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Furnivall's Bibliography of Robert Browning, of which the "Forewords" are dated July 31 and October 1, 1881, tells us on page 113 that the story of The Pied Piper of Hamelin "is taken from one of the famous Familiar Letters of James Howell," and the letter is printed. In the Additions, however, dated December 31, 1881, this statement is much modified. Furnivall there prints (page 158), as "the earliest English authority," the account of the story given in Richard Verstegen's Restitution of Decayed Intelligence in Antiquities (Antwerp, 1605), and adds:
Verstegan, then, is nearer Browning's story than Howel, tho the poet had never seen V. before his poem was written. He got the story from North Wanley's Wonders of the Little World (fol. 1678) and the authorities there cited. In the new edition of Wanley, 1774, the tale is told shortly at p. 632, col. 2, and the authorities quoted, are Wier. de praestig. Daemon. li. 1, c. 16, p. 47: Schot. phys. curios. li. 3, c. 24, p. 519: Howel's Ep. vol. 1, § 6, epist. 59, p. 241.
It is fairly clear that the earlier statement, that about Howell, was a guess on Furnivall's part; that he subsequently came upon Verstegen's account, and was struck by its similarity to Browning's poem; that he then applied to Browning for information; and that the result is embodied in the second note. In other words, Furnivall's statement that Browning "had never seen V. before his poem was written," and that he got the story from Wanley's Wonders" and the authorities there cited," must rest upon the authority of the poet himself. Furnivall passes the information on, but prints Verstegen, and remarks that the latter is " nearer Browning's
story than Howel "-Howell, one of these very "authorities." We cannot help asking, Are Wanley and his other authorities-" Wier." and "Schot."-any closer to Browning than is Howell? Or, was Verstegen really Browning's source, in spite of what is evidently a statement by Browning himself to the contrary? I cannot find that any answer has been attempted to these questions.
The passage from Verstegen begins on page 85 of the 1605, 1628, and 1634 editions, and is the same in all three, except for differences in spelling; it is reprinted in full in Furnivall's Bibliography, and, with the omission of the concluding paragraph about Transylvania, in Chambers' Book of Days under July 22, and in Cooke's Guide-Book, page 293. It is here reprinted from the first English edition (London, 1628):
And now hath one digression drawne on another, for being by reason of speaking of these Saxons of Transiluania, put in mind of a most true and maruelous strange accident that hapned in Saxonie not manie ages past, I cannot omit for the strangenesse thereof briefely here by the way to set it downe. There came into the towne of Hamel in the countrie of Brunswicke an old kind of companion, who for the fantasticall coate which he wore being wrought with sundrie colours, was called the pide Piper; for a Piper he was, besides his other qualities. This fellow forsooth offered the townse-men for a certaine somme of money to rid the towne of all the rats that were in it (for at that time the Burgers were with that vermine greatly annoyed) The accord in fine being made; the pide Piper with a shrill pipe went piping through the streets, and forthwith the rats came all running out of the houses in great numbers after him; all which hee led into the riuer of Weaser and therein drowned them. This done, and no one rat more perceiued to bee left in the towne; he afterward came to demand his reward according to his bargaine, but being told that the bargain was not made with him in good earnest, to wit, with an opinion that euer he could bee able to doe such a feat: they cared not what they accorded vnto, when they imagined it could neuer bee deserued, and so neuer to be demanded: but neuerthelesse seeing he had done such an vnlikely thing indeed, they were content to giue him a good reward; and so offered him farre lesse then he lookt for: but hee therewith discontented, said he would haue his full recompence according to his bargain, but they vtterly denying to giue it him, he threatened them with reuenge; they bade him doe his worst, whereupon he betakes him againe to his pipe, and going through the streets as before, was followed of a number of boyes out at one of the gates of the Citie, and comming to a little hill, there opened in the side thereof a wid hole, into the which himselfe & all the children being in number one hundreth and thirtie, did enter; and being entred, the hill closed vp againe, and became as before. A boy that being
lame and came somewhat lagging behind the rest, seeing this that hapned, returned presently backe and told what he had seene, foorthwith began great lamentation among the Parents for their children, and men were sent out withall diligence, both by land and by water to inquire if ought could be heard of them, but with all the enquirie they could possibly vse, nothing more then is a foresaid could of them be vnderstood. In memorie whereof it was then ordained, that from thence-foorth no Drumme, Pipe or other instrument, should be sounded in the street leading to the gate through which they passed; nor no Osterie to be there holden. And it was also established, that from that time forward in all publike writings that should bee made in that towne, after the date therein set downe of the yeare of our Lord, the date of the yeare of the going foorth of their children should bee added, the which they haue accordingly euer since continued. And this great wonder hapned on the 22. day of Iuly in the yeare of our Lord, 1376.
The occasion now why this matter came vnto my remembrance in speaking of Transiluania, was, for that some do report that there are diuers found among the Saxons in Transiluania that haue like surnames vnto diuers of the Burgers of Hamel, and will therby seeme to inferre, that this Iugler or pide Piper, might by negromancy haue transported them thither, but this carrieth litle appearance of truth; because it would haue beene almost as great a wonder vnto the Saxon of Transiluania to haue had so many strange children brought among them, they knew not how, as it was to those of Hamel to lose them: and they could not but haue kept memorie of so strange a thing, if indeed any such thing had there hapned.
Certain parts of Browning's story are evidently not in Verstegen; and others, which are, are not important for our purpose. I would ask the reader to note, however, that the following things are common to the two accounts:
1. The date of the occurrence-July 22, 1376.
2. The invitation to the piper, at the climax of the controversy, to "do his worst" ("You threaten us, fellow? Do your worst, Blow your pipe there till you burst!").
3. The statement that there was a little boy who was lame and couldn't keep up with the rest.
4. The statement that no tavern was allowed in the street. 5. Concluding remarks about the possibility of the children's having been carried off into Transylvania.
Now Howell's account, which is contained in a letter of October 1, 1643 (Epistolae Ho-Elianae, 5th ed., 1678, p. 272; reprinted in Furnivall, p. 113, and in Cooke's Guide-Book, p. 292), lacks all five of these points, nor has it any other special similarity to the