John Uskglass' spell

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John Uskglass' spell refers to the claim by Vinculus, the street magician and Guardian of the Book, that all of the events of the Revival of English Magic are, in effect, the direct results of an elaborate spell cast by John Uskglass, the Raven King [67].

When, after both men have vanished into the Pillar of Darkness, John Childermass defends the achievements of Strange and Norrell against the jeers of Vinculus, the latter simply scoffs:

"Do you still not understand? They are the spell John Uskglass is doing. That is all they have ever been. And he is doing it now!"

This claim - if true - would appear to imply that the deeds of Strange and Norrell, and perhaps even their decisions to become magicians in the first place, were constrained by something other than their own wills: that these were never wholly the untrammelled choices of free men. Although neither man can be seen as a mere puppet, some interference by the Raven King must have occurred at points in their story which made it inevitable they should act in one way and not another. (We may compare this kind of interventional magic to the designs of those skilful engineers who have so liberally adorned our country with canals: water of course flows freely, but if you dig a channel from high ground to low, that is where the water must flow.) Such a spell, if Vinculus is correct and it existed, would be beyond masterly: it would be the most formidable combination of foreknowledge, imagination, application and magical skill ever achieved in this world or in any other.

It is unclear whether the spell was cast in the days of the Raven King, during the events of the Revival, or is some combination of both. The events of the Revival fulfill the prophecy of John Uskglass, so Vinculus' claim may indeed have credibility.