« ZurückWeiter »
“ He worked at six shillings a week for twenty years in the great brewery, which afterwards was his own. The proprietor of it (1) 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 advisable 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 a large fortune, and lived to be a member of parliament for Southwark. (9) 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
(1) The predecessor of old Thrale was Edmund Halsey, Esq.; the nobleman who married his daughter was Lord Cobham, great uncle of the Marquis of Buckingham. But I believe Dr. Johnson was mistaken in assigning so very low an origin to Mr. Thrale. The clerk of St. Albans, a very aged man, told me, that he (the elder Thrale) married a sister of Mr. Halsey. It is at least certain that the family of Thrale was of some con sideration in that town: in the abbey church is a handsome monument to the memory of Mr. John Thrale, late of London, merchant, who died in 1704, aged 54, Margaret his wife, and three of their children who died young, between the years 1676 and 1690. The arms upon this monument are, paly of eight, gules and or, impaling, ermine, on a chief indented vert, three wolves' (or gryphons) heads, or, couped at the neck: - Crest on a ducal coronet, a tree, vert. BLAKEWAY.
(2) In 1733 he served the office of high sheriff for Surrey. He died April 9. 1758. -- C.
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 (1) might be established, upon principles
(1) 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 2., 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." - B.
If, indeed, Johnson called merchants a new species of gentlemen, he must have forgotten not only the merchants of Tyre,
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.”
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
who were “princes," and the Medici of Florence, but the Greshams, Cranfields, Osbornes, Duncombes, and so many others, of England. - C.
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.(1)
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
(1) The first time I ever saw this extraordinary man was in the year 1764, when Mr. Murphy, who had long been the friend and confidential intimate of Mr. Thrale, persuaded him to wish for Johnson's conversation, extolling it in terms which that of no other person could have deserved, till we were only in doubt how to obtain his company, and find an excuse for the invitation. The celebrity of Mr. Woodhouse *, a shoemaker, whose verses were at that time the subject of common discourse, soon afforded a pretence, and Mr. Murphy brought Johnson to meet him, giving me general cautions not to be surprised at his figure, dress, or behaviour. What I recollect best of the day's talk was his earnestly recommending Addison's works to Mr. Woodhouse as a model for imitation. Give nights and days, Sir,' said he, 'to the study of Addison, if you mean either to be a good writer, or, what is more worth, an honest man. When I saw something like the same expression in his criticism on that author, lately published [in the Lives of the Poets], I put him in mind of his past injunctions to the young poet, to which he replied, “That he wished the shoemaker might have remembered them as well.' Mr. Johnson liked his new acquaintance so much, however, that from that time he dined with us every Thursday through the winter. - Prozzi.
[See an account of Wodehouse, in Southey's " Essay on the Lives of Uneducated Poets,” 1831. p. 114.)