Henry Thrale (1724/1730?–4 April, 1781) was an 18th century English Member of Parliament (MP) and a close friend of Samuel Johnson. Like his father, he was the proprietor of the large London brewery, H. Thrale & Co.
Born at the Alehouse in Harrow Corner, Southwark, He was the son of the rich brewer Ralph Thrale (1698–1758) and Mary Thrale. He married Hester Lynch Salusbury on 11 October 1763; they had 12 children, and she outlived him. He was MP for Southwark 23 December 1765 – September 1780, an Alderman, and Sheriff of the City of London: a respected, religious man who was a good hunter and sportsman with a taste for gambling.
Thrale inherited the Anchor Brewery, Southwark from his father. In 1772 a scheme for brewing beer without malt or hops put the brewery in debt by £130,000 (£13 million today). This almost bankrupted Henry Thrale. Hester Thrale raised money from her mother and other friends and cleared the debt in nine years.
Henry and Hester's marriage has been described as loveless. Whilst there was no great passion, they loved and respected each other. On their wedding anniversary in 1787 Hester wrote:
Why do the people say I never loved my first husband? -tis a very unjust conjecture. This day on which 24 years ago I was married to him never returns without bringing with it many a tender Remembrance: though 'twas on that Evening when we retired together that I was first alone with Mr. Thrale for five minutes in my whole life. Ours was a match of mere Prudence; and common good Liking, without the smallest Pretensions to passion on either Side: I knew no more of him than any other Gentleman who came to the House, nor did he ever profess other Attachment to me, than such as Esteem of my Character, & Convenience from my Fortune produced. I really had never past five whole Minutes Tête a Tête with him in my life till the Evening of our Wedding Day,-& he himself has said so a Thousand Times. yet God who gave us to each other, knows I did love him dearly; & what honour I can ever do to his Memory shall be done, for he was very generous to me.|30px|30px|Hester Thrale|Thraliana 1787
The speculation that Hester did not love her husband may have originated from the fact that she was of significantly higher social status than Thrale, and often eclipsed him at social events due to her family's pedigree. This, according to all reports, infuriated Thrale at certain times and may have led to an awkward relationship between the two during the public events.
On 8 or 11 June 1779, Thrale went to the house of his sister – Mrs Susannah Nesbitt – to read the will of her husband Arnold Nesbitt, MP for Cricklade. During the meal, Henry had his first stroke. Read more >> The second stroke came on 19 or 21 February 1780; on 10 September he had a third, whilst canvassing constituents during the 1780 general election campaign.
The strokes were largely caused by Henry's voracious appetite for large indulgent meals, accompanied by large quantities of ale.
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. I felt almost the flutter of his pulse, and looked for the last time upon a face that for fifteen years had never been turned upon me but with respect and benignity.|30px|30px|Samuel Johnson
He also wrote of Thrale:
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.One great abatement of all miseries was the attention of Mr. Thrale, which from our first acquaintance was never intermitted. I know no man who is more master of his wife and family than Thrale. If he but holds up a finger, he is obeyed.|30px|30px|Samuel Johnson
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.|30px|30px|Arthur Murphy
He was a most respectable character; intelligent, modest, communicative and friendly.|30px|30px|James Beattie
In his Life of Johnson, James Boswell mentions Henry'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 choosing.
This was all left in trust for Thrale's five daughters who are said to have been left £20,000 each (£2,000,000 today). From other assets his wife was left the interest from £50,000 for life and the contents of Streatham Park (including all Sir Joshua Reynolds paintings) for life.
Samuel Johnson famously said, "We are not here to sell a parcel of boilers and vats, but the potentiality of growing rich beyond the dreams of avarice."
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Mar 06, 2009; Byline: by Sam Leith ASUNNY weekday afternoon in a well-appointed house in Streatham, South London. A generous lunch has been...