MEMOIRS - 07 - The Magic Circle

It was, I think, towards the end of 1905 that the London Magic Circle was founded under the guidance of Mr. J.N. Maskelyne. This Association, which to-day is the leading magical Society in the world, was founded chiefly to prevent the secrets of magic from being publicly exposed, and also, as far as possible, to protect and give official recognition of new magical effects in favour of the originator. It holds two meetings a month, a closed and an open meeting. It presents to the public, a Magical Séance once a year and holds various magical functions from time t time. At its Annual General Meeting, new members are admitted, new tricks shown, and business discussed. Jasper Maskelyne in his book "White Magic" points out how difficult it is to become a member of this august body. He says "Incidentally, admission is jealously guarded, and only superlative magicians can be accepted; it is possibly more difficult to enter the Magic Circle than to obtain a Commission in a crack regiment." Then he goes on to say, "The Magic Circle makes very sure, before it closes its doors for one of its Annual Conferences, that no spy has concealed himself within the room, and that every member present is a man of honour and discretion," Mr. David Devant was the first President of the Magic Circle. He was elected on 3rd, October 1905. The first regular meetings were held in the Billiard Room of the Green Man, Berwick Street, Soho; but it was not until they had moved to the Tudor Hotel, in Oxford Street, that I attended my first meeting as a full member. Soon after I became a member, they moved into more commodious premises at 92 Victoria Street, S.W., rented from the dramatic conservatoire, where we had a small but fully equipped stage. Members of the Magic Circle have many times, had the honour of appearing before Royalty, and by Royal Command. Members gave an entertainment before their Majesties, King George V and Queen Mary in the Red Drawing Room, at Windsor Castle on the 25th, April, 1928. I was privileged on one occasion, when, on a visit to Windsor Castle, I was permitted to enter the Red Drawing Room. It is a magnificent and lofty apartment, with colour schemes of Gold, with ‘rose du Barry’ brocade upholstery and curtains.

On the night of the Command Performance, the settees and armchairs were arranged informally, and the scene, with the blending of the colours of the ladies’ dresses, and the flashing of jewels, was a very beautiful one. The King, and Gentlemen all wore the picturesque Windsor evening dress, dark coats with scarlet collars, facings and cuffs, knee breeches, silk stockings, and shoes; and all wore Orders. The performing members said that it was a delightful audience; every item being well received and applauded.

At its conclusion Their Majesties were most gracious and shook hands with all the members of the party.

It is a matter of sincere congratulation that this excellent recognition, not only to the Magic Circle itself, but also to the Art of magical entertainment has been honoured in this way. It has put Magic on the map, as a refined and cultured type of home entertainment, which has the official recognition and patronage of Royalty.