On Pitt the Younger’s health

I am going through all my MSS notes and trying to track down certain references. At the same time I have been finding all sorts of fun and interesting stuff. The following, for example, consists of snippets and summaries from the correspondence of George Rose, one of Pitt’s Secretaries to the Treasury and a close political associate, to George Pretyman, Bishop of Lincoln.

The subject of the correspondence was the death of Pitt’s brother-in-law Edward James Eliot at the age of 39. Eliot had married Pitt’s sister Harriot in 1785, but she died in childbirth in 1786. Eliot had known Pitt since they had been at Pembroke College together and was one of his oldest and closest friends. His death knocked Pitt for six at a time when he was already feeling the strain of the war with France: 1797 was not a good year for the British war effort.

Rose was with Pitt when he first heard the news of Eliot’s unexpected death. He detailed Pitt’s reaction in a letter to Pretyman, dated 20 September 1797:

“The Effect produced by the Event on him is not to be described; the suddenness of the Blow aggravated the Misfortune, he received the Account by the common Post in a Letter from Lord Eliot [Eliot’s father] not knowing the writing; no Circumstances whatever mention’d, but the Event must have been sudden as Mr Pitt told me last Night the latest Accounts were extremely favourable, & Mr Carthew [Pitt’s secretary] who returned to Town last night says our poor Friend had been remarkably well latterly.

I found Mr Pitt last Monday at Holwood with Lord & Lady Chatham, complaining of a Head Ach which had tormented him for a Fortnight, some Degree of Cold, & a Loss of Appetite; I therefore prevailed with him to see Sir Walter Farquhar [his physician] which I hope he will do this Evening. I suppress’d my own Feelings all I could to avoid working his, to say that I am griev’d to my Heart for the Loss we have sustain’d is an Expression far, very far, short of the real Impression made on me by it. I pity Mr Pitt with my whole soul & I lament most unaffectedly the loss of one of the very best Men I have met with in my Intercourse with Mankind”.

The next letter, 22 September 1797, continued to describe the effect of Eliot’s death on Pitt’s health:

“I was in so much real Agitation of Mind yesterday that I do not know whether I mentioned to you my having prevail’d with Mr Pitt the Day before to allow me to send for Sir Walter Farquhar in consequence of which I had appointed him to come last Night. Towards the Evening he grew Sick & reached [retched] violently, after which he was better; Sir Walter came to him about 9, he says he is quite clear about the Case & is sure he can do his Patient effectual Good, that there is much Gout in it [….sorry, but this is a typical Sir Walter diagnosis]. Mr Pitt could not of course go to St James’s yesterday & will therefore stay for the Levee on Wednesday next, after which I trust he will immediately go to Walmer … He feels anxious about the Removal of the little Girl [his niece, Eliot’s daughter Harriot Hester] to Burton, & yet the State of his Mother’s Health makes her being there at Present a Matter of Anxiety. … I did not leave Mr Pitt yesterday, & while I can afford him any Sort of Consolation I shall not think of going anywhere else. He is much better to-day.”

By 26 September Pitt was feeling much better, but was under a fair amount of anxiety over what to do with his orphaned niece Harriot Hester. According to Rose it looked like Eliot had not left a will, although this did turn up later. Pitt, as usual, turned to his usual method of burying pain:

“Mr Pitt continues much better than when I found him here a week ago; his Mind has been diverted from the melancholy Subject by an almost unremitting Attention to the imortant Business of providing the Means of carrying on the War”.

I do find it quite amazing that so many of his friends found it normal to see him dealing with grief and ill health by immersing himself in overwork. I suppose they were used to it by then and it represented a sign that Pitt had returned to normality. Also … probably better than drowning his sorrows in port. :-/

All quotations from Ipswich RO Pretyman Papers HA 119/T108/44

Add MS 41856 f 96: Dialogue between Mr. Addington & Bonaparte

I have been going through my old MSS notes in a bid to find all the relevant information I once collected for my novel in one place. In the process I found the following: a poem, possibly written by Lord Carlisle, either after the peace preliminaries that became the treaty of Amiens were signed in the autumn of 1801 or (more likely) early 1803 before war broke out between Britain and France again.

