My last communication, Mr Editor, was saddened by the failure of Lord Aircastle in his aerial excursion; my present, I hope, will be more triumphant. During the leisure allowed by the summer season, and our patron’s absence, my pupils have amused themselves in the composition and preparation of a Drama. I was so much pleased with it at the rehearsal that I could no refuse the admission of a select audience at its performance. My laboratory is a room of considerable size, and by the ingenuity of young Atticus and his assistants, Sir P. Townly and Mr Beauclerc, was easily converted into an excellent theatre. You will readily imagine that the machinery was contrived on the most scientific plan, and our theatre illuminated in a style that would astonish the managers of Drury Lane or Covent Garden, with carburetted hydrogen gas.
The dresses and more ornamental parts of the decoration did honor to the taste and fancy of Mrs Bustleton, and in the musical department we had each a share, every inmate of Positive House being alike a votary of the Sister Muses. Here, tho’ it is impossible adequately to describe its effect. I cannot pass over in silence the overture, which was absolutely magical.
As my pupils had resolved to call in no professional assistance, the first grand movement consisted of a duet between Lady Olivia at the piano-forte and Miss Stormont at the harp, accompanied on the tambourine by Mrs Bustleton, the flute by Mr Beauclerc, the violoncello by Sir Pertinax, and the cymbals by Mr Scriblerus: to this succeeded a large movement on the musical glasses (which I had fortunately learned to play upon in my younger days), the time beat and an accompaniment afforded by the silver-toned bells of De Luc’s voltaic column (which as you know, Mr Editor, by simple contrivance of 1000 alternations of gold, zinc, and paper, affords the long sought desideration of a perpetual motion); but the great charm of the whole followed, after an allegretto by the first mentioned performers, namely a scientific quartette of self-acting instruments. The wind and unearthly sounds produced by the combustion of hydrogen gas within an open glass tube were contrived to harmonize with the plaintive notes of the aeolian harp; while spirit and brilliancy were given to the whole by the column before mentioned, and still more by a delicately perfect electric chime, consisting of eight various-toned bells placed in a circle and sounded by suspended clappers, which set in motion by the conductor of the machine, strike the bells in rotation. The attempt succeeded beyond my hopes, and three encores hardly satisfied the admiring company.
The characters of our Drama were all admirably sustained, and I believe the audience were not mistaken in their opinion that a more perfect representation was never seen on the boards of a private theatre. I am sorry that Lord Aircastle was not present, as he could not but have been gratified, and so profound an adept in the theory and science of music would have deeply enjoyed our philosophical quartette. I never was more sensible of the advantage a drama derives from the correct performance of all its parts. Where one character or one performer is supereminent it shines like a bright spot in a dull picture: in the Lunatics, Mr Editor, (where I believe you will find more of the ludicrous in the title than in the piece itself) no one character is particularly conspicuous, and though Cynthio and Cyllene are certainly subordinate to the rest, a manager might be puzzled to decide to which of the other four he should allot his best actor. This equality was further heightened by the excellent acting of all my pupils. It was a picture, to return to my metaphor, brilliant in its colouring, but in perfect harmony and highly finished. The foreground was not disagreeably prominent, nor the background dark and indistinct.
You will say, Mr Editor, that I speak more of the performance than of the poetry, but of the latter it is in your power to form your own judgment as a copy of the manuscript will accompany this.
Some of my pupils have nearly completed the poems which they intend for their approaching trial of skill; the MSS. when finished are committed to my custody and I shall communicate them from time to time to the Attic Society.
I remain, dear Sir,
your most obedient