Ambrose, 1758

1758 (London) – 1817 (London)

An early 19th century print of St Leonard Shoreditch, where Ambrose was baptised(courtesy Roger Vaughan

An early 19th century print of St Leonard Shoreditch, where Ambrose was baptised
(courtesy Roger Vaughan

Ambrose Pitman was the second son of that name born to Bartlett Pitman and his wife Ann (née Hallett). He was born on 23 March 1758 and baptised on 9 April that year at St Leonard, Shoreditch. Although Bartlett was baptised in Tewkesbury (and was probably born there), he was from the Stow family, as the use of the name Ambrose for his son suggests.

We have discovered something of Ambrose’s life from an article in ‘A Biographical Dictionary of Living Authors’ published in 1816. Apparently Ambrose was musically inclined and spent several years studying with Thomas Arne (composer of Rule Britannia). He published several musical works, but his name was in the public eye during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries more through his poems which were published in various newspapers. It seems his work was not to everyone’s taste, as we have read several rather scathing reviews, such as the following from ‘The Monthly Review’ in 1783, about the poem ‘The Distress of Integrity and Virtue’:

“In this doleful allegory, Integrity and Virtue are introduced lamenting the persecution and neglect with which they are treated by the world. They conclude with observing, that Hope and Patience are all they have to trust to. It will be sufficient to say, that Mr. Pitman is no poet.”

However, a review of the same poem in The Critical Review also in 1783 is more positive:

“The author of this little allegorical performance styles it, in his Dedication, a juvenile attempt; and it pretty evidently appears to be so. It is written in an unequal manner, is in some places defective in point of harmony and diction, and in others the sentiments are weak and puerile. The dawnings of genius are however evidently discernible; and if this gentleman thinks proper hereafter to cultivate his abilities in the poetic line, we have little doubt but that his future publications will merit and receive our approbation.”

His short poems which were published in the newspapers were largely of the style known as ‘jeu d’esprit’, in other words short witty poems, often involving some form of wordplay. Some make little sense today, as they rely on knowledge of people and events of the period, but that entitled “Julia Maria!” reflects on changing fashions in girls’ names:

Julia Maria! – A Jeu d’Esprit
By Ambrose Pitman, Esq.

In days of old, when first refinement’s light
Broke thro’ the mist of chaos and of night,
Our geat-great-grandmothers were giv’n alone
Such humble Christian names as Maud and Joan:
E’en Arc’s heroic Maid the latter bore,
And Maud – a celebrated Queen of yore.
But such th’ improvement of our polish’d age,
And such the revolutionary rage,
That milk and fish-fags now are Arabellas,
Louisas, Julias, Carolines, and Stellas.

As t’other day a fish-wench trail’d along,
And “Sprats as big as herrings, ho!” her song;
She thus addrest – in accents far from mild,
Nay, Stentor-like – her filthy wandering child:-
“Julia Maria! – little imp of evil!
“Come from the kennel, come – you dirty Devil!”

Ambrose Pitman married Mary Dodd in London in 1794. Although we have not discovered the baptisms of any children the couple apparently had at least one daughter, for in 1816 the “Biographical Dictionary of Living Authors” stated: Mr Pitman has been married many years, and has one child now living, a daughter, about eighteen, who is distinguished by her musical talents.

Ambrose died in November 1817, aged 58 according to the newspaper notice, or 60 according to the St Marylebone burial register. These accord approximately with the baptism date we have given, but elsewhere his birthdate is given as 1763. Our belief is that this is due to the publication in 1780 of a book of his with the title: “Eugenio, or the Man of Sorrow: a Legendary Tale by a Young Gentleman of seventeen”

Mary Dodd     23 October 1794    St George Hanover Square

a daughter born about 1798