Continuing the narrative that began here.
Letter the Thirty-Fifth: Miss Honoria Wells to Miss Amelia Purvis.
My dearest Sister,——
The eminent Doctor Albertus has been a wonderfully indulgent Host, and whatever small Deficiencies might be enumerated with regard to the House, the Warmth of its Master soon makes up for them. I have never spent such delightful Hours as those I have devoted to discoursing with the great Man on various Subjects, of great Interest in themselves, but of how much more Interest when touched by the eminent Doctor’s Wit and Understanding!
You may the more readily conceive my Delight, when I inform you, That Doctor Albertus is a professed Admirer of M. de Scudery, and those other Authors whose Histories of illustrious Women have ever formed my chief Study, and I believe yours as well. For I had spoken of the celebrated Enzoara, whose Search for her beloved Alvaro brought her to the far Shores of the Euxine; a Tale which (as I remarked) George regards as false; when all at once, “False? (quoth he) O no, not a Word of it is false: For there is more Truth in a Page of Romance than in all the Pages of Thucydides and Livy. For the latter have written Chronicles of the Rise and Fall of States and Empires; but the Former is nothing less than the History of the humane Heart, without a Knowledge of which, the Battles, and Rebellions, and Usurpations, and Betrayals, which make up what we commonly call History, are of no more Interest than the Wars of so many Ants, which take Place daily under our very Feet, but which neither move us to Pity, nor rouse us to Emulation. There is no more Interest in History, therefore, than what our own Hearts give it, and Romance is the Academy of the Heart. To laud an Historian for the Accuracy of his Chronicle, is as faint a Praise as to laud a Geometer for the Straightness of his Lines. But as the Geometer is justly praised for the Elegance of his Demonstrations, so the Historian is lauded for the Justice of his Observations as he pries into and makes visible the Workings of the Soul: Which is the chief Matter of Romance. Wherefore we may say, That Romance is History distilled to its very Essence; and the Virtues which we admire in the Historian in what we may call an adulterate Form, are displayed in Romance in their primitive Purity. Say not, then, that Romance is false; say not even that it is true; say, rather, that it is Truth, refined and purified of the gross Matter which defiles the Works of the Writers whom we call Historians.”
So much must suffice as a Sample of the celebrated Doctor’s true and just Discourse, which I record in Part here because it touched on a Matter of so much concern to us both. But now I have Intelligence of much greater Import to deliver. In a Word, I am to go up to London, with the Doctor and George; so that I shall not miss the Season, but shall rather, as the Doctor’s guest, be in the very Center of the Gossip of the Town. For there are to be many Demonstrations of the wonderfull Automaton, where I shall doubtless be introduced to certain of the great Figures of the Court, Farewell, then, my Friend and Sister: whom I would willingly bring with me to London, were it within my Power. But I promise and undertake to write faithfully and descriptively, so that, tho’ you may not be with me in London, yet you may follow me thither in Thought, and believe me ever, &c.