(Continuing the narrative that began here.)
Letter the Eighth: Sir George Purvis to Miss Amelia Purvis.
My dear Sister,——
’Tis a Marvel indeed how quickly Gossip penetrates from one End of the Country to the Other, and I do verily question whether you will not already have heard whatever News I might convey to you before my Letter reaches you. You are aware, as I know, that the Automaton has occupied the Tongues of the Gossips, and the Pens of the Wits, from one End of London to the other: But it appears that the Reach of her Influence extends far beyond the Town. I say so, for that I have had the Privilege of welcoming the eminent Doctor Albertus and his Automaton as Guests in my own Drawing-room, where a Number of my Acquaintances, and their Acquaintances, and the Acquaintances of those Acquaintances, assembled to observe the Demonstration; so that I feared the Walls might burst like an old Sack with the unaccustomed Pressure of so many Guests. In Conversation with one of whom, I learned that he had travelled from York expressly to see the Automaton, who, he informs me, is as well known in the North, as she is in the Metropolis. Such is the Swiftness of Rumor, who is not without Reason represented with Wings in the antique Writers.
The Mania for the Automaton has only grown in the Days since I wrote you, and I am given to understand, That a Ballad-opera, whose Subject is Doctor Albertus thinly veiled under another Name, will be acted at one of the Theaters. Such is the Extent of the popular Fascination with this new Phenomenon.
For Reasons which I shall reveal to you presently, I anticipate writing you a great deal on the Subject of the Automaton. I will not, therefore, narrate in Detail the Demonstration of the Automaton given to my Guests, for it was much like the previous Exhibition; but I must own that I almost pitied the poor Creature. Reason tells me that she is Clockwork and no more; but a Machine that so much resembles a human Female, must of Necessity evoke that Sympathy, which any Man of good Will feels for a Member of his own Race. To be exhibited as a Curiosity in a Room filled with such a Multitude, must necessarily be grievous to any Creature of a sensible Nature; and, tho’ Reason tells me that the Automaton has no such Sensibility, yet Reason is not always my Master.
Such Sympathy as I felt, was augmented in the Hour after the Departure of my Guests. It was very late, for the Guests were much pleased with the Entertainment; and many of them placed Orders with Doctor Albertus for such clockwork Contrivances as they desired him to manufacture, so that I suppose he must have left a much richer Man than he arrived. When the last Guest had departed, Doctor Albertus remained, and was pleased to give me the Privilege of a private Demonstration. At this Time I was able to examine the Automaton in more Detail, and I must tell you, That her Resemblance to a Woman, tho’ far from perfect, is yet much to be admired, and shews the Hand of an Artist of unusual Skill. Her Movement, however, is awkward in the Extreme; and Doctor Albertus frankly admits that there is much Work to be done before she resembles a living Being in that Regard. Yet the halting Uncertainty of her Steps, and the graceless Motions of her Arms and Head, have a certain Charm of their own; and it pleased me immensely when Doctor Albertus directed his Creation to perform a Courtesy to me, and she obeyed forthwith, tho’ it nearly ended in a Tumble which doubtless would have been detrimental to the Mechanism.
It is not to be wondered at that Doctor Albertus was as much pleased with the Success of the Demonstration as the Guests were, and in Gratitude he has asked me to pay him a Visit at his Country-house. As I have no pressing business in London, I have accepted his kind Invitation, and in a few Days will depart for Grimthorne Abbey, where the eminent Doctor has taken up Residence, and has established his Manufactory of Clockworks. It is a Privilege to be admitted into the Confidence of such a Man as the Doctor; and you may trust that I shall not neglect my promised Duty to you. Expect, my dear Amelia, that I shall be sending Letters as frequently from Grimthorne as from London;
For I shall ever remain, &c.