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THRALE'S WILL. - SALE OF THE BREWERY.
THRALE'S WILL. — SALE OF THE BREWERY.
“We read the will to-day.” — Johnson to Mrs. Thrale, April 5, 1781.
It was neither kind or civil, you will say, to open the will in my absence, but Mr. Thrale had been both civil and kind in laboring to restore to me the Welsh estate, which I had meant to give him in our moments of uneasiness when I became possessed of it by Sir Thomas Salusbury's death, from whom we had once expected Omey Place in Hertfordshire, and all its wide domain. Notwithstanding that disappointment, my husband left me the interest of £50,000 for my life, doubtless in return for my diligence during our distresses in 1772, because it is specified to be given over and above what was provided in our marriage settlement. He left me also the plate, pictures, and linen of both houses, forgetting even to name Brighthelmstone, so all I had bought for that place fell to the ladies (who said loudly what a wretched match their poor papa had made). It was not so, however. Mr. Thrale had received the rents and profits from Wales, £9,000, and had cut timber for £ 4,000 more. My mother and my aunts, and an old Doctor Bernard Wilson, had left me £ 5,000 among them, more or less, and I carried £10,000 in my hand, so that the family was benefited by me £ 28,000 at the lowest, besides having been, as King Richard expresses it,
“ A jack-horse in their great affairs." On Mr. Thrale's death I kept the counting-house from nine o'clock every morning till five o'clock every evening till June, when God Almighty sent us a knot of rich Quakers who bought the whole, and saved me and my coadjutors from brewing ourselves into another bankruptcy, which hardly could, I think, have been avoided, being, as we were five in number, Cator, Crutchley, Johnson, myself, and Mr. Smith, all with equal power, yet all incapable of using it without help from Mr. Perkins, who wished to force himself into partnership, though hating the whole lot of us, save only me. Upon my promise, however, that if he would find us a purchaser, I would present his wife with my dwellinghouse at the Borough, and all its furniture, he soon brought forward these Quaker Barclays, from Pennsylvania I believe they came, — her own relations I have heard, — and they obtained the brewhouse a prodigious bargain, but Miss Thrale was of my mind to part with it for £ 150,000; and I am sure I never did repent it, as certainly it was best for us five females at the time, although the place has now doubled its value, and although men have almost always spirit to spend, while women show greater resolution to spare.
Will it surprise you now to hear that, among all my fellow-executors, none but Johnson opposed selling the concern ? Cator, a rich timber merchant, was afraid of implicating his own credit as a commercial man. Crutchley hated Perkins, and lived upon the verge of a quarrel with him every day while they acted together. Smith cursed the whole business, and wondered what his relation, Mr. Thrale, could mean by leaving him £ 200, he said, and such a burden on his back to bear for it. All were well pleased to find themselves secured, and the brewhouse decently, though not very advantageously disposed of, except dear Doctor Johnson, who found some odd delight in signing drafts for hundreds and for thousands, to him a new, and as it appeared delightful, occupation. When all was nearly over, however, I cured his honest heart of its incipient passion for trade, by letting him into some, and only some, of its mysteries. The plant, as it is called, was sold, and I gave God thanks upon Whit Sunday, 1781, for sparing me farther perplexity, though at the cost of a good house, &c.
THE CHARMING S. S.
“So you may set the Streatfield at defiance.” – Johnson, Oct. 15, 1778; Letters, Vol. II. p. 20.
