London, Volume 3

Knight, Charles


LXVI. London Astrologers.

LXVI. London Astrologers.




Whether there be prophecies, we are told shall fail: but that has not yet altogether come to pass in London; for the Worshipful Company of Stationers, we believe, still continue to prophesy, even as they have been in the habit of doing for some hundreds of years past. And if, according to the proverb, the honour they thereby acquire among their countrymen be but small, we do not doubt that the profit is considerable. The prognostications which they publish to the world, in truth, were never so distinctly and all but avowedly their own as they have come to be in our day. They are now, if we mistake not, all put forth in the single name of Francis Moore--a most venerable name, we admit, but still for a long time past palpably nothing but a name; for the largest bump, or bumpkin, of credulity among the buyers and believers of their predictions cannot fancy that Francis, who has been star-gazing and almanac-making almost ever since almanacs or stars were heard of, can be still alive. It must be taken to be now as good as confessed that the of Francis Moore is nothing more than the fan, as it were, behind which the Worshipful Company half hide, half reveal themselves, in their astrological coquettings with the public --that they are their own dreamers of dreams and seers of visions--that all the signs and wonders and mystic lore of their almanacs are to be considered as, if not the actual produce of their worshipful brains, at least manufactured under their direction and offered to purchasers on their sole responsibility--in short, as


theirs in the same sense in which a butt of porter is said to be of Meux's or Perkins's brewing, or in which any other commodity is held to be the handiwork of the parties who give their names to it and profess themselves its makers. Now, this was not the case in former times. A years ago the Stationers' Company probably dealt as largely in astrology as it does now; but we question if it then published any astrological almanac in its own name, or even on its own account. The prognostications of this date came forth to the world, not as proceeding from the Company of Stationers, but from the writers of the several almanacs, who were all, with at most or exceptions, men known to be actually in existence, putting their true names, like other authors, upon their title-pages, and, doubtless, like other authors too, vain enough of their performances, and not at all disposed to divide their glory with any other party. Even the almanacs which the Company ultimately adopted and continued, as we may say, in their own name, appear to have been all originally the speculations of their authors themselves. We have now before us a collection of the almanacs published by the Stationers' Company for the year ; it probably includes nearly the entire number: all of them are of the same small octavo size, and all profess to be printed for the Company, but yet for the most part by different printers, as if each author had got up his own work even to the completion of the impression, and had then merely made an arrangement with the Company in regard to the formality of bringing it out. Here is the list:--, by William Andrews, Student in Astrology (printed by A. Wilde);

Merlinus Anglicus Junior, or the Starry Messenger,

by Henry Coley, Student in the Mathematics and the Celestial Sciences (printed by J. Read);

A Diary, Astronomical, Astrological, Meteorological,

by Job Gadbury, Student in Physic and Astrology (printed by T. W., that is, probably, Thomas Wood);

Vox Stellarum,

by Francis Moore, Licensed Physician, and Student in Astrology (printed by Tho. Wood);

Merlinus Liberatus,

by John Partridge (printed by J. Roberts);

Parker's Ephemeris' (printed by J. Read);

The Celestial Diary,

by Salem Pearse, Student in Physic and Celestial Science (printed by J. Dawkes);

Apollo Anglicanus, the English Apollo,

by Richard Saunder, Student in the Physical and Mathematical Sciences (printed by A. Wilde); Great Britain's Diary, or the Union Almanac,

also by Saunder (printed by J. Robeits);

Olympia Domata,

by John Wing, Philomath (printed by J. Dawkes);


by the same (printed by W. Pearson); and lastly,

An Almanac after the Old and New Fashion,

by Poor Robin, Knight of the British Island, a Well-wisher to the Mathematics (printed by W. Bowyer), being the only of the number to which a fictitious name is prefixed. The collection also contains

The Woman's Almanac,


An Ephemeris,

by George Kingsley, Gent.; but there is no astrology in either of these.

Such, then, were the London astrologers of the beginning of the last or the latter part, of the preceding century. William Andrews,

Student in the mathematics and astrology,

published a little .volume entitled

The Astrological Physician, showing how to find out the cause and nature of a disease according to the secret rules of the art of Astrology,

so long ago as in the time of the Protectorate--in the year . It was ushered into the world by a recommendation


from the renowned William Lilly, of whom more presently, although the author, Lilly declares, was wholly unknown to him. Andrews's astrology, indeed, seems to have been of a different temper from Lilly's--to have wanted the spirit of accommodation and compliance by which that ingenious practitioner commonly managed to see a sunny side of things for himself in all the contradictory aspects of that changing time. Andrews, in this little book, which appears to have been his publication, inveighs against the evil days for science and philosophy on which he had fallen, in a very bitter and contemptuous style. The manner, too, in which he asserts the claims of his art looks like sincerity.

