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they were obliged to reply.

“Cagliostro, who has recounted the whole of the circumstances to us,
has added, of his own accord, that he denied everything to his judges
with the utmost intrepidity; and exhibited such a sameness in his
replies, that, on Madame de la Motte’s being confronted with him, and
finding herself unable to quash his evidence, she became so furious,
that she threw a candlestick at his head in the presence of all his
judges. By this means he was declared innocent.”

So much for the Inquisition biography. The incident of the
candlestick has been verified by the archives of the Parliament.

Cagliostro was acquitted.

He drove in triumph from the Bastille to his residence, after hearing
his order of discharge. His coach was preceded by “a fantastic
cripple, who distributed medicines and presents among the crowd.” He
found the Rue Saint Claude thronged with friends and sympathizers,
anxious to welcome him home. At this period revolutionary sentiments
were openly vented by the people of France. The throne was being
undermined by the philosophers and politicians. Any excuse was
made to revile Louis XVI and his queen. Scurrilous pamphlets were
published declaring that Marie Antoinette was equally guilty with
the de la Mottes in the necklace swindle. Cagliostro consequently
was regarded as a martyr to the liberties of man. His arrest under
the detested _lettre de cachet_, upon mere suspicion, and long
incarceration in the Bastille without trial, were indeed flagrant
abuses of justice and gave his sympathizers a whip with which to lash
the King and Court.

His wife had been liberated some time before him. She met him at the
door of the temple of magic, and he swooned in her arms. Whether
this was a genuine swoon or not, it is {71} impossible to say, for
Cagliostro was ever a _poseur_ and never neglected an opportunity for
theatrical effect and self-advertisement. He accused the Marquis de
Launay, Governor of the Bastille—he who had his head chopped off and
elevated upon a pike a few years later—of criminal misappropriation
of his effects, money, medicines, alchemical powders, elixirs, etc.,
etc., which he valued at a high sum. The Commissioner of Police who
arrested him was also included in this accusation. He appealed to his
judges, who referred him to the Civil Courts. But the case never came
to trial. The day after his acquittal he was banished from France by
order of the King. At St. Denis “his carriage drove between two dense
and silent lines of well-wishers, while, as his vessel cleared from
the port of Boulogne, five thousand persons knelt down on the shore
to receive his blessing.” He went direct to London. No sooner there,
than he filed his suit against the Marquis de Launay, “appealing,
of course, to the hearts of all Frenchmen as a lonely and hunted
exile.” The French Government, through its ambassador, granted him
leave to come in person to Paris to prosecute his suit, assuring him
of safe conduct and immunity from all prosecution, legal as well
as social. But Cagliostro refused this offer, hinting that it was
merely a stratagem to decoy him to Paris and reincarcerate him in a
dungeon. No clear-headed, impartial person believed that the Marquis
de Launay was guilty of the charge laid at his door. Whatever else he
may have been, tyrannical, cold, unsympathetic, the Governor of the
Bastille was a man of honor and above committing a theft. In fact,
Cagliostro’s accusation was a trumped-up affair, designed to annoy
and keep open “a running sore in the side of the French authorities.”
Notoriety is the life of charlatanry. Cagliostro was no common
quack, as his history shows. He next published a pamphlet, dated
June 20th, 1786, prophesying that the Bastille would be demolished
and converted into a public promenade; and, that a ruler should
arise in France, who should abolish _lettres de cachet_ and convoke
the Estates-General. In a few years the prediction was fulfilled.
Poor De Launay lost his life, whereupon Cagliostro issued a pamphlet
exulting over the butchery of his enemy. In London, Cagliostro became
the {72} bosom friend of the eccentric Lord George Gordon, the hero
of the “no-popery” riots. Eventually he became deeply involved in
debt, and was obliged to pawn his effects. He was unable to impress
the common-sense, practical English with his pretensions to animal
magnetism, transcendental medicine, and occultism. One of his vaunted
schemes was to light up the streets of London with sea-water, which
by his magic power he proposed to change into oil. The newspapers
ridiculed him, {73} especially the _Courrier de l’Europe_, published
and edited by M. Morande, who had “picked up some ugly facts about
the swindler’s early career.” The freemasons repudiated him with
scorn, and would have nothing to do with his Egyptian Rite. There
is a rare old print, a copy of which may be seen in the Scottish
Rite Library, Washington, D. C., which depicts the unmasking of the
famous imposter at the Lodge of Antiquity, published Nov. 21, 1786,
at London. It was engraved by an eye-witness of the scene. In company
with some French gentlemen, Cagliostro visited the lodge one evening.
At the banquet which followed the working of the degree, a certain
worthy brother named Mash, an optician, was called upon to sing.
Instead of a post-prandial ditty, he gave a clever imitation of a
quack doctor selling nostrums, and dilating bombastically upon the
virtues of his elixirs, balsams (Balsamos), and cordials. Cagliostro
was not slow in perceiving that he was the target for Brother Mash’s
shafts of ridicule. His “front of brass,” as Carlyle has it, was
beaten in, his pachyderm was penetrated by the barbed arrows of the
ingenious optician’s wit. He left the hall in high dudgeon, followed
by the jeers of the assembled masons. Alas, for the Grand Kophta, no
“vaults of steel,” no masonic honors for him in London.


