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The French king's death is very punctually related; but it was unfortunate to make him die at Marli, where he never goes at that season of the year, as I observed myself during three years I passed in that kingdom : and discoursing some months ago with Monsieur Tallard about the French court, I find that king never goes to Marli fur any time, but about the season of hunting there, which is not till August. So that there was an unlucky slip of Mr. Bickerstaff for want of foreign education.
He concludes with resuming his promise of publishing entire predictions for next year; of which the other astrologers need not be in very much pain. I suppose we shall have them much about the same time with “The General History of Ears.” I believe we have done with him for ever in this kind; and though I am no astrologer, may venture to prophesy that Isaac Bickerstaff, esq., is now dead, and died just at the time his “Predictions” were ready for the press: that he dropped out of the clouds about nine days ago, and, in about four hours after, mounted up thither again like a vapor; and will, one day or other, perhaps, descend a second time when he has some new, agreeable, or amusing whimsy to pass upon the town; wherein it is very probable he will succeed as often as he is disposed to try the experiment; that is, as long as he can preserve a thorough contempt for his own time and other people's understandings, and is resolved not to laugh cheaper than at the expense of a million of people.
OF THE FIRST OF
MR. BICKERSTAFF'S PREDICTIONS,
AN ACCOUNT OF THE DEATH OF MR. PARTRIDGE, THE ALMANACK-MAKER, UPON THE 29TH INSTANT, IN A LETTER TO A PERSON OF HONOR.
WRITTEN IN THE YEAR 1708.
My Lord, in obedience to your Lordship’s commands, as well as to satisfy my own curiosity, I have some days past inquired constantly after Partridge the almanack-maker, of whom it was foretold
in “Mr. Bickerstaff's Predictions,” published about a month ago, that he should die the 29th instant, about eleven at night, of a raging fever.
I had some sort of knowledge of him when I was employed 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, though I hear his friends did not seem to apprehend him in any danger. About two or three days ago he grew ill, was confined 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 inquire 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, seemed surprised at my condescension, and made me compliments upon it, as well as he could in the condition
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 spoke strong and hearty, without any seeming uneasiness or constraint. After I had told him “how sorry
I to see him in those melancholy circumstances,” and said some other civilities suitable to the occasion, I desired him " to tell me freely and ingenuously whether the predictions Mr. Bickerstaff had published relating to his death had not too much affected and worked on his imagination.” He confessed, “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 surprised 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 convinced of Mr. Bickerstaff's ignorance.” He replied, “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 judge 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 replied, “If it were otherwise, I should have the less to answer for. We have a common form for all things: as to foretelling the weather, we never meddle with that, but leave it to the printer, who takes it out of my 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 physic than my astrology; though 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 I now cannot call to mind; and I fear have already tired your lordship. I shall only add one circumstance, that on his death-bed he declared himself a nonconformist, and had a fanatic preacher to be his spiritual guide. After half an hour's conversation I took my leave, being almost stifled with the closeness of the room. I imagined 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 about 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 been the cause of this poor man's death, as well as the predictor, may be very reasonably disputed. However, it must be confessed the matter is odd enough, whether we should endeavor to account for it by chance or the effect of imagination : for part, though 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 4th of April; and if that should be verified as exactly as this of poor Partridge, I must own I should be wholly surprised and at a loss, and should infallibly expect the accomplishment of all the rest.
'SQUIRE BICKERSTAFF DETECTED;
ASTROLOGICAL IMPOSTOR CONVICTED.
BY JOHN PARTRIDGE,
STUDENT IN PHYSIC 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, and an illiterate pretender to science, that would blast my reputation, most inhumanly bury me alive, and defraud my native country of those services which, in my double capacity, I daily offer the
What great provocations I have received 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 show there is not a monster in the skies so pernicious and malevolent to mankind as an ignorant pretender to physic and astrology. I shall not directly fall on the many gross errors, nor expose the notorious absurdities of this prostitute 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 my cause.
It was toward the conclusion of the year 1707, when an impudent pamphlet crept into the world, entitled, “ Predictions, &c., by Isaac Bickerstaff, Esq." Among the many arrogant assertions laid down by that lying spirit of divination, he was pleased 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 ensu. ing year; and peremptorily fixes the month, day, and hour, of our deaths: this, I think, is sporting with great men, and public spirits, to the scandal of religion, and reproach of power; and if sovereign princes and astrologers must make diversion for the vulgar — why, then farewell, 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 public with a faithful narrative of the ungenerous treatment and hard usage I have received from the virulent papers and malicious practices of this pretended astrologer.
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 fixed for my last, which made little impression on myself; but I cannot answer for my whole family; for my wife, with 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 tolled for ? Dr. Partridge, says he, the famous almanack-maker, who died suddenly this evening: the poor girl, provoked, told him he lied like a rascal; the other very sedately replied, 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 do not say these are accomplices to a certain astrological ’squire, and that one Bickerstaff might be sauntering thereabout, because I will assert nothing here but what I dare attest for 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 in. quires if this was Dr. Partridge's? She, taking him for some cau.