Oracles of Nostradamus, by Charles A. Ward, , at sacred-texts.com
"In Nature's infinite book of secrecy
A little I can read."
Antony and Cleopatra, i. 2.
"I am Isaiah,--be it spoken with all humility,--to the advancement of God's glory."--Luther's Table Talk, Bohn, p. 12.
Yes, indeed, Luther, with quite Lutheran humility!
"Canys gwn a fydd rhag llaw."
"For I know what has been, and will be hereafter."
"Prophetia est solum futurorum contingentium, quia longe distant ab humana cognitione; sed secundario ad eam pertinent præterita et præsentia."--ST. THO. AQUINATIS, Summa, p. 409.
MICHEL DE NOSTREDAME was born in Provence, in the town of St. Remy, in the year 1503, upon a Thursday, the 14th of December, about noon. Tycho Brahe (1546), D'Herbelot (1625) the great Orientalist, and Bruce (1730) the Abyssinian traveller, were all born on the same day of the month. Coincidences such as these are, perhaps, not worth much; yet, do they interest us less than the rainfall of a month, or the precise pressure of the wind on Cleopatra's needle?--which goes by the name of Cleopatra because Cleopatra had nothing whatever to do with it. Robert Étienne, the great printer, was also born in 1503. What would, however, more have affected the family of Nostradamus is the expulsion of the French from Naples on October 31, 1503, after the famous battles in April, fought on two consecutive Fridays with disaster to the French; the battles namely, of Seminara and Cerignola. Many have said that the evil omen attaching to Friday dates from that period. If we had never heard of Good Friday we also might have been of their opinion.
His father, like Milton's, a notary, was James Nostradamus, a name which is equivalent to de Nôtre Dame. 1
[paragraph continues] Moreri calls his family "une famille noble;" 1 others say that he was of Jewish descent, but of a family that had been converted to Christianity, and that he claimed to be of the tribe of Issachar, deriving thence his gift of prophecy, for they were "men that had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do" (I Chron. xii. 32); or, as in Esther i. 13, "the seven wise men that knew the times." It is true that but few of the orthodox commentators interpret these passages as signifying astrological or prophetic forecast; but that may be, nevertheless, the real meaning (vid. Poole's "Synopsis").
How could Nostradamus be of Issachar, as that was one of the lost tribes? would be a natural inquiry enough; and one could only answer it, as the wit did, in a case somewhat similar, that He could only resemble Issachar in being a great, "strong ass" (Gen. xlix. 14).
His mother's name was Renee de Saint Remy. Her ancestors by the father's and mother's side were men skilled in mathematics and medicine: one was physician to René, or Renatus, titular King of Jerusalem and Sicily, and Count of Provence; whilst the other was physician to John, Duke of Calabria, who was the son of King René. Our author, in his Commentaries, says that a knowledge of mathematics had traditionally descended (de main en main) to him from his early progenitors; and, in the Preface to his "Centuries," he adds: "Que la parole héréditaire de l'occulte prédiction sera dans son estomac intercluse."
It was his great-grandfather 2 who gave him, almost as in sport, a first taste for the celestial sciences. After the death
of this relative he was put to school at Avignon, to study his humanity courses, and thence he went to the university at Montpellier, to acquire philosophy and the theory of medicine.
Montpellier, the Mons Pessulanus of antiquity, contains the most famous school of medicine in all France. It is ancient, and is said to have been founded by Arabian physicians when forced to fly from Spain--Moreri says in the year 1196, by the disciples of Averroes and Avicenna. Its inhabitants are reputed to be witty and most polite. It once had numerous noble churches and many religious establishments, but since the Huguenots became masters of it in 1561, they ruined all this, and made the city the headquarters of their party for a time. Louis XIII. besieged it in 1622, and took it. His first act was to rebuild the Cathedral of St. Peter and the other churches; the desecration of all such edifices being the Puritan and Huguenot fashion there and everywhere. The town seems always to have been a fief of the Crown of France. But a number of kinglets, such as the King of Aragon and the King of Majorca, appear at different times to have had seignorial rights in Montpellier; and many church councils have been held there. All these matters are of some slight interest, as furnishing in a filmy fashion a notion of those influences, mental and physical, that would have been floating around Nostradamus when studying there. The seizure of the town by the Huguenots would have occurred some years before his death. As he was a true Churchman, their successes would have embittered his mind, and may have influenced some of the visions contained in the "Sixains" and "Présages."
It may interest us as Englishmen to know that in the extensive botanical garden at Montpellier lie the remains of Miss Temple, the Narcissa, whose death and funeral are so
vividly recounted by Young in the "Night Thoughts." He appears to have considerably misrepresented the transaction; but George Eliot has made up for it by a criticism upon him and his works, conceived, perhaps in the grossest and worst taste that criticism from a woman's pen has ever fallen into. She grows so angry that she can hardly even see that Young is a poet in any sense of the word. She might easily have found out that he was, by comparing some of her own verses with his.
Another point of interest to us in regard to Montpellier is the reversal of public opinion touching the climate of the place. Brompton, sixty or eighty years ago, was, from the mildness and salubrity of its air, coupled with its then semi-rural aspect, called "the Montpellier of London." The analogy could never have been very remarkable, as Brompton is about on a level with the River Thames, whereas Montpellier's splendid promenade of the Place de Peyron is 168 feet above the sea-level, whilst the whole town runs up the hillside, as its name expresses. Still, the phrase testifies to the opinion then prevalent. Owing to the brightness of its atmosphere and the beauty of its suburbs, the town was long recommended by British physicians as a health-resort to patients suffering from pulmonary complaints; but the weather-vane of science has now reversed that opinion entirely. Its climate is found to be changeable, its sunshine is blazing, its atmosphere is charged with dust that is impalpable, all the while that it seems to be clear; and its cold mistral blasts do but portend a spot most singularly hurtful to the lungs. The fashion varies in localities, drugs, theories, and treatment, and as a health resort for English people the reputation of Montpellier has passed away; but the "École de Médecine" still retains its ancient renown as the central seminary of medical instruction in France.
Learned and medical as it was in the days of Nostradamus, it could not escape visitation by a great plague, 1 and Michael Nostradamus had to retreat to Narbonne, Toulouse, and Bordeaux. In these towns he commenced practice, when about twenty-two years of age, and four years later he bethought him of returning to Montpellier for refreshment, and to take his Doctor's degree. This he got through very quickly, and in a manner that won him the admiration and applause of the whole College. In returning to Toulouse he passed through Agen, a town on the Garonne, where he met with no less a person than the learned Jules César Scaliger, 2 with whom he entered at once into the most intimate familiarity. This induced him to take up his permanent residence in the town. But after a while their cordiality grew less, till rivalry and pique sprang up between them, and they thenceforth stood aloof from one another. Here he married a lady "une fort honorable demoiselle," though history has not divulged her name. By her he had two children, who died young; she also died. Finding himself again companionless, he returned to his natal soil of Provence. When he reached Marseilles, he was invited by the Parliament of Provence to come to Aix, where he stayed three years, receiving a salary from the city from the time the plague broke out, in 1546. It seems to have raged fiercely, and it is said that he furnished to the Seigneur de Launay the reports which he has given in his book, "Le Théâtre du Monde."
