28 February 2014

Lancelot 'Capability' Brown: Correspondence with Lady Hester Chatham

Lancelot 'Capability' Brown c. 1768 by Nathaniel Dance

Lancelot Brown (1716-1783), commonly known as 'Capability' Brown due to his frequent use of the word in reference to the potential of the projects submitted to him, was one of the most prolific English landscape gardeners of the 18th century. He worked on over 170 gardens and parks, many of which endure and can still be visited today. 

One of these sites was Burton Pynsent, the former Somerset estate of William Pitt the Elder, 1st Earl of Chatham. The pleasure grounds of Burton Pynsent were laid out jointly by Capability Brown and Pitt the Elder (who was also a keen amateur landscape architect) soon after the estate was bequeathed to Pitt by Sir William Pynsent in 1765. Pitt also commissioned Lancelot Brown to design a column at Burton Pynsent commemorating Pynsent's benefaction [1].

The Burton Pynsent Monument on Troy Hill 
Lady Hester Chatham (nee Grenville), the devoted wife of William Pitt the Elder, was familiar with Capability Brown from her young adulthood. Brown was living and working at Wotton Underwood, Lady Hester's childhood home, and he was employed under the landscape architect William Kent at her maternal uncle Richard Temple, 1st Viscount Cobham's estate at Stowe in Buckinghamshire. Brown began work at Stowe in 1741, and upon his own merits he rose to the position of head gardener [2]. Brown remained in that capacity until 1750, when at the recommendation of Lord Cobham, Brown became increasingly sought after by other landed families. King George II later appointed Capability Brown as head gardener of Hampton Court Palace and Windsor Castle [3]. 

As might naturally be expected, there are many preserved letters from members of the 18th century aristocracy and landed gentry to Lancelot Brown. Amongst one collection of these letters at The British Library, there are over 100 letters to and from Brown to his clients and family. What I found striking, and noteworthy, is that there is only one female patron whose letters to Brown are still in existence, and that is Lady Hester Chatham. When Lord Chatham was ill, which unfortunately was frequently the case as he got older, Lady Chatham dealt with his correspondence and acted as his secretary. Unsurprisingly, this also included managing their financial affairs. The banker Thomas Coutts once called Lady Chatham 'the cleverest man of her time,' and her intellect was astounding [4].

What was even more incredible to me as I sat down expecting to read all about landscape gardening techniques, was that not once does Lady Hester mention anything of the sort. In fact, the letters from her to Brown do not mention gardening once, but are mostly about politics. At the time of the letter I have transcribed below, the American War of Independence was well under way, and Lady Chatham was writing to Lancelot Brown about her and her husband's stance on the crisis. From the tone of the letter, it seems she felt Brown was not necessarily in concurrence with their views on the subject, despite the bonds of friendship which had subsisted between them.

Hester Chatham to Lancelot 'Capability' Brown, sent from Hayes Place, Kent (another Pitt family estate) on Thursday Novr 13th, 1777:


Neither I nor my Lord [Pitt the Elder] have wanted any assurance that your conduct respecting him, at all times, is ever dictated by your kind Friendship towards us. The Letter I have just received from you is an additional Proof of it, and claims our sincerest Thanks. It is impossible not to feel sensibly the Animation of your Conversation in support of the rectitude of your Lord’s Principles, and of his Zeal for the Prosperity of the Whole Empire, and for the true, Solid Glory of His Majesty [George III]. You may be persuaded that your having been heard favorably and without Acrimony, affords real Comfort and Happiness to my Lord [her husband], who is most undoubtedly actuated in all he does, or means to do, by the purest Motives of disinterested concern for the King, and the Country. 

You know that this is not Words, but an existing Truth, to which his conduct has been always consistent. His [Pitt's] View of Things now tells him ruin is at our Door if not immediately prevented. From the Stamp Act [a harsh tax placed upon the American Colonists in 1766] to this day, his [Pitt's] Judgments, he says, concerning America, have never varied. In the present terrifying Crisis, to be silent the first day wou’d be want of Duty to the King, and utter insensibility to the public Calamities. The Ardent Wish of my heart cooperates entirely with his, that the Past may be redeem’d by happier Councils! You join, I am sure, in the same honest hope. The sentiments of Esteem and Friendship which my Lord, and my self, have for you are of the most unfeign’d sort, which I beg you to believe, as well as that I am ever Sir, 

Your most Faithful and very humble servant, Hester Chatham. [5]

What an amazing woman to stand her ground, and freely talk politics in a world dominated at that time entirely by men!


1. Parks and Gardens UK. Burton Pynsent. http://www.parksandgardens.org/places-and-people/site/629.

2. Hinde, Thomas (1986) Capability Brown: The Story of a Master Gardener. London: Hutchinson, p. 19. 

3. Loudon, J.C. (1840) The gardener's magazine, and register of rural & domestic improvement, Vol. XVI. London: Longman, Orme, Brown, Green & Longmans, p. 327.

4. Meryon, C.L. (1846) Memoirs of the Lady Hester Stanhope, Vol. 3 (2nd edition). London: Colburn, p. 305.

5. British Library. Capability Brown Letters. Add Ms 69795, f. 99. 

25 February 2014

Educating & providing for female servants in the late 18th century

In an undated letter marked 'Private,' Lady Hester Stanhope wrote to Pitt's former private secretary William Dacres Adams about an upcoming domestic marriage she helped to arrange for one of the 'servants' under her protection. From internal evidence, the letter was written after Pitt's death - either late 1806 or early 1807 - and clearly Dacres Adams was familiar with the servant in question. Lady Hester writes:

“…I must now tell you that I consider one of my Children disposed of. Louisa [Williams] has had a very advantageous offer at Malta, and only waits my consent to marry. The man bears an excellent character, is very good looking, and about five and twenty [25 years old]. I am willing to believe he must be greatly attached to her [Louisa] by the thorough honourable manner in which he has conducted himself. Louisa owes much to that excellent woman Mrs Fernandey who she went out with and from her I have the description of this young man[’s] situation and character. He has been known to her [Mrs Fernandey’s] husband for eight years. Now, I hope you wish me joy and admire my speculation for I sent the girl abroad on purpose to marry him as she [Louisa] was infinitely too well educated for a servant, but not having a shilling in the world it was difficult to know what to do with her. How fortunate I always am in my plans for others. Indeed, the success of those I feel interested about is the greatest happiness which in future I can enjoy…” (BL Add Ms 89036/2/3, f. 72)

Lady Hester Stanhope was of course referring to Louisa Jane Williams, a servant who had effectively grown up in William Pitt the younger's household. Indeed, Pitt paid for Louisa and her older sister Elizabeth's 'board and education', amongst other sundry items, from at least 1797 - six years before Lady Hester Stanhope came to live with Pitt. Below is a bill from the Chatham Papers at The National Archives (PRO 30/8/217) with a breakdown of just one quarter's board and education for 'Miss E & L Williams' from Michaelmas [September] to Christmas 1797:

As you can see, the girls, aged twelve and ten in late 1797, had a servant. Do servants have servants? Neither of the girls appear in servant's lists at the time, and Louisa never appears in a list of Pitt's servants at all. Elizabeth Williams only appears in a list of servants at Pitt's death in 1806. Pitt paid for the girls' board and education until at least 1801, after which there are no surviving records. He may have continued to provide for them in some way afterwards, and certainly Elizabeth stayed on until his death. 

