Original Memorials of Mrs. Piozzi

NINETY years ago, one of the pleasantest houses near London, for the society that gathered within it, was Mr., or rather, Mrs. Thrale's, at Streatham Park. To be a guest there was to meet the best people In England, and to hear such good talk that much of it has not lost its flavor even yet. Strawberry Hill, Holland House, or any other famous house of that day, has left but faint memories of itself, compared with those of Streatham. Boswell, the most sagacious of men in the hunt after good company, had the good wit and good fortune to get entrance here. One day, in 1769, Dr. Johnson delivered him "a very polite card ” from Mr. and Mrs. Thrale, inviting him to Streatham. “ On the 6th of October, I complied,” he says, “ with their obliging invitation, and found, at an elegant villa six miles from town, every circumstance that can make society pleasing.” Upon the walls of the library hung portraits of the master and mistress of the house, and of their most familiar friends and guests, all by Sir Joshua. Madame d’Arblay, in her most entertaining “ Diary,” gives a list of them, — and a list is all that is needed of such famous names. “ Mrs. Thrale and her eldest daughter were in one piece, over the fireplace, at full length. The rest of the pictures were all threequarters. Mr. Thrale was over the door leading to his study. The general collection then began by Lord Sandys and Lord Westcote, (Lyttelton.) two early noble friends of Mr. Thrale. Then followed Dr. Johnson, Mr. Burke, Dr. Goldsmith, Mr. Murphy, Mr. Garrick, Mr. Baretti, Sir Robert Chambers, and Sir Joshua Reynolds himself, — all painted in the highest style of this great master, who much delighted in this his Streatham Gallery. There was place left but for one more frame when the acquaintance with Dr. Burney began at Streatham.”

A household which had such men for its intimates must have had a more than common charm in itself, and at Streatham this charm lay chiefly in the character of its mistress. It was Mrs. Thrale who had the rare power “ to call together the most select company when it pleased her.” In 1770 she was thirty years old. A small and not beautiful woman, but with a variety of expression that more than compensated for the want of handsome features, with a frank, animated manner, and that highest tact which sets guests at ease, there was something specially attractive in her first address. But beyond this she was the pleasantest converser of all the ladies of the day. In that art in which one “ has all mankind for competitors,” there was no one equal to her in her way. Gifted with the readiest of well-stored memories, with a lively wit and sprightly fancy, with a strong desire to please and an ambition to shine, she never failed to win admiration, while her sweetness of temper and delicate consideration for others gained for her a general regard. For many years she was the friend who did most to make Johnson’s life happy. He was a constant inmate at Streatham. “ I long thought you,” wrote he, “ the first of womankind.” It was her “ kindness which soothed twenty years of a life radically wretched.” “ To see and hear you,” he wrote, “ is always to hear wit and to see virtue.” She belonged, in truth, to the most serviceable class of women, - - by no means to the highest order of her sex. She was not a woman of deep heart, or of noble or tender feeling; but she had kindly and ready sympathies, and such a disposition to please as gave her the capacity of pleasing. Her very faults added to her success. She was vain and ambitious; but her vanity led her to seek the praises of others, and her ambition taught her how to gain them. She was selfish ; but she pleased herself not at the expense of others, but by paying them attentions which returned to her in personal gratifications. She was made for such a position as that which she held at Streatham. The highest eulogy of her is given in an incidental way by Boswell.

He reports Johnson as saying one day,

“ ‘ How few of his friends’ houses would a man choose to be at when he is sick!

He mentioned one or two. I recollect only Thrale’s.”

All the world of readers know the main incidents of Mrs. Thrale’s life. Her own books, Boswell, Madame d’Arblay, have made us almost as familiar with her as with Dr. Johnson himself. Not yet have people got tired of wondering at her marriage with Piozzi, or of amusing themselves with the gossip of the old lady who remained a wit at eighty years old, and, having outlived her great contemporaries, was happy in not outliving her own faculties. Few characters not more remarkable have been more discussed than hers. Macaulay, with characteristic unfairness, gave a view of her conduct which Mr. Hayward, in his recently published entertaining volumes,1 shows to have been in great part the invention of the great essayist’s lively and unprincipled imagination. In the autobiographical memorials of Mrs. Piozzi, now for the first time printed, there is much that throws light on her life, and her relations with her contemporaries. They do not so much raise one’s respect for her, as present her to us as a very natural and generally likable sort of woman, even in those acts of her life which have been the most blamed.

