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phister"—but the great majority of the people lent a willing and reverential ear to his prophecies and prognostications. Nothing was too high or too low—too mighty or too insignificant for the grasp of his genius. The stars, his informants, were as communicative on the most trivial as on the most important subjects. If a scheme was set on foot to rescue the king, or to retrieve a stray trinket—to restore the royal authority, or to make a frail damsel an honest woman—to cure the nation of anarchy, or a lap-dog of a surfeit, William Lilly was the oracle to be consulted. His almanacks were spelled over in the tavern and quoted in the senate; they nerved the arm of the soldier, and rounded the periods of the orator. The fashionable beauty, dashing along in her calash from St. James's or the Mall, and the prim, starched dame, from Watling-street or Bucklersbury, with a staid foot-boy, in a plush jerkin, plodding behind her—the reigning toast among " the men of wit about town," and the leading groaner in a tabernacle concert—glided alternately into the study of the trusty wizard, and poured into his attentive ear strange tales of love, or trade, or treason. The Roundhead stalked in at one door, whilst the Cavalier was hurried out at the other.
The Confessions of a man so variously consulted and trusted, if written with the candour of a Cardan or a Rousseau, would indeed be invaluable. The Memoirs of William Lilly, though deficient in this essential ingredient, yet contain a variety of curious and interesting anecdotes of himself and his cotemporaries, which, where the vanity of the writer, or the truth of his art, is not concerned, may be received with implicit credence. We shall endeavour to comprise in this article such parts of the work as are possessed of general and permanent interest, and to dismiss the remaining portion, with all its schemes, nativities, prophecies, indecencies, and jargon of "the science astrologick,"
"Soon to that mass of nonsense to return,
Where things destroy'd are swept to things unborn."*
The family of the Lillys were hereditary yeomen in the obscure town of Diseworth in Leicestershire; "a town of great
* Besides his numerous astrological publications, Lilly was the author of Observations upon the Life and Death of King Cliarles the First, containing some curious facts relative to that unfortunate prince, and written in a spirit of impartiality well worthy the imitation of graver historians. We cannot deny the versatility of our astrologer's principles, but, to his honour be it spoken, he never feigns or feels that rancour against his former associates, which is the most common and the most disgusting characteristic of political apostacy.
rudeness, wherein it is not remembered that any of the farmers thereof did ever educate any of their sons to learning;” William's parents, however, were an exception to this rule, and the juvenile Albumazar was “put to learn at such schools, and of such masters, as the rudeness of the place and country afforded.” For the two last years of his being at school he was at the head of the highest form, and distinguished himself as a wrangler in Latin; but his father's poverty prevented his going to an University, as many of his schoolfellows had done. A neighbouring attorney obtained for young Lilly a situation with a gentleman in London, who wanted a youth who could write, to attend on him and his wife, and his i. was very willing to be rid of a son who “could not work, drive the plough, or endure any country labour.” His master was upwards of sixty-six yo. of age, and was married to a woman still older than himself, “yet never was any woman more jealous of a husband than she.”
“My mistress was very curious to know of such as were then called cunning or wise men, whether she should bury her husband? She frequently visited such persons, and this occasion begot in me a little desire to learn something that way; but wanting money to buy books, I laid aside these motions, and endeavoured to please both master and mistress.”
In pleasing the latter, our hero was so successful that in her last sickness she would scarcely permit him to be out of her chamber, gave him “five pounds in old gold,” and being prevented from adequately rewarding his attentions, ...i im to help himself out of his master's property—which he assures us, with great simplicity, he never did.
“When my mistress died, she had under her arm-hole a small scarlet bag full of many things, which, one that was there delivered unto me. There was in this bag several sigils, some of Jupiter in Trine, others of the nature of Venus, some of iron, and one of gold, of pure angel-gold, of the bigness of a thirty-three shilling piece of King James's coin. In the circumference on one side was engraven, Vicit Leo de tribu Judae Tetragrammaton +, within the middle there was engraven an holy lamb. In the other circumference there was Amraphel and three +. In the middle, Sanctus Petrus, Alpha and Omega.
