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course of extravagance. income only, and large as it was, no tradesman would wait a reasonable time for payment; she was nearly eighty; and they knew that at her death nothing would be left to pay her debts, and so they seized the goods."
She had left herself a life
When Fielding, the novelist, rather boastingly avowed that he never knew, and believed he never should know, the difference between a shilling and sixpence, he was told: "Yes, the time will come when you will know it when you have only eighteen pence left." If the author of "Tom Jones" could not be taught the value of money, we must not be too hard on Mrs. Piozzi for not learning it, after lesson upon lesson in the hard school of "impecuniosity." Whilst Piozzi lived, her affairs were faithfully and carefully administered. Although they built Brynbella, spent a good deal of money on Streatham, and lived handsomely, they never wanted money. He had a moderate fortune, the produce of his professional labours, and left it, neither impaired nor materially increased, to his family. With peculiar reference probably to her habits of profuse expenditure, he used to say that "white monies were good for ladies, yellow for gentlemen." He took the guineas under his especial charge, leaving only the silver to her. This was a matter of notoriety in the neighbourhood, and the tenants, to please her or humour the joke, sometimes brought bags of shillings and sixpences in part payment of their rents.
In the Conway Notes she says:
"Our head-quarters were in Wales, where dear Pi
ozzi repaired my church, built a new vault for my old ancestors, chose the place in it where he and I are to repose together. He lived some twenty-five years with me, however, but so punished with gout that we found Bath the best wintering-place for many, many seasons. Mrs. Siddons' last appearance there he witnessed, when she played Calista to Dimond's Lothario, in which he looked so like Garrick, it shocked us all three, I believe; for Garrick adored Mr. Piozzi, and Siddons hated the little great man to her heart. Poor Dimond! he was a well-bred, pleasing, worthy creature, and did the honours of his own house and table with peculiar grace indeed. No likeness in private life -none at all; no wit, no fun, no frolic humour had Mr. Dimond :-no grace, no dignity, no real unaffected elegance of mien or behaviour had his predecessor, David,-whose partiality to my fastidious husband was for that reason never returned. Merriment, difficult for him to comprehend, made no amends for the want of that which no one understood better,— so he hated all the wits but Murphy."
There is hardly a family of note or standing within visiting distance of their place, that has not some tradition or reminiscence to relate concerning them; and all agree in describing him as a worthy good sort of man, obliging, inoffensive, kind to the poor, principally remarkable for his devotion to music, and utterly unable to his dying day to familiarise himself with the English language or manners. It is told of him that being required to pay a turnpike toll near the house of a
country neighbour whom he was on his way to visit, he took it for granted that the toll went into his neighbour's pocket, and proposed setting up a gate near Brynbella with the view of levying toll in his turn.
In September, 1800, she wrote from Brynbella to Dr. Gray:
"Dear Mr. Piozzi, who takes men out of misery so far as his power extends in this neighbourhood, feels flattered and encouraged by your very kind approbation. He has been getting rugs for the cottagers' beds to keep them warm this winter, while we are away, and they all take me into their sleeping rooms when I visit them now, to show how comfortably they live. As for the old hut you so justly abhorred, and so kindly noticed-it is knocked down and its coarse name too, Potlicko we call it Cottage-o'-the-Park. Some recurrence to the original derivation in soup season will not, however, be much amiss I suppose."
"Amongst the company," says Moore, "was Mrs. John Kemble. She mentioned an anecdote of Piozzi, who upon calling upon some old lady of quality, was told by the servant, she was indifferent.' 'Is she indeed?' answered Piozzi, huffishly, then pray tell her I can be as indifferent as she;' and walked away." *
Till he was disabled by the gout, his principal occupation was his violin, and it was her delight to listen to him. She more than once observed to the vicar, "Such music is quite heavenly." "I am in despair,"
* Moore's Memoirs, vol. iv.
cried out the village fiddler, "I may now stick my fiddle in my thatched roof, for a greater performer is come to reside in the parish." The existing superstition of the country is that his spirit, playing on his favourite instrument, still haunts one wing of Brynbella. If he designed the building, his architectural taste does not merit the praises she lavishes on it. The exterior is not prepossessing; but there is a look of comfort about the house; the interior is well arranged: the situation, which commands a fine and extensive view of the upper part of the valley of the Clywd, is admirably chosen ; the garden and grounds are well laid out; and the walks through the woods on either side, especially one called the Lovers' Walk, are remarkably picturesque. Altogether, Brynbella may be fairly held to merit the appellation of a "pretty villa." The name implies a compliment to Piozzi's country as well as to his taste; for she meant it to typify the union between Wales and Italy in his and her own proper persons. She says in the Conway Notes:
"Mr. Piozzi built the house for me, he said; my own old chateau, Bachygraig by name, tho' very curious, was wholly uninhabitable; and we called the Italian villa he set up as mine in the Vale of Cluid, Brynbella, or the beautiful brow, making the name half Welsh and half Italian, as we were."
Dr. Burney, in a letter to his daughter, thus described the position and feelings of the couple towards each
other in 1808:
"During my invalidity at Bath I had an unexpected
visit from your Streatham friend, of whom I had lost sight for more than ten years. She still looks very well, but is graver, and candour itself; though she still says good things, and writes admirable notes and letters, I am told, to my granddaughters C. and M., of whom she is very fond. We shook hands very cordially, and avoided any allusion to our long separation and its cause. The caro sposo still lives, but is such an object from the gout, that the account of his sufferings made me pity him sincerely; he wished, she told me, to see his old and worthy friend, and un beau matin I could not refuse compliance with his wish. She nurses him with great affection and tenderness, never goes out or has company when he is in pain."
In the Conway Notes she says:
"Piozzi's fine hand upon the organ and pianoforte deserted him. Gout, such as I never knew, fastened on his fingers, distorting them into every dreadful shape. . . . . A little girl, shown to him as a musical wonder of five years old, said, 'Pray, Sir, why are your fingers wrapped up in black silk so?' 'My dear,' replied he, they are in mourning for my voice.' 'Oh, me!' cries the child, is she dead?' He sung an easy song, and the baby exclaimed, Ah, Sir! you are very naughty — you tell fibs!' Poor dears! and both gone now!"
"When life was gradually, but perceptibly, closing round him at Bath, in 1808, I asked him if he would wish to converse with a Romish priest,