After the contagion passed away, the town, Moreri records, voted him for several years following a considerable
pension. His services must consequently have been recognized as valuable. He has left us the formula of his plague powder in Chapter VIII. of his treatise "Des Fards." As a curious instance of the modesty of the women of Aix, he records that they began to sew themselves up in their winding sheets, as soon as they were attacked by the contagion, that their bodies might not be exposed naked after death ("Penny Cyclopædia"). I suppose we may judge from this that the system of burial during the contagion was as gross and indecent as in the famous plague of London; or is this only a fanciful imitation of the story of the women of Marseilles in classical times?
He went thence to Salon de Craux, which lies midway between Avignon and Marseilles. Here he married for the second time. The lady's name is given by Garencières as Anna Ponce Genelle; Anne Poussart, says Moreri; others say Pons Jumel. (See the epitaph further on.) There is the same incertitude as to his family. Jean Aimes de Chavigny, whom we are following, makes it to consist of six children, three boys and three girls; while Garencières says three sons and one daughter.
It was here, relates our memoir, that, foreseeing great mutations were about to affect all Europe, and that civil wars and troubles were so soon to come upon the kingdom of France, he felt an unaccountable and new enthusiasm springing up uncontrollably in his mind, which at last amounted almost to a maddening fever, till he sat down to write his "Centuries" and other "Presages." The first of these "Presages" is dated 1555, and runs as follows:--
"D'Esprit divin l'ame presage atteinte,
Trouble, famine, peste, guerre courir;
Eaux, siccitez, terre et mer dc sang teinte,
Paix, tresac à naistre, Prelats, Princes mourir!"
He kept them by him for a long time, half afraid to risk the publication; he foresaw there was danger, and that it would lead to infinite detraction, calumny, and backbiting, as indeed it finally fell out. A thing like this is like the fox stolen by the Spartan youth, that eats the heart out, and is sure to get vent sooner or later. His memorialist says, that at last, overcome by a desire to be useful to the public, he produced them. No sooner had he done so than the rumour ran from mouth to mouth, at home and abroad, that some thing marvellous and admirable had appeared. One cannot see of what use they could be to the public, as they could not possibly be understood till they were interpreted after the event and by it. In some of the quatrains he says as much himself. He no doubt published them because he felt an intense longing so to do; and, when the mind of a man reaches this stage of desire, it will not take him long to find some excellent reason for carrying out the impulsion. Public good, the advancement of religion, the sustentation of faith, the psychological inference as to the immorality of the human soul, or any other good phrase, will serve a man as a sufficient reason for doing what he wants to do. That man must be a great searcher into his own consciousness, if he cannot readily assume that the motive assigned in such a case is the causa causativa of the act of putting forth.
Moreri's account is not exactly the same as that of our memoir. Moreri describes him as being invited to Lyons in 1547, but as returning very quickly to Salon, only to find that his popularity at the latter place had greatly abated. The disappointment he experienced from this treatment made him withdraw a good deal from society, and commit himself the more to hard study. He tells us that he had for a long time previously practised divination; now he began to think himself to be directly inspired as to the future.
[paragraph continues] From this time, as the lights occurred to his mind, he began committing them to writing at the moment. He set them down at first in plain prose, if you can call enigmatical sentences plain prose; at any rate, they were not written in verse.
Garencières' version varies again. With him it is, that Nostradamus found by experience that the perfect knowledge of medicine is unattainable without the aid of astrology, to which he now addicted himself. It is an alluring science, and one towards the pursuit of which his natural genius strongly disposed him, so that he made very rapid progress in it. His first publications in this line consisted of almanacs, according to the custom of the time, for profit and recreation's sake; and in these he so happily hit off the conjuncture of events that both he and his publications became greatly sought after. It is somewhat curious that so few of these almanacs appear to be now extant. One would have expected that documents of such interest, once in type, would not perish entirely from all households and libraries. It may, however, be taken as a proof of the maelstrom of time that engulfs everything, so that by the period when posterity grows interested in any event, all its belated questionings are presented with a universal blank. The spirit of literary piracy, too, seems to have been rife in those early days. The success of his work soon became a cause of discredit to him, as it led enterprising printers and booksellers to vend, under his name, almanacs destitute of everything that had constituted the merit of his.
When the work made its appearance, it divided the public. Some called the prophet a simple visionary, or, in coarser phrase, a fool; others accused him of magic, and of being in too close treaty with the Devil to be honest. A few held their judgment in suspense, and would pronounce no opinion
on the subject. A vast number of the grandees and of the learned, both at home and abroad, thought that he was endowed with a gift supernatural; and amongst these were Henri II. and Catherine de Medici. It remained to the esprits forts and the ignorant public, who knew nothing of him but his name, to pronounce him a charlatan and impostor. There is one thing certain, he felt much hesitation as to publishing at all; and, when he took that step at last, he addressed the book to his infant son, and not to any public character, in the year 1555. At this period he would bc fifty-two. This is not a time of life at which men usually commence a course of imposture. When he is summoned to the Court at Paris, loaded with honours and consulted on high matters (de choses importantes), he displays nothing but moderation and good sense, and returns contentedly to his modest home at Salon. Upon all ordinary lines of human judgment, such conduct seems to indicate genuineness; and this is strengthened, if not established, by his genuine gravity of deportment and serious religious sentiments. Nobody has denied the purity of his life. Still, a certain Lord Pavilion, of his own day, wrote against him, or perhaps against this publishers' figment of a name, rather than his. Further, we find the book led to the bitter epigrammatic distich of the poet Jodele, or as others say, of Beza,--
"Nostradamus cum falsa damus, nam fallere nostrum est,
Et cum falsa damus, nil nisi nostra damus."
This can very easily be turned against the piratical almanac makers, thus:--
"Vera damus cum verba damus quæ Nostradamus dat;
Sed cum nostra damus, nil nisi falsa damus."
In spite of piracy and obloquy, the repute of Nostradamus grew, as we have said, in influential quarters, until it came
to the ears of Queen Catherine de Medici and Henri II, on the publication, in March, 1555, of the first seven Centuries of his "Prophecies." The remaining Centuries, the Sixains, and Presages, were not published till long after. In the following year, 1556, they sent for him to attend the Court in Paris: though Garencières says he left Salon on July 14, 1555, and reached Paris on August 15th, a particularity which seems to indicate special knowledge. 1 The Lord Constable Montmorency attended him at his inn, and presented him to the king in person. The king showed him high favour, and ordered him to be lodged at the palace of the Cardinal de Bourbon, Archbishop of Sens, during his stay in the capital.
