Learned Society of Manchester Magicians

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The Learned Society of Manchester Magicians was a society of magicians, now disbanded, made up of the sort of people that might be called "half-gentlemen": lawyers, apothecaries, tradesmen, etc. They began with the aim of bringing practical magic back to England, and they intended to do it by applying to magic the same principles of reason and science that they had applied to their other respective disciplines. They called their method "Rational Thaumaturgy." However, the theory did not answer and the society became discouraged and disillusioned. Convinced by their own failure that no others could ever have succeeded, they began to think that there had never been magic in the world at all - that the Aureate magicians were all liars, that the Raven King was an invention of the northern English, and even that fairies did not exist! Since, according to them, there was and never had been any magic, they thought that there was no point in their society continuing: and so they disbanded. (One of their former members, Mr Aubrey, intended to write down their whole history and publish it, but he was never able to rouse himself sufficiently to begin) [1].

Their failure casts an interesting light on the practice of magic however, suggesting it occupies an imprecise area between science and art and therefore can never be reduced to a simple mechanical exercise. One may take the musical arts as an analogy. Anyone may simply bang upon a pianoforte and make a sound; any miss of thirteen can play a practice-piece; but for the exalted performance which enraptures the ear, moves the passions and touches the very soul we need that combination of natural genius and perfected knowledge found only in a Chopin or a Liszt.

Manchester Magicians.jpg

Clandestine gathering of Manchester Magicians (ca 1821) discussing the very possibility of levitation molecules in canine droppings. The dog in question, Colin, left the Society shortly afterwards.