‘Bodkin Spends a Night with the Wizard’ (18 April, 1863)

The following is William D. Latto’s Scots satirical column on the return of the ‘Wizard of the North’, John Henry Anderson, to Dundee. Anderson was a pioneer in bringing magic shows into theatres and was a direct predecessor and inspiration to the likes of Houdini. This is the advertisement for his show that appeared in the edition of the 4th of April.

“The Wizard of the North.”—It will be observed that the world-renowned Professor Anderson is to be in Dundee on Wednesday, after an absence of eight years, during which he has been all the world over exhibiting his wonderful feats of magic, and reaping golden opinions everywhere. We have no doubt that many will embrace this opportunity of seeing the tricks of this famous magician.

See below for the review of Anderson’s show that appeared in the ‘Journal’ in the 11th April edition.


Maister Editor,—Ae day towards the hinderend o’ last week, Mrs Davidson comes in wi’ a lang palaver aboot hoo John an’ her had been doon on the previous nicht seein’ that great “ambidextrous prestidigitator” man, the Wizard o’ the North, an’ hoo he had wrocht miracles nearly as wonderfu’ as ony we read aboot in holy writ. I was juist sittin’ takin’ an after-dinner blast o’ my cutty, when her leddyship made her appearance, an’ so I was privileged to participate in the conversation. Mrs Davidson was lip fou o’ the mervels she had seen, an’ said that Tibbie an’ me wad be losin’ an opportunity we micht never hae again, if we didna gang doon an’ pay oor twa shillins. Of coorse, I never yet despaired o’ Tibbie fa’in in wi’ opportunities enoo o’ spendin’ her twa shillinses withoot gaen doon to the Corn Exchange to pay for gettin’ hersel’ imposed on by Wizards; but as Mrs Davidson assured us that every body wi’ the sma’est pretensions to be thocht genteel had either been there, or were to be, it was oot o’ the question to suppose that we were to be ahent oor neebors in that or in ony ither respect. A weel ye see, the lang an’ the short o’ the story is, that I agreed to accompany Tibbie to see the Wizard; an’ as Willie is perfectly competent to manage the business in my absence, I left him at the helm o’ affairs, wi’ a promise that if he behaved himsel’, I wad gie him an’ Mary Ann tickets apiece for the next performance, whilk I fulfilled to the very letter, as baith o’ them can testifee.

Awa’ we went an’ secured a seat as near the lug o’ the law as possible, so that we micht baith see an’ hear to the full value o’ oor siller. Tibbie was a wee thocht uneasy when she saw the muslin coortins, an’ pictured in her ain mind what wad be gaen on ahent them. She whispered into my lug—an’ I could hear the teeth rattlin’ in her head when she said sae—”Losh, Tammas, he’s no a richt man that, or he wadna need to hae recoorse to the warks o’ darkness. Folk sid aye be open an’ aboon boord wi’ whatever they do.”

Afore I had pooer to reassure Tibbie, or to utter a word in defence o’ the Wizard, oot comes Miss Anderson, an’ yoks to the peanny tooth an’ nail, an’ my word her music was maist splendit! It completely soothed Tibbie’s fears, an’ quoth she, “The Wizard maun be like Saul, I’m thinkin’—he’ll keep that young quean to play till him when he is afflickit wi’ tane ony o’ his tantrums, garred Dauvit play upon his harp.”

“I’se warrant that’s juist the very thing,” quoth I.

Up gaed the coortins by some inveesible agency, an’ displayed a scene that was perfectly bewilderin’—resemblin’ the fabled palaces o’ the Fairies that we read aboot in the story beuks. Silver an’ gowd glittered i’ the gas-licht juist as if California, Ballarat, an’ Golcanda had been rifled o’ their riches to glorifie the temple o’ the great Northern Wizard. Tibbie said it juist reminded her o’ her mither’s plate-rack at Breeriebus after a’ the pewter plates an’ pitcher-lids had received their week’s scowrin’ wi’ whitenin’—’deed did it!

