« PreviousContinue »
ANECDOTE OF CHARLES TOWNSHEND.
And if I give some account of myself here in these few little sheets prefixed to my • Journey thro’ Italy,' you must kindly accept
(The first pages of the manuscript are occupied by an account of her family and early life, substantially the same as that in the “Autobiographical Memoirs.")
“My heart was free, my head full of Authors, Actors, Literature in every shape; and I had a dear, dear friend, an old Dr. Collier, who said he was sixty-six years old, I remember, the day I was sixteen, and whose instructions I prized beyond all the gayeties of early life: nor have I ever passed a day since we parted in which I have not recollected with gratitude the boundless obligations that I owe him. He was intimate with the famous James Harris of Salisbury, Lord Malmesbury's father, of whom you have heard how Charles Townshend said, when he took his seat in the House of Commons, • Who is this man?' — to his next neighbour; 'I never saw him before.' "Who? Why, Harris the author, that wrote one book about Grammar [so he did] and one about Virtue.' What does he come here for?' replies Spanish Charles ; "he will find neither Grammar nor Virtue here. Well, my dear old Dr. Collier had much of both, and delighted to shake the superflux of his full mind over mine, ready to receive instruction conveyed with so much tender assiduity.”
“In a few years (our Letters tell the date) Johnson
was introduced; and now I must laugh at a ridiculous Retrospection. When I was a very young wench, scarce twelve years old I trust, my notice was strongly
I attracted by a Mountebank in some town we were passing through. “What a fine fellow!' said I; dear Papa, do ask him to dinner with us at our inn! least, Merry Andrew, because he could tell us such clever stories of his master.' My Father laughed sans intermission an hour by the dial, as Jacques once at Motley. -- Yet did dear Mr. Conway's fancy for H. L. P.'s conversation grow up, at first, out of something not unlike this, when, his high-polished mind and fervid imagination taking fire from the tall Beacon bearing Dr. Johnson's fame above the clouds, he thought some information might perhaps be gained by talk with the old female who so long carried coals to it.* She has told all, or nearly all, she knew,
• And like poor Andrew must advance,
So now, leaving Prior's pretty verses, and leaving Dr. Johnson too, who was himself severely censured for his rough criticism on a writer who had pleased all in our Augustan age of Literature, poor H. L. P. turns egotist at eighty, and tells her own adventures."
But the octogenarian egotist (adds the editor of the “ Atlantic Monthly”) has something to tell about be
* “ The fires of his magnificent mind were lighted by coals from ancient altars.” – Mr. Justice Story on Milton,
side herself. Here is a passage of interest to the student of Shakspearian localities, and bearing on a matter in dispute from the days of Malone and Chalmers :
“For a long time, then, — or I thought it such, — my fate was bound up with the old Globe Theatre, upon the Bankside, Southwark; the alley it had occupied having been purchased and thrown down by Mr. Thrale to make an opening before the windows of our dwelling-house. When it lay desolate in black heap of rubbish, my Mother, one day, in a joke, called it the Ruins of Palmyra; and after they had laid it down in a grass-plot, Palmyra was the name it went by, I suppose, among the clerks and servants of
I the brewhouse ; for when the Quaker Barclay bought the whole, I read that name with wonder in the Writings." “But there were really curious remains of the old Globe Playhouse, which, though hexagonal in form without, was round within, as circles contain more space than other shapes, and Bees make their cells in hexagons only because that figure best admits of junction. Before I quitted the premises, however, I learned that Tarleton, the actor of those times, was not buried at St. Saviour's, Southwark, as he wished, near Massinger and Gower, but at Shoreditch Church. He was the first of the profession whose fame was high enough to have his portrait solicited for to be set up as a sign; and none but he and Garrick, I believe, ever obtained that honour. Mr. Dance's picture of our friend David lives in a copy now in Oxford St., - the character King Richard."
FRAGMENTS OF AUTOBIOGRAPHY.
[The following fragments of autobiography, with one exception, are in the shape of notes on the printed volumes of correspondence between Dr. Johnson and herself. They contain little that has not been already told in the Introduction ; but they have each an individual interest independently of the facts.]
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 honoured Doctor Collier was the cause of my making this Miss Streatfield's acquaint
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 endeavouring 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
“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
* The attachment inspired by Dr. Collier in both his pupils resembles that of Stella and Vanessa to Swift, the growth of which is described in the Dean's best poen, “ Cadenus and Vanessa" :
“I knew by what you said and writ
Aim'd at the head, but reach'd the heart.” The Edinburgh Review imagines him to have been Arthur Collier, LL.D., described by the author of “Lives of the Civilians ” as an ingenious but unsteady and eccentric man, the confidential law-adviser of the notorious Duchess of Kingston.