Obrázky na stránke

man's, and the Tradesman's and Mechanic's. Of these ten almanacs the sale is about a hundred thousand. The British Almanac, published by the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge, sells somewhat exceeding forty thousand.

Looking, therefore, at these two great divisions of the English almanacs, we may broadly state that one half of the almanacs published are especially dedicated to the upholding of ignorance and absurdity-and this in the worst way, by interweaving the grossest follies with the really useful matter which every almanac contains. The other half more or less advance the knowledge of the age, by interweaving valuable information of a general nature with the common calculations and tables for the conduct of daily business, for which, after all, an almanac is chiefly bought. The different degrees of merit in these useful manuals it is not within our province to examine. We desire, as briefly as we can, to direct attention to the Astrological Almanacs.

Let us first inquire what are the attractions which the two Astrological almanacs offer to the people of this country; and how it is that the one, Partridge, scarcely pays the expenses of printing, while the other, Moore, affords a considerable revenue to the Corporation which publishes it. This book still retains its ground in spite of the ridicule with which it is now assailed on every side, and the competition by which it is now opposed by the new almanacs of the Stationers' Company, and the British Almanac, which was the first to show that an almanac might be popular, without at the same time being stupid and absurd.

John Partridge commenced his vocation as an almanac maker soon after the restoration; Francis Moore began his career of imposture in 1698. Partridge, therefore, has the advantage of senility over his rival, and that ought to go a good way in balancing the relative merits of their stupidity. It is probable, however, that Partridge's Almanac never entirely made head against the wicked wit of Swift; for it is a remarkable fact that Bickerstaff killed this identical almanac for a season, and frightened the real Partridge from attempting to set it up again. The Stationers' Company, however, were not to be so beaten out of a profitable imposture; and they had the impudence in 1714, to publish a Partridge's Almanac with a portrait of the seer, which the worthy man refused to acknowledge. The defeated astrologer obstinately persisting not to prophesy in the flesh, the Company continued to employ the ghost only of Partridge; and the work even now bears the motto, Etiam mortuus loquitur.' This original schism, and the acknowledgment of

the death of the almanac maker, (for the secret contained in the three Latin words doubtless got wind,) is the only reason we can assign for Partridge not being as popular as Moore. He is unquestionably as silly. We select a passage or two from the Almanac for 1832, being the 144th year of our deliverance by King William the Third from popery and arbitrary government.



'March. This month begins with an opposition of the Sun and Saturn, which is usually followed with violent effects; and we shall certainly hear of blustering work in this and some other countries.' July. Great dissensions appear amongst some confederate powers in the south, to their own great loss and confusion. We are now in expectation of hearing of a marriage of note-I wish it may tend to the good of both parties. Time will make a more perfect discovery.'


August. Much interesting news arrives from divers parts of the world.'


September. The opposition of O and 2 and also 24 and g denote some disaster either in the life or fortune of an eminent clergyman. False news and scandalous pamphlets appear in town and country.'

'October. In this month, Mars is direct, stationary, and retrograde in the ascendant of our famous city of London; but I hope nothing of a very serious nature will happen thereunto, either by fires, or such like calamities, pertaining to this lurid and anarctic promittor.'

'November. The opposition of the Sun and Mars lays some eminent soldier under the frown of his prince.'




All this is exceedingly harmless and safe prophesying. Here we have blustering work' in March, and a 'marriage' in July; interesting news' in August, and disasters to an eminent clergyman' in September; fires in London' in October, produced by the lurid and anarctic promittor,' (a hard name to be copied in an indictment for arson,) and an eminent soldier' in disgrace in November. What an unchanging world this is! The real Partridge for 1701 lies before us, when the true man, the original Simon Pure, 'Student in Physics and Astrology,' dated from the Blew Ball, in Salisburystreet, in the Strand.' For that year, in March, some eminent man submits to death by the gout,' and storms and bad weather at sea sends ill news on shore.' Then the fires were to happen in May; God preserve the city of London from fires, and all other mischiefs and misfortunes this month.' The blustering work' which is to happen in March, 1832, was then to happen in December, 1701. Hot violent spirits throw their thunderbolts of confusion amongst mankind.' Surely the confession which Swift, in 1709, put into Partridge's mouth



is true to this hour: We have a common form for all these things. As to foretelling the weather, we never meddle with that, but leave it to the printer, who takes it out of any old almanac, as he thinks fit.'


Francis Moore, in the beginning of the last century, dated his predictions from the sign of Lilly's Head, in Crown Court, near Cupid's Bridge, in Lambeth parish;' where he advertised for sale his famous familiar family cathartick and diuretic purging pill.' Here the author also cures all sorts of agues at once;' and he adds, in the true spirit of his almanac, 'this distemper often comes by supernatural means, which is the reason it will not yield to natural means.' Is it not marvellous that, when this impudent quack died, his almanac did not die with him? Is it not more marvellous that, at the present day, the people of England, calling themselves enlightened, should voluntarily tax themselves to pay an annual sum of fifteen thousand pounds to the government for permission to read the same detestable trash, which first obtained currency and belief when every village had its witch, and every churchyard its ghost-when agues were cured by charms, and stolen spoons discovered by incantation-when the trade of an almanac-maker was identical with that of a mountebank, and was held even by the multitude as only another name for the trade of a swindler? The real ignorance of great bodies of the people presents itself to us in the present day in many startling shapes-in burning ricks, and broken machines, and plundered cities, on the part of the labourers, and in oppressive regulations under the poor laws, and violent clamours for monopolies and restrictions, on the part of their employers. But surely no symptom of the chronic disease of ignorance was ever so strong and so incapable of being mistaken as the sale of Moore's Almanac. Other follies obtain for a season: even Moore himself, in his present Almanac, exhorts his Readers not to be deluded by the pretended miracle-mongers, who make outlandish noises, and fancy they are singing by the Spirit.' But it argues a most lamentable ignorance in a whole people, that an imposture should have lasted amongst them for a hundred and thirty years, without any change in its quality, and with a constant accession to the number of the dupes. Moore's Almanac for 1832 is precisely the same as Moore's Almanac for 1701. It has the same dull verses at the top of the left hand page; the same arrangement of the astronomical columns; the same filthy column of ancles, toes, head, face, &c. ;' the same weather prophecies; the same prophecies of political events on the right hand page; and the same jargon at the end of


