Francis Pevensey

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Francis or Frances Pevensey was an Argentine magician of the sixteenth century, author of the minor work Eighteen Wonders to be found in the House of Albion. Pevensey was clearly a disciple of Dr. Martin Pale, and closely followed the salient characteristics of his magic - the fondness for diagrams and apparatus etc. The discovery in 1754 therefore, of a series of letters to Pevensey, apparently in the hand of Dr. Pale, caused a sensation in the world of magical theory. It was confidently expected they would lead to all sorts of revelations about new spells. Instead, to the universal disappointment of scholars throughout the land, they appeared to be that most uninteresting form of epistolary composition - the love letter.

At first it was naturally believed that the subject of these letters was perhaps a sister or relative of the magician Pevensey, until Charles Hether-Gray demonstrated that the recipient of the letters and the author of Eighteen Wonders must be one and the same person. Others had already shewed that the name 'Francis' in the sixteenth century was given to men and women indiscriminately.

This led to an unpalatable conclusion. The suggestion that the revered Dr Pale had conceived a passion, and perhaps even formed an irregular alliance, with a woman to whom he had also given magical instruction! this was every way shocking to scholars of the age. Many refused to countenance the idea. It led to bitter quarrels. It even led to the issuing of a challenge to a duel (fortunately avoided - see William Pantler).

In the end the controversy was never fully resolved. The two foremost magicians of the modern age, Gilbert Norrell and Jonathan Strange, held completely opposing views. Norrell was happy to employ Pevensey's magic, being inwardly convinced that any effective magician must be a man, and being moreover perfectly indifferent as to the nature of the relationship between Pale and Pevensey. Strange, however, reasoned that as Pale claimed to have contacted the Aureate magician Catherine of Winchester in order to learn magical lore from her, he would have made no difficulty about passing on instruction to a woman[35].