If she had but died while she was mistress of Streatham, we should have only delightful recollections of her. She would have been one of the most agreeable famous women on record. But the last forty years of her life were not as charming as the first. Her weaknesses gained mastery over her, her vanity led her into follies, and she who had once been the favorite correspondent of Dr. Johnson now appears as the correspondent of such inferior persons that no association is connected with their names. Mrs. Thrale and Mrs. Piozzi are two different persons. One belongs to Streatham, the other to Bath ; one is “ always young and always pretty,” the other a rouged old woman. But it is unfair to push the contrast too far. Mrs. Piozzi at seventy or eighty was as sprightly, as good-natured, as Mrs. Thrale at thirty or forty. She never lost her vivacity, never her desire to please. But it is a sadly different thing to please Dr. Johnson, Burke, or Sir Joshua, and to please

“ Those real genuine no-mistake Tom Thumbs,
The little people fed on great men’s crumbs.”

One of the most marked and least satisfactory expressions of Mrs. Piozzi’s character during her later years was a fancy that she took to Conway, a young and handsome actor, who appeared in Bath, where she was then living, in the year 1819. From the time of her first acquaintance with him, till her death, in 1821, she treated him with the most flattering regard, — with an affection, indeed, that might be called motherly, had there not been in it an element of excitement which was neither maternal nor dignified. Conway was a gentleman in feeling, and seems to have had not only a grateful sense of the old lady’s partiality for him, but a sincere interest also in hearing from her of the days and the friends of her youth. So she wrote letters to him, gave him books filled with annotations, (it was a favorite habit of hers to write notes on the margins of books,) wrote for him the story of her life, and drew on the resources of her marvellous memory for his amusement. The old woman’s kindness was one of the few bright things in poor Conway’s unhappy life. His temperament was morbidly sensitive; and when, in 1821, while acting in London, Theodore Hook attacked him in the most cruel and offensive manner in the columns of the “John Bull,” he threw up his engagement, determined to act no more in London, and for a time left the stage. A year or two afterwards he came to this country, and met with a very considerable success. But he fancied himself underrated, and, after performing in Philadelphia in the winter of 1826, he took passage for Charleston, and on the voyage threw himself overboard and was lost. His effects were afterwards sold by auction in New York. Among them were many interesting relics and memorials of Mrs. Piozzi. Mr. Hayward mentions “a copy of the folio edition of Young's ‘Night Thoughts,’ in which he had made a note of its having been presented to him by his ‘dearly attached friend, the celebrated Mrs. Piozzi.’” But there were other books of far greater interest and value than this. There was, as we have been informed, a copy of Malone’s Shakspeare, with numerous notes in the handwriting of Dr. Johnson,—and a copy of “Prayers and Meditations by Samuel Johnson,” with several additional manuscript prayers, and Mrs. Piozzi’s name upon one of the fly-leaves. But more curious still was a copy of Mrs. Piozzi’s “Journey through France, Italy, and Germany,” both volumes of which are full of marginal notes, while, inserted at the beginning and the end, are many pages of Mrs. Piozzi’s beautifully written manuscript, containing a narrative and anecdotes of portions of her life. These volumes now lie before us,2 and their unpublished contents are as lively, as entertaining, and as rich in autobiographic illustration, as any of the material of which Mr. Hayward’s recent book is composed.

On the first fly-leaf is the following inscription: —

“ These Books do not in any wise belong to me ; they are the property of William Augustus Conway, Esqe, who left them to my care, for purpose of putting notes, when he quitted Bath, May 14, 1819.

“ Hester Lynch Piozzi writes this for fear lest her death happening before his return, these books might be confounded among the others in her study.”

On the next page the narrative begins, and with a truly astonishing spirit for the writing of a woman in her eightieth year. Her old vivacity is still natural to her; there is nothing forced in the pleasantry of this introduction.

