CAPTAIN FITZCHROME. But I must say, though I know you had always a turn
for sketching characters, you surprise me by your observation, and especially by
your attention to opinions.
LADY CLARINDA. Well, I will tell you a secret: I am writing a novel.
CAPTAIN FITZCHROME. A novel!
LADY CLARINDA. Yes, a novel. And I shall get a little finery by it: trinkets and
fal-lals, which I cannot get from papa. You must know I have been reading
several fashionable novels, the fashionable this, and the fashionable that; and I
thought to myself, why I can do better than any of these myself. So I wrote a
chapter or two, and sent them as a specimen to Mr. Puffall, the book-seller,
telling him they were to be a part of the fashionable something or other, and he
offered me, I will not say how much, to finish it in three volumes, and let him pay
all the newspapers for recommending it as the work of a lady of quality, who had
made very free with the characters of her acquaintance.
CAPTAIN FITZCHROME. Surely you have not done so?
LADY CLARINDA. Oh, no! I leave that to Mr. Eavesdrop. But Mr. Puffall made it
a condition that I should let him say so.
CAPTAIN FITZCHROME. A strange recommendation.
LADY CLARINDA. Oh, nothing else will do. And it seems you may give yourself
any character you like, and the newspapers will print it as if it came from
themselves. I have commended you to three of our friends here as an economist,
a transcendentalist, and a classical scholar; and if you wish to be renowned
through the world for these, or any other accomplishments, the newspapers will
confirm you in their possession for half-a-guinea a piece.
CAPTAIN FITZCHROME. Truly, the praise of such gentry must be a feather in
any one's cap.
LADY CLARINDA. So you will see, some morning, that my novel is "the most
popular production of the day." This is Mr. Puffall's favourite phrase. He makes
the newspapers say it of everything he publishes. But "the day," you know, is a
very convenient phrase; it allows of three hundred and sixty-five "most popular
productions" in a year. And in leap-year one more.