Mr Beauclerc to the Editor

Miss Vardill

March 14th 1815

I am either grown wiser or happier, Mr Editor, since I wrote last; for the whims of my companions now give me more amusement than chagrin. Else I should have been mortified by Sir Pertinax Townly’s exposure of my fragment which, not having his peculiar talent, I never intended to be transferable. But my connivance at a practical jest upon his person entitled him to some freedoms with me. His sufferings were too severe; I am endeavouring to atone for them by a benefit which will probably adhere to him through life. He will discover what he owes me in due time: at present a secret is too much for one, enough for two, but too little for three.

I recognize my own portrait in the Lunatic Misander, and am not ashamed to confess that some skilful touches bestowed on it by my associates have convinced me how absurdly I lurk under the stream of life, like a water-spider, among bubbles collected by myself. I also learn that a jest on vanity is apt to produce a keen retort, as glass struck against bronze flies in our own faces. Electromagus is solemnly employed in assembling the Prize Essays of his pupils, but my thoughts have not been wholly devoted to the glory of our institution. Lady Olivia, pleading indolence with her usual grace, has composed only the sequel of an old legend which she requests me to transcribe. There is a soft pearl-colour in her imagination suited to fairy gifts better than “goblins dire”, but perhaps the principal event of her romance may be realized. Happiness, I perceive, has a feminine spirit in it which will not be won unsought, and the hints given me by the lunatics shall not be lost on

Philemon Beauclerc

My ingenious friend Atticus has undertaken to copy my exercise and made a very advantageous sale yesterday or a “Lesson for Lovers” which he received from - - - - but “thereby hangs a tale”. Mrs Bustleton has proclaimed that the poetical essay produced by Sir Pertinax Townly yesterday morning is an exact copy of one sent to her by her lamented husband. This would seem rather extraordinary if Atticus had not good reason to believe that it was purchased from his late father by the defunct Mr Bustleton. The lady will not be displeased by its exhibition in your Chest and on my part, I beg leave to contribute the annexed balance of accounts, as a proof that my opinion of marriage has not been formed without hearing counsel on both side. Our sublime Rodelinda probably left it on the library table for the benefit of demurrers, or as the groundwork of a comparative treatise on the peers and peeresses of creation. But the balance in favour of the latter is only one. Do not imagine, Mr Editor, when I mentioned the spirit of happiness, that I meant a spirit like Olivia’s. Her conduct since I began this letter has compelled me to believe that divine who declares the Hebrew word commonly translated “a rib” really signifies a stitch in the side.

To the Editor of the Attic Chest