Author: Leitch Ritchie
Publisher: Simms and M’Intyre; W. S. Orr and Co
Publication Year: 1846
Book Dimensions: 10.5cm x 16.5cm
University of Virginia Library Catalog Entry, Sadleir-Black Collection: PZ2 .R57 M 1846
A tale of magic, secrets, and betrayal, Leitch Ritchie’s 1846 novel set in France features several romances that must overcome the divides created by religion and class, while trust is tested by unknown foes with sinister motives
The Magician is a novel by Leitch Ritchie, published in 1846 by Simms and M’Intyre (also written as Simms and McIntyre) of Belfast and later also London. The book itself is 390 pages, and its font is small and closely set together. Its margins are likewise small with the right and left margins being 1.35 cm and the top and bottom margins being 1 cm. The book is 16.5 cm long, 10.5 cm wide, and 3.0 cm in thickness, making it physically quite compact. This edition is bound together as one novel, but as implied by the dedication on page five, it has also been published in multiple volumes. There are two other editions, one with two volumes and one with three, both of which were published in 1836. The cover of the book is intricate, with calf leather covering the spine and corners of the book which indicates it was half bound, and the rest of the cover is marbled in blue and red. The leather on the front and back covers is decorated with a floral design that was impressed using a bind-rolled floral tool. On the spine, the design resembles a thistle, which could be a reference to Ritchie’s homeland, Scotland, whose national flower has been the thistle since 1249. The author is also referenced many times inside the book. His name is embossed on the spine, is labeled on pages 3 and 4, and referenced again in the notes at the end of the book. On page 3, his name is also accompanied by some of the titles of his other novels and is followed by “etc. etc.” indicating that he has written many works. There are two title pages, the first with only with The Magician printed on it, and the second (on page 3) with The Magician printed along with Ritchie’s name and other works. This page is outlined in a black lined box. The other stories referenced that were written by Ritchie include The Game of Life, Romance of French History, and Journey to St. Petersburgh and Moscow. Also included on this page is the publisher along with their location along with the publication date of the novel. A note from the author precedes the main text, and here Ritchie explains the lack of magic in the novel, despite its title. He also explains his inspiration for many of his characters, many of which were based on historical figures. One last inclusion is Ritchie’s mention of the character Gilles de Retz, whom he had previously written about three years earlier in Wanderings by the Loire, an account of the character’s history and background.
The book is in relatively good condition, with its spine being the only thing in slightly poor physical condition. The spine is cracked severely but still holds the novel together, while the inside pages look untouched. Also of consideration, the spine is tightly bound, which might contribute to the anomaly that while from the outside it looks worn, the inside is in good condition, as it takes effort to open the novel and in doing so the spine is worn out at an accelerated rate.
Inside the book, one of the first things of interest is an armorial bookplate belonging to John Waldie of Hendersyde Park which is located in Ednam, Scotland, a small town near Kelso in the Scottish Borders. The bookplate also has a capital E written in the top left corner. Under the bookplate, is a blue book label that states “Novels and Romance; No. 893” indicating that this novel belonged to a large private collection of Waldie. This was most likely placed at the same time as the armorial bookplate but added second as it abuts the armorial plate so closely. Only the armorial bookplate has left an impression on the page adjacent to the back of the front cover. This is most likely because the bookplate’s paper, as opposed to the book label’s, is thicker and the ink used when printing it has transferred onto the facing page.
The interior of the book is void of any illustrations except for an intricate drawing of the first letter in the first chapter on page seven. The letter I (belonging to the first word of the novel, “in”) is shaded and drawn to have flowers adorning it. The first and last two pages of the novel (which are not in the official page count) are blank and are thinner and more yellowed in comparison to the rest of the pages, which are slightly brittle but in overall better condition. The pages all together are stiff and inflexible, but this could be due to the novel’s tight binding and resulting infrequent use.
A unique feature of this novel is that in the back it contains a receipt of purchase by Robert K. Black. It is in linen paper which was determined by holding up the receipt up to the light where the watermark “698 Linen Faced” is revealed, which describes the type and brand of paper. Some of the aspects (name, address, telephone, telegram, etc.) appear to be previously printed onto the paper, while other details look to have been added by a typewriter (including the date of purchase, the book purchased, and the buyer). The receipt comes from George Bates Rare and Interesting Books in London, and it shows that the novel was purchased by Robert Black on August 8, 1939, almost one hundred years after The Magician’s publication. This would have also been one year after Black’s purchase of Michael Sadleir’s collection in 1938 which was immediately placed at the University of Virginia. From 1938 to 1942, Black continued to add more novels into the gothic collection, one of which was The Magician. On the receipt, it can even be seen that the seller incorrectly typed many parts of the receipt. On it, the book purchased is The Nagician (which was not amended) and Ritchie’s last name was originally incorrectly spelled with a “w” at the end, which was later typed over with an e. The date of the book’s publication was also originally incorrectly typed, stating originally 1848, and the 8 was later typed over with a 6.
