John “Mad Jack” Mytton
In Regency England, Lord Byron was famously described as the man who was ‘mad, bad and dangerous to know’. But the flamboyant poet had nothing on John Mytton. Not for nothing was the wealthy aristocrat known as “Mad Jack”: he was wild as a youth and only got wilder as he grew up, Indeed, to many, he was the ultimate English eccentric, harming himself far more than he harmed anyone else.
Mytton’s story began in 1796 when he was born to a very wealthy family in the county of Shropshire. As was the custom, young Jack was sent away to be educated. However, he only lasted one year at the prestigious Westminster School before he was kicked out for fighting with a teacher. He lasted just as long at the equally-prestigious Harrow School. Ultimately, his parents had no alternative but to hire private tutors to educate their wayward son, but he scared most of these away too. On one famous occasion, he left a horse in one tutor’s bedroom.
Despite this lack of discipline, Jack won a place at Cambridge University. He packed 2,000 bottles of port for his undergraduate course but soon left without graduating. A Grand Tour of Europe followed, and then a brief stint in the British Army, though his one year as an officer was mostly taken up by gambling and drinking. By 1818, he was back home in Shropshire, waiting for his 21st birthday when he would come into his full inheritance.
Even being elected a Conservative Member of Parliament (thanks to some shameless bribing of voters) failed to calm Jack down. Instead, he seemingly focused all his energy on having a good time. He would ride his horse through hotels and banqueting halls, leaping from balconies while in the saddle. He would also throw money around, gifting tens of thousands of pounds to complete strangers. His crazy ways extended to pushing himself to the limits, whether this was riding naked in snowy weather or performing stunts in his horse and carriage. On one legendary occasion, he even rode a bear through his house, startling guests he had invited round for a formal dinner party.
By 1831, Mad Jack was broke. Fearful of his debtors, he escaped to France, taking a beautiful young woman he met on Westminster Bridge with him. He spent three largely uneventful years in Calais (well, apart from the time he tried to rid himself of hiccups by setting himself on fire) before returning to England. Still broke and with no way of paying off his debts, he ended up in prison, dying of alcohol-related illness in 1834.