From a Rare Print in the Possession of the Supreme Council, A. A. S.
R., Washington, D. C.]

The verse appended to the engraving of Cagliostro and the English
lodge is as follows:

“Born, God knows where, supported, God knows how,
From whom descended, difficult to know.
_Lord Crop_[15] adopts him as a bosom friend,
And manly dares his character defend.
This self-dubb’d Count, some few years since became
A Brother Mason in a borrow’d name;
For names like _Semple_ numerous he bears,
And Proteus like, in fifty forms appears.
‘Behold in me (he says) Dame Nature’s child,
‘Of Soul benevolent, and Manners mild;
‘In me the guiltless Acharat behold,
‘Who knows the mystery of making Gold;
‘A feeling heart I boast, a conscience pure,
‘I boast a Balsam every ill to cure;
‘My Pills and Powders, all disease remove,
‘Renew your vigor, and your health improve.’ {74}
This cunning part the arch impostor acts,
And thus the weak and credulous attracts,
But now, his history is rendered clear,
The arrant hypocrite, and quack appear.
First as _Balsams_, he to paint essay’d,
But only daubing, he renounc’d the trade.
Then, as a Mountebank, abroad he stroll’d
And many a name on Death’s black list enroll’d.
Three times he visited the British shore,
And every time a different name he bore.
The brave Alsatians he with ease cajol’d
By boasting of Egyptian forms of old.
The self-same trick he practis’d at Bourdeaux,
At Strasburg, Lyons, and at Paris too.
But fate for _Brother Mash_ reserv’d the task
To strip the vile impostor of his mask,
May all true Masons his plain tale attend
And Satire’s lash to fraud shall put an end.”

[15] Lord George Gordon.


To escape the harpies of the law, who threatened him with a debtor’s
prison, Cagliostro fled to his old hunting-ground, the Continent,
leaving _la petite Comtesse_ to follow him as best she could. But
the game was played out. The police had by this time become fully
cognizant of his impostures. He was forbidden to practice his
peculiar system of medicine and masonry in Austria, Germany, Russia,
and Spain. Drawn like a needle to the lodestone rock, he went to
Rome. Foolish Grand Kophta! Freemasonry was a capital offence in the
dominions of the Pope. One lodge, however, existed. Says Greeven:
“There is reason to suppose that it was tolerated only because it
enabled the Holy Church to spy out the movements of freemasons in
general.” Cagliostro attempted to found one of his Egyptian lodges,
but met with no success. His exchequer became depleted. He appealed
to the National Assembly of France to revoke the order of banishment,
on the ground of “his services to the liberty of France.” Suddenly
on the evening of Dec. 27, 1789, he and his wife were arrested
and incarcerated in the fortress of San Angelo. His highly-prized
manuscript of Egyptian masonry was seized, together with all his
papers and correspondence. He was tried by the Holy Inquisition. It
must have been an impressive scene—that gloomy council {75} chamber
with the cowled inquisitors. Cagliostro’s wife appeared against him
and lifted the veil of Isis that hid the mysteries of the charlatan’s
career. The Egyptian manuscript of George Coston, the seals, the
masonic regalia and paraphernalia were mute and damning evidences
of his guilt. He was indeed a freemason, even though he were not
an alchemist, a soothsayer, the Grand Kophta of the Pyramids.
Cagliostro’s line of defense was that “he had labored throughout
to lead back freemasons, through the Egyptian ritual, to Catholic
orthodoxy.” He appeared at first to be contrite. But it availed him
nothing. Finding his appeals for mercy useless, he adopted another
tack, and told impossible stories of his adventures. He harangued
the Holy Fathers for hours, despite their threats and protests.
Nothing could stop his loquacious tongue from wagging. Finally, he
was condemned to death as a heretic, sorcerer, and freemason, but
Pope Pius VI., on the 21st of March, 1791, commuted his sentence to
life imprisonment. His manuscript was declared to be “superstitious,
blasphemous, wicked, and heretical,” and was ordered to be burnt by
the common hangman, together with his masonic implements.