The Magician is a novel written by the Scottish author Leitch Ritchie. Before its publication, Ritchie had already written multiple novels, sketches, and short stories, some of which include The Romance of History, France (1831) and The Game of Life (1830). Ritchie was well known in the literary sphere due to his numerous works and had gained merit from his short stories (The Athenaeum 396). A year after The Magician was published in 1836, Ritchie had even embarked on a tour for his series, Ireland, Picturesque and Romantic; or, Heath’s Picturesque Annual for 1838, which was well-received (Tait’s Edinburgh Magazine 684). The Magician was published in four main editions in Ritchie’s lifetime. The original publication was in 1836, and during that year it was distributed by two publishers: John Macrone as well as Carey, Lea, & Blanchard. John Macrone was based in London but passed away in 1837, a year after The Magician’s publication (Simkin). His version was distributed in three volumes. Carey, Lea, & Blanchard published the novel in two volumes, and this was published in the United States, giving The Magician a larger audience. Later, in 1846, his novel was published in one volume by Simms & M’Intyre, a London and Belfast based publisher. Their first version was in 1846, where the volume consisted of 390 pages and was reprinted in the “Parlour Novelist” (a collection of fiction reprints); this is the edition held by the University of Virginia Sadleir-Black Collection. Simms & M’Intyre’s second printing of The Magician was in 1853 and consisted of 320 pages and was reprinted in the “Parlour Library,” another series of fiction reprints.
In periodicals at the time, The Magician was advertised frequently by Macrone and Simms & M’Intyre. Its advertisements were smaller on the page than larger names at the time, such as Charles Dickens in The Athenaeum. Ritchie’s advertisements, in contrast, were often found among groups of novels that were either listed in “Lately Published” or “In the Press” sections (The Athenaeum 1021; The Literary Gazette 12). In a select few of the advertisements, Ritchie’s work would be given more space in print in order to describe a brief summary. Despite the different periodicals it could be found in, such as Gentleman’s Magazine and The Court Magazine and Belle Assemblee, the blurb was consistently “The Magician, the scene in France, and the epoch the end of the English dominion in the fifteenth century, connected with the favourite studies of the period, alchemy and magic, by Mr. Leitch Ritchie” (The Court Magazine and Belle Assemblee vii).
Alongside this promotion, there were few reviews for The Magician, all of which had varying opinions on the quality of the novel. Two of the more notably detailed ones, written in The Literary Gazette and The Athenaeum delivered negative feedback. The Literary Gazette labeled The Magician as “a complete failure” and commented specifically on the striking similarities to the Bible’s tale of Isaac and Rebecca (The Literary Gazette 360). Due to this, the reviewer questioned the originality of the plot and likened parts of it to another previously published novel, Kenilworth, stating that two of The Magician’s main characters created a dynamic that was “an exaggerated copy of Leicester and Alasco” (The Literary Gazette 360). The Athenaeum’s review was less harsh, but still nowhere near positive. Though the author praised Ritchie for his earlier works, he emphasized that he has “been less successful when his canvas was more ambitiously enlarged” (396). This review harped more on the concept of the title and its relation to the book, as any magic that is described in the book is later refuted by Ritchie and revealed to be mere tricks of the eye, stating “we cannot, however, understand why Mr. Ritchie should neutralize the effect of his story, by a careful and systematic destruction of the wonders it contains” (The Athenaeum 396). This review mainly consisted of criticism regarding introducing the idea of sorcery and gramarye only to in the end dissuade his readers from believing in its existence entirely. The Magician’s more positive reviews are less prevalent and take the form of short blurbs. The Examiner referenced a small review by The Globe in which they wrote, “We congratulate Mr. Ritchie on the sensation he has produced,” and the Athenaeum quickly referenced it as a “clever and forcible romance” (The Examiner 688; The Athenaeum 625). This seems to be the extent of the positive reviews, with only a couple more sources eliciting some optimistic words in his direction. Despite this, Ritchie is often referenced in reviews or advertisements for his other works, such as in the Examiner when Wearfoot Common is noted as being by “Leitch Ritchie, Author of ‘The Magician,’” which could indicate its approval by the general public as opposed to the critics, who seemed to have taken a negative stance on its content (The Examiner 181).