It were needless here to show,

he observes in his preface,

what great necessity there is for every physician to be an astrologer, or to practise physic astrologically, in regard of the great influence and dominion the planets and stars have on our bodies, seeing no rational man can deny or disprove the same, although many have endeavoured what they can to contradict the truth.

Alas for the shiftings of opinion, or of what we mortals call truth and wisdom! We have still our mystical physicians of sundry varieties--homoeopathic, hydropathic, mesmeric-but London we fear, does not now contain physician who professes to be an an astrologer and to practise physic astrologically. Andrews began his annual communication of at least as early as ; whether he was still alive when the publication for the year appeared we do not know; he was undoubtedly dead and rotten long before the fact was admitted by the Worshipful Company of Stationers, who continued to publish a yearly pamphlet of celestial intelligence in his name till towards the close of the last century at least. The number before us contains nothing very remarkable or distinctive: its astrology is very pious and very Protestant-professing the greatest veneration throughout for the glorious Trinity, the Church of England, and King George. Of nearly the same general character--is Coley's

Starry Messenger,

the earliest tidings brought by which, that have come under our notice, are for the year , and which the Company also continued to publish annually till the latter part of the last century. Coley, however, is rather more varied and sprightly than Andrews: he combines both the qualifications of the ancient , is poet as --well as prophet, and ever and anon breaks out into song from the midst of his predictions and calculations.



--of Job Gadbury is also a most loyal and religious publication. This, we suppose; was a son of the famous John Gadbury--

that monster of ingratitude, my former tailor, John Gadbury,

as Lilly calls him. He is said to have been, in fact, originally a tailor; but, having come up to London from Oxford, his native place, he was taken into Lilly's service as a sort of assistant in carrying on his trade of interpreter of the heavens, of which he soon learned enough to hold himself entitled to set up for himself. This was the main part of the monstrous ingratitude which so excited Lilly's virtuous indignation. Naturally enough, too, Gadbury's astrology took a political complexion the opposite of Lilly's: as the stars with Lilly were all Roundheads and Puritans, with Gadbury they were all friends of the Cavalier cause, and in their theological predilections either High Church or Roman Catholic. Gadbury's publications, all --of an:.astrological character, were very numerous. The earliest we have found is dated in the year . His Almanac, entitled a


afterwards an



appears to have begun in , and to have been continued till , for which year it appears under the name of Job Gadbury. Old John is said to have been lost at sea on a voyage to Jamaica. Among his publications is a collected edition of

The Works of the late most excellent Philosopher and Astronomer, Sir George Wharton, Baronet,

which he brought out in a thick octavo volume in S. Wharton, who was a wit and a versifier, as well as an astrologer, published his Almanacs in the reign of Charles I. under the anagram of


and was the great authority in regard to the intentions of the Fates with the Court party, as Lilly was with the adherents of the Parliament. The rivalry and opposition between Wharton and Lilly commenced immediately after the appearance of Lilly's publication, his

Merlinus Anglicus Junior,

which came out in . In his almanac for the. next year Wharton noticed the new astrologer as

an impudent, senseless fellow, and by name William Lilly,

as Lilly himself has taken the trouble to inform posterity. Now

before that time,

adds Lilly,

T'was more Cavalier than Roundhead, and so taken notice of:

he admits, indeed, that he afterwards

engaged body and soul in the cause of Parliament ;

but even while so acting he claims the credit of

much affection to his majesty's person and unto monarchy, which,

says he,

I ever loved and approved beyond any government whatsoever.

He confesses that his object in writing his next


for , was to vindicate his reputation and to cry quittance with Naworth,

against whom,

he says,

I was highly incensed

and it seems clearly by his own account to have been this spite against the royalist astrologer that provoked him to venture upon what he calls in his Life (written after the Restoration) his

unlucky judgment

for the month of -

If now we fight, a victory stealeth upon us

which was so signally verified by the king's defeat at Naseby,

the most fatal overthrow he ever had.

Whatever he may have thought of it, or chosen to call it, afterwards, we may be sure that at the time Lilly looked upon this prediction as of the luckiest hits astrologer had ever made; and possibly it even turned his rage against Wharton into something like gratitude or a sense


of obligation; for although Wharton still continued his attacks, it is related that when at length, on the complete subjugation of his party, the captain fell into trouble, and even got sent to Newgate, Lilly interceded for him with his friends in power, and obtained his release. Wharton, however, who before his imprisonment had been reduced to write for--bread, long outlived his misfortunes; and after the Restoration the old astrologer was made treasurer to the Ordnance.. When shall we have another treasurer of the Ordnance who shall have recommended himself to his place in the government by his skill in casting nativities, and who shall leave his literary reputation to be taken charge of after his death by a brother astrologer and almanac-maker? Yet this was only about a century and a half ago. As for the Job Gadbury of , if he was, as we have supposed, the son of John, he had not inherited his father's religious opinions, but seems to have been rather a Protestant, and something more. But of his memoranda of the past is more curious than any of the predictions we find in his almanac in a

Compendious Chronology,

extending from the creation of the world to the current year, to which he devotes a couple of pages, in the midst of a series of notices of the dates of Noah's flood, the destruction of Troy, the building of Rome, the Gunpowder Treason, the martyrdom of King Charles, and other such familiar events, occurs the following entry :--


, Bern. Calvert, of Andover) went from

St. George's Church

: in


to Calais in France,and back again, in


hours, on

July 17


It is to be understood, we suppose, that he went through the air on a broomstick, the only substitute at this date for our modern balloons and railways. This veracious Diary of Job Gadbury's continued to. be published down to the years of the reign of George III.

