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Aetat. 56.] Johnson's introduction to the Thrales. 567
department he intended to engage does not appear, nor can Mr. Hamilton explain'. His prayer is in general terms:
'Enlighten my understanding with knowledge of right, and govern my will by thy laws, that no deceit may mislead me, nor temptation corrupt me; that I may always endeavour to do good, and hinder evil'.'
There is nothing upon the subject in his diary.
This year' was distinguished by his being introduced into the family of Mr. Thrale, one of the most eminent brewers in England, and Member of Parliament for the borough of Southwark. Foreigners are not a little amazed when they hear of brewers, distillers, and men in similar departments of trade, held forth as persons of considerable consequence. In this great commercial country it is natural that a situation which produces much wealth should be considered as very respectable; and, no doubt, honest industry is entitled to esteem. But, perhaps, the too rapid advance of men of low extraction tends to lessen the value of that distinction by birth and gentility, which has ever been found beneficial to the grand scheme of subordination. Johnson used to give this account of the rise of Mr. Thrale's father: 'He worked at six shillings a week for twenty years in the great brewery, which afterwards was his own. The proprietor of it had an only daughter, who was married to a nobleman. It was not fit that a peer should continue the business. On the old man's death, therefore, the brewery was to be sold. To find a purchaser for so large a property was a difficult matter; and, after some time, it was suggested, that it would be adviseable to treat with Thrale, a sensible, active, honest man, who had been employed in the house, and to transfer the whole to him for thirty thousand pounds, security being taken upon the property. This was accordingly settled. In eleven years Thrale paid the purchase-money. He acquired
• Mr. Blakeway, in a note on this passage, says :-'The predecessor
a large fortune, and lived to be Member of Parliament for Southwark. But what was most remarkable was the liberality with which he used his riches. He gave his son and daughters the best education. The esteem which his good conduct procured him from the nobleman who had married his master's daughter, made him be treated with much attention; and his son, both at school and at the University of Oxford, associated with young men of the first rank. His allowance from his father, after he left college, was splendid; no less than a thousand a year. This, in a man who had risen as old Thrale did, was a very extraordinary instance of generosity. He used to say, "If this young dog does not find so much after I am gone as he expects, let him remember that he has had a great deal in my own time."'
The son, though in affluent circumstances, had good sense enough to carry on his father's trade, which was of such extent, that I remember he once told me, he would not quit it for an annuity of ten thousand a year; Not (said he,) that I get ten thousand a year by it, but it is an estate to a family.' Having left daughters only, the property was sold for the immense sum of one hundred and thirty-five thousand pounds'; a magnificent proof of what may be done by fair trade in no long period of time.
of old Thrale was Edmund Halsey, Esq.; the nobleman who married his daughter was Lord Cobham. The family of Thrale was of some consideration in St. Albans; in the Abbey-church is a handsome monument to the memory of Mr. John Thrale, late of London, merchant, who died in 1704.' He describes the arms on the monument. Mr. Hayward, in Mrs. Piozzi's Autobiography, i. 9, quotes her marginal note on this page in Boswell. She says that Edmund Halsey, son of a miller at St. Albans, married the only daughter of his master, old Child, of the Anchor Brewhouse, Southwark, and succeeded to the business upon Child's death. He sent for one of his sister's sons to London (my Mr. Thrale's father); said he would make a man of him, and did so; but made him work very hard, and treated him very roughly.' He left him nothing at his death, and Thrale bought the brewery of Lord and Lady Cobham.
'See post, under April 4, 1781, and June 16, 1781.
A new system of gentility.
There may be some who think that a new system of gentility' might be established, upon principles totally different from what have hitherto prevailed. Our present heraldry, it may be said, is suited to the barbarous times in which it had its origin. It is chiefly founded upon ferocious merit, upon military excellence. Why, in civilised times, we may be asked, should there not be rank and honours, upon principles, which, independent of long custom, are certainly not less worthy, and which, when once allowed to be connected with elevation and precedency, would obtain the same dignity in our imagination? Why should not the knowledge, the skill, the expertness, the assiduity, and the spirited hazards of trade and commerce, when crowned with success, be entitled to give those flattering distinctions by which mankind are so universally captivated?
Such are the specious, but false arguments for a proposition which always will find numerous advocates, in a nation. where men are every day starting up from obscurity to wealth. To refute them is needless. The general sense of mankind cries out, with irresistible force, Un gentilhomme est toujours gentilhomme.
Mrs. Burney informs me that she heard Dr. Johnson say, 'An English Merchant is a new species of Gentleman.' He perhaps, had in his mind the following ingenious passage in The Conscious Lovers, act iv. scene ii., where Mr. Sealand thus addresses Sir John Bevil:Give me leave to say, that we merchants are a species of gentry that have grown into the world this last century, and are as honourable, and almost as useful as you landed-folks, that have always thought yourselves so much above us; for your trading forsooth is extended no farther than a load of hay, or a fat ox.-You are pleasant people indeed! because you are generally bred up to be lazy, therefore, I warrant your industry is dishonourable.' Boswell.
