[Strada, in one of his Prolusions, ] gives an Account of a chimerical Correspondence between two Friends by the Help of a certain Loadstone, which had such Virtue in it, that if it touched two several Needles, when one of the Needles so touched [began ], to move, the other, tho at never so great a Distance, moved at the same Time, and in the same Manner. He tells us, that the two Friends, being each of them possessed of one of these Needles, made a kind of a Dial-plate, inscribing it with the four and twenty Letters, in the same manner as the Hours of the Day are marked upon the ordinary Dial-plate. They then fixed one of the Needles on each of these Plates in such a manner, that it could move round without Impediment, so as to touch any of the four and twenty Letters. Upon their Separating from one another into distant Countries, they agreed to withdraw themselves punctually into their Closets at a certain Hour of the Day, and to converse with one another by means of this their Invention. Accordingly when they were some hundred Miles asunder, each of them shut himself up in his Closet at the Time appointed, and immediately cast his Eye upon his Dial-plate. If he had a mind to write any thing to his Friend, he directed his Needle to every Letter that formed the Words which he had occasion for, making a little Pause at the end of every Word or Sentence, to avoid Confusion. The Friend, in the mean while, saw his own sympathetick Needle moving of itself to every Letter which that of his Correspondent pointed at. By this means they talked together across a whole Continent, and conveyed their Thoughts to one another in an Instant over Cities or Mountains, Seas or Desarts.
If Monsieur Scudery, or any other Writer of Romance, had introduced a Necromancer, who is generally in the Train of a Knight-Errant, making a Present to two Lovers of a Couple of those above-mentioned Needles, the Reader would not have been a little pleased to have seen them corresponding with one another when they were guarded by Spies and Watches, or separated by Castles and Adventures.
In the mean while, if ever this Invention should be revived or put in practice, I would propose, that upon the Lovers Dial-plate there should be written not only the four and twenty Letters, but several entire Words which have always a Place in passionate Epistles, as Flames, Darts, Die, Language, Absence, Cupid, Heart, Eyes, Hang, Drown, and the like. This would very much abridge the Lovers Pains in this way of writing a Letter, as it would enable him to express the most useful and significant Words with a single Touch of the Needle.
[Footnote 1: Orphan, Act II.]
[Footnote 2: [In one of Strada’s Prolusions he] Lib. II. Prol. 6.]
[Footnote 3: [begun], and in first reprint.]
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No. 242. Friday, December 7, 1711. Steele.