Lot 386: Born the daughter of a humble blacksmith, the model, entertainer, and courtesan Emma Hamilton (née Amy Lyon, 1761) ascended the ranks of British society to become the mistress to Lord Admiral Horatio Nelson. ALS, four pages on two adjoining sheets, 7.25[ x[][ 9, December 30, 1812. Letter to Colonel Fullerton, complaining of her lack of rest from caring for her daughter's illness and having just completed her narrative chronicling her diplomatic services to the royal family of Naples, in part: "I have been so much occupied by writing my narrative of Services that I have had not any time to write or scarcely to sleep and my Dear Horatia having the Hooping Cough I have not had rest for many weeks—my narrative is gone to the printer, I only Hope He will take my Case in to his Consideration[.] A very little bond [would] make me comfortable and to finish Horatia's education[.] According to my own mind she is delightful & amiable & very clever and I spare not any pains or expense for her…I find a pleasure in your recollection of me that I Cannot describe & shall find Double Satisfaction when I can again tell you the story in person of my poor unfortunate friend the Q[ueen] of Naples…I have my drawing room of a morning and many per[sons] come in. I wish you was [sic] one." At the top of the address panel, she adds an apologetic postscript: "Pray excuse this scrawl written in a hurry and not worth the postage but as my prospects brighten so shall my letters be more entertaining." Intersecting folds with mended partial separations, and a mounting strip and scattered staining to the last page, otherwise fine condition.
After Nelson's death in 1805 at the Battle of Trafalgar, Emma quickly exhausted her finances and, despite Nelson's status as a national hero, the instructions he left to the government to provide for Emma and Horatia were ignored. The "narrative of Services" she mentions in this letter was her attempt to obtain a £20,000 grant to compensate for her diplomatic services with the Neapolitan royal family during her time there with her husband, Sir William Hamilton, the British envoy to Naples. The narrative was never published, but the original manuscript is now housed at the Houghton Library at Harvard. Her petition was apparently unsuccessful, and within six months of the present letter, Emma and her daughter landed in debtor's prison. Hoping to escape her British creditors, Emma fled to France in 1814, where she soon turned to drink and died the following year in poverty.
RR Auction's Fine Autographs and Artifacts Auction 453
Sunday, 17th May 2015
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