Here are a few elusive details regarding the British postal system that may prove helpful –
Before the introduction of the prepaid penny post (Post Office Act of 1765) and adhesive stamps (6 May 1840), postage was usually collected from the recipient. Rather than paying in advance, one paid on delivery. In order to save their correspondents paying postage, some people had their letters “franked.” A frank was the signature of a Member of either House of Parliament, who had to write both the address on the envelope as well as his signature in his own hand. Thus postage was free.
Envelopes had been developed in the 1830’s, but did not catch on until the Great Exhibition of 1851, when Jeremiah Smith displayed his gummed envelopes. Still, the use of envelopes in correspondence was not general until well into the 1860’s, most people preferring the old fashion of folding over the sheet of paper and fastening the flaps with a wafer -a little disc of gum and flour which was moistened and pressed down with a seal. Quill pens were used long after steel nibs had been introduced. Quills soon lost their point and needed cutting with a sharp “pen knife,” so the art of cutting a nib was one of the first things taught at school.
The penny post routes operated six days a week in most cases. Rates of postage at a uniform penny were lower than those charged by most private carriers, some of whom charged fees as high as 4d to take letters from the nearest post town. Many private posts charged for both letters delivered and those collected for onward transmission by the general post. The official penny post charged only for letters delivered, a system which allowed for posting boxes to be provided at certain points. Letters were delivered to any house on the penny post route and in most villages receiving houses were set up where people in outlying areas could collect their mail. In 1830 the letter rates for the penny post were 4d for 15 miles, 5d for 20 miles and thence according to a sliding scale to 1s for a limit of 300 miles. A letter from London to Liverpool cost 11d; to Bristol 10d; to Aberdeen 1s 3d; to Glasgow 1s 2d. Packages weighing an ounce paid four times the ordinary rate, and for every quarter of an ounce in excess an additional sum was charged. Letters sent to addresses within the same post town were delivered free of charge. In the late 1880’s, commercially produced picture post cards became all the rage and the Post Office instituted a half penny fee for the handling of these.
A late posting fee was sometimes charged and was meant to deter letters from being posted at times inconvenient to official duties, this usually being a penny. Private postal boxes were available, but not in widespread use, at the beginning of the 19th century. In 1837, the Bromley postmaster had six subscribers from whom he received a guinea each. The use of such boxes was explained in The Second Report on Postage (1838): Persons having Private Boxes enjoy generally the advantage of receiving their letters as soon as the window is open and the letter-carriers despatched, but which means, those Subscribers who reside at any distance from the post office obtain their letters so much earlier than they would do by the ordinary Delivery; they have also the opportunity of ascertaining at once whether there are any letters for them, and are usually allowed credit by the Postmaster, accounts being kept of their postage.
The Postmaster could also realize extra revenue by the sale of money orders. From 1798 on, the Money Order Office was run by three partners, including Daniel Stow, Superintendent President of the Inland Office. Originally, money orders were offered in order to enable soldiers and sailors to send funds home to their families. In 1861, the Post Office Savings Bank was opened, with millions opening small savings accounts over the next forty years.
The Twopenny Post served London and its suburbs. There were six collections and deliveries daily in London and three in the suburbs, letters being posted at various receiving offices during the daytime while the last collection was made by a postman who went through the streets ringing a bell. There were two kinds of postmen in London, the General who delivered the post from all parts of the country, and the Twopenny Postman, who had only to do with local mail. Both wore much the same style of uniform – a scarlet coat and shining top-hat adorned with a gold band.
