Thrale/Piozzi, 1788-1799


BRYNBELLA, the estate of Hester and Gabriel Piozzi, was approximately 15 miles from Llangollen.  Mrs. Piozzi, well known to Sarah and Eleanor by reputation (as evidenced by the July 31st journal entry), was introduced to them through the means of Rev. Leonard Chappelow.   Chappelow met the Piozzis during their honeymoon trip (he is mentioned in HLP’s letter dated Venice 11: May 1786); I know of no published evidence as to how he made the acquaintance of the Ladies, though, as an “amateur botanist and poet,” he would have been most welcome company to Plas Newydd.  The Reverend hailed from Norfolk, and lived also at Mouse Trap Hall, Berkeley Square, London.

            It would be a shame to divorce the entwined entries of the Ladies, Mrs. Piozzi and Rev. Chappelow; therefore, the following identifies sources: H=Hamwood  Y=A Year with…  T=Thraliana  P=Piozzi Letters (P3=vol. 3; P4=vol. 4; P5=vol. 5); the page on which the citation begins follows the letter ID.

            HLP = Hester Lynch Piozzi; LC = Leonard Chappelow; EB = Eleanor Butler; SP = Sarah Ponsonby; JSPS = John Salusbury Piozzi Salusbury.

* * *


Eleanor’s Journal, 31 July 1788  Mr and Mrs Mytton arrived, brought Johnson’s Letters published by Mrs Thrale now Mrs Piozzi. [H120]


Mrs. Piozzi to daughter Hester Maria [aka Queeney] 10 March 1796  Mr. Chappelow was much pleased with … everybody’s Reception of him: he is gone from her [the home of HLP’s daughter Celia] to Llangollen…. [P2/319]


Leonard Chappelow to HLP, 13 March 1796  Lady Eleanor Butler and Miss Ponsonby present their best Compliments to Mr. and Mrs. Piozzi, and at any time will be extremely happy to see them at Llangollen Vale. — Mr. P. must bring his Forte Piano. — Well that is charming. — isn’t it? 

            In short they said so many handsome things of you, that I should make you too vain was I to repeat them.  You could not wish the dearest friends upon earth to speak better of you.  Every syllable in all Your Publications they admire — we talked about you a Long time…. Their House is Literally a Cottage. — so you must rest at the Inn nocturnally. — They wish for nothing so much as to see you…. They have Lived 18 years in their retreat — having never been absent but 2 night in all that time….  They are indeed superior Beings, and a happy mixture between mortal and immortality. — I have a favour to beg of you.  –tis this.  They cannot any where get The Florence Miscellany. — May I give them mine? –The Book in their Custody would meet with an Apotheosis. [P2/323 nn1&2]

[Hester, in Thraliana [T957], continues:] 21 March 1796  Mr Chappelow has left the Vales of Clwydd and Llangollen, from the last nam’d Place where he visited the famous Hermitesses* he sent me so charming a Letter & Verses, they must be transcribed.–


            “ “I was delighted with the Vale of Clwydd wch after I left Denbigh exceeded all that I had seen before.  The farewell View when we ascend the Mountains of Llangollen perswaded me that I was looking at it from the Moon with a good Telescope; so high & so Abrupt is the Elevation.  After some dreary Hills the Valle Crucis and Castle of Dynas Bran beats any thing I ever saw in Switzerland –& inspired such a Dream — I must relate it


The Dream

            Having admired the Romantic Magnificence of Llangollen Vale, my Mind was full on’t when I took my Pillow, & wandering in the Glen I’ soon discovered a Gothick Cottage; on a nearer Approach for I was tremblingly diffident & afraid — till I found the Door wide open, a Female beckoned me, so that I enterd with Confidence & found myself in a most heavenly Retreat — a Convent in Miniature.  We pass’d through the Refectory under a pointed Arch composed of various Coloured Glass illuminated by Lamps &c. it was Dusk — I looked thro’ a Gothic Window & saw the British Chartreuse encircled with Mountains on one of which stood Dynas Castle.  The sides of it were bright as burnished Gold with the departing Sun, exhibiting at once the most brilliant & yet temperate Glow — which you have surveyed in the Vicinity of Mount Vesuvius [958] when in a dark Night, the Mountain blazes up, no roars; The Light reflects back on the Neighboring Objects — and the loud Thunder ceases in a deep Serenity.  Æolian Harps heightened this Scene of Enchantment.  I now considered myself as in the Oriel, and was confirmed in that agreeable Perswasion when the Genij of the Place appeared.  By the Dignity of Manner & amiable Elegance of Address to the poor trembling Stranger — You would have thought ‘em Noble & well-bred Mortals — so did I: till with a triumphant & Prophetick Air they called me by my Name, said they knew who I was, & what had brought me to the Vale of Clwydd.  We have been long acquainted Mr Chappelow both with you & your delightful Fellow Traveller Mrs Piozzi: we were both with you in every part of Italy, & saw you join the party at Narni & Terni: we were invisible but attended in the Theatre at Padua, were of your Suite at Venice at Loretto — everywhere.  and now you come to finish your Travels in Wales — but not to botanize  This is no Season for a Naturalist, nor was it wholly after Orpheus that you danced hither — Yet Music had its Attractions too, but you love Intellectual Music — so do we


