Sunday, 29 January 2017

Death of Marat by Roques

   Roques, Mort de Marat (1793) 163.2 cm x 128 cm.
Musée des Augustins, Toulouse

This striking rendition of the death of Marat by Guillaume-Joseph Roques (1754-1847) is the only painting of the subject to approach David's in sophistication and technical competence. Roques was a prominent provincial artist from Toulouse. In 1778 he had won the first prize of the Royal Academy of Painting and made the trip to study in Rome.  He returned to Toulouse after a few years and became an influential  teacher;  Ingres was among his pupils at the Toulouse Royal Academy of Arts. Roques seems to have weathered the vicissitudes of the Revolution and Restoration without trouble; his best known works apart from the Marat are a set of canvasses depicting the life of the Virgin Mary, painted from 1810–1820 for the choir of the church of Notre-Dame de la Daurade.

Roques Self-portrait, 1783,
Musée des Augustins, Toulouse
 Roques's Marat is stated to have been commissioned by the municipality of Toulouse for an official ceremony of commemoration.  Roques must have come to Paris and viewed David's painting, but elected to alter the composition to add greater realism. Marat is caught on the point of death;  the bloodied knife lies on the floor and his quill has already tumbled from his hand.  The ugly features, black hair and shadowed jaw are those of the real man; the torso and muscular arm, whilst still idealised, suggest the strength of the Revolutionary.  Roques also gives us a convincing interior, with a  tiled floor, rough plaster walls and a large bath where Marat's blood floats on the green water. The austerity is relieved only by Marat's hat, with its extravagant ribbons, the symbol of the martyr's dedication to the Revolutionary struggle. 

Notice from the Musée des Augustins, Toulouse:

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

David's Death of Marat

David's Death of Marat is one of the most iconic pictures in Western art,  but there is much uncertainty surrounding its conception. Some of the pieces of the puzzle have only come to light very recently and are still the subject of unresolved speculation. What follows summarises some of the available evidence:

The history of a masterpiece

The officially recorded facts are easily told: 

On 14th July 1793, the day after Marat's assassination, the deputy Guirault, speaking in the Convention, invited David, in suitably dramatic tones, to create a portrait of Marat as a pendant to his painting of the martyred Le Pelletier de Saint-Fargeau :

Where are you David?  You have transmitted to posterity the image of Lepelletier dying for the fatherland : there is one more picture left for you to create.
David:  Indeed I will create it.
[Où es-tu David ? tu as transmis à la postérité l'image de Lepelletier mourant pour la patrie; il te reste encore un tableau à faire.  
David : Aussi le ferai-je. ]

Three months later to the day, on 14th October 1793, David announced the completion of his painting and asked for permission to remove the Lepelletier temporarily from the Convention.  On 16th October, the morning of Marie-Antoinette's execution, the canvasses were exhibited in the courtyard of the Louvre as the centrepieces of a ceremony organised by the Section du Muséum in honour of the "two martyrs of liberty".  They  were then placed on display to the public in  David's workshop.  On 14th November, in a long and emotional oration, which was later printed,  David formally presented his painting to the Convention and called for Marat to be voted the honours of the Pantheon.  He proclaimed that he had taken up his brush to "avenge our friend, avenge Marat" and to ensure that his "livid and bloody features" would recall his virtues to posterity.

[See Anita Brookner, Jacques-Louis David (1980) p.115: ..the simplicity of the image contrasts with the elaborate and sentimental words with which David presented the portrait to the National Convention.  This extremely larmoyant speech is reminiscent of the most melodramatic of eighteenth-century tirades, and really requires the talents of a great actor to give it its full weight.  It is almost too painful to imagine in David's stumbling delivery.]
The Assembly asked for the two paintings to be hung in the Salle des Séances on either side of the presidential chair (which David himself eventually occupied briefly in January 1794): the Lepelletier on the left next to a tablet with the Constitution of 1793; the Marat on the right next to the Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen. 

On 8th February 1795 the picture was taken down from walls of the Convention and returned to David.  During his exile it remained hidden in France in the safekeeping of Antoine Gros. On David's death it was included in the inventory of his possessions, dated 3rd March 1826, but not sold.  In the second sale of David's effects (1st March 1835) it was bought jointly for 4500 fr by his daughter the Baroness Meunier and the widow of his son Eugène David.  In 1886 it was presented to Belgium by the artist's grandson Jules David and now hangs in the Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts, Brussels.

There are four known official copies of the painting made by David's workshop.  The two now in the Louvre and at Versailles were in David's studio along with the original at the time of his death. The Versailles version is of particularly high quality. The two are often identified as replicas made for transfer to tapestry as requested by workers at the Gobelins factory in May 1794.
All four are reproduced  in the French Wikipedia article Mort de Marat

Marat's funeral

Some evidence for the genesis of David's composition is provided by his arrangements for the public display of Marat's body in the church of the Cordeliers . In the session of the 15th July  on the proposition of Chabot, the members of the Convention decreed that they would attend Marat's funeral as a body.  David, Maure and Bentabolle were officially named  as commissaires for the exposition and funeral.

By chance, David had been one of the last people to see Marat.  On the 12th July he had been one of a delegation sent by the Jacobin Club to Marat's lodgings in the rue des Cordeliers to inquire after his health. Maure later reported: "We found him in the bath: a table, an inkwell, newspapers all around him, occupying himself ceaselessly in the public cause." (Journal des Débats des Jacobins, 16 juillet 1793). 

