Saturday 31 October 2020

Vampires and Freethinkers

But I require unprejudiced witnesses, free from terror and disinterested, quite calm, who can affirm upon serious reflection, that they have seen, heard, and interrogated these vampires, and who have been the witnesses of their operations; and I am persuaded that no such witness will be found.
Dom Calmet  

"Either these vampires go out to suck or they do not"
Marquis d'Argens 

What! is it in our eighteenth century that vampires exist? Is it after the reigns of Locke, Shaftesbury, Trenchard, and Collins? Is it under those of d’Alembert, Diderot, St. Lambert, and Duclos that we believe in vampires,and that the reverend father Dom Calmet, Benedictine priest of the congregation of St. Vannes, and St. Hidulphe, abbé of Senon—an abbey of a hundred thousand livres a year, in the neighbourhood of two other abbeys of the same revenue—has printed and reprinted the history of vampires, with the approbation of the Sorbonne?

A Natural Explanation?

Protestants and Freethinkers 

In the 1730s debate on vampires took place predominantly in Germany; centred mainly on the Plogojowitz and Medwegya cases. Protestant commentators, hostile to the miraculous,  readily  sought a rational explanation.  Their conclusions were relayed by uncensored French language periodical press in Holland, which tended to present them with a provocatively anti-Christian (or at least anti-Catholic) gloss. Thus in March 1732  Le Glaneur invites  physicians, who  have already furnished explanations for the Jansenist convulsionaries in Paris, to communicate their reflections. An essay from a correspondent duly appeared in No ix for 23rd April 1732.  In 1738 the marquis d'Argens, inveterate sceptic and freethinker, weighed in the Lettres Juives. This was an altogether more widely distributed publication.

Friday 30 October 2020

Dom Calmet's Vampires

Here is a suitable book for Halloween - the famous compendium on Apparitions and Vampires by the learned Benedictine scholar Dom Augustin Calmet.   If not quite a bestseller, this volume featured in  many a well-appointed eighteenth-century library.  The first edition, published in 1746, was rapidly sold out and a second edition, with considerable additions and corrections, appeared in 1749.  In 1751 de Bure produced a definitive third edition.  There was also a further fourth edition, and translations into German,  Italian and English.  The work brought to the men of the Enlightenment, for the first time in accessible format, details of the weird and wonderful world of the vampire.
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