When there a severe attack of gout seized him, that lasted ten or twelve days. His majesty sent him two hundred crowns in gold (two hundred écus d'or; vid. Moreri) in a velvet purse, and the queen one hundred crowns (Le Pelletier, i. 92). They then despatched him to Blois, to visit their children, the royal princes, and give his astrological opinion. He repaired thither, and seems to have acquitted himself to the satisfaction of the king. It is quite certain that he did not tell them precisely what he thought, 2 for the princes were Francis II., Charles IX., and Henry III., whose tragical fates he has correctly set out, and with unmistakable clearness, as may be seen (at pp. 84, 86, 96) by the forecasts in his strange book. He, however, cast their horoscopes and acquitted himself in this, as in all other transactions, en homme d'esprit. He returned to Salon so much encouraged that he set to work and completed his
[paragraph continues] "Centuries," consisting of three hundred more quatrains. These further quatrains he appears to have printed in 1558, but Garencières says that he dedicated them to the king in 1557. The only thing that is certain is that the Texte-type dates the epistle June 27, 1558. This "Luminary Epistle" to the king, Garencières tells us, discovers future events "from the birth of Louis XIV., now reigning, till the coming of antichrist." 1
Henri II. was killed the following year, 1559, at the tournament of St. Quentin, as we shall see- it fully set forth at Quatrain 35 in Century I.
He had now become quite a court favourite, for Emanuel, the Duke of Savoy, visited him at his house at Salon about this period, in the month of October; and, in the December following, the Princesse Marguerite de France, sister of Henry II., who by the treaty of peace at Cambresis was to marry the duke, came also to Nostradamus, entertaining him very familiarly (Garencières and Moreri).
Charles IX. made a progress through the kingdom in 1564, to quiet the cities that had mutinied; and when he came to Provence, on arriving at Salon, November 17th, he asked first of all for Nostradamus. Nostradamus was in the suite of magistrates around the king, so that he was presented on the instant, upon which the king made him his Physician in Ordinary, and honoured him with the title of Counsellor. He complained rather bitterly of the neglect with which his follow-townsmen treated him. César Nostradamus reports this, saying, "Et de ce, me souviens fort
bien, car je fus de la partie" (Moreri). On the return journey he again inquired for Nostradamus, and gave him two hundred ecus. He was at this time over sixty, and with his health fast breaking under severe attacks of gout. He died within about sixteen months of this period, and the salary and profits of Physician in Ordinary must have greatly comforted the old man in his latter days. He enjoyed now the further satisfaction of being flocked to by learned men, grandees, and others, who resorted to him far and near, as to an oracle. "As St. Jerome remarks of Livy, so may we remark of him," says his biographer, Jean Aimes, "that those who came to France sought Nostradamus as the only thing to be seen there."
The closing scene is now drawing very near, and we find him much afflicted with his maladies, notably arthritic gout, as distinguished from podagra, which Dr. Cullen considers as the seat of idiopathic gout. He awaited with firmness his climacteric, as they used to designate a man's sixty-third year. He died on the 2nd of July, 1566, a little before sun. rise, having all his senses yet about him, for the arthrisis turned to dropsy about eight days previously, and early on the second day of the month suffocated him. Jean Aimes says that Nostradamus was well advised of the time, even of the very day and hour, when his death must take place. The prophet reminded him frequently towards the close of the previous June that he had written with his own hand, in the Ephemerides of Jean Stadius, these words in Latin, Hic prope mors est ("Here is death at hand"). "The day," continues this friend, "before he exchanged this life for a better, after I had spent many hours with him, and late at night was taking leave of him until the following morning, he said, 'You will not see me alive at sunrise.'" M. le Pelletier gives (i. 91) Presage 141 as a stanza pointing to his
own death; but, as the "Presages" were not printed till 1568, their authenticity may or may not be accepted as the reader feels inclined. The lines run thus, and are remarkable enough, if we admit that they were a genuine forecast; for, although they assign no specific date, yet they sum up the principal facts rather fully:--
"De retour d'Ambassade, don de Roy mis au lieu;
Plus n'en fera; sera allé à Dieu:
Parans plus proches, amis, freres du sang,
Trouvé tout mort près du lict et du banc."
The meaning given to this is, that on his return from Arles, whence he was sent for, in 1564, by Charles IX., to see him a second time, after he had safely put away the three hundred crowns given him by the king and queen, his last transaction would be concluded, and he would then under his soul to God. His nearest relatives, brothers, and friends would find him dead near his bed, seated, as was customary with him, on the bench at its foot, as he could there breathe more freely.
This is the interpretation put upon it by M. le Pelletier. As I understand César Nostradamus, the king did not send for him to Arles, but asked again for him on his majesty's return to Salon; and I should think the word "ambassade" must refer to some private mission the king had sent him upon entirely apart from this, and for which he paid him. Be this as it may, the fact that Nostradamus assigns no date for his death, in this presage, goes to establish its authenticity, one would incline to say. For supposing it to have been foisted in, after his death, surely a fabricator of the marvellous would first of all have made it to show trois vingts et trois bis, and twisted that into some colourable shape. He would have been little likely to add as a prophetical
feature that the king's present had been put away in a safe place, as to do so seems anything rather than a supernatural instinct. It is a touch of prose more than of the Python. On the whole, I should incline to take the verse for a genuine emanation from the pen of Nostradamus. Certainly he would recognize, even medically, that, as he found himself to be growing "fort caduc et débile" towards his climacterical year, he would know that his dissolution was at hand. A man's grand climacteric is generally considered to arrive at 63, though some place it at 81, that number being composed of 9 times 9. In either of these periods, if sickness occur, it is considered as especially likely to prove fatal.
There seems to be a diversity of opinion about this, for some say that the annus climactericus is 84, or 12 times 7. Aulus Gellius thinks the opinion to be of immense antiquity, running back to the Chaldeans; and no doubt Pythagoras derived it from the East. Ficinus explains it by saying that the body of man is ruled over by each planet in turn for the space of one year, and, Saturn being the most maleficent, every seventh year falling to his presidency becomes extremely dangerous. This explanation would shut out the nines, except in the sixty-third and eighty-first year, but it would also vitiate the whole scheme of astrology, for the planet under which a man was born (say he were born under Saturn) would dominate his body at birth, and be, one must suppose, the ruling planet that year, and, if it were Saturn, would recur only on his eighth year. Eighty-four would not be in favour generally, as it consists entirely of even numbers, though divisible by seven. Many held that only a number produced by the multiplication of an odd number could be climacterical. Augustus thought it a subject of great rejoicing when he had passed over his sixty-third
year. 1 Moreri will have eighty-one to be properly speaking the climacteric, and he notes that at this age died Plato, Diogenes, Eratosthenes the geometer, and many other illustrious personages. Some went so far as to say that political bodies had their climacterical periods; and they certainly, judging from our own country, have periods of fatal folly, whether or no the nines and sevens collide, or the stars fight against Sisera. But amongst other oddities of history may be chronicled the fact that Henri Quatre was the sixty-third King of France, which made Malherbe talk of--
"La vaine étude s'applique,
A trouver la climatérique,
De l'éternelle fleur-de-lis"--
that fleur-de-lis whose terrible withering up in the fatal year of '93 Nostradamus so powerfully forecasts.
