A solo presentation by actor Karin Fernald, lasting 50 minutes, based on Hester Thrale’s journal THRALIANA and on her later writings and journals.
In return he observed to me, I most resembled the Rattlesnake. “Why?” said I. “Well”, said he, “many have felt your Sting, few can resist your Attractions and all the World knows you have the Rattle!”
In 1765 Samuel Johnson, aged 56, mentally exhausted and physically chronically ill, is living in mean circumstances off Fleet Street among quarrelling dependants. One evening he is introduced by a friend, actor and playwright Arthur Murphy, to a wealthy brewer, Henry Thrale, and to his witty, highly educated, bored wife Hester, “shut away from the world” says Johnson “like her husband’s kept mistress.”
The Thrales adopt Johnson as a house guest in their lovely home, Streatham Park in Surrey, where he enjoys their celebrated dinners – “pineapples, ices, creams and everything in silver plate!” In return Johnson improves the life of Hester Thrale. He sets her to work on Latin translations; he publishes her blackly humorous poem, THE THREE WARNINGS; and he encourages her to take an interest in Thrale’s business affairs, which improves the relationship between husband and wife.
When Henry Thrale dies and Hester falls in love with Gabriel Piozzi, an Italian musician, London society is shocked. Johnson never forgives her and dies soon after. The Piozzis travel in Italy; they then live happily for the next twenty years in Wales, where Hester writes and publishes several books including her TRAVELS IN ITALY (recently re-published) and an ambitious HISTORY OF THE WORLD. She writes a fascinating Welsh Journal; and after the death of Gabriel Piozzi will live later years to the full as a theatre-going “Bath Cat” in that sociable city.
This solo show has been presented at the National Portrait Gallery, London and at Dr. Johnson’s House, Gough Square. A two-handed version was presented at Brynbella, the Piozzis’ Italianate home in North Wales, designed by Piozzi himself.
“SPELL-BINDING” Irving Wardle in The Times
In addition to a slide lecture on the same subject, THE RATTLESNAKE AND THE ELEPHANT,(see under Illustrated Talks) Karin has also written and presented two talks without slides on Mrs. Thrale’s later life; MRS PIOZZI AND THE MILLENIUM and BATH CAT. These have both been presented to the Johnson Society of London, and then published in their NEW RAMBLER magazine.
please contact: Karin Fernald directly from this page