“Mad Jack” John Mytton (1796 – 1834) was the real Regency rake.
The biographies of this Shropshire squire are both numerous and admirable. This series will try to capture his more memorable exploits. They are largely taken from the recollections of his closest friend Nimrod, also known as Charles James Apperly.
Nimrod gives the best characterization of Mytton, proclaiming him a rake approaching that example so richly set by another a century and a half earlier–John Wilmot, 2nd Earl of Rochester (1647 – 1680), a man called the best English satirist and whose poetry was so distinguished it was censored during the Victorian period.
Nimrod compares them both, finally noting that in the end, repentance (or lack of it) separated the two:
“Rochester made himself mad with drink–ditto John Mytton
Was not the best of husbands–ditto John Mytton
Trusted to a death-bed repentance–ditto John Mytton
Promised to amend his life if he recovers from a severe illness…but John Mytton never did promise what he did not think he could perform.”
— Memoirs of The Life of The Late John Mytton, Esq. (1835).
Mytton, like all rakes, alternately fascinates and repels. However, his character offers a cautionary tale to those who would pursue such exploits both in the real world and in fiction:
“There is but one excuse for a man being perpetually intoxicated and prostituting the reason of the man to the appetite of the brute; and that is, to attempt to divert grief which he has found impossible to subdue.” — Memoirs