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THE LOVE LETTER.
How wonderful is the collision of mind with mind! what moral thunder is wielded by the pen! what aromatic breezes intermixed with sighs, are wafted by it from “ Indus to the Pole !” - What electricity, negative or positive, life-renovating or destroying ; what magnetic sympathies and antipathies lurk within the quiet folds of a letter!
Such were my ruminations on receiving one, bearing a distant postmark; it was written on hot-pressed, highly perfumed paper; the device on the seal was, cupid riding on a lion; and such portion of the edge of the margin as appeared, was decorated with hearts, as thick as grapes on the stalk. The fact is, (for why should I plead not guilty to the “ soft impeachment ?') the complexion of the wire-woven missive was decidedly amatory. “Yes," I exclaimed, enthusiastically, as I fractured the lion's back, and splintered (pleasureless triumph !) Cupid's bow, in hastily breaking the seal; “ Yes,” I exclaimed :
Heaven first taught letters for some wretch's aid,
Warm from the heart, and faithful to its fires. Who knows but this may contain some pledge of “ passionate thought, woven in the flower-alphabet of the East by some turbaned fair one amidst the drowsy tinkling of the Harem's fountain, or the mellifluous love-song of the deep-embowered nightingale to the rose ? Let me give wings to the delightful “ shadow of a dream !”
What, if it be the first-born, free-born record of a tendre lien, unshackled by the broken bow-string of the seraglio, and nursed into life by the balmy zephyrs and starry dews of renovated Greece! What, if the passion it details may have been sublimed by the tropic suns of India or South America, into a luxuriance of sentiment vying with the magnificent profusion of their vegetable kingdoms! Perhaps, some Sandwich beauty, some Pacific (yet victrix) Venus, when“ unadorned, adorned the most,” lingering beneath the palmy foliage of Moratoi, or wandering on the golden sands of Owhyhee, where mermaids braid their tresses with SEA-GEM CORONALS, may have sighed out her soul in the precious envelope, as the white wing of Britain's ship bore it from her enamoured arms!
After this fine peroration, like a feline gastronome, who plays with a mouse before eating it, although her mouth waters the while for the last loving craunch, I paused for the purpose of examining the hand-wriitng: the superscription was ambiguous; it was in a female hand, but the characters of which it was composed might have almost passed for the writing on a Chinese tea-chest. “Not to speak it profanely,” they somewhat resembled what are vulgarly called pot-hooks and hangers ; in classical phraseology, nimis uncæ literæ ; and, to a hen-pecked reader, might have suggested “ominous note of preparation” in the department of clapper-clawing. The inside of the letter was not more intelligible than the out: at all events, it would have posed the utmost ingenuity of that
learned French chirographist, who professed to discover the character of an individual from an investigation of the characters of his goose
Judging of my letter by the Frenchman's criterion, my amatory presentiments were somewhat cooled, when I was, imprimis, obliged to confess, that if not “ a fist,” it was undoubtedly a " stick of a hand;" one that perchance might practically
Waft a blow from 'hind us to the Pole. Secundo, the writer must have been a humble character; because all the first personal pronouns were written as thus-i, as i hope; a circumstance which manifested a distaste to egotism ; as well as a commendable absence of that proof of arrogance which Solomon makes to consist in“ lofty eyes,” (I's). The writer was obviously a person of dispatch, if not of impatience,“ Street” being canonized, and made “ St. ;" and “ Dear” being supplied with a diploma, and converted into “ Dr.” By the bye, a very pretty thermometer of the state of the epistolary feelings between friendship and coolness might be constructed for the use of the chirographist, beginning with blood heat, as “My dear sir,” and descending gradually through the various degrees of temperate, “ Dear Sir;" cool, “ Dr. Sir:" into the freezing point of i Sir :" “ my dear, dear"----especially if addressed to a w mistress's eye-brow," over a bottle of champaigne, constituting the boiling point of epistolary amiability. But to return to the hand-writing in hand. The interior was redolent of all manner of auspicious images and delectable associations-an epistolary garden of Eden. “ The border thereof” to the depth of an inch was as rich as the land of Havilah. Knots of lilies and roses, corals and pearls, suns and stars, were intermingled with silken chains and pastoral crooks, bearded arrows and bleeding hearts. Beneath, sentimental willows hung and wept over dimpled brooks, which sighed or seemed to sigh unutterable things in return; above, a troop of wanton zephyrs were roaming through myrtle bowers and orange groves, while on either side Cupids gambolled and doves fluttered amidst chequered banks of hyacinth, and bowers of jessamine and woodbine. Did not this express all that was necessary ? These eloquent hieroglyphics contained the substance of at least three modern novels, and three octavos of amatory sonnets. Alas! (nescius meus hominum) why was I not contented ? Like Solomon's garden of fountains, all the seasons were brought together within the compass of one epistolary hortus siccus. Why was it necessary to know whether the fair writer's head was “ like purple ?” (there was, it seems, “ incomparable Macassar" in those days); her eyes like fish-pools, and her nose like the tower of Lebanon.
