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Noailles is to die upon the fourth of April, and if that should be verified as exactly as this of poor Partridge, I must own I should be wholly surprised, and at a loss, and should infallibly expect the accomplishment of all the rest.
It is amusing to think what a large number of persons at the time actually believed the accomplishment had taken place in all respects according to the relation. The wits of the time, too, among whom were Steele and Addison, supported Swift, and uniformly affirmed that Partridge had died on the day and hour predicted. The distress and vexation of Partridge himself were beyond all measure ridiculous, and he absolutely had the folly to insert the following advertisement at the close of his next year's almanac;—
» Whereas it has been industriously given out by Isaac BickerstafT, Esq., and others, to prevent the sale of this year's almanac, that John Partridge is dead: this may inform all his loving countrymen, that he is still living, in health; and they are knaves that reported it otherwise."1
The most interesting account, however, of the singularly comic consequences of this prediction was drawn up by the Rev. Dr. Yalden, Mr. Partridge's neighbor, of whom, as connected with this humorous affair, I will give a short account, succeeding Swift, though it be not in exact chronological order.
Though Swift wrote much (hat ranks under poetry, yet he had none of the characteristics of a true poet—nothing of the sublime or the tender; nothing, in short, that reaches or affects the heart. «It could scarcely be expected," says a critic, "that an irreligious divine, a heartless politician, and a selfish lover, could possess the elements of true poetry; and, therefore, Swift may be considered rather as a rhymer than a poet" This is true; as he himself says in the « Verses on his own Death:"
"The Dean was famous In his time.
This "knack" he had in a very eminent degree—the "knack" of writing easy, natural rhymes—of using just the very words in verse that any one would select as the best in prose. In proof of which, take the following selection:—
BAUCIS AND PHILEMON.
In ancient times, as story tells,
It happen'd on a winter night,
Our wandering saints, in woful state,
l Drake's Essays, vol. I. p. 64.
Having through all the village pass'd,
They scarce had spoke, when lair and soft
The chimney widen'd, and grew higher j Became a steeple with a spire.
The kettle to the top was hoist,
A wooden Jack, which had almost
The flier, though't had leaden feet,
Turn'd round so quick, you scarce could see 't;
But, slacken'd by some secret power,
Now hardly moves an inch an hour.
The jack and chimney, near allied,
Had never left each other's side:
The chimney to a steeple grown,
The jack would not be left alone;
But, up against the steeple rear'd,
Became a clock, and still adhered;
Ami still its love to household cares,
By a shrill voice at noon, declares;
Warning the cook-maid not to burn
That roast-meat which it cannot turn.
The groaning-chair began to crawl,
The porringers, that in a row
The ballads, pasted on the wall.
A bedstead of the antique mode,
The cottage by such feats as these
He spoke, and presently he feels
But. being old, continued just
Thus having furbish'd up a parson,
Thus happy in their change of life
Description would but tire my muse;
Old Goodman Dobson of the green
THOJIAS YALDEN. 1671—1736.
Thomas Xaxosh was born in the city of Exeter, in 1671, and in 1690 was admitted in Magdalen College, Oxford. His first public appearance as a poet was in an "Ode to St. Cecilia's Day," published in 1693, which was followed by several other poems. Having entered the ministry, he succeeded Atterbury, in 1698, as lecturer at Bridewell Hospital, and in 1707 received the degree of Doctor of Divinity. Having received various preferments in the church, he died July 16, 1736; having to the end of his life, as Dr. Johnson remarks, "retained the friendship and frequented the conversation of a very numerous and splendid set of acquaintances."
Yalden's poetry may be found in the collections of Johnson and Chalmers, but it has very little men*. As a prose writer, however, he has great humor, being the author of the paper entitled « 'Squire Bickerstaff detected; or the Astrological Impostor convicted, by John Partridge, Student in Physic and Astrology," which he drew up on Partridge's application, and which that person is said to have printed and published without perceiving the joke.
JOHN PARTRIDGE'S DEFENCE.
It is hard, my dear countrymen of these united nations, it is very hard, that a Briton born, a protestant astrologer, a man of revolution principles, an assertor of the liberty and property of the people, should cry out in vain for justice against a Frenchman, a papist, and an illiterate pretender to science, that would blast my reputation, most inhumanly bury me alive, and defraud my native country of those services, which, in my double capacity, I daily offer the public.
It was towards the conclusion of the year 1707, when an impudent pamphlet crept into the world, intituled, Predictions, etc., by Isaac Bickerstaff, Esq. Amongst the many arrogant assertions laid down by that lying spirit of divination, he was pleased to pitch on the Cardinal de Noailles and myself, among many other eminent and illustrious persons that were to die within the compass of the ensuing year; and peremptorily fixes the month, day, and hour of our deaths. This, I think, is sporting with great men, and public spirits, to the scandal of religion and reproach of power; and if sovereign princes and astrologers must make diversion for the vulgar why then farewell, say I, to all governments, ecclesiastical and civil. But, I thank my better stars, 1 am alive to confront this false and audacious predictor, and to make him rue the hour he ever affronted a man of science and resentment: and I shall here present the public with a faithful narrative of the ungenerous treatment and hard usage I have received from the virulent papers and malicious practices of this pretended astrologer.
The 28th of March, A. D. 1708, being the night this shamprophet had so impudently fixed for my last, which made little impression on myself; but I cannot answer for my whole family,