the book, called Judicium Astrologicum.' Why should we waste our time and abuse our readers' patience by examining these absurdities at any length? One extract from the Francis Moore of 1701, and one from the same impostor of 1832, printed in parallel columns, will exhibit the sort of instruction which the enlightened people of England have been receiving for more than a century and a quarter :


Now the Muscovite seems very busie in making preparation for great things, which may in some measure make good that ancient prophecy of Sibylla Tiburtina, found in the year 1520, in the bowels of a mountain in Switzerland, after a great inundation of waters, which broke down part of that mountain, and left discovered in the ruins the following words fairly engraven upon a large marble stone in very old Latin characters and style, which you may observe as followeth :

"A star shall arise in Europe over the Iberians, towards the great House of the North, whose beams shall unexpectedly enlighten the whole world. This shall be in a most desired time, when mortals, wearied with war, shall unanimously desire peace; they shall strive, indeed, by occasion of a long-lasting interregnum with various studies which shall obtain the reins of empire. But at last the offspring of the ancient blood shall overcome, and proceed victoriously by force of arms, until resisted by contrary fates; for about the same time this star being set, another coeval light, blazing with more ardent flames of war, shall spread his empire even to the coast of the Antipodes. But first France shall submit her neck to his yoke, and Brittany, suppliant in ships, shall cast herself at his feet. Italy, faintly breathing towards scepters so high, shall stretch out to him her languishing hand; but this bright beam, before his time, shall, with the vast desire of men, abscond himself in the clouds of the Gods.

"Who, being extinct, after direful and bloody comets, and flashings


THE map of the Heavens, at this ingress, indicates that the scourge of war must be severely felt in some countries, while civil discord, brandishing her flaming and fatal torch, is lighting death mounted on his pale horse to make hideous havoc both in the East and the West, not only among Europeans, but men of colour. Seditions, commotions, mutinies, and riots, and terrible destruction of property may be apprehended. Behold the lion of the most princely tribe continues to roar against the harlot of Babylon. O thou cold, thou presumptuous, thou treacherous city, destruction is nigh thee, even at thy door! But she, be it remembered, is the " Mother of harlots;" who are her daughters, and where do they dwell? For he who would be safe in the day of visitation must hold no parley with either mother or daughters. At length, said Thomas à Becket—in his famous prophecy now preserved in the library at Canterbury-at length shall the Son of Man come with a great army, carrying beasts in his arms, whose kingdom is the land of wool: the eagle shall come out of the east, with his wings spread upon the sun; the wild growling beast of the north shall be laid low, and those whom he has trodden in the dust shall rise to fall no more.'

of fire seen in the heavens, there shall remain nothing for the future safe or healthy among men. The firmament of heaven shall be dissolved, and the planets be opposed in contrary courses; the spheres shall jostle one amongst another, and the fixed stars move faster than the planets; the sea shall swell as high as the mountains, and nothing shall remain but night, destruction, ruin, damnation, and eternal misery.'



Surely the words fairly engraven upon a large marble stone,' and the famous prophecy now preserved in the library at Canterbury,' are abundant proofs that the ignorance of 1701, and the ignorance of 1832, in certain portions of the English population, are not essentially different either in their quality or their extent.

The great seat of this darkness is in the rural population. The strong hold of Francis Moore is in the 136,194 farmhouses and their dependent cottages, which existed in England on the 5th April, 1830. The inhabitants of towns have, in general, other guides than the mock-representative of a dead quack. But why do we point attention to these absurdities? Earnestly to exhort every person possessing knowledge, in every degree, to labour strenuously to banish this mischievous nonsense from amongst us. The 25,000l. paid annually by the ignorant people for Moore's Almanac (of which 15,000l. is tax) would establish a thousand parochial libraries in the villages of England, and thus sow the seeds of that sound knowledge whose want is plunging so many into crime and misery, and destroying the confidence and harmony of all classes of the community. Efforts must and will be made for the education of the people; but we shall consider nothing done till Francis Moore is destroyed.

The government of our country might greatly assist in this good work, by abolishing, or largely reducing, the paltry tax on Almanacs. If Moore's Astrological Almanac were sold at sixpence, the countrymen would turn up their noses at it. The folly would not have the charm of costliness upon it. Ignorance gives a guinea to an empiric who keeps a footman, when it spurns the village doctress who cures a fever for sixpence. No imposture ever made great progress, or endured long, that was not costly to the dupes.

« PredošláPokračovať »