Wolverhampton BTW

Hester Lynch Piozzi

Piozzi, Hester Lynch née Salusbury, previously Thrale, 1741—1821

Hester Lynch Salusbury was born on 16 January 1741 at Bodfel Hall, Caernarvonshire, the daughter of John Salusbury (1707-1762) and Hester Maria Salusbury, née Cotton (1707-1773. She grew up in Wales and, latterly, London. Despite no early formal education, she grew proficient in French, and from the age of 18 studied Greek, Latin, and Hebrew with Dr Arthur Collier and French literature with Dr William Parker.

At the age of 22, she married Henry Thrale (1728-1781; ODNB), a wealthy Southwark brewer, and bore 12 children (4 of whom survived) between 1764 and 1778. Through a mutual friend, they were introduced to Samuel Johnson, who eventually became so close a friend that the Thrales apportioned him his own rooms at their house in Southwark and their villa at Streatham. Unlike Hester Thrale's husband, Johnson took her literary ambitions seriously and enjoyed her company. Hester Thrale found herself thereafter at the centre of literary London, collaborating with Johnson, and assisting him in preparing his Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland (1775). In 1774, she toured her native Wales with her husband, eldest daughter, and Johnson, keeping a travel journal. A ‘French journal’ records her first continental tour the following year, but the degeneration of her husband’s mental and physical health precluded further travels. Henry Thrale died of a stroke in 1781.

Three years later, in 1784, Hester Thrale married a Bath music-master and native of Florence, Gabriel Mario Piozzi (1740-1809), and Johnson’s disapproval ended his friendship with her. On 6 September 1784, Hester Piozzi set out with her new husband on a continental tour through France and Italy. At Florence she formed an acquaintance with Robert Merry, William Parson, and Bertie Greatheed, and she wrote the preface and contributed a poem to their Florence Miscellany (1785), the volume that established the brief craze for the Della Cruscan poets. She also visited Rome and Naples, returning via Bologna. Hearing of Johnson’s death at Milan, she compiled her first book, Anecdotes of the Late Samuel Johnson (1786), published before her return. On her return, she published Letters to and from the Late Samuel Johnson (1788) as well as a travel book, Observations and Reflections Made in the Course of a Journey through France, Italy, and Germany (1789).

Now a published author in her own right, Hester Piozzi resumed her life as a literary hostess at her estate at Streatham. In 1794 she published British Synonymy; or, an Attempt at Regulating the Choice of Words in Familiar Conversation inscribed ‘to her foreign friends as had made English literature their peculiar study’. In 1795, she and her husband moved to a house they had built in North Wales, where they lived until his death from gangrene in 1809. After promoting a nephew of her husband as heir to their Welsh estates, Hester Piozzi retired to Bath in 1814, where she remained until her own death on 2 May 1821 at the age of 80.

Sources:

Franklin, Michael J. ‘Piozzi, Hester Lynch (1741–1821)’. ODNB.

‘Mrs. Piozzi’. Annual Biography and Obituary 6 (1822): 331-49.

Texts

Title Published
Observations and Reflections Made in the Course of a Journey 1789

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