Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Significations of the Seventh House

“It signifies Marriage, open Enemies, Lawsuits, Controversies, Contracts, Warres, Bargaines, Fugitives, Thefts, &c. Because the Demands which do naturally appertain to the seventh house, require more consideration, and are more difficult to judge then of any other house, I have been forced to be more large in delivering the opinions of the Ancients, as well as of some modern Practisers…”

William Lilly’s Christian Astrology of 1647 is my text, and his instructions for an astrologer to determine important things about a proposed marriage, such as:

Who shall be Master of the two…

How they shall agree after Marriage…

Whether a Man or his Wife shall dye first, and the time when

This being 17th century England, we are soon getting to the main issue (I have expanded Lilly’s use of the common astrological signs):

Whether she be a Maid, or Chaste, of whome the quere is.

Look if the Lord of the Ascendant [Venus] and the [Moon] be found in fixed Signs, good Planets beholding them, then say, she is a Maid, and chaste: But if in place of Fortunes there be Infortunes, say she is neither a Virgin, nor chaste; especially if [Mars] be there, and he in the house of [Venus] without Reception: Also, if [Moon] and [Sun] behold themselves and [Mars], she is no Maid; but if the Significators be in moveable Signs, Infortunes beholding them, say then she desireth a man very much, and that she refrains and restrains her concupiscence very much, and casts off her Suitors; yet it is not good to trust always to this judgment, because the nature of women is changeable.

Whether a Woman be honest to her Husband.

The Lord of the Ascendant, the [Moon] or [Venus] in fixed signs, in aspect of the Fortunes, she is chaste; these being in aspect of the Infortunes, not chaste, chiefly with [Mars]; [Sun] or [Moon] beholding [Mars], she is meretrix; [Sun] and [Moon] in no aspect, nor [Mars] with them, she is suspected a privy harlot, or rather privately wanton; but not yet come to the act.”

At this point, Lilly reminds those readers learning from him how to determine these delicate things that they will be playing with fire:

“I must charge all Sons of Art, to be sparing in delivering judgment upon these queries, rather to be silent; for as men, we may err; and so by delivering an unlucky judgment, be authors of much mischief.”

Nevertheless, he continues inexorably on, through all the permutations of temptation, resistance, inclination to frailty, extenuations of circumstance:

Of a woman, whether she be corrupt, or hath a Lover besides her husband or Sweet-heart

Behold the Ascendant and his Lord, and the [Moon], and see if they be both in angles or fixed Signs, then say the Maid is a Virgin, and they lye of her, or what is reported is false: if the Lord of the Ascendant and [Moon] be in fixed Signs, and the angles be moveable Signs, she was tempted, but gave no credit or admittance to the Tempter. If the [Moon] be joined to [Saturn] [Jupiter] [Mars] [Sun] corporally by aspect, so that there is between them but five degrees or less, she is tempted of some one who hath the effigies of that Planet to whom she is joined; but if the [Moon] be joined to [Venus] or [Mercury], she is tempted by some woman for a man, but she makes no reckoning of the old or young Bawds words: but laughs her to scorn …

If then the [Moon] be with [the dragon’s tail], she hath formerly offended, and is still guilty, nor will she amend hereafter

The [Moon] in the last face of [Gemini], the woman seems to be corrupt, if the Ascendant be a moveable Sign, or common, or if the Lord of the Ascendant or [Moon] be in moveable or common Signs she is no Virgin; the Lord of the Ascendant combust in a moveable or common Sign, the woman hath been tempted and made a harlot by violence, or she was unwillingly drawn to lewdness.”

The astrologer’s client might want to know just where the actual or contemplated lover is: Lilly gives the rules that determine his actual distance:

“If [Mars] be with the Lord of the seventh, or with [Moon], or in one Sign in [conjunction], or with [the dragon’s tail], the woman hath a Sweet-heart in contract, not far from her house; and if they be in one degree, then he is in the house, and one of the familiars of the man that asks the question.”

