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ISAAC BICKERSTAFF, Esq.
WHAT IS OBJECTED TO HIM BY MR PARTRIDGE, IN HIS ALMANACK FOR THE PRESENT
BY THE SAID ISAAC BICKERSTAFF, Esg.
MR PARTRIDGE has been lately pleased to treat me after a very rough manner, in that which is called his almanack for the present year : such usage is very indecent from one gentleman to another, and does not at all contribute to the discovery of truth, which ought to be the great end in all disputes of the learned. To call a man a fool and villain, an impudent fellow, only for differing from him in a point merely speculative, is, in my humble opinion, a very improper style for a person of his education. I appeal to the learned world, whether, in my last year's predictions, I gave him the least provocation for such unworthy treatment. Philosophers have differed in all ages: but the discreetest among them have always differed as became philosophers. Scurrility and passion, in a controversy among scholars, is just so much of nothing to the purpose, and at best a tacit confession of a weak cause : my concern is not so much for my own reputation, as that of the republic of letters, which Mr Partridge has endeavoured to wound through my sides. If men of public spirit must be superciliously treated for their ingenious attempts, how will true useful knowledge be ever advanced ? I wish Mr Partridge knew the thoughts which foreign universities have conceived of his ungenerous proceedings with me; but I am too tender of his reputation to publish them to the world. That spirit of envy and pride, which blasts so many rising geniuses in our nation, is yet unknown among professors abroad : the necessity of justifying myself will excuse my vanity, when I tell the reader, that I have near a hundred honorary letters from several parts of Europe (some as far as Muscovy), in praise of my performance. Beside several others, which, as I have been credibly informed, were opened in the post-office, and never sent me. It is true, the inquisition in Portugal was pleased to burn my predictions,* and condemn the author and the readers of them : but I hope at the same time, it will be considered, in how deplorable a state learning lies at present in that kingdom: and with the profoundest veneration for crowned heads, I will presume to add, that it a little concerned his majesty of Portugal to interpose his authority in behalf of a scholar and a gentleman, the subject of a nation, with which he is now in so strict an alliance.
But the other kingdoms and states of Europe have treated me with more candour and generosity. If I had leave to print the Latin letters transmitted to me from foreign parts, they would fill à volume, and be a full defence against all that Mr Partridge, or his accomplices of the Portugal inquisition, will be ever able to object; who, by the way, are the only enemies my predictions have ever met with at home or abroad. But I hope I know better what is due to the honour of a learned correspondence, in so tender a point. Yet some of those illustrious persons will perhap sexcuse me, for transcribing a passage or two in my vindication.* The most learned monsieur Leibnitz thus addresses to me his third letter: " Illustrissimo Bickerstaffio astrologia instauratori,” &c. Monsieur Le Clerc, quoting my predictions in a treatise he published last year, is pleased to say, " Ita nuperrime Bickerstaffius magnum illud Angliæ sidus.” Another great professor writing of me, has these words : “ Bickerstaffius, nobilis Anglus, astrologorum hujusce sæculi facile princeps. Signior Magliabecchi, the great duke's famous library keeper, spends almost his whole letter in compliments and praises. It is true, the renowned professor of astronomy at Utrecht seems to differ from me in one article ; but it is after the modest manner that becomes a philosopher; as, pace tanti viri dixerim : and page 55, he seems to lay the error upon the printer, (as indeed it ought) and says, vel forsun error typographi, cum alioquin Bickerstaffius vir doctissimus, &c.
The quotations here inserted are in imitation of Dr Bentley, in some part of the famous controversy between him and Mr Boyle.
If Mr Partridge had followed these examples in the controversy between us, he might have spared me the trouble of justifying myself in so public a manner. I believe no man is readier to own his errors than 1, or more thankful to those who will please to inform him of them. But it seems, this gentleman, instead of encouraging the progress of his own art, is pleased to look upon all attempts of that kind, as an invasion of his province. He has been indeed so wise as to make no objection against the truth of my predictions, except in one single point relating to himself: an to demonstrate how much men are blinded by their own partiality, I do solemnly assure the reader, that he is the only person, from whom I ever heard that objection offered; which consideration alone, I think, will take off all its weight.
With my utmost endeavours I have not been able to trace above two objections ever made against the truth of my last year's prophecies: the first was, of a Frenchman, who was pleased to publish to the world, “ that the cardinal de Noailles was still alive, notwithstanding the pretended prophecy of monsieur Biquerstaffe:” but how far a Frenchman, a papist, and an enemy, is to be believed in his own cause, against an English protestant, who is true to the government, I shall leave to the candid and impartial reader.
The other objection, is the unhappy occasion of this discourse, and relates to an article in my predictions, which foretold the death of Mr Partridge to happen on March 29, 1708. This he is pleased to contradict absolutely in the almanack he has published for the present year, and in that ungentlemanly manner (pardon the expression) as I have above related. In that work he very roundly asserts, that he “ is not only now alive, but was
likewise alive upon that very 29th of March, when I had foretold he should die.” This is the subject of the present controversy between us; which I design to handle with all brevity, perspicuity, and calmness. In this dispute, I am sensible the eyes not only of England, but of all Europe, will be upon us; and the learned in every country will, I doubt not, take part on that side, where they find most appearance of reason and truth.
Without entering into criticisms of chronology about the hour of his death, I shall only prove that Mr Partridge is not alive. And
And my first argument is this : about a thousand gentlemen having bought his almanacks for this year, merely to find what he said against me, at every line they read, they would lift up their eyes, and cry out, betwixt rage and laughter, they were sure no man alive ever writ such damned stuff as this." Neither did I ever hear that opinion disputed ; so that Mr Partridge lies under a dilemma, either of disowning his almanack, or allowing himself to be no man alive. Secondly, Death is defined by all philosophers, a separation of the soul and body. Now it is certain, that the poor woman, who has best reason to know, has gone about for some time to every alley in the neighbourhood, and sworn to the gossips, that her husband had neither life nor soul in him. Therefore, if an uninformed carcase walks still about, and is pleased to call itself Partridge, Mr Bickerstaff does not think himself any way answerable for that. Neither had the said carcase any right to beat the poor boy, who happened to pass by it in the street, crying, “A full and true account of Dr Partridge's death,” &c.
Thirdly, Mr Partridge pretends to tell fortunes, and recover stolen goods; which all the parish says, he must do by conversing with the devil,