Page images

whose conduct, through scenes of dreadful difficulty, notwithstanding her extreme youth, was even exemplary; and to whom the self-beguiled, yet generous mother, gave full and free permission to confide every thought and feeling to the Memorialist."

"Various incidental circumstances began, at length, to open the reluctant eyes of Dr. Burney to an impelled, though clouded foresight, of the portentous event which might latently be the cause of the alteration of all around at Streatham. He then naturally wished for some explanation with his daughter, though he never forced, or even claimed her confidence; well knowing, that voluntarily to give it him had been her earliest delight.

"But in taking her home with him one morning, to pass a day in St. Martin's Street, he almost involuntarily, in driving from the paddock, turned back his head towards the house, and, in a tone the most impressive, sighed out: Adieu, Streatham !- Adieu !'"

"A few weeks earlier, the Memorialist had passed a nearly similar scene with Dr. Johnson. Not, however, she believes, from the same formidable species of surmise; but from the wounds inflicted upon his injured sensibility, through the palpably altered looks, tone, and deportment, of the bewildered lady of the mansion; who, cruelly aware what would be his wrath, and how overwhelming his reproaches against her projected

union, wished to break up their residing under the same roof before it should be proclaimed.

"This gave to her whole behaviour towards Dr. Johnson, a sort of restless petulancy, of which she was sometimes hardly conscious, at others, nearly reckless; but which hurt him far more than she purposed, though short of the point at which she aimed, of precipitating a change of dwelling that would elude its being cast, either by himself or the world, upon a passion that her understanding blushed to own, even while she was sacrificing to it all of inborn dignity that she had been bred to hold most sacred.

"Dr. Johnson, while still uninformed of an entanglement it was impossible he should conjecture, attributed her varying humours to the effect of wayward health meeting a sort of sudden wayward power: and imagined that caprices, which he judged to be partly feminine, and partly wealthy, would soberise themselves away in being unnoticed."

"But at length, as she became more and more dissatisfied with her own situation, and impatient for its relief, she grew less and less scrupulous with regard to her celebrated guest: she slighted his counsel; did not heed his remonstrances; avoided his society; was ready at a moment's hint to lend him her carriage when he wished to return to Bolt Court; but awaited a formal request to accord it for bringing him back.

"The Doctor then began to be stung; his own aspect became altered; and depression, with indignant uneasiness, sat upon his venerable front.

"It was at this moment that, finding the Memorialist was going one morning to St. Martin's Street, he desired a cast thither in the carriage, and then to be set down at Bolt Court.

"Aware of his disturbance, and far too well aware how short it was of what it would become when the cause of all that passed should be detected, it was in trembling that the Memorialist accompanied him to the coach, filled with dread of offending him by any reserve, should he force upon her any inquiry; and yet impressed with the utter impossibility of betraying a trusted secret.

"His look was stern, though dejected, as he followed her into the vehicle; but when his eye, which, however short-sighted, was quick to mental perception, saw how ill at ease appeared his companion, all sternness subsided into an undisguised expression of the strongest emotion, that seemed to claim her sympathy, though to revolt from her compassion; while, with a shaking hand, and pointing finger, he directed her looks to the mansion from which they were driving; and, when they faced it from the coach window, as they turned into Streatham Common, tremulously exclaiming: That house.. is lost to me—for ever!'


During a moment he then fixed upon her an interrogative eye, that impetuously demanded: 'Do you not perceive the change I am experiencing?'

"A sorrowing sigh was her only answer.

"Pride and delicacy then united to make him leave her to her taciturnity.

"He was too deeply, however, disturbed to start or to bear any other subject; and neither of them uttered a single word till the coach stopt in St. Martin's Street, and the house and the carriage door were opened for their separation! He then suddenly and expressively looked at her, abruptly grasped her hand, and, with an air of affection, though in a low, husky voice, murmured rather than said: "Good morning, dear lady!' but turned his head quickly away, to avoid any species of answer."

"She was deeply touched by so gentle an acquiescence in her declining the confidential discourse upon which he had indubitably meant to open, relative to this mysterious alienation. But she had the comfort to be satisfied, that he saw and believed in her sincere participation in his feelings; while he allowed for the grateful attachment that bound her to a friend so loved; who, to her at least, still manifested a fervour of regard that resisted all change; alike from this new partiality, and from the undisguised, and even strenuous opposition of the Memorialist to its indulgence."

The Memoirs of Dr. Burney, by his daughter, published in 1832, together with her Diary and Letters, supplied the materials of Lord Macaulay's celebrated article on Madame D'Arblay in the "Edinburgh Review" for January, 1843, since reprinted amongst his Essays. He describes the Memoirs as a book "which it is impossible to read without a sensation made up of mirth, shame, and loathing," and adds:-"The two works are lying side by side before us; and we never

turn from the Memoirs to the Diary without a sense of relief. The difference is as great as the difference between the atmosphere of a perfumer's shop, scented with lavender water and jasmine soap, and the air of a heath on a fine morning in May."

The passages I have quoted amply establish the justice of this comparison, for they are utterly irreconcileable with the unvarnished statements of the Diary; from which we learn that "Cecilia " was published about the beginning of June, when Johnson was absent from Streatham; that the Diarist had left Streatham prior to August 12th, and did not return to it again that year. How could she have passed many months there after she was entrusted with the great secret, which (as stated in "Thraliana ") she only guessed in September or October?

How again could Johnson have attributed Mrs. Thrale's conduct to caprices "partly wealthy," when he knew that one main source of her troubles was pecuniary; or how can his alleged sense of ill-treatment be reconciled with his own letters? That he groaned over the terrible disturbance of his habits involved in the abandonment of Streatham, is likely enough; but as the only words he uttered were, "That house is lost to me for ever," and "Good morning, dear lady," the accom panying look is about as safe a foundation for a theory

* Critical and Historical Essays (one volume edition), 1851, p. 652. The Memoirs were composed between 1828 and 1832, more than forty years after the occurrence of the scenes I have quoted from them.

« PreviousContinue »