The renowned Francis Moore, who was at time, we take it for granted, a living man, seems to have made his appearance about the end of the


century. He published a

Kalendarium Ecclesiasticum

in , and his earliest

Vox Stellarum

or almanac, as far as we can discover, came out in . When he became a mere name, and ceased to be really , we do not know. His almanac for is what may call a workman-like performance; and it seems already to have become of the chief popular favourites, if we may judge by the much larger number of advertisements of new books and quack medicines. it is graced with than almost any of its contemporaries. It begins, dashingly, with a whole page of poetry, and more verse is plentifully scattered throughout: its prose too is more ambitious and eloquent than that of its neighbours; and its Protestantism is quite ferocious. Altogether, in short, Francis has the air of taking the lead among his brethren, most or all of whom were older than himself, and were probably past their prime, while he was as it were only commencing his career, to continue it, as we have seen, till he should have witnessed all the rest go out by , and find himself the last of the astrologers.

If there was any of the older almanacs that rivalled at this time the popularity of Francis Moore, it was that of John Partridge--the immortal Partridge of Swift's satire. Partridge-Dr. Partridge, as he called himself--is said to have been originally a shoemaker, and to have borne the name of Hewson, which would think was as good a name as the he exchanged it for: if he intended any allusion to his new trade of

commercing with the skies,

it seems strange that he did not rather dub himself Dr. Eagle or Dr. Falcon--for Dr. Partridge, the sooth to say, hardly carries more dignity with it than Dr. Sparrow would have done. Partridge acted for some time as assistant to Gadbury, in the same manner as the latter had done to Lilly: he commenced astrologer on his own account in ; his almanac, styled

Merlinus Liberatus,

appeared, we believe, in ; Swift, in his

Predictions for the year


, by Isaac Bickerstaff, Esq.,

put him to death on the of that year; and although

an uninformed carcase,

which was

pleased to call itself Partridge,

continued to walk about for some time longer, he was at last fairly interred in the churchyard of Mortlake, in , under a monument with a sonorous Latin epitaph, according to which he was born at the neighboring hamlet of East Sheen, on the , and died at London, on the , in the year in which he was thus buried. In this inscription, which is said to have been set up at the cost of his widow, who when he married her was the relict of the Duke of Monmouth's tailor, he is styled Astrologer and Doctor of we are told that he practised medicine under kings and queen, namely, Charles II., William III., and quoteueen Mary, so that we may presume he had betaken himself exclusively to almanac-making and fortune-telling before Anne came to the throne. James's short reign he is known to have spent in Holland-having run away from the danger to which he apprehended he had exposed himself by some unlucky antipopish prediction; and it was on his return to England after the Revolution that he married the tailor's widow. This temporary expatriation, besides enabling him for the rest of his life to claim the credit of having been a sufferer in the cause of liberty and religion, was turned to account by him in the


supdegree from the University of Leyden; and this may have been the case: we remember a account given by the late respectable Dr. John Aikin of his graduation by that ancient university, which would make even Partridge's doctorship by no means incredible. Partridge, in fact, had to the last a wonderfully high continental reputation: Grainger notices that the obituary of the

Acta Lipsiensia

for records, among the deaths of other , that of

John Partridge, the most famous English astronomer and astrologer

--. Nevertheless, it is certain that the man could barely spell. His ignorance and stupidity made him the happiest possible subject for Swift's joke. Bickerstaff's prediction when it came out appears seriously to have alarmed him, and it is evident that he lived in terror till the day announced for his death was fairly past. He said not a word till then; but the strain in which he began to crow as soon as he found himself safe affords ludicrous proof of how much he had been frightened.

Old friend,

he wrote to an Irish acquaintance, days after,

I don't doubt but you are imposed upon in Ireland also, by a pack of rogues, about my being dead;

and then he goes on to abuse the suspected author of the prediction:--

There is no such man as Bickerstaff; it is a


name, but his true name is Pettie; he is always in a garret, a cellar, or a gaol; and therefore you may, by that, judge what kind of reputation this fellow hath to be credited in the world.

