From Kook Science

Alessandro, Conte di Cagliostro (d. August 26, 1795), known more popularly simply as Cagliostro, was an Italian adventurer and occultist associated with Egyptian Rite Freemasonry. Many authorities identified Cagliostro as having been Giuseppe Balsamo (b. June 2, 1743), a Palermo-born Jew, contrary to more far-fetched claims of his mysterious origins as the son of a Maltese grand-master or a prince in the Ottoman-controlled Trebizond Eyalet, but any such identifications have been treated with some suspicion in certain esoteric quarters.




Cagliostro - from engraving by Bartolozzi, BM.jpg
  • Shirley, Ralph (1920), "Count Cagliostro", Occultists & Mystics of All Ages, London: W. Rider & Son, p. 120-144, 

    Who has not heard of Cagliostro? And yet who but a few students have any real knowledge of that mysterious character, of whom it may be said, as it was of Melchizedek, that he had "neither beginning of life nor end of days." Both, at least, like the king of Salem's, are wrapped in uncertainty, and though popular tradition, repeated again and again by the uncritical historian, has identified Cagliostro' s early life with that of the Italian scoundrel Joseph Balsamo, the evidence is as near conclusive as presumptive evidence can well be, that the two had no connection whatever with one another, beyond having married Italian wives with the same surname[1] — and that by no means an uncommon one — and the fact that Balsamo is said to have had an uncle of the name of Cagliostro. From what we know of Balsamo it may fairly be said that two people more opposite in character than himself and Count Cagliostro would be difficult to discover, and the identification of the two would seem to involve the assumption that Cagliostro had discarded his first wife and taken a second, a supposition which would render worthless the argument based on the identity of their surnames.

    Cagliostro's whole career, as far as we know it, shows a character in which generosity is perpetually being carried to the verge of folly. His credulity was constantly making him the dupe of designing knaves, in whose honesty he placed a pathetic faith, and had he ever had the misfortune to encounter his alter ego, a common rogue of the most ordinary type, it is safe to predict that he would not have escaped from his clutches till he had been fleeced of the bulk of his possessions. As late as the date of his trial in the affair of the Diamond Necklace, no suggestion of the identity of the two characters was even mooted. The story owes its origin to the fertile brain of one of the greatest scoundrels of whom European history holds record, the notorious blackmailer, Theveneau de Morande.

    A short résumé of this arch-villain's history will probably be sufficient to dissipate any credence which has ever been placed in a narrative for which his assertions are our only authority. Theveneau de Morande was born in 1741, the son of a lawyer, at Arnay-le-Duc, in Burgundy. As a boy he was arrested for theft in a house of ill-fame. Subsequently he enlisted, obtained his discharge through his father's intervention, found himself once more in prison at For-l'Evêque, and was then confined in a convent at Armentieres, from which he was released two years after at the age of four-and-twenty. Having shortly after lampooned one of the members of the government, he was compelled to fly the country and took refuge in England, where he arrived in a state of destitution.

    Needs must when the devil drives, and, the pinch of poverty sharpening his wits, he now turned his attention to the black-mailing business, in the pursuit of which he was soon to evince a quite uncommon aptitude and adroitness. His talents in this direction were ably seconded by a facile pen and a command of vituperative language and personal abuse which the author of the Letters of Junius could scarcely have outdone. His first effort of importance in this direction was Le Gazetier Cuirassé, ou Anecdotes Scandaleuses sur la Cour de France. Those who would not purchase immunity by a lump sum down had their characters and private lives mercilessly torn to pieces in its pages. The book is said to have brought him £1000. An attempt to blackmail Voltaire was less successful. The veteran philosophe published the blackmailer's letter with comments by his own satiric pen. The blackmailer's path has indeed its ups and downs, and once he was fain to accept a horsewhipping and publish an abject apology, the price extorted by an offended French nobleman. Madame du Barry, however, Louis XV.'s notorious favourite, was made of other stuff, and in consequence the Memoires d'une Femme Publique, compared with which Le Gazetier Cuirassé was said to have been "rose water," were never published. Morande accepted the sum of 32,000 livres in solatium for his wounded literary amour propre. Before, however, paying him his price the French Government had attempted to kidnap the audacious libeller. This was the ancient substitute for the more prosaic extradition methods of modern times. The plot, however, failed. With a dexterity worthy of a better cause, Morande, warned in time, was able to pose in the English press as a political exile and avenger of public morality. The sympathy of the susceptible public responded warmly to the unscrupulous appeal, and the representatives of French authority escaped with difficulty from the clutches of an infuriated London mob.

