THE BICKERSTAFF-PARTRIDGE PAPERS
by Jonathan Swift
Jonathan Swift, et al. The Bickerstaff-Partridge Papers, etc. Annus
Predictions For The Year 1708
Wherein the month, and day of the month are set down, the persons named,
and the great actions and events of next year particularly related, as
will come to pass.
Written to prevent the people of England from being farther imposed on
by vulgar almanack-makers.
By Isaac Bickerstaff, Esq.
I have long consider'd the gross abuse of astrology in this kingdom, and
upon debating the matter with myself, I could not possibly lay the
fault upon the art, but upon those gross impostors, who set up to be the
artists. I know several learned men have contended that the whole is a
cheat; that it is absurd and ridiculous to imagine, the stars can have
any influence at all upon human actions, thoughts, or inclinations: And
whoever has not bent his studies that way, may be excused for thinking
so, when he sees in how wretched a manner that noble art is treated by
a few mean illiterate traders between us and the stars; who import a
yearly stock of nonsense, lyes, folly, and impertinence, which they
offer to the world as genuine from the planets, tho' they descend from
no greater a height than their own brains.
I intend in a short time to publish a large and rational defence of this
art, and therefore shall say no more in its justification at present,
than that it hath been in all ages defended by many learned men, and
among the rest by Socrates himself, whom I look upon as undoubtedly the
wisest of uninspir'd mortals: To which if we add, that those who have
condemned this art, though otherwise learned, having been such as either
did not apply their studies this way, or at least did not succeed in
their applications; their testimony will not be of much weight to
its disadvantage, since they are liable to the common objection of
condemning what they did not understand.
Nor am I at all offended, or think it an injury to the art, when I see
the common dealers in it, the students in astrology, the philomaths, and
the rest of that tribe, treated by wise men with the utmost scorn and
contempt; but rather wonder, when I observe gentlemen in the country,
rich enough to serve the nation in parliament, poring in Partridge's
almanack, to find out the events of the year at home and abroad; not
daring to propose a hunting-match, till Gadbury or he have fixed the
I will allow either of the two I have mentioned, or any other of the
fraternity, to be not only astrologers, but conjurers too, if I do not
produce a hundred instances in all their almanacks, to convince any
reasonable man, that they do not so much as understand common grammar
and syntax; that they are not able to spell any word out of the usual
road, nor even in their prefaces write common sense or intelligible
English. Then for their observations and predictions, they are such as
will equally suit any age or country in the world. "This month a certain
great person will be threatened with death or sickness." This the
news-papers will tell them; for there we find at the end of the year,
that no month passes without the death of some person of note; and it
would be hard if it should be otherwise, when there are at least two
thousand persons of not in this kingdom, many of them old, and the
almanack-maker has the liberty of chusing the sickliest season of the
year where he may fix his prediction. Again, "This month an eminent
clergyman will be preferr'd;" of which there may be some hundreds half
of them with one foot in the grave. Then "such a planet in such a house
shews great machinations, plots and conspiracies, that may in time
be brought to light:" After which, if we hear of any discovery, the
astrologer gets the honour; if not, his prediction still stands good.
And at last, "God preserve King William from all his open and secret
enemies, Amen." When if the King should happen to have died, the
astrologer plainly foretold it; otherwise it passes but for the pious
ejaculation of a loyal subject: Though it unluckily happen'd in some of
their almanacks, that poor King William was pray'd for many months after
he was dead, because it fell out that he died about the beginning of the
To mention no more of their impertinent predictions: What have we to
do with their advertisements about pills and drink for the venereal
disease? Or their mutual quarrels in verse and prose of Whig and Tory,
wherewith the stars have little to do?
Having long observed and lamented these, and a hundred other abuses of
this art, too tedious to repeat, I resolved to proceed in a new way,
which I doubt not will be to the general satisfaction of the kingdom:
I can this year produce but a specimen of what I design for the future;
having employ'd most part of my time in adjusting and correcting the
calculations I made some years past, because I would offer nothing to
the world of which I am not as fully satisfied, as that I am now
alive. For these two last years I have not failed in above one or two
particulars, and those of no very great moment. I exactly foretold the
miscarriage at Toulon, with all its particulars; and the loss of Admiral
Shovel, tho' I was mistaken as to the day, placing that accident about
thirty-six hours sooner than it happen'd; but upon reviewing my schemes,
I quickly found the cause of that error. I likewise foretold the Battle
of Almanza to the very day and hour, with the loss on both sides, and
the consequences thereof. All which I shewed to some friends many months
before they happened, that is, I gave them papers sealed up, to open at
such a time, after which they were at liberty to read them; and there
they found my predictions true in every article, except one or two, very
As for the few following predictions I now offer the world, I forbore
to publish them till I had perused the several almanacks for the year we
are now enter'd on. I find them in all the usual strain, and I beg the
reader will compare their manner with mine: And here I make bold to tell
the world, that I lay the whole credit of my art upon the truth of these
predictions; and I will be content, that Partridge, and the rest of his
clan, may hoot me for a cheat and impostor, if I fail in any singular
particular of moment. I believe, any man who reads this paper, will look
upon me to be at least a person of as much honesty and understanding, as
a common maker of almanacks. I do not lurk in the dark; I am not wholly
unknown in the world; I have set my name at length, to be a mark of
infamy to mankind, if they shall find I deceive them.
In one thing I must desire to be forgiven, that I talk more sparingly of
home-affairs: As it will be imprudence to discover secrets of state, so
it would be dangerous to my person; but in smaller matters, and that are
not of publick consequence, I shall be very free; and the truth of my
conjectures will as much appear from those as the other. As for the most
signal events abroad in France, Flanders, Italy and Spain, I shall
make no scruple to predict them in plain terms: Some of them are of
importance, and I hope I shall seldom mistake the day they will happen;
therefore, I think good to inform the reader, that I all along make use
of the Old Style observed in England, which I desire he will compare
with that of the news-papers, at the time they relate the actions I
I must add one word more: I know it hath been the opinion of several of
the learned, who think well enough of the true art of astrology, That
the stars do only incline, and not force the actions or wills of men:
And therefore, however I may proceed by right rules, yet I cannot in
prudence so confidently assure the events will follow exactly as I
I hope I have maturely considered this objection, which in some cases
is of no little weight. For example: A man may, by the influence of an
over-ruling planet, be disposed or inclined to lust, rage, or avarice,
and yet by the force of reason overcome that bad influence; and this
was the case of Socrates: But as the great events of the world usually
depend upon numbers of men, it cannot be expected they should all unite
to cross their inclinations, from pursuing a general design, wherein
they unanimously agree. Besides the influence of the stars reaches to
many actions and events which are not any way in the power of reason;
as sickness, death, and what we commonly call accidents, with many more,
needless to repeat.
But now it is time to proceed to my predictions, which I have begun to
calculate from the time that the Sun enters into Aries. And this I take
to be properly the beginning of the natural year. I pursue them to the
time that he enters Libra, or somewhat more, which is the busy period of
the year. The remainder I have not yet adjusted, upon account of several
impediments needless here to mention: Besides, I must remind the reader
again, that this is but a specimen of what I design in succeeding years
to treat more at large, if I may have liberty and encouragement.
My first prediction is but a trifle, yet I will mention it, to show
how ignorant those sottish pretenders to astrology are in their own
concerns: It relates to Partridge the almanack-maker; I have consulted
the stars of his nativity by my own rules, and find he will infallibly
die upon the 29th of March next, about eleven at night, of a raging
fever; therefore I advise him to consider of it, and settle his affairs
The month of April will be observable for the death of many great
persons. On the 4th will die the Cardinal de Noailles, Archbishop of
Paris: On the 11th the young Prince of Asturias, son to the Duke
of Anjou: On the 14th a great peer of this realm will die at his
country-house: On the 19th an old layman of great fame for learning:
and on the 23rd an eminent goldsmith in Lombard-Street. I could mention
others, both at home and abroad, if I did not consider it is of very
little use or instruction to the reader, or to the world.
