Henry Thrale's testimonials

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

Several epitaphs to Henry Thrale are known to exist, including a mourning tablet written by Samuel Johnson, and written accounts in Thraliana, Gentleman's Magazine, and several testimonials by friends.

Testimonial to Henry Thrale by…

Samuel Johnson

After Henry Thrale's death, Johnson said…

I am not without my part of the calamity. No death since that of my wife has ever oppressed me like this. … My part of the loss hangs upon me. I have lost a friend of boundless kindness at an age when it is very unlikely that I should find another”;.

Johnson wrote in his Prayers and Meditations on Good Friday, 13 April 1781…

On Wednesday 11, was buried my dear Friend Thrale who died on Wednesday 4, and with him were buried many of my hopes and pleasures. On Sunday 1st his Physician warned him against full meals, on Monday I pressed him to observance of his rules, but without effect, and Tuesday I was absent, but his Wife pressed forbearance upon him, again unsuccessfully. At night I was called to him, and found him senseless in strong convulsions. I staid in the room, except that I visited Mrs. Thrale twice. About five (,I think), on Wednesday morning he expired; I felt almost the last flutter of his pulse, and looked for the last time upon the face that for fifteen years had never been turned upon me but with respect or benignity…

Johnsons entered a prayer for the family on 22 June 1781, and an unfinished 'meditation' about Thrale's death on 2 September 1781.

Arthur Murphy

A more ingenuous frame of mind no man possessed.

Arthur Murphy on Henry Thrale.

Henry's good friend, Arthur Murphy, wrote …

…a more ingenuous frame of mind no man possessed. His education at Oxford gave him the habits of a gentleman; his amiable temper recommended his conversation, and the goodness of his heart made him a sincere friend.

James Beattie

The poet James Beattie, wrote …

He was a most respectable character; intelligent, modest, communicative and friendly.

James Boswell

In his biography of Johnson, James Boswell mentions Henry Thrale's worthy principles, sound scholarship, business acumen, general intelligence and polished manners. He also added his impressive looks, dignified bearing and generosity towards his wife in his allowance to her for entertaining those guests of her own choosing1.

A week after Henry's death, Boswell wrote his disrespectful Ode by Dr. Samuel Johnson to Mrs. Thrale upon their Supposed Approaching Nuptials

Mourning tablet epitaph

Henry Thrale's mourning tablet
A tablet monument to Henry Thrale was erected on 20 September 1782 in St Leonard’s Church, Streatham, London. The monument is by Joseph Wilton R.A. stage coach carver to the King who made George III's coronation coach.

The Latin epitaph one of only three written by Samuel Johnson. The other two being Oliver Goldsmith and Hester Maria Cotton. The epitaph in Latin and English, together with contemporary commentaries is available here.

Gentleman's Magazine - May 1784

Thrale family burial vault

See also our article on Thrale family burial vault.

  • 1. Life I, 494-95.