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MONSIEUR ROBERTSON is not one of those
mermen in nomenclature whose proper name
unites one kind of head to another kind of
body. He does indeed (or did in his
practising days) belong to the upper class of the
profession which includes more of such odd
fish than any other,—Professors, Herrs,
Mynheers, Senors, Signors, and Monsieurs
Wilkinsch, Van der Smit, Jonez, Pattersono,
and De Wiggins: but his name of Robertson
is not an English name; his title of Monsieur
was fairly come by. He was born at Liège,
ninety-one years ago. His father was a M.
Robert; and in accordance with the Flemish
custom and language, while the father lived
as senior, the son wrote himself junior, and
did that by adding to his name the word
"son," which is spelt in Flemish as in English.
Before the father died, the son was famous as
a prince of conjurors, and he retained, therefore,
to the last the name that was associated
with the triumph of his charms.

He was a charmer who charmed wisely,—
who was a born conjurer, inasmuch as he was
gifted with a predominant taste for experiments
in natural science,—and he was useful
man enough in an age of superstition to
get up fashionable entertainments at which
spectres were to appear and horrify the
public, without trading on the public
ignorance by any false pretence. When he was
an old man, four and twenty years ago, he
wrote the history of his life, explained the
philosophy of all his hocus-pocus, and made
up the complement of pages in his two
volumes of recollections, with many
anecdotes derived from his experience in many
countries. It is the story of an honourable
and well-educated showman, which offers
pleasant contrast with the autobiography of
a showman of another stamp, just now before
the public, and supposedinconceivably
despicable as it isto be so well adapted to
the public taste, that the right of publishing
it is said (we know not with what truth) to
have been sold by auction for fifteen thousand
pounds. As for Monsieur Robertson, who
was a gentleman, it is very probable that he
lost money by publishing in Paris, on his
own account, the Memoirs Recreative,
Scientific, and Anecdotical,—upon which we draw
for all that is contained in the succeeding
bit of gossip.

Monsieur Robert, sire of Monsieur Robertson,
was a rich merchant. A taste for
sedentary life was forced upon the son, when
but a boy of seven, by a fall upon the ice
which caused the breaking of his leg. Many
years afterwards, he was tripped up by a
couple of dogs, and suffered dislocation of the
thigh. "I have made fifty-nine balloon
ascents," he says, "and otherwise often risked,
my life; who could have foreseen that these
would be the sort of accidents attending such
a life as mine." As a boy, Monsieur Robertson
acquired from a priest much taste for the
study of optics. Then he was sent, like other
young people of his class, to follow a course
of philosophy in Louvain, and after that,
returning to Liège, formed an intimate
acquaintance with a M. Villette, optical instrument
maker, whose father had constructed a
famous concave mirror of unusual size and

M. Villette used often to talk about his
father's mirror, which was described fully in
the Journal des Savans for the year sixteen
hundred and seventy-nine. He made four of
the kind. The first was bought for presentation
to the King of Persia; the second was
sold to the King of Denmark; the third was
presented to the King of France; and the
fourth was that which brought its maker
into trouble. These mirrors, of which the
last was forty-three inches in diameter,
concentrated the sun's rays into so powerful a
focus that they vitrified bricks and flints,
consumed instantly the greenest wood, and
melted iron. They had also, of course, their
optical effects. The figure reflected from any
concave mirror apparently stands out from
its surface, just as the figure reflected from a
convex mirror seems to be contained within
it. When one of these instruments was
presented to the King of FranceLouis Quatorze
his majesty was requested to draw his
sword and thrust towards the burnished
surface. He did so; and because, at the same
instant, his image appeared to leap forward
and direct a thrust at his own face, the great
monarch recoiled in alarm, and was so much
ashamed of himself directly afterwards that
he would see no more of the mirror for that