“ A Lady once—’t was many years ago — asked me to lend her a book out of my library at Streatham Park. ‘ A book of entertainment,’ said I, ‘ of course.’ ‘ That I don’t know or rightly comprehend.’ was her odd answer; ‘I wish for an Abridgment.’ ‘An Abridgment of what ?’ ‘ That’ she replied, ‘you must tell me, my Dear; for I am no reader, like you and Dr. Johnson; I only remember that the last book I read was very pretty, and my husband called it an Abridgment.’ .... 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 Abridgment.”

The first pages of the manuscript are occupied by Mrs. Piozzi with an account of her family and of her own early life. They contain in brief the same narrative that she gave in her “ Autobiographical Memoirs,” printed by Mr. Hayward, in his first volume. Here is a story, however, which we do not remember to have seen before.

“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, 1 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 gratitudo 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 linn 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 both her autobiographies, the printed as well as the manuscript, Mrs. Piozzi speaks in very cold and disparaging terms of her first husband, Mr. Thrale. Her marriage with him had not been a love-match; but we suspect that the long course of years had been unfavorable to his memory in her recollection, and that the blame with which his friends visited her second marriage, which was in all respects an affair of the heart, produced in her a certain bitterness of feeling toward Mr. Thrale, as if he had been the author of these reproaches. It is impossible to believe that he was as indifferent to her as she represents, and that her marriage with him was not moderately happy. Had it been otherwise, however well appearances might have been kept up, Dr. Johnson could hardly have been deceived concerning the truth, and would hardly have ventured to write to her in his letter of consolation upon Mr. Thrale’s death in 1781,—

“HE that has given you happiness in marriage, to a degree of which, without personal knowledge, I should have thought the description fabulous, can give you another mode of happiness as a mother.”

One of her most decided intellectual characteristics was her versatility, or, to give it a harder name, what Johnson called her “ instability of attention.” Dulness was, in her code, the unpardonable sin. Variety was the charm of life, and of books. She never dwelt long on one idea. Her letters and her books are pieces of mosaic-work, the bits of material being put together without any regular pattern, but often with a pretty effect. Here is an illustration of her style.

“ 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 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 ! — or, at 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,
Mean mimic of her master’s dance; —
But similes, like songs in love,
Describing much, too little prove.’

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 has something to tell about beside 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 a black heap of rubbish, my Mother, one day, in 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, T suppose, among the clerks and servants of the brew-house; 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 be 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.”

Somewhat more than three years after her first husband’s death, Mrs. Thrale, in spite of the opposition of her friends, the repugnance of her daughters, and the sneers of society, married Piozzi. He was a poor Italian gentleman, whose only fortune was in his voice and his musical talent. He had been for some time an admired public singer in London and Paris. There was nothing against him but the opinion of society. Mrs. Thrale set this opinion at defiance : a rash thing for a woman to do, and hardly an excusable one in her case; for she was aware that she would thus alienate her daughters, and offend her best friends. But she was in love with him ; and though for a time she tried to struggle against her passion, it finally prevailed over her prudence, her pride, and such affections as she had for others. Her health suffered during the struggle, the termination of which she thus narrates in her “ Abridgment.” The account differs in some slight particulars from that in her “ Autobiographical Memoirs" ; but a comparison between the two serves rather to confirm than to impugn her general accuracy.

