Victorian London - Publications - Social Investigation/Journalism - Mystic London, by Charles Maurice Davies, 1875 - Chapter XXV - Interviewing an Astrologer

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FOR several years - in fact ever since my first acquaintance  with these "occult" matters whereinto I am now such a veteran investigator - my great wish has been to become practically acquainted with some  Professor of Astral Science. One friend, indeed, I had who had devoted a long lifetime to this and kindred  subjects, and of whom I shall have to speak  anon ; but he had never utilized his knowledge so as  to become the guide, philosopher, and friend of  amorous housemaids on the subject of their matrimonial  alliances, or set himself to discover petty larcenies  for a fee of half-a-crown. He assured me,  however, that the practice of astrology was as rife as  ever in London at this moment, and that businesses  in that line were bought and sold for sterling coin of  the realm, just as though they had been "corner"  publics, or "snug concerns" in the cheesemongery  line. All this whetted my appetite for inquiry, and  seeing one Professor Wilson advertise persistently in  the Medium to the effect that "the celebrated Astrologer  may be consulted on the events of life" from two  to nine P.M., I wrote to Professor Wilson asking for [-205-] an interview ; but the celebrated astrologer did not  favour me with a reply.
    Foiled in my first attempt I waited patiently for  about a year, and then broke ground again - I will not  say whether with Professor Wilson, or some other  practitioner of astral science. I will call my Archimago  Professor Smith, of Newington Causeway, principally  for the reason that this is neither the real  name nor the correct address. I have no wish to  advertise any wizard gratuitously; nor would it be  fair to him, since, as will be seen from the sequel, his  reception of me was such as to make it probable that  he would have an inconvenient number of applicants  on the conditions observed at my visit.
    Availing myself, then, of the services of my friend  above-mentioned, I arranged that we should together  pay a visit to Professor Smith, of Newington Causeway,  quite "permiscuous," as Mrs. Gamp would say.  My companion would go with his own horoscope  already constructed, at: he happened to know the exact  hour and minute of his birth - particulars as to which  I only possessed the vaguest information, which is all  I fancy most of us have; though there was one circumstance  connected with my own natal day which  went a long way towards "fixing" it.
    It was on a Monday evening that I visited this  modern Delphic oracle ; and, strangely enough, as is  often the case, other events seemed to lead up to this  one. The very lesson on Sunday evening was full of [-206-] astrology. It was, I may mention, the story of  the handwriting on the wall and the triumph of  Daniel over the magicians. Then I took up my  Chaucer on Monday morning; and instead of the  "Canterbury Tales," opened it at the " Treatise on the  Astrolabe," which I had never read before, but devoured  then as greedily as no doubt did "Little  Lowis," to whom it is addressed. All this tended to  put me in a proper frame of mind for my visit to  Newington ; so, after an early tea, we took my friend's  figure of his nativity with us, and went.
    Professor Smith, we found, lived in a cosy house  in the main road, the parlours whereof he devoted to  the purposes of a medical magnetist, which was his  calling, as inscribed upon the wire blinds of the  ground floor front. We were ushered at once into  the professor's presence by a woman who, I presume,  was his wife-a quiet respectable body with nothing  uncanny about her. The front parlour was comfortably  furnished and scrupulously clean, and the  celebrated Professor himself, a pleasant elderly gentleman,  was sitting over a manuscript which he read  by the light of a Queen's reading lamp. There was  not, on the one hand, any charlatan assumption in  his get-up, nor, on the other, was there that squalor  and neglect of the decencies of life which I have  heard sometimes attaches to the practitioners in  occult science. Clad in a light over-coat, with  spectacles on nose, and bending over his MS., [-207-] Professor Smith might have been a dissenting parson  en deshabille "getting off" his Sunday discourse, or a  village schoolmaster correcting the "themes" of his  pupils. He was neither; he was a nineteenth century  astrologer, calculating the probabilities of success  for a commercial scheme, the draft prospectus of  which was the document over which he pored. As  he rose to receive us I was almost disappointed to  and that he held no wand, wore no robe, and had no  volume of mystic lore by his side. The very cat that  emerged from underneath his table and rubbed itself  against my legs was not of the orthodox sable hue,  but simple tabby and white.
