Memoirs of Extraordinary Popular Delusions and The Madness of Crowds

This is the kind of book that I love. Written in the mid-1800s about the follies of man, it's packed full of anecdotes that I think are awesome. For the most part, I loved this book, aside from the section on Alchemists, which was a bit too long for my liking (although probably full of amusing tales of madness). I've got a shitload of anecdotes to type up, so I will leave it at if you like things like this (and you'll know if you do) then read this book, it's worth it.

Money Mania - The Mississippi Scheme
  • They agreed that a man ought never to swear against his doing any one thing, and that there was no sort of extravagance of which even a wise man was not capable.

The Alchymists
  • All his life Jean de Meung had evinced a great animosity towards the priesthood, and his famous poem abounds with passages reflecting upon their avarice, cruelty, and immorality. At his death he left a large box, filled with some weighty material, which he bequeathed to the Cordeliers, as a peace-offering, for the abuse he had lavished upon them. As his practice of alchymy was well-known, it was thought the box was filled with gold and silver, and the Cordeliers congratulated each other on their rich acquisition. When it came to be opened, they found to their horror that it was filled only with slates, scratched with hieroglyphic and cabalistic characters.
  • The king's reason for granting the patent to find out the philosopher's stone and elixir to, amongst others, monks & mass-priests i.e. ecclesiastics was, that "they were such good artists in transubstantiating bread and wine in the eucharist, and therefore the more likely to be able to effect the transmutation of baser metals into better."
  • When Agrippa returned, a few days afterwards, he found his house beset with devils. Some of them were sitting on the chimney-pots, kicking up their legs in the air; while others were playing at leapfrog, on the very edge of the parapet. His study was so filled with them, that he found it difficult to make his way to his desk.
Fortune Telling
  • Any maiden who dreams of daffodils is warned by her good angel to avoid going into a wood with her lover, or into any dark or retired place where she might not be able to make people hear her if she cried out.
  • If a swarm of bees alight in your garden, some very high honour and great joys await you.
The Magnetisers
  • The wonderful influence of imagination in the cure of diseases is well known. A motion of the hand, or a glance of the eye, will throw a weak and credulous patient into a fit; and a pill made of bread, if taken with sufficient faith, will operate a cure better than all the drugs in the pharmacy.
  • The Spanish proverb, Hagase el milagro y hagalo Mahoma - Let the miracle be done it, though Mahomet do it.
  • The worn-out debauches, who had drained the cup of sensuality to its dregs, and who longed to see lovely women in convulsions, with the hope that they might gain some new emotions from the sight.
  • Some of these societies were a scandal to morality, being joined by profligate men of depraved appetites, who took a disgusting delight in witnessing young girls in convulsions.
Influence of Politics and Religion on the Hair and Beard
  • The famous declaration of St. Paul, "that long hair was a shame unto man".
  • Towards the end of the eleventh century, it was decreed by the pope, and zealously supported by the ecclesiastical authorities over Europe, that such persons as wore long hair should be excommunicated.
  • The famous St. Wulstan, Bishop of Worcester, was peculiarly indignant whenever he saw a man with long hair. He declaimed against the practice as one highly immoral, criminal, and beastly. He continually carried a small knife in his pocket, and whenever any body offending in this respect knelt before him to receive his blessing, he would whip it out slyly, and cut off a handful, and then, throwing it in his face, tell him to cut off all the rest, or he would go to hell.
The Crusades
  • Any maniac can kindle a conflagration, but it requires many wise men to put it out.
  • Richard the Lion Heart left a high reputation in Palestine. So much terror did his name occasion, that the women of Syria used it to frighten their children for ages afterwards. Every disobedient brat became still when told that King Richard was coming. Even men shared the panic that his name created; and a hundred years afterwards, whenever a horse shied at any object in the way, his rider would exclaim "What! dost thou think King Richard is in the bush?"
The Witch Mania
  • It was believed that the Devil endeavoured to trip people up, by laying his long invisible tail in their way, and giving it a sudden whisk when their legs were over it; that he used to get drunk, and swear like a trooper, and be so mischievous in his cups as to raise tempests and earthquakes; that he used to run invisible spits into people by way of amusing himself in the long winter evenings; that, disguised as a large drake, he used to lurk among the bulrushes and frighten the weary traveler out of his wits by his awful quack.
  • In the reign of Philippe le Bel, he appeared to a monk in the shape of a dark man, riding a tall black horse - then as a friar - afterwards as an ass, and finally as a coach-wheel.
  • When this ceremony was concluded, they were all amused by a dance of toads. Thousands of these creatures sprang out of the earth; and standing on their hind legs, danced, while the devil played the bagpipes or trumpet.
  • When the devil wished to be particularly amused, he made witches strip off their clothes and dance before him, each with a cat tied around her neck, and another dangling from her body in the form of a tail.
  • The devil re-baptized witches in their own blood by the names of "Able-and-Stout", "Over-the-dyke-with-it", "Raise-the-wind", "Pickle-nearest-the-wind", "Batter-them-down-Maggy", "Blow-Kale" and such like. The devil himself was not very particular what name they called him so that it was not "Black John". If any witch was unthinking enough to utter these words, he would rush upon her, and beat and buffet her unmercifully, or tear hear flesh with a wool-card.
  • Another man gave similar evidence, and swore that he had often seen a cat with Jane Wenham's face.
  • Some witches could turn the faces of their enemies upside down, or twist them round to their backs.
  • Shortly afterwards twelve black cats ascended out of the floor, and danced on their hind legs around the witch for the space of around half an hour.
Haunted Houses
  • It was generally believed in several parishes of Scotland that the devil had been seen in the act of hammering upon the house-top of Baldarroch. One old man asserted positively that, one night, after having been to see the strange gambols of the knives and mustard-pots, he met the phantom of a great black man, "who wheeled round his head with a whizzing noise, making a wind about his ears that almost blew his bonnet off," and that he was haunted by him in this manner for three miles.
  • It was said that when the goodwife put her potato-pot on the fire, each potato, as the water boiled, changed into a demon, and grinned horribly at her when she lifted the lid.
Popular Follies of Great Cities (This is a list of one-time popular sayings that came and went in London in the 1700s and 1800s)
  • Quoz!
  • What a shocking bad hat!
  • There he goes with his eye out!
  • Has your mother sold her mangle?
  • Flare up!
  • Does your mother know you're out?
  • Who are you?


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