Puslapio vaizdai

Pretty poor poetry, those who know tell me; but if Piozzi liked it, it served its purpose. And now Mrs. Thrale announced her engagement in a circular letter to her co-executors under the Thrale will, sending, in addition, to Johnson a letter in which she says, "The dread of your disapprobation has given me some anxious moments, and I feel as if acting without a parent's consent till you write kindly to me.' Johnson's reply is historic:

MADAM, - If I interpret your letter right you are ignominiously married: if it is yet undone, let us once more talk together. If you have abandoned your children and your religion, God forgive your wickedness; if you have forfeited your fame and your country, may your folly do no further mischief. If the last act is yet to do, I who have loved you, esteemed you, reverenced you, and served you, I who long thought you the first of womankind, entreat that, before your fate is irrevocable, I may once more see you. I was, I once was, Madam, most truly yours,

July 2, 1784.


It was a smashing letter, and showed that the mind which had composed the famous letter to Chesterfield and another, equally forceful, to Macpherson had not lost its vigor. But those letters had brought no reply. His letter to Mrs. Thrale did, and one at once dignified and respectful. The little lady was no novice in letter-writing, and I can imagine that upon the arrival of her letter the weary, heartsick old man wept. Remember that his emotions were seldom completely under his control, and that he had nothing of the bear about him but its skin.

SIR [she wrote], I have this morning received from you so rough a letter in reply to one which was both tenderly and respectfully written, that I am forced to desire the conclusion of a correspondence which I can bear to continue no longer. The birth of

my second husband is not meaner than that of my first; his sentiments are not meaner; his profession is not meaner, and his superiority in what he professes acknowledged by all mankind. Is it want of fortune, then, that is ignominious? The character of the man I have chosen has no other claim to such an epithet. The religion to which he has been always a zealous adherent will, I hope, teach him to forgive insults he has not deserved; mine will, I hope, enable me to bear them at once with dignity and patience. To hear that I have forfeited my fame is indeed the greatest insult I ever yet received. My fame is as unsullied as snow, or I should think it unworthy of him who must henceforth protect it.

Johnson, she says, wrote once more, but the letter has never come to light; the correspondence, which had continued over a period of twenty years, was at an end.

At the time Mrs. Thrale's detractors were many and her defenders few. Two dates were given as to the time of her marriage, which started some wandering lies, much to her disadvantage. The fact is that both dates were correct, for she was married to Piozzi once by a Catholic and several weeks later by a Church of England ceremony. In her journal she writes under date of July 25, 1784, 'I am now the wife of my faithful Piozzi... he loves me and will be mine forever. . . . The whole Christian Church, Catholic and Protestant, all are witnesses.'

For two years they traveled on the continent. No marriage could have been happier. Piozzi, by comparison with his wife, is a rather shadowy person. The difference in their religious views was the cause of no difficulty. Each respected the other's religion and kept his or her own. 'I would preMilan as my husband did his at Lonserve my religious opinions inviolate at don,' is an entry in her journal.

She was staying at Milan when tidings of Johnson's death reached her.

All of her correspondents hastened to apprize her of the news. That Madam Piozzi, as we must now call her, was deeply affected, we cannot doubt. Only a few days before the news of his death reached her, we find her writing to a friend, urging him not to neglect Dr. Johnson, saying, 'You will never see any other mortal so wise or so good. I keep his picture constantly before me.'

Before long she heard, too, that several of her old friends had engaged to write his life, and Piozzi urged her to be one of the number. The result was the Anecdotes of the late Samuel Johnson during the last Twenty Years of his Life. It is not a great work, but considering the circumstances under which it was written, her journals being locked up in England while she was writing at Florence, greater faults than were found in it could have been overlooked. It provided Boswell with some good anecdotes for his great book, and it antedated Hawkins's Life of Johnson by about a year.

The book was published by Cadell, and so great was the demand for it, that the first edition was exhausted on the day of publication; so that, when the King sent for a copy in the evening of that day, the publisher had to beg for one from a friend.


Meanwhile, the Piozzis had become tired of travel and wished again to enjoy the luxury of a home. 'Prevail on Mr. Piozzi to settle in England,' was Dr. Johnson's parting advice. It was not difficult to do so, and on their return, after a short stay in London, they took up their residence in Bath.

