The Davenport Collection
- a growing resource on magic and entertainment history

Balham Hall (London)

Four letters from G. Gordon Powell to David Devant in late 1892

Four letters from G. Gordon Powell to David Devant in late 1892

These four letters relate to a show that Devant put on at Balham Hall, south London, on the nights of 5 and 6 December 1892. Powell lent Devant some money to help finance the shows, but the venture made a loss and Powell lost some of his money. Whilst financially disappointing, the shows proved to be of great importance to Devant because it allowed his own illusion Vice Versa to be seen. This resulted in further work at the Crystal Palace and soon resulted in Devant’s first appearance in Maskelyne and Cooke’s entertainments at the Egyptian Hall. The story is told in the Davenport Collection website article David Devant’s first big illusion: Vice Versa by Anne Goulden. The article includes transcriptions of all four of these letters.

David Devant’s first big illusion: Vice Versa

David Devant’s first big illusion: Vice Versa

Many entertainers have financial difficulties in their early careers. David Devant wrote about his early struggles in My Magic Life.

In December 1892 he put on a show at Balham Hall. The show made a loss, but it turned out to be an important step in securing a place for him in Maskelyne & Cooke’s theatre at the Egyptian Hall. He used the show to showcase his new stage illusion, Vice Versa. The illusion caught the eye of the Crystal Palace management, and before long Devant had secured a booking at the Egyptian Hall. However, Vice Versa was too large for the Egyptian Hall stage. J.N. Maskelyne asked Devant to come up with something more suitable. The result was The Artist’s Dream, based on the same principle as Vice Versa.

Anne draws on previously unpublished material which allows the fascinating details of the story to be told.