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remember that a very similar superstition prevails among modern Eastern nations. Their proverbial expression, that every man's destiny is written on his forehead, is believed by them to be literaliy as well as metaphorically true; though we are not aware ihat they pretend to the power of interpreting the decree by means of any external symptoms of its nature. Divination by cards, now the resource of the vagabond mountebank or gipsy, was in the seventeenth century a fashionable amusement at the Court of France. There is a well-known and rather interesting anecdote, of the ominous gloom which was, on one occasion, cast over the circle of Anne of Austria, by the obstinacy with which the Knave of Spades—the sure emblem of a speedy death-persisted in falling to the lot of the young and brilliant Duc de Candale. The random prophecy was very shortly thereafter verified; and afforded a copious theme for the warnings and lamentations of those who, while they did not deny the authenticity of such predictions, considered them inconsistent with the profession of a sound Catholic. Geomancy, so familiar to every reader of the Arabian Nights, does not appear to have been practised in Europe ; and Augury, or divination by the flight of birds—the favourite resource of Roman Pontiffs and Generals, from Romulus to Julian-has been wholly disused in modern times.
But the most scientific and satisfactory source of divination indeed, the only one which the adepts of former days considered worthy of implicit confidence-was Astrology. The profession of this celebrated and universally revered science almost invariably accompanied that of Alchymy. But Astrology, unlike its sister mystery, was no obscure or uncertain study-no problem for the exercise of ingenuity or research ;-it was a complete and definite system--a science as firmly established and as universally recognized as geometry. Though requiring long and painful study in those who wished to obtain complete acquaintance with its secrets, many of its more simple maxims and technicalities were familiar to the well informed, and even to the vulgar. The Astrologer, indeed, worked with machinery whose general nature was so univerally understood, that he had little temptation to exaggerate his powers by the wild and profane rodomontades of the Alchymist. And we accordingly find that the art was practised, with free encouragement and liberal reward, under the sway of the Romish Chureh, and even under the still sterner vigilance of the English Puritans.
By what process of reasoning any human being could persuade himself that the truth of his conjectures, respecting the connexion between the solar system and the events of the world, was mathematically demonstrable, might have been difficult to
-explain. Accordingly we find that the votaries of Astrology were in the habit of substituting authority and tradition for common sense. They attributed the discovery of their mystic secrets to the ancient Chaldeans--a race believed to have been profoundly versed in magic, and who might be supposed to have derived this art, among others, from those primeval sages to whom Christian as well as Mahommedan fable has ascribed so much superhuman power and knowledge. The legend in question is so far worthy of credit, that Astrology appears to have been taught to Europe by the eastern nations, and to have been practised among the latter from a very early period. It still preserves all its primitive importance in the kingdoms of Central Asia. The royal Astrologer is one of the most important officers at the Court of the Shah, and no Persian minister would venture to conclude a political transaction, or even to arrange a state ceremonial, without obtaining the sanction of the stars. Such of our readers as are familiar with the lively pages of Fraser and Morier, cannot fail to remember that the warlike Khans and Begs of Khorasan and Kourdistan, are represented as never starting on a chappow until they have ascertained the precise hour in which the planetary influences will be most propitious to robbery and murder. And even the wandering Pindarri and the prowling Thug, are—or, as we trust we may now more properly say, were—most scrupulous in committing their habitual atrocities with exact astronomical propriety.
Among the nations of Europe, the reputation of Astrology did not attain its height until that of Alchymy had begun to decline. In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, when, as we shall hereafter see, the latter science was regarded with contempt, if not with abhorrence, its rival was not only respected by men of all ranks, but was openly and magnificently patronized by the most powerful princes of Europe. Accordingly we observe that the most renowned Astrologers of that period, found it neither necessary nor prudent to claim any acquaintance with the necromantic mysteries of Paracelsus and Cornelius Agrippa. The consequence was, that their art never attracted any thing resembling persecution, and was even tolerated by the most severe and scrupulous religionists. In France the science was regarded, during many generations, with oriental reverence; almost every king, statesman, and courtier, had recourse to its assistance; but its two most eminent patrons, strange as it may seeni, were Louis XI. and Catharine de Medici. In Louis, indeed, the inconsistency of such a delusion, though sufficiently striking, was less unaccountable. The whole history of that extraordinary man proves that his mind, like many of the most powerful which VOL. LXXXI. NO. CLXI.
