Page:Littell's Living Age - Volume 129.djvu/626

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her life, that we may once more understand and believe in her genius and good sense.

Mrs. Piozzi's verdict concerning her personal appearance was a severe one. "No," she used to say, "I never was handsome; I had always too many strong points in my face for beauty." And she would boast that she owed her "vigorous, black manuscript" to her large and too muscularly built hand. Boswell called her "short, plump, and brisk;" but Dr. Burney was more polite when in 1782 he included among his lady "wits,"

Thrale, in whose expressive eyes
Sits a soul above disguise.

The little half-length miniature of her painted in Bath in 1817, in a closely-fitting dress and hat, very nearly resembling the present fashion, represents her as small, well-built, with features finely cut, and a clear, brave glance in the eyes.

It was impossible that she should have lived for so many of her best years in the society of Dr. Johnson without retaining through life many of the results of that companionship. Few women among her younger contemporaries could vie with her in extensive reading and retentive memory, or in readiness of wit. Dr. Johnson had taught her to hate cant; and her honesty both in speech and action was among her most striking characteristics. But he failed utterly to hem her mind round with the prejudices and perversities which beset his own. Her "piety" was less sententious, less methodical; but her charity was undoubtedly of a better sort.

Her sweet temper, also, her vivacity and unselfishness, increased as she grew old; and her last years contrasted most remarkably in this particular with Dr. Johnson's gloomy and hypochondriacal decay. Some of our contemporaries can remember her as far back as 1813,—a kind little old lady, who used to walk in her garden on Streatham Common and hand cakes through her park palings to fair-haired little boys. When the oft-recurring birthday reminded her how old she and the world were growing, she welcomed it with a good grace. "My jour de naissance is coming round in a few days now," she wrote in 1816, and quoted some pretty lines of Pope, adding, "Yet I will not, like Dr. Johnson, quarrel with my birthday." On the seventy-sixth anniversary, she wrote gaily to her kind friend Sir James Fellowes about the new fashions that were deforming the world, and added, "Do not suffer yourself to be too sorry that I am so near out of it." Three years before her death she was quoting in a letter to the same friend some verses of Cowley upon the old sad subject; and this was her brave comment:—"Meanwhile, let us die but once, and not double the pang by cowardice, or poison the dart by wilful sin, but meet the hour with at least as much deference to God's will as every Turk shows to that of the Grand Signior. 'It is the sultan's pleasure,' says he, 'and so ends the matter,—here's my head.'"

From Blackwood's Magazine.



The sun was shining full on the bare rocky mountains that close in the valley of the Tamina, in which Ragatz is situated. The light sharpened each hard outline of the peaks, and caught the glass windows of the Quellenhof Hotel, making them blaze hotly. In front of the great hotel lay its well-laid-out garden, with dazzling gravel-walks, edged with trees trained into fat green wigs on a single stem. The band played invitingly, the fountains splashed, the visitors sat at little marble tables drinking coffee, or aimlessly walked about, splendidly dressed in all the colours of the rainbow, and their loud German gutturals filled the air with a sensation as of sharpening knives. In the salon on the ground-floor a young lady in blue muslin was persecuting a piano, which, from its appearance, must have come to Ragatz suffering from rheumatism also, for it wore a green baize shirt and trousers.

Through the salon into the verandah, with very hurried steps, came two young ladies, and as they opened the glass door, one whispered to the other—

"She is playing again, Rhoda; I wish there were some means of preventing it; it is perfectly intolerable."

"Never mind, it is the best of her two pieces. Oh! that chord; I have learnt to expect it now. How she can—each time, is incomprehensible to me!"

"I peeped into the piece," said Rhoda, "and I see that it is a misprint: the sharp has got attached to the E flat, and the flat to some other note."

They emerged into the verandah; a tall fair-moustached gentleman had just left a comfortable little table under its shade, and conveying blotting-book and ink-bottle