30 June 2014

Eliza Pretyman to her sister: January 1806

On January 15, 1806, Eliza Pretyman wrote to her sister about William Pitt's weakened state, insisting that “…Bark [the overuse of strong opiates] and Quiet are strongly enforced…” [1] Mrs. Pretyman also mentioned that her husband, Bishop Tomline, had gone to Pitt's house at Putney to be with him. To emphasise Pitt's gentle, sympathetic nature, she also related how Pitt lamented taking the Bishop away from his family. "Mr. Pitt is greatly reduced, but in good spirits. He accepted the Bishop’s offer to continue with him “most gladly for himself,” but like himself, “regretted taking him from his family,” naming me [Elizabeth] in the kindest manner possible.” [2] 

Sadly, Pitt died eight days later. The day after his death, Elizabeth Pretyman wrote again to her sister to convey the melancholy news:

“…You know Mr. Pitt is withdrawn from the World - from us - and you will conceive in part - you cannot wholly, what we feel. But God be thanked for the happiness we have enjoyed in the “most close and uninterrupted friendship” (to use his own invaluable words in his Letter to the King when urging the Appointment to [the Archbishopric of] Canterbury), with such an unequalled character from his Childhood to his Death, and for the blessings we still possess through his means! They are dearer from that thought. The Bishop [who was Pitt's former tutor as well as a personal friend] is all resignation and composure. I need not tell you he feels inexpressibly comforted in having stayed with him to the last - in having prayed with him, and witnessed the calm, humble, and religious frame of his mind, and trust in the mercy of God for happiness - which I humbly trust he has begun to enjoyJudge of my beloved Husband’s feelings when His dying friend took hold of his hand, and said, “I know not how to thank you sufficiently for all your kindness to me throughout life….” [3]

Eliza and her husband owed much to Pitt's kindness and patronage over the years, not least of which to his patronage and religious preferment. George Pretyman had been appointed the Dean of St. Paul's Cathedral, and later he became the Bishop of Lincoln. He became known as George Pretyman Tomline, or Bishop Tomline, and this was almost entirely due to Pitt's benefaction and elevation. After Pitt's death, Tomline would become the Bishop of Winchester. The passing reference Eliza makes to Pitt's urging [King George III] to appoint Tomline to the position of the Archbishop of Canterbury in 1801 was another strenuous, although ultimately unsuccessful, effort on Pitt's part to elevate his friend. The Pretymans could truly say that they owed much to Pitt's friendship. 

Nevertheless, Elizabeth arguably flaunted her intimacy with the late Premier by asserting that “…no one who did not intimately  know Mr. Pitt can form any idea of the affection his heart, disposition, and manners united with his talents for conversation (not to mention any other), could not fail to excite in the breast of his chosen friends. I am happy that I saw him so lately - and in a way so gratifying to my feelings - No “picture” can equal the likeness indelibly engraved on my heart…” [4] Pitt's death was an inexpressible loss to his friends, but one does wonder just how close the Pretymans were to Pitt.


1. The Kent History & Library Centre, Maidstone. Elizabeth Pretyman to her sister, January 15, 1806. Pitt MSS: U1590/S5/C55.

2. Ibid.

3.The Kent History & Library Centre, Maidstone. Elizabeth Pretyman to her sister, January 24, 1806. Pitt MSS: U1590/S5/C55.