Suffice it to say that in this climacterical crisis Nostradamus succumbed in his sixty-third year to gout, which turned to dropsy. 2
Nostradamus was interred at the church of the Franciscan Friars (Les Cordeliers) at Salon, as it is noted, on the left-hand side of the church door (Garencières). His widow erected to him a marble tablet, "representing his figure to the life, and his arms above it." The epitaph is as follows, made, they say, in imitation of that great Livy aforenamed, the Roman historian:--
UNIUS OMNIUM MORTALIUM JUDICIO DIGNI,
CUJUS PENE DIVINO CALAMO TOTIUS ORBIS,
EX ASTRORUM INFLUXU, FUTURI EVENTUS
VIXIT ANNOS LXII. MENSES VI. DIES XVII.
OBIIT SALONE AN. CICICLXVI.
QUIETEM POSTERI NE INVIDETE. ANNA PONTIA GEMELLA
CONJUGI OPT. V. FELICIT.
"Here lie the bones of the illustrious Michael Nostradamus, whose almost divine pen alone, in the judgment of all mortals, was worthy to record, under the influx of the stars, the future events of the whole world. He lived 62 years, 6 months, 17 days. He died at Salon in the year 1566. Posterity, disturb not his sweet rest! Anne Ponce Gemelle hopes for her husband true felicity."
The text of this epitaph is that given by Benoist Rigaud in the edition of Nostradamus published by him in 1568.
In stature he was somewhat undersized, of a robust body, sprightly, and vigorous. He had a broad and open forehead, a straight even nose, grey eyes, of kindly expression, but in anger capable of flashing fire. The general expression was severe, though pleasant, so that a grand humanity shone through the seriousness. Even in age his cheeks were rosy. He had a long thick beard, and excellent health till nearly the close of life; he had his senses, being alert and keen, up to the very last moment. He had a good and lively wit, seizing with quick comprehension everything that he wished to
acquire. His judgment was very penetrating, his memory happy and retentive. He was taciturn by nature, thought much and spoke little; but at the right time and occasion he could discourse extremely well. He was quick, and sudden even to irascibility; but very patient where work had to be done. He slept four or five hours only out of the twenty-four. He practised freedom of speech himself and commended it in others. He was cheerful and facetious in conversation, though in jesting a little given to bitterness. He was attached, so says De Chavigny, to the Roman Church, and held fixedly the Catholic faith; out of its pale there was for him no salvation. Though pursuing a line of thought entirely his own, he had no sympathy with the Lutheran heretics of so-called Freethought. He was given to prayer, fasting, and charity. As far as outward observance was concerned, he might be classed with the highly respectable and decent. Le Pelletier says, "Sa fin fut Chrétienne;" but he adds a little further on that his style is very much more like that of the Pagan oracles of Greece and Rome than of the canonical prophets of Hebrew inspiration. He was very generous to the poor, and held it as a sort of maxim that in this sense it was legitimate to make friends with "the mammon of unrighteousness."
Jean Aimes de Chavigny, who seems to have come over from Beaune to play the part of a Boswell to Nostradamus and,--after his friend's death, is said to have devoted twenty-eight years of his life to editing the "Centuries" with notes, 1 says that he collected twelve books of the "Centuries," of which vols. vii., xi., and xii. are imperfect. These are in quatrains, and are classified as Prophéties, and they extend to very remote ages. The Presages, we are told, were written
between 1550 and 1567, 1 and. were collected by Aimes and reduced into twelve books in prose, as he thinks them worthy of the attention of posterity. The few Presages thou are in print run to only one hundred and forty-three quatrains in verse; so we must suppose that those written in prose have perished entirely.
Nostradamus left two brothers behind him: one named Bertrand; the other, Jean, who was his junior, and proctor to the Parliament at Aix, composed a History of Provence, and also wrote the lives of the Poets of Provence. 2
Moreri states that by his second wife he had six children, three boys and three girls. Of his sons, César, the eldest, was a person of demonstratively gay and kindly spirit. It was to him, when quite a child, that Nostradamus dedicated the first seven of the "Centuries" published by him. These are the most authentic of all, and Moreri remarks that, if you wish the quatrains to be without interpolation, you should secure early editions. The reader will understand that to be now unnecessary, inasmuch as we have all along been dealing with the Texte-type. César was born at Salon, 1555, and died 1629. He, like his uncle Jean, was an author, and wrote upon the same topics, leaving in manuscript a collection of the most remarkable things happening in Provence from the year 1080 to 1494. In this he included the lives of the poets of Provence. Many years after his death, his nephew and namesake, César Nostradamus, who was Governor of Provence and gentleman in waiting upon the Due de Guise;
found them, and himself worked at them, till, in 1603, the Parliament of the province voted him three thousand livres to encourage him to complete the work, which he did; and they were finally printed in Lyons in 1614, under the title of "Chroniques de l'Histoire de Provence." He commences with the Celtic Gauls at the early date of the Deluge. This is worthy of a true scion of the tribe of Issachar. A very strange story is told of César by La Motte le Vayer in his "Instruction pour Monseigneur le Dauphin." He, like his father, Michel, had a taste for forecasting the future, and had ventured to predict that Pouzin, which was besieged, would perish by fire; but it was taken by coup de main. Whilst the pillage was going forward, the foolish prophet was, it is said, seen, match in hand, endeavouring to set it on fire. He was caught; and Saint-Luc, the commander, asked him if he had prophesied anything for himself that day. He replied, "No!" on which the general rode at him with his lance, and killed him on the spot. Moreri relates this story somewhat differently. If either version were true, it would be clear that César did not understand "la parole héréditaire de l'occulte prediction," and that the lancehead instead was "dans son estomac intercluse." From other authorities, however, it would seem that he was busy about his history long after the date thus assigned for his death. Charles, his brother, was very excellent in Provençal poetry,--and several pieces of his arc still extant. Michel's third son, whose name is not given us by Moreri, became a Capuchin.
An anecdote is related by Garencières, which he throws out as "a merry passage" to recreate his reader. Nostradamus was with Lord Florinville in Lorraine, at the Castle of Faim. He was attending medically his lordship's mother. In the yard where they strolled there were two little pigs, one white and the other black. His lordship inquired of Nostradamus
jestingly what would be the fate of those pigs. "We shall eat the black one, and the wolf shall eat the white," said he. Lord Florinville secretly ordered the cook to get ready the white one for supper. When it was spitted ready for roasting, the cook left the kitchen for something, and in his absence a young tame wolf came in and ate a part of it, so that it could not appear at table. The cook immediately killed the black one, and sent it up at the time appointed. His lordship, not knowing what had happened, said to Nostradamus, "Well, Sir, we are now eating the white pig; how shall the wolf get it?" "I do not believe it," rejoined the prophet; "it is the black one that is upon the table." The cook was sent for, and by his confession the truth came out, much to the surprise of everybody present. Another story follows this, that Nostradamus had said that treasure was hidden in a little hill near Faim, that it would not be found if sought for, but that, if the ground was dug for any other reason, it would. Garencières adds that there is great probability about this as it is the site of an ancient temple, and many times since antiquities have been unearthed here. He completes his cock-and-bull story by saying that many such tales are told of Nostradamus all over France but that he passes them by as being "unwilling to write anything without good warrant."
