Memoirs of Extraordinary Popular Delusions
Charles Mackay

Part 3 out of 5

On his arrival in that city, he found the celebrated Christina,
the ex-Queen of Sweden. He procured an introduction to her, and
requested her patronage in his endeavour to discover the philosopher's
stone. She gave him some encouragement; but Borri, fearing that the
merchants of Amsterdam, who had connexions in Hamburgh, might expose
his delinquencies if he remained in the latter city, passed over to
Copenhagen, and sought the protection of Frederic III, the King of

This Prince was a firm believer in the transmutation of metals.
Being in want of money, he readily listened to the plans of an
adventurer who had both eloquence and ability to recommend him. He
provided Borri with the means to make experiments, and took a great
interest in the progress of his operations. He expected every month to
possess riches that would buy Peru; and, when he was disappointed,
accepted patiently the excuses of Borri who, upon every failure, was
always ready with some plausible explanation. He became, in time, much
attached to him; and defended him from the jealous attacks of his
courtiers, and the indignation of those who were grieved to see their
monarch the easy dupe of a charlatan. Borri endeavoured, by every
means in his power, to find aliment for this good opinion. His
knowledge of medicine was useful to him in this respect, and often
stood between him and disgrace. He lived six years in this manner at
the court of Frederic; but that monarch dying in 1670, he was left
without a protector.

As he had made more enemies than friends in Copenhagen, and had
nothing to hope from the succeeding sovereign, he sought an asylum in
another country. He went first to Saxony; but met so little
encouragement, and encountered so much danger from the emissaries of
the Inquisition, that he did not remain there many months.
Anticipating nothing but persecution in every country that
acknowledged the spiritual authority of the Pope, he appears to have
taken the resolution to dwell in Turkey, and turn Mussulman. On his
arrival at the Hungarian frontier, on his way to Constantinople, he
was arrested on suspicion of being concerned in the conspiracy of the
Counts Nadasdi and Frangipani, which had just been discovered. In vain
he protested his innocence, and divulged his real name and profession.
He was detained in prison, and a letter despatched to the Emperor
Leopold to know what should be done with him. The star of his fortunes
was on the decline. The letter reached Leopold at an unlucky moment.
The Pope's Nuncio was closeted with his Majesty; and he no sooner
heard the name of Joseph Francis Borri, than he demanded him as a
prisoner of the Holy See. The request was complied with; and Borri,
closely manacled, was sent under an escort of soldiers to the prison
of the Inquisition at Rome. He was too much of an impostor to be
deeply tinged with fanaticism, and was not unwilling to make a public
recantation of his heresies if he could thereby save his life. When
the proposition was made to him, he accepted it with eagerness. His
punishment was to be commuted into the hardly less severe one of
perpetual imprisonment; but he was too happy to escape the clutch of
the executioner at any price, and he made the amende honorable in face
of the assembled multitudes of Rome on the 27th of October 1672. He
was then transferred to the prisons of the Castle of St. Angelo, where
he remained till his death, twenty-three years afterwards. It is said
that, towards the close of his life, considerable indulgence was
granted him; that he was allowed to have a laboratory, and to cheer
the solitude of his dungeon by searching for the philosopher's stone.
Queen Christina, during her residence at Rome, frequently visited the
old man, to converse with him upon chemistry and the doctrines of the
Rosicrucians. She even obtained permission that he should leave his
prison occasionally for a day or two, and reside in her palace, she
being responsible for his return to captivity. She encouraged him to
search for the great secret of the alchymists, and provided him with
money for the purpose. It may well be supposed that Borri benefited
most by this acquaintance, and that Christina got nothing but
experience. It is not sure that she gained even that; for, until her
dying day, she was convinced of the possibility of finding the
philosopher's stone, and ready to assist any adventurer either zealous
or impudent enough to pretend to it.

After Borri had been about eleven years in confinement, a small
volume was published at Cologne, entitled "The Key of the Cabinet of
the Chevalier Joseph Francis Borri; in which are contained many
curious Letters upon Chemistry and other Sciences, written by him;
together with a Memoir of his Life." This book contained a complete
exposition of the Rosicrucian philosophy, and afforded materials to
the Abbe de Villars for his interesting "Count de Gabalis," which
excited so much attention at the close of the seventeenth century.

Borri lingered in the prison of St. Angelo till 1695, when he died
in his eightieth year. Besides "The Key of the Cabinet," written
originally in Copenhagen, in 1666, for the edification of King
Frederic III, he published a work upon alchymy and the secret
sciences, under the title of "The Mission of Romulus to the Romans."


Besides the pretenders to the philosopher's stone whose lives have
been already narrated, this and the preceding century produced a great
number of writers, who inundated literature with their books upon the
subject. In fact, most of the learned men of that age had some faith
in it. Van Helmont, Borrichius, Kirchen, Boerhaave, and a score of
others, though not professed alchymists, were fond of the science, and
countenanced its professors. Helvetius, the grandfather of the
celebrated philosopher of the same name, asserts that he saw an
inferior metal turned into gold by a stranger, at the Hague, in 1666.
He says that, sitting one day in his study, a man, who was dressed as
a respectable burgher of North Holland, and very modest and simple in
his appearance, called upon him, with the intention of dispelling his
doubts relative to the philosopher's stone. He asked Helvetius if he
thought he should know that rare gem if he saw it. To which Helvetius
replied, that he certainly should not. The burgher immediately drew
from his pocket a small ivory box, containing three pieces of metal,
of the colour of brimstone, and extremely heavy; and assured
Helvetius, that of them he could make as much as twenty tons of gold.
Helvetius informs us, that he examined them very attentively; and
seeing that they were very brittle, he took the opportunity to scrape
off a very small portion with his thumb-nail. He then returned them to
the stranger, with an entreaty that he would perform the process of
transmutation before him. The stranger replied, that he was not
allowed to do so, and went away. After his departure, Helvetius
procured a crucible and a portion of lead, into which, when in a state
of fusion, he threw the stolen grain from the philosopher's stone. He
was disappointed to find that the grain evaporated altogether, leaving
the lead in its original state.

Some weeks afterwards, when he had almost forgotten the subject,
he received another visit from the stranger. He again entreated him to
explain the processes by which he pretended to transmute lead. The
stranger at last consented, and informed him, that one grain was
sufficient; but that it was necessary to envelope it in a ball of wax
before throwing it on the molten metal; otherwise its extreme
volatility would cause it to go off in vapour. They tried the
experiment, and succeeded to their heart's content. Helvetius repeated
the experiment alone, and converted six ounces of lead into very pure

The fame of this event spread all over the Hague, and all the
notable persons of the town flocked to the study of Helvetius to
convince themselves of the fact. Helvetius performed the experiment
again, in the presence of the Prince of Orange, and several times
afterwards, until he exhausted the whole of the powder he had received
from the stranger, from whom, it is necessary to state, he never
received another visit; nor did he ever discover his name or
condition. In the following year Helvetius published his "Golden
Calf," ["Vitulus Aureus quem Mundus adorat et orat, in quo tractatur
de naturae miraculo transmutandi metalla."--Hagae, 1667.] in which he
detailed the above circumstances.

About the same time, the celebrated Father Kircher published his
"Subterranean World," in which he called the alchymists a congregation
of knaves and impostors, and their science a delusion. He admitted
that he had himself been a diligent labourer in the field, and had
only come to this conclusion after mature consideration and repeated
fruitless experiments. All the alchymists were in arms immediately, to
refute this formidable antagonist. One Solomon de Blauenstein was the
first to grapple with him, and attempted to convict him of wilful
misrepresentation, by recalling to his memory the transmutations by
Sendivogius, before the Emperor Frederic III. and the Elector of
Mayence; all performed within a recent period. Zwelfer and Glauber
also entered into the dispute, and attributed the enmity of Father
Kircher to spite and jealousy against adepts who had been more
successful than himself.

It was also pretended that Gustavus Adolphus transmuted a quantity
of quicksilver into pure gold. The learned Borrichius relates, that he
saw coins which had been struck of this gold; and Lenglet du Fresnoy
deposes to the same circumstance. In the Travels of Monconis the story
is told in the following manner:-- "A merchant of Lubeck, who carried
on but little trade, but who knew how to change lead into very good
gold, gave the King of Sweden a lingot which he had made, weighing, at
least, one hundred pounds. The King immediately caused it to be coined
into ducats; and because he knew positively that its origin was such
as had been stated to him, he had his own arms graven upon the one
side, and emblematical figures of Mercury and Venus on the other. "I,"
continued Monconis, "have one of these ducats in my possession; and
was credibly informed, that, after the death of the Lubeck merchant,
who had never appeared very rich, a sum of no less than one million
seven hundred thousand crowns was found in his coffers." [Voyages de
Monconis, tome ii. p. 379.]

Such stories as these, confidently related by men high in station,
tended to keep up the infatuation of the alchymists in every country
of Europe. It is astonishing to see the number of works which were
written upon the subject during the seventeenth century alone, and the
number of clever men who sacrificed themselves to the delusion.
Gabriel de Castaigne, a monk of the order of St. Francis, attracted so
much notice in the reign of Louis XIII, that that monarch secured him
in his household, and made him his Grand Almoner. He pretended to find
the elixir of life; and Louis expected, by his means, to have enjoyed
the crown for a century. Van Helmont also pretended to have once
performed with success the process of transmuting quicksilver; and
was, in consequence, invited by the Emperor Rudolph II. to fix his
residence at the court of Vienna. Glauber, the inventor of the salts
which still bear his name, and who practised as a physician at
Amsterdam about the middle of the seventeenth century, established a
public school in that city for the study of alchymy, and gave lectures
himself upon the science. John Joachim Becher, of Spire, acquired
great reputation at the same period; and was convinced that much gold
might be made out of flint stones by a peculiar process, and the aid
of that grand and incomprehensible substance, the philosopher's stone.
He made a proposition to the Emperor Leopold of Austria, to aid him
in these experiments; but the hope of success was too remote, and the
present expense too great to tempt that monarch; and he therefore gave
Becher much of his praise, but none of his money. Becher afterwards
tried the States-General of Holland, with no better success.

With regard to the innumerable tricks by which impostors persuaded
the world that they had succeeded in making gold, and of which so many
stories were current about this period, a very satisfactory report was
read by M. Geoffroy, the elder, at the sitting of the Royal Academy of
Sciences, at Paris, on the 15th of April, 1722. As it relates
principally to the alchymic cheats of the sixteenth and seventeenth
centuries, the following abridgment of it may not be out of place in
this portion of our history:-- The instances of successful
transmutation were so numerous, and apparently so well authenticated,
that nothing short of so able an exposure as that of M. Geoffroy could
disabuse the public mind. The trick to which they oftenest had
recourse, was to use a double-bottomed crucible, the under surface
being of iron or copper, and the upper one of wax, painted to resemble
the same metal. Between the two they placed as much gold or silver
dust as was necessary for their purpose. They then put in their lead,
quicksilver, or other ingredients, and placed their pot upon the fire.
Of course, when the experiment was concluded, they never failed to
find a lump of gold at the bottom. The same result was produced in
many other ways. Some of them used a hollow wand, filled with gold or
silver dust, and stopped at the ends with wax or butter. With this
they stirred the boiling metal in their crucibles, taking care to
accompany the operation with many ceremonies, to divert attention from
the real purpose of the manoeuvre. They also drilled holes in lumps of
lead, into which they poured molten gold, and carefully closed the
aperture with the original metal. Sometimes they washed a piece of
gold with quicksilver. When in this state they found no difficulty in
palming it off upon the uninitiated as an inferior metal, and very
easily transmuted it into fine sonorous gold again, with the aid of a
little aquafortis.

Others imposed by means of nails, half iron and half gold or
silver. They pretended that they really transmuted the precious half
from iron, by dipping it in a strong alcohol. M. Geoffroy produced
several of these nails to the Academy of Sciences, and showed how
nicely the two parts were soldered together. The golden or silver half
was painted black to resemble iron, and the colour immediately
disappeared when the nail was dipped into aquafortis. A nail of this
description was, for a long time, in the cabinet of the Grand Duke of
Tuscany. Such also, said M. Geoffroy, was the knife presented by a
monk to Queen Elizabeth of England; the blade of which was half gold
and half steel. Nothing at one time was more common than to see coins,
half gold and half silver, which had been operated upon by alchymists,
for the same purposes of trickery. In fact, says M. Geoffroy, in
concluding his long report, there is every reason to believe that all
the famous histories which have been handed down to us, about the
transmutation of metals into gold or silver, by means of the powder of
projection, or philosophical elixirs, are founded upon some successful
deception of the kind above narrated. These pretended philosophers
invariably disappeared after the first or second experiment, or their
powders or elixirs have failed to produce their effect, either because
attention being excited they have found no opportunity to renew the
trick without being discovered, or because they have not had
sufficient gold dust for more than one trial.