    It not unfrequently happens with countries that have been at war, that the signature of the treaty of peace is followed after no long lapse of time by a formal alliance between the erstwhile foes, there being obviously two methods of gaining one's ends, the method of grab and the method of give and take, and the failure of one suggesting the advisability of adopting the other. So at least reasoned the French Government, and the payment of Morande's price was followed in due course by his employment on behalf of the said Government in the capacity of subsidised journalist, and spy. Morande was nothing loth to come to terms, and eventually blossomed out into the Editor of the Courier de l'Europe. This journal, originally started by Latour under the aegis of the French Government, was soon read in every corner of the Continent. This was the weapon which of all others the blackmailer desired for his purposes. "In it," says Brisset, "he tore to pieces the most estimable people, and manufactured, or caused to be manufactured, articles to ruin any one whom he feared."

    Cagliostro had — all unwittingly — made dire enemies of the French Court through his acquittal in the trial over the Diamond Necklace affair. To acquit Cagliostro, who had no more to do with the matter in question than the man in the moon, appeared from the royal standpoint to be tantamount to incriminating the Queen, on whom, in fact, suspicion long and not unnaturally rested. Morande, therefore, received his instructions from Paris to ruin Cagliostro's reputation. The means ready to his hand was the Courier de l'Europe. Hence the story of Joseph Balsamo and his identification with the soi-disant Count Cagliostro. To say that the authority hardly seems adequate is surely to put it mildly. And yet Carlyle, and others before and after him, have quietly accepted the statement of the paid blackmailer as sufficient evidence of the character and history of his victim!

    Who, then, was Cagliostro? The answer to this question must ever remain among the unsolved problems of history. There is, however, no reason to dismiss as incredible — even if there is. reason to doubt — the account which he gave of himself on the occasion of the "Diamond Necklace" trial. From what we know of Cagliostro we may, I think, say that his character was far too ingenuous for him to have been likely to invent so remarkable a tale. Everything, however, in his history points to the fact that he was just the person to take a record of the kind and colour it with the hues of his own fertile imagination. In any case, the impartial historian, while dismissing as preposterous the Balsamo fiction is bound to give some weight — however slight — to the only evidence on the subject we possess which is not manifestly untrue. Cagliostro, however, himself did not pretend to have knowledge of his parentage. "I cannot," he states, "speak positively as to the place of my nativity, nor as to the parents who gave me birth. All my inquiries have ended only in giving me some great notions, it is true, but altogether vague and uncertain, concerning my family." The gist, however, of his story was that he spent his childhood in Arabia, where he was brought up under the name of Acherat. He had then, he states, four persons attached to his service — the chief of whom was a certain Althotas, a man between fifty-five and sixty years of age. This man (whom it has been attempted to identify with a certain Kōlmer, a Jutland merchant, who had travelled extensively and had the reputation of being a master-magician) informed Cagliostro that he had been left an orphan when three months old, and that his parents were Christian and nobly born. All his attempts, however, to discover the secret of his birth were doomed to disappointment. The matter was one which was treated as taboo. In his twelfth year (to follow his own story) he left Medina for Mecca, where he remained three years, until, wearying of the monotonous round of the Cherif's Court, he obtained leave to travel.

    One day (he narrates), when I was alone, the prince entered my apartment; he strained me to his bosom with more than usual tenderness, bid me never cease to adore the Almighty, and added, bedewing my cheeks with his tears: "Nature's unfortunate child, adieu!"