Amongst other nonsensical reports spread was one that he caused himself to be buried alive, and that he continued to write prophecies. This no doubt was set afloat by those honest publishers who in life had done him the honour to pirate his almanacs; at any rate it made for their interest. It has also been pretended that so many in Salon regarded him as an impostor, that for security's sake he was buried in the Franciscan Church.
Those who desire the Bibliography of the editions of Nostradamus
up to the year 1840 will consult that which has been admirably drawn up by Eugène Bareste, Paris, 1840, in his work upon "Nostradamus." Or they may find it copied textually, with all due acknowledgment of its excellence, in the first volume of Le Pelletier's edition of the "Oracles."
The works of Nostradamus, besides the "Prophecies," seem. to have been--
Several Almanacs, two of which were translated at once into English, and are given by Watt, "Bib. Brit."
"Almanacke for 1559." London: 1559. 8vo.
"Almanacke et Prognostications." London: 1559. 8vo.
Moreri gives further an--
Almanac for country labourers, to mark the seasons favourable for their work. A true predecessor, this, of Moore's Vox Stellarum.
"Predictions before 1558." London: 1691. 4to. This is named by Watt, and may be a translation of the genuine first edition of the "Seven Centuries," but I have not met with it.
"Prophecies of the Kings and Queens of England." 1715. This is the work by D. D. that we have largely quoted from.
"An excellent Treatise on Contagious Infirmities in 1559-60." Translated into English. London: 1559.
"Traité des Fardements." Lyon: 1552.
"Des Confiteurs," etc. Anvers: 1557.
"Opuscule de plusieurs exquises Receptes, divisé en deux parties." Lyon: 1572. 16mo. This contains both the above.
"La Remède très utile contre la Peste et toutes Fièvres pestilentielles.' Paris: 1651. 8vo.
"Paraphrase de Galien sur 'lexhortation de Menodote aux Études des Beaux Arts." Lyon: 1558. 8vo.
Touching the prophecies of Nostradamus, Théophile de Garencières gives us an interesting fact, that, after the primer, it was the first book at school in which he learnt to read. It was the custom in France then (i.e. 1618) to initiate children by that book. They thought the crabbed and obsolete words, such as long survived in the English law, would give the scholars some idea of the old French language; so
that the book got republished from year to year like an almanac. He chronicles that many have run mad from over-studying the prophecies. He dissuades readers from doing this, because interpretation must always be a little uncertain where, like an ancient oracle, the author indulges in a double sense, which he thinks Nostradamus often does. Without a peculiar genius, he does not suppose it possible to get at a right understanding of the quatrain. Even when the prophecy is quite plain, as that the Parliament should put King Charles to death, no reader, until it had happened, could tell when, or how, it would be brought about, Even his astrological signs will not fix things, because the planets go and return again to the same bearings. Some of his reasons are very peculiar, one being that it is not profit able for the vulgar to have knowledge of the future, that God reserves the knowledge of the times to Himself, and that it might trespass upon "business of State" to discover and lay open things which the prudent wish to conceal; and he concludes, oddly enough, that "for these reasons (dear Reader) I would not have thee entangle thyself in the pretentions of knowing future things."
He conceives that there are many concurrent causes tending to diminish the prophetic reputation of Nostradamus. The very ordinary manner in which he conformed to the rules and ritual of the Roman Catholic Church, would lead no one to infer that he enjoyed any extraordinary favour from the Almighty; his proficiency in judicial astrology would furnish matter of prejudice against him in the minds of many learned men; the very devout suspected him of necromancy, and familiarity with the Angel of Darkness; finally the inherent obscurity of his style has been rendered still more difficult by the interminable faults introduced by, the copyists and the carelessness of printers.
Now, it is admitted, he says, and by its ablest defenders, that judicial astrology cannot enable its professor to foretell such particularities as proper names and other circumstances that hang upon the free will of men; and, as our author does foretell such things as these, he must have had recourse to the black art to obtain his results. Accordingly Lord Florimond de Raimond, in his "Birth of Heresies," makes this charge against him; also Lord Spond, in the third volume of his "Annals," in 1566, devised this epitaph for him. "Mortuus est hoc anno nugax ille toto orbe famosus Michel Nostradamus, qui se præscium et presagum eventuum futurorum per astrorum influxum venditavit, sub cujus deinceps nomine quivis homines ingeniosi suas hujus modi cogitationes protendere consueverent, in quem valde apposite lusit qui dixit: Nostra damus cum falsa damus," etc. 1
Provoked thus, Garencières endeavours to prove Nostradamus to have been enlightened by the Holy Spirit. We shall not follow him in this matter any further than to avail ourselves of the facts we may light upon in the course of his arguments, and to record a few of the eulogies upon him that Garencières gathers from eminent authors in times past. To these we may add some authorities who in modern times have named him; but these mostly sum up his forecastings as springing from venality, vanity, and imposture.
Of proper names, that Nostradamus has anticipated, the list is considerable. He names the Lord of Monluc; Captain Charry; Lord de la Mole, Admiral of the Galleys to Henri
[paragraph continues] II.; Entragues, beheaded by Louis XIII.; Clarepegne, the headsman; Sinan, the Pasha who destroyed Hungary; Clément, who murdered Henri III.; the Attorney David and Captain Ampus; Rousseau, the Mayor of Puy; Louis, Prince of Condé; Sixtus V., calling him son of Hamont; Gabrielle d'Estrée; Lord Mutonis; Anthony de Sourdis, Lord Chancellor of France; the Queen Louise; Antony of Portugal. Since Garencières' time other names have been identified: Narbon, the Minister of War; Saulce; Lethuille, for the Tuileries; Lonole, for Old Noll, or Cromwell; Montmorency; Le Grand Chiren, anagram of Henri le Grand; Mendosus, anagram of Vendosme; Norlaris, anagram for Lorrains; Robin, anagram of Biron; Rapis, anagram for Paris; Esleu Cap, for Capet, or Louis XVI.; Varennes, the place where Louis was arrested; the play upon bour and bon, for Bourbon (Cent. vii. 44); Ergaste, anagram of Estrange for Marie Antoinette the Austrian; Mont Gaulfier, for Montgolfier, the æronaut; the island of Elba, mentioned as Æthalia, the ancient name of Elba; Sainct Memire, anagram for Sainct Meri; and the play on "dort leans" for Louis Philippe. This is a goodly list of names to guess at haphazard. Such chance as could so result would rival any prophecy in the miraculous nature of its elements.
