The Wizard, vol. 1, no. 5, January 1906

We are cheating a bit by including the Wizard on BLT19 as it’s not nineteenth century or even Victorian, but we just couldn’t resist a magazine “for Conjurors, Concert Artistes, and all Entertainers”! We also thought it a good example of a kind of work that has been mentioned a few times on this site already in connection with servants – the essential work that is the emotional management of other people without their realising it.

This kind of work is very hard to describe and so is very often not thought of as “work” at all, but, as everyone who has ever performed knows very well, “working” an audience is just as much part of being a good performer as it is being a good servant. In both cases there’s the task – serving or entertaining – that requires specialised knowledge like cleaning grates, serving at table, the “cone of witchery” (p. 70), the half-crown trick or the “vanishing lady” (p. 72) – and there’s also managing your relations with your paymistresses, paymasters, audience, colleagues and so on. Both are vital.

What’s especially interesting here is how the Wizard “works” its readership – mainly fellow magicians as it turns out – in the very act of sharing tips and tricks for working an audience on stage.

The Wizard was founded as a 6d monthly 16-page illustrated octavo magazine in September 1905 by Percy Thomas Tibbles who was soon to become one of the most famous magicians of the early twentieth century (his stage name and the name he “conducts” the Wizard under was “Selbit” – “Tibbles” backwards with one “b” removed).

The Wizard was very successful, helped no doubt by Selbit’s assiduous networking: after just a year it became the official organ of the Magic Circle (which had been formed the same year that the Wizard started, 1905 – there’s an article on it on p. 71). In 1910 Selbit became too busy with his stage career and handed the Wizard over to a colleague who renamed it the Magic Wand. In that form it continued until 1957. Despite its success, the Wizard is very hard to come by and we think this is the only copy available on the internet (please let us know if you find another!).

As we have seen many times before, revenue from advertising was often the real reason for starting up a trade or professional magazine. The content – whether “Scissors & Paste” from other publications (as on p. 69) or specially written such as practical tips on pp. 70-71, 72, 77 – is merely the bait.

The issue of the Wizard we have here on BLT19 does have adverts, but not really very many: the relatively high cover price must have been a substantial contribution to the financing of the magazine. On the other hand, the magazine itself seems to function as a giant advert for “Selbit” himself. The most obvious way we can see this is how the central 4 pages comprise one giant advert for Selbit’s book The Magical Entertainer! We can see how The Magical Entertainer is published by Ornum’s at 4 Duke Street, Adelphi (right in the heart of London’s West End) who also take out a full-page advert on the last page for “The Very Latest Magical Novelties.” It may be that, unlike many other trade and professional magazines, the Wizard didn’t need to make a profit: it was, rather, just a part of Selbit’s promotion of himself on the “stage” of print. In that sense it may be compared to the Swan Lane Gazette, that other very rare “magazine” we have on this site.

In best self-consciously humorous music-hall manner, the Wizard even openly promotes itself as an advertising vehicle for entertainers. The first column of “Gossip” on p. 67 makes fun if its own effects in getting an engagement for “Malini, the card conjuror.”

We should like to think that our remarks assisted Malini to this engagement; indeed, if we were certain that the manager regularly perused his WIZARD we might chance it and send the artiste in a bill for commission.

The Wizard, vol. 1 no. 5, January 1906, p. 67

It seems to embrace this idea in fact (though we aren’t suggesting it demanded payment from artistes it promoted). For what’s very striking about the Wizard – though many trade and professional periodicals do this too to some extent – is how preoccupied it is to celebrate individual stage magicians, from “the late Monsieur Verbeck” on the cover page to the four pages of the “Photographic Supplement” on pages 78-81. What is especially amusing is that the one “biography” in the “Photographic Supplement” without a photograph is of “Joad Hetep” at the bottom of page 79 – for that was another stage name of Percy Tibbles! The short description of “Joad Hetep” underneath the image given for him is fascinating not least because it shows how identity itself is a matter of “work” and illusion for the performer. There is a complicated set of emotions going on here – a kind of humble bragging, an apology and a celebration for the success of the illusion that a man from Hampstead passes for an Egyptian man who is then mistaken for a woman who does tricks with very ordinary and “cumbersome” domestic items.

Heteb is quite oriental, and possesses the advantage of being, in many respects, original. He is often embarassed by being mistaken for a woman, doubtless because he affects the quaint old-world appearance of his ancestors who wore skirts and the hair long. In our illustration Joad is seen producing umbrellas; with these cumbersome articles he does many tricks. T

he Wizard, vol. 1, no. 5, January 1906, p. 79.

The Editor’s greetings “A Happy New Year” at the bottom of p. 67 is worth thinking about in this context. It’s clear that someone has been upset by the Wizard so he writes that even though the paper might “give offense and create bad friendship” – this isn’t something he wants since his heart nourishes “feelings of peace and good-will all round.” That is, “It’s your fault if you are angry with me as I only want the best for you.”

The Wizard then doesn’t just illustrate how to do magic tricks – the techniques of the stage – but shows how much work success on the stage involves a lot of off-stage work as well: advertising oneself and making sure you are nice to a lot of people. We may read about tempestuous prima donnas and “difficult” actors, but the reality is that “emotional labour” (managing other people’s emotions) is absolutely essential to a performer both on and off stage. The real “magic” occurs when the people you depend on for a living don’t realise you are managing them. At that point you can call yourself an emotional wizard!

PDF of the whole issue (you may need to “unzoom” down to 50% to see both the pages)


Downloadable images of pages (JPEGS)