These exciting promises to uncover the mysteries of planetary motions and nodes for the next forty-four years take us back one hundred and eighty-one years, to London’s Tottenham Court Road in January, 1836 and to a gentleman called Charles Paddon who lived in a first -floor apartment at 32 Grafton Street, just off that famous London highway.
Charles was a member of a small fraternity of avid astrologers who were advertising a variety of ‘new’ scientific services to members of the public willing to part with money for “looking into futurity”.
From studying the structure of your skull, to reading your palm or taking you to the motions of the stars and planets on the day and time that you were born, the enticing promise was made to give you the story of your life yet to come – your very future would be revealed.
However, in Charles Paddon’s case, he neglected to look into his own futurity as we’ll soon see.
Charles had been a keen follower of a successful ‘professor of astrology’ prediction service provided by the late Mr. Robert Cross Smith (1785-1832), who worked under the alias of Raphael and regularly published an almanac called “Prophetic Messenger”. Rather than become Raphael II and continue the almanac (this was given to another astrologer called John Palmer (1807-1837) – Paddon married Smith’s widow, Sarah who assisted him in setting up a more personalized futurity service – a one-to-one consultation for those wishing to learn more about their fortunes (or misfortunes) to come.
Ironically, it was another Sarah who was to be the instigator of Paddon’s future fortunes. She was Sarah Hemington and she was keen to take up Charles Paddon’s offer as indicated on his business card given to her by a female friend who knew her interest in astrological predictions.
Sarah Hemington rang the first floor bell and was led by a small lad to a large room. Sitting in an immense armchair and wearing a strange gown and cap, was a man surrounded by books and cards. There were lots of sheets of black-edged paper on which were drawn shapes and symbols.
(Please excuse my ‘artistic licence’ here but as there is no illustration of this precise moment when Sarah entered Paddon’s room – I predict it might have looked a little like his contemporary American colleague – Professor Baron – owl excepted.)*
According to Sarah Hemington, Paddon rose majestically from his seat, bowed and greeted her with the utmost solemnity. She confirmed that she wished her futurity to be told. She later recalled how he stared at her as if seeking the answer in her face making her feel uncomfortable at his steady, penetrating gaze.
Paddon asked if she was married. She confirmed that she was. He then asked her for half-a-crown (two shillings and sixpence) in order for him to continue and tell her life-story yet to come.
As Sarah handed over the money, he took her hand in his own and examined it carefully, tracing the lines in her palm which she found had an intimacy she was not expecting.
Paddon then consulted a slate covered in hieroglyphics that was lying by his side and began to speak in a very solemn and forthright tone:
“Madam, your husband will soon die; but you will shortly after marry again, go abroad, have a numerous family, become possessed of a large property, and, if the stars tell true, live to a good old age.” Source: The Times: Jan 21st, 1836, page 6.)
Paddon then waved his hand in a mysterious wizard-like manner and told her she could depart happy in this knowledge of her futurity. He went back to consulting his charts and hieroglyphics.
Unfortunately for Charles Paddon, Mr. Hemington was suspicious of his wife’s planned outing to the Tottenham Court Road, but more unfortunate for Charles, was the fact that Mr. Hemington was a London police officer and with his colleague, sergeant Marriott, had followed Sarah to Paddon’s address and now were both waiting and watching in a tavern opposite.
As soon as Sarah emerged, Mr. Hemington and his sergeant, rushed over the road and up the stairs, and arrested Paddon who exclaimed: “I am ruined, I am ruined!”
At court in Marylebone the following day, Paddon was charged under the Vagrancy Act of 1824 that stated it was illegal for: “persons pretending or professing to tell fortunes, or using any subtle craft, means, or device, by palmistry, or otherwise to deceive and impose.” (5.Geo. IV., c.83, s. 4)
The consequence for doing these things, which Charles clearly had, was to be sentenced as a rogue and vagabond.
Paddon attempted to defend himself on the grounds that he had studied the science of astrology for some considerable time and his predictions had never been proved wrong or laced with deceit.
The Times newspaper reported how he was of the opinion, “That his calling was as legitimate and fair as that of any person in the realm.” (The Times: Jan 21st, 1836, page 6.) The same paper also described him as, “A young man of shabby-genteel appearance.” (ibid, 6)
The court, however, found him guilty and committed him as a rogue and vagabond, destined for six weeks hard labour on the treadmill in the House of Correction.
A few months later, in the obituary columns, the same newspaper reported the untimely death of police officer Hemington.
Apparently his wife then moved abroad to start a new life having unexpectedly been left a substantial property by a distant relative on condition that she remarried to secure this generous inheritance and not live alone as a grieving widow. It was hoped that she would start a large family and live a long happy life.
Was this after all, a timely astrological intervention by the geocentric longitude of the Sun, Herschel, Jupiter, Saturn and Mars and Charles Paddon?
It does seem Charles was unjustly prosecuted for duping but, putting on my astrologer’s hat and grabbing a nearby owl, maybe it was the six-week treadmill ordeal that was the final ingredient needed for the moons and planet’s nodes to align with Paddon’s own predictive ‘noddle.’*
That will be two shillings and sixpence please!
Diagram astrologers such as Paddon used to demonstrate harmony existing between the sciences of Astrology, Phrenology and Physiognomy, (London: J.J.Hacket 1836)
* ps: Charles Paddon’s American contemporary, Professor Baron, operating “over Mr. Emerson’s trimming store at number 12 Winter Street, Washington“, only charged 50 cts for ladies and $1 for Gentlemen and with no extra charge for showing ladies a likeness of a future husband, or lover. His publicity claimed he can “cause speedy marriages without extra charge.” – now that is an astrological bargain.
*pps: noddle at this time was slang for head, later years have changed it to noodle. My personal favourite use of this slang term is in a play called Sir Martin Marr-All by John Dryden (1883) based on Molière’s “L’Étourdi.” Excusing himself from Lady Dupe whilst in Covent Garden, London, Sir Martin explains: ” Well madam, I’ll take one turn here in the Piazzas: a thousand things are hammering in this head; ’tis a fruitful noddle, though I say it.” (Plays from Molière, by English Dramatists, Morleys Universal Library, London, 1883, p. 10)