Page images

of conduct or feeling as Lord Burleigh's famous nod in "The Critic." The philosopher was at this very time an inmate of Streatham, and probably returned that same evening to register a sample of its hospitality. At all events, we know that, spite of hints and warnings, sighs and groans, he stuck to Streatham to the last; and finally left it with Mrs. Thrale, as a member of her family, to reside in her house at Brighton, as her guest, for six weeks. To talk of conscious illtreatment or wounded dignity, in the teeth of facts like these, is laughable.

Madame D'Arblay joined the party as Mrs. Thrale's guest on the 26th October, and on the 28th she writes:

"At dinner, we had Dr. Delap and Mr. Selwyn, who accompanied us in the evening to a ball; as did also Dr. Johnson, to the universal amazement of all who saw him there:-but he said he had found it so dull being quite alone the preceding evening, that he determined upon going with us: for,' he said, it cannot Strange that he should

be worse than being alone.'

think so! I am sure I am not of his mind.”

On the 29th, she records that Johnson behaved very rudely to Mr. Pepys, and fairly drove him from the

*The Edinburgh reviewer says, "Johnson went in Oct. 1782 from Streatham to Brighton, where he lived a kind of boardinghouse life; " and adds, "he was not asked out into company with his fellow-lodgers." The Thrales had a handsome furnished house at Brighton, which is mentioned both in the Correspondence and Autobiography.

It is amusing enough to watch these attempts to shade away the ruinous effect of the Brighton trip on Lord Macaulay's Streatham pathos.


[ocr errors]

The entry for November 10th is remarkable:"We spent this evening at Lady De Ferrars, where Dr. Johnson accompanied us, for the first time he has been invited of our parties since my arrival." On the 20th November, she tells us that Mrs. and the three Miss Thrales and herself got up early to bathe. "We then returned home, and dressed by candle-light, and, as soon as we could get Dr. Johnson ready, we set out upon our journey in a coach and a chaise, and arrived in Argyll Street at dinner time. Mrs. Thrale has there fixed her tent for this short winter, which will end with the beginning of April, when her foreign journey takes place."

One incident of this Brighton trip is mentioned in the "Anecdotes":

"We had got a little French print among us at Brighthelmstone, in November 1782, of some people skaiting, with these lines written under :

'Sur un mince chrystal l'hyver conduit leurs pas,

Le precipice est sous la glace;

Telle est de nos plaisirs la légère surface,

Glissez, mortels; n'appuyez pas.'

"And I begged translations from every body: Dr. Johnson gave me this:

'O'er ice the rapid skater flies,

With sport above and death below;
Where mischief lurks in gay disguise,
Thus lightly touch and quickly go.'

"He was, however, most exceedingly enraged when he knew that in the course of the season I had asked half a dozen acquaintance to do the same thing; and

said, it was a piece of treachery, and done to make every body else look little when compared to my favourite friends the Pepyses, whose translations were unquestionably the best."

Madame D'Arblay's Diary describes the outward and visible state of things at Brighton. "Thraliana" lays bare the internal history, the struggles of the understanding and the heart:

"At Brighthelmstone, whither I went when I left Streatham, 7th October 1782, I heard this comical epigram about the Irish Volunteers:

"There's not one of us all, my brave boys, but would rather Do ought than offend great King George our good father; But our country, you know, my dear lads, is our mother, And that is a much surer side than the other." "

"I had looked ill, or perhaps appeared to feel so much, that my eldest daughter would, out of tenderness perhaps, force me to an explanation. I could, however, have evaded it if I would; but my heart was bursting, and partly from instinctive desire of unloading itpartly, I hope, from principle, too-I called her into my room and fairly told her the truth; told her the

* By Sir Lucas:

"O'er the ice, as o'er pleasure, you lightly should glide, Both have gulphs which their flattering surfaces hide."

By Sir William :

"Swift o'er the level how the skaiters slide,

And skim the glitt'ring surface as they go:
Thus o'er life's specious pleasures lightly glide,
But pause not, press not on the gulph below."

strength of my passion for Piozzi, the impracticability of my living without him, the opinion I had of his merit, and the resolution I had taken to marry him. Of all this she could not have been ignorant before. I confessed my attachment to him and her together with many tears and agonies one day at Streatham; told them both that I wished I had two hearts for their sakes, but having only one I would break it between them, and give them each ciascheduno la metà! After that conversation she consented to go abroad with me, and even appointed the place (Lyons), to which Piozzi meant to follow us. He and she talked long together on the subject; yet her never mentioning it again made me fear she was not fully apprized of my intent, and though her concurrence might have been more easily obtained when left only to my influence in a distant country, where she would have had no friend to support her different opinion yet I scorned to take such mean advantage, and told her my story now, with the winter before her in which to take her measures-her guardians at hand

all displeased at the journey: and to console her private distress I called into the room to her my own bosom friend, my beloved Fanny Burney, whose interest as well as judgment goes all against my marriage; whose skill in life and manners is superior to that of any man or woman in this age or nation; whose knowledge of the world, ingenuity of expedient, delicacy of conduct, and zeal in the cause, will make her a counsellor invaluable, and leave me destitute of every comfort, of every hope, of every expectation.

"Such are the hands to which I have cruelly committed thy cause-my honourable, ardent, artless Piozzi!! Yet I should not deserve the union I desire with the most disinterested of all human hearts, had I behaved with less generosity, or endeavoured to gain by cunning what is withheld by prejudice. Had I set my heart upon a scoundrel, I might have done virtuously to break it and get loose; but the man I love, I love for his honesty, for his tenderness of heart, his dignity of mind, his piety to God, his duty to his mother, and his delicacy to me. In being united to this man only can I be happy in this world, and short will be my stay in it, if it is not passed with him."



Brighthelmstone, 16th November, 1782.-For him, I have been contented to reverse the laws of nature, and request of child that concurrence which, at my age and a widow, I am not required either by divine or human institutions to ask even of a parent. The life I gave her she may now more than repay, only by agreeing to what she will with difficulty prevent; and which, if she does prevent, will give her lasting remorse; for those who stab me shall hear me groan: whereas if she will-but how can she?-gracefully or even compassionately consent; if she will go abroad with me upon the chance of his death or mine preventing our union, and live with me till she is of age-. . . perhaps there is no heart so callous by avarice, no soul so poisoned by prejudice, no head so feather'd by foppery, that will forbear to excuse her when she returns to the rich and the gay-for having saved the life of a

« PreviousContinue »