Arena - According to Beryl

Dame Beryl Bainbridge takes an idiosyncratic tour of the last 20 years of writer and poet Samuel Johnson's turbulent life, leading us through the streets of Streatham, the riches of the City of London and into the dank crypt of a suburban church wherein lies the gigantic coffin of gluttonous Henry Thrale. Thrale was one of the richest brewers in England and Johnson spent the better part of his last years as the house guest of Henry and his wife Hester, both in their brewery in Southwark and their country estate in Streatham Park. Hester cared for the great lexicographer through his constant bouts of melancholia and gout, creating a bond of which Johnson's friend Boswell was to become insanely jealous, until she finally abandoned him for the charms of her daughter Queeney's Italian singing teacher. Bainbridge took the story of their fascinating relationship for her novel According to Queeney. Director Udayan Prasad had come across the Johnson/Thrale story quite independently and as he began to develop the film he discovered that Bainbridge had been writing a book on the same subject. He met with her and decided to join forces to tell this extraordinary tale. Jim Carter and Suzannah Harker read extracts from the actual letters that Johnson and Mrs Thrale wrote to each other, while Beth Goddard and Beryl Bainbridge read from According to Queeney.


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  • Executive Producer Anthony Wall
  • Director Udayan Prasad
  • Presenter Beryl Bainbridge
  • Participant Susannah Harker
  • Participant Beth Goddard
  • Participant Jim Carter