Transcribed from British Library Cup.401.K7
An Epistle from the worshipful Sir John Meretrix, to Diana Goddess of Chastity; Directress of the Midnight Academy at Vaux-Hall.
O Goddess! or in the Stile of Mortals,
THE Honour you did me, to ask my Advice concerning your Academy now erecting in Spring-Gardens, has fill'd me with such Transports ever since, that I no longer seem to walk on Earth, as a Limb of the Human Quurrum; but with Sublimo in the Blazing Comet, fancy myself,
as high, nay higher,
Than the Element of Fire.
Or with the Pindaric Bard, in honest MATT (1) the Plenipo:
To tread on Stars, and talk with Gods.
Nor did the Rapture burn less fiercely in my Breast, when I read the Approbation your Goddesship was pleased to bestow on my restless Endeavours, to extend the Virtue you more immediately preside over, Chastity. It must, indeed, be own'd, that my Justiciary BROOM, has swept the Drury-an Hundreds, (one side of them at least) as clean as it was possible for an Instrument of that Kind to make so fragrant a Nursery: Not to mention, that by this Means, the sweet Infection, which 'till then was confin'd to half a dozen Districts, spread instantly over the whole Face of this populous City; in like Manner as when Buggs, whose Dwellings extend no farther than an old rotten Bedsted, are forc'd, by dreadful Turpentine, from their deep Caverns, and sent, on a full Gallop, to inhabit all the House over. But tho' my all-purging Broom has been so propitious; could I have ever dreamt, that a Goddess, the Daughter of Jupiter and Latona, and Twin-Sister to Apollo, would have indulg'd me her Applause! The bare Reflection lifts me ten Story, at least, above Ecstacy.
Who can enough admire your Ladyship's Humility, in condescending to animate such a variety of terrestrial Bodies, as you have done since the Age of Pythagoras, of transmigrating Memory. However, to mention only the last but one, that of the justly celebrated Mother DYE, alias Diana Trapes.(2) What Poet, tho' of the most prolific Fancy, could have imagin'd to himself, the Goddess of Chastity, quitting her enamell'd Retreats in Arcadia; the limpid Fountain; her much-lov'd Exercise, Hunting; and her darling Companions of it:
The purling Springs that softly flow,
The pleasing Woods, and peaceful Groves,
That shady Erymanthus bears.
I say, these, and coming to reside in the Metropolis of Great Britain,
purely to improve the Fair Natives of it, in Modesty, the Pride
and Ornament of their Sex, &c. But a Circumstance which rais'd our Astonishment
the Lord knows how high, was, your deigning to assume the most hideous Set
of Features that ever were clapp'd together, those, I mean, of the venerable
Matron above mention'd; when 'tis well known, that the Charms which Jove
bestow'd upon you, are more ravishing than those of Venus:
Who tread the Ground with greater Grace
With more of Godhead shining in your Face.
But you was resolved to be a perfect Model of Humility and Goodness in their utmost Latitude; for what else could have prompted you to disregard overgrown Wealth, and the most dazling Titles, purely to associate with Virtue in the humblest Sphere of Life; of which, your great and lasting Friendship for Mr. Jonathan Wild, (3) of unsully'd Memory, is a resplendent Proof. With what indefatigable Industry you both labour'd in the Cause of Honesty, and the Improvement of the Human Manufacture, (of much more Importance than the Woollen one) is too well known to be repeated in this Place. The Brazen Trump of Fame, has diffus'd the Story of it, in every Creek and Corner of our round World.
But to come, Madam, to your present Institution. No Mortal but a Goddess, (pardon the Bull, for the Sake of, O! Death, thou long liv'd Mortal!) and one inform'd with the Wisdom and Penetration of Minerva, cou'd have struck out a Plan so new, so noble, and so useful, as that of the Ridotto al' Fresco; which the generality of Mortals are such Buzzards as to suppose a meer Masquerade; and by the Words al' Fresco, imagine there will be much Frisking in it. But, silly Creatures! How will they stare when they find, that, under the delicious Disguise of a Masquerade in the cool Shades, your real and genuine Design is, to instruct both Sexes in good Letters, good Manners, Writing, Needle-work, and a nameless Et cetera.
The delightful Place you have pitch'd upon for your excellent Instructions, recalls to our Minds the lovely Solitude, whence Academies receive their Name, in the Suburbs of Athens, where Plato taught his Philosophy. History informs us, that the generous spirited Cimon (the perfect Type of our modern Nobility) embellish'd it, in Favour of the Literati, with embow'ring Groves, Chrystal Canals, and Mazy-Walks: But if the Works of a Mortal, may be mention'd in the same Breath with those of a Deity, these sequester'd Scenes were not to be compar'd to the Paradisaical Ones of your Academy in Vaux-hall.