The disinterestedness of these would-be philosopher looked, at
first sight, extremely imposing. Instances were not rare, in which
they generously abandoned all the profits of their transmutations -
even the honour of the discovery! But this apparent disinterestedness
was one of the most cunning of their manoeuvres. It served to keep up
the popular expectation; it showed the possibility of discovering the
philosopher's stone, and provided the means of future advantages,
which they were never slow to lay hold of -- such as entrances into
royal households, maintenance at the public expense, and gifts from
ambitious potentates, too greedy after the gold they so easily

It now only remains to trace the progress of the delusion from the
commencement of the eighteenth century until the present day. It will
be seen, that until a very recent period, there were but slight signs
of a return to reason.


In the year 1705, there was much talk in France of a blacksmith,
named Delisle, who had discovered the philosopher's stone, and who
went about the country turning lead into gold. He was a native of
Provence, from which place his fame soon spread to the capital. His
early life is involved in obscurity; but Longlet du Fresnoy has
industriously collected some particulars of his later career, which
possess considerable interest. He was a man without any education, and
had been servant in his youth to an alchymist, from whom he learned
many of the tricks of the fraternity. The name of his master has never
been discovered; but it is pretended that he rendered himself in some
manner obnoxious to the government of Louis XIV, and was obliged, in
consequence, to take refuge in Switzerland. Delisle accompanied him as
far as Savoy, and there, it is said, set upon him in a solitary
mountain-pass, and murdered and robbed him. He then disguised himself
as a pilgrim, and returned to France. At a lonely inn, by the
road-side, where he stopped for the night, he became acquainted with a
woman, named Aluys; and so sudden a passion was enkindled betwixt
them, that she consented to leave all, follow him, and share his good
or evil fortune wherever he went. They lived together for five or six
years in Provence, without exciting any attention, apparently
possessed of a decent independence. At last, in 1706, it was given out
that he was the possessor of the philosopher's stone; and people, from
far and near, came flocking to his residence, at the Chateau de la
Palu, at Sylanez, near Barjaumont, to witness the wealth he could make
out of pumps and fire shovels. The following account of his operations
is given in a letter addressed by M. de Cerisy, the Prior of
Chateauneuf, in the Diocese of Riez, in Provence, to the Vicar of St.
Jacques du Hautpas, at Paris, and dated the 18th of November 1706:--

"I have something to relate to you, my dear cousin, which will be
interesting to you and your friends. The philosopher's stone, which so
many persons have looked upon as a chimera, is at last found. It is a
man named Delisle, of the parish of Sylanez, and residing within a
quarter of a league of me, that has discovered this great secret. He
turns lead into gold, and iron into silver, by merely heating these
metals red hot, and pouring upon them, in that state, some oil and
powder he is possessed of; so that it would not be impossible for any
man to make a million a day, if he had sufficient of this wondrous
mixture. Some of the pale gold which he had made in this manner, he
sent to the jewellers of Lyons, to have their opinion on its quality.
He also sold twenty pounds weight of it to a merchant of Digne, named
Taxis. All the jewellers say they never saw such fine gold in their
lives. He makes nails, part gold, part iron, and part silver. He
promised to give me one of them, in a long conversation which I had
with him the other day, by order of the Bishop of Sends, who saw his
operations with his own eyes, and detailed all the circumstances to

"The Baron and Baroness de Rheinwald showed me a lingot of gold
made out of pewter before their eyes by M. Delisle. My brother-in-law
Sauveur, who has wasted fifty years of his life in this great study,
brought me the other day a nail which he had seen changed into gold by
Delisle, and fully convinced me that all his previous experiments were
founded on an erroneous principle. This excellent workman received, a
short time ago, a very kind letter from the superintendent of the
royal household, which I read. He offered to use all his influence
with the ministers to prevent any attempts upon his liberty, which has
twice been attacked by the agents of government. It is believed that
the oil he makes use of, is gold or silver reduced to that state. He
leaves it for a long time exposed to the rays of the sun. He told me
that it generally took him six months to make all his preparations. I
told him that, apparently, the King wanted to see him. He replied that
he could not exercise his art in every place, as a certain climate and
temperature were absolutely necessary to his success. The truth is,
that this man appears to have no ambition. He only keeps two horses
and two men-servants. Besides, he loves his liberty, has no
politeness, and speaks very bad French; but his judgment seems to be
solid. He was formerly no more than a blacksmith, but excelled in that
trade without having been taught it. All the great lords and seigneurs
from far and near come to visit him, and pay such court to him, that
it seems more like idolatry than anything else. Happy would France be
if this man would discover his secret to the King, to whom the
superintendent has already sent some lingots! But the happiness is too
great to be hoped for; for I fear that the workman and his secret will
expire together. There is no doubt that this discovery will make a
great noise in the kingdom, unless the character of the man, which I
have just depicted to you, prevent it. At all events, posterity will
hear of him."

In another letter to the same person, dated the 27th of January
1707, M. de Cerisy says, "My dear cousin, I spoke to you in my last
letter of the famous alchymist of Provence, M. Delisle. A good deal of
that was only hearsay, but now I am enabled to speak from my own
experience. I have in my possession a nail, half iron and half silver,
which I made myself. That great and admirable workman also bestowed a
still greater privilege upon me -- he allowed me to turn a piece of
lead which I had brought with me into pure gold, by means of his
wonderful oil and powder. All the country have their eyes upon this
gentleman: some deny loudly, others are incredulous; but those who
have seen acknowledge the truth. I have read the passport that has
been sent to him from Court, with orders that he should present
himself at Paris early in the spring. He told me that he would go
willingly, and that it was himself who fixed the spring for his
departure; as he wanted to collect his materials, in order that,
immediately on his introduction to the King, he might make an
experiment worthy of his Majesty, by converting a large quantity of
lead into the finest gold. I sincerely hope that he will not allow his
secret to die with him, but that he will communicate it to the King.
As I had the honour to dine with him on Thursday last, the 20th of
this month, being seated at his side, I told him in a whisper that he
could, if he liked, humble all the enemies of France. He did not deny
it, but began to smile. In fact, this man is the miracle of art.
Sometimes he employs the oil and powder mixed, sometimes the powder
only, but in so small a quantity that, when the lingot which I made
was rubbed all over with it, it did not show at all."

This soft-headed priest was by no means the only person in the
neighbourhood who lost his wits in hopes of the boundless wealth held
out by this clever impostor. Another priest, named De Lions, a chanter
in the cathedral of Grenoble, writing on the 30th January 1707, says,
-- "M. Mesnard, the curate of Montier, has written to me, stating that
there is a man, about thirty-five years of age, named Delisle, who
turns lead and iron into gold and silver; and that this transmutation
is so veritable and so true, that the goldsmiths affirm that his gold
and silver are the purest and finest they ever saw. For five years,
this man was looked upon as a madman or a cheat; but the public mind
is now disabused with respect to him. He now resides with M. de la
Palu, at the chateau of the same name. M. de la Palu is not very easy
in his circumstances, and wants money to portion his daughters, who
have remained single till middle age, no man being willing to take
them without a dowry. M. Delisle has promised to make them the richest
girls in the province before he goes to Court, having been sent for by
the King. He has asked for a little time before his departure, in
order that he may collect powder enough to make several quintals of
gold before the eyes of his Majesty, to whom he intends to present
them. The principal matter of his wonderful powder is composed of
simples, principally the herbs Lunaria major and minor. There is a
good deal of the first planted by him in the gardens of La Palu; and
he gets the other from the mountains, that stretch about two leagues
from Montier. What I tell you now is not a mere story invented for
your diversion: M. Mesnard can bring forward many witnesses to its
truth; among others, the Bishop of Senes, who saw these surprising
operations performed; and M. de Cerisy, whom you know well. Delisle
transmutes his metals in public. He rubs the lead or iron with his
powder, and puts it over burning charcoal. In a short time it changes
colour; the lead becomes yellow, and is found to be converted into
excellent gold: the iron becomes white, and is found to be pure
silver. Delisle is altogether an illiterate person. M. de St. Auban
endeavoured to teach him to read and write, but he profited very
little by his lessons. He is unpolite, fantastic, and a dreamer, and
acts by fits and starts."

Delisle, it would appear, was afraid of venturing to Paris. He
knew that his sleight of hand would be too narrowly watched in the
royal presence; and upon some pretence or other, he delayed the
journey for more than two years. Desmarets, the Minister of Finance to
Louis XIV, thinking the "philosopher" dreaded foul play, twice sent
him a safe conduct under the King's seal; but Delisle still refused.
Upon this, Desmarets wrote to the Bishop of Sends for his real opinion
as to these famous transmutations. The following was the answer of
that prelate:--

"Copy of a report addressed to M. Desmarets, Comptroller-General of
the Finances to His Majesty Louis XIV, by the Bishop of Senes,
dated March 1709.


"A twelvemonth ago, or a little more, I expressed to you my joy at
hearing of your elevation to the ministry; I have now the honour to
write you my opinion of the Sieur Delisle, who has been working at the
transmutation of metals in my diocese. I have, during the last two
years, spoken of him several times to the Count de Pontchartrain,
because he asked me; but I have not written to you, sir, or to M. de
Chamillart, because you neither of you requested my opinion upon the
subject. Now, however, that you have given me to understand that you
wish to know my sentiments on the matter, I will unfold myself to you
in all sincerity, for the interests of the King and the glory of your

"There are two things about the Sieur Delisle which, in my
opinion, should be examined without prejudice: the one relates to his
secret; the other, to his person; that is to say, whether his
transmutations are real, and whether his conduct has been regular. As
regards the secret of the philosopher's stone, I deemed it impossible,
for a long time; and for more than three years, I was more mistrustful
of the pretensions of this Sieur Delisle than of any other person.
During this period I afforded him no countenance; I even aided a
person, who was highly recommended to me by an influential family of
this province, to prosecute Delisle for some offence or other which it
was alleged he had committed. But this person, in his anger against
him, having told me that he had himself been several times the bearer
of gold and silver to the goldsmiths of Nice, Aix, and Avignon, which
had been transmuted by Delisle from lead and iron, I began to waver a
little in my opinions respecting him. I afterwards met Delisle at the
house of one of my friends. To please me, the family asked Delisle to
operate before me, to which he immediately consented. I offered him
some iron nails, which he changed into silver in the chimney-place
before six or seven credible witnesses. I took the nails thus
transmuted, and sent them by my almoner to Irabert, the jeweller of
Aix, who, having subjected them to the necessary trial, returned them
to me, saying they were very good silver. Still, however, I was not
quite satisfied. M. de Pontchartrain having hinted to me, two years
previously, that I should do a thing agreeable to his Majesty if I
examined into this business of Delisle, I resolved to do so now. I
therefore summoned the alchymist to come to me at Castellane. He came;
and I had him escorted by eight or ten vigilant men, to whom I had
given notice to watch his hands strictly. Before all of us he changed
two pieces of lead into gold and silver. I sent them both to M. de
Pontchartrain; and he afterwards informed me by a letter, now lying
before me, that he had shown them to the most experienced goldsmiths
of Paris, who unanimously pronounced them to be gold and silver of the
very purest quality, and without alloy. My former bad opinion of
Delisle was now indeed shaken. It was much more so when he performed
transmutation five or six times before me at Senes, and made me
perform it myself before him without his putting his hand to anything.
You have seen, sir, the letter of my nephew, the Pere Berard, of the
Oratoire at Paris, on the experiment that he performed at Castellane,
and the truth of which I hereby attest. Another nephew of mine, the
Sieur Bourget, who was here three weeks ago, performed the same
experiment in my presence, and will detail all the circumstances to
you personally at Paris. A hundred persons in my diocese have been
witnesses of these things. I confess to you, sir, that, after the
testimony of so many spectators and so many goldsmiths, and after the
repeatedly successful experiments that I saw performed, all my
prejudices vanished. My reason was convinced by my eyes; and the
phantoms of impossibility which I had conjured up were dissipated by
the work of my own hands.