During the 17th and 18th centuries, postmasters had also been innkeepers due to the fact that they were responsible for finding post boys and horses, providing stabling etc. Once recognized mails came into being, this was no longer necessary and it was felt that inns provided little security for the mail bags. In October 1792 the Post Office declared itself against the appointment of innkeepers, as separate rooms for postal business were rarely provided and business might be conducted in the bar. By March 1836, only one post town in the entire country had an innkeeper as postmaster. More common were post offices run by druggists, stationers, grocers, news agents and booksellers. Women could be appointed postmistresses or allowed to take over the concern upon the death of their husbands. Of the 29 Kentish post towns in March 1836, four had postmistresses. One of these was the bustling Ramsgate office, the salary of which was roughly 178 pounds per annum. When a postmistress married, it was the ruling of the Post Office that she must give up the appointment, but it could be transferred to her husband. At Faversham, the widow of Mr. Plowman, the late postmaster, took over upon his death, but in 1800 she married Andrew Hill, who became postmaster in her place. After Mr. Hill died in July of the same year, Sara was reappointed.
Had she lived, Charlotte would have been Queen of the United Kingdom. Princess Charlotte Augusta of Wales was the only daughter of George IV, then Prince of Wales, and his wife and first cousin, Caroline of Brunswick, who loathed one another and who separated soon after Charlotte’s birth, never to live together, nor indeed be civil to one another, again.
A protracted battle of wills went on for years concerning Princess Charlotte. The Prince was willing to accede to the wishes of his father, King George III, but wanted Caroline to have no influence in her daughter’s education, while the king wanted Queen Caroline to be party to decisions about her daughter. In the end, Charlotte remained in the care of her father and the the Princess of Wales was forbidden to see her daughter and in 1799 she went abroad, inviting scandal by taking lovers and running up vast debts.
When Charlotte reached a marriageable age in 1813, the Regent engaged her to the Prince of Orange, whom she loathed, in December. Having served under Wellington (whose set referred to the Prince as “Silly Billy”), and been educated in England, he was eligible as a husband but his residence in Holland, owing to his father’s return from exile to the throne, became a necessity. Princess Charlotte was not happy. Not only did she not want to leave England, but she saw this as a means for her father to get her out of his hair. Things had not been going smoothly for some time, as mentioned in a prior post on this blog. Charlotte asked that the marriage treaty contain a clause to the effect that she should never be obliged to leave England against her will and told Prince William that her duty to England was ‘such as to make even a short absence inconvenient and painful.’
The following is from a book called The Beloved Princess: Princess Charlotte of Wales by Charles E. Pearce –
The Regent was bent upon hurrying the courtship. He came to see Charlotte the next day, bringing with him the Prince of Orange, whom Miss Knight further describes as “particularly plain and sickly in his look, his figure very slender, and manner rather hearty and boyish.” A more unsuitable mate for the robust, impulsive, and warm-blooded Charlotte could hardly be imagined, and if there was any love-making on this occasion it must have been of the most vapid and uninteresting kind. At all events, the young man had the opportunity, for the Regent turned aside, leaving the two together, and sat by the fire chatting to Miss Knight in an adjoining room. The object of the chat was to make it known to the lady companion that the Princess Charlotte was engaged to the young Prince, but that Miss Knight was to tell no one until he gave her leave. The Regent evidently had his doubts as to Charlotte’s real sentiments, for he desired Miss Knight to give her good advice, particularly “against flirtation.”
These doubts were soon confirmed, for while he was talking the conversation was interrupted in rather an embarrassing fashion. The Princess was suddenly heard sobbing hysterically. The Regent started to his feet, and Miss Knight followed him to the door of the other room, where they found the Prince of Orange looking very frightened and Princess Charlotte in great distress. ” What, is he going away ? ” exclaimed the Regent.
The question could only have been put in a bantering spirit. He saw something was amiss, but he did did not trouble to inquire further, and soon after took the Prince away, as they had an engagement to dine in the City.
When they were gone Charlotte explained what had caused her outburst of emotion. The Prince had told her it was expected she should reside every year two or three months in Holland, and even when necessary follow him into the army; that the Regent and his Ministers had not thought it advisable to tell her this, but that, as he always wished they should be open and fair to each other, he was resolved to tell her.
The announcement descended upon her like a thunderbolt. Apart from the humiliating thought that the father and the Ministers were plotting to keep her in the dark, there was also the suspicion that they wanted to banish her from England.