4. Ibid.

29 June 2014

Pitt's portrait by Henry Edridge

Figure 1: An 1801 preparatory sketch of The Right Honourable William Pitt by Henry Edridge

On July 2, 1801, Lord Lowther wrote to Pitt on behalf of the artist Henry Edridge in order to request Pitt to sit for a portrait. Mr. Edridge especially wished that Pitt would come to his house to sit for the sketch. Meanwhile, Lowther had his doubts, admitting that he was “afraid you will reluctantly consent to this Proposal." [1] Pitt was not comfortable with those with whom he wasn't acquainted, and the thought of sitting to Edridge at the artist's house must not have been the most attractive proposition. Pitt had resigned as Premier five months earlier after seventeen years at the helm of state, and he had busily been avoiding most social engagements ever since that time. Furthermore, sitting for portraits had never been at the top of his list. Lord Lowther, however, was insistent, and he pressed the matter by saying that "Mr. Edridge speaks so highly of your Patience. He assures me he shall not put it to a severe tryal.” [2] Perhaps Lowther and Edridge were hoping to win Pitt over by emphasising his patience. Lowther finished the missive by asking Pitt to name a time that would be convenient for him.

In the end, Pitt did sit for Mr. Edridge in 1801, and the finished portrait was later engraved in 1804 by the artist Anthony Cardon. Lord Stanhope mentions in the forth volume of his biography of Pitt that "it is a small full-length, which represents Mr. Pitt in his every day attire and seated at his usual writing table. I have heard several persons who were intimate with Mr. Pitt declare themselves much struck at the faithful resemblance of this print." [3] 

Figure 2: William Pitt, an oil painting after the original by Henry Edridge (1801)
Indeed, later in 1801 an oil painting was also made after the original by Henry Edridge. Note the similarities as well as the differences between the preparatory sketch and the oil painting that was created later. The attribution was 'after,' not 'by,' Edridge, so the name of the artist is not specified. On December 26, 1804, a further engraving of Pitt by the artist Anthony Cardon, after the original drawing by Edridge, was also published.

Figure 3: The Right Honourable William Pitt from an engraving by Anthony Cardon (1804)
It's quite interesting to compare these three different versions of the same portrait. As Pitt lived long before the advent of photography, the modern viewer only has sketches, engravings, prints, political caricatures, and a small handful of portraits with which to get a general idea of his physical features. We simply do not know exactly what Pitt looked like, nor will we ever be able to hear his ringing voice. The closest one can get is through reading contemporary accounts of Pitt's voice from those who met him.

In Joseph Farington's diary of September 8, 1804, he makes a mention of Henry Edridge commenting upon Pitt's voice. Edridge had by then sketched Pitt's likeness, and he had apparently also seen him at Cashioberry, Lord Essex's residence, when Pitt was also present. Edridge "spoke of the deep, bell-toned, voice of Mr. Pitt, which, with his emphasis, made common things said by him seem to have a great effect." [4] Accounts such as the one above is simply the closest we can now get, and it leaves quite a lot to the imagination.


1. Lord Lowther to William Pitt, July 2, 1801. William Dacre Adams Papers. British Library. Add MS 89036/1/8, f. 39.

2. Ibid.

3.  Earl Philip Henry Stanhope (1862) Life of the Right Honourable William Pitt, Volume 4. London: John Murray, p. 399.

4. Greig, J. (ed.) (1923) The Farington Diary, Vol. 2. London: Hutchinson & Co., p. 283. 

Image Credits:

Figure 1: An 1801 preparatory sketch of The Right Honourable William Pitt by Henry Edridge. Image Source

Figure 2: An 1801 oil painting of William Pitt after the original sketch by Henry Edridge. Image Source

Figure 3: The Right Honourable William Pitt, drawn by H. Edridge in 1801, and engraved in 1804 by Anthony Cardon. Image Source

Lady Hester Stanhope on board the H.M.S. Salsette

Below is a link to another guest post I wrote on the wonderful Madame Gilflurt's site. The focus of the post is on Lady Hester Stanhope as witnessed by an anonymous British naval officer on board the frigate H.M.S. Salsette:


