Page images
PDF
EPUB

peculiarity of his style, she found out that he teized her by writing in the newspapers concerning battles and plots which had no existence, only to feed her with new accounts of the division of Poland perhaps, or the disputes between the states of Russia and Turkey, she was exceedingly angry to be sure, and scarcely I think forgave the offence till the domestic distresses of the year 1772 reconciled them to and taught them the true value of each other; excellent as they both were, far beyond the excellence of any other man and woman I ever yet saw. As her conduct too extorted his truest esteem, her cruel illness excited all his tenderness; nor was the sight of beauty, scarce to be subdued by disease, and wit, flashing through the apprehension of evil, a scene which Dr. Johnson could see without sensibility. He acknowledged himself improved by her piety, and astonished at her fortitude, and hung over her bed with the affection of a parent, and the reverence of a son. Nor did it give me less pleasure to see her sweet mind cleared of all its latent prejudices, and left at liberty to admire and applaud that force of thought and versatility of genius, that comprehensive soul and benevolent heart which attracted and commanded veneration from all, but inspired peculiar sensations of delight mixed with reverence in those who, like her, had the opportunity to observe these qualities, stimulated by gratitude, and actuated by friendship. When Mr. Thrale's perplexities disturbed his peace, dear Dr. Johnson left him scarce a moment, and tried every artifice to ainuse as well as every argument to console him: nor is it more possible to describe than to forget his prudent, his pious attentions towards the man who had some years before certainly saved his valuable life, perhaps his reason, by half obliging him to change the foul air of Fleet-street for the wholesome breezes of the Sussex Downs.

The epitaph engraved on my mother's monument shews how deserving she was of general applause, I asked Johnson why he named her person before her mind : he said it was, “ because every body could judge of the one, and but few of the other."

Juxta sepulta est HESTERA MARIA
Thoma Cotton de Combermere baronetti Cestriensis filia,
Johannis Salusbury armigeri Flintiensis uxor

Forma felix, felix ingenio ;
Omnibus jucunda, suorum amantissima.

Linguis artibusque ita exculta

Ut loquenti nunquam deessent
Sermonis nitor, sententiarum flosculi,
Sapientiæ gravitas, leporum gratia :

Modum servandi adeo perita,
Ut domestica inter negotia literis oblectaretur.
Literarum inter delicias, rem familiarem sedulo curaret,

Multis illi multos annos precantibus
diri carcinomatis veneno contabuit,
nexibusque vite paulatim resolutie,
é terris-meliora sperans - emigravit.

Nata 1707. Nupta 1739. Obiit 1773." Mr. Murphy, who admired her talents and delighted in her company, did me the favour to paraphrase this elegant inscription in verses which I fancy have never yet been published. His fame has long been out of my power to increase as a poet; as a man of sensibility perhaps these lines may set him higher than he now stands. I remember with gratitude the friendly tears which prevented him from speaking as he put them into hand.

“ Near this place
Are deposited the remains of

HESTER MARIA,
The daughter of Sir Thomas Cotton of Combermere, in the county of

Cheshire, Bart. the wife of

John Salusbury,
of the county of Flint, Esquire. She was
born in the year 1707, married in 1739, and died in 1773.

A pleasing form, where every grace combin'd,
With genius blest, a pure enlighten'd mind;
Benevolence on all that smiles bestow'd,
A heart that for her friends with love o'erflow'd :
In language skilld, by science form’d to please,
Her mirth was wit, her gravity was ease.
Graceful in all, the happy mien she knew,
Which even to virtue gives the limits due;
Whate’er employ'd her, that she seem’d to chuse,
Her house, her friends, her business, or the muse.
Admir'd and loved, the theme of general praise,
All to such virtue wish'd a length of days : :
But sad reverse ! with slow consuming pains,
Th' envenom'd cancer revellid in her veins;
Prey'd on her spirits-stole each power away ;
Gradual she sunk, yet smiling in decay ;
She smild in hope, by sore afflictions try'd,

And in that hope the pious Christian died.” The following epitaph on Mr. Thrale, who has now a monument close by her's in Streatham church, I have seen printed and

a

Ita sacras,

commended in Maty's Review for April 1784; and a friend has favoured me with the translation.

Hic conditur quod reliquum est

HENRICI THRALE,
Qui res seu civiles, seu domesticas, ita egit

Ut vitam illi longiorem multi optarent;
Ut quam brevem esset habiturus prescire videretur ;

Simplex, apertus, sibique semper similis,
Nihil ostentavit aut arte fictum aut cura

Elaboratum.
In senatu, regi patriæque

Fideliter studuit ;
Vulgi obstrepentis contemptor animosus,

Domi inter mille mercature negotia
Literarum elegantiam minimè neglexit.
Amicis quocunque modo laborantibus,
Conciliis, auctoritate, muneribus adfuit.
Inter familiares, comites, convivas, hospites,

Tam facili fuit morum suavitate
Ut omnium animos ad se alliceret ;

Tam felici sermonis libertate
Ut nulli adulatus, omnibus placeret.

