Seven on your side: Loss, mobility, and practical astrology in seventeenth-century London


I am not ignorant that many have written against the science I profess, But such is my candid equanimity, that I think they inveighed against the abuse rather then the true use, of so ancient, so rare, so often verified a learning, which for its practical part may challenge any.

So wrote Dr. Thomas Clayton (1575-1647), regius professor of medicine at Oxford, in the preface to the large, unpublished “Vindication of Judiciarie Astrologie”, composed by his friend Jeffrey Le Neve (1579-1653) in or shortly after 1641 and now in the Bodleian Library at Oxford.[1] Today, he might write the same lines as an anguished humanities scholar or even, in light of last week’s Brexit surprise, a pollster. But the solid and practical science that Clayton and Le Neve defended in 1641 was, instead, astrology.

Often described as an “occult” belief, astrology (like alchemy) is one of those pursuits whose fall from intellectual respectability makes a tempting boundary-marker between the pre-modern…

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