The Continuing Story of "Mad Jack" Mytton

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.
The (very sad) End

2 thoughts on “The Continuing Story of "Mad Jack" Mytton”

  1. From the account of his habits of dress. one wonders if he had ultra-sensitive skin – my brother and a niece suffer from this – he would have temper tantrums and she was known to cut up her clothes if they irritated her.

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