Carlisle was a member of Lord Grenville’s parliamentary faction. The Grenvilles considered the Peace of Amiens to be a disaster for Britain. Britain pledged to hand back all her wartime conquests except for Trinidad and Ceylon, to restore Egypt to the Ottoman Empire and to give Malta back to the Knights of St John. In return France was to evacuate Italy and her Portuguese territories, but the Grenvilles were unequivocal in their opinion that Britain had made all the sacrifices. The Prime Minister, Henry Addington, they considered to be foolish and inept. The poem has to be read with this in mind.

“Dialogue between Mr Addington and Bonaparte”

Mr. A—.

With a friendship most hearty

To you great Bonaparte

I open my pitiful case.

If by Peace you don’t aid me,

By the God who has made me,

I shan’t keep a moment my place.

Bona.

And wherefore thus sad in tone

My good Mr. Addington;

I wish you to govern yr. Nation.

I’ll do all that I can,

To preserve such a Man

As yourself, in that high situation.

Only Give me my share,

(What you’ll very well spare)

All Italy, Holland, & Spain.

With Switzerland too,[1]

Tis a trifle to you,

While you keep the rule of the Main.

Mr. A.

Lord for this my dear Chief,

I should hang like a thief:

O grant me an Island, or two!

A free port [2], that with ease,

You may shut when you please,

And something for Jenky [3] to chew.

Bona.

Well, I’ll give you Ceylon,

Tis a hundred to one

That this may prove dust for your rabble;

Trinidad may impose,

So dont turn up your nose,

I know you don’t venture to squabble. [4]

Did not Hawkesbury state,

(Many thanks to his prate),

How all nations refused you their aid.

Then to War if you’re led

Pitt jumps over your head:

And a fine piece of work you’ll have made.

But I smell all the trick,[5]

Pitt expects us to break:

And that he’ll have to manage the war.

But I know how to fit him; [6]

Take my Peace, and then quit him;

Let your place, not the terms be your care.[7]

[1] Over the course of 1802 and early 1803, Napoleon declared himself President of the Cisalpine Republic [Italy] and sent troops into Switzerland. He also remodelled the Dutch government. Much of this was in contravention to Amiens, and also to previous treaty engagements with Austria (Luneville, 1801)

[2] The Cape of Good Hope. Amiens made this into a free port

[3] Robert Bankes Jenkinson, Lord Hawkesbury, the Foreign Secretary. Later Lord Liverpool.

[4] Altered to “I well know that you don’t dare to squabble”

[5] Altered to “But beware of this trick”

[6] Altered to “But the best way to fit him”

[7] Altered to “Be your place, not your peace your first care”

Eleanor Eden by John Hoppner (ca 1800)

And of course the lady most famous for nearly-but-not-quite becoming Mrs William Pitt the Younger.

Interestingly Pitt’s brother John, Earl of Chatham was totally dismissive of the frenzied rumours surrounding his brother’s courtship of Miss Eden in December 1796: “I can not conceive what cou’d induce Bathurst, to write you word, seriously, that my Brother was to marry Miss Eden. I do not believe a word of it, tho he has certainly often been there this year, but I rather fancy the inducement was to talk over the finances with my Lord. Mrs Bankes, who is intimate with the Aucklands assures me there is nothing at all in it, and that Lady Auckland [Eleanor’s mother] amuses herself very much with the report (which is very current) and at the alarm it gives certain Persons, who are afraid, they will not engross the whole of his time as they have been in the habit of doing” (Chatham to Lord Camden, 23 December 1796, Kent RO U840/C254/6)

Perhaps a little bitchy (and one must remember John was not on the best of terms with his brother in December 1796), but interesting nonetheless. I daresay John was one of the least surprised people in England when Pitt decided not to marry Eleanor Eden after all just a month later.