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candles, very much on the order of a chandelier. This latter effect
seemed to preclude the idea of mirrors being used. “But things are
seldom what they seem,” in magic at least. In reality the table
had but _two_ legs, and there were but _two_ candles burning, the
remaining legs and tapers being reflections. How was the deception
accomplished? In the following manner: Converging at the central
standard (Fig. 1) were two plane mirrors, fixed at an angle of ninety
degrees with each other and forty-five degrees with the side panels
of the screen which boxed in the table from the rest of the stage.
These mirrors reflected the side panels, which were of the same color
as the panel at the back, and made the spectators believe that they
saw underneath the table the rear of the screen. They also reflected
the two legs of the table and the two supports with their lighted
candles. The triangular wooden box, upon the sides of which the
mirrors were fastened, extended to the back panel of the screen. It
was covered with cloth of the same color as that of the screen. This
box was on a level with the top of the table.

The lady got away through a trap, after having placed the skull and
bones in position and ignited a lot of red fire (Fig 2). {329}

Another illusion in which the looking-glass plays a part is that of
the Decapitated Princess. Instead of a table, a chair is used. The
head stands upright upon two swords, which rest on the arms of the
chair. A mirror, placed at an angle of forty-five degrees, reaching
from the front part of the arms to the back edge of the seat,
reflects the bottom of the chair, thereby inducing the spectators
to believe that they see the back of the chair; _ergo_, the seat is
empty. Of course, this seat is covered with like material as that of
the back of the elaborately carved throne chair. The glass conceals
the trap at the back, through which the lady sticks her head and part
of her body. She wears about her neck a lace collar, so arranged as
to rest nicely on the two Swords.


(From Hopkins’ _Magic_, etc. Sci. Amer. Co.)]


I first saw this interesting illusion exhibited in a _café chantant_
in Paris. The fat, thick-necked, little Frenchman, who presented
the trick to the audience, reminded me of one of those human-headed
bulls carved upon the walls of Assyrian palaces and temples. His
hair and beard were oiled and curled. He bellowed out the marvels
of his decapitated Princess, and flirted the skirts of his long
Prince Albert coat like an animal lashing flies off its flanks with
its tail. According to this Chevalier d’Ananias, the Princess lost
her charming little powdered head during the reign of Robespierre
I; it “sneezed into the basket” of the guillotine one fine morning
while the knitting women sat around the scaffold and plied their
needles and tongues. “Down with the Aristocrats!” Thanks to an
eminent surgeon, who begged the head from the executioner, it was
restored to life by hypnotic power. The surgeon handed it down to his
descendants. Finally it came into possession of the showman, by what
means the gentleman did not relate.

A few days after the above exhibition, I saw the poor little Princess
eating cabbage soup in a second-class _cabaret_. Her manager was with
her. Her head was on her body at the time.



“Le mime-comédien Trewey est un prestidigitateur merveilleus,
créateur vraiment surprenant d’ombres chinoises avec l’unique secours
de ses mains. On peut dire que Trewey est de ceux qui ont agrandi
le cercle de la fantasmagorie et en ont fait un des astres les plus
vagabonds de la fantaisie.”—DOM BLASIUS: _L’Intransigeant_.


My favorite character in French fiction is Alexander Dumas’
inimitable D’Artagnan, _le mousquetaire par excellence_, who comes
out of Gascony with nothing but a rusty suit of clothes on his back,
an ancestral sword at his side, his father’s blessing, and a bony
sorrel horse under him, to seek his fortune in the world. Aided by
his good rapier, his wonderful _sang froid_, splendid audacity and
versatile talents, he elbows his way to the foot of a throne, to
become captain of the Grand Monarque’s bodyguard, and eventually a
marshal of France.

In the world of magic we have a similar character, not a mere
figment, however, of the novelist’s imagination, but a living,
breathing personality. I refer to Félicien Trewey, the eminent French
fantaisiste, whose life reads like a romance. M. Trewey possesses
all of the qualities of heart and mind of Dumas’ hero—audacity,
versatility, tireless energy in the pursuit of his profession,
bonhomie, and what not. Had he lived in the seventeenth century,
he doubtless would have been a soldier of fortune like D’Artagnan,
fought duels, made love to duchesses, and outwitted a cardinal,
but having been born in an age of steam and electricity, and fully
realizing the fact that science has reduced the art of war to mere
mechanics, he sought out a career that promised the most romance
and adventure, and became a mousquetaire of magic, wielding the
wand instead of {332} the sword. It is a long, long way from the
half-starved mountebank of a wandering caravan to an _Officier
d’Académie_ and landed proprietor living at ease in one’s old age.
But Trewey has accomplished all this.


