« PreviousContinue »
sulting abstract influences and conjunctions, had texalted them over the restrof mankind.
Among those who cherislied this imaginary privilege with undoubting faith, was an old clergyman, with whom Mannering was placed during his 'youth. He wasted his eyes in observing the stars, and his brains in calculations upon their various combinations. His pupil, in early youth, naturally caught some portion of his enthusiasm, and laboured for a time to make himself master of the technical process of astrological research; so that, before he became convinced of its absurdity, William Lilly himself would have allowed him "a curious fancy and piercing judgment upon resolving a question of nativity."
Upon the present occasion, the arose as early in the morning as the shortness of the day permitted, and proceeded to calculate the nativity of the young heir of Ellangowan. He undertook the task se
cundum artem, as well to keep up appear'ances, as from a sort of curiosity to know whether he yet remembered, and could practise, the imaginary science. He accordingly erected his scheme, or figure of heaven,
divided into its twelve houses, placed the planets therein according to the Ephemeris, and rectified their position to the hour and moment of the nativity. Without troubling our readers with the general prognostications which judicial astrology would have inferred from these circumstances, in this diagram there was one sig. nificator, which pressed remarkably upon our' astrologer's attention. Mars having dignity in the cusp of the twelfth house, * threatened captivity, or sudden and violent death, to the native ; and Mannering, having recourse to those further rules by which diviners pretended to ascertain the vehemency of this evil direction, observed, from the result, that three pe'riods would be particularly hazardoushis fifth—his tenth—his twenty-first year.
It was somewhat remarkable, that Mannering had once before tried a similar piece of foolery; at the instance of Sophia Wellwood, the young lady to whom he was attached, and that a similar conjunction of planetary influence threatened her with death, or imprisonment, in her thirty-ninth year. She was at this time eighteen; so that, according to the result of the scheme in both cases, the same year threatened her with the same misfortune that was presaged to the native or infant, whom that night had introduced into the world. Struck with this coincidence, Mannering repeated his calculations; and the result approximated the events predicted, until, at length, the same month, and day of the month, seemed assigned as the period of peril to both.
It will be readily believed, that, in mentioning this circumstance, we lay no weight whatever upon the pretended information thus conveyed. But it often happens, such is our natural love for the marvellous, that we willingly contribute our own efforts to beguile our better judgments. Whether the coincidence which I have mentioned was really one of those singular chances, which sometimes happen against all ordinary calculations; or whether Mannering, bewildered amid the arithmetical labyrinth and technical jargon of astrology, had insensibly twice followed the same clue to guide him out of the maze; or whether his imagination, seduced by some point of apparent resemblance, lent its aid to make the similitude between the two operations more exactly accurate than it might otherwise have been, it is impossible to guess"; but the impression upon his mind, that the results exactly corresponded, was vividly and indelibly strong
He could not help feeling surprise at a coincidence so singular and unexpected. “ Does the devil mingle in the dance, to. avenge himself for our trifling with an art said to be of magical origin? Or is it possible, as Bacon and Sir Thomas Browne admit, that there is some truth in a sober and regulated astrology, and that the influence of the stars is not to be denied, though the due application of it, by the knaves who pretend to practise the art, is greatly to be suspected??A moment's consideration of the subject induced him to dismiss this opinion as fantastical, and only sanctioned by these learned men, either because they durst not at once shock the universal prejudices of their age, or beeause they themselves were not altogether freed from the contagious influence of a prevailing superstition. Yet tlie result of his calculations in these two instances left so unpleasing an impression upon his mind, that, like Prospero, he mentally relinquished his art, and resolved, neither in jest nor earnest, again to practise judicial astrology ...He hesitated a good deal what he should say to the Laird of Ellangowan, concerning the horoscope of his first-born; and,