I sold the sigil for thirty-two shillings, but transcribed the words verbatim as I have related.”
His master consoled himself for the loss of his aged spouse o, selecting a younger helpmate, and, dying soon after, Lilly, who appears through life to have been a favourite with the ladies, succeeded him in the affections of his widow. His account of his courtship to this fair dame is amusing:
“My mistress[who] had been twice married to old men, was now resolved to be couzened no more; she was of a brown ruddy complexion, corpulent, of but mean stature, plain, no education, yet a very provident person, and of good condition: she had many suitors, old men, whom she declined; some gentlemen of decayed fortunes, whom she liked not, for she was covetous and sparing: by my fellow-servant she was observed frequently to say, she cared not if she married a man that would love her, so that he had never a, penny; and would ordinarily talk of me when she was in bed. This servant gave me encouragement to give the onset: I was much perplexed hereat, for should I attempt her, and be slighted, she would never care for me afterwards; but again, I considered that if I should attempt and fail, she would never speak of it; or would any believe I durst be so audacious as to propound such a question, the disproportion of years and fortune being so great betwixt us? However, all her talk was of husbands; and in my presence saying one day after dinner, she respected not wealth, but desired an honest man, I made answer, I thought I could fit her with such a husband; she asked me, where 1 I made no more ado, but presently saluted her, and told her myself was the man: she replied, I was too young; I said nay, what I had not in wealth, I would supply in love; and saluted her frequently, which she accepted lovingly; and next day at dinner made me sit down at dinner with my hat on my head, and said, she intended to make me her husband; for which I gave her many salutes, &c.
I was very careful to keep all things secret, for I well knew, if she should take counsel of any friend, my hopes would be frustrated, therefore I suddenly procured her consent to marry, unto which she assented; so that upon the eighth day of September 1627, at St. George's church in Southwark, I was married unto her, and for two whole years we kept it secret. When it was divulged, and some people blamed her for it, she constantly replied, that she had no kindred; if I proved kind, and a good husband, she would make me a man; if I proved otherwise, she only undid herself. In the third and fourth years after our marriage, we had strong suits of law with her first husband's kindred, but overthrew them in the end. During all the time of her life, which was until October 1633, we lived very lovingly, I frequenting no company at all; my exercises were sometimes angling, in which I ever delighted."
We now come to an important era in the life of the future Nostradamus.
How I came to study astrology.
"It happened on one Sunday 1632, as myself and a justice of peace's clerk were, before service, discoursing of many things, he chanced to say, that such a person was a great scholar, nay, so learned, that he could make an almanack, which to me then was strange: one speech begot another, till at last, he said, he could bring me acquainted with one Evans in Gunpowder-alley, who had formerly lived in Staffordshire, that was an excellent wise man, and studied the black art. The same week after we went to see Mr. Evans. When we came to his house, he having been drunk the night before, was upon his bed, if it be lawful to call that a bed whereon he then lay; he roused up himself, and, after some compliments, he was content to instruct me in astrology; I attended his best opportunities for seven or eight weeks, in which time I could set a figure perfectly. Books he had not any, except Haly de judiciis Astrorum, and Orriganus's Ephemerides; so that as often as I entered his house, I thought I was in the wilderness. Now something of the man: he was by birth a Welshman, a master of arts, and in sacred orders; he had formerly had a cure of souls in Staffordshire, but now was come to try his fortunes at London, being in a manner enforced to fly for some offences very scandalous committed by him in these parts, where he had lately lived; for he gave judgment upon things lost, the only shame of astrology: he was the most saturnine person my eyes ever beheld, either before I ractised or since; of a middle stature, broad forehead, beetle-browed, thick shoulders, flat nosed, full lips, down-looked, black curling stiff hair, splay-footed; to give him his right, he had the most piercing judgment naturally upon a figure of theft, and many other questions, that I ever met withal; yet for money he would willingly give contrary judgments, was id: addicted to debauchery, and then very abusive and quarrelsome, seldom without a black eye, or some mischief or other. This is the same Evans