Thursday, August 20, 2009

Temptations of Eden -or- The One that Got Away

We've made a few comments lately about Mr Prime Minister, William Pitt's sexuality or lack thereof. Well, did you know, there was a special lady in his life? There definitely was. In fact, Mr. Pitt had more than one brush with matrimony. Perhaps the brush that got him the most attention was with Eleanor Eden, a noted beauty. The public followed the courtship with much interest. After all, Pitt never appeared to show an interest in a lady before! Just call them, Weleanor? Well, whatever, the press had a field day with the stiff politician they loved to hate and the beauty who dared to love him.

But this love story was not to have a happy ending. While other men were drooling over Eleanor, Pitt was writing a letter of regret to her father,
"Having now at length reflected as fully and as calmly as I am able . . . I am compelled to say that I find the obstacles to it decisive and insurmountable . . . "
When Lord Auckland (her father) inquired into the specificity of these "obstacles" Pitt blew him off with a typical loser ex-boyfriend answer, "further explanation or discussion can answer no good purpose." *Rolls eyes* His loss! Eleanor moved on to marry the 4th Earl of Buckinghamshire and Pitt remained the forever-bachelor.


  1. obviously her attractions weren't the kind that interested him...she was quite a looker and as you say, his loss!

  2. She was very pretty. Looking at her face, she reminds me of Sharleen Spiteri who sings with the band, Texas.

  3. I don't think this answers the question [if there ought to be one] of his sexuality. Think of all the gay boys who benefit from dating the pretty girl in school who has taken 'the promise' through her church. Whisper campaigns are nipped in the bud but the 'obstacles' prevent any action that would force him to perform. As a matter of fact, the relationship and outcome argue just as effectively, his potential homosexuality or asexuality.

  4. It's true that they loved to hate him...and of course with him showing now signs of interest with such a gorgeous lady..boy was there a story to tell!

  5. She's so pretty! What was his problem? I suppose one could say that he was married to his career and therefore had no time for the niceties of courtship.

  6. Yeah, I feel that in this case my gaydar is going off with him, but usually I just get the over boding feeling of asexuality. I need to ask Elyse her opinion on the whole situation since she is the biggest Pitt fan I know

  7. My vote is still for asexuality brought on by inherent shyness and a total neglect of his personal life.

    In any case, there are some good reasons for said insurmountable obstacles, as Pitt later told Lady Hester Stanhope:

    a. Pitt was disastrously in debt.

    b. There was apparently a "strain of madness" in the Pitt line, stemming back from Diamond Jack Pitt, who had established the family's wealth by coming back from India with a massive diamond. The Earl of Chatham went mad later in life and Pitt was reportedly afraid that he would do the same. Compound this with:

    c. Pitt's increasing ill-health. Pitt had inherited gout, was, at this point, a pretty set alcohoic (three bottles of port a day) and suffering from still undiagnosed pains in his stomach. Some days he was so weak he couldn't sit up, and, other days, his gout was so bad he couldn't stand.

    d. He couldn't stand Eleanor's mother, whom he had known for quite a long time, since Eleanor's father had served under Pitt in various positions in the foreign services for years. He was afraid Lady Auckland would let slip a few government secrets in between her usual stream of benign gossip. Since Pitt was intensely reserved when he didn't know people/wasn't comfortable with them, Lady Auckland's constant talking drove him up the wall, to the point where he actually said something about it to Lady Hester.

    e. He simply didn't know how to live with a wife. Pitt spend almost all of his time working. He had very few leisure activities and these he indulged in very rarely. He mentioned to Lady Hester that having a wife live around his workaholic schedule a. wouldn't be proper and b. would be extremely unfair to Eleanor, as she would be forced to entertain herself all the time and he would rarely be home.

    I mean, perhaps they aren't completely insurmountable, but they are the ones I believe he was thinking about when he wrote the letter. He also was extremely upset after having to write the letter. He didn't come out of his room for two days (something he usually did only when someone he clearly loved had died, like his sister) and when he did, he was withdrawn and very upset.

