About Richard Fitzpatrick, Gen.
General Richard FitzPatrick (24 January 1748 – 25 April 1813), styled The Honourable from birth, was an Anglo-Irish soldier, wit, poet, Whig politician and ‘sworn brother’ of the illustrious statesman of Charles James Fox. He served in the Philadelphia Campaign during the American War of Independence.
Family and childhood
FitzPatrick was a younger son of John FitzPatrick, 1st Earl of Upper Ossory, and Lady Evelyn, daughter of John Leveson-Gower, 1st Earl Gower. He had an elder brother John FitzPatrick, 2nd Earl of Upper Ossory and two sisters, Mary, who later married Charles James Fox’s brother Stephen Fox, 2nd Baron Holland, and Louisa, who became the second wife of Fox’s Whig adversary William Petty, 2nd Earl of Shelburne.
Following the death of her husband in 1758, Fitzpatrick’s mother brought her children to England and soon remarried Richard Vernon, one of the original members of the Jockey Club. Lady Evelyn bore her second husband three daughters: Henrietta, who married George Greville, 2nd Earl of Warwick; Caroline Maria, who married Robert Percy Smith, brother of writer Sydney Smith and Elizabeth who never married but became companion to her niece, Caroline Fox. Lady Evelyn died in 1763, leaving Fitzpatrick and his sisters each £100 in trust.
After the death of their mother, the children were cared for by her sister, Gertrude Duchess of Bedford. Richard Fitzpatrick was educated at Eton where he met Charles James Fox and the two became lifelong friends. It may have been through the influence of another aunt’s husband, General Waldegrave, that Fitzpatrick began his army career, enlisting in 1765 as an ensign in the Grenadier Guards.
In 1772 Fitzpatrick was gazetted lieutenant and captain. Despite his opposition to the American War, he did not resign his commission when his regiment was ordered to New York in the winter of 1777. Instead he went to America where he fought in the Battle of Brandywine and the Battle of Germantown. Shortly thereafter, he was promoted to Captain and Lt. Colonel. Later that year he returned to England where he attended his sister Lady Holland during her fatal illness. With first-hand experience of the war, he returned to Parliament to oppose it. Though he does not appear to have seen active military service after that, Fitzpatrick was promoted to Major General in 1793, Lt. General in 1798 and General in 1803. During the fleeting Rockingham administration of 1783 and again as part of the Ministry of All the Talents in 1806, Fitzpatrick served as Secretary at War.
In 1770, Fitzpatrick became Member of Parliament for Okehampton, where he served until 1774, when he was elected in Tavistock, a constituency controlled by his cousin, Francis Russell, 5th Duke of Bedford. He would serve as a Member of Parliament for more than forty years. When Charles James Fox broke with the Tory government and began to oppose Lord North’s handling of the American colonies, he persuaded Fitzpatrick and Lord Ossory to join him. They formed the nucleus of the Foxite Whig faction, which was to spend most of its time in opposition.
Though a noted wit, Fitzpatrick was not a gifted orator like his friend Fox. His few Parliamentary speeches pertained to military matters, including one in 1789 urging the Pitt government to use its influence with Austria to have the Marquis de Lafayette released. During the brief Rockingham administration, Fitzpatrick served as Chief Secretary for Ireland. In 1806, when the Foxites again took power, Fitzpatrick was awarded the cabinet post of Secretary at War.
In addition to his military and political careers, Fitzpatrick was also a poet. His first work, published anonymously in 1768 was a parody on Thomas Gray’s ‘Eton College Ode’ titled ‘Ode on a Distant Prospect of Almack's Assembly Rooms’. This was followed in 1772 by ‘The Bath Picture, or a Slight Sketch of its Beauties.’ In 1774, his friend Horace Walpole printed Fitzpatrick’s ‘Dorinda, a Town Eclogue’ on his private press at Strawberry Hill. Three years later, at the request of his friend Richard Brinsley Sheridan, Fitzpatrick wrote a Prologue for Sheridan’s play, The Critic.
In 1784-85 Fitzpatrick turned his pen to political satire, collaborating with a number of Whig allies to produce Criticisms on the Rolliad which satirized several members of the Pitt government. In later years he contributed Verses Inscribed in The Temple of Friendship at St. Anne’s Hill, home of Charles Fox and Elizabeth Armistead. After his friend’s death, Fitzpatrick penned a quatrain which was inscribed on a bust of Fox sculpted by Nollekins:
A patriot's even course he steered,
'Mid faction's wildest storms unmoved;
By all who marked his mind revered,
By all who knew his heart beloved.