appear in history, was eminently acute and active in all worldly affairs; but became childishly weak and credulous when touched by superstition. It is clear, from the specimens of his private devotions preserved by contemporary historians, that, with all his keen sagacity, suspicious craft, and satirical wit, his religious feelings and opinions were in no respect superior to those of a Negro worshipping a fetiche. There is probably little exaggeration in that striking picture of his confinement at Peronne, which represents him as abandoning, in a fit of superstitious foreboding, that revenge upon his faithless counsellor, from which his own imminent personal danger had been unable to divert his mind. But the credulity of Catharine was of a more limited and theréfore a more eccentric kind. It is well known that she was in general as free from religious as from moral scruples; but the atheist who ridiculed the gospel, listened with the most devout docility to the jargon of Nostradamus. There is perhaps no sovereign in history, of whose persevering addiction to the occult arts so many singular traditions are preserved. We might easily fill our pages with anecdotes of the amulets and talismans which she wore; of the observatories and laboratories which she fitted up in the Louvre; of the enchanted mirror in which she beheld the fortunes of her descendants; and, above all, of that singular and sudden change in her disposition, which history attributes to the cruel insults of her dissolute husband, * but which popular superstition ascribed to the malign influence of her supernatural allies. It may perhaps be thought, that such a weakness was wanting to complete the worthlessness of her character ; by depriving it of that show of imposing dignity, which unflinching consistency, even in crime, will sometimes bestow. Marie de Mediçi and Louis XIII. were both remarkable for the same credulity; and it is well known that the supposed skill of the Maréchale d'Ancre in the occult sciences, was in a great nieasure the source of her influence over the former princess. The last important occasion on which the aid of Astrology appears to have been called in by a French sovereign, occurred at the birth of Louis XIV. A celebrated seer was summoned from Germany to cast the nativity of the infant monarch ; and the result
* It is said that Catharine obtained the means of overhearing an interview between Henry II. and the Duchesse de Valentinois ; and that the King, becoming aware of her presence, punished her stratagem by turning the conversation upon her person and character, and treating both with the most contemptuous ridicule. Catharine was then a young woman, and the effect of this insult upon her temper and disposition was thought to have been great and lasting,
of his calculations was solemnly communicated to the Court. The sage appears to have saved his credit by the brief prediction-Diu, durè, feliciter ;-words which were supposed to be verified by the length, the splendour, and the reverses, of the Prince's reign. A long and happy life was evidently the least which he could foretell for his illustrious client; and an experienced Astrologer was no doubt too close an observer of the world, if not of the stars, to hazard a promise of unmixed prošperity
In England, Astrology, though it exercised less influence over princes and politicians, was nearly as popular as on the Continent. In the reign of Elizabeth it was a lucrative, if not an honourable profession. It survived the civil wars, and appears to have wholly escaped the reproach of papisticality ;'-a reproach to which we should have thought it exceedingly liable, and which had proved fatal to so many less objectionable practices. We find, however, that the devout veterans of Fairfax and Cromwell did not scruple to seek promises of victory in the stars ; and that on one occasion two eminent professors of Astrology were entertained with distinguished honour at the headquarters of the Parliamentary army.
After the Restoration, the science continued so popular, that it became a favourite frolic with the courtiers of Charles II. to pry into the secrets of their city neighbours, by assuming the disguise of fortune-tellers. The Earl of Rochester, in particular, was so successful in gratifying his love of intrigue by this idle stratagem, that several anecdotes of his mischievous dexterity are still well known. During the plague of 1665, the harvest collected by impostors pretending to the power of predicting future events, is said to have been enormous. Almost every contemporary writer has mentioned the singular spirit of fatalism which prevailed during that great calamity; and which, by causing hopeless despondency in some persons, and presumptuous confidence in others, was thought to have added materially to the victims of the disorder. This infatuation was encouraged and turned to advantage by the fortune-tellers, whom the thirst of gain attracted in multitudes to London, notwithstanding the imminent danger of communicating with the inhabitants. Many of them lost their lives by their reckless avarice; but their credit appears nevertheless to have maintained itself, until the 'cessation of the panic gave men leisure for cool reflection. Some time after this, a prophetical pamphlet published in 1651, by the famous astrologer Lilly—the Sidrophel of Hudibras-was thought to be so signally verified by the great fire of London, that the author was summoned before the House of Commons, and publicly requested to favour them with his advice respecting the prospects of the nation! The successful Seer, however, was too cautious to risk the unexpected reputation which his fortunate hit had acquired ; and it was found impossible to draw from him any distinct prediction. After the Revolution, the science gradually fell into disrepute; and in the time of Addison, though still publicly professed, it was treated with very little respect by men of education. During the eighteenth century it almost disappeared ; although, as almanacks containing astrological speculations are still published, we must suppose that there are even now persons who have found it worth their while to become acquainted with at least the technical phrases of the art.
The pretended science of Alchymy was originally, as we have already noticed, merely a mistaken theory in physics. It was a very common belief during the dark ages, that all metals might, by a certain chemical process, be transmuted into pure gold; and to the discovery of this process the researches of the earlier alchymists were perseveringly directed. The insane empirics who succeeded these ingenious though mistaken philosophers, asserted that their art was a relic of antediluvian wisdom, preserved by the sages of ancient Egypt; and pretended to find in the Pentateuch various mysterious allusions to its exercise by the Hebrew patriarchs. But the first distinct traces of Alchymy are to be found in the writings of certain Greek ecclesiastics in the fourth century. Their names and some fragments of their works have been preserved ; but their speculations appear to have attracted little notice among their contemporaries, and to have been speedily forgotten. It was not until its adoption or re-invention by the Arabian Cabalists, that the progress of Alchymy, if that can be called a progress which leads to nothing, really commenced. Its reputed father was the celebrated Geber, a native of Syria, who flourished in the eighth century. Of the five hundred treatises on Alchymy which oriental exaggeration ascribed to this illustrious philosopher, one only was preserved ; but it is believed that several useful discoveries in Chemistry were the incidental-perhaps the neglected—fruit of his unceasing experiments. The disciples of Geber were very numerous, and his science was popular among his countrymen for four hundred years, before it became known to the nations of western Europe. We are not aware that the precise means of its communication are known. It may have been brought from Syria by the Crusaders, from Constantinople by the Greeks, or from the MorescoSpanish colleges by the Gothic youth who frequented them; and the date of its introduction is sufficiently uncertain to allow either supposition. But it certainly attracted general attention