Similar ebooks

An incredible number of legends exists connected with the personages whose history is given in the Old Testament. The collection now presented to the public must by no means be considered as exhaustive. The compiler has been obliged to limit himself as to the number, it being quite impossible to insert all. He trusts that few of peculiar interest have been omitted.


The Mussulman traditions are nearly all derived from the Talmudic writers, just as the history of Christ in the Koran is taken from the Apocryphal Gospels. The Koran follows the “Sepher Hajaschar” (Book of the Just) far more closely than the canonical Scriptures; and the “Sepher Hajaschar” is a storehouse of the Rabbinic tradition on the subject of the Patriarchs from Adam to Joshua.


The Jewish traditions are of various value. Some can be traced to their origin without fail. One class is derived from Persia, as, for instance, those of Asmodeus, the name of the demon being taken, along with his story, from Iranian sources. Another class springs from the Cabbalists, who, by permutation of the letters of avi name, formed the nuclei, so to speak, from which legends spread.


Another class, again, is due to the Rabbinic commentators, who, unable to allow for poetical periphrasis, insisted on literal interpretations, and then coined fables to explain them. Thus the saying of David, “Thou hast heard me from among the horns of the unicorns,” which signified that David was assisted by God in trouble, was taken quite literally by the Rabbis, and a story was invented to explain it.


Another class, again, is no doubt due to the exaggeration of Oriental imagery, just as that previously mentioned is due to the deficiency of the poetic fancy in certain Rabbis. Thus, imagination and defect of imagination, each contributed to add to the store.


But when we have swept all these classes aside, there remains a residuum, small, no doubt, of genuine tradition. To this class, if I am not mistaken, belong the account of Lamech and his wives, and the story of the sacrifice of Isaac. In the latter instance, the type comes out far clearer in the Talmudic tradition that in the canonical Scriptures; and this can hardly have been the result of Jewish interpolation, knowing, as they did, that Christians pointed triumphantly to this type.


With regard to Jewish traditions, it is unfortunate that both Eisenmenger and Bartolocci, who collected many of them, were so prejudiced, so moved with violent animosity against the Rabbinic writers, that theyvii preserved only the grotesque, absurd, and indecent legends, and wholly passed over those—and there are many of them—which are redolent of poetry, and which contain an element of truth.


A certain curious interest attaches to these legends—at least, I think so; and, should they find favor with the public, this volume will be followed by another series on the legends connected with the New Testament characters.


The author is not aware of any existing collection of these legends, except that of M. Colin de Plancy, “Legendes de l’Ancien Testament,” Paris, 1861; but he has found this work of little or no use to him in composing his volume, as M. de Plancy gives no reference to authorities; and also, because nearly the whole of the contents are taken from D’Herbelot’s “Bibliothèque Orientale” and Migne’s “Dictionnaire des Apocryphes.”

To be continue in this ebook

 I was in Rome. For ten days with a sirocco wind the rains had descended, as surely they had never come down since the windows of heaven were opened at the Flood. The Tiber rose thirty-two feet. Now Rome is tunnelled under the streets with drains or sewers that carry all the refuse of a great city into the Tiber. But, naturally, when the Tiber swells high above the crowns of the sewers, they are choked. All the foulness of the great town is held back under the houses and streets, and breeds gases loathsome to the nose and noxious to life. Not only so, but a column of water, some twenty to twenty-five feet in height, is acting like the piston of a pop-gun, and is driving all the accumulated gases charged with the germs of typhoid fever into every house which has communication with the sewers. There is no help for it, the poisonous vapours must be forced out of the drains and must be forced into the houses. That is why, with a rise of the Tiber, typhoid fever is certain to break out in Rome.

As I went over Ponte S. Angelo I was wont to look over the parapet at the opening of the sewer that carried off the dregs of that portion of the city where I was residing. One day I looked for it, and looked in vain. The Tiber had swelled and was overflowing its banks, and for a week or fortnight there could be no question, not a sewer in the vast city would be free to do anything else but mischief. I did not go on to the Vatican galleries that day. I could not have enjoyed the statues in the Braccio Nuovo, nor the frescoes in the Loggia. I went home, found Messrs. Allen's letter, packed my Gladstone bag, and bolted. I shall never learn who got the microbe destined for me, which I dodged.

I went to Florence; at the inn where I put up—one genuinely Italian, Bonciani's,—I made an acquaintance, a German Jew, a picture-dealer with a shop in a certain capital, no matter which, editor of a bric-à-brac paper, and a right merry fellow. I introduce him to the reader because he afforded me some information concerning Provence. He had a branch establishment—never mind where, but in Provence—and he had come to Florence to pick up pictures and bric-à-brac.