    My friend opened the proceedings by producing  the figure of his nativity, and saying he had come to  ask a question in horary astrology relative to a certain  scheme about which he was anxious, such anxiety  constituting what he termed a "birth of the mind."  Of course this was Dutch to me, and I watched to  see whether the Professor would be taken off his  guard by finding he was in presence of one thoroughly  posted up in astral science. Not in the least; he  greeted him as a brother chip, and straightway the  two fell to discussing the figure. The Professor  worked a new one, which he found to differ in some  slight particulars from the one my friend had brought.  Each, however, had worked it by logarithms, and  there was much talk of "trines" and "squares" and  "houses," which I could not understand; but even-[-208-]tually the coveted advice was given by the Professor and accepted by my friend as devoutly as though it  had been a response of the Delphic oracle itself. The  business would succeed, but not without trouble, and  possibly litigation on my friend's part. He was to  make a call on a certain day and "push the matter"  a month afterwards; all of which he booked in a  business-like manner. This took a long time, for the  Professor was perpetually making pencil signs on the  figure he had constructed, and the two also discussed  Zadkiel, Raphael, and other astrologers they had  mutually known. Continual reference had to be  made to the "Nautical Almanack;" but by-and-by  my friend's innings was over and mine commenced.  I have said that I did not know the exact hour and  minute of my birth, and when, with appropriate  hesitation, I named the 1st of April as the eventful  day, the Professor looked at me for a moment with a  roguish twinkle of the eye as though to ascertain  that I was not poking fun at him. I assured him,  however, that such was the inauspicious era of my  nativity, and moreover that I was born so closely  on the confines of March 31 - I do not feel it  necessary to specify the year - as to make it almost  dubious whether I could claim the honours of April-Fooldom. This seemed enough for him - though he  warned me that the absence of the exact time might  lead to some vagueness in his communications - and  he proceeded forthwith to erect my figure; which, by [-209-] the way, looked to me very much like making a "figure" in Euclid ; and I peered anxiously to see  whether mine bore any resemblance to the Pons  Asinorum!
    I feared I had led my philosopher astray altogether  when the first item of information he gave me was  that, at about the age of twenty-one, I had met with  some accident to my arm, a circumstance which I  could not recall to memory. Several years later I  broke my leg, but I did not tell him that. Going  further back, he informed me that about the age  of fourteen, if I happened to be apprenticed, or in  any way placed under authority, I kicked violently  over the traces, which was quite true, inasmuch as I  ran away from school twice at that precise age, so  that my astrologer scored one. At twenty-eight I  married (true), and at thirty-two things were particularly  prosperous with me - a fact which I was also  constrained to acknowledge correct. Then came a  dreadful mistake. If ever I had anything to do with  building or minerals, I should be very successful. I  never had to do with building save once in my life,  and then Mr. Briggs's loose tile was nothing to the  difficulties in which I became involved. Minerals I  had never dabbled in beyond the necessary consumption  of coals for domestic purposes. I had an uncle  who interested himself in my welfare some years  ago - this was correct - and something was going to  happen to my father's sister at Midsummer, 1876. [-210-] This, of course, I cannot check; but I trust, for the sake of my venerable relation, it may be nothing prejudicial.  I was also to suffer from a slight cold about  the period of my birthday in that same year, and was  especially to beware of damp feet. My eldest brother,  if I had one, he said, had probably died, which was  again correct ; and if my wife caught cold she suffered  in her throat, which piece of information, if not very  startling, I am also constrained to confess is quite  true. Then followed a most delicate piece of information  which I blush as I commit to paper. I wished  to marry when I was twenty-one, but circumstances  prevented. Then it was that memories of a certain  golden-haired first love came back through the vista  of memory. I was then a Fellow of my College, impecunious  except as regarded my academical stipend,  so the young lady took advice and paired off with a  well-to-do cousin. Sic transit gloria mundi ! We are  each of us stout, unromantic family people now; but  the reminiscence made me feel quite romantic for the  moment in that ground floor front in Newington  Causeway; and I was inclined to say, "A Daniel  come to judgment !" but I checked myself and remarked,  sotto voce, in the vernacular, " Right again,  Mr. Smith !"
    Before passing on to analyse me personally he remarked  that my wife's sister and myself were not on  the best of terms. I owned that words had passed  between us ; and then he told me that in my cerebral [-211-] development there was a satisfactory fusion of caution  and combativeness. I was not easily knocked over,  or, if so, had energy to get up again. This energy  was to tell in the future. This, I believe, is a very  usual feature of horoscopic revelation. Next year  was to be particularly prosperous. I should travel a  good deal - had travelled somewhat this year, and was  just now going to take a short journey ; but I should  travel a great deal more next year. I own to asking  myself whether this could bear any reference to the  Pontigny Pilgrimage in which I shared this year,  and the possible pilgrimage to Rome next summer,  and also a projected journey to Scotland by the  Limited Mail next Tuesday evening ! On the whole,  my astrologer had scored a good many points.  The most marvellous revelation of all yet remains  to be made, however. When we rose to go we each  of us endeavoured to force a fee on Professor Smith,  but nothing would induce him to receive a farthing!  I had got all my revelations, my "golden" memories  of the past, my bright promises of the future free,  gratis, for nothing ! It will be evident, then, why I  do not give this good wizard's address lest I inundate  him with gratuitous applicants, and why I therefore  veil his personality under the misleading title of Professor  Smith of Newington Causeway.

source: Charles Maurice Davies, Mystic London, 1875