It can hardly be doubted that Charlotte had secret ambitions to fulfil the high station which fate had apparently designed for her. If at any moment the Regent died, she would be Queen of England. She could then marry any one she pleased.
Charlotte certainly never pretended to have any affection for the Prince of Orange, and did not hesitate to ridicule him even after their betrothal. She told her mother that his being approved of by the Royal Family was quite sufficient to make him disapproved of by her; for that she would marry a man who would be at her devotion, not theirs. “Marry I will,” said she to the Princess of Wales, “and that directly in order to enjoy my liberty, but not the Prince of Orange. I think him so ugly that I am almost obliged to turn my head away in disgust when he is speaking to me.” The engagment, for various reasons, ended in 1814.
In the end, Charlotte was married to Leopold George Christian Frederick of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfield, (above) her own choice as a husband. Leopold was the youngest child of Francis, Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld and Augusta of Reuss-Ebersdorf. The couple were married on 2 May, 1816, at Carlton House. After spending their honeymoon at Oatlands in Surrey, the country seat of her uncle, the Duke of York, the couple set up home at Claremont. The cool and collected Leopold was to prove a calming influence on his tempestuous and headstrong wife and life was idyllic for the couple.
However, in 1817, after two miscarriages, Charlotte became pregnant with what was hoped would be a grandson and the heir in the next generation to the British throne.
Once again we turn to The Beloved Princess: Princess Charlotte of Wales –
Princess Charlotte’s persistent ill-luck mysteriously pursued her to the last. When she was expecting to crown her hopes and those of her husband, and the question of her medical attendant became of importance, her intimate friend Lady Ashworth urged her to have Sir William Knighton, an accoucheur of some eminence. The matter was apparently settled, and Lady Ashworth went away to Rome. When she returned she found, to her dismay, that the Princess had, upon the advice of a lady, decided to appoint Sir Richard Croft. It was too late to alter the arrangement, and Croft, a pompous, vain, and selfopinionated man, entered upon his duties. Stockmar, who was part of the household at Claremont, describes him as ” a long, thin man, no longer very young, fidgety and good-natured, seems to have more experience than learning or understanding.” Croft had a craze for lowering the physical strength of his patients, and this suicidal course was pursued with the Princess Charlotte. Miss Murray tells that the Princess was accustomed to have a mutton-chop and a glass of port for lunch. Croft did away with this, and substituted tea and bread and butter. She became weak and depressed, and one day a friend found her in tears. This mistaken treatment was continued for weeks. The calibre of Croft’s mind can be guessed from his foolish remark in reference to his suggestion that the Princess should wear no stays : ” A cow does not wear stays, why should the Princess Charlotte?”
Her life was thrown away, for when the supreme moment was at hand, weak as she was, she was unsustained for fifty hours by any kind of nourishment in the way of food ; the obstinate and self-deluded accoucheur thinking it much better that she should not eat. The baby—a boy of unusual beauty—was born. It was dead, and Croft tried to bring back life, but in vain. Meanwhile the mother was left to herself, for the accoucheur refused to have any other doctor present. Not even any of Charlotte’s ladies were with her, only the nurse.
The child was born at nine o’clock, and apparently the mother was going on fairly well, but towards midnight Croft became alarmed and went for Stockmar, telling him the Princess was dangerously ill and that the Prince must be informed. Leopold knew that the child was dead, but he did not realise the nature of the impending calamity. It was all over when he set out for her room, and on his way he sank on a chair overwhelmed. Recovering himself, he staggered on, reached the bedside, and kneeling down kissed the cold hands—” those beautiful hands which at the last while she was talking to others seemed always to be looking out for mine,” were his pathetic words—and amid the stillness of death the falling curtain closed upon the tragedy.
Though the mother seemed at first to be recovering well from her horrendous ordeal, she complained that evening of severe stomach pains and began to vomit. She later developed a pain in her chest, before going into convulsions. Soon after the Regent was awoken by his brother, the Duke of York and informed that his only daughter was dead.
