In yesterday's post I mentioned QI. For those of you not familiar with the show, it is a British panel show hosted by Stephen Fry. Participants tend to be British celebrities (usually comedians) who sit around and discuss obscure facts. It's where I learned about the gentleman in my profile picture: John "Mad Jack" Mytton.
In the above painting, he is riding his pet bear, Nell, into a party. Based on real events. Because in this blog, I'm never kidding. Anyway, Mad Jack died just before the Victorian era started, but, my god, were Regency rakes fun. Mad Jack wasn't technically an aristocrat, but he was from a very old, well-respected and wealthy family of country squires, so it was pretty much as close as you could get to the nobility without being in it.
In QI (I believe the episode was "Jack and Jill"), I learned that Mad Jack liked to go duck and fox hunting naked. He wouldn't just leave the house naked–he would also sometimes get so excited during the course of the hunt that he would rip his clothes off. He wanted to join Parliament and spent an absolute fortune buying votes (I think Stephen Fry said he spent the equivalent of 750,000 pounds today in order to get his borough). He then sat in on one session of Parliament for half an hour, got bored, left, and never came back. Glad to know his late father's money was put to such good use.
He was repeatedly expelled from schools, somehow managed to get into Cambridge, and bought 2,000 bottles of port to sustain himself during his studies, which–surprise, surprise–he didn't finish.
According to his Wikipedia page (the scholar in me cringes every time I write that), "he continued to confound and surpass his eccentric behaviour by lying between the hooves of dangerous and nervous horses. His life was described as "a series of suicide attempts". He sought thrills through reckless driving of carriages . . . Once he tested if a horse pulling a carriage could jump over a tollgate. It could not. He managed to survive these incidents without serious injuries . . . In one anecdote he was driving his gig with a new companion, of whom Mad Jack enquired whether he had ever been upset in a gig. The man replied "Thank God, I have never been upset in one". "What!!" cried Mytton, "What a damn slow fellow you must have been all your life!" and promptly drove the gig up a sloping bank at full speed tipping himself and his passenger out."
In addition: "His wives bore him children who he would affectionately toss into the air as babies and pelt with oranges." He also tried to cure hiccups by setting his own shirt on fire, he once killed his favorite horse by forcing it to drink a bottle of port, and, of his 2,000 hunting dogs, he used to put his favorites in livery and feed them on steak and champagne.
This man is the jackpot. As one panelist said on QI, "Is it wrong that I'm starting to fall in love with this man?"