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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 surprising fit of frosty weather, which will last near twelve days.
The pope having long languished 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 a native of Tuscany, who is now about sixty-one years old.
The French army now acts wholly on the defensive, strongly fortified 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 further of.
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, et altera, quæ vehat, Argo,
Delectos heroas. Upon the 25th day of this month, the fulfilling of this prediction will be manifest to everybody.
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 public concerns, and I was resolved 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 honor: that her majesty queen Anne will continue in health and prosperity: and that no ill accident will arrive to any in the chief ministry.
As to the particular events I have mentioned, the reader may judge, by the fulfilling of them, whether I am on the level with common astrologers; who, with an old paltry cant, and a few pothooks for planets to amuse the vulgar, have, in my opinion, too long been suffered to abuse the world : but an honest physician ought not to be despised because there are such things as mountebanks. I hope I have some share of reputation, which I would not willingly forfeit for a frolic or humor: and I believe no gentleman who reads
this paper will look upon it to be of the same cast or mould with the common scribbles that are every day hawked about. My fortune has placed me above the little regard of writing for a few pence, which I neither value nor want: therefore let not 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 unskilful hands. A little time will determine whether I have deceived others or myself: and I think it 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, in the year 1686, a man of quality showed me, written in his album, that the most learned astronomer, captain Halley, assured him he would never believe anything of the stars' influence, if there were not a great revolution in England in the year 1688. Since that time I began to have other thoughts, and after eighteen years' diligent study and application, I think I have no reason to repent of my pains. I shall detain the reader no longer than to let him know, that the account I design to give of next year's events, shall take in the principal affairs that happen in Europe ; and if I be denied the liberty of offering it to my own country, I shall appeal to the learned world, by publishing it in Latin, and giving order to have it printed in Holland.
AN ANSWER TO BICKERSTAFF.
SOME REFLECTIONS UPON MR. BICKERSTAFF'S PREDICTIONS
FOR THE YEAR MDCCVIII.
BY A PERSON OF QUALITY.
I HAVE not observed, for some years past, any insignificant paper to have made more noise, or be more greedily bought, than that of these predictions. They are the wonder of the common people, an amusement for the better sort, and a jest only to the wise; yet among these last, I have heard some very much in doubt whether the author meant to deceive others or is deceived himself. Whoever he was, he seems to have with great art adjusted his paper
both to please the rabble and to entertain persons of condition. The writer is, without question, a gentleman of wit and learning, although the piece seems hastily written in a sudden frolic, with the scornful thought of the pleasure he will have in putting this great town into a wonderment about nothing: nor do I doubt but he and his friends in the secret laugh often and plentifully in a corner, to reflect how many hundred thousand fools they have already made. And he has them fast for some time: for so they are likely to continue until his prophecies begin to fail in the events. Nay, it is a great question whether the miscarriage of the two or three first will so entirely undeceive people as to hinder them from expecting the accomplishment of the rest. I doubt not but some thousands of these papers are carefully preserved by as many persons, to confront with the events, and try whether the astrologer exactly keeps the day and hour. And these I take to be Mr. Bickerstaff's choicest cullies, for whose sake chiefly he writ his amusement. Meanwhile he has seven weeks good, during which time the world is to be kept in suspense: for it is so long before the almanack-maker is to die, which is the first prediction; and if that fellow happens to be a splenetic visionary fop, or has any faith in his own art, the prophecy may punctually come to pass by very natural means. As a gentleman of my acquaintance, who was ill used by a mercer in town, wrote him a letter in an unknown hand, to give him notice that care had been taken to convey a slow poison into his drink, which would infallibly kill him in a month; after which, the man began in earnest to languish and decay, by the mere strength of imagination, and would certainly have died, if care had not been taken to undeceive him, before the jest went too far. The like effect upon Partridge would wonderfully rise Mr. Bickerstaff's reputation for a fortnight longer, until we could hear from France whether the cardinal de Noailles were
upon the 4th of April, which is the second of his predictions.
