A spell for ward and watch

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When His Majesty's government urgently requests Mr Norrell to provide protection to the coast of Britain from the ravages of nature he uses a combination of spells to achieve the desired object. One is taken from Lanchester's The Language of Birds, and is based upon the older and more powerful magic of Ralph Stokesey. Its purpose is to calm stormy waters. To this Mr Norrell adds a strengthener in the form of a spell of guard - or as magicians say, 'a spell of ward and watch' - used by Pevensey[35].

The resulting defences are a triumph, admirable in their effectiveness and extent, forming as they do an entire system about the coast of Britain which - as Mr Norrell says with justifiable pride to Mr Lascelles - "...will protect the cliffs from erosion, people's houses from storm, livestock from being swept away and it will capsize any enemies of Britain that attempt to land." In Mr Lascelles's critical eyes however this great work has one singular defect. It is invisible. He feels that since this immense fortification has taken up two years of Mr Norrell's time and cost the government a vast sum of money, it would have been better to render it somehow ...striking. He therefore suggests Mr Norrell might place decorative features about it, such as eternal flames hovering above the waves, pillars made of seawater etc[61].

This may sound a little like what the Duke once described to Mr Strange as "Vauxhall-Gardens magic", but there is no doubt that Mr Lascelles was right. When the general public pays for some vast undertaking such as this, it is apt to be suspicious unless there is evidence of a visible, or at least tangible, result.


A French fishing boat (on the right) perishing before the magically protected cliffs of Dover.