    From this date commenced, according to his own account, Cagliostro's travels, first in company with Althotas, for whom he ever expressed the warmest affection, afterwards with the wife whom he chose for himself in Italy. For upwards of three years he claims to have travelled through Egypt, Africa, and Asia, finally reaching the island of Rhodes in the year 1766, and thence embarking on a French ship bound for Malta. Here he and his guardian were received with all honour, Pinto, the Grand Master of the Knights of Malta, giving them apartments in his palace.

    It was here (he notes) that I first assumed European dress and with it the name of Count Cagliostro; nor was it a small matter of surprise to me to see Althotas appear in a clerical dress with the insignia of the Order of Malta.

    The Grand Master Pinto was apparently acquainted with Cagliostro's history. He often spoke to him, he says, of the Cherif, but always refused to be "drawn" on the subject of his real origin and birth. He treated him, however, with every consideration and endeavoured to induce him to "take the cross," promising him a great career and rapid preferment if he would consent to do so. Cagliostro's love of travelling and of the study of medicine drew him in another direction, and on the death of his guardian, Althotas, which occurred shortly after, he left Malta for ever. After visiting Sicily and the Greek Archipelago in company with the Chevalier d'Aquino he proceeded thence to Naples, where he took leave of his companion. Provided with a letter of credit on the banking house of Signor Bellone he left Naples for Rome, where his destiny awaited him in the shape of Seraphina Feliciani, who shortly after became his wife, and to whom he showed throughout his married life a most unfailing devotion.[2] Cagliostro states that he was then (anno 1770) in his twenty-second year, and he appears to have continued to pursue that nomadic life which was so dear to him, travelling from town to town on the Continent of Europe till he at length emerges into the light of day in the city of London, in the month of July 1776, in furnished apartments in Whitcombe Street, Leicester Fields. London seems always to have been an unfortunate place for Cagliostro, and here he was destined, on the first of many occasions, to become the victim of his own too trustful and generous disposition and to be fleeced of the greater part of his possessions by a nest of rogues, who took advantage of a foreigner entirely ignorant of London. Eventually he was rescued from this gang of knaves by a good Samaritan in the shape of a certain O'Reilly. Now O'Reilly was a prominent member of the Esperance Lodge of Freemasons, and here we first find Cagliostro brought into contact with that celebrated secret society, his connection with which was destined to play so all-important a part in the subsequent years of his life. O'Reilly, it appears, was the proprietor of the King's Head, in Gerard Street, where the Esperance Lodge assembled, and it was only natural that one so fascinated with the occult as Cagliostro should be readily persuaded by his benefactor and rescuer to become initiated into the order of Freemasons. It is not necessary here to follow in detail the sordid intrigues of which, during his sojourn in England, he was made the victim. He was, however, glad eventually to escape from the country, with "no more than £50 and some jewels" in his possession, having lost in all, through fraud and consequent legal proceedings, some 3000 guineas during his sojourn. Cagliostro's star, however, had not yet set, and his all too brief spell of fame and triumph was still in front of him. Providence, in the shape probably of the emissaries of Freemasonry, was waiting at Brussels to replenish his purse, and the same Providence, probably in the same guise, replenished it many times afterwards with no niggardly hand.

    From Brussels to The Hague, from The Hague to Nuremberg, from Nuremberg to Berlin, from Berlin to Leipzig, we trace the Count's peregrinations, gathering fame and founding Egyptian Masonic Lodges as he went. It is true he met 'with setbacks and reverses, and the capital of Frederick the Great would have none of him, but it is clear that, in spite of these, his credit and reputation as a healer and clairvoyant grew steadily in volume. It was, in fact, on these two gifts that his fame rested. Though he claimed to have been taught the secrets of occultism by Althotas, or to have learned them from the Egyptian priests, there is no evidence[3] throughout the records of his career of his possessing anything but a smattering of such abstruse knowledge, and on several occasions, notably at St Petersburg, there is something more than a suspicion that his attempt to make good his claim to the name of occultist involved him in serious humiliation and rebuffs. The tales, however, of his predictions and their fulfilments were handed on from mouth to mouth, doubtless losing nothing on the way, while his reputation as a healer and the stories of the cures which he effected assured a perfect furore of enthusiasm in every fresh town to which he paid a visit. He took advantage of this enthusiasm to found fresh Masonic Lodges in all directions, and, while he consistently refused to receive payment of any kind for his cures, the shekels of an endless file of initiate converts poured into the coffers at the headquarters of Egyptian Masonry. Never was man at once more lavish with money and more indifferent to the comforts which money brings. "He slept in an armchair," said Madame d'Oberkirch contemptuously," and lived on cheese." Whatever he spent, however, he appeared to draw from an inexhaustible widow's cruise. As in spite of his refusal to accept fees, he paid his own bills with the greatest promptitude; the problem whence this continuous stream of gold flowed excited unbounded curiosity, and many were the fantastic stories invented to account for it.