Again, as regards the curious things he mentions, one might make out a long list. The date of the Fire of London. The five hundred Marseillais that led the attack upon the Tuileries. The naming of the very year 1792 for the French Revolution; the 22nd of September in that year being the date from which the Republicans began to reckon anew their era. Many more might so easily be gathered as to even weary the reader with their enumeration.
He mentions the birth of persons that were born after his death. Now, judicial astrology could give no help in
such cases, since to commence casting a nativity presupposes birth. In his epistle to his son César we shall see what he says of himself and the gifts he possessed; but even there he was obliged to be somewhat obscure, to protect himself from the ridicule of the world on the one side, and from the severities of the Church on the other. He tells his son to eschew the study of the future astrologically, to avoid magic, as prohibited by the Church and Scripture, and that he himself had burnt some books that taught the art of prophesying, although it is pretty evident that he had first read them through very carefully himself. He relates that a mighty flame burst forth from them to the danger of his house, and this he interpreted to be the consequence of their falsity. But yet he seems to have gone through a good many of the magical forms when he was about to devote the night to prophetical studies. He holds that inspired Revelation is "a participation of the Eternal Divinity," though he scarcely lays claim to being a prophet in this sense of the word; in fact, he denies himself to be such a prophet. But, failing to claim inspiration, and denouncing the practice of astrology and the pursuit of magic, one is left somewhat in the dark as to what he really did profess to be the source of fatidical utterance possessed by him. That he had the gift in a marvellous potency this book will show; and that he openly claimed to possess it his whole life proves. It is, in fact, from this I should desire to establish that at least he was no impostor, for he only told others what he began by implicitly believing himself.
As to his obscurity, he himself admits it as a thing to be cultivated both in the times he lived in and in those that were to follow. No one can truthfully deny that obscurity and prophecy seem to be almost interchangeable and convertible terms. The prophecies in Scripture are of
such ambiguity that Whitby was commended by many for concluding his Commentary on the Bible with the General Epistle of Jude, without a word bestowed upon the Revelations of St. John. There are those who will hold that prophecies are useless, as they cannot generally be understood until they have been fulfilled. It is obvious that many prophecies are of such a nature as that, if they were clearly understood previous to the event, they would prevent their own fulfilment, and so cease to have been prophecies. What they foretold would never have occurred. The philosophy of history is supposed to show that Providence shapes the course of human events how much soever humanity may seem at every instant to be following out its own collective will. This theory is most in favour amongst erudite modern thinkers, who incline very little towards acquiescence in the old Church doctrine of Predestination. Yet inspired prophecy is a collateral proof of the same principle as that which underlies the philosophy of history. Both of them depend on the finger of God shaping--first shaping chaos into things, and then things into their continuous courses. The shaping is not needed more at the first creation than it is at every successive stage, whether for preservation or for progression. Again, the interest of uninspired prophecy is for mortal man not much less vivid; for, if we have interpreted Nostradamus rightly, we find in him a man living three hundred years ago talking intelligibly, if not clearly, of things that are happening to-day. If there be a power in human nature,--latent in the generality, but in a few alert and quick,--to link far centuries together in anticipatory thought, I take it to be quite clear, that that one fact must revolutionize the whole scheme of human philosophy as accepted now, whether it relates to life, to death, or to futurity. The fatidical capacity implies a spirit
of immortality in man. With that once established, we re-enter upon the domain of faith; we recognize that the earth is drossy and the body sin; we re-create the soul, and laugh at the fool (or the philosopher) who doubts, denies, and ridicules it. It gives new ground to teach the immortality of man; it lifts us above the dirt-doctrine of gold; it renders poetry once again possible to lips hallowed with Apollo's fire; it brings back a possibility of worship upon earth, and, with that, prayer, praise, and peace. Bates, the silver-tongued, says well, that for man "it is as natural to pray as to breathe."
Garencières is of opinion that the writings of our prophet were for a century allowed to "be in darkness," but we have seen that in his own day Nostradamus attracted the notice of the learned, of the nobility, and of the king himself. Garencières says that the first book they gave him at school after the primer was "The Centuries," so it was not neglected then; and M. le Pelletier remarks that Nostradamus's fame has now been before the world for three hundred years, with an always growing reception. Of course, as time wanes, and as fresh quatrains become interpreted after accomplishment, the series must shine with an ever augmenting brilliancy and splendour. The kings of France have never been quite indifferent to the Oracles, or at least to such of them as could be shown to refer to them individually. It is reported of Charles Edward Stuart, the Pretender, that he to the last conned 1 over the volume, anxiously hoping to find in it some stanza promising to his royal line restoration to the throne of England, but in vain (Chambers' "Book of Days," ii. 13).
In modern times prophecy is derided, and our seer, obscurely hinting his strange forecasts, is voted incoherent,
rhapsodial, or an impostor. Almost every one has heard his name mentioned, but that is all. Few who come across his work accidentally on a bookshelf can make head or tail of his Provençal and half obsolete terms. Without special study you cannot understand him; and to study a work that lies under a general ban of imposture, in a time when only lucrative study is pursued, is a thing not to be thought of by a littérateur of any intelligence. Consequently in England it is a name, floating far and wide it may be, that nevertheless remains but a name and nothing more. I hope, however, when this book comes to be read by the competent few, it will be seen that there exists far more than a mere name to be dealt with here; that in Nostradamus we have the greatest fatidical seer, not divinely accredited, that the world has ever beheld; that if accepted as being endowed with a rare and curious foresight,--after the severest inquiry into what he has done has been instituted by grammarians, historians, and philosophic critics,--it will next become necessary to try to look into the causes, and so ascertain how he operated. If we cannot succeed in that, and yet cannot deny his work, we must add the faculty, so remarkably developed in him, to the perceptive powers of the human race, as a sixth sense,--generally latent but sometimes developed,--the faculty of anticipating the future. Science, so called, must enlarge its narrow categories, and admit, though never so grudgingly, that a new faculty of vast import must henceforth be accredited to humanity; a faculty which the superstitious and the profoundly religious alike have immemorially admitted, but which philosophers, as such, have as persistently ignored, denied, or even ridiculed. It has often been said by troubled thinkers, with a pretentious flourish of baffled profundity, that "true philosophy begins in doubt." I would whisper it down the
wind, but not in Gath, that for the most part there it also ends. Anatomy cuts up a dead man to find life. Analysis reduces final Investigation to a caput mortuum. Philosophy begins in doubt, and travels a wide circle to close in doubt again. Perhaps, after all, the best basis might be faith. Beginning with faith, haply a man might find God accompanying investigation with him step by step through life, even in this world and its miraculous garden, till the hour tome for him to step, through the six-foot wicket, into the Paradise of that glorious world that is adjacent to us but not seen, where sighs are not heaved, and whose glories are incorruptible.