What is extraordinary is why Pitt would pay for the education of two female servants? Education for women in the late 18th century was meagre at the best of times. Although Pitt grew up with his two older sisters being provided with the same education at home as he and his brothers received, it is quite incredible, and a credit to his benevolent character, that he took it upon himself to pay for two little servant girls to receive a private tutor for at least 4 consecutive years. It is admirable, but also unusually rare for the time. Perhaps we can write this off as one more instance of Pitt's amazingly kind nature, but it does raise an eyebrow. Why those two girls? Even if their father was a long-standing, trusted servant, the length of time and expense involved in funding the girls' education, board, and incidental expenses (Pitt also paid for Elizabeth's stays - corsets), was remarkably high. Pitt was never financially flush, and indeed by the time of his resignation in 1801 his debts reached over £40,000. Pitt never gave much thought to his finances, but resigning a portion of his income to the education of female servants appears significant. 

Looking into this issue, I believe there is a connection between these two girls and Pitt. Until more information is uncovered (and I have many more accounts and letters to examine until I can be sure there isn't anything else which previous researchers have not missed or glanced over), this is my reasoned speculation. What is also significant is how Lady Hester Stanhope refers to Louisa Williams in her letter to William Dacres Adams. She calls Louisa one of her 'Children.' The other 'child' was the then twenty-one year old Elizabeth Williams, Louisa's sister, who stayed with Lady Hester as a 'female companion' for many more years. Lady Hester obviously cared a great deal for the two girls, but even Lady Hester acknowledged, with good reason, that Louisa was 'infinitely too well educated for a servant.' A marriage prospect came up for Louisa, and Lady Hester was happy to consent for her to be sent to Malta 'on purpose.' 

Louisa Jane Williams married John David in 1807 at St Paul’s Anglican Cathedral in Malta. It was listed as a British Overseas Marriage. John David worked in the commissariat department, and they settled there. Elizabeth Williams stayed with Lady Hester Stanhope, and subsequently followed her to Wales, and then traveled on with her to the Middle East.


BL Add Ms 89036/2/3, f. 72

The National Archives. Chatham Papers. PRO 30/8/217

23 February 2014

King George III at Windsor: January 1810

William Dacres Adams, William Pitt the younger's last private secretary, had an audience with King George III and Queen Charlotte at Windsor on 30 January 1810. Dacres Adams was so pleased with this excursion that he later wrote recollections of his conversation with the King. During that conversation, King George III brought up the subject of Mr. Pitt, made some remarks about Pitt's habits, and asked a few questions about his last illness. Below is a short part of Adams' notes on that brief interchange:

"King George III to Adams - At what time did Mr Pitt get up?

Adams - He was seldom stirring before twelve o’clock, Sir!

King George III - Ah! He ruined his health by those late hours. I believe he was not fond of doing business after dinner.

Adams - No sir, he was not. I seldom went to him in ye Evening, and never unless there was any thing particular to be done.

King George III -  O - of course you would go if there were anything particular to do.

Adams - His [Pitt's] rule, Sir, was to finish everything before dinner.

King George III - I saw him a few days before he went to Bath. Did you find him much altered when you saw him there?

Adams - On my arrival at Bath from Devonshire, Sir, I found him much altered and debilitated - he grew worse & worse every day whilst he staid there. He never returned to Downing St.

King George III - No, I knew he never did - he went to Putney. Did you see him at Putney? What was the last time you saw him before his death & how did he seem? 

Adams - He appeared in great anxiety about seeing Lord Wellesley who had arrived lately from India, and was there with him that morning."

The conversation between the King and Adams then changed subject, and after a few short enquiries about Adams's family by Queen Charlotte, they all withdrew.


BL Add Ms 89036/5/3, Some Additional Notes.

Political Oratory & Pitt's Eloquence

In an undated memorandum written long after William Pitt's death, his last private secretary William Dacres Adams (1776-1862) paid tribute to Pitt's incredible powers of political oratory and eloquence. 

It is a moving homage to a man whose voice a modern audience will never be able to hear:

“But who shall describe the wonder of his [Pitt's] Eloquence? What living tongue or pen can portray them? Who that has not himself heard, and felt, and been carried away by that Enchantment can understand its full power and effect? I have always lamented the fleeting nature of genuine Oratory, of the highest order, such as Mr. Pitt’s, and the absolute impossibility of seizing and communicating its force to others. Difficult as it was to follow and embody in a written form the glorious passages which he poured forth in the course of his greatest triumphs. Even if the Words could have been preserved yet the occasion which gave them birth, the fire which animated them, the grandeur of his Action, the deep dignity of his Voice, the lightening of his eye, and all which constituted the essence and life of his Eloquence, were too ethereal to be grasped by mortal touch, and evaporated under every attempt at description. The Sister Arts of Poetry and Painting are exempted from this fate. If “Painting mute and motionless steals but a glance of time,” that glance is fixed and permanent, and is transmitted for the admiration of Posterity. The Poet is still more happy in his Art. The emanations of his Genius are destined to enjoy a still more enduring triumph. They are written and remain. But the Glories of the Orator, high and transcendent as they are, vanish with the breath which gives them utterance. 

I am one of the few remaining persons who have been often called to partake of the rich delights of those intellectual Banquets, and it is those alone to whom the high privilege has been given, of drinking as from a fountain head of those streams of pure and living Eloquence at the very moment of his inspiration, who can form an adequate conception of that mighty Magick, which gave him dominion and mastery over the minds and hearts of men. But, transcendent and dazzling as was the fire of his Eloquence, mighty as was the grasp of his mind in directing, in such perilous times, the energies and resources of the Empire, yet, when I recall him to my remembrance, I think of Mr. Pitt, not as the brilliant and persuasive Orator, nor as the Great Minister of so great a Country, but as the kind and indulgent friend. 