    Meanwhile, after visiting Mittau, where he was enthusiastically taken up by Marshal von Medem, the head of the Masonic Lodge at that place, he passed on to Petersburg, Warsaw, and thence to Strassburg. Here he was destined to enjoy a great triumph and to win a powerful friend, who was eventually, through a pure accident, to prove the cause of his undoing. This was none other than the notorious Cardinal de Rohan. It is hardly necessary to state that the ecclesiastical dignitary of the eighteenth century in France was not selected for his high office by reason of his exemplary life or his Christian virtues. To neither of these did Cardinal de Rohan make any claim. Yet honours had fallen thick and fast upon him. He was Bishop of Strassburg, Grand Almoner of France, Cardinal, Prince of the Empire, Landgrave of Alsace, in addition to being Abbot of the richest abbey in France, the Abbey of St Waast Handsune. Of fascinating manner, an aristocrat of the aristocrats, there was no position in the kingdom to which he did not feel justified in aspiring. The fact that he enjoyed a reputation for dissipation and extravagance did not appear calculated to tell against him in such an age.

    Surprising as it may seem, the Cardinal combined with a pleasure-loving disposition a passion for alchemy and the pursuit of the occult sciences, and the arrival of Cagliostro at Strassburg naturally enough excited his interest to no small degree. The Cardinal determined to lose no time in making the acquaintance of the man about whom and whose marvellous cures the whole town was already talking almost before he set foot in its streets. But Cagliostro was inclined to ride the high horse. "If the Cardinal is ill," he replied to the great man's messenger, "let him come to me and I will cure him. If not, he has no need of me nor I of him." In spite of the Count's stand-offishness, the Cardinal was not to be denied, and the acquaintance once made soon ripened into the closest intimacy. Cagliostro was told to consider the palace his own, and he and his wife resided there on the footing of the most honoured guests. Marvellous tales are told of the results of his experiments in the Cardinal's laboratory, how he manufactured gold and jewels, and finally showed De Rohan in the crystal the form of the woman whom he had loved. It is on these stories alone that the reputation of Cagliostro as an alchemist really rests, and in the absence of further confirmatory evidence one is inclined to take them with a grain of salt. However this may be, it is certain that the Cardinal was completely won over, and Cagliostro took care not to lose caste by assuming airs of humility or deference. Never, certainly, was there less of a snob than this marvellous adventurer. "Cagliostro," says Madame d'Oberkirch, "treated him and his other distinguished admirers as if they were under the deepest obligation to him; but he under none whatever to them." As usual, our hero was besieged at Strassburg by those who would profit by his medical knowledge and skill as a healer, for he really appears to have possessed both, and as usual by obliging his clients he incurred the inveterate hostility of the medical profession. In all ages of the world's history the natural healer has had the doctor as his enemy, and the prophet, the priest. Orthodoxy has ever closed its ranks against those who poach on its preserves. Doubtless it is the natural instinct of self-defence. For Cagliostro, however, it was extremely inconvenient.

    The people would throng his doorsteps to be cured and make him heal them willy-nilly, and the medical profession were equally determined to make each place in which he practised his medical skill too hot for him. Others might have been willing to let the dogs bark, but a fatal sensitiveness to criticism made the Count an all too easy target for their venom. They drove him from Strassburg as they had driven him from other places, in spite of the entreaties of De Rohan, who pressed him to stay and disregard their clamour.

