John Mytton

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John Mytton (30 September 1796 – 29 March 1834) was a notable British eccentric and rake of the Regency period.

Family and inheritance[edit]

John "Mad Jack" Mytton was born into a family of Shropshire squires with a lineage that stretched back some 500 years before his day. (The surname may have originated as "Mutton" or be associated with the village of Mytton, near Forton Heath, a few miles west of Shrewsbury.) His father, also named John, died at the age of 30, when Jack was only two years old, and he inherited the family seat, Halston Hall, Whittington, (near Oswestry in Shropshire), which was worth £60,000 (£4.3 million as of 2006),[1] as well as an annual income of £10,000 (more than £716,000 as of 2006) from rental and agricultural assets generated by an estate of more than 132,000 acres in North Wales and Shropshire.

Education[edit]

Jack was sent to Westminster School, but was expelled after one year for fighting a master at the school. He was then sent to Harrow School, from where he was also expelled after three terms. He was then educated by a disparate series of private tutors whom he tormented with practical jokes that included leaving a horse in one tutor's bedroom.

Despite having achieved very little academically, Jack was granted entry to the University of Cambridge, to which took 2,000 bottles of port to sustain himself during his studies. He left without a degree, having found university life boring,and embarked on the Grand Tour.

Military service[edit]

Mytton saw both part-time and full-time military service. In 1812, when he was 16, he was commissioned as captain in a local yeomanry regiment, the Oswestry Rangers.[2] In 1814 it was merged into the North Shropshire Yeomanry Cavalry, into which Mytton transferred.[3]

After his return from the Grand Tour he was commissioned in the regular Army and joined the 7th Hussars. As a cornet he spent a year with the regiment in France as part of the army of occupation after the defeat of Napoleon I, spending his time gambling and drinking before resigning his commission.

Back in Shropshire[edit]

Mytton later returned to his country seat and took up the duties of a squire in preparation for coming into his full inheritance when he became 21. He also rejoined the North Shropshire Yeomanry and was promoted to major in 1822, after a vain attempt to lobby its colonel for an even higher rank in the place of an uncle, William Owen, who had left the regiment.[4] Despite his later periods abroad and imprisonment, he was still on the regimental strength at the time of his death twelve years later.[5]

He had married a baronet's daughter in 1818, but she died in 1820. His second wife, Caroline Giffard, ran away in 1830.

In 1819 he entertained ambitions of standing for Parliament, as a Tory,[6] following family tradition. He secured his seat by offering voters £10 notes, spending a total of £10,000 (more than £750,000 as of 2006)[1]). He thus became MP for Shrewsbury. He spent just 30 minutes in the House of Commons in June 1819, but found the debates boring and difficult to follow because of his incipient deafness.[7] When Parliament was dissolved in 1820 he declined to stand at the next election.[6]

However, he attempted to enter Parliament again in 1831, this time for one of the two Shropshire seats and as a Whig candidate. He withdrew on the fifth day of the poll and came bottom with 376 votes. He then issued an address stating that he would contest the next parliamentary election, but by the time of that election, in 1832, he had gone into exile to escape his creditors.[8]

Meanwhile he indulged his enjoyment of horseracing and gambling, and enjoyed some success at both. He bought a horse named Euphrates, which was already a consistent winner, and entered it in the Gold Cup at Lichfield in 1825, and it duly won. Its portrait, commissioned by Mytton from the painter William Webb, was exhibited at the Royal Academy the same year. Mytton also became a well-known character at Oswestry Race Course, an increasingly disreputable local racetrack.[9]

It is said that in 1826, in order to win a bet, he rode a horse into the Bedford Hotel opposite the Town Hall in Leamington Spa, up the grand staircase and onto the balcony, from which he jumped, still seated on his horse, over the diners in the restaurant below, and out through the window onto the Parade.

