Page images
PDF
EPUB

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 sweet natured, 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 new-born 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 favourite's reputation ; which my behaviour 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

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.

powers

>

THRALE'S ILLNESS.

“ Your account of Mr. Thrale's illness is

very

terrible." - Johnson, June 14, 1779; Letters, vol. ii. p. 47.

My account of Mr. Thrale’s illness had every reason to be terrible. 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 Ι 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

I 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 Broin field of Gerard Street. 'Twas 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 situation 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. With a person,

the
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. The men were reconciled though, and my danger accelerated their reconcilement.

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 for ever.

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 favourite clerk third in command, was run away with 18501. Thither poor Dr. 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 20,0001., after the progress of which he was ever inquisitive, and kept

« PreviousContinue »