In-Door Amusements

My friends, I invite your attention to Modern pastime, or, In-door amusements
including ventriloquism–parlour magic–elementary gymnastics–billiards–fun, and flirtation, forfeits, etc., etc. published by Frederick Warne in 1871.

If you turn to page 30, the opening of the section on Parlour Magic, the first two items that will meet your eye are “Making the Pass” (In many of the tricks with cards, it is necessary to “make the pass,” as it is termed, which is a very neat and simple movement….) and “Forcing a Card” (In card tricks also it is frequently necessary to “force a card,” by which you compel a person to take such a card as you think fit, while he imagines he is taking one at hap-hazard. The following is perhaps the best method of performing this trick….)

If one were to pay close attention, and scrupulously follow the directions as written, they will not, cannot, work.

The author seems to be of the opinion that the hand genuinely is quicker than the eye, so that with sufficient practice one can perform the pass so fast that your spectators cannot detect it.  That is, supposing that the instructions given would allow one to do the pass at all.  As to the force, the sound you hear is Hofzinser backing slowly away making gestures like Van Helsing facing Count Dracula.

While some tricks later in the section are good ones that are still done, you have to already know how to do them in order to do them. There is much that is needlessly complicated: if you’re going to control a card to the top anyway, why in the name of the Double Chocolate Fudge Sundae of Doom do you need to force the card first?

Though I will admit to being fond of the effect called “To Produce a Mouse From a Pack of Cards.” That’s one that definitely is not in Erdnase. Or anywhere else.

It is only later in the book, though, that the true horror emerges.  It’s when you get to fun, flirtations, and forfeits that the mountains of madness loom before you.  Seven Minutes in Heaven?  Nope.  Post Office?  You should be so lucky.  Instead, you get things like THE MAN WHO IS TOO HAPPY. This festive game requires one Gentleman and six Ladies. To play:

The gentleman sitting in the middle of the room must be complimented and paid attention by each lady in turn. Without rising, he is to respond by every species of grateful manner; first murmuring, in a whisper, “I’m too happy,” — increasing in the tone of his voice each time, till reaching the highest note, he rushes out of the room.

If that is too giddy for you, instead try MAGIC MUSIC.  This requires four Gentlemen.

They must be seated in a row, and throwing themselves back in their chairs, must all snore in different keys; the Dead March from Saul being played over three times as an accompaniment.

I will not even mention the Marmoset Quadrilles.

(To be perfectly fair, they also have versions of Musical Chairs and Charades–but even those don’t make up for POOR PUSS.)

If you want your next Steampunk Party to be entirely authentic, this book should be your first resource.

So gaze in wonder, and contemplate what it is that television has saved us from.

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