The battle of the books.., p.5
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       The Battle of the Books and Other Short Pieces, p.5

           Jonathan Swift
 
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concerns. It relates to Partridge, the almanack-maker. I have

  consulted the stars of his nativity by my own rules, and find he

  will infallibly die upon the 29th of March next, about eleven at

  night, of a raging fever; therefore I advise him to consider of it,

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  and settle his affairs in time.

  The month of APRIL will be observable for the death of many great

  persons. On the 4th will die the Cardinal de Noailles, Archbishop

  of Paris; on the 11th, the young Prince of Asturias, son to the

  Duke of Anjou; on the 14th, a great peer of this realm will die at

  his country house; on the 19th, an old layman of great fame for

  learning, and on the 23rd, an eminent goldsmith in Lombard Street.

  I could mention others, both at home and abroad, if I did not

  consider it is of very little use or instruction to the reader, or

  to the world.

  As to public affairs: On the 7th of this month there will be an

  insurrection in Dauphiny, occasioned by the oppressions of the

  people, which will not be quieted in some months.

  On the 15th will be a violent storm on the south-east coast of

  France, which will destroy many of their ships, and some in the

  very harbour.

  The 11th will be famous for the revolt of a whole province or

  kingdom, excepting one city, by which the affairs of a certain

  prince in the Alliance will take a better face.

  MAY, against common conjectures, will be no very busy month in

  Europe, but very signal for the death of the Dauphin, which will

  happen on the 7th, after a short fit of sickness, and grievous

  torments with the strangury. He dies less lamented by the Court

  than the kingdom.

  On the 9th a Marshal of France will break his leg by a fall from

  his horse. I have not been able to discover whether he will then

  die or not.

  On the 11th will begin a most important siege, which the eyes of

  all Europe will be upon: I cannot be more particular, for in

  relating affairs that so nearly concern the Confederates, and

  consequently this kingdom, I am forced to confine myself for

  several reasons very obvious to the reader.

  On the 15th news will arrive of a very surprising event, than which

  nothing could be more unexpected.

  On the 19th three noble ladies of this kingdom will, against all

  expectation, prove with child, to the great joy of their husbands.

  On the 23rd a famous buffoon of the playhouse will die a ridiculous

  death, suitable to his vocation.

  JUNE. This month will be distinguished at home by the utter

  dispersing of those ridiculous deluded enthusiasts commonly called

  the Prophets, occasioned chiefly by seeing the time come that many

  of their prophecies should be fulfilled, and then finding

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  themselves deceived by contrary events. It is indeed to be admired

  how any deceiver can be so weak to foretell things near at hand,

  when a very few months must of necessity discover the impostor to

  all the world; in this point less prudent than common almanackmakers,

  who are so wise to wonder in generals, and talk dubiously,

  and leave to the reader the business of interpreting.

  On the 1st of this month a French general will be killed by a

  random shot of a cannon-ball.

  On the 6th a fire will break out in the suburbs of Paris, which

  will destroy above a thousand houses, and seems to be the

  foreboding of what will happen, to the surprise of all Europe,

  about the end of the following month.

  On the 10th a great battle will be fought, which will begin at four

  of the clock in the afternoon, and last till nine at night with

  great obstinacy, but no very decisive event. I shall not name the

  place, for the reasons aforesaid, but the commanders on each left

  wing will be killed. I see bonfires and hear the noise of guns for

  a victory.

  On the 14th there will be a false report of the French king's

  death.

  On the 20th Cardinal Portocarero will die of a dysentery, with

  great suspicion of poison, but the report of his intention to

  revolt to King Charles will prove false.

  JULY. The 6th of this month a certain general will, by a glorious

  action, recover the reputation he lost by former misfortunes.

  On the 12th a great commander will die a prisoner in the hands of

  his enemies.

  On the 14th a shameful discovery will be made of a French Jesuit

  giving poison to a great foreign general; and when he is put to the

  torture, will make wonderful discoveries.

  In short, this will prove a month of great action, if I might have

  liberty to relate the particulars.

  At home, the death of an old famous senator will happen on the 15th

  at his country house, worn with age and diseases.

