Thursday, January 15, 2009

Pitt the Younger Goes Grouse Shooting

Funny things tended to happen to Pitt the Younger when he was, well... younger. It is possible that this was because Pitt, who was a notorious drinker, could outdrink most university students and often led his college friends in drunken routs. At one point in time, Pitt instigated a practical joke by stealing a friend's top hat during a house party at William Wilberforce's villa in Wimbleton, cutting the hat to pieces and then planting the pieces in the garden.

The Amateur Historian is sure the joke made more sense when drunk.

However, one of the most amusing of his university experiences had to be when he was invited to the country estate of his friend, Henry Bankes, along with William Wilberforce and a number of others. Pitt readily accepted this invitation, as he was a younger son without a country estate and London (this was at the beginning of the industrial revolution, and also at a point where London was one of the msot populated cities on the planet) was said to be deadly in the summer. While they were there, Pitt and his friends engaged in some grouse shooting.

No record remains of what they shot, except that the short-sighted Wilberforce took aim at Pitt and nearly shot him in the head by mistake.

Grouse shooting later came back to haunt Pitt the Younger; in 1797, his bill to introduce some regulation and social security for child laborers failed when the MPs decided they'd rather debate grouse-shooting insted.

Wilberforce got the worst end. For the rest of his life, his friends teased him for having taken "a shot a greatness" and missed.


  1. What an excellent blog. I'll have to add it to my list.

  2. Thank you very much! :D I'm glad you enjoy it.

  3. Planting a top hat? I wonder what he expected it to grow into...

  4. Do you know of a Pitt the Younger fangirl club? I am so there if one there be. I fell deeply in love with him two years ago, reading a three volume biography of the man.

  5. Not sure what he expected it to grow into, alas, but it would be fun to know!

    asnsketil rose: Alas, I wish there were! You read Ehrman's biography of Pitt?