Pitt the Younger’s death mask: a post by Stephenie Woolterton

Readers may be interested in (if ever so slightly creeped out by) my friend Stephenie Woolterton’s latest post on her excellent blog, The Private Life of William Pitt the Younger.

She has unearthed some previously unseen photographs of Pitt the Younger’s death mask, taken for the sculptor Nollekens the day after Pitt died.

They are amazing– rather gruesome, and it is certainly evident that Pitt was in a very, very bad way, but without a doubt the closest we will get to a photograph of Mr Pitt’s face.

Brace yourselves and take a look.

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Leading by a…? : Lord Chatham’s nose

Come on. You *knew* this post was coming. (If you didn’t, you should have guessed…)

I have long been aware of Sir Nathaniel Wraxall’s description of John, Lord Chatham in his Posthumous Memoirs of his Own Time (volume 3, 129 if you’re interested). Shortly before launching into a fairly damning echo of all the nasty stories he’d ever heard about John, Wraxall states:

“Lord Chatham inherited … his illustrious father’s form and figure … The present earl so strongly resembles his father in face and person, that if he were to enter the house of peers, dressed after the mode of George the Second’s reign … the spectators might fancy that the great statesman was returned once more upon earth”.

Hmmm, really? I’d never really thought of John being a spit for his father. (Although I will admit he inherited Daddy’s jaw… compare the original Hoppner of John, not the Valentine Green print, with the Hoare painting of Pitt the Elder, and the resemblance in the lower half of the face is astounding.)

And yet clearly there was something in it. Witness the philosopher Jeremy Bentham, writing to George Wilson in 1781 (quoted in Benthamiana, or select extracts from the works of Jeremy Bentham… London, 1843, p. 333): “Do you know Lord Chatham? … He has his father’s Roman nose…”

Wait, what?!

I always assumed the two older Pitt brothers looked like their mother (John’s jaw notwithstanding). John definitely had his mother’s eyes, and I thought her nose (and probably her dress sense, although I digress):

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(from here)

And yet Bentham got me thinking (and yes, Wraxall too, although mostly I’d like to slap him silly, but I’m digressing again). John being the main character in my novel, I’d like to think I know what he looks like. I have seen five bona fide John-sat-in-person-for-this-portrait paintings of Lord Chatham now in addition to three derivatives, all of the Hoppner. They are all sufficiently similar that I can say, with absolute certainty, that John had sleepy blue almond-shaped eyes, a strong chin, and VERY dark hair (those eyebrows…!). BUT HIS NOSE KEEPS CHANGING SHAPE.

I’m inclining now to think that John’s nose was not as straight and pointy as I first thought. I’m not sure I can go quite so far as Bentham and say he had a “Roman nose” like his father:

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… but I think he definitely did not have a perfectly straight nose.

Of the two paintings I have seen of John, two depict a short, straight nose:

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(from The Death of the Earl of Chatham by John Singleton Copley: sorry it’s a bit blurred, but I was trying to look like I was checking my phone messages at the time :-D)

and

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(studio of John Hoppner, courtesy of the Royal Marines Commando Barracks Officers’ Mess, Plymouth)

So far, so similar to Hester, Countess of Chatham and … definitely … NOT Roman.

But how about this?

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(from the Martin Archer Shee portrait, which I otherwise loathe… you can see it in its full glory here)

Or this?

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(from The Trial of Queen Caroline by Sir George Hayter: you can see the full painting [and good luck picking out John in THAT!] here)

I think the Hayter one, particularly, gives a flavour of why Wraxall might have thought John might look like Pitt the Elder if dressed up in a periwig, although it’s still not quite a classic “Roman” nose in my opinion.

And incidentally the Valentine Green print of the Hoppner gives John’s nose a rather less straight aspect than the original appears to:

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For bonus points, here’s Gillray’s depiction of John in “The Death of the Great Wolf” (1795), in which John’s nose is clearly not straight:

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There is another portrait of John that falls somewhere midway between straight and not straight:

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It’s pretty straight on the whole and could easily be mistaken for his brother’s. And on that note, here’s Pitt the Younger’s nose by the same artist (George Romney):

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… from which you can see that John and William’s noses were, basically, the same shape. So if John had a Roman nose… maybe William did too?

Or maybe it was just the name “Chatham” that made people think he *must* take after his father in some way?

Either way, I’m going to have to stop here, because I’ve run out of noses to post……..

