9 October 2015

'A Captivated Sailor': James Charles Pitt's childhood love poem

At the age of ten, James Charles Pitt (1761-1780), the youngest son of the Earl of Chatham, addressed a love poem to Lady Elizabeth Pratt (c. 1752-1826). She was a daughter of the first Lord Camden, and the two families were well-acquainted with one another. James was 10 at the time the poem was penned; Eliza was 19. 

I've always been fascinated by love affairs that fall through the cracks, and this piece is one such historical mystery.

It's intriguing how the cataloguer left a deliberate blank after the line "Verses addressed to..." I'm also copying out James's poem, shown below. 

"Struck by the beauties of thy heavenly charms
To thee Eliza I address my lays
Your kind indulgence my rapt bosom warms
And prompts my soul to sing your wond'rous praise

What form majestick & what easy grace
Yet still interior shines thy polish'd mind
And proves thee offspring of great Camdens race
Each sweet accomplishment in thee I find

Deign thee t'accept this humble grateful song
And trust my lov'd one tho' I flow the main

And pass thro dangers & thro labours long
My heart with thee still captive shall remain"

It ends with "A Captivated Sailor, June ye 9th 1771"

James was destined for the navy, and he would have been aware of his intended career path even at that early age. We don't know what Lady Elizabeth thought of James's childhood crush on her. She was significantly older than him, so she may have been more amused than anything by his boyish advances.


Pitt MSS. Duke University, North Carolina.

** I owe a debt of gratitude to Dr. Jacqueline Reiter for correcting me on the details of Lady Elizabeth Pratt.