Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Cutts, John

1325676Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 13 — Cutts, John1888Henry Manners Chichester

CUTTS, JOHN, Baron Cutts of Gowran, Ireland (1661–1707), lieutenant-general, was second son of Richard Cutte or Cuttes of Woodhall, Arkesden, an Essex squire of an old family owning property at Arkesden and Matching in that county, by his wife Joan, daughter of Sir Richard Everard, baronet, of Much Waltham, Essex. Richard Cuttes about 1670 became devised of the Cambridgeshire estates of his collateral relative, Sir John Cutts, baronet, of Childerley, Cambridgeshire. His second son, John, was probably born in 1661, at Arkesden, not at Matching as often stated (for particulars and pedigree see Trans. Essex Archæol. Soc. iv. 31–42). He entered Catharine Hall, Cambridge, as a fellow-commoner in February 1676 (St. Cath. Coll. MSS. in Hist. MSS. Comm. 4th Rep. 424), but his name does not appear among the graduates until the date of his honorary degree in 1690. After the deaths of his father and elder brother Richard, who died unmarried, he succeeded to the paternal estates, which he states were then worth 2,000l. a year (Trans. Essex Archæol. Soc. ut supra), and appears to have been in the suite of the Duke of Monmouth at the Hague at the period described by Macaulay in ‘History of England,’ i. 531. Cutts states (ib.) that ‘in the year Charles II died’ (1685) he broke off an engagement with Mrs. Villiers, at the express desire of William, prince of Orange, conveyed through the Duke of Monmouth, with solemn assurance of high reward in the event of the prince ever coming to England. Which of the ladies whose names scandal associated with William of Orange (Strickland, Queens of England, vii. 49 et seq.) is here meant is not apparent from Cutts's hasty memoranda. Later in the same year Cutts, who had scholarly tastes and wrote flowing and not ungraceful verses, made his first appearance in print, in England, 10 Nov. 1685, in ‘La Muse de Cavalier; or an Apology for such Gentlemen as make Poetry their Diversion not their Business, in a letter by a scholar of Mars to one of Apollo.’ The letter, which is in rhyme, alludes to some anonymous critic, who had objected to soldiers wielding the pen, and accused Cutts of ‘railing against the stage and court,’ and to whom there is an indecent rejoinder appended. Next year Cutts was among the English volunteers serving under Charles, duke of Lorraine, against the Turks in Hungary. He greatly distinguished himself by his heroism at the siege and capture of Buda in July 1686, for which he received the appointment of ‘adjutant-general’ to the Duke of Lorraine, stated to have been the first military commission he ever held (Compleat Hist. of Europe, 1707, p. 455). A passage in Addison's ‘Musæ Anglicanæ’ is said to refer to Cutts having been the first to plant the imperialist flag on the walls of Buda. In March 1687 he published in London his ‘Poetical Exercises, written on several occasions,’ with a dedication to Mary, princess of Orange. Some extracts from this little book are given by Horace Walpole in ‘Royal and Noble Authors,’ v. 220–2. It also contains a piece dedicated to the Duchess of Monmouth, who had asked Cutts's opinion of Boileau's poems, and a few songs ‘set by His Majesty's Servants, Mr. Abel and Mr. King.’ In March 1688, Narcissus Luttrell records that ‘Mr. Cutts is gone to Holland, and made lieutenant-colonel of a regiment there’ (Relation of State Affairs (1857), i. 435). A small portrait of Cutts, taken by the court painter Wissing, somewhere about this time, is now in the National Portrait Gallery, and was engraved among Richardson's portraits. It represents a handsome young fellow, with dark hazel eyes, and features less aquiline than in later likenesses, in silvered corslet, lace neckcloth, and dark wig. General Hugh Mackay of the Dutch service, who knew Cutts well, described him a year or two later as ‘pretty tall, lusty and well shaped, an agreable companion, with abundance of wit, affable and familiar, but too much seized with vanity and self-conceit,’ which was, no doubt, a truthful epitome of his character. Cutts was one of ‘the gentlemen of most orthodox principles in church and state’ who returned to England with William of Orange at the revolution, his rank being that of lieutenant-colonel in a regiment of English foot, formed in Holland by Colonel Sidney, afterwards Earl of Romney, and colonel 1st foot guards. Of this regiment—which was not one of the six so-called ‘Holland’ regiments, and was disbanded later—Cutts soon became colonel, but his name has not been found in the War Office (Home Office) military entry books of the period. In January 1690 he was ordered to complete his regiment to a hundred men per company, and in March proceeded with it to Ireland. Before leaving, ‘the king made him a grant of lands belonging to the jesuits in certain counties’ (Relation of State Affairs (1857), ii. 24). He served through the campaign of that year, signalised himself at the battle of the Boyne, and was wounded during the siege of Limerick. Macaulay states that at the Boyne Cutts was at the head of his regiment, since famous as the 5th fusiliers (Hist. of Engl. iii. 625). There is no proof that Cutts was ever in that regiment, and the regiment known then and after as ‘Cutts's’ foot, as stated above, was one of those afterwards disbanded. On 6 Dec. 1690, King William ‘was pleased to confer a mark of favour on Colonel John Cutts,’ by creating him Baron Cutts of Gowran in the kingdom of Ireland. About the same time the university of Cambridge conferred on him the honorary degree of LL.D. On 18 Dec. 1690, Cutts married his first wife, a widow with a large jointure. She was Elizabeth, daughter of George Clark, merchant, of London, and had been twice married before, first to John Morley of Glynde, Sussex, and secondly to John Trevor, secretary of state to Charles II. The special license is extant, and describes Cutts as a bachelor, aged twenty-nine, and the lady a widow, aged thirty. Cutts returned to the army in Ireland in July 1691, and succeeded to the command of the Prince of Hesse-Darmstadt's brigade when the prince was disabled by wounds at Aughrim. He commanded the troops that took possession of Limerick on its surrender. He afterwards went as brigadier-general to Flanders, and fought at the battle of Steinkirk, where his regiment was one of those cut to pieces in Mackay's division, and himself was grievously wounded in the foot. He returned to England on crutches, and soon after his recovery lost his wife, who died 19 Feb. 1693, her jointure of 2,500l. a year passing away to the next heir. In July the same year he was reported to be engaged to one of the queen's maids of honour, a sister of the notorious Lord Mohun (Luttrell, iii. 143), but the match never took place. The same year he was appointed governor of the Isle of Wight. Extracts from a series of thirty-two letters, addressed by Cutts to his lieutenant-governor, Colonel John Dudley, afterwards governor of Massachusetts, have lately been printed by the Massachusetts Historical Society from the originals in possession of the Winthrop family. They extend over a period of ten years, and afford some insight into Cutts's ways. Dissimilar as they were in many respects—for Dudley had been bred to the ministry and had much of the puritan about him—the men were both eager place-hunters, and conscious that they were necessary to each other. Cutts is constantly stimulating Dudley's zeal by promises of preferment, and exacting in return all manner of services, not only in managing the municipal and electoral constituencies of the island, but in paying his bills, pacifying his creditors, who appear to have never been wanting, and even bottling his wine. Now and then Dudley is taken to task with some vivacity, but the coolness never endured long. Unfortunately the lieutenant-governor's replies are not forthcoming (Proc. Mass. Hist. Soc. 1886). Cutts was one of the brigadiers in the disastrous Brest expedition of 1694. He accompanied Carmarthen in his daring reconnaissance, in a small galley, of the French position in Camarets Bay (Peregrine Osborne, Marquis of Carmarthen, Narrative Brest Exp. p. 14), and was wounded at the third landing at Brest. When General Talmash died of his wounds, Cutts succeeded him as colonel of the Coldstream guards on 3 Oct. 1694. On the death of Queen Mary in December of the same year, Cutts, who appears to have indulged his poetic tastes amidst all the distractions of court and camp, wrote a monody, a rather stilted effusion, which appears in ‘State Poems,’ p. 199. In the spring of 1695 Cutts was sent to Flanders as one of the commissioners for settling the bank of Antwerp, and in the summer he was engaged at the siege of Namur, where his splendid courage throughout the siege, and particularly at the final assault, gained him the honourable nickname of ‘the Salamander’ (Macaulay, Hist. iv. 590–7). Returning to England, the popular hero of the siege, he was in constant attendance on the king's person when not employed on military duty. Besides the Earl of Portland, he was the only witness of William's interview with the conspirator Prendergrass (ib. 666), and his devotion to the king in defeating Barkley's plot was