Memoirs of the Life of William Pitt

James BUCHANAN   |   William PITT   |   George TOMLINE   |   Harriet LANE JOHNSTON

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Item#: 115905 price:$9,000.00 Currently On Reserve.

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"BOOKS FROM BUCHANAN'S LIBRARY ARE VERY RARE": ESPECIALLY RARE ASSOCIATION COPY OF TOMLINE'S 1821 MEMOIRS OF PRIME MINISTER WILLIAM PITT, TWICE SIGNED BY PRESIDENT JAMES BUCHANAN, ALONG WITH INSCRIPTIONS ON THE SAME PAGES BY HIS NIECE AND WARD, HARRIET LANE JOHNSTON—THE FIRST WOMAN TO BE "CALLED FIRST LADY IN THE PRESS"—DATED BY HER THE SAME YEAR AS BUCHANAN'S DEATH

(BUCHANAN, James) (JOHNSON, Harriet Lane) (PITT, William) TOMLINE, George. Memoirs of the Life of the Right Honorable William Pitt. Philadelphia: Abraham Small, 1821. Two volumes. Octavo, original blue-gray paper boards, original paper spine and partial labels, uncut. $9000.

First American edition of Tomline's two-volume Memoirs of Pitt, an exceptional association copy belonging to President James Buchanan, boldly signed by him on the title pages of both volumes, along with the inscriptions below his signatures of his trusted niece and ward, "his confidant in all things personal and political," who was the unmarried president's popular White House hostess, the first named "First Lady" in the press, dated by her the year of his death when she inherited his Wheatland home, "Harriet Lane Johnston, Wheatland, 1868," very desirable in original boards.

William Pitt was 24 when became Britain's youngest Prime Minister in 1783. He would serve until 1801, leaving briefly to serve again until 1804. Pitt had been only 14 when he matriculated at Cambridge, where he was immediately put under the care of one of the tutors, the Rev. George Pretyman (who later added "Tomline" to his name). The two remained close until Pitt's death. "Tomline was with Pitt for the last two days of his life and attended him on his deathbed; his last words to the bishop, 'I cannot sufficiently thank you for all your kindness to me throughout life,' exhibit the deep and lasting character of their friendship" (DNB).

This exceedingly rare association copy belonged to America's 15th President, James Buchanan, and contains his bold signatures in both volumes. He might have become interested in Pitt in 1853, when Buchanan became one of the five Americans presidents who served as Minister to Britain. It was in 1853, as well, that Buchanan, the only president born in Pennsylvania, returned home to Wheatland to accept the presidency of the Board of Trustees as Marshall College merged with Franklin College. That position also prompted a return to his interest in history. "He at last had time to look at the five-volume Life of Washington by Jared Sparks, and to study Madison's newly published notes on the Constitutional Convention" (Klein, President James Buchanan. 210). Soon, however, he was named his party's nominee for the presidency, and would not be able to find refuge in his library again until retiring to Wheatland in 1861—only seven years before his death. "Books from Buchanan's library are very rare" (Rendell, 94).

Historians view Buchanan's presidency as "largely a disaster. He… never understood northern feelings against slavery, and was excessively prosouthern in his views" (ANB). Shaw & Shoemaker 6982. This copy also contains, below Buchanan's signature in each volume, the inscriptions of his niece, "Harriet Lane Johnston, Wheatland, 1868." Buchanan, the only unmarried president throughout his tenure, became her legal guardian when she was orphaned as a young girl. Throughout his political life "she was his confidante in all matter political and personal" (National First Ladies Library). Lane "was the first known female family member to actively 'campaign' for a potential presidential candidate," and in 1857 she accompanied Buchanan to the White House, where she became "the first White House hostess to be called 'First Lady' in the press." Lane remained with Buchanan when he retired to Wheatland, where she "continued to act as his hostess until her marriage" to Henry Johnston in 1866. When Buchanan died in 1868, she inherited Wheatland—the same year as her inscribed date in this copy. She and her husband used Wheatland as their summer home until she sold it after her husband's death. A respected art collector, at her death in 1903, "per her will, her art collection was accepted by Smithsonian Institution, leading one official to call her the 'First Lady of the National Collection of Fine Arts'… she also left one of her largest bequests for the establishment of a monument in Washington honoring Buchanan" (Hendricks, America's First Ladies, 116-22). Volume I with later penciled bibliographic note.

Interior fresh with only faint foxing mainly to preliminaries, lightest soiling to original boards, trace of loss to spine ends. An exceptional wide-margined copy in original boards with an extraordinary presidential provenance.

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