A society of magicians meets each month in 1806, in York, England. They can't actually work magic, but they study the history of the practice. When newcomer John Segundus joins the group, he asks a naïve yet pertinent question: Why is magic no longer practiced in England? The query throws the club into an uproar. Although they don't actually know the answer, the irate members respond defensively, asking Segundus why magicians must practice magic when it is their duty to study it.
One magician, Honeyfoot, sides with Segundus. The two seek out and visit a magician named Norrell, who is a stranger to the group. Visiting Norrell is a mysterious experience full of happenings the two men can't explain to the York group. But one message strikes home: Mr. Norrell can actually PRACTICE magic.
The group challenges Mr. Norrell, who strikes a bargain with them. He will prove he can practice magic or never again call himself a magician. But in return, they must do the same. All the magicians but Segundus sign the agreement. When Mr. Norrell (from the comfort of his own home) causes all the cathedral statues to come alive, he and Segundus become the only magicians left in Yorkshire.
Mr. Norrell moves to London in his quest to bring magic back to England. Segundus has written a letter to the London newspapers describing Mr. Norrell's amazing feat of magic. London society welcomes Mr. Norrell, but when he offers his assistance in the war efforts with France, he is rebuffed and told that magic is not respectable. That opinion is reversed, however, when Mr. Norrell raises a government official's fiancée from the dead. The British ministers immediately begin to argue over which of Britain's dead leaders Mr. Norrell should resurrect…until Mr. Norrell mentions the phrase "condition of the body." Oh, dear. On to Plan B!
Meanwhile, a young man named Jona