After the sentence of the Inquisition, Cagliostro was taken back
to the Castle of San Angelo and immured in a gloomy dungeon, where
no one but the jailer came near him. But still his indomitable
spirit was unconquered. He conceived a plan of escape. Expressing
the greatest contrition for his crimes, he begged the Governor of
the prison to send him a confessor. The request was granted, and a
Capuchin monk was detailed to listen to the condemned man’s catalogue
of sins. During the confession, the charlatan suddenly sprang upon
the monk and endeavored to throttle him. His object was to escape
from the Castle in the Capuchin’s robe. But the Father Confessor
proved to be a member of the church militant, and vigorously defended
himself. Cagliostro’s attempt proved futile. This anecdote was
related by S. A. S. the Prince Bernard of Saxe-Weimar to the French
masonic historian, Thory (_Acta Latamorum_, I, 68). The Prince
declared it to be authentic.

Soon after the above-mentioned event, the Pontifical Government
ordered Cagliostro to be conducted in the night time to {76} the
Fortress of San Leon, in the Duchy of Urbino. Here in a subterranean
dungeon, it is said, he was literally swallowed up alive, like the
victims of mediæval days in the stone _in pace_. From this epoch we
lose all traces of the great necromancer. It is said that he died
in the month of August, 1795, the rigor of his punishment having
somewhat abated. The following item will prove of interest: “News
comes from Rome that the famous Cagliostro is dead in the fortress
of San Leon.” (_Moniteur universel_, 6 Octobre, 1795. Correspondence
dated from Genoa, August 25th.) Everything concerning that death
is shrouded in mystery. The stone walls of San Leon have told no
tales. No one knows where the magician is buried. In all likelihood
in some ignoble prison grave. One can readily picture the obsequies:
A flash of flambeaux in the night; a coarse winding-sheet; a wooden
coffin; an indifferent priest to mumble a few Latin prayers; the
callous grave diggers with their spades—and all is over! No masonic
honors here; no arches of steel; no mystic lights and regalia.
Farewell forever, Balsamo! I confess a weakness for you, despite your
charlatanry. Doubtless you were welcomed with open arms to the Shades
by your brethren—the Chaldeans, the sorcerers and the soothsayers.

Alfred de Caston, in his _Marchands de Miracles_, Paris 1864, remarks
that Cagliostro “rendered up his soul to God” just one hundred
years after the death of his predecessor in the _art magique_, the
brilliant charlatan Joseph Francis Borri of Milan, who was condemned
to perpetual imprisonment in the Castle of St. Angelo by the Holy
Inquisition, as a heretic, alchemist, and sorcerer. A curious
coincidence, says Castro.

The beautiful “Flower of Vesuvius,” Lorenza Feliciani, escaped severe
punishment by immuring herself in the convent of St. Appolonia at
Rome, where she died in 1794. She was more sinned against than

There lived in 1858, an old woman known by the name of Madeline,
who inhabited a miserable attic in Paris, the ceiling of which was
covered with cabalistic and astrological emblems. She pretended
to divine the future and tell fortunes. She was the daughter of
Cagliostro and a Jewess of Lyons. (_Le Figaro_, 13 mai, 1858.) {77}

In the Inquisition biography some curious letters to Cagliostro from
his masonic correspondents in France are published. They evidence the
profound respect, one might almost say blind worship, with which he
was regarded by his disciples.

The masonic lodge at Rome was disrupted shortly after Cagliostro’s
arrest. The Sbirri of the Holy Office pounced down upon it, but the
birds had flown, taking with them their most important papers. Father
Marcellus says that among the members of this Roman lodge were an
Englishman and an American.

And so endeth the career of Cagliostro, one of the most romantic of
history. His condemnation as a sorcerer and freemason has invested
him with “the halo of a religious martyr, of which perhaps no one was
less deserving.”

