he ought to chastise Deacon Hilary, who had calumniated[135] Deacon John, ‘Whereas (he says) guilt ought not to pass without adequate satisfaction, we recommend to Bishop Paschasius to deprive the same Deacon Hilary of his office, and, after having caused him to be publickly lashed, to confine him to some distant place; that the punishment inflicted upon one, may thus serve to the correction of many.’

This power of inflicting the brotherly correction of whipping, was also possessed by the Abbots and Priors in all the antient Monasteries; though, at the same time, it was expressly provided by the Rules of the different Orders, that the same should be assumed by no other persons. ‘Let no Man, except the Abbot, or him to whom he has intrusted his authority, presume to excommunicate, or flog, a Brother.’

When the faults committed by Monks were of a grievous kind, the Abbot was not only charged to correct them by means of his discretionary power of flagellation; but he was moreover expressly directed to exert that power with rigour. In the Rule framed by St. Fructuosus, Bishop of Braga, it is ordained with respect to a Monk who is convicted of being a Liar, a Thief, or a Striker, ‘That if, after having been warned by the elder[136] Monks, he neglects to mend his manners, he shall, on the third time, be exhorted, in the presence of all the Brethren, to leave off his bad practices. If he still neglects to reform, let him be flagellated with the utmost severity[53].’ The above Rule of St. Fructuosus is mentioned by Ecbert, in his Collection of Canons, which, together with the Councils of England, has been published by Spelman.

St. Ferreol, Bishop of Usez, has framed a Rule for Monks, which, like that above, makes severe provisions against such Monks as are addicted to the practice of thieving. ‘With regard to the Monk who stands convicted of theft, if we may still call him a Monk, he shall be treated like him who is guilty of adultery for the second time; let him therefore be chastised with the whip, and with great rigour too: the same punishment ought to be inflicted upon him as upon a fornicator, since it may be justly suspected that his lewdness has induced him to commit theft[54].’


Committing indecencies with other Monks, or with Boys, were offences which the Statutes of Convents likewise directed to be punished[138] by severe flagellations; and the above St. Fructuosus, Bishop of Braga, ordered that the punishment should, in the above case, be inflicted publickly. ‘If a Monk (it is said in his Rule) is used to teaze Boys and young Men, or is caught in attempting to give them kisses, or in any other indecent action, and the fact be proved by competent witnesses, let him be publickly whipped[55].’


Refusing to make proper satisfaction to the Abbot for offences committed, or in general persevering in denying them, were also grievous faults in the eye of the first Founders, or Reformers, of Monastic Orders. In the Rule framed fifty years after that of St. Benedict, in order to improve it, the following direction was contained. ‘If the Brothers who have been excommunicated for their faults, persevere so far in their pride, as to continue, on the ninth hour of the next day, to refuse to make proper satisfaction to the Abbot, let them be confined, even till their death, and lashed with rods.’ Nor is the Rule of the abovementioned Bishop of Braga less severe against those Monks whose pride prevents them from making a proper confession of the offences they may have committed. ‘To him (it is said in that Rule) who, through pride and inclination to argue, continues to deny his fault, let an additional and severer flagellation be imparted.’

The habit of holding wanton discourses, or soliciting the Brethren to wickedness, was also deemed by the Founders of religious Orders to deserve severe flagellations; and St. Pacom ordered in his Rule, which, it was said, had been dictated to him by an Angel, that such as had been guilty of the above faults, and[140] had been thrice admonished, should be publickly lashed before the gate of the Convent.

Attempts to escape from Monasteries, were, even in very early times, punished by flagellation. We read in Sozomenius, that St. Macarius of Alexandria, Abbot of Nitria in Thebaid, who had five thousand Monks under his direction, ordered that chastisement to be inflicted upon those who should attempt to climb over the walls of the Monasteries. ‘If any one continues in his wickedness, and says, I can no longer bear to stay here, but I will pack up my things, and go where God will direct me[56]; let any one of the Brothers inform the Prior, and the Prior the Abbot, of the fact; let then the Abbot assemble the Brothers, and order the offender to be brought before them, and chastised with rods.’

The holy Founders of religious Orders have also been very severe, in their provisions, against such Monks as seek for familiarities with the other Sex. In the Rule of the Monastery of Agaunus, it was ordained, that, ‘If any Monk had contracted the bad habit of looking on Women with concupiscence, the Abbot[141] ought to be informed of the fact, and bestow upon the Monk a corrective discipline; and that, if he did not mend his manners in conference thereof, he ought to be expelled from the Society as a scabby sheep, lest he should ruin others by his example.’ The above Monastery had been built by Sigismond, King of Burgundy, to the honour of CXX. Martyrs of the Theban Legion, of which St. Maurice was the Commander, under the reign of the Emperor Maximinus.

The above-quoted Rule of St. Fructuosus, is no less severe against those Monks who seek for the Company of Women. In the XVth Chapter, which treats of the lewd and quarrelsome[57], it is ordered, that, ‘if after having received proper reprehensions, they persist in their wicked courses, they shall be corrected by repeated lashings.’ And St. Columbanus, who is the first who instituted the Monastic Life in France, and has written a Rule as a supplement to that of St. Benedict, also expresses himself with great severity against such Monks as are convicted of having barely conversed with a Woman in the absence of witnesses; for though there are[142] faults for which he orders only six lashes to be given, yet, in the case here mentioned, he prescribes two hundred. ‘Let the Man who has been alone with a Woman, and talked familiarly to her, either be kept on bread and water for two days, or receive two hundred lashes[58].’

(end of chapter mark)


[51] The whole substance of the Abbé Boileau’s arguments (so far as it has been possible to make them out) is contained in the three first Chapters of this Work, and in those two which precede this: the Author is now to continue the text part of the Book, without any farther prospect of assistance from the Abbé’s observations and directions; except in the last Chapter, in which they are once more to meet, and to lay again their wise heads together.

[52]Noli perdere paternam diligentiam quam in ipsâ inquisitione servasti, quando tantorum scelerum confessionem cruisti, non extendente equuleo, non sulcantibus ungulis, non urentibus flammis, sed virgarum verberibus. Qui modus coercionis & à magistris artium liberalium, & ab ipsis parentibus, & sæpè etiam in judiciis solet ab Episcopis adhiberi.”—This Letter of St. Augustin, addressed to a Man invested both with military and civil power, as the Tribune Marcellinus was, in order to exhort him to employ violence and whipping against those who differed from him in their opinions, is an additional proof of a melancholy truth that has often been noticed; which is, that those who exclaim most bitterly against persecution, when exercised against them, and are the most ready to claim toleration in their own favour, are not always the most willing to grant the same favour to others.

[53] Cap. XVI. De mendace, fure, & percussore Monacho.... Si nec sic se emendaverit, flagelletur acerrimè.

[54]Furti scilicet conscium, si adhuc vocare possumus Monachum, quasi adulterum secundum, flagello subdi & magnâ coërceri afflictione jubemus; dantes illi unam cum fornicante sententiam, quia & ipse furatus est ut luxuriaretur.

It is a little surprising that repeated adultery is, in the above Rule, expressly placed on a level with simple fornication. Whether the Framer of this Rule has done so purposely, and thought that adultery ought to be treated with indulgence, on account of the uncommon temptation he supposed Men were under to commit it, or has only been very careless in his manner of expressing himself, I shall not attempt to discuss. Yet, lest the Reader should thence be led to entertain too bad an opinion of the tenets and morals of Monks in general, I shall observe, that all are not in the same way of thinking with respect to adultery, as the Framer of the above Rule seems to have been. As a proof of this, the instance, I think, may be produced of that Monk, mentioned in one of the Epigrams of the Poet Rousseau, who was a great enemy to that sin: one day preaching against it, he grew so warm in his arguments, and took so much pains to convince his Congregation of his own abhorrence of it, that at last he broke out into the following solemn declaration: ‘Yea, my Brethren, I had rather, for the good of my soul, to have to do with ten Maidens every month, than in ten years touch one married Woman.’

The following is the Epigram of Rousseau, which is written in Marotic verses; a kind of jocular style among the French, which admits of old words and turns of phrase.

Un Cordelier prêchoit sur l’adultère,
Et s’échauffoit le Moine en son harnois
A démontrer par maint beau commentaire
Que ce péché blessoit toutes les loix.
Oui, mes Enfans, dit il, haussant la voix,
J’aimerois mieux, pour le bien de mon ame,
Avoir à faire à dix filles par mois
Que de toucher en dix ans, une femme.

[55]Monachus parvulorum & adolescentulorum consectator, vel qui osculo vel de quâlibet occasione turpi deprehensus fuerit inhiare, comprobatâ patenter, per accusatores verissimos, sive testes, causâ, publice verberetur.

[56] ... Hic ego durare non possum, sed accipiam casulam, & eam ubi voluerit Dominus.

[57] Cap. XV. De lascivis & clamosis.

[58]Qui solus cum solâ fœminâ sine personis certis loquitur familiariter, maneat sine cibo, duobus diebus, in pane & aquâ, vel ducentis plagis afficiatur.

This Article, in which the Founder of a religious Order expressly rates the hardship of living upon bread and water for one day, at that of receiving an hundred lashes, is somewhat surprising. And supposing the generality of Readers should agree that the loss of a good dinner has really been over-rated by the good Father, his decision on that head, may then serve as one proof of that remarkable love of good eating and drinking which prevails among Monks; a disposition with which, to say the truth, they have long ago been charged. On this occasion, I shall quote the two following lines in Monkish style, recited by Du Cange in his Glossary, in which the love of good cheer is said to be one of the three things that prove the ruin of Monks: these lines only mention[143] the black Monks; but this has been done, we may suppose, for the sake of the measure, and their meaning was, no doubt, also intended to be applied to the Grey and White.

Sunt tria nigrorum, quæ vastant res Monachorum,
Renes & venter, & pocula sumpta frequenter.

Other modern Latin Writers have also exerted their wit at the expence of the Clergy: some have pretended that the word Sorbona (the Sorbonne) comes from sorbendo[59]; and others have derived the word Præsbiter (a Priest), from præ aliis bibens ter[60], &c. &c.

As an instance of the love of Monks for entertainments, I shall relate the following story, which is extracted from a Monkish Book, and may serve to give the reader some insight into the manner in which Monks live among themselves, and the internal polity of their Convents.

A certain Friar, in a Convent of the Benedictine Order, found means to procure, besides plenty of good wine, a certain number of dishes extremely nice and well seasoned, several of which were expressly forbidden by the Institutes of the Order; and he invited a select party of Brothers to partake of his fare. As they could not, with any degree of safety, carry on the entertainment[144] in the cell of any of them, they thought of repairing to one of the cellars of the House; where they hid themselves in one of those wide and shallow tuns (about eight or nine feet in diameter, and three or four deep) which serve in the making of wines. The Abbot, in the meanwhile, missing so many of the Monks from the Convent, went in search of them through all the different apartments: being unable to find them, he at last went down into the cellars, and soon perceived whereabout they lay: he stepped up to the place, and, on a sudden, made his appearance over the edge of the tun. The Monks were prodigiously alarmed at this unexpected appearance of the Abbot; and there was none among them but who would have gladly compromised the affair, by giving up his remaining share of the entertainment, and submitting to instant dismission. But the Abbot, contrary to all hope, put on a mild and chearful look: he kindly expostulated with the Monks on their having made a secret of the affair to him; expressed to them the great pleasure it would have been for him to be one of their party; and added, that he should still be very glad to be admitted to partake of the entertainment. The Monks answered, by all means: the Abbot thereupon leaped into the tun; sat down among them; partook of their excellent wine and well-seasoned[145] dishes with the greatest freedom, in just the same manner as it is said the late Sir James Lowther would of the dinner of his servants in his own kitchen; and, in short, spent an hour or two with them in the tun, in the most agreeable and convivial manner.

At last, the Abbot thought proper to withdraw; and as soon as he had taken his leave, some of the Monks began to admire his extraordinary condescension; while the others were not without fears that it foreboded some misfortune. Indeed, the latter were in the right; for the Reader must not think that the Abbot had acted in the manner above-described, out of any sudden temptation he had felt at the sight of the jollity of the Friars, or of the dainties that composed their entertainment: by no means; his design had only been, by thus making himself guilty along with them, to be the better able to shew them afterwards the way to repentance, and thereby derive good from evil. In fact, the next day, a chapter having been summoned, the Abbot desired the Prior to fill his place, while himself took his feat among the rest of the Monks. Soon after the Chapter was met, he stepped forward into the middle of the Assembly, accused himself of the sin he had committed the day before, and requested that discipline might be inflicted upon him. The Prior objected much to a discipline being inflicted on the Abbot;[146] but the latter having insisted, his request was complied with. The other Monks were at first greatly astonished; but seeing no possibility of keeping back on that occasion, they stepped into the middle of the Chapter, and likewise confessed their sin; when the Abbot, by means of a proper person he had selected for that purpose, got a lusty discipline to be inflicted upon every one of his late fellow-banqueters.

[59] Which signifies, to sip, or to swallow.

[60] He who drinks three times before the others.



Strictness of certain Superiors of Convents, in exerting their power of flagellation. The same is abused by several of them.

THE Reader has seen, in the preceding Chapter, that the punishment of flagellation was extended to almost every possible offence Monks could commit; and the duration of the flagellations was, moreover, left pretty much to the discretion of the Abbot, whether in consequence of the generality of the terms used in the Statutes, or through some express provision made for that purpose. In the ancient Constitutions of the Monastery of Cluny, for instance, which St. Udalric has collected in one volume, several kinds of offence are mentioned, for the punishment of which it is expressly said, that the Offender shall be lashed as long as the Abbot shall think meet.

That Abbots and Priors have at all times well known how to exert those discretionary[148] and flagellatory powers we mention, there is no manner of doubt. On this occasion, the two following stories may be related.

The first is that of the discipline which the Prior of a certain Monastery, who lived in the times of Charles Martel (A. 750) inflicted on some Carpenters who were employed by him in the service of the Convent, and who having too carelessly marked the proper size of a certain piece of timber, with their string rubbed with chalk, made afterwards a mistake in sawing it. The fact, as it is recited in the life of St. Pardulph, is as follows.

‘One Liframnus, the then Prior of the Monastery, resolved to build a few wooden steps, in the Chapel of St. Albinus the Martyr. After the Carpenters had measured the place on which those steps were to be raised, he took them to the wood, where they accordingly cut a beam, which they loaded upon a Cart, and conveyed to the Convent; but when they attempted to settle it upon the proper spot, it was found to be eighteen inches too short. The Prior, amazed at such a gross mistake, fell into a passion, and ordered disciplines to be inflicted upon the Carpenters[61].’


The other fact I mean to relate, to prove the great strictness of certain Ecclesiastical Superiors in exerting their power of flagellation,[150] is contained in the Book written by Thomas de Chantpré. ‘There was (that Author says) in the Church of Rheims, a very able Dean,[151] an Englishman by birth (genere Anglicano), who, as I have been informed by several persons who knew him, used stoutly to correct his brother Canons for their faults. It happened in his time, that the venerable Albert, Bishop of Liege, and Brother to the Duke of Brabant, was driven out of Germany by the Emperor Henry, and treacherously slain by a few Soldiers of that Emperor,[152] near the City of Rheims. On the day appointed to celebrate his funeral, the venerable Rothard, who, though he was still Archdeacon of Rheims, had lately been elected Bishop of Châlons in Champagne, made his appearance, accompanied by a number of noble persons, without being clothed in his Canonical gown. After the ceremony was concluded, the Dean called all the Canons together, and among them the above Bishop. As soon as they were seated, the Dean said to the Prelate, You have not, as far as I know, resigned yet your Canonship, or Archdeaconship? The latter made answer, he had not. Well then, said the Dean, come and make satisfaction to the Church, and prepare your back for a discipline in the presence of the Brothers, for your having been at the choir without the nuptial robe. The Bishop-elect made no objection: he rose from his seat, stripped himself, and received a most vigorous discipline from the Dean: this done, he put on again his clothes, and, before the whole congregation, said to the Dean in a most graceful manner, I give thanks to God, and to his blessed Mother, the Patroness of the[153] Church of Rheims, that I leave it under the government of such a person as you[62].’

Indeed so far have a number of Abbots, or Superiors of Convents, been from suffering their power of flagellation to lay dormant and useless, that they, on the contrary, have abused it to a great degree. Ovisiesius cautioned them, in very early days, against being guilty of such a fault. Nay, certain Heads of Monasteries have gone such lengths in that respect, that Cesarius, Bishop of Arles, was obliged to remind them, that, ‘if they inflicted flagellations continued too long upon Offenders, so that they died in consequence thereof, they were guilty of homicide.’

Among those Abbots who have distinguished themselves by their severity, St. Romuald may be mentioned, who, as we are informed in his Life written by Cardinal Damianus, was once exposed to a calumny of the blackest kind, from a Monk whom he used to scourge with great severity: nay, that holy Man’s[154] Monks, as we are also informed by Cardinal Damianus, in one instance rose against him, flogged him without mercy, and drove him out of the Convent. This Saint, besides, had before been frequently lashed by the Devil[63].

(end of chapter mark)


[61] ... Tum Præpositus multum scandalizans, & iracundiæ furore succensus, eisdem Carpentariis disciplinam corporis imponi jussit.

Aulus Gellius, in his Noctes Atticæ, relates a fact which bears much resemblance to the above; though, indeed, much greater Men were concerned in it, than the Prior of a Convent, and Carpenters: the one was a Roman Consul, and the other, the Engineer of a Town, allied to the Republick.

The name of the Consul in question was P. Crassus, who must not, however, be mistaken for the celebrated M. Crassus, the partner in power with Pompey and Cæsar; though both lived in the same times. This Consul P. Crassus, having been intrusted with the conduct of the war that was then carrying on in Asia, laid siege to the Town of Leucas; and wanting a strong beam of oak to make a battering-ram, he recollected he had lately seen at Elæa, a Town allied to the Romans, just such a piece of timber as he wished to have: he therefore wrote to the Magistrates of that place, to request them to send it to him. The Magistrates accordingly directed their Engineer to convey the beam to Crassus; but as there was another in the yards belonging to the Town, which, the Engineer thought, would be fitter for the use Crassus wanted to put it to, he made choice of the latter, and conveyed it to the Roman camp. However, the Engineer had been mistaken in his calculations, and the beam unfortunately proved too small; which the Consul did no sooner perceive, and that his orders had been neglected, than, like the above-mentioned Prior, he fell into a passion, and ordered the Engineer to be stript, and soundly lashed.

Some apology, however, may be made in favour of the action of the Roman Consul. As himself observed upon the spot, the whole business of war would be at an end, if those whose duty it is to obey, were permitted to canvass the orders which they receive, and to set aside what part they please: besides that an allowance should be made for Men of a military life, and who are invested with military command; and some little indulgence, I think, ought to be shewn them, when they happen to inflict flagellations somewhat cavalierly. But as to the above holy Prior, who had made so many vows of obedience, humility, forbearance, and the like, it is not, indeed, quite so easy a talk to excuse him: I shall not, therefore, undertake it; and I will content myself with observing, how advantageous it would have been both for the above Engineer and Carpenters, in the perplexing situations in which they were respectively placed, to have possessed a power of the same kind as that which the Golden Legend (or perhaps some other Book of equal merit) supposes Jesus Christ to have exerted on a similar occasion. Joseph, as it is related, who had the care of the infant Jesus trusted to him, tried to bring him up to his own trade of a Carpenter; and one day, finding that the Boy had sawed a piece of wood shorter than the measure he had prescribed, he ran up to him, full of anger, with a stick raised in his hand, in order to chastise him; but the arch apprentice, who was beginning to be conscious of his power of working miracles, on a sudden exerted it, and lengthened the piece of wood to its proper size.

[62] ... Nec mora, vestes exuit Electus, & Decani validissimam disciplinam accepit: quâ acceptâ, vestibus reindutus, Decano cum maximâ oris gratiâ coram omnibus dixit; gratias ago Deo, & Patronæ Remensis Ecclesiæ ejus piissimæ genitrici, quod te talem in regimine relinquo. Lib. II. Cap. XXXIX. Num. 20.

[63] The arbitrary power of inflicting flagellations, possessed by Abbots, ought, one should think, to insure them in a high degree the veneration of their Monks; yet, from the manner in which St. Romuald is above said to have been used by those under his government, we may conclude the case is otherwise.

A farther proof of the great freedom with which Monks use their Abbots, is to be derived from what Mons. Richelet says, in his well-known Dictionary of the French language, that Monks never trouble their heads about waiting for their Abbot, when he comes too late to dinner. Mons. Richelet informs us of this fact under the word Abbé, when he explains the origin of the French common saying, on l’attend comme les Moines font l’Abbé (they wait for him, as Monks do for their Abbot), which is said jocularly of a person who is not at all waited for: this saying is derived, the above Gentleman observes, from the remarkable[155] expedition with which Monks sit down to their dinner, as soon as the bell strikes, without caring whether the Abbot is come or not.

This singular piece of neglect on the part of Monks, towards a person invested with such formidable prerogatives as those abovementioned, may be accounted for, different ways. In the first place, since Monks are so celebrated for their love of good dinners, and even entertain such high notions of the value of a plentiful table, as to have rated the hardship of living upon bread and water, at that of receiving a hundred lashes a day, we may naturally suppose, that, when their mess is served upon the table, their attention is so agreeably engaged by the presence of that object, that they presently run to it, wholly regardless of any trifling flagellation that may afterward be the consequence of such expedition.

The same neglectful conduct of Monks towards their Abbot, though he is possessed of such a despotic power over them, may also be explained in another manner: for, the subject is deep, and being considered in a political light, may admit a number of different interpretations. In general, it may be observed, that Monks may easily form close combinations among themselves against their Abbots; that as the latter live together with them, within the walls of the same Monasteries, they have it in their power to play them[156] a thousand tricks; and that these considerations are very apt to induce Abbots to make a mild use of their authority, at least with respect to the greater part of their Monks.

Indeed this latter explanation agrees pretty well with several facts. It has frequently happened, for instance, that Abbots who have used their Monks with cruelty, have been made away with, in some way or other, within the walls of their Monasteries. The Abbé Boileau informs us in his Book, that St. Romuald was much maltreated, and at last expelled by his Monks; which, no doubt, was owing to the flagellations he inflicted upon them; flagellations which the Abbé also mentions, though he does not assign the causes of them, whether it was because they did not wait for him at dinner, or for some other reason, but the truth and severity of which we shall the more readily believe, if we consider that the Saint, upon a certain occasion, as will be related hereafter, flagellated even his own Father. Nay, it is not quite unlikely that those flagellations which the Saint used to imagine he received from the hands of the Devil, were the effects of the revenge of his Monks; till at last they openly revolted against him, and turned him out of the Monastery.

Since we are upon the subject of St. Romuald, it will not be amiss to add, that the flagellations which he received both from the Devil, and from[157] his Monks, were however nothing in comparison with the danger to which he was once exposed, on account of his very sanctity.

The Saint, as is related in the History of his Life, was once settled in a certain Convent in Catalonia, and was in great reputation for his virtue in the neighbourhood. The report having been spread that the holy Man was going to leave the Country, the People began to be afraid that they should thereby be deprived of the possession of his relicks, to which they thought they had a fair title, on account of the length of time he had resided among them; and they formed the ingenious scheme of murdering him, in order to secure to themselves the possession of his body; but the Saint, having received timely information of the plot, thought proper to decline the honour that was intended for him, and made his escape.



Disciplines of the same wholesome kind have been prescribed for Novices, and such persons as are intended to embrace the Ecclesiastical Life.

THE framers of Rules and Statutes of religious Orders have also extended their attention to the young Men and Novices brought up in Convents; and have ordered flagellations to be inflicted upon them, for the improvement of their morals. In the Rule framed by the holy Fathers Serapion, Macarius, and Paphnutius, which is to be found in the Collection of Holstenius, it is ordered, ‘That if any Novice is found guilty of theft, he shall be lashed with rods, and never admitted to the degree of Clerk.’

St. Pacom, in that Rule which was dictated to him by an Angel, expresses himself in the following terms: ‘Let those Boys who are regardless of the evil consequences of sin, and are so imprudent as not to mind the judgments[159] of Heaven, in case admonitions prove useless, be whipped till they have the fear of God.’

In the Rule of St. Benedict, Art. LXX. flagellations are prescribed as excellent methods of improving the minds of such Boys as are brought up to the Ecclesiastic life; and are more particularly recommended to be used till they are fifteen years of age.

St. Isidorus, archbishop of Seville, observes, that Boys ought not to be excommunicated for their sins, but that this awful mode of correction ought to be supplied, with them, by flagellations.

At the same time, lest those who were to inspect the conduct of the Novices, should suffer themselves to be influenced by passion, in the flagellations they were directed to inflict, an express provision was made in the Rule of St. Benedict, that such Teachers as should be guilty of the above fault, should themselves receive a sound flogging[64].

(end of chapter mark)


[64] A certain modern Latin Author, whose name I have forgot, has written a Treatise on the antiquity of the practice so much recommended above, of whipping boys at School. Had I been so happy as to have seen his Book, I would have been enabled to make, in this place, learned remarks[160] on the subject; but as I have not had that advantage, I find myself unable to make any, and can only refer the Reader to the discovery of Uncle Thomas, as well as to the few other critical annotations that are contained in p. 76, 77, 78, of this Work.

I could have likewise wished much to be able to add the names of some of those illustrious Characters who have distinguished themselves in the practice of flagellating School-boys, to those of the respectable Thwackum, and the plagosus Orbilius, mentioned in the above place; but though the History of great Schools, in this and other Countries, supplies numbers of such names, yet I have not been able to discover any of sufficient eminence to deserve a place in this Book; except indeed that of the great Doctor Tempête, who is mentioned by Rabelais as a celebrated flagellator of School-boys in the College of Montaigu, in Paris, and which I therefore insert in this place.

Neither should we neglect to mention here, the name of Buchanan, his pupil having afterwards been a King; and the more so, as he used, it seems, to make the flagellations bestowed by him on his royal disciple (the Anointed of the Lord) the subject of his jokes with the Ladies at Court[65].


The justice which is due to the Reverend Fathers Jesuits, also requires that we should, in a Book like this, give an account of the laudable regularity with which they used to inflict flagellations upon the young Men who pursued their studies in their Schools, as well as upon such Strangers as were occasionally recommended to them for that purpose. Among the different facts which may serve to prove both the spirit of justice that has constantly directed the actions of the Society, and the punctuality of their flagellations, the following is not the least remarkable.

It was, the Reader ought to know, an established custom in their Schools, to give prizes every year to such Scholars as had made the best Latin verses upon proposed subjects. One year it happened that the subject which had been fixed upon, was the Society of the Jesuits itself; and a Scholar took that opportunity, only by quibbling on the names of the two principal Schools belonging to the Fathers, to give them a smart stroke of satire. The name of the one of these two Schools, was the School of the Bow (le Collège de l’Arc), which was situated at Dôle, in Franche-Comté; and the other happened to be called, the School of the Arrow (la Flêche), it being situated near the Town of that name in Anjou, and was originally a Royal mansion which was given by the Crown to the Society, in the reign of King[162] Henry the Fourth. The import of the distich made by the School-boy (or perhaps by somebody else for him) was this: “Dôle gave the Bow to the Fathers, mother France gave them the Arrow; who shall give them the String which they have deserved?” The following are the Latin verses themselves, which indeed are very beautiful.

Arcum Dôla dedit Patribus, dedit alma Sagittam
Gallia; quis funem quem meruere dabit?

The Reverend Fathers, struck with the merit of these lines, and, at the same time, unwilling to suffer a bon-mot made at their expence, and that was so likely to be circulated, to go unpunished, delivered the prize to the boy, and ordered him to be flagellated immediately after.

The celebrated Fathers of St. Lazare, in Paris, whose School was otherwise named the “Seminary of the good Boys” (des bons enfans) have no less recommended themselves by the regularity of the disciplines they inflicted, than the Reverend Fathers Jesuits. They were even superior to the latter, in regard to those recommendatory flagellations mentioned above, which were administered to such persons as were, by some means or other, induced to deliver letters to the Fathers for that purpose. Being situated in the metropolis, the Seminary carried on, a very extensive business in that way. Fathers or Mothers who had undutiful[163] Sons, Tutors who had unruly Pupils, Uncles who were intrusted with the education of ungovernable Nephews, Masters who had wickedly-inclined Apprentices, whom they durst not themselves undertake to correct, applied to the Fathers of St. Lazare, and by properly seeing them, had their wishes gratified. Indeed the Fathers had found means to secure their doors with such good bolts, they were so well stocked with the necessary implements or giving disciplines, and had such a numerous crew of stout Cuistres to inflict them, that they never failed to execute any job they had engaged to perform, and without minding either age, courage, or strength, were at all times ready to undertake the most difficult flagellations. So regular was the trade carried on, by the good Fathers in that branch of Business, that letters of the above kind directed to them, were literally notes of hand payable on sight; and provided such notes did but come to hand, whoever the bearer might be, the Fathers were sure to have them discharged with punctuality.

This kind of business, as it was carried on, for a number of years, frequently gave rise to accidents, or mistakes, of rather a ludicrous kind. Young men who had letters to carry to the House of St. Lazare, the contents of which they did not mistrust, would often undesignedly charge other persons to carry the same for them, either on account[164] of their going to that part of the town, or for some other reason of a like kind: and the unfortunate bearer, who suspected no harm, had no sooner delivered the dangerous letter with which he had suffered himself to be intrusted, than he was collared, and rewarded for his good-nature by a severe and unexpected flagellation.

Ladies, it is likewise said, who had been forsaken, or otherwise ungenteelly used, by their Admirers, when every other means of revenge failed, would also recur to the ministry of the Fathers of St. Lazare. Either by making interest with other persons, or using some artfully-contrived scheme, the provoked Fair-one endeavoured to have the Gentleman who caused her grief, inveigled into the House of the Seminary: at the same time she took care to have a letter to recommend him, sent there from some unknown quarter, with proper fees in it; for that was a point that must not be neglected: and when the Gentleman came afterwards to speak with the Fathers, he was no sooner found by them, either from the nature of the business he said he came upon, or other marks, to be the person mentioned in the letter they had before received, than they shewed him into an adjoining-room, where this treacherous and deceitful Lover was immediately seized, mastered, and every thing in short was performed[165] that was requisite to procure ample satisfaction to the fair injured Lady.

It is also said (for a number of stories are related on that subject, and the Seminary of St. Lazare was become for a while an object of terror to all Paris) that schemes of the most abusive kind were in latter times carried on, through the connivance which the Fathers began to shew at the knavery of certain persons: and this indeed seems to be a well-ascertained part of the story. Abuses of the same kind as those which once prevailed in the Mad-houses established in this country, were at last practised in the Seminary. Men possessed of estates which some near relations wanted to enjoy, or whom it was the interest of other persons to keep for a while out of the way, were inveigled into the House of St. Lazare, where they were detained, and large sums paid monthly for their board. Though they might be full-grown persons, they were boldly charged with having been naughty, or such-like grievous guilt; and the Fathers, in order to shew that they meant to act a perfectly honest part in the affair, ordered them to be flagellated with more than common regularity.

Nor was it of any service for the unfortunate boarders to expostulate with the Fathers, to insist that it was unlawful to detain them by force in a[166] strange house, and use them in the manner they were used, that they had important affairs which they must go and settle, that they were no boys, after all, or to offer other equally pertinent arguments: the Fathers continued to be well paid; they cared for no more; and all the complainants got by raising objections like these, were cold negative answers, and fresh flagellations. Abuses of the kind we mention, came at last to the knowledge of the Government, which interposed its authority, and the Seminary was abolished.

[65] King James the First.—See Dr. Berkenhout’s Biographia Literaria.



The same discretionary power of inflicting disciplines, has been established in the Convents of Nuns, and lodged in the hands of the Abbesses, and Prioresses.

NOR have the holy Founders of religious Orders considered flagellations as being less useful in the Convents of Women, than in those of Men; and in the Rules they have framed for them, they have accordingly ordered that kind of correction to be inflicted upon those whose bad conduct made it necessary.

This chastisement of flagellation, upon Women who make profession of a religious life, is no new thing in the world. It was the chastisement appropriated to the Vestals, in antient Rome; and we find in the Historians, that when faults had been committed by them in the discharge of their functions, it was commonly inflicted upon them by the hands of the Priests, or sometimes of the Great Priest himself.


Dionysius of Halicarnassus relates, that the Virgin Urbinia was lashed by the Priests, and led in procession through the Town.

The High-priest, Publius Licinius, ordered, as we read in Valerius Maximus, ‘that a certain Vestal who had suffered the sacred fire to be extinguished, should be lashed and dismissed.’

Julius likewise relates, ‘that the fire in the Temple of Vesta, having happened to be extinguished, the Virgin was whipped by the High-priest, M. Æmilius, and promised never to offend again in the same manner.’ And Festus says in his Book, that ‘whenever the fire of Vesta came to be extinguished, the Virgins were lashed by the Great Priest.’

Severities of the like kind have been deemed necessary to be introduced into the Convents of modern Nuns, by the holy Fathers who have framed religious Rules for them.

In that very antient Rule for the conduct of Nuns, which is contained in Epistle CIX. of St. Augustin, the mortification of discipline is prescribed to the Prioress herself. ‘Let her (it is said in the above Rule) be ever ready to receive discipline, but never impose it but with fear[66].’


Cesarius, Archbishop of Arles, in the Rule framed by him, which is mentioned with praise by several antient Authors, such as Gennadius, and Gregory of Tours, prescribes the discipline of flagellation to be inflicted upon Nuns who have been guilty of faults; and enters, besides, into several particulars about the propriety as well as usefulness of this method of correction. ‘It is just (he says) that such as have violated the institutions contained in the Rule, should receive an adequate discipline: it is fit that in them should be accomplished what the Holy Ghost has in former times prescribed through Solomon. He who loves his Child, frequently applies the rod to it.

St. Donat, Archbishop of Bezancon, in the Rule he has framed for Nuns, has expressed the same paternal disposition towards them, as Archbishop Cesarius has done: he recommends flagellations as excellent methods of mending the morals of such of them as are wickedly inclined, or careless in performing their religious duties; and he determines the different kinds of faults for which the above correction ought to be bestowed upon them, as well as the number of the blows that are to be inflicted. The above Rule of St. Donat[170] has been mentioned with much praise by the Monk Jonas, in his Account of the Life of St. Columbanus, which the venerable Beda has inserted in the third volume of his Works.

In that Rule, commonly called the Rule of a Father, which St. Benedict, Bishop of Aniana, in his Book on the Concordance of Rules, and Smaragdus, in his Commentaries on the Rule of St. Benedict, have both mentioned, provisions of the same kind as those above, are made for the correction of Nuns. ‘If a Sister (it is said in that Rule) that has been several times admonished, will not mend her conduct, let her be excommunicated for a while, in proportion to the degree of her fault: if this kind of correction proves useless, let her then be chastised by stripes.’

Striking a Sister, has likewise been looked upon as an offence of a grievous kind; and St. Aurelian, in the Rule he has framed for Nuns, orders a discipline to be inflicted on such as have been guilty of it.

To the above regulations, Archbishop Cesarius has added another, which is, that the corrections ought, for the sake of example, to be inflicted in the presence of all the Sisters. ‘Let also the discipline be bestowed upon them in the presence of the Congregation,[171] conformably to the precept of the Apostle, Confute Sinners in the presence of all[67].’

(end of chapter mark)


[66] Num. XII. “Disciplinam lubens habeat, metuens imponat.

[67] The Abbé Boileau, after the manner of the Learned of former times, has added to his quotations on the flagellations of Vestals, a string of names of Writers who have also occasionally mentioned that custom; such as Rosinus on the Roman Antiquities, Fortunius Licetus on the Lamps of the Ancients, Josephus Laurens of Lucca, Polymathias in his Dissertations, and Jacobus Ghuterius on the rights of the ancient Pontiffs. These Writers, as far as I can perceive, have neglected to inform us of an important circumstance, which is, of what kind those disciplines were, that were inflicted upon Vestals; whether upper or lower disciplines. However, they have informed us of a fact about which the Reader, no doubt, particularly wishes to be satisfied; which is, that a great regard was paid to decency in the above flagellations; and that, as the correction was inflicted in an open place, and by the hands of a Priest, the guilty Vestal was wrapped in a veil during the ceremony.

The flagellations which persons who live in Convents, are upon different occasions made to undergo, the obligation they are under, of receiving[172] such corrections before the whole Brotherhood or Sisterhood, together with the companions which the holy Founders of religious Orders have made of them with naughty children, have drawn numerous jests upon them; but such jests can only come from persons who have not paid a sufficient attention to the subject.

Politicians inform us, that it is absolutely necessary that, in all States, there should be Powers of different kinds, established to maintain the general harmony of the whole, and that Legislative, Executive, Military, and Judicial Powers, for instance, should be formed, and lodged in different hands. Hence we may conclude, that some power analogous to these, ought to exist in every numerous Society either of Men or Women, for the preservation of good Order, and that it is necessary that, in such Societies, a power of flagellation should be lodged somewhere.

Nor are we to think that Convents are the only Societies in which some authority of this kind takes place. In the Eastern Seraglios, for instance, Societies which are by no means contemptible, and may very well bear a comparison with Convents, we are not to doubt, a power of occasionally inflicting flagellations, exists: nay, we are expressly informed that Empresses themselves are not always exempt from them. Thus M. de Montesquieu, in the 26th Chapter of the[173] Book XIX. of his Spirit of Laws, relates, after the Historian of Justinian the Second, that the Empress, Wife of the Emperor, ‘was threatened, by the great Eunuch, with that kind of chastisement with which children are punished at School:’ a treatment certainly very severe, and from which one should be tempted to judge that Empresses, at least, ought to be exempt, if it were not that the advantages of peace and good order are such, as ought to supersede every other consideration.

In the Palaces of the Western Sovereigns, though they have constantly borne a very different appearance either from Convents or Seraglios, we find that disciplines like those abovementioned were found extremely useful about two centuries ago (a time when Men had notions of decorum much superior to ours) and were in consequence employed as common methods of preserving good order, without much distinction of rank or sex.

Of the above fact we have a proof, in the misfortune that befel Mademoiselle de Limeuil, at the Court of France, where she was a Maid of Honour to the Queen, Wife to King Henry II. as we find in the Mémoires de Brantôme: for my respect for the Reader induces me to offer him only such anecdotes as are supported by good authorities. Mademoiselle de Limeuil, as Brantôme relates, was a very witty handsome young[174] Lady, extremely ready at her pen, and related to the best families in the Kingdom. She was placed at Court in the capacity of Maid of Honour to the Queen; and she had been there but a few months, when she tried her wit at the expence of the Gentlemen and Ladies at Court, and wrote a copy of verses, or Pasquinade, in which few Characters were spared. As these verses were ingeniously written, they spread very fast; and people were very curious to know who had composed this piece of satire: at last, it was found out that Mademoiselle de Limeuil was the Author of it; and as the Queen, besides being a person of a serious temper, was grown disgusted with the great licence of writing that had of late prevailed at Court, and had determined at least to prevent any satire, or lampoon, from originating in her own Houshold, orders were given in consequence of which Mademoiselle de Limeuil was rewarded for her verses by a flagellation; and those young Ladies in the suite of the Queen, who had been privy to the composition of the Pasquinade, were likewise flagellated.

