Letter from Atticus Scriblerus

Mr Elliott


Mr Editor

Thrown by the march of events into situations possessing much of peculiarity, and irresistibly led to measures of an ambiguous semblance, altho’ I trust fundamentally free from any features of a criminal aspect, I do not despair, under all the circumstances of the case, of vindicating myself from the clamour which will no doubt be excited by the ignorant impatience of my late companions; and in this hope I throw myself on the candour of the Attic Society.

The loss of one parent, and the obligation to maintain another, placed me, as you know, Sir, in circumstances of distress, from which I was fain to relieve myself by the exertion of my talents, and by the help of contributions to reviews and magazines with the production of an occasional poem and novel. I had the fairest prospects of success, which alas! were nipped in the bud by the very cause that seemed to off the best auguries in my favor — the increasing literary turn of the age — ladies and gentlemen, Mr Editor, not satisfied with receiving pleasure and improvement as readers, must now be writers also, and as they naturally patronize each other’s productions, the professed author is let to garnish the patty pans of the pastry cook, or, if perchance he squeeze through the Minerva Press, to be let on building leases to the spiders, upon the loftiest dustiest shelves of the circulating library.

What could I do? The reviews were monopolized by lawyers, clergymen and politicians; the magazines were filled by ladies; Lord Byron and his competitors wrote faster than they could be read; and every possible adventure had been turned into every possible shape, till novels were anything but new: as a last resource I resorted to an old plan of my father’s, and gained a precarious subsistence by supplying the means of requiring literary distinction to Bœotian Beaux and superficial Belles. At this period the establishment of Positive House opened a field which I could not resist the cultivation of, and the more so when I found within its walls an object that had long entwined itself in my heart’s dearest fibres, and object of my fondest wishes and most exalted hopes — the bewitching Rodelinda Stormont, who then first deigned to smile upon my suit. It was she who gave me an insight into the characters of Electromagus and his pupils, and introduced me to the secret aid of the ladies, while Sir Pertinax Townly, who had before employed and befriended me, put me in the way of confidentially assisting the gentlemen.

The Attic Society has seen and liberally applauded my productions: had their nominal authors been equally liberal in their payments, and had the prize been bestowed on the poem which indisputably merited it, the chef d’œuvre which I reserved for my own acknowledged production; all had ended well, and the party at Positive House might have assisted at my union with my Rodelinda; but my customers, in fancied security, neglected to satisfy my just demands, and after the mock solemnities of recitation and judgment, our Patron declared his intention of crowning Mrs Bustleton for a poem which I had written for her, wherein Lord Aircastle and his pursuits were ridiculed in a vein of irony which he mistook for genuine admiration. In a paroxysm of rage and despair I was tempted to secure what I had double won — as author of the best poem and of that which was to be rewarded. Rodelinda urged me on, and we profited by the delay which the lateness of the hour of reading occasioned, to depart with the gold box and a few other valuables, our only fortune, leaving a note in its place which no doubt confounded the mean pretenders to merit whom it unmasked.

We are now, Mr Editor, blissfully rambling out the honeymoon, on the banks of Windermere and her sister lakes. When we return to town I shall, with permission, pay my respects to you, and if any feature of suspicions still haunts you, I trust I shall then be able to dispel the misrepresentations of my enemies, and that you will not refuse your patronage to any plans we may form for our future life. Mrs Scriblerus unites in respectful compliments to all your circle with

dear Sir

your obliged and devoted Servant

Atticus Scriblerus