Tom Levy

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Tom Levy was among the first pupils accepted by Jonathan Strange. After his break with Gilbert Norrell, whose hermit-like character was secretive and possessive about magical knowledge, Strange pursued a contrary policy of laying magic open to everyone. Early in 1816, after the death of his wife, he discussed with several interested young men the possibility of taking on pupils in the art of magic, and among "the most promising", as he described them to Lord Portishead, were Henry Purfois, William Hadley-Bright and Tom Levy. Levy was unlike the other two in coming from the lower ranks of society, being then employed as a dancing-master in Norwich and being of Hebrew descent. When Sir Walter Pole raised the objection with Strange however - "Surely it (magic) is a profession that ought to be reserved for gentlemen?" - Strange disagreed. Of the three he said he preferred Levy, since Levy approached magic as an occupation to be enjoyed: he was also the first pupil to learn how to perform any practical magic, when he caused one of the window frames in Strange's London house to sprout branches and leaves. (Both he and his tutor were subsequently unable to reverse the spell.[49])

The educational progress of Strange's pupils was somewhat retarded by his restless, unfixed disposition and altogether interrupted when he decided to travel. Nevertheless the three remained fiercely loyal to their tutor. When Gilbert Norrell caused the words of Strange's The History and Practice of English Magic to vanish from the pages of the book, Purfois, Hadley-Bright and Levy were swift to protest and to cast about for ways to counter his action. Unfortunately none of their suggestions was practicable - Purfois and Hadley-Bright wished to challenge Norrell to a duel, or to implement a spell of Martin Pale's which was beyond their abilities. Levy's idea of using Walter de Chepe's Prophylaxis was the most effectual, but that too carried a danger that it might rebound upon them. In the end they did nothing - which was perhaps the wisest course[50].


Tom Levy must not be confounded with Eliphas Levi, the French occult author and ceremonial magician.
Levi's first treatise on magic appeared in 1854 under the title "Dogme de la Haute Magie", followed in 1856 by the companion "Ritual de la Haute Magie". The two books were later combined into one book titled Dogme et Rituel de la Haute Magie, which was translated into English by Arthur Edward Waite as Transcendental Magic, its Doctrine and Ritual in 1910. Its famous opening lines present the single essential theme of Occultism and gives some of the flavor of its atmosphere:

  • Behind the veil of all the hieratic and mystical allegories of ancient doctrines, behind the darkness and strange ordeals of all initiations, under the seal of all sacred writings, in the ruins of Nineveh or Thebes, on the crumbling stones of old temples and on the blackened visage of the Assyrian or Egyptian sphinx, in the monstrous or marvelous paintings which interpret to the faithful of India the inspired pages of the Vedas, in the cryptic emblems of our old books on alchemy, in the ceremonies practised at reception by all secret societies, there are found indications of a doctrine which is everywhere the same and everywhere carefully concealed. (Introduction)

Born as Alphonse Louis Constant, "Eliphas Levi", the name under which he published his books, was his attempt to transliterate his given names "Alphonse Louis" into Hebrew although he was not Jewish. So he was also a quack. But even in those days, you'd rather be a quack than a ducky.