Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Falling out with Genethlialogia

One for my fellow blogger at Wynken de Worde – a rather interesting set of highly personal marginal annotations in one of the EEBO copies of John Gadbury’s Genethlialogia, or, The doctrine of nativities [1658]. My images consist of the title page, with Gadbury’s face rudely scrawled over, and an abusive line inserted below the picture, “His father a Knave, mother a whore & himself the most malicious Taylor and Botcher ever breathed. A bold impudent Scorpionist”, and a composite image I put together of other marginalia in the text.

I confess that I am blogging before finishing the research on this – the copy of Parker’s Familiar to All book about Lilly is out on loan from Reading University library, so I am not sure if Parker mentions this particular attack. And the other thing I want to see is a specimen on William Lilly’s handwriting, for, even though some of the annotations refer to ‘Lilly’ as if Lilly were a third party, I am fairly sure that the annotations are by him. (A trip to the Bodleian is in order: this EEBO text is the Bodley copy, perhaps via Ashmole. Plenty of Lilly manuscript material to check against, draft almanacs etc.)

Here’s my transcript of the remarks written on pages 262-3:

“The Rascall was a meer poor Taylor, till Lilly taught him Astrology 1654

G a meer Atheist hee then thrust a minister at London wall out of his pulpitt, and prated there beeing drunk as hee hath oft reported [himself?]

Hee wrought 4 yeares to Lilly, made him new cloths, & mended his old – his mother had 2: husbands alive when hee viz the author was was born, and also many personall servants, as Mullenay the farmer whom shee undid, shee lived somtymes at Walton near Windsor, wher shee rann away 40[?]. In debt to the poor people thereabouts, Gadburys father never lived wth her aboue 2 or 3 yeares, hee a most absurd […] fellow

A poor sneaking Taylor, never any workman, lived in Strand Lane in a Bawdy house All the generation of the Gadburies most litigious Knave & hated of their neighbours – this John the author was apprentice to one Nichols a poor taylor in Oxford, and was putt out by the parish – els hee must have been of no Trade, in 1646. hee became covenant(?) servant to John Thorn a woamans taylor over against the Talbot in the Strand: and when Thorn was constable at his feast, sang ballads to his guests.”

In ‘To the Reader’, against Gadbury’s 1654 tribute to his mentor: ‘When I first of all adventured upon this Task, I made my intention known unto my truly-honoured Friend, Mr. William Lilly, who, upon the hearing thereof, very nobly, and like a true and faithful Propagator of art and Learning, gave me many encouragements to perfect the thing I intended’, the defacer of the book has written, “& yet, see how this Villain requited Lilly in 1659 and 1660 – in writing 6 or 7 Libelling pamphlets against him.”

The commendatory epistle in the 1654 text of Gadbury’s work, by Lilly himself gets two comments: ‘An impudent rogue – Lilly gave him Directions in the whole.’ The print signature, ‘William Lilly, Student in Astrology’ is carefully overwritten into illegibility.

Pages 256 (‘Graceless Gadbury his nativity most absurdly set and fals (?) by himselfe’) and 257 (‘as bad as can bee witness his severall pamphlets against Lilly, who was his maker, hee is a monster of Ingratitude’) are marked. The annotator was looking through for passages of generalisation that can be laid, as astrologically determined bad qualities, to Gadbury in particular. The p.257 marginal comment is made against ‘the Native should be of Inclination and Manners harsh enough’ in Gadbury’s text.

On page 98, appended to a note of Gadbury’s own acknowledgment of Thomas May as author of some astrological verses: ‘These Verses have I borrowed from the works of that worthy Poet, Mr Tho May’ the annotator puts in, “tis very true, and all the whole book from Lilly, Origanus-Argol, and Sconer, nothing is this pimping fooles but the Tautology.”

At p. 130, sighting the unwary remark, ‘who ever hath Mars and Venus in their Nativities’, the annotator pounces: “Noddy Gadbury, hath not every Native Mars and Venus in their Nativity – oh memorable Coxcomb, oh precious Nonsense”

Other annotations I have spotted in the EEBO copy include, “‘here ♂ is entering Combustion’ – Aly, hee is separating”. “‘A large Reporter of his own acts; slights, derides and contemns all things in comparison of Victory’ – J Gadbury his Conditions exactly” (p.68). “‘Ex venter matri’ Good Latin Jack Gadbury, taylors fustian” (p119). “ ‘Scorpio … the most Pestilent Sign of the Twelve’ – Gadbury’s ascendant” (p.154). “This lying Rascal understands not the word of Greek or Latin” (p.169), and on p.170, by a passage on friendship, “such a Saucy Jack the Author is Jack Gadbury taylor”

As I say, despite the references to ‘Lilly’ as a third party, I am fairly convinced that the annotator must be Lilly himself. The title page gives the first clues, when the author’s name ‘John Gadbury’ has ‘Taylor, and monster of ingratitude’ added to it. In Lilly’s History of his Life and Times’ (1822 edition, page 86), occurs virtually the same phrasing: ‘that monster of ingratitude my quondam taylor, John Gadbury’. Gadbury’s chosen self-honorific, ‘philomathatikos’ (in Greek) is written over on the title page – one can see in one of Lilly’s print attacks on Gadbury that he was irritated by ‘the terrible Rattle in Heathen Greek that commonly attends his name’ (A just reward for unreasonable service, 1675).

