ALS from Lord Nelson’s Mistress: “…When you are many, many miles off, when your Emma Hamilton is far from you think of her as she deserves”

Signed by Emma Hamilton

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Item: 20865
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HAMILTON, EMMA. (Circa 1761-1815). Mistress of Admiral Horatio Nelson, Charles Greville and British Ambassador to Naples, Sir William Hamilton, whom she married in 1791. ALS. (“Emma Hamilton”). 1p. Folio. N.p., N.d. (after 1791). To her close friend Mrs. Walcot.

“I send you 2 letters & if you can recollect any others send me word, my mother says I must not take leave of you it is cruel but I must obey against my will. Oh my dear madam, what I suffered yesterday, God Bless you, may you be happy as you deserve. & then you must be completely so. I cannot write to you any more for my tears begin to flow again. Love me, remember me, some times when you are many, many miles off, when your Emma Hamilton is far from you think of her as she deserves heavens bless you prays your ever Sincere friend & well wisher… Crescenzo Merola is the home of the gentleman wear (sic?) we dined”

Emma Hamilton, the woman who would captivate Britain’s greatest naval hero, Horatio Nelson, was born into humble circumstances to Mary Kidd and christened Amy Lyon. Her mother was widowed before Amy’s first birthday and left her young daughter to be raised by her mother while she found work as a servant. However, when Amy was 13, Kidd brought her to London where the pair climbed the social ladder together, styling themselves as Mrs. Cadogan and Emma Hart.

Emma found work as an actress and became well-known as an artists’ model, eventually gaining the attention of MP Charles Francis Greville and becoming his mistress. In 1786, in exchange for settling some debts, Greville “traded” Emma to his uncle, the noted antiquarian and ambassador to Naples from 1764-1800, Sir William Hamilton. They soon became lovers and, despite a 35-year age difference, the pair married in 1791. Emma’s social graces and growing influence through her charm and beauty, facilitated relations between her husband and the Queen of Naples, with whom Emma had developed a close friendship.

Portrait of Lady Hamilton as Circe by George Romney

“There seems little doubt that all their patrons in their giddy social rise regarded Mary and Emma as inseparable. There is no evidence that Emma ever had to plead to include her mother when she went to Naples, Sicily, or on the 1800 progress across Europe. In letters of Sir William and Nelson ‘Mrs Cadogan’ is always mentioned with respect. They seemed to acknowledge that Mary was holding the whole ‘Emma phenomenon’ together,” (“Emma’s Mother: The Unseen Power,” Royal Museums Greenwich website, https://www.rmg.co.uk/discover/behind-the-scenes/blog/emma%E2%80%99s-mother-unseen-power, Wright).

By 1798 Napoleon’s designs on Naples had become clear and it was Neapolitan cooperation that contributed to Lord Nelson’s triumph over the French at the Battle of the Nile in August. However, in early January 1799 the French (aided by Neapolitan Jacobins) captured Naples, forcing Nelson and his fleet to assist the king and the royal family in their evacuation to Palermo. The Hamiltons were recalled to England where Nelson, who had become Emma’s lover, soon lived openly with Sir William and his wife at Merton Place, Surrey. In 1801 she gave birth to a child named Horatia, who Nelson later acknowledged to be his daughter. After Sir William’s death in 1803, Lady Hamilton and Nelson lived at Merton until his death in 1805 at the Battle of Trafalgar.

“Emma’s rags-to-riches story is often seen as the parallel of the Pygmalion tale, with the antiquarian Charles Greville as the sculptor besotted with the beauty and talent of his creation. Yet a closer look at Emma’s life shows her rise to have been steered and shared by her ambitious mother, who brought her daughter up to challenge the class system of her day,” (ibid.). Our histrionic and somewhat cryptic letter underscores the influence her mother had on her daughter’s relationships. Crescenzo Merola is likely the home of a Neapolitan noble.

Written on a large (approximately 9” x 14½”) folded sheet, with a small tear on the integral address leaf from a strong and intact red wax seal impression, bearing the illustrated crest of the Hamilton clan. Some scattered foxing and very minor mounting traces at the edges. In fine condition.

ALS from Lord Nelson’s Mistress: “…When you are many, many miles off, when your Emma Hamilton is far from you think of her as she deserves”

Signed by Emma Hamilton


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