Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Coley, Henry

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COLEY, HENRY (1633–1695?), mathematician and astrologer, was born, as we are told by an inscription round a portrait of him by White, found in some of his works, on 18 Oct. 1633, at Oxford. His horoscope is given, with careful readings, in Selby's 'Occult Sciences' (London, 1790, 2 vols. 4to), and in a work by J. Kendal entitled 'Χρονομετρία, or the measure of time by directions, practically illustrated in the geniture of Mr. Henry Coley' (London, 1684, 8vo). In 1644 he narrowly escaped death by the plague. In 1655 he married his first wife, by whom he had one child, and in 1660 he married again, and became the father of a second child. He lived in Baldwin's Gardens, Gray's Inn Lane, whence most of his works were published. He was the adopted son of the astrologer, William Lilly, who constantly makes reference in his works to Coley's merit as a man and as a professor of mathematics and occult science. He is best known by his celebrated work, 'Clavis Astrologiæ Elimata; or a Key to the whole Art of Astrology, new filed and polished,' which was first published in 1669 (not in 1663, as stated by Selby), and of which a second and enlarged edition was published in 1676. The first number of his celebrated almanack or Ephemeris was published in 1672, and Lilly on his death in 1681 bequeathed to him his still more celebrated almanack, which had then reached its thirty-sixth year of publication, entitled ' Merlini Anglici Ephemeris, or Astrological Judgment for the Year,' which from this date (1681) was issued by Coley 'according to the method of Mr. Lilly.' Coley had acted as Lilly's amanuensis since 1677, when the latter was stricken with the illness of which he afterwards died. The editor of Lilly's 'Autobiography' tells us: 'His judgments and observations for the succeeding years till his death were all composed by his directions, Mr. Coley coming to Hersham the beginning of every summer, and stayed there till by conference with him he had despatched them for the press; to whom at these opportunities he communicated his way of judgment and other "Arcana."' Even after the death of Lilly, Coley continued to publish his predictions, as for instance, 'The great and wonderful Predictions of that late famous Astrologer, William Lilly, Mr. Partridge, and Mr. Coley concerning this present year 1683.' Coley attained considerable distinction as a mathematician. We are told by his almanack that he taught 'arithmetic, vulgar, decimal, and logarithmical, geometry, trigonometry, astronomy, navigation, the use of the celestial and terrestrial globes, dialling, surveying, gaging, measuring, and the art of astrology in all its branches,' at Baldwin's Gardens. He corrected and enlarged Joseph Moxon's 'Mathematics made easy' (London, 1692), and also Forster's 'Arithmetic, or that useful art made easie' (London, 1686). He was alive in 1694, and after 1695 we cannot trace any issue of his almanack. He therefore probably died in this year.

[Selby's Occult Sciences; Kendal's Χρονομετρία; Coley's Works; W. Lilly's Autobiography.]

E. H.-A.