The Real Regency Rake: Mother’s Love

John Mytton was a rake only a mother could love.

“The excessive tenderness of a fond mother is no match for the wayward temper of a darling boy, and how often is his ruin to be traced to this source!” — Nimrod, John Mytton

That fond mother was Sarah-Harriet Owen, daughter of a neighboring squire. After five years of marriage to the elder John Mytton, she was left a widow with a daughter, Harriet-Rebecca, and her son, John to raise. The two-year-old boy’s nearest relation, apart from mother and sister, was his uncle, his mother’s brother. Mr. Owen lived near Shrewsbury in Woodhouse and tried to advise his young nephew (and perhaps remonstrate with his sister) but these attempts to moderate the scion’s reckless behavior were rebuffed. Later, in conversation with Nimrod, the uncle confides he might lament the ruin his nephew had wrought, but was thankful he had nothing to do with it.

Don't stay out too late, dearest, and please refrain from harassing the neighbors.

“Don’t stay out too late, dearest, and please refrain from vexing the neighbors.”

A neighbor, Sir Richard Puleston, observed the raising of Master Mytton from closer quarters than Uncle Owen and called the little fellow “Mango, king of the pickles,” for “he was as finished a Pickle as the fondest mother and his own will could possibly have made him.”

By all accounts, Harriet-Rebecca was a dutiful girl and exhibited none of the deplorable qualities of her brother. She made a respectable  marriage to Sir John Heskith-Lethbridge. Although long-forgotten as her brother’s memory lives on, Harriet-Rebecca’s death was recorded by an admiring essay in the Gentleman’s Magazine of 1826.

That his sister was admirable and John was not is the foundation of Nimrod’s accusation–the woman who brought John forth was the author of his downfall:

Thus fell John Mytton–by nature, what God must have intended every man should be; by education, or rather, from the want of proper education, nearly at last what man should not be. The seed was good; but it fell among thorns and was choked.”

Lady Berwick's son, the 5th Baronet. Very good and very dull.

Lady Berwick’s son, the 5th Baronet. Very good and very dull.

John never blamed his mother and settled a handsome annuity upon her. Nor did she abandon him in his final desperation. After the sale of his unentailed properties and a failed attempt to woo his estranged wife, John escaped to France. He eventually landed in prison and not four days after being informed of this circumstance, his mother went to be with him. She managed to extricate him from this present coil, but continued heavy drinking and a propensity for insulting the French made it necessary to bring John back to England:

“where not only a prison, but the grave, yawned to receive him, and in prison he died.”

She survived John by several years, dying in Cheltenham. In her obituary, scant mention was made of the ruin that was her beloved son. This was passed over with hardly any comment, as if the author searched for some redeeming quality to mention. This was found in the lady’s connection with the nobility–her sister was the late Lady Berwick.

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13 thoughts on “The Real Regency Rake: Mother’s Love

  1. I agree with all of the comments above, although I wonder at Nimrod’s using the good sister as evidence that the mother was the problem. Wouldn’t a bad mother have warped the daughter as well? It’s probably something to do with gender identities during the Regency period, but it is confusing rationale to me:)

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    • A very good point. Nimrod was fond of referring to classical references decrying the notion a boy should be brought up by his mother. Evidently little or no damage could be expected when a mother may be trusted to the upbringing of an insignificant girl.

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    • Sarah Harriet Mytton, nee Mostyn Owen, is my 3rd great grand aunt. Good to know of another distant relative Angelyn.
      I an adescendent of Frances Sobieskie Thelwall a daughter of Sophia Rebecca Mostyn Owen.
      Peter

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      • Hi Peter,

        I’m a descendant of Sophia’s younger sister Tryphena Mostyn Owen (1825-1903). She married John Tanner, a chemist, and migrated to Australia in 1853, settling in Nathalia, Victoria.

        Regards from a distant cousin,

        Rachel Loosemore

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  2. An interesting side note… did you know that Sophia and Tryphena’s 1st cousin Fanny Owen was Charles Darwin’s close friend (some say girlfriend) before he set off on the Beagle? She ended up marrying Robert Myddelton Biddulph instead. Charles’ sister Marianne Darwin married Henry Parker. They had a daughter Mary Susan Parker who married Sophia and Tryphena’s brother Edward Henry Mostyn Owen.

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