"It now only remains for me to speak to you on the subject of his
person and conduct. Three suspicions have been excited against him:
the first, That he was implicated in some criminal proceeding at
Cisteron, and that he falsified the coin of the realm; the second,
That the King sent him two safe-conducts without effect; and the
third, That he still delays going to court to operate before the King.
You may see, sir, that I do not hide or avoid anything. As regards the
business at Cisteron, the Sieur Delisle has repeatedly assured me that
there was nothing against him which could reasonably draw him within
the pale of justice, and that he had never carried on any calling
injurious to the King's service. It was true that, six or seven years
ago, he had been to Cisteron to gather herbs necessary for his powder,
and that he had lodged at the house of one Pelouse, whom he thought an
honest man. Pelouse was accused of clipping Louis d'ors; and as he had
lodged with him, he was suspected of being his accomplice. This mere
suspicion, without any proof whatever, had caused him to be condemned
for contumacy; a common case enough with judges, who always proceed
with much rigour against those who are absent. During my own sojourn
at Aix, it was well known that a man, named Andre Aluys, had spread
about reports injurious to the character of Delisle, because he hoped
thereby to avoid paying him a sum of forty Louis that he owed him. But
permit me, sir, to go further, and to add that, even if there were
well-founded suspicions against Delisle, we should look with some
little indulgence on the faults of a man who possesses a secret so
useful to the state. As regards the two safe-conducts sent him by the
King, I think I can answer certainly that it was through no fault of
his that he paid so little attention to them. His year, strictly
speaking, consists only of the four summer months; and when by any
means he is prevented from making the proper use of them, he loses a
whole year. Thus the first safe-conduct became useless by the
irruption of the Duke of Savoy in 1707; and the second had hardly been
obtained, at the end of June 1708, when the said Delisle was insulted
by a party of armed men, pretending to act under the authority of the
Count de Grignan, to whom he wrote several letters of complaint,
without receiving any answer, or promise that his safety would be
attended to. What I have now told you, sir, removes the third
objection, and is the reason why, at the present time, he cannot go to
Paris to the King, in fulfilment of his promises made two years ago.
Two, or even three, summers have been lost to him, owing to the
continual inquietude he has laboured under. He has, in consequence,
been unable to work, and has not collected a sufficient quantity of
his oil and powder, or brought what he has got to the necessary degree
of perfection. For this reason also he could not give the Sieur de
Bourget the portion he promised him for your inspection. If the other
day he changed some lead into gold with a few grains of his powder,
they were assuredly all he had; for he told me that such was the fact
long before he knew my nephew was coming. Even if he had preserved
this small quantity to operate before the King, I am sure that, on
second thoughts, he would never have adventured with so little;
because the slightest obstacles in the metals (their being too hard or
too soft, which is only discovered in operating) would have caused him
to be looked upon as an impostor, if, in case his first powder had
proved ineffectual, he had not been possessed of more to renew the
experiment and surmount the difficulty.

"Permit me, sir, in conclusion, to repeat that such an artist as
this should not be driven to the last extremity, nor forced to seek an
asylum offered to him in other countries, but which he has despised,
as much from his own inclinations as from the advice I have given him.
You risk nothing in giving him a little time, and in hurrying him you
may lose a great deal. The genuineness of his gold can no longer be
doubted, after the testimony of so many jewellers of Aix, Lyons, and
Paris in its favour. As it is not his fault that the previous
safe-conducts sent to him have been of no service, it will be
necessary to send him another; for the success of which I will be
answerable, if you will confide the matter to me, and trust to my zeal
for the service of his Majesty, to whom I pray you to communicate this
letter, that I may be spared the just reproaches he might one day heap
upon me if he remained ignorant of the facts I have now written to
you. Assure him, if you please, that, if you send me such a
safe-conduct, I will oblige the Sieur Delisle to depose with me such
precious pledges of his fidelity, as shall enable me to be responsible
myself to the King. These are my sentiments, and I submit them to your
superior knowledge; and have the honour to remain, with much respect,

"* JOHN, Bishop of Senes."

"To M. Desmarets, Minister of State, and
"Comptroller-General of the Finances, at Paris."

That Delisle was no ordinary impostor, but a man of consummate
cunning and address, is very evident from this letter. The Bishop was
fairly taken in by his clever legerdemain, and when once his first
distrust was conquered, appeared as anxious to deceive himself as even
Delisle could have wished. His faith was so abundant that he made the
case of his protege his own, and would not suffer the breath of
suspicion to be directed against him. Both Louis and his minister
appear to have been dazzled by the brilliant hopes he had excited, and
a third pass, or safe-conduct, was immediately sent to the alchymist,
with a command from the King that he should forthwith present himself
at Versailles, and make public trial of his oil and powder. But this
did not suit the plans of Delisle: in the provinces he was regarded as
a man of no small importance; the servile flattery that awaited him
wherever he went was so grateful to his mind that he could not
willingly relinquish it and run upon certain detection at the court of
the Monarch. Upon one pretext or another he delayed his journey,
notwithstanding the earnest solicitations of his good friend the
Bishop. The latter had given his word to the minister, and pledged his
honour that he would induce Delisle to go, and he began to be alarmed
when he found he could not subdue the obstinacy of that individual.
For more than two years he continued to remonstrate with him, and was
always met by some excuse, that there was not sufficient powder, or
that it had not been long enough exposed to the rays of the sun. At
last his patience was exhausted; and fearful that he might suffer in
the royal estimation by longer delay, he wrote to the King for a
lettre de cachet, in virtue of which the alchymist was seized at the
castle of La Palu, in the month of June 1711, and carried off to be
imprisoned in the Bastille.

The gendarmes were aware that their prisoner was supposed to be
the lucky possessor of the philosopher's stone, and on the road they
conspired to rob and murder him. One of them pretended to be touched
with pity for the misfortunes of the philosopher, and offered to give
him an opportunity of escape whenever he could divert the attention of
his companions. Delisle was profuse in his thanks, little dreaming of
the snare that was laid for him. His treacherous friend gave notice of
the success of the stratagem so far; and it was agreed that Delisle
should be allowed to struggle with and overthrow one of them while the
rest were at some distance. They were then to pursue him and shoot him
through the heart; and after robbing the corpse of the philosopher's
stone, convey it to Paris on a cart, and tell M. Desmarets that the
prisoner had attempted to escape, and would have succeeded, if they
had not fired after him and shot him through the body. At a convenient
place the scheme was executed. At a given signal from the friendly
gendarme Delisle fled, while another gendarme took aim and shot him
through the thigh. Some peasants arriving at the instant, they were
prevented from killing him as they intended; and he was transported to
Paris, maimed and bleeding. He was thrown into a dungeon in the
Bastille, and obstinately tore away the bandages which the surgeons
applied to his wound. He never afterwards rose from his bed.

The Bishop of Senes visited him in prison, and promised him his
liberty if he would transmute a certain quantity of lead into gold
before the King. The unhappy man had no longer the means of carrying
on the deception; he had no gold, and no double-bottomed crucible or
hollow wand to conceal it in, even if he had. He would not, however,
confess that he was an impostor; but merely said he did not know how
to make the powder of projection, but had received a quantity from an
Italian philosopher, and had used it all in his various transmutations
in Provence. He lingered for seven or eight months in the Bastille,
and died from the effects of his wound, in the forty-first year of his


This pretender to the philosopher's stone, was the son, by a
former husband, of the woman Aluys, with whom Delisle became
acquainted at the commencement of his career, in the cabaret by the
road side, and whom he afterwards married. Delisle performed the part
of a father towards him, and thought he could show no stronger proof
of his regard, than by giving him the necessary instructions to carry
on the deception which had raised himself to such a pitch of
greatness. The young Aluys was an apt scholar, and soon mastered all
the jargon of the alchymists. He discoursed learnedly upon
projections, cimentations, sublimations, the elixir of life, and the
universal alkahest; and on the death of Delisle gave out that the
secret of that great adept had been communicated to him, and to him
only. His mother aided in the fraud, with the hope they might both
fasten themselves, in the true alchymical fashion, upon some rich
dupe, who would entertain them magnificently while the operation was
in progress. The fate of Delisle was no inducement for them to stop in
France. The Provencals, it is true, entertained as high an opinion as
ever of his skill, and were well inclined to believe the tales of the
young adept on whom his mantle had fallen; but the dungeons of the
Bastille were yawning for their prey, and Aluys and his mother
decamped with all convenient expedition. They travelled about the
Continent for several years, sponging upon credulous rich men, and now
and then performing successful transmutations by the aid of
double-bottomed crucibles and the like. In the year 1726, Aluys,
without his mother, who appears to have died in the interval, was at
Vienna, where he introduced himself to the Duke de Richelieu, at that
time ambassador from the court of France. He completely deceived this
nobleman; he turned lead into gold (apparently) on several occasions,
and even made the ambassador himself turn an iron nail into a silver
one. The Duke afterwards boasted to Lenglet du Fresnoy of his
achievements as an alchymist, and regretted that be had not been able
to discover the secret of the precious powder by which he performed

Aluys soon found that, although he might make a dupe of the Duke
de Richelieu, he could not get any money from him. On the contrary,
the Duke expected all his pokers and fire shovels to be made silver,
and all his pewter utensils gold; and thought the honour of his
acquaintance was reward sufficient for a roturier, who could not want
wealth since he possessed so invaluable a secret. Aluys seeing that so
much was expected of him, bade adieu to his Excellency, and proceeded
to Bohemia, accompanied by a pupil, and by a young girl who had fallen
in love with him in Vienna. Some noblemen in Bohemia received him
kindly, and entertained him at their houses for months at a time. It
was his usual practice to pretend that he possessed only a few grains
of his powder, with which he would operate in any house where he
intended to fix his quarters for the season. He would make the
proprietor a present of the piece of gold thus transmuted, and promise
him millions, if he could only be provided with leisure to gather his
lunaria major and minor on their mountain tops, and board, lodging,
and loose cash for himself, his wife, and his pupil in the interval.

He exhausted in this manner the patience of some dozen of people,
when, thinking that there was less danger for him in France, under the
young king Louis XV, than under his old and morose predecessor, he
returned to Provence. On his arrival at Aix, he presented himself
before M. le Bret, the President of the province, a gentleman who was
much attached to the pursuits of alchymy, and had great hopes of being
himself able to find the philosopher's stone. M. le Bret, contrary to
his expectation, received him very coolly, in consequence of some
rumours that were spread abroad respecting him; and told him to call
upon him on the morrow. Aluys did not like the tone of the voice, or
the expression of the eye of the learned President, as that
functionary looked down upon him. Suspecting that all was not right,
he left Aix secretly the same evening, and proceeded to Marseilles.
But the police were on the watch for him; and he had not been there
four-and-twenty hours, before he was arrested on a charge of coining,
and thrown into prison.

As the proofs against him were too convincing to leave him much
hope of an acquittal, he planned an escape from durance. It so
happened that the gaoler had a pretty daughter, and Aluys soon
discovered that she was tender-hearted. He endeavoured to gain her in
his favour, and succeeded. The damsel, unaware that he was a married
man, conceived and encouraged a passion for him, and generously
provided him with the means of escape. After he had been nearly a year
in prison he succeeded in getting free, leaving the poor girl behind,
to learn that he was already married, and to lament in solitude that
she had given her heart to an ungrateful vagabond.

When he left Marseilles, he had not a shoe to his foot, or a
decent garment to his back, but was provided with some money and
clothes by his wife in a neighbouring town. They then found their way
to Brussels, and by dint of excessive impudence, brought themselves
into notice. He took a house, fitted up a splendid laboratory, and
gave out that he knew the secret of transmutation. In vain did M.
Percel, the brother-in-law of Lenglet du Fresnoy, who resided in that
city, expose his pretensions, and hold him up to contempt as an
ignorant impostor: the world believed him not. They took the alchymist
at his word, and besieged his doors, to see and wonder at the clever
legerdemain by which he turned iron nails into gold and silver. A rich
greffier paid him a large sum of money that he might be instructed in
the art, and Aluys gave him several lessons on the most common
principles of chemistry. The greffier studied hard for a twelvemonth,
and then discovered that his master was a quack. He demanded his money
back again; but Aluys was not inclined to give it him, and the affair
was brought before the civil tribunal of the province. In the mean
time, however, the greffier died suddenly; poisoned, according to the
popular rumour, by his debtor, to avoid repayment. So great an outcry
arose in the city, that Aluys, who may have been innocent of the
crime, was nevertheless afraid to remain and brave it. He withdrew
secretly in the night, and retired to Paris. Here all trace of him is
lost. He was never heard of again; but Lenglet du Fresnoy conjectures,
that he ended his days in some obscure dungeon, into which he was cast
for coining, or other malpractices.


This adventurer was of a higher grade than the last, and played a
distinguished part at the court of Louis XV. He pretended to have
discovered the elixir of life, by means of which he could make any one
live for centuries; and allowed it to be believed that his own age was
upwards of two thousand years. He entertained many of the opinions of
the Rosicrucians; boasted of his intercourse with sylphs and
salamanders; and of his power of drawing diamonds from the earth, and
pearls from the sea, by the force of his incantations. He did not lay
claim to the merit of having discovered the philosopher's stone; but
devoted so much of his time to the operations of alchymy, that it was
very generally believed, that, if such a thing as the philosopher's
stone had ever existed, or could be called into existence, he was the
man to succeed in finding it.