The instances of flagellations just now related, from which, neither the beauty, nor the birth, nor the rank of the Culprits, nor the brilliancy of their wit, their readiness at their pen, nor happy turn for Satire, could screen them, clearly shew how much flagellations were in esteem in the times[175] we speak of, and how much efficacy they were thought to possess, for insuring those two great advantages, good order and decorum. There is no doubt therefore, but that they were still more strictly used for the improvement of the morals of those swarms of unruly young Men, who then filled the Houses of Kings, or of the Great, and went by the name of Pages. Indeed we find that the Gentlemen, or Equerries, whose care it was to superintend their conduct, were invested with a very extensive power of inflicting flagellations; and so frequent were the occasions in which they found it necessary to use corrections of this kind, that the words flagellation, and Page, are become as it were essentially connected together, and it is almost impossible to mention the one, without raising an idea of the other: I shall therefore forbear to relate any instances of such corrections; and flagellations of Pages, like those of School-boys, are too vulgar flagellations to have a place in this Book.

Nor were disciplines like those we mention, imposed only upon those persons who expressly made part either of the Royal of Noble Housholds, for the edification of which they were inflicted; but wholesome corrections of the same kind were also occasionally bestowed upon such Strangers as happened to infringe the rules of decorum, or in any other manner, offended against[176] the respect that was owing to the Royal or Noble Proprietor of the House.

Of this we have an undeniable proof in the Story of that Reverend Father Jesuit, who was flagellated at Vienna, as Brantôme relates, by command of a Princess of the Austrian House, whose displeasure he had incurred.

The Princess here alluded to, was daughter to the Emperor Maximilian II. She had been formerly married to Charles IX. King of France; and after the death of that Prince, by whom she had had no children, she retired to Vienna in Austria. Philip II. King of Spain, having about that time lost his wife, sent proposals of marriage to the Princess we mention, who was at the same time his Niece; and the Mother of the Princess, a Sister to Philip II. was very pressing to induce her to accept the above proposals; which the Princess Elizabeth (such was her name) otherwise Queen-Dowager of France, persevered in refusing. The Empress, and the King of Spain, then thought of employing the agency of a Father Jesuit, a learned smooth-tongued Man, who was to persuade the Princess to accept the offers of Philip; but the endeavours of the Father having proved ineffectual, he at last desisted from importuning the Princess any more, and retired. The King of Spain then sent new letters to the Princess concerning the same subject, and the Jesuit was sent[177] for a second time, and injoined to exert again all his efforts to make the affair succeed. In consequence of these orders, the Jesuit resumed his function; but the Princess, whom Brantôme represents as having been a person of much merit, and who certainly must have had some, since she resolutely persevered in refusing to marry that abominable Tyrant, Philip the Second, the Princess, I say, grew much displeased with the importunities of the Jesuit; and at last spoke very harshly to him, and plainly threatened him, if he dared to mention a word more to her on the subject, with an immediate flagellation (de le faire fouetter en sa cuisine).

To the above account Brantôme adds, that some say that the Jesuit having been so imprudent as to renew afterwards his solicitations, actually received the chastisement he had been threatened with. But though himself is rather inclined to disbelieve the fact, yet he does not, we are to observe, alledge any reasons for so doing, that are drawn, either from the impropriety of flagellations in general, or from the inability he supposes in them to repress bold intrusion, to put a stop to teazing importunities, or to confute captious arguments: by no means; he only says that the Princess in question was of too gentle a temper to have made good her threats to the Jesuit; besides that she generally bore great respect to Men of his cloth.


To the above remarkable instances of flagellations performed in the Palaces of the Great, I will add another which is not less pregnant with interesting consequences. I mean to speak of the Story of that Court Buffoon, who, upon a certain occasion, was flagellated at the Court of Spain.

The fact is related in the same Memoirs of Brantôme, in a Chapter the subject of which is, that ‘Ladies ought never to be disrespectfully spoken to, and the ill consequences thereof.

The name of the Buffoon in question was Legat, and he ventured once to try his wit upon the Queen herself, Wife to Philip II. This Queen, who was a Princess of France, and is the same whom Philip was afterwards accused of having made away with, on account of the love he supposed between her and his son Don Carlos, had taken a particular fancy for two of the Country Houses belonging to the King; and one day, being in convention with the Ladies at Court, she mentioned her liking to the two seats in question, which were situated, the one in the neighbourhood of Madrid, and the other of Valladolid; and expressed a wish they were so near to each other, that she might touch both at once with her feet: saying which, she made a motion with her legs, which she opened pretty wide: the Buffoon could not hold his tongue, and made rather a coarse remark on the subject, which Brantôme has[179] related at length in Spanish: the consequence of which was, that he was instantly hurried out of the room, and entertained with a sound flagellation. It may not, however, be improper to add, that Brantôme tries in some degree to excuse him, at least for thinking as he did; and he concludes with saying, that the Queen (whom he had had several occasions of seeing) was so handsome, and so civil to all, that there was no want of Men disposed to love her, who were an hundred thousand times better than the Buffoon[68].

All the facts above related, manifestly shew that flagellations have been frequently used in the Palaces both of the Eastern Sovereigns, and of the Princes of Europe; that they were employed for the correction of the highest as well as the lowest personages, and for the prevention of every kind of fault, from that of meddling in State affairs[180] (which we may suppose was the fault committed by the Empress, though the Historian of Justinian II. says nothing about it) down to wanton language and immodesty: now all these considerations are wonderfully fit to confute the jests which are thrown upon Monks and Nuns, for also making flagellations their usual means of self, or mutual, correction.

It is, however, very important to observe, that though we are fully informed of the different ceremonies with which flagellations are imposed in Convents, we have not the same advantage in regard to those which were inflicted in the Palaces of Princes, or Noble Personages. We are, for instance, told by Authors, by Du Cange among others, in one or two places of his Glossary, of the modesty with which culprits upon whom a correction is to be inflicted in Convents, are to strip off their clothes, and the silence which must be observed by the whole Assembly during the operation; unless the persons invested with the different dignities in the Convent, choose to speak in behalf of the sufferer, and pray the Abbot, or Abbess, to put an end to the flagellation. We are abundantly informed, in different Books, of the various causes for which flagellations are to be employed in Monasteries: and we moreover know that they are to be inflicted in the presence of the whole Congregation; in the Convents of Men,[181] by the hands of a vigorous Brother; and in those of Nuns, by those of an elderly morose Sister.

In regard to the corrections of the same kind that were served in the Palaces of the Great, we have, I repeat it, no such compleat informations as these. Though the instances of such corrections are undeniable, we are much in the dark about the different rites and solemnities that used to accompany them: yet it would be a very interesting thing to be acquainted with these several circumstances, and to know, at least, what particular place, in Palaces, was set apart for the operations we mention. Concerning this latter object, I will try to offer a few conjectures; for I do not think so meanly of my Readers, as to rank them among that class of shallow readers, who only mind the outward superficies of things.

In the first place, I do not think that there was any place so expressly appropriated for flagellations, in the Palaces we speak of, but that others might occasionally be used for the same purpose, according to circumstances. Though Politicians lay it down as assured maxims, that punishments are to be inflicted for the sake of example, and that such examples ought to be public, yet, there were so great differences between the dignities of the personages who were liable to receive corrections of the kind we mention, that they must needs have introduced exceptions in favour of some of them,[182] at least with regard to the places of the operations.

Thus, for instance, though in the Eastern Seraglios they may be fully sensible of the truth of the above maxim, and of the expediency of correcting Offenders in the presence of all, yet, we are not to think, that when the Empress herself is to receive a flagellation, such correction is served in a place absolutely public; for instance, in the third, otherwise the outmost, inclosure of the Seraglio, in which a swarm of Icoghlans, Bostangis, Capigi-Bashis, and other officers of every kind are admitted. Neither is the ceremony performed in the second, or the first inclosure of the Seraglio, nor even in any common apartment in the inside of the Palace, in sight of a croud of vulgar beauties, who have never been admitted to the honour of the embraces, or even of the presence of the Monarch. A flagellation served upon a personage of so much eminence as an Empress, is an event sufficiently important of itself, for the bare report of it, to produce all the good effects that are usually expected from examples of that kind. The only essential thing, is to ascertain such fact: this important point being obtained, every proper regard ought to be shewn to the delicacy of the great personage who is to receive the correction we mention; and whenever an Empress, in the Eastern Seraglios, happens to be served with a flagellation,[183] we are to judge that the operation is performed in the Empress’s own private Chamber, in the presence of two or three favourite Sultanas.

Nor were prudential considerations of the same kind, less attended to in the Palaces of the Western Princes. When Maids of Honour had the misfortune to draw upon themselves the correction of a flagellation, we are not to think that the persons charged with the superintendence of the ceremony, adhered so blindly to those maxims which require that examples of this kind should be public, as to have the operation performed in a place literally public and open to all persons; that they, for instance, chose for the scene of the ceremony, that vast Yard, or Court, that lay before the Palaces of Kings, and was continually filled with Grooms, Pages, Keepers of Hounds, Huntsmen, and Servants of every denomination, some of whom blew the French horn, others the trumpet, and, others played on other musical instruments. No, such a place would have been in a high degree improper: nor would any open apartment or office, within the Palace, have been much more suitable for the occasion. The bare report of a flagellation being served upon so interesting a person as a Maid of Honour, was sufficient to produce all the good effects for which such examples are commonly intended: there was no necessity rigidly to adhere either to the above-mentioned[184] maxim, or to the rule laid down by Horace, who says, that mens’ minds are more strongly affected by such objects as are laid before their eyes, than by those of which they only receive on hearsay information. The report well ascertained, of such an event, was fully sufficient to remind a croud of unlucky Pages, and wanton Chambermaids, of their respective duties, and engage them in a serious examination of their own conduct. All that was necessary, was to put such fact beyond a doubt, to prevent its being afterwards questioned by some, and flatly denied by others: but these important ends being attained, there was no just reason to refuse to shew the greatest tenderness for the delicacy of the Lady who was to receive the above correction; and whenever one or more Maids of Honour, therefore, have been so unfortunate as to make it necessary that a flagellation should be inflicted upon them, we are to conclude that the operation was performed in a private apartment of the Palace, in which only the other Maids of Honour were admitted, with a few Ladies of the Bedchamber.

In all the above reasonings, I have only meant to offer my conjectures to the Reader, and have accordingly spoken with becoming diffidence. But with respect to the flagellations that were inflicted on persons of inferior rank, or on those Strangers, such as Fathers Jesuits or others, who had given[185] a just cause of displeasure to the Noble Proprietor of the House, I am able to speak with more certainty, and confidently to inform the Reader, that the place appropriated for such corrections, was the Kitchen.

Nor do I found such an assertion only upon the conveniency of the place in general, upon its being sheltered from both sun and rain, upon its being plentifully stocked with the necessary implements for serving corrections of the kind we mention, or possessing other advantages of a like nature; but I ground it upon precise facts. We see, for instance, that executions of a similar culinary kind, are expressly founded upon the law of this Country, and are the means provided by it for avenging the honour of the Sovereign, when insulted in his own house. Thus, if a Man dares to strike another in the King’s Court, or within two hundred feet from the Palace Gate (which kind of offence has been always looked upon by Kings as a great piece of insolence) all the different Officers in the Kitchen are to co-operate in the Man’s punishment. The Serjeant of the Wood-yard is to bring a block of wood to fasten the Culprit’s hands to: for the punishment is no less than to have it cut off. The Yeomen of the Scullery, and of the Poultry, are likewise to concur in the operation in one manner; the Groom of the Saucery and the Master Cook in another; the[186] Serjeant of the Ewry, again in another: even the concurrence of the Serjeant of the Larder has been deemed necessary, and a proper share has been likewise assigned him in the ceremony: nay, the chief Officers of the Cellar and Pantry are also ordered to lend their assistance; and their allotted function is to solace the sufferer, when the sad operation is over, by offering him a cup of red wine and a manchet.

Another proof of the reality of the culinary executions we mention, as well as of the great share which the people of the Kitchen bore in former times, in supporting the dignity of Kings, is to be found in the description of the manner in which the Knights of the Bath are to be installed, according to the Statutes of the Order. The installed Knight is, on that occasion, to receive admonitions, not only from the Dean of the Order, but also from the Master Cook of the Sovereign, who repairs purposely on that day to Westminster Church; though the place be rather distant from his district. After the different ceremonies of the installation, such as taking the Oath, hearing the exhortation of the Dean, and the like, are over, the installed Knight, invested with the insignia of his dignity, places himself on the one side of the door; the Cook, invested with the insignia of his own, viz. his white linen apron and his chopping-knife, places himself on the other, and addresses[187] the Knight in the following eloquent speech: Sir, you know what great oath you have taken; which if you keep, it will be great honour to you: but if you break it, I shall be compelled, by my office, to hack off your spurs from your heels.

As the punishment that has been described above, is in itself of a grave nature, the particular ceremony with which it is to be inflicted, together with the respective shares allotted in the ceremony to the different Officers of the Royal Kitchen, have been carefully set down in writing. In regard to those flagellations inflicted with a view to avenge any slighter disrespect shewn for the presence or the orders of the Sovereign, as they were corrections of a different, and, we may say, of a more paternal nature, such accuracy has not been used; but there is no doubt that they were performed in the same place in which the punishment above described was to be executed, and by much the same hands; whether they were to be bestowed in the Palaces of English, or of foreign Kings, or of the great personages who were nearly related to them.

In fact, we are positively informed that the abovementioned Reverend Father Jesuit was threatened, and according to others actually served, with a flagellation in the Kitchen. The above Court Buffoon was chastised for his impudence in the same place, and Brantôme expressly[188] says that he was smartly flagellated in the Kitchen (il fut bien fouetté à la Cuisine). Nay, when great Men, who have at all times been fond of aping Kings, have assumed in their own Palaces, or Country Seats, the above power of flagellation, the operation has also been constantly performed in their Kitchens. Of this a number of instances might be produced; but I will content myself with mentioning that which is related in the Tales of the Queen of Navarre (Contes de la Reine de Navarre) of a wanton Friar Capuchin, who frequented the House of a Nobleman in the Country, and who wanted once to persuade a young Chambermaid in it, to wear, by way of mortification, a hair-cloth upon her bare skin, which he himself offered to put upon her: the young Woman mentioned the fact; and the Nobleman who heard of it, grew very angry at the attempt, as he thought, committed by the Friar in his House, and got him to be soundly flagellated in the Kitchen. Nor that I mean, however, to offer this fact to the Reader, as a fact for the truth of which I vouch to him, in the same manner as I have done with respect to the preceding ones; but though the above-quoted Book bears only the title of Tales, yet, as it is undoubtedly an old Book, and has been in so much esteem as to have been supposed to have been written by Queen Margaret, Wife to Henry the Fourth, it is at least to be[189] depended upon with respect to those particular customs and manners it alludes to[69].

That flagellations were, in not very remote times, much in use in the Palaces of the Great, and were served in the Kitchen, are therefore assured facts. With respect to our being so imperfectly informed of the different ceremonies that usually accompanied such corrections, it is owing to different causes; and first, to a kind of carelessness with which, it must be confessed, the affair was commonly transacted. The great Personages who gave orders in that respect, were not sufficiently correct in their manner of giving them; nor did they take sufficient care to confine themselves to any settled forms of words for that purpose: whence it always proved an impossible thing for the Masters of the Ceremonies to collect and set down in writing any thing precise on that head. For here we are to observe, that the Princes who gave such orders, did not give them in their capacity of Trustees of the Executive, Legislative, Military, or Judicial Powers in the Nation. Neither did the Great Men about them, order corrections of the same kind in their own houses, in[190] their capacity of Admirals, Generals, or Knights of the Garter, or of the St. Esprit. The flagellations in question, as hath been above observed, were corrections of quite a paternal kind: they were commonly ordered on a sudden, according as circumstances arose, pro re natâ, without much ceremony or solemnity; and they may extremely well be compared with those boxes on the ears which Queen Elizabeth would sometimes bestow upon her Maids of Honour, or with those marks of attention with which she honoured those who made their appearance in the neighbourhood of her Palaces with high ruffs and long swords, who had them immediately clipped or broken.

When the above great Personages were desirous that a flagellation should be inflicted, a word from them, a gesture, an exclamation, commonly proved sufficient. The numerous Servants who surrounded them, through a zeal that cannot be too much praised, constantly saved them the trouble of expressing themselves more at length on the subject: they quickly laid hold of the person of the culprit; hurried him down into the Kitchen; and without loss of time proceeded to serve the prescribed flagellation, the conduct of which was now intirely left to their discretion: only they took care to regulate their actions upon what they had formerly seen practised on similar occasions, or in cases of a more serious nature: they, for instance,[191] never forgot, when the flagellation was accomplished, to offer the sufferers the abovementioned cup of wine and manchet; nor are we to think that the latter always refused to accept them.

And indeed it is no wonder, to conclude on this subject, that the Kitchen had become the appropriated part of Palaces for serving flagellations. The Kitchen was the place of the general resort of those numerous bodies of Servants, who, in former times, filled the Houses of the Great: it was the place in which they deliberated upon every important occurrence; in which they kept their Archives; and where their General Estates were continually assembled. There Great Men were sure, upon every sudden emergency, to find a sufficient Posse of Servants, ready to do any kind of mischief under the sanction of their Royal or Noble Master, and who were never so pleased as when their assistance was requested to effect a flagellation. When a Reverend Father Jesuit, or some saucy Friar Capuchin, was to be the sufferer, the contentment was, no doubt, much increased; but when the Buffoon himself, who commonly was the most mischievous animal of the whole Crew, was to be flagellated, then indeed we may safely affirm, that an universal joy and uproar prevailed over the whole Royal or Noble mansion.

[68] Corrections of a flagellatory kind continue, in these days, to be looked upon as excellent expedients for insuring good order, in the houses of great people, in Russia, in some districts of Germany, and especially in Poland, where most of the feudal customs that prevailed two or three hundred years ago in other parts of Europe, are still in full force: lower disciplines are, in the latter kingdom, the method commonly employed for mending the manners of Servants of both sexes. A regulation was made, a few years ago, in Poland, as it appeared from the foreign news-papers, with a view to abridge the power assumed by Masters in regard to their Servants.

[69] The French word Cuistre, which is the common word to express a flagellator, in a public School, was the old word for a Cook: whence we may conclude, that, in large public Schools also, the people of the Kitchen were supposed to possess peculiar abilities for performing flagellations.



The subject of voluntary flagellations among Christians is at last introduced. That method of self-mortification appears to have been practised in very early times; but it does not seem to have been universally admitted before the years 1047 and 1056; which was the time Cardinal Damianus wrote[70].

VOLUNTARY flagellations were not a practice that was contrived on a sudden, and then immediately diffused over the Christian world.


Long before the period in which their use began to be universally adopted, they were practised by divers persons, in different times[194] and places, as we may judge from the accounts that have been left us, of several early[195] facts; a few of which I here purpose to relate.


One is contained in the Life of St. Peter, the Hermit of the Pont Euxin, which was written by Theodoret, Bishop of Cyrus, who has been mentioned in a former Chapter, and lived about the year 400. This holy Hermit having found means to rescue a young Woman from the hands of a military Officer, who wanted to seduce her, was much perplexed afterwards how to prevent the effects of both the wrath and lust of that impure man; nor could he, in the issue, compass this any other way than by locking himself up, as Theodoret relates, and severely flagellating[197] himself, in company with the Mother of the young Woman[71].

Palladius, Bishop of Hellenopolis, in his History of the Lives of several holy Solitaries, which he wrote in the year 420, and dedicated to Lausus, whence the Book was called Lausiacum, relates a fact which incontestably proves that flagellations voluntarily submitted to, by those persons who underwent them, were in use so early as the fourth Century. He says, in the Life of Abbot Arsisius, that on the mountain of Nitria, in Thebaid,[198] there was a very large Church, in the vicinity of which stood three Palm-trees, on each of which hung a scourge: the one served to chastise such Monks as proved refractory against the Rule; the other to punish Thieves; and the third served to correct such accidental comers as became guilty of some fault: the delinquents, according to what class they belonged, embraced one of the Palm-trees, and in this situation received a certain number of lashes with one of the above scourges.

It is expressly said of St. Pardulph, a Benedictine Monk and Abbot, who lived during the time of Charles Martel, about the year 737, that he used in Lent-time to strip himself stark-naked, and order one of his disciples to lash him. The fact is related in the life of that Saint, formerly written by an Author who lived about the same time; and it was, two hundred years afterwards, put into more elegant language, by Yvus, Prior of Clugny, at the desire of the Monks of St. Martial, in the Town of Limoges: Hugh Menard, a Benedictine Father, and a very learned Man in all that relates to Ecclesiastical Antiquities, has inserted part of it in his Book, intitled, Observations on the Benedictine Martyrology. The following is the Passage in St. Pardulph’s Life, which is[199] here alluded to. ‘St. Pardulph seldom went out of his cell; whenever sickness obliged him to bathe, he would previously make incisions in his own skin. During Lent, he used to strip himself intirely naked, and ordered one of his disciples to lash him with rods[72].’

St. William, Duke of Aquitain, who lived in the time of Charlemain, that is, about the year 800, and many years before Cardinal Damian, is said to have also used flagellations, as a means of voluntary penance. Arduinus, the Writer of the holy Duke’s Life, and a cotemporary Writer, says, that ‘it was commonly reported that the Duke did frequently, for the love of Christ, cause himself to be whipped, and that he then was alone with the person who assisted him[73].’ Haeftenus, Superior of the Monastery of Affligen, relates the same fact, and says that the Duke of Aquitain ‘took a great delight in sleeping upon a hard bed, and that he moreover lashed himself with a scourge.’ Hugh Menard, the learned Benedictine just now mentioned,[200] has adopted the testimony of Arduinus, and upon that Writer’s authority inserted the above fact in his Observations on the Benedictine Martyrology.

Other persons, who lived before the times of Cardinal Damian, are also mentioned by different Writers, as having practised voluntary flagellations. Gualbertus, Abbot of Pontoise, who lived about the year 900, upon a certain occasion, ‘severely flagellated himself (as M. Du Cange relates in his Glossary) with a scourge made of knotted thongs.’ And the abovementioned Haeftenus, Prior of Affligen, has advanced that the same practice was followed by St. Romuald, who lived about the same time as Gualbertus, and by the Monks of the Camaldolian order, who were settled in Sitria.

Another early instance of voluntary flagellations occurs in the Life of Guy, Abbot of Pomposa. Heribert, it is said, Archbishop of Ravenna, formed the design of pulling down the Monastery of Pomposa; and this piece of news caused both Abbot Guy and his Monks, ‘to lock themselves up in the Capitular House, and to lash themselves every day, for several days, with rods[74].’ Abbot Guy was[201] born in the year 956; and he was made Abbot of Pomposa in the year 998, in which capacity he continued forty-eight years.

All the facts above related were anterior to the year 1056, the time at which Peter Damian de Honeslis was raised to the Cardinalship by Pope Stephen IX; and it is evident from them, that the practice of voluntarily flagellating one’s-self, as a penance for committed sins, had been adopted before the period in question; though it cannot be said to have been then universally prevalent: at least, only a few instances of it have been left us by the Writers of those times. But at the æra we mention, this pious mode of self-correction, owing to the public and zealous patronage with which the above Cardinal favoured it, acquired a vast degree of credit, and grew into universal esteem; and then it was that persons of religious dispositions were every where seen to arm themselves with whips, rods, thongs, and besoms, and lacerate their own hides, in order to draw upon themselves the favour of Heaven.

We are informed of this fact by the learned Cardinal Baronius, in his Ecclesiastical Annals: ‘At that time (he says) the laudable usage of the faithful, of beating themselves with whips made for that purpose, though[202] Peter Damian may not be said to have been the author of it, was much promoted by him the Christian Church; in which he followed the example of the blessed Dominic the Cuirassed, a holy Hermit, who had subjected himself to his authority[75].’

The same Cardinal Damian has moreover left numerous accounts of voluntary flagellations practised by certain holy Men of his times; but these are surely more apt to create our admiration, than to excite us to imitate them, indeed, the flagellations he mentions cannot be proposed to the Faithful as examples they ought to follow, and they were executed with such dreadful severity, as makes it impossible for the most vigorous Men to go through the like, without a kind of miracle.

In the Life of the Monk St. Rodolph, who was afterwards made Bishop of Eugubio,[203] the Cardinal relates, ‘That this holy Man would often impose upon himself a penance of an hundred years, and that he performed it in twenty days, by the strenuous application of a broom, without neglecting the other common methods used in doing penance. Every day, being shut up in his cell, he recited the whole Psalter (or Book of Psalms) at least one time when he could not two, being all the while armed with a besom in each hand, with which he incessantly lashed himself[76]

The account which the Cardinal has left of Dominic, sirnamed the Cuirassed, is not less wonderful. ‘His constant practice (he says) is, after stripping himself naked, to fill both his hands with rods, and then vigorously flagellate himself: this he does in his times of relaxation. But during Lent-time, or when he really means to mortify himself, he frequently undertakes the hundred years penance; and then he every day[204] recites the Psalter at least three times over, all the while flogging himself with besoms[77].’

Cardinal Damian then proceeds to relate the manner in which the same Dominic informed him he performed the hundred years penance. ‘A Man (said he) may depend he has accomplished it, when he has flagellated himself during the whole time the Psalter was sung twenty times over[78].’ The same Author adds several circumstances which make the penances performed by the holy Man appear in a still more admirable light. He, in the first place, was so dextrous as to be able to use both his hands at once, and thus laid on twice the number of lashes others could do, who only used their right-hand. In one instance, he fustigated himself during the time the whole Book of Psalms was sung twice[205] over; on another occasion he did the same while it was sung eight times; and on another, while it was repeated twelve times over; ‘which filled me with terror,’ the Cardinal adds, ‘when I heard the fact[79].’

Cardinal Damian also relates of the same Dominic the Cuirassed, that he at last changed his discipline of rods into that of leather-thongs, which was still harsher; and that he had been able to accustom himself to that laborious exercise. Nay, so punctual was he in performing the duties he had imposed upon himself, that, ‘when he happened to go abroad (being an Hermit) he carried his scourge in his bosom, to the end that, wherever he happened to spend the night, he might lose no time, and flog himself with the same regularity as usual. If the place in which he had taken his refuge for the night, did not allow him to strip entirely, and fustigate himself from head to foot, he at least would severely beat his legs and head[80].’

(end of chapter mark)


[70] The Reader, no doubt, feels a great pleasure in seeing the subject of pious flagellations among Christians again introduced, and a fresh Chapter begun upon it: indeed the Author had taken a great liberty, in losing sight of his main subject for so long a time, and dwelling, through so many pages, upon the flagellatory corrections which, after the example of Convents, were, in not very remote days, practised in the Palaces of the Great: his zeal in the defence of Friars and Nuns has insensibly carried him these lengths.

In the present Chapter, the Author has also indulged himself in a piece of great freedom with the Abbé Boileau, his original, or rather his model: which is no less than to have given a direct contradiction to the main doctrine advanced by the Abbé in his Work.

Thus, the principal, or rather sole point, which the Abbé labours to prove in his Book, is, that voluntary flagellations only began to be practised among Christians, in the years 1047 or 1056; this is an assertion which he introduces almost at every page, and which expressly constitutes the title of one of his Chapters (the 7th): yet he has himself quoted (without disputing the truth of them) several facts that shew such practice to have been much older: I have therefore taken the liberty, in the present Chapter, in which those facts are collected, to dissent from the doctrine maintained by him, and have advanced, that voluntary flagellations were practised in early times among Christians, though they began to be universally admitted only in the years 1047 and 1056.

And indeed if the Reader now asked my own opinion concerning the antiquity, or novelty, of the practice in question, a subject which has caused much disputation among Catholic Divines, I would answer, that I do not think it in the least probable, that a practice like this, after having been unknown for so many Centuries, should afterwards have been thought of on a sudden, and then adopted by the whole Christian world, at the same period.

In the first place it is to be observed, that though the strict truth of those early instances of voluntary flagellations, which are to be found in the Abbé’s text, might perhaps be controverted, yet, as the reader will see, such instances are related by early and contemporary Writers, as common facts, at which they do not express any surprise.

In the second place, since the opposers of the opinion of the antiquity of self-flagellations admit, that cruel voluntary penances, such as wearing iron cuirasses inwardly armed with points, being continually loaded with enormous weights, dwelling in the bottom of dwells, or on the tops of columns, were practised by the first Christians, it is difficult to understand why they make such objections against flagellations in particular, which they agree to have been employed, from the earliest times, by Ecclesiastical Superiors, as common methods of correcting offences of a religious kind, and which were likewise used for pious purposes, before the establishment of Christianity.

Nay, beating and lashing one’s self, are means of self-mortification, which, more readily than any other, occur to the minds either of superstitious, or hypocritical persons. Practices of this kind presently gratify the sudden fits of fanaticism of the one, and serve extremely well the purposes of the other, in that they catch the minds of the vulgar, by the display of an apparatus of cruel instruments and a show of great severity, at the same time that they are in reality much less difficult to be borne than the penances above alluded to, and want what constituted the most intolerable hardship of these latter, diuturnity and uninterruption.

Besides, those who make self-flagellation part of their religious exercises, always have it in their power to take, like Sancho, their own time for performing them, as well as to choose what station they please for that purpose. In Summer, they may settle themselves in a cool place; in Winter, near a good fire; and have constantly by them some excellent liquor, to refresh themselves with, during the different pauses they think proper to make.

They may moreover use just what degree of severity they choose. They even may, like Sancho, who only lashed the trees around him, or like the Hermit mentioned by La Fontaine, content themselves with flagellating the walls of their apartment: nay, they may perform no flagellation at all, and yet make afterwards what boast they please. Having duly weighed all the above important considerations, as well as the facts quoted by the Abbé, the truth of which he does not take the trouble to deny, I have ventured to dissent from his inconsistent assertions, and have made the abovementioned change in his doctrine.

[71] The above fact related by Theodoret is very positive; and it supplies an evident proof, that the practice of self-flagellation was not unknown in the times of that early Writer: the silence of the same Author in other parts of his Writings, concerning the practice in question, shews nothing more, except that the same was not universally adopted in his time, as hath been observed in the Note, pag. 124 of this Work.

The hasty assertions of the Abbé Boileau against the antiquity of self-flagellation, which are repeated almost in every page of his Book, in spite of the facts which himself produces, gives just cause to guess that he used to practise but little upon himself that salutary kind of mortification.

[72] ... Tempore quadragesimo, toto corpore nudato, se à quodam discipulo virgis cædi præcipiebat.

[73] Part I. Actor. Ord. S. Benedicti, pag. 208. Aiunt nonnulli se sæpe pro Christi amore flagellis cædi, nullo alio præter eum qui aderat conscio, jussisse.

[74] ... Quotidiè acriter se cædendi virgis in domo Capitulari.

[75] The Abbé Boileau, in his Book, concludes the above quotation, with wishing that Baronius had been pleased to inform us of the name of the real Author of the practice of voluntary flagellation. As he thinks that there has existed a certain particular period, at which this practice began to be universally followed, prior to which it was utterly unknown, so he hopes that some undisputed inventor of the same may be fixed upon.

[76] Sæpè pœnitentiam centum suscipiebat annorum, quam per viginti dies, allisione scoparum, cæterisque pœnitentiæ remediis, persolvebat. Psalterium quotidiè, cùm duo non posset unum saltem, non negligebat implere: quod nimirùm cùm esset in cellula constitutus, armatâ scopis utrâque manu, totum cùm disciplinâ continuare consueverat.

[77] Cap. viii. Hanc autem vitæ consuetudinem indifferenter habet, ut utrâque manu scopis armatâ, nudum corpus allidat; & hoc remissiori tempore. Nam quadragesimalibus circulis, sive cum pœnitentiam peragendam habet, crebro centum annorum pœnitentiam suscipit: tunc per dies singulos, dum se scoparum tunsionibus afficit, ut minus tria Psalteria meditando persolvit.

[78] Hominem tempore quo viginti Psalteria recitabantur vapulantem, pœnitentiam centenarium explevisse.

[79] Cap. X. Quod certè quum audivi tremefactus expavi.

[80] Hoc flagellum, si quando egrederetur, portabat in sinu, ut ubicunque eum jacere contingeret, à verberibus[206] non vacaret, &c.

Carrying a discipline constantly about one, like the above Dominic, and making an ostentatious display of it, are among the number of those characteristical circumstances which are looked upon, in Catholic Countries, as marking hypocrisy: to this notion a frequent allusion is made both in Novels and Plays; thus, the first words of Tartuffe, or the Hypocrite, in the Play of Molière which bears that name, who makes his first appearance only when the Play is somewhat advanced, are to order his Man, with a loud affected voice, to lock up his hair-cloth and discipline. However, we are not to think that all those who thus make a display of their discipline, use it with so much earnestness and perseverance as the above-mentioned Dominic the Cuirassed, or Rodolph of Eugubio; though it cannot be denied that several persons of a gloomy superstitious temper, still practise in these days mortifications of that kind with great severity; and indeed, as hath been observed in a former Note, the astonishing penances practised by Fakirs in the East Indies, which are undeniable facts, make every account of that sort appear credible to us.

If the evil arising from the above cruel practices, reached no farther than the useless sufferings which those who follow them, bring upon themselves,[207] one might sincerely pity their infatuation; but it is a truth confirmed by experience, that superstitious exercises or mortifications like these, are seldom introduced but at the expence of other really essential obligations; and though the rigour of such mortifications is very wisely abated gradually every day, so that they are at length reduced to only some trifling practices, yet, they are made to supply the place of almost every duty which Men owe to one another: thus, to quote only one striking instance on the subject, Lewis the Eleventh of France, after he had paid a few devotions of his own contrivance to a leaden image of the Virgin he constantly wore stuck to his hat, thought he had fully atoned beforehand for any crime he meditated to commit.

I shall conclude this Note with a stroke of ridicule which M. de Voltaire, in one of his Pieces mêlées, throws upon the dangerous, and at the same time arrogant, pretensions of those persons who voluntarily submit to mortifications like those here alluded to. He supposes a conversation to take place with a Fakir, of which a Turk, then on his travels in India, writes an account to one of his friends.

‘I happened to cross a Fakir, who was reading in his Book: Ah wretched Infidel! cried he; thou hast made me lose a number of vowels that[208] I was counting, which will occasion my soul to pass into the body of a hare, instead of that of a parrot, with which I had before the greatest reason to flatter myself: I gave him a Rupee to comfort him for the accident. In going a few paces farther, I had the misfortune to sneeze; the noise I made roused a Fakir who was in a trance.—Heavens, cried he, what a dreadful noise! where am I! I can no longer see the tip of my nose! the heavenly light has disappeared.—If I am the cause, said I, of your seeing farther than the tip of your nose, here is a Rupee to repair the injury: squint again, and resume the heavenly light[81].

‘Having thus brought myself off discreetly enough, I passed over to the side of the Gymnosophists, several of whom brought me a parcel of mighty pretty nails to drive into my arms, and thighs, in honour of Brahma: I bought their nails, and made use of them to fasten my boxes. Others were dancing upon their hands; others cut capers on the slack-rope; and others went always upon one foot. There were some who dragged about a heavy chain with them; and others carried a pack-saddle; some had always their heads in a bushel; the best people in[209] the world to live with. My friend Omri carried me to the cell of one of the most famous of them. His name was Bahabec. He was as naked as he was born, and had a great chain about his neck, that weighed upwards of sixty pounds. He sat on a wooden chair, very neatly decorated with little points of nails, that ran into his posteriors; and you would have thought he sat on a velvet cushion. Numbers of Women flocked to him, to consult him: he was the Oracle of all the families in the neighbourhood; and was, truly speaking, in great reputation. I was witness to a long conversation that Omri had with him.—Do you think, Father, said my friend, that, after having gone through seven metempsychoses, I may at length arrive at the house of Brama.—That is as it may happen, said the Fakir. What sort of life do you lead?—I endeavour, answered Omri, to be a good subject, a good husband, a good father, and a good friend: I lend money without interest to the rich who want it, and I give it to the poor: I preserve peace among my neighbours.—But have you ever run nails into your backside, demanded the Brahmin.—Never, reverend Father.—I am sorry for it, replied the Father; very sorry for it indeed. It is a thousand pities; but you will not certainly reach[210] above the nineteenth Heaven.—No higher? said Omri. In troth I am very well satisfied with my lot. But pray, what heaven do you think of going to, good Mr. Bahabec, with your nails and your chain? Into the thirty-fifth, said Bahabec, &c. &c.[82]

The above recited feats of Dominic the Cuirassed, and Rodolph of Eugubio, who have had numerous imitators, together with the very serious endeavours of Men in the station of Cardinal Damian, to recommend such practices, are very extraordinary facts. It really seems that, in our part of the world, where the Arts and Sciences have been promoted to so high a degree, and the powers of the human mind carried to their utmost extent, we have, in regard to the folly and ignorance of our superstitious notions and customs, been equal to any Nation upon earth, to any of those Nations whom we despise most: nay, perhaps it might be strictly proved that we have been worse.

[81] It is needless to observe that all this alludes to real penances or practices of the Indian Fakirs.

[82] See Voltaire’s Works, translated by Smollett, Franklin, and others, Vol. XIII. pag. 23, &c.



The practice of self-flagellation meets with some opposition; but this is soon over-ruled by the fondness of the Public.

VOLUNTARY flagellations, notwithstanding the zeal with which Cardinal Damian endeavoured to promote them, were not, however, admitted, in his time, by all persons, without exception. Thus, Odillon, Abbot of Cluny, and Maurus of Cesena, two Saints whose Lives Cardinal Damian himself has written, forbore the use of flagellations; or at least no mention is made of their having practised them, in the Accounts the Cardinal has given of their actions.

Nay, several persons openly blamed the pious ceremonies in question, during the times of Cardinal Damian; for it was too alarming a practice, for Men not to be concerned at its sudden progress; it was an exercise of too ticklish a nature, for them to suffer themselves[212] to fall asleep on its introduction, or too interesting in its consequence, for them not to be roused by the rattling of the blows.

Among those who thus condemned voluntary flagellations, the most conspicuous was Peter Cerebrosus, a Monk who lived in those times, and was moreover a friend to Cardinal Damian. This brought on, an epistolary debate on the subject, between Cerebrosus and the Cardinal, as we learn from the Works of the latter. Nor did the Cardinal, it is to be observed, advance in his letters, that self-flagellations were matter of strict duty: he only proved by the authority of the Scriptures, that it was lawful to flagellate persons who were guilty of offences; and he then gave it as his opinion, that it was a laudable act in a Christian, voluntarily to inflict upon himself that punishment which God had awarded against him, and which he ought to suffer from the hands of other persons.