“ I hoped,” she says, “ in defiance of probability, to live my sorrows out, and marry the man of my choice. Health, however, began to give way, as my Letters to Dr. Johnson testify ; and when my kind physician, Dobson, from Liverpool, found it in actual and positive danger,— ‘ Now,’ said he, ‘I have respected your delicacy long enough; tell me at once who he is that holds such a life in his power: for write to him I must and will; it is my sacred duty.’ ‘Dear Sir,’ said I, ‘ the difficulty is to keep him at a distance. Speak to these cruel girls, if you will speak.’ ‘ One of whose lives your assiduous tenderness,’ cried he, ‘ saved, with my little help, only a month ago !’ — and ran up-stairs to the ladies, ‘ We know,’ was their reply, ‘that she is fretting after a fellow; but where he is — you may ask her — we know not.’ ‘He is at Milan, with his friend the Marquis of Aracieli,’ said I, — ‘ From whom I had a letter last week, requesting Piozzi’s recall from banishment, as he gallantly terms it, little conscious of what I suffer.’ So we wrote ; and he returned on the eleventh day after receiving the letter. Meanwhile my health mended, and I waited on the lasses to their own house at Brighthelmstone, leaving Miss Nicholson, a favorite friend of theirs, and all their intolerably insolent servants, with them. Piozzi’s return accelerated the recovery of your poor friend, and we married in both Churches, — at St. James’, Bath, on St. James’ Day, 1784, — thirty-five years ago now that I write this Abridgment. When we came to examine Papers, however, our attorney, Greenland, discovered a suppression of fifteen hundred pounds, which helped pay our debts, discharge the mortgage, etc.,—as Piozzi, like Portia, permitted me not to sleep by his side with an unquiet soul. He settled everything with his own money, depended on God and my good constitution for our living long and happily together,— and so we did, twentyfive years, — said change of scenery would complete the cure, and carried me off in triumph, as he called it, to shew his friends in Italy the foreign wife he had so long been sighing for. ‘ Ah, Madam! ’ said the Marquis, when he first saluted me, ‘ we used to blame dear Piozzi; — now we envy him ! ’”

Of Mrs. Piozzi’s journey on the Continent we shall speak in another article. After a residence abroad of two years and a half, she and her husband returned to London in March, 1787. Mrs. Piozzi had come home determined to resume, if it were possible, her old place in society, and to assert herself against the attacks of wits and newspapers, and the coldness of old friends. She had been hardly and unfairly dealt with by the public, in regard to her marriage. The appearance, during her absence, of her volume of “Anecdotes of Dr. Johnson” had given unfriendly critics an opportunity to pass harsh judgment upon her literary merits, and had excited the jealousy of rival biographers of the dead lion. Boswell, Hawkins, Baretii, Chalmers, Peter Pindar, Gifford, Horace Walpole, all had their fling at her. Never was an innocent woman in private life more unfeelingly abused, or her name dragged before the public more wantonly, in squibs and satires, jests and innuendoes. The women who transgress social conventionalities are often treated as if they had violated the rules of morals. But she was not to be put down in this way. Her temperament enabled her to escape much of the pain which a more sensitive person would have suffered. She hardened herself against the malice of her satirists; and in doing so, her character underwent an essential change. She was truly happy with Piozzi, and she preserved, by strength of will, an inexhaustible fund of good spirits.

On first reaching London, “ we drove,” she writes in the Conway MSS., “ to the Royal Hotel in Pall Mall, and, arriving early, I proposed going to the Play. There was a small front box, in those days, which held only two; it made the division, or connexion, with the side boxes, and, being unoccupied, we sat in it, and saw Mrs. Siddons act Imogen, I well remember, and Mrs. Jordan, Priscilla Tomboy. Mr. Piozzi was amused, and the next day was spent in looking at houses, counting the cards left by old acquaintances, ete. The lady-daughters came, behaved with cold civility, and asked what I thought of their decision concerning Cecilia, then at school. No reply was made, or a gentle one ; but she was the first cause of contention among us. The lawyers gave her into my care, and we took her home to our new habitation in Hanover Square, which we opened with Music, cards, etc., on, I think, the 22 March, Miss Thrales refused their company ; so we managed as well as we could. Our affairs were in good order, and money ready for spending. The World, as it is called, appeared good-humored, and we were soon followed, respected, and admired. The summer months sent us about visiting and pleasuring,..... and after another gay London season, Streatham Park, unoccupied by tenants, called us as if really home. Mr. Piozzi, with more generosity than prudence, spent two thousand pounds on repairing and furnishing it in 1790;—and we had danced all night, I recollect, when the news came of Louis Seize’s escape from, and recapture by, his rebel subjects.”