As to publick affairs: On the 7th of this month there will be an
insurrection in Dauphine, occasion'd by the oppressions of the people,
which will not be quieted in some months.
On the 15th will be a violent storm on the south-east coast of France,
which will destroy many of their ships, and some in the very harbour.
The 19th will be famous for the revolt of a whole province or kingdom,
excepting one city, by which the affairs of a certain prince in the
alliance will take a better face.
May, against common conjectures, will be no very busy month in Europe,
but very signal for the death of the Dauphin, which will happen on
the 7th, after a short fit of sickness, and grievous torments with the
strangury. He dies less lamented by the court than the kingdom.
On the 9th a Mareschal of France will break his leg by a fall from his
horse. I have not been able to discover whether he will then die or not.
On the 11th will begin a most important siege, which the eyes of all
Europe will be upon: I cannot be more particular: for in relating
affairs that so nearly concern the Confederates, and consequently this
Kingdom, I am forced to confine myself, for several reasons very obvious
to the reader.
On the 15th news will arrive of a very surprizing event, than which
nothing could be more unexpected.
On the 19th three noble ladies of this Kingdom will, against all
expectation, prove with child, to the great joy of their husbands.
On the 23rd a famous buffoon of the play-house will die a ridiculous
death, suitable to his vocation.
June. This month will be distinguish'd at home, by the utter dispersing
of those ridiculous deluded enthusiasts, commonly call'd the Prophets;
occasion'd chiefly by seeing the time come that many of their prophecies
should be fulfill'd, and then finding themselves deceiv'd by contrary
events. It is indeed to be admir'd how any deceiver can be so weak, to
foretel things near at hand, when a very few months must of necessity
discover the impostor to all the world; in this point less prudent than
common almanack-makers, who are so wise to wonder in generals, and talk
dubiously, and leave to the reader the business of interpreting.
On the 1st of this month a French general will be killed by a random
shot of a cannon-ball.
On the 6th a fire will break out in the suburbs of Paris, which will
destroy above a thousand houses; and seems to be the foreboding of
what will happen, to the surprize of all Europe, about the end of the
On the 10th a great battle will be fought, which will begin at four
of the clock in the afternoon; and last till nine at night with great
obstinacy, but no very decisive event. I shall not name the place, for
the reasons aforesaid; but the commanders on each left wing will be
killed.--I see bonfires, and hear the noise of guns for a victory.
On the 14th there will be a false report of the French king's death.
On the 20th Cardinal Portocarero will die of a dysentery, with great
suspicion of poison; but the report of his intention to revolt to King
Charles, will prove false.
July. The 6th of this month a certain general will, by a glorious
action, recover the reputation he lost by former misfortunes.
On the 12th a great commander will die a prisoner in the hands of his
On the 14th a shameful discovery will be made of a French Jesuit, giving
poison to a great foreign general; and when he is put to the torture,
will make wonderful discoveries.
In short this will prove a month of great action, if I might have
liberty to relate the particulars.
At home, the death of an old famous senator will happen on the 15th at
his country-house, worn with age and diseases.
But that which will make this month memorable to all posterity, is the
death of the French King, Lewis the fourteenth, after a week's sickness
at Marli, which will happen on the 29th, about six o'clock in the
evening. It seems to be an effect of the gout in his stomach, followed
by a flux. And in three days after Monsieur Chamillard will follow his
master, dying suddenly of an appoplexy.
In this month likewise an ambassador will die in London; but I cannot
assign the day.
August. The affairs of France will seem to suffer no change for a
while under the Duke of Burgundy's administration; but the genius that
animated the whole machine being gone, will be the cause of mighty turns
and revolutions in the following year. The new King makes yet little
change either in the army or the ministry; but the libels against his
grandfather, that fly about his very court, give him uneasiness.
I see an express in mighty haste, with joy and wonder in his looks,
arriving by break of day on the 26th of this month, having travell'd in
three days a prodigious journey by land and sea. In the evening I hear
bells and guns, and see the blazing of a thousand bonfires.
A young admiral of noble birth, does likewise this month gain immortal
honour by a great achievement.
The affairs of Poland are this month entirely settled: Augustus resigns
his pretensions which he had again taken up for some time: Stanislaus is
peaceably possess'd of the throne; and the King of Sweden declares for
I cannot omit one particular accident here at home; that near the end of
this month much mischief will be done at Bartholomew Fair, by the fall
of a booth.
September. This month begins with a very surprizing fit of frosty
weather, which will last near twelve days.
The Pope having long languish'd last month, the swellings in his legs
breaking, and the flesh mortifying, will die on the 11th instant; and in
three weeks time, after a mighty contest, be succeeded by a cardinal of
the imperial faction, but native of Tuscany, who is now about sixty-one
The French army acts now wholly on the defensive, strongly fortify'd in
their trenches; and the young French King sends overtures for a treaty
of peace by the Duke of Mantua; which, because it is a matter of state
that concerns us here at home, I shall speak no farther of it.
I shall add but one prediction more, and that in mystical terms, which
shall be included in a verse out of Virgil,
Alter erit jam Tethys, & altera quae vehat Argo. Delectos heroas.
Upon the 25th day of this month, the fulfilling of this prediction will
be manifest to every body.
This is the farthest I have proceeded in my calculations for the present
year. I do not pretend, that these are all the great events which will
happen in this period, but that those I have set down will infallibly
come to pass. It will perhaps still be objected, why I have not spoke
more particularly of affairs at home, or of the success of our armies
abroad, which I might, and could very largely have done; but those in
power have wisely discouraged men from meddling in publick concerns,
and I was resolv'd by no means to give the least offence. This I will
venture to say, That it will be a glorious campaign for the allies,
wherein the English forces, both by sea and land, will have their full
share of honour: That her Majesty Queen Anne will continue in health
and prosperity: And that no ill accident will arrive to any of the chief
As to the particular events I have mention'd, the readers may judge
by the fulfilling of 'em, whether I am on the level with common
astrologers; who, with an old paultry cant, and a few pothook for
planets, to amuse the vulgar, have, in my opinion, too long been
suffer'd to abuse the world: But an honest physician ought not to be
despis'd, because there are such things as mountebanks. I hope I have
some share of reputation, which I would not willingly forfeit for a
frolick or humour: And I believe no gentleman, who reads this paper,
will look upon it to be of the same cast or mould with the common
scribblers that are every day hawk'd about. My fortune has placed me
above the little regard of scribbling for a few pence, which I neither
value or want: Therefore let no wise men too hastily condemn this essay,
intended for a good design, to cultivate and improve an ancient art,
long in disgrace, by having fallen into mean and unskilful hands. A
little time will determine whether I have deceived others or myself:
and I think it is no very unreasonable request, that men would please to
suspend their judgments till then. I was once of the opinion with those
who despise all predictions from the stars, till the year 1686, a man
of quality shew'd me, written in his album, That the most learned
astronomer, Captain H. assured him, he would never believe any thing of
the stars' influence, if there were not a great revolution in England in
the year 1688. Since that time I began to have other thoughts, and after
eighteen years diligent study and application, I think I have no reason
to repent of my pains. I shall detain the reader no longer, than to let
him know, that the account I design to give of next year's events, shall
take in the principal affairs that happen in Europe; and if I be denied
the liberty of offering it to my own country, I shall appeal to the
learned world, by publishing it in Latin, and giving order to have it
printed in Holland.