The opposition made by Cerebrosus had especially for its object, the manner in which voluntary flagellations were performed. He blamed the length of time, and the vehemence, with which certain persons executed them; and condemned the extraordinary severity with which the abovementioned Flogging-Masters used to lash themselves, while[213] they were singing a number of Psalms over. This caused the Cardinal to write a new letter to him, in order to desire him to explain better his sentiments on that subject: the following is an extract from the Cardinal’s letter: ‘Perhaps you do not blame the practice of self-discipline, though you condemn it when too long continued, and performed with cruelty: perhaps you do not disapprove that discipline be performed during the time one Psalm is singing, but you shudder at the thought of singing the whole Psalter over. Now speak, my Brother, I beseech you, if I may ask you the question, do you find fault with those disciplines which are practised in the chapters of Convents? do you also blame the use adopted in them, of prescribing to a Father who confesses himself guilty of any slight fault, to undergo twenty, or at most fifty lashes?’

To the above facts, an observation is to be added, which is, that, though Cerebrosus maintained a different opinion from that of Cardinal Damian, yet the latter never charged him with having fallen, in that respect, into any kind of criminal error, or heresy, but on the contrary, calls him his dear Son, his Brother in Christ, and his good Friend, as appears from his Epistles xxvii and xxviii; as[214] well as from his lxiid Epistle, which he wrote to the Fathers of the Monastery of Mount Cassin, in commendation of flagellations. This mild and civil manner with which the above dispute was carried on, between Cardinal Damian, and Peter Cerebrosus, reflects much honour upon both, and shews that they were personages of eminent merit. Nor did the Cardinal use the opinions of Cardinal Stephen, who, when alive, had likewise opposed self-flagellations, with less moderation; and he frequently calls him a Man of pious memory: though it is but just to add, that this Cardinal Stephen was commonly suspected of having died suddenly, on account of his having despised the exercise in question.

However, notwithstanding the doubts of Peter Cerebrosus, and of Cardinal Stephen, the practice of voluntary flagellations soon spread itself far and wide; and we find it to have been adopted, since the times we mention, by numbers of persons, eminent on account either of their dignity, or their merit; several of whom have been mentioned by Father Gretzer. Among them were St. Andrew Bishop of Fiesola, Laurence Justinian, Abbot Poppo, and especially St. Anthelm, Bishop of Bellay, who lived about an hundred years after Dominic the Cuirassed and Rodolph of[215] Eugubio, and gloriously trod in the footsteps of these two holy Men. ‘Every day (it is said in that Saint’s Life, which was written by one of his intimate friends) every day he scourged himself, making lashes fall thick on his back and sides, and by thus heaping stripes upon stripes, he never suffered his skin to remain whole, or free from marks of blows[83].’

Even Sovereigns, and Great Men, in the times we speak of, adopted for themselves the practice of voluntary flagellation.

The Emperor Henry, who lived about the year 1070, ‘never ventured (if we may credit Reginard’s account) to put on his Imperial[216] robes, before he had obtained the permission of a Priest for that purpose, and had deserved it by confession and discipline.’

William of Nangis, in the Life of St. Lewis King of France, which he has written, relates that that Prince, after he had made his confession, constantly received discipline from his Confessor. To this the same Author adds the following curious account. ‘I ought not to omit to say, concerning the Confessor the King had before Geoffrey de Bello loco, and who belonged to the Order of the Predicant Friars, that he used to inflict upon him, hard and immoderate disciplines; which the King, whose skin was rather tender, had much ado to endure. This hardship, however, he never would speak of to this Confessor; but after his death, he mentioned the fact, somewhat jocularly, though not without humility, to the new Confessor[84].’

An instance of much the same nature with the facts above recited, is to be found in one of Osbertus’s Books. A certain English Count having contracted an unlawful marriage with one of his near relations, not only parted afterwards[217] with her, but requested besides to be disciplined in the presence of St. Dunstan, and of the General Assembly of the Clergy. ‘Terrified (says Osbertus) by the greatness of his offence, his obstinacy ceased; and after having renounced his unlawful wedlock, he imposed upon himself the task of penitence. As Dunstan was then presiding over a meeting of the Clergy of the Kingdom, which was holden according to custom, the Count came into the middle of the Assembly, bare-footed, clothed with wool, and carrying rods in his hands; and threw himself, groaning and weeping, at the feet of St. Dunstan. This instance of piety moved the whole Assembly, and Dunstan more than the rest. However, as his wish was thoroughly to reconcile the Man with God, he preserved an appearance of severity in his looks, suitable to the occasion, and for a whole hour persevered in denying his request: when, at last, all the Prelates having joined in the entreaties of the Count, St. Dunstan granted him the indulgence he was suing for.’ From the above fact, we might conclude that flagellations voluntarily submitted to, had become, even before the æra of Cardinal Damian, a settled method of atoning for past sins, since St. Dunstan lived about an hundred[218] years before the Cardinal; that is, about the year 950.

Instances of Sovereigns, and Great Men, requesting to undergo flagellations, must have been pretty common in the days we mention, frequent allusions being made to it, in old books: among others, in that old French Romance intitled, The History of the Round Table, and the Feats of the Knight, Lancelot du Lac. King Arthur is supposed in it, to have summoned all the Bishops who were in his army, to his Chapel; and there to have requested of them, a correction of the same kind as that undergone by the Count mentioned by Osbertus[85].

From the times we mention, we find numerous proofs of self-flagellations being used in Convents: and indeed it would have been a very extraordinary circumstance, if, while the persons above-named adopted that practice, Monks had rejected it. In the liiid Article of the Statutes of the Abbey of Cluny, which were collected by Peter Maurice, sirnamed the Venerable, who was raised to the dignity of Abbot in the year 1122, the following[219] account is given. ‘It was ordained (it is said in that Article) that that part of the Monastery which is on the left, beyond the left Choir, should remain open to no strange persons, whether Ecclesiastical or Lay, as it was formerly, and nobody admitted into it, except the Monks. This was thus settled, because the Brothers had no place, except the old Church of St. Peter, in which they could practise such holy and secret exercises as are usual with religious persons, they therefore claimed the use of the above new part of the Church, both for the night and the day, that they might constantly therein make offerings of the perfumes of their prayers to God, supplicate their Creator by frequent acts of repentance and genuflexions, and mortify their bodies by often inflicting upon themselves three flagellations, either as penances for their sins, or as an increase of their merit[86].’


The practice in question gained so much credit, about those times, in Monasteries, that St. Bruno, who, a few years after the death of Cardinal Damian, founded the Carthusian Order, thought it necessary to restrain his Monks in that respect; not unlikely, perhaps, with the view to check the pride which they used to derive from such exercises. In one of the statutes laid by that Saint, which Prior Guigues has collected, the following regulation is contained. ‘In regard to such disciplines, watchings, and other religious exercises as are not expressly enjoined by our Institution, let nobody among us perform them, except it be by the Prior’s permission.’

So much were flagellations grown into fashion in the days we mention, such attractions[221] did they even seem to possess, that Ladies of high rank would also inlist among the abovementioned Whippers, and almost vied with Dominic the Cuirassed, Rodolph de Eugubio, St. Anthelm, and Abbot Poppo, in regard to the regularity with which they performed such meritorious exercises. Among those Ladies, particular mention is made of St. Maria of Ognia, of St. Hardwigge, Dutchess of Poland, of St. Hildegarde, and above all of the Widow Cechald, who lived in the very times of Cardinal Damian, and performed wonderful feats in the same career, as we are informed by St. Antonius, in the second Volume of his History. The following is the account given by St. Antonius, upon the authority of Cardinal Damian himself. ‘Not only Men, but also Women of noble birth eagerly sought after that kind of Purgatory; and the Widow of Cechaldus, a Woman of great birth and dignity, gave an account, that in consequence of an obligation she had previously imposed upon herself, she had gone through the hundred years penance, three thousand lashes being the number allotted for every year[87].’

(end of chapter mark)


[83] The abovementioned Anthelm, I think I have read, lived to a very great age. The famous self-flagellator Dominic the Cuirassed, lived eighty-four years; St. Romuald, notwithstanding the flagellations he received from himself and his Monks, attained, it is said, the age of an hundred and twenty years; and Leon of Preza, another illustrious self-flagellator, lived, according to some accounts, to the age of an hundred and forty. If so, it would thence result, that self-flagellations, besides the other great advantages they possess, are also attended with that of being conducive to health.

[84] ... Jocando ridendo hoc alteri Confessori suo humiliter recognovit.

[85] ... Après, prist discipline d’eux; moult doucement la reçut. Imprimé à Paris, par A. Gerard, le 1. Juillet, 1494. This must have been one of the first books that were printed.

[86] ... ubi sancta & secreta orationum aromata Deo assiduè accenderent; frequentibus metanœis vel genufluxionibus pio conditori supplicarent; à tribus sæpè flagellis, vel ad pœnitentiam, vel ad augendum meritum, corpus attererent.

I will take this occasion to inform the Reader, that Monks, or persons of religious dispositions, do not always mean, in the penances they impose on themselves, to atone for their sins, which they do not by any means consider as being in proportion to the number of their flagellations. They practise mortifications of this kind, either for the good of other persons, or for delivering souls from Purgatory, or in order (as the Reader may see from the words above quoted) to increase their own merit, and, like the Fakir mentioned in a former place, go of course to the thirty-fifth Heaven.

[87] Tit. 16. Cap. VIII. fol. 102.—Ut non solùm viri sed & mulieres nobiles hoc purgatorii genus inhianter[222] acciperent; relictamque Cechaledi, mulierem magni generis & magnæ dignitatis, retulisse se, per præfixam hujus regulæ disciplinam, pœnitentiam centum annorum peregisse, tribus disciplinarum millibus pro uno computatis anno.

The Widow Cechald, in her account of the wonderful penance she performed after the example of Dominic the Cuirassed, has neglected to inform us in what manner she performed it, and whether she imitated that holy Man in every respect, and used, for instance, both her hands at once in the operation. Be it as it may; three hundred thousand lashes, the total amount of the hundred years penance she went through, were certainly a very hard penance. However, as we are not to doubt either the account which the above Widow gave in that respect, or the declaration Cardinal Damian made after her, the wonder is to be explained another way, and perhaps by the nature of the instruments she made use of: they possibly were of much the same kind as those used by a certain Lady, who was likewise much celebrated on account of the frequent disciplines she bestowed upon herself, and who was at last found out to use no other weapons for performing them, than a bunch of feathers, or, as others have said, a fox’s tail.



Another difficulty. Which is the best plight to be in, for receiving a discipline?

EMINENT persons, in the times we speak of, did not differ from one another only in their opinions concerning the advantages of religious flagellations; but they also dissented with respect to the manner of performing them, as we may likewise conclude from the Writings and Ordinances of those times. Cardinal Damian, the great Patron of Flagellators, prescribed to them to strip themselves naked, and when thus perfectly free from every obstruction and impediment, to flog themselves in company with one another: this we learn from his xliid Opusculum, which he wrote to the Fathers of Mount Cassin, who were not intirely reconciled to the thought of those flagellations. On the other hand, an Ordinance which had been framed in the Assembly which was held at Aix-la-Chapelle, so early as the year 817, under[224] the reign of Lewis le Débonnaire, forbad the above manner of flagellating Monks, because it did more harm than good. ‘Let the Monks (it is said in the 16th Canon) never be lashed naked, in the presence of the other Monks; let them not be whipped naked, for every trifling fault, in sight of the Brothers.’

Several religious Orders submitted to the directions of the above Canon; St. Lanfranc, among others, ordered, in his Statutes, ‘That Monks, guilty of offences, should be beaten with a thick rod, or wand, over their gowns.’ The Monks of Affligen, in the Netherlands, adopted the same Canon; and it was settled in their Ritual, as Haeftenus informs us, that the Monks should have their gowns on, when they were to be cudgelled.

However, the wise precautions we mention were adopted only in a few particular places; and the regard which ought to be paid to decency, as well as to the prudent Ordinance of the Assembly held at Aix-la-Chapelle, was utterly forgotten in most Monasteries; the practice recommended by Cardinal Damian being adopted in them, upon the score of more complete mortification. Nay, so cheap did the Framers of regulations, in several Monasteries, make their own nakedness, as well[225] as that of the Brothers, that in certain cases they ordered delinquents to be stript in order to be flagellated, in sight not only of the Congregation, but even of the whole Public. In an Article of the Constitutions of the Abbey of Cluny, which Udalric has collected together, it is expressly settled that the persons guilty of the different faults enumerated therein, are ‘to be stripped naked in the middle of the next street or public place, so that every person who chooses may see them, and there tied up and lashed[88].’

Among the Promoters and Recommenders of nakedness, we must not omit to mention Cardinal Pullus, a person of no less importance than Cardinal Damian, and who, in his life-time, was high Chancellor of the Roman Church: in the Collection of Sentences with which this Cardinal has obliged the World, he gives it as his opinion, that the very nakedness of the Penitent, is a considerable increase of his merit[89].

(end of chapter mark)


[88] Pars Cap. III. p. 166.—Cunctis enim qui videre voluerint, videntibus, & maximè in mediâ plateâ, nudatur, ligatur, & verberatur.

[89] To the above dissertation on the properest plight for receiving flagellations, another, no less[226] interesting, might be added, viz. which are the fittest instruments for inflicting them? Indeed, an infinite variety of instruments have been used for that purpose, whether they were contrived at leisure by the ingenious persons who were to use them, or were suddenly found out, from the spur of some urgent occasion. Incensed Pedants, who could not quickly enough find their usual instrument of discipline, have frequently used their hat, their towel, or, in general, the first things they laid their hands upon. I once saw a Gentleman flagellate a saucy young fish-women, with all the flounders in her basket. Among Saints, some, like Dominic the Cuirassed, have used besoms: others, like St. Dominic the Founder of the Dominican Order, have used iron chains; others, like Gualbert, have employed knotted leather-thongs; others have used nettles, and others thistles. A certain Saint, as I have read in the Golden Legend, had no discipline of his own, but constantly took, to discipline himself with, the very first thing that came under his hand, such as the tongs for the fire, or the like. St. Bridget, as I have read in the same book, disciplined herself with a bunch of keys; a certain Lady, who hath been mentioned in a former place, used a bunch of feathers for the same purpose; and lastly, Sancho did things with much more simplicity, and flagellated himself with the palms of his hands.



Confessors at length assume to themselves a kind of flagellatory power over their Penitents. The abuses that arise from it.

THE submission of Sovereigns to receive disciplines from the hands of their Confessors, together with the accounts of such disciplines, which, though they might not always be true, were industriously circulated in Public, helped much, without doubt, to increase the good opinion which people entertained of the merit of flagellations, as well as to strengthen the power of Confessors in general. In fact the latter, from prescribing Disciplines, soon passed to inflicting them upon their penitents with their own hands; and, without loss of time, converted this newly-assumed authority into an express kind of privilege, to which it was a most meritorious act, on the part of penitents, readily to submit. On this occasion, I shall again quote the old French[228] Book, mentioned in p. 218; which, though it be only a Romance, may serve to shew the opinions generally entertained by people, during the times in which it was written. ‘If you are estranged from our Lord’s love, you cannot be reconciled to him, unless by the three following means: First, by confession of mouth; secondly, by a contrition of heart; thirdly, by works of alms and charity. Now, go and make a confession in that manner, and receive discipline from the hands of thy Confessors; for it is the sign of merit.’

The power of Confessors of disciplining their penitents, became in process of time so generally acknowledged, that it obtained even with respect to persons who made profession of the Ecclesiastical life, and superseded the laws that had been made against those who should strike an Ecclesiastic. To this an allusion is made, in the lines of that Poet of the middle age, who has put the Summula of St. Raymund into Latin verses. ‘You are guilty of sacrilege if you have violated holy things, if you have struck a person in religious Orders, or of the Clergy; unless it be a holy beating, such as is performed by a Teacher with respect to his Disciple, or a[229] Confessor with respect to a person who confesses his sins[90].’

Attempts were, however, made to put a stop to these practices of Priests and Confessors; and so early as under Pope Adrian I. who was raised to the Purple in the year 772 (which by the by shews that the power assumed by Confessors, was pretty ancient) a regulation was made to forbid Confessors to beat their Penitents. ‘The Bishop (it is said in the Epitome of Maxims and Canons) the Priest, and the Deacon, must not beat those who have sinned[91].’ But this regulation proved useless: the whole tribe of Priests, as well as the first Dignitaries of the Church, nevertheless continued to preach up the prerogatives of Confessors and the merit of flagellations; and Cardinal Pullus, that Chancellor of the Roman Church who has been mentioned in the foregoing Chapter, did not scruple to declare, that the nakedness of the Penitent, and his situation at the feet of his Confessor, were[230] additional merits in him in the eye of God, as being additional tokens of his humility[92].

All these different practices of stripping and flagellating Devotees and Penitents, at length gave rise to abuses of a very serious nature; instances of which take place, we may say, every day. Numbers of Confessors, in process of time, have made such religious acts as had been introduced with a view to mortification, serve to gratify their own lust and wantonness. They have tried to inculcate the same notions, as to the merit of flagellations, into the minds of their Devotees of the other sex, as they had brought even Kings and Princes to entertain; and at last have made it a practice to inflict such corrections on their female Penitents, and under that pretence, to take such liberties with them, as the blessed St. Benedict, St. Francis, St. Dominic, and St. Loyola, had not certainly given them the example of.

Among the many instances that might be recited of the abuses here alluded to, it will suffice to produce that of a Man who wore a[231] hood, and was girt with a cord (a Cordelier or Franciscan) who lived about the year 1566. This Man’s name was Cornelius Adriasem; he was a native of Dort, and belonged to a Convent in Bruges, and was a most violent preacher against the Heretics, called Gueux. He had found means to persuade a certain number of Women, both married and unmarried, to promise him implicit obedience, by certain oaths he made them take for that purpose, and under the specious pretence of greater piety. These Women he did not indeed lash with harsh and knotted cords, but he used gently to rub their bare thighs and posteriors, with willow or birch rods[93].


In order to shew how common the above practices were become, as well as to entertain the Reader, I shall conclude this Chapter with the following story, which is to be found in Scot’s Book, entitled, Mensa Philosophica. A Woman, says Scot, who was gone to make her confession, had been secretly followed by her husband, who was jealous of her; and he had hid himself in some place in the Church, whence he might spy her; but as soon as he saw her led behind the altar by the Priest, in order to be flagellated, he made his appearance, objected that she was too tender to bear a flagellation, and offered to receive it in her stead. This proposal the Wife greatly applauded; and the Man had no sooner placed himself upon his knees, than she exclaimed,[233] ‘Now, my Father, lay on lustily, for I am a great Sinner[94].’

(end of chapter mark)



Es vir sacrilegus si res sacras violasti,
Si percussisti personam religiosam,
Vel quem de Clero; nisi percussio sancta,
Doctor discipulum, Confessor probra fatentem.

[91] Cap. XV. Episcopus, Presbyter & Diaconus, peccantes fideles diverberare non debeant.

[92] Card. Pulli sententiarum L. vii. Cap. 3. p. 220. Est ergo satisfactio quædam, aspera tamen, sed Deo tanto gratior quanto humilior, cum quilibet sacerdotis prostratus ad pedes, se cædendum virgis exhibet nudum.

[93] I have in the course of this Work frequently produced the original words of the Authors who are quoted therein, as I thought this precaution would not be disagreeable to the critical part of Readers. In regard to the Abbé Boileau himself, no occasion has offered of doing the same, as he seldom introduces any fact, in his Book, but in the words of the Writer from whom he borrows it: however, as in relating the above story, which he has extracted from a much longer account, he speaks for himself, I shall take this opportunity of introducing him personally to the Reader, and of transcribing his own words, in order to enable the Reader to judge of the goodness of his Latin.——‘Inter exempla tam infaustæ notitiæ non pertimescam Historiam narrare hominis cucullati et cordigeri, Conventus Brugensis, anno circiter MDLXVI, cui nomen erat Cornelius Adriasem, origine Dordracensis, adversus hæreticos Guezios stomachosissimi concionatoris, qui puellas seu fœminas quasdam sacramento fidelitatis & obedientiæ sibi adstrictas, & specie pietatis devotas, non quidem asperatis & nodosis funibus verberabat, sed nudata earum femora & nates, inhonestis vibicibus rorantes, betuleis aut vimineis virgis, ictibus molliter inflictis, perfricabat.

[94]Domine, tota tenera est; ego pro ipsâ recipio disciplinam: quo flectente genua dixit Mulier, Percute fortiter, Domine, quia magna peccatrix sum.’—Men. Phil. Lib. iv. Cap. 18.

The above story, related by Scot, together with the words he supposes to have been said by the Woman, have since been turned into a French epigram, which I have met with in the Menagiana, as well as in two or three different collections of French Poetry.

Une femme se confessa,
Le Confesseur à la sourdine
Derriere l’Autel la troussa
Pour lui donner la discipline.
L’époux non loin d’elle caché
De miséricorde touché
Offrit pour elle dos & fesse.
La femme y consentit dabord,
Je sens, dit-elle, ma foiblesse,
Mon mari sans doute est plus fort;
Sus donc, mon Pere, touchez fort,
Car je suis grande pecheresse.

The abovementioned flagellating practices of Confessors, are alluded to in several Books; and Confessors are expressly charged with them by several Writers, besides what is said above. Among[234] others, Sanlec, a bel Esprit who lived under Lewis the Fourteenth, and wrote several Satires, in one of them, which he has intitled The Directors, has made the above practices of Confessors, or Directors, the subject of his animadversion. ‘This zealous Confessor (says Sanlec) who, for every trifling fault, with a discipline in his hand, fustigated his female Devotees.’

Ce Confesseur zèlé, qui, pour les moindres fautes,
La discipline en main fustigeoit ses Dévotes.

Among the number of those who have administered disciplines of the kind here alluded to, a few have been so happy as to acquire much more reputation than the others. Among these must be ranked the abovementioned Cornelius Adriasem, whose case is related at length by Meteren, in his Latin History of the Netherlands, published in the year 1568, from which the Abbé Boileau has extracted it. This Cornelius Adriasem (or Adriansen) was a loud declaimer against the faction called the Gueux, whom the Abbé calls Hereticks, but who were, in fact, the same party who opposed the Spanish Government in those parts, and afterwards succeeded in overthrowing it, and founded the Republic of Holland. As the above Reverend Father had thus strongly opposed a powerful, numerous, as well as incensed party, in the State and the Church, the discovery that was made of his frailties, afforded matter of much[235] triumph, as well as made a great noise, and supplied his enemies with an opportunity of inveighing afterwards against him, which they did not neglect, as we may conclude from Meteren’s account of the fact, which he relates at great length, and with much spleen and dulness. However, new names were coined to express that particular kind of discipline which Cornelius Adriansen used to serve upon his female penitents: those who loved to deduce their new appellations of things from Greek words, called it the Gynopygian discipline; and others, who, proceeding upon a more liberal plan, thought that the proper appellation of any particular practice, ought to be derived from the name of some person who has eminently distinguished himself by it, called the discipline in question, from the name of the above Gentleman, the Cornelian discipline: a name by which it still continues to be expressed in those quarters.

The devisers of the appellation just now mentioned, did not however mean to say, that Cornelius Adriansen was the inventor of the above kind of discipline, or even the first man of note who had recourse to it: or, if such was their meaning, they were wrong. In fact, Abelard, who certainly is a well-known character, also used to administer flagellatory corrections to his pupil Heloisa, whose name is not less illustrious than that of her Master. The Canon Fulbert, as every one[236] knows, had intrusted him with the care of her education; and as the Canon was very desirous she should become distinguished by her learning, he had permitted him to correct her, whenever she should fail in performing her duty. Abelard, in time, made an extensive use of the power that had thus been conferred upon him; though, to say the truth (and as himself confesses in one of those Latin letters he wrote to her after their separation) he, at last, did not so much use it, when she had been guilty of faults, as when she too obstinately refused to commit any.—Sed & te nolentem (says he) sæpiùs minis atque flagellis ad consensum trahebam.

As Cornelius Adriansen was preceded in the career we mention, by a character as distinguished as himself, so has he been followed by another who was no less so, and who made no less noise in the world. The person I mean, is the celebrated Jesuit, Father Girard; and among the number of his pupils or penitents, was Miss Cadiere, who certainly may also be looked upon as an illustrious character. The Cornelian disciplines which the Father used to serve upon her, were one of the subjects of the public complaint she afterwards preferred against him, about the year 1730; which gave rise to a criminal lawsuit or prosecution that made a prodigious noise, as it was thought to be a kind of stroke levelled at[237] the whole Society of the Jesuits, and was known to have been stirred up by Monks belonging to Orders who were at open enmity with them. The Demoiselle Cadiere likewise brought against Father Girard a charge of sorcery, and of having bewitched her; in order, no doubt, to apologize for her having peaceably submitted to the licentious actions of which she accused the Father, as well as to those disciplines with which she reproached him, which she circumstantially described in the original complaint, or charge, which she preferred against him; for Judges are persons who will not understand things by half words; one must speak plain to them, and call every thing by its proper name.

Among those who have distinguished themselves in the same career of flagellation, Readers (I mean those who possess some patriotism and love of their Country) will, no doubt, be much pleased to find one who belonged to this Nation; I mean to speak of the Reverend Zachary Crofton, Curate of St. Botolph’s, Aldgate, who, on a certain occasion, served a Cornelian discipline upon his Chambermaid, for which she afterwards sued him at Westminster.

The aforesaid Zachary Crofton, as Bishop Kennet relates in his Chronicle, from Dr. Calamy’s notes, was formerly a Curate at Wrenbury, in Cheshire (it was a little before the Restoration)[238] and he used to engage with much warmth in the religious and political quarrels of his times: his refusal to take the engagement, and endeavours to dissuade others from taking it, caused him to be dismissed from his place. He was, however, afterwards provided with the Curacy of St. Botolph’s, Aldgate; but as his turn for religious and political quarrels still prevailed, and he had written several pamphlets, both English and Latin, about the affairs of those times, he was sent to the Tower, and deprived of his Curacy: he was afterwards cast into prison likewise in his own County, and when he procured his liberty, set up a Grocer’s shop. While he was in the above Parish of St. Botolph, ‘he gave,’ as Dr. Calamy relates, ‘the correction of a school-boy to his servant-maid,’ for which she prosecuted him in Westminster-hall. This fact the Doctor relates as an instance of the many scrapes into which Zachary Crofton’s warm and zealous temper brought him; and he adds that, on the last mentioned occasion, ‘he was bold to print his defence.’——Indeed this fact of Parson Crofton’s undauntedly appealing to the Public in print concerning the lawfulness of the flagellation he had performed, places him, notwithstanding what Dr. Calamy may add as to the mediocrity of his parts, at least upon a level with the Geniuses abovementioned, as well as any other of the kind[239] that may be named, and cannot fail for ever to secure him a place among the most illustrious Flagellators.

In fine, to this list of the persons who have distinguished themselves by the flagellations they have atchieved, I think I cannot avoid adding that Lady, mentioned by Brantôme, who (perhaps as an exercise conducive to her health) took great delight in performing corrections of this kind, with her own hands. This Lady, who was moreover a very great Lady, would often, as Brantôme relates, cause the Ladies of her Houshold to strip themselves, and then amuse herself in giving them slaps upon their posteriors, pretty lustily laid on: with respect to those Ladies who had committed faults, she made use of good rods; and in general, she used less or greater severity, according (Brantôme says) as she proposed to make them either laugh or cry. The following are Brantôme’s own words.

J’ai ouï parler d’une grande Dame de par le monde, voire grandissime, qui ne se contentant pas de lasciveté naturelle, & étant mariée & étant Veuve, pour la provoquer & exciter davantage, elle faisoit depouiller ses Dames & filles, je dis les plus belles, & se delectoit fort à les voir, & puis elle les battoit du plat de la main sur les fesses, avec de grandes clacquades & blamuses assez rudes; & les filles qui avoient delinqué en quelques chose, avec de bonnes verges.——Autres fois, sans les depouiller, les faisoit trousser en robes, car pour lors elles ne portoient[240] point de calecons, & les clacquettoit sur les fesses, selon le sujet qu’elles lui en donnoient, pour les faire ou rire, ou pleurer.

It is no easy matter to point out what precise views the Lady in question had, when she served the abovementioned flagellations. Brantôme, who had much travelled, and was grown much acquainted with the wickedness of the world, insinuates that she was actuated by motives of rather a wanton kind; but since it is extremely difficult to believe that thoughts like those Brantôme supposes, could be entertained, I shall not say by a Lady, but by a person of the high rank of the Lady in question, I will endeavour to account for her conduct in a different manner; and I shall consider my time as exceedingly well employed, if I can clear her from the aspersion thrown upon her by the above Gentleman.

In the first place, it is very possible, that (as hath been above insinuated) she considered the flagellations in question as an exercise advantageous to her health: and Physicians have often made worse prescriptions.

In the second place, she might, without looking farther, be prompted by a desire of doing justice; for Brantôme makes express mention of Ladies who had committed faults: now, such a conduct on the part of the Lady we speak of, would[241] reflect much honour upon her, and shew that she did not disdain to superintend her own family.

Perhaps also it might be, that the abovementioned flagellations were of the same jocular kind merely, with those which, as hath been related in the sixth Chapter of this Book, were in use in Rome, and were often practised in the presence of the Emperor Claudius, and sometimes upon that Emperor himself. Nor is the circumstance mentioned by Brantôme, of the high Lady in question sometimes using pretty great severity, contrary to this supposition: it is a well-known fact that Great people, when they do their inferiors the honour to play with them, will often carry the joke too far, farther than the latter have a liking to: jokes or tricks of this kind, gave rise to the French common saying, Jeux de Princes, qui plaisent à ceux qui les font. ‘Tricks of Princes, which please those (only) by whom they are played.’

In fine, since the flagellations in question were often carried on, as appears from the account of Brantôme himself, in a manner really very jocular, even so much so as to make the Ladies laugh, it is natural to suppose that they were then executed by the common and perfectly free consent of the whole company. The Ladies possibly proposed to represent among themselves the festival of the Lupercalia, which has been described in a[242] former Chapter: intending to represent it as it was performed in the times of Pope Gelasius, they stripped themselves in the manner Brantôme has related: the great Lady, in consideration of her high birth and station, was permitted to fill the part of the Lupercus; the wielding of the discipline was of course exclusively left to her: nor was this peculiar advantage which the other Ladies granted her, in that kind of farce they agreed to act among themselves, materially different from the favour which certain Clergymen used to grant to their Bishop, when they played at Whist with him, who allowed his Lordship the privilege of naming the trump.

In regard to the Gentlemen who have been mentioned above, it is however pretty evident that (owing, no doubt, to the good-nature inherent in their sex) they used no kind of severity in those disciplines they used to bestow; except indeed Parson Crofton, who, from the circumstance of his writing a pamphlet, and a quarto pamphlet too, in defence of the flagellation he had performed, seems really to have been in earnest, both when he planned, and when he served it.

Thus Abelard, in one of the abovementioned Letters he wrote to his Pupil, while she lived retired in the Monastery of Paraclet, expressly says that the blows he gave her, were such blows as friendship alone, not anger, suggested: he even[243] adds that their sweetness surpassed that of the sweetest perfumes,——verbera quandoque dabat amor, non furor, gratia, non ira, quæ omnium unguentorum suavitatem transcenderent.

Father Girard, as is evident from the whole tenor of the declaration of Miss Cadiere herself, had as little intention as Abelard, to do any kind of injury to his pupil or penitent; and Cornelius Adriansen, as appears from Meteren’s account, used to proceed with the same caution and tenderness for his disciples, as the two above-mentioned gentlemen, and contented himself, as the Abbé Boileau observes, with gently rubbing them with his instruments of discipline;—molliter perfricabat.

That Confessors should contract sentiments of friendship for their female penitents, like those mentioned by Abelard, is however nowise surprizing. La Fontaine says, that

Tout homme est homme, & les Moines sur tous.

“Every Man is a Man, and Monks above all others.” He might at least have said, “Every Man is a Man, and Monks as well as others;” and to this have added, that their virtue, especially that of Confessors, is exposed to dangers of a peculiar kind. In fact, the obligation which those who perform that office are under, to hear, with seeming indifference, the long confessions of Women of every age, who frequently enter[244] into numerous particulars concerning the sins which they have either committed, or had distant wishes to commit, is no very easy talk for Men who, as hath just now been observed, are after all nothing but Men; and they are, under such circumstances, frequently agitated by thoughts not very consonant with the apparent gravity and sanctity of their looks. Nay, raising such thoughts in them, and in general creating sentiments of love in their Confessors, are designs which numbers of female penitents, who at no time entirely cease being actuated by womanish views, expressly entertain, notwithstanding the apparent ingenuity of their confessions, and in which they but too often succeed, to their own, and their frail Confessors, cost. Thus, it appears from Miss Cadiere’s declarations, that she had of herself aimed at making the conquest of Father Girard, though a Man past fifty years of age, being induced to it, by his great reputation both as a Preacher and a Man of parts; and she expressly confessed that she had for a long while been making interest to be admitted into the number of his penitents.

Indeed, these dangers to which Confessors are exposed from their continual and confidential intercourse with the Sex, (for, to the praise of Women be it spoken, they are infinitely more exact than Men in making their confessions) are much[245] taken notice of in the books in which directions are given to such Priests as are designed for that employment; and they are warned against nothing so much as an inclination to hear preferably the confessions of the other Sex.——St. Charles Borrommee, as I have read in one of those books, prescribed to Confessors to have all the doors wide open, when they heard the confession of a Woman; and he had supplied them with a set of passages from Psalms, such as, Cor mundum crea in me Domine, and the like, which he advised them to have pasted on some conspicuous place within their sight, and which were to serve them as ejaculatory exclamations by which to vent the wicked thoughts with which they might feel themselves agitated, and as kinds of Abracadabras, or Retrò Satanas, to apply to, whenever they should find themselves on the point of being overcome by some too sudden temptation.

Numbers of Confessors however, whether it was that they had forgotten to supply themselves with the passages recommended by St. Charles Borrommee, or that those passages really proved ineffectual in those instants in which they were intended to be useful, have, at different times, formed serious designs upon the chastity of their penitents; and the singular situation in which they were placed, both with respect to the Public, and to their penitents themselves, with[246] whom, changing the grave supercilious Confessor into the wanton lover, was no easy transition, have led them to use expedients of rather singular kinds, to attain their ends. Some, like Robert d’Arbrissel, (and the same has been said of Adhelm, an English Saint who lived before the Conquest) have induced young Women to lie with them in the same beds, giving them to understand, that, if they could prove superior to every temptation, and rise from bed as they went to it, it would be in the highest degree meritorious. Others, Menas for instance, a Spanish Monk whose case was quoted in the proceedings against Father Girard, persuaded young Women to live with him in a kind of holy conjugal union, which he described to them, but which did not however end, at last, in that intellectual manner which the Father had promised. Others have persuaded Women that the works of matrimony were no less liable to pay tithes than the fruits of the earth, and have received these tithes accordingly. This scheme was, it is said, contrived by the Fryars of a certain Convent in a small Town in Spain, and La Fontaine has made it the subject of one of his Tales, which is entitled The Cordeliers of Catalonia, in which he describes with much humour the great punctuality of the Ladies in that Town, in discharging their debts to the Fathers, and the vast business that was,[247] in consequence, carried on in the Convent of the latter.

Lastly, other Confessors have had recourse to their power of flagellation, as an excellent expedient for preparing the success of their schemes, and preventing the first suspicions which their penitents might entertain of their views.

In order the better to remove the scruples which the modesty of these latter caused them at first to oppose, they used to represent to them, that our first Parents were naked in the garden of Eden; they moreover asked, whether people must not be naked, when they are christened; and shall not they likewise be so, on the day of Resurrection? Nay, others have made such a state of nakedness, on the part of their penitents, a matter of express duty, and have supported this doctrine, as the Author of the Apologie pour Hérodote relates, by quoting the passage of Jesus Christ, in which he says, Go, and shew thyself to the Priest.

However, instances of the wantonness of Priests like this latter, in which a serious use was made of passages from the Books on which Religion is grounded, in order to forward schemes of a guilty nature, certainly cannot, in whatever light the subject be considered, admit of any justification: though on the other hand, when the national[248] calamities produced by sophisms of this kind and the arts of Men of the same cloth, are considered, one cannot help wishing that they had constantly employed both these sophisms and their artifices in pursuits like those above-mentioned, and that, ensnaring a few female penitents (who were not perhaps, after all, extremely unwilling to be ensnared) and serving flagellations, had been the worst excesses they ever had committed.



The Church at large also claims a power of publicly inflicting the discipline of flagellation. Instances of Kings and Princes who have submitted to it.

AS it was the constant practice of Priests and Confessors, to prescribe flagellation as a part of the satisfaction that was owing for committed sins, the opinion became at last to be established, that, receiving this kind of correction, was not only an useful, but even an indispensable act of submission: without it penitence was thought to be a body without a soul; nor could there be any such thing as true repentance. Hence the Church itself at large, became also in time to claim a power of imposing castigations of the kind we mention, upon naked sinners; and a flagellation publicly submitted to, has been made one of the essential ceremonies to be gone through, for obtaining the inestimable advantage of the repeal of a sentence of excommunication:[250] the Roman Ritual expressly mentioning and requiring this test of the culprit’s contrition.

These flagellatory claims and practices of the Western Christian Church, are, we may observe, one of the objections made against it by the Greek, or Eastern, Christians, as the learned M. Cotelier, a Doctor of the Sorbonne, observes in his Monuments of the Greek Church: ‘When they absolve a person from his excommunication (they say) he is stripped down to the waist, and they lash him with a scourge on that part which is bare, and then absolve him, as being forgiven his sin[95].’

Among the different instances of disciplines publicly inflicted by the Church, upon independent Princes, we may mention that which was imposed upon Giles, Count of the Venaissin County, near Avignon. This Count having caused the Curate of a certain Parish to be buried alive, who had refused to bury the body of a poor Man, till the usual fees were paid, drew upon himself the wrath of the Pope, who fulminated against him a sentence of excommunication. And in order to procure the repeal of it, he found it necessary[251] to submit to a flagellation, which was inflicted upon him before the gate of the Cathedral Church of Avignon.

But no fact can be mentioned more striking, and more capable of having gratified the pride of the Clergy, at the time, than that of Henry II. King of England. This Prince having, by a few hasty angry words he uttered on a certain occasion, been the cause of the assassination of Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, expressed afterwards the greatest sorrow for his imprudence: but neither the Priests nor the Nation would take his word on that account: they only gave credit to the reality of his repentance, when he had submitted to the all-purifying trial of a flagellation; and in order the more completely to remove all doubts in that respect, he went through it publicly. The following is the account which Matthew Paris, a Writer who lived about those times, has given of the transaction. ‘But as the slaughterers of this glorious Martyr had taken an opportunity to slay him from a few words the King had uttered rather imprudently, the King asked absolution from the Bishops who were present at the ceremony, and subjecting his bare skin to the discipline of rods, received four[252] or five stripes from every one of the religious persons, a multitude of whom had assembled[96].’

(end of chapter mark)


[95] Ἀφορισμοῦ τινὰ λύοντες, γυμνοῦσιν αὐτὸν ἕως ὀσφύος, καὶ μαστίζοντες ἐπὶ γυμνοῦ λώροις, ἀπολύουσιν ὡς συγκεχωρημένον ἐντευθεν.