: Still the impression clings to, him that he has made a lucky escape ; he is surprised that, if not actually dead, he should not at least have been in some danger :--

I thank God,

he exclaims,

I am very well in health,

and at the time he had doomed me to death I was not in the least out of order

. The truth is, it was a high flight at a venture, hit or miss.

He knows nothing of astrology


Poor Partridge! so might of thy feathered namesakes congratulate itself after. the fire of some young shot which has not touched of the covey.

The truth is, it was a high flight at a venture, hit or miss. He knows nothing of partridge-shooting!

Pray, Sir, excuse this trouble,

concludes the exulting almanac-maker,

for no man can better tell you I am well than myself; and this is to undeceive your credulous friends that may yet believe the death of your real humble servant, John Partridge.

As if the very demon of jocular mischief had inspired this proceeding, the person to whom Partridge addressed himself, Isaac Manley, the Irish postmaster, was Swift's particular friend! . Forthwith came out

The Accomplishment of the


of Mr. Bickerstaff's Predictions, being an Account of the Death of Mr. Partridge, the Almanac-maker, upon the


instant, in a Letter to a Person of Honour,

professing to have been written on the . Partridge now saw the necessity of taking the most decided measures, as people say in such circumstances, to vindicate his vitality; and so, not satisfied with earnestly assuring his countrymen in his almanac for the ensuing year that Squire Bickerstaff was a sham name, assumed by a lying, impudent fellow, and that,

blessed be God, John Partridge was still living and in health, and all were knaves who reported otherwise,

he applied to his neighbour, the Rev. Dr. Yalden, preacher at , to draw up for him a full statement of his injuries and sufferings, to be laid, as a conclusive appeal, before the public. Yalden, a wit and poet; whose life is among Dr. Johnson's biographies, readily undertook the task; and if Partridge, as is' said, actually published the pamphlet


which the Doctor drew up in his name, entitled

Squire Bickerstaff Detected; or, the Astrological Impostor Convicted,

he may be written down an ass such as there has seldom been known the like of. He must have brayed like a whole legion of asses in his fury and despair when he found that, after all, his unrelenting tormenters-still persisted in their original assertion, and even undertook to make it good out of his own expressions in contradicting it.

A Vindication of Isaac Bickerstaff, Esq., against what is objected to him by Mr. Partridge, in his Almanac for the present Year,


; by the said Isaac Bickerstaff, Esq.,

now came forth, in which, besides various other grave reasons proving that Mr. Partridge was not alive, the writer alleged the following:--

Fourthly, I will plainly prove him to be dead, out of his own almanac for this year, and from the very passage which he produces to make us think him alive. He there says, he is not only now alive, but was also alive upon that very

29th of March

which I foretold he should die on: by this he declares his opinion that a man may be alive now who was not alive a twelvemonth ago. And, indeed, there lies the sophistry of his argument. He dares not assert that he was alive ever since the

29th of March

, but that he is now alive, and was so on that day: I grant the latter; for he did not die till night, as appears by the printed account of his death, in a letter to a lord; and whether he be since revived I leave the world to judge. This, indeed, is perfect cavilling, and I am ashamed to dwell any longer upon it.

It would have been wise after this in Partridge to have let the matter drop to have rested satisfied, like other people, with being alive, without any further attempts to prove the fact. Driven wild, however, by some more persecution in the


he was foolish enough, in announcing his almanac for , to reiterate his passionate contradiction of the story of his death:


he said,

it has been industriously given out by Isaac Bickerstaff, Esq., and others, to prevent the sale of this year's almanac, that John Partridge is dead, this may inform all his loving countrymen that he is still. living in health, and they are knaves that reported it otherwise.-J. P.

This the


noticed immediately as

an advertisement, with several scurrilous terms in it, that do by no means become a dead man to give;

and the next week appeared the humorous letter from the Master and Company of Upholders, exclaiming against the

intolerable toleration

by which so many dead people were allowed to

go putrefying up and down the streets,

pointing out the danger of infection to Her Majesty's subjects

from the horrible stench of so many corses,

so long as it was

left to every dead man's discretion not to be buried until he sees his time

--and concluding with the following postscript:--

Whereas a commission of interment has been awarded against Dr. John Partridge, Philomath, Professor of Physic and Astrology; and whereas the said Partridge hath not surrendered himself, nor shown cause to the contrary; these are to certify that the Company of Upholders will proceed to bury him from Cordwainers' Hall, on Tuesday the


instant, where any of his surviving friends, who still believe him to be alive, are desired to come prepared to hold up the pall.-


. We shall light away at


in the evening, there being to be a sermon.