In these blest Shades We two maintain

A peaceful unmolested Reign;

No turbulent Desires intrude

On our Repose — and Solitude.


Sooth’d by the Murmurs of our pebbled Flood

            We wish it not o’er golden Sands to flow:

Cheer’d by the Verdure of our springing Wood,

            We scorn the Quarry where no Shrub can grow.


For us the deep Recess of dusky Groves

            The fall of Waters and the Song of Birds,

            And Hills that echo to the distant herds,

Are Luxuries excelling all the Glare,

The World can boast, & her chief Favourites share.


            Society is all but rude

            To this delicious Solitude:

Where Trees and Shrubs and Flowrets close,

To weave the Garland of Repose.


Yet would our Orpheus bring his Lyre

            And touch the trembling String;

Old Æolus would soon retire

            And listening hear him sing.


Celestial Strains! you soon should cease

            And yield to what? — Variety;

What else could give your Joys Increase?

            Refin’d Society.


Then Orpheus come, and bring with thee,

Thy better half — Eurydice;

            Ah leave not her behind!

Like Seward She’ll enliven it

With Converse sweet, and brilliant Wit,

            The Music of the Mind.” ” **


                * The ‘Ladies of Llangollen’…. Mr. Chappelow introduced the Piozzis to them in July 1796, to the great satisfaction of the Ladies, who wrote that Mrs. Piozzi’s acquaintance had been ‘an important object in their ambition for many years past’.  [….] On one occasion, whose date is omitted, the Piozzis even sent a pianoforte ahead of them over the mountains.  Although the Ladies seldom left their retreat […] a record of at least one visit to Brynbella survives — on September 9, 1799 [See EB to HLP 29 August 1799]…. [T957 n2]

                ** These Verses are a perpetual Allusion to the Ode written at the Bagni di Pisa in Italy and published in the Travels under the Title of an Ode to Society by H: L: Piozzi. written out on 21st March 1796…. [T959 n1]



HLP to LC, 18 March 1796  How different was your Reception at Llangollen from that Miss Thrales met with!  Sophia wrote me word how the Ladies enquired whether I was with them and when they heard I was not, sent a Servant to Shew the Cottage where on a Table said She, lay the Anecdotes———-out of Affection as we supposed.   — I am glad the Weather too was different, for it snowed the day my Daughters went, and terribly afraid were your Orpheus and Eurydice [Mrs. & Mr. Piozzi] lest that, or thick Fog should have been your Lot: but the Mountains brightened on your Approach, and if they were barren before, I am sure they were fertile then. [P2/322]


LC to HLP 9 May 1796 …if you have not burnt my Llangollen vision, The Ladies at the Cottage wish much to see it, for I accidentally told them in my Letter, that I sent you my dream, and if you have not destroyed it, why I think you might send it.  Or if You would trouble yourself to correct and abridge it, send it that way. [P2/345 n1]


HLP [at Brynbella] to [unspecified]  9 July 1796  If Mr. Bunbury’s “Little Gray Man” is printed, do send it hither; the ladies at Llangollen are dying for it. They like those old Scandinavian tales and the imitations of them exceedingly; and tell me about the prince and princess of “this” loyal country, one province of which alone had disgraced itself (from: Life and Writings of Mrs. Piozzi, vol. ii., [1865], p. 234). [quoted in Prothero, Byron].


HLP to LC, 13 May 1796  Your kind Letter found us here [Beaumaris Anglesey], and I have not the pretty Dream with me: After reading it at every house I copied it into my own Analect Book, and then locked it safe in the Bureau at Brynbella. [P2/344]


HLP to LC, 21 July 1796  I am but just returned from Anglesey with my poor Master very ill of the Gout; and your Commands about the pretty Verses have been already obeyed.  I wrote out the whole Letter and sent to the Ladies this Morning.  ‘Ah me! full sorely is my heart forlorn’ — that we could not go round by Barmouth and Dolgelley Bala and Llangollen, and so have paid our [363] personal Tribute of Admiration where all the World agrees that ‘tis most due; but Mr. Piozzi was confined for three Weeks in Anglesey, and coming so far over Ferries &c. with the Disorder upon him He has relapsed, and lain a’Bed ever since our Return. [P2/362]


