13 November 2013

'Originality in any shape'

In the late 1820s, a Mr. Madden went to see Lady Hester Stanhope, Pitt’s famously eccentric niece, who had been living abroad for many years. During this visit, Lady Hester spoke to Mr. Madden about her late uncle, William Pitt, with whom she was very fond. These are Madden’s printed recollections of Lady Hester Stanhope from 1828: 

"When Mr. Pitt was out of office, says her Ladyship, I acted as his secretary, and he had then as much business as when he was in. He seldom opposed my opinions, and always respected my antipathies. In private life, he was cheerful and affable; he would rise in the midst of his gravest avocations to hand me a fallen handkerchief; he was always polite to women, and a great favourite with many of them, but he was wedded to the state, and nothing but death could have divorced him from his country. He was fond of me; he loved originality in any shape. His great recreation, after the fatigue of business, was stealing into the country, entering a clean cottage, where there was a tidy woman and a nicely scoured table, and there he would eat bread and cheese like any ploughman. He detested routs, and always sat down to plain dinners. He never ate before he went to the House [of Commons], but when any thing important was to be discussed, he was in the habit of taking a glass of port-wine with a tea-spoonful of bark in it" (Madden, 1828: 133).

Was this Pervian bark, by any chance?

This is a great summary of Pitt as he was in private life, and it also illustrates the simple pleasures of life which he enjoyed when he could.


Madden, in Berrow’s Worcester Journal (1828) The Poetry and Varieties of Berrow’s Worcester Journal for the year 1828, p. 133.

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