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There the gamester light and jolly,
"Wealth, my lad, was made to wander,
Call the jockey, call the pander,
Bid them come and take their fill.
"When the bonny blade carouses,
"Should the guardian friend or mother
Scorn their counsel, scorn their pother-
These verses were addressed to Thrale's nephew, Sir John Lade, in August, 1780. They bear a strong resemblance to some of Burns' in his "Beggar's Sonata," written in 1785::
"What is title, what is treasure,
What is reputation's care;
If we lead a life of pleasure,
Can it matter how or where?"
Boswell's "Life of Johnson" was published in May,
1791. It is thus mentioned in "Thraliana ":
May, 1791.—Mr. Boswell's book is coming out, and the wits expect me to tremble: what will the fellow say? that has not been said already."
No date, but previous to 25th May, 1791.-“ I have been now laughing and crying by turns, for two days, over Boswell's book. That poor man should have a Bon Bouillon and be put to bed he is quite light-headed, yet madmen, drunkards, and fools tell truth, they say and if Johnson was to me the back friend he has represented ... let it cure me of ever making friendship more with any human being."
"25th May, 1791.-The death of my son, so suddenly, so horribly produced before my eyes now suffering from the tears then shed. so shockingly
brought forward in Boswell's two guinea book, made me very ill this week, very ill indeed; it would make the modern friends all buy the work I fancy, did they but know how sick the ancient friends had it in their power to make me, but I had more wit than tell any of 'em. And what is the folly among all these fellows of wishing we may know one another in the next world. Comical enough! when we have only to expect deserved reproaches for breach of confidence and cruel usage. Sure, sure I hope, rancour and resentment will at least be put off in the last moments : sure, surely, we shall meet no more, except on the great day when each is to answer to other and before other. After that I hope to keep
better company than any of them."
The death of her son is not unkindly mentioned by Boswell. See p. 491, roy. oct. edit. But the imputations on her veracity rest exclusively on his prejudiced testimony.
In 1801, Mrs. Piozzi published "Retrospection; or a Review of the Most Striking and Important Events, Characters, Situations, and their Consequences, which the Last Eighteen Hundred Years have presented to the View of Mankind." It is in two volumes quarto, containing rather more than 1000 pages. A fitting motto for it would have been De omnibus rebus et quibusdam aliis. The subject, or range of subjects, was beyond her grasp; and the best that can be said of the book is that a good general impression of the stream of history, lighted up with some striking traits of manners and character, may be obtained from it. It would have required the united powers and acquirements of Raleigh, Burke, Gibbon, and Voltaire to fill so vast a canvass with appropriate groups and figures; and she is more open to blame for the ambitious conception of the work than for her comparative failure in the execution. In 1799 she writes to Dr. Gray: "The truth is, my plans stretch too far for these times, or for my own age; but the wish, though scarce hope, of my heart, is to finish the work I am engaged in, get you to look it over for me, and print in March 1801." She published it in January 1801, but it was not looked over by her learned correspondent. Some slight misgiving is betrayed in the Preface:
"If I should have made improper choice of facts, and if I should be found at length most to resemble Maister Fabyan of old, who writing the life of Henry V. lays heaviest stress on a new weathercock set up on St. Paul's steeple during that eventful reign, my book
must share the fate of his, and be like that forgotten: reminding before its death perhaps a friend or two of a poor man (Macbean) living in later times, that Doctor Johnson used to tell us of; who being advised to take subscriptions for a new Geographical Dictionary, hastened to Bolt Court and begged advice. There having listened carefully for half-an-hour, Ah, but dear Sir,' exclaimed the admiring parasite, if I am to make all this eloquent ado about Athens and Rome, where shall we find place, do you think, for Richmond, or Aix La Chapelle ?" "
Writing from Bath, December 15th, 1802, she says: “The Gentleman's Magazine' for July 1801 contained my answer to such critics as confined themselves to faults I could have helped committing-had they been faults. Those who merely told disagreeable truths concerning my person, or dress, or age, or such stuff, expected, of course, no reply. There are innumerable press errors in the book, from my being obliged to print on new year's day-during an insurrection of the printers. These the Critical Review' laid hold of with an acuteness sharpened by malignity."
Moore, who was staying at Bowood, sets down in his diary for April, 1823: "Lord L. in the evening, quoted a ridiculous passage from the Preface to Mrs. Piozzi's Retrospections,' in which, anticipating the ultimate perfection of the human race, she says she does not despair of the time arriving when 'Vice will take refuge in the arms of impossibility.' Mentioned also an ode of hers to Posterity, beginning, 'Posterity,
gregarious dame,' the only meaning of which must be, a lady chez qui numbers assemble a lady at home."
There is no such passage in the Preface to "Retrospection," and the ode is her "Ode to Society," who is not improperly addressed as "gregarious."
"I repeated," adds Moore, "what Jekyll told the other day of Bearcroft saying to Mrs. Piozzi, when Thrale, after she had repeatedly called him Mr. Beercraft Beercraft is not my name, Madam; it may be your trade, but it is not my name.' It may always be questioned whether this offensive description of repartee was really uttered at the time. But Bearcroft was capable of it. He began his cross-examination of Mr. Vansittart by-"With your leave, Sir, I will call you Mr. Van for shortness." "As you please, Sir, and
I will call you Mr. Bear."
Towards the end of 1795, Mrs. Piozzi left Streatham for her seat in North Wales, where (1800 or 1801) she was visited by a young nobleman, now an eminent statesman, distinguished by his love of literature and the fine arts, who has been good enough to recall and write down his impressions of her for me:
"I did certainly know Madame Piozzi, but had no habits of acquaintance with her, and she never lived in London to my knowledge. When in my youth I made a tour in Wales-times when all inns were bad, and all houses hospitable-I put up for a day at her house, I