According to every branch of the Royal Family, Madame Kean is deemed to be the Eighth Wonder of the World. She has performed before no less than three crowned heads on the Continent – Vienna, Madrid and Lisbon – and now arrives in Canterbury to amaze the city.
On a recent visit to Norfolk, she was patronized by Lord Suffield, Lord Stafford and Admiral Windham and they acknowledged Madame Kean to be the greatest living curiosity they had ever witnessed.
That is what the public notice claimed. It boldly tempted readers to follow the Crown Heads of Europe and witness:
The wonderful Phenomenon of reading Latin, French, Italian and English where any Lady or Gentleman present secretly writes or masks as many characters or figures as they may think proper, and the Lady will unite them all up without asking a single question.
Just in case anyone witnessing such a miracle has doubts, Madam Kean is willing to be conducted to another room while as many of her audience as wished to, write down their names (or whatever else they think proper), and she will then describe them from another apartment.
Madame Kean was indeed, a most wonderful marvel of her age. Among the other sensations she advertises is her ability to predict what pieces of money – British or Foreign – a person is holding. Madame Kean is able to hear and recall conversations on the other side of the room that are impossible for a mere mortal to hear and if the audience are able to produce 20 watches, she will tell the time of each watch if they are set differently.
Such was the ‘exhibition’ offered on 7 December 1825. It was promising to be an exhibition ‘without equal in the present age, giving satisfaction to the beholder’.
And so Madame Kean encouraged all professional Gentlemen, Guardians and lovers of natural genius to attend and offer patronage and support.
Mr Kean’s amazing dogs
Mr Kean, late leader of the Band of the Forty-second Royal Highland Regiment, offers the most extraordinary dogs to entertain us:
‘Among these wonderful quadrupeds, is that wonderful bloodhound from South America, who will read print and writing. The same dog will answer any fair questions put to him by any Gentleman in the company.’
The talented bloodhound must have been quite a spectacle with the ability to play cards, find concealed items in the entertainment room, and play ‘Boxing the Compass’. (If you think this challenge easy, try playing it below.)
If the bloodhound was talented the Newfoundland dog was a wonder. Six gentlemen would be invited to select six playing cards out of a pack. As the cards were shuffled and thrown up to the ceiling the active dog caught hold of them one after another.
Such were the marvels that the Keans entertained Canterbury with. The price of admission was two shillings each for Ladies and Gentlemen, one shilling for children and servants. Private performances were available on special terms to Boarding schools and Ladies and Gentlemen.
About the Keans
Mr Kean is described as a native of Edinburgh who had served abroad for a number of years, but studying the nature of animal creation. He claims and flatters himself that he was the first person to teach a dog to Box the Compass.
Madame Kean was born on board his Majesty’s Ship ‘Bellerophon’ in 1798. (She may well have been born off the Egyptian coast during the Campaign against the French.)
Her father bore a commission as 3rd Lieutenant in the Navy and discovered her wonderful powers when she was only two and threequarters years old.
She appears to be only 18 years old (even though her age would have been 27 if the published dates are correct in newspaper notices) and her hair measures 1 yard and 4 inches in length. The news reports describe her as one of the most accomplished females ever exhibited on the Continent of Europe which was decided at the Grand Palace, St Petersburgh by the Emperor Alexander and the Emporer of Germany.
Boxing the Compass: New seamen had to learn the 32 compass points if they wanted to stand watch at the helm. A test involved rapidly reading off the points from memory. Here they are, a real tongue twister:
North, North by East, North-North East, North East by North,
North East, North East by East, East North East, East by North,
East, East by South, East South East, South East by East,
South East, South East by South, South South East, South by East,
South, South by West, South South West, South West by South
South West, South West by West, West South West, West by South,
West, West by North, West North West, North West by West,
North West, North West by North, North North West, North by West.
Kentish Gazette December 8, 1825