Here Madam Piozzi, encouraged by the success of the Anecdotes, devoted herself to the publication of two volumes of Letters to and from the Late

Samuel Johnson. Their preparation for the press was somewhat crude: it consisted largely in making omissions here and there and substituting asterisks for proper names; but the copyright was sold for five hundred pounds, and the letters showed, if indeed it was necessary to show, how intimate had been the relationship between the Doctor and herself.

As time went on, there awakened in Madam Piozzi a longing for the larger life of Streatham, and on the seventh anniversary of their wedding day the place was again thrown open. Seventy people sat down to dinner, the house and grounds were illuminated, and the villagers were made welcome. A thousand people thronged through the estate. One might have supposed that a young lord had come into his own. It was a brave effort, but it was soon seen to be unavailing.

But the lady had resources within herself; she was an inveterate reader and she had tasted the joys of authorship. She now published a volume of travels and busied herself with several other works, the very names of which are forgotten except by the curious in such matters.

However, it was evident that life at Streatham could not be continued on the old scale. Funds were not as plentiful as in the days of the great brewmaster; so after a few years, when her husband suggested their retiring to her native Wales, she was glad to fall in with the idea. A charming site was selected, and a villa built in the Italian style after her husband's design. It was called 'Brynbella,' meaning beautiful brow; half Welsh and half Italian, like its owners. I fancy their lives were happier here than they had been elsewhere, for they built upon their own foundation. Piozzi had his piano and his violin, and the lady busied herself with her books, while the monotony of

existence was pleasantly broken by occasional visits to Bath, where they had many friends.

And during these years letters and notes, comment and criticism, dropped from her pen like leaves from a tree in autumn. She lived over again in memory her life in London, reading industriously, and busy in the pleasant and largely profitless way which tends to make days pass into months and months into years and leave no trace of their passing. She must always have had a pen in her hand; it goes without saying that she had kept a diary; in those days every one did, and most had less than she to record. It was Dr. Johnson who suggested that she get a little book and write in it all the anecdotes she might hear, observations she might make, or verse that might otherwise be lost. These instructions were followed literally, but no little book sufficed. She filled many large quarto volumes, six of which, entitled Thraliana, passed through the London auction rooms in 1908, bringing £2050.

In the future, what may be written of Mrs. Thrale will be written in better taste. At this time of day why should she be attacked because she married a man who did not speak English as his mother tongue, and who was a musician rather than a brewer? One may be an enthusiastic admirer of Dr. Johnson- I confess I am- and yet keep a warm place in one's heart for the kindly and charming little woman. Admit that she was not the scholar she thought she was, that she was 'inaccurate in narration.' What matters it? She was a woman of character. She was not overpowered by Dr. Johnson, as was Fanny Burney, so that at last she came to write like him, only more so. Mrs. Thrale, by her own crisp, vigorous English, influenced the Doctor finally to write as he talked, naturally, without that undue elaboration

which was characteristic of his earlier style.

If Johnson mellowed under the benign influence of the lady, she was the gainer in knowledge, especially in such knowledge as comes from books. It was Mrs. Thrale rather than her husband who formed the Streatham library. Her taste was robust, she balked at no foreign language, but set about to study it. I have never seen a book from her library-and I have seen many which was not filled with notes written in her clear and beautiful hand. These volumes, like the books which Lamb lent Coleridge, and which he returned with annotations tripling their value, are occasionally offered for sale in those old book-shops where our resolutions not to be tempted are writ in so much water; or they turn up at auction sales and astonish the uninitiated by the prices they bring.

Meanwhile, the years which had touched the lady so lightly had left their impress upon her husband, who does not seem to have been strong. He was a great sufferer from gout, and finally died and was buried in the parish church of Tremeirchion, which years before he had caused to be repaired and had built therein a burial vault in which his remains were placed. They had lived in perfect harmony for twentyfive years, thus effectually overturning the prophecies of their friends. She continued to reside at Brynbella until the marriage of her adopted son, the son of Piozzi's brother, when she generously gave him the estate and removed to Bath, that lovely little city where so many celebrities have gone to pass the closing years of eventful lives.

