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.

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Anne draws on previously unpublished material which allows the fascinating details of the story to be told.

The first advertisement for Maskelyne highlights the Christmas Holiday Programme. (The Christmas programme usually ran well into the following year.) The second one highlights an animated photograph of the funeral procession of Queen Victoria.
Also advertised are entertainments at the Crystal Palace, London Hippodrome, St. James’ Hall and the Royal Agricultural Hall in Islington.

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.

This is from The Penny Illustrated Paper, 14 August 1886, pages 109-110. Apart from the splendid illustration, the accompanying article comments on entertainments at the Crystal Palace, St. James’s Hall (Moore and Burgess Minstrels), Prince’s Hall (Charles Du Val the protean artist and his ‘Lilliputian aristocratic company’) and the Egyptian Hall (Charles Bertram with the Vanishing Lady, and Maskelyne and Cooke).