Poor old woman, who could thus write of her own daughters ! — poor old woman, who had not heart enough either to keep the love of her children or to grieve for its loss ! Cecilia was her fourth and youngest child, and her story, as her mother tells it, may as well be finished here. After speaking in her manuscript of a claim on some Oxfordshire property, disputed by her daughters, she says, in words hard and cold as steel, — “ We threw it up, therefore, and contented ourselves with the plague Cecilia gave us, who, by dint of intriguing lovers, teazed my soul out before she was fifteen, — when she fortunately ran away, jumping out of the window at Streatham Park, with Mr. Mostyn of Segroid— a young man to whom Sir Thomas Mostyn’s title will go, if he does not marry, but whose property, being much encumbered, made him no match for Ceey and her forty thousand pounds ; and we were censured for not taking better care, and suffering her to wed a Welsh gentleman, — object of ineffable contempt to the daughters of Mr. Thrale, with whom she always held correspondence while living with us, who indulged her in every expense and every folly, — although allowed only one hundred and forty pounds per ann. on her account.”

After two or three years spent in London, the Piozzis resided for some time at Streatham, — how changed in mistress and in guests from the Streatham of which Mrs. Thrale had been the presiding genius ! But after a while they removed to Wales, where, on an old family estate belonging to Mrs. Piozzi, they built a house, and christened the place with the queer Welsh-Italian compound name of Brynbella. “ Mr. Piozzi built the house for me, he said ; my own old chateau, Bachygraig by name, tho’ very curious, was wholly uninhabitable; and we called the Italian villa lie set up as mine in the Vale of Cluid, North Wales, Brynbella, or the beautiful brow, making the name half Welsh and half Italian, as we were.” Here they lived, with occasional visits to other places, during the remainder of Piozzi’s life. “ Our head quarters were in Wales, where dear Piozzi repaired my church, built a new vault for my old ancestors, chose the place in it where he and I are to repose together..... He lived some twenty-five years with me, however, but so punished with Gout that we found Bath the best wintering-place for many, many seasons. — Mrs. Siddons’ last appearance there he witnessed, when she played Calista to Dimond’s Lothario, in which he looked so like Garrick it shocked us all three, I believe; for Garrick adored Mr. Piozzi, and Siddons hated the little great man to her heart. Poor Dimond! he was a well-bred, pleasing, worthy creature, and did the honours of his own house and table with peculiar grace indeed. No likeness in private life or manner,— none at all; no wit, no fun, no frolic humour had Mr. Dimond : — no grace, no dignity, no real unaffected elegance of mien or behaviour had his predecessor, David, — whose partiality to my fastidious husband was for that reason never returned. Merriment, difficult for him to comprehend, made no amends for the want of that which no one understood better;—so he hated all the wits but Murphy.”

And now that we are on anecdotes of the Theatre, here is another good story, which belongs to a somewhat earlier time, but of which Mrs. Piozzi does not mention the exaet date. “ The Richmond Theatre at that time attracted all literary people’s attention, while a Coterie of Gentlemen and Noblemen and Ladies entertained themselves with getting up Plays, and acting them at the Duke of Richmond’s house, Whitehall. Lee’s ‘ Theodosius’ was the favorite. Lord Henry Fitzgerald played Varanus very well, — for a Dilettante ; and Lord Derby did his part surprisingly. But there was a song to be sung to Athenais, while she, resolving to take poison, sits in a musing attitude. Jane Holman — then Hamilton— would sing an air of Sacchini, and the manager would not hear Italian words. The ballad appointed by the author was disapproved by all, and I pleased everybody by my fortunate fancy of’ adapting some English verses to the notes of Sacchini’s song; and Jane Hamilton sung them enchantingly : —

‘ Vain’s the breath of Adulation,
Vain the tears of tenderest Passion,
Whilst a strong Imagination
Holds the wandering Mind away :
Art in vain attempts to borrow
Notes to soothe a rooted sorrow;
Fixed to die, and die to-morrow,
What can touch her soul to-day ? ’

The lines were printed, but I lost them. ‘ What a wild Tragedy is this! ’ said I to Hannah More, who was one of the audience. ‘ Wild enough,’ was her reply ; ‘ but there’s good Poetry in it, and good Passion, and they will always do.’ Hannah More never goes now to a Theatre. How long is H. L. Piozzi likely to be seen there ? How long will Mr. Conway keep the stage?”