David himself announced his intention to display the body in this pose: 

I found him in a striking position.  He had by him a block of wood, on which he had placed paper and ink, and with his right  hand out of the bath, he was writing his latest thoughts for the safety of the People. Yesterday the surgeon who had embalmed the body asked how we intended to display it to the people in the church of the Cordeliers..... I thought that it would be interesting to show him in the attitude that I found him, writing for the happiness of the People. (Session of 15 July)

On the 16th, however, he reported that he and his colleagues had visited the Théâtre-Français Section and come to the conclusion that the rapid decomposition of Marat's body made this plan impracticable.  The funeral was brought forward to that evening and the corpse simply displayed on a dais under a wet sheet, with various props - the bath, bloody shirt and inkstand - to the side.

Attributed to Fougeat, Funeral of Marat, oil. 59cm x 73cm.
 Musée Carnavalet

The scurrilous account in the apocryphal memoirs of the  Marquise de Créquy depicts an attempt by David  to create his initial tableau:
They took a porphyry bath from the rooms of the Louvre, covered it with a tricolour flag and placed inside the body of Marat;  he was visible under the material which was lifted to one side like a curtain.  His right arm emerged with the hand holding a steel pen.  People made the pilgrimage to kiss the dead hand and the allegorical pen which they believed belonged to the Ami du peuple.  As a result some sort of dislocation occurred:  the whole apparatus of arm and wires fell apart, and it could clearly be seen that the limb had come from a completely different corpse and did not belong to Marat at all.   The journals of Paris did not dare  to say anything.  Souvenirs de la Marquise de Créquy, vol.8. p.122-3, quoted in Charlotte Corday et la mort de Marat, documents inedits (1909).

David's drawing of the head of Marat 

David, Head of Marat.  Ink drawing on white paper pasted
 onto a brown background.  27cm x 21 cm.    Versailles Collections.
This highly finished drawing was in David's studio at the time of his death and was included in the sale of 17th April 1826. It formerly belonged to Jules David, the grand-nephew of the painter and was given to Versailles in 1893.  The assumption is that it represents an early stage in David's composition process. According to the catalogue for the Royal Academy "Citizens and Kings" exhibition, it was probably painted the day after Marat's funeral; like the finished picture, it emphasises Marat's almond-shaped eyes and swollen eyelids.

The drawing was the subject of a widely-distributed engraving by Jacques-Louis Copia, "Marat as he was at the moment of his death". announced in the Journal de Paris, 24 ventôse an II (14th March 1794): "Portrait of J.P. Marat, l'Ami du Peuple, drawn from nature by David and engraved by Copola". 
Anonymous plaster death mask of Marat, Musée Carnavalet
The image closely resembles existent death masks of Marat.  For David's possession of such a mask, we have only the intriguing footnote from Delécluze's Souvenirs which states that David had a death mask made "for his picture", that it was copied in plaster and sold "with the mask of Robespierre and others". In 1835 the police forbade public exhibition of these pieces. 
[Après la mort de Marat, David fit mouler son masque pour l’exécution de son tableau. C’est ce masque qui a été surmoulé en plâtre et vendu avec celui de Robespierre et quelques autres. En 1835, la police fit défendre qu’ils fussent exposés publiquement. ]
Etienne-Jean Delécluze,  Louis David,son école et son temps: souvenirs (1855), p.154 nt
The claim is widely accepted that Curtius or Madame Tussaud made the mould for David.

Forensic evidence from the Brussels painting

According to an article in the États du lieu blog, an radiographic analysis of the Brussels painting was undertake at the end of the 1990s which showed that David modified his work in the course of execution.  He firmed up Marat's face in order to make it seem he was still alive or at least on the point of death.  The original, revealed by the x-ray, portrayed a cadaver with a fallen jaw and limp body.  There was also evidence of an underlying grid of squares which suggests that David had used the technique of "mise au carreau" to reproduce his picture square-by-square from a preliminary version.[See États du Lieu, post of 14/02/2010 ref. below]

Apart from the "mise en carreau", there is a single piece of  documentary evidence for the existence of a preliminary drawing. In her Histoire des salons de Paris, the duchesse d’Abrantès mentions a sketch (une esquisse) of the picture, given by David himself to a certain M. de Bonnecarèce who was a friend and lived in Versailles. (vol. 3 (1838), p.77)

Sketches and paintings of the finished picture

1. Pen and ink drawing in the Musée Lambinet

David, Drawing of  Death of Marat, 1793.  Pen, ink and white chalk on paper.
Musée Lambinet, Versailles. The Bridgeman Art Library
This intriguing picture is part of the Bridgeman Art Library and can be found reproduced in a number of sites on the internet.  Although it is in the Musée Lambinet and said to be by David himself,  I can find no reference to it in any of the secondary literature.  The Bridgeman site has a video where the drawing blends seamlessly into shots of the original, but unfortunately there appears to be no sound (see below). There is no particular reason to identify this as a preliminary sketch rather than a copy, but some clue as to provenance would be appreciated.

2. A drawing by David sold in 2007

Sotheby's "Old Master Drawings"  London 4th July 2007.
Lot 108: Jacques-Louis David, The Death of Marat.  168 by 149 mm
Property from the Estate of the late Jean Montague Massengale
The drawing was sold for £132,000 against an estimate £35,000-£45,000

In 2007 Sotheby's in London sold this drawing by David.  It was originally included in an album, now itself preserved in the Louvre,  which belonged to one of David's pupils, Angelique Mongez (1775-1855) and which originally contained several fine studies by David.  A chalk annotation on the inside of the front cover lists a sketch of "Marat assassinated by Ch. Corday" among the contents. (The picture was detached and sold separately in the late 19th century)

The drawing was at one time considered to be a preliminary study for the Brussels painting, but is now generally considered to be of insufficiently high quality.  Rosenberg and Prat in their catalogue raisonné of David's drawings identified it as  a ricordo, a record of the finished work. They suggested that it was probably drawn for Madame Mongez or another of David's friends/pupils and dated from 1817-20 when the original painting had been hidden.