Her critical remarks on the apparatus were brocht to a conclusion by the entrance o’ the Wizard himsel’, wha, contrary to her expectation, had neither the horns, nor the hooves, nor the tail that she was prepared to see him wearin’, but wha appeared to be a decent-lookin’, weel-dressed, polite gentleman, as far frae bein’ like a man that wad hae ought to do wi’ Satan’s invisible kingdom as ony that were there to behold his cleveralities.

The first thing he did was to licht a fire that burned like a witch’s, wi’ a blue flame, an’ over it he hung a silver kettle, wherein he poured three paulfu’s o’ water. That it was really water an’ nane o’ yer devil’s glamour I can testifee, for, as it stood some time at my lug, I had the curiosity to examine it minutely, an’ I’m free to gi’e my aith that it neither tasted nor smelt o’ brumstane reek. Weel, what did his Wizardship no do after steerin’ aboot the pat for awee, but juist whuppit in his hand an’ pulled oot gudeness kens hoo mony doos, guinea-pigs, and a hail clockin’ o’ rabbits, a’ livin’ and apparently meat-haill! An’ the best o’t a’ is, when he whummeled up the pat, the feint a dreg o’ water or onything else was in’t!

“Where could a’ thae livin’ cattle come frae, wad ye think!” whispered Tibbie into my lug.

“An’ where could a’ the water gang till, wad ye think?” whispered I into her’s.

“The beasties maun hae drucken’t a’,” quoth Tibbie.

“I’ll warrant that’s juist the way o’t,” quoth I.

His Wizardship next produces what he ca’s his portfolio, a lume aboot the size an’ depth o’ Tibbie’s bake-brod, that might form comfortable quarters for a live skate, but wad hardly affoord breathin’ space for a human bein’, an’ yet ye’ll no hinder him to tak’ oot o’t his ain but lassockie dressed up in the “garb o’ auld Gaul” (she was nae effigy made up wi’ pest an’ clouts, for the but taed stood up an’ snag “Bonnie Dundee,” in grand style), forbye a band-box that wad hand Tibbie’s winter bannet, her summer bannet, her autumn bannet, her bannet wi’ the ostrich feathers on the snout thereof, her white straw bannet, her velvet bannet, her best bannet, her warst bannet, an’ her ilka day’s bannet. He also tane oot a muckle parrot’s cage, a live goose, a curn doos an’ rabbits, an’ a variety o’ ither effects ower numerous to mention—eneugh to furnish oot Noah’s Ark wi’ dead an’ live stock o’ ae kind an’ anither. Tibbie was perfectly astonished

“An’ still she gazed, an’ still her wonder grew,

That craft sae sma’ could haud sae large a crew.”

But o’ a the kittle projects the Wizard performed, Tibbie was maist divertit an’ edified wi’ ‘im makin’ a plum puddin’ in the inside o’ my hat. I had some dridder about giein’ him my hat for sic a purpose, but seein’ he was sae great a genius, I didna doot if he mischieved it he wad be able to produce a new ane frae that wonderfu’ portfolio o’ his, whilk was like the widow’s barrel o’ meal—inexhowstible. The first thing he did was to pour a soup o’ some liquid intil’t.

“Weel,” quoth Tibbie, “he’s finished it noo! I wonder ye were sae simple as gie him yer hat to abuse that way, Tammas! ‘Od, he sidna get mine to play thae projects wi’.”

“Bide awee,” quoth I, “he’s maybe puttin’ some perfumery intil’t, ‘oman.”

In a winkin’ he had a fire bleezin’ in’t, an’ I saw the blue lowes flickerin’ ower the brim, an’ him flingin’ is water and flour, an’ currents, an sugar, an spicery, an’ steerin’ them aboot like a’ that.

“‘Od,” quoth Tibbie, “your hat is catchin’t I’m thinkin’. Ye may gang an’ buy a new ane whenever ye like.”

“Hoot, gae awa wi’ yer haivers,” quoth I.

“Weel, weel, you’ll see then,” quoth she, “but, of coorse, I needna speak.”

