Difference between revisions of "Magic rings"

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On the subject of ''magic rings''', allow me to direct your attention to the following passage in the works of the antiquarian, John Aubrey:<br><br>
 
On the subject of ''magic rings''', allow me to direct your attention to the following passage in the works of the antiquarian, John Aubrey:<br><br>
"...I remember old Mr. Knaggs of the Temple who was at school with my grandsire Barker did tell me once that when a little boy ''tempore reginae Elizabethae'' he met [[Gregory Absalom|Master Absalom]] the Queen's old Magician at the 'Change. Mr Absalom was then about seventy years or more, a goodly tall man still and not much stooped, but meagre; wore a sober gown and had gray hair cut somewhat short and thick.  He had a very piercing dark eye, half-lidded.  He was an ingeniose man (though 'tis said no great Chymist) but most curious in the casting of fortunes, wherefore the Queen loved and rewarded him.<br><br>Mr Knaggs being then but a Child was afraid of him for his nurse had said he was a Wizard; but he called him to him and was mighty pleasant, gave him an orange and said he would grow to be a great man ''etc. etc'', (as the way was with these flattering Prophets Mr Knaggs said, for none ever took notice of a gentleman's son to prophesy he should one day be a fool and a rogue).<br><br> Mr. Absalom had then on his left hand two gold rings both very plain alike, a sort of Gimmel-ring.  ''Boy'', says he, ''D'ye see these Rings? D'ye note them both well?'' Why the one, he said, was altogether harmless; but t'other could summon a Divel from the pit of hell.  And he would not say which was which.  Then he asked, laughing and putting out his hand, ''Wou't try one?''  But he shrank away and would not so, for fear he might light upon the Ring that worked Magick and a devil should carry him off!  Which fear of his Mr Knaggs's father perceived, being by, and told him privily not to be afraid but ''"Tell truth and shame the Devil"''. A good motto.  'Tis pity more Magicians do not attend to it."
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''"...I remember old Mr. Knaggs of the Temple who was at school with my grandsire Barker did tell me once that when a little boy ''tempore reginae Elizabethae'' he met [[Gregory Absalom|Master Absalom]] the Queen's old Magician at the 'Change. Mr Absalom was then about seventy years or more, a goodly tall man still and not much stooped, but meagre; wore a sober gown and had gray hair cut somewhat short and thick.  He had a very piercing dark eye, half-lidded.  He was an ingeniose man (though 'tis said no great Chymist) but most curious in the casting of fortunes, wherefore the Queen loved and rewarded him.<br><br>Mr Knaggs being then but a Child was afraid of him for his nurse had said he was a Wizard; but he called him to him and was mighty pleasant, gave him an orange and said he would grow to be a great man ''etc. etc'', (as the way was with these flattering Prophets Mr Knaggs said, for none ever took notice of a gentleman's son to prophesy he should one day be a fool and a rogue).<br><br> Mr. Absalom had then on his left hand two gold rings both very plain alike, a sort of Gimmel-ring.  ''Boy'', says he, ''D'ye see these Rings? D'ye note them both well?'' Why the one, he said, was altogether harmless; but t'other could summon a Divel from the pit of hell.  And he would not say which was which.  Then he asked, laughing and putting out his hand, ''Wou't try one?''  But he shrank away and would not so, for fear he might light upon the Ring that worked Magick and a devil should carry him off!  Which fear of his Mr Knaggs's father perceived, being by, and told him privily not to be afraid but ''"Tell truth and shame the Devil"''. A good motto.  'Tis pity more Magicians do not attend to it."''
  
 
You readers may be interested to hear that an edition of Aubrey's ''Brief Lives'' not long since came off the press.
 
You readers may be interested to hear that an edition of Aubrey's ''Brief Lives'' not long since came off the press.

Latest revision as of 16:28, 11 October 2019

Mr. Norrell, while instructing his pupil Jonathan Strange in his library one dull winter afternoon, began holding forth on the danger of a magician conveying his magical powers into any object - a ring, for example[25]. While admitting the potential usefulness of such an act (which to you or I might be as prudent as hoarding money, or food, against a time of future dearth) he nonetheless solemnly counselled against it; for in his opinion it opened the awful possibility of magic falling into the wrong hands. (And Mr Norrell it must be confessed privately considered all hands but his own to be "wrong" when it came to magic.)
Warming to his theme he had begun an anecdote concerning the misadventures of a certain magician's daughter who unwittingly borrowed one of these "rings of power", and then lost it, when he was startled by Mr. Strange's suddenly vehement response - for Mr Strange recalled quite clearly that only a short time before Mr Norrell had blithely assured him that so-called "magic rings" did not, and indeed could not, exist!

This little incident marks the beginning of a decline in trust between the two friends, for to put the matter frankly, Mr. Strange had detected his master in a falsehood. Not feeling sure that Mr Strange had sufficient maturity and self-restraint to be trusted with information about magical rings, Mr Norrell had simply denied their existence! He may have acted from good motives but he undoubtedly weakened the esteem Mr Strange had for him. None of us likes to be lied to - least of all by a person whom we wish to respect, and whom we are innocently trusting to form our views.

Although Mr Norrell on this occasion was too abashed to go into further detail concerning magic rings, we can at least be certain of one thing: they exist.


NOTES AND QUERIES:

Portrait of Gregory Absalom (detail): Absalom wore two identical plain gold rings, one of which he said was "devoid of all harm" - but with the other he could raise demons. In reality - this being Absalom - both were harmless.

'

To the Editor

Sir,

On the subject of magic rings', allow me to direct your attention to the following passage in the works of the antiquarian, John Aubrey:

"...I remember old Mr. Knaggs of the Temple who was at school with my grandsire Barker did tell me once that when a little boy tempore reginae Elizabethae he met Master Absalom the Queen's old Magician at the 'Change. Mr Absalom was then about seventy years or more, a goodly tall man still and not much stooped, but meagre; wore a sober gown and had gray hair cut somewhat short and thick. He had a very piercing dark eye, half-lidded. He was an ingeniose man (though 'tis said no great Chymist) but most curious in the casting of fortunes, wherefore the Queen loved and rewarded him.

Mr Knaggs being then but a Child was afraid of him for his nurse had said he was a Wizard; but he called him to him and was mighty pleasant, gave him an orange and said he would grow to be a great man
etc. etc, (as the way was with these flattering Prophets Mr Knaggs said, for none ever took notice of a gentleman's son to prophesy he should one day be a fool and a rogue).

Mr. Absalom had then on his left hand two gold rings both very plain alike, a sort of Gimmel-ring.
Boy, says he, D'ye see these Rings? D'ye note them both well? Why the one, he said, was altogether harmless; but t'other could summon a Divel from the pit of hell. And he would not say which was which. Then he asked, laughing and putting out his hand, Wou't try one? But he shrank away and would not so, for fear he might light upon the Ring that worked Magick and a devil should carry him off! Which fear of his Mr Knaggs's father perceived, being by, and told him privily not to be afraid but "Tell truth and shame the Devil". A good motto. 'Tis pity more Magicians do not attend to it."

You readers may be interested to hear that an edition of Aubrey's Brief Lives not long since came off the press.

I am, sir, your obdt Servant,

J. Pargeter