Letter from Electromagus

Miss Porden

Positive House

March 5th 1814

Dear Sir,

It is almost with a parent’s pride that I transmit to you the copies of the Addresses on the arrival of my Patron here last Wednesday, and I trust the judgement of the Attic Society will confirm the praises he has bestowed upon them.

I have the vanity to think my former communication has interested you in the fortunes of Positive House, and that you will be pleased with a short account of Lord Aircastle and his visit. It had quite the air of a fête. The laboratory, as the principal room, was prepared for his reception; at the extremity, and opposite the entrance, a throne was erected, the steps of which were covered with purple velvet: before it stood my pupils; the ladies on one side, the gentlemen on the other. I had expressed a wish to see them in Grecian costume, and they kindly complied. Mrs Bustleton dispensed with her weeds on the occasion, and her dress was particularly splendid, and displayed her fine though large figure to great advantage. It was taken from Westhall’s Helena Visiting Priam on the Walls of Troy, but the peplum was of crimson velvet and richly embroidered with gold: the only vestige of widowhood was a cypress wreath, half hid by the golden tiara that confined her dark brown tresses. Miss Stormont and Lady Olivia were simply but elegantly dressed; the former wore a wreath of bay intermixed with mimosa — Lady Olivia preferred the simple white fillet or snood, with a single rose in front, and looked very lovely, especially when Miss Stormont called a lively crimson into her cheeks by asking (rather maliciously I thought, considering her dependence on Lord Aircastle) if she was the victim destined to be immolated to the God of the day. The gentlemen were in plain white, and distinguished only by their garlands. Mr Beauclerc refused to wear any, alleging that as illness had prevented him from writing his intended ode, he had no right to a chaplet. Mr Scriblerus was distinguished by a wreath of bay, but Sir Pertinax preferred the myrtle. We had just taken our stations when the arrival of Lord Aircastle was announced. I received him at the door of the laboratory and conducted him to the throne. Mr Beauclere then led up Mrs Bustleton who presented her Ode. He made a very neat speech expressive of his regret at having been unable to celebrate in verse this great event, but assuring his Lordship that no one felt more on the occasion than himself. This apology Lord Aircastle received with his usual affability, and after reading Mrs Bustleton’s address he returned her his acknowledgements for the elegant compliment and she retired with Mr Beauclere. Mr Scriblerus then advanced with Miss Stormont and when they had returned to their stations Sir Pertinax led up Lady Olivia, and they presented their addresses. His Lordship was graciously pleased to bestow great praise on all these poetic tributes to his worth, and he ascribed their merit entirely to the power of my electrical excitation. I assure you, Mr Editor, did you know the untoward circumstances under which they were composed, and the various accidents which impeded their production, you would think their excellences wonderful.

The addresses dispatched, Mrs Bustleton again advanced, and crowned his Lordship with a wreath of laurel. I had intended this honor for Lady Olivia, but perceiving something of chagrin in the widow’s countenance when I announced my intention, she very gracefully resigned the office to her. I do not think his Lordship was displeased with the exchange, and he certainly was gratified with the unexpected compliment.

Dinner was now waiting, and we passed thro’ the study to the dining room. Lord Aircastle had requested to have merely a beef-steak repast, and I of course complied, but I believe none of the Beef Steak Club ever enjoyed steaks of so fine a flavor. They were broiled on iron bars heated by Voltaic electricity, and the plates, formed of metal, were kept constantly hot by the same means. Never was there a better illustration of

“The feast of reason and the flow of soul”

The conversation was such as perhaps no other table in the world could have afforded, and the wine was exalted to nectar by the operation of goblets of mingled zinc and silver. In the course of the entertainment my Patron graciously asked me why I did not try the effects of electricity myself. He should wish to see my name transmitted to ages yet unborn as the first poet of my country. “For my part,” said he, “I am so convinced of the effects of your electricity in producing inspiration that I am determined to remain here for a week at least and become one of your scholars — we will all have a trial of skill before I go.” — I replied “that I was delighted with his determination, but in the wildest dreams of ambition I had never aspired to the honor of having his Lordship for a pupil. For myself, literary honors were above my ken. I was contented like the silk worm to labor for the benefit of others, but that should I succeed in my endeavour to raise my pupils to that degree of literary eminence which their present advancement gave me hopes of seeing them attain, I trusted my name would be preserved in their writings, and that their gratitude would assign to me my meed of praise. The gems,” said I, “may be more brilliant than the taper, but it is from it that they derive their lustre.”

We passed a delightful evening in the drawing-room, where a concert was prepared, the music chiefly composed by Mrs Bustleton and Lady Olivia. I then conducted Lord Aircastle to he apartment, where the feathers of his couch, constantly distended by electricity, were softer than the cygnet’s down.

Yesterday and today his Lordship has spent in inspecting the house, the grounds, the apparatus, and in obtaining a clearer idea of my mode of treatment. Tomorrow his is to receive his first charge, and I have no doubt its effects will confirm his opinion of the excellence of my system.

I am, dear Sir,

your most obedient