“I believe if the Obdurest Atheist among men would seriously and in good earnest consider that relation, and ponder all the circumstances thereof, he would presently cry out, as a Dr. of Physick did, hearing a story less considerable, ’I believe I have been in the wrong all the time—if this be true.’”
Mr. Sinclair is also a believer in the Woodstock devils, on which Scott founded his novel. He does not give the explanation that Giles Sharp, alias Joseph Collins of Oxford, alias Funny Joe, was all the Devil in that affair. Scott had read the story of Funny Joe, but could never remember “whether it exists in a separate collection, or where it is to be looked for.”
Indifferent to evidence, Mr. Sinclair confutes the Obdurest Atheists with the Pied Piper of Hamelin, with the young lady from Howells’ “Letters,” whose house, like Rahab’s, was “on the city wall,” and with the ghost of the Major who appeared to the Captain (as he had promised), and scolded him for not keeping his sword clean. He also gives us Major Weir, at full length, convincing us that, as William Erskine said, “The Major was a disgusting fellow, a most ungentlemanlike character.” Scott, on the other hand, remarked, long before “Waverley,” “if I ever were to become a writer of prose romances, I think I would choose Major Weir, if not for my hero, at least for an agent and a leading one, in my production.” He admitted that the street where the Major lived was haunted by a woman “twice the common length,” “but why should we set him down for an ungentlemanly fellow?” Readers of Mr. Sinclair will understand the reason very well, and it is not necessary, nor here even possible, to justify Erskine’s opinion by quotations. Suffice it that, by virtue of his enchanted staff, which was burned with him, the Major was enabled “to commit evil not to be named, yea, even to reconcile man and wife when at variance.” His sister, who was hanged, had Redgauntlet’s horse-shoe mark on her brow, and one may marvel that Scott does not seem to have remembered this coincidence. “There was seen an exact Horse-shoe, shaped for nails, in her wrinkles. Terrible enough, I assure you, to the stoutest beholder!”
Most modern readers will believe that both the luckless Major and his sister were religious maniacs. Poverty, solitude, and the superstition of their time were the true demon of Major Weir, burned at the stake in April 1670. Perhaps the most singular impression made by “Satan’s Invisible World Discovered” is that in Sinclair’s day, people who did not believe in bogies believed in nothing, while people who shared the common creed of Christendom were capable of believing in everything.
Atheists are as common as ghosts in his marvellous relations, and the very wizards themselves were often Atheists.