It has been well said of him, that he went into the House of Commons, not to bow, but to do the business of the State, and he did it. There, he stood firm and unbending, in conscious uprightness and full assurance of the soundness of his views for the general good, to do the work of his high Office. But when that work was done he returned to his domestick hearth with all the amenity of a disengaged though fruitful mind, and with that strait forward simplicity of character and manners which is the usual concomitant of true greatness. 

At some such moments it has been my fortune and privilege to be near him, there was such an indescribable charm in his presence that I can truly say I never was admitted to it without a full consciousness of my own happiness, and the daily and hourly intercourse with him which the duties of my situation rendered necessary only increased, as time rolled on, that feeling of enjoyment. He was truly a man to be loved. Under all the trying circumstances by which he was surrounded, the desertion of friends, the animosity of opponents, with declining health, and the whole burthen of the State, and the conduct of a raging War resting upon his shoulders, I never for a moment saw the sweetness of his temper ruffled, nor his constancy shaken. Notwithstanding the immeasurable difference between us, in every respect, his demeanour to me, through all the changes, was the same - a proof and example of that happy nature which mitigated the splendour of his greatness into the most delightful companionship, and raise those who came within its influence to a footing and fellowship with himself. 

Such was Mr. Pitt. Such as he was his memory will be ever dear to me, and I shall cherish it in my heart to the last hour of my existence with the warmest and most unalterable attachment.” - William Dacres Adams [f. 57.1]

The above passage was printed in The Times newspaper on the centenary of Pitt’s death, with this short message before it:

“To the editor of The Times:
Sir. - In the event of your noticing in The Times the 100th anniversary of Mr. Pitt’s death, which occurs next Tuesday, the 23rd instant, I enclose a copy of a memorandum written by my grandfather, William Dacres Adams, who was his private secretary. I am, Sir, your obedient servant, G.F. Adams. Holly Mount, Powyke, Worcester, Jan. 18. [1906]”


BL Add Ms 89036/1/17, f. 57.1

The Times. January 23, 1906.

22 February 2014

The great cull: The fate of Pitt's papers after his death

George Pretyman-Tomline, the Bishop of Lincoln (unknown artist)

Immediately after Pitt's death on January 23, 1806, there was a scramble to gather up all of his scattered papers. For one of Pitt's executors, George Pretyman-Tomline (the Bishop of Lincoln), this perhaps signified his desire for a great paper cull. Tomline spent an inordinate amount of time in the weeks and months after Pitt's death scouring through Pitt's books and correspondence. Was he trying to destroy some of that material in order to cover something up? Although this is speculation, the absolute urgency of Tomline's endeavours to wade through the mass of material left behind at Downing Street, Putney, and Walmer Castle suggests a certain degree of suspicion and culpability.

In his pursuit to look over the papers, the Bishop of Lincoln regularly wrote to Pitt's last private secretary William Dacres Adams in order to enlist his help. Based upon the surviving correspondence, William Dacres Adams doesn't appear to have been overly compliant in this effort.

The Bishop of Lincoln wrote to Dacres Adams from his residence at Buckden Palace on February 8th, 1806, stating that he wanted to meet with Adams "in Downing Street on Thursday morning at half past twelve," and then desired to meet with him again the following morning so that they "may look over the Papers you [Adams] brought from Walmer.” [f.28] Dacres Adams had beat the Bishop, as it were, to Walmer Castle in Kent, before he could retrieve the papers. The Bishop doesn't record his thoughts on that, but he was probably too busy at the time sifting through the mass of documents at Downing Street. In either case, it appears from the correspondence that Adams did not readily acquiesce. 

The Bishop of Lincoln wrote again to Dacres Adams, as it doesn’t appear that they met before, at the very end of February 1806, to tell him that “I should be very glad if you could meet me in Downing Street exactly at Ten to-morrow morning as it will not be convenient to Lord Grenville [oe]. The books [Pitt's] should be put into the front room.” [f. 31] It is impossible to pinpoint from this exactly which day Lincoln saw Dacres Adams, but he wrote to him again from Buckden Palace on March 17, 1806, requesting Adams to meet him at the Deanery of St. Paul's on the 25th of March at half past 2, “and that day we will examine the boxes.” [f. 36] Books and papers were still being removed from Pitt's residences, and one of Pitt's former servants, a man named Griffiths, apparently went down to Walmer upon Lincoln's request in order to "remove the Books to Town [London] with as little delay as possible.” [f. 36] Lincoln ended the letter to Adams by repeating that if he heard nothing back from Adams, he still expected him at the Deanery at half past two on Tuesday the 25th. The repetition and urgency of the letter suggests that Bishop Tomline was anxious to sort through Pitt's items. It is assumed that Tomline met with William Dacres Adams several times throughout the early part of 1806, but it cannot be ascertained as to Adams's direct level of involvement and compliance with Tomline's wishes regarding the fate of Pitt's papers.

The last surviving letter in the chain was sent from the Adelphi on April 5th [1806].  In it, Lincoln requested Adams to meet him in Downing Street again at twelve o’clock on the following Monday. [f. 37] It certainly appears that Lincoln was still spending a significant amount of time at Downing Street as he referred to a previous visit there that took place earlier that day. There the correspondence between the Bishop of Lincoln and William Dacres Adams comes to a close. Perhaps the papers were sifted through after April 1806, and there was no further need for them to meet?


BL Add Ms 89036/1/17, ff. 28, 31, 36-37 (January - April 1806)

20 February 2014

William Pitt's 'fan girl'

It seems William Pitt the younger had his share of, shall we say, interesting fan mail. One of these letters, undated, came from a woman who in modern times we would call a 'fan girl.' The writer is unknown, and as it's found amongst the Dacres Adams MSS (which was partially derived from Pitt's papers taken from Walmer Castle shortly after his death), it is assumed that Pitt received this missive whilst he was staying there. It's impossible to tell. I've transcribed the letter in full, and it's definitely, ahem, worth a read:

 (Source: BL Add Ms 89036/1/17, f. 46)

“I have for years looked up to your character and abilities with respect and admiration, but I had never seen you till a few months since at the play - I need now scarcely say the delight I felt at being so near the man of all others I so highly esteemed. I am believe me perfectly aware of the impropriety of my conduct in writing you this letter, however its the only hope I have of ever being better acquainted with you. I think it's just possible I could get introduced to you, but surely any fancy of this kind is better kept to ourselves. 

I shall remain here till the 20th and then go to London. I am there my own mistress. If some happy woman does not engage the whole of your heart, its not improbable you may wish to see the strange creature who has written you this. Should you honour me with a line, I shall feel myself highly flattered. I dare not hope you will have a wish to meet a woman who can act thus. 

