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HESTER LYNCH PIOZZI (1741-1821)

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Originally appearing in Volume V21, Page 633 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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HESTER LYNCH PIOZZI (1741-1821), English writer, well known as the friend (Mrs Thrale) of Samuel Johnson (q.v.), was born on the 16th of January 1741, her father being John Salusbury of Bobbel, Carnarvonshire. Her maternal uncle, Sir Robert Salusbury Cotton, contemplated providing for his niece, but he died without having carried out his intention. She and her mother lived in London, and amongst her childish recollections were meetings with James Quin and David Garrick. She received a solid education, for she was acquainted with Latin as well as with French, Italian and Spanish. In 1763 she was married to Henry Thrale, a rich Southwark brewer, whose house was at Streatham on the south-east corner of Tooting Bec Common. There was very little sympathy between the lively girl and Thrale, who was thirteen years her senior, but gradually she drew round her a distinguished circle of friends. She was introduced to Samuel Johnson in 1765 by Arthur Murphy, who was an old friend of her husband's. In 1766 Johnson paid a long visit to Streatham, and from that time was more or less domesticated with the Thrales. In time it became his custom to spend the middle of the week at Streatham, devoting the remaining days to his own heterogeneous " family." He was genuinely attached to his hostess, and thoroughly appreciated the luxury in which the Thrales lived. They were able to soften some of his eccentricities, and they certainly made him happy. He travelled with them in Wales in 1774, and in France in 1775. Dr Burney gave lessons to one of the Miss Thrales, and in 1778 he brought his daughter Fanny to Streatham. She became a warm friend of Mrs Thrale, and has left an account of the Streatham household in her diary. This friendship was by no means always unclouded. Fanny Burney was very sensitive, and sometimes thought that Mrs Thrale gave herself airs of patronage. Meanwhile, in 1772, Thrale's business was seriously injured, and he was threatened with bankruptcy. The situation was saved by his wife's efforts, and in the next year Thrale travelled, leaving her in charge of his affairs. He was twice returned for the borough of Southwark, chiefly through her efforts. In 1781 Mr Thrale died, and Dr Johnson helped the widow with her business arrangements, advising her to keep on the brewery, until she " cured his honest heart of its incipient passion for trade, by letting him into some, and only some, of its mysteries." The brewery was finally sold for £135,000. Mrs Thrale had met Gabriele Piozzi. an Italian musician, in 1780. Johnson was now in failing health, and soon began to feel himself slighted. His suspicions were definitely aroused when she laid aside her mourning for Thrale in 1782, and the Streatham house was sold. In 1783 her engagement to Piozzi was announced. The objections of her daughters and her friends induced her to break it off for a time, but it was soon resumed, and in 1784 they were married. Johnson told Miss Burney that he drove the memory of Mrs Thrale from his mind, burning every letter of hers on which he could lay his hand. The Piozzis presently left England to travel in Italy. At Florence they fell .in with Robert Merry and the other " Della Cruscan" writers ridiculed by William Gifford in his Maeviad and Baviad, and she contributed some verses to their Florence Miscellany in 1785. In 1786 she published Anecdotes of the late Samuel Johnson, during the last twenty years of his life, which was severely criticized by Boswell. She was ridiculed by " Peter Pindar " in Bozzy and Piozzi; ar the British Biographers, A Town .Eclogue (1786). But though Miss Burney and some others held aloof, the Piozzis found plenty of friends when they returned to London in 1787. Piozzi died at Brynbella, a villa he had built on his wife's Carnarvonshire estate in 1809, and Mrs Piozzi gave up her Welsh property to her husband's son, and spent most of the rest of her life at Bath and Clifton. When long past seventy she took a fancy to William Augustus Conway, the actor. She retained her vivacity to the last, celebrating her 8oth birthday by a ball to six or seven hundred people at Bath. She died at Clifton on the 2nd of May 1821. From 1776 to 1809 she kept a note-book which she called " Thraliana." Her well-known poem of the " Three Warnings " is to be found in many popular collections. Letters to and from the late Samuel Johnson appeared in 1788; Observations and Reflections made in the course of a Journey, through France, Italy and Germany, in 1789; and in 18oi she published Retrospection; or a review of the most striking and important events, characters, and situations . which the last eighteen hundred years have presented to the view of mankind (18or). See Letters and Literary Remains of Mrs Piozzi (Thrale), edited with notes and an Introductory Account of her Life and Writings by A. Hayward (1861); Piozziana; or Recollections of the late Mrs Piozzi by a Friend (1833), the anonymous friend being Edward :vlangin (1772–1852); L. B. Seeley, Mrs Thrale, afterwards Mrs Piozzi . . . (1891), and G. Birkbeck Hill, Johnsonian Miscellanies (1897). Also works noted in bibliography to JOHNSON, SAMUEL
End of Article: HESTER LYNCH PIOZZI (1741-1821)
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