thrale & thrall family history

Family: John Rice / Frances Plumbe (F532)

m. May 1773

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  • Male
    John Rice

    Death  Yes, date unknown   
    Marriage  May 1773  [1]  Holland  [1] Find all individuals with events at this location

    Frances Plumbe

    Birth  1758   
    Death  Abt 1792   
    Father  Alderman Samuel Plumbe | F48 Group Sheet 
    Mother  Frances Thrale | F48 Group Sheet 

  • Notes  Married:
    • Great family furore was caused when Fanny eloped with John Rice and married him. Hester Lynch Thrale, Henry Thrale and Dr. Johnson all wrote screeds on the subject of 'Fanny's right by choice' and so in the emd overcame the hostility of her parents Frances and Alderman Plumbe to the marriage.
      In the book "Hester Lynch Piozzi (Mrs Thrale) by James L Clifford comes the following information...

      In spite of all this turmoil, a romantic interlude served to divert Mrs. Thrale's mind, for a time, from her own troubles. Her husband's niece, Fanny Plumbe, though only fifteen, had fallen in love with Jack Rice, son of the former High Sheriff of Surrey; but Alderman Plumbe, the girl's father, though he had no valid reason for objecting to young Rice, violently opposed their marriage. Mrs. Thrale wrote to Johnson on April 19, telling how they had become involved. |

      "Mrs. Plumbe & her Daughter & young Mr. Rice the Girls Lover are now here, begging my Masters Influence over old Sammy or his Consent for the Clandestine Marriage-My Mother herself will be interested in the Affair I think as the Women cry to her most dismally, and if you will come over at 2 or 3 o'clock on Wednesday next to Southwark & lend your kind assistance we will try to prevail on this silly old Man to agree to their Union or be content with what may follow his absurd Refusal. Can we do anything without you?"

      Deaf to all persuasion, 'Old Sammy', the Alderman, remained obdurate and even threatened to lock up his daughter. Mrs. Thrale, who was torn between her romantic disposition and her conviction that she should uphold the right of parental authority, was much surprised when Johnson refused to admit such absolute power for a father and insisted that a child, on some occasions, should act for himself. Nevertheless, she lent young Rice her copy of Rasselas to teach him patience-strange diet (we might think) for a distracted young lover! Since Rice's father was willing and able to support his son, Thrale finally acquiesced in his niece's elopement. Accordingly the young couple, chaperoned by Dr. Thomas the schoolmaster, left for Holland on May 23 or 24 1773.

      When Alderman Plumbe discovered his daughter's absence he was frantic, and assuming that his brother-in-law had driven the lovers to Scotland, poured his full anger on the Thrales. As Mrs. Thrale commented to Fanny shortly afterwards, the Alderman turned 'his Wrath upon our House, where we stood a regular Siege'. The next few days were spent in nervous suspense, Mrs. Plumbe certain that her daughter had gone to the bottom of the Channel, and her husband violent in denunciation. Mrs. Thrale wrote to Johnson, 'I am hurried out of my Life; it will be Calamity Thrale in good earnest by & by', and several days afterwards she added, 'I have not seen Mr. Thrale this Week, & if he knew all I suppose we should not see him for a fortnight'. Evidently he thought it good policy to stay out of reach of his infuriated brother-in-law, while his wife held the fort. She found only one bright spot on the horizon-'the Children are well and happy-no Lessons now'. Later on, when news came of the safe arrival of the party at Calais, the tension relaxed. Shortly afterwards the couple were married in Holland, and returned to England in July, by which time 'Old Sammy' had pacified, though insisting on a second ceremony in England.

      As soon as she heard of the marriage, Mrs. Thrale composed a long letter of advice to young Rice, and while we have no record of his response to her counsel, she herself thought it enough to include when publishing her correspondence with Johnson, many years later. The tenets laid down reveal her attitude towards marriage: the young husband must not expect the first warmth of passion to endure; he should rather turn to the polishing of his loved one's mind; distinction in wit, knowledge, and virtue should be more desired than furniture and equipage; he should not indulge every wild wish of his lady's heart, but she ought never to suspect that she grows less pleasing to him; his superiority must always be seen though never felt. Reason, the matron insisted, was much more important than passion.

      The book also notes that part of this episode has been told by Miriam A. Ellis in 'Some Unedited Letters of Mrs. Thrale', Fortnightly Review (Aug. 1903), 268-76. The original letters are now held by Myers & Co., London. Mrs. Thrale's unpublished letters to johnson supply the remaining information necessary to piece together the story. (Ry-539.) [2]

  • Sources 
    1. [S48] James L Clifford, Hester Lynch Piozzi (Mrs Thrale), (1987 ISBN 0-231-06389-X), page 99-101 (Reliability: 3).

    2. [S2] Richard William Thrale, A New Thraliana, ((St. Albans, Hertfordshire, England, Falconer Press, 1973)), 69 (Reliability: 3).