That Pitt and his taxes, eh.
Word of the Day: Ragnarök
Image: “Ragnarok” by Johannes Gehrts, Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.
Why do I feel like there's a Gillray cartoon in here somewhere.
a fun thing i like to do when I am revising history is to look up how gay past prime ministers were. the answer is: really quite gay
also Keir Hardie was v v cool
This old chestnut. Overall, I'd say his sexuality is (and was to him) an irrelevance. But if it has to be labelled, I'd go with 80% a-, 20% bi-.
Yes, he had a fondness for Canning, which was more than reciprocated. He also had a well-attested and apparently genuine (if short-lived) dalliance with Eleanor Eden. Throughout his life he had many close and affectionate friendships, but no known sexual relationships. I think it's highly likely that Canning and Eleanor Eden were just two more of the same.
"Name a politician with raw animal magnetism", said Stephen Fry on QI last week, in a question about Franz Mesmer. Well, guess who?
By December 1795 Prime Minister William Pitt was well on the way to crushing political dissent in Britain. He had tried reformers for treason, passed laws restricting the right of association and suspended habeas corpus, all without an outcry from British people about their loss of freedom. To one radical, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, the people's quietude was an uncanny sign of a new malaise coursing through the body politic:
William Pitt, the great political Animal Magnetist, ... has most foully worked on the diseased fancy of Englishmen ... thrown the nation into a feverish slumber, and is now bringing it to a crisis which may convulse mortality!
Coleridge was not alone in seeing Pitt as an animal magnetist, mesmerizing his countrymen into a trance to be followed by the convulsions of war. According to James Tilly Matthews, returning to London in 1796 after imprisonment by the Jacobins, the Prime Minister had been "actuated" by "magnetic spies" sent from revolutionary France. Now controlled "like a mere puppet by the expert-magnetists," Pitt was himself a traitor, part of a Jacobin conspiracy to mesmerize the nation towards its destruction.
(Matthews' own story is just as interesting, being probably the first documented case of paranoid schizophrenia.)
Sources: Screengrab from YouTube showing the Thomas Lawrence portrait, with QI guests Eddie Kadi and Noel Fielding. Here, Mesmer segment starts about 5m17s in. Quotation from Tim Fulford, 'Conducting the Vital Fluid: The Politics and Poetics of Mesmerism in the 1790s', Studies in Romanticism, 43:1, (2004), p.57-78.
Screencap from The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - The Final Problem. Here's Holmes (the lovely Jeremy Brett), supposedly at the Louvre, but more probably in one of the many English country houses that possesses a copy of the Nollekens bust of Pitt.
YouTube source, at about 8m 35s.
Jeremy, of course, once played Pitt himself. Click here to see my post about it.
Letter from Pitt to Lord Castlereagh, Jan 6th 1806
My second attack of gout is now subsiding, and I hope to recover from it quicker than the former; but I am sorry to say that I have more ground to gain, before I am fit for anything, than I can almost hope to accomplish within a fortnight. Bath is no longer thought of use, and I shall move as soon as I can.
Pitt had been in Bath for his health for some weeks, but in early January he began the move back to London. By the 12th he was at his villa in Putney.
Letter from Pitt to Marquess Wellesley, Jan 12th 1806
If I was not strongly advised to keep out of London till I have acquired a little more strength, I would have come up immediately for the purpose of seeing you at the first possible moment. As it is, I am afraid I must trust to your goodness to give me the satisfaction of seeing you here… I am recovering rather slowly from a series of stomach complaints, followed by severe attacks of gout, but I believe I am now in the way of real amendment.
They met two days later, and Wellesley later wrote,
Notwithstanding Mr. Pitt’s kindness and cheerfulness, I saw that the hand of death was fixed upon him.
The picture is of Bowling Green House, Putney, where Pitt died on 23rd January 1806 - 25 years to the day since he had first entered parliament.
Reblogging from a few years ago. RIP William Pitt, 28th May 1759-23rd January 1806.
On this day in 1783, three days after Pitt had formed his first ministry.
22nd, Lord Temple resigned. No dissolution declared. Drove about for Pitt. 'So your friend Mr. Pitt means to come in,' said Mrs. Crewe; 'well, he may do what he likes during the holidays, but it will only be a mince-pie administration, depend on it.'
From The Life of William Wilberforce, Volume 1, by Robert and Samuel Wilberforce, p48.
Pics: William Wilberforce by John Rising; Earl Temple (later 1st Marquess of Buckingham) by Thomas Gainsborough; Mrs Crewe by Thomas Gainsborough; a mince pie.
