Early Eighteenth-Century Newspaper Reports compiled by Rictor Norton


23-25 April 1701   This day a woman living in Southwark, was by a warrant, brought before Sir Thomas Lane, being accused of bewitching a young-man in her neighbourhood, who has lain under great calamities for a considerable time. I am told, she is at present committed to one of the Compters, till such time as it shall appear, what proof can be brought against her; and that in the mean time, several examinations are taking upon oath, in writing, relating to that affair. [London Post]

1-4 August 1701   On Thursday the Assizes ended at Kingston, and acquitted the woman, accused of bewitching a smith; as also the barge-man, for overflowing a wherry above bridge, where by 4 or 5 Persons were drowned: And a man, who had knockt his child’s brains out with a hammer was brought in lunatick. [London Post]

1-4 November 1701   Last week an information was exhibited against a person that pretends to be bewitched by an old woman, who was tried and acquitted at the last Surrey Assizes. [Post Boy]

24-27 May 1712
Just Publish’d, the 4th Edition in two Parts, of
A Full and Impartial Account of the Trial and Proceedings against Jane Wenham of Walkerne in Hertfordshire, was found Guilty of Witchcraft, and receiv’d Sentence of Death for the same by Mr. Just. Powell, at Hertford Assizes, March 4. 1711-12. The Second Part containing an Account of the Witchcraft practis’d by the said Jane Wenham since her Condemnation, and the deplorable Condition in which the two poor Maids still remain: With an Answer to the most general Objections against the Being and Power [of] Witches; and some Remarks upon the Case of Jane Wenham, in particular. To which are added, The Tryals of Florence Newton, a famous Irish Witch, Anno 1661. and of two Witches, who were condemn’d at St. Edmunds-Bury Assizes, by Sir. Matt. Hale, and executed Ann. 1664. Printed for E. Curl at the Dial and Bible against St. Dunstan’s Chuirch in Fleet-Street, and sold by B. Berington at Essex-Stret End in the Strand. Price 1s. or 6d. each. [Protestant Post-Boy]

24-27 May 1712
The Belief of Witchcraft vindicated: Proving, from Scripture, there have been Witches; and from Reason, that there may be Such still. In Answer to a late Pamphlet, Intituled, The Impossibility of Witchcraft; plainly proving, from Scripture and Reason, That there never was a Witch, &c. By G. R. A. M. Printed for J. Baker, at the Black-Boy in Pater-noster row. price 6d. [Protestant Post-Boy]

31 May—7 June 1712
This Day is Publish’d
The Impossibility of Witchcraft further Demonstrated. Both from Scripture and Reason, wherein several Texts of Scripture relating to Witches are prov’d to be falsly Translated, with some Cursory Remarks on two trifling Pamphlets in Defence of the Existence of Witches. By the Author of the Impossibility of Witchcraft, &c. Sold by J. Baker at the Black-Boy in Pater-Noster-Row, Price 6d. Where may be had the Tryal of the Hertfordshire Witch, and all the other Tracts for and against Witchcraft, at Six Pence each. [Protestant Post-Boy]

30 April 1726   St. Alban’s, April 23. On Saturday last an old woman of the Parish of Burnt-Pelham in this county, was, by virtue of a warrant of a Justice of the Peace, apprehended for a witch; but being brought, in order to her commitment, before another Justice, when several Gentlemen were in his company, he acquitted her at first sight, having the opinion of all the Gentlemen present to back him, that she was too old and too homely for a witch. The report, however, was immediately spread about the country, and it being the opinion of the learned, that none but the young and the handsome are capable of being witches, it is said, that several pretty young ldies of the said Parish were so alarm’d that they absconded upon it, as apprehensive of being taken up for bewitching several of the King’s subjects. [Mist's Weekly Journal]













18 June 1726
A young Lady of my acquaintance, of whom I am an humble admirer, happened lately to seat herself on a bench, where an old woman noted for poverty, deformity, and consequently for witchcraft, had been sunning herself; this old woman being none of the cleanest, had scattered plenty of living creatures; and these same animals, in this country called lice, did of course immediately seize on the person of this Lady: She was most unmercifully assaulted on every side, and begun to complain of very great pain and smart, tho’ she could not tell what occasioned it; whereupon, a person near at hand informed her, that Mrs. such a One had been sitting there just before; at this she was in the most inexpressible agonies, and made no doubt but that she was bewitch’d; pins and needles prick’d her in all parts, nay she even fancied crooked nails and bits of iron were coming up her throat, and most dreadful was her distress.