[96] ... Carnemque suam nudam disciplinæ virgarum supponens, à singulis viris religiosis, quorum multitudo magna convenerat, ictus ternos vel quinos accepit.

Among the instances of Sovereigns who have been publickly flagellated, may also be reckoned that of Raymond, Count of Toulouse, whose Sovereignty extended over a very considerable part of the South of France. Having given protection in his dominions to the Sect called the Albigenses, Innocent III. the most haughty Pope that ever filled the Papal Chair, published a Croisade against him; his dominions were in consequence seized, nor could he succeed to have them restored to him, before he had submitted to receive discipline from the hands of the Legate of the Pope, who stripped him naked to the waist, at the door of the Church, and drove him up to the altar in that situation, all the while beating him with rods.

With respect to the discipline undergone by King Henry II. though he may be said to have freely submitted to it, yet it did not, at bottom, materially differ from that imposed upon Raymond,[253] Count of Toulouse. This Prince had, no doubt, too much understanding to submit to a ceremony of this kind, out of regard for some prevailing notion of the vulgar merely, and much less out of any superstition of his own; but he thought it necessary to perform some remarkable religious act of that sort, for silencing at once the clamours of the Priests, the whole body of whom, incensed by the death of Becket, were every where endeavouring to spirit up the people to a revolt; and he may with truth be said to have submitted to being flagellated, in order to preserve his kingdom: which may serve as a proof, among others, that it is a pleasing thing to be a King.

The last instance of a Sovereign who received a correction from the Church, was that of Henry IV. of France, when he was absolved of his excommunication and heresy; and the discipline undergone by that Prince supplies the solution for an interesting question, that may be added to those above discussed; viz. Which is the most comfortable manner of receiving a flagellation?—It is by Proxy.—This was the manner in which the King we speak of, suffered the discipline which the Church inflicted upon him. His proxies were Mess. D’Ossat, and Du Perron, who were afterwards made Cardinals. During the performing of the ceremony of the King’s absolution, and[254] while the Choristers were singing the Psalm Miserere mei Deus, the Pope, at every verse, beat, with a rod on the shoulders of each of the two proxies; which shews how essential a part of the ceremony of an absolution, flagellations have been thought to be; and also, how strictly the Church of Rome adheres to such forms as are prescribed by its Ritual, or, by the Pontifical, as it is called. Express mention was moreover made of the above beating, in the written process that was drawn of the transaction. Dominus Papa verberabat & percutiebat humeros Procuratorum, & cujuslibet ipsorum, virgâ quam in manibus habebat.

As a farther indulgence to the King who was thus disciplined by proxy, and very likely also out of regard for the age in which the ceremony was performed, the two Gentlemen who represented him, were suffered to keep their coats on, during the operation; and the lashes seem moreover not to have been laid upon them, with any great degree of vigour. However, some persons at the Court of France, either out of envy against the two above Gentlemen, on account of the commission with which the King had honoured them, or with a view to divert themselves, had, it seems, circulated a report, that, on the day of the ceremony, the 17th of September 1595, they had been made actually to strip in the Church, and undergo a dreadful flagellation. This report M. D’Ossat contradicts in one of his Letters, the[255] collection of which has been printed; and he says, that the discipline in question was performed to comply with the rules set down in the Pontifical, but that ‘they felt it no more than if it had been a fly that had passed over them, being so well coated as they were.’

Very express mention of the above discipline was nevertheless made, as hath been above observed, in the written process drawn on the occasion; though the French Ministers would not suffer it to be joined with the Bull of absolution which was sent to the King for his acceptation, and in which no such account was contained. This, another French Author observes, did not prevent the Italians from deriving triumph from the event, and saying that the King of France had been disciplined at Rome.

From the above two instances of Henry II. of England, and Henry IV. of France (the authenticity of which is beyond any doubt) we find that two crowned Heads, Kings of the two most powerful States in Europe, both of the name of Henry, have publicly submitted to the discipline of flagellation, either in their own person, or by proxy: the one, to preserve his Crown; and the other, in order to qualify himself for taking possession of it. I desire the judicious Reader to ponder well all these facts, and not to charge me with having chosen too unimportant a subject to treat[256] in this Work.

It may be added, that an instance of a Sovereign submitting to a flagellation, may be seen in our days, at every vacancy of the See of Wurtzburgh; a sovereign Bishoprick in Germany. It is an antient custom in the Chapter of that Church, that the person who has been elected to fill the place of the late Bishop, must, before he can obtain his installation, run the gantlope, naked to the waist, between the Canons, who are formed in two rows, and supplied with rods. Some say this custom was established in order to discourage the German Princes from being Candidates for the above Bishoprick; but perhaps also the Canons who established the same, had no other design than procuring the pleasure to themselves and successors, when they should afterwards see their equal become their Sovereign, of remembering that they had cudgelled him.

Other facts, besides that of Henry the Second, shew that the power of the Clergy was carried as far, at least, in England, as in any other Country. Bishop Goodwin relates, that in the reign of Edward I. Sir Osborn Gifford, of Wiltshire, having assisted in the escape of two Nuns from the Convent of Wilton, John Peckham, who was then Archbishop of Canterbury, made him submit, before he absolved him of his excommunication,[257] to be publicly whipped, on three successive Sundays, in the Parish Church of Wilton, and also in the Market and Church of Shaftsbury[97].

[97] See Dr. Berkenhout’s Biographia Litteraria, Art. John Peckham.



The glory of flagellations completed: they are made use of for curing heresy.

AMONG all the instances contained in this Book, of the extensive advantages of flagellations, we certainly ought not to omit mentioning the application that has been made of them to the information of Heretics; the holy personages whose office it was to convert them, having frequently recurred to them as an excellent expedient, either for opening the eyes of such as absolutely refused to believe, or for confirming the faith of those who did as yet believe but imperfectly. As one instance of that use of flagellations we speak of, we may mention that of Bonner, Bishop of London, who, though he had, under the reign of Henry VIII. consented to the schism which then took place in the Church, made it his constant practice, under Queen Mary, to fustigate the Protestants with rods with his own hands, at least if we are to credit[259] the account given by Bishop Burnet, in his History of the Reformation, in England[98].

(end of chapter mark)


[98] I do not remember to have met with the above fact in Burnet: Mr. Hume, who also mentions it, quotes, it seems, another Author: however, Bishop Burnet relates a fact of much the same nature, which is that of Mr. James Bainham, a Gentleman of the Temple, who was accused of favouring the new opinions: Chancellor More caused him to be fustigated in his own (More’s) house, and thence sent him to the Tower. The Abbé Boileau, from whose text I have really borrowed the instance of Bishop Bonner, had however no occasion to look out of his own Country, for instances of Heretics who have been reformed by flagellations: though, to say the truth, that instance, together with that of Chancellor More, which is here added to it, are the more interesting, in that they evince the great merit of flagellations, since the Divines of all Countries have alike resorted to them.



The subject of the merit of flagellations, continued. Holy persons, though without any public authority, have used them occasionally, in order to give weight to their admonitions.

THE general esteem for flagellations, which had led people to consider them as an infallible method of atoning for past sins, also induced them to think they would be extremely useful to strengthen those admonitions with which it is the duty of good Christians to assist each other. Hence we find that Saints, who, like other persons, have been pretty free with their advices to other men, have frequently assumed a power to corroborate them by flagellations.

Among those instances of corrections bestowed by Saints upon persons who did not ask them for their advice, none can be quoted more remarkable than that of St. Romuald, who, on a certain occasion, severely flagellated his very Father, whose conduct he disapproved,[261] as Cardinal Damian relates, who, we may observe, greatly approves the action of the Saint. The following is the account given by the Cardinal. ‘After he had received permission for that purpose from his Superiors, he set out upon his intended journey, without either horse or cart, but only with a stick in his hand, and with his feet bare; and, from the remotest borders of France, at last reached Ravenna. There finding his Father determined to return to the World, he put him in the stocks; he tied him with heavy chains, dealt hard blows to him, and continued using him with this pious severity, till, by the favour of God, he had brought his soul back to a state of salvation[99].’

To those flagellations bestowed by Saints upon persons who did not ask for them, we may safely add those with which they have, at different times, served such Ladies, as, smitten with their charms (with the Saints charms, I mean) have ventured to make them proposals totally inconsistent with their virtue. These proposals the Saints not only constantly rejected magnanimously, but moreover seldom[262] dismissed the Ladies who attempted them, without making them feel the points of their disciplines. This was the manner in which St. Edmund, who was afterwards Bishop of Canterbury, behaved on an occasion like those we mention, as the learned Claude Despence, a Parisian Theologian, relates in his Book on Continence. St. Edmund, the above Writer says, during the time he was pursuing his studies in Paris, was solicited by a young Woman to commit with her the sin of fornication; he thereupon bade her come to his study, where, after tearing off her clothes, he flagellated her naked, so severely, that he covered her whole body with stripes[100].

Brother Mathew, of Avignon, a Capuchin Friar who lived about the year 1540, and spent many years in Corsica with a reputation of sanctity, gave just such another capital instance of virtue as that exhibited by St. Edmund. The Saint having been charitably received in a certain Castle in Piedmont, where he was then begging about the Country, a young Lady, extremely handsome, and of noble birth, came during the night, stripped[263] to her shift, to visit him, in the room that had been assigned to him, and approaching the bed in which he was asleep, solicited him to commit the carnal sin. But the holy Friar, instead of answering her, ‘took up his discipline, made with sound and well-knotted Spanish small cords, and flagellated her so briskly upon her thighs, her posteriors, and back, that he not only made her blush with shame, but moreover left upon her skin numberless visible marks of the lecture he gave her[101].’

To these instances of the holy severity with which Saints have treated such Ladies as ventured to make attempts upon their virtue, may be added that of Bernardin of Sienna, according to the account given by Surius; for the virtue of Saints has been exposed to more dangers than the vulgar think of. ‘One day (says Surius) as Bernardin was gone abroad to buy some bread, a Woman, the[264] Wife of a Citizen of Sienna, called him to her house: as soon as he had got into it, she locked the door, and said, Unless you now let me have my wish, I declare I will cover you with shame, and say that you have offered violence to me. Bernardin, finding himself drawn into such a dangerous situation, prayed to God, within himself, not to forsake him; for he greatly detested that crime. God did not disregard his prayer; he presently suggested to him to tell the Woman, that since she would absolutely have it so, she must strip off her clothes. To this the Woman made no objection; and she had scarcely done when Bernardin exhibited his whip, which he happened to have about him, and laying fast hold of her, began to exert it vigorously; nor did he give up fustigating her, till her lustful ardour was extinguished. She loved the holy Man the better for that afterwards; and so did her Husband, when he knew how things had been transacted[102].’

Page. 264.

(end of chapter mark)


[99] ... “In ligno pedes ejus fortiter strinxit, gravibus eum vinculis alligavit, verberibus duris afflixit, & tamdiù corpus ejus piâ severitate perdomuit, donec ejus mentem ad salutis statum Deo medente reduxit.

[100] ... “Eam ad musæum suum excivit, ibique spoliatam virgis cæcidit, ac nudatum corpus vibicibus conscribillavit.

[101] Here an opportunity occurs of giving a second specimen of the Latin of the Abbé Boileau; the first was produced in p. 232.

... Eandem flagello nodis asperato, ex funibus Ibericis compacto, tamdiù diverberavit, totque vibicibus sulcos sanguinolentos in femoribus, clunibus, ac scapulis diduxit, ut non solùm suffuso vi pudoris, verum etiam effuso vi doloris, sanguine, fugaverit.

[102] ... Eâ causâ impensiùs mulier amavit sanctum virum, itemque maritus cjus, ubi comperit rem ab es gestam.


The accounts of the advances Ladies have made to the above holy personages, must certainly give pleasure to the judicious and sensible Reader. Considering the opinion entertained by a number of persons, that Rakes, Coxcombs, and in general the most worthless part of the male sex, are commonly the most welcome to the favours of the Ladies, I think it reflects much honour upon them all, that several have gone the greatest lengths in favour of Saints, and have set aside, out of love for them, those rules of reserve and decency which Ladies are otherwise so naturally inclined to respect.

In regard to the manner in which the Saints themselves used the Ladies, it is certainly somewhat singular: however, I must postpone giving my opinion about it, till a few remarks are made, on what more precisely constitutes the subject of the foregoing Chapters, which is the great merit and dignity of flagellations. In fact, we find that Great Men, Conquerors, and Kings, have publicly submitted to receiving them; and they have moreover occasionally inflicted them with their own hands. The Reader may remember the method mentioned at pag. 54 of this Work, which was adopted by the Grecian Heroes, for conveying to their vanquished Opponents, a proper sense of their superiority and indignation. And the same magnanimous kind of admonition was[266] also commonly made use of by the Romans, in regard to those Kings or Generals whom they had taken in war.

Caligula, a Roman Emperor, did not disdain, as we read in Suetonius, to use the same kind of correction, for silencing those who happened to make a noise near him in the Theatre, and thereby prevented him from attending to the play, and especially to his favourite Actor: the culprit was instantly stripped; and the Emperor himself did the rest[103].

Another Emperor we may name here, viz. Peter the First, of Russia. He frequently condescended to bestow, with his own imperial hands, that kind of Russian flagellation, the Knout: at other times, when he could not attend to the business, he trusted the care of it to his Buffoon Witaski; who was moreover invested with an unlimited power of cudgelling those who came to pay their court to his Czarian Majesty.

The instances of flagellations above produced, have however been confined to actions of Kings, Conquerors, Emperors, and Saints, or to cases of great emergency, in which whole Nations were[267] concerned, such as the confutations of heresies, and the acquisition of Sovereignties and Kingdoms; but if we descend into the different spheres of private life, we shall find their advantages to have also been very extensive.

Thus, flagellations have been useful to several persons, to make their fortunes. Not to mention here the common story about those who have been flagellated, when Boys, in the room of the Heir to the Crown, we find that the two abovementioned Gentlemen, Messrs. D’Ossat and Du Perron, who had had the honour to be disciplined at Rome, on the account of their Royal Master, were afterwards, through his interest, promoted to the high dignity of Cardinals, besides obtaining considerable emoluments.

Others, though they have not gained such substantial advantages as places and pensions, have acquired, which in the opinion of many judicious persons is not less valuable, extensive reputations. Some have acquired such reputations, by the flagellations they have inflicted,—among these are to be ranked Cornelius Adriansen, Zachary Crofton, and the Lady mentioned by Brantôme; and others, by the flagellations they have undergone; such was Titus Oates, so well known in the History of this Country; Bishop Burnet expressly observing, that this treatment did rather raise Oates’s reputation, than sink it. (A. 1685.)


In the intercourse of private life, though among persons distinguished from the vulgar, flagellations, being employed as corrections, have also proved of very great service.

Thus bon-mots, at the expence of other persons, satires, lampoons, have, on numberless occasions, been confuted by flagellations. The Reader surely has not forgotten the case of Miss de Limeuil, which has been recited in a former place; nor that of the Court Buffoon which is introduced in the same Chapter: and to these instances might be added that of the Poet Clopinel, the Continuator of that old and celebrated Romance, the Roman de la Rose, who was once very near being flagellated by the Ladies of the Court of France, for his having tried his wit at the expence of the Sex in general, as will be related in another place.

Indeed, to discuss the subject of the usefulness of flagellations in a manner adequate to its importance and extensiveness, would lead us into narratives without end: I will therefore, for the sake of shortness, content myself with adding a few facts to those before recited; as, besides supplying interesting consequences, they are sufficiently authenticated.

The first, which is very useful to prove that the secrets of Ladies ought never to be betrayed, is that of the flagellation which was inflicted on a certain Surgeon, who gave a loose to his tongue, at the[269] expence of a great Lady to whom his assistance had been useful. The Lady I mean, was Wife to the Prince who became afterwards King of France, under the name of Henry IV: she was herself much more nearly allied to the Crown than the Prince her Husband, and would have mounted the Throne in her own right, if it had not been for the Salic Law. The Princess in question was learned, witty, handsome; and she had, in particular, such a fine arm, that it was commonly reported that the Marquis of Canillac, under whose guard she lived for a while as state prisoner, fell in love with her on the sight of it. With these qualifications she united gay, amorous dispositions, having even been suspected to love the great Duke of Guise, who afterwards nearly possessed himself of the Crown; and she had besides a turn for political intrigues. During the celebrated civil wars of the League, being in the City of Agen, she attempted to make herself mistress of the place; but the opposite party having found means to raise an insurrection against her, she was obliged to fly, accompanied by a body of about 80 Gentlemen and 40 soldiers: her flight was even so precipitate, that she was obliged to get on horseback without having time to procure a pillion, and in that situation she rode a great number of miles, behind a gentleman, being continually exposed to the greatest danger, for she passed through[270] a body of a thousand Harquebusiers, who killed several of her followers: having at last reached a place of safety, she borrowed a dry shift from a servant maid, and thence pursued her journey to the next Town, named Usson, in Auvergne, where she recovered from her fears. However, the great fatigue she had undergone, threw her into a fever that lasted several days; and moreover, the want of that comfortable accommodation which has been just mentioned, a pillion, during her long precipitate flight, had caused that part of her body on which she sat, to be in a sad condition. A Surgeon was therefore applied to, to procure her relief; and such was the epulotick, sarcotick, cicatrizive, incarnative, healing, consolidant, sanative, nature of the salves he employed, that she was cured in a short time; and thus far the Surgeon certainly deserved her thanks: but as he afterwards indulged himself in idle stories concerning the cure he had performed, the Princess, who heard of it, grew much incensed against him, and caused him to be served with that kind of correction which is the subject of the present dissertation; that is to say, she caused him, as Scaliger assures, to be served with a flagellation (elle-lui fit donner les étrivieres.)

Nobody certainly will think that the revenge taken by the above Princess was improper; on the contrary, all persons will agree that it was a[271] very becoming satisfaction, and which she owed to herself. It is true, every body looks with detestation upon the action of the Princess of Gonzaga, commonly called the fair Juliet, who caused a Gentleman to be assassinated, who had assisted her in making her escape from the Town of Fondi, which the celebrated Corsair Barbarossa had surprised during the night, with a view, as it is said, to seize upon her person, in order to make a present of her to the Grand-Signior,—being incensed at the remembrance of the Gentleman having seen her run in her shift, across the fields, by moon-light. But without making any remark on the difference of the treatment the above Ladies had recourse to, it will suffice to observe that no comparison can be made between the case of the above Gentleman, and that of the Surgeon: the latter had been guilty of an indiscretion of the blackest kind, and which none but a talkative Frenchman could have committed; a thing with which we are not told the Gentleman in question had been charged;—and when we reflect on the enormity of his fault, instead of judging that he was too severely used, we find he was treated with excessive mildness.

Indeed, the more we consider the circumstances of the whole affair, the more we are affected by the treacherous conduct of that miserable Surgeon. A wretch whom the Princess had distinguished[272] in so flattering a manner from all the other persons of the same profession to whom she might have equally applied,—a scoundrel, a rascal, a fellow, whom she had with so much affability acquainted with the disagreeable situation in which she found herself, and to whom she had, no doubt, afterwards given such a bountiful and magnificent reward, for such a man to betray the secret of the Princess, and give a loose to his prating tongue at her expence! He certainly richly deserved the flagellation that was bestowed upon him, and, I hope those whose duty it was to serve him with it, were animated with the same sense of his guilt with which this article is written. To this I shall add nothing, except that it is very likely that, conformably to what has been observed in a former Chapter, the flagellation inflicted on the above Surgeon, or Barber, was inflicted in the Kitchen.

Flagellations have also been of service for punishing iniquitous Judges. I could wish to have many instances of that kind to relate: however, I will produce the following one. The story made its appearance in a news-paper, some years ago, at the time of the great paper-war that was waged about the American affairs, before the beginning of actual hostilities. The Writer who sent it to the Gazetteer, had adopted the signature of A Boston Saint; and as it made the whole of his first[273] Essay, he had meant it, it seems, as a sort of specimen to introduce himself by, to the notice of the Public: he continued to write under that signature; and proved equal, at least, to any of those who drew their pens on the occasion, and even was decisively superior in point of local knowledge of the Colonies. The Story, which will be inserted in that Writer’s own words, gives a curious insight into the puritanical manners that prevailed in the New-England Provinces. Now, that they have the seat of their Government among them, these manners will undergo an alteration: they cannot be much longer the leading fashion of the Country.

“About forty years ago, many of the Chief Saints, at Boston, met with a sad mortification: yea, a mortification in the flesh.

“Captain St. Loe, Commander of a ship of War, then in Boston Harbour, being ashore, on a Sunday, was apprehended by the Constables, for walking on the Lord’s day. On Monday he was carried before a Justice of the peace: he was fined; refused to pay it; and for his contumacy and contempt of authority, was sentenced to sit in the Stocks, one hour, during the time of Change. This sentence was put in execution, without the least mitigation.

“While the Captain sat in durance, grave Magistrates admonished him to respect in future the[274] wholesome laws of the Province; and Reverend Divines exhorted him ever after to reverence and keep holy the Sabbath-day. At length the hour expired; and the Captain’s legs were set at liberty.

“As soon as he was freed, he, with great seeming earnestness, thanked the Magistrates for their correction, and the Clergy for their spiritual advice and consolation; declaring that he was ashamed of his past life; that he was resolved to put off the old Man of Sin, and to put on the new Man of Righteousness; that he should ever pray for them as instruments in the hands of God, of saving his sinful soul.

“This sudden conversion rejoiced the Saints. After clasping their hands, and casting up their eyes to heaven, they embraced their new Convert, and returned thanks for being made the humble means of snatching a soul from perdition. Proud of their success, they fell to exhorting him afresh; and the most zealous invited him to dinner, that they might have full time to complete their work.

“The Captain sucked in the milk of exhortation, as a new-born babe does the milk of the breast. He was as ready to listen as they were to exhort. Never was a Convert more assiduous, while his station in Boston Harbour lasted: he attended every Sabbath-day their most sanctified Meeting-house; never missed a weekly lecture; at[275] every private Conventicle, he was most fervent and loudest in prayer. He flattered, and made presents to the Wives and Daughters of the Godly. In short, all the time he could spare from the duties of his station, was spent in entertaining them on board his Ship, or in visiting and praying at their houses.

“The Saints were delighted with him beyond measure. They compared their wooden Stocks to the voice of Heaven, and their Sea-convert to St. Paul; who, from their enemy, was become their Doctor.

“Amidst their mutual happiness, the mournful time of parting arrived. The Captain received his recall. On this he went round among the Godly, and wept and prayed, assuring them he would return, and end his days among his friends in the Lord.

“Till the day of his departure, the time was spent in regrets, professions, entertainments, and prayer. On that day, about a dozen of the principal Magistrates, including the Select-men, accompanied the Captain to Nantasket Road, where the Ship lay, with every thing ready for sailing.

“An elegant dinner was provided for them on board; after which many bowls and bottles were drained. As the blood of the Saints waxed warm, the crust of their hypocrisy melted away: their moral see-saws; and Scripture-texts, gave place to[276] double-entendres, and wanton songs: the Captain encouraged their gaiety; and the whole Ship resounded with the roar of their merriment.

“Just at that time, into the Cabin burst a body of Sailors, who, to the inexpressible horror and amazement of the Saints, pinioned them fast. Heedless of cries and intreaties, they dragged them upon deck, where they were tied up, stripped to the buff, and their breeches let down; and the Boatswain with his Assistants, armed with dreadful cat-o’-nine-tails provided for the occasion, administered unto them the law of Moses in the most energetic manner. Vain were all their prayers, roarings, stampings, and curses: the Captain in the mean time assuring them, that it was consonant to their own doctrine and to Scripture, that the mortification of the flesh tended towards the saving of the Soul, and therefore it would be criminal in him to abate them a single lash.

“When they had suffered the whole of their discipline, which had flayed them from the nape of the neck to the hams, the Captain took a polite leave, earnestly begging them to remember him in their prayers. They were then let down into the boat that was waiting for them: the Crew saluted them with three cheers; and Captain St. Loe made sail. The Boston Select-men, to this day, when they hear of the above, grin like[277] infernal Dæmons, out of sympathy to their predecessors[104].”

Another use that has been made of flagellations among polite people, and distinguished from the vulgar, has been to repress the aspiring views of rivals who pretended (unjustly, as the others thought) to an equality in point of birth, wit, beauty, or other accomplishments. On this occasion we might relate the treatment that was inflicted by two Ladies of noble family, near the Town of Saumur, in France, on the daughter of a wealthy Farmer, whose beauty had caused her to be invited to an entertainment that was given in a neighbouring Castle, or Manor: an affair which attracted the notice of the Public, at the time (A. 1730) as we may judge from the account of it being contained in the collection of Celebrated Causes decided in the French Courts of Law. But our attention is called off by another much more interesting instance of the same kind, which happened in the reign of Lewis the Fourteenth, and made a very great noise. I mean to speak of the flagellation that was served by the Marchioness of Tresnel, on the Dame, or Lady, of Liancourt: a fact which by all means deserves a place in this[278] Chapter, as being in itself an extremely illustrious instance of flagellation. Indeed, one advantage the Author is proud of, which is, that he has inserted nothing vulgar in this Book, nothing but what is worthy the attention of persons of taste and sentiment.

The Story is as follows. The Lady of Liancourt was originally born of Parents in middling circumstances. Having had the good luck to marry a rich Merchant, she had address enough to prevail upon him to leave her, at his death, which happened a few years after their marriage, the bulk of his fortune; and, being now a rich, handsome Widow, she married the Sieur, or Lord, of Liancourt; a man of birth, whose fortune was somewhat impaired by his former expensive way of living. The Lady of Liancourt used to reside, during the summer, at the Castle, or Estate, of her Husband, near the town of Chaumont: and in the same neighbourhood was situated the Estate of the Marquis of Tresnel. The manner of living of the Lady of Liancourt, together with the reputation of her wit and beauty, excited the jealousy of the Marchioness of Tresnel, who, on account of her birth, considered herself as being greatly superior to the other: and a strong competition soon took place between the two Ladies, which became manifested in several places in a remarkable manner, especially at Church, where the[279] Marchioness went once so far as violently to push the other Lady from her seat: the Lady of Liancourt, on the other hand, was said to have written a copy of verses against the Marchioness; and in short, matters were carried to such lengths between them, that the Marchioness resolved to damp at once the pretensions of her rival, and for that purpose applied to that effectual mode of correction which, as hath been seen in the course of this Book, so many great and celebrated personages have undergone, namely, a flagellation. Having well laid her scheme in that respect, and resolved that her rival should undergo the correction, not by proxy, like King Henry the Fourth, but in her own person, the Marchioness, one day she knew the Lady of Liancourt was to visit at a Castle a few miles distant from her own, got into her coach and six, accompanied by four Men behind, and three armed Servants on horseback; and care had been previously taken to lay in a stock of good disciplines, which were placed in the coach-box. Having arrived too late at the place on the highway at which she proposed to meet her antagonist, the Marchioness alighted at the house of the Curate of the Parish, in order to wait for her return, and staid there, under some pretence, several hours, till at last a Servant who had been left on the watch, came in haste, and brought tidings that the Lady Liancourt’s coach was in[280] sight: the Marchioness thereupon got into her coach with the utmost speed, and arrived just in time to throw herself across the way, and stop the other Lady; when the Servants, who had been properly directed beforehand, without loss of time took the latter out of her coach, immediately proceeding to execute the orders they had received: and, from the complaint afterwards preferred by the suffering Lady, it really seems that they endeavoured to discharge their duty in such a manner as might convince their Mistress of their zeal in serving her.

The affair soon made a great noise, and the King, who heard of it, immediately sent express orders to the Husbands of the Ladies to take no share in the quarrel. The Lady of Liancourt applied to the ordinary course of law, and brought a criminal action against the Marchioness, before the Parliament of Paris; the consequence of which was, that the latter was condemned to ask her pardon in open Court upon her knees, and to pay her about two thousand pounds damages, besides being banished from the whole extent of the jurisdiction of the Parliament. The Servants, who are generally very severely dealt with in France, when they suffer themselves to become the instruments of the violence of their Masters, were sent to the Gallies. And Miss De Villemartin, who had been co-spectatress of the[281] flagellation, in the same coach with the Marchioness, and had shared her triumph, was summoned to appear personally in Court, there to be admonished, and condemned to pay a fine of twenty livres, ‘for the bread of the prisoners[105].’

That part of the bodies of their enemies, to which Captain St. Loe, and the above-named Marchioness, directed the corrections and insults by which they proposed to humble them, naturally leads us to remark the opposite lights in which that part has been considered by Mankind, and to notice the fantastical and contradictory disposition of the human mind.

The part we mention, which, to follow the common definition that is given of it, is that part on which Man sits, is, of itself, extremely deserving of our esteem. It is, in the first place, a characteristic part and appendage of Mankind: it is formed by the expansion of muscles which, as Anatomists inform us, exist in no other animal, and are intirely proper to the human species.

Nor does that part confer upon Man a distinction from animals, that is of an honorific kind merely, like the faculty of walking in an erect situation, which, as Ovid remarks, enables him to behold the Sun or the Stars, as he goes forward:[282] but, by allowing him to sit, it enables him to calculate the motions, whether real or apparent, of those same Stars, to ascertain their revolutions, and foreknow their periodical returns. It puts him in a condition to promote the liberal Arts and Sciences, Music, Painting, Algebra, Geometry, &c. not to mention the whole tribe of mechanic Arts and manufactures. It even is, by that power of assiduity (or of being seated) it confers upon Man, so useful to the study of the Law, that it has been looked upon as being no less conducive to it than the head itself, with which it has, in that respect, been expressly put upon a par; and it is a common saying in the Universities abroad, that, in order to succeed in that study, a Man must have an iron head, and leaden posteriors; to which they add, a golden purse, to buy books with:—caput ferreum, aurea crumena, nates plumbeæ.

Nor does the part of the human body we mention, only serve to make Man a learned and industrious animal; but it moreover contributes much to the beauty of the species, being itself capable of a great degree of beauty.

Without mentioning the opinion of different savage Nations on that account, who take great pains to paint and adorn that part, we see that the Greeks, who certainly were a well-cultivated and polite People, entertained high notions of its beautifulness. They even seem to have thought[283] that it had the advantage, in that respect, of all the other parts of the human body; for, though we do not find that they ever erected altars to fine arms, fine legs, fine eyes, or even to a handsome face, yet, they had done that honour to the part we mention, and had expressly erected a Temple to Venus, under the appellation of Venus with fair posteriors (Ἀφροδίτη Καλλίπυγη): the above Temple was built, as some say, on occasion of a quarrel that arose between two Sisters, who contended which of the two was most elegantly shaped in the part we mention; a quarrel that happened to make a great noise. To this we may add, by the by, that so little did the Greeks in general think that the part we allude to, was undeserving of attention, that they sometimes drew from it indications of the different tempers of people; and they, for instance, gave the appellation of a Man with white posteriors (Πύγαργος) to a Man whom they meant to charge with having too much softness and nicety.

The Latins entertained the same notions with the Greeks, as to the beauty of that part, or those parts, on which Man sits. Horace more than once bestows upon them the appellation of fair (pulchræ): he even in one place expressly declares it as his opinion, that, for a Mistress to be defective in those parts (depygis) is one of the greatest blemishes she can have,—is a defect equal to[284] that of being with a flat nose (nasuta) or a long foot, and is in short capable of spoiling, where it exists, all other bodily accomplishments. (Hor. Sat. 2. Lib. I.)

Among the Moderns, notions of the same kind have prevailed. Rabelais, a well-known Writer, places one of his best stories to the account of a certain Nun, whom he calls Sister, or Sœur Fessue; which he would not certainly have done, if he had not been of opinion that the size and exact shape of those parts of the Nun’s body from which he denominated her, were in the number of her greatest perfections.

In times posterior to Rabelais, other Writers among the French, have expressed opinions exactly alike. La Fontaine, if I mistake not, speaking in one of his Tales, of a certain Beauty whose charms he means to extoll, exclaims, ‘Breasts, Heaven knows, and a rump fit for a Canon!’

Tetins, Dieu fait, & croupe de Chanoine!

And the celebrated Poet Rousseau, happening, in one of his Epigrams, to speak of the abovementioned Temple which the Greeks had erected to Venus, declares that it would have been that Temple of Greece which he would have frequented with the greatest devotion.

Nay, other persons have thought, that, besides the above advantages, the part we mention was[285] moreover capable of dignity, and partaking of the importance of its owners. This is an opinion which the Poet Scarron (to continue to draw our examples from French Authors) clearly expressed, in a copy of verses he wrote to a certain Lady, whose Husband having lately been made a Duke, she had thereby acquired a right to be seated in the Queen’s Assembly, or, as they express it, had been given the Tabouret (a stool.) ‘To the no small pleasure of all (said Scarron, who, we may observe, had assumed a right to say every thing he pleased) and of your own legs, your Backside, which is without doubt one of the handsomest Backsides in France, like a Backside of importance, has at last, at the Queen’s, received the Tabouret.’

Au grand plaisir de tous & de vôtre jarret,
Vôtre cû, qui doit être un des beaux cûs de France,
Comme un cû d’importance,
A recu chez la Reine enfin le tabouret.

Favourable sentiments of the kind just mentioned, seem also to have been entertained by the celebrated Lord Bolingbroke, whose distinguished character as a Statesman, a Politician, and a Philosopher, render him extremely fit to be quoted in this place: it was on that part of his Mistress’s body we are alluding to, his Lordship, then a Secretary of State, chose to write, and to sign, one of the most important dispatches of his Ministry,[286] and on which the repose of Europe depended at that time[106].

In fine, others have carried their notions still farther, and have thought that the part in question was capable, not only of beauty and dignity, but even of splendor. Thus, Mons. Pavillon, a French Bel Esprit under the reign of Lewis XIV. who filled the office of King’s General Advocate at Metz, who was one of the forty Members of the French Academy, and Nephew to a Bishop, wrote a copy of verses that is inserted in the Collection of his Works, which he intitled, Métamorphose du Cû d’Iris en Astre. ‘The Metamorphose of Iris’s Bum, into a Star.’ By a Star of that kind, the Duke of York, afterwards King James II., was dazzled, when he became enamoured with Miss Arabella Churchill, a Maid of Honour to the Duchess, at the time that Lady had a fall from her horse, in a party of hunting: and to his Royal Highness being so dazzled, the first advancement of the great Duke of Marlborough, then Mr. Churchill, the Lady’s Brother, became owing; together with the capital advantages that accrued to this Nation, from his getting afterwards into great employments.


Yet, on the other hand, we find that that same part, which has been thought by some to possess so many accomplishments, and has accordingly become the subject of their respect and their admiration, has been made by others, the object of their scoffs, and expressly chosen as a mark to direct their insults to.

The facts that have been recited a few pages before this, might be produced as confirmations of this remark. The prevailing vulgar practice, in cases of provocation, of threatening, or even serving, the part in question with kicks, might also be mentioned on this occasion. But it will be better to observe in general, that, among all Nations, the part we are speaking of, has been deemed a most proper place for beatings, lashings, and slappings.

That this notion prevailed among the Romans, we are informed by the passages of Plautus, and of St. Jerom, that are recited in the sixth Chapter of this Book (p. 94, 95.) The same practice was also adopted by the Greeks, as may be proved by the instance of the Philosopher Peregrinus, which has been mentioned in the same Chapter. And under the reign of the Emperors, when the two Nations (the Greek and Roman) had, as it were, coalesced into one, the same notions concerning the fitness of the same part, to bear verberations and insults, continued to prevail. Of[288] this we have a singular instance in the manner in which the statue of the Emperor Constantine was treated, at the time of the revolt of the Town of Edessa: the inhabitants, not satisfied with pulling that statue down, in order to aggravate the insult flagellated it on the part we mention. Libanius the Rhetor informs, us of this fact, in the Harangue he addressed to the Emperor Theodosius, after the great revolt of the City of Antioch; in which he mentions the pardon granted by Constantine for the above indignity, as an argument to induce the Emperor to forgive the inhabitants of the last-mentioned City: a request, however, which Libanius was not so happy as to obtain.

Among the French, notions of the same kind likewise prevail. Of this, not to confine ourselves to particular facts, we may derive proofs from their language itself; in which the verb that is derived from the word by which the part here alluded to, is expressed, signifies of itself, and without the addition of any other word, to beat or verberate it: thus, Mons. de Voltaire supposes his Princess Cunegonde to say to Candide,—Tandis qu’on vous fessoit, mon cher Candid; by which, however, that Author does not mean expressly to say that Candide was flagellated upon the part we speak of, by order of the Inquisition; he only uses the above word to render his story more jocular. From the above French word fesser, has been again[289] derived the noun fessade, signifying a verberation on the same part; the same as the word claque (or clack, as they pronounce it) which originally meant a flap in general, but, by a kind of antonomatia (a particular figure of speech) is now come expressly to signify a slap on the part in question. Among the Italians, the practice of verberating the same part, also obtains, if we are to trust to proofs likewise derived from their language; and from the word chiappa, they have made that of chiappata, the meaning of which is the same with that of the French word claque.

If we turn our eyes to remote Nations, we find they entertain notions of the same sort. Among the Turks, a verberation on the part we speak of, is the common punishment that is inflicted either on the Janissaries, or Spahis; I do not remember which of the two. Among the Persians, punishments of the same kind are also established; and we find in Chardin, an instance of a Captain of the outward gate of the King’s Seraglio, who was served with it, for having suffered a stranger to stop before that gate, and look through it. And the Chinese also use a like method of chastisement, and inflict it, as Travellers inform us, with a wooden instrument, shaped like a large solid rounded spoon.

Among the Arabians, the part here alluded to, is likewise considered as a fit mark for blows and[290] slaps. We find an instance of this, in one of the Arabian Tales, called The one thousand and one Nights: an original Book, and which contains true pictures of the manners of that Nation. The story I mean, which is well worth reminding the reader of, is that of a certain Cobler, whose name, if I mistake not, was Shak-Abak. This Cobler having fallen in love with a beautiful Lady belonging to some wealthy Man, or Man of power, of whom he had had a glance through the window of her house, would afterwards keep for whole hours every day, staring at that window. The Lady, who proposed to make game of him, one day sent one of her female slaves to introduce him to her, and then gave him to understand, that if he could overtake her, by running after her through the apartments of her house, he would have the enjoyment of her favours: he was besides told, that in order to run more nimbly, he must strip to his shirt. To all this Shak-Abak agreed; and after a number of turns, up and down the house, he was at last enticed into a long, dark, and narrow passage, at the farthest extremity of which an open door was to be perceived; he made to it as fast as he could, and when he had reached it, rushed headlong through it; when, to his no small astonishment, the door instantly shut upon him, and he found himself in the middle of a public street of Bagdat, which was chiefly inhabited by shoemakers. A number of[291] these latter, struck at the sudden and strange appearance of the unfortunate Shak-Abak, who, besides stripping to his shirt, had suffered his eye-brows to be shaved, laid hold of him, and, as the Arabian Author relates, soundly lashed his posteriors with their straps.

