Friday, October 12, 2012

Countdown to Halloween: "The Magic Mirror" (1825)

Today, "The Magic Mirror", an ephemeral curiosity whichever way you look at it.

I'll tell you what I can about the story: I came across it in an issue of the American Masonick Record in 1828, but it turns out that it wasn't original to that publication. A bit of googling eventually led me to its original appearance in an 1825 collection of short stories by Henry Slingsby, My Grandmother's Guests and Their Tales. Apart from a few warm reviews - with particular attention paid to "The Magic Mirror" - I haven't managed to throw up anything else about Slingsby or this collection. In Transatlantic terms, though, it's certainly interesting that the brief frame to the story likens the "roaring youngsters" of Oxford and Cambridge to "Mohawks"...

The version of the story that appeared in the American Masonick Mirror three years later is expurgated -  shorter and less sensational - and it's actually entitled "The Magick Mirror", since the extra "k" seems to have been house style (don't ask me). Neither have I been able to dig up much else about the American Masonick Record, beyond the fact that it had an awesome / terrifying masthead.

But never mind, because the fugitive quality of this story rather adds to its appeal. What it is, certainly, is a suitably Gothic tale, set in Germany, which revolves around the workings of a magic mirror on Halloween - a major theme in so many of these tales (as we'll see in some upcoming posts). Its characterisation of Halloween itself is also suitably overwrought:
All this means that you have two reading choices. The original is available here. But if you'd like to experience the story as American readers received it in 1828, here it is: part one - September 27, 1828; part two - October 4, 1828.

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