Doctor Meymott, Surgeon and Conjurer
Variously referred to as “Dr.”, “Professor” and “Mr.”, Charles Meymott was the surgeon of the barque “David Malcolm”, which was built in 1839 and journeyed to Australia four times between 1847 and 1855. In that capacity, his performances in Australia between voyages, as both a ventriloquist and conjurer, were as a “gentleman amateur”, though they were praised as both capable and entertaining.
South Australian Register (Adelaide SA) January 7, 1851
Royal Victoria Theatre
Open every MONDAY, THURSDAY and SATURDAY
Proprietors – Messrs Lazar and Coppin
First appearance of MR WHEELER from the Hanover-square Rooms, who will sing a popular song, and of MISS WHEELER who will perform several airs from La Sonnambula on the Pianoforte.
Dr MEYMOTT begs leave most respectfully to acquaint his friends and the public general that, at the request of several families who have signified a wish that their juvenile branches may have an opportunity of witnessing the extraordinary performances of the WIZARD OF THE NORTH, Dr M. has made arrangements with the proprietors for the Theatre for one night, being positively his last appearance in Adelaide, and upon which occasion children will be admitted to the Boxes at half-price. Thursday, January 9, 1851, will be presented for the first time at this theatre a Musical Burletta, called the KING AND THE COMEDIAN; to be followed by a Concert of Vocal and Instrumental Music, in which Mr Moore, Mr Wallace, Herr Mater, Herr Hunerbein. Mr Coppin, Mrs Moore, and a FEMALE PIANIST (her first appearance in this colony) will have the honour of appearing. To conclude with the laughable farce of the WIZARD OF THE NORTH, in which Dr Meymott, in addition to several other extraordinary feats, of legerdemain, will exhibit the celebrated Gun Trick, which is now the wonder and astonishment of all London.—Tickets and Boxes may be obtained of Mr Lazar, Temple Tavern, and of Dr Meymott, at Coppin's, Royal Exchange.
His title as “Wizard of the North” may be forgiven as he was ostensibly portraying a character, rather than adopting the dreary cliché worn by so many wizards.
Dr. Meymott’s appearances also extended to delivering public lectures; but as the following review suggests, to considerably less acclaim than his magic shows.
South Australian Register, Saturday May 20, 1848
LECTURE ON PHRENOLOGY.
On Thursday evening last a lecture was delivered on the above subject in the large room of the ' Freemasons' Tavern,' Pirie-street, by Mr Meymott, surgeon of the barque David Malcolm, of which the following is an outline :—
Mr Meymott opened his lecture with an eulogium upon the science of Phrenology. A knowledge of Phrenology, he said, was eminently important to us all, and particularly to those who had the management of the insane, and also to those engaged in the education of children ….
… Having terminated the description of the faculties of the mind, as discovered by phrenology, the lecturer took his leave of his audience, remarking, that no one could feel more truly than himself how little justice he had done the subject. In this admission we are sorry to be obliged to express our concurrence. A lecture more devoid of novelty or information we never listened to; and as to argument it was out of the. question. The lecturer was neither master of himself nor of his subject ; and instead of combating objections or showing the modification of the organs by accident or education, or their counteracting influences on one another, he contented, himself with a schoolboy recitation of the classification and description of the organs as phrenologically arranged, with which everyone in the room was familiar. We understand that Mr Meymott is a clever ventriloquist and practices natural magic, having greatly contributed to the amusement of several, private parties since his arrival on the David Malcolm; and we are sure he would have gratified the greater part of his audience if he had changed , the evening's entertainment, by one of his own inimitable passes into a series of card tricks and legerdemain, ' the whole to conclude with a duet by himself.'
However, a week later, the good doctor redeemed himself with a performance at a Government House ball and supper in Adelaide. “While the dancing was going on in the ball-room” reported the Adelaide Observer, “Dr. Meymott amused the company in the library with some of his extraordinary sleight-of-hand tricks. Many of the guests deserted the ball-room for the library, attracted by his magnetic influence, until the doors of the supper room were thrown open …”
Adelaide Times January 13, 1851
Theatre.— The performances on Thursday evening were for the benefit of Dr Meymott, who, under the designation of "a gentleman amateur," has, since the opening of the theatre, become favourably known to the public by his capital delineation of Old Weller, and other characters. We were happy to see that the public, by giving this gentleman what is technically called "a bumper," had appreciated his services. The chief attractions of the evening were a Concert, and a Dramatic trifle written for the purpose of introducing the beneficiare's tricks of conjuring. The former, if we except Mr Moore's violin solo, and his better-half’s song, "Lovely Night," was a very "slum" affair. An apology was made for the former on the score of severe indisposition, which plea was fully sustained by his appearance ; but we were happy to see that Mr Moore had eschewed that line of conduct so frequently practised by professional people, who, because they may happen to have a slight cold, think they can with impunity disappoint a whole audience. The introduction to Dr Meymott's conjuring, contains some smart writing, but is unreasonably long; Coppin's song in it, " E'es to be sure," was encored, and deservedly so. The feats of legerdemain were dexterously done, some of the deceptions being finely carried out. The gun trick, in which a stranger fires a rifle loaded by another person with powder and ball, the latter marked, at the conjurer, was successfully performed the " Wizard" producing the bullet between his fingers. The deception known as "Seconde vie”, in which a boy who is blindfolded, and placed with his back to the audience, and in that position describes immediately any article handed to the Doctor in the pit, was capitally performed, the lad's description being in the majority of instances correct. We are not admirers of Dr Meymott's ventriloquism, but decidedly admit that he has talents sufficiently versatile to amuse a South Australian audience for many an agreeable hour.
Dr. Meymott was seen once more in August 1858, though merely as a lecturer on the abstruse topic “Truths and their Reception”.