3. A preparatory study discovered in 2008

Jacques-Louis David, The Death of Marat, oil on canvas, 72 cm x 92 cm
Paris.  Photo: Galerie Turquin

In September 2008 the commercial Galerie Turquin in Paris excited a great deal of interest in the art world by exhibiting three paintings by David, a Paris and Helen, a portrait of Edmond Dubois de Crancé, and thirdly a version of the Marat, which is now generally accepted as a preliminary study.

The picture is seven-tenths the size of the original (though it lacks the extensive empty vertical space above the figure)  It was diiscovered by the expert Hubert Duchemin when it came up for auction and has been the subject of extensive restoration and comparative study.

According to the catalogue by Hubert Duchemin, the case for identifying the picture as a preparatory study rests on two main arguments.  Firstly, the head of Marat looks like that of a cadaver.  Especially when turned to vertical the mouth and entire face look slightly sunken. This detail resembles the original features revealed by x-ray analysis of the finished painting and thus strongly suggests an earlier phase of composition.  Secondly there are a few repentirs, slight alterations in the wrinkle of the sheet and the height of the left arm. These whilst minor, would not have been present in a copy.

Duchemin's thesis clearly lends weight to the idea of David's progressive idealisation of his subject:  according to publication of the Galerie Turquin, "Our painting, stripped of the coldness and didactic concerns of a grand commission, demonstrates David's profound emotion when confronted by the remains of his friend."


Didier Rykner, "Three David works exhibited at the Galerie Turquin",  The Art Tribune, 18/09/2008

"D'un Marat à l'autre, les mystères de David",  États du Lieu  Blogpost 14/02/2010

Citizens and Kings: Portraits in the Age of Revolution 1760-1830, exhibition catalogue, London: Royal Academy, 2006, cat. no. 148, pp. 311-2.

Guillaume Mazeau, Corday contre Marat: deux siècles d'images pdf. 2009.

Monday, 23 January 2017

Isaac Newton and the French Prophets

Was the great Newton himself attracted to the French Prophets?

The natural contact between Newton and the Prophets would have been Fatio de Duillier. There is not much evidence by which to gauge the tenor of the relationship between the two men after the split of 1693. They seem to have met occasionally and remained on  good terms, though they seldom spoke together in public; their mutual friend David Gregory, professor of Mathematics at Edinburgh University, records a conversation about Royal Society business which took place in 1702.  A few letters from Fatio to Newton from 1704 also survive but these largely concern Fatio's watches. On the other hand, a list of books acquired by Newton in 1702,  preserved among his papers in the Bodleian,  contains a large number of titles in French and perhaps hints that the two may have resumed their alchemical speculations. ["Ekin list" Bodleian Library Oxford: MS New College 361/11 f78r-78v.]

The only direct mention of Newton in relation to the French Prophets comes from a memorandum by David Gregory among his manuscripts in the University Library, Edinburgh.

Fatio had introduced Gregory to the Prophets at the end of October 1706; Gregory reported that their message centred on the approaching military defeat of France and the triumph of Protestantism.
I was in the company into which Mr Fatio introduced three [prophets].  Those are they who pretend to inspiration and prophecy....They read a paper.  Mr Fatio has written most of what they have prophesized, and even their prayers, and seems much take up with them....The constant tenor of their prophecys is of the Peace of the Church to follow upon the ruin of Rome.  They talk of the Restauration of the Church of France as at hand.  They tell of illiterate people with them having the Gift of Tongues, of being in Fire and not being hurt".
On 29th January 1706/7 Gregory recorded predictions of a "greater and more fatal" military blow delivered to Louis XIV and the defection of French courtiers for Protestantism.
Then on 30 January, the anniversary of Charles I's execution, he reports the following conversation with Newton:

Sir Isaac Newton tells me that M. Fatio told him that those Camisars Prophets say that King Louis shall be made Prisoner in the present War, & shall be kept betwixt an Iron Grate on the one side & Fire on the other.   What an Iron Grate & a Fire mean we shall clearly understand at the accomplishment of the Prophecy.

The imagery of iron and fire derives from the Book of Revelation and does indeed feature in Elie Marion's Warnings, though the threats against Louis XIV were not made so explicitly in any of the published prophecies. The exchange between Newton and Fatio would have taken place  after the ministers of the Savoy churches had condemned the prophets on 5th January 1717, but before May when Fatio, Marion and Jean Daudé were indicted at the Queen's Bench for "publishing false and scandalous pamphlets".

Newton's posthumously published  Observations upon the Prophecies of Daniel
In a book of literary anecdotes, published posthumously in 1820, Joseph Spence records two comments by contemporaries concerning Newton and the French Prophets. The first is a letter from the Dean of Peterborough, Francis Lockier,  who opines that it was "not at all improbable" that Newton, who was obsessed with astrology and alchemy,  "might have had a hankering after the French Prophets". The  second, more significant reference  comes from the Chevalier Ramsay: 
"Sir Isaac himself had a strong inclination to go and hear these prophets, and was restrained from it, with difficulty, by some of his friends who feared he might be infected with them as Fatio had been". (Spence,  Anecdotes, Observations and Characters of Books and Men. 1820, p.43).

Newtonian scholars are skeptical that the ever-cautious Newton would have really risked his credibility by going to a meeting of the Prophets; on the other hand, his study of Biblical prophecy,  his belief in the forthcoming millenium and his former close association with Fatio all suggest his curiosity might indeed have been roused.


