Most of his tricks were of his own invention and included the manipulation of billiard balls and cues, hats, umbrellas, steel balls, suitcases, chairs - anything that was not nailed down. In one of his most famous routines, he juggled and rolled billiard balls over his green felt jacket, catching the balls in various pockets about his body. In an outburst of linguistic adroitness, the press seized the occasion to bestow upon him the title 'The Human Billiard-Table'. His style and appearance may seem dated today, but when looked at in perspective one realizes that he did a great to modernize the public's conception of juggling.
With the outbreak of the first World War he was turned against by the press and public because of his German heritage. He felt betrayed; he had been an English subject for more than twenty years and had even performed for the king and queen in 1912. He died in 1918, heart-broken.
At a very early age Cinquevalli had ventured into the entertainment world as an acrobat. But a traumatic experience was to change the course of his life...
These were the fateful circumstances which turned Cinquevalli into one of the most colorful jugglers in history. His manner of dress, moustache, and general appearance were typical fin de siècle. He performed In the tights and leotards made popular by the nineteenth-century French aerialist Jules Leotard...
The twentieth century is almost upon us, and a number of fine new artists are soon to appear. They had been polishing their routines since the opening of the first truly magnificent vaudeville theater, the Colonial in Boston in 1894. But Paul Cinquevalli was still one of the greatest. His past successes had been impressive. In London, his name had been displayed in letters "ten cubits and a span" in length, and in 1886 he appeared before a "brilliant gathering" at Marlborough House, which included the Prince of Wales and other English nobility. Around this time, Cinquevalli offered advice to young jugglers:
"The question is often asked me, how to become a juggler. There is only one way, and one rule. It applies to everything else equally well, and that is: Whatever you make up your mind to do, stick to it until it is done. I have found it works very well.
"I generally practice several hours a day, particularly when I have a new trick to give. Pardon the word TRICK, as it scarcely expresses what I mean; for juggling, as you know, is distinct from conjuring. The one can be learned in a few days, at most a few months; whilst often a single act in juggling requires years of application and assiduous perseverance before it is perfect, and even then it does not permit of a holiday. Ball juggling is the foundation of all; therefore practice diligently, and see that you keep yourself always fit and in good form, otherwise your show will be uncertain and unsuccessful. Balancing can only be acquired by finding the true center of gravity, and learning to keep it. In doing any act of this type, the eye must watch the extreme top of whatever you are performing with, otherwise you will be unable to retain the balance. Last, and most important of all -practice! practice! practice! PRACTICE!"
Here is an illustrated article on Cinquevalli called "The Greatest Juggler in the World" from the Strand Magazine, 1897. It contains detailed descriptions of many of his tricks, including how they were invented.
Here is an illustrated article on Cinquevalli from Playgoer magazine, October 1901. It contains an account of his life, and descriptions of many of his tricks.
Here is an article by Cinquevalli himself. It is from Cassell's Magazine in 1909 and it is called "How to Succeed as a Juggler"
The prominent Scottish poet Edwin Morgan bought an old postcard of Cinquevalli, and when he later read a description of his act and his life, he wrote a poem about him, called just Cinquevalli.
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