Letter from Peregrine Project

Miss Vardill

Mr Editor

The enclosed is for the edification of your Attic circle, but you will consider this paper confidential. Finding myself ill-received by Electromagus who desires on acquaintance with speculators more enterprising than himself, I enquired for his most promising pupil, Mr Beauclerc. My surprise was rather inconvenient when I recognized a person whom I once saw in very different society, with a splendid gold watch which for the sake of experimental philosophy I detached from his side. He gently reminded me of this circumstance and I replied in the language of my sublime tutor Rousseau, that I had taken his watch rather than his purse because “it is always better to take the article we want than to take money, with which we must undergo the drudgery of buying it.” Sir, (continued I) the project of Lavater will be realized by me to its fullest extent. I have formed a Gamut of Faces expressing the gradations of Man’s character in the seven stages of love, and an accompaniment indicating the female frowns and smiles from which these gradations proceed. For this purpose I visited a certain Hermitage or Brotherhood of Odd Hypochondriacs, where I was assured that I should find seven faces quite original, and their descriptions of the fair creatures they sometimes remembered enabled me to make a suitable set of female accompaniments.

Mr Beauclerc surveyed my drawing (which you will find enclosed) with a vinegar aspect and replied “If these sketches are faithful and the Hermits have a due respect for ugliness, the seventh face must be the President’s!” — “You are mistaken,” said I, “that is their Junior Brother, one of those half-tamed, sullen, mischievous animals who bite when they are not fondled. He came to the Hermitage to die in a decent way of a broken heart, as he said; but having an incurable propensity to eat and sleep, he tried change of air to end his sufferings. Therefor I had not the felicity of studying his face, which the President assured me was an absolute unique; but as he described the proportions of his skull with great correctness, I easily imagined the kind of countenance appropriate to it, according to Gall and Spurzheim’s system.”

If you had seen the blue gloom of Beauclerc’s eye, Mr Editor, you would have expected lightning. His lips changed almost to the same colour as he answered, “Sir, I know very little of Drs. Gall and Spurzheim, but I can inform you that men with such skulls have a strong propensity to try the strength of yours!” Seeing his doubled hand rather too much in parallel line with my os frontis, I receded and exclaimed “There, Mr Beauclerc, is a demonstration of my system! Your skull has precisely the same outline as the fugitive hermit’s, and you exhibit the same querulous ferocity. But pray make yourself easy and vent your spleen as you think fit. I consider you no more responsible for these feverish fits than for the fine tints of your complexion.

Either the first or the last part of my speech had some secret influence; his countenance grew pacific and I resumed my subject, for philosophers always talk. “Now, Mr Beauclerc, to convince you of the various and versatile utility of my invention, you shall be informed that I have received five guineas from one of your fellow-students, for my promise to send this Gamut of Faces to the Attic Chest with certain explanatory references to yourself and your amourette: but if you will give me ten pounds, I will transform it into a caricature of Electromagus himself.”

“Sir,” he replied, “if Sir Pertinax Townly bribed you, I love a jest too well to spoil his; if it is a lady’s contrivance, I know how to repay the encouragement given by such hints; therefore instead of news-setting your Gamut, I shall give you another five guineas if you will send it honestly to the Attic Chest, and my friend Atticus shall translate your Turkish poetry gratis.”

This bargain was too good to be delayed. I enclose the Gamut and the Wreath according to his terms; and if you understand a hint, I may be farther benefited by receiving a reply from some kind fair one thro’ your medium. If the Hermits offer a reward for the discovery of their stray Brother, I expect to share it with you, and perhaps your influence in Tabby Hall might induce the venerable sisterhood to nominate me as a candidate for his place. Depend on the gratitude and scientific communications of

Your Friend and Ally

Peregrine Project alias PHILOWHIM