Page images

rowing was always bad, but of one's children worst: that Mr. Crutchley's objection to their lending me their money when I had a mortgage to offer as security, was unkind and harsh: that I would go live in a little way at Bath till I had paid all my debts and cleared my income that I would no more be tyrannized over by people who hated or people who plundered me, in short that I would retire and save my money and lead this uncomfortable life no longer. They made little or no reply, and I am resolved to do as I declared. I will draw in my expenses, lay by every shilling I can to pay off debts and mortgages, and perhaps who knows? I may in six or seven years be freed from all incumbrances, and carry a clear income of 2500l, a year and an estate of 500l. in land to the man of my heart. May I but live to discharge my obligations to those who hate me; it will be paradise to discharge them to him who loves me."

"April, 1783.-I will go to Bath: nor health, nor strength, nor my, children's affections, have I. My daughter does not, I suppose, much delight in this scheme [viz. retrenchment of expenses and removal to Bath], but why should I lead a life of delighting her, who would not lose a shilling of interest or an ounce of pleasure to save my life from perishing? When I was near losing my existence from the contentions of my mind, and was seized with a temporary delirium in Argyll Street, she and her two eldest sisters laughed at my distress, and observed to dear Fanny Burney, that it was monstrous droll. She could hardly suppress

her indignation,

"Piozzi was ill. . . A sore throat, Pepys said it was, with four ulcers in it: the people about me said it had been lanced, and I mentioned it slightly before the girls. Has he cut his own throat?' says Miss Thrale in her quiet manner. This was less inexcusable because she hated him, and the other was her sister; though, had she exerted the good sense I thought her possessed of, she would not have treated him so: had she adored, and fondled, and respected him as he deserved from her hands, and from the heroic conduct he shewed in January when he gave into her hands, that dismal day, all my letters containing promises of marriage, protestations of love, &c., who knows but she might have kept us separated? But never did she once caress or thank me, never treat him with common civility, except on the very day which gave her hopes of our final parting. Worth while to be sure it was, to break one's heart for her! The other two are, however, neither wiser nor kinder; all swear by her I believe, and follow her footsteps exactly. Mr. Thrale had not much heart, but his fair daughters have none at all.” *

Johnson was not called in to counsel on these matters of the heart, but he was not cast off or neglected. Madame D'Arblay lands him in Argyll Street on the 20th November, 1782. We hear of him at Mrs. Thrale's house or in her company repeatedly from Madame D'Arblay and Dr. Lort. "Johnson," writes Dr. Lort, January 28th, 1783, "is much better. I

This is the very accusation they brought against her.

saw him the other evening at Madame Thrale's in very good spirits." Boswell says:

"On Friday, March 21, (1783) having arrived in London the night before, I was glad to find him at Mrs. Thrale's house, in Argyle Street, appearances of friendship between them being still kept up. I was shown into his room; and after the first salutation he said, 'I am glad you are come; I am very ill.'

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

"He sent a message to acquaint Mrs. Thrale that I was arrived. I had not seen her since her husband's death. She soon appeared, and favoured me with an invitation to stay to dinner, which I accepted. There was no other company but herself and three of her daughters, Dr. Johnson, and I. She too said she was very glad I was come; for she was going to Bath, and should have been sorry to leave Dr. Johnson before I came. This seemed to be attentive and kind; and I, who had not been informed of any change, imagined all to be as well as formerly. He was little inclined to talk at dinner, and went to sleep after it; but when he joined us in the drawing-room he seemed revived, and was again himself."

This is quite decisive so far as Boswell is concerned, and disposes at once of all his preceding insinuations to her disadvantage. He had not seen her before since Thrale's death; and now, finding them together and jealously scrutinising their tone and manner towards each, he imagined all to be as well as formerly.* That

"Now on March 21, 1783, fifteen months before the marriage in question, Boswell speaks of the severance of the old friendship

they were on the point of living apart, and of keeping up their habitual interchange of mind exclusively by letters, is no proof that either was capriciously or irrecoverably estranged.

The pleasures of intimacy in friendship depend far more on external circumstances than people of a sentimental turn of mind are willing to concede; and when constant companionship ceases to suit the convenience of both parties, the chances are that it will be dropped on the first favourable opportunity. Admiration, esteem, or affection may continue to be felt for one whom, from altered habits or new ties, we can no longer receive as an inmate or an established member of the family. Johnson was now in his seventy-fourth year, haunted by the fear of death, and fond of dwelling nauseously on his ailments and proposed remedies. From what passed at Brighton, it would seem that there were moods in which he was positively unbearable, and could not be received in a house without driving every one else out of it. In a roomy mansion like Streatham he might be endured, because he could be kept out of the way; but in an ordinary town-house or small establishment, such a guest would resemble an elephant in a private menagerie.


as effected: appearances of friendship,' he says, 'were still maintained between them.' Boswell was at feud with the lady when he wrote, as we all know. But his evidence is surely sufficient as to the fact of the rupture, though not as to its causes."

(Edin. Rev. p. 510.) Boswell's concluding evidence, that to the best of his knowledge and observation, there was no change or rupture, is suppressed!

There is also a very great difference, when arrangements are to be made for the domestication of a male visitor, between a family with a male head, and one consisting exclusively of females. Let any widow with daughters make the case her own, and imagine herself domesticated in Argyll or Harley Street with the lexicographer. The manly authority of Thrale was required to keep Johnson in order quite as much as to steady the imputed flightiness of the lady; and his idolaters must really remember that she was a sentient being, with feelings and affections which she was fully entitled to consult in arranging her scheme of life. When Lord Macaulay and his school tacitly assume that these are to weigh as dust in the balance against the claims of learning, they argue like sundry upholders of the temporal sovereignty of the Pope, who contend that his subjects should complacently endure any amount of oppression rather than endanger (what they deem) the vital interests of the Church. When it is maintained that the discomfort was amply repaid by the glory he conferred, we are reminded of what the Strasbourg goose undergoes for fame: "Crammed with food, deprived of drink, and fixed near a great fire, before which it is nailed with its feet upon a plank, this goose passes, it must be owned, an uncomfortable life. The torment would indeed be intolerable, if the idea of the lot which awaits him did not serve as a consolation. But when he reflects that his liver, bigger than himself, loaded with truffles, and clothed in a scientific patè, will,

« PreviousContinue »