25 June 2014

Mr. Pitt's State Gown

Figure 1: Pitt's State Gown, now at Hughenden Manor, Buckinghamshire

Lady Hester Stanhope left several boxes and trunks of her affects in the charge of her brother Colonel James Hamilton Stanhope when she left England in 1810.  One such list survives, and was made out by either Miss Elizabeth Williams, a connection of William Pitt as well as Lady Hester, or else by Mr. Rice (also a servant in Pitt or Lady Hester's employ). In particular, one such item calls for special attention. There was a "Leather Trunk marked E.W. [Elizabeth Williams]" [1] and its sole contents included "Mr. Pitt’s State Gown of Black Silk with Gold lace - the lace tarnished, the silk in good condition.” [2] As Elizabeth Williams remained with Lady Hester Stanhope following the death of Pitt, and left England with her Ladyship, it is likely that Elizabeth also left some of her possessions with James Stanhope. Perhaps her and Lady Hester were unaware at that time that neither of them would return to England. 

What I found perplexing is that Mr. Pitt's precious state robe was to be found amongst Elizabeth Williams's possessions, and not Lady Hester Stanhope's affects (Lady Hester was Pitt's beloved niece). What is known is that Pitt paid for Elizabeth and her younger sister Louisa Jane Williams's education, at least from 1797 until 1801, and she was in Pitt's household from 1797 until his death in January 1806. To find out more about Miss Elizabeth Williams, please read my previous posts about her mysterious connection to Pitt here and here, where I have questioned both her identity as well as her parentage.

Figure 2: Detail of Pitt's State Gown
Returning to the contents of Elizabeth Williams's leather trunk - Pitt's State Gown - it can be deduced that the gown remained in England with Colonel James Stanhope, and is the same gown that was later used by British politician Benjamin Disraeli whilst he was Chancellor of the Exchequer between 1852, 1858-9, and 1866-68 [3]. The "black silk damask robe" is now housed in the Bartolozzi Room at Hughenden Manor in Buckinghamshire, which was formerly the residence of prime minister Disraeli between 1848 and 1881, and is now the property of The National Trust [4]. By repute, although it has not been definitively determined, it was originally made for William Pitt in the eighteenth century [5]. 

Although it has not been fully confirmed that this particular state gown was once worn by William Pitt, it certainly matches the description given in the inventory. Both are "Black Silk with Gold lace," [6] and although faded by wear and the passage of time, it is probable that this is the same robe. The tarnished lace may be long gone, but as the "silk [was] in good condition," [7] it may be presumed to have survived the test of time.

It can be viewed today by any curious member of the public who wishes to visit The National Trust property at Hughenden Manor. 


1. Dr. Charles Lewis Meryon's papers. The Wellcome Library, MS 5689, f. 112. 

2. Ibid.


4. Ibid.

5. Ibid.

6. Dr. Charles Lewis Meryon's papers. The Wellcome Library, MS 5689, f. 112. 

7. Ibid.

Image Credits:

Figure 1: William Pitt the Younger (later Disraeli)'s black silk damask robe. 

Figure 2: Detail of Pitt's State Gown. 

Both images are from this source: http://www.nationaltrustimages.org.uk/image/153645.

24 June 2014

Lady Hester's Melancholy

One day in December 1815, Lady Hester Stanhope's physician Dr. Charles Meryon recorded her Ladyship's melancholy over the days of her youth:

“I reading the Absentee (one of Mrs Edgeworth’s fashionable tales) to Lady H[ester]. In it (somewhere about the XVIth chapter) mention is made of home, of the paternal roof, etc. She seemed to recollect past times, and the tears came frequently into her eyes. It was indeed a scene for reflection, to see on a wooden bedstead (something like those in an English barrack) without curtains, the grand daughter of the great Chatham lying sickly and in tears, with no relation, no old friend near her - with nobody but myself, who had first known her long after Mr. Pitt’s death, and one single English maid [Miss Elizabeth Williams, Lady Hester's close female friend] - to think that her high spirit, incapable of bearing the slights of persons she had once looked down upon, had driven her, from disgust, to foreign countries. When I looked at her, and considered what she had been, I was deeply touched, and the mournful sight she presented will not easily be effaced from my recollection.”


