Page images

and Mrs. Byron will perhaps think they are sorry, but my consciousness that no one can have the cause of concern that Johnson has, and my conviction that he has no concern at all, shall cure me of lamenting friends left behind."

In the margin of this entry she has written, “I begin to see (now everything shows it) that Johnson's connection with me is merely an interested one; he loved Mr. Thrale, I believe, but only wished to find in me a careful nurse and humble friend for his sick and his lounging hours; yet I really thought he could not have existed without my conversation forsooth! He cares more for my roast beef and plum pudden, which he now devours too dirtily for endurance; and since he is glad to get rid of me, I'm sure I have good cause to desire the getting rid of him."

No great stress should be laid on this ebullition of mortified self-love; but it occurs oddly enough at the very time when, according to Lord Macaulay, she was labouring to produce the very feeling that irritated her.

"August 28th, 1782.-He (Piozzi) thinks still more than he says, that I shall give him up; and if Queeney made herself more amiable to me, and took the proper methods I suppose I should."

"20 September 1782, Streatham.-And now I am going to leave Streatham (I have let the house and grounds to Lord Shelburne, the expence of it eat me up) for three years, where I lived — never happily indeed, but always easily: the more so perhaps from the total absence of love and ambition —



"Else these two passions by the
Might chance to show us scurvy play.'"

Ten days later (October 1st) she thus argues out the question of marriage:

"Now! that dear little discerning creature, Fanny Burney, says I'm in love with Piozzi: very likely; he is so amiable, so honourable, so much above his situation by his abilities, that if

"Fate had not fast bound her

With Styx nine times round her,

Sure musick and love were victorious.'

But if he is ever so worthy, ever so lovely, he is below me forsooth! In what is he below me? In virtue? I would I were above him. In understanding? I would mine were from this instant under the guardianship of his. In birth? To be sure he is below me in birth, and so is almost every man I know or have a chance to know. But he is below me in fortune is mine sufficient for us both? more than amply so. Does he deserve it by his conduct, in which he has always united warm notions of honour with cool attention to œconomy, the spirit of a gentleman with the talents of a professor? How shall any man deserve fortune, if he does not? But I am the guardian of five daughters by Mr. Thrale, and must not disgrace their name and family.. Was then the man my mother chose for me of higher extraction than him I have chosen for myself? No, but his fortune was higher.

[ocr errors]

I wanted fortune then, perhaps: do I want it now?—

Not at all; but I am not to think about myself; I married the first time to please my mother, I must marry the second time to please my daughter. I have always sacrificed my own choice to that of others, so I must sacrifice it again: but why? Oh, because I am a woman of superior understanding, and must not for the world degrade myself from my situation in life. But if I have superior understanding, let me at least make use of it for once, and rise to the rank of a human being conscious of its own power to discern good from ill. The person who has uniformly acted by the will of others has hardly that dignity to boast.

"But once again: I am guardian to five girls; agreed: will this connection prejudice their bodies, souls, or purse? My marriage may assist my health, but I suppose it will not injure theirs. Will his company or companions corrupt their morals? God forbid; if I did not believe him one of the best of our fellow beings, I would reject him instantly. Can it injure their fortunes? Could he impoverish (if he would) five women, to whom their father left 20,000l. each, independent almost of possibilities? To what then am I guardian? to their pride and prejudice? and is anything else affected by the alliance? Now for more solid objections. Is not the man of whom I desire protection, a foreigner? unskilled in the laws and language of our country? Certainly. Is he not, as the French say, Arbitre de mon sort? and from the hour he possesses my person and fortune, have I any power of decision how or where I may continue or end my life? Is not the man, upon the continuance

of whose affection my whole happiness depends, younger than myself*, and is it wise to place one's happiness on the continuance of any man's affection? Would it not be painful to owe his appearance of regard more to his honour than his love? and is not my person, already faded, likelier to fade sooner than his? On the other hand, is his life a good one? and would it not be lunacy even to risque the wretchedness of losing all situation in the world for the sake of living with a man one loves, and then to lose both companion and consolation? When I lost Mr. Thrale, every one was officious to comfort and to soothe me; but which of my children or quondam friends would look with kindness upon Piozzi's widow? If I bring children by him, must they not be Catholics, and must not I live among people the ritual part of whose religion I disapprove?

"These are my objections, these my fears: not those of being censured by the world, as it is called, a composition of vice and folly, though 'tis surely no good joke to be talked of

"By each affected she that tells my story,

And blesses her good stars that she was prudent.'

"These objections would increase in strength, too, if my present state was a happy one, but it really is not. I live a quiet life, but not a pleasant one. My children govern without loving me; my servants devour and despise me; my friends caress and censure me; my money wastes in expences I do not enjoy, and my time

Note by Mrs. Piozzi: "He was half a year older when our registers were both examined."

in trifles I do not approve. Every one is made insolent, and no one comfortable; my reputation unprotected, my heart unsatisfied, my health unsettled. I will, however, resolve on nothing. I will take a voyage to the Continent in spring, enlarge my knowledge and repose my purse. Change of place may turn the course of these ideas, and external objects supply the room of internal felicity. If he follow me, I may reject or receive at pleasure the addresses of a man who follows on no explicit promise, nor much probability of success, for I would really wish to marry no more without the consent of my children (such I mean as are qualified to give their opinions); and how should Miss Thrales approve of my marrying Mr. Piozzi? Here then I rest, and will torment my mind no longer, but commit myself, as he advises, to the hand of Providence, and all will end all'ottima perfezzione.

"Written at Streatham, 1st October, 1782."

"October, 1782.-There is no mercy for me in this island. I am more and more disposed to try the continent. One day the paper rings with my marriage to Johnson, one day to Crutchley, one day to Seward. I give no reason for such impertinence, but cannot deliver myself from it. Whitbred, the rich brewer, is in love with me too; oh, I would rather, as Ann Page says, be set breast deep in the earth and bowled to death with turnips.


"Mr. Crutchley bid me make a curtsey to my daughters for keeping me out of a goal (sic), and the * Anne Page says, "quick in the earth."

« PreviousContinue »