14 November 2014

Pitt's "soft susceptibility" to Miss Eden

At the end of 1796, and the very beginning of 1797, the intended marriage of William Pitt and Lord Auckland's eldest daughter the Honourable Eleanor Eden was widely spoken of and reported in various newspapers. Although the union never took place due to Pitt breaking it off, I have argued with reference to Pitt's draft letters to Lord Aucklanddirect observations by contemporaries, and Pitt's letter to Henry Addington about the affair that he was in love with Miss Eden. Indeed, unlike virtually all previous historiographers who have examined the life of William Pitt, I take a firm stand - backed by largely primary source material - that Pitt was interested in women. Despite the fact that he never married, his one widely known and documented foray into courtship strongly suggests that he was - if nothing else - enamoured with Eleanor. 

One of the various newspaper reports that jokingly mentions Pitt's infatuation with Miss Eden was the Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette of 29 December 1796:



From the Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette, 29 December 1796

This is an amusing little anecdote that cannot be taken with anything but a grain of salt, and was undoubtedly created in the mind of a newspaper reporter. I'm especially amused by the reference to Pitt's alleged "soft susceptibility for this fairest flower of Eden [Eleanor]," and the comment about him meeting her for the first time at a rout [social gathering] given by Mrs. Moore (the Archbishop of Canterbury's wife and a relation of the Auckland family) at Lambeth Palace. The final part, however, particularly cracks me up when it talks about it being "delicately hinted to the enamoured Premier that special licences were retailed on the spot!" The facetiousness is unmistakable, but the point is made. 

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