Letter to the Editor

Miss Vardill

Tabby Hall May 15th 1813

Worshipful Editor!

As I perform the duties of my profession here for a certain annual salary in the way of a job-contract, I have no particular desire for super-numerary patients, and therefore beg you will supply no distracted lovers with direction to Tabby Hall. Miss Barbara Botherham (who has confused my best chemical treatises with marginal notes) yesterday informed me that she had unfortunately broken a pair of clogs in which she had intended to fractify Professor Caco-nous’s theory that any person electrified plus, may walk in a shower unwet, because the drops of water will rebound from him like hailstones. Lady Belle Bluemantle’s pert abigail, having received a bribe from the enamoured upholsterer with whom you are acquainted, and who has been loitering in this neighbourhood some days, begged leave to recommend a very clever and expeditious mechanic. The scientific Barbara gave orders that he should be introduced into her laboratory and repair the clogs under her own inspection: but before his arrival, she unwittingly opened the folio history of Appollonius of Tyana, and there found a recipe given by Philostrates to cure men of their fondness for wine by an owl’s egg fried in nitrous acid. Probably believing that such a prescription might be useful to Dr Cardamom, the fair experimentalist borrowed Mrs Nettletop’s best stewpan and began her operations. At the very instant when poor Michael Mitre, disguised as a humble mechanic, was ushered into her laboratory, we heard an explosion which nearly shook all the windows of Tabby Hall from their frames and all the walls from their foundations. I, according to my surgical and pharmaceutical duty, was foremost among the number of enquirers who rushed into her apartment, where we saw Miss Botherham standing aghast amongst fallen books and bottles, and the enamoured upholsterer crushed under the ruins of her electrical apparatus and stifled with the soot which the explosion had brought down.

When a plentiful ablution discovered the face of her lover, Barbara exclaimed with truly philosophic non-chalance, “Well! I have only done what Theocritus commands. I have sacrificed a calf to love!”

Fortunately her victim was insensible to this ungrateful sarcasm; for the contusion on his skull really required my aid, and notwithstanding the rigid statutes of Tabby Hall we were compelled to allow him a bed here, where he might die decently, secundum artem. But after a due investigation, I found the few brains he possessed were in no danger, and that he was a fit subject for a few neutral drugs. This morning, while I was selecting those articles which seemed least profitable in my medicine-chest, Lady Belle’s maid rushed in vociferating, “O dear! Sir, there is such a tergiversation below! Miss Botherham was reading last night about one Mangle ye Betty of Tusculum who thought hemlock a cure for love; and so, Sir, she ordered me to put some into the salad which Mrs Nettletop had just dressed for supper; and to carry a dishful to the poor sick gentleman. But he would not taste any; and Mrs Nettletop, not knowing anything about the hemlock, and not liking that anything should be lost, gave it to Mr Barnaby Scratch who eat it all. La, Sir! I never saw anybody in such a colloquy in my life. There is poor Mrs Nettletop crying and moaning over him; and Dr Cardamom swears he is poisoned and must die of a collocation in the integuments.”

This statement was true; but when I offered my aid Mrs Nettletop protested no emollients should be prepared for the Secretary except by herself; therefore I returned to my patient upholsterer who slept more calmly than I approved. But beneath his pillow lay two folded papers which, supposing them to be the prescriptions of my learned associate Dr Cardamom, I deemed myself privileged to open. Judge, worshipful Editor! of this Society’s precarious constitution when you read these billets!

Miss Botherham to Michael Mitre

I am deeply chagrined to hear of the damage sustained by your pericranium: but reasoning by analogy, I think I have discovered a remedy which we may easily experimentalize. You have only to place yourself in one of Mrs Nettletop’s empty hogsheads with a few pebbles, and I will give it a circumrotatory motion down stairs. The evolutions of the vessel and the tollotating pebbles will restore the extravasated humours to their place and disperse the congregation in your brain. I shall then be disposed to renounce my scruples and conjugate my fate with yours. Even if my father should withhold my dowry, the conglomeration of gold in the mud of the metropolis will suffice for us. Or I have a pair of magnifying spectacles which (if we should be reduced to short fare) will make the least slice seem sufficient for the most carnivorous appetite. I am

Philosophically yours


The reply was in these words.

X squeeze it Barbara,

Miss Kitty is kind enough to indict this letter to let you know I am not able to write myself; Dr Cardamom having tried catch-a-spasm and guittar-tricks to no purpose to cure my head. As for rolling or tollotating down-stairs in a cask, I dare say it may be very good for a coruscation in the brain; and I hope you will try it: but I never had any fancy for an empty winecask and I doubt whether there is such a thing in Mrs Nettletop’s cellar. You are very kind to think of conjugating your fate with mine; but I can’t say I should like to take a glomeration of mud for my wife’s fortune, unless you mean acres of land. Therefore, my dear Barbara, we had better draw the veil of Hoblivion over the past; and as you will soon find a man foolosophical enough for you, I will try (if the doctors spare my life) to meet with a woman whose learning will not make such contusions on the head of your devout servant

Michael Mitre

P.S. I shall return to my undertaker’s shop in Holborn and hope to serve you in that way.

Thus, Mr Editor, you perceive what might have been the tragical result of this amour: and I request, if any other man is so far non compos as to desire a direction to Tabby Hall, that instead of answering his enquiries, you will send him a sufficient dose of laudanum from

Your friendly adviser
Jeffery Julep
Apothecary to the Tabby Club