Will you direct for Mrs. [H.? St.?] James, Post Office, Margate? That name will do as well as any other.”

It appears the lady in question may have been using an alias, as the name seems to be referred to incidentally. Either way, she certainly appears to have taken a personal liking to Pitt after seeing him at a 'play'. It's impossible to tell whether Pitt ever replied, but he must have been amused - or bemused - by its contents!

18 February 2014

Marriage defiance: 18th century style

Edward James Eliot by Joshua Reynolds

In the early 1780s (probably 1783 or 1784), William Pitt's friend Edward James Eliot from Pembroke Hall (College) met Pitt's sister Lady Harriot. Certainly by the spring of 1785, love was in the air, and Eliot found himself in the awkward position of having to write to his father to explain his budding attachment. Lord Eliot, Edward's father, was at his family seat at Port Eliot in Cornwall at the time with no apparent intentions of travelling to London. As newspapers began circulating the report that Edward Eliot was growing close to Lady Harriot Pitt, Eliot wrote to his father:

"Putney Heath [William Pitt's rented house], April 2d: Saturday 1785

My Hond. Lord,

As I have not yet heard any Thing of your Intentions about coming up to Town Thing spring, I am afraid I must begin to apprehend that you have no fix'd Determination of coming up at all: I should be sorry to give place to such an Idea at any Time; but must own I am more concern'd at it now as it obliges me to enter upon a subject by letter which I had very much wish'd to have mention'd by word of mouth; that wish having I am afraid kept me silent upon it longer than perhaps I ought to have been. You will probably by this formality of Preface have gone before me in supposing the subject to be, as indeed it is of the last importance to me; and that will in itself and as to what you shall think upon It. In one word, I am to acknowledge to you my Attachment to Lady Harriot Pitt; which has been so long attributed to me by Report, which was indeed attributed much sooner than there was any ground for it, and which was some time ago supposed to have proceeded much farther than you may readily suppose it has yet Gone. Tho I could not prevail upon myself to mention it, perhaps, the first moment that I might, which was no very Easy matter either (I mean to Determine the Precise moment) Neither have I made an Engagement for myself on such a subject without your knowledge or Consent.

You may possibly not be more inclin'd to enter upon this subject by Letter than myself and there is no necessity you should: If you are certainly coming to Town, I shall think it my Duty to wait your Time. If not, as soon as the immediate pressure of Publick business will allow, I shall Desire your leave to see you in the Country: In the mean while I thought it grew absolutely necessary to say so much; and if I have not said more or Dwelt longer upon it, it is not because I am Not very anxious and very solicitous on every part of the subject I have mention'd: I consider this as a communication I was bound to make; I leave the rest to future - Discussion - if I may call it so; by conversation or by correspondence as you shall think proper to Direct. 

I am my Hond. Lord, 

Your ever Dutiful
and ever affectionate son,

Ed: J: Eliot" [1]

In summary, his father did not approve. Lady Harriot did not come from a wealthy family, and Lord Eliot was not in a position to help them financially. There is no evidence that Lord Eliot made a trip to Town (that is, London) in the spring or summer of 1785. In the mean time, Edward James Eliot and Lady Harriot Pitt were falling deeply in love, and their engagement was announced in the newspapers in August 1785. At this time Lord Eliot requested Edward to come to Port Eliot in order to discuss the proposed marriage. To say that Lord Eliot disapproved of the union is an understatement, as Edward himself explains in a letter to Harriot on August 31, 1785:

"My Dearest Love, 

I have had a Conversation with my Father this Morning, upon the whole certainly a Melancholy one. It began with his telling me with a good deal of agitation that he already had annual expenses beyond his annual income, that therefore it was altogether out of his power to give me any assistance: That he almost desponded of his own affairs and thought it little less than absolute Ruin for us to think of going on on the present plan in the present circumstances: concluding with putting it to me in the most earnest manner and with the most pressing Instances for your sake as well as my own and his not to conclude (or rather to delay concluding) this engagement [to be married] till Lord Nugent's death or some other circumstance should enable him to do as he should wish to do upon that occasion...I told my Father I thought it was impossible. I will not distress you by repeating any more of the Conversation at present, the Result was that he would talk to me again, and I think he said he would write to your Brother [William - by then First Minister of the country for nearly 2 years] (I live in the hopes of calling him mine), but exactly to what effect I do not know...ever faithfully, affectionately, and sincerely yours, Ed. J. Eliot." [2]

From this conversation it appears that Lord Eliot believed that writing to William Pitt about his son's engagement to Pitt's sister would exert some pressure to dissuade the couple from getting married. In this, Lord Eliot was severely mistaken. Pitt wrote back to Lord Eliot from Downing Street on September 8, 1785 stating that: 

"...A further delay [to the marriage], such as you now desire, could not I am persuaded be reconciled to the happiness of either of them [Eliot and Lady Harriot], or under all the circumstances be productive of any satisfactory advantage; and the appearance which it would now have to the Public [as the engagement was already reported in the newspapers and elsewhere] would be incapable of any satisfactory explanation...This being the Case your Lordship will I am sure perceive that no effect could be provided by a Conversation between us..." [3]

Essentially, Pitt rebuffed Lord Eliot's attempt to use him as a go-between in order to deter the marriage. Edward Eliot also wrote to his father on September 8, 1785. He was upset by his father's refusal to consent to his impending marriage, however he was determined to proceed without his father's approval. He wrote:

"My Hond. Lord,

By Mr. Pitt's Letter which you will Receive with this you will see that I did not mistake in thinking that what you had stated in yours to Him (however likely to weigh with other persons or in other Circumstances) has had no Effect upon his mins with respect to the present Question [i.e., his  upcoming marriage to Pitt's sister]. I could not say that I wish'd it might, and as I am sure you wish me happy I am sure you Do not wish that I Could. It then only Remains for me to Entreat your pardon and Forgiveness, and to Beg you will from this moment Consider the Thing as Done. It will Give less pain to yourself and all that are concerned to Consider it so, and I am sure we should avoid all unnecessary uneasiness: As it is, I am I do assure you most Deeply Distressed at the manner in which you Feel and think of this Event: I Believe you do not Doubt that I am so. It wounds most Deeply the Happiness and satisfaction which I should otherwise have felt, of every kind, at this Connexion. But I will not add more upon such a subject. It is no small additional anxiety to me to Reflect on the Inconveniences of a Different kind which you feel yourself in; But which, as some Consolation to myself, it is my Firmest Resolution never to multiply or Augment. 