His obituary in Gentleman’s Magazine declared: As a poet, Fitzpatrick is deserving of considerable praise. The smoothness of his verse and the justness of his conceptions are greatly to be admired. Thousands have feasted on his poetry, in total ignorance of its author. As he was a politician without ambition, he was a poet without vanity.
Gentleman of Fashion
Nathaniel Wraxall wrote of Fitzpatrick, His person, tall, manly, and extremely distinguished; set off by his manners, which, though lofty and assuming, were nevertheless elegant and prepossessing;—these endowments added grace to the attractions of his conversation. No man's society was more eagerly courted among the highest Orders, by persons of both sexes. Horace Walpole described Fitzpatrick as an agreeable young man of parts, and mentioned his genteel irony and badinage. In his poetic, Epistle from the Hon. C. Fox, Partridge-shooting, to the Hon. J. Townshend, Cruising, Richard Tickell wrote: Oft shall Fitzpatrick's wit and Stanhope's ease and Burgoyne's manly sense unite to please.
From 1773-1791 Richard Fitzpatrick lived at 19 Norfolk Street (now Dunraven) off Park Lane in London. During that time, he and Fox, like many of their contemporaries, gambled ruinously. They frequented the pro-Whig club Almack’s, which later became Brooks's, where thousands of pounds could be lost or won in single night. Of that time, Samuel Rogers wrote, Lord Tankerville assured me that he has played cards with Fitzpatrick at Brooks's from ten o'clock at night till near six o'clock the next afternoon, a waiter standing by to tell them "whose deal it was," they being too sleepy to know. When they had exhausted their own resources, of which Fox’s were much greater than Fitzpatrick’s, they borrowed from friends or moneylenders. Creditors once stopped Fitzpatrick’s coach in the middle of a London street and took his horses as repayment.
Fitzpatrick never married, but like others of his set he had numerous love affairs, beginning with Lady Caroline Carpenter, youngest daughter of the Earl of Tyrconnel, who later married his friend Uvedale Price. He appears to have had a taste for married women of the Whig persuasion. Lady Anne Foley, daughter of the Earl of Coventry, was said to have sent him the following note after giving birth, "Dear Richard, I give you joy. I have just made you the father of a beautiful boy...P.S. This is not a circular."
In 1791, perhaps inspired by his friend Fox’s delight in rural life, Fitzpatrick purchased Beech Grove in Sunninghill near Windsor. The dissolute lifestyle of his early years began to tell on his constitution. He suffered from gout and in the autumn of 1806 underwent an operation to remove a ‘carbuncle’ on his breast. In 1808 he was reported to be more shattered by age and infirmities than ever.
Financial problems from years of gambling were eased in December 1810 when his old friend the Duke of Queensberry left him a bequest of £1,000 and £500 per annum in recognition of his fine manners. He did not have long to enjoy his windfall. In 1813 Lord Byron saw him in London and later wrote, I had seen poor Fitzpatrick not very long before— a man of pleasure, wit, eloquence, all things. He tottered — but still talked like a gentleman, though feebly.
On April 24th of that year, Samuel Rogers saw Mrs. Fox emerge from the doorway Fitzpatrick’s London house on Arlington Street sobbing violently, and deduced that the General had not long to live. Fitzpatrick died the following day and was buried very near his country house at St Michael & All Angels, Sunninghill. The epitaph on his tomb declared him, by his own wish, for more than forty years the friend of Mr. Fox.
His nephew Lord Holland wrote of Fitzpatrick: He was, I think, the most agreeable man I ever conversed with. One or two of his contemporaries might vie with him in wit and exceed him perhaps in some mental endowments, certainly in knowledge and learning; but none united with an equal portion of such qualifications his evenness of temper and spirits, his polished manners, pure taste, sound judgement, and worldly experience.
In spite of his many accomplishments, Fitzpatrick’s self-assessment was far more modest. Part of the poetic epitaph he composed for himself sums it up thus:
Through life he walk'd, unemulous of fame,
Nor wished beyond it to preserve a name;
Content, if friendship o'er his humble bier,
Dropt but the heartfelt tribute of a tear;
Richard Fitzpatrick, Gen.'s Timeline
January 24, 1748
Philadelphia, PA, USA
April 25, 1813