11 May 2014

William Pitt the Elder's poem to Harriot, wife of Richard Eliot

In about the year 1730, the then 22 year old William Pitt (Pitt's father) hastily wrote a poem dedicated to Harriot, the wife of Richard Eliot of Port Eliot, Cornwall:

"To view that airy Mien, that lively face
Where Youth and Spirit shine with easy Grace
We frame some sportive Nymph of Phoebe’s train
Some sprightly Virgin of the sacred Plain.
But Lo! a happy progeny proclaim
Love’s golden Shafts, and Hymen’s genial flame.
So some fair Orange spreads delight around
Her towering head with vernal blossoms crown’d
While fruits ambrosial deck the lovely Tree
The heavenly pledge of blest Maturity.
This pleasing contrast with delight we sing
The fruits of Autumn, & the flowers of Spring.

Lines written by Wm. Pitt (afterwards Earl of Chatham) upon Harriot wife of Richard Eliot of Port Eliot aged 18 with three children - composed in company in the space of a few minutes about the year 1730."

It's highly intriguing that William Pitt (later styled as Lord Chatham) should have had a connection to the Eliot family at least from 1730. His son William Pitt the younger would later become intimate friends with Edward James Eliot, a descendant of Richard and Harriot. It has always been assumed that Pitt met Eliot at Pembroke Hall - their alma mater - but from this it is probable that the respective families knew one another at an earlier date.


William Pitt (the Elder)’s poem to Harriot, wife of Richard Eliot. Leicestershire, Leicester & Rutland Record Office: Halford MSS: DG24/971/9.


  1. This immediately made me think that Edward Eliot must therefore have been related in some way to the Pitts. But investigating further, I suspect Leics Record Office have mixed up two different Harriots! Richard Eliot, according to Wikipedia, was married to Harriot Craggs (hence why Edward's father adopted the surname Craggs-Eliot). Pitt did have a sister Harriot, but she was married to Sir William Corbet, and had no children (Tresham Lever). Still, the poem does suggest the two families (Pitt and Eliot) possibly had connections well before William and Edward were at Cambridge together. I wonder if they even knew each other as children?

    1. Thank you for clarifying this information, Therese! I will edit the post accordingly. :)

    2. No prob! I just got curious. :) There's more info about Harriot Craggs on that pdf leaflet about Joshua Reynolds at Port Eliot (http://www.plymouth.gov.uk/reynolds_at_port_eliot.pdf). Apparently she was only 13 when she married Richard, so having three children at 18 sounds about right! Also, Port Eliot isn't that far from Boconnoc, so I suppose the two families would have been more or less neighbours.