Hester Thrale

Hester Lynch Thrale (née Salusbury; later Piozzi; 27 January 1741 or 16 January 1740 – 2 May 1821)[Note 1] was a Welsh-born diarist, author, and patron of the arts. Her diaries and correspondence are an important source of information about Samuel Johnson and 18th-century English life.

Hester Thrale
Hester thrale by joshua reynolds 1781 small.jpg
Portrait by Joshua Reynolds
Born
Hester Lynch Salusbury

(1741-01-27)27 January 1741
Died2 May 1821(1821-05-02) (aged 80)
Other namesHester Salusbury, Hester Piozzi
Portrait of Hester Lynch Piozzi (4671803)
Portrait of Mrs. Hester Lynch Piozzi (4671804)

Early yearsEdit

Hester Lynch Salusbury was born at Bodvel Hall, Caernarvonshire, Wales, the only daughter of Hester Lynch Cotton and Sir John Salusbury. As a member of the powerful Salusbury Family, she belonged to one of the most illustrious Welsh land-owning dynasties of the Georgian era. Through her father's line, she was a direct descendant of Katheryn of Berain.[citation needed]

CareerEdit

 
Engraving of a Portrait of Mrs. Thrale at the age of 40 by Sir Joshua Reynolds
 
Streatham Park

After her father had gone bankrupt in an attempt to invest in Halifax, Canada, she married the rich brewer Henry Thrale on 11 October 1763, at St. Anne's Chapel, Soho, London. They had 12 children and lived at Streatham Park. The marriage often was strained, however: her husband frequently felt slighted by members of the court and may well have married to improve his social status. The Thrales' eldest daughter, Hester, became a viscountess.[citation needed]

After her marriage, Thrale was liberated and free to associate with whom she pleased. Due to her husband's financial status, she was able to enter London society, as a result of which she met Samuel Johnson, James Boswell, Bishop Thomas Percy, Oliver Goldsmith, and other literary figures, including the young Frances Burney, whom she took with her to Gay Street, Bath.[1]

In July 1774 Johnson visited Wales in Thrale's company,[2] during which time they visited Hester's uncle Sir Lynch Cotton at Combermere in Denbighshire.[3] Frances, the wife of Sir Lynch's son Robert "found Johnson, despite his rudeness, at times delightful, having a manner peculiar to himself in relating anecdotes that could not fail to attract old and young. Her impression was that Thrale was very vexatious in wishing to engross all his attention, which annoyed him much."[4]

Johnson wrote two verses for Thrale in 1775, the first in celebration of her 35th birthday,[5] and another in Latin to honour her.[6]

Fanny Burney, in her diary, describes the conversations at several of Thrale's soirées, including one in 1779 about a young woman named Miss Sophy Streatfeild (1755–1835),[7] who was a favourite of both Mr. Johnson and Mr. Thrale, rather to the chagrin of Hester, who commented that Sophy "had a power of captivation that was irresistible... her beauty joined to her softness, her caressing manners, her tearful eyes, and alluring looks, would insinuate her into the heart of any man she thought worth attacking."[8] The touch of understandable spite hereby revealed in Thrale's nature is tempered by her wry humour in remarking (after another of her male guests had professed devotion to Sophy and the desire to "soothe" her): "I would ensure her power of crying herself into any of your hearts she pleased. I made her cry to Miss Burney, to show how beautiful she looked in tears" and (on being rebuked about this) "Oh but she liked it... Miss Burney would have run away but she came forward on purpose to show herself. Sophy Streatfeild is never happier than when tears trickle down from her fine eyes in company."[9]

The Thrales were in Bath in 1780 at the time of the Gordon Riots, when a Roman Catholic chapel was set on fire,[10] although the greater worry was whether Thrale's brewery in Southwark would escape being ransacked, which it narrowly did.[11]

Burney records Thrale's distress on losing her husband (4 April 1781), referring to her as "sweet Mrs. Thrale" and sympathising with the "agitation" she was under in having to sell the brewery and wind up his affairs. Burney was there to congratulate and cheer Thrale when the business was concluded.[12]

During the ensuing years, Thrale fell in love with Gabriel Mario Piozzi, an Italian music teacher, and married him on 25 July 1784. She complained: "I see the English newspapers are full of gross Insolence towards me," with one commenting how Thrale could not have imagined "his wife's disgrace, by eventually raising an obscure and penniless Fiddler into sudden Wealth."[13] This caused a rift with Johnson, which was only perfunctorily mended shortly before his death. The levelling marriage also earned her the disapproval of Burney (who would herself marry in 1793 the impoverished, Catholic émigré Alexandre D'Arblay) and her cousins the Cottons. With her second husband, Hester retired to Brynbella, a specially built country house on her Bach y Graig estate in the Vale of Clwyd, near Tremeirchion in north Wales.

After Johnson's death, she published Anecdotes of the Late Samuel Johnson (1786) and their letters to each other (1788).[14] Fanny Burney, who considered both Johnson and Thrale to be among her dearest friends, read the unpublished manuscript with much interest, but disapproved of the decision to publish, noting, "She has given all – every word – and thinks that, perhaps, a justice to Dr Johnson, which, in fact, is the greatest injury to his memory."[15] Together with Thrale's diaries, which were known as Thraliana and not published until 1949, these sources help to fill out the biased picture of Johnson often presented in Boswell's Life. Johnson often stayed with the Thrale household and had his own room above the library at Streatham, in which he worked.