    We need not follow Cagliostro from Strassburg to Bordeaux and from Bordeaux to Lyons, where he added further laurels to his reputation and founded further Lodges of Egyptian Masonry. He might have remained indefinitely to all appearance at the latter place if it had not been for the solicitations of Cardinal de Rohan, who urged him to respond to the appeals of Parisian Society and visit the gay capital, where he guaranteed him an enthusiastic reception. He even sent a special messenger to back his request, and perhaps Cagliostro himself had heard the capital of cultured Europe a-calling. Anyhow he came, his evil fate — if not Paris — summoning him. Cagliostro declared that he took the greatest precaution on arriving there to avoid causing ill-will. However this may be, he immediately became "the rage"; in fashionable circles; people flocked to him by hundreds to be cured, and the stories of the miracles which he was supposed to have effected were the talk of every dinner-party in the capital. Mesmer had already left Paris with a fortune of 340,000 livres, made by his lucrative practice, in his pocket. Paris, craving for a new excitement, was ready to receive with open arms the wonder-worker of whom it was said that no one of all his patients ever succeeded in making him accept the least mark of gratitude.[4]

    Cagliostrowas here surfeited with flattery. Houdin executed his bust. His statuettes were in every shop window. His portrait was in every house. Those who claimed to have been cured by him were met with on all sides. Angels, it is said, and heroes of Biblical story appeared at his seances. No story was too absurd for Paris to believe about him.

    But a train of events in which he had no hand, and a catastrophe for which he had no responsibility, were destined, while wrecking other reputations and undermining the throne itself, to bring his career of triumph to a sudden and tragic close, and eventually to drive him, a forsaken and persecuted outcast, to his final doom. Cagliostro, as already stated, had nothing whatever to do with the affair of the Diamond Necklace. But for all that, he was caught in the web of deceit that an unscrupulous woman had woven to suit her own purposes.

    The Countess de Lamotte-Valois, a descendant of a natural son of Henri II., and an adventuress of the most reckless type, had found a protector in the person of the susceptible Cardinal de Rohan. Now the Cardinal was by no means a persona grata at the Court of Versailles. As a matter of fact, he was never seen there except at the feast of the Assumption, when it was his duty as Grand Almoner to celebrate Mass in the Royal Chapel. The cause of this was the enmity of Queen Marie Antoinette. The Cardinal had been recalled from the embassy at Vienna at the instance of her mother, Maria Theresa, and doubtless the mother had communicated to the daughter a distrust for the brilliant but pleasure-loving Cardinal. This was a fatal obstacle to De Rohan, whose ambition it was to become First Minister to the King. The Countess de Lamotte saw her chance in the thwarted ambitions of her protector, and took care to pose as an intimate friend of the Queen, a story to which her frequent visits to Versailles in connection with a petition for the recovery of some family property which had passed into the possession of the State, lent a certain appearance of truth. She represented to the Cardinal the interest the Queen took in him but which matters of policy compelled her to dissemble. In the sequel, a series of letters — of course forged — passed between De Rohan and the supposed Queen. The Queen, through the intermediary of the Countess, borrowed large sums of money of the Cardinal, which the Cardinal, on his part, being head over ears in debt in spite of his enormous income, was compelled to borrow of the Jews. Then, when the Cardinal was becoming suspicious, the Countess arranged a bogus interview, at which another lady — admittedly remarkably like her — posed as the Queen, and permitted De Rohan to kiss her hand. Finally, Madame de Lamotte got in touch with Böhmer, the owner of the famous necklace. This she represented to the Cardinal that the Queen had set her heart on obtaining, but could not, at a moment's notice, find the ready cash. Would he become security? Needless to say, De Rohan fell into the trap. The first instalment of the bill fell due, and the Cardinal, who had not expected to be called on to pay, was unable offhand to find the money. At this point Böhmer, feeling nervous, consulted one of the Queen's ladies-in-waiting, who informed him that the story of the Queen having bought the necklace was all moonshine. He then went to the Countess de Lamotte, who had the effrontery to say she believed he was being victimised, and advised him to go to the Cardinal, thinking, doubtless, that De Rohan would take the entire responsibility when the alternative was his ruin. The jeweller, however, instead of taking her advice, went straight to the King. The King immediately communicated with the Queen, who was furious, and insisted on having the Cardinal arrested forthwith. The fat was now in the fire with a vengeance. The arrest of the Cardinal was followed by that of the Countess de Lamotte, of Cagliostro and his wife (whom the Countess in utter recklessness accused of the theft of the necklace), of the Baroness d'Oliva, who had "played" the Queen, of de Vilette, the forger of the letters, and various minor actors in this astounding drama.