There stood in sight the fair Hesperides
With golden fruit, but dangerous to be touched. Why was I not contented? Why did my curiosity, like that of (excuse the bull, for it is Milton's) “ the fairest of her daughters, Eve," prompt me to pluck the fruit as well as to admire it? Why was I tempted to run the risk of finding it an Ascalon apple, all allurement without, and all bitterness within ? Yes, desire of knowledge was my bane as it
was Eve's. Her's was to be a goddess (venial fault in woman), mine was to know the writer of the scroll I held.—
What ruby lips had conned the precious lore,
And what white fingers turned the pages o’er. But let me hurry over the catastrophe. « Oh, what a falling off was there!” Let me break my fall by descending, seriatim, step by step from the sublime, for I am no Bellephoron, to fall “ plump down” from the winged steed of fancy, and wander, sound of wind and limb, on the “ Alean field.” In the first place, then, I was sorry to observe from certain blots in characters submitted to the writer's mercy, that she was of a censorious description; she was a persecutor too ; for every letter was martyred worse than any of the unfortunates in Fox's book. She tortured B.'s worse than Domitian tortured flies; and the H.'s (aches) put me in mind of John Kemble and the torments of Caliban. The whole manuscript had a very suspicious deviation from the right line : to borrow a phrase from the rich vocabulary of real fancy and science, “ it was more on the cross than the square.” After this scientific investigation of the external physiognomy of the characters, I proceeded to anatomize their vital system. “ Last week,” says Swift, “ I saw the body of a first-rate beau dissected, and you cannot imagine how much it altered his figure for the worse.” So it fared with my letter: the intellectual organs I sought vainly, the organ of meaning, though not the pin-eal gland, was of the size of a pin's point; and the amative organ, which appeared so strongly developed without, was only discoverable within, in the shape of two small fragments comprised in the words “ wounded hart.” These words with infinite pains, (like some bespectacled antiquarian, groping out the meaning of one letter among five hundred on a stony-hearted obstinate Egyptian MS.) I managed to decipher. Whether they composed a portion of a pathetic and brilliant metaphor, or merely exhibited a slip in orthography, it is impossible to say. In short, the letter appeared to come from a lady, and was doubtless of a very flattering description ; but as I never could decipher more than the two above words of it, with the aforesaid “ Dr.” and “ St.,” from that day to this, the lady (if a lady it was) might just as well have suffered “ concealment like a worm in the bud to prey on her damask cheek." Indeed, much better, since the letter, “ delicate midwife,” doubtless, “ of a fair thought,” has been since then, notwithstanding the said Dr. and St. compelled to lie promiscuously (where are all the civilians in Doctors' Commons ?) in the same drawer with a greasy company of bills from butchers, cheesemongers, tallow-chandlers, &c. &c. Faugh! “To what base uses do we come, Horatio !”.
There are two expedients commonly resorted to by men when unlucky in their calculations ; one is to lay the whole blame on their stars, which, unless in such cases as Petrarch refers to, (Oh Occhi, stelle miei!), may prove a satisfactory alibi in any court of justice; the other, like the “ devil when sick,” to moralize and give advice to others. Of these alternatives I chose the latter, and philosophically cast about to see if I could not extract some few grains of good out of the dross of my mishap, by making it the subject of a few admonitory hints on love-letter writing, to my brother and sister ARCADIANS of the west.