Classics and Commercials: A Literary Chronicle of the Forties

By Edmund Wilson | Go to book overview

JOHN MULHOLLAND AND
THE ART OF ILLUSION

JOHN MULHOLLAND is a top-notch magician, the editor of the magicians' magazine, the Sphinx, and one of the world's leading authorities on professional magic. He is also probably the best writer in the field since the Englishman who called himself Louis Hoffmann. "Hoffmann" was a barrister named Lewis, who led a kind of second life as a conjuror and produced, in his Modern Magic, More Magic, Later Magic and Latest Magic, which began coming out in the seventies, a series of treatises in the soundest tradition of British expository writing: dense, comprehensive, exact and ornamented with Latin quotations. These books became classics and some of them are still in print. Though in certain respects out of date, they are, I believe, the only works on their subject which have long remained in circulation.

The literature of magic is now immense, but it mostly consists of technical writings intended for professional magicians. The articles on conjuring in the Encyclopaedia Britannica have always been unsatisfactory. The best-known one was written by Maskelyne, the proprietor of the Egyptian Hall, a famous theater of magic in London, and it is mainly in the nature of an encomium on the wonders of the Egyptian Hall. The late Harry Houdini, a great student of the subject, succeeded in

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