The Accomplishment of the First of Mr Bickerstaff's Predictions;
being an account of the death of Mr Partridge, the almanack-maker, upon
the 29th instant.
In a letter to a person of honour Written in the year 1708
In obedience to your Lordship's commands, as well as to satisfy my own
curiosity, I have for some days past enquired constantly after Partridge
the almanack-maker, of whom it was foretold in Mr. Bickerstaff's
predictions, publish'd about a month ago, that he should die on the
29th instant about eleven at night of a raging fever. I had some sort
of knowledge of him when I was employ'd in the Revenue, because he used
every year to present me with his almanack, as he did other gentlemen,
upon the score of some little gratuity we gave him. I saw him
accidentally once or twice about ten days before he died, and observed
he began very much to droop and languish, tho' I hear his friends did
not seem to apprehend him in any danger. About two or three days ago
he grew ill, and was confin'd first to his chamber, and in a few hours
after to his bed, where Dr. Case and Mrs. Kirleus were sent for to
visit, and to prescribe to him. Upon this intelligence I sent thrice
every day one servant or other to enquire after his health; and
yesterday, about four in the afternoon, word was brought me that he
was past hopes: Upon which, I prevailed with myself to go and see him,
partly out of commiseration, and I confess, partly out of curiosity.
He knew me very well, seem'd surpriz'd at my condescension, and made me
compliments upon it as well as he could, in the condition he was. The
people about him said, he had been for some time delirious; but when
I saw him, he had his understanding as well as ever I knew, and spake
strong and hearty, without any seeming uneasiness or constraint. After
I told him how sorry I was to see him in those melancholy circumstances,
and said some other civilities, suitable to the occasion, I desired
him to tell me freely and ingeniously, whether the predictions Mr.
Bickerstaff had publish'd relating to his death, had not too much
affected and worked on his imagination. He confess'd he had often had
it in his head, but never with much apprehension, till about a fortnight
before; since which time it had the perpetual possession of his mind and
thoughts, and he did verily believe was the true natural cause of his
present distemper: For, said he, I am thoroughly persuaded, and I think
I have very good reasons, that Mr. Bickerstaff spoke altogether by
guess, and knew no more what will happen this year than I did myself.
I told him his discourse surprized me; and I would be glad he were in a
state of health to be able to tell me what reason he had to be convinc'd
of Mr. Bickerstaff's ignorance. He reply'd, I am a poor ignorant fellow,
bred to a mean trade, yet I have sense enough to know that all pretences
of foretelling by astrology are deceits, for this manifest reason,
because the wise and the learned, who can only know whether there be any
truth in this science, do all unanimously agree to laugh at and despise
it; and none but the poor ignorant vulgar give it any credit, and that
only upon the word of such silly wretches as I and my fellows, who can
hardly write or read. I then asked him why he had not calculated his
own nativity, to see whether it agreed with Bickerstaff's prediction? at
which he shook his head, and said, Oh! sir, this is no time for jesting,
but for repenting those fooleries, as I do now from the very bottom of
my heart. By what I can gather from you, said I, the observations and
predictions you printed, with your almanacks, were mere impositions on
the people. He reply'd, if it were otherwise I should have the less
to answer for. We have a common form for all those things, as to
foretelling the weather, we never meddle with that, but leave it to the
printer, who takes it out of any old almanack, as he thinks fit; the
rest was my own invention, to make my almanack sell, having a wife to
maintain, and no other way to get my bread; for mending old shoes is
a poor livelihood; and, (added he, sighing) I wish I may not have done
more mischief by my physick than my astrology; tho' I had some good
receipts from my grandmother, and my own compositions were such as I
thought could at least do no hurt.
I had some other discourse with him, which now I cannot call to mind;
and I fear I have already tired your Lordship. I shall only add one
circumstance, That on his death-bed he declared himself a Nonconformist,
and had a fanatick preacher to be his spiritual guide. After half an
hour's conversation I took my leave, being half stifled by the closeness
of the room. I imagine he could not hold out long, and therefore
withdrew to a little coffee-house hard by, leaving a servant at the
house with orders to come immediately, and tell me, as near as he could,
the minute when Partridge should expire, which was not above two hours
after; when, looking upon my watch, I found it to be above five minutes
after seven; by which it is clear that Mr. Bickerstaff was mistaken
almost four hours in his calculation. In the other circumstances he was
exact enough. But whether he has not been the cause of this poor man's
death, as well as the predictor, may be very reasonably disputed.
However, it must be confess'd the matter is odd enough, whether
we should endeavour to account for it by chance, or the effect of
imagination: For my own part, tho' I believe no man has less faith in
these matters, yet I shall wait with some impatience, and not without
some expectation, the fulfilling of Mr. Bickerstaff's second prediction,
that the Cardinal de Noailles is to die upon the fourth of April, and if
that should be verified as exactly as this of poor Partridge, I must
own I should be wholly surprized, and at a loss, and should infallibly
expect the accomplishment of all the rest.
An Elegy on the supposed Death of Partridge, the Almanack-Maker.
Well, 'tis as Bickerstaff has guess'd,
Tho' we all took it for a jest;
Partridge is dead, nay more, he dy'd
E're he could prove the good 'Squire ly'd.
Strange, an Astrologer shou'd die,
Without one Wonder in the Sky!
Not one of all his Crony Stars
To pay their Duty at his Herse?
No Meteor, no Eclipse appear'd?
No Comet with a flaming Beard?
The Sun has rose, and gone to Bed,
Just as if partridge were not dead:
Nor hid himself behind the Moon,
To make a dreadful Night at Noon.
He at fit Periods walks through Aries,
Howe'er our earthly Motion varies;
And twice a Year he'll cut th' Equator,
As if there had been no such Matter.
Some Wits have wonder'd what Analogy
There is 'twixt Cobbling* and Astrology:
How Partridge made his Optics rise,
From a Shoe-Sole, to reach the Skies.
A List of Coblers Temples Ties,
To keep the Hair out of their Eyes;
From whence 'tis plain the Diadem
That Princes wear, derives from them.
And therefore Crowns are now-a-days
Adorn'd with Golden Stars and Rays,
Which plainly shews the near Alliance
'Twixt cobling and the Planets Science.
Besides, that slow-pac'd Sign Bootes,
As 'tis miscall'd, we know not who 'tis?
But Partridge ended all Disputes,
He knew his Trade, and call'd it **Boots.
The Horned Moon, which heretofore
Upon their Shoes the Romans wore,
Whose Wideness kept their Toes from Corns,
And whence we claim our Shooing-Horns;
Shows how the Art of Cobling bears
A near Resemblance to the Spheres.
A Scrap of Parchment hung by Geometry
(A great Refinement in Barometry)
Can, like the Stars, foretel the Weather;
And what is Parchment else but Leather?
Which an Astrologer might use,
Either for Almanacks or Shoes.
Thus Partridge, by his Wit and Parts,
At once did practise both these Arts;
And as the boading Owl (or rather
The Bat, because her Wings are Leather)
Steals from her private Cell by Night,
And flies about the Candle-Light;
So learned Partridge could as well
Creep in the Dark from Leathern Cell,
And, in his Fancy, fly as fair,
To peep upon a twinkling Star.
Besides, he could confound the Spheres,
And set the Planets by the Ears;
To shew his Skill, he Mars could join
To Venus in Aspect Mali'n;
Then call in Mercury for Aid,
And cure the Wounds that Venus made.
Great Scholars have in Lucian read,
When Philip, King of Greece was dead,
His Soul and Spirit did divide,
And each Part took a diff'rent Side;
One rose a Star, the other fell
Beneath, and mended Shoes in Hell.
