Babblery and prittle-prattle from Early Modern England
A plain and true relation of a very extraordinary cure of Mariane Maillard, in a letter to a friend.
I received yours of the 20th Instant, in which you desire to be informed of the truth of a story which you say you have seen in a small printed paper called The Happy Virgin of a French girl lately cured after an extraordinary manner, in a moment of time, of an old inveterate lameness - which hath been always thought incurable by any art of man - as she was reading the story of our Saviour’s healing and pardoning of the paralytic. Being therefore always ready to serve you in what I may, and being myself also much affected with the thing, I have inquired fully into the matter and do not in the least doubt of its truth and certainty, though I am very much concerned and scandalized at that relation which you have seen in that printed paper because it is not only untrue in many things, and particularly in what it says of an unhappy fall from a table which bruised and broke the child’s hip and other bones which are nothing so, but do very much disparage the story itself in the account it pretends to give of it, and therefore, having informed myself sufficiently (as I think) about it, I shall give you a plain and true relation of the matter of fact, without any remarks or observations of my own, for the thing being undoubtedly true, needs nothing to set it off or recommend it to the world, there being no parties of men that I know of that endeavour to serve themselves by it any further than to be satisfied of its truth, and give glory to God for the things that he hath done. And indeed you are yourself too great a judge of such matters, for me to attempt anything more than the relation itself, which in obedience to your commands, for such all your requests are with me, I here withal send you, and give you free leave to impart it to as many of your friends as you think fit.
Mariane Maillard, the person of whom you desire an account, is the daughter of one Mr. John Maillard, a French protestant of the town of Cognar in Saintonge, where he lived in good repute, being a sword-cutler by trade, and a very honest man, and had four children of which this Mariane was the eldest, who when she was six months old became lame by an accidental fall out of her father’s arms, who, being very fond of her, would be frequently playing with her, tossing her up, and catching her again, till at last he very unhappily let her fall to the ground where she received, as it appeared afterwards, a very considerable hurt in her left side, which he not then apprehending any danger from, thinking that it might be only a little bruise that would be soon well again - and being unwilling to tell his wife of it, for fear of frighting or troubling her - took no further care about it, till at last perceiving that her hip was out by the wryness of the leg and foot, and the very distorted motion when the child began to go, the heel turning almost quite forward, he became extremely concerned at it, and desired the help of several surgeons, who after they had seen it, declared it to be incurable, as did also diverse other surgeons, both in Switzerland and London, and particularly Mr. Dubatt, a very eminent surgeon in Green Street near Leister-Fields, to whom it was shown by her parents afterwards, and that the cure of it could not be attempted without endangering the life of the child, and exposing it to the most exquisite pain and torture, which the parents by no means consenting to, chose rather to submit to the will of God, than try so cruel and desperate an experiment. And by this means the child continued lame, growing still more and more crooked and deformed as it grew up, being always ready to fall as she went along, and thus she continued till she was 6 or 7 years old, when her father was forced to fly out of France, upon the Dragooning part of the French persecution, choosing rather to do so than change his religion, and so taking his wife and four children with him, of which this was the eldest, he fled first into Switzerland, travelling only by night, enduring great hardships, and escaping many dangers, where, having stayed some time, he came from thence through Germany into Holland, and at last came over into England about the time of the late Revolution. But being extremely poor, and not able to maintain his wife and children, he obtained to be made a Sergeant in one of the French regiments that went over into Ireland, under the command of Capt. De Lasherosi in Col. Corbon’s Regiment, where he served the regiment two years, but the pay not answering his expectation and necessities, he was forced to quit that employment, and return to his trade, and went over every year with the army into Flanders, there to mend and sell swords. His wife also being an industrious and skilful woman, went amongst the French refugees to make the beds and clean the rooms of those that were sick, by which means she got a small subsistence for herself and children, being paid a half-penny for each room.
And in this sort of service she continued for some time, taking this girl, for the most part, along with her, who used, as far as she was able, to assist her mother, and soon became very serviceable to her, till one day as she was attending thus upon one Madam Laulan, who fled hither from the French persecution, and formerly, for about 12 or 13 years together had been a domestic of Marshal Turene during his being a protestant, waiting upon his Lady (a person of eminent piety, charity and wisdom, and a great patroness of all of the reformed religion in France that needed her countenance and assistance) in the quality of her woman, who perceiving the girl very towardly, and willing to do anything she could for her mother, was so pleased with her (being then very ill herself, and having a son also sick at the same time, who is since dead), that she took her to look to them both, and to go about upon errands as she had occasion, instead of a nurse or other servant which she was not able to maintain.
And with her she lived three years, doing all things with greater care and hardiness than could have been expected from her years and condition, being then but a little above nine years old, and withal so much afflicted with extreme pains by reason of her lameness, that she rather seemed to need one to attend upon her than to be put to attend upon another. And indeed, if mere poverty had not forced her to it, she might well have been excused from that sort of service, but her parents not being able to maintain her better, were glad of the opportunity to dispose of her so well, knowing Madam Laulan to be a very pious and good tempered woman, and indeed the girl was so pleased with her new service, and took such a liking to her mistress, that she seemed well contented with her condition and bore her affliction with the greatest patience (though she often felt great pain in her hip and leg on that side on which she was lame, especially in foggy misty weather).
The only thing that most sensibly afflicted her was the scoffing persecution which she daily met with from the boys in the streets who, seeing her strange distorted manner of going (which was indeed very unusual), were wont to follow her and pull her with great rudeness, calling her ‘crooked monster’, etc. of which she frequently complained to her mistress, who being a very good Christian, gave her still the best advice and comfort that she could, telling her that there was no help for her, and therefore she must bear it with patience, which indeed she did for a long time.