Among his effects the Inquisition found a peculiar seal, upon which
the mysterious letters “L. P. D.” were engraved. These letters were
supposed to stand for the Latin sentence, _Lilia pedibus destrue_,
which rendered into the vulgar tongue signifies, “Tread the lilies
under foot.” The fleur-de-lys was the heraldic device of the Bourbon
Kings of France, hence this trampling upon the lily alluded to the
stamping out of the French monarchy by the freemasons. However, it is
more than probable that the initials, arranged as follows, L. D. P.,
stood for _Libertè de Penser_—“Freedom of thought”—which is a motto
of Scottish Rite Masonry. This was the opinion of General Albert
Pike, 33d degree, than whom no greater masonic student ever lived.

Many theosophical writers have placed implicit belief in the
mission of Cagliostro. They have regarded him as a genuine adept
in magic and alchemy, and not a _chevalier d’industrie_ preying
upon a credulous world. Totally ignoring the evidence contained
in the police archives[16] of Paris and the numerous brochures by
eminent men and women who personally knew Cagliostro, they point
to the Inquisition biography as a mass of false evidence compiled
by religious bigots, and consequently unreliable, as if no other
testimony regarding Cagliostro’s character existed. Father Marcellus
had an ecclesiastical axe to grind, {78} it is true, to prove
Cagliostro a freemason and heretic (heinous crimes in the eyes of the
Roman Church, but absurd charges in the eyes of all tolerant men),
nevertheless he showed conclusively that Joseph Balsamo of Palermo,
the man of many aliases, was also a charlatan, impostor and evil
liver. All impartial contemporary biographers corroborate the facts
adduced by the Inquisition in this respect. The Cardinal de Rohan is
not a competent witness for Cagliostro, for he was blinded by his
superstitious belief in magic and alchemy. _Populus vult decipi,
decipiatur_—people who wish to be deceived are deceived.

[16] See _Documents manuscrits_ in the French archives at
Paris (Cartons: X2 B 1417—F7, 4445 B—Y, 11514—Y, 13125.)

Some writers have asserted that Cagliostro was the agent of the
Templars, and therefore wrote to the freemasons of London that the
time had arrived to begin the work of rebuilding the Temple of the
Eternal. With the heads of the Order he had vowed to overturn the
Throne and the Altar upon the tomb of the martyred Grand Master of
Templars, Jacques de Molai. Learned in the esoteric doctrines of
the Orient, the Knights Templars, or Poor Fellow Soldiery of the
Holy House of the Temple, were accused of sorcery and witchcraft,
hence their persecution by the Church, and Philippe le Bel of
France. De Molai, before he was burned to death in Paris, organized
and instituted what afterwards became in the eighteenth century
occult, hermetic or Scottish Masonry. And thus the freemasons
traced their order to the Templars of the Middle Ages, from whom
they inherited the theosophical doctrines of Egypt and India. Such
is the romantic but improbable legend. Color is lent to the story
by Cagliostro himself. Among other Munchausen tales related by him
to his Inquisitors, he told how he had visited the Illuminati of
Frankfurt, when on his way to Strasburg. In an underground cavern
the secret Grand Master of Templars “showed him his signature under
a horrible form of oath, traced in blood, and pledged him to destroy
all despots, especially in Rome.”

Taking this idea for a theme, Alexander the Great—he of the pen,
not of the sword—has built up a series of improbable though highly
romantic novels about the personality of Cagliostro, entitled _The
Memoirs of a Physician_ and _The Diamond Necklace_. He makes him the
Grand Kophta of a Society of {79} Illuminati, or exalted freemasons,
which extends throughout the world. Pledged to the propagation of
liberty, equality, and fraternity among men, the mystic brotherhood
seeks to overthrow the thrones of Europe and the Papacy, symbols of
oppression and persecution.

_The Memoirs of a Physician_ opens with a remarkable prologue,
descriptive of a solemn conclave of the secret superiors of the
Order. The meeting takes place at night in a ruined chateau located
in a mountainous region near the old city of Strasburg. Cagliostro
reveals his identity as the Arch-master of the Fraternity, the Grand
Kophta, who is in possession of the secrets of the pyramids. He takes
upon himself the important task of “treading the lilies under foot”
and bringing about the destruction of the monarchy in France, the
storm-centre of Europe. He departs on his mission. Like Torrini, the
conjurer, he has a miniature house on wheels drawn by two Flemish
horses. One part of the vehicle is fitted up as an alchemical
laboratory, wherein the sage Althotas makes researches for the
elixir of life. Arriving at the chateau of a nobleman of the _ancien
régime_, Cagliostro meets the young dauphiness Marie Antoinette, on
her way to Paris, accompanied by a brilliant cortège. He causes her
to see in a carafe of water her death by the guillotine. Aided by the
freemasons of Paris, Cagliostro sets to work to encompass the ruin
of the throne and to bring on the great Revolution. Dumas in this
remarkable series of novels passes in review before us Jean Jacques
Rousseau, Cardinal de Rohan, Louis XV and XVI, Marie Antoinette,
Countess du Barry, Madame de la Motte, Danton, Marat, and a host of
people famous in the annals of history. Cagliostro is exalted from
a charlatan into an apostle of liberty, endowed with many noble
qualities. He is represented as possessing occult powers, and his
séances are depicted as realities. Dumas himself was a firm believer
in spiritualism, and hobnobbed with the American medium Daniel D.


