THE ENCHANTER FAUSTUS AND QUEEN
ANECDOTE EXTRACTED PROM THE DOCTOR’S UNPUBLISHED
“I do not say it is possible—I only say it is true.”
[MAGA. August 1822.]
Elizabeth was a wonderful princess for wisdom, learning, magnificence,
and grandeur of soul. All this was fine,—but she was as envious as a
decayed beauty—jealous and cruel—and that spoiled all. However, be her
defects what they may, her fame had pierced even to the depths of
Germany, whence the Enchanter Faustus set off for her court, that great
magician wishing to ascertain by his own wits, whether Elizabeth was as
gifted with good qualities as she was with bad. No one could judge this
for him so well as himself, who read the stars like his A B C, and whom
Satan obeyed like his dog—yet, withal, who was not above a thousand
pleasant tricks, that make people laugh, and hurt no one: such, for
instance, as turning an old lord into an old lady, to elope with his
cook-maid—exchanging a handsome wife for an ugly one, &c. &c.
The Queen, charmed with the pretty things which she heard of him, wished
much to see him—and from the moment that she did, became quite
fascinated. On his side, he found her better than he had expected; not
but that he perceived she thought a great deal too much of her
wit—though she had a tolerable share of it; and still more of her
beauty—of which she had rather less.
One day that she was dressed with extraordinary splendour, to give
audience to some ambassadors, she retired into her cabinet at the close
of the ceremony, and sent for the Doctor. After having gazed at herself
in all the mirrors in the room, and seeming very well pleased with their
reflection,—for her roses and lilies were as good as gold could buy,
her petticoat high enough to show her ankle, and her frill low to expose
her bosom,—she sat down en attitude, in her great chair. It was thus
the Enchanter Faustus found her. He was the most adroit courtier that
you could find, though you searched the world over. For though there are
good reasons why a courtier may not be a conjuror, there are none why a
conjuror may not be a courtier; and Faustus, both in one—knowing the
Queen’s foible as to her imaginary beauty—took care not to let slip so
fine an opportunity of paying his court. He was wonderstruck,
thunderstruck, at such a blaze of perfection. Elizabeth knew how to
appreciate the moment of surprise. She drew a magnificent ruby from her
finger, which the Doctor, without making difficulties about it, drew on
“You find me then passable for a Queen?” said she, smiling. On this he
wished himself at the devil (his old resting-place), if, not alone that
he had ever seen, but if anybody else had ever seen, either queen or
subject to equal her.
“Oh, Faustus, my friend,” replied she, “could the beauties of antiquity
return, we should soon see what a flatterer you are!”
“I dare the proof,” returned the Doctor. “If your Majesty will it—but
speak, and they are here.”
Faustus, of course, never expected to be taken at his word; but whether
Elizabeth wished to see if magic could perform the miracle, or to
satisfy a curiosity that had often tormented her, she expressed herself
amazingly pleased at the idea, and begged it might be immediately
Faustus then requested her Majesty to pass into a little gallery near
the apartment, while he went for his book, his ring, and his large black
All this was done nearly as soon as said. There was a door at each end
of the gallery, and it was decided that the beauties should come in at
one, and go out at the other, so that the Queen might have a fair view
of them. Only two of the courtiers were admitted to this exhibition;
these were the Earl of Essex and Sir Philip Sydney.
Her Majesty was seated in the middle of the gallery, with the Earl and
the Knight standing to the right and left of her chair. The enchanter
did not forget to trace round them and their mistress certain mysterious
circles, with all the grimaces and contortions of the time. He then drew
another opposite to it, within which he took his own station, leaving a
space between for the actors.
When this was finished, he begged the Queen not to speak a word while
they should be on the stage; and, above all, not to appear frightened,
let her see what she might.
The latter precaution was needless, for the good Queen feared neither
angel nor devil. And now the Doctor inquired what belle of antiquity
she would first see.
