'My accident is now a quarter of a century old, and during the time I have been a juggler I have visited many countries, succeeded in accomplishing many seemingly impossible tricks, and learning all languages except my own. I am a Pole by birth, and was born in Berlin, but I cannot speak Polish. It is a forbidden tongue, and even in Poland you are touched on the shoulder by a police officer if you are found speaking Polish, and arrested if found a second time.
'You have asked me what I consider my most difficult feat? Well, I think the balancing of the billiard balls on the end of the cue standing on another ball on a wine-glass which I hold in my mouth. Times out of number in all parts of the world have I been called upon to decide bets made that the balls are flattened, or that wax is used to make them stand. If they were not perfectly true I could not do the trick. They are ordinary ivory billiard balls, and it took me eight years before I perfected the trick. I practised daily for eighteen months, only to find that I could not maintain the top balls in position save for a few seconds. I was very nearly giving it up, but when I was in Chicago I found I could not do it at all. This put me on my mettle, and I discovered the reason was because there was heavy machinery working in the basement of the house I was practising in. I went to San Francisco, and there I began again and accomplished the trick.
'Another trick, my game of billiards, cost many days, months, and even years of practising. The jacket I wear is made of real billiard cloth, and the pockets are a little smaller than those round a billiard table. I have five pockets, the sixth by my right or left ear. After my attendant has fixed my pockets on my shoulders, hips, and back, I proceed to play my game. When the balls are moving over my back I am guided only by the sense of touch.
'Of course, the most dangerous trick is with the 44lb. or 33lb. cannon ball. When the ball is pitched to me by my attendant, and I catch it on the edge of a dinner plate, the audience think that the danger comes from the ball, but it does not: the danger likes in the plate. It may have flaws in it, and may fly, as it has done on lots of occasions, cutting my hands.
'My imitators say the ball is wood. Well, I don't think H.R.H. The Prince of Wales was quite convinced when he saw me perform at Covent Garden, for he commanded me to go to his box, where he questioned me. In order to convince him I sent for the ball, and after he had himself balanced it on his hand I went through the trick of picking it up with my heels and catching it on the back of my hand. His Royal Highness was surprised that I had such strength, considering my physique.
'Once his Royal Highness was so delighted with my performance that he commanded me to appear before him at Marlborough House in the afternoon, and at the New Club in the evening – twice on one day, which I think is rather unique for a performer.
'Some of my tricks have been suggested under most curious circumstances. After a supper given by a wealthy gentleman in St. Petersburg my host asked me to "do" something for the company's entertainment, but I protested I had no apparatus, whereupon my host replied, "You seem to juggle with anything, so these will do," and he handed me a knife and fork and a potato. I took them in my hands and just pitched them about, when suddenly a new trick suggested itself, and I went on practising until I forgot all about my host. I threw the articles higher and higher, and then, slicing the potato, I caught each half on the point of the knife and fork. I succeeded the first time in doing the trick, but when I practised it seriously I began to realise how difficult it was, owing to the fact that all potatoes are not alike; but I overcame that in time, and I am proud of that trick.
'Again, one summer I was up at Marlow picnicking with some friends, when we left the launch and on the bank we spread the cloth. As usual, I began juggling with everything placed on it – sardine boxes, glasses, salt-box, serviettes. Then I picked up an umbrella, and next a bottle half full of lemonade. After playing with these I threw up the bottle, opened the umbrella whilst it was descending, and caught the bottle on the ferrule whilst it poured out its contents. I called this my rainy day trick.
'Once I dropped a half-crown, and it fell on my felt slipper. I thought that to stoop and pick it up was too much trouble, so I just jerked my foot, and, to my surprise, I found my half-crown doming up toward my eye, so down I bent my hand, and the coin was fixed just like an eyeglass. Then I thought of my slipper, so jerked that up and caught it on my head. I practised, and then added these to my tricks.
'I have hardly a trick that has not its own story. I remember when working at Koster and Biall's famous theatre in New York I had to pass every the shop of a cooper. One morning, after greeting me as usual, he said, "Say, Cinquevalli, I saw yer last night; guess it was marvellous, right marvellous, but I don't think you could juggles with those, could yer?" pointing to some casks weighing eighteen to twenty pounds each. I said I'd try, and picking up a couple I immediately thought of a good trick. The cooper was wealthy, and he made me three casks specially, and I use them now.
'Another trick – that in which I lift table, chair, and man, and balance them on my chin – was suggested by a wager made in a café in Paris.
'A French gentleman made a bet of 500fr. that I could not life him in a chair above my head. I accepted the challenge and I requisitioned the trembling waiter to practice with. After a short interval I found I could do it, so I returned to the café and proceeded to use the gentleman. I sat him in the chair, lifted him up, but I cold not hold him long, because he was in such a hurry to reach terra firma.
'The riskiest trick I do is that where I transfer the cannon ball from one piece of gas tubing to another, one piece being on my chin and the other on my forehead. You see, if the ball fell I should not have much time to get out of the way – and it has fallen but then I feel it falling, and it usually falls somewhere about my neck.
'I think I must have worried some of my friends a great deal at times, for I remember that my "cup of tea trick" was suggested to me at a lady's house during tea time. I picked up the cup, then the saucer, then a piece of sugar, and finally her most prized tea-pot, half full of tea, with a lovely carpet at my feet. They all went up into the air, and whilst they held their breath the cup came into the saucer, then the sugar followed, and finally the pot was pouring out the tea s if it had never been juggled with it its life.
'I am married. Mr. Cinquevalli was a famous horsewoman – Mdlle. Adeline Price. We have one dear little girl. When I retire I shall pitch my tent in England after wandering all over the world. I've hundreds of more tricks I'm getting ready, I am now learning to play the mandoline [sic] and the piano at the same time, but not for business, just to pass the time.
(The Weekly Dispatch, London, Sunday, 13 May 1900, p.11c-e)
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