I am my Hond. Lord, 
Your very affectionate and very Dutiful son, Ed: J: Eliot." [4]

As Lord Eliot disapproved of the marriage and flat-out stated he could not provide any financial assistance to the couple, it fell to Mr. Pitt to help his sister and best friend. He gave Edward the newly-vacated post of King's Remembrancer in the Exchequer which was worth £1,500 a year. The monetary equivalent of that value today is £161,000 per annum [5]. Pitt also gave the couple £500 just after their wedding; this gift was recorded in one of Pitt's account books which is now amongst the Chatham Papers at The National Archives. 

Edward James Eliot and Lady Harriot Pitt were married by special licence in Downing Street on the evening of Saturday, September 24, 1785 [6]. Their happy marriage (which lasted for only a year and a day) was tragically cut short after Harriot died from puerpural fever shortly after she gave birth to their first child. It was truly a marriage of love, and Edward Eliot never recovered from her loss. 


1. Eliot Papers, Cornwall Record Office: EL/B/3/3/2.

2. Headlam, C. (ed.) (1914) The Letters of Lady Harriot Eliot (1766-1786). Edinburgh: T. and A. Constable, pp. ix-x.

3. Ibid, p. xii.

4. Eliot Papers, Cornwall Record Office: EL/B/3/3/4.

5. I used the website www.measuringworth.com to calculate the 2012 value.

6. Hereford Journal. Thursday, September 29, 1785.

13 February 2014

William Pitt at the Coffee Houses of Lincoln's Inn

 The 1794 sundial marking the location of Pitt's attic rooms at 4 Stone Buildings                     

In the very late 1770s, and early 1780s, William Pitt trained as a lawyer at Lincoln's Inn. During his residence at one of the attic rooms of 4 Stone Buildings (facing Lincoln's Inn Gardens and the square of Lincoln's Inn Fields), Pitt was accustomed to drink at the coffee houses in the immediate vicinity. There are several documented places where he was spotted. These locations were Will's Coffee House at 7 Serle Street (at the corner of Portugal Street), and the other was Serle's Coffee House on 4 Carey Street [1]. Both were within a 2 minute-walk from Pitt's chambers, and were known to be frequented by other gentleman of Lincoln's Inn.

In 1815, nearly a decade after Pitt's death, Will's Coffee House was located at 7 Serle Street, at the corner of Portugal Street, but in Pitt's time at Lincoln's Inn (c. 1780-1) it may have been situated somewhere inside New Square [2]. In the 'recollections of a deceased Welsh judge,' the unidentified judge remembers his old friend St. Andrew St. John (later Lord St. John) discussing Mr. Pitt's time at Lincoln's Inn:

"They [Pitt and Andrew St John] lived in a double set of chambers within the same outer door, in the Old Buildings [Stone Buildings] (now finically termed Old Square) of Lincoln's Inn, to which Society both of them belonged. Pitt had often practiced speaking as well as composition under the superintendence of his father, but he was desirous of trying how his voice and his nerves would answer the call of a public assembly; so he and his crony went together in masks, as was the mode, to some debating place, I rather think Mrs. Cornelly's, and the experiment was as satisfactory in the result as might have been expected from the silver voice and the iron nerve on which it was tried. St. John used to say that Pitt, from the first, entered eagerly into legal discussions. He [Pitt] dined at a Law Club, as was the custom universally then and still is to a great degree, though beginning to be broken in upon by the fashionable clubs now forming, to the great and serious injury of the profession, both giving bad, idle, and rambling habits, and depriving the young lawyer and the student from the inestimable benefit of having cases and points that actually arise in the Courts familiarly discussed by lawyers of experience. 

I have often heard that Pitt was a regular attendant on the Court of King's Bench, and as regular a diner at his club, and took the most unceasing and lively interest in all the professional conversation of the table. For until the French Revolution made all men politicians, and its topics superseded every other subject of conversation in society, as well as of discussion in public, no politics nor indeed anything but law was ever heard at the dining clubs. The hour [of dinner] was four, and at six the billing being called, all departed to chambers. In the course of a little time, being introduced into Parliament for Appleby, I think it was by Sir James Lowther (afterwards Lord Lonsdale), he [Pitt] got into a club in St. James's Street or Pall Mall [Pitt's club at the time, Goostree's, was in Pall Mall], where he played a little, but his habit was, even when he dined at the west-end of the town, to come back to Lincoln's Inn early enough to make sure of getting in before the wicket was shut, which happened at twelve. His aim was not chambers, but Will's Coffee-house, now in Serle Street, but then in the New Buildings (or Square), and which was, by order of the society, shut at twelve. He [Pitt] then sat himself down with a newspaper, a dry biscuit, and a bottle of very bad port wine, the greater part of which he finished cold, whatever he might have eaten or drank at dinner." [3]

Pitt was called to the Bar on June 12, 1780 [4]. Going on to discuss Pitt's time on the Western Circuit, and his astounding oratorical powers, the judge relates the reminiscences of a man who knew Pitt called 'Hippesley':

"In the Western Circuit which he [Pitt] went, I believe, but once, I have heard from my old acquaintance Hippesley, who knew him upon it, that he [Pitt] held one or two briefs, probably from his father's old connection with Bath [his father Pitt the Elder was an MP for Bath at one time], and his property in Somersetshire, under [Sir William] Pynsent's will. On one of these trials, the court was a little astonished, perhaps partially amused, partially alarmed, at hearing his [Pitt's] remarkable voice; for our profession, especially on its circuits, is exceeding nervous through apprehension and jealousy, and, as it were, vested interests. Some objection being taken, Mr. Pitt said, 'I desire to know whether or not the point is taken, as I am prepared to argue it.'" [5]

Pitt was also spotted at another location in the area of Lincoln's Inn called Serle's Coffee House, which was situated at 4 Carey Street (south side). Mrs. Fanny Boscawen, a friend of Pitt's mother Lady Hester Chatham, wrote to Lady Chatham in July 1781 to tell her that "today I had a Lawyer of Lincoln's Inn [who] din'd with Me; we were speaking of the [Gordon] Riots last Year [June 1780] and he told me that when they form'd themselves into Companies for the defence of the Inns of Court they agreed that the tallest Man shou'd be the Captain: thus Mr. Pitt commanded their Company and in speaking of Him I cou'd have lik'd Dear Madam to have convey'd to your Ear all that was said. I ask'd my Guest [his name is unknown] whether he had seen Mr. Pitt lately, he answer'd 'Yesterday at Serle's Coffee House where he [Pitt] and other Gentleman of Lincoln's Inn are in the custom of drinking their Coffee, or tea, for an Hour in the Afternoon.'"[6]

It appears that Pitt certainly enjoyed the company of his fellow lawyers. Dining with other lawyers or aspiring politicians at his club, or conversing with them over coffee and a newspaper at either Serle's or Will's Coffee House, must have formed a regular habit of Pitt's life at the stage prior to his entry into Parliament.

