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COLLECTION Identifier: MS Hyde 27

Rice family papers


Letters from Hester Lynch Thrale (later Hester Lynch Piozzi) and Henry Thrale concerning the elopement of John Rice and Frances Plumbe in 1773, with other papers.


  • 1758-1958
  • Majority of material found within 1773-1776

Language of Materials

Collection materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

There are no restrictions on physical access to this material.


.2 linear feet (1 volume)
This collection consists primarily of letters written by Hester Lynch Thrale (later Piozzi) to Frances, John, and Morgan Rice from 1773 to 1776. The correspondence does not mention Samuel Johnson or his involvement in the matter. Other papers include a letter to John Morgan Rice dated 1813; two items relating to the Lade family; a small collection of prints relating to Hester Thrale; and later research notes.

Biographical / Historical

In May of 1773, John Rice (ca. 1751-1801) of Tooting, London, eloped with Frances Plumbe (1758-1790), aged fifteen. Frances was the daughter of alderman Samuel Plumbe (1717-1784) and Frances Thrale Plumbe (1726-1811?), who were outraged. However, the marriage was supported by John's father Morgan Rice (High Sheriff of Surrey), by Frances's aunt Hester Lynch Thrale (1741-1821), and even by Mrs. Thrale's friend, the great moralist Samuel Johnson (1709-1784). The young couple traveled in Europe until a financial settlement was arrived at between the parents. Meanwhile, Mrs. Thrale served as a liaison in England.

John and Frances Rice soon settled in Chislehurst, England, and had thirteen children before Frances's early death. The eldest was the Rev. John Morgan Rice (1774-1833), who married Elizabeth Holmes, daughter of William Holmes.

Physical Location

Hyde Case 9

Custodial History

These papers apparently passed from John Rice to his son, the Rev. John Morgan Rice. The entire lot was offered for sale by Myers & Co. of London in their 1941 catalog. Myers & Co. sold them to Maj. J.H. Busby in 1944, who was still in possession in 1955. On 1970 Oct. 27, the papers were auctioned by Sotheby's to Mary Hyde.

Immediate Source of Acquisition


Bequest of Mary Hyde Eccles, Four Oaks Farm, Somerville, New Jersey; received: 2004.

The Rice elopement is discussed in detail in James L. Clifford, Hester Lynch Piozzi (Mrs. Thrale) (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1941), 99-101; and in Mary Hyde, The Thrales of Streatham Park (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University, 1977), 61-62. A Rice family history transcribed from their Bible is in Joseph Jackson Howard, ed., Miscellanea Genealogica et Heraldica, Third Series, Volume 1 (London: Mitchell and Hughes, 1896), 101. Some of the letters were published in Miriam A. Ellis, Some Inedited Letters of Mrs. Thrale, in Fortnightly Review, 1903 Aug., 268-276. Some of the letters published in Ellis are not part of the present collection.

Processing Information

Processed by: Rick Stattler
Link to catalog
Rice family. Rice family papers: Guide.
Houghton Library, Harvard College Library

Repository Details

Part of the Houghton Library Repository

Houghton Library is Harvard College's principal repository for rare books and manuscripts, literary and performing arts archives, and more. The library's holdings of primary source material are managed by an expert staff and shared with scholars, students and the public in the reading room.

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