He also held contests for local children at Dinas Mawddwy, giving sums ranging from half a crown to half a guinea to those who rolled all the way down the hill Moel Dinas.[10]

Hunting and Driving[edit]

Mytton had hunted foxes with his own pack of hounds from the age of ten and went hunting in any kind of weather. His usual winter gear was a light jacket, thin shoes, linen trousers and silk stockings, but in the thrill of the chase he sometimes stripped off and continued the hunt naked, even through snow drifts and rivers in full spate. He also continued hunting despite being unseated and sustaining broken ribs -"unmurmuring when every jar was an agony", and sometimes led his stable boys on rat hunts, each stable boy being equipped with ice skates. He had a wardrobe consisting of 150 pairs of hunting breeches, 700 pairs of handmade hunting boots, 1,000 hats and some 3,000 shirts.

Mytton kept numerous pets, including some 2,000 dogs. His favourites among them were fed on steak and champagne. His favourite horse, Baronet, had free range inside Halston Hall and lay in front of the fire with Mytton.

It was said of "Mad Jack" that "not only did he not mind accidents, he positively liked them". Mytton drove his gig at high speed and once decided to discover if a horse pulling a carriage could jump over a tollgate (it could not). On another occasion he asked his passenger whether he had ever been upset in a gig. The man said he had not and Mytton responded, "What!! What a damn slow fellow you must have been all your life!" He promptly drove the gig up a sloping bank at full speed, tipping himself and his passenger out.

Scandals[edit]

Mytton is said to have picked a fight with a Shropshire miner who disturbed his hunt. The bareknuckle fight lasted 20 rounds before the miner gave up.

Mytton's biographer "Nimrod" (Charles James Apperley) describes another incident that scandalised the neighbours: "He once rode this bear into his drawing-room, in full hunting costume. The bear carried him very quietly for a time; but on being pricked by the spur he bit his rider through the calf of his leg." The bear, which Mytton named Nell, later attacked a servant and was put down.

Mytton often drank eight bottles of port a day with a helping of brandy. He managed to kill one of his horses, Sportsman, by making it drink a bottle of port. Rather than sit down to formal dinners, he sustained himself throughout the day with "pounds of filberts" when they were in season, or dine with his tenant farmers, eating bacon and drinking ale before returning to Halston Hall.

Mytton was an enthusiastic dog-fighter and gambled on the outcome of fights between bulldogs, mastiffs and terriers. He apparently beat his own fearless bulldog with his bare fists. He is also said to have bitten fighting dogs, even standing upright with a mastiff held in his own jaws without using his hands to support the weight. He is also said to have put his wife’s lapdog on the fire in a jealous rage, burning it to death, though witnesses claimed that what actually happened was that he threw the dog high in the air and caught him.

Decline[edit]

Mytton was spendthrift. Visitors to his estate sometimes found banknotes secreted around the grounds, whether left on purpose or simply lost. Over the course of fifteen years he managed to spend his inheritance and then fell into deep debt. His agent had calculated that if he could but reduce his expenditure to £6,000 a year for six years his estate would not have to be sold, but Mytton declared that "I wouldn't give a damn to live on £6,000 a year!" In 1831 he fled to Calais to avoid his creditors. He had met an attractive 20-year-old woman named Susan on Westminster Bridge and offered her £500 a year to be his companion. She accompanied him to France and stayed with him until his death.

During his stay in Calais he tried to cure his hiccups by setting his shirt on fire. "Nimrod" was present at this event: "'Damn this hiccup!!' said Mytton as he stood undressed on the floor, apparently in the act of getting into bed 'but I’ll frighten it away'; so seizing a lighted candle applied it to the tail of his shirt – it being a cotton one – he was instantly enveloped in flames. A fellow guest and Mytton’s servant beat out the flames: 'The hiccup is gone, by God!', said he and reeled, naked, into bed."

In 1833 Mytton returned to England, where, still unable to pay his debts, he ended up in the King's Bench Prison in Southwark. He died there in 1834, a "round-shouldered, tottering, old-young man bloated by drink, worn out by too much foolishness, too much wretchedness and too much brandy".

Offspring[edit]

Mytton left a number of children.

