Letter from Pertinax Townly

Miss Porden

Really, Mr Editor, Positive House is alive again and new follies have succeeded to the old. You cannot think how hard the battery and the machine are worked! — What scribbling! — what reciting! — for we are to read our poems on the day of contest. Philemon, whose labour is unfortunately finished, is the only one who has time to be melancholy and gentlemanlike. Even Lady Olivia is busily employed, and to see Atticus is as good as a pantomime. He runs to the battery and while making a thousand contortions at the pain it gives him, preserves his post with the constancy of a North American. Then, his hair all horrent with electricity which spurts on every thing he comes near, he runs to his desk and writes as if his life depended on his rapidity; while his paper crackles, his pen bristles, and even his ink bounces. When the effect diminishes, he runs back to the battery, then to his paper, in as perpetual motion as a will-o-the-wisp. Mrs Bustleton, tho’ with more majesty is scarce less active, and if their productions be not chef-d’œuvres — alack! alack for the fame of electricity! Rodelinda too thinks her poem an excuse for all personal neglect. She comes to dinner with her fingers all ink, her mouth black as a dog of King Charles’s breed, and her dress spotted gracefully from the pen in her ear. I call these maculations — literary embroidery. Electromagus meanwhile is in his glory and administers his electricity with as much pomp and confidence as the fathers of alchemy prepared their elixirs. I really am concerned for is is by no means a fool or an ignoramus, and so fully convinced of the truth of his scheme, that I believe its disappointment would affect his intellects.

I have just made some progress in my poem. When it is completed for the amusement of your society a copy shall be sent hoping that it will meet its approbation. Apropos — I suppose Electromagus will have sent you Atticus’s “Voltaic Battery” as he has been highly delighted with it. I wonder he did not preserve so sublime a subject for his Prize Essay. Do you know I have some thoughts of emulating him in the “Leyden Jar” and then if Philemon would undertake the “Electrical Machine” (which, by the bye, would require more historic and scientific learning than any of them) the business would be complete and the rivals all contented without wasting their mysterious fire on sparks of reciprocal anger.

I have not seen my Incognita and Lady Olivia looks so gay and good-humoured, I could find it in my heart to forget her if mystery was not in its own nature determined to be remembered. What, you will say, is the mystery when I know her to be a cheesemonger’s daughter. The mystery, Mr Editor, is such elegance and cultivation in such a rank — I cannot believe it!

What a glorious scene of mummery shall we have next week. I long for Lord Aircastle’s arrival and anticipate all the mirth I shall enjoy and all the honours I shall reap. I need not ask your permission to describe so charming a scene!

Yr faithfully

P. Townly