“1882, A Promising Youth”

January 14, 1882

Thomas Nast

“1882, A Promising Youth”

Holidays, New Year’s Day; Religion, Apocalypse; Women, Religion;

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Old 1881 (to Mother Shipton). "Come, let's go; that new light is too bright for us."

This January 1882 cartoon in Harper’s Weekly by Thomas Nast confidently closes the door on a false prediction that the world would end in 1881.

Mother Shipton is England’s most well-known prophetess, a British version of Nostradamus, the sixteenth-century French astrologer. Born Ursula Southeil in 1488, at the age of 24 she married Toby Shipton and became known as Mother Shipton. She died in 1561.

Supposedly exhibiting psychic and prophetic abilities since childhood, Mother Shipton was responsible for numerous vague predictions in verse, which were collected into book form. She was said to have foretold the invasion of the Spanish Armada (1588), the Great Fire of London (1666), and other important future events.

The following examples are claimed to presage the inventions of the automobile and ironclad ships.

“A carriage without horse will go,

disaster fill the world with woe.”

“In water, iron then shall float

as easy as a wooden boat.”

This Harper’s Weekly cartoon refers to the failure of Mother Shipton’s prophesy that the world would end in 1881:

“Tis world to an end shall come

in eighteen hundred and eighty-one.”

The Old Year angel of 1881 ushers out Mother Shipton, as the New Year youth of 1882 jauntily looks at his pocket watch. The diamond stud worn by the formally-attired young man lights the exit for the departing elderly couple. Today, about 100,000 people per year reportedly visit the Mother Shipton Cave and Historic Park in her hometown of Knaresborough, North Yorkshire, England.

Robert C. Kennedy

“1882, A Promising Youth”
August 12, 2020

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