752J  Darrell, John 1562- 1602

A detection of that sinnful, shamful, lying, and ridiculous discours, of Samuel Harshnet. entituled: A discouerie of the fravvdulent practises of Iohn Darrell wherein is manifestly and apparantly shewed in the eyes of the world. not only the vnlikelihoode, but the flate impossibilitie of the pretended counterfayting of William Somers, Thomas Darling, Kath. Wright, and Mary Couper, togeather with the other 7. in Lancashire, and the supposed teaching of them by the saide Iohn Darrell. 

[England?]: Imprinted [by the English secret press?], 1600.       $6,000 

[Imprint conjectured by STC.]  

Octavo 18 x 12.5 cm. Signatures: π1, A2 B2,A3,B4, C-Y2, Aa-Zz2, Aaa-Ggg2. (lacking 4 un-numbered pages table of contents).  Title and first leaves extended; otherwise, a very good copy. Text is predominantly clean. First edition. Binding: Full recent calf with blind tooled rulings. Spine in six compartments of raised bands with gilt title. 

Darrell (1562-1602) was an Anglican clergyman noted for his Puritan views and his practice as an exorcist, which led to imprisonment. As one of England’s most famous exorcists. In 1586 he was called to help by Isabel Foljambe and he exorcised a girl in Derbyshire, and published an account of his work. In 1596–1597 he conducted further exorcisms, mainly at St Mary’s Church, Nottingham, where he was appointed curate by Robert Aldridge, but also in Lancashire, where with others he exorcised demons from seven members of the household of Nicholas Starkey in Tyldesley on 17 and 18 March 1597 and in Staffordshire. Many were skeptical about these cases, especially when Darrell claimed he knew of 13 witches in the town. “After some controversy regarding the exorcism of William Somers, Darrell was summoned to London and imprisoned for over a year. ‘After being imprisoned for more than a year, Darrell and More were found guilty of fraud by the commissioners for ecclesiastical causes, in late May 1599. The two ministers were deprived of their livings and returned to prison to await sentencing. An acrimonious controversy ensued which lasted for four years and provoked more than a dozen books. Darrell’s opponents, led by Richard Bancroft, the bishop of London, and his chaplain Samuel Harsnett, were well placed to sponsor sermons and printed attacks on Darrell and to suppress works defending him. But Darrell clearly enjoyed well-organized support since works championing him poured from foreign and clandestine presses. Although Darrell was quietly released in the summer of 1599, he went underground and by the end of 1602 had published five works on his own behalf. His career as an exorcist, however, was finished’ (DNB).  

    His career was highly controversial at the time; one of his first exorcism clients admitted fakery was involved, and his continued practice drew criticism from prominent members of society. This work is part of a pamphlet war that raged between Darrell and one of his chief accusers, Samuel Harshnett, who would become the Archbishop of York. In 1599 Darrell was questioned at Lambeth Palace, pronounced an imposter, defrocked, and given a year in jail. The remainder of his life was passed in obscurity, with copies of his book being burned, making this a very rare volume., Because of the intense public interest and the fierce arguments in Nottingham, John Whitgift, Archbishop of Canterbury, ordered an investigation. As a result, Darrell was accused of fraudulent exorcism. The prosecutor was Samuel Harsnett, who was to end his career as Archbishop of York. Harsnett’s views about Darrell were published in A Declaration of Egregious Popish Impostures in 1603. 

Shakespeare read it, and King Lear contains the names of devils, like Flibbertigibbet and Smulkin, taken from Darrell’s book. Darrell himself maintained that there was no fraud in his activities. What he wanted to prove was that Puritans were as capable as Roman Catholics in the matter of dispossessing evil spirits.

Darrell was deprived of holy orders and sent to prison but released in 1599.

Provenance: Ex Libris Isabel Somerset Reigate Priory Lady Henry Somerset (nee Lady Isabella Caroline Somers-Cocks; 1851-1921) was a British philanthropist, temperance leader and campaigner for women’s rights. 

STC (2nd ed.), 6283; ESTC (RLIN); S109292

cf: Marion Gibson, Possession, Puritanism and Print: Darrell, Harsnett, Shakespeare and the Elizabethan Exorcism Controversy, London: Pickering and Chatto, 2006, ISBN 9781851965397

Brendan C. Walsh, The English Exorcist: John Darrell and the Shaping of Early Modern English Protestant Demonology, New York; NY: Routledge, 2021

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