Letter from Barnaby Scratch

Miss Vardill

Mr Editor

The first letter I had the honor of addressing to you was written officially and by the order of the worshipful Society whose Secretary I am: but my present and private purpose is to solicit your aid in procuring an easier and more lucrative appointment. Really, Mr Editor, King Boleslaw who kept a hundred secretaries, or Cardinal Dubois who hired one expressly to scold and cheat for him, never gave so much employment and vexation as this Sisterhood.
I was induced to accept the office of amanuensis at Tabby Hall by a promise of a liberal salary and various immunities and perquisites. As a reward for my skill in copying billet-doux and contriving useful paragraphs I have been promised a pair of gloves and a rouleau on the marriage of any member of the Coterie, but neither my diligence nor their zeal has produced any change in the number of my tormentors. In my official letter I was requested to notify that any vestals of your acquaintance would be welcome inmates at Tabby Hall, but I most humbly beseech you not to multiply the inhabitants, for six mistresses are more than human patience can bear. This morning, after two hours spent inscribing Miss Murmur’s last sonnet on a mousetrap, I covered two quires of foolscap with Miss Barbara Botherham’s Essay on the Shortitude, which as she says is a finer subject of speculation than the Longitude. Then Miss Nettletop furnished me with a dozen pages of the Art of Cookery to transcribe into her folio volume and at the same instant Miss Squib brought a column of paragraphs to be copied for the Morning Post. Unhappily for my peace, Mr Editor, this medley of business so disconcerted my ideas that Miss Nettletop’s recipe for a nervous cordial was sent to the newspaper instead of Miss Squib’s article concerning a “certain Baronet and a marriage said to be on the tapis”.

This was not all my misfortune. Miss Saccharissa Sophia Murmur’s Elegy on an Owl was sealed and sent to the President of the Royal Society by the careless haste of that marplot, Emily Echowell, who gave it to me folded in the same form as Miss Botherham’s account of a petrified wig. In short, Sir, (for as Miss Botherham says, there is nothing so tiresome as long perorations) I should not have been able to endure the crowd of my employments one week, if the Chaplain had not preached two sermons against uncharitable railing which made Miss Nettletop and Miss Quickset silent for two whole days. And besides, our physician, Dr Cardamom, gave a double dose of opium to Miss Croaker. If any good-natured invalid wants a companion to snuff the sea air with him and read the labels of his medicine, I should be very thankful to accept the offer, Mr Editor, or if the collector of a Museum of Oddities requires a Secretary I am perfectly qualified by my long residence at Tabby Hall.

I could add a very respectable list of qualifications and references; but Miss Quickset has just sent me orders to copy her extract from Miss Moore’s Strictures on Modern Education and Miss Croaker waits for me to make a memorandum of the apparition she saw after she had scratched her thumbnail. She says a spectre walked at midnight under her window to give her a death warning, but I am afraid it was no such lucky omen, tho Dr Cardamom does all he can to help us out of our troubles on his account. For as to her death, Sir, we should not have much hope if it was not for the apothecary and her own dreams. As to the spectre in white — but I say nothing about it because it does not become men in official situations to drop hints; and tho Miss Botherham and Miss Squib call me a walking telescope for people to see though, they shall find I can keep secrets. Whatever some ladies my say about the round hat and cane found under Lady Belle’s windows and the true lover’s knot carved on her myrtle, I shall never say a word respecting the Sonnet tied round Dr Cardamom’s wig block, nor the verses found in Mr Woodbine’s portfolio.

Permit me to request that this letter may be considered as my Brother Secretary Lord Liverpool says, “most secret and confidential” and if you should hear of a snug sinecure, pray pity and remember

the distressed
Barnaby Scratch
Secretary of the Tabby Club