Letter from Pertinax Townly

Dear Editor

My fate is decided, and I am in the high road of matrimony, and shall soon give Atticus leave to write under my portrait “This is Benedick the married man!” Do not turn up your hands and eyes in astonishment at so marvellous an event, but listen with patience and gravity to my account of it, and remember the Latin proverb to which I now bow in humble obedience. “Baculaurii, baculo magis quam lauro digni.” I know not whether I informed you that on our first seclusion in Positive House we were not allowed to quit its precincts without the express permission of Electromagus. To remedy this evil was with one accord our wish, so without saying anything to the sage, we contrived to break the lock of the lower gate of the garden which opens into a shady lane and have since commanded ingress and egress at pleasure. The other evening I left the rest of our party intently listening to a long discourse from Electromagus on the discoveries of Gilbert, the parent of electrical science. The moon was bright and the evening calm; I quitted the garden, and strolling for some time at length sauntered into the willow walk. While I was admiring the majestic flow of the river, and the vessels that glided picturesquely by, their white sails glimmering in the lunar beam.

“The grace and glory of the sparkling tide.”

or execrating that abomination to all taste — a pollard and wishing to present every mutilated willow for moss to the servants, my attention was caught by a party chiefly of ladies, at some distance before me, whose white robes rendered them conspicuous. Now half concealed by the trees, now sunk in the deepest shade, now shining in the full light of the moon, I longed for some magic pencil to delineate in unchanging hues their lovely forms and ever varying attitudes. Suddenly one of the ladies disengaging her arm exclaimed, “Farewell, my dear Lavinia, I must leave you now, or it will be too late for me to return alone.” After some moments she quitted them and advanced, but what was my surprise to recognize — my Incognita! I accosted her, and she was not sorry to find a companion for her return. We had walked some distance, when perceiving that I was carelessly playing with some twigs I had plucked, “Are you,” said she in a tone of surprise, “condemned to wear the willow?” — “I believe madam,” said I, “it will depend upon yourself,” and unable to resist so charming an opening, I poured forth the warmest effusions of my affection. “What!” said she, “is it possible that thy gay and gallant Sir Pertinax Townly can stoop his thoughts upon the lowly daughter of a cheesemonger? What would you fashionable friends say should they remember having seen “Lady Townly” weighing out a ha’porth of cheese or a quarter of a pound of Dutch butte to a little ragged boy?” — “They will say, madam,” replied I, “that your charms must indeed be brilliant, since they pierced the clouds of prejudice and shone even amid the blaze of fashion.”

Suffice it, Mr Editor, I am not destined to despair, but what was my rapture when she exclaimed, “I owe it Sir to the disinterestedness of you affection to explain that neither my fortune nor connections are so humble as the situation of my parents may lead you to imagine. My uncle returned about twelve years since from a long residence in India to breathe his native air, and try if his wealth could again purchase the health he had lost in its acquisition. I soon became his favourite, and was permitted, first to spend most of my time, and then to reside wholly with him. A governess was engaged for me, and as I grew up he introduced me to connections far above any my birth could have entitled me to. About a year since I lost this my best friend, who however left me heiress to a fortune, which tho’ not splendid, is far from despicable. I have since chiefly resided with some of my friends and am but recently returned home.”

Well, Mr Editor, I know you will neither be slow nor insincere in your congratulations, and to tell you the truth, I believe my good fortune has inspired my Muse, for I have completed my poem, and in a style even above my expectations. In three days comes the awful trial, and the laurel wreath is really a pretty bauble; success has favoured me once and I hope the repetition of her smiles.

Yours truly

Pertinax Townly