In the year 1798, the family of Mr. Piozzi having suffered greatly from the French invasion of Lombardy, he sent for the son of his youngest brother, a “ little boy just turned of five years old.” “ We have got him here,” wrote Mrs. Piozzi in a letter from Bath, dated January, 1799, published by Mr. Hayward, “ and his uncle will take him to school next week.” “ As he was by a lucky chance baptized, in compliment to me, John Salusbury, [Salusbury was her family name,] he will be known in England by no other, and it will be forgotten he is a foreigner.” “My poor little boy from Lombardy said, as I walked with him across our market, ‘ These are sheeps’ heads, are they not, aunt ? I saw a basket of men’s beads at Brescia.’ " Little John, though he went to school, was often at home. After writing of the troubles with her own daughters, Mrs. Piozzi says in the manuscript before us, — “Had we vexations enough ? We had certainly many pleasures. The house in Wales was beautiful, and the Boy was beautiful too. Mr. Piozzi said I had spoiled my own children and was spoiling his. My reply was, that I loved spoiling people, and hated any one I could not spoil. Am I not now trying to spoil dear Mr. Conway ? ”

Piozzi was not far from wrong in his judgment of her treatment of this boy, if we may trust to her complaints of his coldness and indifference to her. In 1814, at the time of his marriage, five years after Piozzi’s death, she gave to him her Welsh estate; and it may have been a greater satisfaction to her than any gratification of the affections could have afforded, to see him, before she died, high sheriff of his county, and knighted as Sir John Salusbury Piozzi Salusbury.

There was little gayety in the life at Brynbella, or at Bath, — and the society that Mrs. Piozzi now saw was made up chiefly of new and for the most part uninteresting acquaintances. The old Streatham set, with a few exceptions, were dead, and of the few that remained none retained their former relations with its mistress. But she suffered little from the change, was contented to win and accept the flattery of inferior people, and, instead of spending her faculties in soothing the “radically wretched life” of Johnson, used them, perhaps not less happily, in lightening the sufferings of Piozzi during his last years. She tells a touching story of him in these days.

“ Piozzi’s fine hand upon the organ and pianoforte deserted him. Gout, such as I never knew, fastened on his fingers, distorting them into every dreadful shape. ... A little girl, shewn to him as a musical wonder of five years old, said, ‘ Pray, Sir, why are your lingers wrapped up in black silk so ? ’ ‘ My Dear,’ replied he,

they are in mourning for my Voice.’

’ Oh, me ! ’ cries the child, ‘ is she dead?' ’ He sung an easy song, and the Baby exclaimed, ‘ Ah, Sir ! you are very naughty,

— you tell fibs ! ’ Poor Dears ! and both gone now !! ”

There were no morbid sensibilities in Mrs. Piozzi’s composition. She can tell all her sorrows without ever a tear. A mark of exclamation looks better than a blot. And yet she had suffered; but it had been with such suffering as makes the soul hard rather than tender. The pages with which she ends this narrative ot her life are curiously characteristic.

“ When life was gradually, but perceptibly, closing round him [Piozzi] at Bath, in 1808, I asked him if he would wish to converse with a Romish priest, — we had full opportunity there. ‘ By no means,’ said he. ‘ Call Mr. Leman of the Crescent.’ We did so, — poor Bessy ran and fetched him. Mr. Piozzi received the blessed Sacrament at his hands ; but recovered sufficiently to go home and die in his own house. I sent for Salusbury, but he came three hours too late,— his master, Mr. Shephard, with him. In another year he went to Oxford, where he spent me above seven hundred pounds per annum, and kept me in continual terror lest the bad habits of the place should ruin him, body, soul, and purse, His old school-fellow, Smythe Owen, — then Pemberton, — accompanied him, and to that gentleman’s sister he of course gave his heart. The Lady and her friends took advantage of my fondness, and insisted on my giving up the Welsh estate. I did so, hoping to live at last with my own children, at Streatham Park; — there, however, I found no solace of the sort. So, after entangling my purse with new repairing and furnishing that place, retirement to Bath with my broken heart and fortune was all I could wish or expect Thither I hasted,heard how the possessors of Brynbella lived and thrived, but

'Who set the twigs will he remember
Who is in haste to sell the timber?

