… is not today, but a friend of mine has expressed surprise at one of my previous posts in which I stated that it was 10 October (rather than 9 October, as believed by Wikipedia, the Oxford DNB and just about every other source you may choose to mention). So I’ve been going through my notes to find out exactly why I believed John to be born on 10 October 1756 and not 9 October 1756.
Item the First: from “Letters written by the late Earl of Chatham to his nephew Thomas Pitt…” (London, 1804): p. 97, Letter XXI, dated “Hayes, Oct. 10, 1756” begins with “Dear Nephew, I have the pleasure to acquaint you with the glad tidings of Hayes. Lady Hester was safely delivered this morning of a son.” I know this isn’t a manuscript source exactly, but unless the printer got it wrong, I trust Pitt the Elder to know both the date and the day of his own son’s birth. Although I guess he could have been so overwhelmed by the event that he could have got it wrong. But we’ll give him the benefit of a doubt for now, won’t we?
Item the Second: again not a MSS source, but still: from Canon Thompson, “A History of Hayes in the County of Kent” (London, 1935, p. 57): the book states that the Register Book of St Mary’s, the Hayes Parish Church, lists John as being born on 10 October 1756.
Item the Third: from “The Correspondence of Richard Grenville, Earl Temple and the Rt Hon George Grenville”, ed. William James Smith (London, 1852), I, 173: the birth of John Pitt is recorded as 10 October 1756 (and apparently he was delivered by the famous surgeon John Hunter, which I had forgotten until now. Yay for John).
But the spanner in the works is this latter, dated *9 October* 1773. It’s from Tomline’s “Life of Pitt” (London, 1821),I, 17, and it is a letter from Lord Chatham to William: “Thursday’s post brought us no letter from the dear traveller: we trust this day will prove more satisfactory; it is the happy day that gave us your brother”.
And yet the parish records clearly state him to have been born on 10 October.
Why did Pitt the Elder change his mind?
Will we ever know when John’s real birthday was?
Am I the only person who cares?
I know the answer to the last one anyway: probably.
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