The following details of the Princess’s death are taken from a letter, addressed by Mr. H. F. Cooke to Mr. Thomas Raikes (under date November 6, 1817), and published in the interesting volume entitled The Correspondence of Thomas Raikes with the Duke of Wellington and other Distinguished Contemporaries.
” The Princess Charlotte’s death has caused a general gloom throughout the country. The particulars of this truly melancholy event will be made known to you through the papers, with all the accuracy of official report.
There are some few circumstances as attending the death of this interesting woman that may not find their way abroad; for example, the courage with which she suffered, and the resignation which she displayed in death. The faculty of mind never abandoned her. She asked, about an hour previous to death, whether there was any danger: the difficulty of breathing from about that time prevented her speaking much. When Baillie and Croft administered brandy, hot wine, sal-volatile, &c, she said, ‘ You make me drunk. Pray leave me quiet. I find it affects my head.’ And shortly after this, raising herself in the bed, she heaved a deep sigh, fell back, and expired.
“The act of dying was not painful. There certainly must have been spasm, but I have not heard that it was at the heart. Neither do I believe the family conceived that she was in danger, even an hour before she died. It is a blow which the nation really appears to feel acutely, as much as it is possible to suppose the fate of any one not materially connected with one could be felt.
“The Regent is terribly shook by this blow; so unexpected that he was completely overset when he was told of it. He had left Sudboum upon hearing of the protracted labour, but was in London informed that the child was dead and she remarkably well.”
Indeed, a deep and black mourning was proclaimed as soon as the Prince Regent and the country learned of the death of Princess Charlotte. No one was more bereft than Prince Leopold.
In her letters, Lady Shelly wrote, “To-day the Duchess of York goes into the country to receive the unhappy Prince Leopold of SaxeCoburg, whose grief is as deep as during the first. He spends some hours every day in the bedchamber of Princess Charlotte. That apartment is still as it was when the Princess left it the day before she died! Her pelisse, her boots, and even her hat, which she had carelessly thrown aside on the sofa, are left just as they were, for no one but the heart-broken Prince has entered that room. It is a case of real grief, and absolutely without parade.”
An austopsy was conducted upon the Princess and, at the time, it was believed that her death was due to a post-partum hemorrhage after giving birth to a stillborn son. Modern day doctors who have examined the autopsy findings now tend to believe that the Princess died from a pulmonary embolism.
Blackwood’s Magazine offered the following account of the events in the days following Charlotte’s death –
Yesterday the mourning for the much lamented Princess Charlotte commenced in this city, and was very general. The pulpits and desks of all the churches were hung with black. . . In the fore preserved in a similar manner to that of its royal mother, (the child) by being secured in several wrappers round the whole of the body, with light bandages, and being secluded, by means of wax, from the air, it will remain in a perfect state of preservation for a number of years. The whole of the body is enclosed in blue velvet, tied with white ribbons.
Windsor, Nov. 19—This morning, a little before one o’clock, the funeral procession with the remains of the late universally-regretted Princess Charlotte, arrived here from Claremont. They were received at the lower Lodge, where she is to lie in state this day, previously to the interment at night. The mourning coach, in which were the infant and urn, proceeded to the chapel, where eight yeomen of the guard, in attendance, carried and deposited them in the vault. The procession of the hearse and five mourning coaches, preceded by a number of men on horseback, was escorted into the town from Egham by a party of the Royal Horse Guards. Although the hour at which it arrived was so very late, the road and streets through which it passed were lined with spectators.
