Boswell, James, 1740-1795. Johnson, Samuel, 1709-1784. Ode by Dr. Samuel Johnson to Mrs. Thrale, upon their supposed approaching nuptials. London: printed for R. Faulder, 1784. 16p.; 4⁰. (ESTC T2407; OTA K021475.000)



  • [Entered at Stationers hall.]


    — Tauri ruentis
    In venerem tolerare pondus. —



    MR. HENRY THRALE, brewer, in the borough of Southwark (I say it without flattery, or interested hopes of reward from his surviving relict and daughters), was one of the most eminent and opulent traders that England ever had. He was, moreover, a well-built, stout man, in his person. His wife, Mrs. Hester Lynch, whose maiden name was Salusbury, was of creditable Welch extraction. She was rather a little woman, but smart, of pregnant parts, and some share of book-learning. They kept a very plentiful table, both for meat and drink, to which those who are called Wits, and also many ingenious artists, gladly repaired as to a convenient house of call, where they had nothing to pay, except their court to Mrs. Thrale, who doubtless deserved, while she was flattered by their compliments. The most distinguished of them, and, as one may say, the foreman of the whole, was Dr. SAMUEL JOHNSON, the celebrated Lichfield authour, who wrote an English Dictionary, and several works of a good moral tendency, and was famous, besides, for shrewd sayings and lively jokes. He was a very large man, and by no means well-looking, but rather the contrary; neither was he neat and cleanly in his person and dress. He was, notwithstanding, a[Page 6] no small favourite with Mrs. Thrale, both in her husband's life-time, and for some short while after; and from a collection of their letters, which is extant, and has been put forth in print by herself, it appears that there was no over-delicate niceness, but truly the plainest familiarity between them; as witness these, and the like passages: — "I hope, in time, to be like the great bull. " lett. 34. — "Dr. Taylor desires always to have his compliments sent. He is, in his usual way, very busy getting a bull to his cows, and a dog to his bitches. Old Shakespeare is dead, and he wants to buy another horse to his mares. " lett. 180. — "You must take the chance of finding me, better or worse. This you may know at present, that my affection for you is not diminished, and my expectation from you is increased. " lett. 277. — "I am harrassed by a very disagreeable operation of the cantharides, which I am endeavouring to control by copious dilution. " lett. 303. — "On the 19th of last month I evacuated twenty pints of water. " lett. 342.

    Mr. Thrale and his wife had a family of five daughters, to whom they did not grudge to give every piece of genteel education. Signor Baretti was entertained in the house, at bed and board, to teach them the Italian tongue; and Signor Piozzi, it is believed, was liberally rewarded for teaching them to sing, and play on the harpsichord. Mrs. Thrale had not an ear, as the saying is, but she had an eye to this her daughter's musicmaster,[Page 7] who, it appears, by her said publication, was permitted to love her. "Piozzi, I find, is coming, and when he comes, and I come, you will have two about you that love you. " lett. 275. This was in her widowhood; and indeed it is plain that Dr. Samuel Johnson himself had then also pretensions to her; the disappointment of which, by her preference of Signor Piozzi, whom she afterwards married, no doubt contributed, with other considerations, to his writing that severe answer on her informing him of her resolution, which answer she has very prudently suppressed.

    Indeed, recently after the death of Mr. Henry Thrale, there were not wanting many who conjectured that a matrimonial union would take place between the widow and Dr. Samuel Johnson; and some went so far as to assert, that it was his determined purpose, not only to carry on the business under the firm of the brewery, but even to assume the name and arms of Thrale. Upon this foundation, and no better, the bellman, or some other such rhymster of the Borough, bantered the business in the following homely lines:

    Hail, Johnson!
    Thrale Johnson,
    Brewer of good ale, Johnson;
    While thus you drive so bold a trade,
    Your cash will never sail, Johnson.
    Though Madam's somewhat stale, Johnson,
    You'll find she'll yet be frail, Johnson;
    For many years she tried your head,
    And now she'll try —, Johnson.
    [Page 8]

    Whether it was that a copy of this balderdash reached Dr. Samuel Johnson, and made him anxious lest posterity should look upon his tender passion as of a very coarse and vulgar nature, or whether he was merely incited by her blandishments to give a specimen of his juvenile vivacity, or from whatever other cause, it would seem, that in the confidence of their being speedily joined in marriage, he sent her the following wedding verses; of which, it is probable, she gave a copy to Signor Baretti, or to some other person with whom she at that time was intimate.

    The same having, by some strange chance, fallen into my hands, I thought I could not do better than lay them before the publick.

    With respect to their being certainly written by Dr. Samuel Johnson, I honestly confess I am no judge of such matters, and therefore will not pretend to say any thing of my own knowledge upon that head. But I am well assured by a person of skill, that they have the undoubted sterling mark, and that no other man in the kingdom could make them but himself.


    THE Poet, pleased with the reminiscence of his poetical powers, prepares to concentrate them in his Mistress — He prostrates his dignity to her in versatility of character — Plumes himself on his fancied felicity, and, by a bold image, equal to any in Anacreon, at once personifies, and personates that Beer which was the glory of her house — Touches on his jealousy of Signor Piozzi — Exults in his supposed victory over his rival — Describes the congratulations on the nuptials between him and his dearest dear lady; but characteristically hints at the malignity of human nature — Represents the envy with which their happiness is beheld — Weary of continence, solaces himself with the prospect of future enjoyment — Paints it with vigorous strokes and glowing colours — Takes care to give it the delicate sanction of sentiment — Assumes a reflex honour, by projecting illustrious matches for his lady's daughters by her first husband; but maintains his own superiority, by figuring himself the father of an heir male — Concludes, in mythological enthusiasm, that he is greater than Atlas.

  • ODE.