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Sunday, February 10, 2008

7 Lesser Known Loons From Past and Present


John Mytton was certainly one of the looniest of all British eccentrics throughout history. Born in 1796 and having died in 1834, Mytton was also known during his time as Squire Mytton, or preferably, "Mad Jack" Mytton.

John's father died when he was just two years old, leaving little "Mad Jack" his property at Halston Hall in Shropshire. Plus, he inherited a large extent of land. Some theorize that it was John's lack of parental guidance combined with his inherited wealth that caused John to be kind of nutty through his childhood and later adult years.

Mytton seemed to delight in producing havoc in the schools he was to be educated at. Mytton was expelled after only a year at Westminster School for fighting his teachers. Then, he was sent to Harrow School where he only lasted three days. Forced to be privately educated, John pulled a practical joke on his tutor. He thought it humorous to coax a large horse up the steps to the bedroom that John and the tutor shared. From what I've researched, John forced the tutor to share the bedroom with the horse and himself for quite some time. He later went to Cambridge University, where he arrived with 2,000 bottles of wine. Why? He said it was to help sustain him during his studies. Of course, he later left Cambridge without graduating, finding life there too boring.

Mytton spent some time in the army before coming into his full inheritance at 21, gaining the obligations and duties of country squire. Apparently though, his time spent in the army did not infuse him with much discipline.

John Mytton was remembered for his fondness of hunting and wild carriage rides. "Mad Jack" Mytton would drive his gig, like a speeding torpedo, towards a rabbit hole just to see if his carriage would turn over. In one incident, John once tested to see if his carriage could ramp over a tollgate. I imagine that proved exciting for the toll collector. Most likely, he soiled his pants.

Often, Mad Jack would race around dangerous country roads in a four horse gig, whipping across the crossroads and speeding 'round hairpin corners with great joy and no concern for others or him. Oddly enough, Mytton never received any serious injuries from these escapades. He was quoted as enjoying the accidents he had.

In one anecdote, Mytton was driving his four horse carriage with a new companion, of whom Mad Jack inquired whether he had ever been upset in a gig. "No", the man replied "Thank God, I have never been upset in one". "What!!" cried Mytton, "What a damn slow fellow you must have been all your life!" and promptly drove the gig up a sloping bank at full speed tipping himself and his passenger out.

Once, John Mytton asked the local parson and doctor to his Halston estate. After enjoying dinner and quiet conversation, the parson and doctor both commenced to leave. As his guests left on horseback, Mad Jack quickly donned a highwayman's clothing and mask. He also grabbed a pair of pistols before starting out on a round-a-bout, circuitous route where he abruptly met them at the edge of his estate. There, he fired his pistols over his head and shouted, "Stand and deliver!" Mytton would later relate the story to his peers with much glee, describing the parson and the doctor as "galloping for their lives, with himself, hard at their heels."

Another time, "Mad Jack" came to a dinner party at Halston Hall, riding a bear. He attempted to encourage the bear to go faster by givin' it a little kick with his spur. The bear responded by biting his calf. Charles James Apperley, John Mytton’s biographer, described the episode this way: "He once rode this bear into his drawing-room, in full hunting costume. The bear carried him quietly for a time; but on being pricked by the spur, he bit his rider through the calf of his leg." Even though the bear bit Mytton, Mytton kept the bear as a pet and named it Nell. Later, the bear took some serious bites out of one of his servants and good 'ol "Mad Jack" had it killed. What jolly fun had by all.

Mytton frequently engaged in dog fights, gambling on the games between bulldogs, mastiffs and terriers. He also would enjoy biting fighting dogs with his own teeth. Witnesses said, at times, Mytton would be standing upright, with a mastiff held in his jaws, holding it there, hands free. After erupting into a jealous rage with his wife (strange that anyone would marry him) he is rumored to have tossed his wife's dog into the fire, burning it to death.

Speaking of fire, Mytton was staying in France and was having a hard time with the hiccups. He announced, “Damn this hiccup, but I'll frighten them away." His solution? Why he set his shirt on fire, of course. Lucky for him, his friends and servants were there to put out the flames before he acquired serious burns. After that, he said, "The hiccup is gone, by God!" Naked, he slipped into bed and quoted a quote from the Greek, Sophocles, before falling quietly to sleep.

John Mytton was married in his lifetime.... twice. Hard to believe, given his zest for life. Or apparent zest for suicide attempts. Heh heh. The first wife died just after two years of marriage. The second left him after two years of marriage. What took her so long? Better yet, why did she go ahead with the ceremony in the first place, I wonder. Later, he paid 500 pounds to a very attractive woman so that she would be his companion. They spent 2 happy years together before he returned to England in 1834. He was in bad health, at the time of his return.

In the end, "Mad Jack" Mytton died in King Bench Prison. He had been jailed due to owing so much to his creditors. It is said he died there as a result of alcohol poisoning.

“Mad Jack” Mytton lived life with a fervor rarely seen amongst the majority of us. Raise your glass of the good stuff and offer a festive, wild-eyed toast to the eccentric Squire Mytton and pray you’ll never have to ride in a carriage with anyone like him.



Some random stranger said...

Thats us brits! Nutty as squirrel shit!

Although I would say there was more then likely an amount of inbreeding going on there. When you were researching, did you by any chance find out of he had 6 toes per foot?

Kelly said...

Hehheh. Nope, didn't see that in the research. Nothing about him being a six toed freak. But they did say he had a tongue like a bullfrog. Maybe that's why his wives stuck with him for several years. wink wink. Shame on me.

Just kidding. And nope, don't remember anything about inbreeding. And yes, I agree, you're all nutty as oversized rodent poopy.

Later, Dude

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