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THRALE’S WILL. -SALE OF THE BREWERY.
“ We read the will to-day.” — Johnson, April 5, 1781; Letters, vol. ii. p. 192.
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 labouring 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 Offley Place in Hertfordshire, and all its wide domain. Notwithstanding that disappointment, my
husband left me the interest of 50,0001. 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, 90001., and had cut timber for 4000l. more. My mother and my aunts, and an old Doctor Bernard Wilson, had left me 50001. among them, more or less, and I carried 10,0001. in my hand, so that the family was benefited by me 28,0001. 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 dwelling-house 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 150,0001. ; 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
verge 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 2001. 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.
FIRST ACQUAINTANCE WITH PIOZZI.
FIRST ACQUAINTANCE WITH PIOZZI.
“You have got Piozzi again.” – Johnson to Mrs.
. Thrale, Dec. 3, 1781.
Dr. Johnson, mentioning dear Piozzi, has encouraged me to tell how and where our acquaintance began. I was at Brightbelmstone in August 1780, or thereabout, when the rioters at Bath had driven my sick husband and myself and Miss Thrale (Fanny Burney went home to her father) into Sussex for change of place. I had been in the sea early one morning, and was walking with my eldest daughter on the cliff, when, seeing Mr. Piozzi stand at the library door, I accosted him in Italian, and asked him if he would like to give that lady a lesson or two whilst at Brighton, that she might not be losing her time. He replied, coldly, that he was come thither himself merely to recover his voice, whieh he feared was wholly lost; that he was composing some music, and lived in great retirement; so I took my leave, and we continued our walk, Miss Thrale regretting she had lost such an opportunity ; but on our returning home the same day, Mr. Piozzi started out of the shop, begged my pardon for not knowing me before, protested his readiness to do anything to oblige me, and his concern for not being able to contribute to our amusement, but
that I should command everything in his now limited power.
We parted, and at breakfast the post brought me a letter from the present Madame D'Arblay, saying that her father's friend, Mr. Piozzi, was gone to Brighthelmstone, where she hoped we should meet, for though he had lost his voice, his musical powers were enchanting, and that I should find him a companion likely to lighten the burden of life to me, as he was just a man to my natural taste. This letter is existing now, and
, that was her expression. Mr. Thrale found his performance on the forte-piano so superior to everything then heard in England, and in short took such a fancy to his society, that we were seldom apart, except while Mr. Piozzi was studying to compose the six fine sonatas, that he dedicated to his favourite pupil, Miss Child, afterwards Lady Westmoreland. His voice strengthened by sea-bathing, but never recovered the astonishing powers he brought with him first from Italy. I fancied they would have returned when we went abroad together four years after, but they never did; and he was contented in future to delight, without surprising, his hearers, unless they had indeed taste enough to understand that unrivalled manner of singing, which he as tenor, and Pacchierotti as soprano, had completely to themselves.
Mr. Piozzi was the son of a gentleman of Brescia in Lombardy, who meant him for the Church and educated him accordingly; but he resisted the celibat, escaped from those who would have made him take the vows,