My dear and ever honored Doctor Collier was the cause of my making this Miss Streatfield's acquaintance. I had learned from others that he dropped into her hands soon as dismissed from mine; and that he gained rather than lost by the exchange had long been my secret consolation. She was but fourteen or fifteen when they first met, and he was growing sickly. She did her own way, and her way was to wait on him, who instructed her in Greek, and who obtained from her excess of tenderness for him, what I could not have bestowed. I have heard her say she grudged his old valet the happiness of reaching him a glass of wine, and out of her house did he never more make his residence, but died in her arms, and was buried at her expense, the moment she came of age.* All these accounts did I never cease listening to, till I observed my beautiful friend, not contented with her legitimate succession to the heart of Doctor Collier, was endeavoring to supplant me in the esteem of Mr. Thrale, whose good opinion, assailed vainly by Baretti, it was my business and my bounden duty to retain. Miss Thrale, now Lady Keith, was in this case my coadjutor; though she had acted in concert with Baretti, she abhorred this attack of Miss Streatfield, who was very dangerous indeed, both from her beauty and learning. Wit she possessed none of, and was as ignorant as an infant of
* The attachment inspired by Dr. Collier in both his pupils resembles that of Stella and Vanessa for Swift, the growth of which is described in the Dean's best poem,“ Cadenus and Vanessa”:
"I knew by what you said and writ
“ That which before us lies in daily life.” No wonder Mr. Thrale, whose mind wanted some new object, since he had lost his son, and lost beside the pleasure he had taken in his business, before all knowledge of it was shared with myself, — no wonder that he encouraged a sentimental attachment to Sophia Streatfield, who became daily more and more dear to him, and almost necessary. No one who visited us missed seeing his preference of her to me; but she was so amiable and so sweetnatured, no one appeared to blame him for the unusual and unrepressed delight he took in her agreeable society. I was exceedingly oppressed by pregnancy, and saw clearly my successor in the fair S. S. as we familiarly called her in the family, of which she now made constantly a part, and stood godmother to my newborn baby, by bringing which I only helped to destroy my own health, and disappoint my husband, who wanted a son. “Why Mr. Thrale is Peregrinus Domi,” said Dr. Johnson ; “ he lives in Clifford Street, I hear, all winter;" and so he did, leaving his carriage at his sister's door in Hanover Square, that no inquirer might hurt his favorite's reputation; which my behavior likewise tended to preserve from injury, and we lived on together as well as we could. Miss Browne, who sung enchantingly, and had been much abroad; Miss Burney, whose powers of amusement were many and various, were my companions then at Streatham Park, with Doctor Johnson, who wanted me to be living at the Borough, because less inconvenient to him, so he said I passed my winter in Surrey, “ feeding my chickens and starving my understanding ;” but 1779, and the summer of it was coming, to bring on us a much more serious calamity.
“Your account of Mr. Thrale's illness is very terrible.”—Johnson, June 14, 1770 ; Letters, Vol. II. p. 47.
My account of Mr. Thrale's illness had every reason to be ter rible. He had slept at Streatham Park, and left it after breakfast, looking as usual.
His sister's husband, Mr. Nesbitt, often mentioned in these Letters and Memoirs, had been dead perhaps a fortnight. He was commercially connected, I knew, with Sir George Colebrook and Sir Something Turner; but that was all I knew, — and that was nothing. I knew of nothing between Thrale and them till after my return from Italy, and was the more perhaps shocked and amazed when, sitting after dinner with Lady Keith and Doctor Burney and his daughter, I believe, my servant Sam opened the drawing-room door with un air effaré, saying : “My master is come home, but there is something amiss.” I started up, and saw a tall, black female figure, who cried, “ Don't go into the library, don't go in I say.” My rushing by her somewhat rudely was all her prohibition gained; but there sat Mrs. Nesbitt holding her brother's hand, who I perceived knew not a syllable of what was passing. So I called Dr. Burney, begged him to fly in the post-chaise, which was then waiting for him, and send me some physician, Sir R. Jebb or Pepys, or if none else could be found, my old accoucheur, Doctor Bromfield of Gerard Street. 'T was he that came; and, convincing me it was an apoplectic seizure, acted accordingly, while the silly ladies went home quite contented I believe : only Mrs. Nesbitt said she thought he was delirious; and from her companion I learned that he had dined at their house, had seen the will opened, and had dropped as if lifeless from the dinner-table; when, instead of calling help, they called their carriage, and brought him five or six miles out of town in that condition. Would it not much enrage one? From this dreadful sit