Cagliostro’s house in the Marais quarter, Paris, still remains—a
memorial in stone of its former master. In the summer {80} of 1899
the _Courrier des Etats-Unis_, New York, contained an interesting
article on this mansion. I quote as follows:

“Cagliostro’s house still stands in Paris. Few alterations have been
made in it since the days of its glories and mysteries; and one may
easily imagine the effect which it produced in the night upon those
who gazed upon its strange pavilions and wide terraces when the
lurid lights of the alchemist’s furnaces streamed through the outer
window blinds. The building preserves its noble lines in spite of
modern additions and at the same time has a weird appearance which
produces an almost depressing effect. But this doubtless comes from
the imagination, because the house was not built by Cagliostro; he
simply rented it. When he took up his quarters in it, it was the
property of the Marquise d’Orvillers. Cagliostro made no changes
in it, except perhaps a few temporary interior additions for the
machines which he used in his séances in magic.


“The plan of the building may well be said to be abnormal. The outer
gate opens upon the Rue Saint Claude at the angle of the Boulevard
Beaumarchais. The courtyard has a morose and solemn aspect. At
the end under a flagged porch there is a stone staircase worn by
time, but it still preserves its old iron railing. On looking at
that staircase, one cannot help thinking of the hosts of beautiful
women, attracted by curiosity to the den of the sorcerer, and
terrified at what they imagined they were about to see, who placed
their trembling hands upon that old railing. Here we can evoke {81}
the shade of Mme. de la Motte running up the steps, with her head
covered with a cloak, and the ghosts of the valets of Cardinal de
Rohan sleeping in the driver’s seat of the carriage with a lantern
at their feet, while their master, in company with the Great Kophta,
is occupied with necromancy, metallurgy, cabala, or oneirocritics,
which, as everybody knows, constitute the four elementary divisions
of Cagliostro’s art.

“A secret stairway now walled up ran near the large one to the
second story, where its traces are found; and a third stairway,
narrow and tortuous, still exists at the other end of the building
on the boulevard side. It is in the center of the wall, in complete
darkness, and leads to the old salons now cut into apartments,
the windows of which look out upon a terrace. Below, with their
mouldering doors, are the carriage house and the stable,—the stable
of Djerid, the splendid black horse of Lorenza Feliciani.”

To verify the above statement, I wrote to M. Alfred de Ricaudy (an
authority on archæological matters and editor of _L’Echo du Public_,
Paris), who responded as follows, Jan. 13, 1900:

“The house still exists just as it was in the time of Cagliostro
[the exterior]. Upon the boulevard, contiguous to the mansion,
there was formerly the shop of one Camerlingue, a bookseller, now
occupied by an upholsterer. On January 30, 1785, Cagliostro took up
his residence in this quaint old house. It was then No. 30 Rue St.
Claude, at the corner of the Boulevard Saint Antoine, afterwards
the Boulevard Beaumarchais. The Marquise d’Orvillers was the owner
of the premises occupied by the thaumaturgist of the eighteenth
century. Her father, M. de Chavigny, captain in the royal navy, had
built this house on ground acquired in 1719 from Mme. de Harlay,
who had inherited it from her father, le Chevalier Boucherat.
(See Lefeuve, _Old Houses of Paris_, Vol. IV., issue 51, page 24,
published by Achille Faure, Paris, 1863.)”

Cagliostro’s house is now No. 1, the numbering of the street having
been altered during the reign of Louis Philippe. Says M. de Ricaudy:

“The numbering originally began at the Rue Saint Louis, now Rue
de Turenne, in which is situated the church of Saint Denis du
Sacrement. When the houses were re-numbered with reference to the
direction of the current of the Seine (under Louis Philippe), the
numbers of the Rue St. Claude, which is parallel to the river, began

Online LibraryHenry Ridgely EvansThe Old and the New Magic → online text (page 8 of 28)