How inchanting will they be, when finish'd according to your Designs! For there, the Sight, among other Objects, will feast on
Grots and Caves
Of cool Recesses, o'er which the mantling Vine
Lays forth her purple Grape, and gently creeps
The long Walk which strikes the Eye at our going in, is already wonderfully improv'd by the Triumphal Arches now rais'd; and the Temple in distant Prospect, where a painted Statue of Pallas standing on a Pedestal, appears; has a noble Effect, and must infallibly inspire your Pupils of both Sexes with a Love for Wisdom; as the Triumphal Arches will rouze in the Male Part of 'em, the Spirit and Bravery of the old Romans. The Grove, which will be sacred to Bacchus, and the several Divinities, who preside over Feasting and Jollity, cannot but be grateful to those bloated Immortals; especially the five painted Altars that are there building, which to human Eyes, have the Air and Aspect of two Beaufets, and three subsidiary Tables. 'Tis well known, that in the remote Ages of the World, the most frequent Devotees used to retire to gloomy Shades; thence to waft their Orisons to the Starry Regions. How much more acceptable, therefore, (in this improv'd Revival of so solemn a Part of Worship) must the Sacrifices be, which will be offer'd up by the pious Sons and Daughters of Revelling and good Cheer, under the spreading Trees that form this verdant Labyrinth. Methinks I already see the Votaries of both Genders, (after the Moral Lecture is over) their Brows encircled with Chaplets of Jessamin and Roses, sweetly reclin'd on each other's panting Bosoms; taking in the luscious Dainties at their rosy Lips, and innocently drinking whole Rivulets of Love at their bright Eyes: Whilst Bacchus, Venus, and Cupid are peeping thro' the Sail-cloth Canopy, which is to keep out any intruding Shower of Rain, that shou'd attempt to sprinkle the Zealots; and crying in a clestial Rapture,
Was ever such Devotion seen or heard!
How splendid will the Ball-Room, which traverses this modern Eden, be found! and how august the Temple in it, sacred, I presume, to Faunus, and the rest of the tripping Deities, (tho' I with Priapus the God of Gardens, mayn't take Snuff upon this Occasion.) When the Ten Thousand Wax Lights, and the spangled Chandeliers, which are to run cross the Alley, the Grove, and the Ball-Room, are lighted up, how astonishing will be the Blaze! The Trees on which the Sconces are to be hung, must certainly dance and leap for Joy, as formerly, when Orpheus play'd to their Ancestors; and I very much question, whether 'Squire Phbus won't be put so much out of Countenance, that 'tis Ten to One whether he'll dare to show his Phiz in Vaux-Hall for a Fortnight after.
But the most beautiful Circumstance in this Institution, as was before hinted, is the consummate and vastly laudable Artifice you will employ, in Order to draw Pupils to your Academy. The most celebrated Writers upon Education have observ'd, that all the soothing Methods possible are made Use of, to engage and win over the Minds of Youth, in Favour of Learning: In like Manner as Men are moulded, allured, and attracted by a Yard or two of gaudy Ribband, Nymphs by a Piece of Gold, Boys by Sugar Paper, and Mice by toasted Cheese: thus will you, O Goddess, under the specious Title of Ridotto, or, as we may say, a mask'd Masquerade, engage unnumber'd Sparks and Damsels (and very probably, some of the Toothless of both Sexes) to visit your Academy, and be present at your excellent Lectures. Your Resolution to appoint the Teacher or Instructor of a different Sex from the Scholar; or in other Words, to have Men teach the Maids, and Maids instruct the Men, is a very happy one, as experience has prov'd; and to mention only a single Instance; When a Foreigner is desirous of learning the Language of a Country he is visiting, in the shortest Time possible, how is he advised? Why, to take unto himself a Mistress. The Instructress is sure to have her Pains and Labour crown'd with Success; as the Pupil must be highly satisfy'd with her Documents. And there is no Doubt but your Male Subalterns, will be equally propitious in instilling their Principles into the Minds of their fair Scholars.