If we turn again to European Nations, we shall meet with farther instances of the same kind of correction. It was certainly adopted in Denmark, and even in the Court of that Country, towards the latter end of the last Century, as we are informed by Lord Molesworth, in his Account of Denmark. It was the custom, his Lordship says, at the end of every hunting-match at Court, that, in order to conclude the entertainment with as much festivity as it had begun, a proclamation was made,—if any could inform against any person who had infringed the known laws of hunting, let him stand forth and accuse. As soon as the contravention was ascertained, the culprit was made to kneel down between the horns of the stag that had been hunted; two of the Gentlemen removed the skirts of his coat; when the King, taking a small long wand in his hand, laid a certain number of blows, which was proportioned to the greatness of the offence, on the culprit’s breech; whilst, in the mean time (the Noble Author adds) the Huntsmen with their brass horns, and the dogs with their loud openings, proclaimed the[292] King’s Justice, and the Criminal’s punishment: the scene affording diversion to the Queen, and the whole Court, who stood in a circle about the place of execution[107].

Among the Dutch, verberations on the posteriors are equally in use; and a serious flagellation on that part, is the punishment which is established at the Cape of Good Hope, one of their Colonies, as Kolben informs us in his Description of it, for those who are found smoaking tobacco in the streets: a practice which has frequently been there the cause of houses being set in fire.

In Poland, a lower discipline is the penance constantly inflicted upon fornicators, in Convents, previously to tying them together by the bond of matrimony; or sometimes afterwards.

In England, castigations of the same kind, not to quote other instances, are adopted among that respectable part of the Nation, the Seamen, as we find in Falconer’s Marine Dictionary; and a Cobbing-board is looked upon as a necessary part of the rigging of his Majesty’s ships.

Among the Spaniards, they so generally consider the part of the human body of which we are treating here, as the properest to bear ill usage and mortification, that in every place there is commonly some good Friar who makes his posteriors[293] answerable for the sins of the whole Parish; and who, according as he has been fee’d for that purpose, flogs himself, or at least tells his Customers he has done so: hence the common Spanish saying, which is mentioned in the History of Friar Gerundio de Campazas, Yo soi el culo del Frayle;—‘I am as badly off as the Friar’s backside;’ which is said by persons who think that they are made to pay, or suffer, for advantages they are not admitted to share.

Nor is the above method of self-correction confined to Spanish friars only: it is likewise adopted by a number of religious Orders of Men, established in the other Countries of Europe. It is also by correlations directed to the same part, that is to say, by Cornelian disciplines, that numbers of pious Confessors, zealous for the purity of the morals of their female penitents, endeavour to procure their improvement. Nay, it is upon the same part we speak of, upon that part to which the Greeks had erected a Temple, that the whole tribe of Nuns and female Devotees constantly choose to practice those mortifications and lower disciplines by which they seek to atone for their sins; and several among them really treat that part, by which they perhaps have the best chance to create themselves admirers, with wonderful severity.


The above Dissertation, which, before I engaged in it, I did not think would prove so long, or so interesting, has till now kept me from delivering my opinion concerning those flagellations with which certain holy Men have served those Ladies who ventured to make amorous applications to them: a satisfaction which, before I conclude, I must give the Reader, as having pledged my word for it. Now, to fulfill my engagement in that respect, I declare that I totally disapprove such flagellations; and I am firmly of opinion that this kind of treatment ought to be ranked among those actions of Saints, which, as hath been observed in a former place, are not fit for all persons to imitate.

In fact, we find that several Authors, among those who best knew the world, and were excellent Judges of propriety, who had occasion to describe situations like those in which the above Saints were placed, have made their personages act in quite a different manner from that in which the Saints behaved; and on this occasion we may mention the conduct of Parson Adams, one of the Heroes of Fielding, in that celebrated night he spent at Lady Booby’s. If, in the first instance, he, as must be confessed, gave Mrs. Slipslop that remembrance in her guts mentioned by the Author, it was not till she had herself given him a[295] dreadful cuff on his chops; besides that he did not know yet her sex, nor what she meant. But when he afterwards found himself in the same bed with Fanny, which, as he thought, was his own bed, he shrunk, as it were, and retired to the farthest extremity of it, where he lay quiet, and above all manifested no thought whatever of flagellating her; which if he had done, Joseph would not certainly have thanked him for it.

Don Quixote, in Cervantes, when the lovely Maritornes came during the night to his bed, and threw herself into his arms, had no thought of employing either whips or straps for dismissing the amorous Fair-one; and certainly if he had applied to an expedient of this kind, he would have had no right to complain of the boxes and kicks with which the Muleteer presently after belaboured him in the dark. But, like a gallant and exceedingly well-bred Knight, he excused himself from the nature of the anterior engagements he was under, and above all did not forget to pay proper compliments to the Lady’s beauty and great perfections. Indeed, the speech which the Knight addressed to the fair Maritornes, may be proposed as a pattern of compliment for occasions of the kind. ‘Oh! thou most lovely temptation! Oh that I now might but pay a warm acknowledgment for the mighty blessing which[296] your great goodness would lavish on me! Yes, most beautiful Charmer, I would give an empire to purchase your more desirable embraces; but Fate has put to it an invincible obstacle; I mean my plighted faith to Dulcinea del Toboso, the sole mistress of my wishes, and absolute sovereign of my heart. Oh! did not this oppose my present happiness, I could never be so insensible a Knight as to lose the benefit of this extraordinary favour you now condescend to offer me.’

Nor ought the Gentleman, after delivering the above speech, or some other equally respectful, to stop there; it would be moreover extremely proper for him to desire the Lady to do him the honour to sit upon his bed, and then enter into a fuller explanation of his conduct, and of the nature of those prior engagements by which he is so fatally tied.

This done, and the Lady being perfectly convinced of the propriety of his conduct, he should rise from his bed, and offer to attend her, I do not say to the bottom of the stairs, and so far as the street door, for that might be the means of discovering the secret of the affair to other persons and endangering the Lady’s reputation, but to the remotest door of his own apartment. I would moreover have him, in his passage to that[297] door, keep the Lady’s hand tenderly squeezed in his own, and all the while manifest, by the nature of his gestures and exclamations, the grief under which he labours. And lastly, when he had reached the furthest place to which he may safely conduct her, he ought to take leave of her by a low and most respectful bow, in order completely to convince her, that the kindness she had ventured to shew him, has not, in the least, lowered her in his esteem.

Such, dear Reader, is the manner in which, for my own part, I have always acted on those delicate occasions we are speaking of. However, I do not pretend to dictate to others the manner in which they ought to behave, nor insist upon any of the above circumstances in particular. All I intreat of you, is, by all means to forbear to use those sudden and harsh flagellations that were recurred to, by St. Edmund, St. Bernardin of Sienna, and Brother Mathew. Such a treatment savours too much of ingratitude: nay, to have recourse to it, is cruel in the extreme; it is heaping distress upon the distressed. Nor are you to expect that the Lady will love you the better for it afterwards, as was the case with St. Bernardin of Sienna; on the contrary, such a proceeding on your part, if it were once known, would irreparably destroy your reputation with the whole[298] Sex, and you may depend, no proposal or application of the like kind would be made to you ever after. Now, though you may be ever so firmly determined to reject all proposals like these; yet, as every Lady will tell you, it is no unpleasing thing to have them made to you: besides that you do not know but you may afterwards alter your resolution.

[103] He punished differently, on a certain occasion, a Roman Knight who had been guilty of the abovementioned fault. He sent him, without delay, to carry a letter to Africa; without allowing the time to call at his house, and take leave of his family.

[104] GazetteerTuesday, Dec. 20, 1774. The main circumstances of the same fact are also to be found in Dr. Burnaby’s Travels through the middle Settlements of North America, published in the year 1775.

[105] Causes célèbres, Vol. IV.

[106] Miss Gumley.—She became a few years afterwards, Countess of Bath. His Lordship, no doubt, boasted of the fact, as it seems to have made some noise at the time.

[107] See Lord Molesworth’s Account of Denmark, IVth Edit. p. 108, 109.



The fondness of people for flagellations, gives rise to a number of incredible stories on that subject.

THE supporters of the practice of flagellation did not confine their endeavours in recommending it, to setting the example of it, like Rodolph of Eugubio, or Dominic the Cuirassed, or to supporting it by arguments and voluminous writings, like Cardinal Damian; but they mixed their accounts with numbers of stories of an extravagant kind; whether their enthusiasm in favour of the practice in question, induced them to believe such stories to be true, or they thought that their very incredibility would be extremely fit to bring into credit with the vulgar, a doctrine in favour of which they were themselves so prepossessed.

Thus, flagellations were given out by some, as having the power of rescuing souls from Hell itself; a thing which even Masses, though[300] constantly used to draw them out of Purgatory, were not thought to be able to perform. As an instance of the stories that were circulated on that account, may be produced the following, related by one Vincent, who lived in the year 1256.

‘Archbishop Umbert (says Vincent) recited, that in the Monastery of St. Sylvester, in the duchy of Urbino, in Italy, a certain Monk died; and the Brothers continued singing Psalms by his body, from the first evening crowing of the Cock, till two o’clock in the morning, and as soon as they began, in the Mass they celebrated for his sake, to sing the Agnus Dei, behold! the dead Man suddenly rose. The Brothers, greatly astonished, came near him, to hear what he had to say; when he began to throw forth abuses and curses against God; he spit on the Cross that was offered him to kiss; he uttered the most opprobrious expressions against the immaculate Mother of God, and said, Of what service to me is your singing psalms, and offering sacrifices? I have been in the flames of Hell, where my Lord and Master Lucifer placed a brass crown, glowing with inextinguishable heat, on my head, and laid a coat of the same metal, with which himself was covered, on my shoulders:[301] this coat was not long enough to reach down to my heels, but it was so violently heated, that drops seemed to fall from it to the ground. The Brothers having then continued to exhort him to repent of his sins, he anathemised them, and denied, in a sacrilegious manner, all the mysteries of our Redeemer. The Monks thereupon prayed for him heartily, and after stripping off their clothes, flagellated themselves, uttering every manner of supplication in his behalf; when behold! that desperate Man recovered the use of his reason; he confessed the omnipotence of our Saviour; he renounced the errors of Satan, adored the Cross, and intreated to be admitted to the Sacrament of Confession and Penitence. Now, the crime of which he accused himself was that of having committed fornication, after he had renounced the world; a thing which he had kept secret to his death. He thus continued to live, praising and blessing God, to the next day, when he again gave up the ghost.’

Besides stories of the same kind with that above, which were contrived to heighten the merit of flagellations, the admirers of that practice have excogitated others, in order to terrify those who declined adopting it, or attempted[302] to confute it by arguments. As a specimen of this, we may quote the report that was circulated concerning Cardinal Stephen, which hath been mentioned in a former place (p. 214) that he had died suddenly, for having despised the exercise in question.

Another story, contrived in the same view we speak of, is to be found in Thomas de Chantpré’s Book, in which it is related of a certain Hugh, a Canon of St. Victor, that, having on account of his weak state of health, constantly forbore, during his life-time, the use of flagellations, he paid dearly afterwards for this tender care he had taken of his skin; for at his passage into Purgatory, the whole tribe of Devils lashed him with scourges. ‘Hugh (says Thomas de Chantpré) was one of the Regular Monks in the Monastery of St. Victor, in Paris. He was called the second St. Austin, that is to say, the second Man in point of learning since St. Austin; but though he deserved much praise in that respect, yet, the same cannot be said of his constant refusal to practice flagellations and disciplines, for his quotidian misdeeds, either in private, or in the Chapter, in company with the Brothers: he was, as I have been informed, of a tender frame of body, and had, besides, been too much indulged[303] in his childhood. Now, because he took no pains to overcome by exercise the defect of his nature, or rather his bad habit, very fatal consequences ensued to him, as I am going to relate. Being near his death, a brother Canon, who was his intimate friend, intreated him to shew himself again to him, after he was dead. I will, says he, if the Master of life and death consents to it. As Hugh was making this promise, he died; nor was it long before he returned to his friend, who was still in expectation of him, and said, Here I am; make haste to ask what question you intend to ask, for I cannot stay. The other, who, though he was exceedingly pleased, yet was not a little frighted, said, How is it with you, my dear friend? It is well with me, said Hugh; but because I have refused, while I was alive, to receive discipline, there has hardly been a single Devil in the whole infernal empire, but who gave me a smart lash, as I was in my way to Purgatory.’

Others, in order to bring flagellations into still greater credit, have supposed that the Devils themselves were so sensible of the merit that was in them, that they would occasionally practise them upon each other. Thus, St. Allen relates that the Holy Virgin Mary having[304] resolved to rescue a certain James Hall, an Usurer, from the claws of the Dæmons, these unclean spirits, a great number of whom were present, no sooner saw her make her appearance, than they took to blaspheming, flagellated each other, and ran away.

The Devil himself has also, on certain occasions, prescribed flagellations, as an atonement for sins; which is certainly wonderful enough. It is related in the Life of St. Virgil, that a Man possessed by the Devil, was fustigated with four rods, by the Devil’s prescription, for having stolen four wax-candles from the Saint’s altar. ‘I am not come (said the possessed Man) of my own accord; but I have been compelled to it: I have carried off the wax-candles and offerings that were on the tomb of the Man of God; and if they are not speedily returned, my Master will come with seven spirits worse than himself, and will for ever continue in me. However, when the candles, of which they had been a long while in search, were found again, by the Devil’s assistance, and brought back, the Devil directed them to fustigate the unhappy Man with as many besoms as there were candles.’

To these instances of flagellations voluntarily practiced among Devils, we ought not to[305] omit to add one, in which the Devil was smartly flagellated in spite of his teeth, by a Saint, and a female Saint too; a fact which cannot fail to give the greatest pleasure to the Reader, who remembers the deplorable accounts that have been given in a former Chapter, of the wanton flagellations he has himself inflicted upon Saints. The name of the female Saint who thus gave the Devil his due, was Cornelia Juliana, as the Reverend Father Jesuit, Bartholomew Fisen, relates, in his book on the Ancient Origin of the Festival of the body of Christ. ‘One day (says he) the other Nuns heard a prodigious noise in the room of Cornelia Juliana, which turned out to be a strife she had with the Devil, whom, after having laid hold of him, she fustigated unmercifully; then, having thrown him upon the ground, she trampled him under her foot, and continued ridiculing him in the most bitter manner[108].’ The above Reverend Father has neglected to inform us, how the Devil came to be in Juliana’s room; but it is most likely he was come upon his usual[306] antic errand of flagellating Saints, and meant to serve Juliana in the same manner: fortunately she was upon the watch, and proved too many for him. As for the dreadful noise that was to be heard in the Saint’s room, it was the natural consequence of the hard struggle that took place between her and the Devil, while they were thus striving who should flog the other.

The Saints who inhabit Paradise have also been supposed to have occasionally recourse to flagellations; not, to be sure, to inflict them any longer upon themselves; but to chastise, at the request of their friends, those who persecuted them. This misfortune happened to a certain Servant of the Emperor Nicephorus, who, not satisfied with exacting unjust tributes from the common people with great rigour, offered afterwards to use Monasteries in the same manner. ‘The Emperor (says the Author from whom this fact is extracted) sent one of the Grooms of his bed-chamber to receive the usual tribute. As he was a Man exceedingly eager after money and unlawful gain, he committed great oppressions both on the common citizens, and the inhabitants of the Monastery of St. Nicon; for the government of cities, and the care of levying duties, are usually intrusted, not to[307] the just and mild, but to hard-hearted and inhuman persons. The Monks, who were possessed of no money, endeavoured to sooth the above cruel unmerciful Man by their discourses; but he, thirsty after gold, was as deaf to their prayers, as the asp to conjurations, and made no more account of their remonstrances, than, to use the words of the Scripture, of the crackling of thorns under a pot. On the contrary, his wrath and insolence increasing farther, he caused several of them to be thrown into a jail, and prepared to plunder the Monastery. The remaining Monks then applied to their Saint for assistance, who presently made them experience the happy effects of it; for during the following night, he appeared to the Groom, with a threatening indignant aspect, and lashed him severely; then speaking to him, told him, for his words ought to be recorded, Thou hast thrown the Heads of the Monastery into chains; if thou dost not release them instantly, thy death shall be the consequence.’

The Virgin Mary herself, has also been said to have applied to corrections of the same kind as those here alluded to, in order to avenge the injustices done to those whom she protected; and she, for instance, caused a certain[308] Bishop to be flagellated in her presence, who had taken his prebend from a Canon, who was indeed, but an indifferent person to fill his office, but who paid much devotion to her, and with his eyes cast down, sung every day before her Altar certain words contained in the Angelic salutation. The illustrious Cardinal Damian informs us of this fact, in his Opusc. xxxiii. Cap. iii. which is entitled, The blessed Virgin directs that his prebend should be returned to a Clergyman who used to pay devotion to her. ‘The same Stephanus (says Cardinal Damian) related to me another fact of much the same kind. I remember, he said, that there was a certain Clergyman, who was a dunce, an idle man, a dullard; to this add that he was endowed with no religious gift, and possessed no canonical gravity. Yet, amidst the dead ashes of his useless life, some small particles of pious fire continued to subsist, so that he would every day approach the altar of the holy Mother, and, inclining his head with reverence, sing the following both angelic and evangelic line, Hail, Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou among Women. The new Bishop, however, who soon discovered the incapacity of the Man, thought it wrong that an useful office should[309] be left to an useless person, and he took from him the prebend he had obtained from the preceding Bishop. But as the Canon was thereby reduced to great poverty, having no other means of supporting himself, the blessed Virgin interfered in his behalf. During the dead of night she appeared to the Bishop, preceded by a Man who carried a discipline in one of his hands, and a burning torch in the other, and ordered him to chastise the Bishop by some lashes of it; then addressing this latter,—Why, said she, did you take from a Man who used to pay daily homages to me, a clerical advantage it was not you who had conferred on him? The Bishop, filled with terror, and soon awaking from his sleep, presently returned the prebend to the Clergyman, and afterwards greatly honoured as a Man whom God loved, a person who, he thought, was unknown to him.’


[108] Corneliæ sodales ingentem aliquando audierunt strepitum ex ejus cubiculo, & contentionem Julianæ adversus dæmonem, quem manibus comprehensum quanti poterat cædebat; in terram deinde prostratum pedibus obterebat, lacerabat sarcasmis.



A remarkable instance of a flagellation performed in honour of the Virgin Mary.

SO well established was the opinion that Saints, and especially the Virgin Mary, were to be appeased by flagellations, and such was, in general, the fondness of people during a certain period of time, for that pious mode of correction, that a Franciscan Monk, who wore a hood, and was girt with a cord, did not scruple, under the Pontificate of Sixtus IV, to expose to the open day, in the public market-place, the bare rump of a Professor in Divinity, and lashed him with his hand, in sight of a croud of astonished spectators, because he had preached against the immaculate conception of the blessed Virgin. The fact is related in a Sermon written by Bernardinus de Bustis, which, together with his whole Work in honour of the Virgin (Opus Mariale) he dedicated to Pope Alexander VI, and seems therefore to be a fact well[311] enough authenticated: the following is the manner in which Bernardinus gives the account.

‘He laid hold of him, and threw him upon his knees; for he was very strong. Having then taken up his gown; because this Minister had spoken against the holy Tabernacle of God, he began to lash him with the palm of his hand upon his huge breech, (the Author’s expression is, upon his square tabernacles) which was bare; for he wore neither drawers nor breeches: and because he had attempted to slander the blessed Virgin, by quoting perhaps Aristotle in the book of Priors, this Preacher confuted him by reading in the book of his Posteriors; which greatly diverted the Bystanders. Then a certain female Devotee exclaimed, saying, Mr. Preacher, give him four more slaps for my sake: another presently after said, Give him also four more for me; and so did a number of others: so that if he had attempted to grant all their requests, he would have had nothing else to do for the whole day[109].’


Nay, so proper did Bernardinus de Bustis think the above correction to have been, so well calculated did he judge it, to appease the holy Virgin’s wrath, that he did not scruple to declare, in the sequel of his Sermon, that the Monk who inflicted it, had possibly been actuated by an inspiration from the Virgin herself. ‘Perhaps (says he) was it the Virgin herself, who induced him so to do, moreover granting him an exemption from the censures incurred, according to the Laws of the Church, by those who strike an Ecclesiastic, and relaxing the rigour of these laws in his favour[110].’

(end of chapter mark)


[109] Apprehendens ipsum, revolvit super ejus genua; erat enim valdè fortis. Elevatis itaque pannis, quia ille Minister contrà sanctum Dei tabernaculum locutus fuerat, cœpit cum palmis percutere super quadrata tabernacula, quæ erant nuda, non enim habebat femoralia vel antiphonam; & quia ipse infamare voluerat beatam Virginem, allegando forsitan Aristotelem in Libro Priorum, iste Prædicator illum confutavit legendo in libro ejus Posteriorum: de hoc autem omnes qui aderant, gaudebant. Tunc exclamavit quædam devota mulier, dicens, Domine Prædicator, detis ei alias quatuor palmatas pro me; & alia postmodum dixit, detis ei etiam quatuor; sicque multæ aliæ rogabant; ità quòd si illarum petitionibus satisfacere voluisset, per totum diem aliud facere non potuisset.——In Opere Mariali, Serm. viii. de Conceptione Beatæ Virginis, circ. fin.

[110] There prevails, as may have been perceived,[313] a kind of competition between the Abbé Boileau and me, who shall find out the best story, which is extremely for the benefit of the Reader. However, the story above quoted from Bernardinus de Bustis, with which we are supplied by the Abbé’s book, is so good in itself, so full of Attic salt, so well in the true Monkish style, that I despair of producing any thing that can match it. I will try, therefore, to make up in number what I may want in point of intrinsic merit; and, instead of one story, I will relate two; which, that I may keep as near to my model as may be (for here it inspires me with uncommon emulation) will both have Friars for their object, and be of the same turn with the above.

The first is contained in the book of the Apologie pour Hérodote, the Author of which says he heard it from a Gentlewoman of Lorrain, who had been an eye-witness to it. A Monk, one day, preached in a Country Church, upon the subject of Hell. He took much pains to inspire his Congregation with a great aversion for the place, and made as frightful a description of it as he could; but now and then, pretending that proper expressions failed him, he stopped suddenly, and then exclaimed,—In short, Hell is as horrid as the breech of the Bell-ringer of the Parish; which saying, he uncovered the posteriors of the latter, who had placed himself there for that purpose,[314] and had agreed with the Friar to act that farce with him.

The second story I propose to relate, which I do not remember where I have read, perhaps in the same book above quoted, is that of another jolly Predicant Friar, who laid a wager he would make one half of his Congregation laugh, and the other cry. As for making his hearers cry, it was what he had often succeeded in doing, being a very good preacher. On the appointed day, he accordingly came to Church, provided with an excellent Sermon, with that, of his stock, which he knew was most likely to produce the desired effect, and he presently after began reciting it; for they never read their Sermons. But, before I proceed farther, I must inform the Reader that the pulpit in which he preached, stood in the middle of the Church; and, besides leaving the door behind him open, he had found means to adjust his gown and breeches in such a manner, that he might let the latter fall down whenever he pleased. When he had gone through the greater part of his preaching, and his hearers were very near being in the necessary disposition to make him win one half of the wager, he, on a sudden, let his breeches drop upon his heels, and exhibited, to use the expression of Bernardinus de Bustis, his square tabernacles to the full view of that part of the Congregation who were seated behind the pulpit.[315] With respect to him, however, pretending to perceive nothing of the matter, and to be wholly taken up with his Sermon, he went on with it as before: and as he had now reached the latter part of it, consequently that which contained his most interesting descriptions as well as strongest arguments, he exerted so much eloquence in it, and such a power of declamation, that that part of the Congregation who were placed in front of the pulpit, were really melting in tears, while those who sat behind, minding less what they heard than what they saw, were in a situation of mind quite different; and it is needless to say that the Friar won the wager.

To the above stories a number of others of the same kind might be added; which, though it might be a hard matter to vouch for their truth, yet are related by different Authors in a very serious manner, and such as shews that they hoped their accounts would be believed. Thus, the Author of the Apologie pour Hérodote, says he had heard the story he mentions, from a person who had been an eye-witness to it. And Bernardinus de Bustis, not only pretends he greatly approves the fact he relates, which he represents as having been peculiarly agreeable to the Virgin, but has moreover inserted it in a Sermon which he published, and dedicated to a Pope.


From the above stories, as well as from many others related in the same manner, we are therefore at least to conclude, that they bear great resemblance to a number of facts which commonly happened in the times of the Authors who relate them; and we may thence admire the singular licence of manners which prevailed among Monks and the Clergy in general, during a certain period of time: a licence which we find to have especially obtained when, being the dominant, or rather the sole Christian Church that existed, they were without rivals or competitors; and it may really be said, that the event of the Reformation proved, in several respects, as much a reformation for them, as for those who expressly adopted it.



Another Story of a female Saint appeased by a flagellation.

AND not only the Virgin Mary, but other female Saints, inhabitants of Paradise, have also been thought to be extremely well disposed to be appeased, when they had received offence, by flagellatory corrections. The following Story is to be found in the Book intitled, Itinerarium Cambriæ, wrote by Sylvester Geraldus, a native of the Country of Wales, who wrote about the year 1188.

‘In the Northern borders of England, and on the other side of the river Humber, in the Parish of Hooëden, lived the Rector of that Church, with his Concubine. This Concubine, one day sat rather imprudently, on the tomb of St. Osanna, sister to King Osred, which was made of wood, and raised above the ground in the shape of a seat. When she attempted to rise from the place, her posteriors stuck to the wood in such a manner, that she never could be[318] parted from it, till, in the presence of the people who ran to see her, she had suffered her clothes to be torn from her, and had received a severe discipline on her naked body, and that, to a great effusion of blood, and with many tears and devout supplications on her part: which done, and after she had engaged to submit to farther penitence, she was divinely released[111].’

(end of chapter mark)


[111] ... Quæ cum recedere vellet, fixis ligno natibus, evelli non potuit, &c.—Itinerarii Cambriæ, Lib. I.

This opinion of Catholic Divines concerning the great power of flagellations to appease the wrath of female Saints, and the content which they have supposed the latter to receive from such ceremonies, after the example of the antient Goddesses, might furnish a new subject of comparison between the Catholic Religion, and that of the ancient Heathens; and if Dr. Middleton had thought of it, he might have added a new article on that head, to his Letter from Rome.

In fact, the Reader may remember the account that has been given in the sixth Chapter of this Book, of the singular ceremonies that were exhibited at Lacedæmon, before the altar of Diana.[319] ( See p. 79, &c.) The same was done sometimes before the altar of Juno. Rites of much the same flagellatory kind were practised in the Temple of the Goddess of Syria. And similar ceremonies also used to be performed in honour of the great Goddess, in Egypt. ( See p. 85, 86.)

So prevalent was become the opinion that Goddesses delighted in seeing such corrections inflicted before their altars, that several of them, among whom was Venus herself, were supposed to be supplied with the necessary implements to inflict them with their own hands, occasionally (p. 55). Nay, the Muses themselves had been provided with instruments of the same kind: Lucian, in his Letter or Address “to an ignorant Man who was taking much pains in collecting a Library,” says to him, that the Muses will drive him from Parnassus, with their whips of myrtle. And Bellona, the Goddess of war, has also been armed by Virgil, in the 8th Book of his Æneid, with an enormous whip.

Quem cùm sanguineo sequitur Bellona flagelio.

These notions of the Ancients, concerning the inclination they attributed to Goddesses, for corrections of the kind here alluded to, may be explained in different ways.

In the first place, they perhaps thought it was owing to the greater irascibility of temper of the Sex, which prompts them to give effectual marks[320] of their resentment, when they have good reason to think that no resistance will be attempted. In the second place, they possibly ascribed that inclination they supposed in the female Sex, to their love of justice; which is certainly a very laudable disposition. And, thirdly, they perhaps also considered that propensity of Women, to use instruments which were, in those times, deemed to be characteristic emblems of power, as the effect of that love of dominion with which the Sex has at all times been charged, and the consequence of some ambitious wish they supposed in them, of having the uncontrouled sway of the terrible flagellum.

However, if I am allowed to deliver my opinion concerning the above inclination of the fair Sex, about which the Antients seem to have entertained so great a prepossession, I will say that I think it owing to the second of the causes abovementioned, that is to say, to their laudable love of justice, and at the same time, to the peculiar nature of the Sex, which makes them feel a great reluctance in using any instruments, either of a cruel, or an unwieldly and ungraceful kind, for instance fire-arms or javelins, swords or clubs, but prompts them to employ, when they mean to give effectual tokens of their resentment, instruments suitable to the mercifulness of their tempers, and the elegance of their manners.


Of this love of justice inherent in Women, a singular instance occurs in the Greek History. I mean to speak of the flagellations which Ladies, in Lacedæmon, who had reached a certain age without finding husbands, used to bestow, before the altar of Juno, upon such Men as continued past a certain time of life, to live in an unmarried state. These flagellations the unmarried Lacedæmonian Ladies (no doubt through the long use they had made of them) had at last converted into an express right; and the ceremony was performed every year, during a certain solemnity established for that purpose. Whether they flagellated all the unmarried Men without exception, who came within the words of the regulation on that subject, Historians have neglected to inform us: perhaps they served in that manner only a certain number, in order to shew the right they had of flagellating all the rest.

Nor have Women of modern times less distinguished themselves than the Greek Ladies, by their love of justice, or paid less regard to elegance in their choice of the means they have employed to avenge the insults they may have received.

In fact, we have seen in the present Chapter, that the persons who have raised the fabric of the Catholick Church, or rather Creed, persons who certainly were good observers of the manners of Mankind, have given the same inclination[322] and the same attributes, to their female inhabitants of Paradise, as the Ancients had given to their Goddesses. And conclusions to the same effect may be derived from the works of imagination of a number of respectable modern Authors, who have all given to the Ladies of whom they had occasion to speak, the same elegant dispositions we mention, and made them act, when offended, upon the same principles as the Ladies in Lacedæmon: these works I do not scruple to mention as weighty authorities; for though they may be, as I said, works in appearance of imagination merely, yet it is well known that such great Authors, when they relate any stories, always allude to certain facts of which they have either been eye-witnesses, or received assured information.

And to quote one or two on the subject, we find that the celebrated La Fontaine, in one of his Tales which he has entitled The Pair of Spectacles, makes certain Nuns, who, as they thought, had had a great affront put upon their Monastery, have immediate recourse to the elegant method of revenge here alluded to. The story is as follows.

Several Nuns, in a certain Convent, were found to be in a situation which, though pretty natural for Women to be in, yet was not quite so with Women who were supposed to have constantly lived inclosed in the same walls with[323] other Women, and made the Abbess judiciously conclude that some male Nun was harboured among them, or, as it was expressed, that some wolf lay hidden among the sheep: a suspicion which, by the by, was well grounded; for a young Man, who had as yet no beard, had found means to introduce himself into the Convent, where he lived, dressed like the Sisters, and was reckoned one among them. In order both to ascertain such suspicion, and discover so dangerous a person, all the Nuns were ordered into one room, and there made to strip themselves stark naked; when the Abbess, with her spectacles on her nose (whence the Tale has received its name) inspected them all, one after another, carefully. To relate how the young Man, notwithstanding the ingenious precautions he had taken, came to be found out, and how the Abbess’s spectacles were thrown from her nose and broken, is foreign to our subject: let it here suffice to say that the young Man was really found out; and that the Nuns, except those who had been concerned with him, who were previously locked up in a safe place,—that the Nuns, I say, laid hold of him, led him into a wood that stood close to their Convent, and there tied him to a tree, naked as he was, in order to make him atone for his audaciousness by a smart flagellation. Having forgotten to supply themselves with the necessary instruments[324] of correction, they ran back to the Convent to fetch them, and whether from the mislaying of a key, or some other accident, were detained a little time. In the mean time a Miller, riding upon his Ass, went through the wood; and seeing the young Man in the abovementioned plight, stopped, and asked him the reason of it: to which the latter made answer, that it was those wicked Nuns who had put him in that situation, because he would not gratify their wanton requests; that he had rather die than be guilty of such thing. The Miller then cast upon him a look of the utmost contempt ... but it will be better to refer the Reader to the abovementioned Author himself, for the inimitable Dialogue that passed between the young Man and the Miller: here it will be enough to say, that this latter proposed to the other to put himself in his place, and warranted him he would behave in quite a different manner, and much more to the satisfaction of the Nuns than he had done. The young Man had no need of much encouragement to accept the proposal: after the Miller had released him, and stripped himself, he tied him fast to the same tree, and had just time enough to steal away, and hide himself behind some neighbouring bush, when the Nuns rushed again out of the same door at which they had got in, armed with all the disciplines and besoms they had been able to find in[325] the Convent. They immediately marched up to the person who was tied to the tree, and without minding the broad shoulders and brawny limbs which were now offered to their view, began to use their disciplines with great agility. In vain did the Miller expostulate with them on their using him so ill: in vain did he remonstrate that he was not the Man whom they took him to be; that he was not that beardless stripling, that milk-sop simpleton, with whom they had formerly had to do, that woman-hater who had given them so just a cause of dissatisfaction; that they ought to try him before they entertained so bad an opinion of him:—in vain did he even at last, in the extremity of pain, apply to the utmost powers of his native language, to convey to them the clearest ideas he could, both to those wishes he supposed in them, and of his great abilities to gratify them: the more loudly and clearly he spoke, the more unmercifully they laid on, and only left him when they had worn out their disciplines.

Cervantes likewise, whose authority is equal to that of any Author, and who has moreover thrown a great light upon the subject of flagellations, has introduced a fact which greatly serves to confirm the observations we are discussing here. I mean to speak of what happened in that memorable night in which the Senora Rodriguez paid a visit to the valorous Don Quixote, in his bed.[326] That Gentlewoman having, in the course of the conversation she had with the Knight, dropped several reflections of a very bad kind on the Duchess and the fair Altisidora, who were at that very instant listening at the door, these two Ladies, though justly and greatly offended at the liberty that was thus taken with their character, recurred to no expedient of a coarse and rough kind to avenge the insult; but they immediately applied to the summary, yet smart,—genteel, yet effectual, mode of correction here alluded to, namely, a flagellation. And here the Author we mention has taken an opportunity of giving a singular instance of the readiness of wit of the fair Sex, and of the quickness with which they usually extricate themselves out of the seemingly most perplexing difficulties. The Duchess and Altisidora were entirely destitute of the necessary instruments to inflict the chastisement they had resolved upon; but they had the great presence of mind to think of using their slippers for that purpose: they presently pulled them off their feet; bounced the door open; ran to the Senora Rodriguez; in the twinkling of an eye made her ready for flagellation, and immediately began to exert their new weapons with great dexterity. Thence, still in the dark, they passed to the astonished Knight, who lay snug in his bed, and who, by his listening to the stories of the Senora, and also by his[327] questions, had encouraged her to proceed in her reflections (a thing which he might full as well have avoided doing) and bestowed upon him a few of those favours they had so plentifully heaped upon the above Gentlewoman.

At this place might also be mentioned, as being extremely well in point to the subject we are treating, the kind of satisfaction required by Dulcinea, from Sancho, and that which the Lady introduced by Butler, prescribed to the renowned Hudibras, while he was in the stocks; though, I confess, it might be said that the corrections here alluded to, were only advised, not inflicted, by the above Ladies. But it will suffice to mention, as a conclusion of these quotations from great Authors, the manner in which Lazarillo de Tormes, the notorious Spanish Cheat, was served by his four Wives. Having found out the place of his abode, they immediately agreed among themselves to serve him with the elegant kind of chastisement here mentioned; and having all together surprized him one morning, while he was asleep, they tied him fast to his bed, and served upon him one of the most dreadful flagellations that ever were inflicted, since the use of them has been contrived, as we are told in the History of the Life of the said Lazarillo; a Book which is still in repute in Spain, it being written with humour, and containing true pictures of the manners of[328] that Country, and being even, as some say, founded on real facts.

Nor are true and well-authenticated instances wanting, to confirm the same observations. None, however, can be mentioned, that sets in a stronger light the love of justice inherent in the female Sex, and their constant attention to make choice of expedients of an elegant kind to express their resentment, than the custom that prevails in France and Italy, and perhaps in other Countries, according to which, Ladies use to flagellate their acquaintances, while they are yet in bed, on the morning of the day of the festival of the Innocents; whence this flagellatory custom is called “giving the Innocents” (dar gli Innocenti): the word Innocent, we may observe, has, in both the Italian and French languages, besides the English signification of it, that of fool, or simpleton; hence the words, the Day of the Innocents, seem also to signify in those two languages, the Fools day, or the day of the Unwary.

Nay, so well established is the custom we mention, that Women, in those parts, look upon that day, as a day of general justice and retribution, or an Assize or Sessions day, to which they refer taking satisfaction for the slight offences they may receive in the course of the year, especially from their male friends. They even will sometimes, when the latter hesitate too much in granting their requests, or misbehave in any manner,[329] hint to them the fatal consequences that may ensue from such a conduct, and plainly intimate to them, that a certain day in the year is to come on which every thing is to be atoned for.

When this important day is arrived, those Ladies who have agreed to join together in the same party, or (to continue the comparison drawn from the law that has been above employed) who have agreed to go together upon the circuit, repair early in the morning to the appointed place of rendezvous, for instance the apartment of one of them, sufficiently provided with disciplines from their respective kitchens; and after laying the plan of their operations, they sally out, to take a round to the apartments of their different acquaintances.

The prudent and cautious, on such an important day, take great care to secure well the bolts and locks of their doors; or rather, fearing that sleep should overcome them, and knowing how fatal neglect might prove, they take that precaution on the evening before, when going to bed, and as an additional security, they heap all the chairs and tables against the door. Others, who are of a bold and daring spirit, on the contrary affect on that day, to leave the doors of their rooms wide open, and stay in bed, resolved to wait the event, and undauntedly to face the storm. However, as such an affectation of bravery seems to indicate that some present trick, or at least some[330] future retaliation of some kind or other is intended, the Ladies commonly keep clear from a place they judge so ominous; unless there happens to be one among them of an uncommonly courageous turn of mind, who places herself in the van, encourages the whole party; and they all together rush into the room and fall upon the adventurous Hero, who is then made to pay dearly for his temerity. When this does not happen to be the case, and at the same time they find the doors of all those persons whom they had expressly marked out for chastisement, to be proof against either a coup-de-main or a regular siege, as they must not part without some effectual business has been transacted, the cloud commonly breaks upon some unfortunate Simpleton, who has left his door open for no other reason than because he had forgot what day of the month it was; they lay fast hold of him, and seldom leave him before their disciplines are worn out to the stumps. The story is soon circulated in whispers in the neighbourhood; and if any person who has not yet heard of it, observes that the Gentleman appears that day uncommonly grave and sulky, his wonder presently ceases, when he is told that, on the morning, they have given him the Innocents.

