Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Gadbury, John

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GADBURY, JOHN (1627–1704), astrologer, born at Wheatley in Oxfordshire on 31 Dec. 1627, was son of William Gadbury, farmer, by ‘his stolen wife’ (Wood, Bliss, iv. 9), a Roman catholic, the daughter of Sir John Curson of Waterperry, knt. Curson seems to have disinherited his daughter, and the boy was apprenticed to Thomas Nicholls, an Oxford tailor, but left him in 1644. A partial reconciliation with his grandfather, Sir John Curson, enabled John Gadbury to be educated at Oxford. He joined a merchant adventurer named Thorn, living near Strand bridge, London, and married about 1648. He joined successively the presbyterians, the independents, and the ‘family of love,’ then under Abiezer Coppe [q. v.] Gadbury appears to have left him in 1651, by which time he was intimate with William Lilly [q. v.], Butler's ‘Sidrophel.’ In 1652 he returned to Oxfordshire to visit his grandfather, Sir John, and settled to study astrology under Dr. N. Fiske. He answered William Brommerton's ‘Confidence Dismantled,’ &c., 1652, in ‘Philastrogus' Knavery Epitomized, with a Vindication of Mr. Culpepper, Mr. Lilly, and the rest of the Students in that noble Art,’ &c., ‘written by J. G[adbury], a lover of all ingenious arts and artists, Aprill the 5, 1651.’ In 1654 he published ‘Animal Cornutum, or the Horn'd Beast, wherein is contained a brief method of the grounds of Astrology.’ In 1655 he presented to Sir John Curson the first of a long series of annual ‘Ephemerides.’ In 1656 he published his ‘Emendation’ of Hartgil's ‘Astronomical Tables,’ and also his own ‘Cœlestis Legatus, or the Celestial Ambassadour, astronomically predicting the grand Catastrophe that is probable to befall the most of the kingdoms and countries of Europe,’ two parts, 1656, 4to. In 1658 he published ‘Genethlialogia, or the Doctrine of Nativities,’ and ‘The Doctrine of Horary Questions, Astrologically handled’ (with his portrait engraved by T. Cross). In ‘Nebulo Anglicanus’ Partridge asserts that he meant to dedicate the ‘Doctrine of Nativities’ to Cromwell, and accuses him of becoming a royalist upon the Restoration. In August 1659 he published ‘The Nativity of the late King Charls [sic], Astrologically and Faithfully performed, with Reasons in Art of the various success and mis-fortune of His whole Life. Being (occasionally) a brief History of our late unhappy Wars,’ still worth study. In 1659 he also published ‘The King of Sweden's Nativity,’ and probably ‘Nuncius Astrologicus’ and ‘Britain's Royal Star.’ In 1660 appeared his treatise on the ‘Nature of Prodigies,’ praising Fiske and mocking Lilly for having been indicted as a cheat before a Hicks's Hall jury in 1654. By 22 Nov. 1661 had appeared ‘Britain's Royal Star, or An Astrological Demonstration of England's future Felicity,’ founded on the position of the stars at the date of Charles II's proclamation as king.