To be dead was bad enough, but to be buried was still worse, and Partridge probably objected with increased vehemence; but we have not inquired further into his proceedings. A letter of his dated from the banks of Styx is given in a subsequent number of




followed by an intimation from Bickerstaff that, having lately seen some of his predictions, which were

written in a true Protestant spirit of prophecy, and a particular zeal against the French king,

he had some thoughts of sending for him from the other world,

and reinstating him in his own house, at the sign of the Globe, in

Salisbury Street


By the bye, in a former paper he had been designated as

late of

Cecil Street


the Strand


The last mention of him that occurs is in an advertisement in , which has the appearance of having been provoked by some new proclamation he had been making of his continued existence in the body:--

Whereas an ignorant upstart in astrology has publicly endeavoured to persuade the world that he is the late John Partridge, who died the

29th of March, 1708

; these are to certify all whom it may concern that the true John Partridge was not only dead at that time, but continues so to this present day.--Beware of counterfeits, for such are abroad.

For the remainder of his life (if life it could be called) John appears to have been left in quiet by the nest of hornets his braying had kept so long about him, and whose persistency we fear must have made the poor astrologer look upon what the world called wit as something equally atrocious with downright murder. But even his real departure from the earth did not interrupt the publication of his almanac; the

Merlinus Liberatus, by John Partridge,

continued to appear as regularly every winter as ever--with only a sly (not to call it profane) intimation, or word to the wise, in the addition, after the pretended author's name, of the scriptural expression as it stands in the Vulgate

Etiam mortuus loquitur,

that is,

He, being dead, yet speaketh.

The book seems to have for a time been got up by Mrs. Partridge, the tailor's remnant: the publication for concludes with an advertisement informing the world that

Dr. Partridge's night drops, night pills, &c., and other medicines of his own preparing, continue to be sold as before by his widow, at the Blue Ball in

Salisbury Street

, near

the Strand


The other contents of the almanac are merely the usual farrago.

Parker's Ephemeris for the year of our Lord



is described as




which would carry back the commencement of the publication to the year . It continued, as well as Partridge, to be published down to our own day. Of the author, George Parker, we know nothing, except that he carried on for some time, while he was actually in the flesh, an abusive controversy with his brother nativity-monger Partridge, to which the world is indebted for the knowledge of some recondite particulars in the history of the latter.

Parker's Ephemeris for


carries an effigies in its front, a head copiously bewigged and otherwise somewhat clerically adorned, which is probably intended for that of the astrologer. Yet an advertisement at the end announces

Printing of all sorts of books, bills, bonds, indentured, cases of parliament, funeral tickets, and tradesmen's bills, &c., performed by this author.

On the whole, contains more useful information, and less nonsense, than any of the other astrological almanacs of the day that We have examined. The author's astrological faith was evidently of the weakest. Of a very different spirit is Salem Pearse, whose

Celestial Diary

for , in parts, overflows both with fervent verse and with ample details in prose of all the human and planetary influences. It seems indeed to be


drawn up mainly for the meridian of the kitchen; as

Poor Robin,

also in parts, which follows it in our. collection, may be said to be wholly.. The latter, which was of ancient standing in Swift's time, continued to be published, we. believe, till within the last few years, with all its old rich and singular of the horrible and the jocular, the puritanical and the prurient. Pearse we cannot trace back farther than to the year , but he also survived to the end of the last or the beginning of the present century. A Richard Saunder, or Saunders, published a work upon physiognomy, chiromancy, &c., in , and an at least as early as ; but the author of the almanac published with that title in was probably the son of this original Richard. It is stated to be



-and-thirtieth impression of the same author,

which would. carry back its. commencement to the year . Nevertheless Mr. Richard Saunder still walked the earth, and in a long advertisement at the end of his

Union. Almanac

he informs his readers that he was now. removed to Brook near Oakham in the county of. Rutland, where he professed the following mathematical arts: Arithmetic, Geometry, Astronomy, Trigonometry, Navigation, Dialling, Surveying;


it is added,

if any gentleman, or other person, would have his land surveyed, or any building or edifice measured, either for bricklayers, carpenters, masons, plasterers, &c., he will perform the same either for master or workmen. Weather-glasses are also prepared, and carefully adjusted, by him, for any that have a desire, to have them.

Wing is a famous name in the history of English astrology, having been raised to distinction by Vincent Wing, who is said to have been born in and to have died in , and who was a mathematician and astrologer of considerable eminence, as well as a proficient in more mystical lore. John Gadbury, who edited the works of Sir George Wharton, wrote

A Relation of the Life and Death of Vincent.Wing,

which was published in quarto in . There is a letter from him to Lilly printed among the published by Dr. Bliss along with Aubrey's


partly about a little astronomical work in the press, entitled

Harmonicon Celeste ;

but the literary matter is preceded by an equally grave and earnest passage on another sort of subject, which curiously illustrates the character not only of the correspondents, but of the time.

