Oh, Mr Editor! I believe I shall be frightened into the toils of matrimony at last! — if but as an excuse for quitting this lunatic assembly. “Why, (you may say) did I ever enter it?” and as you have taken some interest in my adventures, I think you are entitled to my frankness, and I know I can confide in your honour. I am heir to an estate of about £3,000 per annum but horses and dogs are serious things, and he who is anxious to establish a character in the beau monde must have a purse as unlimited as his effrontry. Suffice it to say that ere I was aware, I found myself involved in debt. Gay and volatile as I have appeared, I am no fool. I remembered I was young, and was unwilling to sacrifice to the splendour of one year, the comfort of the rest, yet to submit to any deduction in my establishment that might have betrayed me to the smiles and sneers of my companions, was a mortification past endurance. While I was yet meditating how to reconcile economy with éclat, I heard of Electromagus’s plan. It appeared likely to take and raise me into fame as its promoter: if it did not, I should obtain more reputation from my singularity. Either way, it would answer my purpose. I became an early candidate for admission, and a donation of £200 to the establishment facilitated my election and procured me unbounded applause, tho’ I considered it a mere equivalent for my board. The rules of the society allowed little expense, and a year’s income has nearly liquidated all my debts. I am now eager to quit the abode so judiciously chosen, which in truth, is less pleasant than formerly. My companions were then new and inclined to be communicative, but now, having only the same things to talk of, one is tired of seeing the same faces every day. Besides the regulations of this place, tho’ piquant at first from their novelty, now grow insufferably tedious. You may have seen, Mr Editor, from the few specimens in your possession, that I have some taste for poetry, but what mind accustomed to independence could submit to the drudgery of a daily author — to feel as much the necessity of writing for my breakfast as the famished inhabitant of Grub Street. Young Atticus showed an inclination to follow his father’s trade but I soon found that he had other customers and that he would not make a first-rate poet of me under an expense that I thought might be more pleasurably incurred. Like the Corsair, I am not eager to escape from my prison and sail once more over the wide ocean of the world.
“My thoughts as boundless and my soul as free!”
Do I mean, then, (you ask) to plunge in new pleasures and involve myself in new difficulties? No! I will marry! and make a merit of relinquishing to my bride the pleasures of the ton for rural felicity. The fortune that was swallowed up in the vortex of London will supply all I can desire in the country. My ferme ornée shall be the most elegant bijou ever seen — yet none of its accompaniments shall overstep the modesty of its name. My residence here has established me as a poet and a bel esprit, and tho’ in the country I need not be in solitude, I will live rather within than beyond my income and take care that in my occasional visits to the beau monde, I am able to shine with increasing splendour. What say you to my plan? Is it not worthy a hero! Who then is to be the happy fair? Lady Olivia has birth, wealth and beauty. My Incognita possesses only the latter — a formidable balance in Olivia’s favor! But there is that troublesome Hocus-pocus, Lord Aircastle in the way. I wish he would run off with the widow and leave the field clear!
But to own the truth, Mr Editor, since my last interview with my Incognita in the garden, I cannot drive her from my thoughts. Is it that there is something irresistibly attractive in mystery, or am I really in love? Lady Olivia’s birth and fortune, which I have hitherto looked up to, now shrink into molehills and I am eternally building, not castles but cottages in the air. Yet to degrade myself to the level of a cheesemonger! O Mr Editor, what must I do? Lady Olivia, they say, is too like me — Intelligence and goodness are reflected in her countenance but she is too volatile and unsteady, and I have long thought she would make but an insipid companion. To interest me, she wants something more of command. Her soft blue eye has not the fire and animation that beams in Erminia’s; nor has she that delicate yet romantic turn of sentiment which enchants at once the imagination and the heart. High-dried romance, such as Rodelinda’s, has no charms for me, but how alluring is it when tempered with true feminine delicacy! But I must cease, Mr Editor, or you will think me better qualified for St Luke’s than for Bedlam. In the altered tone of this epistle you will scarcely recognize me. This is the first probably the last serous one you will receive from
Your faithful correspondent
I forgot in my last letter to send you the prize I picked up in Atticus’s chamber when I interrupted his tête-a-tête with Mrs Bustleton — videlicet — the 1st Chapter of her Novel!!!