    In the celebrated trial that followed Cagliostro was acquitted, but not until he had spent nine months in the Bastille. There was, in fact, not a shadow of evidence against him. His wife was released before the trial took place. Cagliostro received an ovation from the people of Paris on the occasion of his release, as well as De Rohan, who was also acquitted, the popularity of the verdict being due to the hatred with which the Royal Family were now everywhere regarded. But on the day after, by a Royal edict, De Rohan was stripped of all his dignities and exiled to Auvergne, while Cagliostro was ordered to leave France within three weeks. The Count retired to England, fearful lest worse might befall him; but even here the relentless malignity of the discredited Queen, who regarded his acquittal as equivalent to her own condemnation, followed his footsteps. The unscrupulous De Morande, as we have already seen, was paid by the Court to ruin his reputation and to identify him with the thief and gaolbird Joseph Balsamo. London was soon made so hot for him that he returned once more to the Continent, and made his home for a short time in Switzerland. Later on he went to Trent, where the Prince-Bishop, who had a passion for alchemy, made him a welcome guest. But the Count's day was over, and misfortune continued to dog his footsteps. The Emperor Joseph II. would not permit his vassal to harbour the man who had been mixed up in the Diamond Necklace affair, and the Bishop was reluctantly obliged to bid him begone. Cagliostro now found himself driven from pillar to post, his resources were at an end, and his friends were dead or had deserted him. He turned his steps towards Italy, and eventually arrived at Rome. Here his presence becoming known to the papal authorities, he and his wife were arrested as members of the Masonic Fraternity. In those days, within the Papal States Freemasonry was a crime punishable by death. After a mock trial the death-sentence was commuted to imprisonment for life, while his wife was confined in a penitentiary.

    Rumour which wove a web of romance round all his doings, did not leave him even here, and stories were circulated that he had escaped from his dungeon and was living in Russia. There appears, however, to be no doubt that neither Count nor Countess long survived their incarceration, and when the French soldiers invaded the Papal States in 1797 and the Polish Legion under General Daubrowski captured the fortress of San Leo, in which the Count had been confined, the officers who inquired after the once famous magician, hoping to set him free, were informed that it was too late, and that he was already dead. The Queen, whose vindictive spite had ruined these two lives, went to her doom first; but her instrument, the blackmailer Morande, retired to a quiet corner of France on his ill-gotten fortune, escaped the furies of the French Revolution, and ended his life surrounded by an atmosphere of the most unquestioned respectability.

    And what of the man with whom not only his own fate, but the misrepresentations of history have dealt so hardly? What manner of man was he for whom even those who denounce him as mountebank might not unreasonably, one would think, feel a passing sympathy? On two points we have ample testimony. All those who knew him bore witness to the marvellous magnetism of his personality and to the fascination and beauty of his extraordinary eyes. "No two eyes like his were ever seen," says the Marquise de Crégny, "and his teeth were superb." "He was not, strictly speaking, handsome," says Madame d'Oberkirch, "but I have never seen a more remarkable face. His glance was so penetrating that one might almost be tempted to call it supernatural. I could not describe the expression of his eyes; it was, so to speak, a mixture of flame and ice. It attracted and repelled at the same time, and, whilst it inspired terror, it aroused along with it an irresistible curiosity. I cannot deny," she adds, "that Cagliostro possessed an almost demoniacal power." Not less noteworthy is the opinion of so hostile a witness as Beugnot, who confesses, while ridiculing him, that his face, his attire, the whole man, in fact, impressed him in spite of himself. "If gibberish can be sublime," he continues, "Cagliostro was sublime. When he began speaking on a subject he seemed carried away with it, and spoke impressively in a ringing, sonorous voice."

