Chambers, Robert, 1802-1871 / Chambers's book of days, a miscellany of popular antiquities in connection with the calendar, including anecdote, biography & history, curiosities of literature and oddities of human life and character
Vol. I (1879)
Time and its natural measurers, pp. 1-14 ff. PDF (9.3 MB)
I THE BOOK OF DAYS. Sidrophel in ludibras has been supposed to re- present Lilly, but probably Butler merely meant to hold up to ridicule and scorn the class of persons of whom Lilly may be regarded as a type. He was evidently a crafty, time-serving knave, who made a good living out of the credulity of his countrymen He was consulted as an astrologer about the affairs of the king, but afterwards, in 1645, when the royal cause began to decline, he became one of the parliamentary party. He was born in 1602. was educated at the grammar-school of Ashby-de-la-Zouch, came to London when he was about eighteen years of age, and spent the latter part of his life at Hersham, near Walton. on-Thames, where he died in 1681. In the chapter of his autobiography, Of the Manner how I came to London, he states that he was engaged as a servant in the house of Mr Gilbert Wright, who could neither read nor write, lived upon his annual rents, and was of no calling or profession. He states: 'My work was to go before my master to church; to attend my master when he went abroad; to make clean his shoes; sweep the street; help to drive bucks when he washed; fetch water in a tub from the Thames (I have helped to carry eighteen tubs of water in one morning); weed the garden. All manner of drudgeries I performed, scraped trenchers,' &c . '.... In 1644, I published Merlinus Anglicus Junior about April. In that year I published Prophetical Merlin, and had eight pounds for the copy.' Alluding to the comet which appeared in 1677, Lilly says: 'All comets signify wars, terrors, and strange events in the world.' He gives a curious explanation of the prophetic nature of these bodies: 'The spirits, well knowing what accidents shall come to pass, do form a star or comet, and give it what figure or shape they please, and cause its motion through the air, that people might behold it, and thence draw a signification of its events.' Further, a comet appearing in the sign Taurus portends 'mortality to the greater part of cattle, as horses, oxen, cows, &c.,' and also 'prodigious shipwrecks, damage in fisheries, monstrous floods, and de- struction of fruit by caterpillars and other ver- mine.' Lilly, in his autobiography, appears on one occasion to have acted in one of the meanest of capacities. There is no doubt that he was em- ployed as a spy ; but the chief source of income to Lilly, and to most of the other astrologers, was probably what was called casting nativities, and foretelling, or rather foreshadowing, the future events of the lives of individuals; in fact, fortune- telling. It has been mentioned before that the Station- ers' Company had no objection to supply an almanac to the sceptics and scoffers who treated the celestial science with ridicule and contempt. Such an almanac was 'Poor Robin, 1664: an Almanack after a New Fashion, wherein the Reader may see (if he be not blinde) many Remarkable Things worthy of Observation, containing a Two- fold Kalender-viz., the Julian or English, and the Roundheads or Fanatics, with their several Saints' Daies, and Observations upon every Month. Written by Poor Robin, Knight of the Burnt Island, a well-wisher to the Mathematics; calcu- lated for the Meridian of Saffron Walden, where the Pole is elevated 52 degrees and 6 minutes 12 above the Horizon. Printed for the Company of Stationers.' Poor Robin has four lines of verse at the head of each of the odd pages of the Calendar. For instance, under January, we have 'Now blustering Boreas sends out of his quiver Arrows of snow and hail, which makes men shiver; And though we hate sects and their vile partakers, Yet those who want fires must now turn Quakers.' As a specimen of his humour in prose, under January we are told that 'there will be much frost and cold weather in Greenland.' Under February, 'We may expect some showers of rain this month, or the next, or the next after that, or else we shall have a very dry pring.' Poor Robin first appeared in 1663. Robert Herrick, the poet, is said to have assisted in the compilation of the early numbers. It was not discontinued till 1828. The humour of the whole series was generally coarse, with little of originality, and a great deal of indecency. In 1664, John Evelyn published his Kalen- darium Hortense, the first Gardener's Almanac, containing directions for the employment of each month. This was dedicated to the poet Cowley, who acknowledged the compliment in one of his best pieces, entitled ' The Garden.' It was per- haps in this almanac that there appeared a sage counsel, to which Sir Walter Scott somewhere alludes, as being presented in an almanac of Charles II.'s time-namely, that every man ought for his health's sake to take a country walk of a mile, every morning before breakfast-' and, if possible, let it be upon your own ground.' The next almanac-maker to whom the attention of the public was particularly directed was John Partridge, chiefly in consequence of Swift's pre- tended prophecy of his death. Partridge was born in 1644, and died in 1714. He was brought up to the trade of a shoemaker, which he practised in Covent Garden in 1680; but having acquired some knowledge of Latin, astronomy, and astro- logy, he at length published an almanac. Swift began his humorous attacks by Predictions for the Year 1708, wherein the Month and the Day of the Month are set down, the Persons named, and the Great Actions and Events of Next Year par- ticularly related as they will come to pass. Written to prevent the People of Englandfrom beingfarther imposed upon by the Vulgar Almanac-makers. After discussing with much gravity the subject of almanac-making, and censuring the almanac- makers for their methods of proceeding, he con- tinues as follows: 'But now it is time to proceed to my predictions, which I have begun to calcu- late from the time the sun enters Aries, and this I take to be properly the beginning of the natural year. I pursue them to the time when he enters Libra, or somewhat more, which is the busy time of the year; the remainder I have not yet ad- justed,' &c. . . . 'My first prediction is but a trifle, yet I will mention it to shew how ignorant those sottish pretenders to astronomy are in their own concerns. It relates to Partridge the almanac- maker. I have consulted the star of his nativity by my own rules, and find he will infallily die on the 29th of March next, about eleven at night, of a raging fever; therefore, I advise him to con.
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