The secret societies of all ages and countries
Secret Societies in this book :
Ancient mysteries. Emanationists. The religion of love. Ishmaelites. Knights of templars. Free judges. Alchymists. Freemasons.--II. Mystics. Illuminati. Brigandage. Fellowcrafts. Carbonari. The inquisition Minor Italian sects. Youth. Miscellaneous societies
For many years the fascinating subject of Secret Societies had engaged my attention and it had long been my intention to collect in a comprehensive work all the information that could be gathered from numerous often remote and sometimes almost inaccessible sources, concerning one of the most curious phases of the history of mankind.
Those secret organizations, religious, political, and social, have existed from the most remote ages down to the present time. Before, however, I had arranged and digested my materials, a review in the " Athenaeum" (No. 2196), directed my attention to the Italian work " II Mondo Secreto," by Signer De Castro, whom I have since then had the pleasure of meeting at Milan.
I procured the book and intended at first to give a translation of it, but though I began as a translator, my labours speedily assumed a more independent form. Much, I found, had to be omitted xiv Preface. from an original coloured by a certain political bias, and somewhat too indulgent to various Italian political sects, who, in many instances, were scarcely more than hordes of brigands. Much, on the other hand, had to be added from sources, chiefly English and German, unknown to the Italian author; much had to be placed on a different basis and in another light; and again, many societies not mentioned by Signor De Castro had to be introduced to the reader, such as the Gardena, the Chauffeurs, Fenians, International, 0-Kee-Pa, Ku-Klux, Inquisition,
Wahibees; so that, with these additions, and the amplification of sections in the original Italian, forming frequently entirely new articles, the work, as it now is presented to the English public, though in its framework retaining much of its foreign prototype, may yet claim the merit of being not only essentially original, but the most comprehensive account of Secret Societies extant in English, French, German, or Italian, the leading languages of Europe; for whatever has been written on the subject in any one of them has been consulted and put under contribution.
In English, there is no work that can at aU compete with it, for the small book published in 1836 by Charles Knight, and entitled, " Secret Societies of the Middle Ages," embraces four societies only. Anxious to utilize my latest memoranda, I have taken advantage of the MS. having for some time been in the publisher's hands, before the second volume went to press, to insert several additional sections, though at the expense of methodical arrangement; or to give supplemental details from information collected during my recent twelve months' wanderings in Italy, the country fo/r excellence of secret societies.
The student who wishes for more ample information will have to consult the lists of authorities given at the head of each Book, as it was thought best not to encumber the text with footnotes, which would have swelled the work to at least twice its present extent. The reader may rest satisfied that few statements are made which could not be supported by numerous and weighty authorities; though dealing as we do here with societies whose very existence depended on secrecy, and which, therefore, as a matter of policy, left behind them as little documentary evidence as possible, the old distich applies with peculiar force:
" What is hits is history, And what is mist is a mystery." Again, bearing in mind that the imperative compass of the work exacted a concise setting forth of facts — ranging as the subject does over a surface so yast — I have been careful to interrupt the narrative only by such comments and reflections as would seem almost indispensable for clearing up obscurities or supplying missing historical links. xvi Preface. It may at first appear as if some societies nad improperly been inserted in this work as " secret societies; the Freemasons, for instance.
Members of secret associations, it might be objected, are not in the habit of proclaiming their membership to the world, but no Freemason is ashamed or, afraid of avowing himself zilch; nay, he is rather proud of the fact, and given to proclaim it somewhat obtrusively; yet the most rabid Celt, who wishes to have a hand in the regeneration of his native land by joining the Fenian brotherhood, has sense enough to keep his affiliation a profound secret from the uninitiated. But the rule I have followed in adopting societies as " secret," was to include in my collection all such as had or have "secret rites and ceremonies" kept from the outer world, though the existence of the society itself be no secret at all. In fact, no association of men can for any length of time remain a secret.
The first volume and a portion of the second having passed through the press while the author was in Italy, the revival of the last proof had to be confided to another hand; hence some errata will be found in those portions of the work, an evil almost unavoidable, under the circumstances, in a text so full of proper names, whose correct spelling frequently is scarcely fixed, and containing numerous .quotations which could only be verified by reference to the originals whence they were taken, which in this case was clearly impossible. A list of the more' important errata with their corrections has been appended at the end of vol. ii.
Publication date: (1875)
Publisher London: R. Bentley and son
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