Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Stick with the status quo, says William Lilly


In November 1649, William Lilly published his Merlini Anglici ephemeris for the year ahead, 1650. In it, he came to the effects of an eclipse of the moon, 360 years ago today, on the 5th May 1650. He admits that things will be touch-and-go:

“Such will be the general carriage of Affairs amongst our selves and with our Neighbour Nations, so ambiguous and doubtful the chance and fate of England, and we so terribly threatened, as very many, and they no vulgar fools, will be upon terms of revolting from, or under-hand practicing against, the now established Government, which appears not in their capricious judgments so pleasing as they could desire…”

Well, tough, Lilly (in effect) said: “the State is necessitated yet a while to keep an Army on foot for the preservation of the present Body Politique of this Nation; and to speak more nearly to the matter, even to preserve from ruine those Vipers who would most wretchedly destroy both this Parliament, Councel of State, and themselves, to set up they know not what.” (Sig B4)

So the astrologer embarked on predicting much, much better times ahead: a little bit more patience, he asserted, and then will come the days when we all stand to inherit fortunes or find buried treasure:

When Jupiter, in a Revolution, is in the fourth house, many men increase their fortunes by inheritances falling unto them, and estates are left unto them from dead men; men increase their fortunes by taking of Farms, by discovering Treasure his under ground, and its recovery, or moneys unexpectedly happening unto them, and by things and matters of great antiquity: Mens sorrows are taken quite away, and such things will be offered them as produce great joy and comfort…” (Sig B6)

Lilly had already given some account of the Land of Cockaigne London citizens will soon be inhabiting: you will be able to give up your jobs, and live on rents from your land:

“A time is coming when they shall live upon the Rents of those Lands, and not upon their Trades, and then they will have cause to rejoice; for treasure may fail them, it being subject to fire, and the casualties of War, but land cannot be moved…”  Sig B

Not only all this, but you won’t even have to worry about women (I like the way that in this part of the prediction, he revises the initial ‘generally prove chaste’ to something more reassuring, which he re-iterates, in a ‘Did I mention chaste?’ kind of way):

“Women will generally prove chaste, shall have very good success in their own womanly affairs, all manner of Jewels will be at high rates; all over the whole Nation  fertile year may be expected, women will be harmless, truth-speakers, and loyal to their Husbands, chaste, and enjoy quiet lives.” (Sig B5v)

And so William Lilly argued for keeping what you have got, and so live to see an England where “The condition of the people begins to amend, and their minds inclinable to a more familiar obedience to the Edicts of the Parliament than formerly.”

To fill in an explanatory footnote to all this, Lilly was writing at a time when people were concerned about whether it was worth putting money into the purchase of lands sequestered from Bishops, Deans, and Chapters. The obvious fear was that a reversion to an episcopal church would see such purchases declared illegal, and the lands restored without compensation. Go ahead, Lilly says, it will all be lastingly valid and legal – he rather mischievously commends Dr Cornelius Burgess, the City preacher, for his purchase of the Dean of London’s house.

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