Here is a passage in Sir Walter Scott's introduction to Guy Mannering which might be taken as a prophecy of how David Devant would end his days about a hundred years later. The actual conjurer referred to by Scott is not mentioned by name; and The Annals of Conjuring provide no clue to his identity, despite Clarke's careful research and attention to detail.
According to Scott a widely-known conjurer, who died in all probability during the first 29 years of the nineteenth century, was struck down with paralysis two years before passing away. Was Scott relating past facts, or did his imagination penetrate the future ? It is true that Devant's affliction developed gradually and that he was not stricken in a flash during a public performance like the conjurer mentioned by Scott. But broadly speaking the ending of these two lives tally.
" One of the most remarkable believers in that forgotten and despised science (astrology) was a late eminent professor of the art of legerdemain. One would have thought that a person of this description ought, from his knowledge of the thousand ways in which human eyes could be deceived, to have been less than others subject to the fantasies of superstition. Perhaps the habitual use of those abstruse calculations, by which, in a manner surprising to the artist himself, many tricks upon cards, etc., are performed, induced this gentleman to study the combination of the stars and planets, with the expectation of obtaining prophetic communications.
He constructed a scheme of his own nativity, calculated according to such rules of art as he could collect from the best astrological authors. The result of the past he found agreeable to what had hitherto befallen him, but in the important prospect of the future a singular difficulty occurred. There were two years, during the course of which he could by no means obtain any exact knowledge, whether the subject of the scheme would be dead or alive. Anxious concerning so remarkable a circumstance, he gave the scheme to a brother astrologer, who was also baffled in the same manner. At one period he found the nature, or subject, was certainly alive; at another, that he was unquestionably dead; but a space of two years extended between these two terms, during which he could find no certainty as to his death or existence.
The astrologer marked the remarkable circumstance in his diary, and continued his exhibitions in various parts of the Empire until the period was about to expire, during which his existence had been warranted or actually ascertained. At least, while he was exhibiting to a numerous audience his usual trick of legerdemain, the hands, whose activity had so often baffled the closest observer, suddenly lost their power, the cards dropped from them, and he sank down a disabled paralytic. It this state the artist languished for two years, when he was at length removed by death. It is said that the Diary of this modern astrologer will soon be given to the public.
The fact, if truly reported, is one of those singular coincidences which occasionally appear, differing so widely from ordinary calculation, yet without which irregularities human life would not present to mortals, looking into futurity, the abyss of impenetrable darkness, which it is the pleasure of the Creator it should offer them. Were everything to happen in the ordinary train of events, the future would be subject to the rules of arithmetic, like the chances of gaming. But extraordinary events, and wonderful runs of luck, defy the calculations of mankind, and throw impenetrable darkness on future contingencies."
The foregoing was written in January, 1829. Yet there seems to be no record of any conjurer of the period dying under the circumstances related. Perhaps some other reader of Pentagram can provide a clue.
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