Page images


wish to read, but for the astonishing passages eloquence which occasionally burst upon the mind. No writer .can exceed him in sentimental painting-in awful representation.


William Lilly, the famous English astrologer, was born in Leicestershire, in 1602. His parents not being in affluent circumstances, were unable to give their son a liberal education. Having been taught therefore a little writing and arithmetic in the country school of Ashby de la Zouch, he resolved to try his fortune in London, where he arrived in 1620. He first became servant to a mantuamaker, then book-keeper to the master of a salter's company in the Strand, who dying, he was so successful as to marry his widow with a fortune of 1000l.'

Being now at his ease, he frequented the sermons and lectures of the Puritans; and in 1632, commenced the study of astrology, under the tuition of one Evans, a debauched Welch parson, who had lately come to Lotidon from Leicestershire, where he had practised his craft many years. The first specimen Lilly gave of his skill in his new art, was a prophecy that the king had chosen an unlucky horoscope for his coronation in Scotland, 1633. In 1634, getting possession of a MS. with some alterations of the “ Ars Notoriaof Cornelius Agrippa, he imbibed with great eagerness the doctrine of the magical circle, and the invocation of spirits, adopted a form of prayer therein prescribed to the angel Salmonæus, and soon came to flatter himself that he was the particular favorite of that uncreated phantom. He likewise boasted a familiar acquaintance with the peculiar guardian angels of England, named Salmael and Malchidael. Having purchased some other astrological books, which had been found on pulling down the house of another astrologer, he entered still more deeply into the science.

His subsequent connections with the parliament party, whose interests he espoused, are known from general history, and strongly mark the superstition of the times. Charles I. himself consulted him, to know where he should conceal himself, if he could escape from Hampton-court; and general Fairfax enquired of him, if he could tell by his art, whether God were with them, and approved their cause,

He received, in 1648, fifty pounds in cash, and an order from the council of state for a pension of a hundred pounds per annum; for information he stipulated to furnish relative to the chief concerns of France; ! which information he obtained by means of a secular priest he formerly knew, and who was then confessor to one of the French secretaries. Meanwhile, in 1648 and 1649, he read public lectures on astrology, by which, and other employments of his art, he amassed a competent fortune.

After the restoration, 1660, he was taken into custody, and examined by a committee of the House of Commons respecting the execution of Charles I.; but he was finally pardoned. For the ten or eleven last years of his life he combined the practice of medicine and astro, logy; and died in 1881,

In a literary point of view, he is chiefly known by his Ephemeris, or Almanack, which he entitled “ Merlinus Anglicus Junior;" the first of which was published in 1644, and continued in repute for six-and-thirty years. In

1651, however, he published a treatise entitled, “ Several Observations upon the Life and Death of Charles, late King of England;" in which he treats the king's father and ministers with great acrimony, and discovers himself a zealous partizan of the republican go. vernment. This tract was reprinted in 1715, with the arrogant title of “Mr. William Lilly's True History of King James I. and King Charles I.; with sundry Observations, remark, able Passages, and many secret Transactions, not till now divulged,” &c.

I shall select for a brief extract, a few pas, sages from the beginning of his tract, entitled, Annus Tenebrosus, or, The Dark Year, 1652 an Astrological Discourse, concerning the effects of two Lunar Eclipses, and one formidable one of the Sun in that year. He begins :

It was as wisely as truly observed by the learned historian Thucydides, that some years before those three-and-twenty years Peleponnesian wars of the miserable Greeks among themselves, wherein every city or commonwealth of Greece was in one kind or other engaged, “ that those things which in former times there went only a fame of, though rarely in fact confirmed, were then made credible by the ens

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »