Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

thought would be a dishonour and damage to our nation, and to all scholars therein; and fearing that in other hands they might be more subject to embezzling; and being willing to preserve them for public use, I did accept of the trouble of being library keeper at St. James's, and therein was encouraged and much persuaded to it by Mr. Selden, who swore that if I did not undertake the charge of them, all those rare monuments of antiquity, those choice books and MSS. would be lost; and there were not the like of them, except only in the Vatican, in any other library in Christendom.” Whitelocke afterwards went ambassador to Sweden; became one of the commissioners of the exchequer; was chosen, in 1656, speaker of the House of Commons pro tempore ; and the year following was summoned by the protector to sit in the upper house, by the title of Bulstrode, lord Whitelocke. In 1659, he was made president of the council of state, one of the committee of safety, and keeper of the great seal pro tempore. The same year, however, he withdrew to the country, from an apprehension of being sent to the Tower by the rump parliament, then newly restored, and continued there, chiefly at Chilton, in Wilt

shire, for the remainder of his life. He died in 1675-6.

1. The work for which chiefly posterity is indebted to Whitelocke, is his “ Memorials of the English Affairs; or an Historical Account of what passed from the Beginning of the Reign of King Charles the First to King Charles the Second his happy Restoration; containing the Public Transactions, Civil and Military, together with the private Consultations and Ses crets of the Cabinet." Folio. It was first published in 1682; but the second edition, in 1732, contains many additions, and a better index. The editor of the first edition observes in his preface—“ Our author sometimes writes up to the dignity of an historian, and elsewhere is content barely to set down occurrences diary-wise, without melting down or refining the ore, and improving those hints and rudiments to the perfection and true standard of an history. The truth is, our author never intended this for a book in print; nor meant otherwise by it than as a book for his memory and private use.

Yet such was his relation to the public, so eminent his station, and so much was he upon the stage during all the time of action, that the particulars of his diary go

Welch parson, who had lately come to Lotidon 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 Notoriaof 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 Salmo næus, 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

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

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 astro, logy; 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

1

1

1651, however, he published a treatise en-
titled, “ Several Observations upon the Life
and Death of Charles, late King of England;"
in which he treats the king's father and minis-
ters with great acrimony, and discovers him-
self a zealous partizan of the republican go.
vernment. 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, remark,
able Passages, and many secret Transactions,
not till now divulged,” &c.
I shall select for a brief extract, a few

pas, sages 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 :

[ocr errors]

It was as wisely as truly observed by the learned historian Thucydides, that some years before those three-and-twenty years Peleponnesian wars of the miserable 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 ens

« ZurückWeiter »