Her Retrospection... [16] was an attempt at a popular history of that period, but was not received well by critics, some of whom patently resented female intrusion into what was then the male preserve of history. Posterity has been kinder. According to the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, "it has since been seen as a feminist history, concerned to show changes in manners and mores in so far as they affected women; it has also been judged to anticipate Marxian history in its keen apprehension of reification: 'machines imitated mortals to unhoped perfection, and men found out they were themselves machines.'"[14]

A lexicographer in her own right, Mrs Piozzi's British synonymy, or, An attempt at regulating the choice of words in familiar conversation was published in 1794 by G. G. & J. Robinson of London, ten years after Dr Johnson's death.[17]

Death and legacyEdit

Hester Piozzi died at No. 10 (now 20) Sion Row, Clifton, Bristol, of complications after a fall, and was buried on 16 May 1821 near Brynbella in the churchyard of Corpus Christi Church, Tremeirchion, next to Piozzi.[14] A marble plaque inside the church was erected in 1909:

Near this place are interred the remains of

Hester Lynch Piozzi.
"Doctor Johnson's Mrs Thrale"
Born 1741. Died 1821.
Witty. Vivacious and Charming. In an Age of Genius
She Ever Held a Foremost Place
This Tablet is Erected by Orlando Butler Fellowes
Grand-Son of Sir James Fellowes. The Intimate Friend of
Mrs. Piozzi and her Executor.
Assisted by Subscriptions

28th April 1909.[18]

Fanny Burney eulogised her, going so far as to make a comparison with Germaine de Staël.[19]

From the time of her death almost up to the present, she was referred to by scholars as Johnson had done, as Mrs Thrale or Hester Thrale. Nowadays she is often referred to as Hester Lynch Piozzi or Mrs Piozzi.

Samuel Beckett drew on Thrale's diaries and Anecdotes to dramatize her and Johnson's relationship in one of his earliest plays, Human Wishes. However, he abandoned the play after completing the first act.

Author Lillian de la Torre featured Thrale in the story "The Stolen Christmas Box", part of a series featuring Johnson as a detective.

See alsoEdit

Further readingEdit

  • Beryl Bainbridge, According to Queeney, Little Brown & Co., 2001 (novel)
  • Boswell, James (1851). The life of Samuel Johnson. [Followed by] The journal of a tour to the Hebrides.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Clifford, James L. (1987). Hester Lynch Piozzi (Mrs. Thrale). New York: Columbia University Press. ISBN 0-231-06389-X.
  • Marianna D'Ezio, "The Advantages of "Demi-Naturalization": Hester Piozzi's "Observations and Reflections Made in the Course of a Journey Through France, Italy and Germany" (1789), Journal for Eighteenth Century Studies 33:2 (2010), pp. 165–180
  • Marianna D'Ezio, Hester Lynch Thrale Piozzi. A Taste for Eccentricity. Newcastle upon Tyne. Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2010
  • McIntyre, Ian (2008). Hester: The Remarkable Life of Dr Johnson's 'dear Mistress'. Constable. ISBN 978-1-84529-449-6.
  • H. L. Piozzi, E. A. Bloom and L. D. Bloom, The Piozzi letters: Correspondence of Hester Lynch Piozzi, 1784-1821 (formerly Mrs. Thrale). Newark: University of Delaware Press, 1989
  • C. E. Vulliamy, Mrs. Thrale of Streatham. London: Cape, 1936
  • Stapleton Cotton, Mary Woolley; Stapleton Cotton, Stapleton; Knollys, William Wallingford (1866). Memoirs and Correspondence of Field-marshal Viscount Combermere, from his family papers, by Mary Viscountess Combermere and W. W. Knollys.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ Frances Burney, The Diary of Fanny Burney, Dent (Everyman edition), London, 1971, pp. 45–56.
  2. ^ Boswell 1851, p. 185.
  3. ^ Broadley 1909, p. 176.
  4. ^ Stapleton Cotton, Stapleton Cotton & Knollys 1866, p. 22.
  5. ^ [1].
  6. ^ [2].
  7. ^ [3]
  8. ^ Frances Burney, p. 32.
  9. ^ Frances Burney, p. 33.
  10. ^ Frances Burney, pp. 54–56.
  11. ^ Frances Burney, p. 59.
  12. ^ Frances Burney, pp. 60–62.
  13. ^ Gopnik 2008.
  14. ^ a b c Michael J. Franklin, "Piozzi , Hester Lynch (1741–1821)", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford, UK: OUP, 2004) Retrieved 25 April 2017.
  15. ^ Frances Burney, p. 187.
  16. ^ Hester Thrale Piozzi, Retrospection, or a review of the most striking and important events, characters, situations, and their consequences which the last eighteen hundred years have presented to the view of mankind, 2 vols, London: John Stockdale, 1801
  17. ^ [4].
  18. ^ Broadley 1909, p. 154.
  19. ^ The Journals and Letters of Fanny Burney (Madame D'Arblay, ed. Joyce Hemlow et al., 12 vols (London: OUP, 1972–1984), IX, pp. 208–209.

NotesEdit

  1. ^ Contemporary records, which used the Julian calendar and the Annunciation Style of enumerating years, recorded her birth as 16 January 1740. The provisions of the British Calendar (New Style) Act 1750, implemented in 1752, altered the official British dating method to the Gregorian calendar with the start of the year on 1 January (it had been 25 March). These changes resulted in dates being moved forward 11 days, and for those between January 1 and March 25, an advance of one year. For further explanation, see: Old Style and New Style dates.

BibliographyEdit

External linksEdit