But how surpriz'd will a modish young Spark be, after his tripping the Minuet, Rigadoon, Louvre, or sharing in a rural Dance, to find himself convey'd by his sweetly-vizor'd Partner, into an adjoining solitary Bower; and in a Corner of it, instead of being regal'd by her with Kisses, or meeting with a Group of gay Gigglers, and such a luscious Banquet of Females as Cymochles was entertain'd with, when,
of them strove, with most Delights
Him to aggrate, and greatest Pleasures shew;
Some fram'd fair Looks, glancing like Evening Lights,
Others sweet Words, dropping like Honey Dew;
Some bathed Kisses, and did oft embrew,
The sugar'd Liquor through his melting Lips:
One boasts her Beauty, and does yield to view
Her dainty Limbs above her tender Hips;
Another her outboasts, and all for Tryal Strips. [Spencer's Fairy Queen]
Instead, I say, of meeting
with any thing in this Goût, how will he stare when his Mistress
pulls a Dyche's or Young's Spelling Book out of her Pocket!
and entertains him with
B-o-oB y; Booby: N-U-M-P-S; Numps, and such like edifying Sounds! Or in case he can read, (and some few very genteel young Gentlemen are known to have a Smattering this way) to find himself oblig'd to exert his Talents, in conning a Lesson in Mother Goose's Tales; The Save-all for a Sinking Soul; or the delectable History of Jack Horner. As on the other Side, how broad will a young, splendidly habited Wench open her Eyes, when drawn aside to an Alcove by one of Your Understrappers to see him, (instead of complimenting her with a green Gown) take a Sampler out of his Pocket; teach her to handle her Needle, whether in Marking, Flourishing, or Cross-Stich; and close the Exercise with a Lesson out of the Academy of Compliments, while
their Quire apply; Airs, vernal Airs,
Breathing the Smell of Field and Grove, attune,
The trembling Leaves ------------------------------
'Twou'd, no doubt, at first, shock vulgar Minds to see a Spark, whose Back is beautify'd with a gracefully depending Queue, and his Bosom with rich Lace or Embroidery, pull out his brocade Hus-if; (pardon the Orthography) thumb the Leaves of his scarlet Needle-Book, as earnestly as he would those of a Play or Romance; cull out a Needle, thread it, and fall a sewing. But this, I say, will appear strange only in the Eye of Prejudice; for the great Benefit which will hence accrue to these Human Butterflies, will be evident to all who now and then give a Look to their Gold or Silver Clock'd Hose; for how often does a Large Portion of their Pedestals peep out at these, (not to mention their Trowzers) to the eternal Scandal of their whole Dress! Now how happily will they themselves be enabled to obviate any Disgrace of this Kind, by that Time they have only taken half a Dozen Lessons! - And the great Advantage these will gain by learning to read and write, is so obvious, that it scarce requires Notice to be taken of it, since they then will never be put to the Blush, when desir'd by a Lady to read a Play, or the Universal Spectator; or be oblig'd to run after, and pay the Clark of the Parish, for penning their Love-Letters.
I have spoke, Madam, to several Apothecaries, Surgeons and Doctors, of my Acquaintance, about your glorious Establishment, who all approve of it to a Man, and beg your Acceptance of a Trifle, only Five Hundred Guineas; Fifty of which are the Gift of the learned Author of the Practical Scheme, who hopes you understand, Madam. I was also very handsomely receiv'd by the Monarch who presides over Agues and Fevers in the Marshes of Kent; so that if the Sons of Health above, will but bleed heartily (their Purses I mean) upon this Occasion, they may depend upon having a Squadron of these Diseases abovementioned, sent up (wing'd with the same Kind of Feather by which the Darts of Death are made to fly) in the Night of the 7th of this Month, when 'tis not doubted but they'll do proper Execution and the Zephyrs will be ready to swell the Sails of the several Wherries, by Seven in the Evening.
I won't fail to get the several Books, according to your Commands. I have already bought five Dozen of the Practice of Piety; three of Pills to purge Melancholy; eight of Brook's Mute Christian; fifty of Apples of Gold for young Men and Women; nine of Sir Billy of Billericay; twenty Sinner's Alarum; and met with sixteen Gross of Horn-Books at a Midwife's of my Acquaintance, who offers to sell them 25 per Cent. cheaper than any Body, in case you'll promise to speak a good Word for her; but this is humbly submitted to your unerring Wisdom.
The buxom Goddess, Flora, has given me her Word and Honour, that she will attend in all her Pride, Gayety and Splendor; and not fail to inspire the Nightingales of Vaux-Hall Gardens with Notes of an unusual Harmony: Mercury will certainly dine with you that Day, of which he himself will send you Notice by the Penny-Post.
That your unparallel'd Endeavours to promote Religion, Honour, Honesty, Modesty, and the whole Round of social Virtues, may succeed to the Wishes of all good Men, is the hearty Prayer of,
Your most incomprehensible,
(2) see Gay's Beggar's Opera, 1728. Trapes was a Bawd, also known as Mrs Dye
(3) Wild was often satirically compared with Sir Robert Walpole, the political thief, both robbers of the public