Margaret Jacob, "Newton and the French Prophets"History of Science, Vol. 16, p. 134-142
Michael White, Newton: the last sorcerer.  London: Fourth Estate, 1997, p.297-301. [Extracts on Google Books]

Correspondence between Newton and Fatio:

In 2005 a hitherto unknown autograph letter from Newton to Fatio, dated 14th September 1724, was auctioned by Christie's -and fetched £48,000!  The letter is addressed to Fatio "at the signe of the Cabinet in the foregate street in Worcester" and concerns mainly prospective investments in the York Buildings Company.

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

The Prophet John Lacy

[Yes, I know I am straying from the theme of French trivia....]

The most prominent Englishman among the French Prophets, John Lacy, was born in Saffron Walden in Essex in 1664. He was a prosperous Justice of the Peace, a married man and one of the leading members of the Presbyterian congregation of Westminster Chapel. He was also a close friend of Sir Richard Bulkeley, and an active member of the Society for the Reformation of Manners;  in 1704 he had written a pamphlet in defence of occasional conformity, lamenting the loss of the spirit of unity in "this Relapsed and Apostate World" (quoted Schwartz, The French Prophets, p.64).  After hearing the three prophets and talking to refugees from the Cévennes, Lacy became convinced that their utterances represented "the Truth of Divine Inspiration".  In 1707 he published an English  translation of  Misson's history under the title A Cry from the Desert.  In his Preface he observes that the contortions and agitations of the inspirés resembled those of the Old Testament prophets who also displayed "divers strange Gestures of Body". For Lacy the miracles in the Cévennes were only the prelude to a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit, which was to be centred on England and  was "speedily expected." 

Shortly afterwards Lacy himself became the first English convert to receive the "gift" of prophecy.  On the very day that he delivered his translation to the printer, 1st March 1707, he was seized with "bodily agitations", and some months later, in June, he made his first prophetic pronouncements.  He subsequently became a leading figure in the movement. He put his legal expertise to the service of the group and organised rental of the meeting house in the Barbican. He also published a number of justifications, accounts of his own experience, and three volumes of utterances, entitled The Prophetic Warnings of John Lacy.

Illustration from a later 18th-century book of "Prophetical Extracts"
containing passages from A Cry from the Desert
In these works Lacy emphasises that he did not consider himself marked out or deserving of special distinction. His pronouncements "under the Spirit" were completely outside his voluntary control.  The onset of the Spirit's descent was marked by "agitations" which characteristically came upon him fifteen minutes or so in advance of his prophecies - heaving of the chest, gasping and "hiccuping".  On one occasion he was recorded as seeming to levitate and be thrown across the room.  According to Lacy the agitations "sensibly refresh the Body" and "do not waste the Spirits, but exhilarate".  Emotional catharsis followed the Spirit's departure. Lacy also performed automatic writing - his fingers would contract of their own accord and his hand would write out divine warnings. He would "speak in tongues", Greek, Latin and French, which he did not understand in his waking state since, unlike his older brothers, he had not received a university education. (Opponents pointed out that he had translated from the French and had at least some schooling in the classics).

In the course of late 1707 and 1708 Lacy found himself the vehicle for a number of miraculous cures.  They were attested by his friend, Sir Richard Bulkeley, who was himself healed of a catalogue of afflictions.  In a pamphet of 1708 Lacy enumerated the instances - mostly fairly modest cases of fevers and sores. On 17th August 1707  Elizabeth Gray claimed, under inspiration, that Lacy would heal her. She  commenced  to choke and suffocate but Lacy failed to deliver – in the end she came out of the ordeal  by herself. On a subsequent occasion, however, he cured her of temporary (and no doubt hysterical) blindness.  Lacy also found himself drawn unhappily into the fiasco of the resurrection of Dr.Emes.  He was induced by critics to set a definite date for the miracle,  but failed to attend the meeting at Bunhill Fields and subsequently retracted his claims.

 In 1711 Lacy was to cause consternation among the faithful by leaving his wife and entering an adulterous relationship with  Elizabeth Gray. In a published letter to Thomas Dutton, he claimed that God had explicitly commanded him to do this, with "a supernatural outward Voice heard, that threaten'd me with Eternal Destruction and Hell-Fire if I disobey'd".  Betty Gray was to give birth to a new Messiah. The couple settled in Lancashire, where, Betty, alas, produced only girls. He was not expelled from the group for his behaviour, though his influence was much diminished. 

Behind Lacy's outward respectability and lucid pen,  lay a  troubled personality and a history of financial difficulties. His minister at Westminster, Edmund Calamy mentions an unsuccessful lawsuit in 1704 which had plunged him into an irrational depression.  In 1708 he attempted to sell his land and manor in Littlebury, Essex in 1708, hoping to raise £10,000 to pay off his debts.  Fortunately for the family, the bulk of his estate remained in trust and he was forced to live off a relatively modest allowance. 

Little was heard of Lacy in his final decades. In 1723 he published a last defence of prophecy,  The Scene of Delusions in 1723, in which he specifies his location as "Brownslane" in Cheshire.  According to Calamy, he was condemned for adultery by the Bishop of Chester, but his wife refused to take him back.  He died in 1730 at the age of sixty-four.  Fatio du Dullier refused to consider his death "otherwise than as a Memorandum of our common Mortality" (cited Schwartz, p.194)


Works of John Lacy:

- A Cry from the Desart, or Testimonials of the Miraculous Things lately come to pass in the Cevennes  (London 1707) translation of Maximilien Misson, Le Théâtre sacré des Cévennes.

- The Prophetical Warnings of John Lacy Esq.; pronounced under the Operation of the Spirit: and Faithfully Taken in Writing, when they were Spoken (London 1707). Preface dated July 18th.

Warnings of the Eternal Spirit, by the Mouth of his Servant John, sirnam'd Lacy. (2nd and 3rd parts, London 1707).

