Letter from Electromagus

Miss Porden

Electromagus presents his compts. to the Editress, and will be greatly obliged to her, if she has heard of the inventor of air mattresses &c., to add his name, which Electr. whose memory for words is somewhat impaired by intense application to the properties of things, has entirely forgot.

Positive House

Positive House
March 19 1814

Dear Sir

In my last I gave you an account of our Patron’s arrival here, and of the intention he expressed of remaining some time and becoming one of my pupils; but alas! my hopes have been cruelly disappointed! A philosophical committee, of which his Lordship is a member, has appointed a special meeting to consider Mr Bubble’s project for making beds, mattresses, life-boats, and preservers of confined air. I have not yet heard enough on the subject to appreciate the merit of the discovery, but Lord Aircastle appears highly delighted, and at any rate he must return to town immediately to attend the committee.

To speak confidentially, Mr Editor, I am not sorry he is going — I fear he would have done me little credit as a scholar, from the indifferent success of my first experiment, and his failure might have been prejudicial to this Institution, by lessening it not only in the opinion of the public, but of Lord Aircastle himself; and by even raising doubts of the efficacy of my system. Indeed his Lordship somewhat puzzles me. He is doubtless a man of science, has read much and thought much, and had the advantage of a personal acquaintance with the most celebrated professors of Europe; yet his conversation is a singular mélange, and while at one moment he displays knowledge and energy almost superhuman, at the next he betrays the ignorance and imbecility of a child. Perhaps his brain is “dark from excess of light”. In patronizing my scheme he has shown a tender concern for the interests of true science, yet how often does he suffer himself to be deluded by chimeras! — But enough — I am under obligations to him which I never can forget, and it is more my duty to palliate and conceal his failings than to expose them, even in the confidence of friendship.

But few events have occurred here worthy of record, since I last wrote to you, and as Lord Aircastle’s visit has interrupted the regular course of our operations, my pupils have made little progress during the last fortnight. You well know, Mr Editor, that industry and regularity are indispensable to the attainment of excellence.

My disciples often accuse me of inordinate gravity, but to prove that I am not insensible to wit, I will relate a smart reply made to me yesterday by Sir Pertinax, and its neat application by Mr Beauclerc. The former having on that morning produced nothing worthy of himself or me, I ventured to remonstrate with him on the disinclination he always shows to approach the vitreous throne on which my pupils sit to receive their diurnal charge, and endeavoured to persuade him to try the effect of a stronger machine; or at least to endure two or three turns more than he had hitherto been accustomed to. This he not only peremptorily refused, but appeared almost to deny the effects of Electricity on the Mind. Enraged at the negation of so self-evident a proposition, I began to grow rather warm, and proposed an appeal to the Voltaic battery, the effect of which I was confident would convince him of his error, and decided the contest in my favor. “How can you,” said I, “persist in denying that of which I am so positive?” — “By the very law of electricity on which that battery is framed, and by which it acts,” replied Sir Pertinax; “by the law of induction; you know a body positive always renders that in its immediate vicinity negative. This is surely the reason of our present difference of opinion, and you cannot deny it without weakening your favorite theory of the excitation of the mental powers by those of electricity.” Mr Beauclerc now stepped in. “And as,” said he, “I perceive in your conversation a tendency towards the restoration of a pacific equilibrium, permit me to perfect it by making the contact.” So saying he took a hand of each and was going to join them, “but first,” continued he, “I will place myself between you, and from this neutral situation I will, with Electromagus’s permission, give a few hints towards a modification of his theory. The mental energies, it is well known, are exalted by the first accesses of fever, but should it increase they are lost in delirium; and may not the influence of electricity on the mind follow a similar law? Is it not probable that though a certain portion of electricity may be beneficial to mental exertion, a greater quantity may destroy it? Nature has herself placed a limit to its powers. A Leyden jar cannot receive more than its quota of electricity; if we attempt to force more upon it, it explodes over the surface, or bursts. With the battery, also, much as its powers are at first augmented by the increase of size or number, this does not always continue in the same ration. A battery of twenty small plates will even produce more effect on an electrometer than one of two thousand. Here also nature points out a further limitation. We well know that when one beef-steak has been fried by our battery it will not cook another immediately; we must wait with patience till it has recovered this exertion. As nature is usually our best guide, let us follow her here. Perhaps the mental energies of Sir Pertinax may have been weakened by too strong a charge, or wearied by the constant exertion. He is possibly the best judge of the degree of excitation by himself, and if I am not mistaken we shall find his muse more kind.” So saying he made us shake hands, and I consented to adopt his suggestion. But I have wearied you, Mr Editor; forgive the garrulity of

Yours &c.