Presently, The Magician has been adapted into digital copies, most notably the Simms & M’Intyre 1846 version has been electronically reproduced by HathiTrust Digital Library in 2011. HathiTrust has also reproduced volumes one through three of the 1836 Macrone publication and volumes one and two of the Carey, Lea & Blanchard 1836 publication. The 1853 version seems to be the only one missing in their digital library. Google Books has electronically reproduced these specific volumes as well.
Narrative Point of View
The Magician is narrated in the third person, conveying the thoughts of all of the characters as opposed to just one. The anonymous narrator provides information about background and history that the characters, individually or collectively, might not know. Within this third-person narration, the narrator also occasionally uses the first-person, particularly utilizing “we” when relaying background knowledge. This is done sparingly, only at the beginning of chapters or in the midst of a description. The narrator also directly addresses “the reader” within the narration.
Sample Passage of Third-Person Narration:
The attention of the scholar [David] was now directed exclusively to the space within the circle; and after an interval which appeared painfully long, he saw a light-coloured vapor rising from the altar, which was followed by a sudden flame, illuminating for an instance the whole apartment. But the smoke and flame vanished as suddenly as they had arisen, and, at the same moment, the appearance of a man clothed in black armor stood by the table. (258)
Sample Passage of Pauline Narrating a Dream:
“I followed him, for I could not help it. He called my name, and I mounted after him into the air, higher, higher than the lark soars or the cloud rolls. The stars swept in circles above our heads, hissing through the golden air and the earth was like a star beneath our feet, only stationary and alone. Then Prelati turned round, and I saw that he was a demon of the abyss, and I flew shrieking down the fields of space, till the whole universe rang with my cries. But he seized me; he caught me by my long hair, that streamed in the wind, when suddenly his arm was struck from his body by the blow of a sword. We are now safe. Hide me, love, in thy coat, and lay the Bloody Heart next to mine. But take away the dead arm that still clings to my hair. –Faugh! it makes me shudder. Cut off the tress-there– ‘O Douglas, Douglas, Tender and true!’” (261)
Sample Passage including an Interjection and Reference to the Reader:
Soon however, his mind seemed to revert to its usual occupations. He was evidently preparing to retire for the night; and, after having opened the door of a closet, where his bed appeared to be placed, he sank down upon his knees to pray. In his prayer, which was delivered with energy and deep devotion, the student joined mentally; and as the form of supplication was not particular to the personages of our history, but common to many of those who were in that day engaged in similar pursuits, we think it well to present the reader with the following copy. (52)
The third-person narration reveals the actions that occur in the novel as well as the motivations or reasonings behind these actions. They also contribute to the many interpretations of the situations that multiple characters simultaneously encounter. By presenting each character’s experiences, the narration builds a bigger picture of the overarching plot. The example above shows how David is conceptualizing the resurrection of Prelati, but this is only one point of view. Later, the narrator also presents Pauline’s thoughts in the form of the dream she had when she fainted from the sight of Prelati. From her perspective, an impending danger regarding Prelati, and her safety is secured by Douglas (Archibald) is foreshadowed. While the introduction to her position and story is in the third person, her dialogue is told in the first person. Alongside developing these relationships among the novel’s characters, by consistently using “we” the narrator also develops a relationship between himself and the reader. With this relationship, he can also include new knowledge that is essential to understand the context of the novel’s settings and characters.
The novel begins in 1497 in Paris, during the welcome parade for the new prince, where 3000 people are waiting. A young unnamed Scottish knight is introduced and, he enters the crowd, disappearing past the gates of Paris. Stopping on a bridge, the knight talks to the echevin, Jacquin Houpelande who is a member of the legislative body, introducing Scotland’s part as an ally of Paris in the war. The French needed their help in defeating England during the Hundred Years War. The knight stops to think about how well-designed Paris is for the occasion, with everyone dressed up, and he concludes that everyone is represented but the Jews, who were banished by the edict of the past prince. He continues into the city, stopping by the university to watch the parade, full of royals and dignitaries. In it is the dauphin, who is betrothed to Margaret, the young princess of Scotland. While walking further, the unnamed knight is attacked by three English students who draw their swords, but a man, Douglas, shouts at them, and descends into the streets followed by three other men. Douglas, and his three companions, Nigel, Bauldy, and Andrew, defend the Scottish knight, and once the fight is over, the knight goes to talk to his rescuers. He realizes that he knows their leader who was his childhood friend, Archibald, as they are both from the Douglas clan from Scotland.
