Forman, Simon

, a celebrated astrologer, was born at Quidham, near Wilton, in Wiltshire, Dec. 30, 1552, of a good family, being the grandson* of sir Thomas Forman, of Leeds, and great grandson of another sir Thomas Forman. As an introduction to his astrological history, we are told that, at six years old and after, he was much troubled “with strong dreams and visions.” His education at Salisbury was of a very humble kind, his master being only able to teach him English, and something of the accidence. From him he was sent to the free school at Salisbury, where he continued two years. His next preceptor was one Minterne, a prebendary of the cathedral, of whom we are only informed that he used to carry his wood from place to place in winter to warm himself, and made Simon do the same, “so gaining heat without fire.” In 1563 Ford’s father died, a very unfortunate event, for his mother not caring for him, made him keep sheep, and plow, and pick up sticks. At the age of fourteen, however, he became apprentice to a dealer in grocery and drugs at Salisbury, and acquired some knowlege of the latter, which he endeavoured to improve by books, but his master would not let him read. Yet such was his avidity to learn, that his master having a young boarder in the house who wept to school at Salisbury, Ford learned of him what he had been taught in school, although that was. but little. ~At length, in consequence of a quarrel with his master’s wife, he obtained leave to quit his service, and went again to school for about eight weeks, applying very diligently to his books until his “illnatured and clownish mother” refused to maintain him. At length, when in his eighteenth year, he became schoolmaster at the priory of St. Giles’s, and by teaching thirty boys for half a year, scraped together forty shillings. With this, accompanied by an old schoolfellow, he travelled on foot to Oxford, and became a poor scholar of Magdalen college, being partly maintained by a bachelor of arts; but this person employed him in so many menial employments during his college frolics, that he left the university after two years’ residence.

Hitherto we have seen onjy the laudable efforts of a young man to overcome the difficulties of adverse fortune. In what follows he is less entitled to respect. He now applied himself to the study of physic and astrology, and after having travelled to Holland for that purpose, set up | in Philpot-lane, London, where his practice being opposed by the physicians, and himself four times fined and imprisoned, he went to study at Cambridge, where he took a doctor’s degree, and a licence to practise; and settling at Lambeth, openly professed the joint occupation of physician and astrologer. “Here he lived,” says Lilly, “with good respect of the neighbourhood, being very charitable to the poor, and was very judicious and fortunate in horary questions and sicknesses.” His charity to the poor, however, was not wholly disinterested. Quacks of this description are generally well repaid for their charity by the good report of the poor, wh.o are illiterate and credulous. In 1601 a complaint was made to Whitgift, archbishop of Canterbury, against him for deluding the people, but it does not appear what steps were taken against him. In the mean time he was much resorted to by all ranks of people; among others the famous, or rather infamous, countess of Essex, applied to him for his assistance in her wicked designs, as appeared by the trials of that lady and of Mrs. Anne Turner, for the murder of sir Thomas Overbury. He died suddenly in a boat on the Thames, Sept. 12, 1611, and if we may believe Lilly, predicted his death on that day. He wrote a great many books, on the philosopher’s stone, magic, astronomy, natural history, and natural philosophy, two treatises on the plague, and some religious tracts, of which Anthony Wood has given a catalogue from the Ashmolean museum, where his Mss. were deposited, but it seems doubtful whether any of them were printed. There are also some of his Mss. on astrology in the British Museum. He was a man of considerable learning in all the above sciences, as they were then understood, but seems to have been either an egregious dupe, or unprincipled impostor, in the use he made of his knowledge. 1

1 Ath. Ox. vol.I. Lilly’s Life and Times, p. 17.~—Strype’s Whitgift, p. 553, Censuia Lit, vol. IV. Lysons’s Environs, vol. I