The Conscious Lovers is by Steele. 'I never heard of any plays fit for a Christian to read,' said Parson Adams, but Cato and The Conscious Lovers; and I must own, in the latter there are some things almost solemn enough for a sermon.' Joseph Andrews, Book III. chap. xi.
In the first number of The Hypochondriack Boswell writes:-'It is a saying in feudal treatises, Semel Baro semper Baro, “Once a baron Mr.
A new home for Johnson.
(A.D. 1765. Mr. Thrale had married Miss Hesther Lynch Salusbury, of good Welsh extraction', a lady of lively talents, improved by education. That Johnson's introduction into Mr. Thrale's family, which contributed so much to the happiness of his life, was owing to her desire for his conversation, is very probable and a general supposition: but it is not the truth. Mr. Murphy, who was intimate with Mr. Thrale', having spoken very highly of Dr. Johnson, he was requested to make them acquainted'. This being mentioned to Johnson, he accepted of an invitation to dinner at Thrale's, and was so much pleased with his reception, both by Mr. and Mrs. Thrale, and they so much pleased with him, that his invitations to their house were more and more frequent, till at last he became one of the family, and an apartment was appropriated to him, both in their house in Southwark, and in their villa at Streatham'.
always a baron."' London Mag. 1777, p. 493. He seems at times to mark his sense of Mr. Thrale's inferiority by speaking of him as Thrale and his house as Thrale's. See post, April 5 and 12, 1776, April 7, 1778, and under March 30, 1783. He never, I believe, is thus familiar in the case of Beauclerk, Burke, Langton, and Reynolds.
1 For her extraction see Hayward's Mrs. Piozzi, i. 238. 'Miss Burney records in May 1779, how one day at Streatham Mr. Murphy met with a very joyful reception; and Mr. Thrale, for the first time in his life, said he was "a good fellow;" for he makes it a sort of rule to salute him with the title of "scoundrel," or "rascal." They are very old friends; and I question if Mr. Thrale loves any man so well.' Mme. D'Arblay's Diary, i. 210.
From the Garrick Corres. i. 116, it seems that Murphy introduced Garrick to the Thrales. He wrote to him on May 13, 1760:- You stand engaged to Mr. Thrale for Wednesday se'ennight. You need not apprehend drinking; it is a very easy house.'
Murphy (Life, p. 98) says that Johnson's introduction to the Thrales contributed more than anything else to exempt him from the solicitudes of life.' He continues that he looks back to the share he had in that business with self congratulation, since he knows the tenderness which from that time soothed Johnson's cares at Streatham, and prolonged a valuable life.' Johnson wrote to Mrs. Thrale from Lichfield on July 20, 1767-'I have found nothing that withdraws my affections from the friends whom I left behind, or which Johnson
Johnson had a very sincere esteem for Mr. Thrale, as a man of excellent principles, a good scholar, well skilled in trade, of a sound understanding, and of manners such as presented the character of a plain independent English 'Squire'. As this family will frequently be mentioned in the course of the following pages, and as a false notion has prevailed that Mr. Thrale was inferiour, and in some degree insignificant, compared with Mrs. Thrale, it may be proper to give a true state of the case from the authority of Johnson himself in his own words.
'I know no man, (said he,) who is more master of his wife and family than Thrale. If he but holds up a finger, he is obeyed. It is a great mistake to suppose that she is above him in literary attainments. She is more flippant; but he
makes me less desirous of reposing at that place which your kindness and Mr. Thrale's allows me to call my home. Piozzi Letters, i. 4. From Mull, on Oct. 15, 1773, he wrote:- Having for many weeks had no letter, my longings are very great to be informed how all things are at home, as you and mistress allow me to call it.' Ib. p. 166. Miss Burney in 1778 wrote that though Dr. Johnson lives almost wholly at Streatham, he always keeps his apartments in town.' Mme. D'Arblay's Diary, i. 58. Johnson (Works, viii. 381) tells how, in the house of Sir Thomas Abney, Dr. Watts, with a constancy of friendship and uniformity of conduct not often to be found, was treated for thirty-six years with all the kindness that friendship could prompt, and all the attention that respect could dictate.' He continues:-A coalition like this, a state in which the notions of patronage and dependence were overpowered by the perception of reciprocal benefits, deserves a particular memorial.' It was such a coalition which he formed with the Thrales-a coalition in which, though the benefits which he received were great, yet those which he conferred were still greater.
On this Mrs. Piozzi notes:- No, no! Mr. Thrale's manners presented the character of a gay man of the town; like Millamant, in Congreve's comedy, he abhorred the country and everything in it.' Hayward's Piozzi, i. 10. Mrs. Millamant, in The Way of the World, act iv. sc. iv., says: I loathe the country and everything that relates to it.'
It is but justice to Mr. Thrale to say, that a more ingenuous frame of mind no man possessed. His education at Oxford gave him the habits of a gentleman; his amiable temper recommended his conver