One evening, when strolling along the Boulevard, I saw outside
of the _Concert des Ambassadeurs_, a billboard, with the
following announcement: “Le Grand Trewey! Equilibre, Jonglerie,
Prestidigitation.—Le Chapeau Multiforme ou 25 Têtes sous un
Chapeau.—Mime.—Musique.—Silhouettes et Ombres des Mains, etc.
Amusements Scientifiques et Récréatifs.”


My interest was at once aroused. Here was no ordinary artist, but a
man of versatility. I bought a ticket, and was soon seated in the
theatre. After the usual infliction of skirt-dancers, acrobats and
eccentric singers with raspy voices, the curtain rose on M. Trewey’s
act. I sighed with relief. Ah, here was an oasis in the vast Sahara
of vaudeville claptrap and mediocrity. {333} I was not disappointed.
The stage was elegantly set with gilt tables. The scene was boxed
in with rich silk curtains _à la_ Pinetti. A burst of applause (not
confined to the _claque_ either), and the great Trewey appeared. A
long black cloak enveloped him.




Dans ses créations.
Ouverture. — Equilbres et Jongleries.


Fantaisies. — La Valse des Assiettes. — Les Cuvettes
tapageuses. — Le Papier multiforme. — La Harpe
éolienne. — Le Tabarin moderne.




1^{re} Série. — Le Lapin — Les deux Oies. — Le Perroquet. —
Le Poisson. — L’Eléphant. — Le Taureau. — Le
Cygne. — Le Prédicateur. — Le Chat. — Le Chien.

2^e Série. — Le batelier. — Le Pècheur. — Le Jockey. — La
Danseuse de corde.

3^e Série. — Les Amours du Policeman, pantomime.

4^e Série. — Silhouettes et Protils illustrés.

5^e Série. — Le Clown et l’Ane savant.

6^e Série. — Le Buveur normand et le Rigolo. — Au Revoir...,
galop final.

_Le piano sera tenu par M. Henri DEVIENNE._

Tous les dimanches et jeudis, à 2 heures.



Throwing this off, he appeared in full court costume—a gentleman of
the reign of Louis XVI. I felt like asking him, “When did you see
last the Chevalier Pinetti?” After a very superior exhibition of
juggling and sleight of hand with cards and coins, {334} he passed
on to ombromanie, or hand-made shadows, among them being portraits
of Thiers, Gladstone, Czar Alexander III, Emile Zola, Gambetta,
Bismarck, Crispi and Lord Salisbury. The art of casting silhouettes
of animals, such as the dog, the cat, and the rabbit, upon an
illuminated wall is very ancient. The Italian painter, Campi, was one
of the first to add new types to the collection of figures. Trewey
raised the art to the dignity of a stage performance, and endowed it
with movement and life. I shall quote as follows from an article on
Trewey, contributed by me to the “Cosmopolitan Magazine” some years




[Illustration: TREWEY’S HANDS.]

“He stands behind a screen, which is brilliantly illuminated
by an oxyhydrogen light, and with his hands projects the
silhouettes—pictures of soldiers, peasants, abbés, etc., to say
nothing of animals. To form the headgear of his men and women, such
as the grotesque bonnets of Norman bonnes, the képis of the little
piou-pious, and the mortar-boards of the English scholastics, he has
recourse to small pieces of cardboard cut to resemble the respective
cranial coverings. Trewey is not content with the ‘cold profiles,’ as
he calls them, of living creatures, {336} but endows his shadows
with animation. His old peasants, for example, smoke, imbibe liquor
from large jugs, inhale snuff, roll their eyes, open their mouths,
gesticulate; his animals are exceedingly mobile. Besides this, he
makes his characters enact charming little pantomimic scenes. One he
calls the ‘serenade.’ A piece of cardboard, fashioned to represent
the side of a house, constitutes the scenery. A gendarme (supposed
to be violently {337} in love with the servant girl) knocks at the
door of the mansion, whereupon his fair _inamorata_ appears at the
upstairs window. After an exchange of compliments, she withdraws
from the window and reappears at the door. She gives to her lover
a drink from a suspicious bottle, and he, after wiping his beard,
kisses her and retires. Then comes the strolling musician, playing
a lugubrious melody on the clarinet. The owner of the house rushes
to the bedroom window and motions the player away, but the musician
derisively strikes up a lively tune. The irate proprietor now makes
his appearance armed with a long broom, with which he thrashes the
clarinettist. The musician still persisting, paterfamilias next
produces the water jug, and from the upstairs window pours the
contents upon the head of the luckless serenader, who quickly makes
his exit.