Funeral of the late Princess Charlotte – The last sad and solemn rites have been paid to the mortal remains of the lamented Princess Charlotte of Wales. It was near two o’clock before the procession arrived at Windsor. The remains of the Princess were received at the lower Lodge by a party of the yeomen of the guard, who carried the coffin. A guard of honour from the 3d regiment of Foot Guards, who are quartered at Windsor, was stationed on the outside of the lodge. Prince Leopold, his attendants, and others, in the mourning-coaches, alighted at the lodge. The anti-room was hung with black cloth, and the interior chamber, in which the coffin reposed, was entirely lined with the same . . . The coffin was covered with a large black velvet pall, with a deep white border that fell on each side, and spread itself on the floor. On the coffin was the Princess’s crown, and at the head of the coffin, against the wall, was a large escutcheon of silk, similar to those placed on the fronts of houses when death has taken place in a family. Three large wax candles were on each side of the coffin; numerous small wax candles were burning on all sides of the room—The gentlemen of the College of Arms were busily employed during the morning in arranging the stalls in the chapel for the reception of the Knights of the Garter, and in other preparations for the funeral. The machinery for letting the corpse down into the vault was completed. —Windsor continued crowded to excess throughout the day. At dusk, it was thought necessary to clear the Castle Yard, and none were afterwards admitted without pass-tickets. The 1st, 2d, and 3d regiments of Guards took a principal part of the duty. The door opened a few minutes before seven, and those who had tickets were admitted into the grand entrance of that superb edifice. By half past eight all was ready, and the funeral cavalcade was put in motion. Proceeding at half-foot pace, it was nine o’clock when it reached St George’s Chapel. At eight o’clock each fourth man of the Royal Horse Guards lighted a torch. About half past eight the procession began to move from the lower lodge.
This memorial to Princess Charlotte and her son stands in St. George’s Chapel, Windsor
The moon shone with peculiar brightness during the whole time. The procession entered by the gate on the south aisle of the chapel, through which it proceeded, and moved up the nave into the chapel. The aisle on each side was lined by a detachment of the Foot Guards, three deep. It is but pure justice to the assembled soldiery to say, that they conducted themselves with the most exemplary conduct, and evinced their full participation in the anguish and distress of their fellow-citizens. Prince Leopold followed the coffin as chief mourner. He walked along with unsteady step, and took the seat provided for him at the head of the coffin, between the Dukes of York and Clarence. The coffin was placed with the feet towards the altar. The usual anthems were chanted with proper solemnity; but the reading part of the ceremony did not attract any particular observation; the Dean went through his portion of it with dignity and pathos. When it was over, Sir Isaac Heard read the titles of the Princess, in a voice much more broken by grief than age, and the mourners walked back, though without the state accompaniments. The Prince Leopold looked distressingly ill; and indeed his state of health and feeling might excite alarm, if it were not that he has latterly been able to procure some sleep. The melancholy business was over before eleven o’clock, but the chapel and the avenues were not completely cleared till twelve o’clock. The baronesses who bore the pall were Ladies Grenville, Ellenborough, Boston, and Arden.
Below are a few examples of the momento mori connected to Princess Charlotte.
Further reading: Royal Mourning and Regency Culture: Elegies and Memorials of Princess Charlotte by Stephen C. Behrendt, Palgrave Macmillan, 1997, ISBN 9780312210496, 282pp.
Horatio, Lord Nelson and the Duke of Wellington met but once in their lives and, thanks to diarist John Wilson Croker (The Croker Papers), we have an account of that meeting, in Wellington’s own words. The following account was told to Croker whilst he was visiting the Duke at Walmer Castle on October 1, 1834. The Duke’s telling of the story was prompted by a question put to him by Croker concerning Nelson’s reputation for egotism and vanity –
“Why,” said the Duke, “I am not surprised at such instances, for Lord Nelson was, in different circumstances, two quite different men, as I myself can vouch, though I only saw him once in my life, and for, perhaps, an hour.
“It was soon after I returned from India. I went to the Colonial Office in Downing Street, and there I was shown into a little waiting-room on the right hand, where I found, also waiting to see the Secretary of State, a gentleman whom, from his likeness to his pictures and the loss of an arm, I immediately recognized as Lord Nelson. “He could not know who I was, but he entered at once into conversation with me, if I can call it conversation, for it was almost all on his side, and all about himself, and in really a style so vain and so silly as to surprise and almost disgust me. I suppose something that I happened to say may have made him guess that I was somebody, and he went out of the room for a moment, I have no doubt to ask the office-keeper who I was, for when he came back he was altogether a different man, both in manner and matter. All that I had thought a charlatan style had vanished, and he talked of the state of this country and of the aspect and probabilities of affiars on the Continent with a good sense, and a knowledge of subjects both at home and abroad that surprised me equally and more agreeably than the first part of our interview had done; in fact, he talked like an officer and a stateman.