Thus Partridge still shines in each Art,
The Cobling and Star-gazing Part,
And is install'd as good a Star
As any of the Caesars are.
Triumphant Star! some Pity shew
On Coblers militant below,
Whom roguish Boys in stormy Nights
Torment, by pissing out their Lights;
Or thro' a Chink convey their Smoke;
Inclos'd Artificers to choke.
Thou, high exalted in thy Sphere,
May'st follow still thy Calling there.
To thee the Bull will lend his hide,
By Phoebus newly tann'd and dry'd.
For thee they Argo's Hulk will tax,
And scrape her pitchy Sides for Wax.
Then Ariadne kindly lends
Her braided Hair to make thee Ends.
The Point of Sagittarius' Dart
Turns to an awl, by heav'nly Art;
And Vulcan, wheedled by his Wife,
Will forge for thee a Paring-Knife.
For want of Room, by Virgo's Side,
She'll strain a Point, and sit astride***,
To take thee kindly in between,
And then the Signs will be Thirteen.
*Partridge was a Cobler.
** See his Almanack
***Tibi brachia contrahet ingens Scorpius, etc.
An Epitaph on Partridge.
Here, five Foot deep, lies on his Back,
A Cobler, Starmonger, and Quack;
Who to the Stars in pure Good-will,
Does to his best look upward still.
Weep all you Customers that use
His Pills, his Almanacks, or Shoes;
And you that did your Fortunes seek,
Step to his Grave but once a Week:
This Earth which bears his Body's Print,
You'll find has so much Vertue in't,
That I durst pawn my Ears 'twill tell
Whate'er concerns you full as well,
In Physick, Stolen Goods, or Love,
As he himself could, when above.
'Squire Bickerstaff detected; or, the astrological impostor convicted;
by John Partridge, student in physick and astrology.
It is hard, my dear countrymen of these united nations, it is very
hard that a Briton born, a Protestant astrologer, a man of revolution
principles, an assertor of the liberty and property of the people,
should cry out, in vain, for justice against a Frenchman, a Papist, an
illiterate pretender to science; that would blast my reputation,
most inhumanly bury me alive, and defraud my native country of those
services, that, in my double capacity, I daily offer to the publick.
What great provocations I have receiv'd, let the impartial reader judge,
and how unwillingly, even in my own defence, I now enter the lists
against falsehood, ignorance and envy: But I am exasperated, at length,
to drag out this cacus from the den of obscurity where he lurks, detect
him by the light of those stars he has so impudently traduced, and
shew there's not a monster in the skies so pernicious and malevolent to
mankind, as an ignorant pretender to physick and astrology. I shall
not directly fall on the many gross errors, nor expose the notorious
absurdities of this prostituted libeller, till I have let the learned
world fairly into the controversy depending, and then leave the
unprejudiced to judge of the merits and justice of the cause.
It was towards the conclusion of the year 1707, when an impudent
pamphlet crept into the world, intituled, 'Predictions, etc.' by Isaac
Bickerstaff, Esq;--Amongst the many arrogant assertions laid down by
that lying spirit of divination, he was pleas'd to pitch on the Cardinal
de Noailles and myself, among many other eminent and illustrious
persons, that were to die within the compass of the ensuing year; and
peremptorily fixes the month, day, and hour of our deaths: This, I
think, is sporting with great men, and publick spirits, to the scandal
of religion, and reproach of power; and if sovereign princes and
astrologers must make diversion for the vulgar---- why then farewel, say
I, to all governments, ecclesiastical and civil. But, I thank my better
stars, I am alive to confront this false and audacious predictor, and to
make him rue the hour he ever affronted a man of science and resentment.
The Cardinal may take what measures he pleases with him; as his
excellency is a foreigner, and a papist, he has no reason to rely on me
for his justification; I shall only assure the world he is alive---- but
as he was bred to letters, and is master of a pen, let him use it in
his own defence. In the mean time I shall present the publick with a
faithful narrative of the ungenerous treatment and hard usage I have
received from the virulent papers and malicious practices of this
A true and impartial account of the proceedings of Isaac Bickerstaff,
Esq; against me----
The 28th of March, Anno Dom. 1708, being the night this sham-prophet had
so impudently fix'd for my last, which made little impression on myself;
but I cannot answer for my whole family; for my wife, with a concern
more than usual, prevailed on me to take somewhat to sweat for a cold;
and, between the hours of eight and nine, to go to bed: The maid, as she
was warming my bed, with a curiosity natural to young wenches, runs to
the window, and asks of one passing the street, who the bell toll'd for?
Dr. Partridge, says he, that famous almanack-maker, who died suddenly
this evening: The poor girl provoked, told him he ly'd like a rascal;
the other very sedately reply'd, the sexton had so informed him, and if
false, he was to blame for imposing upon a stranger. She asked a second,
and a third, as they passed, and every one was in the same tone. Now I
don't say these are accomplices to a certain astrological 'squire, and
that one Bickerstaff might be sauntring thereabouts; because I will
assert nothing here but what I dare attest, and plain matter of fact. My
wife at this fell into a violent disorder; and I must own I was a little
discomposed at the oddness of the accident. In the mean time one knocks
at my door, Betty runs down, and opening, finds a sober grave person,
who modestly enquires if this was Dr. Partridge's? She taking him for
some cautious city-patient, that came at that time for privacy, shews
him into the dining room. As soon as I could compose myself, I went to
him, and was surprized to find my gentleman mounted on a table with a
two-foot rule in his hand, measuring my walls, and taking the dimensions
of the room. Pray sir, says I, not to interrupt you, have you any
business with me? Only, sir, replies he, order the girl to bring me a
better light, for this is but a very dim one. Sir, says I, my name is
Partridge: Oh! the Doctor's brother, belike, cries he; the stair-case,
I believe, and these two apartments hung in close mourning, will be
sufficient, and only a strip of bays round the other rooms. The Doctor
must needs die rich, he had great dealings in his way for many years;
if he had no family coat, you had as good use the escutcheons of the
company, they are as showish, and will look as magnificent as if he
was descended from the blood royal. With that I assumed a great air of
authority, and demanded who employ'd him, or how he came there? Why,
I was sent, sir, by the Company of Undertakers, says he, and they were
employed by the honest gentleman, who is executor to the good Doctor
departed; and our rascally porter, I believe, is fallen fast asleep with
the black cloth and sconces, or he had been here, and we might have been
tacking up by this time. Sir, says I, pray be advis'd by a friend, and
make the best of your speed out of my doors, for I hear my wife's voice,
(which by the by, is pretty distinguishable) and in that corner of the
room stands a good cudgel, which somebody has felt e're now; if that
light in her hands, and she know the business you come about, without
consulting the stars, I can assure you it will be employed very much to
the detriment of your person. Sir, cries he, bowing with great civility,
I perceive extreme grief for the loss of the Doctor disorders you a
little at present, but early in the morning I'll wait on you with all
necessary materials. Now I mention no Mr. Bickerstaff, nor do I say,
that a certain star-gazing 'squire has been playing my executor before
his time; but I leave the world to judge, and if he puts things and
things fairly together, it won't be much wide of the mark.
Well, once more I got my doors clos'd, and prepar'd for bed, in hopes of
a little repose after so many ruffling adventures; just as I was putting
out my light in order to it, another bounces as hard as he can knock;
I open the window, and ask who's there, and what he wants? I am Ned the
sexton, replies he, and come to know whether the Doctor left any orders
for a funeral sermon, and where he is to be laid, and whether his grave
is to be plain or bricked? Why, sirrah, says I, you know me well enough;
you know I am not dead, and how dare you affront me in this manner?