The custom we mention, seems to be of pretty ancient date; it is alluded to in that old Book formerly quoted, The Tales of the Queen of Navarre.[331] A Man, an Upholsterer by trade, as it is said in one of these Tales (for Men will sometimes avail themselves of the practice in question when it may serve their turn) a Man was in love with his servant Maid; and as he did not know how to find an opportunity to escape the vigilance of his Wife, and be alone with her, he pretended, in a conversation he brought about on the subject, on the eve of Innocent’s day, to find much fault with the Maid; complained that she was a lazy Wench, and so on; and added, that, in order to teach her better, he proposed, on the next morning, to give her the Innocents. The Wife greatly applauded his resolution: at break at day, he accordingly rose from his bed, took up a discipline of such a monstrous size, that his Wife’s heart aked to think what correction the Maid was about to undergo, and ran up stairs with a disposition of seemingly very great severity: however, I am happy to inform the Reader, that, after he had bounced the door open, and at first frighted the Maid very much, every thing was concluded in an amicable manner.

If from Ladies of a middling station in life, and in the class of Upholsterers, we turn our eyes towards Ladies of rank, and Court Ladies, we shall meet with instances no less instructive and interesting.


We may, in the first place, mention the case of the Poet Clopinel, which has been alluded to in a former Chapter. This Poet, who was also called John of Mehun (a small Town on the river Loire) lived about the year 1300, under the reign of Philip the Fair, King of France, at whose Court he was well received. He wrote several Books, and among others translated into French the Letters of Abelard to Heloisa: but that of his works which gave him most reputation, was his conclusion of the celebrated Roman de la Rose; a Poem of much the same turn with Ovid’s Art of Love, which had been begun by William de Lorris, and met with prodigious success in those times, and was afterwards imitated by Chaucer. However, Clopinel gave great offence to the whole Sex, by four lines he had inserted in that Poem, the meaning of which is as follows:—“All of you are, will be, or were, either in deed, or intention, wh-res; and whoever would well search into your conduct, wh-res would find you all to be.”

Toutes êtes, serez, ou futes
De fait ou de volonté, putes;
Et qui bien vous chercheroit
Toutes putes vous trouveroit.

The meaning of these verses, if we take from them the coarseness of the expressions, which did not perhaps sound so harsh in those times as they[333] would in our days, did not at bottom differ from the well-known line of Pope,

“—Every Woman is at heart a Rake.”

Yet we do not hear that this Poet suffered any flagellation on that account, from the Court Ladies, or any other Ladies; whether it was that he prudently took care, after writing the above line, to keep for some time out of the way, or that the Ladies felt no resentment at the accusation. With respect to Clopinel, however, the case proved otherwise: and whether his expressions really had, notwithstanding what has been above suggested, much the same coarse meaning as now, or Ladies had, in those days, a nicer sensibility to any thing that might touch their honour, the Ladies at Court were much offended at the harsh charge that was thus brought against the whole Sex without distinction: they resolved to make the insolent Poet properly feel the effects of their resentment: and as they were at the same time firmly determined, especially being Court Ladies, not to use any expedient but of an elegant and refined kind, they resolved upon a flagellation. One day, accordingly, as Clopinel was coming to Court, entirely ignorant of the fate that awaited him, the Ladies, who had previously supplied themselves with proper instruments, laid hold of him, and immediately proceeded to make him ready for correction. No possible assistance could rescue Clopinel from[334] having that chastisement served upon him which he so justly deserved, except his wit; which happily did not fail him in so imminent a danger, and suggested to him to ask leave to speak a few words. The favour was granted him, with express injunction, however, to make his story short: when, after acknowledging the justice of the sentence that had been passed upon him, he requested it, as an act of mercy, that that Lady who thought herself most affronted by his lines, should give the first blow: this request struck the Ladies with so much surprise (owing no doubt to the fear every one of them immediately conceived, of giving an advantage against herself for which she might afterwards repent) that, to use the expression of the Author of Moreri’s Dictionary, from which this fact is extracted, the rods fell from their hands, and Clopinel escaped unpunished.

Court Ladies of more modern times, have given similar instances of refinement and elegance in their method of revenging the affronts they had received. On this occasion the Reader may be reminded of the case of the Marchioness of Tresnel, which has been related at length in a former place. Another instance of the justice of Ladies, still more interesting by far, occurred at the Court of Russia about the year 1740. The object of the Ladies resentment, was a Fop of[335] quality, lately returned from his Travels; nor will the Reader question the propriety of the flagellation that was served upon him, when he shall be informed that this presumptuous Spark had been guilty of no less an offence than having publicly boasted of having received favours which had never been shewn him. The fact is related in a Book intitled, Letters from Russia, which was published by a Lady whose husband resided at that Court in a public capacity, between the years 1730 and 1740: the book is written in a pleasing style, and contains a deal of interesting information concerning the Russian Court at that time. The Author, it is said, lived a few years ago at Windsor: her Letters from Russia were addressed to a female friend in England.

In the eleventh letter, the following account is contained. ‘I long to tell you a story; but your prudery (I beg pardon, your prudence) frightens me: however, I cannot resist; so pop your fan before your face, for I am going to begin. We have here a young fellow of fashion, who has made the tour of France, &c. &c. At his return he fell in company with three or four pretty Women at a friend’s house, where he sung, danced, laughed, was very free with the Ladies, and behaved quite a-la-mode de Paris. As he had given the gazing audience a specimen of his airs, so he did not fail afterwards to brag[336] of the fondness of the Ladies for him, and of the proofs they had given him of it. This he repeated in all companies, till it reached the ears of the husbands, who looked glum in silence; and at last, in plain terms, expressed the cause of their ill-humour.’ To abridge the account, it will suffice to say that the Ladies resolved to punish the vain-boasting fop as he deserved: a letter was written to him by one of them, appointing a place where she was to meet him: “he flew on the wings of love to the rendezvous,” perfumed, we are to suppose, and in his smartest dress. Though he expected to meet only one of the Ladies, he found them all four waiting for him; and instead of that delightful afternoon he had prepared himself to spend, he was entertained with a most serious flagellation. ‘Some say (continues the Author who relates this fact) that the Ladies actually whipped him; others, they ordered their maids to do it: that the punishment was inflicted with so much rigour as to oblige him to keep his bed some time, is certain; but whether the Ladies were executioners or spectators only, is a doubt.’

For my own part, I shall be bolder than the fair Author who gives this account; and I will take upon myself to decide that the Ladies were spectators only. Had this young fellow of fashion we are speaking of, committed an offence of no very[337] grievous kind; had he, for instance, been guilty of some word, or even action, moderately indecent in the presence of the Ladies, or affronted them by some ill-timed jokes, or had he, like Clopinel, indulged himself in a bon-mot, or even a whole song, against the honour of the Sex, then we might suppose the Ladies arms, to have possessed sufficient vigour to have served him with a correction proportioned to the degree of his guilt. Not that I consider, however, as some Readers will perhaps do, the falsehood of the facts he had boasted of, as being any aggravation of his offence: very far from it: it is when such facts are true, that the boasting of them is really a fault of a black nature: it is such, in my humble opinion, that no possible flagellation can atone for it; the ungrateful Tell-tale ought to be stitched in a bag, and thrown into the river. However, as the vain speeches of the young fellow were in themselves highly wicked, we are to suppose that the Ladies trusted the care of chastising him to more robustious hands than their own; and we must side with that part of the Public, who thought that they ordered their Maids to perform for them; that is to say, a set of Maid slaves selected among the stoutest of those who composed their housholds, Maids imported from the banks of the Palus-meotis, or the Black Sea, and who thought it a glorious opportunity for shewing their mistresses their zeal in serving[338] them. This supposition agrees extremely well with the ensuing part of the account, viz. that this vain-boasting Coxcomb was obliged to keep his bed some time: who knows? perhaps five or six weeks.

The only personal share, we are to think, the Ladies took in the affair, was, when the execution was concluded, to admonish the culprit as to his future conduct. Milton makes the observation, which is quoted by the Author of the Spectator, that the Devil seemed once to be sensible of shame; it was when he received a censure (unexpected for him, we may suppose) from a young Angel of remarkable beauty. In like manner, what must have been the shame of that young Coxcomb, who perhaps had never blushed in his life, when he heard himself addressed by the Ladies who had caused him to be served with so just a chastisement! what must have been his remorse for his naughty behaviour! his grief in considering, that, had he perhaps waited patiently a little time longer, they would have willingly honoured him with their most valuable favours! The Lady who possessed the easiest and most elegant delivery, advanced towards him a few steps; and, accompanying her short speech with the action of an arm of an exquisite form and hand as white as snow, and with a frown on her face, which, without lessening its beauty, gave a true expression of her just resentment, she made him sensible, in few[339] words, of the greatness of his fault, and the justice of the chastisement that had been administered to him: then turning towards the Calmouk and Tartarian Maids who had so well executed her former orders, she directed them to shew him the way to the street door.

To these instances of the justice of Ladies, we may add those of the corrections they have bestowed upon their husbands; as they have an undoubted right. A very remarkable case of that sort is alluded to, in the I. Canto P. II. of Hudibras.

Did not a certain Lady whip
Of late her husband’s own Lordship?
And, though a Grandee of the House,
Clawed him with fundamental blows.
Tied him stark-naked to a bed-post,
And firked his hide, as if sh’ had rid post;
And after, in the Sessions Court,
Where whipping’s judged, had honour for’t.

The noble person here mentioned, was Lord Munson: similar acts of authority on their husbands, were performed, about the same time, by Sir William Waller’s Lady, Mrs. May, and Sir Henry Mildmay’s Lady. From these instances we find, that, amidst the general wreck of the Monarchical, Aristocratical, and Clerical, powers in the Nation, and while the King, Lords, and High Clergy, had their prerogatives wrested from them and annihilated, Wives knew how to assert[340] their jurisdiction over their Husbands, and preserve their just authority. The subject however is too deep to be discussed at large here: I intend to offer more facts to the Public in a separate Work, which will be a compleat Treatise, and a kind of Matrimonial Code in which the true principles shall be laid concerning the rights of Wives, and the submission of Husbands[112].


Those Authors who have treated of the manner in which Men ought to behave in their intercourse with the fair Sex, have been so sensible that the latter must unavoidably, at one time or other, have occasion to bestow lectures and corrections on their Suitors or Lovers (and also their Husbands) that they have made it a point to these, to bear those momentary mortifications with patience and humility, and not to think that such submission reflects any dishonour upon them. This is the precept expressly given by Ovid, in his Art of Love;—‘Do not think it in any degree shameful for you, to submit to the harsh words, and the blows, of the young Woman you court.’

Nec maledicta puta, nec verbera ferre puellæ

And indeed we find that those Lovers who have best understood their business, have not only constantly followed the advice of Ovid, and chearfully submitted to receive such corrections as their Mistresses were pleased to impose upon them; but when they have happened to have been involuntarily guilty of offences of a somewhat grievous kind, they have done more; they have, of themselves, offered freely to submit to them. Thus Polyenos, in the Satyr of Petronius, who had been guilty with Circe of one of those faults[342] which Ladies so difficultly prevail upon themselves to forgive, who had in short committed that offence which the abovementioned Miller boasted he never happened to be guilty of, wrote afterwards to her,—“If you want to kill me, I will come to you with an iron weapon; or if you are satisfied with stripes, I run naked to my Mistress.” (Polyaenos Circæ salutem.... Sive occidere placet, cum ferro venio; sive verberibus contenta es, curro nudus ad dominam. Id tantum memento, non me, sed instrumenta, peccasse, &c. Cap. 130.)

The illustrious Count of Guiche, as we find in the Count of Buffi’s Amorous History of Gauls, a Book which caused the disgrace of its Author, on account of the liberties he had taken in it with the character of King Lewis the Fourteenth, and his Mistress, Madame de la Valiere, the Count of Guiche, I say, one of the first-rate Beaux of the Court of the King just mentioned, behaved in the same manner that Polyenos had done. Having committed a fault with the well-known Countess of Olonne, of the same kind with that of Polyenos, he wrote the next day to the Countess in much the same terms as the latter had done to Circe. ‘If you want me to die, I will bring you my sword; if you think I only deserve to be flagellated, I will come to you in my shirt.’ (Si vous voulez ma mort, j’irai vous porter[343] mon épée; si vous jugez que je ne mérite que le fouët, j’irai vous trouver en chemise.)

The celebrated Earl of Essex, in one of the misunderstandings between him, and Queen Elizabeth, having given her a more than common cause of offence, and wishing in a particular manner to soothe her resentment, wrote to her in much the same terms as those abovementioned. He gave the Queen, as we find in Camden, explicit thanks for the corrections she had inflicted upon him, and kissed (to use his words, as recited by the above Author) and ‘kissed her Majesty’s Royal Hand, and the rod which had chastised him.’ Not that I propose, however, by quoting the above expressions of the Earl, positively to affirm that they were meant to allude to any express corrections of the kind mentioned in this Book, which his Royal Mistress had at any time used to inflict upon him, or the other persons in her service; but yet, when we, on the one hand, attend to the invariable corruption, profligacy, shamelessness, wickedness, and perverseness of Ministers, ever since the beginning of the world, and on the other, consider to what degree those employed by the Princess we speak of, proved just, and zealous for the public good, we cannot help thinking that that great and magnanimous Queen had found[344] out some very peculiar method of rendering them such[113].

[112] The abovementioned Lord Munson had sat as one of the Judges at the King’s Trial: he lived at St. Edmundsbury, when his Wife, with the assistance of her Maids, served him with a flagellation. An allusion to the same fact is also made in a song which is to be found in the Collection of Loyal Songs. The thanks her Ladyship received from the Sessions Court, were owing to its being generally suspected the Noble Lord had altered his political principles; for which his Wife had chastised him.

It really seems that a kind of flagellating fanaticism had taken place, in those days, in this Country, similar in many respects to that which arose in the times of Cardinal Damian and Dominic the Cuirassed: there was this difference however, that it had for its object to flagellate, not one’s-self, but others; which was the wiser folly of the two. The thanks publicly decreed to Lady Munson (not to mention several puritanical publications of those days) are proofs of that flagellating spirit we mention; as well as the correction inflicted by Zachary Crofton upon his servant maid (see p. 238), and the pamphlet he wrote in defence of it; which was very likely grounded on certain religious tenets concerning the mortification of the flesh, &c. that were current in those times.

[113] It came out, in a certain late debate in the House of Commons (June 1783) that, among the expences in the office of a prime Minister, about a year before out of place, there was an article (introduced among the Stationary ware) of three hundred and forty pounds for whip-cord, for one year. It is very probably since the days of Queen Elizabeth, that this kind of commodity has been made part of the national expenditure.



Formation of the public Processions of Flagellants. Different success they meet with, in different Countries.

THE example which so many illustrious personages had given of voluntarily submitting to flagellation, and the pains which Monks had been at, to promote that method of mortification by their example likewise, as well as by the stories they related on that subject, had, as we have seen, induced the generality of people to adopt the fondest notions of its efficacy. But about the year 1260, the intoxication became as it were complete. People, no longer satisfied to practise mortifications of this kind in private, began to perform them in sight of the Public, under pretence of greater humiliation: regular associations and fraternities were formed for that purpose; and numerous bodies of half-naked Men began to make their appearance in the public streets, who after performing a few religious[346] ceremonies contrived for the occasion, flagellated themselves with astonishing fanaticism and cruelty.

The first institution of public Associations and Solemnities of this kind, must needs have filled with surprise all moderate persons in those days, and in fact we see that Historians of different Countries, who lived in the times when their ceremonies were first introduced, have taken much notice of them, and recorded them at length in their Histories or Chronicles. I will lay extracts from a few of these different Books, before the Reader; it being the best manner, I think, of acquainting him with the origin of these singular flagellating solemnities and processions, which continue in use in several Countries.

The first Author from whom we have a circumstantial account on that subject, is that Monk of St. Justina, in Padua, whose Chronicle Wechelius printed afterwards at Basil. He relates how the public superstitious ceremonies we mention, made their first appearance in the Country in the neighbourhood of Bologna, which is the spot where, it seems, they took their first origin, and whence they were afterwards communicated to other Countries. The following is the above Author’s own account.


“When all Italy was sullied with crimes of every kind, a certain sudden superstition, hitherto unknown to the world, first seized the inhabitants of Perusa, afterwards the Romans, and then almost all the Nations of Italy. To such a degree were they affected with the fear of God, that noble as well as ignoble persons, young and old, even children five years of age, would go naked about the streets, with only their private parts covered, and, without any sense of shame, thus walked in public, two and two, in the manner of a solemn procession. Every one of them held in his hand a scourge made of leather-thongs, and with tears and groans they lashed themselves on their backs, till the blood ran; all the while weeping and giving tokens of the same bitter affliction as if they had really been spectators of the passion of our Saviour, imploring the forgiveness of God and his Mother, and praying that He who had been appeased by the repentance of so many Sinners, would not disdain theirs.

“And not only in the day time, but likewise during the nights, hundreds, thousands, and ten thousands of these Penitents, ran, notwithstanding the rigour of winter, about the streets, and in churches, with lighted wax-candles in their hands, and preceded by Priests[348] who carried crosses and banners along with them, and with humility prostrated themselves before the altars: the same scenes were to be seen in small Towns and Villages; so that the mountains and the fields seemed to resound alike the voice of Men who were crying to God.

“All musical instruments and love songs then ceased to be heard. The only Music that prevailed, both in Town and Country, was that of the lugubrious voice of the Penitent, whose mournful accents might have moved hearts of flint; and even the eyes of the obdurate Sinner could not refrain from tears[114].

“Nor were Women exempt from the general spirit of devotion we mention: for not only those among the common people, but also Matrons and young Maidens of noble families, would perform the same mortifications with modesty, in their own rooms. Then[349] those who were at enmity with one another, became again friends. Usurers and Robbers hastened to restore their ill-gotten riches to their right owners. Others, who were contaminated with different crimes, confessed them with humility, and renounced their vanities. Gaols were opened; prisoners were delivered; and banished persons permitted to return to their native habitations. So many and so great works of sanctity and christian charity, in short, were then performed by both Men and Women, that it seemed as if an universal apprehension had seized Mankind, that the divine Power was preparing either to consume them by fire, or destroy them by shaking the earth, or some other of those means which divine Justice knows how to employ for avenging crimes.

“Such a sudden repentance, which had thus diffused itself all over Italy, and had even reached other Countries, not only the unlearned, but wise persons also admired. They wondered whence such a vehement fervour of piety could have proceeded; especially since such public penances and ceremonies had been unheard of in former times, had not been approved by the sovereign Pontiff, who was then residing at Anagni, nor recommended by any Preacher or person of eminence, but had[350] taken their origin among simple persons, whose example both learned and unlearned had alike followed.”

The Ceremonies we mention were soon imitated, as the same Author remarks, by the other Nations of Italy: though they, at first, met with opposition in several places, from divers Princes, or Governments, in that Country. Pope Alexander the Fourth, for instance, who had fixed his See at Anagni, refused at first, as hath been above said, to give his sanction to them; and Clement VI. who had been Archbishop of Sens, in France, in subsequent times condemned those public flagellations by a Bull for that purpose (A. 1349). Manfredus, likewise, who was Master of Sicily and Apulia, and Palavicinus, Marquis of Cremona, Brescia, and Milan, prohibited the same processions in the Countries under their dominion; though, on the other hand, many Princes as well as Popes countenanced them, either in the same times, or afterwards.

This spirit of public penance and devotion was in time communicated to other Countries; it even reached so far as Greece, as we are informed by Nicephorus Gregoras, who wrote in the year 1361. Attempts were likewise made to introduce ceremonies of the same kind into Poland, as Baronius says in his Annals;[351] but they were at first prohibited: nor did they meet, at the same period, with more encouragement in Bohemia, as Dubravius relates in his History of that Country.

In Germany, however, the Sect, or Fraternity, of the Flagellants proved more successful. We find a very full account of the first flagellating processions that were made in that Country, in the year 1349 (a time during which the plague was raging there) in the Chronicle of Albert of Strasbourg, who lived during that period.

“As the plague (says the above Author) was beginning to make its appearance, People then began in Germany to flagellate themselves in public processions. Two hundred came, at one time, from the Country of Schwaben to Spira, having a principal Leader at their head, besides two subordinate ones, to whose commands they paid implicit obedience. When they had passed the Rhine, at one o’clock in the afternoon, crouds of people ran to see them. They then drew a circular line on the ground, within which they placed themselves. There they stripped off their clothes, and only kept upon themselves a kind of short shirt, which served them instead of breeches, and reached from the waist down to their heels: this done, they placed[352] themselves on the above circular line, and began to walk one after another around it, with their arms stretched in the shape of a Cross, thus forming among themselves a kind of procession. Having continued this procession a little while, they prostrated themselves on the ground, and afterwards rose one after another, in a regular manner, every one of them, as he got up, giving a stroke with his scourge to the next, who in his turn likewise rose, and served the following one in the same manner. They then began disciplining themselves with their scourges, which were armed with knots and four iron points, all the while singing the usual Psalm of the invocation of our Lord, and other Psalms: three of them were placed in the middle of the ring, who, with a sonorous voice, regulated the chaunt of the others, and disciplined themselves in the same manner. This having continued for some time, they ceased their discipline; and then, at a certain signal that was given them, prostrated themselves on their knees, with their arms stretched, and threw themselves flat on the ground, groaning and sobbing. They then rose, and heard an admonition from their Leader, who exhorted them to implore the mercy of God on the people, on both their benefactors and enemies, and on the souls in[353] Purgatory: then they placed themselves again upon their knees, with their hands lifted towards heaven, performed the same ceremonies as before, and disciplined themselves anew, as they walked round. This done, they, put on their clothes again; and those who had been left to take care of the clothes and the luggage, came forwards, and went through the same ceremonies as the former had done. They had among them Priests, and noble as well as ignoble persons, and men conversant with letters.

“When the disciplines were concluded, one of the brotherhood rose, and with a loud voice, read a letter, which he pretended had been brought by an Angel to St. Peter’s Church, in Jerusalem: the Angel declared in it, that Jesus Christ was offended at the wickedness of the age, several instances of which were mentioned, such as the violation of the Lord’s day, blasphemy, usury, adultery, and neglect with respect to fasting on Fridays. To this the Man who read the letter added, that Jesus Christ’s forgiveness having been implored by the Holy Virgin and the Angels, he had made answer, that in order to obtain mercy, sinners ought to live exiled from their Country for thirty-four days, disciplining themselves during that time.


“The inhabitants of the Town of Spira were moved with so much compassion for these Penitents, that they invited every one of them to their houses: they however refused to receive alms severally, and only accepted what was given to their Society in general, in order to buy twisted wax-candles, and banners. These banners were of silk, painted of a purple colour: they carried them in their processions, which they performed twice every day. They never spoke to Women, and refused to sleep upon feather-beds. They wore crosses upon their coats and hats, behind and before, and had their scourges hanging at their waist.

“About an hundred Men, in the Town of Spira, inlisted in their Society, and about a thousand at Strasburgh, who promised obedience to the Superiors, for the time abovementioned. They admitted nobody but who engaged to observe all the above rules during that time, who could spend at least four-pence a day, lest he should be obliged to beg, and who declared that he had confessed his sins, forgiven his enemies, and obtained the consent of his Wife. They divided at Strasburgh: one part went up, and another part down, the Country; their Superiors having likewise divided. The latter directed the new[355] brothers from Strasburgh, not to discipline themselves too harshly in the beginning; and multitudes of people flocked from the Country up and down the Rhine, as well as the inland Country, in order to see them. After they had left Spira, about two hundred Boys twelve years old, entered into an Association together, and disciplined themselves in public.”

Flagellating processions and Solemnities of the same kind, were likewise introduced into France, where they met, at first, with but indifferent success; and even several Divines opposed them. The most remarkable among them was John Gerson, a celebrated Theologian, and Chancellor of the University of Paris, who purposely wrote a Treatise against the ceremonies in question, in which he particularly condemned the cruelty and great effusion of blood with which these disciplines were performed. ‘It is equally unlawful (Gerson asserted) for a Man to draw so much blood from his own body, unless it be for medical reasons, as it would be for him to castrate or otherwise mutilate himself. Else it might upon the same principle be advanced, that a Man may brand himself with red-hot irons; a thing which nobody hath, as yet, either pretended to say, or granted, unless it be false Christians and Idolaters, such as are[356] to be found in India, who think it a matter of duty for one to be baptized through fire.’

Under King Henry the Third, however, the processions of Disciplinants found much favour in France; and the King we mention, a weak and bigoted Prince, not only encouraged these ceremonies by his words, but even went so far as to inlist himself in a Fraternity of Flagellants. The example thus given by the King, procured a great number of Associates to the Brotherhood, and several Fraternities were formed at Court, which were distinguished by different colours, and composed of a number of Men of the first families in the Kingdom. These processions, thus formed of the King and his noble train of Disciplinants, all equipped like Flagellants, frequently made their appearance in the public Streets of Paris, going from one Church to another; and in one of those naked processions, the Cardinal of Lorrain, who had joined in it, caught such a cold, it being about Christmas time, that he died a few days afterwards. The following is the account to be found on that subject, in the President J. A. de Thou’s History of his own times.

“While the civil war was thus carrying on, on both sides, scenes of quite a different kind were to be seen at Court; where the[357] King, who was naturally of a religious temper, and fond of ceremonies unknown to Antiquity, and who had formerly had an opportunity to indulge this fancy in a Country subjected to the Pope’s dominion, would frequently join in the processions which masked Men used to perform, on the days before Christmas.

“For more than an hundred years past, a fondness for introducing new modes of worship into the established Religion, had prevailed; and a sect of Men had risen, who, thinking it meritorious to manifest the compunction they felt for their offences, by outward signs, would put on a sack-cloth, in the same manner it was ordered by the antient Law; and from a strained interpretation they gave of the passage in the Psalmist, ad flagella paratus sum, flagellated themselves in public; whence they were called by the name of Flagellants. John Gerson, the Chancellor of the University of Paris, and the purest Theologian of that age, wrote a Book against them. Yet the holy Pontiffs, considering then that Sect with more indulgence than former ones had done, shewed much countenance to it; so that multitudes of Men, all over Italy, in these days inlist in it, as in a kind of a religious militia, thinking to obtain by that means[358] forgiveness of their sins. Distinguished by different colours, blue, white, and black, in the same manner as the Green and Blue factions, though proposing to themselves different objects, were formerly in Rome, they likewise engrossed the attention of the public, and in several places gave rise to the warmest contentions.

“The introduction which was made of these ceremonies into France, where they had till then been almost unknown, forwarded the designs of certain ambitious persons, the contempt they brought on the person of the King, having weakened much the regal authority. While the King mixed thus with processions of Flagellants, and the most distinguished among his Courtiers followed his example, Charles, Cardinal of Lorrain, who was one of the party, was, by the coldness of the evening, thrown into a violent fever, attended with a most intense pain in his head; and a delirium as well as continual watchfulness having followed, he expired two days before Christmas.”

The Historian we have just quoted says, in another place, that the King was principally induced to perform the above superstitious processions, by the solicitations of his Confessor, Father Edmund Auger, who wrote a[359] Book on that subject, and of John Castelli, the Apostolic Nuntio in France; and that the weak complaisance shewn to him on that occasion, by the Chancellor Birague, and the Keeper of the Seals, Chiverny, encouraged him much to pursue his plan in that respect, notwithstanding the strong advices to the contrary, that were given him by Christopher de Thou, President of the Parliament, and Pierre Brulart, President of the Chambre des Enquêtes.

As there was, in those times, a powerful party in France, that opposed the Court, and even was frequently at open war with it, there was no want of Men, in Paris, who found fault with the disciplining processions of the King. When they first made their appearance, some, as the above Historian relates, laughed at them, while others exclaimed that they were an insult both to God and Man. Even Preachers joined in the party, and pointed their sarcasms from the pulpit against those ceremonies.

The most petulant among these popular Preachers, was one Maurice Poncet, of the Abbey of Melun, who, using expressions borrowed from a Psalm, compared the King and his brother Disciplinants, to Men who would cover themselves with a wet sack-cloth, to[360] keep off the rain: he was at last banished to his Monastery. The example which the Court, and the Metropolis, had set, was followed in a number of Country Towns, where fraternities of Flagellants were instituted; and among them particular mention is made of the Brotherhood of the Blue Penitents, in the City of Bourges, on account of the Sentence passed in the year 1601, by the Parliament of Paris, in consequence of a motion of Nicolas Servin, the King’s Advocate General, which expressly abolished it[115].

(end of chapter mark)


[114] Siluerunt tunc tempore omnia musica instrumenta & amatoriæ cantilenæ. Sola cantio pœnitentis lugubris audiebatur ubique, tam in civitatibus quam in villis, ad cujus flebilem modulationem corda saxea movebantur, & obstinatorum oculi lacrymis non poterant continere.——This Monk of St. Justina, whose account is here translated at length, was certainly no mean Writer: he was quite another Man than the Abbé Boileau.

[115] It has no doubt been perceived, that, in the course of this Work, I have commonly taken care to conclude the different Chapters into which it is divided, with a Note or Commentary of a certain length, upon the same subject with the Chapter itself, though of a less grave and serious turn. This precaution I thought necessary for the relief of the Reader, after the great exertion of his mind, occasioned by the weighty objects that had just been offered to his consideration. Such final Note I considered as a farce, after a serious and moral Drama, and as a kind of petite piece, or if you please, of interlude, calculated to revive the exhausted spirits of the Reader,[361] and enable him to begin a fresh Chapter with alacrity.

On this occasion, however, I find great difficulty in pursuing the same plan. The processions of Disciplinants that have just been described, are such a dismal and gloomy subject, that it suggests no ideas but what are of a serious kind; it precludes all thoughts of mirth and jocularity; and I despair, in this Note, of being able to entertain the Reader so well as I flatter myself I have succeeded in doing in the former ones.

The flagellating practices and ceremonies alluded to in this Chapter, are certainly most astonishing facts in the History of Man: and if any thing renders our surprise less than it otherwise would be, it is the consideration that such practices have not been imagined on a sudden, and at once, but have been the result of a long series of slow innovations, introduced by different persons, at different times, and in places remote from one another.

Besides, it really seems that there is a secret propensity in Mankind, for arduous modes of worship of all kinds. The observation has been made, that in the Science of Moral, speculatively considered, Men, whatever may be their private conduct, are most pleased with such maxims as are most rigid; and so, with respect to religious rites, do they seem to be most taken with, and[362] most strongly to adhere to, such as are most laborious, and even painful.

We see, in fact, that bodily austerities of a cruel kind, performed with religious intentions, have obtained among almost all the Nations in the World; and self-scourgings, in particular, were practised with views of this kind among almost all the Nations of antiquity of whom accounts have been left us: on which the Reader is referred to the sixth Chapter of this Book.

The same practice we mention, besides the advantage of its obviousness to recommend it, had in its favour, with Christians, the farther circumstance of its being in a manner sanctified by the History itself of the facts on which their religion is grounded. As a punishment of that kind made express part of the ill treatment which our Saviour underwent, the thoughts of pious persons were naturally directed to a mode of mortification of which so frequent mention was made in books, hymns, sermons, and religious conversations: hence has it happened, that the practices here alluded to, have been much more constantly and universally adopted by Christians, than by the professors of any other Religion.

A difference, however, took place in the above respect, between the Eastern and the Western Christians. As the Christians who were settled in the East, lived almost always in the midst of hostile[363] Nations, and besides, never formed among themselves any very numerous sect, they never went such lengths in their opinions, nor gave into such extravagant practices, as the Christians in the West. They had not, for instance, adopted the fond notions since entertained by the latter, on the efficaciousness of self-flagellations to atone for past sins. Their religious notions had taken a different turn. They generally considered a certain deep sense of past offences, a state of unbounded contrition for the same, as the competent means of atonement. They considered tears as the last stage of such contrition, and in a manner a necessary token of it. Shedding tears was, therefore, the thing they aimed at, in all their devotional acts: self-scourging was thought by them to be an excellent expedient for obtaining so happy an effect; and they hence resorted to it, not (as hath been done in the West) as to a direct and immediate method of compensating past sins, but only as to a subsidiary operation, and a means which, they sagaciously thought, would soon bring them to the requisite state of tears and salutary compunction.

Of this turn of the devotion of the Eastern Christians, as well as of the ends they proposed to themselves in their acts of self-flagellation, we find proofs in the few instances that have been left us in Books, of their having performed acts of[364] that sort: I shall relate the following one, which is to be found in the work of Gabriel, Archbishop of Philadelphia, intitled Πατερικὸν, or Collection of actions of Fathers, or Saints.

A certain Saint had come to a resolution of renouncing the World, and had fixed his habitation on the celebrated Mountain of Nitria, in Thebaid; and next to the cell to which he had retired, was that of another Saint, whom he heard every day bitterly weep for his sins. Finding himself unable to weep in the same manner, and heartily envying the happiness of the other Saint, he one day spoke to himself in the following terms: ‘You do not cry, you wretch; you do not weep for your sins. I will make you cry; I will make you weep by force, since you will not do it of your own accord; I will make you grieve for your sins, as you ought:’ saying which, he took up in a passion a large scourge that lay by him, and laid lashes upon himself so thick and in so effectual a manner, that he soon brought himself to that happy state which was the object of his ambition.

Another instance of the manner of the devotion of the Eastern Christians, is supplied by the passage in St. John Climax, that has been recited at pag. 121. Both the Opposers, and the Promoters, of the practice of self-flagellation, have gone too far in their interpretations of that passage.[365] The latter have asserted that it expressly alluded to religious disciplines, performed in the same manner, and with the same views, as they now are in modern Monasteries; while the former have been as positive that it meant no such thing as beating or scourging, and is only to be understood of the lamentations of the Monks in the Monastery in question, that is, in a bare figurative manner. The passage in St. John Climax is this: ‘Some among the Monks watered the pavement with their tears, while others, who could not shed any, beat themselves.’ The expression used in this passage, to say that some among the Monks beat themselves, is certainly as precise as any the Greek language can supply; yet neither does it supply a sufficient proof that they performed, in the above Monastery, regular and periodical flagellations of the same kind with those that have been since used in the Western Monasteries, in the times of Cardinal Damian, and the Widow Cechald: the self-flagellations alluded to, in the passage we speak of, appear to have been of the same kind with those performed by the Saint of the Mountain of Nitria who has been abovementioned, and were calculated to enable those who could not weep, to weep plentifully.

But among the Western Christians, as the extensive Country over which they became in time to be spread, without any intervening opponents,[366] afforded a vast field for innovations of every kind, they, as hath been above said, went the greatest lengths in their opinions concerning the usefulness of the practices we mention, to which the History of their Religion had at first given rise.

In the first place, mortifications of the kind here alluded to, were used among them from notions of much the same sort with those entertained by the Eastern Christians, that is, with a view of sanctifying themselves by their repentance, and assisting their compunction.

In the second place, they were actuated by a sense of love for Jesus Christ, and a desire of uniting themselves to him in his sufferings. The intention we speak of, is particularly recommended in the Statutes of different religious Orders; and the Brothers are exhorted in them, ‘when they inflict discipline upon themselves, to call to their mind Jesus Christ, their most amiable Lord, fastened to the column, and to endeavour to experience a few of those excessive pains he was made to endure.’ This notion of religious persons, which proceeds from an unbounded sense of gratitude towards their Divine Saviour, from a wish of repaying in any manner the immense service he had conferred upon them in saving them from destruction, and of at least sharing his sufferings, since they cannot alleviate them, has certainly something interesting in its principle.


But the most universal use, by far, that has been made of flagellatory disciplines among Christians, in these parts of the world, has been to atone for past sins. And indeed it is no wonder that a practice of so convenient a kind, which enabled every one, by means of an operation of the duration and severity of which he was the sole judge, to pay, as he thought, an adequate price for every offence he might have committed, and silence a troublesome conscience whenever he pleased, should so easily gain ground, and meet with so much favour, not only from the vulgar, but also from great Men, and even Kings; to whom we may no doubt add their Ministers.

Among the superstitious notions that may be hurtful to Society, it is difficult to imagine one of a worse tendency than that here mentioned, the immediate consequence of which is to render useless all the distinctions implanted in the human mind between evil and good, and, by making offenders easy with themselves, to take off the only punishment that is left for the greater number of crimes. When notions like these were adopted by Kings, with respect to whom human laws are silent, the consequences were pernicious in the extreme; practices of this sort became as dangerous to the peace and happiness of their subjects, as they would have been conducive to them, if the disciplines we speak of, instead of being inflicted[368] upon such high Offenders, every time they were conscious they deserved them, by the hands of Confessors aiming at Bishopricks, or under fear of dungeons, had been dealt them to the full satisfaction of a Jury composed of impartial persons, and nowise afraid to speak their minds.

These notions of the usefulness of self-flagellations, were carried to a most extravagant pitch by a Sect formed of those itinerant Disciplinants, accounts of whom have been above given. Proud of the cruel disciplines they inflicted upon themselves, they looked upon them as being of far greater merit than the practice of any Christian virtue; and they at last formed among themselves a particular Sect of Heretics, who were called Flagellants. The title of History of the Flagellants, which the Abbé Boileau has given to his Work, might seem to indicate that he intended to write an History of that Sect, and of those public processions of Disciplinants which have succeeded it: yet, he only mentions that Sect and those Processions in his usual loose manner, in his ninth Chapter, without even distinguishing the one from the other. The proper title of his book (and of this, which is imitated from it) should be, The History of religious Flagellations among different Nations, and especially among Christians.

Among the different tenets of the Hereticks we speak of, were the following. They pretended[369] that the blood they shed, during their flagellations, was mixed with that of Jesus Christ;—that self-flagellations made confession useless;—that they were more meritorious than martyrdom, for they were voluntary, which martyrdom was not;—that baptism by water was of no use, as every true Christian must be baptized in his own blood;—that flagellation could atone for all past and future offences, and supplied the want of all other good works. To these tenets, and to several others of the same sort, they added Stories of different kinds; such as that of the abovementioned letter brought from Heaven by an Angel, to order self-flagellations; they gave out that a certain Brother of their Sect, who lived at Erford in Thuringe, was Elias; and that another, whose name was Conrad Smith, was Enoch, &c. &c.

As the principles maintained by these Hereticks, were destructive of most of the essential tenets received by the Church, this reason, together with the cruelties they practised upon themselves, and in general their fanaticism, which really was of a despicable kind, caused Pope Clement IV. to issue a Bull against them, in the year 1350; and several Princes expressly prohibited that Sect, in the places under their dominion.

From those Hereticks, must therefore be distinguished the common Fraternities of Disciplinants, which continue in these days to be established in[370] several Countries. These Fraternities are composed of good orthodox Christians, who do not in any degree pretend that their disciplines supersede the necessity of Baptism or Confession, or of any other Sacrament; who tell no stories about Elias, or Enoch; who dutifully subscribe to all the tenets, without exception, recommended by the Church, and above all pay implicit obedience to the authority of the Heads of it. They are Associations of much the same kind with common Clubs, or if you please, like Lodges of Freemasons: they have a stock of effects and furniture belonging to the Fraternity, such as banners, crucifixes, ornaments for altars, and so on; and each contributes a certain small sum annually, for keeping the above effects in repair, and defraying the expences of paying the music, feeing Priests, and others of a like kind: they have, besides, peculiar Statutes, not unlike the Articles of a common Club.

