It is a long time, Mr Editor, since I have been able to snatch a few moments to write to you, and when I remember the presumptuous tone of my former epistles, it only augments my deep feeling of self-humiliation. Yet this letter is a duty, and however painful I will perform it. I feel it due to the world to undeceive it, if indeed I have ever deceived any but myself, and it is due to my own character, that I should vindicate myself from a charge but too likely to be brought against me, that of being one of those impostors who endeavour to enrich themselves by the credulity of others.
Wrapt in the study of science, and above all attracted by the wonderful effects and brilliant phenomena of electricity, I attributed its operations to the world of mind, and elate with my fancied discovery applied to Lord Aircastle, long celebrated as the patron of science. Had I fallen into the hands of a person of more knowledge and stronger sense, I might possibly have been earlier roused from my dream, but his credulity and bounty were equally fatal to me, and by placing me in so conspicuous a situation as that of Positive House, have consigned me to public and permanent ridicule.
For some time past I have been dissatisfied with the progress of my students, and accused their idleness when I ought to have accused my own system. Their productions were such as might have done high credit to the talents of ladies and gentlemen in the occasional habit of writing for their amusement, but I had expected something more, and was most of all disappointed in their Essays for the Prize, in which I had hoped they would have excelled the most celebrated poets of any age or country. Evil news always flies fast, especially if duly seasoned with the ludicrous, and I have little doubt but you are already informed of the events of yesterday.
When Atticus’s paper was unfolded, it was not the detection of the roguery of my favorite pupil that overwhelmed me, it was not the loss of the gold box or the fear that Lord Aircastle would withdraw his munificent patronage — it was the beam of truth flashing with instantaneous and unresisted force. When I found that while dispensing my electricity like a demigod, I had been in reality ministering to the tricks of a needy adventurer, and that these poems which I had hailed as confirmations of the truth of my system, were in reality the work of one hand, and purchased from Atticus by their pretended authors, I felt that I had rendered myself
“Sacred to ridicule my whole life long”
and, deserted at the moment by my usual courage, I shut myself up in my room to avoid the expected sneers of my pupils. But I need not have been alarmed — Atticus and Rodelinda, whose sarcasms I could least have borne, are gone. Mrs Bustleton went to town immediately with Lord Aircastle, to remain with a fashionable cousin of hers till the necessary writings were prepared for their union, and Mr Beauclerc, Sir Pertinax Townly, and Lady Olivia have equally endeavoured to dissipate my uneasiness by increased respect.
Sir Pertinax is just gone to espouse his beautiful Erminia, but he took leave of me with a kindness, which whether the result of politeness or of feeling, found equally its way to my heart. “Excuse me, my dear Sir,” said he, “if, undeceived myself, I have contributed to your self-deception, and even sometimes made myself merry at your expense, you have really been of essential service to me, and I hope one day to return the obligation. Whatever be the plan of life you may hereafter choose, be assured that all my interest shall be exerted in your favor, and I think I can promise the co-operation of Mr Beauclerc. The impostor is ridiculous and contemptible, but the self-deceived philosopher is always respectable. When I return to town I shall feel hurt if Electromagus is not among the first, who honors me with a visit.”
Mr Beauclerc has been equally kind in his proffers, but whatever be the line of life I now elect, I will endeavor that it shall be one where my fancy cannot again lead me astray. Positive House will soon be sold, and the produce rigidly appropriated towards liquidating my debt to Lord Aircastle. I hope it will some day be in my power entirely to discharge it. In the meantime accept, Mr Editor, my grateful acknowledgements for the patient attention with which you have so long honored me, and if possible do not quite withdraw your esteem from
your unfortunate, but sincerely obliged friend