Hetty Green was an eccentric miser who became known as the “Witch of Wall Street.” With her business acumen, she accumulated such wealth that she was the richest woman in the world. In order to save money, Hetty would work out of trunks at her local bank so she wouldn’t have to pay rent. When her son fell ill, she disguised herself and took him to a charity hospital; when they realized who she was, she fled claiming she would cure her son herself. Unfortunately, he contracted gangrene and had to have his leg amputated. She always wore the same black dress and never changed her underwear unless it wore out. She moved back and forth between New York and New Jersey in order to avoid the taxman.




Simeon Ellerton lived in the eighteenth century and was a fitness fanatic. Because he loved to walk long distances, he was often employed to carry out errands or act as a courier for the locals. On his many frequent journeys, he would gather up stones from the roadside and carry them on his head. His aim was to gather sufficient stones to build his own house. Eventually, he had enough stones and made a little cottage for himself. Having spent so many years carrying extra weight, he felt uncomfortable without it, so for the rest of his life, he walked around with a bag of stones on his head.




John Christie and his wife are most well known for starting the Glyndebourne Opera Festival, but John was also a famed British eccentric. One evening while sitting next to the queen during the opera, he removed his glass eye, cleaned it, put it back in its socket, and asked the queen whether it was straight. If he got too hot, he would cut the arms off his formal jacket, which he would often wear with a pair of old tennis shoes. He owned 180 handkerchiefs and 110 shirts, and despite paying tens of thousands of pounds on an opera production, would travel third class and carry his own luggage to avoid tipping. For a while, Christie would wear nothing but lederhosen and, in 1933, he expected all guests of the opera to do the same.




Sir George Sitwell (father of the famous writer Dame Edith Sitwell) was a very bizarre man in many ways. He was a keen gardener (he actually studied garden design) and, annoyed by the wasps in his garden, he invented a pistol garden design) and, annoyed by the wasps in his garden, he invented a pistol for shooting them. After he moved to Italy to avoid taxes in Britain, he refused to pay his new wife’s debts, which resulted in her spending three months in prison. He was such an avid reader and collector of books that he had seven libraries in his home. Other eccentricities included paying his son an allowance based on the amount paid by one of his forebears to his son during the Black Death, and trying to pay his son’s Eton school fees with produce from his garden. But perhaps most bizarrely, Sir George had the cows on his estate stenciled in a blue and white Chinese willow pattern in order to make them look better. This is the notice that Sir George hung on the gate of his manor in Derbyshire, England: “I must ask anyone entering the house never to contradict me or differ from me in any way, as it interferes with the functioning of my gastric juices and prevents my sleeping at night.”




Francis Egerton (8th Earl of Bridgewater) inherited his title along with a very large fortune in 1823. He became famous for his unusual dinner parties, which he threw for dogs. All of the invited dogs would be dressed in the finest fashions of the day, including shoes. Another eccentricity was his manner of measuring time; Egerton would wear a pair of shoes only once when he was done with them, he would line them up in rows in order to count the passing days. He also kept pigeons and partridges which had their wings clipped so he could shoot them for the sport even with failing eyesight. When he died, he left a large number of important documents on the subject of French and Italian literature to the British Museum, as well as a large financial donation to the Royal Society.




William Buckland is famous for two things: he was the first man to write a full account of a fossil, is and he was incredibly eccentric when it came to animals and food. Buckland’s love of natural history resulted in his house being something akin to a zoo. He filled it with animals of every kind and he then proceeded to eat them all (and serve them to guests). He claimed to have eaten his way through every animal. The worst-tasting creatures, he said, were bluebottle flies and moles. Various dinner guests describe being served panther, crocodile, and mouse. A famous storyteller at the time (Augustus Hare) told this tale of Buckland: “Talk of strange relics led to mention of the heart of a French King [Louis XIV] preserved at Nuneham in a silver casket. Dr. Buckland, whilst looking at it, exclaimed, ‘I have eaten many strange things, but have never eaten the heart of a king before,’ and, before anyone could hinder him, he had gobbled it up, and the precious relic was lost forever.”




Oscar Wilde is undoubtedly the most famous member of this list—and for good reason. During a time of moral conservatism, Wilde managed to survive his youth decked out in flamboyant clothing exuding eccentricity, because of his stunning wit—the true cause of his celebrity. While studying at Oxford University, Oscar would walk through the streets with a lobster on a leash. His room was decorated with bright blue china, sunflowers, and peacock feathers. He was the direct opposite of what Victorian England expected a man to be and he flaunted it for all he was worth. Unfortunately, an affair with Lord Alfred Douglas brought an end to a brilliant career when Wilde was jailed for sodomy.





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