Thomas Godbless

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Thomas Godbless (1105?-82) was one of the Aureate magicians [1]. He lived in Nottinghamshire and appears to have been entirely self-taught - perhaps the only such example until Gilbert Norrell and Jonathan Strange [23]. No writings by him survive; indeed, Godbless himself may have been unable to write [1]. He is however one of the better-known of the Aureate magicians, familiar even to people with only a passing knowledge of English magical history [12].

Godbless's magic is generally associated with nature and wild animals, which he instructed his followers to revere and to learn from [13, 48]. Notably, in 1156, after John Uskglass had recovered from an illness, and when many nobles, royalty and magicians dutifully assembled to visit him and give him presents, Godbless was among the last to arrive; and on doing so merely knelt before the Raven King saying, "Lord, I bring you the trees and hills. I bring you the wind and the rain." At this the King was seen for the first time to smile, though no-one else present was aware of anything out of the ordinary occurring. It was however Mr Norrell's belief that Godbless in some way persuaded these elements (and perhaps others) to do homage to Uskglass, a graceful act which evidently touched and pleased the King. The account of this incident appears in Jacques Belasis' The Instructions, and some version of the spell that Godbless used is recorded in Thomas Lanchester's Treatise concerning the language of Birds, although Lanchester had merely copied the spell from an older book (since lost) without knowing in the least what it was or what its effect might be. It was Gilbert Norrell who recognised its right application, and suggested its use at a critical point in our narrative [68]. This was despite Mr. Norrell's having some very strong objections to Godbless's style of magic, considering it to be "not the sort of magic which civilized men wish to see practised" [13].

Godbless is remembered for having once gallantly protected a band of female Nottinghamshire magicians after they fled from their homes to the forest to escape the persecution of Hugh Torel, a magician who worked to destroy their fellowship [25]. Godbless also had a fairy-servant named Dick-come-Tuesday [54]; however, the gentleman with the thistle-down hair once claimed that he himself was the "servant and confidential friend" of Thomas Godbless, as well as of several other distinguished magicians [8]. One is left to speculate whether the Gentleman once allowed himself to be known by the odd appellation of 'Dick-come-Tuesday', or whether he served Godbless at another period altogether.


Thomas Godbless.jpg

Thomas Godbless and his loyal friend.