You may recall my post a while ago about my horror at reading Richard Glover’s fulminations against the second Lord Chatham in “Peninsular Preparation”. “Relatively very few documents attributable to [Chatham] are to be found in the Chatham Papers, or elsewhere,” Glover wrote, “and it is surely significant that among them lies a trim little notebook containing lists of garden flowers written in an admirably neat italic printing hand. This suggests where his real interests lay” (Peninsular Preparation, p 39) The flower book story even gets into the latest book on Walcheren, by Martin R. Howard (Walcheren 1809, 2012).
Embarrassingly trivial, yet kind of cute, huh? I was in the National Archives today, so decided to call that little book up.
(Garden Book, from PRO 30/8/370/51)
I am NOT happy with Richard Glover. John has been traduced. AGAIN.
Who knows what the book of flowers is all about, but one thing is for sure: IT NEVER BELONGED TO JOHN.
How do I know this?
Take a look at this page:
Anything in particular leap out at you? I wouldn’t blame you if you didn’t spot it— it took me a moment. Here’s a clue:
King William the 4th came to the throne in 1830, Victoria in 1837. John Pitt, 2nd Earl of Chatham died in 1835, so could never have owned a book about flowers with names like Queen Victoria.
Even supposing the name referred to another Queen Victoria (I suppose there could have been another Queen of that name on the continent), the notebook has a calendar on the inside of the cover. The calendar has no date, but lists Easter Sunday as falling on 26 March.
According to this website , Easter Sunday fell on 26 March during John’s lifetime in 1758, 1769, 1780, 1815, and 1826. We can safely discount the first three of those. 1815 is I suppose a possibility, as is 1826, but neither of them allows for the presence of a flower named after William IV. That leaves the final possibility: that the book was printed for 1837, the last year before 1967 that Easter Sunday fell on 26 March. This would certainly make it possible to name a flower after Queen Victoria, who came to the throne in 1837.
But if the book was printed for 1837 (presumably in 1836), Chatham was already dead. So he couldn’t have owned the book. And even if the flowers refer to the contents of the garden of his house at Berkeley Square, which is likely given the book is tucked up with a bundle of receipts, house inventories and life insurance documents, he never compiled it.
So much for this one of Glover’s reasons why Chatham was a useless waste of oxygen. Makes a nice story, but ultimately it’s a lie, and poor John comes out looking like an idiot again.
Can you tell I am very, very cross?
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