The principal engagement of these Fraternities is to discipline themselves in times of great Solemnities; such as the Sundays in the Advent, the Sundays before Palm-Sunday, on Maunday Thursday, and certain days during the Carnival. On these days they walk about Towns in regular processions. They carry along with them banners, painted with the appropriated colour of the Brotherhood: the Brothers are equipped in a peculiar[371] kind of dress for the occasion, all wearing, besides, masks over their faces. With this apparatus they visit different Churches, exhibiting an appearance which, when seen from some distance, is not unlike that of the trading Companies, in London, on a Lord Mayor’s Day; and their banners, together with the other ornaments they display, cut a figure not very short of the paraphernalia of the City.

In the principal Church whence they set off, and perhaps also in those which they visit, they hear a short sermon from a Priest, on the Passion of our Saviour; and as soon as the Priest has said the words, “let us mend and grow better” (emendemus in melius) the disciplines begin with the singing of the Miserere, and are continued in the streets, as they walk in procession. By one Article of their Statutes, it is ordered that no Brother shall put a Man to discipline himself in his stead. Plenty of Indulgences are granted to those who discharge their duty on those occasions. And moreover, Bishops are ordered to inspect, in their respective Dioceses, the Fraternities there established, and examine their Statutes, in order to strike out such articles as may contain seeds of Heresy.

Fraternities of this kind obtain in most of the Catholic Countries in Europe; though with different[372] encouragement from their different Governments.

In France they were, as hath been above said, in the greatest favour at Court, under Henry the Third: this Prince, who, before he was called to the Throne on the death of his Brother, had given every hope of an able warrior, and a great King, having inlisted in one of these Fraternities. As a powerful party was at that time set up, in France, against the authority of the Crown, and most of the people in Paris favoured that party, the King had attempted to overaw them by a display of Majesty, and being constantly accompanied when he made his appearance in public, by a numerous body of Halberdiers; but this not having succeeded, he tried to amuse the People by public shews; and in that view, as a Writer of those times says, instituted in Paris Fraternities of Penitents, in which he made himself a Brother. This expedient, however, did not succeed: these disciplining processions only served to bring sarcasms upon the Court, and the King himself; and among them that of Maurice Poncet has been recorded, who, besides other invectives he delivered from the pulpit, compared the disciplining Penitents, as hath been abovementioned, to men who should cover themselves with a wet cloth to keep off the rain. This reflection of Poncet was thought to be the more pointed, as, the very day before, the King[373] had Walked in a procession of Penitents, during which a most heavy shower of rain had fallen, and the King with his Chancellor, and the whole train of Disciplinants, had been thoroughly soaked. The King was informed, the next day, of the jest of Poncet; and this, together no doubt with the remembrance of the rain of the day before, caused him to be much incensed against the Preacher: however, as notwithstanding his vices and weakness, he was a Man of the mildest temper, as well as of unbounded liberality, he contented himself with having the Monk sent back to his Convent.

In subsequent times, that is in the year 1601, under the reign of Henry IV. a Sentence was passed, as hath been abovementioned, by the Parliament of Paris, to abolish the Fraternity of the Blue Penitents, in the City of Bourges. The motive of the Parliament was not, however, their tender care for the skin of these Blue Penitents: but that Fraternity had been rendered a kind of political Association against the reigning King, who was during his whole life persecuted by bigotry, till he fell a victim to it at last; and they had joined several treasonable declarations and engagements, to their Statutes: for this reason the Fraternity was forbidden to meet again, under pain of being prosecuted as guilty of High Treason. From that time Brotherhoods of Penitents[374] have been constantly discountenanced in France; and they are continued only in some Towns in the Southern Provinces, distant from the Metropolis.

But the Countries in which the processions we mention (which certainly are as extraordinary as any ceremony of which any Religion affords an instance) are most prevalent, and where they are in a manner naturalized, are, Italy, and Spain.

In the latter Country, in Spain, the flagellating Solemnities we speak of, have received a peculiar turn from the peculiar manners of the Inhabitants; and they are (which is certainly extraordinary) as well operations or scenes of gallantry, as acts of devotion. Lovers will frequently go, at the head of a procession of friends, and discipline themselves under the windows of their Mistresses: or, when they pass by chance under these windows, with a procession to which they belong, they redouble the smartness of their flagellations. All Disciplinants in general, shew attentions of the same kind to such Ladies as they meet in their way, when these Ladies appear to them possessed of some charms; and when the latter engage their attention in a peculiar manner, they never fail, especially if the procession happens to move slowly or to stop, by means of the increased briskness of their flagellations and skilful motions of their disciplines, plentifully to sprinkle them with their[375] blood. These facts are attested by all Travellers; and Madame d’Aunoy among others, a French Lady of quality who in the last Century published a relation of her journey into Spain, a Book written with judgment, after giving an account of the same facts with those above to the friend to whom she wrote, adds that what she relates is literally true, and without any exaggeration. The Ladies who are the cause of this increased zeal of the Disciplinants, and to whom such an agreeable piece of courtship is addressed, reward the latter by raising the veil which covers their face, or even are obliged by the Bystanders to do so (destapar, as they call it) in much the same manner as the croud which stands at the door of a House where there is a masquerade, will, in this Country, oblige the masks, as they get into, or out of the House, to uncover their faces.

How the Spanish Ladies can be pleased with feats of that kind, is certainly difficult to understand; unless it be that, with Ladies, the bare intention of shewing them courtesy, is enough to procure their good-will; or perhaps also it may be, that the extreme gracefulness with which the disciplines we mention, are performed, has the power of rendering them pleasing to the Ladies. An opinion of this kind has been delivered by the Author of Hudibras:


“Why may not whipping have as good
A grace, perform’d in time and mood,
With comely movement, and by art,
Raise a passion in a Lady’s heart?”

This power of the graces to render whipping agreeable, is certainly a strong argument in their favour, and well worth adding to those urged in their behalf, in a certain celebrated publication of late times.

That Disciplinants in Spain, flagellate themselves with the extreme gracefulness we mention, is a fact about which no doubt is to be entertained: nay, there are Masters in most Towns, whose express business is to teach the time, mood, comely movements and arts, above described, and in short to shew how to perform disciplines with elegance.——Fielding, in one of his Works, has inserted an advertisement of the celebrated Broughton which had just made its appearance, by which the latter offered his services to the public, to instruct them in the art of boxing, and all the mysteries of it: that Author thought posterity would be extremely glad to meet with that interesting and incontrovertible monument of the manners of the times in which he wrote: an advertisement from one of the Spanish flagellating Masters we speak of, would, in like manner, be extremely proper to be produced in this place; and if I do not insert here the copy of any such advertisement,[377] the reader may be persuaded that it is solely because I have none in my possession.

When the Gentlemen who propose to discipline themselves in honour of their Mistresses, are of considerable rank, the ceremony is then performed with great state and magnificence. Madame D’Aunoy relates that the day the Duke of Vejar disciplined himself, an hundred white wax-candles were carried before the procession: the Duke was preceded by sixty of his friends (vassals perhaps, or dependents) and followed by an hundred, all attended by their own pages and footmen; and besides them there were no doubt abundance of Priests and crucifixes.

As these Spanish Gallants have no less honour than devotion, battles frequently take place between them, for the assertion of their just prerogatives; and this, for instance, seldom fails to be the case when two processions happen to meet in the same street: each party think they are intitled to the most honourable side of the way; and a scuffle is the consequence. This happened at the time of the procession of the abovementioned Duke of Vejar: another procession, conducted by the Marquis of Villahermosa, entered the same street, at the other end of it: the light-armed troops, otherwise the servants with their lighted long wax-candles, began the engagement, bedaubing the clothes, and singeing the whiskers and[378] hair of each other; then the body of Infantry, that is to say the Gentlemen with their swords, made their appearance, and continued the battle; and at last the two noble Champions themselves met, and began a fight with their disciplines (another instance of Penitents using their disciplines as weapons, is, if I mistake not, to be found in Don Quixote) the two noble Champions, I say, began a smart engagement with each other; their self-flagellations were for a while changed, with great rapidity, into mutual ones; and their weapons being demolished, they were about to begin a closer kind of fight, when their friends interfered, and parted them: the high sharp and stiff cap of one of the two Combatants, which had fallen in the dirt, was taken up, properly cleansed, and again placed upon his head; and the two processions went each their own course, dividing as chance determined it. The whole ceremony was afterwards concluded with splendid entertainments which each of the Noble Disciplinants gave in their Houses, to the persons who had formed their respective processions; during which abundance of fine compliments were paid them on their piety, their gallantry, and their elegance in giving themselves discipline.

If such acts both of devotion and courtship are performed in Spain, by persons of the first rank, much more may we think that practices of the[379] same kind prevail among the vulgar: and on this occasion I shall produce an extract from the Spanish Book intitled, the Life of Friar Gerund de Campazas. As this Novel, which is of a humorous kind, was written in later times by a native of the Country, and a Man of learning (a Father Jesuit, I think) an extract from it may give a surer insight into the above singular customs of the Spaniards, than any relation of Travellers perhaps can.

‘Anthony was then studying at Villagarcia, and already in the fourth class, as hath been said, and in the twenty-fifth year of his age. The fortnight vacation for the Holy and Easter Week arrived, and he went home to his own town, as is the custom for all those students whose home is within a short distance. The Devil, who never sleeps, tempted him to play the penitent on Maunday Thursday; for, as our young Penitent was now well shot up and his beard grown, he looked lovingly upon a Damsel that had been a neighbour of his, ever since they went to School together to the clerk of the Parish, to learn the horn-book; and in order to court her in the most winning manner, he thought it expedient to go forth as a disciplinant: as this, the Reader is to know, is one of the gallantries with which the Women of Campos are most pleased; for it is a very old observation there,[380] that the greatest part of the marriages are concerted on the day of the cross of the May, on the evenings on which there is dancing, and on Maunday Thursday: some of the Women being so very devout and compunctious, that they are as much delighted with seeing the instruments of discipline applied, as with the rattling of the castanets.

‘The rogue of an Anthony was not ignorant of this inclination of the girls of his Town, and therefore went out as disciplinant, on Maunday Thursday, as we have above said. At a league’s distance he might, notwithstanding his mask, and his hood which hung down almost to his waist, have been known by Catanla Rebollo, which was the name of his sweetheart, neighbour, and old school-fellow; for, besides that there was no other cap in the whole procession so spruce or so stiff-standing as his, he wore as a mark, a black girdle which she had given him, upon his taking leave of her on Luke’s-day, to go to Villagarcia. She never took her eyes from him, during the time he was passing near her; and he, who knew it well, took that opportunity to redouble the briskness of his discipline, making her, by the way, unobserved by others, two little amorous obeisances by nodding his cap: which is one of the tender passes that never fail to win the hearts of the marriageable[381] girls, who are very attentive to it; and the bumkin who knows how to do it with most grace, may pick and choose among them, though at the same time he may not be the most expert at the rural games and exercises.

‘At length, as Anthony had made too much haste to give himself a plentiful bleeding, one of the Majordomos who superintended the procession, bade him go home and take care of himself, before the procession was over. Catanla took herself after him, and being a neighbour, followed him into the house, where there stood ready the wine, rosemary, salt and tow, which is all the apparatus for these cures. They well washed his shoulders, and applied the pledgets; after which he put on his usual clothes, and wrapped himself up in his grey cloak. They afterwards went to see the procession, except Catanla, who said she would stay with him, and keep him company, &c.’

The disciplining ceremonies above described, are, as hath been observed, also admitted in Italy; and they are performed there with no less regularity and applause, than in Spain. Most Travellers into that Country give some account of them: Doctor Middleton, for instance, describes at some length in his Letter from Rome, two processions of that kind, to and in the Church of St. Peter, of which he had been a witness.


But, as the ceremonies we speak of, have been made in Spain, expeditions of gallantry, in which nicety of honour and amorous prowess are displayed by turns, so in Italy, they have been turned into perfect farces, and scenes of mimickry.

Father Labat, who has published a relation of a Journey to Spain and Italy, in which he gives accounts of disciplining processions in both Countries, recites that in one of these processions he saw at Civita Vecchia, there were in the first place to be seen at the head of that procession several figures or persons who represented Jesus Christ in the different stages or acts of his condemnation: these different figures are commonly expressed by technical or cant Latin words; and among those which Father Labat mentions as having made part of the above procession, was an Ecce Homo, which is a figure intended to represent Jesus Christ when he made his appearance before Pilate, clad in purple robe, with a reed in his hand, and a crown on his head.

Another personage afterwards made his appearance, who represented our Lord going to the place of his death: eight Executioners surrounded him, who teased him, and pulled the chains with which he was loaded; and a Simeon of Cyrene walked behind him, who assisted him in carrying his cross. Several Men followed, who were likewise loaded with heavy crosses, and were meant, I suppose,[383] to represent the Robbers who suffered on that day. Among these different figures were abundance of Roman Soldiers, armed with casques and bucklers.

After these came a number of persons who, by their tears and groans, expressed the deep affliction they felt: and then the train of the Disciplinants made their appearance, who manifested their grief in another manner, that is, by their flagellations. Among the latter were two particular figures who were thoroughly naked, except those parts which must absolutely be covered, for which purpose they wore a kind of short apron. These two figures, who were called the two St. Jeroms, on account of the blows with which they at times beat their breast, possessed a kind of skill not very unlike that exerted by Dominic the Cuirassed, who could discipline himself with both his hands at once: they performed both the upper and the lower discipline at the same time, and lashed themselves from head to foot, with large scourges they had provided for the occasion. However, as the two latter personages exhibited rather a striking appearance, they were, the ensuing year, ordered to do like the other Penitents, and to wear breeches.

In the same train we describe, were also the family of Joseph, with a number of female mourners, and among them Mary Magdalen, with the[384] Virgin Mary; and, lastly, to crown the whole, there was in the procession a figure fitted with a red-haired wig, and a red beard, who represented Judas, and held up with great triumph in his hand, a purse, in which he shook and jingled a few pieces of money, which were supposed to be the reward he had received for betraying our Saviour.

In fine, what much increases our surprise concerning the flagellating ceremonies and processions we describe, is the great severity and earnest zeal with which those who perform them, lay these disciplines upon themselves; different, in that, from the Priests of the Goddess of Syria mentioned in pag. 87, who, as the Emperor Commodus, and after him Philip Beroald, shrewdly suspected, only performed sham flagellations. The cruel severities exercised upon themselves by the modern Penitents, are facts about which all Writers of Relations agree; all mention the great quantity of blood which these Flagellants lose, and throw to and fro with their disciplines. It is commonly reported, I do not know with what truth, in the places where such processions use to be performed, that those who have been accustomed for several years to discipline themselves in them, cannot leave it off afterwards, without danger of some great disorder, unless they get themselves bled at that time of the year at which those[385] ceremonies use to take place[116]. Madame D’Aunoy says that the first time she saw one of these processions, she thought she should faint away; and she concludes the account she has given of the gallant flagellating excursions that have been abovementioned, with saying that the Gentleman who has thus so handsomely trimmed himself, is often laid up in his room for several days afterwards, and so sick that he cannot go to Mass on Easter Sunday. All the above facts shew how much hardship, practice really may bring Men to bear: and the feats of the above Penitents are not, after all, much more surprising than the prowess of the illustrious Buckhorse, in this Country, who submitted to receive boxes upon any part of his body, and as stoutly applied as people chose to lay them on, for six-pence apiece: he only covered his stomach with his arms across it; and the whole was meant as an advantageous exercise for those who proposed to improve themselves in the art of boxing.

A remarkable instance of this power of use, to enable us to bear hardships, and even blows, occurs among the Chinese. It appears, from the accounts of Travellers, that there are Men, in[386] China, who make it their trade, being properly fee’d for it, to receive bastinadoes in the room of those who are sentenced to it by the Mandarine; in the same manner as there are Men about the Courts of Law, in this Country, ready to bail upon any occasion. As the bastinadoe is inflicted on the spot, while the Mandarine is dispatching other business, the thing is to bribe the Officer who is to superintend the operation: the real Culprit then flips out of the way; the Man who is to do duty for him comes forth, suffers himself to be tied down to the ground, and receives the bastinadoe; which is laid on in such earnest, that a fresh Man, or Executioner, is employed after every ten or twelve strokes.

However, there is perhaps something in all this, arising from the peculiar constitution and frame of the body, besides practice and resolution. This disposition to bear blows without being disturbed, is greatly valued by Boxers, who set it almost upon a par with skill, agility, and real strength. I hope the Reader will thank me if I inform him that this advantageous capability to receive blows without minding them, is technically called by Boxers, a Bottom: at least as it seems from certain publications of those days when the art of boxing was encouraged by the Public in a higher degree than it is at present.


The use that has been made of flagellations in public shows and processions, the different Edicts of Princes for prohibiting or permitting such ceremonies, the Bulls issued by different Popes to approve or condemn them, and the decisions and regulations of a number of Men invested with the first dignities in the Church on the subject of voluntary discipline, are not the only circumstances that prove the great importance of which these practices have gradually grown to be in the Christian World: we ought not to omit to say that they have been the cause of much difference in opinion among the Learned; for something essential would certainly be wanting to the glory of flagellations, had they not been the cause of dissentions among Men, and if at least Treatises pro and con had not been written on occasion of them.

Some among the Learned have, it seems, blamed the pious exercises here alluded to, without restriction: such were the Cardinal Stephen, and Peter Cerebrosus, who have been mentioned in a former place, as well as certain learned Ecclesiastics in Rome, against whom Cardinal Damian likewise wrote. Others have condemned the cruelty with which the same exercises were sometimes performed: among them was Gerson, whose arguments, together with those of the Advocate-General Servin in his speech against the Blue Penitents[388] of Bourges, are recited at some length in the Abbé Boileau’s ninth Chapter.

Debates have, moreover, taken place among the Learned, concerning the precise views with which disciplines ought to be performed, as well as on the properest occasions. And disputes have in particular run high, concerning the degree of efficaciousness of such pious exercises: on which the Reader may remember what has lately been said of the doctrines advanced by the Hereticks called Flagellants.

Differences in opinion have also prevailed with respect to the manner in which disciplines are to be executed: some asserting that penitents ought to inflict them upon themselves with their own hands; and others being equally positive that they ought to receive them from the hands of other persons; this was one of the arguments of Gerson.

In fine, debates have taken place concerning the properest situation for penitents to be in, when undergoing such mortifications. Some have objected to the disciplining persons laying themselves bare for that purpose, as being contrary to decency; while others, at the head of whom was Cardinal Damian, have strenuously declared for a state of unlimited nakedness. The following is one of the arguments of the Cardinal on the subject.


‘Tell me, whoever you may be, who are actuated by so much pride as to deride the Passion of our Saviour, and who, refusing to be stripped along with him, ridicule his nakedness, and call his sufferings mere dreams or trifles, tell me, pray, what you prepare to do, when you shall see this heavenly Saviour, who was publicly stripped and fastened to a cross, clad with majesty and glory, accompanied by an innumerable multitude of Angels, surrounded by incomparable and inexpressible splendours, and infinitely more glorious than all visible and invisible things? what will you do, I say, when you shall see him whose ignominy you pretend to despise, seated upon a Tribunal exalted and surrounded by fire, and judging all Mankind in a manner both equitable and terrible? Then will the Sun lose its lustre; the Moon will be involved in darkness; the Stars will fall from their places; the foundations of mountains will be shaken; only a few scarce gloomy rays will be sent from the skies; the earth and air will be consumed by impetuous fires, and all the elements confounded together: what, once more, will you do, when all these things shall happen? of what service to you will these clothes and garments be, with which you now are covered, and which you refuse to lay aside, to submit to the exercise of penitence? with what presumptuous[390] audaciousness do you hope to partake of the glory of Him whose shame and ignominy you now refuse to share?’——The above is certainly the best argument I have hitherto read in favour of nakedness; and it reconciles me to Cardinal Damian, whom I find to have been no bad Writer.

This necessity of nakedness to complete the merit of Penance, has been insisted upon by other Men of importance besides him whom we have just spoken of; and without alledging any further authority on this subject, it will suffice to observe that the greatest personages have submitted to that part of Penitence we mention; several instances of which have been produced in a former Chapter.

Nay, the more complete was this privation of clothes, the more merit there was thought to be in it: hence we find that several Offenders have proportioned their freedom from habiliments, to the greatness of the sense they entertained of their offences; and on this occasion may be recited the penance performed by Fulk, surnamed Grisegonnelle, about the year 1000.

This Fulk, who was a very powerful Man in France, being the Son of the great Seneschal of the Kingdom, had been a most bad and violent Man in those times of feudal Anarchy, when force was almost the only law that existed, and[391] the Nobles and Lords were rather Heads of Robbers, than persons invested with any precise dignity. Among other crimes the above Fulk had committed, he had killed with his own hand Conan, Duke of Britanny. He had performed three pilgrimages to the Holy Land; and on the last, meaning to render his penance complete and perfectly unexceptionable, he caused himself to be drawn naked upon a hurdle, with a halter round his neck, through the streets of Jerusalem. Men who had been directed so to do, lashed him by turns, with scourges; and a person appointed for that purpose, cried at certain intervals, Lord! have mercy on the traitor and forswearer Fulk. He lived very devoutly afterwards, and founded several Monasteries. An account of this Fulk, and his penance, is to be found in Moreri’s Dictionary.

Others have carried their notions on the present subject still farther, and have thought that bare freedom from habiliments, had some sanctity peculiar to it, and possessed, of itself, a great degree of merit. The Cynic Philosophers in Greece, among whom Diogenes was particularly remarkable, frequently made, we find, their appearance in public, without even a single rag to cover their nakedness; and the Indian Philosophers called Gymnosophists, constantly appeared in the same light[392] kind of dress, as we learn from their appellation itself, which signifies naked Sages.

Sages of the same kind still continue to exist in the same quarters we speak of; and we have likewise had, in our parts of the World, particular Sages or Sectaries, who have attributed no less merit to a state of nakedness. Such were the Adamites, mentioned by St. Austin. These Adamites, thinking they would effectually assimilate themselves to our first Parents before their fall, if they appeared in the same habit, would put themselves in a compleat state of nature during certain solemnities of their own, and either ventured to make their appearance in the public streets in that condition, or did the same, both Men and Women together, in private conventicles or houses, which, if it was winter time, they took care to have well warmed beforehand.

About the year 1300, a Sect of the same kind, called the Turlupins (which word rather seems to have been a nickname, than a serious appellation of that sect) made their appearance in France, again declaring themselves, as well by their example as by their words, for freedom from accoutrements. To these the Picards, a century afterwards, succeeded in Germany, who carrying their opinion on the sanctity of nakedness, and their abhorrence of such unhallowed thing as clothing, farther than the Adamites had done, made[393] at all times their appearance in a perfect state of nature. A certain party of Anabaptists, adopting the doctrine of these Picards, tried, on the thirteenth day of February in the year 1535, to make an excursion in the streets of Amsterdam, in the hallowed state we mention; but the Magistracy, not taking the joke so well as they ought to have done, used these Adventurers in rather a severe manner.

In fine, to the instances of nakedness we have just recited, we ought not to omit to add that of Brother Juniperus, a Friar of the Franciscan Order: and the merit of this Friar was the greater in that, different from the abovementioned partisans of nakedness, he performed his own processions alone, with great assurance and composure.

‘Another time he entered the Town of Viterbo; and while he stood within the gate, he put his breeches on his head, and, his gown being tied round his neck in the shape of a load, he walked through the streets of the Town, where he suffered many tricks from the inhabitants; and still in the same situation, he went to the Convent of the Brothers, who all exclaimed against him; but he cared little for them, so holy was this good little Brother[117].’


This account of Brother Juniperus, is extracted from the Book called “Of the Conformities” (De Conformitatibus) or rather from that called the Alcoran of the Cordeliers, which is an extract from the former: for this Book of the Conformities exists, it is said, no longer; or at least only two or three Copies of it are to be come at, in certain Libraries, the name of which I have forgotten. The Book in question, which is well known from other old Books that mention it, was a compilation made by Franciscan Monks: the design of it, besides reciting pious Anecdotes relative to the Order, was to investigate the conformities between Jesus Christ, and their Founder St. Francis; and the advantage commonly was, in these comparisons, modestly given to the latter. After the period of the Reformation, the Monks of the Order we speak of, became somewhat ashamed of the performance, and have since succeeded in suppressing it, only two or three copies, as hath been above observed, being now left: a Protestant Minister, who procured sight of one of them, has, in this Century, done the Cordeliers or Franciscans the charitable service of giving an extract from the most remarkable Articles to the World, under the abovementioned title of the Alcoran of the Cordeliers.


However, these stark-naked processions performed by the Cynic Philosophers, by the Adamites, the Turlupins, the Picards, and by Brother Juniperus, never met, we find, with any great and lasting countenance from the Public; and, as beatings without nakedness, that is mere bastinadoes, have generally been considered as being but dull and unmeritorious acts of penance, and accordingly never experienced any degree of encouragement, so, nakedness without beatings, has been but indifferently practiced or relished. But when flagellations have been employed, then has the scene become cheered and enlivened; then have Penitents entertained sufficient consciousness of their merit, to continue their exercises with perseverance and regularity; then have numerous converts contributed to perpetuate the practice; then have the World thought the affair worth engaging their attention, and public shews, ceremonies, and solemnities, have been instituted.

Ceremonies of this kind have, however, been planned with different success, by which I mean with different degrees of ingenuity, among different Nations.

The flagellating Solemnities, for instance, that took place in Lacedæmon, are not in any degree intitled to our approbation; very far from it. The cruel advantage that was taken in them, of the silly pride of Boys, to prevail upon them to suffer[396] themselves to be cut to pieces, rendered such ceremonies a practice of really a brutish kind; and it is difficult to decide whether there was in them more inhumanity, or stupidity. The same is to be said of the Solemnities of a similar kind that were performed among the Thracians.

Less exceptionable than those just mentioned certainly were the ceremonies exhibited by the Egyptians, and by the Syrian Priests of Bellona; since it is evident that no kind whatever of compulsion took place in them, in regard to any person.

The same observation is to be made in favour of the processions of modern Flagellants, in which every one has the scourging of his own skin; and at the same time it must be owned that the gallantry and courtship paid to the fair Sex, which so eminently prevail in those processions, are circumstances that greatly recommend them. On the other hand, the gloomy affectation of sanctity which is mixed with the festivity and pageantry of those disciplining solemnities, gives the whole an air of hypocrisy, which is in some degree disgusting, and the degree of real cruelty with which they are attended, cannot but compleat the aversion of such persons as use has not reconciled to the thought of them.

The festival of the Lupercalia that was performed in Rome, had indeed greatly the advantage of all the ceremonies of the kind that ever were instituted.[397] It really deserved to have been contrived, or continued, by a People more polite and refined than the Romans, especially in early times, are represented to us to have been.

Among other excellencies the Festival we speak of possessed, it was performed but once a year, and only continued a few days: for, ceremonies of this kind ought to occur but seldom, and be only of short duration; and it was like a short time of Saturnalia, during which each Sex kindly exhibited to the sight of the other those personal charms and advantages which they wisely kept hidden during the rest of the whole year.

In the second place, the real design of the whole transaction was pretty openly and candidly acknowledged: and if we except the few religious rites by which the ceremony was begun, which served to give dignity to it, and the notion of the power of the slaps of the Luperci to render Women fruitful, which served to give importance to the whole solemnity, it was agreed fairly enough on all sides, that no more was meant than temporary pastime and amusement.

In the third place, no cruelty whatever took place in the performance of the Festival we speak of, nor was it possible any should; and from the lightness and the breadth of the straps which the Luperci employed, we may judge of their tender anxiousness not to do, through zeal or other cause,[398] any injury to the fair objects who made application to them.

When one of the three bands of Luperci (out of which every Man who wanted an excellent shape or elegant address, was no doubt irremissibly blackballed) had been let loose out of the Temple of the God Pan, and after the coming of a Lupercus into any particular street had been announced by the flourishes of the haut-boys, the clarinets, the trumpets, kettle-drums, and other musical instruments that were stationed near the entrance of it (for we are absolutely to suppose that music contributed to embellish so charming a festival) some one of the amiable persons who proposed to receive benefit from the Lupercus’s services, moved out of the croud, and threw herself into his way.

On sight of her, the whole fierceness of the Lupercus became softened. However kindled his spirits might have been by the religious rites by which the ceremony was begun, by the course he had just performed, and the sight of the multitude of spectators who lined the streets, whatever in short might be that state of fever in which Festus seems to represent him, the februans Lupercus, at the sight of the lovely creature who obstructed his passage, felt his agitation succeeded by sensations of the most benevolent sort.


So far from entertaining designs of a severe of cruel nature, he scarcely possessed sufficient power to raise his arm, and perform with a faint hand the office that was expected from him. His bosom was filled with the softest passions. Intirely lost in the contemplation of the lovely object that made application to him, already did he begin to have thoughts of employing remedies of a more obvious and natural kind,—already, forgetting all Mankind, did he attempt to inclose her in his arms; when the acclamations of the spectators and the sudden explosion of the musical instruments, at once recalled him to himself; he flew from the amiable person who had thus so thoroughly engaged his attention, and hastened to other objects equally amiable, who likewise came to crave his assistance. If I was called upon to give my vote for any ceremony of the kind here mentioned, I would give it for the festival of the Lupercalia, especially with the improvements that had been made in it about the time of Pope Gelasius. (See p. 94.)

[116] In a certain Spanish book, the name of which I do not remember, a Man is reproached with having besmeared himself with sheep’s blood, in order to make people believe he had flagellated himself in a distinguished manner.

[117] Aliâ vice intravit Viterbium, & dùm esset in portâ, fœmoralibus positis in capite, habitu in modum fardeli ligato ad collum, sic nudus ad plateas ivit civitatis, ubi multas verecundias perpessus est; & nudus ad locum fratrum ivit, omnibus contrà eum clamantibus, ipso tamen de us parùm curante, tam sanctus fuit iste fratricellus.



The last Chapter, in which the Abbé Boileau is personally introduced: he is of opinion that the lower discipline is contrary to decency, and the upper discipline is liable to bring defluxions on the eyes[118].

SEVERAL Divines, as we have seen, have united in blaming the cruel severity with which certain persons used to inflict disciplines[401] upon themselves, by which those persons assimilated themselves to Idolaters and Pagans; besides, it is well worth observing that, by this very severity, those zealous performers[402] of disciplines in the issue obstruct their own piety, and defeat their own ends.

In fact, Physicians and Anatomists inform us, that such is the secret, or open, communication between all parts of the human body, that it is impossible to do any material and continual kind of injury to any, without the other parts being, sooner or later, affected by it: hence it follows that those persons who execute disciplines upon themselves with the great severity we mention, in process of time fall into serious distempers of some kind or other; so that they at length find themselves disabled from continuing those practices by which they intended to procure the improvement of their morals.

The next and the most tender parts are, in the cases we speak of, unavoidably affected by the consequence of the injury that is thus done to the other parts; and from harsh disciplines repeatedly performed upon the shoulders, at length arise, as the learned Bartholinus observes, disorders and defluxions on the eyes.

This inconvenience from the exercises we mention, much perplexed Father Gretzer, who, as hath been before observed, was a great friend to the practice of discipline; and in order to be thoroughly satisfied on that subject,[403] he one day consulted a Physician, a friend of his, who partly freed him from his fears, and partly confirmed them. This Physician made answer, that disciplines executed on the shoulders, when performed with moderation, were perfectly harmless with respect to the eyesight; but then he absolutely avoided giving any such opinion in regard to those which were performed in a harsh or cruel manner. The following is the oracle which the Physician in question delivered.

‘The vulgar opinion, that lashes, applied to the back, are apt to hurt the eyes, is not well grounded. It is true that the great loss of blood injures the brain, and consequently the eyes, which are called by some the sprouts of it; and this it effects by the diminution it causes of the vital heat. But there does not arise from disciplines, such a great loss of blood as that the brain may thereby suffer any considerable deperdition of its heat: on the contrary; since scarifications on the back are often employed with success for the cure of disorders in the eyes, why should bad consequences to them be feared from a few stripes? Those therefore alone who are of a weakly habit of body the exercise in question can hurt, but not persons of a good constitution; and when disciplines are so moderately inflicted as to[404] cause no loss of blood, and barely to affect the colour of the skin, no detriment certainly ought to be feared from them.’ Such was the decision of this excellent Physician, and to it Father Gretzer adds that he willingly and readily subscribes[119].

All physicians, however, have not agreed with him whose authority we have just quoted. Some have delivered different opinions concerning the harmlessness of discipline with respect to the eyes; and whether it was that the Capuchin Friars thought the advice of these latter of greatest weight, or that they intended their zeal should be unrestrained by any apprehension, they have adopted the use of the lower discipline; and the generality of Nuns have done the same, from the like intention, of securing their eye sight. Determined thereto by the advice of able Physicians and pious persons, they have given up the method of flagellating themselves on their shoulders, in order to belabour and slash their loins and posteriors with knotted small cords and hardened rods[120].


But while the persons we speak of have endeavoured to prevent dangers of one kind, they have incurred others which are still worse. By most of the antient Monastic Rules, religious persons were forbidden to inspect any part of their naked bodies, for fear of the wicked thoughts to which such indulgence might give rise: now, how is it possible for persons who strip intirely naked, in order to take discipline, to help, however great their piety may be, having a sight of those parts of themselves which they have been directed never to look on? How can Nuns avoid, in those instants, having at least a glance of those excellent beauties[121] which they are forbidden to[406] survey, and which they thus imprudently expose to the light of the Sun? By substituting one kind of discipline to the other, religious persons have, I am afraid, only laid themselves open, as hath been above observed, to dangers of a still worse nature than those they meant to avoid, and have perhaps only fallen from Charybdis into Scylla[122].


Neither, if such disciplines cannot be performed in secret without danger, is it very prudent to execute them in the presence of witnesses.[408] Tertullian observes, that ‘Nature has made either fear or shame, the attendants of every evil action.’ Now, if we judge from this rule, we shall become convinced of the truth of the observations we are making here. In fact, what Man or Woman could, without fear or shame, execute a lower discipline in company with other persons? who could without reluctance firk their loins and posteriors with rods, on an exalted place, and in the middle of a numerous Assembly of People? who could thus undauntedly expose their nakedness to the rays of the Sun, and to the eyes of a multitude of Spectators[123]?

(end of chapter mark)

F I N I S.


[118] In order to support his opinion concerning the dangers of disciplines, the Abbé Boileau has quoted Bartholinus’s treatise De medico flagrorum usu, and that wrote by John-Henry Meibomius, a Professor at Lubeck, De usu flagrorum in re venereâ. The singularity of these titles led me to look into both publications, in order to be able to give my opinion about them, and also in hope I might pick a few facts and quotations to entertain the Reader with: but I have been disappointed; both Treatises being as dull unconnected farragos as ever were printed. From Meibomius’s Treatise, and also from Cœlius Rhodiginus’s Book, the Abbé had however borrowed two stories, which I at first intended to insert in this Chapter; but as I have found them, upon more attentive examination, to be related in no pleasing nor even probable manner, besides being very long, I have set them aside, contrary to the design of this Work, as I have explained it in the Introduction, which was to make use of and introduce, in the Text, all the facts and quotations scattered in the Abbé’s Book: I therefore make my apology to the Reader, for the omission.

To the other facts thus supplied by the Abbé’s Work, I have in this Chapter, conformably to the promise made at p. 131, added the Abbé’s own expressions and remarks, not only on account of their great ingenuity, but also in order that the present final Chapter might be a common conclusion of our respective talks, and that the Abbé and me, joining hands again in it, might thus have an opportunity, as is the custom at the end of Plays, to make our obeisance together, and take a joint leave of the Public.

[119] ... ad cujus sententiam, meam libens volensque adjungo.

[120] Quippecum eâ de causâ Capucini, multæque Moniales, virorum Medicorum ac piorum hominum consilio, ascesim flagellandi sursum humeros reliquerint, ut sibi nates lumbosque strient asperatis virgis, ac nodosis funiculis conscribillent.

[121] Ho, ho, Monsieur l’Abbé! How come you to be so well acquainted with beauties of the kind you mention here, and to speak of them in so positive a manner? For, the Reader must not think I here lend any expressions to the Abbé which are not his own: Num probrosum (says he), soli ostendere lumbos & femora juvenilia, excellenti formê, quamvis religionis honestate consecrata? This Monsieur l’Abbé, for his excursion upon objects and beauties which, one should have thought, lie out of his province, richly deserves a lecture of the same kind with that which Parson Adams received from Lady Booby, when he ventured to expatiate, in her Ladyship’s presence, on the beauties of Fanny.

[122] These dangers arising from self-examination I do not allow myself to call in question; since, besides the Abbé Boileau, the Framers of Monastic Rules have taken notice of them; and indeed I find Brantôme has entertained thoughts of the same kind; and many facts are to be found in that Chapter of his which he has intitled Of Sight in Love, that fully confirm the above observations. But besides these serious dangers into which a too curious examination of one’s-self may lead, there are others very well worth mentioning: I mean to speak of the acts of pride, vanity, self-admiration and complacency, to which the above curiosity may give rise. Vanity and a disposition to admire one’s-self, are dispositions that are but too general among Mankind; and there is hardly a time in life at which we may be said to be perfectly cured of such worldly affections. On this occasion I shall produce the following anecdote, which is related by Brantôme.

A certain Lady, who had been very handsome, and now was somewhat advanced in years, would no longer look at her face in the looking-glass, for fear of discovering some new injury time might have done to it; but she used to survey the other parts of her body, and then, suddenly actuated by the worldly vanity we speak of, she exclaimed, “God be thanked, here I do not grow old” (je ne vieillis point.)

These dangers of a too curious examination of one’s own person, are extremely well expressed by Ovid, in that part of his Metamorphosis where he describes Narcissus sitting near that clear silver fountain in which he contemplated himself:

Fons erat illimis, nitidis argenteus undis.

And the Poet relates, in a very lively manner, the astonishment of the Youth, at the sight of, as he thought, his own charms and perfections.

... visæ correptus imagine formæ
Adstupet ipse sibi.

That unexperienced Nuns should be led, by their disciplines, into faults of a similar kind, are therefore very natural apprehensions. Being thoroughly engaged in the contemplation of those beauties which they expose to light, it is no wonder that all their thoughts of a religious kind should vanish: and they even may very well in the issue, inchanted as they are by what they are beholding, intirely forget and neglect those pious exercises which they have purposely retired to their cell to perform.

[123] Quid turpius excogitari potest, sivè viro sivè fœminæ, quàm, lumbis & femoribus ad radios Solis apertis, seipsum diverberare?... Quis in edito & aperto loco, plenis comitiis, in conspectu hominum, lumbos natesque virgis cædere non pertimescat?

This exhibition of nakedness to the rays of the Sun, the Poet Lafontaine observes, is only fit for the New World. He expresses this opinion in that Tale which has been above quoted, The Pair[409] of Spectacles, when he attempts to express the objects which the Nuns exhibited to the sight of each other, and of the Abbess: “Niggardly and proud charms, which the Sun is allowed to see only in the New World, for this does not shew them to him.”

—— chiches & fiers appas
Que le Soleil ne voit qu’au nouveau monde,
Car celui-ci ne les lui montre pas.

