“Monster of Ingratitude” – The Relationship between William Lilly and John Gadbury

Sue Ward and I have just completed a paper entitled “Monster of Ingratitude” which will be published in the forthcoming edition of “The Tradition” journal (due to be released in September).

Scholarship into the history of astrology has improved over the last ten or fifteen years and has brought us a huge amount of information regarding astrology’s development from many perspectives. However, biographical information about those who practiced astrology in centuries past is not of such a high standard. There are several reasons for this, not least an apparent lack of autobiographical material. It was from this point of view that Sue and I examined the relationship between William Lilly and John Gadbury.

This rather large piece of research has taken several months to complete, but still leaves many questions unanswered. However, what we did discover was that those few biographies of William Lilly are markedly flawed. Most researchers rely upon Derek Parker’s “Familiar to All” which, whilst it presents one of the earliest biographical texts about Lilly and which hasn’t been bettered, presents very few sources as grounds for the author’s opinions. Nonetheless, it is those opinions that we find most frequently in subsequent biographies of the astrologers of 17th century England, particularly those of Lilly and Gadbury. Indeed, much of the personal detail regarding Lilly’s life found in Parker, can be found nowhere else. It may be that Parker had access to material unknown to us, but there are no references with which to follow this up. (It may be that a full and detailed review of “Familiar to All” is required in order to test the assertions made there against known sources.)

We have attempted to address these, largely unsubstantiated, opinions and present source material which leads to alternative, and often very different, conclusions. As an example, the main theme of our paper is the infamous contention between Lilly and Gadbury and our research shows that it has been misconstrued by historians throughout. This study has brought to light a number of other doubtful areas relating to Lilly’s contemporaries, too, but our remit precluded going very far with that; we had already far exceeded our original intentions.

The paper contains:

  • brief biographies of the two men;
  • the beginning of their acqaintance and how it came about;
  • how the enmity began, developed and ended;
  • the rather one-sided pamphlet war;
  • others involved in the contention;
  • a study of the published material;
  • all sources of information;
  • alternative conclusions based on the above.

We hope to draw the attention of astrologers to an area which requires far closer attention than it has attracted hitherto, and perhaps encourage others to proceed in this research. Furthermore, we hope to demonstrate that Gadbury’s work is far from reliable and could easily be replaced by that of a better qualified author of the period, such as John Partridge. That is, if astrologers want to investigate the art as it stood post-Lilly and as it collided with the new science.


William Lilly’s True Nativity

Sue Ward has provided us with a fascinating  web log entry concerning William Lilly’s true nativity. Every Traditional astrologer interested in the subject should read this.

The article may be found here: http://sue-ward.blogspot.com/2009/06/nativity-of-william-lilly.html

On the Astrall Vertue in Minerals

In 1594 George Hartgill published a book called Astronomical Tables. After  62 years, in 1656,  John and Timothy Gadbury wrote and published an updated version of it.  A letter, written by William Lilly,  is included in this edition. Therein he explains the importance of this new edition as the original tables were only valid until 1652 and states that Hartgill’s tables were in a way defective any way, as he, Hartgill, “….followed Copernicus and Alphonsus Tables, in the places of the fixed Stars which at that time were plainly percieved to be imperfect, and generally found to be erronious….” .

What is of interest here is the preface to “The Impartial Reader”, written by the editors of this work, John and Timothy Gadbury. Therein they are addressing  the “Astrall vertues” of plants and minerals. The following is a transcript of the portion dealing with these minerals, ie. gemstones.

“There is also an Astrall vertue in Minerals; as for instance, observe the Adamand or Diamond which of all Minerals is the most glorious, and amongst men is the most valuable! for the Richnesse of it, ’tis attributed to the Sun, as one is the chiefe of Minerals, so is the other the chief of Planets. Pliny saith it is the hardest of all stones, insomuch that it cutteth Glasse, and yeildeth nor either to the Hammer or Fire; it is observed to have a great Antipathy to the Loadstone, for it being laid neer it, it wholly destroyes the Loadstones vertue. Pliny makes six kinds of it, which we purposely omit, as not intending a Treatise of Minerals; we will next observe,

The Selenite or Moonstone, which is a very transparent Gem, like Glasse, and hath a remarkable spot in it, which beares the Image of the Moon, and doth appear more or lesse, as the Moon doth increase or decrease in motion, and thense it is (by Naturalists) called the Moonstone, for that it does so constantly dance after her motion; t is of a white, black, and yellow Colour, and Phisicians use the scrapings of it, as an excellent Remedy against the Falling sicknesse.

The next is the Turcois, being a stone of a dull Sky colour or greenish, which is of excellent use in helping those who are troubled with weak eyes, and spirits, it refresheth the Heart; and if the Wearer be not well, it changeth its Colour, and looketh pale and dim; but on the contrary, increaseth to its perfection, as the Wearer attaineth his health; whence came the Verse.

The sympathizing Turcois true doth tell,

By looking pale, the Wearer is not well.

Such secret MagnetiqueVertues are those Earth-imprison’d Creatures endued withall, that to treat of many, would cause us of a Preface to make a Treatise; therefore we willingly omit the exquisite Vertues of many;

as the Amethyst who (as Aristotle affirmeth) hath power to resist drunkennesse, and the Calcedon, whose secret vertue is such (if worn) that it prevents all fearfull Visions and Dreams; it is a Stone which would be much advantagious to the Epileptique Prophets of our [?]: also the Sardonix, which doth mightily corraborate the Body and Spirits of man, and in one preserveth Chastity. Then there is the Sardim, which maketh the Wearer cheerfull and merry, and some have found by Experience, that it restrains Anger; we could tell you of the Stone Etites, (which some say is found in an Eagles nest) and hath another Stone within it, therefore some of the Ancients have called it the Stone with child, whether that be true or no, we enjoyne no man to beleeve; but Phisicians affirme, that if the stone be hung about  a womans neck, who is with-child, it preventes Abortion. These excellent secrets in Vegitabiles and Minerals, do manifest the power of God in the Stars, beyond the reach of all objection; we will conclude this Astrologicall Phisicall Discourse, and admire what we cannot reach with the Divine Poet .

Oh mickle is the poweful God that lies

In Herbs, Trees, Stones, and their true Qualities,

For naught so vile, that on the Earth does live,

But to the Earth some secret good does give.

And naught so rich, on either Rock or Shelfe,

But if unknown, lies uselesse to it Shelfe;

Therefore who thus doth make his secrets known,

Doth profit others, and not hurt his own.”