He even seems to produce the signs in the sky that indicate if the woman is actually lesbian in her inclinations:

“The Lord of the seventh joined to [Venus] with Reception, with or without any aspect, or else by a [trine] or [sextile], or[square] without Reception, the Woman cares not for men, but hath friendship with women.”

And the final outcome of all this celestially vexed mating:

Whether the Child conceived is the Son of him who is reputed is Father

Behold the Lord of the Ascendant and the [Moon], who signifie the Interrogant; then observe the Sign of the eleventh and his Lrd, these signifie the issue in Conception; if these Significators behold one another by [trine] or [sextile], with Reception or not, the Conception is legitimate

But if none of these things be, but that [Saturn] [Mars] or [Venus] behold the fifth house, or Lord thereof, there may be just suspicion that the Child is conceived in adultery, and the Mother was stuprated.”

The double standard is in its perfect form here. Lilly just cannot imagine an astrologer being consulted by a woman client about her prospective partner’s chastity. Women having so many more potential faults than men, the system seems set up to find and confirm them.

‘Christian astrology modestly treated'? The man had a nerve. Lilly thought, of course, that his art let him interpret the purposes of the largest elements in God’s creation (which always had meaning in relation to His prime creation, man): the whole sky was a divinely ordained system of influences. Lilly will always claim that his astrological predictions or readings do not entail any necessity, that repentance, or self-restraint, or resistance are always possible to the free human will. But once you read him in the full flow of confident exposition, he looks like the willing prisoner of his own system, seduced by its intricacies into describing an astral predetermination. A latently Calvinist God lurks behind all this, and maybe that’s what made Lilly think he was expounding something ‘Christian’ - rather than the arbitrary and prejudiced gim-crack assembled from all sorts of traditions, which you could charge with being mechanistic if it wasn’t so susceptible to delivering what suited the operator’s own opinions.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

The early modern dormouse

Nicolas Culpeper made me think about early modern small domestic animals again. He is reflecting on the way repugnance for snakes proves God’s curse on the serpent:

“For men though they keep beasts for their profit, and birds for their pleasure, and dormice for their ease, as to make themselves sleep, or the like: yet a man when he meets with an Adder, gives him no quarter, but is sure to die for it…”

One of the small creatures (number 9, if you can see it) in the illustration from Comenius (above) is supposed to be a dormouse, but labeled as troubling the house, rather than usefully somniferous.

Edward Topsell’s The historie of foure-footed beastes (1607) has a profusion of medical uses for dormice, but unaccountably, none of them are to do with sleep disorders:

The medicines of the Dormouse.

Dormyse being taken in meat, doe much profit against the Bulimon [word not in OED]; The powder of Dormyse mixed with oil, doth heal those which are scalded with any hot licker. A live Dormouse doth presently take away all warts being bound thereupon. Dormyse, and field-mice being burnt, and their dust mingled with honey, will profit those which desire the clearness of the eyes, if they doe take thereof some small quantitie every morning. The powder of a Dormouse, or field mouse rubbed upon the eyes helpeth the aforesaid disease. A Dormouse being flayed, roasted and anointed with oil, and salt, being given in meat, is an excellent cure for those that are short winded. The same also doth very effectually heal those that spit out filthy matter or corruption. Powder of Dormice, or field-mice, or young worms, being mixed with oil doth heal those that have kibes on their heels, or chilblains on their hands. The fatte of a Dormouse, the fatte of a hen, and the marrow of an Ox melted together, and being hot, infused into the ears, doth very much profit both the pains and deafeness thereof.