Honoured Mr. Lilly.

the epistle commences,

a worthy gentlewoman of this town hath requested me to write a line unto you, concerning a great number of fine linnings [linens] that was stolen in the night time, the last week, out of a private garden close under her house. And, because she much. fancies astrology, I would desire you to give her your advice therein, and to write a line or


back, whether you think they be recoverable or not. I set


figure for the


question, but I forbore to give judgment,.and the rather because she hath, not undeservedly, so good a confidence of you and your writings, for which, I must say, we are all obliged to you. Good sir, at her request be pleased to honour her with a line, and she protesteth to make you pl.[enty?] of satisfaction, if ever it be in her power.. Her husband is a member of this parliament, and


, I suppose, well known to you, and is a man that highly esteems of your singular parts.

The recovery of stolen goods was of the most lucrative professions of these old astrologers-;. Isaac Bickerstaff alludes to it as a wellknown branch of Partridge's practice:.-

Thirdly, Mr. Partridge pretends to tell

fortunes, and recover stolen goods; which all the parish says he must do by conversing with the devil and other evil spirits; and no wise man will ever allow he could converse personally with either till after he was dead.

[n.251.1]  Partridge and his brethren, in fact, were in this way a sort of predecessors of Jonathan Wild. As for Vincent Wing, he was succeeded by John Wing (perhaps his son), whose almanac, entitled sometimes

Olympia Dogmata,


Olympia Domata,

and printed sometimes at London, sometimes at Cambridge, we trace back to ; and John was succeeded by Tycho, whose name appears on the

Olympia Dogmata,

or Domata, for , although we find him publishing another almanac, which he called

Merlinius Anglicus,

so early as. . Both the

Olympia Domata,

and the prognostication entitled


for the year , by John Wing, who dates from Pickworth in the county of Rutland, are sufficiently stored with planetary and lunar learning of all kinds even to satisfy the manes of the worthy Vincent, whose astronomical studies ranged from the harmony of the spheres down to the setting of a figure for the recovery of a stolen washing of linen.

There was evidently a considerable amount of astrological faith remaining in the popular mind so long as all these almanacs continued to be printed and bought; but the religion of the stars had ceased, we apprehend, to have a generally believing priesthood in this country even before the middle of the century, and by the beginning of the next, probably, we had not a single professing astrologer who was the dupe of his own pretensions. Lilly, who was born in , and who commenced practice, as we have seen, in , certainly was not so, and it may be questioned if among his immediate predecessors and contemporaries, of whom he has given us accounts in his characteristic and amusing autobiography, there were more than or who were not much more rogues and impostors than self-deceived enthusiasts. Dr. Simon Forman, for instances though, we are told,

he travelled into Holland for a month, in


, purposely to be instructed in astrology, and other more occult sciences, as also--in physic, taking his degree of doctor beyond seas,

and afterwards

lived in


, with a very good report of the neighbourhood, especially of the poor; unto whom he was very charitable,

we must take leave to hold to have been a thorough scoundrel. Lilly says,

he was a person that in horary questions (especially thefts) was very judicious and fortunate; as also in sicknesses, which indeed was his masterpiece.

If this means that he was a master in the art of secretly destroying health and life, a subtle practitioner in poisons, the infamous story of Lord and Lady Essex, and the tragedy of Sir Thomas Overbury, will sufficiently bear out the statement.

In resolving questions about marriage,

Lilly adds,

he had good success; in other questions very moderate.

As for a remarkable memorandum which it seems the doctor left behind him--

This I made the Devil write with his own hand in




, in June or July, as I now remember.

--we must be excused for withholding our belief from what is therein affirmed, till some unexceptionable witness is brought forward who will swear to his infernal majesty's handwriting.

There was' a contemporary of Forman's, however, also mentioned by Lilly--the


famous John Dee, commonly called.Doctor Dee,/who was a man of unquestionable learning and talent, much of which he expended in the study of astrology and the Rosicrucian philosophy, and whose undoubting mind, appears really to have, in great part at least, believed the magic wonders which he passed his life in dreaming of. Dee was born , in London, where his father, Rowland Dee, was, according to Anthony Wood, a vintner in good circumstances, though Aubrey, who was his relation, tells us he was a Radnorshire gentleman of ancient and illustrious pedigree, being descended from Rhees, Prince of South Wales. John Dee was sent to College, Cambridge, in , and there studied so hard, as he states, for the space of years, that he never allowed himself more than hours of the -and- for sleep, and for meals and recreation. He spent several years, chiefly on the Continent at different universities, but returning to England in , he received from King Edward, a pension, and then a grant of the rectory of Upton-upon-Severn, of a number of church preferments which he held in the course of his life, though he never was in orders. He appears to have become known to Elizabeth while she resided at Woodstock, in the reign of quoteueen Mary, and he then suffered a short imprisonment at , in consequence of some suspicions excited by a correspondence which he was detected in carrying on with some of the persons it attendance upon the princess. He himself says that he was suspected of

endeavouring, by enchantments, to destroy quoteueen Mary.