Alack-a-day, replies the fellow, why 'tis in print, and the whole town
knows you are dead; why, there's Mr. White the joiner is but fitting
screws to your coffin, he'll be here with it in an instant: he was
afraid you would have wanted it before this time. Sirrah, Sirrah, says
I, you shall know tomorrow to your cost, that I am alive, and alive like
to be. Why, 'tis strange, sir, says he, you should make such a secret
of your death to us that are your neighbours; it looks as if you had a
design to defraud the church of its dues; and let me tell you, for one
that has lived so long by the heavens, that's unhandsomely done. Hist,
Hist, says another rogue that stood by him, away Doctor, in your flannel
gear as fast as you can, for here's a whole pack of dismals coming to
you with their black equipage, and how indecent will it look for you
to stand fright'ning folks at your window, when you should have been
in your coffin this three hours? In short, what with undertakers,
imbalmers, joiners, sextons, and your damn'd elegy hawkers, upon a late
practitioner in physick and astrology, I got not one wink of sleep that
night, nor scarce a moment's rest ever since. Now I doubt not but this
villainous 'squire has the impudence to assert, that these are entirely
strangers to him; he, good man, knows nothing of the matter, and honest
Isaac Bickerstaff, I warrant you, is more a man of honour, than to be an
accomplice with a pack of rascals, that walk the streets on nights, and
disturb good people in their beds; but he is out, if he thinks the whole
world is blind; for there is one John Partridge can smell a knave as
far as Grubstreet,--tho' he lies in the most exalted garret, and writes
But I'll keep my temper, and proceed in the narration.
I could not stir out of doors for the space of three months after this,
but presently one comes up to me in the street; Mr Partridge, that
coffin you was last buried in I have not been yet paid for: Doctor,
cries another dog, How d'ye think people can live by making of graves
for nothing? Next time you die, you may e'en toll out the bell yourself
for Ned. A third rogue tips me by the elbow, and wonders how I have the
conscience to sneak abroad without paying my funeral expences. Lord,
says one, I durst have swore that was honest Dr. Partridge, my old
friend; but poor man, he is gone. I beg your pardon, says another, you
look so like my old acquaintance that I used to consult on some private
occasions; but, alack, he's gone the way of all flesh---- Look, look,
look, cries a third, after a competent space of staring at me, would not
one think our neighbour the almanack-maker, was crept out of his grave
to take t'other peep at the stars in this world, and shew how much he is
improv'd in fortune-telling by having taken a journey to the other?
Nay, the very reader, of our parish, a good sober, discreet person, has
sent two or three times for me to come and be buried decently, or send
him sufficient reasons to the contrary, if I have been interr'd in any
other parish, to produce my certificate, as the act requires. My poor
wife is almost run distracted with being called Widow Partridge, when
she knows its false; and once a term she is cited into the court, to
take out letters of administration. But the greatest grievance is, a
paultry quack, that takes up my calling just under my nose, and in his
printed directions with N.B. says, He lives in the house of the late
ingenious Mr. John Partridge, an eminent practitioner in leather,
physick and astrology.
But to show how far the wicked spirit of envy, malice and resentment can
hurry some men, my nameless old persecutor had provided me a monument at
the stone-cutter's and would have erected it in the parish-church; and
this piece of notorious and expensive villany had actually succeeded,
had I not used my utmost interest with the vestry, where it was carried
at last but by two voices, that I am still alive. That stratagem
failing, out comes a long sable elegy, bedeck'd with hour-glasses,
mattocks, sculls, spades, and skeletons, with an epitaph as confidently
written to abuse me, and my profession, as if I had been under ground
these twenty years.
And, after such barbarous treatment as this, can the world blame me,
when I ask, What is become of the freedom of an Englishman? And where
is the liberty and property that my old glorious friend came over to
assert? We have drove popery out of the nation, and sent slavery to
foreign climes. The arts only remain in bondage, when a man of science
and character shall be openly insulted in the midst of the many useful
services he is daily paying to the publick. Was it ever heard, even in
Turkey or Algiers, that a state-astrologer was banter'd out of his
life by an ignorant impostor, or bawl'd out of the world by a pack of
villanous, deep-mouth'd hawkers? Though I print almanacks, and publish
advertisements; though I produce certificates under the ministers
and church-wardens hands I am alive, and attest the same on oath at
quarter-sessions, out comes a full and true relation of the death and
interment of John Partridge; Truth is bore down, attestations neglected,
the testimony of sober persons despised, and a man is looked upon by his
neighbours as if he had been seven years dead, and is buried alive in
the midst of his friends and acquaintance.
Now can any man of common sense think it consistent with the honour of
my profession, and not much beneath the dignity of a philosopher, to
stand bawling before his own door?---- Alive! Alive ho! The famous Dr.
Partridge! No counterfeit, but all alive!---- As if I had the twelve
celestial monsters of the zodiac to shew within, or was forced for a
livelihood to turn retailer to May and Bartholomew Fairs. Therefore, if
Her Majesty would but graciously be pleased to think a hardship of this
nature worthy her royal consideration, and the next parliament, in their
great wisdom cast but an eye towards the deplorable case of their old
philomath, that annually bestows his poetical good wishes on them, I am
sure there is one Isaac Bickerstaff, Esq; would soon be truss'd up for
his bloody predictions, and putting good subjects in terror of their
lives: And that henceforward to murder a man by way of prophecy, and
bury him in a printed letter, either to a lord or commoner, shall as
legally entitle him to the present possession of Tyburn, as if he robb'd
on the highway, or cut your throat in bed.
I shall demonstrate to the judicious, that France and Rome are at the
bottom of this horrid conspiracy against me; and that culprit aforesaid
is a popish emissary, has paid his visits to St. Germains, and is now in
the measures of Lewis XIV. That in attempting my reputation, there is
a general massacre of learning designed in these realms; and through my
sides there is a wound given to all the Protestant almanack-makers in
A vindication of Isaac Bickerstaff, Esq;
against what is objected to him by Mr. Partridge in his almanack for the
present year 1709.
By the said Isaac Bickerstaff, Esq;
Written in the year 1709.
Mr. Partridge hath been lately pleased to treat me after a very rough
manner, in that which is called, his almanack for the present year: Such
usage is very undecent from one gentleman to another, and does not at
all contribute to the discovery of truth, which ought to be the great
end in all disputes of the learned. To call a man fool and villain,
and impudent fellow, only for differing from him in a point meer
speculative, is, in my humble opinion, a very improper style for a
person of his education. I appeal to the learned world, whether in
my last year's predictions I gave him the least provocation for such
unworthy treatment. Philosophers have differed in all ages; but the
discreetest among them have always differed as became philosophers.
Scurrility and passion, in a controversy among scholars, is just so much
of nothing to the purpose, and at best, a tacit confession of a weak
cause: My concern is not so much for my own reputation, as that of the
Republick of Letters, which Mr. Partridge hath endeavoured to wound
through my sides. If men of publick spirit must be superciliously
treated for their ingenious attempts, how will true useful knowledge
be ever advanced? I wish Mr. Partridge knew the thoughts which foreign
universities have conceived of his ungenerous proceedings with me; but
I am too tender of his reputation to publish them to the world. That
spirit of envy and pride, which blasts so many rising genius's in
our nation, is yet unknown among professors abroad: The necessity of
justifying myself will excuse my vanity, when I tell the reader that I
have near a hundred honorary letters from several parts of Europe (some
as far as Muscovy) in praise of my performance. Besides several others,
which, as I have been credibly informed, were open'd in the post-office
and never sent me. 'Tis true the Inquisition in Portugal was pleased to
burn my predictions, and condem the author and readers of them; but I
hope at the same time, it will be consider'd in how deplorable a state
learning lies at present in that kingdom: And with the profoundest
veneration for crown'd heads, I will presume to add, that it a little
concerned His Majesty of Portugal, to interpose his authority in behalf
of a scholar and a gentleman, the subject of a nation with which he
is now in so strict an alliance. But the other kingdoms and states of
Europe have treated me with more candor and generosity. If I had leave
to print the Latin letters transmitted to me from foreign parts,
they would fill a volume, and be a full defence against all that Mr.