Unfortunately, apart from anecdotes such as these, very little is known about Pitt's brief time as a lawyer of Lincoln's Inn. 


1. Rylance, R. (originally published in 1815), edited by Janet Ing Freeman. (2012) The Epicure's Almanack: Eating and Drinking in Regency London (The original 1815 Guidebook). London: British Library, p. 150.

2. 'Recollections of a deceased Welsh judge.' The Law Review and Quarterly Journal of British and Foreign Jurisprudence, Vol. 3. (1846) London: Owen Richards, p. 301.

3. Ibid, pp. 300-301.

4. Stanhope (1867) Life of the Right Honourable William Pitt, Volume 1 (3rd Edition). London: John Murray, p. 42.

5. 'Recollections of a deceased Welsh judge.' The Law Review and Quarterly Journal of British and Foreign Jurisprudence, Vol. 3. (1846) London: Owen Richards, p. 301.

6. Birdwood, V. (ed.) (1994) So dearly Loved, So much admired: Letters to Hester Pitt, Lady Chatham from her relations and friends (1744-1801). London: HMSO, p. 159.

11 February 2014

Pitt's Poetry: 'An Elegy on the Death of Mock Bird'

Above is an undated, three-part poem written by William Pitt in the early 1770s. Pitt would have been between 12 and 14 years of age when he wrote this mournful piece. It can be seen at the Kent History and Library Centre in Maidstone amongst other writings by the five Pitt children (Source: Pitt MSS, U1590/S5/C20). The poem was most likely written either at Hayes Place, near Bromley in Kent, or at Burton Pynsent, the Pitt family home in Somerset(shire). 

It’s entitled ‘An Elegy on the Death of Mock Bird,’ and relates to the death of one of the beloved family birds. There was a ‘bird room’ at the family residence at Burton Pynsent, and the Pitt children used to go birds-nesting in the fields surrounding Hayes and Keston. Note Pitt's beautiful penmanship. The work is in the style of the 18th century poet Alexander Pope.

9 February 2014

Raikes's description of Holwood

Thomas Raikes was the son of a former Governor of the Bank of England during the financial crisis of 1797. A prolific diarist, Raikes wrote many years later of his frequent visits with his father to Mr. Pitt's villa in Kent. In a journal entry of 1837, Raikes recollects his memories of Pitt and Holwood:

"I have heard many anecdotes of that great man [Pitt] from my father, who, when Governor of the Bank at a very awful crisis of public affairs, 1797, had frequent communications with him both of a public and private nature, and he always expressed his deep conviction of Mr. Pitt's highly disinterested conduct. It is possible that many of those who enjoyed his [Pitt's] intimacy may have availed themselves of the information which they derived from him to speculate with advantage in the funds; but so ignorant was the Premier of these circumstances, that he once said to my father, with  great naiveté, "So little do public events influence the financial system as I should have expected, that had I been a speculator, with all my means of information, I should have been a ruined man."At that period I was a boy, and how often have I rode over with my father to Holwood from Freelands, where we lived, and while he was closeted with the Minister I was left to wait in the dining room, which I had full time to explore. 
The furniture was of the most simple description; I remember a chaise longue was drawn near the fireplace,  on which he [Pitt] might be supposed to have thrown himself on his arrival from town when jaded by a long and stormy debate in the House; a few books lay on a hanging shelf within reach, amongst which I recollect a pocket Virgil, marked and dogs-eared in every part of the Aenied. It may be recollected that the quotations in his speeches were generally taken from that source."

Pitt was fond of reading, particularly the classics, when he could find leisure to do so. The most likely time of day when Pitt had the opportunity to read was in the late afternoon before returning to business in the later part of the evening (Ehrman 1969: 15). Pitt would not always confine himself to reading on a chaise longue by the fireplace, either. As of the late nineteenth century, there still stood on the grounds of the Holwood estate an old oak tree that people referred to as 'Pitt's Oak.' It was so-called because it was Pitt's habit to read under that tree (Walford 1985: 113, Walford 1890: 86). A description of the oak in 1892 stated that it stood "within a stone's throw of Holwood [not the Holwood house Pitt lived in, but a re-built property on the estate bearing the same name] House and without the garden wall. The tree stands upon a conical mound, part of the old encampments, and, though hollow, is in a healthy and thriving condition" (The Garden, Vol. 41: 76). 

Needless to say, I highly doubt the old tree remains. It is, however, a wonderful mental image to think of Pitt casually reclining beneath the oak, reading passages from his beloved Virgil on a warm summer day.


Ehrman, J. (1969) The younger Pitt: The years of acclaim. London: Constable, p. 15.

Raikes, T. (1857) A portion of the Journal kept by Thomas Raikes from 1831 to 1847, Vol. 3. London: Longman, Brown, Green, Longmans, & Roberts, p. 119.

The Garden: An illustrated Weekly Journal of Gardening in all its Branches, Vol. 41. (1892), p. 76.

Walford, E. (1890) William Pitt: A biography. London: Chatto & Windus, p. 86.

Walford, E. (1985) Village London: The story of Greater London, Part 3. London: Alderman Press, p. 113.

7 February 2014

George Pretyman-Tomline: The much-maligned biographer

George Pretyman-Tomline, the Bishop of Lincoln, was Pitt's tutor at Pembroke Hall in Cambridge, one-time private secretary, and a life-long friend. He was at Pitt's house at Putney Heath when Pitt died, and by Pitt's personal request he became one of Pitt's executors at his decease along with Pitt's brother Lord Chatham. Tomline had a close connection to the Minister from the time Pitt was fourteen years old, and he was certainly one of the select few who were privy to Pitt's private life. Due to this personal relationship with such an illustrious statesman, it is no wonder Tomline wanted to write about Pitt's life. Indeed, within six weeks of Pitt's death, Tomline announced he would write his biography. [1] Other friends of Pitt who contemplated writing Pitt's biography at different points in time were George Rose, Charles Long, and William Wilberforce. Unfortunately for the world, nothing came of those intentions. Lord Lowther named a Mr. Stonard, a private tutor residing at Chertsey, to write something, and Lady Hester Stanhope apparently approved of the choice, but that too fell through. [2] Tomline was left to get on with the task of writing Pitt's life.