Natus 1724. Ob. 1781.
Consortes tumuli habet Rodolphum patrem, strenuum
fortemque virum, et Henricum filium unicum,
quem spei parentum mors inopina decennem

præripuit.

Ita
Domus felix et opulenta, quam erexit
Avus, auxitque pater, cum nepote decidit.

Abi viator!
Et vicibus rcrum humanarum perspectis,

Æternitatem cogita !"
“ Here are deposited the remains of

HENRY THRALE,
Who managed all his concerns in the present
world, public and private, in such a manner
as to leave many wishing he had continued

longer in it; And all that related to a future world, as if he had been sensible how short a time he

was to continue in this. Simple, open, and uniform in his manners, his conduct was without either art or affectation. In the senate steadily attentive to the true interests

of his king and country, He looked down with contempt on the clamours

of the multitude :

Though engaged in a very extensive business,
He found some time to apply to polite literature :
And was ever ready to assist his friends

labouring under any difficulties,
with his advice, his influence, and his purse.

To his friends, acquaintance, and guests,
he behaved with such sweetness of manners

as to attach them all to his person :
So happy in his conversation with them,

as to please all, though he flattered none.
He was born in the year 1724, and died in 1781.

In the same tomb lie interred his father,
Ralph Thrale, a man of vigour and activity,
And his only son Henry, who died before his father,

Aged ten years.
Thus a happy and opulent family,
Raised by the grandfather, and augmented by the
father, became extinguished with the grandson.

Go, Reader!
And reflecting on the vicissitudes of

all human affairs,

Meditate on eternity! I never recollect to have heard that Dr. Johnson wrote inscriptions for any sepulchral stones, except Dr. Goldsmith's in Westminster abbey, and these two in Streatham church. He made four lines once on the death of poor Hogarth, which were equally true and pleasing: I know not why Garrick’s were preferred to them.

“ The hand of him here torpid lies, That drew th' essential form of grace ; Here clos’d in death th' attentive

eyes, That saw the manners in the face.

Mr. Hogarth, among the variety of kindnesses shewn to me when I was too young to have a proper sense of them, was used to be very earnest that I should obtain the acquaintance, and if possible the friendship of Dr. Johnson, whose conversation was to the talk of other men, like Titian's painting compared to Hudson's, he said : “but don't you tell people now, that I say so (continued he), for the connoisseurs and I are at war, you know; and because I hate them, they think I hate Titianand let them!” Many were indeed the lectures I used to have in my very early days from dear Mr. Hogarth, whose regard for my father induced him perhaps to take notice of his little girl, and give her some odd particular directions about dress, dancing, and many other matters, interesting now only because they were his. As he made all his talents, however, subservient to the great purposes of morality, and the earnest desire he had to mend mankind, his discourse generally ended in an ethical dissertation, and a serious charge to me, never to forget his picture of the Lady's last Stake. Of Dr. Johnson, when my father and he were talking together about him one day : “That man (says Hogarth) is not contented with believing the Bible, but he fairly resolves, I think, to believe nothing but the Bible. Johnson (added be), though so wise a fellow, is more like king David than king Solomon ; for he says in his haste that all men are liars." This charge, as I afterwards came to know, was but too well founded : Mr. Johnson's incredulity amounted almost to disease, and I have seen it mortify his companions exceedingly. But the truth is, Mr. Thrale had a very powerful influence over the Doctor, and could make him suppress many rough answers : he could likewise prevail on him to change his shirt, his coat, or his plate, almost before it came indispensably necessary to the comfortable feelings of his friends : But as I never had any ascendancy at all over Mr. Johnson, except just in the things that concerned his health, it grew extremely perplexing and difficult to live in the house with him when the master of it was no more; the worse indeed, because his dislikes grew capricious; and he could scarce bear to have any body come to the house whom it was absolutely necessary for me to see. Two gentlemen, I perfectly well remember, dining with us at Streatham in the summer 1782, when Elliot's brave defence of Gibraltar was a subject of common discourse, one of these men naturally enough begun some talk about red-hot balls thrown with surprising dexterity and effect: which Dr. Johnson having listened some time to, “I would advise you, Sir (said he with a cold sneer), never to relate this story again : you really can scarce imagine how very poor a figure you make in the telling of it." Our guest being bred a Quaker, and I believe a man of an extremely gentle disposition, needed no more reproofs for the same folly; so if he ever did speak again, it was in a low voice to the friend who came with him. The check was given before dinner, and after coffee I left the room. When in the evening, however, our companions were returned to London, and Mr. Johnson and myself were left alone, with only our usual family about us, “I did not quarrel with those Quaker fellows,” (said he, very seriously.) “You did perfectly right,” replied I ; “ for they

a

« PreviousContinue »