It has never yet been discovered what was his real name, or in
what country he was born. Some believed, from the Jewish cast of his
handsome countenance, that he was the "wandering Jew;" others
asserted, that he was the issue of an Arabian princess, and that his
father was a salamander; while others, more reasonable, affirmed him
to be the son of a Portuguese Jew, established at Bourdeaux. He first
carried on his imposture in Germany, where he made considerable sums
by selling an elixir to arrest the progress of old age. The Marechal
de Belle-Isle purchased a dose of it; and was so captivated with the
wit, learning, and good manners of the charlatan, and so convinced of
the justice of his most preposterous pretensions, that he induced him
to fix his residence in Paris. Under the Marshal's patronage, he first
appeared in the gay circles of that capital. Every one was delighted
with the mysterious stranger; who, at this period of his life, appears
to have been about seventy years of age, but did not look more than
forty-five. His easy assurance imposed upon most people. His reading
was extensive, and his memory extraordinarily tenacious of the
slightest circumstances. His pretension to have lived for so many
centuries naturally exposed him to some puzzling questions, as to the
appearance, life, and conversation of the great men of former days;
but he was never at a loss for an answer. Many who questioned him for
the purpose of scoffing at him, refrained in perplexity, quite
bewildered by his presence of mind, his ready replies, and his
astonishing accuracy on every point mentioned in history. To increase
the mystery by which he was surrounded, he permitted no person to know
how he lived. He dressed in a style of the greatest magnificence;
sported valuable diamonds in his hat, on his fingers, and in his
shoe-buckles; and sometimes made the most costly presents to the
ladies of the court. It was suspected by many that he was a spy, in
the pay of the English ministry; but there never was a tittle of
evidence to support the charge. The King looked upon him with marked
favour, was often closeted with him for hours together, and would not
suffer anybody to speak disparagingly of him. Voltaire constantly
turned him into ridicule; and, in one of his letters to the King of
Prussia, mentions him as "un comte pour fire;" and states, that he
pretended to have dined with the holy fathers, at the Council of

In the "Memoirs of Madame du Hausset," chamber-woman to Madame du
Pompadour, there are some amusing anecdotes of this personage. Very
soon after his arrival in Paris, he had the entree of her
dressing-room; a favour only granted to the most powerful lords at the
court of her royal lover. Madame was fond of conversing with him; and,
in her presence, he thought fit to lower his pretensions very
considerably: but he often allowed her to believe that he had lived
two or three hundred years, at least. "One day," says Madame du
Hausset, "Madame said to him, in my presence, 'What was the personal
appearance of Francis I? He was a King I should have liked.' 'He
was, indeed, very captivating,' replied St. Germain; and he proceeded
to describe his face and person, as that of a man whom he had
accurately observed. 'It is a pity he was too ardent. I could have
given him some good advice, which would have saved him from all his
misfortunes: but he would not have followed it; for it seems as if a
fatality attended princes, forcing them to shut their ears to the
wisest counsel.' 'Was his court very brilliant?' inquired Madame du
Pompadour. 'Very,' replied the Count; 'but those of his grandsons
surpassed it. In the time of Mary Stuart and Margaret of Valois, it
was a land of enchantment -- a temple sacred to pleasures of every
kind.' Madame said, laughing, 'You seem to have seen all this.' 'I
have an excellent memory,' said he, 'and have read the history of
France with great care. I sometimes amuse myself, not by making, but
by letting, it be believed that I lived in old times.'

"'But you do not tell us your age,' said Madame du Pompadour to
him on another occasion; 'and yet you pretend you are very old. The
Countess de Gergy, who was, I believe, ambassadress at Vienna some
fifty years ago, says she saw you there, exactly the same as you now

"'It is true, Madam,' replied St. Germain; 'I knew Madame de Gergy
many years ago.'

"'But, according to her account, you must be more than a hundred
years old?'

"'That is not impossible,' said he, laughing; 'but it is much more
possible that the good lady is in her dotage.'

"'You gave her an elixir, surprising for the effects it produced;
for she says, that during a length of time, she only appeared to be
eighty-four; the age at which she took it. Why don't you give it to
the King ?'

"'O Madam !' he exclaimed, 'the physicians would have me broken on
the wheel, were I to think of drugging his Majesty.'"

When the world begins to believe extraordinary things of an
individual, there is no telling where its extravagance will stop.
People, when once they have taken the start, vie with each other who
shall believe most. At this period all Paris resounded with the
wonderful adventures of the Count de St. Germain; and a company of
waggish young men tried the following experiment upon its credulity:-
A clever mimic, who, on account of the amusement he afforded, was
admitted into good society, was taken by them, dressed as the Count de
St. Germain, into several houses in the Rue du Marais. He imitated the
Count's peculiarities admirably, and found his auditors open-mouthed
to believe any absurdity he chose to utter. NO fiction was too
monstrous for their all-devouring credulity. He spoke of the Saviour
of the world in terms of the greatest familiarity; said he had supped
with him at the marriage in Canaan of Galilee, where the water was
miraculously turned into wine. In fact, he said he was an intimate
friend of his, and had often warned him to be less romantic and
imprudent, or he would finish his career miserably. This infamous
blasphemy, strange to say, found believers; and, ere three days had
elapsed, it was currently reported that St. Germain was born soon
after the deluge, and that he would never die!

St. Germain himself was too much a man of the world to assert
anything so monstrous; but he took no pains to contradict the story.
In all his conversations with persons of rank and education, he
advanced his claims modestly, and as if by mere inadvertency; and
seldom pretended to a longevity beyond three hundred years; except
when he found he was in company with persons who would believe
anything. He often spoke of Henry VIII, as if he had known him
intimately; and of the Emperor Charles V, as if that monarch had
delighted in his society. He would describe conversations which took
place with such an apparent truthfulness, and be so exceedingly minute
and particular as to the dress and appearance of the individuals, and
even the weather at the time, and the furniture of the room, that
three persons out of four were generally inclined to credit him. He
had constant applications from rich old women for an elixir to make
them young again; and, it would appear, gained large sums in this
manner. To those whom he was pleased to call his friends, he said, his
mode of living and plan of diet were far superior to any elixir; and
that anybody might attain a patriarchal age, by refraining from
drinking at meals, and very sparingly at any other time. The Baron de
Gleichen followed this system, and took great quantities of senna
leaves, expecting to live for two hundred years. He died, however, at
seventy-three. The Duchess de Choiseul was desirous of following the
same system; but the Duke her husband, in much wrath, forbade her to
follow any system prescribed by a man who had so equivocal a
reputation as M. de St. Germain.

Madame du Hausset says, she saw St. Germain, and conversed with
him several times. He appeared to her to be about fifty years of age,
was of the middle size, and had fine expressive features. His dress
was always simple, but displayed much taste. He usually wore diamond
rings of great value; and his watch and snuff-box were ornamented with
a profusion of precious stones. One day, at Madame du Pompadour's
apartments, where the principal courtiers were assembled, St. Germain
made his appearance in diamond knee and shoe buckles, of so fine a
water, that Madame said, she did not think the King had any equal to
them. He was entreated to pass into the antechamber, and undo them;
which he did, and brought them to Madame, for closer inspection. M. de
Gontant, who was present, said their value could not be less than two
hundred thousand livres, or upwards of eight thousand pounds sterling.
The Baron de Gleichen, in his "Memoirs," relates, that the Count one
day showed him so many diamonds, that he thought he saw before him all
the treasures of Aladdin's lamp; and adds, that he had had great
experience in precious stones, and was convinced that all those
possessed by the Count were genuine. On another occasion, St. Germain
showed Madame du Pompadour a small box, containing topazes, emeralds,
and diamonds, worth half a million of livres. He affected to despise
all this wealth, to make the world more easily believe that he could,
like the Rosicrucians, draw precious stones out of the earth by the
magic of his song. He gave away a great number of these jewels to the
ladies of the court; and Madame du Pompadour was so charmed with his
generosity, that she gave him a richly-enamelled snuff-box, as a token
of her regard; on the lid of which was beautifully painted a portrait
of Socrates, or some other Greek sage, to whom she compared him. He
was not only lavish to the mistresses, but to the maids. Madame du
Hausset says, -- "The Count came to see Madame du Pompadour, who was
very ill, and lay on the sofa. He showed her diamonds enough to
furnish a king's treasury. Madame sent for me to see all those
beautiful things. I looked at them with an air of the utmost
astonishment; but I made signs to her, that I thought them all false.
The Count felt for something in a pocket-book about twice as large as
a spectacle-case; and, at length, drew out two or three little paper
packets, which he unfolded, and exhibited a superb ruby. He threw on
the table, with a contumptuous air, a little cross of green and white
stones. I looked at it, and said it was not to be despised. I then put
it on, and admired it greatly. The Count begged me to accept it. I
refused. He urged me to take it. At length, he pressed so warmly, that
Madame, seeing it could not be worth more than a thousand livres, made
me a sign to accept it. I took the cross, much pleased with the
Count's politeness."

How the adventurer obtained his wealth remains a secret. He could
not have made it all by the sale of his elixir vitae in Germany;
though, no doubt, some portion of it was derived from that source.
Voltaire positively says, he was in the pay of foreign governments;
and in his letter to the King of Prussia, dated the 5th of April 1758,
says, that he was initiated in all the secrets of Choiseul, Kaunitz,
and Pitt. Of what use he could be to any of those ministers, and to
Choiseul especially, is a mystery of mysteries.

There appears no doubt that he possessed the secret of removing
spots from diamonds; and, in all probability, he gained considerable
sums by buying, at inferior prices, such as had flaws in them, and
afterwards disposing of them at a profit of cent. per cent. Madame du
Hausset relates the following anecdote on this particular:-- "The
King," says she, "ordered a middling-sized diamond, which had a flaw
in it, to be brought to him. After having it weighed, his Majesty said
to the Count, 'The value of this diamond, as it is, and with the flaw
in it, is six thousand livres; without the flaw, it would be worth, at
least, ten thousand. Will you undertake to make me a gainer of four
thousand livres?' St. Germain examined it very attentively, and said,
'It is possible; it may be done. I will bring it you again in a
month.' At the time appointed, the Count brought back the diamond,
without a spot, and gave it to the King. It was wrapped in a cloth of
amianthos, which he took off. The King had it weighed immediately, and
found it very little diminished. His Majesty then sent it to his
jeweller, by M. de Gonrant, without telling him of anything that had
passed. The jeweller gave nine thousand six hundred livres for it. The
King, however, sent for the diamond back again, and said he would keep
it as a curiosity. He could not overcome his surprise; and said M. de
St. Germain must be worth millions; especially if he possessed the
secret of making large diamonds out of small ones. The Count neither
said that he could, or could not; but positively asserted, that he
knew how to make pearls grow, and give them the finest water. The King
paid him great attention, and so did Madame du Pompadour. M. du
Quesnoy once said, that St. Germain was a quack; but the King
reprimanded him. In fact, his Majesty appears infatuated by him; and
sometimes talks of him as if his descent were illustrious."

St. Germain had a most amusing vagabond for a servant, to whom he
would often appeal for corroboration, when relating some wonderful event
that happened centuries before. The fellow, who was not without
ability, generally corroborated him in a most satisfactory manner.
Upon one occasion, his master was telling a party of ladies and
gentlemen, at dinner, some conversation he had had in Palestine, with
King Richard I. of England, whom he described as a very particular
friend of his. Signs of astonishment and incredulity were visible on
the faces of the company; upon which St. Germain very coolly turned to
his servant, who stood behind his chair, and asked him if he had not
spoken truth? "I really cannot say," replied the man, without moving a
muscle; "you forget, sir, I have only been five hundred years in your
service!" "Ah! true," said his master; "I remember now; it was a
little before your time!" Occasionally, when with men whom he could
not so easily dupe, he gave utterance to the contempt with which he
could scarcely avoid regarding such gaping credulity. "These fools of
Parisians," said he, to the Baron de Gleichen, "believe me to be more
than five hundred years old; and, since they will have it so, I
confirm them in their idea. Not but that I really am much older than I

Many other stories are related of this strange impostor; but
enough have been quoted to show his character and pretensions. It
appears that he endeavoured to find the philosopher's stone; but never
boasted of possessing it. The Prince of Hesse Cassel, whom he had
known years before, in Germany, wrote urgent letters to him,
entreating him to quit Paris, and reside with him. St. Germain at last
consented. Nothing further is known of his career. There were no
gossipping memoir-writers at the court of Hesse Cassel to chronicle
his sayings and doings. He died at Sleswig, under the roof of his
friend the Prince, in the year 1784.


