Michel Nostradamus (essay date 1555)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: "Préface à mon fils: The Preface of Michael Nostradamus to His Prophecies," in Oracles of Nostradamus by Charles A. Ward, Modern Library, 1940, pp. 39-49.

[In the following excerpt, Nostradamus justifies and explains the intent of his prophecies. As editor Charles A. Ward indicates, this preface, dedicated to his newborn son, was originally published in 1555, and was intended as "a dedication to [Nostradamus's] spiritual sons; that is, to his interpreters and students in all future ages." (Bracketed material within the text was inserted by Ward.)]

Although for years past I have predicted, a long time in advance, what has afterwards come to pass, and in...

(The entire section is 2122 words.)

Walter Besant (essay date 1874)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: "Nostradamus the Astrologer," in Temple Bar, Vol. XLI, April 1874, pp. 83-92.

[Besant was a prolific English novelist, historian, and critic who sought in his fiction to expose and denounce the social evils of late-Victorian England. In the following excerpt, he sarcastically denigrates Nostradamus as a prophet and his admirers for their gullibility.]

It is sad to read that in his own town [Nostradamus] was always regarded, save by one favourite disciple, as an impostor of the first, and therefore most successful, order. This disciple, Jean de Chavigny, one of those simple and lovable creatures, born for the nourishment of the quack and the humbug, who will...

(The entire section is 2040 words.)

C. A. Ward (essay date 1890)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: "Nostradamus," in The Gentleman's Magazine, Vol. CCLXIX, No. 1920, December, 1890, pp. 601-14.

[In the following excerpt from an essay sympathetic to Nostradamus's prophetic skill, Ward examines several of the quatrains. "Our business, " he writes, "will be merely to translate these obsolete expressions, to interpret a few of the anagrams and strange allusions, as far as may be, and to apply the sense so sifted out to some of the many historic events foreshadowed."]

[We will here] set forth a few of the Quatrains of Michael Nostradamus, applying them to the events of which they were anticipatory, and so leave them to make their own impression upon the...

(The entire section is 5078 words.)

Henry James Forman (essay date 1936)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: "Europe's Greatest Prophet," in The Story of Prophecy in the Life of Mankind from Early Times to the Present Day, Farrar & Rinehart, Incorporated, 1936, pp. 174-93.

[In the following excerpt, Forman examines several prophecies of Nostradamus, positing possible ancient influences, remarking upon his intentional obscurity, highlighting alleged prophecies that came to pass, and concluding that Nostradamus is the once and future "greatest prophet of modern times."]

Nostradamus declares that he burned some ancient Egyptian books after having learned their contents by heart. These books, originating in Egypt and in the ancient Persia of the Mages, had come to him...

(The entire section is 2845 words.)

Lee McCann (essay date 1941)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: In a foreword and "In the Twentieth Century," in Nostradamus: The Man Who Saw through Time, Creative Age Press, 1941, pp. xi-xvi, 337-421.

[In the following excerpt from a book published during the early years of World War II, McCann emphasizes Nostradamus's significance as a prophet of the world's current time of troubles and as a seer of the end of the age. The critic cites prophecies concerning the rise of Africa and Asia as dominant world powers and the subsequent "birth of a new age with a different type of thought and civilization."]

The rich, actively fulfilled life of the French prophet, Michel de Nostradame, is the story of genius not only in its...

(The entire section is 4039 words.)

Edgar Leoni (essay date 1961)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: "Background and Rules of the Game," in Nostradamus: Life and Literature, Exposition Press, 1961, pp. 102–19.

[Leoni is the author of Nostradamus: Life and Literature, a work containing what is considered the definitive English-language critical edition of Nostradamus's prophecies. (This work was republished in 1982 as Nostradamus and His Prophecies.) He has written of his subject, "Nostradamus provides one of history's classic examples of a 'byword' reputation that persists in clear contradiction to [his having been proven] wrong about practically everything." In the following excerpt, Leoni assesses Nostradamus's prophetic methods and accuracy, concluding that, "At...

(The entire section is 6423 words.)

James Laver (essay date 1973)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: "Nostradamus and Napoleon I," in Nostradamus; or, The Future Foretold, revised edition, George Mann, 1973, pp. 165-89.

[In the following chapter from a reprint of the 1973 edition of his Nostradamus; or, The Future Foretold, Laver interprets sections of the Centuries which have been cited by other commentators as concerning the rise, progress, and fall of Napoleon Bonaparte.]

The French Revolution looms very large in the Centuries. It is not perhaps surprising that the career of Napoleon occupies an even larger place. Napoleon was just the kind of fatidic figure to appeal to the Prophet, and indeed a prophet would hardly be worth the name who,...

(The entire section is 7889 words.)

David Pitt Francis (essay date 1984)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: "Seer, Scientist, or Biblical Scholar?" in Nostradamus: Prophecies of Present Times? The Aquarian Press, 1984, pp. 13-32.

[In the following excerpt, Pitt Francis engages the question of Nostradamus's legitimacy as a prophet of future events, focusing upon factors that may account for Nostradamus's successful predictions.]

The Man, and the Enigma

For over four hundred years, with the sole exception of Bible prophecy, no set of predictions has stimulated such an infectious interest as those credited to Nostradamus. They were consulted with religious fervour by some members of the French monarchy, and held in high regard by them until...

(The entire section is 5556 words.)

James Randi (essay date 1990)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: "The Ten Quatrains," in The Mask of Nostradamus, Charles Scribner's Sons, 1990, pp. 163-218.

[Known as "The Amazing Randi" and described by Time magazine as a "conjurer, showman, crusader, and America's most implacable foe of flummery," Randi is the author of several lively works concerned with exposing metaphysical charlatanism. He has written on Harry Houdini, Uri Geller, and Nostradamus. In the following excerpt, he critically examines several of Nostradamus's best-known quatrains, debunking the claims of "the Nostradamians" throughout.]

Nostradamus first commanded my attention because of his perennial popularity. As I looked into his life, I became...

(The entire section is 11230 words.)