Guest blog for Madame Gilflurt: Collapse of the Earl of Chatham in the House of Lords, 7 April 1778

Busy doesn’t cover it, but I have been guest blogging again for madamegilflurt. Check out my piece on Pitt the Elder’s collapse in the House of Lords on 7 April 1778 at:

http://www.madamegilflurt.com/2014/04/a-salon-guest-collapse-of-earl-of.html?spref=tw&m=1

“Master Billy’s return from Grocer’s Hall”

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(“Master Billy’s procession to Grocer’s Hall” by Thomas Rowlandson, from here)

It has just been brought to my attention that I missed an anniversary yesterday (28 February). On 28 February 1784, William Pitt the Younger received the Freedom of the City of London at a banquet held at Grocer’s Hall. This was towards the end of the so-called “constitutional crisis” triggered by George III’s dismissal of the Portland ministry and appointment of 24-year-old Pitt at the head of a minority government. Assisted by a combination of behind-the-scenes bribery, eloquence in Parliament, his reputation for purity, and downright luck, Pitt had been slowly gathering public support and chipping away the opposition’s majority throughout February. The Freedom of the City was a great coup for him, since the City traditionally held itself independent of the monarch and had a great deal of political influence. Pitt’s carriage was drawn from Berkeley Square, where he was living with his brother, to Grocer’s Hall by his supporters.

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(“Master Billy’s return from Grocer’s Hall”, anonymous, from here)

The way home was, unfortunately, not quite so uneventful. Once again Pitt was drawn through the streets “by a great concourse of people, many of the better sort … as well as by a considerable Mob” (in the words of Pitt’s brother Lord Chatham, who, along with Pitt’s brother-in-law Lord Mahon, later 3rd Earl Stanhope, was also in the carriage). Chatham later set down his recollections of what happened next for Pitt’s biographer, the Bishop of Lincoln, in 1821 (this can be found at Ipswich Record Office, Pretyman MSS HA119/562/688). Chatham wrote:

The Populace insisted on taking off the Horses and drawing the Coach. A Mob is never very discreet, and unfortunately they stopped opposite Carlton House and begun [sic] hissing, and it was with some difficulty we forced them to go on. As we proceeded up St James’s Street, there was a great Cry, and an attempt made to turn the Carriage up St James’s Place to Mr Fox’s house (he then lived at Ld Northingtons) in order to break his windows and force him to light, but which we at last succeeded in preventing their doing.

 

I have often thought this was a trap laid for us, for had we got up, there, into a Cul de Sac, Mr Pitts situation would have been critical indeed. This attempt brought us rather nearer in contact with Brooks, and the moment we got opposite (the Mob calling for lights) a sudden and desperate attack was made upon the Carriage in which, were Mr Pitt, Lord M[ahon] and myself, by a body of Chairmen armed with bludgeons, broken Chair Poles &c (many of the waiters, and several of the Gentlemen among them).

 

They succeeded in making their way to the Carriage, and forced open the door. Several desperate blows were aimed at Mr Pitt, and I recollect endeavouring to cover him, as well as I cou’d, in his getting out of the Carriage. Fortunately however, by the exertions of those who remained with us, and by ye timely assistance of a Party of Chairmen and many Gentlemen from Whites, who saw his danger, we were extricated, from a most unpleasant situation, and with considerable difficulty, got into some of the adjacent houses, without material injury, and from there to Whites. The Coachman, and the Servants were much bruised, and the Carriage nearly demolished.

I do not recollect having particularly seen Genl Fitzpatrick, but I distinguished Mr Hare, and the present Lord Crewe extremely active, and I think Lord Robert Spencer, standing at the Door. I remember when the Streets were a little clear, I walked over, with Mr McDowall to Brooks, and went up into ye Club Room, but the Party were either gone home, or gone to Supper.

 

The next morning I met Lord Ossory in St James’s Street, who attempted to make apologies for what had passed, and to lay it upon ye violence of the Chairmen, some of the Chairs having been broken by the Mob.

 

I never went to Brooks any more, and I was never able to ascertain further what passed or what first led to the Outrage that night.

Fair enough, I guess!

With family like this…

There’s one thing that has bothered me for some time, and now is the time to blog about it because yesterday I made a discovery.

I have always had a strong feeling that Lady Hester Stanhope disliked her older uncle. She certainly didn’t have much time for him at the end of her life (read her Memoirs, as transcribed by Dr Meryon… “he was a man of no merit, but of great luck”: II, 76, to give only a short example). Until yesterday though the only thing I had found her saying about him prior to her leaving England for good was a comment about his nose being long, which at the time made me laugh.

Yesterday, though, I went to the British Library to check out the Dacres Adams papers. These were papers collected by Pitt the Younger’s last secretary, William Dacres Adams, from Walmer Castle after Pitt’s death, and kept in his family until recently. A couple of years ago the papers were sold and they ended up at the BL. It’s a mixed bag and quite a lot of it involves Adams’ correspondence with friends and family. Adams was very friendly with Lady Hester Stanhope and her brothers James and Charles, all of whom pretty much lived with Pitt in his last years.

