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Being Bewitched: A True Tale of Madness, Witchcraft, and Property Development Gone Wrong

by Kirsten C Uszkalo Truman State University
Pub Date:
Hbk 256 pages
AU$65.00 NZ$68.70
Product Status: Available in Approx 14 days
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In 1622, thirteen-year-old Elizabeth Jennings fell strangely ill. After doctors’ treatments proved useless, her family began to suspect the child had been bewitched, a suspicion that was confirmed when Elizabeth accused their neighbor Margaret Russell of witchcraft. In the events that followed, witchcraft hysteria intertwines with family rivalries, property disputes, and a web of supernatural beliefs. 

Starting from a manuscript account of the bewitchment, Kirsten Uszkalo sets the story of Elizabeth Jennings against both the specific circumstances of the powerful Jennings family and the broader history of witchcraft in early modern England. Fitting together the intricate pieces of this complex puzzle, Uszkalo reveals a story that encompasses the iron grip of superstition, the struggle among professionalizing medical specialties, and London’s lawless and unstoppable sprawl. In the picture that emerges, we see the young Elizabeth, pinned like a live butterfly at the dark center of a web of greed and corruption, sickness and lunacy.

List of Illustrations

Principal Dramatis Personæ

Genealogical Charts


Introduction: “My mother sawe her in the kitchin”

Provenience and Pattern

Chapter 1: The Background: Landed Power, Lunacy, and Libraries

Power in the Land

The Lunatic Lord

Being in Thistleworth

Chapter 2: Blood Evidence: Sickness in the Blood

Summoning Simeon Foxe

Mentioning Margaret Russell

Chapter 3: Comparables: Familial Witchcraft

Scandalized Cecils

Bad Manners

Chapter 4: Models and Accusations for Being Bewitched

Dazzling Demoniacs

Preternatural Authority

Chapter 5: Tensions: Prohibitions and Projects

Law Men and Long Acre

Langford, Churchill, Fenlands

Chapter 6: Tensions: Magics and Medicines

Gunpowder Alley

Black and White Court

Clerkenwell & Newgate

The Female Physician

Chapter 7: The New Suspect: The Apothecary

The House of Higgins

Piccadillies and Piccadilly

Chapter 8: Witnesses and Persons of Interest, Bedside & Barside

Frequent Visitors

Ordinary Visitors

Chapter 9: Wrap Up: The Final Expert Assessment

Richard Napier

Chapter 10: Post-bewitchment: Elizabeth Jenyns of St. Mary le Savoy

“East, west, north and south, all these lye”

Conclusion: “They had power over all them”

Appendix 1: “Of Elizabeth Jennings being bewitched,” 1622

Appendix 2: Indictments, October 27, 1616 / December 3, 1616

Appendix 3: Napier on Jennings, 1622

Appendix 4: Napier on Bulbeck, Arpe, and Latch, 1623

Appendix 5: John Latch’s signature, 1620, 1622



About the Author

“In lively and vivid prose, Uszkalo’s analysis of the 1622 possession of Elizabeth Jennings exposes the social, political, and intellectual fault lines running across the sprawl of early modern London. The product of painstaking research, this history will be of great use to scholars and students alike.”

—Richard Raiswell, University of Prince Edward Island

Kirsten C. Uszkalo is a specialist in seventeenth-century literature, early modern cultural studies, and women's writing. She is the author of numerous scholarly articles on witchcraft, possession, and digital culture. She is the lead of the Witches in Early Modern England Project and the founding editor of Preternature: Critical and Historical Studies in the Preternatural (Penn State University Press). Her first book, Bewitched and Bedeviled (Palgrave Macmillan, 2015) uses cognitive science and neuroscience to understand possession phenomenon in early modern England. She is currently teaching digital humanities at Athabasca University.