“To follow the order of time,” she answered, “they should commence with
The magician, with a changing countenance, now exclaimed, “Sit still!”
Sydney’s heart beat quick. The brave Essex turned pale. As to the Queen,
not the slightest emotion was perceptible.
Faustus soon commenced some muttered incantations and strange
evolutions, such as were the fashion of the day for conjurors. Anon the
gallery shook, so did the two courtiers, and the Doctor, in a voice of
anger, called out,
“Daughter of fair Leda, hear!
From thy far Elysian sphere;
Lovely as when, for his fee,
To Paris Venus promised thee—
Accustomed to command, rather than to be commanded, the fair Helen
lingered to the last possible moment; but when the last moment came, so
did she, and so suddenly, that no one knew how she got there. She was
habited a la Grecque,—her hair ornamented with pearls and a superb
aigrette. The figure passed slowly onwards—stopped for an instant
directly opposite the Queen, as if to gratify her curiosity, took leave
of her with a malicious smile, and vanished. She had scarcely
disappeared when her Majesty exclaimed—“What! that the fair Helen! I
don’t pique myself on beauty, but may I die if I would change faces with
“I told your Majesty how it would be,” remarked the enchanter; “and yet
there she is, as she was in her best days.”
“She has, however, very fine eyes,” observed Essex.
“Yes,” said Sydney, “they are large, dark, and brilliant—but after all,
what do they say?” added he, correcting himself.
“Nothing,” replied the favourite.
The Queen, who was this day extravagantly rouged, asked if they did not
think Helen’s tint too China-white.
“China!” cried the Earl; “Delf rather.”
“Perhaps,” continued the Queen, “it was the fashion of her time; but you
must confess that such turned-in toes would have been endured in no
other woman. I don’t dislike her style of dress, however, and probably I
may bring it round again, in place of these troublesome hoops, which
have their inconveniences.”
“O, as to the dress,” chimed in the favourite—“let it pass; it is well
enough, which is more than can be said for the wearer.”
A conclusion, in which Sydney heartily joined, rhapsodying—
“O Paris, fatal was the hour,
When, victim to the blind god’s power,
Within your native walks you bore
That firebrand from a foreign shore;
Who—ah, so little worth the strife!—
Was fit for nothing, but a wife.”
“’Od’s my life now,” said her Majesty, “but I think she looks fitter for
anything else, Sydney!—My Lord of Essex, how think you?”
“As your Majesty does,” returned he; “there is a meaning in that eye.”
“And a minute past they said there was none,” thought Faustus.
This liberal critique on the fair Helen being concluded, the Queen
desired to see the beautiful and hopeless Mariamne.
The enchanter did not wait to be twice asked; but he did not choose to
invoke a Princess who had worshipped at holy altars in the same manner
as he had summoned the fair Pagan. It was then, by way of ceremony,
that, turning four times to the east, three to the south, two to the
west, and only once to the north, he uttered, with great suavity, in
“Lovely Mariamne, come!
Though thou sleepest far away,
Regal spirit! leave thy tomb!
Let the splendours round thee play,
Silken robe and diamond stone,
Such as, on thy bridal-day,
Flash’d from proud Judea’s throne.”
Scarcely had he concluded, when the spouse of Herod made her appearance,
and gravely advanced into the centre of the gallery, where she halted,
as her predecessor had done. She was robed nearly like the high-priest
of the Jews, except that instead of the Tiara, a veil, descending from
the crown of the head, and slightly attached to the cincture, fell far
behind her. Those graceful and flowing draperies threw over the whole
figure of the lovely Hebrew an air of indescribable dignity. After
having stopped for several minutes before the company, she pursued her
way,—but without paying the slightest parting compliment to the
“Is it possible,” said the Queen, before she had well disappeared—“is
it possible that Mariamne was such a figure as that?—such a tall, pale,
meagre, melancholy-looking affair, to have passed for a beauty through
so many centuries!”