Our acquaintance began as follows. We sat opposite each other at table in the evening. A large rush-encased flask is set before each guest in a swing carriage, that enables him to pour out his glassful from the big-bellied flask without effort. Each flask is labelled variously Chianti, Asti, Pomino, but all the wines have a like substance and flavour, and each is an equally good light dinner-wine. A flask when full costs three francs twenty centimes; and when the guest falls back in his seat, with a smile of satisfaction on his face, and his heart full of good will towards all men, for that he has done his dinner, then the bottle is taken out, weighed, and the guest charged the amount of wine he has consumed. He gets a fresh flask at every meal.

 All over the north of Europe the greatest aversion is felt to be the first to enter a new building, or to go over a newly erected bridge. If to do this is not everywhere and in all cases thought to entail death, it is considered supremely unlucky. Several German legends are connected with this superstition. The reader, if he has been to Aix-la-Chapelle, has doubtless had the rift in the great door pointed out to him, and has been told how it came there. The devil and the architect made a compact that the first should draw the plans, and the second gain the Kudos; and the devil’s wage was to be that he should receive the first who crossed the threshold of the church when completed. When the building was finished, the architect’s conscience smote him, and he confessed the compact to the bishop. “We’ll do him,” said the prelate; that is to say, he said something to this effect in terms more appropriate to the century in which he lived, and to his high ecclesiastical office.

When the procession formed to enter the minster for the consecration, the devil lurked in ambush behind a pillar, and fixed his wicked eye on a fine fat and succulent little chorister as his destined prey. But alas for his hopes! this fat little boy had been given his instructions, and, as he neared the great door, loosed the chain of a wolf and sent it through. The evil one uttered a howl of rage, snatched up the wolf and rushed away, giving the door a kick, as he passed it, that split the solid oak.

The castle of Gleichberg, near Rönskild, was erected by the devil in one night. The Baron of Gleichberg was threatened by his foes, and he promised to give the devil his daughter if he erected the castle before cockcrow. The nurse overheard the compact, and, just as the castle was finished, set fire to a stack of corn. The cock, seeing the light, thought morning had come, and crowed before the last stone was added to the walls. The devil in a rage carried off the old baron—and served him right—instead of the maiden. We shall see presently how this story works into our subject.

At Frankfort may be seen, on the Sachsenhäuser Bridge, an iron rod with a gilt cock on the top. This is the reason: An architect undertook to build the bridge within a fixed time, but three days before that on which he had contracted to complete it, the bridge was only half finished. In his distress he invoked the devil, who undertook the job if he might receive the first who crossed the bridge. The work was done by the appointed day, and then the architect drove a cock over the bridge. The devil, who had reckoned on getting a human being, was furious; he tore the poor cock in two, and flung it with such violence at the bridge that he knocked two holes in it, which to the present day cannot be closed, for if stones are put in by day they are torn out by night. In memorial of the event, the image of the cock was set up on the bridge.

Heigh! for a badger-skin waistcoat like that of Hillary Nanspian of Chimsworthy! What would not I give to be the owner of such a waistcoat? Many a covetous glance was cast at that waistcoat in the parish church of Bratton Clovelly, in the county of Devon, on Sunday, where it appeared during public worship in a pew; and when the parson read the Decalogue, many a heart was relieved to learn that the prohibition against covetousness did not extend to badger-skin waistcoats. That waistcoat made of the skin of a badger Hillary Nanspian had himself drawn and killed. In colour it was silver-grey graduating to black. The fur was so deep that the hand that grasped it sank into it. The waistcoat was lined with red, and had flaps of fur to double over the breast when the wind lay in the east and the frost was cruel. When the wind was wet and warm, the flaps were turned back, exposing the gay crimson lining, and greatly enhancing its beauty. The waistcoat had been constructed for Hillary Nanspian by his loving wife before she died.

Hillary Nanspian of Chimsworthy was a big, brisk, florid man, with light grey eyes. His face was open, round, hearty, and of the colour of a ribstone pippin. He was, to all appearance, a well-to-do man. But appearances are not always to be trusted. Chimsworthy, where he lived, was a farm of two hundred acres; the subsoil clay, some of the land moor, and more bog; but the moor was a fine place for sheep, and the bog produced pasture for the young stock when the clay grass land was drought-dry. Hillary had an orchard of the best sorts of apples grown in the West, and he had a nursery of apples, of grafts, and of seedlings. When he ate a particularly good apple, he collected the pips for sowing, put them in a paper cornet, and wrote thereon, 'This here apple was a-eated of I on ——,' such and such a day, 'and cruel good he were too.' (Cruel, in the West, means no more than 'very.')

The farm of Chimsworthy had come to Nanspian through his wife, who was dead. His brother-in-law was Taverner Langford of Langford. Taverner's mother had been a Hill, Blandina Hill, heiress of Chimsworthy, and it went to her daughter Blandina, who carried it when she married to her Cornish husband, Hillary Nanspian.

©2019 GoogleSite Terms of ServicePrivacyDevelopersArtistsAbout Google|Location: United StatesLanguage: English (United States)
By purchasing this item, you are transacting with Google Payments and agreeing to the Google Payments Terms of Service and Privacy Notice.