In 1749, a newspaper advertisement appeared, declaring that a man would climb inside a bottle on the stage of a London theatre.
Although the crowds turned up in their hundreds to witness the trick, the performer didn’t. Over the following decades, elaborate pranks and fanciful tales would continue to bamboozle audiences across England.
Magician and historian Ian Keable, author of The Century of Deception, tells the engrossing stories of these 18th-century hoaxes and those who were duped by them.
The English public were hoodwinked time and time again, swallowing whole tales of rapping ghosts, a woman who gave birth to rabbits, a levitating Frenchman in a Chinese Temple and outrageous astrological predictions. Not only were the hoaxes widely influential, drawing in celebrities such as Samuel Johnson, Benjamin Franklin and Jonathan Swift, they also inflamed concerns about ‛English credulity’.
‘Fake news’ and ‛going viral’ may be modern terms, but as you will learn from Ian, these concepts have been with us for centuries.
You can buy copies of many of our speakers’ books from Fox Lane Books, a local independent bookseller and Festival partner. In some cases, author signed bookplates are available too.
About the speaker
Ian Keable obtained a first-class degree from Oxford University, qualified as a Chartered Accountant and then became a professional magician. He is a Member of The Magic Circle with Gold Star. He has written a number of books including Stand-Up: A Professional Guide to Comedy Magic and Charles Dickens Magician: Conjuring in Life, Letters and Literature. He now divides his time between performing magic, giving talks, and researching and writing. His latest book, The Century of Deception: The Birth of the Hoax in Eighteenth-Century England, was published by Westbourne Press in 2021.