The fatte of Dormice being boiled, as also of field-mice, are delivered to be most profitable for the eschewing of the palsie. That fat of a Dormouse is also very excellent for those which are troubled with a palsie or shaking of the joints. The skin and inward parts of a Dormouse being taken forth, and boiled with honey in a new vessel, and afterwards poured into an other vessel, will very effectually heal all diseases which are incident to the ears, being anointed thereupon. The skin of a Dormouse or a silk worm being pulled off, and the inward parts thereof being boiled in a new brasen vessel with honey, from the quantitie of 27. ounces even to three, and so kept, that when there is need of a certain bathing vessel, the medicine being made warm and powred into the ears, doth help all pains, deafness, or inflammation of the ears. The fat of a Dormouse is commended to be very medicinable for the aforenamed diseases. The same is profitable for all pains, aches, or griefs in the belly. The urine of a Dormouse is an excellent remedy against the palsie, And thus much shall suffice concerning the medicinal virtues of the Dormouse.

Thomas Lupton in his A thousand notable things, of sundry sortes Wherof some are wonderfull, some straunge, some pleasant, diuers necessary, a great sort profitable and many very precious (1579) goes the more obvious route: the dormouse obviously promotes what it is notably good at itself, sleeping: “The soles of the feete annoynted with the fatte of a Dormouse, doth procure sleepe. As Actius doth saye.”

John Swan notes that the dormouse has, despite its drowsy image, been taken as having a very positive spiritual symbolism: “the Dormouse is a beast which endeth his old age every winter, and when summer cometh, reviveth again: which some have therefore made an emblem of the resurrection. They are exceeding sleepie, and fatted with it. Their hair is short, and in colour variable, only their bellie is always white: and for mine own part, I ever thought them to be no bigger then an ordinary mouse, but in Gesner and Topsell they are said to be greater in quantitie then a squirrel”. Speculum mundi· Or A glasse representing the face of the world shewing both that it did begin, and must also end (1635)

Jean Baptiste van Helmont believed that dormice and rabbits could mate and produce young (no surprise when he also believed he had evidence a man and a pig could produce ‘a sodomitical monster’). He thought transgenic animals were all: “more like the Mother than the Father. So of a sheep the mother, and a He goat the Father, a Lamb comes forth, which besides Wool and tail, hath his other parts like a sheep. So a Mule, his Father being an Ass, and his Mother a Mare. And so a Horse of a Bull and a Mare. Lastly, in seven Coneys, from their Father a Dormouse, and their mother a Coney, nothing besides their tail was like unto the latter

Robert Mandevill modestly disagreed with him: “And as for those Creatures whose producers are of two different sorts, as a Mule bred of an Ass and a Horse, and another Creature bred of a Cony and a Dormouse; all which your Author thinks do take more after their mother then their father, more after the breeder then the begetter; I will not eagerly affirm the contrary, although it seems to me more probable: But this I can say, that I have observed by experience, that Fauns and Foals have taken more after the Male then after the Female; for amongst many several colour’d Deer, I have seen but one milk white Doe; and she never brought forth a white Faun, when as I have seen a white Buck beget white and speckled Fauns of black and several coloured Does. (Timothies taske: or a Christian sea-card guiding through the coastes of a peaceable conscience to a peace constant, and a crowne immortall, 1619).

The Duchess of Newcastle was clearly very interested in this debate about whether inter-species offspring more resembled their mother or their father. In one of her typical anti-feminine moments, she sees the father as dominant.

Bishop Joseph Hall meditated on the dormouse (he is interested in the idea that dormice woke from their long sleep fatter than they began it, and so must be living and thriving on air, like chameleons):

Upon the sight of a Dormouse.

At how easy a rate doe these Creatures live that are fed with rest; So the Bear and the Hedge-hog (they say) spend their whole winter in sleep, and rise up fatter then they lay down; How oft have I envied the thriving drowsiness of these Beasts; When the toil of thoughts hath bereaved me of but one hours sleep; and left me languishing to a new task; and yet, when I have well digested the comparison of both these conditions, I must needs say, I had rather waste with work, then batten with ease; & would rather choose a life profitably painful, then uselessly dull and delicate. I cannot tell whether I should say those Creatures live, which doth nothing; since we are wont ever to notifie life by motion; Sure I am their life is not vital; For me, Let me rather complain of a mind that will not let me be idle, then of a body that will not let me work.
Occasionall meditations by Ios. Exon ; set forth by R.H. (1631)

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Investigating an early modern plagiary

I have been trying to pull together a discussion of the various tracts and parodies prompted by William Lilly’s failed astrological punt on the forthcoming terrors of the ‘Black Monday’ eclipse of 29th March, 1652.