Well, no matter! One day before I left it there was talk how Love had always Interest annexed to it. ‘ Nay, then,’ said I, ‘ what is my love for Salusbury ? ’ ‘ Oh ! ‘ replied Shephard, ‘there is Interest there. Mrs. Piozzi cannot, could not, I am sure, exist without some one upon whom to energize her affections; his Uncle is gone, and she is much obliged to young Salusbury for being ready at her hand to pet and spoil; her children will not suffer her to love them, and’ — with a coarse laugh — ‘ what will she do when this fellow throws her off, as lie soon will ? ’ Shephard was right enough. I sunk into a stupor, worse far than all the torments I had endured : but when Canadian Indians take a prisoner, dear Mr. Conway knows what agonies they put them to; the man bears all without complaining, — smokes, dances, triumphs in his anguish, —

‘ For the son of Alcnoomak shall never complain.’

When a little remission comes, however, then comes the torpor too ; — he cannot then be waked by pain or moderate pleasure : and such was my case, when your talents roused, your offered friendship opened my heart to enjoyment. Oh! never say hereafter that the obligations are on your side. Without you, dulness, darkness, stagnation of every faculty would Lave enveloped and extinguished all

the powers of hapless

H. L. P.”

The picture that Mrs. Piozzi paints of herself in these last words is a sad one. She herself was unconscious, however, of its real sadness. In its unintentional revelations it shows us the feebleness without the dignity of old age, vivacity without freshness of intellect, the pretence without the reality of sentiment. “ Hapless H. L. P.”— to have lived to eighty years, and to close the record of so long a life with such words!

A little more than a year after this “Abridgment” was written, in May, 1821, Mrs. Piozzi died, Her children, from whom she had lived separated, were around her death-bed.” 3

In judging her, it is to be borne in mind that the earlier and the later portions of her life are widely different from each other. As we have before said, Mrs. Thrale and Mrs. Piozzi are two distinct persons. Mrs. Thrale, whom the world smiled upon, whom the wits liked and society courted, who had the best men in

England for her friends, is a woman who will always be pleasant in memory. Her unaffected grace, her kindliness, her goodhumor, her talents, make her perpetually charming. She was helped by her surroundings to be good, pleasant, and clever; and she will always keep her place as one of the most attractive figures in the circle which was formed by Johnson, and Burke, and Reynolds, and Fanny Burney, and others scarcely less conspicuous. But Mrs. Piozzi, whom the world frowned upon, whom the wits jeered at, and society neglected, whose friends nobody now knows, will be best remembered and best liked as having once been Mrs. Thrale. There is no great charge against her; she was more sinned against than sinning; she was only weak and foolish, only degenerated from her first excellence. And even in her old age some traits of her youthful charms remain, and, seeing these, we regard her with a tender compassion, and remember of her only the bright helpfulness and freshness of her younger days, when Johnson “ loved her, esteemed her, reverenced her, and thought her the first of womankind.”

  1. * Autobiography, Letters, and Literary Remains of Mrs. Piozzi (Thrale). Edited, with Notes and an Introductory Account of her Life and Writings, by A. Hayward, Esq., Q. C. In Two Volumes. London, 1861. Reprinted by Ticknor & Fields.
  2. This unique copy of the Journey through France, etc., is in the possession of Mr. Duncan C. Pell, of Newport, R. I. It is to his liberality that we are indebted for the privilege of laying before the readers of the Atlantic the following portions of Mrs. Piozzi’s manuscript.
  3. It is but four years ago that the Viscountess Keith, Mrs. Piozzi’s eldest daughter, died. She was ninety-five years old. Her long life connected our generation with that of Johnson and Burke. She was the last survivor of the Streatham “set,”—for, as “ Queeney,” she had held a not unimportant place in it. Site was at Johnson’s death-bed. At their last interview he said, — “ My dear child, we part forever in this world; let us part as Christian friends should; let us pray together.”
  4. It was in 1808 that Miss Thrale married Lord Keith, a distinguished naval officer.
  5. In The Gentleman's Magazine, for May, 1857, is an interesting notice of Lady Keith. “ During many years,” it is there said, “ Viscountess Keith held a distinguished position in the highest circles of the fashionable world in London; but during the latter portion of her life. . . . her time was almost entirely devoted to works of charity and to the performance of religions duties. No one ever did more for the good of others, and few ever did so much in so unostentatious a manner.”