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in Mrs. Thrale's. He was angry. “Sir, if you have any sense of decency or delicacy, you won't do that.' Boswell. “Then let it be in Cole's, the landlord of the Mitre tavern, where we have so often sat together.' Johnson. “Ay, that may do.'”
Again, at Inverary, when Johnson called for a gill of whiskey that he might know what makes a Scotchman happy, and Boswell proposed Mrs. Thrale as their toast, he would not have her drunk in whiskey. Peter Pindar has maliciously added to this reproof:
“ We supped most royally, were vastly frisky,
So far from making light of her scholarship, he frequently accepted her as a partner in translations from the Latin. The translations from Boethius, printed in the second volume of the Letters, are their joint composition.
After recapitulating Johnson's other contributions to literature in 1766, Boswell says, “The Fountains,' a beautiful little fairy tale in prose, written with exquisite simplicity, is one of Johnson's productions; and I cannot withhold from Mrs. Thrale the praise of being the author of that admirable poem, "The Three Warnings." Marginal note : “How sorry he is!” Both the tale and the poem were written for a collection of “Miscellanies,” published by Mrs. Williams in that year. The character of Floretta in “ The Fountains” was intended for Mrs. Thrale, and parts of it received touches from her ready and fruitful pen. Her fugitive pieces, mostly in verse, thrown off from time to time at all periods of her life, are numerous; and the best of these that have been recovered will be included in these volumes. In a letter to the author of " Piozziana," she says : “ When Wilkes and Liberty were at their highest tide, I was bringing or losing children every year; and my studies were confined to my nursery ; so, it came into my head one day to send an infant alphabet to the ó St. James Chronicle':
666 A was an Alderman, factious and proud ;
B was a Bellas that blustered aloud, &c.'
In a week's time Dr. Johnson asked me if I knew who wrote it? Why, who did write it, Sir?' said I. •Steevens,' was the reply. Some time after that, years for aught I know, he mentioned to me Steevens's veracity! “No, no,' answered H. L. P., 6 anything but that;' and told my story ; showing him by incontestable proofs that it was mine. Johnson did not utter a word, and we never talked about it any more. I durst not introduce the subject; but it served to hinder S. from visiting at the house : I suppose Johnson kept him away.”
It does not appear that Steevens claimed the Alphabet ; which may have suggested the celebrated squib that appeared in the “ New Whig Guide," and was popularly attributed to Mr. Croker. It was headed, “The Political Alphabet; or, the Young Member's A B C,” and begins : —
“A was an Althorpe, as dull as a hog:
B was black Brougham, a surly cur dog:
What widely different associations are now awakened by these names ! The sting is in the tail:
“ W was a Warre, 'twixt a wasp and a worm,
But X Y and Z are not found in this form,
Amongst Miss Reynolds's “ Recollections” will be found : “ On the praises of Mrs. Thrale he (Johnson) used to dwell with a peculiar delight, a paternal fondness, expressive of conscious exultation in being so intimately acquainted with her. One day, in speaking of her to Mr. Harris, author of · Hermes,' and expatiating on her various perfections, — the solidity of her virtues, the brilliancy of her wit, and the strength of her understanding, &c. — he quoted some lines (a stanza, I believe, but from what author I know not), with which he concluded his most eloquent eulogium, and of these I retained but the two last lines:
66 • Virtues — of such a generous kind,
Good in the last recesses of the mind.'”
The place assigned to Mrs. Thrale by the popular voice amongst the most cultivated and accomplished women of the day, is fixed by some verses printed in the “Morning Herald” of March 12th, 1782, which attracted much attention, They were commonly attributed to Mr. (afterwards Sir W. W.) Pepys, and Madame d'Arblay, who alludes to them complacently, thought them his; but he subsequently repudiated the authorship, and the editor of her Memoirs believes that they were written by Dr. Burney. They were provoked by the proneness of the Herald to indulge in complimentary allusions to ladies of the demirep genus :
" HERALD, wherefore thus proclaim
Naught of woman but the shame?
And brings her knowledge from afar!'
These lines merit attention for the sake of the comparison they invite. An outcry has recently been raised against the laxity of modern fashion, in permitting venal beauty to receive open homage in our parks and theatres, and to be made the subject of prurient gossip by maids and matrons who should ignore its existence. But we need not look far beneath the surface of social history to discover that the irregularity in question is only a partial revival of the practice of our grandfathers and grandmothers, much as a crinoline may be regarded as a modified reproduction of the hoop. Junius thus denounces the Duke of Grafton's indecorous devotion to Nancy Parsons: “It is not the private indulgence, but the public insult, of which I complain. The name of Miss Parsons would hardly have been known, if the First Lord of the Treasury had not led her in triumph through the Opera House, even in the presence of the Queen.” Lord March (afterwards Duke of Queensberry) was a lord of the bedchamber in the decorous court of George the Third, when he wrote thus to Selwyn: “I was prevented from writing to you last Friday, by being at Newmarket with my little girl (Signora Zamperini, a noted dancer and singer). I had the whole family and Cocchi. The beauty went with me in my chaise, and the rest in the old landau.”
We have had Boswell's impression of his first visit to Streatham; and Madame D'Arblay's account of hers confirms the notion that My Mistress, not My Master, was the presiding genius of the place.
“ London, August (1778). — I have now to write an account of the most consequential day I have spent since my birth : namely, my Streatham visit.
“Our journey to Streatham was the least pleasant part of the day, for the roads were dreadfully dusty, and I was really in the fidgets from thinking what my reception might be, and from fearing they would expect a less awkward and backward kind of person than I was sure they would find.
“Mr. Thrale's house is white, and very pleasantly situated, in a fine paddock. Mrs. Thrale was strolling about, and came to us as we got out of the chaise.
“She then received me, taking both my hands, and with mixed politeness and cordiality welcoming me to Streatham. She led
me into the house, and addressed herself almost wholly for a few minutes to my father, as if to give me an assurance she did not mean to regard me as a show, or to distress or frighten me by drawing me out. Afterwards she took me up stairs, and showed me the house, and said she had very much wished to see me at Streatham, and should always think herself much obliged to Dr. Burney for his goodness in bringing me, which she looked upon as a very great favor.
“But though we were some time together, and though she was very civil, she did not hint at my book, and I love her much more than ever for her delicacy in avoiding a subject which she could not but see would have greatly embarrassed me.
“ When we returned to the music-room, we found Miss Thrale was with my father. Miss Thrale is a very fine girl, about fourteen years of age, but cold and reserved, though full of knowledge and intelligence.
“ Soon after, Mrs. Thrale took me to the library; she talked a little while upon common topics, and then, at last, she mentioned • Evelina.
“I now prevailed upon Mrs. Thrale to let me amuse myself, and she went to dress. I then prowled about to choose some book, and I saw, upon the reading-table, ‘ Evelina.' I had just fixed upon a new translation of Cicero's · Lælius,' when the library door was opened, and Mr. Seward entered. I instantly put away my book, because I dreaded being thought studious and affected. He offered his service to find anything for me, and then, in the same breath, ran on to speak of the book with which I had myself 'favored the world!
“ The exact words he began with I cannot recollect, for I was actually confounded by the attack; and his abrupt manner of letting me know he was au fait equally astonished and provoked me. How different from the delicacy of Mr. and Mrs. Thrale !”
A high French authority has laid down that politeness or good breeding consists in rendering to all what is socially their due. This definitio:1 is imperfect. Good breeding is best displayed by putting people at their ease; and Mrs. Thrale's manner of putting the young authoress at her ease was the perfection of delicacy and tact.