HLP to LC, 31 July 1796  Your Llangollen Ladies have written a most flattering Billet in return for the Dream — so our literary Fame goes forwards… [P2/366]


LC to HLP 29 September 1797  A Letter from The Sweet Ladies at Llangollen Vale has been dancing after me 2 or 3 times through the General Post Office.  Twas dated the 13th and the sole purport of it was to say— “that they hear Mrs. Siddons is at Brynbella and that they are in a dreadful state of Envy, repining, and expiring to see the first of human beings, and dying to receive her in the vale of vales — and in the wonderful Cottage.” [P2/449 n1]


HLP to LC, 5 October 1797  Pray write me one other Letter here [Brynbella], and tell the Ladies of Llangollen we purpose being with them the last of this Month Gout willing; and assure them I have not seen charming Siddons since I left Streatham Park…. [P2/449]


LC to HLP, 16 October 1797  Their House is small, so that of course you will take up your abode at the Inn, where as I have experienced you will find a good Bed &c. &c. — The Ladies expect you will eat with them, and I am sure you will spend 2 or 3 days most delightfully in Llangollen Vale. [P2/451 n2]


HLP to LC, 20 October 1797  If this odious Gout will but keep off one Week more, I do think we shall see the Ladies of Llangollen; but poor Mr. Piozzi begins to cry out already…. [….]

            Your Directions about writing beforehand &c. shall be punctually obeyed. [P2/450]

            [The gout did not “keep off;” the Piozzis canceled their visit.]


HLP to LC, 24 February 1798  Tremendous Moments!  Yet the delightful Ladies of Llangollen are thinking of the Charms of Mr. Chappelow’s Conversation.  I told them you were at Work, verse or Prose? said they.  Verse to be sure replied H:L:P., and there is such a sweet Description of a Swallow.  They vowed they would have it — and insisted on my telling you so.  Oh do send it them; what is there they do not deserve? [P2/477]


HLP [writing from Streatham] to Penelope Sophia Pennington, 27 February 1798  Miss Owen detained us a while at the Shropshire Palaces, and two Days were delightedly disposed of with the Recluses at Llangollen Cottage, where you would I think leave your Heart a willing Prisoner.  They conquer and keep in their Enchanted Castle all Travellers passing that particular Road — at least all those for whom they spread their Nets — Harriet Lee escaped by some Poetical Chance, but they like her Book.  We were hungry for Pleasure after so long a Fast, and enjoyed everything with double Delight. [P2/478]


HLP to Margaret Williams of Bodelwyddan, 28 February 1798  We changed the Scenery round us.  A Visit of two Days at the Ladies’s enchanted Castle in Llangollen Vale began to divert the course of our Ideas, and reconcile us to Enjoyment; they had often solicited our company and we could hardly get away from theirs — but an old Friend, Miss Owen drew us forward to Porkington in Shropshire…. [P2/481]


Sarah’s Account Book, June 1, 1798  Preparations for the Piozzis who dined here 7s [Y120]


HLP to LC, 8 or 9 June 1798  The Ladies at Llangollen Cottage are so completely your Adorers that they talk all of You, and we passed a very delightful Day together indeed.  Their Place is heavenly this Summer Time, but we are all burning up for want of Rain: not one Shower having fallen since we set out from Streatham Park. [P2/495]

Eleanor’s Journal, 29 June 1789  Note from Mr. Gray enclosing one from Mrs. Piozzi introducing Mr. and Mrs. Gray and Sir Thomas Clarges.  Sent to invite them.  They came.  Mr. Gray a clergyman.  Mrs. Gray in deep mourning.  Sir Thomas a very fine young man. [H311]


HLP to Rev. Daniel Lysons, 9 July 1798  If Mr. Bunbury’s Little Gray Man is printed, do send it hither; the ladies at Llangollen are dying for it.  They like those old Scandinavian tales and the imitations of them exceedingly….[P2/508]


HLP to Mrs. Pennington, 1 August 1798  I think Miss Seward never writes now.  The Recluse Ladies at Llangollen who pick up every Rarety in Literature, are much her Admirers; Are you in Correspondence with her now? [P2/513]


LC [from London] to HLP 27 August 1798  I have been writing a Long Letter to Llangollen…. Till I see [Lady Bradford] I cannot tell whether I shall return with Sir John Leicester to Horton, or go to Weston by Shrewsbury from Llangollen.–  If I go to Weston, I shall be able to stay a week or Longer with you at Brynbella, but If I go back again with Sir John I can stay but a day or 2.  — Sir John L has a fishing place at Curven beyond Llangollen where we are going. [P2/517]


HLP to Mrs. Pennington, 11 November 1798 ….I shall come home at five in the Morning — change my Dress and drink my Coffee, and set out for the famous Cottage of Llangollen Vale, where dwell the fair and noble Recluses of whom you have heard so much, Lady Eleanor Butler and Miss Ponsonby.  Mr. Chappelow who has past some time here goes with us on this Visit as he is a great favourite with the Ladies.