When we come to enumerate some few of the opinions that have been expressed on the writings and character of Nostradamus, it will be seen that a vast number of them condemn him for charlatanry and imposture, especially as we approach our own day. For now what is denominated science accepts nothing for true but what is deducible from the reason; it takes for granted that nothing can be known respecting the future, beyond what cultivated prudence can gather from a politic acquaintance with the past, coupled perhaps with a sagacious estimate of the principles now at work, and the fruit they are likely to engender. In fact, what the knowledge of a wise man can enable him to foresee, covers for such theorists the whole extent and province of all prophecy possible to man,--the sagacity of Mazarin, which detected the revolutionary element in the Cardinal de Retz whilst still a youth; or the prediction of Bishop Butler, in 1741, that the levelling spirit then visible, under the direction of principles that were atheistic, threatened dangers that might menace Europe. But to call this prophecy is to be ignorant of what the word prophecy means. To state it thus, or so to limit it, is to deny the existence
of the prophetic faculty altogether. A direct denial of the thing is better than a sceptical definition of it. Scepticism, then, in our day, not believing there can be such a thing as a true presage, concludes that Mother Shipton and Nostradamus stand on precisely the same footing. They read a quatrain of Nostradamus, only understand one line out of four, and say that, although that one may be intelligible, the Sphinx itself could make nothing of the others, and that out of a number of such verses it would be marvellous if something curious were not occasionally let fall. The next inference is that the author set up for a gift that he did not possess, and soon found the imposture was far more lucrative than the dull routine of medical practice, as in those times the superstition of the public was unlimited. The ignorance of the Middle Ages is pointedly contrasted for us now with the wisdom and knowledge of our own day. What, prejudice apart, does this mean, if briefly summed up in an aphorism? Only this: that the wisdom of to-day gives us the Nihilist of no faith, in place of the Astrologer of too much.
We ought to remember in all this that our author had reached the mature age of fifty-two before he printed one word of the work that we are spending time over. He tells us that for generations the family of Nostradamus had inherited and transmitted some share of the prophetic gift (Garencière's Preface, p. 16), that it came to him as a natural genius; in which it seems that his sons partially shared. He had cultivated it long for his private pleasure, and the request in which his almanacs stood seems to have first led him to think he Might more largely utilize the faculty. He never appears to have made any large sum of money through it. He supported himself and brought up his family by steady work in his professional calling. On
the very brink of publicity, anticipating malign influences, he still hesitated to take the final plunge; and, when he did take it, he was in his fifty-third year. Men seldom pass through life performing all its duties with credit and decorum, earn a competency, and at fifty-two enter upon a career of contemptible imposture. No; this is not according to human nature. We must acquit him of imposture.
Michel Nostradamus was one of the most learned men of his day, the friend of Jules César Scaliger. He knew many modern languages, and the Hebrew, Greek, and Latin. He had followed medicine from the age of twenty-two, took his Doctor's degree at twenty-six, filled a professional chair at Montpellier, and late in life devoted himself to judicial astrology; in which, and in an intuitive forecast beyond what that can bestow, he has distanced by far all other competitors in the same line. Let a reader thoroughly acquaint himself with all that is here set before him as to Charles I. in England, and its bloody re-enactment in the French Revolution, letting all the rest stand aside; and, if he can rise from the perusal, feeling that there is any kind of imposture discoverable throughout those strange and wonderful revelations then he himself possesses so miraculous a form of judgment, as to leave me without a word further to advance upon the subject.
M. le Pelletier conceives that the Commun Advénement, or l'avénement au règne des gens du commun, which I have rendered "The Vulgar Advent," extending from the death of Louis XVI. to the reign of Antichrist, is the grand object of Nostradamus. It is to paint this lurid epopee that he devotes three-quarters at least of his quatrains, according to le Pelletier. Myself, I think this proportion to be overstated. But our prophet returns to it again and again, elaborates the most minute details, and concentres upon it as
in a focus the brightest rays of his mystical genius. Some think that Catharine de Medici was largely influenced in her firm and far-seeing policy by the counsels of Nostradamus, whom she visited expressly at Salon de Craux, in 1564, with her son, Charles IX. This may have been so, but it is a great question whether Nostradamus, for all his visions, curiously as they realize themselves in time, could advise the queen or anybody else at all better than any other wise man of elaborate culture could. His visions would come to him as verses to a great poet, and when written down and the afflatus fled, he would drop back to the ordinary condition of humanity. He would drop back to the level of reason and the discourse of science, with nothing to specially distinguish him from other men well placed to learn such wisdom and knowledge as this world has to bestow upon them. To expect more of him is to expect with the commonalty that if you met Milton in Bread Street he would address you in blank verse, and strain "Good morning" into metre. Great men cut very plain figures in common broadcloth. It is the impostor who is magisterial, and puts on the airs of a Cagliostro.
Nostradamus is sometimes a pillar of fire, but oftener he is a pillar of cloud. He is a past master in words, and depicts events with a terseness that almost baffles parallel; but still his employment of these same words is more practical than artistic, for he never rises to poetry. As an accepted visionary he is perhaps less swayed by the imagination than any man of at all kindred type that one can mention. With him words are as often used to veil as to unfold his meaning. His contempt for simple persons, the ignorant, is very broadly marked. Men of knowledge are to constitute his audience; the heaven of prophecy is in his opinion a region unfit for children. He, clean contrary to the example set
forth in St. Mark (x. 14), will suffer none such to approach him. 1 He chiefly predicts the evil to come; what is good only figures in his pages incidentally, and at long intervals. But here it is to be observed that the staple of true prophecy must always run parallel with that of history; whilst, as to the latter, it has grown into an axiom, "Happy is the country that has no history." He fatigues while he fascinates us amid the variety of his combinations; yet a deeper examination will often end in clothing these riddling and vext allusions in a magical and floating investment that lifts them up into a calm sublimity.
Still he is clearly no prophet in the old and Hebrew sense of the word--like Isaiah, Daniel, David, John,--a man who neither respects his own person as regards its safety, nor the person of other men as regards their position. You cannot say of him: "Scimus quia verax es, non enim respicis personam hominum" (St. Matt. xxii. 16), which is the test-touch all the world over of a true prophet. Le Pelletier's summing-up is: c'est un artiste en pronostics. There is a Pythic ring in all he writes and says; a sub-flavour, too, of cabalistic lore far gathered from those ancient compromising books which he saw fit to burn. The outward signs of his procedure and methods are palpably magical, as set forth in the stanzas that open his first Century to the reader. If we know that he professed Christian orthodoxy, equally we know that he practiced judicial astrology, and made unquestionable use of the Pagan ritual of incantation. These rites, uncomprehended by all the erudite in books who wrote about them, were by the divines and fathers of the early Church ignorantly attributed to prestidigitation, Toledan
art, and fraudulent compact with the sable fiend. Perhaps they may turn out to have been merely natural excitations, empirically discovered, tending to enable the subject of them more fully to reach a state of semi-conscious ecstasy; to place the cerebral light in the current of latent light that pervades all space (if such an expression be permissible), and so elicit results that are ordinarily unattainable by man. Bouys, who wrote in 1806, plainly considers him to have been a clairvoyant. The animal magnetizers call him a crisiaque. Possibly all these processes only served to place him in a position favourable to clairvoyance; but on all this, respected and gentle reader, construct your own opinion. Let the man be to you prophet, sorcerer, or clairvoyant. Call him what you will, so you free him from the stigma of impostor. M. le Pelletier's judgment as to that ought to be regarded as final: "L'ampleur de son génie, et la sureté inimaginable de son coup d'æil, ne permettent guère de la croire."