However, notwithstanding the opinion of the Poet Lafontaine, it seems that an exhibition of charms and attractions, even superior to what takes place in the New World, is common in Russia; which is certainly a part of our Old World: the Reader may see in the accounts given by Travellers, that individuals of both Sexes, after some stay in the hot-baths and stoves in use in that Country, will rush out promiscuously together, stark-naked, playing, and delightfully rolling themselves in the snow. If Russia had been more visited by Travellers in the times of Cardinals Damian and Pullus, these two great Promoters of nakedness would have been supplied with facts much to the advantage of their doctrine.

Bartholinus too, from the accounts of the same Travellers would have been supplied with excellent materials for composing his abovementioned Treatise, On the physical use of Flagellations. The Abbé Dauteroche, one of the latest Travellers who have published an account of Russia, where he went to observe the transit of Venus, gives a[410] somewhat accurate description of the baths and stoves we mention. The heat is commonly carried in them to so high a degree as the fiftieth of Reaumur’s scale (which answer to the 130th of Fahrenheit’s; the greatest summer heat in England seldom surpasses, or even reaches, 80) a suffocating steam is raised by throwing plenty of water upon stones kept constantly red hot; and, in order to carry the agitation of the blood still farther, flagellations are applied to: a bundle of birchen twigs, with the leaves on, which being dry are soon stripped off, is as constant a part of the bathing implements and furniture, as a handkerchief or a towel. All these different operations being fulfilled, the bathers, as is above said, rush out into the external air, sometimes ten, or even twenty degrees colder than it was in this Country in the year 1740, and roll themselves in the snow, or jump into water through holes made in the ice. These are certainly surprising instances of what the human body may be brought to bear; much more remarkable than those that have been before mentioned; and the boxes of Buckhorse, the Chinese bastinadoes, and the flagellations of the Italian and Spanish disciplinants, are nothing in comparison to it. But, for a farther account of the Russian stoves, and of the trial the Abbé Dauteroche had the curiosity to make of them, as well as of the unexpected and unwelcome entertainment he received, I must refer the Reader to the Work itself he has published.


(start of index mark)


Abbots, possess an unlimited power of imposing disciplines on their Monks, 135, 139.
Trick played by a certain Abbot to his Monks, 143, & seq.
Are not respected by their Monks in proportion to their great power over them, 154, & seq.
An explanation of the common saying, they wait for him as Monks do for their Abbot, ibid.
See Priors.

Abelard, the great pains he takes for the instruction of Heloisa, 235, 236.
His letters to her, quoted, 236, 243.

Adamites, mentioned by St. Austin, what sect they were, 392.

Adams (Parson), proposed as a pattern of gallantry and proper behaviour, 294.
Receives a lecture from a Lady, which he deserves, 405.

Adhelm, an English Saint, the kind of mortification he recommends to young women, 246.

Adriasem, alias Adriansen (Cornelius), what kind of penance he imposes upon his female penitents, 231.
A farther account of him, 234.
Is the inventor, or at least the promoter, of the Cornelian discipline, 235.

Adrian I. (Pope) occupied the Holy Chair in the year 772, and forbids Confessors to beat their penitents, 229.

Ægyptians, an account of their religious ceremonies and flagellations, 85.

Ajax Mastigophoros, a Tragedy of Sophocles, a remarkable passage in it, quoted, 54.

Alcoran of the Cordeliers, what Book, 394.

Amorous History of Gauls, quoted, 342.

Anabaptists, a pious expedition and procession of theirs, 393.

Anchorites of the East, accounts of their self-mortifications, 112, & seq.

Anthony (St.) is the Institutor of Monastical Life, 127.
[412]Frequent visits he receives from the Devil, and the different treatments he experiences from him, 125, 127.

Apuleius, quoted, 86.

Aulus Gellius, quoted, 149.

Austin (St.) his remarkable advice to the Tribune Marcellinus, concerning Heretics, 133.

Augustus, is said to have subjected the Romans to his whip, 60.


Bastinadoes, are but incomplete acts of penance, 224, 395.

Bath (Knights of the) at the time of their installation are to receive admonitions from the Master Cook of the Sovereign, 186.

Bernardinus de Bustis, a sermon of his quoted, 310.

Bernardinus of Sienna, in what manner he receives the advances of a Lady, 263.
Is not a fit model for ordinary persons to imitate, 294, 297.

Bishops, are invested, in the earliest times, with a power of flagellation over their flock, 132, & seq.

Boileau (the Abbé) specimens of his Latin, 232, 263;
personally introduced, 400;
reprimanded, 405.

Bolingbroke (Lord) writes Ministerial dispatches on the posteriors of his Mistress, 285.

Bonner, Bishop of London, his method of informing Hereticks, 258.

Boston Magistrates and Select-men served with a flagellation, 273, & seq.

Bottom, a, a boxing technical expression; its meaning, 386.

Brantôme, quoted, 173, 176, 178, 239, 407.

Bridget, a holy Nun, sets both St. Chrysostom and St. Austin right, by means of a vision she has, 107.

Buchanan, his flagellatory jokes, 160.

Buckhorse, his prowess, 385.

Buffoon (a Court) in Spain, his witticism at the expence of the Queen, and flagellatory reward for the same, 178.

Burnet, quoted, 259, 267.

Buxtorf, his Judaic Synagogue quoted, 35, 36.


Caligula (the Emperor) his expedients for silencing those who made a noise near him in the Theatre, 266.

Calot, the celebrated Engraver, mentioned, 127.

Canillac (the Marquis of) falls in love with Margaret, Queen of Navarre, on sight of her fine arm, 269.

Canon (an English) Dean of the Church of Rheims, bestows a sound admonition and discipline on the Bishop of Châlons, 151, 152.
Thanks given him by the latter, ibid.

Captives, the treatment they experienced from their Conquerors, in antient times, 53, 54, 265.

Capuchin Friars, declare for the use of the lower discipline, 21, 404.
[413]Charitable offer of one to a young woman, 188.
His success in that affair, ibid.

Cechald (the widow) resolutely performs the hundred years penance, 221.

Celebrated Causes (the Collection of) quoted, 281.

Cerebrosus (the Monk) opposes the practice of self-flagellation, and writes against Cardinal Damian on that subject, 212.

Cervantes, quoted, 295. Has thrown a great light on the subject of flagellations, 325.

Chantpré (the Monk) runs the gantelope through the whole tribe of Devils, for his having refused to practice self-flagellation while he was alive, 302.

China, bastinadoes submitted to for money, 386.

Christians, did not, at the time of the first establishment of Christianity, adopt the use of voluntary flagellations, 39, & seq.
Nor do they seem to have practised them in the times which immediately followed that period, 102, & seq.
Have confessedly imitated several practices from the antient Pagans, 100, 101.
The time at which the use of voluntary disciplines, evidently appears to have become universally received among them, 192, & seq. 201, & seq.
Voluntary flagellations have never been so commonly practised among the Eastern, as among the Western Christians, 123.
Difference in the notions of these two Sects, with respect to such practices, 362, & seq.
A crimination of the Greek or Eastern Christians, against the Latin or Western Christians, 250.

Church, how strictly adheres to its forms and ritual, 254.

Churchill (Miss Arabella) dazzles his Royal Highness the Duke of York; by what means, 286.

Cicero, quoted, 59, 80.

Claudius (the Emperor) jokes of his buffoons with him, 97.

Clergy, it is a sacrilege to beat one of the Clergy, 228.
Exception to that rule, ibid.
Surprising licence that prevailed among them at a certain period, 316.

Climax (St. John) examination of a passage in his Book, 121, 122.
The truer meaning of this passage, 365.

Clopinel (the Poet) his case hinted at, 268.
Farther account of him, 332, & seq.
His witticism at the expence of the Fair Sex, 333;
the sentence passed upon him on that occasion by the Court Ladies, and his lucky escape, ibid.

Cobbing-board, an instrument on board ships, 292.

Cobler, a remarkable adventure of an Arabian Cobler, 290.

Column (the), to which Jesus Christ was fastened, the inscription put afterwards upon it, 103.
True meaning of that inscription, 105.

Commodus (the Emperor), a law of his to prevent the cheats of the Priests of Bellona, in Syria, 87, 88.[414]

Confessors. Their great influence over their penitents, and the reason of it, 21, 22.
Assume a power of beating their penitents, 227.
Are forbidden by Pope Adrian I. to do so, 229.
Ingenious penances imposed by some of them, 230, & seq.
Dangers of their profession, 243, & seq.
Advice given them by St. Charles Borromee, 245.
Their situation with respect to decorum, ibid.
The expedients contrived by some among them, 246, 247.

Conformities (the Book of the) a farrago of superstitious trash; an account of the book, 394.

Cornelia Juliana, a Holy Nun, gives the Devil his due, 305.

Cornelian discipline defined, 235.
See Discipline.

Cotelier, a Doctor of the Sorbonne, his Monuments of the Greek Church quoted, 250.

Coxcomb, a Russian; how chastised by a set of Ladies, 334, & seq.

Crofton (Zachary), a Reverend Divine, and a propagator of Cornelian flagellations in this Country, 237.
Farther account of him, 238.

Cuistre, a flagellator in a public School; the original meaning of the word, 189.

Curate (a French), animadverts upon the Abbé Boileau for his depreciating the lower discipline, 120.

Cynic Philosophers, great partisans of nakedness, 391.


Dacier (Mons.) a very learned man in all that relates to antiquity, quoted, 96.

Dagobert, heir to the Crown of France in the year 526, orders a correction to be inflicted upon his preceptor, 74, 75.

Damian (the Cardinal) the great Patron of Flagellations, 192, 201, & seq.
Declares freedom from accoutrements the best state, for performing such pious exercises, 223.
A convincing argument of his on the subject, quoted, 389.

D’Aunoy (Madame), a French Lady of quality, her Journey into Spain quoted, 375, 377, 385.

D’Arbrissel (Robert), lies with young women by way of mortification, 246.

Dauteroche (Abbé Chappe), his Journey to Siberia quoted, 409, 410.

Denmark, flagellations are not unknown in that Country, and are even sometimes performed at Court, 291.

Devil (the), makes it a common practice to flagellate Saints, 125, & seq.
A holy Nun at last proves an overmatch for him, 305.

Disciplinants. See Flagellants.

Disciplines, the different meanings of that word, 19.
The great variety of instruments used for inflicting them, 226.
The Cornelian discipline, what it is, 235.
[415]The upper and lower disciplines defined, 21.
The lower discipline is practised by a number of Saints of both Sexes, 120.
The dangers of these two kinds of disciplines, 400, & seq.
See Lower Discipline.
Voluntary disciplines, see Voluntary Flagellations.

Dominic the Cuirassed, a Hero in the career of self-flagellation, 203, & seq.

Du Cange, his Glossary, quoted, 142, 180, 200.


Edesse, the familiar manner in which its inhabitants treated the statue of the Emperor Constantine, 288.

Edmund (St.) Archbishop of Canterbury, a great instance of his virtue, while he pursues his studies in Paris, 262.

Elizabeth (Queen), no lover of formality in giving tokens of her displeasure, 190.
Seems to have used peculiar methods for rendering her Ministers what they ought to be, 343, 344.

Empress, the, wife to Justinian II. is threatened with a flagellation by the great Eunuch, 173.

Engineer, an, of the Town of Elæa, an officious mistake of his, and atonement for the same, 149, 150.

Essex (the Earl of) his letter to Queen Elizabeth, quoted, 343.


Fakirs, their astonishing penances, which are well-ascertained facts, render every account of that kind credible, 115, 206.
Dialogue between one and a Turk, quoted from M. de Voltaire, 207.

Fathers, antient Greek and Latin, are their expressions about self-scourgings and beatings to be taken in a literal sense? 122, 123.

Fielding, quoted, 294, 376.

Flagellants, the formation of their processions, 345, & seq.
The success they met with in different Countries, 350.
Description of one of their itinerant processions in Germany, 351, & seq.
Their establishment and first success in France, 355, 372, & seq.
are there discountenanced at last, 373.
Their fraternities must be distinguished from the sect of Hereticks, called Flagellants, 368.
Account of these Hereticks, 369.
Account of these fraternities, 370, & seq.
Are, as it were, naturalised in Italy and Spain, 374.
Manner in which they perform these processions in Spain, 374, & seq.
In Italy, 382, & seq.
Real cruelty of these Flagellants upon themselves, 384, 385.

Flagellating fanaticism, a kind of, seems to have taken place in England about the time of the Rebellion, 340.
[416]Proofs of it, ibid.

Flagellations, are either of a voluntary, or a corrective, or a recommendatory kind. Voluntary flagellations were in use among most Nations of Antiquity, 79, & seq.
Were unknown, it seems, to the first Christians, 102.
Were not prescribed to religious persons by the first Founders of Monastic Orders, 118.
Conjectures about the times in which they grew into use among Christians, 192, & seq.
The time at which they certainly became universally used among them, 201, & seq.
Cruelty with which they are performed, 203, & seq. 384, & seq.
Incredible and superstitious stories contrived to recommend them, 299, & seq.

Flagellations (corrective) their use is known from the earliest times, 51.
Are used as a means of procuring victory in war, 52;
by Masters over their Slaves; great power of Masters in Rome in that respect, 57, & seq.
Both in antient and modern times by Schoolmasters, 71, & seq.
by Judges, 55;
by Ladies to correct misbehaviour, 319, & seq.
Are useful to defeat captious arguments, 177.
To reward satires or bon-mots, 177, 178, 268, & seq.
To check those who betray the secrets of others, 268, & seq.
To repress competitors, 277.
To confute heresy, 258.
Are, in modern times, used in Seraglios, 172;
in the palaces of the western Sovereigns, 173, & seq.
in Monasteries and the rites with which they are performed there, 131, & seq. 180.

Flagellations (jocular) performed as a pastime, 96, 97, 39, 240, 241.

Flagellations (recommendatory) 162, & seq.

Flagellations (in general) are undergone by Sovereigns and Great Men, 265.
Are served by Emperors with their own hands, ibid.
Are useful to make one’s fortune, 267.
To acquire reputation, ibid.
Are very proper to enliven and embellish public festivals, 395.
Are capable of being performed with much gracefulness, 375, 376.
The most comfortable manner to receive them, 253.
Their glory completed, 258.

Francis (St.) his stigmats, a contrivance of his, 109.
Is flagellated by the Devil the very first night after his arrival at Rome, 126.

Friars, miracle effected by one, 128, & seq.
Contrivance of certain Friars in Catalonia, 247.
See Monks.

Fulk Grisegonelle, an account of the penance he performs, 391.


Gay quoted, 77.

Gelasius (Pope), puts an end to the festival of the Lupercalia, 94.
[417]Improvements that had been made in it in his time, ibid.

Gerald (Sylvester) his Itinerarium Cambriæ, quoted, 317.

Gil Blas, quoted, 78.

Girard (Father), inflicts Cornelian disciplines on Miss Cadiere, 237.

Gerund de Campazas, a Spanish Novel, quoted, 293, 379.

Goddesses, weapons with which the Antients supplied them, 60, 319.

Gretzer (Father), a strenuous promoter of flagellations, 44, 45.
His consultation of a Physician recited, 402, 403.

Gymnosophists, or naked Sages, 391.


Heloisa. The friendship of Abelard to her, 236, 243.

Henry II. of England, receives a correction from the Church, 251, 252.

Henry III. of France, inlists as a Brother in a fraternity of Disciplinants, 356, & seq. 372.

Henry IV. of France, receives likewise a correction from the Church, 253.
The great indulgence with which he is treated on that occasion, 254, 255.

Hermits, what kind of men they are, 115.
No better than common Friars; story of one, ibid.

Hérodote (Apologie pour), an account of the Book, 128.
Again quoted, 247, 315.

Herodotus, quoted, 85.

Hooëden (the Rector of), accident that happened to his Concubine, 317.

Hope (Cape of Good), in what manner fires are prevented there, 292.

Horace, quoted, 24, 55, 56, 65, 71, 283.

Hudibras, quoted, 327, 339, 376.

Hume (Mr.) quoted, 259.

Husbands corrected by their Wives, 339.
The subject is extensive and deep, and requires a Treatise apart, 340.


James I. flagellated by his Preceptor, 160.

James II. dazzled by Miss Arabella Churchill’s posteriors, 286.

Jerom (St.) his observations on the epitaph of the widow Marcella, quoted, 94.
His exhortation to Sabinus, 109.
Does not seem to have practised any beatings upon himself, otherwise than with his fists, 110.
Fired with an ardent desire of acquiring the style of Cicero, 111.
Fustigated for that reason by the Angels before the Tribunal of God, ibid.

Jesuit, a Reverend Father Jesuit acts as an agent from Philip II. of Spain, to persuade a Princess of the Austrian House to marry him, 176.
The eloquence of the Father, ibid.
He only draws in the issue a flagellation upon himself, 177.
Is served with it in the kitchen, 177, 187.

Jesuits, their regularity in inflicting flagellations, 161.
[418]Excellent Latin distich made at the expence of the society by one of their School-boys, 162.

Jews (the antient) made not self-flagellations part of their religious worship, 27, & seq.
The impartiality shewn to both sexes among them, 30.
The modern Jews adopt the practice of voluntary flagellations, 35.
A description of their manner of performing them, 35, & seq.
Coercive flagellations were known among them, 27, 28.
The number of the blows was fixed by the Law of Moses at forty, 30.

Innocents (the day of the), a day of great retribution and justice, 328, & seq.
Giving the innocents is an antient as well as ingenious custom, 330, 331.

Italy. Processions of Disciplinants are much in vogue in that Country, 381.
The pageantry and festivity by which they are accompanied, 381, & seq.

Juliet of Gonzaga, abominable act of ingratitude and vanity of that woman, 271.

Juniperus (Brother), a great partisan of nakedness, 393.
His public entrance into the town of Viterbo, and noble carriage as well as sanctity on that occasion, Ibid.

Justin, quoted, 51.

Justina (the Monk of St.) his Chronicle quoted, 346, & seq.

Juvenal, his singular expression with respect to Augustus, 60.
His account of the cruel wantonness of Roman Mistresses with their slaves, 67, & seq.
The festival of the Lupercalia alluded to by him, 91.


Kennet (Bishop), his Chronicle, quoted, 237.

Kitchen (the), is the appropriated place for flagellations in the Palaces of the Western Kings and great Men, 185.
Advantages of the place, ibid.
The great share the people of the kitchen bore in former times in supporting the dignity of Kings, 186.
Farther remark on the importance of the people of the kitchen, 191.
Their laudable zeal in assisting their Masters, 190, 191.

Kolben, his description of the Cape of Good Hope, quoted, 292.


Labat (Father), his travels into Spain and Italy quoted, 382.

Lacedæmon Flagellating solemnities that took place there, 79, & seq.
Are described, or alluded to, by Cicero, Plutarch, Lucian, Seneca, &c. ibid.
Are still in use in the times of Tertullian, 83.
It is difficult to say whether there was more inhumanity or stupidity in these processions, 395.

Ladies have an abhorrence to cruelty, even in their acts of revenge, 320.
[419]Neither do they intirely overlook offences; remarkable instances of both their spirited resentment and mercifulness, 321, & seq.
Aim at elegance in all their actions, 320, & seq.
The singular power of the graces to engage their attention, 376.
Have a right to flagellate their Husbands, 339, 340.

Lady (a great), mentioned by Brantôme; the remarkable entertainments and festivity that took place in her house, 239, & seq.

Lancelot du Lac, the Knight, his History quoted, 218, 228.

Lafontaine, the Poet, quoted, 116, 196, 243, 322, 409.

Law (the study of the), what is necessary to succeed in it, 282.

Lazare (the Fathers of), their seminary; the excellent institution it was, 162.
The extensiveness of their operations, 163, 164.
Their scrupulous exactness in performing their engagements, ibid.
The occasion of their seminary being abolished, 165, 166.

Lazarillo de Tormes, the notorious Spanish Cheat; how punished by his four Wives, 327.

Legend (Golden), a farrago of Monkish stories compiled by Jacobus de Voragine, 115.
Again quoted, 151.

Lewis XI. of France; the rascally turn of his devotion, 207.

Liancourt (the Lady of), account of this Lady; her competition with the Marchioness of Tresnel, 278.
Is worsted in the issue, 280.

Libanius, the Sophist, quoted, 288.

Limeuil (Mademoiselle de), a Maid of Honour to the Queen of France, 173, 174.
The misfortune that befalls her, ibid.

Lower discipline defined, 21.
Is adopted by Capuchin Friars and the whole Tribe of Nuns, 21, 404.
Were not unknown to the Greeks and Romans, 287.
Are known in France, 288.
In Italy, ibid.
Among the Persians, 289.
The Turks, ibid.
The Chinese, ibid.
The Arabs, 290.
In Denmark, 291.
Among the Dutch, 292.
In Poland, 179, 292.
In England, ibid.
In Spain, 293.
A few remarks on their propriety, 400, & seq.

Loyola (Ignatius of), gets himself whipt at School, 98.

Lucian, quoted, 24, 81, 82, 96, 319.

Lupercalia, account of that festival, 90, & seq.
It is continued to very late times, 93.
Is greatly improved, 94.
An attempt to revive it, 241.
A farther description of it, 396, & seq.
Had vastly the advantage of all the festivals of the like kind, contrived by other nations, ibid.


Margaret, Queen of Navarre, attempts to make herself Mistress of the Town of Agen, 269.[420]
Is forced to fly on horseback with the utmost hurry and expedition, ibid.
The consequences of it, ibid.

Masters in Rome; the great power they possessed over their slaves, 57.
To what degree they abused it, 57, & seq.
Instances of this abuse, 61, 66, & seq.
Provisions made by the Emperors to restrain them, 69, 70;
and by the Church, 61, 70.

Marlborough (the great Duke of), to what he owed his first advancement, 286.

Mathew (Brother), the godly personage he was, 262.
The lecture he bestows upon a young Lady who pays a visit to him in his bed, 263.
Ought not to be imitated, except by persons who possess as much sanctity as him, 294, 297.

Menagiana quoted, 233.

Menas, a Spanish Friar, does not keep his word to his female penitents, 246.

Middleton, his Letter from Rome quoted, 87, 318, 381.

Milo, how serves Sallust the Historian, who had meddled with his Wife, 65.

Milton quoted, 338.

Mind (the human), how variable and fantastick in her opinions, 281.
Singular instance of it, 281, & seq. 287, & seq.

Miserere, or 51st Psalm, the singing of it particularly used to enliven as well as regulate the time of religious flagellation among Christians, 32, 371.

Mistresses in Rome; the abuse they made of their power over their female slaves. See Masters.

Molesworth (Lord), his description of a hunting-match at the Court of Denmark, 291.

Molly Mog, the song made to her honour by Gay, 77.

Molière quoted, 20, 99, 206.

Monastic Orders; by whom first instituted, 118.

Monasteries: voluntary disciplines were not in use in them, in the times of their first foundation, 118, & seq.

Monks, receive frequent disciplines from their Abbots, 135, & seq.
Cases in which such disciplines ought to be inflicted on them, ibid.
Do not much respect their Abbot, notwithstanding his power of flagellation, 154, & seq.
An explanation of this singularity, ibid.
Great lovers of entertainments, 142.
Account of a treat given by one to some others, 143, 144;
after reckoning for the same, 145, 146.
The remarkable zeal of one against adultery, 138.
The great zeal of another in vindicating the honour of the Virgin, 310, 311.
The wager made by a certain Monk, 314;
comes off winner, 315.
See Friars.

More (Chancellor), adopts the opinion of the usefulness of flagellations for converting Hereticks, 259.

Munson (Lord), chastised by his Lady, 339.
[421]Farther account of him, 340.


Nakedness is thought by some to possess, of itself, a degree of sanctity, 391, & seq.
Account of several of its practitioners, ibid.
The strong arguments of Cardinal Damian in its favour, 389.
Is after all but an incomplete act of penance, 395.

Navarre (the Tales of the Queen of), quoted, 188, 330, 331.

Nuns, their confinement and amorous visions, 107, 108.
Settled days on which they are to inflict disciplines upon themselves, 120, 121.
Power of the Abbess to inflict disciplines upon them, 167, & seq.
Cases in which she is directed to use that power, ibid.
The spirited manner in which certain Nuns assert the honour of their Convent, 322, & seq.


Orbilius (the flogging), 71, 160.

Ovid, his advice to Lovers, 341.
Again quoted, 407.


Pardulph (St.) affords an instance of voluntary discipline, in early times, 198.

Pavillon, his verses to the praise of Iris’s Bum, 286.

Penance, or Penitence, is a Sacrament among Catholicks, 22;
its essentials, ibid.
The hundred years penance, what it is, 203, & seq.
Is sometimes performed in twenty days, ibid.
Was but a trifle for Rodolph of Eugubio, and Dominic the Cuirassed, ibid.
The Widow Cechald likewise performs it, 221.

Penitents, processions of Penitents.
See Flagellants.
Blue Penitents in the City of Bourges; their fraternity abolished, 360, 373.

Peregrinus (the Philosopher), flagellatory pastimes of his, 96.

Persians, the use of flagellations is known among them, 53.
Are used at Court, ibid.

Peter I. (the Czar), inflicts flagellations with his own hands, 266.

Petrarch recommends flagellations, 76.

Petronius, his Satyricon quoted, 88, 89.

Philip II. of Spain, sends proposals of marriage to a Princess of the House of Austria, widow to the late King of France, 176.
Employs in this affair the agency of a Father Jesuit, ibid.
His success and that of the Jesuit, 177.

Philosophers, particular Sects of them among the Greeks practise self-flagellations, 83.
The greater number of them ridicule practices of this kind, 84.

Physician (a), consulted by Gretzer on the ill consequences of the upper discipline, 403.
His learned decision, ibid.

Picards, a Sect in Germany, declare for a state of complete nakedness, 392.
Carry their notions farther than the Adamites had done, ibid.

Pictures in Churches, are the Libraries of ignorant Christians, 25.
Their too great licence, ibid.
Many wicked thoughts propagated by them, 26;
as well as errors, ibid.

Plautus had been the servant of a Baker, 62;
quoted, 63, & seq.
His allusion to a singular practice of the vulgar in Rome, 95.

Plutarch quoted, 53.
Had been an eye-witness of the flagellating solemnities in Lacedæmon, 79, 80.

Poland; lower disciplines used in that Kingdom for mending the manners of Servants, 179.
For punishing Fornicators, 292.

Pont Euxine (the Hermit of the), his contrivance to rescue a young Woman from the hands of a military Man, 196.

Poggio, a tale of his quoted, 116.

Presbyter, whence the word is derived, 143.

Priors or Superiors of Monasteries, are the substitutes of the Abbots, 135.
Are invested with the same power of flagellation, ibid.
Great passion of one and remarkable use made by him of his power, 148.
Are apt to carry the joke too far in their use of flagellations, 153.
Are cautioned against it, ibid.
See Abbots.


Quintilian quoted, 72.

Quixote (Don), his excellent and polite speech to the fair Maritornes, 295.
Is rather too inquisitive in his conversation with the Senora Rodriguez, 326, 327;
experiences the resentment of the Dutchess and the fair Altisidora, on that occasion, ibid.


Rabelais quoted, 160, 284.

Rakes, how served in Rome by the Husbands of the Wives whom they courted, 64, & seq.

Raymond, Count of Toulouse, how absolved of his excommunication, 252.

Rodolph of Eugubio, his great feats in the career of flagellation, 202, 203.

Romans, the great power of Masters among them over their Slaves, 57.
See Masters.
Consider a whip as a characteristic mark of dominion, 59, 60.
Flagellations were performed among them with religious views, 88, & seq.
Singular practices of this kind among the vulgar, 94, & seq.

Romuald (St.) a great flagellator, 153.
In one instance flagellates even his own father, 260, 261.
His Monks retaliate his flagellations upon him, 154.
His lucky escape, 157.

Rousseau the Poet quoted, 138, 284.

Russian Baths and Stoves described, 409.

Russian Ladies; how properly they punish a boasting Coxcomb who had affronted them, 334, & seq.[423]
See Ladies.


Sadragesillus, preceptor to Dagobert, heir to the Crown of France, 74.
How used by his Pupil, 75.

St. Loe (Captain) gets the Boston Magistrates and Select-men served with a flagellation, 273, & seq.

Saints, the frequent tricks the Devil puts upon them, 125, & seq.
How they have received the advances of the Fair Sex, 261, & seq.
The expedient of a certain Eastern Saint to make himself cry, 364.

Sallust (the Historian), makes free with Milo’s Wife; how served by the Husband, 65.

Sancho, his manner of discipline, 195, 226.

Sanlec, a French Poet; his Satire on Confessors quoted, 234.

Scarron quoted, 285.

Scaligerana quoted, 36, 270.

Schoolmasters of modern times are as fond of using their discipline as ancient ones, 71, & seq.
Are not worth mentioning in so interesting a book as this, 160, 175.

Scot, a good Story of his, in his Mensa Philosophica, 232.

Scythians, their expedient to conquer their revolted Slaves, 51;
and success, 52.

Seneca quoted, 82.

Slaves, the wanton usage of them in Rome, 61, & seq. 66, & seq.
See Masters.

Solomon (King), recommends flagellations, 76.
His opinion confirmed afterwards by that of Chrysippus, ibid.

Sorbona, whence the word is derived, 143.

Sovereigns; instances of Sovereigns upon whom disciplines have been publicly inflicted, 250, & seq.

Spain. An account of the processions of Penitents established there, 374, & seq.
Gallantry and nicety of honour that prevail in them, ibid.
The art of performing flagellations with gracefulness is taught there by Masters for that purpose, 376.

Spirit of Laws quoted, 173.

Stephen (Cardinal), dies suddenly for his having neglected the use of flagellations, 214, 302.

Stylites (St. Simeon), an Anchorite who had fixed his habitation on the top of a column, 114.

Suetonius quoted, 59, 97.

Superanus, a Greek Philosopher; laudable flagellations he inflicts upon himself, 98.

Surgeon, great favour and confidence shewn to him by a great Princess, 270.
His ungrateful conduit, ibid.
The greatness of his guilt displayed, 271, 272;
his punishment, ibid.
extreme justice of the same, ibid.

Syrians, flagellations of a religious kind used among them, 86, 87.[424]


Tales, Arabian Tales quoted, 290.
Of the Queen of Navarre, 188, 330, 331.

Thracians, flagellations of a voluntary kind used among them, 84.

Tresnel (the Marchioness of), is incensed at the arrogant competition of the Lady of Liancourt, a woman of inferior birth, 278.
Gets her served with a flagellation, 279.
More serious consequences of the affair, 280.

Triumpher among the Romans, the companion he had in his Car, 59.


Venus, the strange weapon with which the Antients supplied her, 60, 319.
The Temple which the Greeks erected to her, 283.

Vestals, how punished, 167, & seq.

Villemartin (Miss de), is co-spectatress of a flagellation, 280;
is admonished never to do so anymore, 281.

Virgil quoted, 90.

Virgin Mary rescues an Usurer from the hands of the Devils, 304.
The assistance she gives to a person who used to pay devotion to her, 308.
The remarkable zeal of a Monk to assert her honour, 310, & seq.

Visitation (Nuns of the), discipline themselves when they please, 121.

Voltaire (M. de), quoted, 32, 207, 288.

Upper discipline defined, 21.
See Discipline.


Walpole (Sir Robert), his Excise Scheme, preferable, upon the whole to the schemes that took place in the times of the Roman Emperors, 124.

Whipcord, the great expence made about it by Government, 344.
At what time it began to be used, ibid.

Wife, Roman Wives not much better than modern ones, 64.
Instance of conjugal love of one whose husband offered himself to be disciplined in her stead, 232.
Inflict castigations upon their husbands, 339, 340.

Witasky, the Buffoon to Peter I. is a good hand at flagellating and cudgelling, 266.

Wurtzbourg, a Sovereign Bishoprick in Germany; a flagellation is an indispensable step to procure the installation to that See, 256.



The Introduction, 1
Chap. I. The substance of the account given by the Abbé Boileau of his design in writing his Book: he seems upon the whole to have been of opinion that voluntary flagellations were no very antient practice, 17
Chap. II. No persons, under the old Law, inflicted flagellations on themselves, with their own hands, or received the same from other persons, 27
Chap. III. Voluntary flagellations were unknown to the first Christians, 39
Chap. IV. The use of flagellations was known among the antient Heathens, 51
Chap. V. The subject continued, 71
Chap. VI. Flagellations of a religious and voluntary kind were practised among the antient Heathens, 79
Chap. VII. Containing the most ingenious arguments of the Abbé Boileau. The practise of scourging one’s-self was unknown to the first Fathers of the Church; and also to the first Anchorites or Hermits, 102
Chap. VIII. A few more of the Abbé Boileau’s arguments are introduced. Self-flagellations did not make a part of the duties prescribed in the first Monasteries. The only positive instances of flagellations suffered by Saints, or the Candidates for that title in the days we speak of, are those which the Devil has inflicted upon them, 118
Chap. IX. Corrections of a flagellatory kind, inflicted by force, were however, though in very early times, the common method of correcting offences of a religious nature; and the power of inflicting them was possessed alike by Bishops, and the Heads of Monasteries, 131
Chap. X. Strictness of certain Superiors of Convents, in exerting their power of flagellation. The same is abused by several of them, 147
Chap. XI. Disciplines of the same wholesome kind have been prescribed[426] for Novices and such persons as are intended to embrace the ecclesiastical Life, 158
Chap. XII. The same discretionary powers of flagellation have been established in the Convents of Nuns, and lodged in the hands of the Abbesses, or Prioresses, 167
Chap. XIII. The subject of voluntary flagellations among Christians, is at last introduced. That method of self-mortification appears to have been practised in very early times; but it does not seem to have been universally admitted before the years 1044 and 1056; which was the time Cardinal Damian wrote, 192
Chap. XIV. The practice of self-flagellation meets with some opposition; but this is soon over-ruled by the fondness of the Public, 211
Chap. XV. Another difficulty. Which is the best plight to be in, for receiving a discipline? 223
Chap. XVI. Confessors at length assume a kind of flagellatory power over their Penitents. The abuses that arise from it, 227
Chap. XVII. The Church at large also claims a power of publicly inflicting the discipline of flagellation. Instances of Kings and Princes who have submitted to it, 249
Chap. XVIII. The glory of flagellations completed: they are made use of for curing Heresy, 258
Chap. XIX. The subject of the merit of flagellations continued. Holy persons, though without any public authority, have used them occasionally to give weight to their admonitions, 260
Chap. XX. The fondness of people for flagellations, gives rise to a number of incredible stories on that subject, 299
Chap. XXI. A remarkable instance of a flagellation performed in honour of the Virgin Mary, 310
Chap. XXII. Another story of a female Saint appeased by a flagellation, 317
Chap. XXIII. Formation of the public procession of Flagellants. Different success they meet with in different Countries, 345
Chap. XXIV. The last Chapter, in which the Abbé Boileau is personally introduced: he is of opinion that the lower discipline is contrary to decency, and the upper discipline is liable to bring defluxions on the eyes, 400
(decorative end of book icon)


The character ſ (long-form s) has been replaced by the normal s.
The Greek ϛ (stigma) has been replaced by στ.

Obvious typographical errors and punctuation errors have been corrected after careful comparison with other occurrences within the text and consultation of external sources.

Some hyphens in words have been silently removed, some added, when a predominant preference was found in the original book.

Except for those changes noted below, all misspellings in the text, and inconsistent or archaic usage, have been retained.

Pg 4: ‘I hvae not the’ replaced by ‘I have not the’.
Pg 9: ‘Sarbonne, and a dean’ replaced by ‘Sorbonne, and a dean’.
Pg 22: ‘I potively aver’ replaced by ‘I positively aver’.
Pg 56: ‘of the Trumvirs’ replaced by ‘of the Triumvirs’.
Pg 61: ‘at last so such’ replaced by ‘at last to such’.
Pg 62: ‘such a mnner that’ replaced by ‘such a manner that’.
Pg 66 Fn [23]: ‘uncontroubled power’ replaced by ‘uncontrouled power’.
Pg 71: missing anchor [24] placed after ‘chastisement.’.
Pg 93 Fn [36]: ‘of Chritianity; and persons of noble familities’ replaced by
‘of Christianity; and persons of noble families’.
Pg 99 Fn [41]: ‘see their appartments’ replaced by ‘see their apartments’.
Pg 110: ‘made it altother’ replaced by ‘made it altogether’.
Pg 134: ‘moveover recommended’ replaced by ‘moreover recommended’.
Pg 139: ‘or solliciting the’ replaced by ‘or soliciting the’.
Pg 162 Fn [64]: ‘the distieh made’ replaced by ‘the distich made’.
Pg 167: ‘inflicting disciciplines’ replaced by ‘inflicting disciplines’.
Pg 177 Fn [67]: ‘his sollicitations’ replaced by ‘his solicitations’.
Pg 179 Fn [68]: ‘new-papers, with’ replaced by ‘news-papers, with’.
Pg 184 Fn [67]: ‘receive an hearsay’ replaced by ‘receive on hearsay’.
Pg 206 Fn [80]: ‘Play of Mollere’ replaced by ‘Play of Molière’.
Pg 210 Fn [82]: ‘Smollet, Franklin’ replaced by ‘Smollett, Franklin’.
Pg 223: ‘from one anther’ replaced by ‘from one another’.
Pg 224: ‘over their growns’ replaced by ‘over their gowns’.
Pg 245 Fn [94]: ‘Charles Borommee’ replaced by ‘Charles Borrommee’.
Pg 249: ‘an indispensible act’ replaced by ‘an indispensable act’.
Pg 250: ‘forgiven his his sin’ replaced by ‘forgiven his sin’.
Pg 284 Fn [102]: ‘a flat noise’ replaced by ‘a flat nose’.
Pg 287 Fn [102]: ‘and expresly chosen’ replaced by ‘and expressly chosen’.
Pg 289 Fn [102]: ‘come expresly to’ replaced by ‘come expressly to’.
Pg 298 Fn [102]: ‘is no unpleassing’ replaced by ‘is no unpleasing’.
Pg 301: ‘he comfessed the’ replaced by ‘he confessed the’.
Pg 318 Fn [111]: ‘the fifth chapter’ replaced by ‘the sixth chapter’.
Pg 319 Fn [111]:See p. 71’ replaced by ‘See p. 79’.
Pg 319 Fn [111]:See p. 76, 77’ replaced by ‘See p. 85, 86’.
Pg 325 Fn [111]: ‘beardless strippling’ replaced by ‘beardless stripling’.
Pg 333 Fn [111]: ‘porper instruments’ replaced by ‘proper instruments’.
Pg 337 Fn [111]: ‘the falshood of’ replaced by ‘the falsehood of’.
Pg 357: ‘same manner it it was’ replaced by ‘same manner it was’.
Pg 381 Fn [115]: ‘bad him go home’ replaced by ‘bade him go home’.
Pg 384 Fn [115]: ‘them, Iay these’ replaced by ‘them, lay these’.
Pg 402: ‘at the learned’ replaced by ‘as the learned’.
Pg 413: ‘runs the grantlope’ replaced by ‘runs the gantelope’.
Pg 414: ‘Charles Borromeo’ replaced by ‘Charles Borromee’.
Pg 422: ‘Quixotte’ replaced by ‘Quixote’.
Pg 424: ‘indispensible step’ replaced by ‘indispensable step’.