A letter from Lord Chatham, February 1806

I recently received a CD-ROM full of letters written by the 2nd Earl of Chatham, now in the possession of the National Army Museum. Mostly the letters dealt with Ordnance matters, since John was writing in his capacity as Master-General of the Ordnance at the time, but one letter in particular leapt out at me. It was written by John to Sir John Macleod, Deputy Adjutant-General of the Royal Artillery, on 9 February 1806.

snippet

At this point John was the outgoing Master-General. His brother, William Pitt the Younger, had died on 23 January, and his ministry had not long survived him. The “Ministry of All the Talents” under Lord Grenville had replaced John as Master-General with Lord Moira, and John was writing to Macleod to thank him for his service.

The letter is especially interesting because I have not seen many letters written by John in this period at all. All of them have a slight deer-in-the-headlights overtone, as though John had been partly crushed by the calamity of his brother’s death and loss of office. I get the impression he was finding it difficult to cope, and his situation was not helped by the fact his wife, Mary, Countess of Chatham, was suffering from a life-threatening illness at the same time.

Dover Street today (wikimedia commons)

Dover Street today (wikimedia commons)

John’s letter to Macleod bears all this out, and I will quote it in full here. The letter is written from Dover Street, the house to which John moved in a hurry when he lost his office, unable to afford his St James’s Square house any longer.

“Dover Street Feby. 9th 1806

My Dear Sir

I shou’d not have delayed, till now thanking you for your kind letter, but that a great deal of business of various sorts, added unfortunately, to Lady Chatham’s illness, has not left me a single moment, and indeed, as you will think not unlikely, under circumstances of so much distress, I have been far from well myself. I have only to assure you, My Dear Sir, that I shall always look back with great pleasure to the time of our confidential intercourse, and which I can most truly say has impressed me with sentiments of ye sincerest personal esteem and regard towards you. I certainly do not quit a department, to which I have so much reason to feel warmly attached, without considerable regret, but I assure you, that regret is much diminished from the consideration of the hands into which, I have surrendered it [Lord Moira]. I wish I cou’d have the satisfaction of enabling you to give Lady Emily, and your daughters, a better account of Lady Chatham, but her amendment, is, I am sorry to say, as yet but inconsiderable. Pray have the goodness to make my kindest remembrances to them, and I need not add how happy I shall be to see you, when you are enough recovered, which I hope will be soon.

Believe me

My Dear Sir

Yours Very Sincerely

Chatham”

[NAM 1977-01-13]

John is here!

John is here!!!!!!!!!!!!

“John, Earl of Chatham, K.G. Lord President of the Council &c.&c.&c. Painted by J. Hoppner Esqr. R.A. Engraved by V. Green Mezzotint Engraver to His Majesty.  London. Published and Sold by V. Green, No. 2, New Road, opposite Fitzroy Square, Novr 9th 1799. Sold also by R. Green, No 42, Berners Street, Oxford Street.”

There was some provenance for the print, but I stupidly assumed they would send it to me so didn’t note it down. Will have to email.

That was one well wrapped parcel — paper, bubble wrap, cling film (yes you read that right), sealed card, tissue paper and the above. I think getting into Fort Knox would have been easier.

It’s huge — about A3!

*dies*

Edited to add: I have a feeling this may be the print referred to by Lady Hester Stanhope in a letter written to her grandmother the Dowager Countess of Chatham, undated but probably around 1800 or so: “Before this you must have received the likeness of the King & my two dear Uncles. The King & Mr Pitt I think perfect! & so is Ld Chathams air, but the nose I think rather defective, not being quite long enough” (pahahahahahahahahaha!). (National Archives, Hoare MSS, PRO 30/70/6/15/48)

Also have now received notice of the provenance of the print. It belonged to William Fitzwilliam Burton of Burton Hall, Carlow, Ireland (1796-1844). No idea who had it between 1844 and 2013, but it’s mine now, muahahahahahaha.

John, Earl of Chatham as a …….. goose?

Spent my lunch break today searching the British Museum’s print catalogue for caricatures of John, 2nd Earl of Chatham.

*scream face*

*slams head onto desk*

May I ask why John is nearly always portrayed as a goose, or riding a goose, in caricatures referring to Walcheren? Is it an extremely unsubtle joke on the fact that geese are supposed to be stupid? Or is there some other reason that escapes me? (I’m probably reading too much into it)

For example:

FOR DESCRIPTION SEE GEORGE (BMSat)<br />
Etching

Probably the only print that made me giggle even slightly was this one:

FOR DESCRIPTION SEE GEORGE (BMSat)<br />
Etching

From the description: “Chatham sits in an arm-chair attended by doctors; he wears a night-cap, and over his uniform and boots a patterned dressing-gown, and holds a copy of ‘The Times’. He looks up at a hideous doctor (left), who feels his pulse, holding a watch. The doctor says: “Your Pulse is going with uncommon Expedition indeed my Lord, you have too much Blood in you. you must lose a few Ounces”. Chatham: “Don’t mention that word [Expedition] again Doctor, it brings an [sic] a Flushing in my face, and sets me in a palpitation”.” (From here)

Yes, I am a sucker for bad puns. :-/

John’s best friend, the ……. Prince of Wales?!?!?

Really?

(The Prince of Wales to the Earl of Chatham, 2 September 1799, PRO 30/70/4 f 219)

Yes, really. Really really. Yes, THAT Prince of Wales. That very one.

For those who can’t make it out, the letter (written on the occasion of John’s departure for Holland during the Helder expedition of 1799) reads:

“Dear Lord Chatham,

I have this moment heard that your Brigade is under orders of March Tomorrow Morning; in all probability you will wish as well as Lady Chatham to be rid of me in that event. I hope in God that Lady Chatham meets this severe trial with proper fortitude, & that her good Sense & nerves will support her through it. My good wishes attend you always my Dear Lord, & I am ever with great truth,

Your very sincere Friend

George P.”

Apparently it wasn’t a passing fondness either. As King George IV in 1825, George was still writing letters to Lord Chatham calling him “my Dear Friend”, expressing himself “impatient to have the pleasure of seeing you” and signing off “your very sincere friend, GR” (George IV to Chatham, 4 July 1825, PRO 30/70/6 f. 420)

Forgive me if I am gobsmacked by this, but I never (never, never, NEVER) pictured Chatham and Prinny as best buds. :-/

John, you never stop amazing me!