The Wicked Lord Lyttelton

This review of The Wicked Lord Lyttelton, by Thomas Frost, 1876, new edition 2005, appeared in the Journal of Liberal History in 2006.

The Wicked Lord Lyttleton - book coverThomas, the second Baron Lyttelton, died in 1779 at the age of just thirty-five. Only briefly an MP (1768-9, when he was unseated on allegations of electoral corruption), rarely mentioned in accounts of his father, largely ostracised by his own family and almost totally neglected by historians of his period (other than the occasional passing reference to his highly debauched lifestyle), Lyttelton’s career is an unusual one to be featured in a reprint of a long out of print biography.

Famous in his own lifetime for his love of the high society good life, he showed promise as an orator during his Parliamentary careers (first as an MP then in the House of Lords after his father’s death in 1774, when he was for a time the second most prolific speechmaker in the Lords). He was nominally a Whig, but largely supported the Tories over the American War of Independence, opposing independence and only occasionally criticising the conduct of the government. On Ireland, he was more liberal, believing that the Irish should remain part of the United Kingdom but that also they should have the same constitutional freedoms as people in England.

His early death means his life is little more than a footnote to history. Had he lived longer, he might have attained high office and left his mark in a more substantive way than simply earning the sobriquet “wicked”. Nonetheless, this biography rather sheds an interesting sidelight on what it was like to be a politician in such times.

If you like this, you might also be interested in Lord Brougham and the Whig Party by Arthur Aspinall.

Buy The Wicked Lord Lyttelton by Thomas Frost here.

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