My reading around this led me to a pamphlet attributed on EEBO to Isabel Yeamans, The year of wonders: or, the glorious rising of the fifth monarch (1652), and I was (for such is the way of the academic world) heartened to have a female author, one of those much prized ‘early modern Englishwomen’ apparently on my roster.

Further reading exploded this: the pamphlet attributed to Yeamans is plagiarized from Nicholas Culpepper’s apocalyptic treatise on the same set of eclipses, Catastrophe magnatum, or, The fall of monarchie a caveat to magistrates, deduced from the eclipse of the sunne, March 29, 1652, with a probable conjecture of the determination of the effects.

Maybe ‘plagiary’ is too harsh a word: perhaps the material published as The year of wonders began as a set of extracts from Culpepper’s longer work, cutting out the rather self-important account of what eclipses are and why they are so influential, and getting immediately to his prognostications.

Who compiled these extracts I do not know. Isabel Yeamans herself seems highly unlikely. Until her marriage in 1664 there was no such person: in 1652 she was Isabel Fell. Rather bafflingly, there is in fact no actual indication of authorship in The year of wonders. I will have to try to trace how this attribution - which gave a woman author’s married name to a work compiled prior to her marriage - began, and when.

Could the attribution have any truth to it? Even as a girl of 15 (as she would have been in 1652), Isabel would probably not have lacked the basic ability to make the extracts: she would go on to be a preacher in the Society of Friends, a close ally of George Fox, and an emissary for the Quakers to Germany when they hoped to recruit Princess Elizabeth of the Palatinate to their sect. Her indubitable production is An invitation of love, to all who hunger and thirst after righteousness, to come and take of the water of life freely without money and without price with a word of advice to such as are asking the way to Sion (and are weeping) with their faces thither-ward : together with a faithful warning to the inhabitants of Babylon, to come out of her, lest (partaking of her sins) ye also come to partake of her plagues (1679), and she might have had a hand in A Lively Testimony to the Living Truth Given forth by Robert Jeckell upon his Death-bed (1676). That main surviving work speaks of ‘hoping the ponderous Reader … may not be distasted at the simplicity of the style’ – the amusing usage aside, the style is 17th century Bible-speak.

But in 1652, the young Isabel Fell was at her family home up in Lancashire, Swarthmore Hall, near Ulverston (image of the hall above from the second website at end of this piece). This was the year that George Fox visited the family (in June), and converted her mother, Isabel and her sisters to Quakerism (ODNB). The year of wonders is dated by Thomason to March 21st, 1652, just eight days before the foreboding eclipse. I suppose that Culpeper’s earlier treatise could conceivably have found its way to Lancashire, and a bright 17th century fifteen year old (who we might imagine as already interested in the ideas of those who believed that the prophet Daniel’s Fifth Monarchy was arriving) have summarized it, and her extracts got back down to London in the hands of a traveling Quaker. But that’s quite a long train of possibilities, and it is far more obvious, from the emphasis of the full title, that The year of wonders: or, the glorious rising of the fifth monarch, was compiled in London from Culpeper to encourage those would had recently (from c.1648) been persuaded that the ‘Fifth Monarchy’ was about to begin on earth.

The plagiary (or excerpting) runs in seriatim order:

‘Yeamans’ page 4 is assembled from pages 12 and 18 in Culpeper; page 5 from pages 20 and 24, page 6 from 36 and 37; page 7 extracts Culpeper page 47; 8 from 48; page 9 then picks up Culpeper on page 68; page 10 seems to be part original, and partly from page 70 of Culpeper; 11 is from 70; 12 is 71; 13 comes from page 72, as does 14, and page 15 is page 74 of the original. The final page breaks with this progression, being taken from page 65 of the source (the extract-maker looked back for a passable ending).