All leave to go to Archibald’s room, and upon entering, David and Archibald begin to argue over an unlit candle about David’s choice to become a student, which leaves him unpaid. The flame suddenly flashes up, though David takes no notice. David leaves for the night, entering a doorway that leads him to a tunnel under the university. Here, David’s master is introduced, the alchemist Messire Jean, along with his master’s daughter whom David has developed feelings towards over the years. The two men hear a noise and a knock on the final door, which turns out to be Messire Jean’s friend Prelati. Prelati introduces the concept of the philosopher’s stone and then brings up Jean’s enemy Gilles de Retz, who betrayed him long ago. While they begin to talk, David talks to the daughter who tells him her secret: she’s Jewish. She makes him promise not to reveal what he knows as his knowledge could kill them.
The next morning, David has a hard time dealing with the news, so he seeks out Archibald to confess to him his secret life. They walk through Paris and Archibald, a staunch believer in Christianity, over David’s choice to indulge in Hermeticism. While passing people, David mentions that he recognizes a man named Orosmandel, a famed philosopher. Archibald’s past is explained; he came to Paris to assist Margaret, Princess of Scotland, on her journey to meeting the Dauphin of France. On the way he saved a woman known as Mademoiselle de Laval, who warned him that her attacker is the Black Knight and tells him to make friends with a man named Orosmandel. The flashback ends, and now Archie stands in the theatre recognizing her in the crowd with Orosmandel.
The next day, David explains to his roommates Nigel, Andrew, and Bauldy, that he must leave, and they accuse him of valuing his life above their own. Hearing this, David is stunned and leaves the apartment, along with his education at the university. He meets with Messire Jean, who tells him to accompany his daughter, Hagar, to Nantes. David agrees and tells Jean in his absence to find his three friends to uptake the position of his assistant. Around the same time, Andrew, Bauldy, and Nigel receive a visit from Archibald who is trying to find David. They don’t know where he went, but Archibald later receives an anonymous note telling him to meet at the inn and tavern, Pomme-du-Pin. David and Hagar meet him, and David tells Archibald that he is going to work for Orosmandel as his assistant. Archibald insists that he will pursue alchemy if David can prove it is real. Hagar tells them she must leave but tells them to wait for her. While waiting, David inquires about Archibald’s relationship with Mademoiselle de Laval, who Archibald confesses he loves. Upon Hagar’s absence, they resolve to travel together to Brittany. While stopped for the night, Archibald encounters a young woman who tells him that the Damsel de Laval is in danger and he must go to the ruinous castle nearby. There, he overhears a plot to capture the Damsel, and he escapes as the Black Knight enters.
Hagar is now talking to two other women, Pauline and Marie, who want her to join their journey. Hagar insists that she must go straight to Nantes, but Pauline will not let her leave. Marie helps Hagar escape, switching cloaks with her, and Hagar passes the guards without suspicion. In the morning, Marie and Hagar leave for Nantes and end up traveling alongside a parade, where Gilles de Retz is seen. Hagar, now startled, says she is going to seek out Rabbi Solomon, who resides in Nantes, as he will grant her safety and she will be able to live there with her people. Marie’s betrothed, Jean, hears this and tells her that he will oversee her travels there. He instead betrays her, leading her to Gilles de Retz’s city apartment, locking her in to be kept prisoner. Elsewhere, the Damsel de Laval thinks about Archibald, questioning if he loves her for her money or if he has true intentions. She reveals that she is Pauline, who spoke to Hagar earlier. Pauline goes to talk to Orosmandel, who is employed by her father, and his assistant, the dwarf.
On the road to Brittany, David tells Archibald that he is worried about Hagar, and Archibald insinuates that David is falling in love with someone who is “unfit” causing David to draw his sword in her defense. The peasant girl interrupts the fight, telling them that her name is Marie, and that she is getting married. Her cousin, Lissette sings an ominous bridal song, which and Marie leaves crying. David also leaves, and he runs into the dwarf who tells him that it’s his job to escort David to La Verrieré. There, Orosmandel and Gilles, talk about their plans to sacrifice a willing virgin to the devil. They plan on sacrificing one of three girls, Gilles’ daughter Pauline, Hagar, or Marie. They contemplate sacrificing Hagar because she would be willing to save either her father or David’s life, and Marie because she left before she could consummate her marriage. Later Lissette taps on Andrew’s window, telling him that Marie is lost. Archibald runs into the woods, and there he finds the Black Knight and his men. At the same time, Nigel, Bauldy, and Andrew enter the same part of the woods, and after escaping the Black Knight, they all agree to save David, who they fear has been put into grave danger. When they arrive at Nantes, Messire Jean, whose name is Caleb, is with them, as he left Paris with the trio. All try to figure out how to infiltrate La Verrieré to find David.
