J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Friday, March 28, 2014

When William Pitt Was a Little S—t

This blog dedicated to William Pitt the Younger (1759-1806, shown here in about 1783) recently quoted from the memoirs of Frederick Reynolds (1764-1841), a playwright who met Pitt in the early 1770s when they were both boys from Britain’s upper classes:
His Lordship [William Pitt the Elder, Lord Chatham], I remember, was very kind to me, and on quitting the room with my father, desired his son William Pitt, then a boy about four years older than I was, to remain with, and amuse me, during their absence.

Somehow, I did not feel quite bold on being left alone with this young gentleman. For a time, he never spoke, till at last, slyly glancing at him, to learn who was to commence the conversation, and observing mischief gathering in the corner of his eye, I retired to the window; “but gained nothing by my motion.”

He silently approached, and sharply tapping me on the shoulder, cried jeeringly, as he pointed to my feet, “So, my little hero, do you usually walk in spurs?”—

“Walk?” I replied: “I rode here on my own pony.”

“Your own pony!”—He repeated with affected astonishment; “Your own pony? Upon my word!—and pray, what colour may he be?—probably blue, pink, or pompadour?

At this moment, the present Lord Chatham [John Pitt, 2nd Lord Chatham, and William’s older brother by three years] entering the room, the tormentor exclaimed, “I give you joy, brother, for you are now standing in the presence of no less a personage then the proprietor of the pompadour pony!

His brother frowned at him, and I was bursting with rage and vexation, when he coolly turned towards me, and said, “Your life is too valuable to be sported with. I hope you ride in armour?

“Be quiet, William—don’t trifle so,” cried his brother.

“I am serious, John,” he replied; “and if for the benefit of the present race he will preserve his life, I will take care it shall not be lost to posterity, for as my father intends writing a history of the late and present reigns mark my word, my little proprietor, I will find a niche for you, and your pompadour pony in the History of England.”

I could no longer restrain my spleen, and fairly stamped with passion to his great amusement. At this moment, the door opening, my facetious tormentor instantly cantered to the opposite side of the room, after the manner of a broken down pony, and then placing his finger on his lips, as if to forbid all tale-telling, disappeared at the other entrance.

In course, every feeling of rage was smothered in the presence of the great Lord Chatham, and my father having taken his leave, mounted his horse, and trotted through the Park; I following on my pony, and delighting in my escape.

But as I reached the gates, I was crossed in my path “by the fiend again,”—but, agreeably crossed, for he shook me by the hand with much good-humour, playfully asked my pardon, and then added, patting my pony, “He should at all times be happy to find both of us accommodation at Hayes [the family seat], instead of a niche in the History of England.”
(Hat tips to @anoondayeclipse and @2nerdyhistgirls.)

1 comment:

csccat said...

Exactly how he is portrayed in the series, "Blackadder the Third"! There is an episode parodying rotten boroughs where Blackadder puts up Baldrick as a candidate. Pitt the younger counters with his younger brother, William Pitt the even younger.

See for the photo