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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; not 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 a long period of time.
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
8 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 you, industry is dishonourable."
merit, upon military excellence. Why, in civilized 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."
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 a very probable and the 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 at Southwark and in their villa at Streatham.
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 has ten times her learning: he is a regular scholar; but her learning is that of a schoolboy in one of the lower forms." My readers may naturally wish for some representation of the figures of this couple. Mr. Thrale was tall, well proportioned, and stately. As for Madam, or my Mistress, by which epithets Johnson used to mention Mrs. Thrale, she was short, plump, and brisk. She has herself given us a lively view of the idea which Johnson had of her person, on her appearing before him in a dark coloured gown: "You little creatures should never wear those sort of clothes, however; they are unsuitable in every way. What! have not all insects gay colours'?" Mr. Thrale gave his wife a liberal indulgence, both in the choice of their company and in the mode of entertaining them. He understood and valued Johnson without remission, from their first acquaintance to the day of his death. Mrs. Thrale was enchanted with Johnson's conversation for its own sake, and
9 Mrs. Piozzi's Anccdotes, p. 279.
had also a very allowable vanity in appearing to be honoured with the attention of so celebrated a
Nothing could be more fortunate for Johnson than this connection. He had at Mr. Thrale's all the comforts and even luxuries of life; his melancholy was diverted, and his irregular habits lessened by association with an agreeable and well ordered family. He was treated with the utmost respect, and even affection. The vivacity of Mrs. Thrale's literary talk roused him to cheerfulness and exertion, even when they were alone. But this was not often the case; for he found here a constant succession of what gave him the highest enjoyment, the society of the learned, the witty, and the eminent in every way, who were assembled in numerous companies, called forth his wonderful powers, and gratified him with admiration, to which no man could be insensible.
In the October of this year' he at length gave to the world his edition of Shakspeare, which, if it had no other merit but that of producing his Preface, in which the excellences and defects of that immortal bard are displayed with a masterly hand, the nation would have had no reason to complain. A blind indiscriminate admiration of Shakspeare had exposed the British nation to the ridicule of foreigners. Johnson, by candidly ad
[From a letter written by Dr. Johnson to Dr. Joseph Warton, the day after the publication of his Shakspeare, Oct. 9, 1765, (See Wool's Memoirs of Dr. Warton, 4to. 1806) it appears that Johnson spent some time with that gentleman at Winchester in this year. In a letter written by Dr. Warton to Mr. Thomas Warton, not long afterwards (January 28, 1766), is a paragraph which may throw some light on various passages in Dr. Warton's edition of Pope, relative to Johnson:-"I only dined with Johnson, who seemed cold and indifferent, and scarce said any thing to me: perhaps he has heard what I said of his Shakspeare, or rather was offended at what I wrote to him:- -as he pleases." The letter here alluded to, it is believed, has not been preserved: at least, it does not appear in the collection above referred to. M.]
mitting the faults of his poet, had the more credit in bestowing on him deserved and indisputable praise; and doubtless none of all his panegyrists have done him half so much honour. Their praise was like that of a counsel upon his own side of the cause: Johnson's was like the grave, well considered, and impartial opinion of the judge, which falls from his lips with weight, and is received with reverence. What he did as a commentator has no small share of merit, though his researches were not so ample, and his investigations so acute as they might have been, which we now certainly know from the labours of other able and ingenious criticks who have followed him. He has enriched his edition with a concise account of each play, and of its characteristick excellence. Many of his notes have illustrated obscurities in the text, and placed passages eminent for beauty in a more conspicuous light; and he has, in general, exhibited such a mode of annotation as may be beneficial to all subsequent editors.
His Shakspeare was virulently attacked by Mr. William Kenrick, who obtained the degree of LL. D. from a Scotch University, and wrote for the booksellers in a great variety of branches. Though he certainly was not without considerable merit, he wrote with so little regard to decency, and principles, and decorum, and in so hasty a manner that his reputation was neither extensive nor lasting. I remember, one evening when some of his works were mentioned, Dr. Goldsmith said he had never heard of them; upon which Dr. Johnson observed, "Sir, he is one of the many who have made themselves publick without making themselves known.”
A young student of Oxford, of the name of Barclay, wrote an answer to Kenrick's review of