In fact, he had already acquired the reputation in the popular mind of being wiser than he ought to be--of being not only astrologer, but magician. The accession of Elizabeth brought him at once into request in the former capacity. In the court was greatly alarmed by a comet; upon which Dee was sent for to Windsor, and spent days there in tranquillizing her Majesty and her ministers by a more favourable interpretation of the phenomenon. On another occasion,

My careful and faithful endeavour,

continues Dee,

was with great speed required (

as by divers messages sent to me one after another in one morning

) to prevent the mischief which divers of her Majesty's privy council suspected to be intended against her Majesty's person, by

means of a certain image of wax, with a great pin stuck into it above the breast of it, found in Lincoln's Inn Fields


This, if we may judge from the vehement importunity of the council's application, was a still worse case than that of the comet: however, Dee's art was a match even for the wax figure and the great pin.

I did satisfy her Majesty's desire,

he says;

and the lords of the privy council, within few hours, in godly and artificial manner.

After this his next

dutiful service

has something of the bathos in it--

the diligent conference which,

says he,

by her Majesty's commandment I had with Mr. Doctor Bayly, her Majesty's physician, about her Majesty's grievous pangs and pains, by reason of toothache and the rheum.

In return, Elizabeth took much notice of her learned adviser in matters of comets, witchcraft, toothache, and rheumatism. On the afternoon of the ,

The quoteueen's Majesty,

he tells us,

with her most honourable Privy Council, and other her lords and nobility, came purposely to have visited my library; but finding that my wife was within


hours before buried out of the house, her Majesty refused to come in, but wished me to fetch my glass so famous, and to show unto her some

of the properties of it, which I did. Her Majesty being taken down from her horse by the Earl of Leicester, master of the horse, at the church wall of Mortlake, Aid see some of the properties of that glass, to her Majesty's great contentment and delight, and so in most singular manner did thank me.

We do not know if it will assist in identifying the spot beside the wall of the old village church, where, on a March afternoon, years ago, the royal Elizabeth thus alighted to converse with the astrologer, her full-blown favourite (it was the year of Kenilworth) assisting her to the ground, to mention that Dee's house, according to Aubrey, stood

next to the house where the tapestry hangings are made, viz., west of that house.

[n.253.1]  Aubrey had his information from an old woman, a native of Mortlake, who remembered Dee; and stated that

the children dreaded him, because he wa accounted a conjuror.

Another time, on the ,

the quoteueen's Majesty,

Dee himself relates,

came from Richmond in her coach the higher way of Mortlake Field, and when she came right against the church, she turned down toward my house; and when she was against my garden in the field, her Majesty staid for a good while, and then came into the field at the great gate of the field, where her Majesty espied me at my door, making reverent and dutiful obeisance unto her; and with her hand her Majesty beckoned for me to come to her, and I came to her coachside. Her Majesty then very speedily pulled off her glove, and gave me her hand to kiss; and, to be short, her Majesty willed me to resort oftener to her Court, and by some of her Privy Chamber to give her to weet when I am there.

Finally, on the in the same year, at in the afternoon, her Majesty came again; but Dee was now going to the church to bury his mother, as years before, when he was thus honoured, he had just returned from the funeral of his wife--a circumstance which Elizabeth did not fail to remember.

It appears to have been shortly after this last visit that Dee became connected with Edward Kelley, whom he is said to have engaged to assist him in a course of experiments, perhaps having for their object at nothing more than the pursuit of the grand hermetic secret of projection, or the transmutation of metals, at a salary of . But Kelley, a sharp-witted rogue, would soon perceive the influence he might acquire over the visionary by humouring his enthusiastic and credulous disposition: at any rate the are alleged to have, after a short time, abandoned the regular alchemical method of seeking the philosopher's stone, and to have boldly taken to the forbidden practices of incantation and magic. We cannot go into this part of Dee's history; the true nature of his proceedings has been the subject of much controversy; what is certain is that he and Kelley left England suddenly and clandestinely in the end of for Poland, whence Dee did not return till , when he came back by special invitation from quoteueen Elizabeth. Kelley remained abroad, and is said to have been made a baron by the Emperor, though he ended his life in a jail, But there is still in existence a most elaborate and minute


detail, apparently drawn up by Dee, of their proceedings during several years in the raising of spirits, a portion of which has been published, making a closely printed folio volume of some ; pages. It is altogether about the most amazing performance that ever proceeded from the press or the pen. Meric Casaubon, the learned divine, by whom it was given to the public in , is clear as to the absolute and literal truth of every line of it, and considers the narrative (as well he may upon this supposition) to be the most complete account of the spiritual world of which we are in possession. Modern readers willing general content themselves with the question of whether the narrator is to be held as deceiver or deceived, as quite sufficient exercise for their faculties or their faith. For our own part, it is which we shall not attempt to answer. All this portion of Dee's life, indeed, is a mystery. He made his journey homeward in extraordinary state and parade, travelling with not only coaches, besides baggage waggons, but also with the attendance of a hired guard of horse; yet when he reached his native country he found himself in utter destitution. If he had ever possessed the philosopher's stone, he had apparently lost it by the way. The detail of his various shifts and difficulties during the years that had elapsed since his return, which he gives in the

