A Curious Specimen

‘The life of Lilly the astrologer, written by himself, is a curious work. He is the Sidrophel of Butler. It contains so much artless narrative, and at the same time so much palpable imposture, that it is difficult to know when he is speaking what he really believes to be the truth. In a sketch of the state of astrology in his day, those adepts, whose characters he has drawn, were the lowest miscreants of the town. They all speak of each other as rogues and impostors. Such were Booker, George Wharton, Gadbury, who gained a livelihood by practising on the credulity of even men of learning so late as in 1650, to the eighteenth century. In Ashmole’s Life an account of these artful impostors may be found. Most of them had taken the air in the pillory, and others had conjured themselves up to the gallows. This seems a true statement of facts. But Lilly informs us, that in his various conference with angels, their voice resembled that of the Irish!’

Isaac d’Israeli, ‘English Astrologers’, Curiosities of Literature, 1807.


‘But the revilers of the people have not spared even their speech. Of the species of abuse usually resorted to, a curious specimen may be found in the prejudiced Stanihurst, (temp. Elizabeth,) who assures his readers, that the Irish was unfit even for the prince of darkness himself to utter, and to illustrate this, the bigotted Saxon gravely adduced the case of a possessed person in Rome, who “spoke every known tongue except Irish, but in that he neither would nor could speak, because of its intolerable harshness.”‘
James Hardiman, Irish Minstrelsy, Or Bardic Remains of Ireland, Vol I, introduction, 1831.