    ... though I do remember something about Sheridan claiming the insurmountable obstacles meant the Pitt was gay, but I'm not positive if Sheridan is a reliable resource. As far as I know, there were always rumors that Pitt was gay, but I'm still on the asexual side of the fence. I think there's more evidence pointing to that than homosexuality, but there are a lot of books I haven't read. *sigh* Why are there always more books than time to read them?

  8. I don't care what his sexuality was, per se, but the drinking and madness could both point to homosexuality. Due to the stigmatization around all sexuality and especially homosexuality, a person might have felt rather schizophrenic about their conflicting impulses and learned perceptions of those impulses. If sexuality is genetic, than some of Pitt's ancestors might have been 'maddened' by their own, similar conflicts. And even in today's world, there is a higher incidence of substance abuse in the LGBT community, mostly due to the conflicts that arise from ostracization and ridicule. Maybe I just have a harder time comprehending asexuality than homosexuality, heterosexuality or even the sometimes befuddling bisexuality. I should explore this prejudice of reason....

  9. Oh wow, I can't believe I just found your blog! We share the same interest. I love reading your blog, can I please exchange links with you?

  10. Maybe she wanted a sex life and he didn't?

  11. Paul: That is possible. There was one theory that Pitt had homosexual tendencies that he repressed for political advantage, since he did have a number of very close male friends. However, it was sort of The Thing to have romantic friendships

    I'm not sure the drinking would count though, since Pitt's doctor started him on a treatment for gout that included drinking a bottle of port a day. Pitt also became friends with his minister, Dundas, who was part of a drinking society that encouraged drinking all night every night if possible. He didn't start drinking on his own and I think continued it mostly out of social expectation. He and his friends drank in Cambridge, Dundas spent his nights drinking, Pitt joined it and, by the time the wars of the French Revolution rolled around, Pitt was up to three bottles a day, from that, political dinners and by then a probably severe addiction.

    Since I'm not entirely sure what the "strain of madness" was, aside from one episode where I'm pretty sure the Earl of Chatham, Pitt's father, had a nervous breakdown from work and Seven Years War related stress, that may be right.

    I'm personally still more on the asexual side, since Pitt's few romantic friendships don't seem to have any overtones of physical affection. George Canning once touched Pitt on the arm in Parliment and freaked out everyone in the House of Commons, including Pitt himself. I mean, it's a perfectly valid theory that Pitt was gay, but I'm inclined to believe that even if he was, it wasn't important to him, and he was perfectly happy without a love life. Since asexuality describes individuals who don't have an interest in or desire for sex but who can still enjoy emotional and/or romantic friendships and relationships, that's where I place Pitt.

  12. Elyse: Thanks for the comments. Obviously Pitt is a subject on which you have a lot of knowledge, while I am merely speculating for the enjoyment of conversation. I always think of asexuality as an avoidance tactic, which I think is an ignorant and intuitive reaction and not a reasonable conclusion. Having you stick to your guns on your view helps me to challenge myself to see this differently.

  13. Thanks you two for the interest dialogue you both brought up some incredibly interesting things! It was nice to sit back and read it all

  14. I'm learning so much in this blog! The lively discussions are bring history alive for me and making me want to find out more about people I previously either didn't give a second thought to or didn't know about.

  15. I'm completely with you, Elyse! I do not know as much about Pitt as you do, and I would like to commend you for presenting quite a few good, rational arguments.

    I don't think it would be fair to keep a wife when you have no time to spend with her and no money to entertain her with while you're gone. Perhaps he thought it was in her best interest to let her marry someone else, so he didn't marry her. When her father inquired after her faults, he didn't criticize her. It's hard to know what he was thinking. He looks so brooding all the time.

    I don't think he's gay! No one's dragged up illicit love notes to a man yet, now have they? Though we will never truly know...