Compendious Rehearsal,

presents of the most singular pictures of housekeeping anywhere delineated. It appears that his house at Mortlake, having been left unprotected while he was abroad, had been broken into, and that a valuable library and a collection of philosophical instruments which it contained were nearly all carried off, not, however, as it should seem, by regular thieves or burglars, but rather by persons who thought it meritorious to scatter about the magician's books of diablerie and to break to pieces the tools of his black and sinful art. wonders that everything was not irretrievably gone however, he succeeded in recovering a considerable portion of his


dispersed property, of about printed books and manuscripts finding in the end only about a part lost.--But many of those he got back he had afterwards to dispose of for wherewithal to keep himself and his family from starving;


says Lilly,

many times to sell some book or other to buy his dinner with, as Dr. Napier, of Linford, in Buckinghamshire, oft related, who knew him well.

For the rest, he borrowed and begged from all and sundry who came in his way. His establishment all the while was on a scale of extraordinary extent for a person in such circumstances; for besides himself,his wife, and children, he seems to have kept no fewer than servants he talks of


of us in all.

No wonder that the thought of catering much longer for so numerous a brood in this predatory style filled him with apprehension : he dreads that he will be obliged to sell his house for half what it costly him, and describes himself as now brought to the very next instant of stepping out of doors :--


says he,

and mine, with bottles and wallets furnished to become wanderers as homish vagabonds, or, as banished men, to forsake the kingdom.

Nevertheless it appears by a marginal note of subsequent date that he contrived to keep up the war in the same way by borrowing and getting in debt for about a year and a half longer. At length in , the old astrologer and reputed magician was appointed to the wardenship of Manchester College, vacant by the promotion of Dr. Hugh Bellot to the bishopric of Chester. Dee indeed hints in his

Compendious Rehearsal

that he was at time actually offered a bishopric if he would have taken orders; but he shrunk from having anything to do with the cure of souls. After all, he came back from Manchester after a few years, and taking up his abode once more at Mortlake, resumed his old crazy dealings with spirits, having got into the hands of a new assistant or associate, Bartholomew Hickman, who was probably as great a rascal as Kelley. He had not resigned his preferment, but nevertheless poverty was again as great as ever: he seems to have preferred a precarious, scrambling existence, and to have rather had an aversion to a settled income. It is even asserted that he was meditating a new journey into Germany, when death at last arrested him some time in the year , at the age of . He was buried in Mortlake Church, Aubrey's informant, the old woman, told him, in the midst of the chancel, a little towards the south side, between Mr. Holt and Mr. Miles, both servants to quoteueen Elizabeth. A stone that covered him was removed in Oliver's days: before this, the children, the old woman said, when they played in the church, would run to Dr. Dee's gravestone. Of a numerous family which he left, there are only of whom anything seems to be known--a daughter, Sarah, who is said to have married a flax-dresser in ; and a son, Arthur, who studied medicine, became physician in ordinary to Charles I., and died at Norwich about . According to Aubrey, Ben Jonson had Dee in his eye in writing

The Alchemist;

he is indeed mentioned by name in that play-

one whose name is Dee,

In a rug gown.

Aubrey says,

He was tall and slender; he wore a gown like an artist's gown, with hanging sleeves and a slit.




follies of the wise

of former days are now become the jests of children; but when we think of Dee and his divinations we ought to remember that in the same age the grave and wise Burghley cast the nativity of quoteueen Elizabeth, and that a century later Dryden still attempted in the same way to unveil the future fortunes of his newly-born son. Nor ought we to forget that with all this weakness something strong and high has also perished: these superstitions, whatever evils of another kind they brought along with them, gave in some respects a consecration and solemnity to this life of ours that is now wanting. And even of astrology and its kindred visionary sciences themselves, it is true, as Bacon has remarked in his high style, that, although they had better intelligence and confederacy with the imagination of man than with his reason, nevertheless the ends or pretences were noble.



[n.251.1] Vindication of Isaac Bickerstaff, E.q., &c.

[n.253.1] In a note, by Mr. Halliwel, to Dee's very curious Diary, printed by the Camden Society since this paper was written, the following statement is given on the authority of a manuscript in the Ashmolean Library:-- Dr. Dee dwelt in a house near the water-side, a little westward from the church. The buildings, which Sir F. Crane erected for working of tapestry hangings, and are still ( 1673 ) employed to that use, were built upon the ground whereon Dr. Dee's laboratory and other rooms for that use stood. Upon the west is a square court, and the next is the house wherein Dr. Dee dwelt, now inhabited by one Mr. Selhury, and further west-his garden.