    This was the man whose appearance Carlyle caricatured in the following elegant phraseology: A most portentous face of scoundrelism; a fat snub abominable faoe; dew-lapped, fiat-nosed, greasy, full of greediness, sensuality, ox-like obstinacy; the most perfect quack face produced by the eighteenth century.

    Carlyle, however, who would say anything or write anything in his moods of irritability, also alluded to the late Cardinal Newman as "not possessing the intellect of a moderate-sized rabbit"; and the two statements may fairly be juxtaposed.

    Mr W. R. H. Trowbridge, to whose recent book I am greatly indebted for material for this brief sketch of Cagliostro's life, well observes that "there is perhaps no other equally celebrated personality in modern history whose character is so baffling to the biographer." History has condemned him purely on the evidence of his most unscrupulous enemies. But while dismissing such one-sided portraits, it is no easy matter to arrive at an unprejudiced valuation of the real man. Of his latest biographer's impartiality and candour, as well as his careful research of authorities, it is impossible to speak too highly. His conclusions will be all the more widely accepted in view of the fact that he is himself in no sense an occultist. In spite of a rather long chapter dealing with "Eighteenth Century Occultism," we feel instinctively and at every turn that the subject is one in which he is obviously out of his depth. Indeed, only on the second page of his biography we come across the following surprising statement. Speaking of "theosophists, spiritualists, occultists," all of whom are unceremoniously lumped together, he observes:

    By these amiable visionaries Cagliostro is regarded as one of the princes of occultism whose mystical touch has revealed the arcana of the spiritual world to the initiated, and illumined the path along which the speculative scientist proceeds on entering the labyrinth of the supernatural.

    Every occultist knows this to be sheer rubbish. Cagliostro has never been regarded as an authority in any school of occultism. Many, if not most occultists, have been inclined to believe that he was more than half a quack. Mr Trowbridge — it is to be said to his credit — has judged him in the light of the evidence more fairly than they. The truth is that, Cagliostro with all his good qualities, with all his generosity of heart, his human sympathy, his nobility — yes, it really was nobility — of character, was beyond and above all things a poser and a mystery-monger. He had a magnetic personality, a mediumistic temperament, and almost certainly some clairvoyant power, though it is noticeable that he invariably employed a little boy or girl whose assistance was essential to his predictions. Beyond this, and, I think we must say, more important than all this, he had an incontestable natural healing gift, which he aided by no small knowledge of practical medicine. In these qualifications we have the secret of his success, and also the clue to his failure. He was excessively vain, and loved to impress the multitude. He loved, moreover, to impress them by surrounding himself with an atmosphere of mystery and posing as an occultist, which (probably) he never was. He has left no body of teaching behind him. He has left no followers, no disciples. He was merely the comet of a season, though an exceptionally brilliant one. It would be absurd to class him in the same category as such master occultists as Cornelius Agrippa and Paracelsus, or indeed even as Eliphas Levi. He was not cast in the same mould. He belonged to another and a lower type. But his was withal a striking as well as a sympathetic personality, a personality that makes appeal, by a certain glamour heightened by the tragedy of his inglorious end, to all that is warm, and chivalrous, and romantic in the human heart.

    1. The Christian name of Balsamo's wife was Lorenza, of Cagliostro's Seraphina. But the story is itself of doubtful authenticity.
    2. It is perhaps almost superfluous to state that Joseph Balsamo got his wife locked up in jail, beside compelling her to lead a life of immorality.
    3. Unless indeed we accept the (doubtful) story of his transmuting metals for De Rohan.
    4. Grimm.