Sunday, March 6, 2011

March 16, 1842 --- Nothing Happened

The day arrives for a predicted earthquake that will level London.

Londoners had been uneasy for weeks.  Street pamphlets were widely circulated quoting a poem, supposedly discovered in the secret collections at the British Museum.  The author of the prophecy was the "Monk of Dree" who, in 1283 A.D. had written:

In Eighteen Hundred and Forty-Two
Four things the sun shall view:
London's rich and famous town,
Hungry earth shall swallow down ...

The Monk's dire forecast had been plagiarised, if you will, by Dr. Dee, a 16th century astrologer, who also foresaw a great quake.  He timed his prediction thusly:
In the year one eight and forty two
Of the year that is so new.,
In the third month, of that sixteen
It may be a day or two between.

The Irish, said to be fleeing London in large numbers, give the prediction great credence. In 1842, Lady's Day and Good Friday are to fall on the same day and there was an old Irish saying:
When our Lady falls in Our Lord's lap,
Then let England beware a mishap.

While the educated classes sneered at those susceptible to such mummery, it should also be noted that the new London-Brighton Railway reported heavy southbound ridership, unusual for the season. One 20-car train was crowded "with families of the upper and middle classes." Those who remain in the "doomed city" generally go about their business unperturbed but a heavy thunderstorm late in the day unnerved many.

That evening saw a rather disappointing turnout for the day's sitting of the House of Commons. The young Queen, unamused at some long-dead seer's effort to meddle with her schedule, went ahead with her planned Palace levee on the 16th, which is "very numerously attended." Although jocular crowds gather on Primrose Hill to watch London's destruction, the day passes uneventfully. 

[Museum of London]

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