All those interested in J.N. Maskelyne’s life and his views on the world will find much of interest in his reminiscences. They were published in the January 1910 issue of the popular Strand Magazine. The article has been reproduced here with comments by Anne Goulden at the end.
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The March 2023 issue included:
– De Biere, The Sculptor’s Vision postcard.
– George Cooke of Maskelyne and Cooke.
– The Pea House Plot.
– A new theatre of magic for London?
– The Ju-Ju Stick by Frank Monaghan.
– Demon Wonder Wands.
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Maskelyne and Cooke’s entertainments at the Egyptian Hall on Piccadilly were a feature of the London scene for over thirty years. During that time a great deal was written about them in newspapers and magazines. The publicity invariably focused on J.N. Maskelyne, who was sole proprietor of Maskelyne and Cooke’s. Virtually nothing was written about his stage partner, George Cooke. This was an injustice because Maskelyne’s success would have been impossible without Cooke’s talent, loyalty and hard work. Peter Brunning’s article brings George Cooke into the spotlight by telling the story of his life.
Over the years Maskelyne went to great lengths to protect his magic secrets. Cooke also went out of his way to protect secrets but, in his case, they were family secrets. Peter has unravelled Cooke’s unconventional private life as well as identifying his important contribution to the popularity of the Maskelyne and Cooke entertainments.
It is 120 years since Cooke’s final appearances at the Egyptian Hall, but at last his story is being told.
Lewis Davenport had this miniature lens produced showing a publicity postcard drawn in 1930 by George Cooke (who was not the Cooke of Maskelyne and Cooke). The miniature lens fitted into a ring and would have served as a novelty give away. When held very close to the eye, and looking through the lens towards a bright light, the image becomes visible. Details of Stanhope lenses can be found on the web. It is very hard to obtain a photograph of what is seen when you look through the lens. We wish to thank Ken Scott for the very clear image which is illustrated here.
Anne has unearthed new information on the eight year journey that took Maskelyne and Cooke from Cheltenham to the Egyptian Hall in London. On the way she explains how Maskelyne and Cooke could call themselves Royal Illusionists, despite not having performed before royalty.
John Salisse’s archive was the result of over 40 years of collecting and research. His interests were the Maskelyne family and their theatres. In this talk Anne dips into the archive, which is now part of The Davenport Collection. Anne focuses on the early days of the Egyptian Hall, where JN Maskelyne’s entertainments first made him a household name in Victorian Britain.
The Magic Circle owns the original script for JN Maskelyne’s famous magical play Will, the Witch and the Watch. This is the play that brought Maskelyne’s Box Trick to the attention of the public. Anne traces the history of the play and paints a vivid picture of the story and how the magic fits into the plot.
Anne Goulden explains why Maskelyne & Cooke felt able to use this billing, despite never having performed before royalty.
William Morton spotted Maskelyne and Cooke in their early years when they were touring the provinces and at the same time improving their show. He stayed with them as their manager until well into their long tenure at the Egyptian Hall in London. Drawing on Morton’s autobiography, Dr Dawes is able to throw light on this period, including information on the business relationship between Morton and Maskelyne and Cooke.
William Morton continued to work in the world of entertainment and eventually had several theatres and cinemas in Hull. His story tells us much about the entertainment industry.
The poster gives details of the Maskelyne & Cooke show. The date is not known but, based on Monday 29 July, the year can only be be 1869, 1872 or 1878. However, 1869 was before Maskelyne and Cooke called themselves The Royal Illusionists (see Ref. no. N2353). Also, had it been 1878 the poster would definitely have mentioned the shows at the Egyptian Hall starting in 1873. So the year must be 1872.
The show was given at Sandringham House by the distinguished favour of His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales. As might be imagined, Maskelyne and Cooke gained excellent publicity from this show. Over the years they made good use of the title ‘Royal Illusionists and Antispiritualists’.
The poster has no date or venue. However the poster refers to a show on 20 January 1870, so the poster date must be later. Also, there is no mention of the Egyptian Hall, so we can be sure the date must be before May 1873.