“The Secretary of State kept us long waiting, and certainly for the last half or three quarters of an hour I don’t know that I ever had a conversation that interested me more. Now, if the Secretary of State had been punctual, and admitted Lord Nelson in the first quarter of an hour, I should have had the same impression of a light and trivial character that other people have had, but luckily I saw enough to be satisfied that he was really a very superior man; but certainly a more sudden and complete metamorphosis I never saw.”
Sometimes, the most interesting bits of history are right in front of us, but remain hidden from view because we’re just too busy to take proper notice of them. Below, we point out a few of the hidden historical gems to be found in Southwark.
Originally, street bollards were adapted from the French cannons captured at the battle of Trafalgar in 1805. They were placed on street corners to stop the iron wagon wheels of carts from mounting the kerbs and doing damage and became so useful that bollards were installed throughout the City. Once the stock of authentic French cannons had been exhausted, copies were made and can still be seen on the streets of London today. The bollard pictured at left is an original French cannon which stands on the Southbank near to Shakespeare’s Globe. For more information and photos, visit Bollards of London.
Hardly a secret since it’s now a cheesey tourist attraction, the Clink Prison (1 Clink Street, Bankside) is still of note. The Clink Prison Museum is built upon the original site of the Clink Prison, which dates back to 1144 making it one of England’s oldest, if not the oldest Prison. Owned by the Bishop of Winchester, the Clink Prison was used to control the Southbank of London known as “The Liberty of The Clink.” This area housed much of London’s entertainment establishments including four theatres, bull-baiting, bear-baiting, inns and many other darker entertainments, including prostitution, smuggling and murder – a fact that meant that the Clink was never short of inmates. In fact, it’s still housing prisoners – in August 2006 an employee accidentally locked two tourists in the basement museum when locking up for the night and going home. They were released later that night after pressing the fire alarm. And they thought “You’ll be thrown in the Clink” was just an old saying.
The Ferryman’s Seat, Bear Gardens, Bankside is close by where Shakespeare’s Globe now stands. Long ago when London’s only river crossing was the London bridge, ferrymen waited to take people from one side of the shore to the other. On the South Bank stood many “Stews” the old name for brothels that were lined along this side of the river on the South Bank, as well as actors and troubadours who preformed at the Rose and the Globe theatres and the large crowds who came for the nearby bear baiting ring. Now set into the side of a modern building, the ferryman’s seat stands in exactly the same spot where the ferrymen rested between fares.
The Southwark War Memorial in Borough High Street was sculpted by Philip Lindsey Clark (1889-1977), a Captain during WWI who won the DSO before going back to study at the Royal Academy. This work of 1924 shows a soldier tramping through mud, while reliefs on each side show a biplane dogfight and a naval battle. A weeping wife and mother decorate the reverse.
Again not exactly a secret, since it’s still a popular pub and meeting place, The George Inn on Borough High Street is the last of London’s galleried coaching inns. For centuries, Borough High Street was the terminus for coaches travelling to London from the south when the old London Bridge was too narrow for them to cross into the City. Passengers used to eat and sleep here while they waited to board the horse-drawn coaches which handled long distance travel in the days before the railways. Rooms occupied the galleries that encircled the courtyard where the coaches stopped while the horses were changed and the passengers got on and off. The George dates from 1676, when it replaced an earlier inn destroyed by fire. While the northern and central wings were demolished for the railway in 1889, the southern wing remains intact. In 1937, it was taken over by the National Trust, which oversaw its repair and restoration.
