Whalley, John (DNB00)

WHALLEY, JOHN (1653–1724), quack, the son of a Cromwellian adventurer, was born in Ireland on 29 April 1653. He was a shoemaker by trade. He came to Dublin in 1682, where he established himself as a compounder of universal medicines, and gained a reputation as a necromancer and as a compiler of prophetic almanacs. So great was his fame that the authorities consulted him concerning the whereabouts of the Duke of Monmouth. In 1688 he was placed in the pillory for a political offence, and somewhat roughly used by the crowd. He was very unpopular with the native Irish, whom he perpetually assailed with abuse, and with the Roman catholics, whose religion he constantly denounced, and during the Jacobite ascendency in Dublin he withdrew to England to avoid punishment. During his sojourn in that country he became a coffee-house keeper, but after the conclusion of the Irish war he returned to Dublin and took up his residence at the ‘Blew post, next door to the Wheel of Fortune, on the west side of St. Stephen's Green,’ where he resumed his practice ‘in physick and mathematicks,’ and regularly published his astrological almanacs, styled ‘Vox Urani,’ a title which he changed towards the close of his life to ‘Advice from the Stars.’ In 1687 and 1688 these annuals were compiled in the interests of the Roman catholics who were then dominant in Dublin. Before 1698 Whalley removed to Nicholas' Street, next door to the Fleece tavern, where in 1701 he translated ‘Ptolemy's Quadripartite, or four books concerning the influences of the stars. Faithfully render'd into English from Leo Allacius’ (London, 16mo), of which a second revised edition was published by Manoah Sibly [q. v.] in 1786 (London, 8vo). He also issued, with a preface, dated from his house in Nicholas' Street in January 1701–2, ‘A Treatise of Eclipses’ (Dublin, 12mo). In 1703 he was living in Patrick Street, at No. 1, a house built in the old wall, and he finally removed to Arundel Court, just without St. Nicholas' Gate. In 1711 John Mercer, a coal-dealer, commenced a prosecution against him for having printed as an address to parliament the case of several poor inhabitants of Dublin against Mercer as an engrosser or forestaller of coal. Whalley, however, obtained relief on petitioning the House of Commons, who directed proceedings to be taken against Mercer ‘as a common and notorious cheat.’ In 1714 the astrologer started ‘Whalley's News Letter, containing a full and particular Account of Foreign and Domestic News.’ This newsletter contained weekly supplements, in which some leading citizen was grossly satirised. These scurrilous attacks were advertised beforehand, and frequently procured Whalley hush-money, though occasionally they earned him a horsewhipping instead.

Whalley died at Dublin on 17 Jan. 1723–4. Swift's lines on John Partridge [q. v.], commencing

    Here, five foot deep, lies on his back
    A cobbler, starmonger, and quack,

were adapted to Whalley and circulated through the city. By his will, printed in Evans's ‘History of Irish Almanacs,’ he bequeathed all his possessions to his wife Mary. After Whalley's death, Jemmy Hoey, at the ‘Sign of the Mercury,’ published for some years a spurious edition of Whalley's almanac, but his real successor was his favourite apprentice, Isaac Butler of Patrick Street, at the corner of Bull Alley, who, from 1725, continued Whalley's almanac until his own death. It was afterwards taken up by another astrologer.

Besides the works already mentioned, Whalley was the author of ‘An Account of the Great Eclipse of the Moon … on 29 Aug. 1718.’ The British Museum contains a copy of an almanac compiled by him during his sojourn in England, and published in London, entitled ‘England's Mercury, or … an Ephemeris for 1690.’ Another copy is in the Bodleian Library. Several of his Irish almanacs are in the library of Trinity College, Dublin. About 1690 also ‘Ferdoragh O'Daly’ composed a satire in verse of thirty-one stanzas on him in retaliation for his having caused the bard's brother to be prosecuted and hanged. This satire is printed in Erse in the introduction to Dr. John O'Donovan's edition of Aengus O'Daly's ‘Tribes of Ireland.’ Ferdoragh O'Daly's imprecations are so malignant that the poem has never been rendered into English.

[Notes kindly furnished by Mr. John McCall; Whalley's Works; Gilbert's Hist. of the City of Dublin, 1854, i. 188–93; P. J. McCall's In the Shadow of St. Patrick, 1894, pp. 17–22; O'Daly's Tribes of Ireland, ed. O'Donovan, 1852, pp. 27–32; Madden's Hist. of Irish Periodic Lit. 1867, i. 238–51; Brit. Mus. Cat.]

E. I. C.