A Relation of the Dealings of God to his Unworthy Servant John Lacy, since the Time of his Believing and Professing Himself Inspir'd (London, 1708)

- Letter from John Lacy, to Thomas Dutton, being Reasons why the former left his Wife, and took E. Gray a Prophetess to his Bed,  dated 6th March 1711 in  Keimer,  A Brand pluck'ed from Burning (1718), app.

The General Delusion of Christians, Touching the Ways of God's Revealing Himself, to, and by the Prophets. (4 parts London 1713)
Modern edition The Spirit of Prophecy Defended, ed.  J. Ramsey Michaels (2003)

 - The Vision of John Lacy, Esq, a Prophet, on Thursday the 9th of June 1715 (London, 1715)

- The Scene of Delusions, by the Rev. Mr Owen of Warrington...Confuted by One of the Modern Prophets (London 1723)



Lacy's testimony

This account comes from Lacy's Preface to The Prophetic Warnings of John Lacy, Esq., dated 18th July 1707:

The bodily Impressions were gradually increasing upon me 'till the Effect or rather Issue of them was produced, to wit, the Opening my Mouth to speak. 

 They began by a preternatural Course of Breathing; then my Head came to be agitated or shaken violently and forcibly, and with a very quick Motion horizontally, or from Side to Side: then my Stomach had Twitches not much unlike a Hyccop: afterwards my Hands and Arms were violently shaken, at length a Struggle or Labouring in the Wind-pipe, and sometimes a sort of catching all over my Body; and, for about a Week before my Speaking, I observed my Tongue was now and then moved involuntarily, as were also my Lips, my Mouth, and Jaw severally; all which Preparation of the bodily Organs O found attended with a constant Elevation of my Soul to God; the Mind being unaccountably cast into a Frame of spiritual Joy, holy Contempt of all things in the World...during all this Time, I searched the Scriptures carefully for my Direction, and heedfully consider'd all the Advices given me by Friends.

After so much Care, and Fear of being deluded, I am the better assured and I do affirm, without the least Doubt, that my Agitations and Words in the Ecstasie,  are produced by a Supernatural Agent, and are independent of me any further, than that I do not, nor dare not oppose, but to remain altogether passive.  My Mind at those Times continues clear and sedate;  during which, my Fear and Caution makes me wait always, till the Tongue be moved by that Superior Power:  Nor does any Impulse alone prevail with me therein; so that ' tis no longer I, as the voluntary prime Mover and Agent, that speak; and oftentimes I know not the Sense, till the Words are spoken, and so heard by me as by other Persons present.....

 Lacy explains that the "agitations" usually came upon him a quarter of an hour before he speaks; he spends that time in prayer but does not prepare beforehand.  He assures the reader that he is in good mental and physical health:

 I know assuredly, that no Trouble of Mood, nor Melancholy, nor a Prepossession of Prophetic Schemes drew me into the State that I am under:  I enjoy at this Time, thro' Mercy, a perfect Health, without any Pain, Sickness or Weakness whatsoever, or any sort of Disorder proceeding from the frequent ecstatic Agitations; I sleep ordinarily 7 Hours in 23;  I have a good Appetite and Digestion; and I appeal to all Persons with whom I converse...whether I am otherwise beside myself, than only to God. 

Lacy assures his readers he would not have willingly invited the "Clamours and Contempt" that he has suffered; he has been sustained only by the "inward Joy that I have from the Great Comforter".  It would otherwise have been "an inexpressible Grief to me, to be a Messenger of ill Tydings to my native Country, which no Man loves better".  Lacy declares his loyalty to the Queen and the clergy and ends by emphasising that he no pretensions to particular righteousness.
The Prophetical Warnings of John Lacy Esq. (London 1707), p.iv-vii.

Lacy gives a similar account in a pamphet published in 1708.  He explains that for a full year he  has succumbed  to "agitations" stemming from "an agent separate and distinct from me".  He was  just one of two or three hundred people in London to be so affected: 

 But that the Agitations proceed from a supernatural Cause, and of an Agent separate and distinct from me, I cannot be ignorant of this , after a full year's Experience.  When my Arm, Leg or Head is shaken, I must be allowed to know whether it be voluntarily, from myself or not.  And I  do affirm it is not from myself, nor at my own Will or pleasure; but on the contrary when that Agent does so, if I think to suppress the same, he does continue so to start and twitch my Limbs, and by more interior Uneasiness over my whole Body, to solicit my Obedience, that I can have no rest till I suffer the same to take place... Under this foreign influence, I felt my Fingers forcibly contracted and mov'd, to write those words in p.90 of the first Book of Warnings; Under this influence my Body was remov'd ten or eleven foot, as in p.65 of the second Part, without any concurrent mixture of my Agency: under this influence the Respiration of my Breath hath, for sundry days, beat various Tunes of the Drum, sometimes six hours in a day, without my voluntary Operation, or thinking of it; nay sometimes without being able to stifle it.  Under this influence I have experienc'd, sometimes a Voice so strong and clear, sometimes so harmonious, as my natural one never did nor could furnish. Under the same, I have been carry'd on my knees, several times round a Room, swifter than I could have gone on  my feet.  Some other particularitys, many have been also Witnesses of; but these may suffice to shew, that I am at times under the agency of another distinct Being: in which times the Tongue also is at the direction of that foreign Agent, and no more under mine, than the motion of other Parts of my Body.  This is the true State of the Case with me, and evidently parallel'd, with some Variations in 2 or 300 other persons in London.....