            Well! we spend two days with them, and then away to Dear Miss Owen at Shrewsbury who has bargained with us for a Week…. [P2/534]


HLP [from Bath] to LC, 15 February 1799 You tell us nothing of Lady Bradford; her Friends the Recluses are well — I saw Miss Harriet Bowdler an Intimate of theirs last Night at Mrs. Siddons’s. [P3/66]


HLP to LC, 10 March 1799 The Ladies at Llangollen will be very angry that we did not call; but the Truth is we were obliged to be at home to a Day, and dared not venture being dug out of the Snow again upon those Mountains; so we ran thro’ Shrewsbury never stopping to break a short Cake even with dear Miss Owen, and drove to Brynbella by the Wrexham Road. [P3/71]


HLP to Elizabeth Gray, 20 July 1799  The Ladies at Llangollen were kind in remembering me without resentment of my apparent neglect.  I shall now say they deserved the visit. [….]

            –Llangollen and the Leasowes exhibit, as places of seclusion, the most characteristick difference imaginable, one so sublimely, the other so beautifully tranquil.  You will like the first best to look at, and the last to live in….

            If one must live alone I would rather it should be at Llangollen, but the general taste is against me: was that place empty tomorrow, few would strive for it.– [P3/118]


Eleanor Butler to HLP, 29 August 1799  We are doubly pained Dearest Madam by the apprehension of suffering a little in Your and Mr Piozzi’s opinion… from the inevitable necessity we are under of postponing the honour and happiness of our proposed Visit to Bryn Bella… The true reason (which is always best to be given) for this apparent inconsistency — is that our Friend Mrs Barrett positively will not encounter the Steep and dreary hills between Llangollen and Ruthin in our return without the comfort and protection of a favourable Moon.  A too late inspection of the Almanack informed her that that must not be hoped for on the Day… [Y158]


HLP to Joseph Cooper Walker, 31 August 1799  The moment I received it [Walker’s letter], Lady Eleanor Butler lent me your beautiful Work and I have been reading little else since I opened it.*  [P3/123]      

                *his letter had been sent to London — and the Thrale girls “unknowingly” sat on it.  Walker’s “Work” as been identified by Bloom and Bloom as Historical Memoir on Italian Tragedy, 1799. [P3/124 n2]


Walker to HLP, 14 September 1799  You have chosen an enchanting country for the place of your abode.  I think North infinitely superior to South Wales.  The latter certainly has many beauties, — but they are rather tame.  My hermitage stands in a country that unites in some degree, the charms of both.*

            Of the accomplishments of your fair friends of the Cottage, I have often heard.  I conceive their minds to be “virture by the graces drest.”  I hope you are acquainted with the Lady [Harriet Bowdler] who did me the honor to place my Memoir in Lady Eleanor’s library.  To know her is to admire her. [P3/124]

                *Walker’s letter was addressed from “St. Valeri, near Bray” (Ireland).


Thraliana, 11 October 1799  Miss Seward always surprises me by having less Sense than she [1001] should, somehow.  Mr Chappelow was mentioning to her the famous Italian Lines ending with


Che porta Guerra e non Tributo al Mare.


& She applies them directly to the little Dove of Derbyshire — or the Dee* — Lord Bless her!  They neither carry War nor Tribute, poor little paltry Things…. [T1000]

                * The poem is entitled, ‘Speech of the Nymph of that Brook [that flowed through the fields of the Ladies of Llangollen] which, after Heavy Rain, Becomes a Deep, Violent, and Formidable Torrent’ (see Anna Seward’s Poems [1810], iii. 315).  Because Mrs. Piozzi mistook a brook flowing into a river for a river flowing into the sea, some of her criticism is unfair…. [T1001 n1]


HLP to LC, 2 November 1799  The Ladies of Llangollen claim our Promise, and if we are not blown over their Mountain, my Master who still keeps on foot and pretty well, promises to make it good.  Such a Storm as blows at this Moment never did I see or hear.  The Moon shines brightly, and there is no Rain; but louder Weather I scarcely can conceive. [P3/140]


HLP to Walker, 30 November or 1 December 1799*  We shall spend a Day or two next Week with the Ladies of Llangollen, and I shall enquire for Miss Brooks’ Reliques of ancient Poetry. [P3/150]

                *HLP misdated her letter Nov. 31!



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