William Pitt the Younger (Magill's Literary Annual 1980)
If Robin Reilly, author of a biography of Major-General James Wolfe and three studies of Wedgwood pottery, does not offer readers any startling revelations about William Pitt the Younger, he does offer them a briskly written, balanced, accessible account of Pitt’s personality, his parliamentary successes and failures, and his human strengths and weaknesses. If the book has a weakness it is that Reilly at times assumes that the reader understands many of the people, places, and events mentioned, while at other times he goes into considerable detail explaining who is who and what is what. William Pitt the Younger, therefore, is not a beginner’s book. Ideally, the reader should approach this volume with background knowledge of the complicated parliamentary debates and issues common to the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.
William Pitt, son of the “Great Commoner,” the First Earl of Chatham, was reared as an aristocrat. As a child, Pitt used to be taken on holiday excursions which were more pageants than tourist jaunts; everywhere people would greet the Earl and his family with cheers and shouts. Yet Reilly is quick to point out that such attentions did not “spoil” young Pitt, who, as son of the second most powerful man in England, had every possibility of being spoiled. Rather than a narcissistic, idle young man of pleasure, Pitt was remarkably stable and ethical. Thin and pale as a child, he suffered from one disease after...
(The entire section is 1465 words.)
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