David is working for Orosmandel, using his position to figure out how to rescue Hagar. Later that night, Orosmandel sends for both David and Pauline so they can watch him summon the ghost of Prelati. Pauline faints, causing David to have to carry her to another room, Hagar’s prison. There, David warns Hagar to not take anything given to her, and he leaves saying that their religion no longer separates them as they are all equal at the gates of death.
Andrew finds the house of Rabbi Solomon, where he meets Caleb. While talking, two men, Claude Montrichard and Beauchamp, enter asking Caleb for gold so they can capture one of Gilles’ territories. They explain that Gilles is being investigated for his perversion of nature and religion and the government plans on arresting him. Caleb agrees to help them so long as they promise to rescue Hagar.
Back at La Verrieré, Hagar, contemplates her feelings for David and questions Gilles’s motives. She tries to leave, but the guard tells her that she needs permission from the baron. Hagar goes to request it, but the baron tells her that he cannot give freedom nor can she receive it. She bargains that if David is set free, she won’t try to leave. David enters to talk to Gilles, and Andrew comes in as the ambassador of Houpelande. Gilles tells David to leave, but David refuses, saying he is there to protect Hagar. Hagar reveals Prelati is alive, and before they all part, David tells Andrew to meet him later that night. Andrew heads for the tower, where David tells him to relay to Archibald that he must ally with Beauchamp and Montrichard, Prelati is alive, and Pauline is in danger. David later discovers a trapdoor in the floor, where Orosmandel and Prelati must have staged the summoning. He hides behind the curtain as Orosmandel and Gilles talk about their sacrifice, determining that Pauline must die. Later that night, David hears his name and discovers Marie in Gilles’ arms. Gilles runs, and David helps Marie escape through the newfound trapdoor.
Andrew travels back to Nantes to meet with the rest of the men, and from there they split up. Andrew and Archibald take the road with Montrichard, while Nigel and Bauldy set forth on Houpelande’s wagon. While this is happening, Orosmandel and Gilles set up the ritual, and since Pauline won’t be a willing participant (which is required for the ceremony’s success), they convince Hagar, telling her David has died, and she is sent back to her cell. In another location, David has successfully convinced Caleb of his love for Hagar.
Hagar is taken from her cell by the Orosmandel, who has told her he will take her away as he wants her for his mistress. She refuses him, claiming love for David and that Orosmandel is too old for her to love. It’s at this moment that, Orosmandel tears away his beard and cloak, revealing that he was Prelati all along. While Prelati is distracted, Caleb stabs him and is subsequently thrown into the nearby wall by Prelati. Both die, and Hagar leaves with David. In another part of the castle, Archibald rescues Pauline. The novel concludes with the anonymous narrator giving an account of what has happened since then. Archibald and Pauline marry, as do Andrew and Marie, along with Bauldy and Felicité. David and Hagar leave together to travel to far and foreign lands. Three years later, a procession is held for Gilles where he is charged for sorcery and burned for being a wizard.
“Advertisement.” The Athenaeum, no. 1348, 1853, pp. 1021.
“Advertisement. “ Examiner, no. 1499, 1836, pp. 688.
“Book Review.” Examiner, no. 2460, 1855, pp. 181-182.
‘THE BOOKS OF THE SEASON.” Tait’s Edinburgh Magazine, vol. 4, no. 47, 1837, pp. 678–688.
“LITERARY INTELLIGENCE.” The Court Magazine and Belle Assemblee, July 1832-Jan.1837, vol. 8, no. 2, 1836, pp. 7.
“LITERARY NOVELITIES.” The Literary Gazette : A Weekly Journal of Literature, Science, and the Fine Arts, no. 989, 1836, pp. 12.
“The Magician.” The Athenaeum, no. 449, 1836, pp. 396.
“The Magician.” The Literary Gazette : A Weekly Journal of Literature, Science, and the Fine Arts, no. 1011, 1836, pp. 360.
Ritchie, Leitch. The Magician. Belfast, Simms & M’Intyre, 1846.
Simkin, John. Spartacus Educational, Spartacus Educational, https://spartacus-educational.com/PRmacrone.htm.
“A Summer Amongst the Bocages and the Vines.” The Athenaeum, no. 667, 1840, pp. 623–62.
Researcher: Rebecca E. Laflam