“By my honour,” quoth Essex, “had I been in Herod’s place, I should
never have been angry at her keeping her distance.”
“Yet I perceived,” said Sydney, “a certain touching languor in the
countenance,—an air of dignified simplicity.”
Her Majesty looked grave.
“Fye, fye,” returned Essex, “it was haughtiness; her manner is full of
presumption,—ay, and even her height.”
The Queen having approved of Essex’s decision, on her own part condemned
the Princess for her aversion to her spouse, which, though the world
alleged to have been caused by his being the cut-throat of her family,
she saw nothing to justify, whatever a husband might be. A wife was a
wife; and Herod had done quite right in cutting off the heads of the
Faustus, who affected universal knowledge, assured her Majesty that all
the historians were in error on that point; for he had had it himself
from a living witness, that the true cause of Herod’s vengeance was his
spiteful old-maid of a sister—Salome’s overhearing Mariamne, one day at
prayers, beg of Heaven to rid her of her worthless husband.
After a moment of thought, the Queen, with the same indifference with
which she would have called for her waiting-maid, desired to see
Cleopatra; for the Egyptian queen not having been quite as comme il
faut as the British, the latter treated her accordingly. The beautiful
Cleopatra quickly made her appearance at the extremity of the
gallery,—and Elizabeth expected that this apparition would fully make
up for the disappointment which the others had occasioned. Scarcely had
she entered, when the air was loaded with the rich perfumes of Arabia.
Her bosom (that had been melting as charity) was open as day; a loop of
diamonds and rubies gathered the drapery as much above the left knee as
it might as well have been below it; and a woven wind of transparent
gauze softened the figure which it did not conceal.
In this gay and gallant costume, the mistress of Antony glided through
the gallery, making a similar pause as the others. No sooner was her
back turned, than the courtiers began to tear her person and frippery to
pieces,—the Queen calling out, like one possessed, for paper to burn
under her nose, to drive away the vapours occasioned by the gums with
which the mummy was filled,—declared her insupportable in every sense,
and far beneath even the wife of Herod or the daughter of Leda,—shocked
at her Diana drapery, to exhibit the most villanous leg in the
world,—and protested that a thicker robe would have much better become
Whatever the two courtiers might have thought, they were forced to join
in these sarcasms, which the frail Egyptian excited in peculiar
“Such a cocked nose!” said the Queen.
“Such impertinent eyes!” said Essex.
Sydney, in addition to her other defects, found out that she had too
much stomach and too little back.
“Say of her as you please,” returned Faustus—“one she is, however, who
led the Master of the World in her chains. But, madam,” added he,
turning to the Queen, “as these far-famed foreign beauties are not to
your taste, why go beyond your own kingdom? England, which has always
produced the models of female perfection—as we may even at this moment
perceive—will furnish an object perhaps worthy of your attention in the
Fair Rosamond.” Now Faustus had heard that the Queen fancied herself to
resemble the Fair Rosamond; and no sooner was the name mentioned, than
she was all impatience to see her.
“There is a secret instinct in this impatience,” observed the Doctor,
craftily; “for, according to tradition, the Fair Rosamond had much
resemblance to your Majesty, though, of course, in an inferior style.”
“Let us judge—let us judge,” replied the Queen, hastily; “but from the
moment she appears, Sir Sydney, I request of you to observe her
minutely, that we may have her description, if she is worth it.” This
order being given, and some little conjuration made, as Rosamond was
only a short distance from London, she made her appearance in a second.
Even at the door, her beauty charmed every one, but as she advanced she
enchanted them; and when she stopped to be gazed at, the admiration of
the company, with difficulty restrained to signs and looks, exhibited
their high approbation of the taste of Henry II. Nothing could exceed
the simplicity of her dress—and yet in that simplicity she effaced the
splendours of day—at least to the spectators. She waited before them a
long time—much longer than the others had done; and as if aware of the
command the Queen had given, she turned especially towards Sydney,
looking at him with an expressive smile. But she must go at last; and
when she was gone,—“My lord,” said the Queen, “what a pretty creature!