Needless to say, some of Pitt's other friends had their reservations. Lord Mulgrave expressed his “doubt of the Bishop giving to the work the necessary brilliancy and animation of style which should distinguish the biography of so illustrious a character, a striking feature of which was that splendour of language which should at least not be neglected in describing him [Pitt]. It is highly important that there should be something in the manner of telling the facts which may keep alive to a late period the desire and pleasure of perusing them.” [3] 
Lord Camden also did “not seem to entertain any hope of a very spirited history from that quarter.” [4] George Rose desired to write in conjunction with Tomline, but Tomline was determined to write it alone.  

Sadly, many of Pitt's personal papers have been lost or destroyed, unintentionally or otherwise. For instance, the widow of Edward Wilson, Pitt's childhood tutor, was said to have had "papers of a very interesting nature indeed, and of great extent." [5] Henry Dundas, Lord Melville once commented that he had masses of information in his head and all unwritten. The same would have been the case with Wilberforce and Long. Piecing together Pitt's life outside the walls of Parliament would have been tricky even then as it is now. By and large, Pitt lived a life of relative seclusion, admitting very few into his inner circle of friends. Most of those were politicians themselves. The little tantalising glimpses we are afforded offer us minute snapshots of a life dedicated to the service of his country. They also leave us wanting to know more about Pitt the man.

According to Lord Rosebery, Tomline's biography of Pitt fell very short of the mark. Rosebery thought that "there is no drearier book in all biography. The Annual Register, on which it appears to be modelled, is by comparison sparkling and vivid.” [6] Just for the record, that isn't saying very much. To assert that Tomline is Pitt's much-maligned biographer is putting it extremely mildly, and is a gross understatement. Given his intimate and detailed personal knowledge of Pitt himself, much more was expected, but what must be taken into account is that Tomline was writing and publishing at a time when most of Pitt's friends - and opponents - were still living. Pitt died relatively young, at only 46, and some of his friends, like Lord Sidmouth (Henry Addington), lived to a very advanced age. Indeed, many of them outlived Tomlime. Therefore, he was justified in being concerned about the impact of putting into print recollections of events which were at that time still very much within living memory. In short, he held back a great deal. One of those things was his projected fourth and final of his Memoirs of the Life of the Right Honourable William Pitt. The first two volumes were published in 1821, and were reprinted with the addition of the third volume in 1822. Portions of the final, unpublished volume are now held at the British Library under Add Ms 45107-45108, and are arranged in thirty quarto notebooks.

I had a look at the portions under Add Ms 45107, and especially Chapter XXVII as it relates predominantly to Pitt's private life. Below are some of the gleanings I gathered from what Tomline has to say in that chapter; for further follow-up, it was also reprinted in The Monthly Review (Vol. 12: 1903). All quotes are from Tomline:

Pitt's first attack of gout was in 1789 when he was 30. Pitt's friends started noticing a change in Pitt's health as early as 1793, but the physician Sir Walter Farquhar wasn't brought in until 1795. Tomline noticed a gradual decline in Pitt's health, and in September 1802 Pitt was "seized at Walmer Castle with a most violent illness of a bilious nature, and his life was for some hours in imminent danger." Following that attack, Pitt went to Bath at the end of October 1802, and did not resume attendance in Parliament until May 1803. Between October and November 1805, Pitt suffered from his worst attack yet, and he went again to Bath in early December. He had two attacks of gout there. Tomline says "his [Pitt's] person became suddenly emaciated, his strength was greatly reduced, his appetite entirely failed, his countenance was totally changed, his eyes were lifeless, and his voice was hollow." There was a huge change observed between early December 1805 and early January 1806 when Pitt returned to his house at Putney Heath. From that point, the decline was rapid. Tomline was at Putney with Pitt from January 12th until Pitt's death. On the 22 January, the day before Pitt died, Tomline was finally able to acquaint him with his imminent death (although Pitt must have been aware that he was dying), and to pray with him and settle his affairs. 

Tomline remembered that “after the prayers were finished, but while I was still kneeling and unable to restrain my feelings, which he [Pitt] observed, he took hold of my hand, and in a manner and in a tone of voice which are indelibly impressed upon my mind, said to me, “I cannot sufficiently thank you for all your kindness to me throughout life.” I was too much overpowered to make any reply. Luctus leves loquuntur, ingentes stupent." By that quote from Seneca, Tomline meant that slight losses can be expressed, but great griefs are speechless. The imminent loss of Pitt was afflicting for Tomline. On such occasions there are no words strong enough to express such emotions.

Tomline admits that Pitt refused the Sacrament twice, saying he was too tired and wanted to rest a while. Unfortunately, Tomline had no opportunity after the morning of the 22 January to administer the Sacrament, and Pitt's “soul departed in a gentle sigh at a quarter past four on Thursday morning.”

On a lighter, anecdotal note, Tomline alludes to Pitt's extraordinary powers to set aside the pressing cares of the day, and fall into a rapid, profound repose. The occasion Tomline refers to relates to an instance from the beginning of Pitt's first time as Minister:

“The scrutiny after the Westminster election was among the most vexatious and harassing occurrences in the whole course of his administration; and in the morning, after one of the perplexing debates and unfavourable divisions on the subject, in 1785, the outline and result of which I had learnt, I went to Mr. Pitt’s house, anxious to hear the particulars from himself. I accidentally met his valet in the hall, and asked him whether Mr Pitt was up, and he said, “No.” I then asked at what time he had ordered himself to be called, and the answer was that he had not ordered himself to be called at all; upon hearing which, I said, perhaps with a little impatience, “But why did you not ask Mr Pitt at what time he wished to be called?” The answer was, “I did, sir, but the moment my master’s head was upon the pillow he was fast asleep.”

Another great description of Pitt's sweet, mild nature in private society is this one:

“…of the amiableness of his [Pitt’s] private character no one can form a just idea who had not the happiness of enjoying his acquaintance and society. He had a peculiar sweetness and benevolence of disposition, a kindness of heart, an unaffected ease, frankness, and simplicity, and a natural flow of spirits, which made his extraordinary intellectual powers as pleasant and fascinating in the common intercourse of life as they were commanding in the performance of official duties. His superiority was no less manifest when he conversed upon ordinary subjects, or joined in the mirth of a convivial party than when he presided in the Cabinet, or guided the deliberations of the House of Commons. Those who had only been accustomed to his dignified eloquence and grave parliamentary deportment, who had heard the decided and authoritative tone in which he delivered his own sentiments, and the sarcastic and indignant language in which he occasionally replied to his political antagonists, if they accidentally met him in private, could scarcely believe that the same person could possess that unassuming style of conversation, that playfulness, urbanity, and good-humour, which they then witnessed.” 