As a 'Bath cat' she continued her interest in men, women, and books until the end. Having outlived all her old friends, she proceeded to make new; and when nearly eighty astonished every one by showing great partiality


for a young and handsome actor, and, if reports be true, a very bad actor,

named Conway. There was much smoke and doubtless some fire in the affair: letters purporting to be hers to him were published after her death. They may not be genuine, and if they are they show simply, as Leslie Stephen says, that at a very advanced age she became silly.

On her eightieth birthday she gave a ball to six or seven hundred people in the Assembly Rooms at Bath, and led the dancing herself with her adopted son (who by this time was Sir John Salusbury Piozzi), very much to her satisfaction. A year later she met with an accident, from the effects of which she died. She was buried in Tremeirchion Church beside her husband. A few years ago, on the two hundredth anniversary of the birth of Johnson, a memorial tablet was erected in the quaint old church, reading,

Near this place are interred the remains of
Dr. Johnson's Mrs. Thrale
Born 1741, died 1821

Mrs. Piozzi's life is her most enduring work. Trifles were her serious business, and she was never idle. Always a great letter-writer, she set in motion

a correspondence which would have taxed the capacity of a secretary with a typewriter. To the last she was a great reader, and observing a remark in Boswell on the irksomeness of books to people of advanced age, she wrote on the margin, 'Not to me, at eighty.'

Her wonderful memory remained unimpaired to the last. She knew English literature well. She spoke French and Italian fluently. Latin she transcribed with ease and grace; of Greek she had a smattering, and she is said to have had a working knowledge of Hebrew; but I suspect that her Hebrew would have set a scholar's hair on end.

With all these accomplishments, she was not a pedant, or properly speaking-a Blue Stocking; or if she was, it was of a very light shade of blue. She told a capital story, omitted everything irrelevant and came to the point at once; in brief, she was a man's


And to end the argument where it began, for arguments always end where they begin, I came across a remark the other day which sums up my contention. It was to the effect that, in whatever company Mrs. Piozzi found herself, others always found her the most charming person in the room.



FLOODS are the most relentless and universal of natural visitations, and the loss of life and property since the Ark rested upon Ararat probably far exceeds the flesh and substance destroyed in that primal catastrophe.

There is a disposition in these later times to charge man with responsibility for this seeming non-fulfillment of the covenant, 'And God said ... I do set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a token of a covenant between me and the earth, that the waters shall no more become a flood to destroy all flesh,' and to connect it in some way with the process of replenishment. It is true that this process has placed life and property in ever-increasing volume in the pathway of the floods; but the process itself were otherwise impossible. It is also true that man's work has modified to some extent the facility with which the flood waters return from off the earth; but whether this has increased or diminished the evil of the floods is at least an open question.

When it comes to fundamental causes, however, there is no debatable ground. With these man has nothing to do. The windows of heaven are opened and closed by an authority higher than himself. To him is left the problem of dealing with situations which are not of his making and which develop without his fore-knowledge or antecedent power of control. As the process of replenishing the earth advances, the complexity of the problem increases, until it has become perhaps the most onerous imposed upon man

by the necessities of his existence. The scope of this problem, as we find it in that part of the world in which we live, and the methods, tried and untried, which are proposed for its solution, are the subject of this present study.

Omitting fortuitous causes of floods, such as dam failures, storm-waves on coasts, and earthquake waves, the most universal cause is the presence of more run-off water from the land than stream channels have capacity to carry. This excess is caused by precipitation, generally in the form of rain. "The rains descended and the floods came' remains as of old a truly scientific statement of cause and effect. Sometimes the precipitation is in solid form (snow); and as it generally happens that snow melts under a later rain, the effects of two storms are thus added together. This often greatly increases the intensity of floods.

Another primary influence affecting floods is temperature. Heat and cold sometimes exercise decisive effects. Snow melting, already referred to, is an example. Another is the effect of frost in making the ground impermeable, so that rain falling upon it cannot soak in, but must run off as from a roof. Heat has exactly the opposite effect: it dries out the ground, directly or through vegetation, and leaves it in condition to absorb vast volumes of water. Thus it happens that, although the most intense rains generally occur

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