Henry Salusbury Thrale

  • Posted on: 26 September 2009
  • By: David Thrale

Henry - also known as Harry - was born on 15 February 17671 in Southwark.


Named after his father, he was also described in his mothers journal as being very intelligent for his age. He had an attractive personality, was lively, dutiful and loving.

One entry described his physical appearance as …

Strong made, course and bony: - not handsome at all, but of perfect Proportion; and has a surly look with the honestest and sweetest Temper in the World.


Don't scream so, I know I must die.

— Henry Salusbury Thrale aged 10 on his death bed.

By age three Henry had apparently already memorised many facts about religion; able to recite the different heathen Gods, the muses, his Catechism, grammar facts, and various other trivia. Around the age of eight 'Harry' had developed into an avid reader and been a person of a forward nature to which his mother had to warn him on what was appropriate conversation topic. He attended St Thomas's School (he refused to board).



Henry died at Brewery House in Southwark between 3 and 4 o'Clock in the afternoon of the 23 March 1776 aged ten. The day before he died he went with a family party to the Tower of London jumping in an out of 'every Mortar till he was black as the ground'. The next day he breakfasted with his father's clerks, bright as a berry. Later during the he suffered intense pain. A physician administered a medicine Daffy's Elixir. As he became desperately ill, his mother rushed to his bedside where he lay in agony. He spoke to his nurse and said "Don't scream so, I know I must die".

It is a total extinction of the family. I would have gone to the extremity of the earth to have preserved this boy.

Dr. Samuel Johnson.

The cause of death has been speculated as being a ruptured appendix or fulminating septicaemia or meningitis. Today these would be treated with antibiotics with expected cure, but during the time a child often died within hours of a serious infection. He was buried on 28 March 1776 in St Leonard's Church, Streatham and has a monument.

Samuel Johnson, learned of his death, in a letter received whilst having breakfast with James Boswell and Miss Porter on 25 March 1776. Johnson exclaimed:

Sir! one of the most dreadful things that has happened in my time!

Boswell asked…

What is it Sir?.

Johnson replied…

Why Sir Mr. Thrale has lost his only son. It is a total extinction of the family. He'll no more value his daughters than … why sir, he wishes to propagate his name … I would have gone to the extremity of the earth to have preserved this boy.

His mother slowly recovered from his death, although it is known that her disappointment in the behaviour of her friend Herbert Lawrence2 following her son's death led to the ending of their friendship. In contrast, although Henry Thrale lived for a further five years after the death of his son, his father his father never really recovered from his death.

  • 1. Not 1766 - as previously and erroneously stated on this page.
  • 2. A surgeon and apothecary.