“The little accessories used in this act, such as the helmet for
the policeman, the broom, bottle, etc., are cut from pasteboard
and, where necessary, attached to the fingers of the performer by
means of india-rubber rings. The water jug, however, is an actual
little vessel, which is filled with sand. When this is poured out it
simulates a flow of water in the most natural manner.

“ ‘The pulpit orator’ is a clever silhouette. About the left arm of
the performer is tied a small box, which represents the pulpit; the
bent fingers make a canopy. Between the fingers of {338} the right
hand is held a bit of pasteboard, cut in the shape of a mortar-board
cap. The paraphernalia is very simple. You see the learned divine
ascend the pulpit, bend forward in prayer, then begin to exhort
an imaginary congregation. He thumps the pulpit rail vehemently,
twists himself into all sorts of grotesque positions, and wipes his
perspiring brow. After having blessed the people, he descends from
his elevated perch.”

I learned from him many interesting things about shadowgraphy and
sleight of hand generally. To excel in the art of ombromanie requires
long practice. The fingers have to be exercised continuously in
certain peculiar movements, such as are depicted in the accompanying
illustration. Dexterity is largely dependent upon the formation of
the hand, one of the particular characteristics of skillfulness being
“the faculty of reversing the metacarpal phalanges of the fingers, so
that when the hand is extended it is convex.” Trewey possesses this
faculty. Another peculiarity of his hands is the formation of the
fingers: they differ very much in length. The middle finger exceeds
the ring finger by nearly an inch.


I met Trewey some weeks later, in London, at the Empire Theatre,
and we struck up a great friendship which has lasted to this day.
The story of his life is full of interest, and is a typical example
of the folly of setting anyone to a vocation for which he has no
particular taste. Intended at first for the priesthood by his
parents, and subsequently for a mechanical trade, Trewey followed his
own inclinations—conjuring and juggling. I will quote again from my
paper in the “Cosmopolitan Magazine”:

“Like most artists who have risen to eminence on the French stage,
Trewey has known hardships and bitter poverty. His youth was a
struggle against adverse conditions. But he had in him, in its truest
sense, the soul of old Gaul—that joyous insouciance, that sardonic
humor, which laughs at fortune and snaps its finger at the world.
Natural vivacity will often keep a Frenchman alive, though his body
is clothed in rags and his {339} stomach is empty. Trewey was born
at Angoulême, France, during the Revolution of 1848. His father was
an engineer in a paper mill. Trewey _pére_ was ambitious for his
son to enter the Church, so he sent him to the Seminary of the Holy
Trinity at Marseilles to study for the priesthood. But fate had
willed otherwise. When quite a young boy, Trewey had been taken to
see a circus at Marseilles. Among the mountebanks was a conjurer,
who gave a very interesting exhibition. The feats of magic of this
strolling Merlin so fascinated the little Trewey that he forthwith
secretly vowed to become a professional prestidigitateur as soon as
he grew up. The studies pursued at the Jesuit college did not cure
the boy of his love for the stage. He divided his time between Latin
verbs and juggling, mathematics and the art of palmistry. Soon he
was able to give little exhibitions, private, of course, for the
amusement of his comrades. The good fathers must have thought him a
very eccentric youth, for he was continually trying to balance his
slate on the tip of his nose. Many a well-deserved cat-o’-nine-tails
he got for his improvised feats of equilibration. Lying awake at
night in the silent dormitory, he invented tricks, then fell asleep
to dream of the wild delights of the mountebank’s life—wandering like
a gipsy over the country in a caravan, and performing at the little
French villages and towns before crowds of rustics. He pictured
himself dressed in gorgeous raiment, exhibiting magic tricks for the
amusement of gaping yokels—pulling rabbits from hats, turning omelets
into doves, and producing bowls of goldfish from shawls. The boom,
boom, of the bass drum, calling the spectators together, resounded in
his ears. The boy had in him the spirit of adventure; the blood of
some old strolling player of an ancestor ran in his veins. He longed
to escape from under the watchful domination of the ‘black robes,’ as
he designated the good priests of the seminary. Three years passed.
One day, during the Christmas holidays, Trewey refused to return to
his studies, so his father placed him in the engine room of the paper
mill to learn machinery. Cog wheels and oil cans possessed no more
fascination for him than Latin and Greek. One fine summer day he ran
away from home in company with an acrobat. {340}

