7 July 2014

'Dear Pitt': Edward Eliot to Pitt (1779)

Figure 1: A 1779 letter from Edward Eliot to William Pitt
There are surprisingly few letters still in existence in Edward James Eliot's handwriting. Perhaps the single largest collection of Eliot's letters are located in the Eliot Papers at Cornwall Record Office, UK. Other small collections of Eliot's letters are at Ipswich Record Office in Suffolk, and The Kent History & Library Centre (Pitt MSS) in Kent.

Eliot was arguably William Pitt's closest friend, and as he later married Pitt's sister Lady Harriot, he was also his brother in-law. They met at Pembroke Hall in Cambridge, where they both attended as Fellow Commoners. In late 1779, in the playful, heady days of their youth (Edward was only a year older than William), Eliot wrote an affectionate epistle to Pitt:

Figure 2: Edward James Eliot's handwriting and signature

"Dear Pitt,

I am far from accusing the Paragraphs you allude to of any other effect beside that of filling up half a side in Turners letter which was indeed all I expected of them. I had almost said, all I wrote them for. I saw your Brother [John, the 2nd Earl of Chatham] at Dock & a good many of his Corps which it seems is a fine one. He talked of coming to Port Eliot at that time but I think for his sake it is as well he has not. I have not been much here myself of late & am now upon the Eve of quitting [leaving] it: so much so that I have hopes of being in Town almost as soon as thus letter which therefore you can't expect to be a very long one. I will endeavour to persuade myself of the Truth of what you say about your canvass much as I possibly can & perhaps with a facile credences &c. may succeed but you Candidates all talk in such a stile that your best friends hardly know what to make of you. Indeed how should they when you so often impose upon yourselves. By the bye, this rumor of Disolution is not methinks much in your favor; but I suppose you don't believe it - for to say the truth I either. You did not use me handsomely in the long letter which you seem'd so proud of in saying nothing about My Friend James. Is he still in the Greyhound or has he shifted. I doubt I mayn't say promoted to another ship. Lives Robinson? out of Cambridge & Meeke [a friend] is he still wandering for I think when we parted he appeared to be irrecoverably lost & after the most diligent inquiries too, if you did yourself no more than Justice in the account. I flatter myself I shall reach Town wednesday or Thursday should be glad if you would contrive some way of letting me know when you are to be met with. I direct this to Nerots with [oe] still keep up some kind of communication. 
I am Dear Pitt, most affectionately Yours, Ed. J. Eliot. 

Port Eliot Nov. 20 [17]79.

I perfectly allow of the coincidence of Pem[broke] Hall & Nerot Hotel & may possibly make some use of it in the course of the winter, which you see you will have answer for it." [1]


1. Edward James Eliot to William Pitt, November 20, 1779. Ipswich Record Office, Pretyman MSS: HA119: T99/85/5.


Figure 1: A 1779 letter from Edward Eliot to William Pitt (Pretyman MSS: HA119: T99/85/50.

Figure 2: Edward Eliot's handwriting and signature on the same letter as referenced above.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting. I wonder where John was? Why was he at a dock?