Letter from Pertinax Townly

Miss Porden

I doubt, my dear Editor, whether even the visit of Lord Aircastle can afford a higher treat than this morning exhibited. I believe you have heard that Electromagus had it early in contemplation to have occasional public days, that is, days on which he would preside at his machine and dispense his inspiration to such as wished to become purchasers. By some accident, he had never before found leisure for such an exhibition, and great was the concourse attracted by his advertisement. Long tables, covered with green cloth, were arranged in the laboratory, and plentifully supplied with ink and paper. Philemon, Atticus, and myself were to act as assistants. Electromagus had I believe expected that all our most celebrated writers would feel the necessity of a fresh draught of inspiration, and flock to receive new energies, but no! if they came, they were as much incog. both in their conversation and productions, as they have been in those lately submitted to the public. What a motley assemblage! Men, women, girls and boys, of all ages and ranks promiscuously jumbled. The first who approached was a playwright, who wanted a few ideas for his last act. Like Lope de Vega, he had knotted intrigue upon intrigue till it was impossible to unravel them and he had not like him the courage to cut the knot. Seeing he had little idea of electricity, I charged a large jar unusually high, and gave him a guinea instead of a half crown shock, which sent him to the ceiling like a sky rocket, exclaiming “The idea has struck him most forcibly.”

The next was also a labourer in the service of the Drama. Bravo! thought I, the Rejected Theatre will be well stocked. He wanted my assistance in a grand maritime melodrame. The action was laid in Norway, and the principal scene was to be the harpooning of three whales, and John Du Bart’s ship, fresh painted and called “The Blubber”, he thought might do for a whaler. There was also to be a procession of sirens, and a school of porpoises were to dance a waltz and perform various antics.

Next advances a youth eager to commence his epic poem of Waterloo, and begging I would give him a good shillings worth, as he meant to be a customer. I believe he had little reason to complain that the battery was too weakly charged, but he left his paper behind him at his departure, which I enclose for your amusement.

Next came a young lady anxious to get the “New Valentine Writer” published in time, but unable to beg, borrow, or steal another idea to complete the collection. And elderly damsel, whose stocking ought to have been garter blue, raised her strain proud celebration of Epaminondas. Another had procured a set of airs from Botany Bay, which he wanted to fit with appropriate words, under the name of Australanian Melodies. I saw one which began

“Over the hills, and thro’ the woods,
And over the hills to China.”1

Then came an Anacreon on crutches, a patriot in rages, bawling against the Property Tax, a Sappho of seventy, a host of lovers penning sonnets according to rule on their mistress’ eyebrow, and one in particular, who wished to celebrate his charmer’s eyes, but was puzzled to describe the ubiquity of her glances, which dispensed favour or scorn at the same instant on either side. All these, and a multitude of others, innumerous as the leaves which “strew the brook in Vallombrosa” required our assistance to the no small amusement of myself and colleagues, and the rapturous delight of Electromagus. Some of the company boasted of belonging to the Attic Society, but I cannot say whether their pretensions were well founded, as their heads did not appear encircled by any particular halo of wit.

I enclose a few scraps that I picked upon the field of battle. Among others an attempt at a parody on part of the Siege of Corinth, in a new battle of Waterloo. But what neither the majesty of victory, nor the reputation of the noble Lord could deter the author from beginning, disgust seesm to be arrested, and the passage is left unfinished.

You shall hear from me again with my earliest leisure

Yours very faithfully

Pertinax Townly

A clumsy house in ruins stands,
Fashioned by long forgotten hands
Two or three walls, and many a brick,
With the smoke of the cannon covered thick.
Out upon war! he will leave no more
Of last year’s peace, than the peace before.
Out upon war! who forever will leave
But enough of the dead for the living to grieve.
O’er the fights that have been and the fights that must be
What we have seen, our sons shall see!
Remnants of host that have conquer’d or fled,
Bosoms of steel pierced by bullets of lead.

* * *

And he saw the spoilers beneath the wall
As eager as cits at their carnival
Squabbling and fighting each for his share,
They were too busy to see he was there.
From a young hussar they had stripped his coat
As ye shall an egg when ’tis piping hot.

* * *

I have searched my portfolio three times but cannot find the rest — Atticus has just acknowledged that he found them on the floor this afternoon and sold them tonight.

  1. Perhaps it may not immediately be recollected how many thousands of the transported inhabitants of Sydney Cove have perished in an absurd attempt to walk thro’ the woods to China, not knowing Australia to be an island.