Goodwin Wharton is a fascinating and amusing figure, but he is sui generis: the same things which make his flirtations with the occult such amusing reading also make it difficult to compare his doings with those of anyone else. He is a figure of the same chronological vintage as Sir Isaac Newton, dabbling in alchemy and gravity by turns, and he exhibits a perhaps comparable mixture (though in very different proportions) of the open-minded and the credulous. Coming as he does right on the edge of the Enlightenment, he does not provide the opportunity for any easy comparison of English and Scottish attitudes to the occult: the gulf between 1590 and 1690 is so deep that Anglo-Scottish differences are liable to become engulfed in it. Nevertheless, though Goodwin Wharton does not provide the material for a comparison, Christina Lamer knew enough about English witchcraft research to have attempted many of the necessary comparisons herself. Her magnum opus, Enemies of God, has been in print for some time. What we have here is a collection of occasional pieces left behind by her tragic death at the age of 49. It would be unjust to review such pieces as if they were finished work, but they do show that she was attempting a genuinely comparative study of witchcraft in Europe.
LRB 24 January 1985 | PDF Download