A charlatan is a babbling mountebank, who imposes on the populace by large pretensions and high-sounding words. A charlatan in Freemasonry is one who seeks by a display of pompous ceremonial, and often by claims to supernatural powers, to pervert the Institution of Freemasonry to the acquisition of mere gain, or the gratification of a paltry ambition. Every man, says a distinguished writer, is a charlatan who extorts money by charging for sixpenny trash the amount that should only be paid for works of science, and that, too, under the plea of conveying knowledge that cannot otherwise be obtained (Freemasons Magazine, London, 1844, page 505). The eighteenth century presented many examples of the Masonic charlatans, of whom Brother Mackey deemed the one by far the greatest was Cagliostro; nor has the nineteenth century been entirely without them.
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