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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 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 à fortune of 10001.
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 Lottdon 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 Notoria” of 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 astrology; 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 him- , self a zealous partizan of the republican government. 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, remarkable Passages, and many secret Transactions, not till now divulged,” &c.
I shall select for a brief extract, a few passages 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 themiserable 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 en.
suing bloody wars of the Grecians one with another, The forerunners of which quarrels he saith were these; earthquakes general to the greatest part of the world, and most violent withal; eclipses of the sun oftener than is reported of any former time; great droughts,” &c.
If we in Europe, or many kingdoms, people, and nations herein, are hastening unto such disastrous times and accidents as our author delivers unto posterity then to have happened, let God be glorified, who hath not been wanting in these worst of days and times, by many signal prodigies, so opportunely seen and felt by many men in several countries, to admonish and forewarn even us English, as well as many other kingdoms and nations, what he intends suddenly to do. Very many and admirable have been the prodigies, which of late years ed in the dominions of the king of Spain; as first, that never to be paralleled uproar and tumult of the people in Naples in July 1647, at what time they made Masaniello, a poor fisherman, their captain general, who for some days, had the clearest and absolutest command over the people, that ever any history mentions, as it is excellently set forth in two little treatises by the delicate pen of James Howel, esq. [Then, after mentioning a great inundation in Spain, in the year 1651, he remarks:]
These prodigious tumults, and more than ordinary