« PreviousContinue »
ham ; 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. O what moments ! O 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 Streatham, where I lodged during Cecy's danger; and I would not go into London for fear of encountering Piozzi's eyes somewhere. So I only stopped at Pepys' house for an hour, close to Hyde Park, and away to Bath again, where one curious thing befell me, and but one. You have heard of many severities shown me, now hear of one man like yourself. My maid came to me halfalarmed, half-pleasant somehow, and said: “I have had a king's messenger sent to me, Madam; but here's the letter, and the man is gone again. I offered him money, but he had orders to take none.
“ The letter said :
6. MADAM, — Let nothing add to your present pain, as no one surely deserves so much happiness. Your letter is gone safe; I transmitted the amiable contents to Mr. Piozzi, who will receive it in due time; but you should be careful not to send another packet unpaid for, unless you would direct it to me. Your signing no name, and dating, forced me to peruse every word of a letter in three languages, which no one could so have written but Mrs. Thrale, to whom I wish all that such merit and virtue, &c., &c., &c.
666 JACKSON, 66 • Comptroller of the Foreign Post Office.'
“ He had directed the letter to my maid !
“We left our cards with this gentleman as soon as we were married, of course, and he made us a fine dinner and a grand entertainment, and I saw for the first time my kind friend and admirer, Mr. Jackson. Poor fellow ! he soon died, but not till Mr. Piozzi had sung with his daughter, and given him all the pleasure he was capable of receiving in the last stage of life, and a miserable state of health.”
· In Dr. Johnson's last letter to her (ante, p. 76), he says: “Prevail on Mr. Piozzi to settle in England." In reference to this advice she writes :
Dr. Johnson's advice corresponded exactly with Mr. Piozzi's intentions. He was impatient to show Italy to me and me to the Italians, but never meant to forbear bringing his wife home again, and showing he had brought her. Well aware of the bustle his marriage made, it was his most earnest wish that every doubt of his honor and of my happiness should be dispelled ; so that whilst our ladies and Madame D'Arblaye, that was Miss Burney, and Baretti, and all the low Italians of the Haymarket who hated my husband, were hatching stories how he had sold my jointure, had shut me up in a convent, &c., we made our journey to our residence in Italy as showy as we possibly could. All the English at every town partook of our hospitality ; the inhabitants came flocking, nothing loth, and we sent presents to our beautiful daughters by every hand that would carry them. Miss Thrale was of age by now, and I left Miss Nicholson, the bishop's granddaughter, whom they appeared to like exceedingly, with them, but she soon quitted her post on observing that they gave people to understand she was a cast mistress of dear Piozzi, who never saw her face out of their company, except once at a dinner visit.
But I have not told you our parting. That I resided at Bath, these letters are a proof; that my residence was a wretched one, needs no asserting. Insults at home, and spiteful expressions in every letter from the guardians, broke my spirits quite down ; and letters from my grieving lover, when they did come, helped to render my life miserable. I meant not to call him home till all my debts were paid ; and my uncle's widow, Lady Salusbury, had threatened to seize upon my Welsh estate if I did not repay her money, lent by Sir Thomas Salusbury to my father ; money
in effect which poor papa had borrowed to give him when he was a student at Cambridge, and your little friend just born. This debt, however, not having been cancelled, stood against me as heiress. I had been forced to borrow from the ladies; and Mr. Crutchley, when I signed my mortgage to them for £7,000, said: “Now, Madam, call your daughters in and thank them; make them your best curtsey,” (with a sneer,) “ for keeping you out of a gaol.” He added £ 500 or £ 800 more, and I paid that off as alluded to ; * but Doctor Johnson knew how I was distressed, and you see how even he had been writing!!
Will you wonder to hear how ill I was? After much silent suffering, Doctor Dobson, who felt for me even to tears, left me one evening in the slipper bath, and I suppose ran to Lady Keith, and spoke with some severity; for she came into the room with him, and said, “The doctor tells me, Madam, he must write to Mr. Piozzi about your health; will you be pleased to tell us where to find him?” “At Milan, my dear," was the faint reply, “ with his friend, the Marquis D’Araciel (a Spanish grandee); his palace, Milan, is sufficient direction.” “ Milan !” exclaimed they all at once, for not one word had ever passed among us concerning him or his destination. “ Milan !” So Doctor Dobson, I trust, took pen and ink, and the next day I was better. Miss Thrale declared her resolution to go to their own house at Brighthelmstone, and I entreated permission to attend them. Short journeys, change of air, &c., helped to revive me, and Miss Nicholson went with us to Stonehenge, Wilton, &c., in our way to Sussex, whence I returned to Bath to wait for Piozzi. He was here the eleventh day after he got Dobson's letter. In twenty-six more we were married in London by the Spanish ambassador's chaplain, and returned hither to be married by Mr. Morgan, of Bath, at St. James's Church, July 25, 1784.
Greenland, the solicitor my husband now employed, discovered £1,600 still due to me, which was paid on demand ; and for the rest of the debt, Piozzi, laughing, said it would be discharged in three years at farthest. So it was; and I felt as much, I think, of astonishment as pleasure. From London we went immediately to Paris, Lyons, Turin, Genoa, and Milan ; where, as the Travel Book tells you, we spent the winter, and where the Marquis of Araciel and his family paid me most distinguished attention. There Mr. Parsons dined with us, I remember, and left me a copy of complimentary verses too long to insert here; but we met again the following summer at Florence, where we were living in a sort of literary coterie with Mr. and Mrs. Greathead, Mr. Merry, whom his friends called Della Crusca, and a most agreeable et cetera of English and Italians. We had designed giving a splendid dinner on our wedding-day to Lord Pembroke and the whole party, and Mr. Parsons presented me verses which will not be understood except I write out my own that provoked them. He had written a hymn to Venus, so I said:
* Dr. Johnson wrote to Mrs. Thrale, London, April 19th, 1784: "I am sensible of the ease that your repayment of Mr. Crutcheley has given: you felt yourself genée by that debt: is there an English word for it?"
While Venus inspires, and such verses you sing
As Prior might envy and praise ;
Or melt in the nightingale's lays:
While Bertie can carelessly rove,
With philosophy, friendship, and love;
In vain all the beauties of nature or art
To rouse my tranquillity tried;
For the joys of celebrity sighed.
With reciprocal tenderness blest;
Or let vanity rob me of rest.
The Slave and the Wrestlers, what are they to me?
From plots and contentions removed;
When I think of the pains I have proved.
Each thought from remembrance that flows :
But I called the stagnation repose.