But 'tis necessary I add further, that God has distinguish'd his Favours to me in the point of Health; so that the Agitations ceasing...leave me perfectly at ease: nor do they bring with them concomitantly any sort of Pain or Oppression; and instead of enfeebling, do sensibly refresh the Body;  and whatever be the Violence or Continuance of them, do not waste the Spirits, but exhilarate: the never have injur'd any other Person, no more than him whom they affect.  There comes with them an Influx to the Mind also, lifting it up in Prayer to God, withe Reverence and Awe:  All which I know of a certainty is so with me; and as God knows it too, I cannot reconcile the same with the Superintendency of an evil Spirit, operating upon me at those times.
A Relation of the Dealings of God to his Unworthy Servant John Lacy (London, 1708), p.10 

Eyewitness accounts

The printer Samuel Keimer, an erstwhile follower of the Prophets, describes a meeting he attended in Southwark, where he witnessed John Lacy prophesy:

As soon as I enter'd the Room, which was large and pretty full of People, the first Objects which drew my Observation, were a Woman well drest, on her Knees, and a Man standing before her with his Hands upon her Head, uttering several Sentences, mixt with strange Hiccups, and Shakings of his Head forwards and backwards, his Body as it seem'd to me, jumping while he was speaking.  Between every two or three Words speaking, he cry'd, Hoh, Hoh, Hoh, Hoh, O____h, O_____h, O_____h, as if her were taking his last Gasp.  This Man's Name was John Lacy, Esq; a Person known by many to be a Man of Sobriety and Substance, and who belong'd to a Congregation of Presbyterians, to whom Edmond Calamy a noted Man, was Preacher.  This Laying on of Hands, and speaking to the Person on her Knees, was call'd as I afterwards came to understand, the Gift of Blessing.
Keimer,  A Brand pluck'ed from Burning (1718), p.6

Edmund Calamy, Lacy's minister attests that Lacy had a background of emotional instability: two years previously he had been plunged into depression by the loss of an important lawsuit; (Calamy did not know the details but reported that the case had infuriated chief Justice Holt at Westminster Hall.)    

Last year, I left Mr. Lacy much dejected upon the loss of his lawsuit,... He soon proved delirious, was forced to be confined, and kept in the dark, etc.   For awhile, his language was raving, and very sad;  such as he never used before, though not uncommon with delirious persons......

Lacy continued to worship at the Westminster Chapel, even after he fancied himself inspired; at the urging of Lacy's wife and mother-in-law Calamy preached a course of sermons against the New Prophets. He was dining with the family on one occasion when Lacy suddenly got up from the table and staggered upstairs.  His wife informed the minister that Lacy was "going into his agitations"  Calamy at first observed unseen from a closet with a glass door.  He saw Lacy heaving to and fro and "heard a humming noise, but no sound that was at all distinct".  With his wife's agreement, he entered the room:

Accordingly, I went into the room where he sate, and walked up to him, and asked how he did, and took him by the hand, and lifted it up, and it fell down flat upon his knees as it lay before.  He took no notice of me, nor made me any answer; but I observed the humming noise grew louder by degrees, and the heaving in his breast increased, till it came up to his throat, as if it would have suffocated him.  Then he, at last proceeded to speak, or he would have it taken, the Spirit spake in him.  The speech was syllabical and there was a distinct heave and breath between each syllable;  but it required attention to distinguish the words,  I shall here add it as far as my memory serves:

Thou__  hast__  been__  my__  faith-ful__  ser-vant;__  and__  I__  have__  ho-nour-ed__  thee.__  But__  I__  do__  not__  take__  it__  well__  that__  thou__  slight-est__  and__  op-pos-est__  my__  ser-vants__  and__  mes-sen-gers.__   If__  though__  wilt__  fall__  in__  with__  these__  my__  ser-vants,__  thou__  shalt__  do__  great__  things__  in__  this__  dis-pen-sa-tion;__  and__  I__  will__  use__  thee__  as__  a__  glo-ri-ous__  in-stru-ment__  to__  my__  praise,__  and__  I__  will__  take__  care__  of__  thee__  and__  thine.__  But__  if__  thou__  go-est__  on__  to__  op-pose__  my__  ser-vants,__  thou__  wilt__  fall__  un-der__  my__  se-vere__  dis-pleas-sure.__

When the speech was over, the humming and heaving gradually abated.  I again took him by the hand and felt his pulse, which moved quick;  but I could not perceive by his hands more than common heat.  I again asked him how he did.  After some time, he rose up, shook himself, and rubbed his eyes, like one just waked out of sleep.  I asked him if he would not go down and and end his dinner.   When we were got down stairs again, I asked if he distinctly remembered what had passed, and he told me, no.

 Edmund, Calamy, An historical account of my own life (1830) vol. 2, p.94-7

Mr Lacy's Admirers and Abettors may flatter him and themselves that his Intellects are sound and no ways craz'd, but his nearest Relations and best Friends were apprehensive, that his Brain was somewhat touch'd a little before his closing with the pretended French Prophets, and therefore Prayers were put up for him at Mr Calamy's Meeting-House, as I am inform'd, that God would be pleased to restore him to his right Mind.
Richard Kingston, Enthusiastick Imposters no Divinely Inspir'd Prophets (1707) p.39


Here are some notes  from  J. Ramsey Michaels's introduction to his modern edition of The General Delusion of Christians:  

Lacy takes issue with cessationists who would deny the possibility of prophecy in the modern world, in particular he challenges their interpretation of 1 Corinthians 13: 9-10: “For we know in part and we prophesy in part.  When that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away!”  He emphasises his respect for the inscrutable sovereignty of God and the limitations of human knowledge.   It is precisely because of those limitations that prophetic and charismatic movements are still needed:
For, as we have properly no knowledge of God revealed but what is derived to us by the Spirit of prophecy, we are not only taught by him in St. Paul that "we know but in part", but in St. Peter also, that "the word of prophecy is a light that shineth in a dark place [2. Pet. i.19] (p.4)

Those who hold that the era of prophecy is at an end are likened to the New Teatament Sadducees who denied the bodily resurrection and angels. For Lacy they are little better than Deists, "Scoffers, Atheists, Sadducees".
The work is divided into four parts, which trace the history of prophecy.
1. Divine revelation in the Bible, whether through angels, dreams, prophetic visions and voices.
2. "Uncontroverted" prophecy in the New Testament and Early Church.
3. "Controverted" prophecy in the Montanist heresy.