Lilly was entirely accustomed to writing about himself in the third person: he does this throughout his pose as ‘Bentivolio Philo-Huff-Lash’ in A just reward for unreasonable service (1675), with its monstrous fib, “I never (to my knowledge) saw Mr Lilly in my life’. Lilly posed as a neutral party to defend himself, and attack Gadbury. The obsessions with his antagonist were very personal: of no distinguished birth himself, Lilly never let go of Gadbury having been his personal tailor, and ‘Bentivolio Philo-Huff-Lash’ just happens to be able to produce two tailor’s bills and receipts exchanged between Gadbury and Lilly. Or one could compare the marginal comment, cited above, “G a meer Atheist hee then thrust a minister at London wall out of his pulpitt, and prated there beeing drunk as hee hath oft reported [himself?]” with “At least when he took upon him to be a Tub-preacher, and held forth at London wall, taking for his Text --- And Jeptha was the son of a concubine (somewhat Analogous to his own concerns)”, on p.22 of Philo-Huff-Lash, A just reward for unreasonable service, or, An answer to John Gadbury's late hectorisme for Scorpio.

Or, again, p.32 of the same book “of his doubtful birth … his wretched breeding, of his honourable Titles at Oxford, when Prentice with Nichols the Taylor there, as sawcy Jack … of his being a Club … with Thorn the Taylor at Strand-Bridge” can be compared with the discreditable biographical facts angrily written on page 263.

Charges of ingratitude, and of tautology, are common to the printed pamphlets and the annotations. And in the end, only William Lilly could be as petty, obsessive, only he could be as bothered to be angry. It has to be him, venting his spleen, only he had sufficient spite for these extensive, anonymous snipings.

Why did they quarrel so? Lilly thought he had given Gadbury a start, and then had been turned against. For Gadbury, the younger man, was quicker to adapt – he moved towards royalism before Lilly, who had continued to foresee great things for Richard Cromwell. Gadbury genuinely wanted to establish astrology on evidential lines, and derided Lilly for mixing the art or science with the prophecies of Mother Shipton – Lilly was, in the end, very much attached to the visionary or oracular aspect of prophecy. It was professional rivalry too: Gadbury really did try to knock out Lilly permanently, dragging up all his anti-monarchical pronouncements to brand him a traitor at the Restoration. In return, Lilly, who rather clearly enjoyed these scraps, was happy to abuse Gadbury as a ‘scorpionist’, and Gadbury came off worst in their print exchange about those born with Scorpio in the ascendant.

Finally, one has to think that both men had been too rattled to desist from squabbling. As Lilly was reduced to saying for his 1660 almanac, ‘The many turnings and windings, frequent and sudden Revolutions, Alterations and Changes in the government of England An 1659 what man or Angel could predict’. Recent events had just been too confounding, both men had multiple embarrassments piled up – Lilly kept getting politics wildly wrong, while Gadbury was unlucky with any assurances he gave about the plague not returning. The unnerving knowledge of their own record of failure surely prompted the diversionary attack on a fellow prognosticator, not so much to discredit that rival in the minds of readers, as to distract from ignominious self-awareness.


Wynken said...

This is fabulous! I love the idea of Lilly reading Gadbury's work and of being so filled with contempt that he needs to scrawl and deface it. And I love that this is the EEBO copy--I'm going to save this up to counter my usual examples of the ways in which EEBO leads us away from thinking about specific copies of books. What fun!

DrRoy said...

Ah, good, I thought it might be up your street. Curiously, I was just idly thinking, as I turned on my PC just now, about prompting you in a comment in your blog to take a look - and there you were anyway. I am having a bit of a William Lilly thing these days, as you see from my pilgrimage to his tomb. Moving a row of seats in the chancel to reveal the slab was fun, a bit of hands on scholarly investigation.

Sue Ward said...

You may be interested to know that a colleague and I have just finished researching this matter. The results aren't absolute, of course, but the article does go a long way towards explaining what went on. We also make a suggestion as to the identity of Philo-Huff-Lash. It will be published in a few days, but details can be found at my own web log:

Sue Ward said...

It was nice to meet you at Treadwells the other evening. I mentioned to you then that there was more research available if you were interested, and it is to that that I referred in my previous comment here. Those are Lilly's marginalia and he does write in the more formal 3rd person (note Bulstrode Whitelock does this throughout his diaries). In our paper, my colleague and I present the reason for Lilly's comments and the chronology of events. Lilly was definitely *not* 'Philo-Huff-Lash' and we have a strong suspicion as to who it actually was.