London Bridge Station has the honour of being the oldest railway station in London. It opened on 14 December 1836 as the terminus of the London and Greenwich Railway, the first steam-powered railway in London and the first in the world designed specifically to carry passengers. It ran along a viaduct consisting of 878 arches originally intended to be rented out for housing. Since 1839, when the London and Croydon Railway began operation, the station has consisted of two parts, each of which has been altered and expanded many times. Having suffered bomb damage during the Second World War, the station was rebuilt and reopened in 1978.
Brooke and I actually came across Hopton’s Almshouses in June, when the gardens were alive with gorgeous roses. The Almshouses were founded by fishmonger Charles Hopton, who died in 1730. The 26 almshouses for ‘poor decayed men’ of the parish were erected in 1746-9 and opened in 1752. The residents, who included gardeners, watermen and fishermen were also granted £6 per year and 32 bushels of coal. In 1825 two extra houses were added. The complex includes two garden squares with centre lawns and roses, edged with shrubs. Outside the gates is a drinking fountain and cattle trough. The almshouses were rebuilt and modernised in 1988 and are used for housing, administered by The Anchor Trust.
From Famous Racing Men by Willmott-Dixon Thormanby (1882):
The incidents of Mytton’s romantic and eventful life have been narrated with tolerable fidelity but questionable taste by his friend, C. J. Apperley (the famous “Nimrod”) . . . . John Mytton was born on the 30th of September, 1796, at the family seat of Halston, in Shropshire, three miles from Oswestry, and was left fatherless at two years of age. His mother spoiled him, and by the time he was ten years of age the young heir was what is called a regular pickle. He was expelled from Westminster and Harrow in succession. At the former school he spent £800 a-year, exactly double his allowance, and wrote, when he was only fourteen years of age, to Lord Eldon, the then Lord Chancellor, requesting an increase of income, as he was going to be married. The Lord Chancellor replied—” Sir, if you cannot live on your income you may starve, and if you marry I will commit you to prison.” At the age of nineteen he entered, as a cornet, the 7th Hussars, and joined that regiment in France with the army of occupation. But as there was no more fighting, Cornet Mytton was at leisure to enter into all kinds of youthful mischief. One of his feats was borrowing £3,000 of a banker at St. Omer one day and losing half of it at an E. 0. table in Calais the next.
John Scott, 1st Lord Eldon
He also lost 16,000 napoleons to a certain captain at billiards, which sum he was unable to pay at the moment. But this score was wiped off in a more agreeable manner. The colonel of Mytton’s regiment, the then Earl of Uxbridge, forbade his paying the money, and the captain in question was afterwards implicated in a transaction which went far to prove that Lord Uxbridge was morally right. When Mytton came of age he found himself possessed of an estate of about £10,000 a-year and £60,000 of accumulated cash, but a large portion of the latter had to go towards liquidating his already numerous debts. Quitting the army, he married, at the age of twenty-three, Harriet, the eldest daughter of the then lately deceased Sir Tyrrwhitt Jones, Bart., of Stanley Hall, Shropshire. The bridegroom was attended by the Earl of Uxbridge and the Earl of Denbigh, K.G., and the wedding was one of the events of the season. The issue of their union was only one daughter. Mrs. Mytton died a few years after her marriage, and there can be no doubt that her death was accelerated, if not actually caused, by her husband’s insane conduct and cruel neglect.
Henry Paget, Lord Uxbridge
John Mytton was physically a fine animal: in height about 5ft. 9in., in weight 12st., with magnificent shoulders, a splendid chest, and an arm the biceps muscle of which was larger than that of Jackson’s, the celebrated pugilist, who was believed to be the most powerful man of his time in England. He was fond of displaying his strength, but it was perhaps fortunate that he steadily refused to learn boxing.
In dress Mytton was peculiar, not to say eccentric. He never wore any but the thinnest and finest silk stockings, with very thin boots or shoes, so that in winter he very rarely had dry feet. To flannel he was a stranger from the time he left off petticoats. Even his hunting-breeches were without lining; he wore one small waistcoat, always open in the front from the second of the lower buttons, and about home he was as often without a hat as with one. His winter shooting gear was a light jacket, white linen trousers without lining or drawers; and in frost and snow he waded through all water that came in his way. These, however, are not exceptional marks of hardihood, we know men of the present day who go as lightly clad through all the seasons. But Mytton went further than this. He would sometimes strip to his shirt to follow wildfowl in hard weather, and once actually laid himself down in the snow with absolutely not a stitch on him but his shirt to await the arrival of the ducks at dusk.