4. "Modern opinions concerning prophecy". Lacy warns the modern Church not to deny all present prophecy and so make the same mistake that ancient Church made in its condemnation of the Montanists. He disputes the clause in Westminster Confession of Faith (1647) which denied the possibility of additions to Scripture through "new revelations of the Spirit" (p.387). It is not the Prophets who have corrupted Scripture but their opponents, who substitute the "traditions" and "commandments" of men.  After more than a thousand years, God's spirit is again working through Prophecy.  These are not new truths.  Those who acknowledge the outpourings of the Holy Spirit through dreams, visions and prophecies,  are merely honouring the precedent of Scripture and adhering to the simplicity of "the truth as it is in Jesus" (p.507)
See: The Spirit of Prophecy Defended, ed.  J. Ramsey Michaels (2003), introduction


In a pamplet in defence of the Prophets, written in  1708, Sir Richard Bulkeley sets out to answer sceptics who "are not willing to admit any thing of miraculous Operation, that shall surpass Nature and Reason" (p.113)  He first relates his own miraculous liberation from a host of miserable afflictions - headaches, sweats, gallstones and a vicious rupture for which he had been obliged for four years  to wear a truss ("if this be in the Power of Fancy to effect, I desire never to be awaken'd out of that Delusion"!) 

He then gives an account of the case of Hugh Preston, an unbeliever, who was one of Lacy's first cures, on 29th November 1707. Mr Preston's recovery seems more down to hygiene than divine intervention, but the details are worth reproducing (if only for the horrors of 18th-century medicine).

There was one Mr P[resto]n who lodg'd in the Underground Rooms of the New Square in Lincolns Inn, Number 2.who is about seventy seven years of Age, and had, about Novemb. 14. last, a Boil that rose in the Nape of his Neck, and very big; at length it broke, and while it was running, no body having the Care to dress it but his Wife, by very ill Managery, it grew so bad, spreading upward and toward each Ear, that when I saw it, it was as big as a large Turnip of five Inches Diameter, and above two Inches high;  all of dead Flesh, black and livid;  but having divers Orifices in it, out of which Corruption was continually running; and all sides of it, all around, very much inflam'd, and shooting so in the adjacent Parts, that he could get no Rest, for three Nights before we went to visit him.  He desir'd that Mr Lacy would pray for a Command from God to come and heal him; who, upon Prayer, was sent thither.  We were ten Persons who accompany'd him thither, upon Saturday Night, Nov.29. it was open'd to all our View.  There had been a Chirurgion to see it, who, as we were inform'd, had ask'd Ten Pounds to cure it.....And indeed, altho I have been for fifteen Years past much conversant in Cures of Sores, yet I never saw anything like it.  However, as I said before, after it was open'd to all our View, it was cover'd again; and then we had Prayers and an Inspiration from two of the Inspir'd.  After which (viz. about an Hour and a half) Mr. Lacy order'd that the Sore should be open'd again.  The Man declar'd he had immediate Ease from his burning ahd shooting Pain; and indeed, at the second View of it, it seem'd to be diminish'd about a sixth part.  Mr Lacy told us we might come and see it again in a Day or two.  Upon the Wednesday after, I came to see it; and b that time, it had lost above a third part, and now look'd, for Size, like a flatdry'd Apple, such as comes from beyond Sea, but intirey free from Pain.  It was order'd, at first, that nothing of Medicinal Virtue should be appy'd to it; and that only clearn Linen, or a Skin of  a Bladder, or the like that might lie close, should be put on; and so it went away, so fast, that every time it was dress'd (which was three or four times a day) the said dead flesh came away in great Strings and Pieces; sticking to whatever was laid upon the Sore.  And so in about a Fortnight's time, it was a smooth and level as the back of one's hand, and is and has been ever since perfectly well; of which the old Man is so sensible, that, upon all Occasions, he magnifies and blesses the Name of God.
Sir Richard Bulkeley, An Answer to Several Treatises Lately Publish'd on the Subject of the Prophets (1708) p.113-5.

Lacy himself enumerates his early successes in his Relation of 1708.  In each case it is the Spirit which is described as giving words of healing to the sick person through Lacy, who acts under inspiration.