This famous charlatan, the friend and successor of St. Germain,
ran a career still more extraordinary. He was the arch-quack of his
age, the last of the great pretenders to the philosopher's stone and
the water of life, and during his brief season of prosperity one of
the most conspicuous characters of Europe.

His real name was Joseph Balsamo. He was born at Palermo about the
year 1743, of humble parentage. He had the misfortune to lose his
father during his infancy, and his education was left in consequence
to some relatives of his mother, the latter being too poor to afford
him any instruction beyond mere reading and writing. He was sent in
his fifteenth year to a monastery, to be taught the elements of
chemistry and physic; but his temper was so impetuous, his indolence
so invincible, and his vicious habits so deeply rooted, that he made
no progress. After remaining some years, he left it with the character
of an uninformed and dissipated young man, with good natural talents
but a bad disposition. When he became of age, he abandoned himself to
a life of riot and debauchery, and entered himself, in fact, into that
celebrated fraternity, known in France and Italy as the "Knights of
Industry," and in England as the "Swell Mob." He was far from being an
idle or unwilling member of the corps. The first way in which he
distinguished himself was by forging orders of admission to the
theatres. He afterwards robbed his uncle, and counterfeited a will.
For acts like these, he paid frequent compulsory visits to the prisons
of Palermo. Somehow or other he acquired the character of a sorcerer -
of a man who had failed in discovering the secrets of alchymy, and had
sold his soul to the devil for the gold which he was not able to make
by means of transmutation. He took no pains to disabuse the popular
mind on this particular, but rather encouraged the belief than
otherwise. He at last made use of it to cheat a silversmith, named
Marano, of about sixty ounces of gold, and was in consequence obliged
to leave Palermo. He persuaded this man that he could show him a
treasure hidden in a cave, for which service he was to receive the
sixty ounces of gold, while the silversmith was to have all the
treasure for the mere trouble of digging it up. They went together at
midnight to an excavation in the vicinity of Palermo, where Balsamo
drew a magic circle, and invoked the devil to show his treasures.
Suddenly there appeared half a dozen fellows, the accomplices of the
swindler, dressed to represent devils, with horns on their heads,
claws to their fingers, and vomiting apparently red and blue flame.
They were armed with pitchforks, with which they belaboured poor
Marano till he was almost dead, and robbed him of his sixty ounces of
gold and all the valuables he carried about his person. They then made
off, accompanied by Balsamo, leaving the unlucky silversmith to
recover or die at his leisure. Nature chose the former course; and
soon after daylight he was restored to his senses, smarting in body
from his blows and in spirit for the deception of which he had been
the victim. His first impulse was to denounce Balsamo to the
magistrates of the town; but on further reflection he was afraid of
the ridicule that a full exposure of all the circumstances would draw
upon him: he therefore took the truly Italian resolution of being
revenged on Balsamo by murdering him at the first convenient
opportunity. Having given utterance to this threat in the hearing of a
friend of Balsamo, it was reported to the latter, who immediately
packed up his valuables and quitted Europe.

He chose Medina, in Arabia, for his future dwelling-place, and
there became acquainted with a Greek named Altotas, a man exceedingly
well versed in all the languages of the East, and an indefatigable
student of alchymy. He possessed an invaluable collection of Arabian
manuscripts on his favourite science, and studied them with such
unremitting industry that he found he had not sufficient time to
attend to his crucibles and furnaces without neglecting his books. He
was looking about for an assistant when Balsamo opportunely presented
himself, and made so favourable an impression that he was at once
engaged in that capacity. But the relation of master and servant did
not long subsist between them; Balsamo was too ambitious and too
clever to play a secondary part, and within fifteen days of their
first acquaintance they were bound together as friends and partners.
Altotas, in the course of a long life devoted to alchymy, had stumbled
upon some valuable discoveries in chemistry, one of which was an
ingredient for improving the manufacture of flax, and imparting to
goods of that material a gloss and softness almost equal to silk.
Balsamo gave him the good advice to leave the philosopher's stone for
the present undiscovered, and make gold out of their flax. The advice
was taken, and they proceeded together to Alexandria to trade, with a
large stock of that article. They stayed forty days in Alexandria, and
gained a considerable sum by their venture. They afterwards visited
other cities in Egypt, and were equally successful. They also visited
Turkey, where they sold drugs and amulets. On their return to Europe,
they were driven by stress of weather into Malta, and were hospitably
received by Pinto, the Grand Master of the Knights, and a famous
alchymist. They worked in his laboratory for some months, and tried
hard to change a pewter-platter into a silver one. Balsamo, having
less faith than his companions, was sooner wearied; and obtaining from
his host many letters of introduction to Rome and Naples, he left him
and Altotas to find the philosopher's stone and transmute the
pewter-platter without him.

He had long since dropped the name of Balsamo on account of the
many ugly associations that clung to it; and during his travels had
assumed at least half a score others, with titles annexed to them. He
called himself sometimes the Chevalier de Fischio, the Marquis de
Melissa, the Baron de Belmonte, de Pelligrini, d'Anna, de Fenix, de
Harat, but most commonly the Count de Cagliostro. Under the latter
title he entered Rome, and never afterwards changed it. In this city
he gave himself out as the restorer of the Rosicrucian philosophy;
said he could transmute all metals into gold; that he could render
himself invisible, cure all diseases, and administer an elixir against
old age and decay. His letters from the Grand Master Pinto procured
him an introduction into the best families. He made money rapidly by
the sale of his elixir vitae; and, like other quacks, performed many
remarkable cures by inspiring his patients with the most complete
faith and reliance upon his powers; an advantage which the most
impudent charlatans often possess over the regular practitioner.

While thus in a fair way of making his fortune he became
acquainted with the beautiful Lorenza Feliciana, a young lady of noble
birth, but without fortune. Cagliostro soon discovered that she
possessed accomplishments that were invaluable. Besides her ravishing
beauty, she had the readiest wit, the most engaging manners, the most
fertile imagination, and the least principle of any of the maidens of
Rome. She was just the wife for Cagliostro, who proposed himself to
her, and was accepted. After their marriage, he instructed his fair
Lorenza in all the secrets of his calling - taught her pretty lips to
invoke angels, and genii, sylphs, salamanders, and undines, and, when
need required, devils and evil spirits. Lorenza was an apt scholar:
she soon learned all the jargon of the alchymists and all the spells
of the enchanters; and thus accomplished the hopeful pair set out on
their travels, to levy contributions on the superstitious and the

They first went to Sleswig on a visit to the Count de St. Germain,
their great predecessor in the art of making dupes, and were received
by him in the most magnificent manner. They no doubt fortified their
minds for the career they had chosen, by the sage discourse of that
worshipful gentleman; for immediately after they left him, they began
their operations. They travelled for three or four years in Russia,
Poland, and Germany, transmuting metals, telling fortunes, raising
spirits, and selling the elixir vitae wherever they went; but there is
no record of their doings from whence to draw a more particular
detail. It was not until they made their appearance in England in
1776, that the names of the Count and Countess di Cagliostro began to
acquire a European reputation. They arrived in London in the July of
that year, possessed of property in plate, jewels, and specie to the
amount of about three thousand pounds. They hired apartments in
Whitcombe-street, and lived for some months quietly. In the same house
there lodged a Portuguese woman named Blavary, who, being in
necessitous circumstances, was engaged by the Count as interpreter.
She was constantly admitted into his laboratory, where he spent much
of his time in search of the philosopher's stone. She spread abroad
the fame of her entertainer in return for his hospitality, and
laboured hard to impress everybody with as full a belief in his
extraordinary powers as she felt herself. But as a female interpreter
of the rank and appearance of Madame Blavary did not exactly
correspond with the Count's notions either of dignity or decorum, he
hired a person named Vitellini, a teacher of languages, to act in that
capacity. Vitellini was a desperate gambler; a man who had tried
almost every resource to repair his ruined fortunes, including among
the rest the search for the philosopher's stone. Immediately that he
saw the Count's operations, he was convinced that the great secret was
his, and that the golden gates of the palace of fortune were open to
let him in. With still more enthusiasm than Madame Blavary, he held
forth to his acquaintance, and in all public places, that the Count
was an extraordinary man, a true adept, whose fortune was immense, and
who could transmute into pure and solid gold, as much lead, iron, and
copper as he pleased. The consequence was, that the house of
Cagliostro was besieged by crowds of the idle, the credulous, and the
avaricious, all eager to obtain a sight of the "philosopher," or to
share in the boundless wealth which he could call into existence.

Unfortunately for Cagliostro, he had fallen into evil hands;
instead of duping the people of England as he might have done, he
became himself the victim of a gang of swindlers, who, with the
fullest reliance on his occult powers, only sought to make money of
him. Vitellini introduced to him a ruined gambler like himself, named
Scot, whom he represented as a Scottish nobleman, attracted to London
solely by his desire to see and converse with the extraordinary man
whose fame had spread to the distant mountains of the north.
Cagliostro received him with great kindness and cordiality; and "Lord"
Scot thereupon introduced a woman named Fry, as Lady Scot, who was to
act as chaperone to the Countess di Cagliostro, and make her
acquainted with all the noble families of Britain. Thus things went
swimmingly. "His lordship," whose effects had not arrived from
Scotland, and who had no banker in London, borrowed two hundred pounds
of the Count; they were lent without scruple, so flattered was
Cagliostro by the attentions they paid him, the respect, nay,
veneration they pretended to feel for him, and the complete deference
with which they listened to every word that fell from his lips.

Superstitious, like all desperate gamesters, Scot had often tried
magical and cabalistic numbers, in the hope of discovering lucky
numbers in the lottery, or at the roulette tables. He had in his
possession a cabalistic manuscript, containing various arithmetical
combinations of the kind, which he submitted to Cagliostro, with an
urgent request that he would select a number. Cagliostro took the
manuscript and studied it; but, as he himself informs us, with no
confidence in its truth. He however predicted twenty as the successful
number for the 6th of November following. Scot ventured a small sum
upon this number, out of the two hundred pounds he had borrowed, and
won. Cagliostro, incited by this success, prognosticated number
twenty-five for the next drawing. Scot tried again, and won a hundred
guineas. The numbers fifty-five and fifty-seven were announced with
equal success for the 18th of the same month, to the no small
astonishment and delight of Cagliostro, who thereupon resolved to try
fortune for himself, and not for others. To all the entreaties of Scot
and his lady that he would predict more numbers for them, he turned a
deaf ear, even while he still thought him a lord and a man of honour.
But when he discovered that he was a mere swindler, and the pretended
Lady Scot an artful woman of the town, he closed his door upon them
and on all their gang.

Having complete faith in the supernatural powers of the Count,
they were in the deepest distress at having lost his countenance. They
tried by every means their ingenuity could suggest, to propitiate him
again; they implored, they threatened, and endeavoured to bribe him.
But all was vain. Cagliostro would neither see nor correspond with
them. In the mean time they lived extravagantly; and in the hope of
future, exhausted all their present gains. They were reduced to the
last extremity, when Miss Fry obtained access to the Countess, and
received a guinea from her on the representation that she was
starving. Miss Fry, not contented with this, begged her to intercede
with her husband, that for the last time he would point out a lucky
number in the lottery. The Countess promised to exert her influence,
and Cagliostro thus entreated, named the number eight, at the same
time reiterating his determination to have no more to do with any of
them. By an extraordinary hazard, which filled Cagliostro with
surprise and pleasure, number eight was the greatest prize in the
lottery. Miss Fry and her associates cleared fifteen hundred guineas
by the adventure; and became more than ever convinced of the occult
powers of Cagliostro, and strengthened in their determination never to
quit him until they had made their fortunes. Out of the proceeds, Miss
Fry bought a handsome necklace at a pawnbrokers for ninety guineas.
She then ordered a richly chased gold box, having two compartments, to
be made at a jeweller's, and putting the necklace in the one, filled
the other with a fine aromatic snuff. She then sought another
interview with Madame di Cagliostro, and urged her to accept the box
as a small token of her esteem and gratitude, without mentioning the
valuable necklace that was concealed in it. Madame di Cagliostro
accepted the present, and was from that hour exposed to the most
incessant persecution from all the confederates, Blavary, Vitellini,
and the pretended Lord and Lady Scot. They flattered themselves they
had regained their lost footing in the house, and came day after day
to know lucky numbers in the lottery; sometimes forcing themselves up
the stairs, and into the Count's laboratory, in spite of the efforts
of the servants to prevent them. Cagliostro, exasperated at their
pertinacity, threatened to call in the assistance of the magistrates;
and taking Miss Fry by the shoulders, pushed her into the street.

