A Revenue Officer
A Letter to a Lord.
[30 March 1708.]
In obedience to your Lordship’s commands, as well as to satisfy my own curiosity; I have, for some days past, inquired constantly after PARTRIDGE the Almanack maker: of whom, it was foretold in Mr. BICKERSTAFF’s Predictions, published about a month ago, that he should die, the 29th instant, about eleven at night, of a raging fever.
I had some sort of knowledge of him, when I was employed in the Revenue; because he used, every year, to present me with his Almanack, as he did other Gentlemen, upon the score of some little gratuity we gave him.
I saw him accidentally once or twice, about ten days before he died: and observed he began very much to droop and languish; although I hear his friends did not seem to apprehend him in any danger.
About two or three days ago, he grew ill; was confined first to his chamber, and in a few hours after, to his bed: where Dr. CASE and Mrs. KIRLEUS [two London quacks] were sent for, to visit, and to prescribe to him.
Upon this intelligence, I sent thrice every day a servant or other, to inquire after his health: and yesterday, about four in the afternoon, word was brought me, that he was past hopes.
Upon which, I prevailed with myself to go and see him: partly, out of commiseration: and, I confess, partly out of curiosity. He knew me very well, seemed surprised at my condescension, and made me compliments upon it, as well as he could in the condition he was. The people about him, said he had been delirious: but, when I saw him, he had his understanding as well as ever I knew, and spoke strong and hearty, without any seeming uneasiness or constraint.
After I had told him, I was sorry to see him in those melancholy circumstances, and said some other civilities suitable to the occasion; I desired him to tell me freely and ingenuously, whether the Predictions, Mr. BICKERSTAFF had published relating to his death, had not too much affected and worked on his imagination?
He confessed he often had it in his head, but never with much apprehension till about a fortnight before: since which time, it had the perpetual possession of his mind and thoughts, and he did verily believe was the true natural cause of his present distemper. “For,” said he, “I am thoroughly persuaded, and I think I have very good reasons, that Mr. BICKERSTAFF spoke altogether by guess, and knew no more what will happen this year than I did myself.”
I told him, “His discourse surprised me, and I would be glad he were in a state of health to be able to tell me, what reason he had, to be convinced of Mr. BICKERSTAFF’s ignorance.”