Continuing the narrative that began here.

Part 21.

The Interlocutor,

No. 116.

A CERTAIN GENTLEMAN called t’other Night, whose sprightly Conversation forms one of the Interlocutor’s chief Delights; and from whom (there is no Shame in confessing it, but rather the natural and laudable Pride of good Taste) many of the Interlocutor’s choicest Observations have had their Origin. On this Occasion, however, the Silence that hung o’er the Chamber defy’d every Attempt at dispelling it: until at last the Interlocutor, who hates a wasted Evening, resolved to run the Blockade, and spoke candidly to his Guest, representing to him the Gulph betwixt his wonted Gaiety, and his present Taciturnity.

Ah! my Friend!” he exclaimed with a sudden Access of Passion, “there is no more Gaiety in me, and indeed Silence is the only State congenial to my troubled Mind; nor have I true Silence even when all about is still, for then my own Soul fills the Void, and furnishes a thousand vexing Thoughts.”

At this sudden Ecphonesis, so uncharacteristic of his Friend, the Interlocutor was moved to Pity, and urged the Visitor to reveal his Trouble, arguing, “That the Burden which is shared, weighs only half as much as the Burden borne alone.”

The Fortress did not fall on the first Attack; but after a long Siege, the Wall was breach’d, and (to abandon the Metaphor, which shewed Promise at the Beginning, but like a dissolute Son has disappointed its Father) the Visitor opened his Mouth and his Mind at once; nor did the Mouth once close, until the Mind had all been poured through it.

You see before you (quoth he) a Man, or what remains of a Man, when once the cruel Caprice of an envious Destiny has robbed him of all that makes a Man worthy of the Name; a Man, I say, who hardly partakes of the nature of Man, and who would be fortunate to be numbered among the Beasts; nay, to dwell within the Vegetable Kingdom would be preferable to my current State.”

But what can it be that troubles you so?” asked the Interlocutor. “If it be a Matter of a few Pounds, know that you may always rely on the Generosity of Friends, with whom you have been more than equally generous when the Occasion warranted it.”

“’Tis not Money,” quoth he, “for I would gladly give a thousand Pounds to be free of my Trouble; but it is a Disease of the Soul, for which there is no Remedy, but Death, or Endurance; and I have neither the Strength to endure, nor the Courage to die.”

A Woman, then: Which is not greatly to be wondered at, as you are yet in the full Flower of your Vigor. You love, and she returns not your Love. But consider, how often the Heart that seemed unyielding, has been vanquished by Persistence; and consider further, that you are a young Man of Parts, with an Income greatly to be envy’d, a pleasing Countenance, and a good Reputation. Gird yourself for a long Campaign, and tho’ this Battle be lost, the War may yet be won.”

Love, yea, Love it is, and Love not returned; but the Circumstances admit of no such Hope as you offer. The Object of my Love—beauteous transcending Beauty—returns not my Love, because she cannot return my Love.”

A married Woman, then. I admire your Virtue and Purity, in supposing that a married Woman must forever be beyond your Reach: For it is not the common Assumption, among the Men of our Time.”

Ah, my Friend! your Praise is ill deserved. I love, what I cannot love—what I cannot even speak of—O ye Gods of Love! I love—I love—a Machine!”

Here, dear Reader, let us draw a Curtain over the Remainder of this Conversation, which the Interlocutor offers as a cautionary Example to all young Men, to beware the Snares of that Race of Mechanicall Delilah’s, which has lately invaded our Metropolis.

Continue to Part 22.