Harriet Emma Charlot was born to his first wife (Harriet Emma) c.1818

He married his second wife Caroline Gifford on 29 October 1821 and she had a daughter and four sons: Barbara Augusta (b. 9 August 1822), John Fox Fitz-Giffard (b. 20 November 1823), Charles Orville January (b. 1825), Euphrates Henry April (b. 1826) and William Harper (b. April 1827). Euphrates and Charles died young but his two other sons and both daughters survived him. Barbara Augusta in 1847 married Colonel Poulett George Henry Somerset, son of Lord Charles Henry Somerset, a younger brother of the 6th Duke of Beaufort.

Images[edit]

A print of a portrait of John Mytton by Ackerman was published in 1847, 13 years after the squire's death. These were marked "JOHN MYTTON ESQ. HALSTON SALOP ~ from an original picture in the possession of John Bishton Minor Esq. Astley House Pradoe, guardian of J.F.G. Mytton, this engraving of his ward's late father" When the print was published John jnr would have been 24 years old and would have inherited what was left of the estate. There is also a portrait of Mytton on horseback, by William Webb, and numerous illustrations, by H. Alken and T.J. Rawlins, appear in Nimrod's "Life of John Mytton".

Modern References[edit]

  • The Jack Mytton Way, a long-distance bridleway for riders, mountain bikers and walkers, runs for 116 km (72 mi) through South and Mid-Shropshire.
  • There is a public house named after Mytton in the canalside village of Hindford near Halston Hall.[11]
  • A hotel, The Mytton & Mermaid, on the River Severn at Atcham near Shrewsbury, and has a bar called Mad Jack's Bar'. His funeral cortege halted there on its way to the chapel at Halston.
  • There are eight roads, closes, avenues and lanes in Shropshire bearing the Mytton name.
  • The Jack Mytton Run, an annual streaking event by students, was held on the University of Minnesota campus in Minneapolis, Minnesota across Northrup Mall on the first class day following spring break. It is reported to have begun in 1999. In 2009 the multi-year streak was ended when campus police deterred the run.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Measuring Worth". Retrieved 18 September 2007. 
  2. ^ Gladstone, E.W. (1953). The Shropshire Yeomanry 1795-1945, The Story of a Volunteer Cavalry Regiment. The Whitethorn Press. p. 58. 
  3. ^ Gladstone, E.W. The Shropshire Yeomanry. p. 81. 
  4. ^ Gladstone, E.W. The Shropshire Yeomanry. pp. 84–86. 
  5. ^ Gladstone, E.W. The Shropshire Yeomanry. pp. 89–90. 
  6. ^ a b Weyman, Henry T. (1929–30). "Shrewsbury M.P.s". Transactions of the Shropshire Archaeological Society, Volume XII, 4th Series. pp. 248–249. 
  7. ^ [1] History of Parliament Online article by R.G. Thorne.
  8. ^ Weyman, Henry T. (1929–30). "Shropshire M.Ps". Transactions of the Shropshire Archaeological Society, Volume XII, 4th Series. pp. 242–245. 
  9. ^ "Shropshire - Features - Racecourse Common, Oswestry". BBC. Retrieved 2013-09-09. 
  10. ^ "Dictionary of Welsh Biography". 
  11. ^ "Jack Mytton". Retrieved 18 September 2007. 

Other sources[edit]

  • Charles James Apperley, Memoirs of The Life of The Late John Mytton, Esq. (1835), ISBN 1-4067-9945-9, Amazon link
  • Jean Holdsworth, Mango: the Life and Times of Squire John Mytton of Halston 1796-1834, 1972 ISBN 0-234-77608-0
  • Richard Darwall, Madcap's Progress: the life of the eccentric Regency sportsman John Mytton.

External links[edit]

Footnotes[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Richard Lyster
Henry Grey Bennet
Member of Parliament for Shrewsbury
1819–1820
With: Henry Grey Bennet
Succeeded by
Panton Corbett
Henry Grey Bennet