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starš, till 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 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 tearned world, by publishing it in Latin, and giving order to have it printed in Holland.
* Album is the name of a paper book, in which it was usual for á man's friends to write down a sentence with their names, to keep them in his remembrance; it is still common in some of the foreign universities,
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 frolick, 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 dead or alive upon the fourth or 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 lei. sure and humour to take up 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. Hé tells 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 priņt 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 șic cecidit Phaeton : and, to comfort him a little, this production of mine will have the same fate : tomorrow 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 coffeehouse 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 to the purpose I 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 ago in a coffeehouse 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 honour, than give Mr Partridge the same advantage of calculating his, by sending him an account of the time and place