Page images

considered, was this opening intercourse between Mrs. Thrale and Signor Piozzi. Little could she imagine that the person she was thus called away from holding up to ridicule, would become, but a few years afterwards, the idol of her fancy and the lord of her destiny! And little did the company present imagine, that this burlesque scene was but the first of a drama the most extraordinary of real life, of which these two persons were to be the hero and heroine: though, when the catastrophe was known, this incident, witnessed by so many, was recollected and repeated from coterie to coterie throughout London, with comments and sarcasms of endless variety."*

Madame D'Arblay mentioned the same circumstance in conversation to the Rev. W. Harness: yet it seems strange in connection with an entry in "Thraliana " from which it would appear that her friend was far from wanting in susceptibility to sweet sounds:

"13 August, 1780.-Piozzi is become a prodigious favourite with me, he is so intelligent a creature, so discerning, one can't help wishing for his good opinion; his singing surpasses everybody's for taste, tenderness, and true elegance; his hand on the forte piano too is so soft, so sweet, so delicate, every tone goes to the heart, I think, and fills the mind with emotions one would not be without, though inconvenient enough sometimes. He wants nothing from us: he comes for his health he says: I see nothing ail the man but pride. The news

* Memoirs of Dr. Burney, &c., vol. ii. pp. 105–111.

papers yesterday told what all the musical folks gained, and set Piozzi down 1200l. o' year."

On the 24th August, 1780, Madame D'Arblay writes: "I have not seen Piozzi: he left me your letter, which indeed is a charming one, though its contents puzzled me much whether to make me sad or merry." Mrs. Thrale was still at Brighton; so that the scene at Dr. Burney's must have occurred subsequently; when she had already begun to find Piozzi what the Neapolitan ladies understand by simpatico. Madame D'Arblay's "Memoirs," as I shall have occasion to point out, are by no means so trustworthy a register of dates, facts, or impressions as her "Diary."

Whilst Thrale lived, Mrs. Thrale's regard for Piozzi was certainly not of a nature to cause scandal or provoke censure, and as it ripened into love, it may be traced, step by step, from the frankest and fullest of all possible unveilings of the heart. Rare indeed are the instances in which such revelations as we find in "Thraliana" could be risked by either man or woman, without giving scope to malevolence; and they should not only be judged as a whole and by the context, but the most favourable construction should be put upon them. When, in this sort of self-communing, every passing emotion, every transitory inclination, is set down, it would be unfair and even foolish to infer that the emotion at once became a passion, or that the inclination was criminally indulged.

The next notice of Piozzi occurs in Madame D'Arblay's "Diary" for July 10th, 1781:

"You will believe I was not a little surprised to see Sacchini. He is going to the Continent with Piozzi, and Mrs. Thrale invited them both to spend the last day at Streatham, and from hence proceed to Margate. . . . The first song he sang, beginning' En quel amabil volto,' you may perhaps know, but I did not; it is a charming mezza bravura. He and Piozzi then sung together the duet of the 'Amore Soldato;' and nothing could be much more delightful; Piozzi taking pains to sing his very best, and Sacchini, with his soft but delicious whisper, almost thrilling me by his exquisite and pathetic expression. They then went through that

[merged small][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][merged small]

Piozzi's attentions had attracted Johnson's notice without troubling his peace. On November 24th, 1781, he wrote from Ashbourne: "Piozzi, I find, is coming in spite of Miss Harriet's prediction, or second sight, and when he comes and I come, you will have two about you that love you; and I question if either of us heartily care how few more you have. But how many soever they may be, I hope you keep your kindness for me, and I have a great mind to have Queeny's kindness too."

Again, December 3rd, 1781: "You have got Piozzi again, notwithstanding pretty Harriet's dire denunciations. The Italian translation which he has brought, you will find no great accession to your library, for the writer seems to understand very little English. When we meet we can compare some passages. Pray contrive a multitude of good things for us to do when we

meet. Something that may hold all together; though if any thing makes me love you more, it is going from you."

We learn from "Thraliana," that the entanglement with Piozzi was not the only one of which Streatham was cotemporaneously the scene:

"August, 1781. I begin to wish in good earnest that Miss Burney should make impression on Mr. Crutchley. I think she honestly loves the man, who in his turn appears to be in love with some one elseHester, I fear, Oh! that would indeed be unlucky! People have said so a long while, but I never thought it till now; young men and women will always be serving one so, to be sure, if they live at all together, but I depended on Burney keeping him steady to herself. Queeny behaves like an angel about it. Mr. Johnson says the name of Crutchley comes from croix lea, the cross meadow; lea is a meadow, I know, and crutch, a crutch stick, is so called from having the handle go crosswise."

[ocr errors]

"September, 1781.-My five fair daughters too! I have so good a pretence to wish for long life to see them settled. Like the old fellow in Lucian,' one is never at a loss for an excuse. They are five lovely creatures to be sure, but they love not me. Is it my fault or theirs?"

"12th October, 1781.-Yesterday was my weddingday; it was a melancholy thing to me to pass it without the husband of my youth.

"Long tedious years may neither moan,
Sad, deserted, and alone;

May neither long condemned to stay

Wait the second bridal day!!!' *

"Let me thank God for my children, however, my fortune, and my friends, and be contented if I cannot be happy."

"15th October, 1781. - My maid Margaret Rice dreamed last night that my eldest daughter was going to be married to Mr. Crutchley, but that Mr. Thrale himself prevented her. An odd thing to me, who think

Mr. Crutchley is his son."

Although the next day but one after Thrale's death Johnson carried Boswell to dine at the Queen's Arms' Club, his grief was deep and durable. Indeed, it is expressed so often and so earnestly as to rebut the presumption that "my mistress" was the sole or chief tie which bound him to Streatham. Amongst his Prayers and Meditations is the following:

"Good Friday, April 13th, 1781.-On Wednesday, 11th, was buried my dear friend Thrale, who died on Wednesday, 4th; and with him were buried many of my hopes and pleasures. About five, I think, on Wednesday morning, he expired. I felt almost the last flutter of his pulse, and looked for the last time upon the face that for fifteen years had never been turned upon me but with respect or benignity. Farewell. May God, that delighteth in mercy, have had mercy on

*Note by Mrs. T.: "Samuel Wesley's verses, making part of an epithalamium."

« PreviousContinue »