Spells to send messages

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There seems to be a wide variety of ways of sending messages by magic. Jonathan Strange employed this useful magic before the battle of Quatre Bras, when Strange and William Hadley-Bright discovered that Napoleon and his forces were not where the Duke of Wellington thought they would be – and thus Wellington’s Allied forces were in the wrong places. Strange sent messages to the leaders of the various divisions in a number of imaginative ways [40]:

  • He first induced a pâtissier who had just made a batch of small cakes to write a single letter upon each one in pink icing and then caused the pâtissier's wife, who knew no English, to arrange the cakes in the proper order on a tray to spell out the necessary message, and, finally, he induced the sous-pâtissier to carry the message to the Allied Army’s headquarters, where its recipient, Sir Henry Clinton, was – happily – prevented from eating part of the message before it could be read.
  • He also created a small rainstorm that wrote out a message in raindrops in the dust in a courtyard for Sir Charles Alten, the general in charge of another division.
  • He made a flock of songbirds sing a message in a rhyming song to Generals Rebecq and Perponchet, who were in charge of yet another division.

This episode displays the ingenuity and elegance that Mr Strange was capable of in his magic. In his review of Lord Portishead's Essay on the Extraordinary Revival of English Magic in the Edinburgh Review, he writes of the "eeriness and wonder" the Raven King's magic [38]. One is tempted to think that Strange wanted to follow Uskglass's lead and do magic that not only achieved its purpose but also was a delight to behold. Unfortunately, his skills were not those of the Raven King. The magic he performed on the songbirds was flawed. They did successfully deliver Wellington’s message to the generals, but then they continued singing it for hours and hours, much to the irritation of the recipients [40].