13 November 2013

When Pitt met the Duchess of Gontaut

Reading over the Memoirs of the Duchesse de Gontaut this morning (as you do), I came upon a little instance where she met Pitt during her stay at Deal. From internal indications within her memoirs, this meeting must have taken place in the late 1790s. She mentions that Mr. and Mrs. Villiers had been lent Deal Castle by Mr. Pitt, and that he “often spent his Saturdays and Sundays there, to forget politics, as he said…he was cold and silent, but he was an attentive listener, and was very fond of hearing us talk French…At first, Mr. Pitt’s piercing eyes turned steadily upon me caused me some embarrassment; but I soon got accustomed to them. He would often ask me to read to him a few pages of “Telemaque;” he was enthusiastic over the discourses of Mentor. I never heard him speak a word of French, until one day, to my great astonishment, as he was driving me out in his phaeton, he repeated the tirades of his beloved Mentor, with a perfect French accent. At a later period, I made the acquaintance of Mr. Sheridan at the house of Mrs. Bouvraie. He was very witty, no doubt, but I preferred the calmness and solidity of Mr. Pitt” (The Duchess of Gontaut: 84-85).

Yes, I would have preferred Pitt’s company as well.


Gontaut, Duchesse de (translated by Mrs. J.W. Davis) (1894) Memoirs of the Duchesse de Gontaut, Volume 1. London: Chatto and Windus, pp. 84-85.

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