recompensed by the gift of the forfeited manor of Dumford, said to be worth 2,000l. a year, which had belonged to Caryll [q. v.], the late queen's secretary, and which Cutts afterwards sold to Caryll's brother for 8,000l. In 1696, Cutts was appointed captain of the body guard, and in January 1697 he married his second wife, Elizabeth, only daughter of Sir Henry Pickering, baronet, of Whaddon, Cambridgeshire. She is described as possessing 1,400l. a year (Luttrell, iv. 174). In the summer of 1697 he was engaged in the negotiations which led to the treaty of Ryswick, during which he was despatched on a mission to Vienna. He brought home the welcome tidings of peace, and a few weeks later had the misfortune to lose his young wife, who died on 23 Nov. 1697, after giving birth to a dead child. She was only eighteen, and is described by Bishop Atterbury, who preached her funeral sermon, as a young person of great piety (Atterbury, Sermons and Discourses, i. sermon vi.) Nahum Tate addressed to Cutts ‘a consolatory poem … on the death of his most accomplished lady,’ and John Hopkins published an elegy at the same time (1698). An allegorical print designed by Thomas Wall, and engraved in mezzotint by B. Lens, suggested by Tate's poem, is described in Noble's continuation of Granger's ‘Biog. Hist.’ i. 369–70. On 4 Jan. 1698 the palace at Whitehall was burned down, on which occasion Cutts, combating the flames with the wretched appliances then available, at the head of his Coldstreamers, was as conspicuous as he had been in the breach at Namur. In 1699 he addressed to the king a curious letter on the subject of his debts, which some years ago was printed in the ‘Transactions of the Essex Society,’ from an original then in possession of Mr. W. W. Cutts of Clapham. In this letter Cutts estimates his debts at 17,500l. He reminds the king of many promises, and begs that his confidence may be respected, as he has never betrayed his majesty's secrets. In 1700 Cutts was engaged in a dispute with the burgesses of Newport, Isle of Wight, in respect of their having returned a certain mayor after another person had been appointed to the office by Cutts. The case was tried at nisi prius before Lord-chief-justice Holt, on 7 May 1700, when the jury found a special verdict. A little later, Richard Steele, who was Cutts's private secretary, and was indebted to him for his company in Lord Lucas's fusiliers, dedicated to Cutts his ‘Christian Hero.’ Steele subsequently published in the fifth volume of the ‘Tatler’ some of Cutts's verses, as the productions of ‘Honest Cynthio.’ As brigadier-general, Cutts accompanied Marlborough to Holland in 1701. In March 1702 he became a major-general on the English establishment, and lieutenant-general the year after (Home Office Military Entry Books, vol. v.) After a brief visit to England in the spring of 1702, he returned to Holland bearing the tidings of the combined declaration of hostilities, which formally opened the war of the Spanish succession. He bore an active part in the ensuing operations, and won fresh fame by the capture of Fort St. Michael, a detached outwork of the important fortress of Venloo in Guelderland, by a sudden assault on 18 Sept. 1702. The achievement was variously regarded. Cutts's enemies, and they were many, viewed it as a vain-glorious act of one who, in the words of Swift, was ‘brave and brainless as the sword he wears.’ Nor was this idea altogether scouted in the army, where Cutts's romantic courage rendered him popular. Captain Parker of the royal Irish, who was one of the storming party, after describing the onrush of the assailants ‘like madmen without fear or wit,’ winds up by saying: ‘Thus were the unaccountable orders of my Lord Cutts as unaccountably executed, to the great astonishment of the whole army and of ourselves when we came to reflect upon what we had done; however, had not several unforeseen accidents concurred, not a man of us could have escaped’ (Captain Parker's Memoirs). Probably Cutts, the hero of many assaults, had measured the chances more truly than his critics. In any case, the enterprise succeeded. It was, as Cutts suggests in a modest and soldierlike letter to Lord Nottingham, the first real blow struck at the enemy. Cutts's persistent detractor, Swift, who wrote of him as ‘about fifty, and the vainest old fool alive,’ seized the occasion for a scurrilous lampoon, entitled ‘Ode to a Salamander,’ which gave deep offence to Cutts's friends. Cutts had sat for the county of Cambridge in five successive parliaments, from 1693 to 1701, and on his first election had been very nearly unseated on petition (see Commons' Journals, xi. 27, 46, 84, 90–3). In