This unhappy Lady fainted away several times, and it was as much as her attendants could do to recover her. She was carried to her home, undrest, and examined in every part; when she was stripp’d there was a swarm of lice to be seen, but nothing else, and this afflicted her beyond imagination: She believed an imp to be in every louse, and the Devil to have been the father of them all; she imagin’d herself certainly under the Influences of this poor creature, and was confirmed in that opinion so very much, that the dearest friends she had were unable to dispossess her of it.

The Parson of the Parish was immediately sent for to pray by her, and that was all he could do, for preaching had no effect upon her: fancy, and the vapours, had such power over her, that nothing could convince her she was not betwitch’d, nor any thing alter her opinion, that the Devil had possession of her.

On this, the matrons of the neighbourhood resolved to search this unhappy wretch that had caused these calamities, in hopes to find her unnatural teats; and search her they did, but finding none, they gravely concluded, that the Devil for the present had rendered them invisible.

In short, Sir, this unfortunate Lady screwed her imagination to that extravagant height, that she is now under the operation of a violent fever, the issue of which none can tell.

This I thought fit to inform you of, that you may warn your readers of such extravagant follies, which produce such sad disasters; this unfortunate Lady is so fatal an example, that I am persuaded she will deter others from indulging their fantastical vapours and whimsies, and tho’ unhappy herself, be, in her sufferings, a warning to her fellow creatures.

But most of all I would, if it were possible, persuade people to be so prudent, as not to indulge the notions of witchcraft so much, as to settle the brand of it upon their miserable and wretched fellow-creatures: Since they see so calamitous a case as this I have instanced, proceeding from that pernicious practice.

It is surprizing to think, that poverty, when join’d to a great old age, meerly on the account of its natural deformity, should be so severely stigmatized, and that people should be so fond of finding out a few unhappy circumstances, whereby, of an unhappy wretch, they may make an infernal witch.

It is very true, there have been witches, and they may come among us again; but none knows when. I cannot but think, that if Hell had power to plague the world, that it would not be idle in the exercise of it; however such mysteries are not to be used for the mirth of the mob, and the recreation of the rabble.

I dare affirm, old women have often times stumbled on straws, and a witch has not been within twenty miles of the place. I am certain horses have died and cows also in a very odd manner, yet no magick in the matter. For shame, then, my countrymen, renounce these ridiculous delusions, and be so wise as to know, they are fools that regard them.

These necessary cautions I am sure are useful, for they are founded on truth, and on matter of fact. Such is the case, and the Circumstances I have recited, on the sincerity of,

Sir, Your humble Servant, THOMAS TELLTROTH. Canterbury, June 1, 1726.

[Weekly Journal, or The British Gazetteer]

22 July 1731   Yesterday a woman was try’d at Hicks’s Hall, for defrauding one Mrs. Newton of 12l. 13s. on pretence of being a cunning woman, or fortune teller, and, as such, being capable to bring home her son from the East-Indies in a whirlwind; and also of procuring 3 men to fall in love with the said Mrs. Newton: after a long hearing the Defendant was acquitted. [Grub-street Journal]

(Texts have been modernized with regard to capitalization, italicization, and punctuation, but original spelling has been retained. This edition copyright Rictor Norton. All rights reserved. Reproduction for sale or profit prohibited. These extracts may not be archived, republished or redistributed without the permission of the compiler.)

CITATION: Rictor Norton, Early Eighteenth-Century Newspaper Reports: A Sourcebook, "Witchcraft", 22 November 2001, updated 30 November 2001 <http://grubstreet.rictornorton.co.uk/witches.htm>

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