  But that which will make this month memorable to all posterity is

  the death of the French king, Louis the Fourteenth, after a week's

  sickness at Marli, which will happen on the 29th, about six o'clock

  in the evening. It seems to be an effect of the gout in his

  stomach, followed by a flux. And in three days after Monsieur

  Chamillard will follow his master, dying suddenly of an apoplexy.

  In this month likewise an ambassador will die in London, but I

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  cannot assign the day.

  AUGUST. The affairs of France will seem to suffer no change for a

  while under the Duke of Burgundy's administration; but the genius

  that animated the whole machine being gone, will be the cause of

  mighty turns and revolutions in the following year. The new king

  makes yet little change either in the army or the Ministry, but the

  libels against his grandfather, that fly about his very Court, give

  him uneasiness.

  I see an express in mighty haste, with joy and wonder in his looks,

  arriving by break of day on the 26th of this month, having

  travelled in three days a prodigious journey by land and sea. In

  the evening I hear bells and guns, and see the blazing of a

  thousand bonfires.

  A young admiral of noble birth does likewise this month gain

  immortal honour by a great achievement.

  The affairs of Poland are this month entirely settled; Augustus

  resigns his pretensions which he had again taken up for some time:

  Stanislaus is peaceably possessed of the throne, and the King of

  Sweden declares for the emperor.

  I cannot omit one particular accident here at home: that near the

  end of this month much mischief will be done at Bartholomew Fair by

  the fall of a booth.

  SEPTEMBER. This month begins with a very surprising fit of frosty

  weather, which will last near twelve days.

  The Pope, having long languished
last month, the swellings in his

  legs breaking, and the flesh mortifying, will die on the 11th

  instant; and in three weeks' time, after a mighty contest, be

  succeeded by a cardinal of the Imperial faction, but native of

  Tuscany, who is now about sixty-one years old.

  The French army acts now wholly on the defensive, strongly

  fortified in their trenches, and the young French king sends

  overtures for a treaty of peace by the Duke of Mantua; which,

  because it is a matter of State that concerns us here at home, I

  shall speak no farther of it.

  I shall add but one prediction more, and that in mystical terms,

  which shall be included in a verse out of Virgil

  ALTER ERIT JAM TETHYS, ET ALTERA QUAE VEHAT ARGO

  DELECTOS HEROAS.

  Upon the 25th day of this month, the fulfilling of this prediction

  will be manifest to everybody.

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  This is the farthest I have proceeded in my calculations for the

  present year. I do not pretend that these are all the great events

  which will happen in this period, but that those I have set down

  will infallibly come to pass. It will perhaps still be objected

  why I have not spoken more particularly of affairs at home, or of

  the success of our armies abroad, which I might, and could very

  largely have done; but those in power have wisely discouraged men

  from meddling in public concerns, and I was resolved by no means to

  give the least offence. This I will venture to say, that it will

  be a glorious campaign for the Allies, wherein the English forces,

  both by sea and land, will have their full share of honour; that

  Her Majesty Queen Anne will continue in health and prosperity; and

  that no ill accident will arrive to any in the chief Ministry.

  As to the particular events I have mentioned, the readers may judge

  by the fulfilling of them, whether I am on the level with common

  astrologers, who, with an old paltry cant, and a few pothooks for

  planets, to amuse the vulgar, have, in my opinion, too long been

  suffered to abuse the world. But an honest physician ought not to

  be despised because there are such things as mountebanks. I hope I

  have some share of reputation, which I would not willingly forfeit

  for a frolic or humour; and I believe no gentleman who reads this

  paper will look upon it to be of the same cast or mould with the

  common scribblers that are every day hawked about. My fortune has

  placed me above the little regard of scribbling for a few pence,

  which I neither value nor want; therefore, let no wise man too

  hastily condemn this essay, intended for a good design, to

  cultivate and improve an ancient art long in disgrace, by having

  fallen into mean and unskilful hands. A little time will determine

  whether I have deceived others or myself; and I think it is no very

  unreasonable request that men would please to suspend their

  judgments till then. I was once of the opinion with those who

  despise all predictions from the stars, till in the year 1686 a man

  of quality showed me, written in his album, that the most learned

  astronomer, Captain H-, assured him, he would never believe

  anything 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

  learned world, by publishing it in Latin, and giving order to have

  it printed in Holland.

