DELME, Peter (1748-89), of Titchfield, Hants; Braywick, Berks.; and Erlestoke, Wilts.
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Family and Education
b. 19 Dec. 1748, 1st surv. s. of Peter Delmé, M.P., by his 2nd w. Christiana Pain of Eltham, Kent. m. 16 Feb. 1769, Lady Elizabeth Howard, da. of Henry, 4th Earl of Carlisle, 4s. 1da. suc. fa. 1770.
Descended from a Flemish family settled in England temp. Elizabeth I, and grand-son of a lord mayor of London; cousin of Anne Duchess of Grafton (subsequently Lady Upper Ossory), Delmé belonged to the smart set, yet is not mentioned in Walpole’s letters or Memoirs.
The description of him in the English Chronicle, 1780 or 1781, is ornate but not inaccurate:
He was born to a very large paternal estate ... by the decease of an uncle, he succeeded to ... the vast sum of £140,000 ... By having indulged himself too freely in several of the fashionable vices ... [he] considerably diminished the superabundance of that original affluence ... His predominant propensity [was] a disposition for the turf ... celebrated for a magnificence in his style of living ... absurd pomp and superfluous ostentation ... is known to have had near a hundred men servants at one time ... As a senator ... the Aye or the No have been the limits of his legislative eloquence, and this he has always pronounced with a most implicit acquiescence in the political sentiments of his patron and relation [Lord Carlisle].
Sir William Musgrave, Carlisle’s step-father, writing to him, 12 Feb. 1768, about Delmé courting Lady Elizabeth, described him as ‘a young gentleman, very plain in his person, ... who has a very great commoner’s estate’.1 Returned for Morpeth by Carlisle in 1774 in a hotly contested election,2 Delmé appears on the Government side in the major divisions 1774-82, but, judging by remarks in letters from George Selwyn to Carlisle, was perhaps not quite as assiduous in attendance as could be desired. 5 May 1781 (after a question had been carried against the Government on 3 May in a thin House): ‘Delmé, I believe, thought he had had merit enough by attending on Lord Sandwich’s motion’; and 25 Feb. 1782 (the Government having scraped through on 22 Feb. by a majority of 194 to 193 votes): ‘Delmé was not to blame the other day in not coming down, for no messages had been sent.’
By 1781 Delmé was in financial difficulties. ‘Delmé has sold all his hunters’, wrote Storer, his colleague at Morpeth, to Carlisle, 28 Feb. 1781, ‘and sold them at very extraordinary prices; his hounds too sold excessively well.’ And on 1 Mar.: ‘With regard to Delmé’s disappointing you respecting the payment of the money stipulated ... I am surprised at nothing of that sort that he does’—the payment possibly refers to Morpeth expenses. And on 27 Apr. 1781:
Delmé keeps ... Mrs. Smith, but, luckily for him, I believe she thinks that Sir John Lade3 is a better keeper, and therefore gives him the preference ... As he had got rid of a pack of hounds, he imagined he might indulge himself in some other extravagancy, and so he took a mistress ... Sir John Lade seems his greatest friend; he takes all his follies from him, and does all he can to hinder Peter from completely ruining himself.
On 17 Nov. 1781, Selwyn, having mentioned that Francis Gregg, Carlisle’s legal and financial adviser, was much displeased by Delmé’s conduct, added:
I am very sorry to hear such an account of the affairs of that family, and of so little disposition to do what is necessary to set them to rights. If the estate and the resources were forty times what they are, such dissipation and want of management must undo them.
Delmé voted against Shelburne’s peace preliminaries, 18 Feb. 1783; and for Fox’s East India bill, 27 Nov. 1783. In divisions 1784-9 his recorded votes were against Pitt. He died 15 Aug. 1789.
Selwyn wrote to Lady Carlisle, 21 Aug. 1789, that he hoped that ‘Lady Betty will be reconciled to her change of life; there must have been one inevitably, and, perhaps that no less disagreeable’; and though her resources will be modest, that ‘will be more comfortable than living in the constant dread of the consequences of a heedless dissipation’.