Partridge, John (1643–1715)
John Partridge, an influential member of the large astrological
community in late seventeenth-century London, was one of
several people known for his production of almanacs. As a
youth he was apprenticed to a shoemaker, but in his leisure moments
he educated himself and learned the several classic languages.
He also mastered astrology, and there is evidence that
he studied with John Gadbury. In 1678 his first book, Mikropanastron,
was published and became the catalyst for his leaving
his shoemaking career for life as an astrologer. Two years later
he published his first almanac, Merlinus Liberatus.
Political changes in 1685 (the year of the death of King
Charles II) led Partridge to leave England and take up residence
in Leyden, Holland. He returned four years later, having
acquired a medical degree. He married a well-to-do widow and
resumed his astrological practice. He is remembered as a
prominent British exponent of a new system of division of the
astrological house in the horoscope originated by Italian mathematician,
Placidus de Tito. In the midst of several systems of
house division, Placidus began by measuring the time needed
for a point on the ascendent (horizon) to reach the midheaven
(directly above the observer). The degree thus obtained is divided
by three. The Placidean system, introduced in the late
seventeenth century, was shunned by many British astrologers.
It found its major exponent in Partridge.
By the end of the century, Partridge had emerged as the
most prominent astrologer in England, a role he inherited
from the late William Lilly (1602–1681). He also continued
Lilly’s attacks on fellow astrologer John Gadbury. In the early
eighteenth century, his colleagues began to take advantage of
Partridge’s reputation by issuing competing almanacs in Partridge’s
name. Then in 1708 he became the victim of a vicious
hoax. Author Jonathan Swift (1667–1745), writing under the
pseudonym Isaac Bickerstaff, published a fake almanac that included
a prediction of Partridge’s death on March 29, 1708. He
followed his almanac on March 30 with a brief tract that regretfully
noted that the prediction of Partridge’s death had been
true and described Partridge’s passing. Many almanac readers
did not perceive the hoax, and Partridge was presented with
the task of proving that he was still alive. He discontinued his
almanac for several years and when he resumed, he included
an attack on Swift’s character.
Partridge died in London on June 24, 1715.
Sources
Holden, James H., and Robert A. Hughes. Astrological Pioneers
of America. Tempe, Ariz. American Federation of Astrologers,
1988.
McCaffery, Ellen. Astrology Its History and Influence in the
Western World. New York Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1942.
Partridge, John. Mikropanastron; or, an Astrological Vade
Mecum. . . London, 1679.
———. Nebulo Anglicanus; or, the First Part of the Black Life of
John Gadbury. London, 1693.
———. Opus Reformatum; or, a Treatise of Astrology in which the
Common Errors of the Art Are Exposed and Rejected. London, 1693.