Henry and Hester's marriage

  • Posted on: 24 September 2009
  • By: David Thrale

On 11th October 1763, Henry and Hester were wed by Thelwall Salusbury at St. Anne's Chapel, Soho, London aged 35-391 and 22 respectively. The Gentleman's Magazine announced2

Henry Thrale of Southwark, Esq;—to Miss Salusbury, niece to Sir Thomas Salisbury.

Nearly the handsomest man in England.

Hester Thrale on Henry Thrale.

Henry was a solid respectable man who was kindly towards Hester. Hester once said that Henry Thrale only married her because other ladies to whom he proposed had refused to live in the Borough. Hester complained that she was not allowed to ride or to manage the household, and was driven to amuse herself with literature and her children. Together they had 12 children, most of which died in childhood, and those that lived to maturity were distant and gradually estranged from Hester after her second marriage. Boswell quotes Samuel Johnson as saying of Henry Thrale…

I know no man… who is more master of his wife and family than Thrale. If he but holds up a finger, he is obeyed.

Hester and Queeney Thrale in 1777/8 by Sir Joshua Reynolds

In June 1777 Hester wrote the following account of Henry Thrale's traits in Thraliana

> As this is Thraliana—in good Time—I will now write Mr Thrale's Character in it: it is not because I am in good or ill Humour with him or he with me, for we are not capricious People, but have I believe the same Opinion of each other at all Places and Times. Mr Thrale's Person is manly, his Countenance agreeable, his Eyes steady and of the deepest Blue: his Look neither soft nor severe, neither sprightly nor gloomy, but thoughtful and Intelligent: his Address is neither caressive nor repulsive, but unaffectedly civil and decorous; and his Manner more completely free from every kind of Trick or Particularity than I ever saw any person's—he is a Man wholly as I think out of the Power of Mimickry. He loves Money & is diligent to obtain it; but he loves Liberality too, & is willing enough both to give generously & spend fashionably. His Passions either are not strong, or else he keeps them under such Command that they seldom disturb his Tranquillity or his Friends, & it must I think be something more than common which can affect him strongly either with Hope, Fear Anger Love or Joy. His regard for his Father's Memory is remarkably great, and he has been a most exemplary Brother; though when the house of his favourite Sister was on Fire, & we were alarmed with the Account of it in the Night, I well remember that he never rose, but bidding the Servant who called us, go to her Assistance; quietly turned about & slept to his usual hour. I must give another Trait of his Tranquillity on a different Occasion; he had built great Casks holding 1000 Hogsheads each, & was much pleased with their Profit & Appearance—One Day however he came down to Streatham as usual to dinner & after hearing & talking of a hundred trifles—but I forgot says he to tell you how one of my great Casks is burst & all the Beer run out. Mr Thrale's Sobriety, & the Decency of his Conversation being wholly free from all Oaths Ribaldry and Profaneness make him a Man exceedingly comfortable to live with, while the easiness of his Temper and slowness to take Offence add greatly to his Value as a domestic Man: Yet I think his Servants do not much love him, and I am not sure that his Children feel much Affection for him: low People almost all indeed agree to abhorr him, as he has none of that officious & cordial Manner which is universally required by them—nor any Skill to dissemble his dislike of their Coarseness—with Regard to his Wife, tho' little tender of her Person, he is very partial to her Understanding,—but he is obliging to nobody; & confers a Favour less pleasingly than many a Man refuses to confer one. This appears to me to be as just a Character as can be given of the Man with whom I have now lived thirteen Years, and tho' he is extremely reserved and uncommunicative, yet one must know something of him after so long Acquaintance. Johnson has a very great Degree of Kindness & Esteem for him, & says if he would talk more, his Manner would be very completely that of a perfect Gentleman.

Their friend Mr Pepys composed verses to commemorate their 13th wedding anniversary in 1776. In 1779, Hester who had also lost several children, was unhappy in the thought that she had ceased to be appreciated by her husband. She became jealous of his regard for Sophy Streatfeild of Chiddingsone (1754-1835), a rich widow's daughter. In January, 1779, she wrote in Thraliana

Mr. Thrale has fallen in love, really and seriously, with Sophy Streatfield; but there is no wonder in that; she is very pretty, very gentle, soft, and insinuating; hangs about him, dances round him, cries when she parts from him, squeezes his hand slily, and with her sweet eyes full of tears looks so fondly in his face - and all for love of me, as she pretends, that I can hardly sometimes help laughing in her face. A man must not be a man but an it to resist such artillery.

Queeney in a letter to Fanny Burney in 1813 wrote that she believed that Hester hated Henry. While there was no great passion, they loved and respected each other. Hester wrote that their match was …

mere Prudence and common good Liking, without the smallest pretensions to Passion on either side.

On the date of her wedding anniversary with Henry, in the first year of her widowhood, 11 October 1787, Hester wrote in Thraliana

Why do the people say I never loved my first husband? 'tos a very unjust conjecture. This day on which 24 years ago I was married to him never returns without bringing with it many a tender Remembrance: though 'twas on that Evening when we retired together that I was first alone with Mr. Thrale for five minutes in my whole life. Ours was a match of mere Prudence; and common good Liking, without the smallest Pretensions to passion on either Side: I knew no more of him than any other Gentleman who came to the House, nor did he ever profess other Attachment to me, than such as Esteem of my Character, & Convenience from my Fortune produced. I really had never past five whole Minutes Tête a Tête with him in my life till the Evening of our Wedding Day,—& he himself has said so a Thousand Times. yet God who gave us to each other, knows I did love him dearly; & what honour I can ever do to his Memory shall be done, for he was very generous to me.

Hester Lynch Thrale engraved portrait from 1777/8 by Samuel Freeman

The next day, 12 October 1781, Hester Thrale wrote in Thraliana

> Yesterday was my Wedding Day; it was a melancholy thing to me to pass it without the Husband of my Youth.

and …

Long Tedious Years may neither moan Sad—deserted and alone; May neither long condemn'd to stay Wait the second Bridal Day!!!

  • 1. Henry's birth date is unclear, hence the similar confusion about his age upon marriage.
  • 2. Gentleman's Magazine, 1763 marriage list (33:518).