“Trewey, at this period of his career, was not over fifteen years
of age, and had but little experience of men and manners. The quiet
cloisters of a Jesuit seminary are not conducive to knowledge of
the world. Life now became hard for Trewey and his companion, the
youthful tumbler. They exhibited in market places, cafés, and in inn
yards. The life they led was next door to starvation. Soon Trewey
left the acrobat and obtained an engagement at one of the small music
halls of Marseilles. The munificent sum of six francs per week (one
dollar and twenty cents) was the salary he received for his services.
In addition to his juggling exhibition, given several times a day,
he was obliged to appear in a pantomime performance at night. In
this troupe was the famous Plessis, who eventually became one of the
foremost comedians of France, rivaling even the great Coquelin.

“In those days it was the custom for people to throw money on
the stage to favorite performers. Applauding with the hands
being monopolized by a paid claque, there was no better way for
enthusiastic spectators, in French places of amusement, to show their
appreciation of the talents of an artist, than by showering upon him
gold, silver or copper coins. The vaudeville artists did not consider
it beneath their dignity to stoop and gather up these substantial
evidences of public favor.

“Said Trewey to me: ‘I saved these coins until I was able to purchase
two fine costumes. Then I secured an engagement at the Alcazar at

“Other engagements followed this, and Trewey became the most popular
performer in the south of France. The desire for a roving life led
him to become the proprietor of a traveling pantomime and vaudeville
company. His versatility was shown here. He juggled, conjured, played
Pierrot in the pantomime, danced in the clodoche, and managed the
finances of the troupe. After two years of this life, he got an
engagement at Bordeaux. It was here that he invented his ombromanie,
and straightway became famous. From Bordeaux he migrated to Paris.
His success was instantaneous.”

The journalists rallied to his aid. He became the lion of the
hour. _L’Illustration_ named his art Treweyism. His reputation was
established. {341}


Trewey is a mimic _par excellence_. He is past master in the art of
pantomime and facial expression. One of his particular acts, which
has given rise to numerous imitations, is entitled, “Tabarin, or
Twenty-five Heads Under One Chapeau.” Thanks to a piece of black felt
cloth, circular in shape, with a hole cut in the center, Trewey is
able to manufacture in a few minutes all the varieties of headgear
required for the Tabarin. For example: Napoleon—A couple of twists
of the cloth, and lo! you have a representation of _le chapeau de
Marengo_, the little cocked hat which Napoleon made famous, and about
which so many legends cluster. With this hastily improvised hat on
his head, Trewey assumes the Napoleonic attitude—one hand thrust into
his vest, the other behind his back. His physiognomy is that of the
great Emperor, as depicted by the painters of the Imperial régime.
The likeness is perfect. And so with fat French priests, soldiers,
bonnes, landladies, artists, diplomats, etc. It is a portrait gallery
of French types; Gavarni lives for us again. And just here, let me
digress a moment to explain the origin of the curious word _Tabarin_,
which, as all lovers of French comedy know, has passed into the
repertory of the national theatre. In the seventeenth century, that
bridge of memories, the old Pont Neuf of Paris, was the rendezvous
of quacksalvers and mountebanks. Booths for the sale of various
articles lined the sides of the bridge. People flocked there to
see the sights, to laugh, chat, make love and enjoy life as only
Parisians can. Students and grisettes of the _Quartier Latin_ elbowed
ladies and gentlemen of the court. Bourgeois families came to study
the flippant manners of their superiors. Poodle clippers plied their
trade; jugglers amused the _quid nuncs_ with feats of dexterity;
traveling dentists pulled teeth and sold balsams; clowns tumbled, and
last, but not least, pickpockets lifted purses and silk handkerchiefs
with impunity. Says Augustus J. C. Hare (_Walks in Paris_): “So
central an artery is the Pont Neuf, that it used to be a saying
with the Parisian police, that if, after watching three days, they
did not see a man cross the bridge, he must have left Paris.” Any
popular witticism in verse was long known as _un Pont-Neuf_. One of
the principal {342} vendors of quack nostrums of the Pont Neuf was
Montdor. He was aided by a buffoon named Tabarin, who made facetious
replies to questions asked by his master, accompanied with laughable
grimaces and grotesque gestures. The modern ringmaster and clown
of the circus have similar scenes together, minus the selling of
medicines. Tabarin was celebrated for his wit. Some of his _bon mots_
have descended to our time. He performed the feat of making some ten
different hats out of the brim of a felt hat, giving appropriate
facial portraits beneath each, and using wigs and beards to enhance
the effect. Such, in brief, is the story of the famous Merry Andrew
whose name has become a by-word in France for buffoonery and broad
humor. The biographies of such men would make interesting reading for
the student of history. But Dame Clio has eyes only for tremendous
battles, diplomatic intrigues, the doings of royalty and great folk.
The little world of everyday life, that busy ant hill where the
human comedy is so ardently played, is beneath her notice. The life
and adventures of quacksalvers, minor poets, wandering jugglers,
faugh!—that is asking too much of the Muse of History. Says Guizot:
“History has no room for all those who throng about her gates without
succeeding in getting in and leaving traces of their stay.”

