Letter from Sir Pertinax Townly

Miss Porden

Positive House

What will you say, Mr Editor, when I tell you that I have really been too much engaged to give you an account of our play till now, but I suppose Electromagus has told you all he thinks fit on the subject and you have imagination enough to heighten his sober colouring. Really it was a chef d’œuvre. I had a considerable share of the scene painting, and I assure you it was much appreciated, and the blue light was admirably managed by a very simple process, the surrounding all the stagelights with a globe of blue glass; and this was so contrived that where the lamps were seen, the colour of the glass appeared the effect rather than the cause. Our heroine Rodelinda dressed herself to great advantage, and really appeared lovely, but when I saw her complexion changed to such a livid hue, I did not wonder at Misander’s inconstancy, nor can I say that I thought Lady Olivia over-charming — indeed, a brighter luminary has eclipsed her in my eyes, but more of this hereafter. Mrs Bustleton was quite majestic in Aspasia, and of course I was obliged to pay her some compliments at the expense of he Athenian namesake. As for the gentlemen, we were all admirable, and I have the vanity to believe I was not the worst among them.

As the number of the characters in the Lunatics tallies with our own, and some of them appear to fit tolerably, it has been supposed that we intended to caricature ourselves, or rather one another, for of course no one wrote his own part. I certainly intended to give Philemon a few hits in the last scene, and very probably my companions were no more charitable. At any rate, I have no reason to be dissatisfied with my own portrait, or the lady allotted me, tho’ perhaps Olivia may have leisure to repent her former coquetry.

All the time not one word about the audience, but it shall come now like a damsel’s postscript. Well! each of us had ten tickets, and Electromagus twenty, and I believe none of them slumbered. A brilliant circle, I assure you! When the play was over I proposed that the ballet should be general, and the motion was carried nem. con. I had every reason to be delighted with my partner. Wit, sense, and beauty, all conspired to charm me, nor was I much incommoded by a slight appearance of jealousy in Lady Olivia. But in all probability I should ere this have forgotten my unknown fair (for I could not learn her name) but for an accident you might think more likely to have effaced her memory.

Two days after, I was standing near the gate of the court, when a young woman with a basket of eggs asked if this were no Positive House? The voice drew my attention and I perceived a very pleasing figure. The neatness and simplicity of her garb almost amounted to elegance, and her face partially shaded by her bonnet was rendered still more lovely by a slight blush. Of course I did not permit this interesting creature to carry her basket to the house; I took it from her, and in the course of conversation discovered that she was the daughter of a cheesemonger in the neighbourhood, and all her father’s messengers being out of the way, she had condescended to bring the eggs herself. There was an ease and correctness in her language, and a modest dignity in her manners that seem’d above her situation, and she has haunted be ever since. I cannot make out any resemblance between this rustic Incognita and my fair partner, but certainly the one never comes into my mind, without immediately recalling the other; and were I vain or romantic enough to suppose my pretty cheesemonger a princess in disguise, or that she is the same with my partner in white satin, some verses I found this morning in a temple formerly mentioned on a less pleasant occasion might countenance the idea. They were in a beautiful but unknown hand and shall follow this rambling epistle of

faithfully yours
Pertinax Townly

N.B. I have seen my young friend three or four times since (but without her egg basket) in company I should hardly scruple to acknowledge.

’Tis true the net of pearl and gold
 No more my hair confines
Or on my vesture’s silken fold
 The sparkling girdle shines,
But like the magic rod that told
 Of hidden streams and mines,
Say! turn’st thou but to pearl or gem?
 Does Memory but revive with them?
Oh! Cynthio if thy soul be true
 To words, though half in sport preferr’d
That to my heart too swiftly flew,
 That with too sweet a thrill were heard,
Soon can my hand that garb renew
 Soon wake again the dance that stirr’d
Within my breast much new delight
Upon that dear, that fatal night.


What must I think of this, Mr Editor? I am half inclined to deem it a trick, tho’ I confess that (like Childe Harold and his bride) I should like to be writing sonnets and Greek letters at some beautiful unknown. That is if I could get Atticus to compose and construe, otherwise it would be too much trouble. The fair Erminia! surely a Princess in disguise as aforesaid, tho’ she gives me no hint at a Clorinda. But a cheesemonger’s daughter! What an inelegant, I must not say unsavoury idea! Almost as bad as a butcher or a tallow chandler.

By the bye I had almost forgotten to tell you of a Hebrew compliment I received on St Valentine’s Eve among many others. Electromagus assures me it is an extract from the celebrated Jewish poet Rodriguez Moreira, whose love elegies have been publish’d in Portugal. Atticus Scriblerus says the newest edition is entitled “Las Palabras de y Escritores Rabinicos”. I shall send to Colburn for it, but perhaps one of your associates will translate this fragment into English verse; for I suspect it is an original composition by the heiress of my accommodating friend in the synagogue.