Wednesday, 2 July 2014

A letter from J. N. Maskelyne.

My personal favourite magician of the past is John Nevil Maskelyne. I'm not going to go into depth about his life here but suffice to say he's one of the history's most influential magicians. Here's a little item from Maskeyne's time at the Egyptian Hall in Piccadilly. Dated from 1901, while Maskelyne was still with George Alfred Cooke, it's politely written declining the offer of a print.

Although it's just a guess, the print Maskelyne could have been referring to may have been the one below. I only assume this as it is a relatively common print that relates to the hall and pre-dates Maskelyne's time there.

This print, published in 1828, shows the building when relatively new and still a museum owned by William Bullock. The building was leased to Maskelyne from 1873 until 1904 when the lease expired and the building was demolished within a year. Although The Egyptian Hall, "England's Home of Mystery", has now gone there is a wonderful model of the hall at The British Magic Museum. The model contains their collections of Maskelyne related items.

For original Maskelyne related buildings there are a few still extant, most notably his watch making shop in Cheltenham. He lived and worked here at the time when he was exposing the Davenport Brothers (no relation Davenports the shop) and when he met Cooke.

Now a chemist's shop, the building has a blue plaque commemorating Maskelyne though there is nothing inside mentioning him.