« PreviousContinue »
With a person,
uation medical art relieved Mr. Thrale, but the natural disposition to conviviality degenerated into a preternatural desire for food, like Erisicthon of old
“ Cibus omnis in illo Causa cibi est; semperque locus inanis edendo." It was a distressing moment, and the distress increasing perpetually, nor could any one persuade our patient to believe, or at least to acknowledge, he ever had been ill.
very wretched wreck of what it had been, no one could keep him at home. Dinners and company engrossed all his thoughts, and dear Dr. Johnson encouraged him in them, that he might not appear wise, or predicting his friend's certainly accelerated dissolution.
Death of the baby boy I carried in my bosom, was the natural consequence of the scene described here ; but I continued to carry him till a quarrel among the clerks, which I was called to pacify, made a complete finish of the child and nearly of me. were reconciled though, and my danger accelerated their reconcilement.
The men DEATH OF THRALE.
“It was by bleeding till he fainted that his life was saved.”. Johnson, Aug. 24, 1780; Letters, Vol. II. p. 185.
Here is another allusion to that famous bleeding which certainly in Southwark did save the life of Mr. Thrale, and by its immediate effects ruined my nerves forever.
Sir Richard, however, said: “We have paid his heavy debt this time, but he must eat prudently in future.” No one however could control his appetite, which Sir Lucas Pepys, who was at Brighthelmstone, observing, commanded us to town, and took a house not 100 yards from his own for us, in Grosvenor Square, and I went every day to the Borough, whence Lancaster, a favorite clerk third in command, was run away with £1,850. Thither poor Doctor Delap followed me, begging a prologue to his new play, and I remember composing it in the coach, as I was driving up and down after Lancaster; but my business in Southwark was of far severer import.
Some fellow had incited our master to begin a new and expensive building to the amount of £20,000, after the progress of which he was ever inquisitive, and kept the plan of it in his bedchamber. So little did Dr. Johnson even then comprehend the strict awe I stood in of my first husband, that I well recollect his saying to me, “ Madam! you should tear that foolish
down why 't is like leaving a wench's love-letter in the apartments of a man whom you would wish to cure of his amorous passion.” God knows I durst as well encounter death as disturb Mr. Thrale's love-letters or his building plans. The next grand agony was seeing him send out cards of invitation to a concert and supper on the 5th of April. He had himself charged Piozzi, who was the first to tell me, with care of the musical part of our entertainment, and had himself engaged the Parsees, a set of Orientals, who were shown at all the gay houses, the lions of
the day. I could but call my coadjutors, Jebb and Pepys; who tried to counteract this frolic, but in vain. They were obliged to compromise the matter by making him promise to leave town for Streatham immediately after the 5th. “ Leave London ! lose my Ranelagh season !” exclaimed their patient. “Why, Sir, we wished you to be here, that our attendance might be more regular, and less expensive : but since we find you thus unmanageable, you are safest at a distance.” Now, Johnson first began to see, or say he saw the danger, but now his lectures upon temperance came all too late. Poor Mr. Thrale answered him only by inquiring when lamprey season would come in? requesting Sir Philip, who was dining with us, to write his brother, the Prebendary of Worcester, a letter, begging from him the first fish of that kind the Severn should produce. I winked at Sir Philip, but he, following us women half up stairs, said: “I understand you, Madam, but must disobey. A friend I have known thirtysix
years shall not ask a favor of me in his last stage of life and be refused. What difference can it make?” Tears stood in his eyes, and my own prevented all answer. In effect, that day was Mr. Thrale's last! I saw him in Sir Richard's arms at midnight. Pepys came at ten, and never left the house till early light showed me the way to Streatham : and from thence, hoping still less disturbance, to Brighthelmstone: where we had a dwelling-house of our own, and whither
you will see the letters all addressed. This was thirty-four or thirty-five years ago, yet did I never completely recover my strength of body or of mind again. I am sure I never did ! The shocks of 1780 and 1781 are not yet either recovered or forgotten by poor H. L. P.
“Poor dear Dr. Collier."
Letters, Vol. II.
Perhaps this is no improper place to observe that La Bruyère tells his readers with confidence how the firmest friendships will be always dissolved by the intervention of love seizing the heart of either party.* It may be so; but certainly the sentiment with which dear Dr. Collier inspired me in 1757 remains unaltered now, in the year 1815. After my father's death my kind and prudent mother, resolving I should marry Mr. Thrale, and fearing possibly lest my Preceptor should foment any disinclination which she well knew would melt in her influence, or die in her displeasure, resolved to part us, and we met no more; but never have I failed remembering him with a preference as completely distinct from the venerating solicitude which hung heavily over my whole soul whilst connected with Dr. Johnson, as it was from the strong connubial duty that tied my every thought to Mr. Thrale’s interest, or from the fervid and attractive passion which made twenty years passed in Piozzi's enchanting society seem like a happy dream of twenty hours. My first friend formed my mind to resemble his. It never did resemble that of either of my husbands, and in that of Doctor Johnson's mine was swallowed up and lost. O, true were these words, put together so long ago :
“ The sentiment I feel for you
Sophia Streatfield too, if yet living, will bear testimony to the strange power of Doctor Arthur Collier over the minds of his youthful pupils when past seventy years old, and to the day of his death, which when I knew her, she lamented annually, by wearing a black dress, &c. If he did not burn my letters, Latin exercises, &c., she possesses them.
* “No friend like to a woman man discovers,
So that they have not been, nor may be, lovers."
Mr. Thrale's passion for her she played with ; a little perhaps diverting herself by mortifying me, but there was no harm done, I am confident. He thought her a thing at least semi-celestial ; had he once found her out a mere mortal woman, his flame would have blazed out no more. And it did blaze frightfully indeed during one dreadful attack of the apoplexy at our Borough house, alluded to in these Letters, page 178, when by Sir Richard Jebb's conditional permission, Shaw the apothecary bled Mr. Thrale usque ad deliquium, and I thought all over. When, however, temporary and apparent recovery followed the horrid process of stimulating cataplasms which awakened him from carus to delirium, that delirium only appeased by bleeding quite to faintness; when he had remained mute five long days; not speaking a consolatory word to one of us, — friends, sisters, daughters, clerks, physicians, no sooner was Sophy Streatfield's voice heard in Southwark than our patient sat up in bed, conversed with her without hesitation, and even said, with a complimentary smile, kissing her hand, that the visit she had made that day, had repaid all his sufferings. It was from this attack, when he recovered, that Lawrence, Jebb, &c., sent us to Bath, whence rioters dislodged and drove us to Brighthelmstone. From thence we returned to London ; a ready-furnished house in Grosvenor Square being thought the best place by medical advisers, while Perkins assured Doctor Johnson that his master would be safest, in every respect, at a distance from his business.