It has been well said that the man and his works are an enigma. Everything in our author is ambiguous. the man, the thought, the style. We stumble at every step in the rough paths of his labyrinth. Once we enter, jeering voices seem to deride us from behind each stanza, strophe, word. We try to interrogate, but grow silent before a man of emotionless nerve and of impenetrable mask. What are these "Centuries?" What is Nostradamus? In them and him all may find something; but no man born of woman can find all. The Sphinx of France is here before us; a riddler, riddling of the fate of men: a man at once bold and timid; simple, yet who can plumb his depth? A superficial Christian, a Pagan perhaps at heart; a man rewarded of kings: and yet, so far as we can see, furnishing no one profitable hint to them that could make their life run smoother, or remove a single peril from their path. His
leaves a book of things malign, written by one who, albeit, never spoke a word that à tous ne seroit agréable. Behold this Janus of a double face; his very breath is double; the essence of ambiguity lies wrapped incarnate in him, and it moulds the man, the thought, the style.
3:1 The facts for this life are taken, where no other reference is given, from a scarce work, entitled, "La première face du Janus François, par Jean Aimes de Chavigny Beaunois, 1594." It is found in the Library at Paris; but not in the British Museum. Fortunately M. le Pelletier gives an almost literal transcript of this "Brief discours sur la vie de M. Michel de Nostredame."
4:1 "Archives du Magnetisme Animal," vol. viii. "Tous deux" (i.e. father and mother) "appartenaient à une famille Juive," converted in the sixteenth century, and of the tribe of Issachar ("Nouvelle Biog. Générale" [Le Pelletier, i. 16 n.]).
4:2 His grandfather, Moreri tells us.
7:1 Moreri assigns this to the year 1525.
7:2 He calls Scaliger in the heyday of friendship "a Virgil in poetry, a Cicero in eloquence, a Galen in medicine," and declares that to him he is indebted for his scientific attainments ("Penny Cyclopædia," s.v. Nostradamus).
12:1 "That the great bulk of French society of his day was impressed by his effusions there can be no doubt" (Chambers' "Book of Days," vol. ii., p. 13).
12:2 Moreri says that nobody knows what his report was.
13:1 Garencières, as we have shown, says Nostradamus dedicated the "Luminary Epistle" to Henri II. in 1557. M. le Pelletier holds (i. 10) that Henri II. never knew of the dedicatory epistle written to him by name, and that, as the events referred to do not concern the House of Valois, they could have had no interest for him had he known of the epistle. M. le Pelletier adds a most singular note to this remark, that the epistle is dedicated "A l'invictissime, très puissant, et très chrestien Henry Roy de France Second." This epigraph he maintains not to be addressed to Henri II., for he remarks that he was no longer alive when it made its appearance. Now, this is not so; for the dedicatory letter was dated in print June 27, 1558, and the king's death only took place in 1559, so that the document was even in print before his death. But, had it not been so, there is no reason whatever why Nostradamus should not have supplied the king with a copy of the letter and quatrains in manuscript long before either of them had been committed to type. Jean de Roux, Curé de Louvicamp, wrongly suggests that it was intended as a prophetical dedication to Louis le Grand or XIV. M. le Pelletier thinks it was not even dedicated to the great Henri Quatre, but to a "Henry, Roy de France Second"--second being the Latin secundus, or prosperous, i.e. some king not less illustrious than Henri Quatre, whose reign is to arise in the future. This it is which furnishes to the reader the secret purpose of Le Pelletier's book, which is to set forth the claims of the Due de Bordeaux, who would have ascended the French throne as Henri Cinq. Accordingly, in the body of the book, he has interpreted five quatrains and one sixain of the prophecies of Nostradamus as referring to this glorious King Henri Second, who has never arrived, and who, being now some years dead, never can. We have seen that the Curé de Louvicamp could even suppose that Louis XIV. could stand for "Henry, Roy de France Second." M. F. Buget, in his "Étude sur Nostradamus," has the same idea, that be does riot address Henri II., because he was not of a character sufficiently great to merit the attribution of such spiritual authority to him by our prophet, as if the flattery of a dedication was to be interpreted au pied de la lettre. It could only be addressed, he thinks to a really great man,--, a saint. M. Buget, in his book of 1862, evidently was another of those who made the fatal error of interpreting Nostradamus out of the future, instead of carefully following the enigmas thrown out p. 14 by him to find their fulfilment in the past. These gentlemen, if they had assiduously read the Epistle itself, instead of consulting their imaginative faculties, would have perceived plainly enough that Nostradamus was writing to the only king he knew, before whom he had personally presented himself, and whom, as he says, he had highly reverenced from "iceluy jour que premierement devant icelle je me presentay." The concluding words of the Dedication are equally plain, and show that he is addressing a king whom he has individually seen with his own eyes: "depuis que mes yeux jurent si proches de vostre splendeur solaire." All the rest is to be set down to the strain of courtly flattery that was customarily addressed to kings, then and down to a period full two hundred years later, especially on occasion of penning royal dedications. The purpose of this long note is to establish, once and for all, I trust, that "Henry, Roy de France Second," stands, without any subtlety at all, simply for King Henry II., and nothing more. It is vain to endeavour to make millstones transparent that we may shoot unexpected rays of light through them. They will answer their purpose by being left in the dark, and will grind grain the better for it. Transparency will in such cases represent frangibility.
18:1 Aulus Gellius, "Noctes Atticæ," xv. 7.
18:2 It was really in the sixth month of his sixty-third year that he died.
20:1 Temple Bar, xli. p. 87, authority for the term of years.
21:1 How any could have been written in 1567, I know not, as Nostradamus died in 1566. But, however this may be, there are twelve Presages, or one for each month throughout the year 1567. The last one is that which we have already given, as relating to his own death.
21:2 The book was entitled, "Les vies des plus célèbres et anciens poëtes provensaux, qui ont floury du tems des comtes de Provence" (Lyon, 1575); a book still sought for, and rather rare.
26:1 "In 1566 died that trifler, so famous throughout the world, Michael Nostradamus, who boasted while he lived that he knew and could foretell future events by the influence of the stars, in whose name afterwards many ingenious men have put forth their imaginings, justifying him who said so aptly, 'Nostra damus,' etc."
30:1 Bouys does the same for Napoleon I.
36:1 See the ban he utters in Century VI., at the close--"Barbari procul sunto." He shows a quite Horatian and heathen antipathy to the profanam vulgus.