Partridge, or his accomplices of the Portugal Inquisition, will be able
to object; who, by the way, are the only enemies my predictions have
ever met with at home or abroad. But I hope I know better what is due to
the honour of a learned correspondence in so tender a point. Yet some
of those illustrious persons will perhaps excuse me from transcribing a
passage or two in my own vindication. The most learned Monsieur Leibnits
thus addresses to me his third letter: Illustrissimo Bickerstaffio
Astrologiae instauratori, etc. Monsieur le Clerc, quoting my predictions
in a treatise he published last year, is pleased to say, Ita nuperrime
Bickerstaffius magnum illud Angliae fidus. Another great professor
writing of me, has these words: Bickerstaffius, nobilis Anglus,
Astrologorum hujusce Saeculi facile Princeps. Signior Magliabecchi, the
Great Duke's famous library-keeper, spends almost his whole letter in
compliments and praises. 'Tis true, the renowned Professor of Astronomy
at Utrecht, seems to differ from me in one article; but it is in a
modest manner, that becomes a philosopher; as, Pace tanti viri dixerim:
And pag.55, he seems to lay the error upon the printer (as indeed
it ought) and says, vel forsan error typographi, cum alioquin
Bickerstaffius ver doctissimus, etc.
If Mr. Partridge had followed this example in the controversy between
us, he might have spared me the trouble of justifying myself in so
publick a manner. I believe few men are readier to own their errors than
I, or more thankful to those who will please to inform me of them. But
it seems this gentleman, instead of encouraging the progress of his own
art, is pleased to look upon all attempts of that kind as an invasion
of his province. He has been indeed so wise to make no objection against
the truth of my predictions, except in one single point, relating
to himself: And to demonstrate how much men are blinded by their own
partiality, I do solemnly assure the reader, that he is the only person
from whom I ever heard that objection offered; which consideration
alone, I think, will take off all its weight.
With my utmost endeavours, I have not been able to trace above two
objections ever made against the truth of my last year's prophecies: The
first was of a French man, who was pleased to publish to the world, that
the Cardinal de Noailles was still alive, notwithstanding the pretended
prophecy of Monsieur Biquerstaffe: But how far a Frenchman, a papist,
and an enemy is to be believed in his own case against an English
Protestant, who is true to his government, I shall leave to the candid
and impartial reader.
The other objection is the unhappy occasion of this discourse, and
relates to an article in my predictions, which foretold the death of Mr.
Partridge, to happen on March 29, 1708. This he is pleased to contradict
absolutely in the almanack he has published for the present year, and
in that ungentlemanly manner (pardon the expression) as I have above
related. In that work he very roundly asserts, That he is not only now
alive, but was likewise alive upon that very 29th of March, when I had
foretold he should die. This is the subject of the present controversy
between us; which I design to handle with all brevity, perspicuity, and
calmness: In this dispute, I am sensible the eyes not only of England,
but of all Europe, will be upon us; and the learned in every country
will, I doubt not, take part on that side, where they find most
appearance of reason and truth.
Without entering into criticisms of chronology about the hour of his
death, I shall only prove that Mr. Partridge is not alive. And my first
argument is thus: Above a thousand gentelmen having bought his almanacks
for this year, merely to find what he said against me; at every line
they read, they would lift up their eyes, and cry out, betwixt rage and
laughter, "They were sure no man alive ever writ such damn'd stuff
as this." Neither did I ever hear that opinion disputed: So that Mr.
Partridge lies under a dilemma, either of disowning his almanack, or
allowing himself to be "no man alive". But now if an uninformed
carcase walks still about, and is pleased to call itself Partridge, Mr.
Bickerstaff does not think himself any way answerable for that. Neither
had the said carcase any right to beat the poor boy who happen'd to pass
by it in the street, crying, "A full and true account of Dr. Partridge's
Secondly, 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.
Thirdly, I will plainly prove him to be dead out of his own almanack 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
on the 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 this
argument. He dares not assert, he was alive ever since that 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 is since revived
I leave the world to judge. This indeed is perfect cavilling, and I am
ashamed to dwell any longer upon it.
Fourthly, I will appeal to Mr. Partridge himself, whether it be probable
I could have been so indiscreet, to begin my predictions with the only
falsehood that ever was pretended to be in them; and this in an affair
at home, where I had so many opportunities to be exact; and must have
given such advantages against me to a person of Mr. Partridge's wit and
learning, who, if he could possibly have raised one single objection
more against the truth of my prophecies, would hardly have spared me.
And here I must take occasion to reprove the above mention'd writer of
the relation of Mr. Partridge's death, in a letter to a lord; who was
pleased to tax me with a mistake of four whole hours in my calculation
of that event. I must confess, this censure pronounced with an air
of certainty, in a matter that so nearly concerned me, and by a grave
judicious author, moved me not a little. But tho' I was at that time out
of town, yet several of my friends, whose curiosity had led them to be
exactly informed (for as to my own part, having no doubt at all in the
matter, I never once thought of it) assured me, I computed to something
under half an hour: which (I speak my private opinion) is an error of no
very great magnitude, that men should raise a clamour about it. I shall
only say, it would not be amiss, if that author would henceforth be more
tender of other men's reputations as well as his own. It is well there
were no more mistakes of that kind; if there had, I presume he would
have told me of them with as little ceremony.
There is one objection against Mr. Partridge's death, which I have
sometimes met with, though indeed very slightly offered, That he still
continues to write almanacks. But this is no more than what is common
to all that profession; Gadbury, Poor Robin, Dove, Wing, and several
others, do yearly publish their almanacks, though several of them have
been dead since before the Revolution. Now the natural reason of this
I take to be, that whereas it is the privilege of other authors to live
after their deaths; almanack-makers are alone excluded, because their
dissertations treating only upon the minutes as they pass, become
useless as those go off. In consideration of which, Time, whose
registers they are, gives them a lease in reversion, to continue their
works after their death.
I should not have given the publick or myself the trouble of this
vindication, if my name had not been made use of by several persons,
to whom I never lent it; one of which, a few days ago, was pleased to
father on me a new sett of predictions. But I think those are things too
serious to be trifled with. It grieved me to the heart, when I saw my
labours, which had cost me so much thought and watching, bawl'd about by
common hawkers, which I only intended for the weighty consideration of
the gravest persons. This prejudiced the world so much at first, that
several of my friends had the assurance to ask me whether I were in
jest? To which I only answered coldly, that the event would shew. But
it is the talent of our age and nation, to turn things of the greatest
importance into ridicule. When the end of the year had verified all my
predictions, out comes Mr. Partridge's almanack, disputing the point
of his death; so that I am employed, like the general who was forced to
kill his enemies twice over, whom a necromancer had raised to life. If
Mr. Partridge has practised the same experiment upon himself, and
be again alive, long may he continue so; that does not in the least
contradict my veracity: But I think I have clearly proved, by invincible
demonstration, that he died at farthest within half an hour of the time
I foretold, and not four hours sooner, as the above-mentioned author, in
his letter to a lord, hath maliciously suggested, with design to blast
my credit, by charging me with so gross a mistake.
