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"POOR dear Dr. Collier."- Mrs. Thrale to Johnson, Aug. 10, 1780; Letters, vol. ii. p. 183.
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 Doctor 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
* "No friend like to a woman man discovers,
So that they have not been, nor may be, lovers."
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. Oh true were these words, put together so long ago:
"The sentiment I feel for you
No pow'r on earth shall e'er subdue ;
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.
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. porary and apparent recovery followed the horrid process of stimulating cataplasms which awakened him from coma to delirium, that delirium only appeased by
When, however, tem
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 sate 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.
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 50,000l. 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, 9000l., and had cut timber for 4000l. more. My mother and my aunts, and an old Doctor Bernard Wilson, had left me 5000l. among them, more or less, and I carried 10,000l. in my
hand, so that the family was benefited by me 28,000l. 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 150,000l. ; 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