After Pitt died Lady Hester was left homeless. She had fled her republican father Earl Stanhope and obviously couldn’t go back to him. The obvious person to take her in would have been her remaining uncle, John, Earl of Chatham, and the fact that he did not do so rankled. Only a few days after Pitt’s death, possibly 26 January 1806, Lady Hester wrote to Adams and referred to John’s failure to assist in scathing terms:

“[Charles] together with James [have paid a] visit to Ld C[hatham] which I deem quite improper, as we all despise him, & therefore ought not to toady him, or put any sort of confidence in him. Had his protection been thought advantageous, we s[houl]d have been recommended to his care” (BL Add MS 89036/2/1 f 10)

Wow, “despise”— that’s a strong word! Nor did she forget Chatham’s failure to rise to his duties as uncle. When her brother Charles was killed in action at Coruna in 1809, John wrote his niece a letter of condolence. Her response must have made him wish he hadn’t bothered: “I feel your kind attentions at this unhappy moment as much as I felt your neglect of me under similar affecting circumstances” (quoted in Tresham Lever, The House of Pitt (1947), p. 338). Ooookay.

And clearly Lady Hester was not the only one of the Stanhope brood to feel this way. Perhaps naturally, her brothers too felt John could have done more for their sister. Charles it seems had spent some time in John’s household when he had first joined the army, learning the trade as it were, and I haven’t found any direct evidence of his disliking John, but as for James… In 1807 he made a visit to Burton Pynsent, formerly the Somerset home of William Pitt the Elder and sold by John after his mother’s death in 1803. James wrote an epigram comparing John with his younger brother and sent it to Adams:

“The immortal Chatham ee’r [sic] he died

These gifts he thus assigned

Take then my fortune John, he cried

Thou William hast my mind

This son the Part improved with toil

That ‘twas his country’s weal

The former Burton learnt to spoil

To shuffle, cut, and deal.”

(Add MS 89036/2/4 f 101)

On John’s behalf I say “OUCH”, not only because, well, *ouch* but because James was being rather unfair. I’ve no idea how far John’s gambling debts influenced the decision to get rid of Burton Pynsent (as Basil Williams, biographer of Pitt the Elder, concluded, using as his source this interview with William Beckford printed in the New Monthly Magazine of 1844, vol 71, 302). James certainly seems to believe this had a role. Maybe it did, although if John was a notorious gambler this is all I’ve heard on the subject. What I do know was that Burton Pynsent was mortgaged to the hilt when John inherited it in 1778, and (along with Hayes Place, also remortgaged at least once by Pitt the Elder) never really managed to be anything but a massive drain on Pitt funds. I think it would be uncharitable to conclude that John couldn’t wait to get his hands on the money for it. No denying he was a spendthrift (it was in the genes!), but the “fortune” he inherited from his father was far from being the amazing thing James obviously assumed it was.

And that brings me to a major point in John’s defence. Lady Hester Stanhope clearly never forgave him for his snub after Pitt’s death. Maybe he should have at least asked her to stay with him for a bit. But do you want to know why I think he didn’t? (Apart from the obvious grief at having just lost his brother?) Because John’s wife Mary was very ill. The Bishop of Lincoln wrote to his wife a week after Pitt’s death: “Lady Chatham is seriously ill; she has fretted herself with a delirious Fever; & Vaughan & Farquhar attend her.” (Ipswich Pretyman MSS HA119/T99/26, 31 January 1806) It’s clear from correspondence surrounding the arrangements for Pitt’s funeral that Mary was not considered out of danger until mid-February. Under those circumstances, maybe Hester might have been a bit more understanding…

 

Part 2 of my guest blog post for English Historical Fiction Authors on Pitt

Can be found here:

http://englishhistoryauthors.blogspot.co.uk/2013/12/introducing-that-amazing-man-william.html?spref=fb

 

(Part One, which went live on 24 November, is here: http://englishhistoryauthors.blogspot.co.uk/2013/11/introducing-that-amazing-man-william.html?m=1)

The French Alarm, or Billy Budget’s Terror

W. O’Keefe, ‘The French Alarm or Billy Budgets Terror’ (1797-8)

Oh dear me. 😉 I should possibly look up when this was actually published, but it may well have been either a reference to the 1796 invasion scare in Ireland when the French invading forces were only dispersed by bad weather; the 1797 invasion attempt at Fishguard, which caused a run on the banks and a suspension of cash payments; or the 1798 French invasion of Ireland in the wake of the 1798 rebellion. William O’Keefe was, after all, Irish.

Given the reference to “Bounaparte” I would say it was 1798, though. It may in fact have been less a reference to a specific invasion scare and more a reference to the Defence of the Realm Act of 1798, which first provided for the calling out of volunteer soldiery (at this point mainly but not uniquely limited to the propertied classes) and began the process of inventorying the nation’s manpower and materials that could be called on in an emergency.

O’Keefe clearly believed the government was all of a panic, but the 1797-8 was a bad period for invasion scares and there were several attempts on the British Isles as I detailed above. I wonder what O’Keefe would have made of the 1803 Levy en Masse Act, which effectively legalised mass conscription in the event of an invasion, and the various defence acts that followed it.

Edited to add:

A quick google turned up http://www.rechercheisidore.fr/search/resource/?uri=ark:/12148/btv1b6940564m, which suggests the print was published in January 1797. I’m not entirely convinced of this but it is plausible, in which case the event referred to would be Hoche’s failed invasion of Ireland in 1796.