A famous prediction of Merlin, the British wizard.
Written above a thousand years ago, and relating to the year 1709, with
Last year was publish'd a paper of predictions, pretended to be written
by one Isaac Bickerstaff, Esq; but the true design of it was to
ridicule the art of astrology, and expose its professors as ignorant
or impostors. Against this imputation, Dr. Partridge hath vindicated
himself in his almanack for that year.
For a farther vindication of this famous art, I have thought fit to
present the world with the following prophecy. The original is said to
be of the famous Merlin, who lived about a thousand years ago; and
the following translation is two hundred years old, for it seems to be
written near the end of Henry the Seventh's reign. I found it in an old
edition of Merlin's Prophecies, imprinted at London by John Hawkins
in the year 1530, page 39. I set it down word for word in the old
orthography, and shall take leave to subjoin a few explanatory notes.
Seven and Ten addyd to Nyne,
Of Fraunce her Woe this is the Sygne,
Tamys Rivere twys y-frozen,
Walke sans wetyng Shoes ne Hozen.
Then comyth foorthe, ich understonde,
From Town of Stoffe to farryn Londe,
An herdye Chyftan, woe the Morne
To Fraunce, that evere he was born.
Than shall the fyshe beweyle his Bosse;
Nor shall grin Berrys make up the Losse.
Yonge Symnele shall again miscarrye:
And Norways Pryd again shall marrye.
And from the tree where Blosums feele,
Ripe Fruit shall come, and all is wele,
Reaums shall daunce Honde in Honde,
And it shall be merrye in old Inglonde,
Then old Inglonde shall be no more,
And no man shall be sorre therefore.
Geryon shall have three Hedes agayne,
Till Hapsburge makyth them but twayne.
Seven and Ten. This line describes the year when these events shall
happen. Seven and ten makes seventeen, which I explain seventeen
hundred, and this number added to nine, makes the year we are now in;
for it must be understood of the natural year, which begins the first of
Tamys Rivere twys, etc. The River Thames, frozen twice in one year, so
as men to walk on it, is a very signal accident, which perhaps hath not
fallen out for several hundred years before, and is the reason why some
astrologers have thought that this prophecy could never be fulfilled,
because they imagine such a thing would never happen in our climate.
From Town of Stoffe, etc. This is a plain designation of the Duke of
Marlborough: One kind of stuff used to fatten land is called marle,
and every body knows that borough is a name for a town; and this way
of expression is after the usual dark manner of old astrological
Then shall the Fyshe, etc. By the fish, is understood the Dauphin of
France, as their kings eldest sons are called: 'Tis here said, he shall
lament the loss of the Duke of Burgundy, called the Bosse, which is an
old English word for hump-shoulder, or crook-back, as that Duke is known
to be; and the prophecy seems to mean, that he should be overcome or
slain. By the green berrys, in the next line, is meant the young Duke
of Berry, the Dauphin's third son, who shall not have valour or fortune
enough to supply the loss of his eldest brother.
Yonge Symnele, etc. By Symnele is meant the pretended Prince of Wales,
who, if he offers to attempt anything against England, shall miscarry as
he did before. Lambert Symnele is the name of a young man, noted in our
histories for personating the son (as I remember) of Edward the fourth.
And Norway's Pryd, etc. I cannot guess who is meant by Norway's Pride,
perhaps the reader may, as well as the sense of the two following lines.
Reaums shall, etc. Reums, or, as the word is now, realms, is the old
name for kingdoms: And this is a very plain prediction of our happy
Union, with the felicities that shall attend it. It is added that Old
England shall be no more, and yet no man shall be sorry for it. And
indeed, properly speaking, England is now no more, for the whole island
is one Kingdom, under the name of Britain.
Geryon shall, etc. This prediction, tho' somewhat obscure, is
wonderfully adapt. Geryon is said to have been a king of Spain, whom
Hercules slew. It was a fiction of the poets, that he had three heads,
which the author says he shall have again: That is, Spain shall have
three kings; which is now wonderfully verified; for besides the King of
Portugal, which properly is part of Spain, there are now two rivals for
Spain, Charles and Philip: But Charles being descended fro the Count of
Hapsburgh, founder of the Austrian family, shall soon make those heads
but two; by overturning Philip, and driving him out of Spain.
Some of these predictions are already fulfilled; and it is highly
probable the rest may be in due time; and, I think, I have not forced
the words, by my explication, into any other sense than what they will
naturally bear. If this be granted, I am sure it must be also allow'd,
that the author (whoever he were) was a person of extraordinary
sagacity; and that astrology brought to such perfection as this, is by
no means an art to be despised, whatever Mr. Bickerstaff, or other
merry gentlemen are pleased to think. As to the tradition of these lines
having been writ in the original by Merlin, I confess I lay not much
weight upon it: But it is enough to justify their authority, that the
book from whence I have transcrib'd them, was printed 170 years ago, as
appears by the title-page. For the satisfaction of any gentleman, who
may be either doubtful of the truth, or curious to be inform'd; I shall
give order to have the very book sent to the printer of this paper, with
directions to let anybody see it that pleases, because I believe it is
Dr. John Arbuthnot and Alexander Pope
Annus Mirabilis: or, The wonderful effects of the approaching
conjunction of the planets Jupiter, Mars, and Saturn.
By Mart. Scriblerus, Philomath.
In nova fert animus mutatas dicere formas corpora.....
I suppose every body is sufficiently appriz'd of, and duly prepar'd
for, the famous conjunction to be celebrated the 29th of this instant
December, 1722, foretold by all the sages of antiquity, under the name
of the Annus Mirabilis, or the metamorphostical conjunction: a word
which denotes the mutual transformation of sexes, (the effect of that
configuration of the celestial bodies) the human males being turn'd into
females, and the human females into males.
The Egyptians have represented this great transformation by several
significant hieroglyphicks, particularly one very remarkable. There are
carv'd upon an obelisk, a barber and a midwife; the barber delivers
his razor to the midwife, and she her swadling-cloaths to the barber.
Accordingly Thales Milesius (who like the rest of his countrymen,
borrow'd his learning from the Egyptians) after having computed the
time of this famous conjunction, "Then," says he, "shall men and women
mutually exchange the pangs of shaving and child-bearing."
Anaximander modestly describes this metamorphosis in mathematical terms:
"Then," says he, "shall the negative quantity of the women be turn'd
into positive, their - into +;" (i.e.) their minus into plus.
Plato not only speaks of this great change, but describes all the
preparations towards it. "Long before the bodily transformation, (says
he) nature shall begin the most difficult part of her work, by changing
the ideas and inclinations of the two sexes: Men shall turn effeminate,
and women manly; wives shall domineer, and husbands obey; ladies shall
ride a horseback, dress'd like cavaliers; princes and nobles appear in
night-rails and petticoats; men shall squeak upon theatres with female
voices, and women corrupt virgins; lords shall knot and cut paper; and
even the northern people.........:" A Greek phrase (which for modesty's
sake I forbear to translate) which denotes a vice too frequent amongst
That the Ministry foresaw this great change, is plain from the
Callico-Act; whereby it is now become the occupation of women all
over England, to convert their useless female habits into beds,
window-curtains, chairs, and joint-stools; undressing themselves (as it
were) before their transformation.