I never saw anything so charming in my life. What a figure! what dignity
without affectation! what brilliancy without artifice!—and it is said
that I resemble her. My lord of Essex, what think you?” My lord thought,
would to Heaven you did; I would give the best steed in my stable that
you had even an ugly likeness to her. But he said, “Your majesty has but
to make the tour of the gallery in her green robe and primrose
petticoat, and if our magician himself would not mistake you for her,
count me the greatest —— of your three kingdoms.”
During all this flattery with which the favourite charmed the ears of
the good Queen, the poet Sydney, pencil in hand, was sketching the
vision of the Fair Rosamond.
Her Majesty then commanded it should be read, and when she heard it,
pronounced it very clever: but as it was a real impromptu, not one of
those born long before, and was written for a particular audience, as a
picture is painted for a particular light—we think it but justice to
the celebrated author not to draw his lines from the venerable antiquity
in which they rest, even if we had the MSS. copy; but we have not—which
at once finishes the business.
After the reading, they deliberated on the next that should succeed
Rosamond. The enchanter, still of opinion that they need not leave
England when beauty was the object in question, proposed the famous
Countess of Salisbury, who gave rise to the institution of the Garter.
The idea was approved of by the Queen, and particularly agreeable to the
courtiers, as they wished to see if the cause were worthy of the
effect,—i.e., the leg of the garter; but her Majesty declared that
she should particularly like a second sight of her lovely resemblance,
the Fair Rosamond. The Doctor vowed that the affair was next to
impracticable in the order of conjuration,—the recall of a phantom not
depending on the powers submitted to the first enchantments. But the
more he declared against it, the more the Queen insisted, until he was
obliged at last to submit, but with the information that, if Rosamond
should return, it would not be by the way in which she had entered or
retired already, and that they had best take care of themselves, as he
could answer for no one.
The Queen, as we have elsewhere observed, knew not what fear was—and
the two courtiers were now a little reassured on the subject of
apparitions. The Doctor then set about accomplishing the Queen’s wishes.
Never had conjuration cost him so much trouble; and after a thousand
grimaces and contortions, neither pretty nor polite, he flung his book
into the middle of the gallery, went three times round it on his hands
and feet, then made the tree against the wall, head down and heels up;
but nothing appearing, he had recourse to the last and most powerful of
his spells. What that was must remain for ever a mystery, for certain
reasons; but he wound it up by three times summoning with a sonorous
voice—“Rosamond! Rosamond! Rosamond!” At the last of these magic cries,
the grand window burst open with the sudden crash of a tempest, and
through it descended the lovely Rosamond into the middle of the room.
The Doctor was in a cold sweat, and while he dried himself, the Queen,
who thought her fair visitant a thousand times the fairer for the
additional difficulty in procuring this second sight, for once let her
prudence sleep, and, in a transport of enthusiasm, stepping out of her
circle with open arms, cried out, “My dear likeness!” No sooner was the
word out, than a violent clap of thunder shook the whole palace; a black
vapour filled the gallery, and a train of little fantastic lightnings
serpentined to the right and left in the dazzled eyes of the company.
When the obscurity was a little dissipated, they saw the magician, with
his four limbs in air, foaming like a wild boar, his cap here, his wig
there—in short, by no means an object of either the sublime or
beautiful. But though he came off the worst, yet no one in the adventure
escaped quite clear, except Rosamond. The lightning burned away my
Lord of Essex’s right brow; Sir Sidney lost the left mustachio; her
majesty’s head-dress smelt villanously of the sulphur, and her
hoop-petticoat was so puckered up with the scorching, that it was
ordered to be preserved among the royal draperies, as a warning, to all
maids of honour to come, against curiosity.