The Real Regency Rake: Shooting

A gentleman knows how to shoot.

A rake is a damn fine shot.

According to one eyewitness account, John Mytton was known to take a cork (“not above an inch and a half in diameter”) used in pike fishing and afix a white piece of paper to it. This he placed on top of  a kennel he kept for tame foxes and their cubs. From fifty-five yards or more, he would shoot the cork for the amusement of his guests:

“..this he would do over and over to the amazement of all who witnessed it, and with his rifle to his shoulder, and not on a rest, as might be imagined by some. Talk of Americans, for their precision in shooting, after this! It cannot be surpassed, if equalled.” — Memoirs, Nimrod

Mytton stalking and shooting wild duck on a frozen lake

Mytton stalking and shooting wild duck on a frozen lake

To be compared to the Americans was something rather distinctive, indeed.

To such feats may be added the spectacular exhibit of Mytton shooting rats from atop the roof at Halston.

Halston, his country estate, afforded every kind of game to suit a hunter’s fancy. Twelve hundred brace of pheasants could be harvested there in a year. A brace equals a male and a female.

Multiply Halston’s yield in a year and that would be 2400 birds!

The Real Regency Rake: Mad with Drink

“Rochester was drunk for five years continually. Mytton beat him by seven.”

—-Memoirs of the life of the late John Mytton, Nimrod

Mytton tossed onto the back of his wheeler horse while driving tandem drunk, and over a sunken fence.

Mytton tossed onto the back of his wheeler horse while driving tandem drunk, and over a sunken fence. Those wretched coattails just fly off one’s buttocks, don’t they?

How the devil does one stay inebriated continuously? John Mytton’s biographer Nimrod makes the stunning observation that there were few drunken parties at Halston, the rake’s country house. Indeed, he does not recall attending a single one even though Mytton’s best friends confirmed he was drunk almost all the time. There were two reasons for this:  Mytton was already drunk by the time his guests arrived and once they did, he wouldn’t sit still long enough for anyone to have a drink. He would jump out of a window or race off to the billiard table.

Mytton favored port wine and drank it all day as follows:

“He shaved with a bottle of it on his toilet; he worked steadily at it throughout the day, by a glass or two of it at a time, and at least a bottle of it with his luncheon; and the after dinner and after supper work — not losing site of it in the billiard room — completed the Herculean task.”

Nimrod goes on to speculate that it was the quality of the port wine Mytton drank, having aged about eight years, that took many years before it began to work against his constitution. William Pitt the Younger was known to be a “three-bottle man” for his consumption of port wine and it caught up to him in 1806 at the age of forty-seven, when he died looking more like he was seventy-seven. Nimrod believes it was the brandy Mytton eventually switched to that got the best of him in the end, citing the autopsy results (called an inquest upon the body at the time) that were widely published, perhaps as a cautionary tale.

I just love these old Pan covers--a store on High Street in Egham, Surrey had loads of them

I just love these old Pan covers–a store on High Street in Egham, Surrey had loads of them

Not attractive, even if he is a rake.But in the hands of a masterful artist like Georgette Heyer, our drunk has become something not only seductive, but dangerous.

The Marquis was drinking steadily. So were several others, notably Mr. Quarles, whose scowl deepened with each glass. On the Marquis, the wine seemed to have little or no effect. His hand was steady enough, and there was only that glitter in his eyes to betray to one who knew him how much he had drunk.

Devil’s Cub (1932)