The philosophy of this transformation will not seem surprizing to people
who search into the bottom of things. Madam Bourignon, a devout French
lady, has shewn us, how man was at first created male and female in
one individual, having the faculty of propagation within himself:
A circumstance necessary to the state of innocence, wherein a man's
happiness was not to depend upon the caprice of another. It was not till
after he had made a faux pas, that he had his female mate. Many such
transformations of individuals have been well attested; particularly
one by Montaigne, and another by the late Bishop of Salisbury. From
all which it appears, that this system of male and female has already
undergone and may hereafter suffer, several alterations. Every smatterer
in anatomy knows, that a woman is but an introverted man; a new fusion
and flatus will turn the hollow bottom of a bottle into a convexity; but
I forbear, (for the sake of my modest men-readers, who are in a few days
to be virgins.)
In some subjects, the smallest alterations will do: some men are
sufficiently spread about the hips, and contriv'd with female softness,
that they want only the negative quantity to make them buxom wenches;
and there are women who are, as it were, already the ebauche of a good
sturdy man. If nature cou'd be puzzl'd, it will be how to bestow the
redundant matter of the exuberant bubbies that now appear about town, or
how to roll out the short dapper fellows into well-siz'd women.
This great conjunction will begin to operate on Saturday the 29th
instant. Accordingly, about eight at night, as Senezino shall begin at
the Opera, si videte, he shall be observ'd to make an unusual motion;
upon which the audience will be affected with a red suffusion over their
countenance: And because a strong succession of the muscles of the belly
is necessary towards performing this great operation, both sexes will
be thrown into a profuse involuntary laughter. Then (to use the modest
terms of Anaximander) shall negative quantity be turn'd into positive,
etc. Time never beheld, nor will it ever assemble, such a number
of untouch'd virgins within those walls! but alas! such will be the
impatience and curiosity of people to act in their new capacity, that
many of them will be compleated men and women that very night. To
prevent the disorders that may happen upon this occasion, is the chief
design of this paper.
Gentlemen have begun already to make use of this conjunction to compass
their filthy purposes. They tell the ladies forsooth, that it is only
parting with a perishable commodity, hardly of so much value as a
callico under-petticoat; since, like its mistress, it will be useless in
the form it is now in. If the ladies have no regard to the dishonour and
immorality of the action, I desire they will consider, that nature who
never destroys her own productions, will exempt big-belly'd women till
the time of their lying-in; so that not to be transformed, will be the
same as to be pregnant. If they don't think it worth while to defend a
fortress that is to be demolish'd in a few days, let them reflect that
it will be a melancholy thing nine months hence, to be brought to bed of
a bastard; a posthumous bastard as it were, to which the quondam father
can be no more than a dry nurse.
This wonderful transformation is the instrument of nature, to balance
matters between the sexes. The cruelty of scornful mistresses shall be
return'd; the slighted maid shall grow into an imperious gallant, and
reward her undoer with a big belly, and a bastard.
It is hardly possible to imagine the revolutions that this wonderful
phaenomenon will occasion over the face of the earth. I long impatiently
to see the proceedings of the Parliament of Paris, as to the title
of succession to the crown, this being a case not provided for by the
salique law. There will be no preventing disorders amongst friars and
monks; for certainly vows of chastity do not bind but under the sex in
which they were made. The same will hold good with marriages, tho' I
think it will be a scandal amongst Protestants for husbands and wives
to part, since there remains still a possibility to perform the debitus
conjugale, by the husband being femme couverte. I submit it to the
judgment of the gentlemen of the long robe, whether this transformation
does not discharge all suits of rapes?
The Pope must undergo a new groping; but the false prophet Mahomet has
contriv'd matters well for his successors; for as the Grand Signior
has now a great many fine women, he will then have as many fine young
gentelmen, at his devotion.
These are surprizing scenes; but I beg leave to affirm, that the solemn
operations of nature are subjects of contemplation, not of ridicule.
Therefore I make it my earnest request to the merry fellows, and
giggling girls about town, that they would not put themselves in a high
twitter, when they go to visit a general lying-in of his first child;
his officers serving as midwives, nurses and rockers dispensing caudle;
or if they behold the reverend prelates dressing the heads and airing
the linnen at court, I beg they will remember that these offices must be
fill'd with people of the greatest regularity, and best characters. For
the same reason, I am sorry that a certain prelate, who notwithstanding
his confinement (in December 1723), still preserves his healthy,
chearful countenance, cannot come in time to be a nurse at court.
I likewise earnestly intreat the maids of honour, (then ensigns and
captains of the guard) that, at their first setting out, they have some
regard to their former station, and do not run wild through all the
infamous houses about town: That the present grooms of the bed-chamber
(then maids of honour) would not eat chalk and lime in their
green-sickness: And in general, that the men would remember they are
become retromingent, and not by inadvertency lift up against walls and
Petticoats will not be burdensome to the clergy; but balls and
assemblies will be indecent for some time.
As for you, coquettes, bawds, and chamber-maids, (the future ministers,
plenipotentiaries, and cabinet-counsellors to the princes of the earth,)
manage the great intrigues that will be committed to your charge, with
your usual secrecy and conduct; and the affairs of your masters will go
better than ever.
O ye exchange women! (our right worshipful representatives that are to
be) be not so griping in the sale of your ware as your predecessors,
but consider that the nation, like a spend-thrift heir, has run out:
Be likewise a little more continent in your tongues than you are at
present, else the length of debates will spoil your dinners.
You housewifely good women, who not preside over the confectionary,
(henceforth commissioners of the Treasury) be so good as to dispense the
sugar-plumbs of the Government with a more impartial and frugal hand.
Ye prudes and censorious old maids, (the hopes of the Bench) exert
but your usual talent of finding faults, and the laws will be strictly
executed; only I would not have you proceed upon such slender evidences
as you have done hitherto.
It is from you, eloquent oyster-merchants of Billingsgate, (just ready
to be called to the Bar, and quoif'd like your sister-serjants,) that we
expect the shortening the time, and lessening the expences of law-suits:
For I think you are observ'd to bring your debates to a short issue; and
even custom will restrain you from taking the oyster, and leaving only
the shell to your client.
O ye physicians, (who in the figure of old women are to clean the tripe
in the markets) scour it as effectually as you have done that of your
patients, and the town will fare most deliciously on Saturdays.
I cannot but congratulate human nature, upon this happy transformation;
the only expedient left to restore the liberties and tranquillity of
mankind. This is so evident, that it is almost an affront to common
sense to insist upon the proof: If there can be any such stupid
creature as to doubt it, I desire he will make but the following obvious
reflection. There are in Europe alone, at present, about a million of
sturdy fellows, under the denomination of standing forces, with arms in
their hands: That those are masters of the lives, liberties and fortunes
of all the rest, I believe no body will deny. It is no less true in
fact, that reams of paper, and above a square mile of skins of vellum
have been employ'd to no purpose, to settle peace among those sons
of violence. Pray, who is he that will say unto them, Go and disband
yourselves? But lo! by this transformation it is done at once, and the
halcyon days of publick tranquillity return: For neither the military
temper nor discipline can taint the soft sex for a whole age to
come: Bellaque matribus invisa, War odious to mothers, will not grow
immediately palatable in their paternal state.
Nor will the influence of this transformation be less in family
tranquillity, than it is in national. Great faults will be amended, and
frailties forgiven, on both sides. A wife who has been disturb'd with
late hours, and choak'd with the hautgout of a sot, will remember her
sufferings, and avoid the temptations; and will, for the same reason,
indulge her mate in his female capacity in some passions, which she is
sensible from experience are natural to the sex. Such as vanity of fine
cloaths, being admir'd, etc. And how tenderly must she use her mate
under the breeding qualms and labour-pains which she hath felt her self?
In short, all unreasonable demands upon husbands must cease, because
they are already satisfy'd from natural experience that they are
That the ladies may govern the affairs of the world, and the gentlemen
those of their household, better than either of them have hitherto done,
is the hearty desire of, Their most sincere well-wisher, M.S.