(Continuing the narrative that began here.)
Letter the Sixth: Miss Honoria Wells to Miss Amelia Purvis.
A Letter from you is always a Delight, but how much more so when it brings News of my beloved George! —I ought to say, our beloved George: For never did a Sister love a Brother with a purer Affection than that which you feel for George, as I know by sundry incontrovertible Evidences. Nay, even the noble Eniazira, tho’ she would have died for her Apollonio, was never your Match in this Regard.
I know also that George loves you after the same Manner. He has told me as much. Even if he had not told me, you would have Proof enough in his Letters to you;—for I must tell you, my dear, that he writes to you more often than he writes to me. Of course, his Letters to me are full of the sublimest Expressions of Devotion; for when he writes to me, all the small Matters of daily Life are banished from his Mind, and he thinks only of our immortal Love.
But you, who are already more than a Sister to me,—you, dearest Amelia, are almost my only Source of Intelligence from the World at Large. You have visited me more than once, but you could not possibly form any Notion of how dull it is here without you! My Mother seldom leaves her Chamber, tho’ she keeps the Servants as busy as if she were planning an Expedition to conquer the Indies. My Father is content with his Pipe, and might sit immobile in his Chair the Remainder of his Life, did not my Mother require his Assistance ever and anon. And there is no one else!—for even the Servants might be good for some Companionship, but my Mother employs them to such an Extent that they have no Time for me. I do not exaggerate, dear Amelia, when I tell you that there are many Mornings when I must perforce dress myself, my Mother’s Demands having occupied the Attention of every Domestick in the House.
Aside from the Letters I receive from you and from George—far more frequent than I have any Right to expect, but alas! far too infrequent to disperse the gloomy Loneliness of my Solitude—aside from those Letters, I say, my Books are my only Delight,—the Books in which I study the exemplary Adventures of illustrious Women, whose Lives have been narrated for us in Folio by the incomparable M. de Scudery and many other Historians, so that we shall not be left without Guidance when our own Lives overwhelm us with Difficulties.
Such Folios as these, as I have said, are my sole Companions, save that on fine Days, I often take a long Walk in the Fields, and sit by the Brook, where I read from the Book of Nature as well as the Book in my Hands. All my Skirts are in Tatters from these Expeditions, and I must be a startling Sight if anybody came to see me; but nobody comes, and nobody sees, so I put off having them mended, knowing that I should most probably have to do the Mending myself, the Servants being occupied with my Mother’s insistent Whimsies. A Girl in a tattered Skirt, with a Book in her Hands, sitting solitary in a Field: That is what you would see if you came to-day, or to-morrow, or Monday next. I verily believe the Farmers round about take me for a Mad-woman.
If I am mad, however, I am no more so than any Citizen of London: For as George informs you, and you have informed me, the whole Town has gone mad for a clockwork Facsimile of a Woman. Had I not heard the Intelligence from so trustworthy a Source, I might have thought it a Jest, or a Rumor unfounded. It is plain, however, that you speak the Truth. Indeed, the Thing is so ridiculous, that I doubt whether you could have invented it.
Shall I tell you what I think? It seems to me that the clockwork Female is a Sensation, because it can be displayed without that Degree of Decency to which even the most notorious Denizens of Drury-lane are subject. This Grecian Drapery of which we hear: Would even Mrs. H—— dare to appear on stage so draped, or rather un-draped? What is barely decent on a Statue, is obscene on a living Woman. But altho’ this Automaton partakes of the Nature of a Statue, in that it is not endowed with Life, yet it moves, and walks, and appears to a certain Degree to be animate: Wherefore it is more than a Statue, and approaches unto a living Female in Appearance. ’Tis a Machine, and therefore not subject to the Laws of Decency; but in the Imagination ’tis a Woman indecently draped. I own that I felt a Pang of Jealousy when I read George’s Description of the Thing, tho’ I must dismiss my Jealousy as absurd.
You were entirely correct, however, in supposing that these Letters might relieve the Dulness of my Existence here: For which I thank you, my dear Sister, with more Gratitude than I can express; and I can only beg more of ’em. For believe me when I say that I think my very Life may depend on that Relief, just as the renowned Orzivieta gained the Vigor to endure her Imprisonment only through the Missives from her Arturo, which her faithful Maidservant contrived to convey to her by Sling. With a deep Sense of Obligation, therefore, I acknowledge myself
Your indebted Servant,