Continuing the narrative that began here.

Part 31.


Letter the Thirty-Eighth:

Sir George Purvis to Miss Amelia Purvis.


My dear Sister,

O that I might—that I might what?—that I might no longer be George Purvis, but another Man, unknown among the Great, and perhaps poor, but free from Dissembling, and that burdensome Pretence, which has become a dreary Obligation, and from which I may well never be freed but by Death; my own Death, or the Death of Doctor Albertus. A Metamorphosis, such as that by which Daphne escaped the unwelcome Embrace of Phoebus, would answer my Purpose: I have come to that Pass, where I see the Attraction of a Life in which the Wants of the Body are supplied by Heaven and Earth, and there can be no Desire, or Confusion, or Despair, but only Existence. In a Word, I have come to such a State, that I had rather be a Tree than a Man; and if I could but find an obliging Deity, to make that Transformation, I believe that I should not hesitate for a Moment.

Honoria continues with us in London:—an Arrangement, which I fear may prove fatal to her Reputation; but Doctor Albertus contradicts me, and would have her stay, and brings the Weight of every Authority in both sacred and prophane Literature against me; and, as Honoria has determined to stay, she finds only Propriety where, I fear, the World at large might question. If it were on my Account alone that she thus exposed herself to the Gossip of the Metropolis, I might find her Folly forgivable;—and of course I do forgive, what I can by no Means prevent;—but every Appearance suggests that it is not my own Presence, but that of Doctor Albertus, which induces her thus to flout the Opinion of the World. I see her at Supper, and now and again at other Times; but I speak very little to her, the guilty Knowledge of my own Deceit weighing heavily upon my Tongue; and she, for her Part, will not leave the Side of the Doctor, lest she miss one of the Gems that fall from his Lips.

In this State of Things I am as much alone for most of the Day as a Traveler shipwrecked on some unpopulated Isle, tho’ I am in the Middle of London: For Doctor Albertus prohibits me from going about my usual Affairs in Town. Did I say prohibits? Nay, he prohibits not, for he has no Power over me, that he might prohibit or command; yet his mere Advice seems impossible to contradict, and his Whims have the Force of Law, because I have not the Stomach to gainsay him. Alone in the Midst of Throngs, I have on more that one Occasion been reduced to making Conversation with Fanny Smith, that cockney Seamstress who impersonates the Automaton. She is a strange Contradiction: Her Silence seems habitual, as if Reticence is natural to her; and when she is silent, her Person is handsome enough that one might easily take her for a Lady of Breeding: Yet let her once open her Mouth, and the Cockney in her at once dissipates any Illusion. Even so she is honest in what little she says, and I do ever and anon perswade myself that an Ounce of her Wisdom is worth a Pound of the Philosophy of Doctor Albertus.

This Life is new to me. Wearied without Exertion, I am an unwilling Idler, whose Idleness exhausts his Strength far more than simple Labor would do: Nor can I say with Certainty, whether Doctor Albertus, or Honoria, is more accountable for this my Retirement. For all that I questioned his Insistence on my Silence with Regard to the true Nature of the Automaton, yet with Doctor Albertus I could speak my Mind: But in Honoria’s Presence I cannot do so, and the only Soul with whom I can speak now is Miss Smith.

Now I take Leave of you, having writ so many Pages, and said nothing;—for in Truth nothing has happened, and perhaps nothing will happen ever again; and yet in that there is at least the Consolation that nothing will change my Regard for you, wherefore I sign myself,

Your constant Brother,


Continue to Part 32.