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HAS everybody heard of Doctor Dee, the
magician, and of the black speculum or
mirror of cannel coal, in which he could see
at will everything in the wide world, and a
good many things beyond it? If so, I may
introduce myself to my readers in the easiest
manner possible. I am a descendant of
Doctor Dee, and I profess the occult art to
the extent of keeping a black mirror, made
exactly after the model of that possessed by
my astrological ancestor. My speculum, like
his, is constructed of an oval piece of cannel
coal, highly polished, and set on a wooden
back with a handle to hold it by. Nothing
can be simpler than its appearance; nothing
more marvellous than its capacities
provided always that the person using it be a true
adept. Any man who disbelieves nothing is a
true adept. Let him get a piece of cannel
coal, polish it highly, clean it before use with
a white cambric handkerchief, retire to a
private sitting-room, invoke the name of
Doctor Dee, shut both eyes for a moment,
and open them again suddenly on the black
mirror. If he does not see anything he likes,
after that, past, present, or future, then let
him depend on it there is some speck or flaw
of incredulity in his nature, find he is
consequently not a true adept. The marvellous
morsel of coal will never be more to him
than the primrose was to Peter Bell; and
the sad termination of his career may be
considered certainsooner or later, he will
end in being nothing but a rational man.

I, who have not one morsel of rationality
about me; I, who am as true an adept as if
I had lived in the good old times ("the Ages
of Faith," as another adept has very properly
called them) find unceasing interest and
occupation in my black mirror. For everything I
want to know, and for everything I want to
do, I consult it. The other day, for instance,
desiring to ascertain whether I should ever
be married, I went through the requisite
formula, and looked on the cannel coal. A
tall and dignified woman advanced towards
me. Her bonnet was big enough to cover her
head; her ankles were occasionally visible;
and she appeared in a gown of moderate size
instead of a balloon inflated by crinoline. I
knew from this that I was to be married
some day, but certainly not just yet. When,
the present fashion changes, I shall go out
with a nosegay in rny button-hole and meet
the lady of the black mirror. I shall bow,
smile, and say, " Madam, I adore you." She
will curtsey, sigh, and say, " In that case, sir,
you had better take my hand." And we
shall be married, and fondly cherish each
other for the rest of our lives. I know all
that only from looking at the cannel coal.
Who would not be a true adept?

What is my present situation, and how do
I make my black mirror applicable to it? I
am at present in the position of most of the
other inhabitants of London; I am thinking
of soon going out of town. My time for being
away is so limited, and my wanderings have
extended, at home and abroad, in so many
directions, that I cannot hope, this time, to
visit any really beautiful scenes, or gather
any really interesting experiences that are
absolutely new to me. I could only get to
positive novelties, by passing all the
boundaries of my former expeditions; and this,
as I have said, I have not leisure enough to
accomplish. Consequently, I must go to some
place that I have visited before; and I must,
in common regard to my own holiday
interests, take good care that it is a place
where I have already thoroughly enjoyed
myself, without a single drawback to my
pleasure that is worth mentioning. Under
these circumstances, if I were a mere rational
man, what should I do? Weary my memory
to help me to decide on a destination, by
giving me my past travelling recollections in
one long panorama, although I can tell by
experience that of all my faculties memory is
the least ready to act at my will, the least
serviceable at the very time when I most
want to employ it. As a true adept, I know
better than to give myself any useless
trouble of this sort. I retire to my private
sitting-room, take up my black mirror,
mention what I wantand, behold! on the
surface of the cannel coal the image of my
former travels passes before me, in a
succession of dream-scenes. I revive my past
experiences, and I make my present choice
out of them by the evidence of my own eyes;
and I may add, by that of my own ears also
for the figures in my magic landscapes move
and speak!

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