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“Poor dear Dr. Collier.” — 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 Dr. 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 bappy 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. O, true were these words, put together so long ago : —
“ The sentiment I feel for you
No power 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
* “No friend like to a woman man discovers,
So that they have not been, nor may be, lovers."
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. When, however, temporary and apparent recovery followed the horrid process of stimulating cataplasms which awakened him from carus to delirium, that delirium only appeased by 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 sat 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.
MINOR MARGINAL NOTES ON THE TWO VOL
UMES OF PRINTED LETTERS.*
Mr. Seward. — Mr. Seward, who wrote the “ Anecdotes ;" he was only son to a rich brewer, whom he disappointed and grieved by his preference of literature to riches. His head, however, was not quite right. I believe his principles were vitiated by his studies among the Swiss infidels : Helvetius, D'Alembert, and the rest of them. He kept his morality pure for the sake of his health perhaps, for he was a professed valetudinarian.
Mr. Keep. — Mr. Keep, when he heard I was a native of North Wales, told me that his wife was a Welshwoman, and desired to be buried at Ruthyn. “So,” says the man, “I went with the corpse myself, because I thought it would be a pleasant journey, and indeed I found Ruthyn a very beautiful place.”
Sir Robert Chambers. — The box goes to Calcutta to Sir Robert Chambers, a favorite with them all. (I never could see why.) He was judge in India, married Fanny Wilton, the statuary's daughter, who stood for Hebe at the Royal Academy. She was very beautiful indeed, and but fifteen years old when Sir Robert married her. His portrait is in the Library at Streatham Park. 1815.
Bath is often mentioned in these letters, but I forgot among the baby anecdotes which precede them, to say how I remembered being carried about the rooms by Beau Nash, and taken notice of by Lady Caroline, mother to the famous Charles James Fox.
On Johnson's writing to congratulate her on making the con
* The name, or passage, suggesting the note is given when required for its elucidation.
quest of the Prince of Castiglione, she writes : “ The man who drank his health by name of Mr. Vagabond.”
Whitbread. — Would you for the other thousand have my master such a man as Whitbread ? Father to the man who killed himself. He asked me to marry him after Mr. Thrale's death, when his fortune was much increased : on my refusal (he had three children) Lady Mary Cornwallis accepted his hand, and brought him a daughter before she died.
“But I long to see £ 20,000 in the bank.” —Johnson.
Ay, so did I, but not one shilling was found by the executors in any place, except a trifle for present use at the banker's shop ; £6,000, no more ; and no estate purchased anywhere. Although Murphy said afterwards that Mr. T. enjoyed a contract, bringing in £ 26,000 a year for three years, of which neither Dr. Johnson nor I, nor Perkins the head clerk, ever heard. I now know that to be true, but have not known it fifteen years. Mr. Murphy himself witnessed the deed, the contract. Very strange!
at of my mothere these dear
“Why should you suspect me of forgetting lilly lolly ?” — Johnson.
Ask me about this stuff, and I'll try to tell you : come, here it is. One of our Welsh squires had a half-witted son, — his sole heir, poor fellow ! and the parents fondled it accordingly. When Christmas came, and all the country was invited at Llewenney Hall, the seat of my mother's eldest brother, who married Lady Elizabeth Tollemache, came these dear Wynnes and their booby boy about eleven years old. “What does the child say?” cries my aunt, “it sounds like lilly lolly.” “Indeed, my Lady Betty,” replies the mother, in a sharp Welsh accent, “ Dick does say lilly lolly, sure enough : but he mains : How do you do, Sir Robert Cotton ? ” I had probably in some unprinted letter said: “Here's a deal of lilly lolly, which I suppose you forget, but it means, How do you do, Dr. Johnson ?”
the child s
Foote. — “ Did you see Foote at Brighthelmstone ? — Did you think he would so soon be gone ? — Life, says Falstaff, is a shuttle.
He was a fine fellow in his way; and the world is really impoverished by his sinking glories. Murphy ought to write his life, at least to give the world a Footeana. Now, will any of his contemporaries bewail him ? Will Genius change his sex to weep? I would really have his life written with diligence.” * — Johnson.
Doctor Johnson was not aware that Foote broke his heart because of a hideous detection ; he was trying to run away from England, and from infamy, but death stopped him. Doctor Johnson never could persuade himself that things were as bad as the sufferer or his friends represented them; he thought it wrong to believe so, and steadily made the best on't.
Richardson. — “ Doctor Johnson said, that if Mr. Richardson had lived till I came out, my praises would have added two or three years to his life: “ For,' says Dr. Johnson, “that fellow died merely for want of change among his flatterers : he perished for want of more, like a man obliged to breathe the same air till it is exhausted.'”
“ Here is Mr. — , now Sir William, however, who talks all about taste, and classics, and country customs, and rural sports, with rapture, which he perhaps fancies unaffected, — was riding by our chaise on the Downs yesterday, and said, because the sun shone, that one could not perceive it was autumn ; 'for,' says he,
there is not one tree in sight to show us the fall of the leaf; and hark! how that sweet bird sings, continued he, just like the first week in May.' 'No, no,' replied I, that's nothing but a poor robin-redbreast, whose chill wintry note tells the season too plainly, without assistance from the vegetable kingdom.' Why, you amaze me,' quoth our friend ; 'I had no notion of that. Yet Mrs. — says, this man is a natural converser, and Mrs. — is an honorable lady.” — Letters, Vol. II. p. 33.
The blanks are filled up with the names of Pepys and Montagu.
* A very able essay on the “Life and Character of Foote” has been written by Mr. Forster, who clears his memory of the calumny which shortened his life.