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6 I am
uncommon abilities ; with a great quantity of matter in his mind, and a great fluency of language in his mouth. But we are not to be stunned and astonished by him.' So you see, Sir, even Burke would suffer, not from any fault of his own, but from your folly."
Mrs. Thrale mentioned a gentleman who had acquired a fortune of four thousand a year in trade, but was absolutely miserable because he could not talk in company; so miserable, that he was impelled to lament his situation in the street to
whom he hates, and who he knows despises him. a most unhappy man,” said he. “ I am invited to conversations ; I go to conversations ; but, alas ! I have no conversation." Johnson. 66 Man commonly cannot be successful in different ways.
This gentleman has spent, in getting four thousand pounds a year, the time in which he might have learnt to talk; and now he cannot talk.” Mr. Perkins made a shrewd and droll remark: “ If he had got his four thousand a year as a mountebank, he might have learnt to talk at the same time that he was getting his fortune.”
Some other gentlemen came in. The conversation concerning the person whose character Dr. Johnson had treated so slightingly, as he did not know his merit, was resumed. Mrs. Thrale said, “You think so of him, Sir, because he is quiet, and does not exert himself with force. You'll be saying the same thing of Mr. ****** there, who sits as quiet.” This was not well bred ; and Johnson did not let it pass without correction. “Nay, Madam, what right have
you to talk thus ? Both Mr. ****** and I have reason to take it ill. You
may talk so of Mr. ****** but why do you make me do it? Have I said any. thing against Mr. ****** ? You have set him, that I might shoot him : but I have not shot him.”
One of the gentlemen said he had seen three folio volumes of Dr. Johnson's sayings collected by me. “ I must put you right, Sir,” said I ; “ for I am very exact in authenticity. You could not see folio volumes, for I have none: you might have seen some in quarto and octavo. This is an inattention which one should guard against.” JohnSON. “ Sir, it is a want of concern about veracity. He does not know that he saw any volumes. If he had seen them he could have remembered their size."
Mr. Thrale appeared very lethargic to-day. I saw him again on Monday evening, at which time he was not thought to be in immediate danger: but early in the morning of Wednesday the 4th he expired. Upon that day there was a call of the Literary Club; but Johnson apologised for his absence by the following note :
“ Wednesday, (4th April.) - Mr. Johnson knows that Sir Joshua Reynolds and the other gentlemen will excuse his incompliance with the call, when they are told that Mr. Thrale died this morning.”
Johnson was in the house, and thus mentions the event:
“ Good Friday, April 13th, 1781.- On Wednesday, 11th, was buried my dear friend Thrale, who died on Wednesday, 4th; and with him were buried many of my hopes and pleasures. About five, I think, on Wed
nesday morning he expired. I felt almost the last flutter of his pulse, and looked for the last time upon the face that for fifteen years had never been turned upon me but with respect or benignity.(1) Farewell. May God, that delighteth in mercy, have had mercy on thee ! I had constantly prayed for him some time before his death. The decease of him, from whose friendship I had obtained many opportunities of amusement, and to whom I turned my thoughts as to a refuge from misfortunes, has left me heavy. But my business is with myself.” (Pr. & Med., p. 187.) ()
Mr. Thrale's death was a very essential loss to Johnson, who, although he did not foresee all that afterwards happened, was sufficiently convinced that the comforts which Mr. Thrale's family afforded him would now in a great measure cease. He, however, continued to show a kind attention to his widow and children as long as it was acceptable ; and he took upon him, with a very earnest concern, the office of one of his executors; the importance of which seemed greater than usual to him, from his circumstances having been always such that he had scarcely any share in the real business of life. His friends of the Club were in hopes that Mr. Thrale might have made a liberal provision for him for his life, which, as Mr. Thrale left no son and a very large fortune, it would have been highly to his
(1) Johnson's expressions on this occasion remind us of Isaac Walton's eulogy on Whitgift, in his Life of Hooker.
6. He lived to be present at the expiration of her (Queen Elizabeth's) last breath, and to behold the closing of those
that had long looked upon him with reverence and affection." - KEARNEY.
(2) At a subsequent date he added, on the same paper :
18th September. My first knowledge of Thrale was in 1765, I enjoyed his favour for almost a fourth part of my life.” This ascertains the date of the commencement of the acquaintance with the Thrales, which Mrs. Thrale left rather vague
honour to have done; and, considering Dr. Johnson's age, could not have been of long duration ; but he bequeathed him only two hundred pounds, which was the legacy given to each of his executors. I could not but be somewhat diverted by hearing Johnson talk in a pompous manner of his new office, and particularly of the concerns of the brewery, which it was at last resolved should be sold. Lord Lucan tells a very good story, which, if not precisely exact, is certainly characteristical ; that when the sale of Thrale's brewery was going forward, Johnson appeared bustling about, with an inkhorn and pen in his button-hole, like an exciseman; aud on being asked what he really considered to be the value of the property which was to be disposed of, answered, “ We are not here to sell a parcel of boilers and vats, but the potentiality of growing rich beyond the dreams of avarice.” (1)
LETTER 397. TO MRS. THRALE.
“ London, April 5. 1781. 6 DEAREST MADAM, — Of your injunctions to pray for you and write to you, I hope to leave neither unobo
(1) [The brewery was sold by Dr. Johnson and his brother executor, to Messrs. BARCLAY, PERKINS, & Co., for 135,000!. While on his Tour to the Hebrides, in 1773, Johnson mentioned that Thrale “paid 20,0001. a year to the revenue, and that he had four vats, each of which held 1600 barrels, above a thousand hogsheads.” The establishment is now the largest of its kind in the world. The buildings extend over ten acres, and the machinery includes two steam-engines. The store-cellars contain 126 vats, varying in their contents from 4000 barrels down to 500. About 160 horses are employed in conveying beer to different parts of London. The quantity brewed in 1826 was 380,180 barrels, upon which a duty of ten shillings the barrel, or 180,0901. was paid to the revenue; and, in the last year, the malt consumed exceeded 100,000 quarters. — 1835.]
served ; and I hope to find you willing in a short time to alleviate your trouble by some other exercise of the mind. I am not without my part of the calamity. No death since that of my wife has ever oppressed me like this. But let us remember that we are in the hands of Him who knows when to give and when to take away, who will look upon us with mercy through all our vari. ations of existence, and who invites us to call on him in the day of trouble. Call upon him in this great revolution of life, and call with confidence. You will then find comfort for the past, and support for the future. 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, and at last the happiness of losing all temporal cares in the thoughts of an eternity in heaven.
“ I do not exhort you to reason yourself into tranquillity. We must first pray, and then labour; first implore the blessing of God, and those means which he puts into our hands. Cultivated ground has few weeds ; a mind occupied by lawful business has little room for useless regret.
“ We read the will to-day ; but I will not fill my first letter with any account than that, with all my zeal for your advantage, I am satisfied; and that the other executors, more used to consider property than I, commended it for wisdom and equity. Yet why should I not tell you that you have five hundred pounds for your immediate expenses, and two thousand pounds a year, with both the houses, and all the goods ?
“Let us pray for one another, that the time, whether long or short, that shall yet be granted us, may be well spent; and that when this life, which at the longest is very short, shall come to an end, a better may begin which shall never end."
On Friday, April 6., he carried me to dine at a