This is another illustration of Pitt's two-sided personality juxtaposed in a magnificent way:

“A person of high rank, but of opposite politics, met Mr Pitt at a Christmas party for a few days at the country house of a common friend, and afterwards declared that he had never been so much mistaken in his idea of a private character. He pronounced him the pleasantest person in society he had ever known; and this testimony was the stronger, as Mr Pitt had been particularly hostile to the father of the person to whom I allude.” The name of the person was never directly stated, but at a guess, I would venture to say it was Lord North's son.

Pitt was a genius. I don't use that term lightly. He sincerely was a prodigy. His incredibly retentive memory, and off-the-chart intelligence, was combined with the sweetest nature:

“…the brilliancy of his imagination, and his talent for wit and repartee, were accompanied with a delicacy of sentiment and an attention to the feelings of others which prevented his saying anything, even in his most unguarded moments and unrestrained sallies, to give pain or offence to the most sensitive mind. These qualities rendered him as much the object of private affection as we have seen that he was of public confidence…Such was the mildness of his nature that he never expressed himself with harshness in speaking to his intimate friends of his political opponents, or even of those who had deserted his cause upon frivolous grounds, or for dishonourable reasons. He was always desirous of finding an excuse or palliation for the most unwarrantable conduct; and he was ever ready, perhaps too ready, to receive again into his confidence those who had treated him with insincerity or ingratitude.”

Not surprisingly, Tomline states that Pitt had no ear for music, nor much taste in drawings or paintings. Instead, Pitt was interested in architecture, and used to amuse himself with drawing a plan of the best possible house. An anecdote of this is below:

“When he was seventeen I went on the Norfolk tour with him, which was  at that time a favourable excursion, and several days after our return he drew from memory a plan of one of the largest houses we had seen with a view of improving it."

Pitt's interest in sports and the countryside:

"While young he occasionally partook in field sports, but his mind was not of a cast to be occupied by such pursuits. He was fond of the country and enjoyed its scenery. At first, for the sake of health, he rented a furnished house with a small quantity of ground on Putney Heath; but in a place belonging to another he could feel but little interest, and the distance from London was so short that he could not be free from frequent interruption, and therefore in 1785 he bought a small house with 200 acres of land, called Hollwood Hill, about fifteen miles from London.”

In talking of Pitt's fondness for Hollwood, Tomline relates that Pitt afterwards purchased about the same quantity of contiguous land in addition to the previous 200 acres he originally purchased, and he enlarged the house to accompany four or five friends. He turned the road which passed close to the house, and he spent a great deal of his leisure time in planting and laying out the ground, and forming a piece of water nearby.

In reminiscing on the wild and picturesque land surrounding Hollwood, and Pitt's time there, he adds:

“It was delightful to see him at this his Sabine farm. After toiling in his room over revenue details or foreign despatches on which the fate of nations depended, he would walk out, and taking his spud in his hand grub up a thistle or a weed, or give directions about the removal of a shrub, or the turning of a walk, with as much earnestness and interest as if he had nothing else to occupy his thoughts. Instead of the First Minister of a great nation, he seemed to be a country gentleman with no other employment but to attend to the trifling disposition of a few acres of pleasure ground - he apparently felt as much anxiety to omit no means of improving his villa, as to promote the welfare of his country. Mr Pitt’s deep and accurate knowledge of the Greek and Latin languages has been noticed in speaking of the early part of his life; and after he became Minister a Homer or a Horace was always to be found upon his table in the midst of finance and political papers, and some classical book was his constant companion, if the weather compelled him to go in his carriage from London to Hollwood, or whenever he travelled.”

After Pitt's death, Tomline purchased his books for £1,900, and they formed a part of Tomline's library at Riby Grove, in Lincolnshire.

On the subject of women, Tomline writes that although Mr Pitt was never married, two overtures were mentioned to him: one was the French finance Minister Necker's daughter, and the other was the Duchess of Gordon's daughter Charlotte. Tomline did not believe Pitt had any inclination to marry either of those two women.

Tomline does, however, give an instance where Pitt's heart was involved:

“At a later period of life he showed a very marked attention to the daughter of a political friend [Auckland], at whose house he frequently visited, and he for some time hesitated whether he should make a proposal of marriage. At last he determined in the negative; but he was aware that though no declaration had been made, he had so far raised expectations that an explanation was due to the family…”

Tomline apparently wished that Pitt would have married:

“I have always greatly lamented that Mr Pitt did not marry early in life. No man could be more suited to the connubial [marital] state than he was; and I am confident that if he had shown his usual judgement in the selection of a wife, she would have added most essentially to his comfort and happiness. England might then have had to boast of a third William Pitt.” 

Where's that time machine?!

Tomline on Pitt's financial embarrassments:

“Mr Pitt, from his first residence in college, showed a great indifference to his own pecuniary concerns; and when he came into office, his time was so completely devoted to his public duties that he found no leisure to attend to his private affairs.” He believed Pitt inherited £10,000 from his father, and the Duke of Rutland left him £3,000 as a legacy in 1787. 

Tomline thought the debts were caused by impositions from tradesman and servants, which Pitt subjected himself to by inattention. Tomline used to look over the books kept by the house-steward. “I once told him [Pitt] that I thought some good might be effected by his giving his principal servant more power over the other servants, to which he answered, “That I never will do, for I should make him a tyrant, and the rest of the family slaves.”

On Pitt’s debts in 1801: "Some creditors instituted legal proceedings against him, and he was in danger of being left without furniture, books, clothes, carriage, or horses. It occurred to him that he had some pictures set with diamonds, and other things of the same sort, presents from foreign courts, freedom of cities and towns which had been sent to him." All these were sold, and Pitt also sold the reversionary interest in the pension, and the parliamentary grant of £4,000 a year. There was also a private subscription from some of Pitt's closest friends and political associates, which Pitt had the intention to pay back with interest. Unfortunately, Tomline states that this could never be done as Pitt would not have had enough money to live on if he did so.

It wasn't enough to discharge his mounting debts. Tomline writes:

"He [Pitt] next resolved, with that manly cheerfulness which never deserted him, to sell his favourite Hollwood."Although this relieved him of the most pressing difficulties,  considerable debts remained - principally to his bankers Messrs. Coutts and Co.

Lastly, another quote merging Pitt's dual personality with his ardent love of his country:

“Where duty or the service of his country was concerned, his easiness of temper was changed into inflexible firmness.” He was a great man.


1. No. 35, XII. 2 - August 1903 - ‘Tomline’s Estimate of Pitt’ by Earl Rosebery, p. 1.

2. Ibid, p. 1.

3. Ibid, pp. 1-2.

4. Ibid, p. 2.

5. Ibid, p. 3.

6. Ibid, p. 3.

Also see:

BL Add Ms 45107

The Monthly Review, Vol. 12 (July - September 1903)