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FIRST ACQUAINTANCE WITH PIOZZI.

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FIRST ACQUAINTANCE WITH PIOZZI.

"You have got Piozzi again." - Johnson to Mrs. Thrale, Dec. 3, 1781.

Dr. Johnson, mentioning dear Piozzi, has encouraged me to tell how and where our acquaintance began. I was at Brighthelmstone in August 1780, or thereabout, when the rioters at Bath had driven my sick husband and myself and Miss Thrale (Fanny Burney went home to her father) into Sussex for change of place. I had been in the sea early one morning, and was walking with my eldest daughter on the cliff, when, seeing Mr. Piozzi stand at the library door, I accosted him in Italian, and asked him if he would like to give that lady a lesson or two whilst at Brighton, that she might not be losing her time. He replied, coldly, that he was come thither himself merely to recover his voice, which he feared was wholly lost; that he was composing some music, and lived in great retirement; so I took my leave, and we continued our walk, Miss Thrale regretting she had lost such an opportunity; but on our returning home the same day, Mr. Piozzi started out of the shop, begged my pardon for not knowing me before, protested his readiness to do anything to oblige me, and his concern for not being able to contribute to our amusement, but

VOL. II.

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that I should command everything in his now limited power.

We parted, and at breakfast the post brought me a letter from the present Madame D'Arblay, saying that her father's friend, Mr. Piozzi, was gone to Brighthelmstone, where she hoped we should meet, for though he had lost his voice, his musical powers were enchanting, and that I should find him a companion likely to lighten the burden of life to me, as he was just a man to my natural taste. This letter is existing now, and that was her expression. Mr. Thrale found his performance on the forte-piano so superior to everything then heard in England, and in short took such a fancy to his society, that we were seldom apart, except while Mr. Piozzi was studying to compose the six fine sonatas, that he dedicated to his favourite pupil, Miss Child, afterwards Lady Westmoreland. His voice strengthened by sea-bathing, but never recovered the astonishing powers he brought with him first from Italy. I fancied they would have returned when we went abroad together four years after, but they never did; and he was contented in future to delight, without surprising, his hearers, unless they had indeed taste enough to understand that unrivalled manner of singing, which he as tenor, and Pacchierotti as soprano, had completely to themselves.

Mr. Piozzi was the son of a gentleman of Brescia in Lombardy, who meant him for the Church and educated him accordingly; but he resisted the celibat, escaped from those who would have made him take the vows,

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and as his uncle said, "Ah, Gabrieli, thou wilt never get nearer the altar than the organ-loft," so it proved. He ran from the Venetian state to Milan, where Marchese D'Araciel proved his constant friend and protector, and encouraged him in his fancy for trying Paris and London, instead of being a burden to his parents, who had fourteen children, a limited income, and many pecuniary uneasinesses. Whilst here, his fame reached the Queen of France, who sent for him and Sacchini, the great opera composer, and it was when they came back loaded with presents, and honours, and emoluments, that Dr. Johnson congratulated me on having got Piozzi again. Sacchini returned and died at Paris, but Piozzi staid (till I drove him from me), notwithstanding all the offers of the Court of France, when I was living at Bath, “deserted, spiritless, afflicted, fallen."

DOMESTIC TRIALS.

"You can hardly think how bad I have been whilst you were in all your altitudes at the opera, and all the fine places, and thinking little of me." (Johnson, Dec. 20, 1783; Letters, vol. ii. p. 52.) She replies: "My health, my children, and my fortune, dear Sir, are fast coming to an end, I think-not so my sorrows. Harriet is dead, and Cicely is dying." Her manuscript commentary on these passages is:

"Dear Harriet died of measles, hooping-cough, and strumous swellings in the neck and throat, 1783. Lucy had fallen a sacrifice to the same train of evils; and Cecilia, now Mrs. Mostyn, had her health so shaken after the date of this letter, that it was with the utmost difficulty she recovered. Mr. Piozzi and I had made what we considered as our final parting in London about a month before, when I requested him to tame the newspapers by quitting England, and leave me to endure my debts, my distractions, and the bitter reproaches of my family as I could. He had given up all my letters, promises, &c., into Miss Thrale's hands (now Lady Keith). You laughed when I told you that his expression was: Take it to you your mamma, and make it of her a countess; it shall kill me, I know, but it shall kill her too.' Miss Thrale took the papers, and

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turned her back on him, I remember. Well! Sir Lucas Pepys alone knew the true state of my heart. He pitied me, kept my secret inviolable, behaved like a brother to me, and told all the inquirers that I was very ill indeed, and that he had advised Bath.

"To Bath I went, and Piozzi prepared for his melancholy journey, having first lent me a thousand pounds, for which I remitted the interest to Italy, and our ladies said I had bought him off with their money: so the calumny outlived even our separation. He had not left London when I was summoned to attend the two little girls at Mrs. Ray's school, Russel House, Streatham ; but I refused another painful interview, however earnestly my lover begged it. I breakfasted with Sir Lucas Pepys told him my heroism, and never knew till Piozzi told me after he returned to England, that he had been sitting at a front window of some public-house on the road all that dreadful Saturday, to see my carriage pass backwards and forwards to where the children resided. Oh what moments! oh what moments! but I went back to Bath. We lived in Russel Street, where I found my three eldest daughters at their work and their drawings. I think they scarcely said 'How d'ye do? or how does Cecilia do?' and we went on together without either rough words or smooth ones. Dr. Staker, to whom Pepys had recommended the care of my health, cut his own throat, and Doctors Woodward (of the pretty house in Gay Street) and Dobson, from Liverpool, were our medical advisers.

"Doctor Johnson never came to look for me at

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