From that time may be dated the misfortunes of Cagliostro. Miss
Fry, at the instigation of her paramour, determined on vengeance. Her
first act was to swear a debt of two hundred pounds against
Cagliostro, and to cause him to be arrested for that sum. While he was
in custody in a sponging house, Scot, accompanied by a low attorney,
broke into his laboratory, and carried off a small box, containing, as
they believed, the powder of transmutation, and a number of cabalistic
manuscripts and treatises upon alchymy. They also brought an action
against him for the recovery of the necklace; and Miss Fry accused
both him and his Countess of sorcery and witchcraft, and of
foretelling numbers in the lottery by the aid of the devil. This
latter charge was actually heard before Mr. Justice Miller. The
action of trover for the necklace was tried before the Lord Chief
Justice of the Common Pleas, who recommended the parties to submit to
arbitration. In the mean time Cagliostro remained in prison for
several weeks, till having procured bail, he was liberated. He was
soon after waited upon by an attorney named Reynolds, also deep in the
plot, who offered to compromise all the actions upon certain
conditions. Scot, who had accompanied him, concealed himself behind
the door, and suddenly rushing out, presented a pistol at the heart of
Cagliostro, swearing he would shoot him instantly, if he would not
tell him truly the art of predicting lucky numbers, and of transmuting
metals. Reynolds pretending to be very angry, disarmed his accomplice,
and entreated the Count to satisfy them by fair means, and disclose
his secrets, promising that if he would do so, they would discharge
all the actions, and offer him no further molestation. Cagliostro
replied, that threats and entreaties were alike useless; that he knew
no secrets; and that the powder of transmutation of which they had
robbed him, was of no value to anybody but himself. He offered,
however, if they would discharge the actions, and return the powder
and the manuscripts, he would forgive them all the money they had
swindled him out of. These conditions were refused; and Scot and
Reynolds departed, swearing vengeance against him.

Cagliostro appears to have been quite ignorant of the forms of law
in England, and to have been without a friend to advise him as to the
best course he should pursue. While he was conversing with his
Countess on the difficulties that beset them, one of his bail called,
and invited him to ride in a hackney coach to the house of a person
who would see him righted. Cagliostro consented, and was driven to the
King's Bench prison, where his friend left him. He did not discover
for several hours that he was a prisoner, or in fact understand the
process of being surrendered by one's bail.

He regained his liberty in a few weeks; and the arbitrators
between him and Miss Fry, made their award against him. He was ordered
to pay the two hundred pounds she had sworn against him, and to
restore the necklace and gold box which had been presented to the
Countess. Cagliostro was so disgusted, that he determined to quit
England. His pretensions, besides, had been unmercifully exposed by a
Frenchman, named Morande, the Editor of the Courier de l'Europe,
published in London. To add to his distress, he was recognised in
Westminster Hall, as Joseph Balsamo, the swindler of Palermo. Such a
complication of disgrace was not to be borne. He and his Countess
packed up their small effects, and left England with no more than
fifty pounds, out of the three thousand they had brought with them.

They first proceeded to Brussels, where fortune was more
auspicious. They sold considerable quantities of the elixir of life,
performed many cures, and recruited their finances. They then took
their course through Germany to Russia, and always with the same
success. Gold flowed into their coffers faster than they could count
it. They quite forgot all the woes they had endured in England, and
learned to be more circumspect in the choice of their acquaintance.

In the year 1780, they made their appearance in Strasbourg. Their
fame had reached that city before them. They took a magnificent hotel,
and invited all the principal persons of the place to their table.
Their wealth appeared to be boundless, and their hospitality equal to
it. Both the Count and Countess acted as physicians, and gave money,
advice, and medicine to all the necessitous and suffering of the town.
Many of the cures they performed, astonished those regular
practitioners who did not make sufficient allowance for the wonderful
influence of imagination in certain cases. The Countess, who at this
time was not more than five-and-twenty, and all radiant with grace,
beauty, and cheerfulness, spoke openly of her eldest son as a fine
young man of eight-and-twenty, who had been for some years a captain
in the Dutch service. The trick succeeded to admiration. All the ugly
old women in Strasbourg, and for miles around, thronged the saloon of
the Countess to purchase the liquid which was to make them as blooming
as their daughters; the young women came in equal abundance that they
might preserve their charms, and when twice as old as Ninon de
L'Enclos, be more captivating than she; while men were not wanting
fools enough to imagine, that they might keep off the inevitable
stroke of the grim foe, by a few drops of the same incomparable
elixir. The Countess, sooth to say, looked like an incarnation of
immortal loveliness, a very goddess of youth and beauty; and it is
possible that the crowds of young men and old, who at all convenient
seasons haunted the perfumed chambers of this enchantress, were
attracted less by their belief in her occult powers than from
admiration of her languishing bright eyes and sparkling conversation.
But amid all the incense that was offered at her shrine, Madame di
Cagliostro was ever faithful to her spouse. She encouraged hopes, it
is true, but she never realised them; she excited admiration, yet kept
it within bounds; and made men her slaves, without ever granting a
favour of which the vainest might boast.

In this city they made the acquaintance of many eminent persons,
and among others, of the Cardinal Prince de Rohan, who was destined
afterwards to exercise so untoward an influence over their fate. The
Cardinal, who seems to have had great faith in him as a philosopher,
persuaded him to visit Paris in his company, which he did, but
remained only thirteen days. He preferred the society of Strasbourg,
and returned thither, with the intention of fixing his residence far
from the capital. But he soon found that the first excitement of his
arrival had passed away. People began to reason with themselves, and
to be ashamed of their own admiration. The populace, among whom he had
lavished his charity with a bountiful hand, accused him of being the
Antichrist, the Wandering Jew, the man of fourteen hundred years of
age, a demon in human shape, sent to lure the ignorant to their
destruction; while the more opulent and better informed called him a
spy in the pay of foreign governments, an agent of the police, a
swindler, and a man of evil life. The outcry grew at last so strong,
that he deemed it prudent to try his fortune elsewhere.

He went first to Naples, but that city was too near Palermo; he
dreaded recognition from some of his early friends, and after a short
stay, returned to France. He chose Bordeaux as his next
dwelling-place, and created as great a sensation there as he had done
in Strasbourg. He announced himself as the founder of a new school of
medicine and philosophy, boasted of his ability to cure all diseases,
and invited the poor and suffering to visit him, and he would relieve
the distress of the one class, and cure the ailings of the other. All
day long the street opposite his magnificent hotel was crowded by the
populace; the halt and the blind, women with sick babes in their arms,
and persons suffering under every species of human infirmity flocked
to this wonderful doctor. The relief he afforded in money more than
counterbalanced the failure of his nostrums; and the affluence of
people from all the surrounding country became so great, that the
jurats of the city granted him a military guard, to be stationed day
and night before his door, to keep order. The anticipations of
Cagliostro were realised. The rich were struck with admiration of his
charity and benevolence, and impressed with a full conviction of his
marvellous powers. The sale of the elixir went on admirably. His
saloons were thronged with wealthy dupes who came to purchase
immortality. Beauty, that would endure for centuries, was the
attraction for the fair sex; health and strength for the same period
were the baits held out to the other. His charming Countess in the
meantime brought grist to the mill, by telling fortunes and casting
nativities, or granting attendant sylphs to any ladies who would pay
sufficiently for their services. What was still better, as tending to
keep up the credit of her husband, she gave the most magnificent
parties in Bordeaux.

But as at Strasbourg the popular delusion lasted for a few months
only, and burned itself out; Cagliostro forgot, in the intoxication of
success, that there was a limit to quackery, which once passed,
inspired distrust. When he pretended to call spirits from the tomb,
people became incredulous. He was accused of being an enemy to
religion - of denying Christ, and of being the Wandering Jew. He
despised these rumours as long as they were confined to a few; but
when they spread over the town -- when he received no more fees --
when his parties were abandoned, and his acquaintance turned away when
they met him in the street, he thought it high time to shift his

He was by this time wearied of the provinces, and turned his
thoughts to the capital. On his arrival, he announced himself as the
restorer of Egyptian Freemasonry and the founder of a new philosophy.
He immediately made his way into the best society by means of his
friend the Cardinal de Rohan. His success as a magician was quite
extraordinary: the most considerable persons of the time visited him.
He boasted of being able, like the Rosicrucians, to converse with the
elementary spirits; to invoke the mighty dead from the grave, to
transmute metals, and to discover occult things, by means of the
special protection of God towards him. Like Dr. Dee, he summoned the
angels to reveal the future; and they appeared, and conversed with him
in crystals and under glass bells. [See the Abbe Fiard, and
"Anecdotes of the Reign of Louis XVI." p. 400.] "There was hardly,"
says the Biographie des Contemporains, "a fine lady in Paris who would
not sup with the shade of Lucretius in the apartments of Cagliostro --
a military officer who would not discuss the art of war with Cesar,
Hannibal, or Alexander; or an advocate or counsellor who would not
argue legal points with the ghost of Cicero." These interviews with
the departed were very expensive; for, as Cagliostro said, the dead
would not rise for nothing. The Countess, as usual, exercised all her
ingenuity to support her husband's credit. She was a great favourite
with her own sex; to many a delighted and wondering auditory of whom
she detailed the marvellous powers of Cagliostro. She said he could
render himself invisible, traverse the world with the rapidity of
thought, and be in several places at the same time. ["Biographie des
Contemporains," article "Cagliostro." See also "Histoire de la Magie
en France," par M. Jules Garinet, p. 284.]

He had not been long at Paris before he became involved in the
celebrated affair of the Queen's necklace. His friend, the Cardinal de
Rohan, enamoured of the charms of Marie Antoinette, was in sore
distress at her coldness, and the displeasure she had so often
manifested against him. There was at that time a lady, named La Motte,
in the service of the Queen, of whom the Cardinal was foolish enough
to make a confidant. Madame de la Motte, in return, endeavoured to
make a tool of the Cardinal, and succeeded but too well in her
projects. In her capacity of chamber-woman, or lady of honour to the
Queen, she was present at an interview between her Majesty and M.
Boehmer, a wealthy jeweller of Paris, when the latter offered for sale
a magnificent diamond necklace, valued at 1,600,000 francs, or about
64,000 pounds sterling. The Queen admired it greatly, but dismissed
the jeweller, with the expression of her regret that she was too poor
to purchase it. Madame de la Motte formed a plan to get this costly
ornament into her own possession, and determined to make the Cardinal
de Rohan the instrument by which to effect it. She therefore sought an
interview with him, and pretending to sympathise in his grief for the
Queen's displeasure, told him she knew a way by which he might be
restored to favour. She then mentioned the necklace, and the sorrow of
the Queen that she could not afford to buy it. The Cardinal, who was
as wealthy as he was foolish, immediately offered to purchase the
necklace, and make a present of it to the Queen. Madame de la Motte
told him by no means to do so, as he would thereby offend her Majesty.
His plan would be to induce the jeweller to give her Majesty credit,
and accept her promissory note for the amount at a certain date, to be
hereafter agreed upon. The Cardinal readily agreed to the proposal,
and instructed the jeweller to draw up an agreement, and he would
procure the Queen's signature. He placed this in the hands of Madame
de la Motte, who returned it shortly afterwards, with the words, "Bon,
bon - approuve -- Marie Antoinette," written in the margin. She told
him at the same time that the Queen was highly pleased with his
conduct in the matter, and would appoint a meeting with him in the
gardens of Versailles, when she would present him with a flower, as a
token of her regard. The Cardinal showed the forged document to the
jeweller, obtained the necklace, and delivered it into the hands of
Madame de la Motte. So far all was well. Her next object was to
satisfy the Cardinal, who awaited impatiently the promised interview
with his royal mistress. There was at that time in Paris a young woman
named D'Oliva, noted for her resemblance to the Queen; and Madame de
la Motte, on the promise of a handsome reward, found no difficulty in
persuading her to personate Marie Antoinette, and meet the Cardinal de
Rohan at the evening twilight in the gardens of Versailles. The
meeting took place accordingly. The Cardinal was deceived by the
uncertain light, the great resemblance of the counterfeit, and his own
hopes; and having received the flower from Mademoiselle D'Oliva, went
home with a lighter heart than had beat in his bosom for many a day.
[The enemies of the unfortunate Queen of France, when the progress of
the Revolution embittered their animosity against her, maintained that
she was really a party in this transaction; that she, and not
Mademoiselle D'Oliva, met the Cardinal and rewarded him with the
flower; and that the story above related was merely concocted between
her, La Motte, and others to cheat the jeweller of his 1,600,000

In the course of time the forgery of the Queen's signature was
discovered. Boehmer the jeweller immediately named the Cardinal de
Rohan and Madame de la Motte as the persons with whom he had
negotiated, and they were both arrested and thrown into the Bastille.
La Motte was subjected to a rigorous examination, and the disclosures
she made implicating Cagliostro, he was seized, along with his wife,
and also sent to the Bastille, A story involving so much scandal
necessarily excited great curiosity. Nothing was to be heard of in
Paris but the Queen's necklace, with surmises of the guilt or
innocence of the several parties implicated. The husband of Madame de
la Motte escaped to England, and in the opinion of many took the
necklace with him, and there disposed of it to different jewellers in
small quantities at a time. But Madame de la Motte insisted that she
had entrusted it to Cagliostro, who had seized and taken it to pieces,
to "swell the treasures of his immense unequalled fortune." She spoke
of him as "an empiric, a mean alchymist, a dreamer on the
philosopher's stone, a false prophet, a profaner of the true worship,
the self-dubbed Count Cagliostro!" She further said that he originally
conceived the project of ruining the Cardinal de Rohan; that he
persuaded her, by the exercise of some magic influence over her mind,
to aid and abet the scheme; and that he was a robber, a swindler, and
a sorcerer!