the first parliament summoned after the accession of Queen Anne he was returned for the borough of Newport, Isle of Wight, for which he sat up to the time of his death. Cutts remained in command of the English troops when Marlborough went home in the winter of 1702–3, and subsequently made the campaign of 1703. When the troops again went into winter quarters he returned home, and appears not to have rejoined the army until after its arrival in Bavaria. Queen Anne is stated to have made him a present of 1,000l. out of her privy purse before starting. He was third in command at the battle of Blenheim, where his division was hotly engaged throughout the day. An English brigade of his division, Row's, supported by a brigade of Hessians, commenced the action by an attack on the village of Blenheim. In the distribution-list of the queen's bounty after the victory Cutts's name appears as senior of the four lieutenant-generals with the army who received 240l. each as such (Treasury Papers, xciii. 79, in Public Record Office). Blenheim was Cutts's last fight. Early in the following year he was appointed commander-in-chief in Ireland under the Duke of Ormonde, a post considered to be worth 6,000l. a year (Hist. MSS. Comm. 7th Rep. 246). He was cordially received by Ormonde, and was sworn in one of the lords justices; but his health was much broken, and he appears to have been aggrieved at removal from more active scenes. According to some accounts (Monthly Misc. i.) he contracted a third marriage, but of this there are no particulars. He died in Dublin, rather suddenly, on 26 Jan. 1707, and, his detractors said, left not enough money to bury him (Hist. MSS. Comm. 7th Rep. ut supra). He was interred in Christ Church Cathedral, but no trace can be found of any monument having ever been erected to him (Notes and Queries, 5th ser. x. 498). George Montague, the friend of Horace Walpole and a grandson of the first Lady Cutts by a former husband (Hist. MSS. Comm. 8th Rep. (2), 112–13), appears to have intended to erect a monument to Lord Cutts somewhere, for which Walpole wrote an epitaph, but there is no proof that the design was ever carried further. Cutts at the time of his death was one of the lords justices of the kingdom of Ireland, commander-in-chief of the king's forces there, a lieutenant-general on the English and Irish establishments, colonel of the Coldstream guards and of a regiment of royal dragoons in Ireland (afterwards disbanded), captain of the king's body guard of gentlemen-at-arms, and governor of the Isle of Wight. He left no issue by either of his wives. Besides his elder brother, who, as stated before, predeceased him, Cutts had three sisters: Anne, who married John Withers of the Middle Temple, and died young; Margaret, who married John Acton of Basingstoke; and Joanna, who was unmarried. Joanna Cutts appears to have remonstrated with Swift on account of his persistent abuse of her brother (Swift, Works, ii. 395), and her name appears in the ‘Calendar of Treasury Papers,’ 1708–14, as her late brother's representative in respect of certain outstanding claims for sums expended on Carisbrook Castle during his governorship of the Isle of Wight.

[Biographical notices of Lord Cutts are comparatively few and brief, and mostly exhibit some confusion of persons and dates. Materials will be found in Essex Archæol. Soc. Transactions, vol. iv.; London Gazettes, 1688–1706; Burnet's Hist. of his own Time; Narcissus Luttrell, Relation of State Affairs (1857); D'Auvergne's Histories of the Flanders Campaigns; Macaulay's Hist. of England, vols. iii. iv. v. and the works therein referred to; in the published lives of King William and Marlborough, and in Marlborough Despatches, where the notices are few. Of ‘Military and other poems …’ anon. 1716, four relate to Cutts. The letters to Colonel Dudley published in the Massachusetts Hist. Soc. Transactions have been issued as a separate reprint. In the Foreign Office Records in the Public Record Office incidental particulars will be found in Treaty Papers 80, 81, 82, and under Flanders, 128–9. The military records offered very little information respecting him. Autograph letters in Cutts's peculiarly tall, bold handwriting are to be found in Brit. Mus. Add. MSS. 28880, 28900, 28901, 28911, 28913–14, 28926 (letters to J. Ellis, 1696–1703), 29588–9 (letters to Lord Nottingham, 1702–3), and 15896 (letter to Lord Rochester, 1702). A large number of Cutts's letters appear to be among the Marquis of Ormonde's papers at Kilkenny Castle, Hist. MSS. Comm. 3rd Rep. 426, and which are noted, but no extracts given, in 8th Rep.]

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