click to enlarge

CM Collection


anon, The Modern Phenomenon of a Murphy the Gullcatcher of 1838 London Saturday Journal review of the new Murphy Alamanac. Patrick J.Murphy had arrived in London in 1822, an astrologer and meteorologist from Cork, Ireland. His first known publication was An Inquiry into the Nature and Cause of Miasmata of 1825, followed by Rudiments of the Primary Forces of Gravity, Magnetism and Electricity of 1830.His Meteorology considered in its connection with astronomy of 1836 was the direction he set himself before making the public breakthrough with the mass produced weather almanacs.

Vicky Carroll, then of the Science Museum, tells us that Patrick Murphy predicted the coldest day of the year in 1837, and subsequently became a publishing sensation as the general public put its faith in his almanacs. This edition in its reissues made him £3,000. In 1838 a one-act farce was staged in London entitled Murphy's Weather Almanac. (Katherine Anderson's Predicting the Weather ; the Victorians and the Science of Meteorology).

Anderson reproduces a much less elaborate satirical representation of the weather prophet as a Potato, a Dick-tater, the Cock of the Walk, from the Guildhall Library collection. Murphy is said to have squandered his fortune playing the commodity markets and he died in 1847.

I can find no clue as to authorship of this terrific hand coloured print. The various conditions of climate circling the Murphy are ingeniously represented, and in particular the medieval pictorial convention of the anal bellows for 'Contrary Wind'. His Harlequin costume registers him as a variety of Clown but perhaps also with the Harlequin's alternative reading as a devil out in pursuit of souls.