Curiously enough, extravagant though he was in other respects, Mr. Mytton made no great show in his establishment at Halston. There was every comfort but no display, and had he conducted all his affairs with the same regularity and simplicity as his menage at his ancestral seat he would never have run through upwards of half-amillion of money in less than fifteen years as he did. But it was not difficult to find where the screw was loose in his expenditure. His foxhounds were kept by himself and upon a very extensive scale, with the additional expenses of hunting two countries. His racing establishment was on a still larger scale, for he often had from fifteen to twenty horses in training at the same time, and seldom less than eight. His average number, indeed, of thoroughbred stock at home and from home, including brood mares and yearlings, was about thirty-six, which probably cost him something like £6,000 a-year. His game preserves, too, were a severe drain upon his income; for besides such items as £1,500 in one bill to a London dealer for pheasants and foxes alone, there was the formation of miles of plantations which this game went in part to stock, and which he employed a staff of fifty labourers to keep in order. He was a great friend, too, to the tailors, having frequently in his wardrobes as many as a hundred and fifty pairs of breeches and trousers, with a proportionate number of coats and waistcoats. In his cellars there were “hogsheads of ale, standing like soldiers in close column, and wine enough in wood and bottle for a Roman emperor.” He made his own malt, and “John Mytton, Licensed Maltster,” was painted in large letters over the malt house door. How much he spent on post horses it is impossible to guess; but almost every post boy in England knew “Squire Mytton” and lamented his fall. He never stayed at an inn without giving the waiter a guinea, and he would never pay a tradesman’s bill until he had received a writ. A strange unaccountable creature he was, who though always making a great pretence of
“enjoying life,” seems really never to have derived enjoyment from anything.
A summary of Mr. Mytton’s actual racing career may be comprised in a few words. He had too many horses in the first place, and too many of them not good enough to pay their way. It isevident he was anxious to have good ones from the prices he paid; but he bought several of that sort after their day had gone by; for example, Comte d’Artois, Banker, Longwaist, &c. He had, however, several good winners, old Euphrates at their head, and Whittington, Oswestry and Halston were esteemed very “smart” horses in the racing world. Indeed, it is believed that in some hands they would have proved trump cards. As for himself as a racing man he was too severe upon his horses: they rarely came out fresh after Chester and one or two other places. He seldom backed his horses to any serious amount, generally not at all. His stables were upon Delamere Forest, in Cheshire; his home-stud groom, Tinkler, was a careful nurser of young racing stock, but do what he would, Mr. Mytton was never able to breed a good racehorse.
It would be out of place to discuss here Mr. Mytton’s conduct towards his wives, of whom the second fared no better than the first. His brutality was inexcusable, and the most charitable supposition is that it was the result of a morbid insanity. For the last twelve years of his life it may safely be stated that he was never sober. His daily quantum of port wine was from four to six bottles; but even in spite of this excess he would probably have lived far longer than he did had he not in an evil hour discarded port for brandy. Even his adamantine constitution, “perhaps the hardiest ever bestowed upon man,” as ” Nimrod” says, was not proof against that. He went from bad to worse, till in the year 1830 the world heard without surprise that “it was all up with Jack Mytton.” Everything that could be sold was sold, and he retired to Calais with just a small pittance sufficient to keep body and soul together. There he completed the wreck of his magnificent physique by drinking brandy till he really was a raving lunatic. On partially recovering his senses, he came over to England, when he was arrested and thrown into the King’s Bench Prison, beyond the gates of which he was destined never to pass alive. For there he died in misery and squalor in the thirtyeighth year of his age. And so ended the mournfullest, the maddest, the most utterly wasted career of which the annals of the turf contain any record.