Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Book Review - Magic in Modern London by Edward Lovett (1925)

Judith from the Museum writes:
This book looks lovely: great cover, lovely layout, unique pictures and a nice size but I wasn't sure what to expect not knowing who Lovett was (sorry for my ignorance!) and not having that much interest in modern London either (sorry again to lovers of modern London!)  I picked it up one day and I absolutely loved it.  I ended up reading the whole thing and looking in the Museum library for other works by him.  

The book is full of great stories and magical practices.  There is a remedy for whooping cough (cut a piece of hair from the sufferer, put it in between two pieces of buttered bread, throw the bread outside into a street, you will see a dog there, he will eat the bread. shut the door) and the story of where the term moonraking came from (it is to do with hiding kegs of brandy from excise men).  There are lots of examples of lucky charms that people used during World War One.  All these stories are illustrated with examples from the Museum collection. There are too many different examples of charms and cures to mention here - you really should read it yourself.   

Reading the book really helped me to gain a better understanding of some of the objects in the Museum.  The collection of objects that stands out are the horse brasses.  I see them every day but I hadn't really thought about them that much (there are so many other amazing objects in that part of the Museum which steal the limelight!)  So I found the section of the book on brasses with its connections to the importance of the horse in the past and with hag riding and protection magic really interesting.  My favourite thing about the book was Lovett's tone and his conversational style.  He seems to have almost goaded and kidded people into 'confessing' their beliefs.  He regularly recounts himself saying "You don't believe that rubbish do you?" to which people usually reply "Of course I do!"  Magic was alive and thriving in modern London.

Magic in Modern London is available from the Museum shop for £25

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