The idea that you could booze all day while running the Empire was established by William Pitt (Pitt the Younger) who became Prime Minister in 1783 at the age of just 24; he remains the youngest person ever to be appointed PM. He governed the country for 18 years. He was brilliant, snooty and aloof. But the fascinating thing about him is that for every one of his years in office he was completely plastered.
At the time it was said of him, “Mr Pitt liked a glass of port very well, and a bottle better.” This was an understatement. Records attest that he drank — on medical advice — a bottle of port before breakfast, a second bottle before tea and a third before supper. With wine on top! He was understandably dead by the age of 46.
Courtesy of the Daily Express.
Sadly, despite the headline picture, Pitt does not make the list. It does however include William Wilberforce on the abolition of slavery (1789). There's also an audio clip, but it won't embed.
This defiant, well-evidenced and angry speech, calling for the abolition of slavery, was chosen by the Lord Speaker, Baroness D'Souza.
The baroness says she chose the speech as it illustrates some of the great aspects of parliamentary life.
"First, it shows the value of persistence - Wilberforce spoke these words on 12 May 1789, but it would take him another 18 years of relentless campaigning until the Slave Trade Act would receive royal assent," she says.
"Second, the rhetoric is combined with evidence, presented in a clear and accessible manner.
"One of the pleasures of sitting on the House of Lords woolsack is the opportunity it gives me to observe experts in their field bringing their subject knowledge to the House, the better to scrutinise proposed legislation and the actions of government.
"And finally, some of the underpinning themes of the abolitionist movement - recognition of basic human rights and equality of all people in the eyes of the law - remain as relevant, and topical, for parliamentarians today as they were in the 18th Century."
23rd January 1806
Reposting from three years ago.
We know from other sources that Wilberforce went to Putney himself on the 20th, but sadly he seems to have left no account of the visit. He almost certainly didn’t get to see Pitt, so maybe there was nothing to tell.
From Wilberforce's diary
Jan. 21st.To London on parliament's meeting. Heard sad account of Pitt, and opposition put off intended amendment... 22nd. Quite unsettled and uneasy about Pitt, so to town. Heard bad account. Called on various friends, and on [George] Rose, who quite overcome. He had been long at Putney talking to Bishop of Lincoln. Physicians said all was hopeless... 23rd. Heard from Bishop of Lincoln that Pitt had died about half-past four in the morning. Deeply rather than pathetically affected by it. Pitt killed by the enemy as much as Nelson. Babington went to dine at Lord Teignmouth's, but I had no mind to go out.
Wilberforce is stating what became the general opinion at the time - that the devastating news of the disastrous Battle of Austerlitz had proved to be the final and fatal blow to Pitt's weakened constitution.
Reblogging from two years ago.
Billy’s Ghost, or, Seasonable Admonition, by Charles Williams, 1806.
On this day, 23rd January, in 1806, William Pitt breathed his last. Shortly afterwards he returned to haunt Charles James Fox:
Thou hast now stept into power; and tho’ my opponent through life, let me give thee this Council - Trust to your own powers - give no ear to the blood-suckers of the Court or the City, they are a miscreant race and will leave thee nothing but poor Mens curses, loud and deep. Raise John Bull and his Family to their former comforts, and be to the People of England what my Illustrious Father was when he closed his glorious career - Farewell, remember my Council.
Fox never recovered from the shock, and he too died later the same year.
Reblogging from one year ago.
Royal Mail will release a set of stamps of portrait of British Prime Ministers on 14th October. Among them I found him, William Pitt the Younger. Benedict played him on “Amazing Grace”.
A little bit of history lesson;
William Pitt the Younger 97p PM 1783-1801, 1804-1806 Party Whig/Tory William Pitt seemed destined for leadership. The son of a Prime Minister, he was an MP at just 21, Chancellor two years later and Prime Minister at 24. As PM from 1783 to 1801, Pitt brought in income tax, reduced import duties, led the country into the Napoleonic Wars and established the Union between Great Britain and Ireland with the Act of Union in 1800. The struggle against Napoleon dominated his leadership. He negotiated coalitions against France, and his introduction of income tax aimed to bankroll the war. Back in office in 1804, Pitt declared after Trafalgar the following year: ‘England has saved herself by her exertions, and will, I trust, save Europe by her example.’ But Pitt himself was in poor health, and he died in office on 23 January 1806 – exactly 25 years after he entered Parliament.
Ooh, I'd almost forgotten these stamps were coming out! Must get in the queue at the Post Office tomorrow.