 Sir Richard Bulkeley:  he was "absolutely cur'd, by the merciful Hand of God, without means, soon after a Promise thereof made him thro' my mouth, under the Operation of the Spirit".  Lacy refers the reader to Bulkeley's own account "for more ample satisfaction".
Mr James Jackson, in George's Court, near Hicks's-Hall, aged 72.  15th November 1707His failing eyesight was cured by "a Promise from the Spirit in my mouth":."he can now write without Spectacles, and even a whole day together, without Failure of Eyesight; and does walk the streets without a Guide".
Mrs Mosely, a neighbour of James Jackson, also cured in November. After "A Prayer in the Spirit" and "Words of Healing" she gradually recovered from a fever that had been thought fatal.
Mr Preston, lodging in the Underground Room, No.2 of the New Square, Lincoln's-Inn, aged about 77, in November last too, having a Carbuncle on the Nape of his Neck, about five inches in diameter, and two high;  after a Prayer, the Spirit said touching him in my mouth, I command away the Tumour: which accordingly went clear away, without any application but a Bladder (to keep it from the Linen) in about ten days after.
Mrs. Mary Moor, at Mrs. Norris's in Fashion-Street, Spittlefields, cured in January 1708.
Mrs  Moor had been confined to her bed for a month with "a deep consumption";  Lacy visited her and "after a Prayer, under the Operation of the Spirit, words of healing were pronounc'd.  The Effect was that the very next day she rose at tea, and sat up till eleven at night;  and has since continu'd in a good degree of Health"
Mrs Clark, at a China-Ware-House in Queen-Street, in the City, in January  - headache.
Mr. Rayner at Colchester, in March (fever) 
Mr Spong, at a barbers near the Church in Coleman Street, cured on 29th March - ulcer of the jaw.
Mr. Burrough's child at the Amsterdam Coffee-House at the Royal Exchange, in April - "swelling of the Evil" (?) and fever, but no outcome as yet. 
Mr Byeward, in Ormond Street, victualler - completely paralysed.  He had been given a conditional promise of healing depending on faith in God and prayers.
Mr John Moult, in Watling Street - longstanding paralysis of the hand.  This was the chemist Francis Moult's brother; he had been  promised a cure in January but nothing had happened as yet.
Mr John Holloway, at Dr Bishop's in East-Smithfield, in January - promised a cure for the King's Evil.
Mrs Harding's child at Southwark - cough / spitting of blood.  Cured in April.
Mrs Rustback of Islington - convinced she was cured of breast cancer, though no effect as yet.
In April Lacy had a more illustrious supplicant when he was commanded to visit Sir Joseph Tyley at Whitehall, who had been confined to bed for nine months with gout: The Day following, he eat a plentiful Dinner, his Pain ceased; and he continu'd to eat, drink, and sleep, as a Man in reasonable Health..."

These Relations I give in part from my own Knowledge, and partly from the Accounts I have had of other Persons: and having not industriously magnify'd any thing in them, to  make it bear a higher or different Sense, than the obvious Signification of the Words, or the real matter of Fact imports, I do here publish them, according to an Order receiv'd by the Spirit.....
Relation of the Dealings of God to his Unworthy Servant John Lacy p.25-27.


Samuel Keimer reported that there had been a rumoure for some time among the Believers that John Lacy was to undergo a great Trial.  They finally learned that he had been ordered by the Spirit to leave his wife and take Elizabeth Gray, a Prophetess, on whom he was to beget Children. The news "put several of the Believers into a Ferment", especially the women who feared it was a  bad precedent.  Among those who dissented were the Prophet Thomas Dutton, who was answered in print by Lacy.  
Some Time after this, (as I take it) John Lacy one Morning gets up betimes, leaves his Wife in Bed...and takes E. Gray, who were both joyn'd together by the Spirit through Mary Keimer, at a Meeting commanded by the Inspir'd.  From this Time, or before John Lacy and E. Gray liv'd together, as Man and Wife, and it was prosphecy'd, that as a conformation the Command afore mentioned was from God, the First Child begotten by them should be a Son, and should work Miracles, as soon as born.  However, after some Time, E.Gray prov'd with Child, and was deliver'd of a Daughter.  It was again prophecy'd the next Child was to be the Son; but that Prophecy likewise prov'd false as the other had done.  Notwithstanding all which, they stilll live together in Adultery, believing the Holy god has so commanded.  For my own Part, I now sincerely believe that John Lacy did not leave his Wife from any lustful Desire, but solely in Obedience to the Spirit's Commands.
A Brand pluck'ed from Burning, p.57-9.

 Some time after, without the least notice, he leaves his lady, and children, and lives among the prophets.  He takes to himself, for a wife, one Betty Grey, who had been a snuffer of candles in the playhouse, but now passed for a person inspired.  This, in one of his inspirations that I saw, he calls, quitting Hagar, and betaking himself to Sarah, by order the Spirit.  By this creature he had several children.[...]

After all, it was the happiness of Mr. Lacy's family, that his estate and income (which otherwise, in all probability, had been entirety consumed in sup- porting these prophets and their cause) was legally vested in trustees for the benefit of his wife and children. They paid Mr. Lacy 50/. every quarter for his own separate use and maintenance, without his being accountable to any one, how he spent it. With this allowance, and what ready money he had by him, he went into Lancashire, (a cheap country to live in,) and there cohabited with Betty Grey, and had children by her; having his head still full of inspiration, and discovering no concern for his wife and children whom he had deserted. 

After some time, he was put into the Spiritual Court, for living in adultery, and Dr. Gastrel, the late Bishop of the Diocese of Chester, (in which he lived,) dealt with him about it. At last, the Bishop inquired, in a private way, whether Mrs. Lacy would receive her husband again, if he could be prevailed with to return to her, (though how far he was commissioned for it, I cannot say) but she positively refusing a thing to which I never heard any one that knew the case, pretend to say she was obliged, he continued living in those parts, and became a thorough-paced Conformist, knelt at the altar, and persisted in his prophetic notions and irregular life, till he died, 1730, without any public sign of repentance.
Edmund, Calamy, An historical account of my own life, p.99;113-4. 

This unhappy Man at last, when the Heat of his Brain had scorched up his Judgment, (as it did all the while he acted the Prophet) instead of taking Shame upon himself, and humbling himself before his God for his Sins, more especially of Pride and Blastsphemy, quitted all Sense of Religion, and turned out a Rake and Libertine  - So easy a Transition is the Sink from a crackbrained Zealot to that of an Atheist! 
Theophilus Evans, History of Modern Enthusiasm (1757), p.106-7
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