15 August 2014

Why I research William Pitt the Younger's private life

I have often been asked why I have chosen to research and write about William Pitt's private life. He was indeed a politician, and he lived and breathed politics. His father was a politician, his maternal uncles were politicians, and it can be truly said that he was born into it. So why do I single out Pitt's private life as my primary focus?

My main purpose is to fill in a huge gap in the historical record by contributing to an historiographical view of Pitt, his values, personality, and private character.

In previous biographies, Pitt himself is missing: his personality, and his relationships with those around him are not explored in depth. The complexity of such an undertaking is further complicated by Pitt's own writing. He was noticeably cautious with his language in correspondence, purposefully using vague and ambiguous phraseology, even with his own family and friends: e.g. “I incline very much to the opinion which you state,” and “I have mentioned to him in general terms the prospect of a permanent Provision.”  From about the time he entered public office, Pitt had a life-long preoccupation with privacy and secrecy in matters of state - but also in his private life. Even the tone of Pitt’s writing varied dramatically depending on the circumstance, recipient, and occasion. Pitt was, above all, an adaptable politician, and not as one-dimensional or socially reclusive as he has been portrayed. Instead, Pitt was a warm, friendly, modest, humble, and personable man - not simply the aloof, brilliant orator who dominated the House of Commons for almost two decades. Interestingly, Pitt’s rather apologetic character has not been adequately examined in previous research. He often went out of his way to apologise with a personal letter. 

My ultimate aim is to construct a more rounded and persuasive image of William Pitt the Man. He was undeniably dedicated to political life, but the nature of this dedication was a selfless desire to serve his country. In the midst of a very public life, there was also a brilliant, shy man who wanted nothing more than to relax, read, and enjoy a rare and carefree evening with his friends.

Pitt was "a noon day eclipse" in that he died in the prime of his life. He was only 46 years old at the time of his death. What more could he have achieved? His life story was awe-inspiring, mind-boggling, complex, and tragic. He wasn't a man who can be analysed with any degree of ease. He baffles the researcher over two centuries after his death. But for those who persevere, and weed through what is left of his private papers - for many were destroyed by one of his executors - the attractive man that Pitt was never fails to incite a fierce loyalty, allegiance, and passion.


  1. After reading Hague's biography I found your blog and I'm deeply impressed (chapeau!) by your well-grounded and througly researched details about the private aspects of Pitt's life. To understand the man we must get in contact with the human. The daily routines and habits of people tell a lot about their view of life, and vice versa. The most interesting aspects are the contradictions, in Pitt's case i.e. his cautious economical strategies for the wellfare of the state and the blindness towards his own private financial disasters.

    1. Hello Dalaruan!

      Thank you for getting in touch! I'm glad you enjoy the blog! Feel free to email me privately via the email link on my main page. :)