1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Cutts of Gowran, John Cutts

CUTTS OF GOWRAN, JOHN CUTTS, Baron (1661–1707), British soldier and author, came of an Essex family. After a short university career at Catherine Hall, Cambridge, he came into the enjoyment of the family estates, but evinced a decided preference for the life of court and camp. The double ambition for military and literary fame inspired his first work, which appeared in 1685 under the name La Muse de cavalier, or An Apology for such Gentlemen as make Poetry their Diversion not their Business. The next year saw Cutts serving as a volunteer under Charles of Lorraine in Hungary, and it is said that he was the first to plant the imperialist standard on the walls at the storm of Buda (July 1686). In 1687 he published a book of verse entitled Poetical Exercises, and the following year we find him serving as lieutenant-colonel in Holland. General Hugh Mackay describes Cutts about this time as “pretty tall, lusty and well shaped, an agreeable companion with abundance of wit, affable and familiar, but too much seized with vanity and self-conceit.”

Lieutenant-Colonel Cutts was one of William’s companions in the English revolution of 1688, and in 1690 he went in command of a regiment of foot to the Irish war. He served with distinction at the battle of the Boyne, and at the siege of Limerick (where he was wounded), and King William created him Baron Cutts of Gowran in the kingdom of Ireland. In 1691 he succeeded to the command of the brigade of the prince of Hesse (wounded at Aughrim), and on the surrender of Limerick was appointed commandant of the town. Next year he served again in Flanders as a brigadier, his brigade of Mackay’s division being one of those almost destroyed at Steinkirk. At this battle Cutts himself was wounded. For some time after this, Lord Cutts was lieutenant-governor of the Isle of Wight, but he returned to active service in 1694, holding a command in the disastrous Brest expedition. He was one of Carmarthen’s companions in the daring reconnaissance of Camaret Bay, and was soon afterwards again wounded. He succeeded Talmash, the commander of the expedition (who died of his wounds), as colonel of the Coldstream Guards. Next year, after serving as a commissioner for settling the bank of Antwerp, he distinguished himself once more at the famous siege of Namur, winning for himself the name of “Salamander” by his indifference to the heaviest fire. Henceforward court service and war service alternated. He was deep in the confidence of William III., and acted as a diplomatic agent in the negotiations which ended in the peace of Ryswick. On the occasion of the great fire in Whitehall (1698) Cutts, at the head of the Coldstreams, earned afresh the honourable nickname of “the Salamander.” A little later we find Captain Richard Steele acting as his private secretary. In 1702, now a major-general, Cutts was serving under Marlborough in the opening campaign of the War of the Spanish Succession, and at the siege of Venloo, conspicuous as usual for romantic bravery, he led the stormers at Fort Saint Michael. His enemies, and even the survivors of the assault, were amazed at the success of a seemingly hare-brained enterprise. Probably, however, Cutts, who was now a veteran of great and varied experience, measured the factors of success and failure better than his critics. It was on this occasion that Swift lampooned the lieutenant-general in his Ode to a Salamander. He made the campaign of 1703 in Flanders, and in 1704, after a visit to England, he rejoined Marlborough on the banks of the Danube. At Blenheim he was third in command, and it was his division that bore the brunt of the desperate fighting at the village which gave its name to the battle.

Blenheim was Cutts’s last battle. His remaining years were spent at home, and, at the time of his death, he was the holder of eight distinct political and military offices. He sat in five parliaments for the county of Cambridge, and in Queen Anne’s first Parliament he was returned for Newport in the Isle of Wight, for which he sat until the time of his death. He was twice married, but left no issue.