who made so many antimonial cups, upon the sale whereof he principally subsisted; he understood Latin very well, the Greek tongue not at all: he had some arts above, and beyond astrology, for he was well versed in the nature of spirits, and had many times used the circular way of invocating, as in the time of our familiarity he told me. Two of his actions I will relate, as to me delivered. ere was in Staffordshire a young gentlewoman that had, for her preferment, married an aged rich person, who being desirous to purchase some lands for his wife's maintenance; but this young gentlewoman, his wife, was desired to buy the land in the name of a gentleman, her very dear friend, but for her use: after the aged man was dead, the widow could by no means procure the deed of purchase from her friend; whereupon she applies herself to Evans, who, for a sum of money, promises to have her deed safely delivered into her own hands; the sum was forty pounds. Evans applies himself to the invocation of the angel Salmon, of the nature of Mars, reads his Litany in the Common Prayer-Book every day, at select hours, wears his surplice, lives orderly all that time; at the fortnight's end Salmon appeared, and having received his commands what to do, in a small time returns with the very deed desired, lays it down gently upon a table where a white cloth was spread, and then, being dismissed, vanished. The deed was, by the gentleman who formerly kept it, placed among many other of his evidences in a large wooden chest, and in a chamber at one end of the house; but upon Salmon's removing and bringing away the deed, all that bay of building was quite blown down, and all his own proper evidences torn all to pieces. The second story followeth. “Some time before I became acquainted with him, he then living in the Minories, was desired by the Lord Bothwell and Sir Kenelm Digby to show them a spirit. He promised so to do: the time came, and they were all in the body of the circle, when lo, upon a sudden, after some time of invocation, Evans was taken from out of the room, and carried into the field near Battersea Causeway, close to the Thames. Next morning a countryman going by to his labour, and espying a man in black cloaths, came unto him and awaked him, and asked him how he came there? Evans, by this, understood his condition, enquired where he was, how far from London, and in what parish he was; which when he understood, he told the labourer he had been late at Battersea the night before, and by chance was left there by his friends. Sir Kenelm Digby and the Lord Bothwell went home without any harm, [and] came next day tohear whatwas become of him; just as they in the afternoon came into the house, a messenger came from Evans to his wife, to come to him at Battersea. I enquired upon what account the spirit carried him away: who said, he had not, at the time of invocation, made any suffumigation, at which the spirits were vexed. It happened, that after I discerned what astrology was, I went weekly into Little Britain, and bought many books of astrology, not acquainting Evans therewith. Mr. A. Bedwell, minister of Tottenham-High-Cross near London, who had been many years chaplain to Sir Henry Wotton, whilst he was ambassador at Venice, and assisted Pietro Soave Polano, in composing and writing the Council of Trent, was lately dead; and his library being sold into Little Britain, I bought among them my choicest books of astrology. The occasion of our falling out was thus: a woman demanded the resolution of a question, which when he had done, she went her way; I standing by all the while, and observing the figure, asked him why he gave the judgment he did, since the signification shewed quite the contrary, and gave him my reasons; which when he had pondered, he called me boy, and must he be contradicted by such a novice! But when his heat was over, he said, had he not so judged to please the woman, she would have given him nothing, and he had a wife and family to provide for; upon this we never came together after. Being now very meanly introduced, I applied myself to study those books I had obtained, many times twelve, or fifteen, or eighteen hours day and night; I was curious to discover, whether there was any verity m the art or not. Astrology in this time, viz. in 1633, was very rare in London, few professing it that understood any thing thereof."
Whatever respect our author might feel for the science of "divine astrology," his veneration certainly did not extend to its professors, of whom he relates some very edifying anecdotes. We shall select a few of the most remarkable.
Dr. Simon Form An. —" He was a person that in horary questions (especially thefts) was very judicious and fortunate; so also in sicknesses, which indeed was his master-piece. In resolving questions about marriage he had good success : in other questions very moderate.
"I very well remember to have read in one of his manuscripts, what followeth.