  CHAPTER IV - THE ACCOMPLISHMENT OF THE FIRST OF MR. BICKERSTAFF'S

  PREDICTIONS;

  BEING AN ACCOUNT OF THE DEATH OF MR. PARTRIDGE

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  THE ALMANACK-MAKER, UPON THE 29TH INSTANT.

  IN A LETTER TO A PERSON OF HONOUR; WRITTEN IN THE YEAR 1708.

  MY LORD, - In obedience to your lordship's commands, as well as to

  satisfy my own curiosity, I have for some days past inquired

  constantly after Partridge the almanack-maker, of whom it was

  foretold in Mr. Bickerstaff's predictions, published about a month

  ago, that he should die the 29th instant, about eleven at night, of

  a raging fever. I had some sort of knowledge of him when I was

  employed in the Revenue, because he used every year to present me

  with his almanack, as he did other gentlemen, upon the score of

  some little gratuity we gave him. I saw him accidentally once or

  twice about ten days before he died, and observed he began very

  much to droop and languish, though I hear his friends did not seem

  to apprehend him in any danger. About two or three days ago he

  grew ill, was confined first to his chamber, and in a few hours

  after to his bed, where Dr. Case and Mrs. Kirleus were sent for, to

  visit and to prescribe to him. Upon this intelligence I sent

  thrice every day one servant or other to inquire after his health;

  and yesterday, about four in the afternoon, word was brought me

  that he was past hopes; upon which, I prevailed with myself to go

  and see him, partly out of commiseration, and I confess, partly out

  of curiosity. He knew me very well, seemed surprised at my

  condescension, and made me compliments upon it as well as he could

  in the condition he was. The people about him said he had been for

  some time delirious; but when I saw him, he had his understanding

  as well as ever I knew, and spoke strong and hearty, without any

  seeming uneasiness or constraint. After I had told him how sorry

  I

  was to see him in those melancholy circumstances, and said some

  other civilities suitable to the occasion, I desired him to tell me

  freely and ingenuously, whether the predictions Mr. Bickerstaff had

  published relating to his death had not too much affected and

  worked on his imagination. He confessed he had often had it in his

  head, but never with much apprehension, till about a fortnight

  before; since which time it had the perpetual possession of his

  mind and thoughts, and he did verily believe was the true natural

  cause of his present distemper: "For," said he, "I am thoroughly

  persuaded, and I think I have very good reasons, that Mr.

  Bickerstaff spoke altogether by guess, and knew no more what will

  happen this year than I did myself." I told him his discourse

  surprised me, and I would be glad he were in a state of health to

  be able to tell me what reason he had to be convinced of Mr.

  Bickerstaff's ignorance. He replied, "I am a poor, ignorant

  follow, bred to a mean trade, yet I have sense enough to know that

  al
l pretences of foretelling by astrology are deceits, for this

  manifest reason, because the wise and the learned, who can only

  know 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

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  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 almanacks were mere

  impositions on the people." He replied, "If it 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

  almanack as he thinks fit; the rest was my own invention, to make

  my almanack 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 I 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

  half 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 nearly 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. Bickerstaff was mistaken almost four

  hours in his calculation. In the other circumstances he was exact

  enough. But, whether he has 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 endeavour to account for it by chance, or the effect of

  imagination. For my own part, though I believe no man has less

  faith in these matters, yet I shall wait with some impatience, and

  not without some expectation, the fulfilling of Mr. Bickerstaff's

  second prediction, that the Cardinal do Noailles is to die upon the

  4th 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.

  CHAPTER V - BAUCIS AND PHILEMON.

  IMITATED FROM THE EIGHTH BOOK OF OVID.

  IN ancient times, as story tells,

  The saints would often leave their cells,

  And stroll about, but hide their quality,

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  To try good people's hospitality.

  It happened on a winter night,

  As authors of the legend write,

  Two brother hermits, saints by trade,

  Taking their tour in masquerade,

  Disguised in tattered habits, went

  To a small village down in Kent;

  Where, in the strollers' canting strain,

  They begged from door to door in vain;

 
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