In twa minutes he whuppit oot first ae plum-puddin’ an’ syne anither on the end o’ a fork, an’ held them up reekin’ het an’ ready to be eaten. An’ lastly, he coupit oot a muckle ball that wad stap up the mou’ o’ Mons Meg, an’ rowed it alang the platform. I saw hoo the puddins got into my hat, but whare the bullet cam’ frae in anither story. Tibbie an’ me preed a bit o’ the puddins, an’, my cartie, they were as wel cooked as if she had done it hersel’.

But he wasna done experimentin’ on my hat yet, for he tauld us he had a haill feather bed to produce frae it. Tibbie was for me tellin’ him to leave the feather bed in’t, for that it wad save her frae buyin’ sae, but afore I had the pooer to speak, even if I had haen the will, he was rivin’ oot the feathers in bowsterfu’s, an’ flingin’ them aroond him like a perfect madman. I maun gie the wizard credit for findin’ mair in my hat than ever I jealoused it contained, even when my harran-pan was in’t, though I was aye o’ opinion that when it held my head it held a wonderfu’ collection o’ auld farrant curiosities o’ ae kind an’ anither. After bein’ put through sundry ither facin’s, my hat was at last restored to its richtfu’ owner—no ae preen the waur for a’ the fire an’ water it had come through.

“Let’s see’t,” quoth Tibbie, “does it smell o’ brumstane?”

“Brumstane!” quoth I, “feint a bit o’ that, Tibbie,—it is redolent o’ frankincence an’ myrrh, an’ the balm o’ Gilead.”

“Wheisht, ye auld haiverel!” quoth Tibbie.

That’s just a swatch o’ hoo he gaed to wark, castin’ his glamour ower our een, an’ garrin’ us believe that ae thing was twa, but were I to describe the half o’ his pranks, I wad tak up mair o’ your space an’ my time than either o’ us could weel-fauredly spare at this present, an’ therefore I maun cut short. It wad be ungallant in me, hooever, no to say a word anent the wonderfu’ feats o’ clairvoyance performed by Miss Anderson. Wi’ her een tied up she could name an’ describe a miscellaneous collection o’ nick-nackets gathered at random frae the pouches o’ the audience, an’ locked up in a box. Of coorse if I had been allooed to collect the articles an keep them in my possession, I wad hae defied her to tell what they were; for withoot wishin’ to deny her general cleverality, I dinna believe she can see an inch farther into the heart o’ a whunstane than I can do mysel’. If she could describe them withoot seein’ them, or hearin’ them described by ithers, what for did she no describe them while they were in the folk’s pouches? It was cleverly done, but it was a piece o’ cheat-the-public for a’ that.

Tibbie an’ me had a twa-handit crack aboot what we had seen when we got hame, an’, afore a’ was done, I gied her a piece o’ information that rather astonished her.

“Sae ye think the Wizard a very clever chield, d’ye? Quoth I, “but what wad ye think if I were to put ye up to trick that I did no that lang sinsyne yet, an’ that was aboot as clever as ony we hae seen the Wizard performin’ this nicht?”

“It’s the first time I’ve heard tell o’t then,” quoth she.

“Dinna be ower sure o’ that,” quoth I. “D’ye mind the garrotin’ business?”

“Od, I’ve had some cause to mind o’ that,” quoth she.

“Did ye ever see that purse an’ five-pound-note afore?” quoth I, takin them frae my oxter pouch an’ haudin’ them up for her inspection.

“Gude have a care o’s a’!” quoth Tibbie, “that’s my purse.”

“An’ my five-pound-note,” quoth I.

“Where did ye get them, Tammas,” quoth she.

“Deed, I mean to do that, Tibbie!” quoth I.

So I had to tell her a’ hoo it was done, an’ to thole a guid roond scoldin’ for haudin’ her makin’ a false alarm aboot it, an’ especially for giein’ her sic a fricht. Hoosomdever, she was obliged to admit that amang a’ the aleight o’ hand tricks she had seen an’ heard tell o’, not the least “ambidexterous” was the ane performed on her pouch by her ain guidman,

Tamms Bodkin.

