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convinced of Mr. BickerstafT's ignorance. He replied, I am a poor ignorant fellow, bred to a mean trade, yet I have sense enough to know, that all pretences of foretelling by astrology are deceits, for this manifest reason, because the wise and the learned, who can only judge whether there be any truth in this science, do all unanimously agree to laugh at and despise it; and none but the poor ignorant vulgar give it any credit, and that only upon the word of such silly wretches as I and my fellows, who can hardly write or read. I then asked him why he had not calculated his own nativity, to see whether it agreed with BickerstafF's prediction? At which he shook his head, and said, Oh! sir, this is no time for jesting, but for repenting those fooleries, as I do now from the very bottom of my heart. By what I can gather from you, said I, the observations and predictions you printed with your al
were otherwise, I should have the less to answer for. We have a common form for all those 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; the rest was my own invention to make my almanac sell, having a wife to maintain, and no other way to get my bread; for mending old shoes is a poor livelihood; and (added he, sighing) I wish I may not have done more mischief by my physic than my astrology; though 1 had some good receipts from my grandmother, and my own compositions were such, as I thought, could at least do no hurt.
I had some other discourse with him, which now I cannot call to mind; and I fear I have already tired your lordship. I shall only add one circumstance, that on his death-bed he declared himself a nonconformist, and had a fanatic preacher to be his spiritual guide. After half an hour's conversation I took my leave, being almost stifled by the closeness of the room. I imagined he could not hold out long, and therefore withdrew to a little coffee-house hard by, leaving a servant at the house with orders to come immediately, and tell me, as near as he could, the minute when Partridge should expire, which was not above two hours after; when, looking upon my watch, I found it to be above five minutes after seven: by which it is clear that Mr. BickerstafT was mistaken almost four hours in his calculation. In the other circumstances he was exact enough. But whether he hath not been the cause of this poor man's death, as well as the predictor, may be very reasonably disputed. However, it must be confessed, the matter is odd enough, whether we should endeavor to account for it by chance, or the effect of imagination: for my own part, though I believe no man hath less faith in these matters, yet I shall wait with some impatience, and not without some expectation, the fulfilling of Mr. Bicl;erstafFs second prediction, that trie Cardinal de
the people. He replied, If it Noailles is to die upon the fourth of April, and if that should be verified as exactly as this of poor Partridge, I must own I should be wholly surprised, and at a loss, and should infallibly expect the accomplishment of all the rest.
It is amusing to think what a large number of persons at the time actually believed the accomplishment had taken place in all respects according to the relation. The wits of the time, too, among whom were Steele and Addison, supported Swift, and uniformly affirmed that Partridge had died on the day nnd hour predicted. The distress and vexation of Partridge himself were beyond all measure ridiculous, and he absolutely had the folly to insert the following advertisement at the close of his next year's almanac:—
"Whereas it has been industriously given out by Isaac BiekerstaiT, Esq., and others, to prevent the sale of this year's almanac, that John Partridge is dead: this may inform all his loving countrymen, that lie is slil! living, in health; and they are knaves that reported it otherwise."1
The most interesting account, however, of the singularly comic consequences of this prediction was drawn up by the Rev. Dr. Yalden, Mr. Partridge's neiglh bor, of whom, as connected with this humorous affair, I will give a short account, succeeding Swift, though it be not in exact chronological order.
Though Swift wrote much that ranks under poetry, yet he had none of the characteristics of a true poet—nothing of the sublime or the tender; nothing, in short, that reaches or affects the heart. "It could scarcely be expected,'' says a critic, «that an irreligious divine, a heartless politician, and a selfish lover, could possess the elements of true poetry; and, therefore, Swift maybe considered rather as" a rhymer than a poet." This is true; as he himself says in the " Verses on his own Death:"
"The Dean was famous In his time,
This "knack" lie had in a very eminent degree—the "knack" of writing easy, natural rhymes—of using just the very words in verse that any one would select as the best in prose. In proof of which, take the following selection :—
BAUCIS AND PHILEMON*.
In ancient limes, as story tells,
It happen'd on a winter night,
Our wandering saints, in woftil state,
Having through all the* village passM,
A flitch of bacon off the hook,
They scarce had spoke, when fair and soft
The chimney wideti'd, and grew higher;
The kettle to the top was hoist.
A wooden Jack, which had almost
The llier, though't had leaden feet,
Turn'd round so quick, you scarce could see "t;
But, slackend by some secret power,
Now hardly moves an inch an hour.
The jack and chimney, near allied,
Had never left each other's fide:
The chimney to a steeple grown,
The jack would not be left alone;
But, up against the steeple reard,
Became a clock,and still adhered;
And still its love to household care?,
By a shrill voice at noon, declares;
Warning the cook-maid not to burn
That roast-meat which it cannot turn.
The groaning-chair began to crawl,
The porringers, that in a row
The ballads, pasted on the wall,
A bedstead of the antique mode,
The cottage by such feats as these
He spoke, and presently he feels
t The trtbeti of Israel are &omcUiuc» distinguished in country churches by toe enslgci given ta them by Jacob.
But, being old, continued just
As thread-bare, and as full of dust.
His talk was now of tithes and dues:
He smoked his pipe, anil read the news j
Knew how to preach old sermons next,
Vamp'd in the preface anil the text;
At christenings well could act his part,
And had the service all by heart j
Against dissenters would repine,
And stood up Arm for right divine;
Found his head fill'd with many a system:
But classic authors,—he ne'er miss'd 'em.
Thus having furbish'd up a parson,
Thus happy in their change of life
Description would but tire my muse;
Old Goodman Dobson of the green