Hester Lynch Thrale (born Hester Lynch Salusbury and after her second marriage, Hester Lynch Piozzi ) (16 January 1741[NS]–2 May 1821) was a British diarist, author, and patron of the arts. Her diaries and correspondence are also an important source of information about Samuel Johnson and eighteenth-century life.
She was born Hester Lynch Salusbury at Bodvel Hall, Caernarvonshire, Wales. As a member of the powerful Salusbury Family, she belonged to one of the most illustrious Welsh land-owning dynasties of the Georgian era. She was a direct descendant of Katheryn of Berain. Her father was Sir John Salusbury.
Read Hester Thrale's Observations and Reflections Made in the Course of a Journey through France, Italy, and Germany, one of three of her works available free from Project Gutenberg.
As her father had gone bankrupt in an attempt to invest in Halifax, Canada, Hester was forced to marry the rich brewer Henry Thrale on 11 October 1763, at St. Anne's Chapel, Soho, London. They had 12 children and lived at Streatham Park. However, the marriage was often strained; Thrale was often slighted by members of the Court and may well have married Miss Salusbury to improve his social status.
After her marriage, Hester was liberated and free to associate with whom she pleased. Due to her husband's financial status, she was able to enter London society, as a result of which she met Samuel Johnson, James Boswell, Bishop Thomas Percy, Oliver Goldsmith and other literary figures, including the young Frances Burney, whom she took with her to Bath. (There is some evidence that she was jealous of the attention given to the youthful novelist.) Johnson visited Wales in Hester Thrale's company on several occasions. In 1775 he wrote two verses for her, the first in celebration of her 35th birthday, and another in Latin to honor her.
Following her husband's death (4 April 1781), she fell in love with and, on 25 July 1784, married Gabriel Mario Piozzi, an Italian music teacher. This caused a rift with Samuel Johnson which was only perfunctorily mended shortly before his death. The levelling marriage also earned her the disapproval of Frances Burney (who would in 1793 marry the impoverished, Catholic émigré Alexandre D'Arblay). With her second husband, Hester retired to Brynbella, a specially-built country house on her Bach y graig estate in the Vale of Clwyd, near Tremeirchion village in north Wales. During this time she began to reflect heavily on her ancestry, and for a time became obsessed with the idea of reclaiming her father's Canadian lands in Herring Cove, an enclave of Nova Scotia.
After Johnson's death she published Anecdotes of the late Samuel Johnson (1786) and her letters (1788). Together with her unpublished diaries, these two sources (often referred to by scholars as Thraliana) help to fill out the often biased picture of Johnson presented in Boswell's Life. As Johnson kept close contact with the Thrale household and often worked in Streatham library, Hester's papers provide more insight into his composition process.
She died at Royal York Crescent in Clifton, Bristol and was buried on 16 May 1821 near Brynbella in the churchyard of Corpus Christi Church, Tremeirchion. A plaque inside the church is inscribed "Dr. Johnson's Mrs. Thrale. Witty, Vivacious and Charming, in an age of Genius She held ever a foremost Place".
From the time of her death to nearly the present, she was referred to by scholars as Johnson had referred to her: as "Mrs Thrale" or "Hester Thrale". However, she is now often referred to as either "Hester Lynch Piozzi" or "Mrs Piozzi."