‘The People’s Journal’ reviews Anderson’s return to Dundee in the 11th April edition of the paper.

It is with sincere pleasure we see Professor Anderson returned again from his world-wide tour to the scene of his early achievements. After travelling round the globe, and delighting and astonishing nations who before were acquainted with his wonderful abilities only by repute, he has appeared again in Scotland, changed but little from what we formerly knew him. His magical feats, indeed, have, by their frequent repetition, been brought still nearer to perfection than they were when last exhibited here; but in the man, except the change which a few years of travel has produced, we find no alteration. He is the same clever adept at his art, astonish

ing everyone by his skill, and making all believe that things can be accomplished which are quite opposed to reason and common sense. The extraordinary transformations he effects are so improbable in fact, and so imperceptible in their operation, that at first sight one is lef to think that the days are returned when communication is held with the Evil One, and that the Professor has actually some invisible spirit aiding him in his wonderful feats.

The first of a very short series of entertainments which Mr Anderson proposes to give in Dundee tok place on Wednesday night in the Corn Exchange Hall, when there was a large and enthusiastic audience. One of the special attractions which his exhibitions possess over those of other performers consists in the magnificence of the decorations and the splendid appearance of the miniature “temple” in which he works. On this occasion the hall has been prepared in the most tasteful manner, and this arrangement serves to give a brilliant effect to the performance. On his first appearance last night, the Professor was hailed with loud cheers of welcome, which he acknowledged in a few remarks. He said it afforded him the greatest delight to return again to Scotland after an absence of eight years, and after having made the tour of the world, and to see the well-known and familiar faces of many whom he knew to be his friends. He was particular pleased to receive such a cordial reception in Dundee, because in this town he made one of his earliest appearances in public life; and the manner in which he had been received that evening showed that, although he had been long absent from his native country, he had not been forgotten, but that the people here were ready still to give him the same liberal patronage he had always obtained from them. He thanked them cordially for their very kind reception, and assured them he would always study to make his entertainment of such a character as not to be unworthy of their patronage.

It would be useless to attempt a detailed description of the astounding feats which were performed—indeed it would be quite impossible to do so. To describe the manner in which articles were made to appear and disappear before the eyes of the audience—to tell of how handkerchiefs were put into one receptacle, and that from the same place, without any visible interference with it, guinea pigs and pigeons were brought forth, while the handkerchiefs were found in another part of the room—how watches were locked up, apparently quite secure, in boxes, and then, on the firing of a gun, were found to be hanging under a chair—would be an easy task enough; but it would be impossible to convey any idea of the quickness and rapidity with which all these things were done, without any apparent effort on the part of the magician. To use a common phrase, which in this case may be held in true in its fullest and most absolute sense, the tricks of Mr Anderson “must be seen to be appreciated.” Perhaps, however , the phrase must be somewhat qualified, for we can assure our readers that however frequently they may see this performance, they will never be able fully to appreciate the extraordinary amount of dexterity and the perfection of deception which are brought into play. The Professor is assisted in his entertainment by his daughter, Miss Anderson, whose display of the art of “clairvoyance” was perhaps the most striking part of the whole performance, and was without question the most wonderful thing of the kind we have ever seen. A number of small articles were collected from the audience by one of themselves, and having been kept carefully from the view of he Professor of any of his assistants, were locked securely in a box and placed in the pocket of a gentleman who occupied a seat in a very prominent position in the hall. Without the slightest hesitation, the fair clairvoyante (who was blindfolded) gave a most minute description of every article the box contained, specifying the dates on such coins as were there, and, in one case even, mentioning that a coin was a little bent. The minuteness and accuracy of the description, testified to by the parties to whom the articles belonged, appeared to take the audience quite by surprise, and elicited a hearty burst of cheering. Miss Anderson, we may mention, is also a first-rate pianist, and, during the evening, performed selections of music on that instrument.

In every respect the entertainment provided by the Professor is admirable, and all who have heard of the celebrated “Wizard of the North”—and who has not?—will, we are sure, embrace this opportunity of witnessing his astounding performances.

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