Thursday, April 02, 2009

Two adverts, 1651 and 1653
































Fabulous printed ephemera off EEBO: two hand bills prepared for London astrologers in the mid 17th century. The earlier advert is for a woman astrologer across the Thames in Southwark, the 'Gentleman lately come to Town, Student in Astrology and Physick' was in Shoe Lane. He professes (as the woman apparently did not) medical astrology, and he is also more attuned to astrological advice being sought by clients in relation to money matters. The anonymous woman astrologer offers the usual range of astrological practice: nativities calculated, the success of voyages, whether those who have travelled far away are still alive or not, courtship, the location of stolen goods and absconded servants.


She is markedly more defensive about her art. It was quite normal for an astrologer to term themselves a 'mathematitian', as she does here, and a lot of mathematics as we would understand it went into the tables that computed the positions of the planets in a birth chart. But the indented paragraph expands:

ALL these things, with many other of consequence, which are here omitted, shall be performed by the lawfull Acts of the Mathematicks, which are not repugnant against the Divine Word, or the Lawes of the Kingdome; If any man shall make any doubt of the lawfulness thereof, or shall be inclined to think that these things above said, are performed by unlawfull meanes: If they please, for their better satisfaction therein, they may read the Quadripartit of Ptolomy, and the Comment of Dr. Carden thereupon, Dr. Melanston his preface in the works of Schomer, Dr. Fran. Junctinus. Cyprian, Leovitius, Lucas, Gauricus, Pontinus Haly, Guido, Bonatus, and D. Lucius, Belantius, in which is given full satisfaction, so that by these Authors, any man may be more fully satisfied in the Premises.


Either her sex explains the defensive note, or her male rival two years later operated when there was a greater acceptance of astrology. But both practitioners conceal their identities, and leave potential clients to 'inquire for the professor' at the given address.


Who was she? George Thomason (I think) has annotated both handbills with the same kind of hostile comment: the 'Gentleman lately come to Town, Student in Astrology and Physick (a Whelp of Lillie)' and, in her case 'written by on( ) of Lillies Whelps'. In his unfinished autobiography, William Lilly mentions both Sarah Skelhorn and Ellen Evans as involved in magical-astrological practices. Sarah Skelhorn was 'Speculatrix to Arthur Gauntlet': she could see angels in a crystal ball, in fact, she saw them everywhere - "Sarah told me oft, the angels would for some years follow her, and appear to her in every room of the house, until she was weary of them'. Ellen Evans was the daughter of Arise Evans, the drunken Welshman who initially taught Lilly astrology: she would call the Queen of the Fairies to appear in her crystal 'O Micol, O tu Micol, regina pigmeorum veni'. Ellen Evans would have been well placed to move on to the arguably less dubious practice of 'mathematics', as fashions in divination changed.


Lilly himself had been lured back into London after his spell of depression in Horsham when, on a visit back to town, one Will Poole showed him just such a hand bill in the Mitre Tavern, 'set forth by a master of Arts in Cambridge, intimating his abilities for resolving all manner of questions'. And Lilly was not slow on the uptake: 'perceiving there was money to be got in London...'


7 comments:

chris hale said...

Dr. John Dee had been engaged in similar astrological practices the previous century (and talked to angels via his scryer Kelley, it seems!) and had attracted some unfavourable comments from those who believed his communication was with the devil rather than with god. Let's hope the advertisers you mention did not have a similar rough ride.

DrRoy said...

Lilly's 'History of his Life and Times' is a lot more forthcoming about magical practices than astrologers could afford to be in print works. Arise Evans, comissioned to raise a spirit by 'Lord Bothwell and Sir Kenelm Digby' fails to perform 'any suffumigation' at invocation, and the vexed spirits transport him to a field near Battersea. In practice, Arise Evans had more probably been downing spirits, rather than raising them.

chris hale said...

Something from John Aubrey on Arise Evens:

'Arise Evans had a fungous nose, and said, it was revealed to him, that the King's hand would cure him, and at the first coming of King Charles II into St. James's Park, he kissed the King's hand, and rubbed his nose with it; which disturbed the King, but cured him'.

DrRoy said...

I imagine the 'fungous nose' like the man in Ghirlandaio's double portrait of 'An Old Man and his Grandson' (the one with rhinophyma). Or like W C Fields.

Gaenor Burchett-Vass said...

Drunken Welshmen. Excellent. What's rhinophyma?

DrRoy said...

A pedantic way of saying 'red nose'. Do not do a Google image search on 'rhinophyma' if you want to avoid being chased by hideous noses in your nightmares.
Don't say I didn't warn you...

Matthew Francis said...

Only just discovered this. The man who taught Lilly astrology was John Evans, not Arise Evans. They are often confused.