My oldest Friend is at last going to leave me

Hester Lynch Piozzi (née Salusbury, later Mrs Thrale), by unknown Italian artist, oil on canvas, 1785-1786.
National Portrait Gallery, NPG 4942.

Born in 1741 in Caernarvonshire, Wales, Hester Thrale belonged to the esteemed Salusbury family. Famous for her friendships with such luminaries as Samuel Johnson, Joshua Reynolds, and David Garrick, Thrale was a prominent figure of the period, and her writings, particularly the diary she called the Thraliana, have captivated scholars for centuries. In 1763, Hester entered a turbulent marriage with Henry Thrale, bearing twelve children in fourteen years; after Henry’s death in 1781, she found love again, marrying Italian music maestro Gabriel Mario Piozzi. This diary entry came in April of 1791, shortly after she turned 50, and finds her discussing the menopause, a subject rarely mentioned in the 18th century.

The Diary Entry

9 April 1791. We are returned from our Bath Excursion—I love Bath dearly, yet am not sorry to come home; We have led pleasant Lives too, & spent Money merrily,—but the People there seem grateful at least & inclined to like us. Mean Time I believe my oldest Friend [menstruation] is at last going to leave me, & that will probably make a Change in my Health, if not induce the Loss of it for ever. An odd thing has been observable on the Occasion, & merits Notice.

When I was a Girl of ten Years old perhaps, the Measles attacked & put me in some Danger-leaving at their Departure a small red swelling on my Cheek, which my Mother called the Measle-Mark, & it remained there till the Change of Life took it quite away. That very Mark is now upon this second critical Change returnednor do I, nor did I then feel any other very material Alteration from the coming or going of Youth.

I am now exactly 50 Years old I think, & am possessed of great Corporal Strength blessed be God, with ability to endure Fatigue if necessary. the Nerves however so shaken between the Years 1779 and 1784 cannot be expected to recover their Tone, and certainly never have recover’d it.

Further Reading

The original notebooks containing the Thraliana, spanning 1776 to 1809, now live at The Huntington, and in the 1940s the diary was published in two volumes, both of which can now be found at the Internet Archive. Should you wish to learn more, Wikipedia has an informative page on its history.

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