For a piece so carelessly written, the observations upon astrology are reasonable and pertinent, the remarks just; and as the paper is partly designed, in my opinion, for a satire upon the credulity of the vulgar, and that idle itch of peeping into futurities ; so it is no more than what we all of us deserve. And, since we must be teased with perpetual hawkers of strange and wonderful things, I am glad to see a man of sense find leisure and humor to take
the trade, for his own and our diversion. To speak in the town phrase, it is a bite; he has fully had his jest, and may be satisfied. I very much approve
the serious air he gives himself in his introduction and conclusion, which has gone far to give some people, of no mean rank, an opinion that the author believes himself. He
us, “ He places the whole credit of his art on the truth of these predictions, and will be content to be hooted by Partridge and the rest for a cheat, if he fails in any one particular," with several other strains of the same kind, wherein I perfectly believe him; and that he is very indifferent whether Isaac Bickerstaff be a mark of infamy or not. But it seems, although he has joined an odd surname to no very common Christian one, that in this large town there is a man found to own both the names, although, I believe not the paper.
I believe it is no small mortification to this gentleman astrologer, as well as his bookseller, to find their piece, which they sent out in a tolerable print and paper, immediately seized on by three or four interloping printers of Grub-street, the title stuffed with an abstract of the whole matter, together with the standard epithets of strange and wonderful, the price brought down a full half, which was but a penny in its prime, and bawled about by hawkers of the inferior class, with the concluding cadence of "A halfpenny a piece !" But sic cecidit Phaeton ; and, to comfort him a little, this production of mine will have the same fate; to-morrow will my ears be grated by the little boys and wenches in straw hats; and I must a hundred times“undergo the mortification to have my own work offered me to sale at an under value. Then, which is a great deal worse, my acquaintance in the coffee-house will ask me whether I have seen the “Answer to 'Squire Bickerstaff's Predictions," and whether I knew the puppy that writ it; and how to keep a man's countenance in such a juncture is no easy point of conduct. When, in this case, you see a man shy either in praising or condemning, ready to turn off the discourse to another subject, standing as little in the light as he can to hide his blushing, pretending to sneeze, or take snuff, or go off as if sudden business called him; then ply him close, observe his look narrowly, see whether his speech be constrained or affected, then charge him suddenly, or whisper and smile, and you will soon discover whether he be guilty. Although this seem not the purpose
am discoursing on, yet I think it to be so; for I am much deceived if I do not know the true author of “ Bickerstaff's Predictions,” and did not meet with him some days ayo in a coffee-house at Covent Garden.
As to the matter of the predictions themselves, I shall not enter upon the examination of them; but think it very incumbent upon the learned Mr. Partridge to take them into his consideration, and lay as many errors in astrology as possible to Mr. Bickerstaff's account. He may justly, I think, challenge the 'squire to publish the calculation he has made of Partridge's nativity, by the credit of which he so determinately pronounces the time and the manner of his death; and Mr. Bickerstaff can do no less, in honor, than give Mr. Partridge the same advantage of calculating his, by sending him an account of the time and place of his birth, with other particulars necessary for such a work. By which, no doubt, the learned world will be engaged in the dispute, and take part on each side according as they are inclined.
I should likewise advise Mr. Partridge to inquire, why Mr. Bickerstaff does not so much as offer at one prediction to be fulfilled until two months after the time of publishing his paper.
This looks a little suspicious, as if he were desirous to keep the world in play as long as he decently could; else it were hard he could not afford us one prediction between this and the 29th of March ; which is not so fair dealings as we have even from Mr. Partridge and his brethren, who give us their predictions (such as they are indeed) for every month in the year.
There is one passage in Mr. Bickerstaff's paper that seems to be as high a strain of assurance as I have anywhere met with : it is that prediction for the month of June which relates to the French prophets here in town; where he tells us, “ They will utterly disperse, by seeing the time come, wherein their prophecies should be fulfilled, and then finding themselves deceived by contrary events.” Upon which he adds, with great reason, “his wonder how
deceiver can be so weak to foretell things near at hand, when a very few months must discover the imposture to all the world.” This is spoken with a great deal of affected unconcernedness, as if he would have us think himself to be not under the least apprehension, that the same in two months will be his own case.
With respect to the gentleman, I do not remember to have heard of so refined and pleasant a piece of impudence; which I hope the author will not resent as an uncivil word, because I am sure I enter into his taste, and take it as he meant it. However, he half deserves a reprimand for writing with so much scorn and contempt for the understandings of the majority.
For the month of July, he tells us “ of a general who, by a glorious action, will recover the reputation he lost by former misfortunes.” This is commonly understood to be lord Galway; who, if he be already dead, as some newspapers have it, Mr. Bickerstaff has made a trip. But this I do not much insist on; for it is hard if another general cannot be found under the same circumstances to whom this prediction may be as well applied.