After all the accused parties had remained for upwards of six
months in the Bastille, the trial commenced. The depositions of the
witnesses having been heard, Cagliostro, as the principal culprit, was
first called upon for his defence. He was listened to with the most
breathless attention. He put himself into a theatrical attitude, and
thus began:-- "I am oppressed! -- I am accused! -- I am calumniated!
Have I deserved this fate? I descend into my conscience, and I there
find the peace that men refuse me! I have travelled a great deal -- I
am known over all Europe, and a great part of Asia and Africa. I have
everywhere shown myself the friend of my fellow-creatures. My
knowledge, my time, my fortune have ever been employed in the relief
of distress! I have studied and practised medicine, but I have never
degraded that most noble and most consoling of arts by mercenary
speculations of any kind. Though always giving, and never receiving, I
have preserved my independence. I have even carried my delicacy so far
as to refuse the favours of kings. I have given gratuitously my
remedies and my advice to the rich: the poor have received from me
both remedies and money. I have never contracted any debts, and my
manners are pure and uncorrupted." After much more self-laudation of
the same kind, he went on to complain of the great hardships he had
endured in being separated for so many months from his innocent and
loving wife, who, as he was given to understand, had been detained in
the Bastille, and perhaps chained in an unwholesome dungeon. He denied
unequivocally that he had the necklace, or that he had ever seen it;
and to silence the rumours and accusations against him, which his own
secrecy with regard to the events of his life had perhaps originated,
he expressed himself ready to satisfy the curiosity of the public, and
to give a plain and full account of his career. He then told a
romantic and incredible tale, which imposed upon no one. He said he
neither knew the place of his birth nor the name of his parents, but
that he spent his infancy in Medina in Arabia, and was brought up
under the name of Acharat. He lived in the palace of the Great Muphti
in that city, and always had three servants to wait upon him, besides
his preceptor, named Althotas. This Althotas was very fond of him, and
told him that his father and mother, who were Christians and nobles,
died when he was three months old, and left him in the care of the
Muphti. He could never, he said, ascertain their names, for whenever
he asked Althotas the question, he was told that it would be dangerous
for him to know. Some incautious expressions dropped by his preceptor
gave him reason to think they were from Malta. At the age of twelve he
began his travels, and learned the various languages of the East. He
remained three years in Mecca, where the Cherif, or governor, showed
him so much kindness, and spoke to him so tenderly and affectionately,
that he sometimes thought that personage was his father. He quitted
this good man with tears in his eyes, and never saw him afterwards;
but he was convinced that he was, even at that moment, indebted to his
care for all the advantages he enjoyed. Whenever he arrived in any
city, either of Europe or Asia, he found an account opened for him at
the principal bankers' or merchants'. He could draw upon them to the
amount of thousands and hundreds of thousands; and no questions were
ever asked beyond his name. He had only to mention the word Acharat,
and all his wants were supplied. He firmly believed that the Cherif of
Mecca was the friend to whom all was owing. This was the secret of his
wealth, and he had no occasion to resort to swindling for a
livelihood. It was not worth his while to steal a diamond necklace
when he had wealth enough to purchase as many as he pleased, and more
magnificent ones than had ever been worn by a Queen of France. As to
the other charges brought against him by Madame de la Motte, he had
but a short answer to give. She had called him an empiric. He was not
unfamiliar with the word. If it meant a man who, without being a
physician, had some knowledge of medicine, and took no fees -- who
cured both rich and poor, and took no money from either, he confessed
that he was such a man, that he was an empiric. She had also called
him a mean alchymist. Whether he were an alchymist or not, the epithet
mean could only be applied to those who begged and cringed, and he had
never done either. As regarded his being a dreamer about the
philosopher's stone, whatever his opinions upon that subject might be,
he had been silent, and had never troubled the public with his dreams.
Then, as to his being a false prophet, he had not always been so; for
he had prophesied to the Cardinal de Rohan that Madame de la Motte
would prove a dangerous woman, and the result had verified the
prediction. He denied that he was a profaner of the true worship, or
that he had ever striven to bring religion into contempt; on the
contrary, he respected every man's religion, and never meddled with
it. He also denied that he was a Rosicrucian, or that he had ever
pretended to be three hundred years of age, or to have had one man in
his service for a hundred and fifty years. In conclusion, he said
every statement that Madame de la Motte had made regarding him was
false, and that she was mentiris impudentissime, which two words he
begged her counsel to translate for her, as it was not polite to tell
her so in French.

Such was the substance of his extraordinary answer to the charges
against him; an answer which convinced those who were before doubtful
that he was one of the most impudent impostors that had ever run the
career of deception. Counsel were then heard on behalf of the Cardinal
de Rohan and Madame de la Motte. It appearing clearly that the
Cardinal was himself the dupe of a vile conspiracy; and there being no
evidence against Cagliostro, they were both acquitted. Madame de la
Motte was found guilty, and sentenced to be publicly whipped, and
branded with a hot iron on the back.

Cagliostro and his wife were then discharged from custody. On
applying to the officers of the Bastille for the papers and effects
which had been seized at his lodgings, he found that many of them had
been abstracted. He thereupon brought an action against them for the
recovery of his MSS. and a small portion of the powder of
transmutation. Before the affair could be decided, he received orders
to quit Paris within four-and-twenty hours. Fearing that if he were
once more inclosed in the dungeons of the Bastille he should never see
daylight again, he took his departure immediately and proceeded to
England. On his arrival in London he made the acquaintance of the
notorious Lord George Gordon, who espoused his cause warmly, and
inserted a letter in the public papers, animadverting upon the conduct
of the Queen of France in the affair of the necklace, and asserting
that she was really the guilty party. For this letter Lord George was
exposed to a prosecution at the instance of the French Ambassador -
found guilty of libel, and sentenced to fine and a long imprisonment.

Cagliostro and the Countess afterwards travelled in Italy, where
they were arrested by the Papal Government in 1789, and condemned to
death. The charges against him were, that he was a freemason, a
heretic, and a sorcerer. This unjustifiable sentence was afterwards
commuted into one of perpetual imprisonment in the Castle of St.
Angelo. His wife was allowed to escape severer punishment by immuring
herself in a nunnery. Cagliostro did not long survive. The loss of
liberty preyed upon his mind -- accumulated misfortunes had injured
his health and broken his spirit, and he died early in 1790. His fate
may have been no better than he deserved, but it is impossible not to
feel that his sentence for the crimes assigned was utterly disgraceful
to the government that pronounced it.


We have now finished the list of the persons who have most
distinguished themselves in this foolish and unprofitable pursuit.
Among them are men of all ranks, characters, and conditions; the
truthseeking, but erring philosopher; the ambitious prince and the
needy noble, who have believed in it; as well as the designing
charlatan, who has not believed in it, but has merely made the
pretension to it the means of cheating his fellows, and living upon
their credulity. One or more of all these classes will be found in the
foregoing pages. It will be seen, from the record of their lives, that
the delusion, humiliating as it was to human intellect, was not
altogether without its uses. Men, in striving to gain too much, do not
always overreach themselves: if they cannot arrive at the inaccessible
mountain-top, they may, perhaps, get half way towards it, and pick up
some scraps of wisdom and knowledge on the road. The useful science of
chemistry is not a little indebted to its spurious brother of alchymy.
Many valuable discoveries have been made in that search for the
impossible, which might otherwise have been hidden for centuries yet
to come. Roger Bacon, in searching for the philosopher's stone,
discovered gunpowder, a still more extraordinary substance. Van
Helmont, in the same pursuit, discovered the properties of gas; Geber
made discoveries in chemistry which were equally important; and
Paracelsus, amidst his perpetual visions of the transmutation of
metals, found that mercury was a remedy for one of the most odious and
excruciating of all the diseases that afflict humanity.

In our day, no mention is made in Europe of any new devotees of
the science. The belief in witchcraft, which is scarcely more absurd,
still lingers in the popular mind: but none are so credulous as to
believe that any elixir could make man live for centuries, or turn all
our iron and pewter into gold. Alchymy, in Europe, may be said to be
wholly exploded; but in the East it still flourishes in as great
repute as ever. Recent travellers make constant mention of it,
especially in China, Hindostan, Persia, Tartary, Egypt, and Arabia.



And men still grope t' anticipate
The cabinet designs of Fate;
Apply to wizards to foresee
What shall and what shall never be.
Hudibras, part iii. canto 3.

In accordance with the plan laid down in the introduction to this
volume, we proceed to the consideration of the follies into which men
have been led by their eager desire to pierce the thick darkness of
futurity. God himself, for his own wise purposes, has more than once
undrawn the impenetrable veil which shrouds those awful secrets; and,
for purposes just as wise, he has decreed that, except in these
instances, ignorance shall be our lot for ever. It is happy for man
that he does not know what the morrow is to bring forth; but, unaware
of this great blessing, he has, in all ages of the world,
presumptuously endeavoured to trace the events of unborn centuries,
and anticipate the march of time. He has reduced this presumption into
a study. He has divided it into sciences and systems without number,
employing his whole life in the vain pursuit. Upon no subject has it
been so easy to deceive the world as upon this. In every breast the
curiosity exists in a greater or less degree, and can only be
conquered by a long course of self-examination, and a firm reliance
that the future would not be hidden from our sight, if it were right
that we should be acquainted with it.

An undue opinion of our own importance in the scale of creation is
at the bottom of all our unwarrantable notions in this respect. How
flattering to the pride of man to think that the stars in their
courses watch over him, and typify, by their movements and aspects,
the joys or the sorrows that await him! He, less in proportion to the
universe than the all but invisible insects that feed in myriads on a
summer's leaf, are to this great globe itself, fondly imagines that
eternal worlds were chiefly created to prognosticate his fate. How we
should pity the arrogance of the worm that crawls at our feet, if we
knew that it also desired to know the secrets of futurity, and
imagined that meteors shot athwart the sky to warn it that a tom-tit
was hovering near to gobble it up; that storms and earthquakes, the
revolutions of empires, or the fall of mighty monarchs, only happened
to, predict its birth, its progress, and its decay! Not a whit less
presuming has man shown himself; not a whit less arrogant are the
sciences, so called, of astrology, augury, necromancy, geomancy,
palmistry, and divination of every kind.

Leaving out of view the oracles of pagan antiquity and religious
predictions in general, and confining ourselves solely to the persons
who, in modern times, have made themselves most conspicuous in
foretelling the future, we shall find that the sixteenth and
seventeenth centuries were the golden age of these impostors. Many of
them have been already mentioned in their character of alchymists. The
union of the two pretensions is not at all surprising. It was to be
expected that those who assumed a power so preposterous as that of
prolonging the life of man for several centuries, should pretend, at
the same time, to foretell the events which were to mark that
preternatural span of existence. The world would as readily believe
that they had discovered all secrets, as that they had only discovered
one. The most celebrated astrologers of Europe, three centuries ago,
were alchymists. Agrippa, Paracelsus, Dr. Dee, and the Rosicrucians,
all laid as much stress upon their knowledge of the days to come, as
upon their pretended possession of the philosopher's stone and the
elixir of life. In their time, ideas of the wonderful, the diabolical,
and the supernatural, were rifer than ever they were before. The devil
or the stars were universally believed to meddle constantly in the
affairs of men; and both were to be consulted with proper ceremonies.
Those who were of a melancholy and gloomy temperament betook
themselves to necromancy and sorcery; those more cheerful and
aspiring, devoted themselves to astrology. The latter science was
encouraged by all the monarchs and governments of that age. In
England, from the time of Elizabeth to that of William and Mary,
judicial astrology was in high repute. During that period flourished
Drs. Dee, Lamb, and Forman; with Lilly, Booker, Gadbury, Evans, and
scores of nameless impostors in every considerable town and village in
the country, who made it their business to cast nativities, aid in the
recovery of stolen goods, prognosticate happy or unhappy marriages,
predict whether journeys would be prosperous, and note lucky moments
for the commencement of any enterprise, from the setting up of a
cobler's shop to the marching of an army. Men who, to use the words of
Butler, did

"Deal in Destiny's dark counsel,
And sage opinion of the moon sell;
To whom all people far and near
On deep importance did repair,
When brass and pewter pots did stray,
And linen slunk out of the way."