In 1665 he published ‘De Cometis, or A Discourse of the Natures and Effects of Comets, with an account of the three late Comets in 1664 and 1665,’ ‘London's Deliverance from the Plague of 1665,’ and ‘Vox Solis; or A Discourse of the Sun's Eclipse, 22 June 1666’ (dedicated to Elias Ashmole). Previous to 1667 he published his ‘Collection of Nativities’ and ‘Dies Novissimus; or Dooms-Day not so near as dreaded.’ According to John Partridge [q. v.] Gadbury in 1666 had removed from Jewin Street to Westminster, where he attended the abbey each Sunday. Partridge maliciously accuses him of debauchery in 1667, and of complicity in the murder of one Godden, who had recently indicted him at the sessions. He published little except ‘A brief Relation of the Life and Death of Mr. V. Wing,’ 1669, 1670, his annual ‘Ephemerides,’ and his West India or ‘Jamaica Almanack’ for 1674, until 1675, when appeared his ‘Obsequium Rationabile; or A Reasonable Service performed for the Cœlestial sign Scorpio, in 20 remarkable genitures of that glorious but stigmatized Horoscope, against the malitious and false attempts of that grand (but fortunate) IMPOSTOR, Mr. William Lilly.’ In 1677 appeared ‘The Just and Pious Scorpionist; or the Nativity of that thrice excellent man, Sir Matthew Hales, born under the Cœlestial Scorpion.’ By 1678 he had possibly been received into the church of Rome, but this is extremely doubtful, and he was suspected of participation in some ‘popish plots.’ He was the accredited author of the clever narrative ballad, in four parts, 1679, ‘A Ballad upon the Popish Plot’ (Bagford Ballads). Thomas Dangerfield [q. v.] professed to have had eight meetings with Gadbury in September 1679, at the house of Mrs. Elizabeth Cellier [q. v.] Gadbury was summoned as a witness against Cellier at her trial in June 1680, and testified in her favour, having known her ten or twelve years (Case of Thomas Dangerfield, &c, together with John Gadbury his testimony, with all his evasions, 1680, p. 27). Gadbury had been taken into custody on suspicion, 2 Nov. 1679. He denied connivance, before the king and council, and obtained release two months later. His enemies pretended that he had attempted ineffectually to bribe Sir Thomas Danby with a present of plate, and, on trebling the value of the present, he induced another person to gain for him a pardon. In compensation for ‘wrongous imprisonment’ he received 200l. in 1681. By this date he was a widower. In 1683 he published the works of his friend George Hawarth, alias Wharton. In 1684 appeared his ‘Cardines Cœli, or An Appeal to the learned and experienced observers of Sublunars and their vicissitudes. In a Reply to the learned author of “Cometomantia.”’ He was falsely reported to have avowed himself a papist in 1685, but in 1686, in his ‘Epistle to the Almanack,’ indicated a prophecy for ‘an eternal settlement in England of the Romanists.’ In 1688–9 appeared ‘Mene Tekel; being an Astrological judgment on the great and wonderful year 1688. London, printed by H. H. for the use of John Gadbury.’ The misemployment of his name was satirical. Gadbury was falsely accused, on the strength of papers intercepted at the post office, of being implicated in a plot (June 1690) against William III. He was detained in custody eight or ten weeks, and had certainly refused as a nonjuror to take the oaths of allegiance. In 1693 he attended St. Margaret's Church, Westminster, as a protestant, and was then living in Brick Court, College Street, Westminster, when Partridge reproached him for ingratitude to Lilly, and accused him of being the author of the vindication, ‘Merlini Liberati Errata.’ He was reputed to have written ‘The Scurrilous Scribbler dissected; a Word in William Lilly's ear concerning his Reputation,’ printed on one side of a broadsheet, undated, of near this time (Athenæ Oxon. i. 36). Wood at first described Gadbury as a ‘monster of ingratitude’ to Lilly (Bliss, iv. 748), but, after a correspondence with Aubrey, accepted rectification of his statements, 20 Aug. and November 1692 (Tanner, Coll. Bodl. No. 451, and MS. Ballard, Bodl. xiv. 99). In 1693 appeared ‘Nebulo Anglicanus; or The First Part of the Black Life of John Gadbury,’ &c., by John Partridge. This contains a portrait of Gadbury as ‘Merlinus Verax,’ showing a round large-featured face, with long curling hair, fair-coloured, in the broad flapping hat of a pilgrim, with rosary and cross, but a label issuing from his mouth ‘a special Protestant.’ Partridge declared that Gadbury wrote ‘Utrum Horum; Rome or Geneva, Never a Barrel better herring,’ and that it was ‘designed against all religions, but most chiefly against the Reformed Protestant religion’ (Nebulo, p. 24); also that Gadbury announced James II would return in 1694. Gadbury died near the end of March 1704, leaving a widow, and was buried in the vault of St. Margaret's Church, Westminster, 28 March 1704 (Bliss, iv. 9). It is extremely probable, judging from the racy vigour of his fourfold ‘Ballad on the Popish Plot,’ 1679, that many others of the fugitive broadsides were of his composition.

[Gadbury's works enumerated above; Wood's Athenæ Oxon. ed. Bliss, i. 36, ii. col. 680, 1051, iv. 9, 381, 748; John Gorton's General Biog. Dict., ed. H. G. Bohn, 1851, ii sign. *B verso; Granger's Biog. Hist. iii. 129, slight and inaccurate; Animadversion upon Mr. John Gadbury's Almanack or Diary for the year of our Lord 1682, by Thomas Dangerfield, printed for the author, &c., 1682; Case of Thomas Dangerfield, 1680; Howell's State Trials; Bagford and Luttrell Coll. Broadsides in British Museum; Loyal Songs, 1685; Ballad Society's Bagford Ballads, wherein are given, on pp. 663–92, Gadbury's Ballad on the Popish Plot, assuming to have been written by a lady of quality, and on p. 1015 the libellous description of him, pseudo-autobiographical, from Partridge's Nebulo Anglicanus.]

J. W. E.