The Bickerstaff-Partridge Papers
Jonathan Swift, et al.
The Bickerstaff-Partridge Papers, etc.
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
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 weather.
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 year.
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 minute.
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
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 mention.
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 predict them.
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 in time.
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
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
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
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 following month.
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
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
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
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
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 the Emperor.
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 years old.
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.
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 ministry.
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
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
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 pretended
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 himself 'Squire: --
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
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 the universe.
A vindication of Isaac Bickerstaff, Esq; against what is objected
to him by Mr. Partridge in his almanack for the present year
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
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 death, etc."
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
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
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
A famous prediction of Merlin, the British wizard.
Written above a thousand years ago, and relating to the year
1709, with explanatory notes.
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 January.
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
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
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
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 pretty scarce.
[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
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 us.
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
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
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 posts.
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
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 houshold, better than either of them
have hitherto done, is the hearty desire of,
Their most sincere well-wisher,
End of Project Guteneberg Etext of The Bickerstaff-Partridge Papers