« PreviousContinue »
himself and me.* He replied nobody would thank me for compliments they did not understand. At Gwanynog (Mr. Middleton's), however, he was flattered, and was happy of course."
The other entries referring to the Thrales are:
We went to visit Bodville, the place where Mrs. Thrale was born, and the churches called Tydweilliog and Llangwinodyl, which she holds by impropriation."
"August 24.--We went to see Bodville. Mrs. Thrale remembered the rooms, and wandered over them, with recollections of her childhood. This species of pleasure is always melancholy.
purposes to beautify the churches, and, if he prospers, will probably restore the tithes. Mrs. Thrale visited a house where she had been used to drink milk, which was left, with an estate of 2001. a year, by one Lloyd, to a married woman who lived with him."
"August 26.-Note. Queeny's goats, 149, I think." Without Mr. Duppa's aid this last entry would be a puzzle for commentators. His note is:
"Mr. Thrale was near-sighted, and could not see the goats browsing on Snowdon, and he promised his
* Madame D'Arblay reports Mrs. Thrale saying to Johnson at Streatham, in September, 1778: "I remember, Sir, when we were travelling in Wales, how you called me to account for my civility to the people; 'Madam,' you said, 'let me have no more of this idle commendation of nothing. Why is it, that whatever you see, and whoever you see, you are to be so indiscriminately lavish of praise?' 'Why I'll tell you, Sir,' said I, 'when I am with you, and Mr. Thrale, and Queeny, I am obliged to be civil for four!'"
daughter, who was a child of ten years old, a penny for every goat she would show him, and Dr. Johnson kept the account; so that it appears her father was in debt to her one hundred and forty-nine pence. Queeny was an epithet, which had its origin in the nursery, by which (in allusion to Queen Esther) Miss Thrale (whose name was Esther) was always distinguished by Johnson." She was named, after her mother, Hester, not Esther.
On September 13, Johnson sets down: "We came to Lord Sandys', at Ombersley, where we were treated with great civility." It was here, as he told Mrs. Thrale, that for the only time in his life he had as much wall fruit as he liked; yet she says that he was in the habit of eating six or seven peaches before breakfast during the fruit season at Streathamn. Swift was also fond of fruit: "observing (says Scott) that a gentleman in whose garden he walked with some friends, seemed to have no intention to request them to eat any, the Dean remarked that it was a saying of his dear grandmother:
"Always pull a peach
When it is within your reach;'
and helping himself accordingly, his example was followed by the whole company." Thomson, the author of the "Castle of Indolence," was once seen lounging round Lord Burlington's garden, with his hands in his waistcoat pockets, biting off the sunny sides of the peaches.
Johnson's dislike to the Lyttletons was not abated by his visit to Hagley, of which he says, "We made haste away from a place where all were offended." Mrs. Thrale's explanation is: "Mrs. Lyttelton, ci-devant Caroline Bristow, forced me to play at whist against my liking, and her husband took away Johnson's candle that he wanted to read by at the other end of the room. Those, I trust, were the offences."
He was not in much better humour at Combermere Abbey, the seat of her relative, Sir Lynch Cotton, which is beautifully situated on one of the finest lakes in England. He commends the place grudgingly, passes a harsh judgment on Lady Cotton, and is traditionally recorded to have made answer to the baronet who inquired what he thought of a neighbouring peer (Lord Kilmorey): "A dull, commonplace sort of man, just like you and your brother."
In a letter to Levet, dated Lleweny, in Denbighshire, August 16, 1774, printed by Boswell, is this sentence: "Wales, so far as I have yet seen of it, is a very beautiful and rich country, all enclosed and planted." Her marginal note is: "Yet to please Mr. Thrale, he feigned abhorrence of it."
I am indebted to an intelligent and accurate informant for a curious incident of the Welsh tour:
"Dr. Johnson was taken by Mr. and Mrs. Thrale to dine at Maesnynan, with my relation, Mr. Lloyd, who, with his pretty young daughter (motherless), received them at the door. All came out of the carriage except the great lexicographer, who was crouching in what
my uncle jokingly called the Poets' Corner, deeply interested evidently with the book he was reading. A wink from Mrs. Thrale, and a touch of her hand, silenced the host. She bade the coachman not move, and desired the people in the house to let Mr. Johnson read on till dinner was on the table, when she would go and whistle him to it. She always had a whistle. hung at her girdle, and this she used, when in Wales, to summon him and her daughters*, when in or out of doors. Mr. Lloyd and all the visitors went to see the effect of the whistle, and found him reading intently with one foot on the step of the carriage, where he had been (a looker-on said) five minutes."
"This scene is well told by Miss Burney, in her 'Camilla't ex relatione Mrs. Williams (Lady Cotton's sister, who was present) and Beata Lloyd, whose brother, Colonel Thomas Lloyd, of the Guards, was the Brummell of his day, celebrated for his manly beauty and accomplishments. I heard Lord Crewe say that Colonel Lloyd's horse, and his graceful manner of mounting him, used to attract members of both Houses (he among them) to turn out to see him mount guard; and the Princesses were forbidden, when driving out, to go so often that way and at that time."
Their impressions of one another as travelling companions were sufficiently favourable to induce the party "He cast off his friends as a huntsman his pack,
For he knew when he pleas'd he could whistle them back."
+ Book viii. chap. iv., Dr. Orkborne is described standing on the staircase of an inn absorbed in the composition of a paragraph whilst the party are at dinner.
(with the addition of Baretti) to make a short tour in France in the autumn of the year following, 1775, during part of which Johnson kept a diary in the same laconic and elliptical style. The only allusion to either of his friends is :
"We went to Sansterre, a brewer. He brews with about as much malt as Mr. Thrale, and sells his beer at the same price, though he pays no duty for malt, and little more than half as much for beer. Beer is sold
retail at sixpence a bottle."
In a letter to Levet, dated Paris, Oct. 22, 1775, he says:
"We went to see the king and queen at dinner, and the queen was so impressed by Miss, that she sent one of the gentlemen to inquire who she was. I find all true that you have ever told me at Paris. Mr. Thrale
is very liberal, and keeps us two coaches, and a very fine table; but I think our cookery very bad. Mrs. Thrale got into a convent of English nuns, and I talked with her through the grate, and I am very kindly used by the English Benedictine friars.”
A striking instance of Johnson's occasional impracticability occurred during this journey:
"When we were at Rouen together," says Mrs. Thrale, "he took a great fancy to the Abbé Roffette, with whom he conversed about the destruction of the order of Jesuits, and condemned it loudly, as a blow to the general power of the church, and likely to be followed with many and dangerous innovations, which might at length become fatal to religion itself, and shake even