Victorian Popular Fictions 2: 1 5 Ashton-Lelliott

“Mr. Lewis’s book is safe to be popular”: Domesticity and Familial Magic in Conjurer Dick (1885) and the Victorian Popular Press

Beatrice Ashton-Lelliott


This article examines the ways in which professional conjuring was presented as a disruptive influence upon the Victorian domestic sphere in the literary landscape of the time through the lens of Conjurer Dick (1885) by Angelo Lewis.  I also consider the wider context of how magic was discussed in the popular press. Aside from his traditional occupation as a barrister, Lewis was better known as ‘Professor Hoffmann,’ the author of several conjuring manuals and translations of magician autobiographies. His novel, Conjurer Dick, one of the only examples of a fictional text about magic written by a practising magician, does not, as the Saturday Review noted following its publication, “make out that the life of a professional showman is by any means an easy or happy one.” This article explores the highly gendered and societally complex attitudes towards performance magic in the nineteenth century through the enigmatic Angelo Lewis and Conjurer Dick’s fixation on how magic affects domesticity and the family unit. By exploring the reception of Conjurer Dick in the popular Victorian press, this article hopes also to establish to what extent Hoffmann’s novel accentuated or refuted negative stereotypes of magicians, and in particular how attitudes in popular culture towards magical knowledge in men differed from that of women.

Key Words

magic; Angelo Lewis; Professor Hofmann; conjuring; domesticity; periodicals

Date of Acceptance: 9 July 2020

Date of Publication: 13 July 2020

Double Blind Peer Reviewed

Recommended Citation

Ashton-Lelliott, Beatrice. 2020. “Mr. Lewis’s book is safe to be popular”: Domesticity and Familial Magic in Conjurer Dick (1885) and  the  Victorian Popular Press.”  Victorian Popular Fictions  2.1:   69-82.  DOI:

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