10 March 2014

Returning Pitt's overdue library books to Mr. Upham

Fig. 1 Upham's library bookbinder ticket: 'Bound at Upham's, Library Bath.'

After William Pitt's death in January 1806, it was brought to the attention of his older brother John Pitt, the 2nd Earl of Chatham and one of Pitt's executors, that William had some overdue library books. It appears that whilst William was in Bath between December 1805 and early January 1806, he took out some books to pass the time from John Upham's circulating library on the Lower Walks, now Terrace Walk [1]. Pitt was formerly a subscriber, but now Upham wanted his books back. 

Fig. 2: The Lower Rooms and The Walks, Bath (late 18th century) by R.W.M. Wright

In March 1806, the 2nd Earl Chatham wrote to Pitt's last private secretary William Dacres Adams enclosing a letter from Mr. Upham of Bath, stating that Upham “desires some Books to be returned to him; I never heard any thing of the subject before, but conclude the Books will have been brought from Putney to Downing Street.” [2] In the chaos and disarray following the movement of Pitt's effects after his death, the books must have been transported to Downing Street with everything else. Naturally, Chatham assumed Dacres Adams might be in a better position to deal with Upham's request, and enclosed Mr. Upham's letter to Lord Chatham which was dated March 10th, 1806:

“It relates to a few books taken by the late Mr [William] Pitt for his amusement on the road, when he left Bath. Having been honor’d with his name as a Subscriber to my Library, while here. - and they will be known by having labels on each volume. The books are:

Secret History of the Court of Petersburgh, 2 vols.

Schillers History of the Thirty Years War 2 vols.” [3]

I take it the situation was dealt with, and Mr. Upham had his books returned to him. 


1. Bloom, E.A. & Bloom, L.D. (eds.) The Piozzi Letters: Correspondence of Hester Lynch Piozzi (formerly Mrs. Thrale), Volume 5 (1811-1816). (1999) London: Associated University Press, p. 298.

2. BL Add Ms 89036/1/17, f. 34.

3. BL Add Ms 89036/1/17, f. 34 (i).

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