The person who assembled The year of wonders does occasionally write their own material: the introductory half page, and part of page10 do not seem to be in Culpeper. If it was a merely fraudulent product, alterations for the first page are what you would expect. One tenuous sign of something like Quaker sensitivities (specifically about equality between the sexes) might be seen in the omission of Culpeper’s brisk urging of Sweden to extirpate its witches (p. 73) as a way of heading off the worst effects of the eclipse (and God’s wrath).

The gender of the author is not apparent (unlike Yeaman’s undoubted work, where she is repeatedly anxious to show the biblical authority for women preachers, writing very much in the spirit of her mother, author herself of Women’s Speaking Justified of 1666). When Culpeper predicts the dire effects of the forthcoming eclipse on pregnant women, he can add “(let them make use of my DIRECTORY for MIDWIVES to prevent it)”, which the plagiarist reduces to a bare prophecy, ‘such of them as are with child shall be too subject to misery’. This probably discounts Culpeper as having been paid to make his own extracts from his longer work.

Extracts from Nicholas Culpeper, then, with a London printing house cashing in on the anxiety about the 1652 eclipse - and pitching also at the Fifth Monarchists. How did it ever get attached to Isabel Yeamans? And why don’t any of these astrologers, doom-mongering about eclipses, admit that when you get a solar eclipse, you always get two lunar eclipses, because that’s just how the heavenly bodies are going to be aligned – three eclipses in a year is normal, and no reason to panic. But that’s another question still.

Monday, August 11, 2008

2,800 miles of America

The holiday in America was rewarding and demanding. We (this means me and my son Timothy) drove 2,856 miles, in a Pontiac Grand Prix – a great lump of a car, but amazingly less spacious inside than my own Ford Focus. On ‘drive’, this would grind up the passes at 1,500 rpm, you had to select 3 or 2 to get any response from it – a basic incompatibility with my soft-footed driving style. On the freeways, it came into its own if you overtook past the speed limit, with a great throaty roar.

We 'did' the Rockies (over the highest paved road in America) – lots of marmots and pikas, and a breathless attempt at a walk. Then Mount Rushmore, the Black Hills, Devil’s Tower, Yellowstone, Grand Tetons, Dinosaur National Park, Canyonlands National Park, Arches National Park, and the Mesa Verde cliff dwellings.

Yellowstone is so big – you couldn’t fit it twice into the whole of Yorkshire. We had a day and a half. We saw Old Faithful and lots more of the geothermal stuff, and swam in the Firehole River. A wildfire prevented us from doing the full central loop, which was almost a relief.

I think that I enjoyed the Arches National Park the best. The hike up to Delicate Arch was phenomenal, but on the way to Landscape Arch subsequently, you just had to acknowledge that after this one, the heat and the altitude meant that this was your limit for the day. Instead of mountain bikes on the Slick Rock Trail, it was back to the motel for air-con and a pool.

The Mesa Verde made a thrilling visit, going up the ladders to Balcony House. I’d no idea that the people there were living so high up anyway – it’s at about 7,500 feet; or that their lasting legacy was for them a desperate expedient which they only lived in for 80-odd years before they had to abandon the Mesa completely.

On the final morning, we both loved a visit down the Mollie Kathleen gold mine at Cripple Creek (round the back of Pike's Peak). Geology is quite a theme in this holiday route. Dinosaur bones have been found all over the region, and sometimes the road will have signs naming the formations you are driving by: the drive up the Big Horn Mountains at the start of day 7 takes you through six major geological periods.

We saw humming birds, marmots, ground squirrels, a moose, prairie dogs, and a buffalo; but no bears.

My image is of Lewis Lake, going south out of Yellowstone towards the Grand Tetons. I shall now suffer from a lack of a daily overload of big scenery.