Dr. Charles Meryon's papers. The Wellcome Library, MS 5689, f. 168.

16 June 2014

George Scharf's sketch of John Pitt, the 2nd Lord Chatham's portrait at Chevening

George Scharf's sketch of John Pitt, the 2nd Earl of Chatham, by Romney

The nineteenth century artist George Scharf spent quite a lot of time at Lord Stanhope's Chevening Estate near Sevenoaks in Kent. The Stanhope's were closely associated both by blood and through marriage with the Pitt family, and in the early 1860s, Philip Henry Stanhope wrote a multi-volume biography of William Pitt the Younger. As a result of these connections, Stanhope had quite a treasure trove of Pitt-related ephemera and portraits at his country residence. 

Scharf kept sketchbooks of his work, and one in particular is interesting as it features drawings he made both at Cambridge (and Pembroke College, Pitt's alma mater) as well as at the Chevening Estate. 

One such observation Scharf noted in his sketchbook on 3rd August 1884 was of "a finely painted picture by Romney [a well-known 18th century portrait artist], canvas 2ft 10 3/4 inches by 2 ft. 3 1/2 (sight) [meaning Scharf drew it by sight] presented to Earl Stanhope as Wm. Pitt but more probably his elder brother the 2nd Earl Chatham. Gilt tablet added to the frame December 1885. 'John 2nd Earl of Chatham 1756-1835. Romney.'" [1] 

Scharf's notes on the provenance of the Romney portrait at Chevening

Presumably, someone believed the portrait of the 2nd Earl of Chatham was William Pitt the Younger, and mistakenly thought the 5th Earl Stanhope would like to have at as part of his collection at Chevening. There is certainly a familial resemblance between the two brothers, however their physical differences are marked enough to make it quite clear that this particular Romney portrait is definitely John Pitt and not his younger brother.


1. Heinz Archive & Library. Scharf Sketchbook, 109, (1884-5): NPG 7/3/4/2/124, ff. 26-27.

15 June 2014

Playing at Marbles: Pitt's childhood disagreements with Hoare's sons

One day in April 1809, over three  years after the death of William Pitt, the prolific diarist Joseph Farington relayed a curious story Hoare told him about Pitt's precocious childhood:

"He [Hoare] told me that Lord Chatham [William's father], when at Bath, had intercourse [friendly conversation] with His Father, & was so much pleased with the regularity He saw in His family as to express His approbation of it, and desired Mr. Hoare to send His Sons to play with His (Lord Chatham's) Sons, which they did frequently at His Lordship's House in the Circus. The late Minister, William Pitt, was at that time Seven or Eight years old. He [Pitt] often quarrelled with the other Boys; and, while at play, was, on that account, put into an adjoining room, from whence He issued while they were playing at marbles, & with a large taw marble, He drove through their game. His Father, at that early age, was accustomed to take Him into a room and there debate with Him - and His young mind was then so filled with ideas of Oratory that one day while these Boys were walking upon Combe [sic] down near Bath with Mr. Wilson, tutor to Ld. Chatham's sons & afterwards Canon of Windsor, Wm. Pitt said, "He was glad He should not be a Lord." On being asked by Mr. Wilson why He said so, He replied, "Because He could not then be in the House of Commons & make Speeches like His Father." [1]

This anecdote dates from 1766, when William Pitt the Elder was elevated to the Earldom of Chatham. Young William was seven years old, and highly sagacious, if not impressionable. Indeed, on August 2, 1766, Mr. Wilson wrote to Lady Chatham to the same effect, conveying William's relief at not being the eldest son as "he could serve his country in the House of Commons like his Papa." [2]

I wonder what instigated the arguments with Hoare's sons? Boys will be boys.


1. Greig, J. (ed.) (1923) The Farington Diary, Vol. 5. New York: Doran, p. 141. 

2. Taylor, W.S., and Pringle, J.H. (eds.) (1838) Correspondence of William Pitt, Earl of Chatham, Vol. 3. London: John Murray, p. 27.

