Today things are very different. Words like "magic" and "magician" usually mean some form of neo-Paganism or WICCA. Such a change in the use of these words would have horrified the great performers of the past. One of the common ties between all magicians was a strong rationalism that let them to expose what they saw as the quackery of spiritualism and all claims to supernatural magic.
As mentioned in an earlier blog my hobby as a teenager and young adult was magic. That is stage magic and in this I was schooled by a local inventor of magical tricks Normal Hazeldine who lived in Stockport, England. Along with selling me his tricks and instructing me on how to perform them Norman also lent me the works of people like William Blackstone (1723-1780), Thomas Paine (1737-1809), Charles Bradlaugh (1833-1891) and Annie Besant (1847-1933).
These were indeed strange books for an apprentice gas fitter to be reading, but the fact that I read them was not considered strange. Within the working class in Manchester there was a strong rationalist tradition and people like Tom Paine were known and sometimes read even by otherwise uneducated laborers.
Of course, this tradition went hand in hand with support for the Labour Party and a great respect for people like "battling" Bessie Braddock (1899-1970) the colorful Member of Parliament for Liverpool. It also fitted well with respect for the Fabian Society and non-revolutionary socialism.
Bessie Braddock monument