|A modern view of Kingston Lacy (formerly known as Kingston Hall)|
Pitt travelled to Bath in early December 1805 due to his rapidly declining health and a severe case of gout. The address that was recommended to Pitt by Dudley Ryder's brother Richard Ryder was Mrs. Gay's house at No. 2 Johnstone Street. By the end of December, Pitt was still confined primarily to the house in Bath, often finding it difficult to even walk down the stairs. When he wasn't making the short trip to The Pump Room to drink the waters, he was keeping his mind occupied with politics, anticipating news from the continent, and taking books out from Mr. Upham's Circulating Library. Meanwhile, his friends were beginning to be alarmed by reports they had heard regarding his health. One such friend was Henry Bankes (1757-1834) of Kingston Hall (now Kingston Lacy), Dorset.
|A portrait of Pitt's friend, Henry Bankes, inside Kingston Lacy (my photo)|
In a typical response that was characteristic of Pitt's distanced relationship to his own personal wellbeing, he severely downplayed his condition to Bankes. In a letter dated from Bath on Dec 22, 1805, Pitt wrote:
“My dear Bankes,
Lamentably, the Battle of Austerlitz was a huge defeat, and it physically shattered Pitt's already precarious recovery. Exactly one month and a single day after his letter to Bankes, Pitt was dead at the age of 46. Pitt was once called "a noonday eclipse" by a man called Ralph Creyke, a friend of William Wilberforce, as he died in the middle of his life. James Stanhope, an eyewitness at the time of Pitt's death, described his life departing like a candle burning out.
Pitt's relationship to his health, or, to put it more aptly, his denial of his own health issues, is a subject that repeated itself throughout his short life. Pitt often buried or repressed his own pain and emotions through the overuse of alcohol, throwing himself into politics, or a combination of the two.
It's a topic that I have continuously encountered throughout my research into Pitt's personal life.
1. William Pitt to Henry Bankes. December 22, 1805 (copy). The Kent History and Library Centre, Pitt MSS: U1590/S5/O8, f. 131.