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A BOOK entitled "The Confidences of a
Prestidigitarian; An Artist's Life," suggests
the question: Does any one ever become
great in an art without feeling a love and
a vocation for it? Hardly; for the words
Love and Vocation are only synonyms for
Industry. Robert-Houdin, the Ex-Quick-
fingerer, who has abdicated in favour of
his brother-in-law Hamilton, has just
furnished us with a positive proof that the
passion, and the vocation, and the consequent
toil, have been in his case the necessary
precursors of artistic success. From his
arcadian retreat on the banks of the Loire,
he publishes to the world the instructive
lesson that man becomes a magician only by
patient labour; that the tree from which the
enchanter's wand is culled is no other than
obstinate persevering work, bedewed and
nourished for years by the sweat of the

Robert-Houdin started in life an
industrious enthusiast from his earliest years; and
though, let us hope, his amusing existence is
still good for some time to come amongst his
private friends, he promises to continue to be
an industrious enthusiast until the term of his
earthly career shall arrive. Still in his brain
works the accustomed study of dexterous
effects; still in his fingers burn their wonted
fires. There, remote from the capital, in a
quiet hamlet, at that mysterious hour when
the clock strikes eight, his pulse quickens,
his temples beat, he can scarcely breathe, he
feels a want of air and movement; questions
put to him remain unanswered. Eight
o'clock was the time when his performances
commenced; when, peeping through the
managerial hole in the curtain, he beheld his
audience flocking in; when, proud of their
eager curiosity, he rejoiced in his triumphant
popularity; or, perhaps, overclouded by a
passing doubt, he felt an anxious uneasiness
lest some bold bubble of trickery should
burst in the blowing. But the supreme
moment of tinkling the bell, when the wizard
would stand face to face with his admiring
judges, brought with it calm and self-

An imaginary audience and imaginary
applause have now succeeded to the fleshly
reality. But why allow the solemn hour to
call forth fleeting visions only? Cannot the
dreamy reminiscence be converted into a
written reality? Cannot the performances
of other days be continued under a different
form when the clock strikes eight, with a
book for the theatre and a reader for the
public? The idea was seductive; so seductive,
in fact, that we are now in possession of
a couple of volumes damp from the press,
somewhat high in price, but far from low in
interest, in which we are informed what a
hard struggle it costs to establish a reputation
for necromantic skill.

It should be premised that Robert-Houdin's
most astounding surprises were effected by
means of ingenious apparatus, and by the
clever application of Nature's ordinary powers,
which he was almost obliged to invent and
apply by himself alone, without assistance, in
order to keep their secret inviolate. Be it
stated, by the way, that Robert is a surnot
a christianname. Young Robert, having
got married to one Mademoiselle Houdin,
appended her name to his own, as is the
fashion with Frenchmen, to distinguish
himself from other Messieurs Robert; exactly as
a Scotchmana Fraser or a Campbelladds
the name of his place to his patronymic, in
order to avoid confusion with hundreds of
other flourishing Campbells and Frasers.
This conjoint surname was afterwards legalised,
by decision of the Council of State, to
be written currently and entire, linked
together by a hyphen, in one stroke of the pen;
so that, curiously enough, the second and the
reigning Madame Robert-Houdin has
succeeded to her predecessor's maiden name.
This being explained, the reader may now
be informed that Robert the elder was a
watchmaker, residing in the old historic town
of Blois, and accomplished in several kindred
arts. He was an excellent engraver, a tasteful
jeweller; he could supply an arm or a leg
to a broken statue, and repair a bird-organ
or a musical-box. The son, therefore (born
in eighteen hundred and five), learnt to
run alone in the midst of all sorts of
professional tools, which became his most highly
cherished playthings. He might almost have
come into the world with a file, a pair of
compasses, or a hammer in his hand; for he
acquired their use in the same instinctive