But on Sunday the 26th of November last past, as she returned home in the evening from Church, she was much concerned to see a man, as she judged, about forty years of age, join with the boys in abusing and tormenting of her, telling her mistress when she came home, with many tears, that she thought he might have been better employed than to laugh at her, who had already but too much sorrow and affliction from her condition. Her mistress endeavoured to comfort her again, as she used to do, and told her that if she would thus trouble herself every time she was so used, she would have enough to do and never want for vexation, since her lameness was incurable, and would remain so all her life long, and that therefore she must resolve to be patient, and to commit her cause to God, using several other arguments with her to the same purpose to pacify her mind and allay her trouble, and the more to put these thoughts out of her head, having eaten a little supper, she bid her take her Bible and read a chapter to her, as she used to do every day in the New Testament. The place that she was then read to, in the course of her daily reading, was the 2nd of St. Mark. But opening the Bible, she happened to meet with that place of St. Matthew where the evangelist speaks of St. Peter’s mother who lay sick of a fever and was by our Saviour’s touching of her immediately cured.
Her mistress liking that place, because it had some relation to her present distemper which was an intermittent fever, and returned every day, and continued for a long time, bid her read that out before she turned to her own chapter which she did, and when she had done, they had some discourse upon it, the mistress saying, “Oh how happy should I be if I were thus delivered from my fever,” - “And I,” adding the maid, “if I were cured of my lameness.” After this she turned to her own chapter, which happened to be the 2nd of St. Mark; whereupon reading the story of the man that was sick of the palsy, whose faith our Saviour there commends, amongst the rest that assisted in letting him down through the roof into his presence, and whom he not only cures, but grants besides the forgiveness of his sins too, she made a stop and began to exclaim against the scribes, not only for persisting in their incredulity, but for accusing our Saviour also of blasphemy, saying to her, “Mistress, oh how wicked were these unbelieving scribes to speak so of our Saviour when he had done so many miracles, I am sure I should have done quite otherwise, and if I should hear of such a thing I should immediately run to him and believe.” And whilst she was thus speaking, she had her leg stretched out towards her mistress who bid her pull it back, telling her it was not decent to put so near her; to whom the maid replied, “Mistress, I did not complain much today because you forbade me, but I do assure you I have felt a great deal of pain, as I use to do in all misty weather.” And at the same time as they were thus talking together, they heard suddenly a great snap, which they both perceived very plain, the mistress thinking it had been something in the fire that made that noise; but the maid rising up very hastily, cries out, “Mistress, did you hear the noise? It was my hip-bone that is certainly restored to its place!” And throwing herself upon her mistress with such transports of joy, as if she had been beside herself.
She embraced her knees about so fast that she could not get her off, saying, “my dear mistress, I am well, my pain is all gone, and I hear something that says, ‘thou art cured’, my joy is so great that I cannot tell where I am, nor what I do: pray feel yourself and see here the hollow place is filled up, and the swelling quite gone; oh God be thanked; pray let me go and show it the landlord and landlady, and the maid below the stairs.” And so walked several turns about the room without any pain at all, her foot being now straight as the other. And thus she has continued ever since, only that leg being a little shorter than the other (perhaps through the long continuance out of its place which hindered its due growth, and the necessary extension of the nerves and sinews); she therefore halts a little still, but has nothing at all of that monstrous distorted lameness which she had before, and which all that knew her then, and have seen her now, cannot but extremely wonder at and praise God for.
Her mistress seeing her in these transports of joy was afraid at first that she was or would be quite beside herself; but considering the matter well, and seeing with her own eyes the wonderful change that was made in her condition, the hollow place which she had often, and but that very day seen and felt, perfectly filled up, the bone in its proper place, and her leg and foot now straight and right as it should be, she bid her not think of going downstairs that night, but rather fall upon her knees and give God his due praise, who had done so much for her and who in a minute’s time had cured a pain and lameness that had been of 12 years continuance, which no art of man could no; and so they accordingly did. It being then late, went both to bed, where the poor girl could hardly rest or sleep for joy. The next morning she showed it to as many of her acquaintances as she could meet with, who could not but wonder at so strange and unlooked for a thing. Her parents saw it with tears of joy, and have, as they ought, sent bills into the Churches, that God might be the more glorified, and his praises be set forth the better by whole congregations.
Thus, Sir, I have given you a plain, but very true and exact account of this matter, in compliance with your earnest and well intended inquiry after it, to which I might indeed add, for the full confirmation of it, a great number of certificates and affidavits (having some by me) from many hundreds of persons that have seen and known this girl both before and since her cure, and are able to give a full and satisfactory account of her, to all that shall be desirous more particularly to be informed about her. But to what purpose should I give myself and you that trouble, since the same inquiry into the truth of those certificates and affidavits, which is necessary for the confirmation of them, would be sufficient to satisfy anybody of the truth of the thing. Let it suffice therefore to show you that she was personally known to Mr. Dubatt, whom I mentioned before; to the Lady Sunderland and her family, where she often resorted, and where she was always well accepted and received many charitable kindnesses, both in meat and money, and who will all testify to the truth of her lameness; as will also most of Mr. Hampden’s family, whither she also went very frequently to sell some little things for her mistress which they used in charity and compassion to buy of her. To these I might add above 100 persons more of this nation, besides an innumerable company of her own, who all knew and pitied her sad condition, and who now rejoice and wonder to see her so perfectly cured in so short a time.
Your humble servant, E. H.
Printed in 1693.