In Lilly's Memoirs of his Life and Times, there are many notices
of the inferior quacks who then abounded, and upon whom he pretended
to look down with supreme contempt; not because they were astrologers,
but because they debased that noble art by taking fees for the
recovery of stolen property. From Butler's Hudibras and its curious
notes, we may learn what immense numbers of these fellows lived upon
the credulity of mankind in that age of witchcraft and diablerie. Even
in our day how great is the reputation enjoyed by the almanac-makers,
who assume the name of Francis Moore. But in the time of Charles I.
and the Commonwealth, the most learned, the most noble, and the most
conspicuous characters did not hesitate to consult astrologers in the
most open manner. Lilly, whom Butler has immortalized under the name
of Sydrophel, relates, that he proposed to write a work called "An
Introduction to Astrology," in which he would satisfy the whole
kingdom of the lawfulness of that art. Many of the soldiers were for
it, he says, and many of the Independent party, and abundance of
worthy men in the House of Commons, his assured friends, and able to
take his part against the Presbyterians, who would have silenced his
predictions if they could. He afterwards carried his plan into
execution, and when his book was published, went with another
astrologer named Booker to the headquarters of the parliamentary army
at Windsor, where they were welcomed and feasted in the garden where
General Fairfax lodged. They were afterwards introduced to the
general, who received them very kindly, and made allusion to some of
their predictions. He hoped their art was lawful and agreeable to
God's word; but he did not understand it himself. He did not doubt,
however, that the two astrologers feared God, and therefore he had a
good opinion of them. Lilly assured him that the art of astrology was
quite consonant to the Scriptures; and confidently predicted from his
knowledge of the stars, that the parliamentary army would overthrow
all its enemies. In Oliver's Protectorate, this quack informs us that
he wrote freely enough. He became an Independent, and all the soldiery
were his friends. When he went to Scotland, he saw a soldier standing
in front of the army, with a book of prophecies in his hand,
exclaiming to the several companies as they passed by him, "Lo! hear
what Lilly saith: you are in this month promised victory! Fight it
out, brave boys! and then read that month's prediction!"

After the great fire of London, which Lilly said he had foretold,
he was sent for by the committee of the House of Commons appointed to
inquire into the causes of the calamity. In his "Monarchy or no
Monarchy," published in 1651, he had inserted an hieroglyphical plate,
representing on one side persons in winding sheets digging graves; and
on the other a large city in flames. After the great fire some sapient
member of the legislature bethought him of Lilly's book, and having
mentioned it in the house, it was agreed that the astrologer should be
summoned. Lilly attended accordingly, when Sir Robert Brooke told him
the reason of his summons, and called upon him to declare what he
knew. This was a rare opportunity for the vain-glorious Lilly to vaunt
his abilities; and he began a long speech in praise of himself and his
pretended science. He said, that after the execution of Charles I, he
was extremely desirous to know what might from that time forth happen
to the parliament and to the nation in general. He, therefore,
consulted the stars and satisfied himself. The result of his judgment
he put into emblems and hieroglyphics, without any commentary, so that
the true meaning might be concealed from the vulgar, and made manifest
only to the wise; imitating in this the example of many wise
philosophers who had done the like.

"Did you foresee the year of the fire?" said a member. "No!" quoth
Lilly, "nor was I desirous: of that I made no scrutiny." After some
further parley the house found they could make nothing of the
astrologer, and dismissed him with great civility.

One specimen of the explanation of a prophecy given by Lilly, and
related by him with much complacency, will be sufficient to show the
sort of trash by which he imposed upon the million. "In the year
1588," says he, "there was a prophecy printed in Greek characters,
exactly deciphering the long troubles of the English nation from 1641
to 1660;" and it ended thus:-- "And after him shall come a dreadful
dead man, and with him a royal G, of the best blood in the world, and
he shall have the crown, and shall set England on the right way, and
put out all heresies." The following is the explanation of this
oracular absurdity:--

"Monkery being extinguished above eighty or ninety years, and the
Lord General's name being Monk, is the dead man. The royal G. or C,
[it is gamma in the Greek, intending C. in the Latin, being the third
letter in the Alphabet] is Charles II, who for his extraction may be
said to be of the best blood of the world."

In France and Germany astrologers met even more encouragement than
they received in England. In very early ages, Charlemagne and his
successors fulminated their wrath against them in common with
sorcerers. Louis XI, that most superstitious of men, entertained great
numbers of them at his court; and Catherine de Medicis, that most
superstitious of women, hardly ever took any affair of importance
without consulting them. She chiefly favoured her own countrymen; and
during the time she governed France, the land was overrun by Italian
conjurors, necromancers, and fortune-tellers of every kind. But the
chief astrologer of that day, beyond all doubt, was the celebrated
Nostradamus, physician to her husband, King Henry II. He was born in
1503, at the town of St. Remi, in Provence, where his father was a
notary. He did not acquire much fame till he was past his fiftieth
year, when his famous "Centuries," a collection of verses, written in
obscure and almost unintelligible language, began to excite attention.
They were so much spoken of in 1556, that Henry II. resolved to attach
so skilful a man to his service, and appointed him his physician. In a
biographical notice of him prefixed to the edition of his "Vraies
Centuries," published at Amsterdam in 1668, we are informed that he
often discoursed with his royal master on the secrets of futurity, and
received many great presents as his reward, besides his usual
allowance for medical attendance. After the death of Henry, he retired
to his native place, where Charles IX. paid him a visit in 1564, and
was so impressed with veneration for his wondrous knowledge of the
things that were to be, not in France only, but in the whole world for
hundreds of years to come, that he made him a counsellor of state, and
his own physician, besides treating him in other matters with a royal
liberality. "In fine," continues his biographer, "I should be too
prolix were I to tell all the honours conferred upon him, and all the
great nobles and learned men that arrived at his house, from the very
ends of the earth, to see and converse with him as if he had been an
oracle. Many strangers, in fact, came to France for no other purpose
than to consult him."

The prophecies of Nostradamus consist of upwards of a thousand
stanzas, each of four lines, and are to the full as obscure as the
oracles of They take so great a latitude, both as to time and space,
that they are almost sure to be fulfilled somewhere or other in the
course of a few centuries; A little ingenuity like that evinced by
Lilly, in his explanation about General Monk and the dreadful dead
man, might easily make events to fit some of them.

Let us try. In his second century, prediction 66, he says,-- '

"From great dangers the captive is escaped.
A little time, great fortune changed.
In the palace the people are caught.
By good augury the city is besieged."

"What is this," a believer might exclaim, "but the escape of Napoleon
from Elba -- his changed fortune, and the occupation of Paris by the
allied armies?" -- Let us try again. In his third century, prediction
98, he says,--

"Two royal brothers will make fierce war on each other;
So mortal shall be the strife between them,
That each one shall occupy a fort against the other;
For their reign and life shall be the quarrel."

Some Lillius Redivivus would find no difficulty in this
prediction. To use a vulgar phrase, it is as clear as a pikestaff. Had
not the astrologer in view Don Miguel and Don Pedro when he penned
this stanza, so much less obscure and oracular than the rest?

He is to this day extremely popular in France and the Walloon
country of Belgium, where old farmer-wives consult him with great
confidence and assiduity.

Catherine di Medicis was not the only member of her illustrious
house who entertained astrologers. At the beginning of the fifteenth
century, there was a man named Basil, residing in Florence, who was
noted over all Italy for his skill in piercing the darkness of
futurity. It is said that he foretold to Cosmo di Medicis, then a
private citizen, that he would attain high dignity, inasmuch as the
ascendant of his nativity was adorned with the same propitious aspects
as those of Augustus Caesar and the Emperor Charles V. [Hermippus
Redivivus, p. 142.] Another astrologer foretold the death of Prince
Alexander di Medicis; and so very minute and particular was he in all
the circumstances, that he was suspected of being chiefly instrumental
in fulfilling his own prophecy; a very common resource with these
fellows, to keep up their credit. He foretold confidently that the
Prince should die by the hand of his own familiar friend, a person of
a slender habit of body, a small face, a swarthy complexion, and of
most remarkable taciturnity. So it afterwards happened; Alexander
having been murdered in his chamber by his cousin Lorenzo, who
corresponded exactly with the above description. [Jovii Elog. p. 320.]
The author of Hermippus Redivivus, in relating this story, inclines to
the belief that the astrologer was guiltless of any participation in
the crime, but was employed by some friend of Prince Alexander, to
warn him of his danger.

A much more remarkable story is told of an astrologer, who lived
in Romagna, in the fifteenth century, and whose name was Antiochus
Tibertus. [Les Anecdotes de Florence ou l'Histoire secrete de la
Maison di Medicis, p. 318.] At that time nearly all the petty
sovereigns of Italy retained such men in their service; and Tibertus
having studied the mathematics with great success at Paris, and
delivered many predictions, some of which, for guesses, were not
deficient in shrewdness, was taken into the household of Pandolfo di
Malatesta, the sovereign of Rimini. His reputation was so great, that
his study was continually thronged, either with visitors who were
persons of distinction, or with clients who came to him for advice,
and in a short time he acquired a considerable fortune.
Notwithstanding all these advantages he passed his life miserably, and
ended it on the scaffold. The following story afterwards got into
circulation, and has been often triumphantly cited by succeeding
astrologers as an irrefragable proof of the truth of their science. It
was said, that long before he died he uttered three remarkable
prophecies; one relating to himself, another to his friend, and the
third to his patron, Pandolfo di Malatesta. The first delivered was
that relating to his friend, Guido di Bogni, one of the greatest
captains of the time. Guido was exceedingly desirous to know his
fortune, and so importuned Tibertus, that the latter consulted the
stars, and the lines on his palm, to satisfy him. He afterwards told
him with a sorrowful face, that according to all the rules of
astrology and palmistry, he should be falsely suspected by his best
friend, and should lose his life in consequence. Guido then asked the
astrologer if he could foretell his own fate; upon which Tibertus
again consulted the stars, and found that it was decreed from all
eternity that he should end his days on the scaffold. Malatesta, when
he heard these predictions, so unlikely, to all present appearance, to
prove true, desired his astrologer to predict his fate also; and to
hide nothing from him, however unfavourable it might be. Tibertus
complied, and told his patron, at that time one of the most
flourishing and powerful princes of Italy, that he should suffer great
want, and die at last, like a beggar, in the common hospital of
Bologna: and so it happened in all three cases. Guido di Bogni was
accused by his own father-in-law, the Count di Bentivoglio, of a
treasonable design to deliver up the city of Rimini to the papal
forces, and was assassinated afterwards, by order of the tyrant
Malatesta, as he sat at the supper-table, to which he had been invited
in all apparent friendship. The astrologer was, at the same time,
thrown into prison, as being concerned in the treason of his friend.
He attempted to escape, and had succeeded in letting himself down from
his dungeon window into a moat, when he was discovered by the
sentinels. This being reported to Malatesta, he gave orders for his
execution on the following morning.

Malatesta had, at this time, no remembrance of the prophecy; and
his own fate gave him no uneasiness: but events were silently working
its fulfilment. A conspiracy had been formed, though Guido di Bogni
was innocent of it, to deliver up Rimini to the Pope; and all the
necessary measures having been taken, the city was seized by the Count
de Valentinois. In the confusion, Malatesta had barely time to escape
from his palace in disguise. He was pursued from place to place by his
enemies, abandoned by all his former friends, and, finally, by his own
children. He at last fell ill of a languishing disease, at Bologna;
and, nobody caring to afford him shelter, he was carried to the
hospital, where he died. The only thing that detracts from the
interest of this remarkable story is the fact, that the prophecy was
made after the event.

For some weeks before the birth of Louis XIV, an astrologer from
Germany, who had been sent for by the Marshal de Bassompierre and
other noblemen of the court, had taken up his residence in the palace,
to be ready, at a moment's notice, to draw the horoscope of the future
sovereign of France. When the Queen was taken in labour, he was
ushered into a contiguous apartment, that he might receive notice of
the very instant the child was born. The result of his observations
were the three words, diu, dure, feliciter; meaning, that the new-born
Prince should live and reign long, with much labour, and with great
glory. No prediction less favourable could have been expected from an


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