13 June 2014

"Such a benevolent and tender friend": William Pitt the Elder & RalphAllen

Figure 1: Ralph Allen (1694-1764) by William Hoare, c. 1742
The primary subject matter of this blog is the private life of William Pitt the younger, however it is important to explore his antecedents - particularly his illustrious father's political career - in order to understand the context of Pitt's diplomatic upbringing. One of the main ways this can be done is by investigating the friendships and influential people who shaped the life of William Pitt the Elder before he became the Earl of Chatham.

Ralph Allen's patronage of Pitt the Elder calls for a special mention. Ralph Allen (1694-1763) was a great 18th century philanthropist, reformer of the British postal system, Postmaster, and one-time Mayor of Bath. Indeed, Allen can rightly be said to have built the Georgian city of Bath, as he was heavily involved in the quarrying of the famous Portland stone (Portland, named after the coastal town near Weymouth where the stone originates) used in the building of that city and others throughout eighteenth-century England. Although Allen was only Mayor of Bath in 1742, his widespread political influence in the Town Council was far-reaching [1]. Allen was an active force behind the Mayor and Corporation of Bath during the 1750s and early 1760s. Indeed, it was largely due to Pitt's friendship with Allen that Pitt, at the invitation of the Corporation, resigned his seat at Okehampton in order to become MP (Member of Parliament) for Bath in 1757 [2]. Pitt was even unanimously re-elected for the same seat in the General Election of 1761; this was largely due to Allen's exercise of power and patronage. The "Great Commoner," as Pitt was known before his elevation to the Peerage in 1766, was very thankful to his friend  - and benefactor - Ralph Allen. 

Figure 2: Plaque outside Ralph Allen's summer residence in Weymouth, Dorset (my photo)
Allen had a summer residence built for him at Weymouth around the year 1750. It is located at Number 2 Trinity Street, and is positioned in a prime location on Weymouth harbour. I visited Weymouth recently, and had an opportunity of seeing and photographing Allen's former retreat. 

Figure 3: Ralph Allen's summer residence (1750-1763) at Weymouth (my photo)
The friendship between Allen and Pitt remained unbroken during these years, despite their disagreements over the Peace of Paris in 1763. It is a testament to their individual sense of honour and dignity that such a major political rupture did not shatter their personal relations. When Allen died at Prior Park on June 29, 1764, he confirmed a bequest to Pitt in the amount of £1,000 (approximately £75,000 in modern currency). Allen described this in his will as "a last token of esteem and gratitude" to "the best of friends and the most upright and capable of Ministers." [3] 

In return, Pitt wrote an affectionate letter of condolence to Allen's widow on July 4, 1764: "I will only say that, in Mr. Allen, mankind has lost such a benevolent and tender friend as, I fear, not all the example of his virtues will have power to raise up to the world again. Admiring his life and regretting the shortness of it, I shall ever respectfully cherish his memory, and rank the continuation of the favourable opinion and friendship of a truly good man amongst the happiest advantages and the first honours which fortune may have bestowed upon my life." [4]

Two years later, Pitt became the first Earl of Chatham. There is no doubt that Allen's patronage and kindness - although he did not live to see the result - contributed to Pitt's later elevation.


1. Barbeau, A. (1904) Life & Letters at Bath in the Eighteenth Century. Stroud: The History Press, p. 227.

2. Barbeau, A. (1904) Life & Letters at Bath in the Eighteenth Century. Stroud: The History Press, p. 226.

3. Ibid.

4. Correspondence of William Pitt, Earl of Chatham, Volume 2. (1838) London: John Murray, pp. 289-290.

Image Credits:

Figure 1: Ralph Allen by William Hoare, c. 1742. Image Source. It can be seen at The Royal National Mineral Water Hospital for Rheumatic Diseases in Bath, Somerset. 