But occasionally a man or woman rises from the dregs of the people
and compels recognition; and, sad to relate, nine times out of
ten, through the commission of crimes. Have we not Cagliostro and
Madame de la Motte, thorough-paced scoundrels and charlatans, but,
nevertheless, very delightful folk, who have added a tinge of romance
to history? I for one, with Thackeray, confess a weakness for the
tittle-tattle of court gossip and backstairs diplomacy. Behind the
scenes with Louis XV and XVI, Frederick the Great and Catherine II is
far more entertaining than the battles of the period. Casanova gives
one a better picture of eighteenth century morals and manners than
any of the great historians of the time. History is the dry bones of
an epoch; the memoir writers are the Ezekiels who behold the bones
clothed with flesh and thrilling with life-blood.

[Illustration: THE TABARIN.]

Wandering one morning across the old Pont Neuf, all these thoughts
came to my mind. Once again, as in the days of long {344} ago, I
saw, in my imagination, the bridge crowded with people. There came
to me the faint rustling of silk skirts, the clatter of high-heeled
shoes upon the paving stones. Boom! boom! goes the drum. I hear the
strident voice of Montdor shouting out his wares, and the unctuous
notes of the comical Tabarin uttering a _bon mot_.


Trewey is the inventor of many clever card sleights and passes; for
example, a color change executed by taking cards from the back of the
pack with the fork of the thumb and forefinger and placing them on
the front. The origin of this clever sleight is not generally known.
I have seen him throw cards from the stage of the Alhambra Theatre,
London, to the topmost gallery. This is a tremendous feat, as the
Alhambra is one of the largest theatres in the world. He possesses
the peculiar talent of writing in reverse, necessitating the use of a
mirror in order to read it. The artistic sentiment was born in him.
It seems to be a family characteristic. Rosa Bordas, the celebrated
French _chanteuse patriotique_, is his cousin-german. A writer in
_L’Echo des Jeunes_ thus apostrophises him in verse:

“Dans le monde artistique ou son étoile brille,
Trewey ne peut que resortir,
Vraiment, cela tient de famille,
Vu que bon sang ne peut mentir.”

The most exclusive and aristocratic salons of Paris and Vienna have
engaged his services for private séances. In Spain, Belgium, Austria,
Russia and England he was the sensation of the day. At the present
time he is living in retirement at Asnières, near Paris, where he
has purchased a charming home known as the Villa Traversière _au
clair de la lune_. During the Exposition of 1900 he was the manager
of the Theatre Phono-Cinéma. Trewey was a great friend of the French
inventor, Lumière, and was the first to introduce the cinematographe
to the public of London and Paris. At his villa he spends his
time inventing and improving devices to be used in moving-picture
apparatus, corresponding with his friends, meditating upon the works
of his favorite authors, Confucius and {346} Epictetus, and writing

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Online LibraryHenry Ridgely EvansThe Old and the New Magic → online text (page 27 of 28)