Figure 2: A plaque on the frontage of Ralph Allen's summer residence (from 1750-1763) at Weymouth, Dorset (my photo).

Figure 3: Ralph Allen's summer residence at Weymouth (my photo).

7 June 2014

The 'Bond-street lounger'

William Wellesley-Pole by Sir Thomas Lawrence
On 10th June 1801, four months after Pitt's resignation as First Lord of the Treasury, the London opposition newspaper The Morning Post was having a field day remarking on Pitt's alleged idleness after over 17 years at the helm of state affairs. The paper described Pitt as 'a Bond-street lounger,' [1] as he had been spotted there on several occasions - mostly on his own. Indeed, William Wellesley-Pole wrote to his brother Richard, the 1st Marquess Wellesley (both were brothers of Arthur Wellesley, the future Duke of Wellington), on 3rd July 1801 in a similar vein:

"It would surprise you to see Pitt lounging through the streets in a morning, generally by himself, and seeming not to have anything to do. His friends cry him up more than ever, and say he never was in better spirits. He is dreadfully distressed in his circumstances and Holwood is to be sold. It is surprising how little sensation his going out has made in the country, nobody speaks of him, no address, no subscriptions, no stir of any kind anywhere.” [2]

Of course, Pitt was indeed in a dire financial predicament, and his estate at Holwood would soon have to be sold to cover the most pressing - although not even close to all - of his debts to spare him from complete embarrassment.

What exactly Pitt was doing on the multiple times he was spotted as the "lounger" [3] on Bond Street is unknown, although Pitt was then renting a house nearby on Park Place


1. The Morning Post, 10th June 1801.

2. Butler, I. (1973) The Eldest Brother: The Marquess Wellesley, The Duke of Wellington's Eldest Brother. London: Hodder and Stoughton, pp. 262-3.

3. Ehrman, J. (1996) The Younger Pitt: The Consuming Struggle. London: Constable, p. 540.

Image Credit:

William Wellesley-Pole by Sir Thomas Lawrence. Image Source

2 June 2014

Declining the Bishop's invite to Buckden Palace

In late June 1801, the Bishop of Lincoln wrote to Mr. Pitt asking him to visit Buckden Palace. Pitt's niece Miss Eliot, the only daughter of Pitt's late sister Lady Harriot Eliot, was at Buckden, and the Bishop hoped that Miss Eliot's presence there would serve as an inducement. It looks like Pitt wasn’t keen on coming to Buckden - or to the Commencement ceremony at Cambridge. Pitt had resigned as First Lord of the Treasury in the previous February. Clearly, Pitt's unpromising response to the Bishop's invitation did not go down well, as Lincoln wrote on July 4th: 

“We have been all greatly mortified & surprised at not hearing from you, & I really am most seriously concerned at the little hope you express in the Letter I have this instant received from you of being able to attend the Commencement. Indeed, my Dear Sir, you are not aware of the importance of your presence at Cambridge at this moment. I hear from all quarters that an opposition to you is intended, & you will recollect that it is more than five years [?] since you were there. If possible, pray set out to-morrow or very early on Monday morning We shall go to Cambridge to-night or to-morrow morning, & the Commencement is over. Lord & Lady Bathurst are to dine with us on Tuesday at five o’clock…Miss Eliot takes this Letter to Town - we have been more delighted with her than ever. Mrs. Pretyman & myself have been dreadfully disappointed that you did not meet Miss Eliot at Buckden & I really believe that she [Miss Eliot] too has felt very much. Adieu my Dearest Sir. Mrs. Pretyman desires her best Compts. - she is always sensible of your kindness.” [1]

Of course, the Bishop of Lincoln wasn't being pushy or passive aggressive whatsoever. ;)

Pitt did manage a visit to Buckden Palace in December 1801, and more information on that visit can be read here


1. George Lincoln at Buckden Palace to William Pitt, July 4, 1801. British Library Add Ms 89036/1/8, f. 40.