Lady Hamilton & Horatio Nelson: Sir William (part 29)

That ménage à trois, which from the outside always seemed to go smoothly, was not that flawless.
In the autumn of 1802 some tensions arose within the “Tria Juncta in Uno”. At the time Sir William Hamilton told his wife that he was “fully determined not to have more of the very silly altercations that happen but too often between us and embitter the present moments exceedingly”, also feeling somewhat frustrated at being relegated to an insignificant corner of her life.
He had always accepted the situation, which is in part explained in a letter to Emma, when he was remonstrating over Merton’s high living costs, in which he admitted:
“I was sensible, and said so when I married, that I should be superannuated when my wife would be in her full beauty and vigour of youth. That time is arrived, and we must make the best of it for the comfort of both parties.”

But in the same letter there are words not devoid of a certain dignified pathos which could also raise the doubt that he had no suspicion about the exact nature of the relationship between his wife and his friend, and also a subtle warning:
“I have passed the last 40 years of my life in the hurry & bustle that must necessarily be attendant on a publick character. I am arrived at the age when some repose is really necessary, & I promised myself a quiet home
… . I by no means wish to live in solitary retreat, but to have seldom less than 12 or 14 at table, and those varying continually, is coming back to what was become so irksome to me in Italy during the latter years of my residence in that country. … I feel that the whole attention of my wife is given to Ld. N. and his interest at Merton. I well know the purity of Ld. N.’s friendship for Emma and me
… If really we cannot live comfortably together, a wise and well concerted separation is preferable…”

Later there was some form of rapprochement between the Hamiltons, which was achieved, according to some, by indulging Sir William’s passion for fishing and his wish to have a carriage of his own to move about independently. Nevertheless both Emma and Nelson were fond of Sir William, and were at his bedside when he died in April 1803.

He had been systematically deceived, yet apparently sincerely cared for to the last by them. Either he had a somewhat incomprehensible simplistic confidence in them, or he really recognized that the age difference and Emma’s background made all that inevitable, and chose to cover up what could be seen as his failure with a selflessness not devoid of nobility.

He set a final codicil to his will, probably calculated to silence those who considered the bond between his wife and his friend scandalous. He left his favourite portrait of Emma to Nelson, who was described as “my dearest friend … the most virtuous, loyal and truly brave character I have ever met … God bless him and shame fall on those who do not say amen”.

Nelson was not outdone and declared: “ The world never lost a more upright and accomplished gentleman”.

Image

“A Cognocenti Contemplating ye Beauties of ye Antique” is a print by James Gillray
The caricature features Sir William, old, frail and stooped, looking at his collection of antiquities, a strange assortment of miscellaneous objects including grotesques and broken vases.
On the wall there are four framed paintings recalling Emma, Nelson and Mount Vesuvius. The fourth, “Claudius”, is a profile of Hamilton who, unaware, turns his back on the lovers and their volcano. His frame is surmounted by a pair of horns which register his status as cuckold.

On the table before the “Cognocenti”, the connoisseur, there is a fragmentary bust of an “antique beauty” modelled on his wife Emma, with her fashionably dressed hair, eyes wide open, but with broken nose, mouth and chin. Perhaps this is a reference to Emma’s adultery: in the past, women accused of adultery had their noses cut off to make their faces disfigured and deprived of the “power” of their beauty (adulterous men, on the other hand, did not suffer anything like this but they simply had to pay a fine!).
Sir William scrutinizes the bust carefully, using a pair of glasses, but he holds them backward. Perhaps to suggest that he now sees less clearly than ever, or perhaps to represent his attempt to see things from Emma’s perspective, or to ask her to look closer at him

To be continued

Quel un ménage à trois, che dall’esterno sembrava scorrere liscio come l’olio, in realtà a volte incontrava degli ostacoli.
Nell’autunno del 1802 sorsero alcune tensioni all’interno del “Tria Juncta in Uno”. All’epoca Sir William Hamilton dichiarò alla moglie che era “completamente determinato a non volere più quegli stupidi alterchi che accadono troppo spesso tra di noi e amareggiano eccessivamente i momenti presenti”, sentendosi anche frustrato per essere stato relegato in un angolino insignificante della sua vita.
Aveva sempre accettato la situazione, come parzialmente spiegò in una lettera inviata a Emma, in cui protestava per gli alti costi vita a Merton, in cui ammise;
Ero razionale, e l’ho detto quando mi sono sposato che sarei andato in pensione quando mia moglie sarebbe stata nel pieno della sua bellezza e nel vigore della giovinezza. Quel momento è arrivato e dobbiamo sfruttarlo al meglio per il benessere di entrambe le parti.”

Nella stessa lettera si leggono parole non prive di un certo dignitoso pathos che potrebbero anche far sorgere il dubbio che non avesse alcun sospetto sull’esatta natura dei rapporti tra sua moglie e l’amico e anche un sottile avvertimento:
“Ho passato gli ultimi 40 anni della mia vita nella fretta e nel trambusto che necessariamente accompagnano un personaggio pubblico. Sono arrivato all’età in cui mi è davvero necessario un po’ di riposo e mi sono ripromesso una casa tranquilla … Non desidero affatto vivere in un ritiro solitario, ma non avere quasi mai meno di 12 o 14 ospiti a tavola, e sempre diversi, sta ridiventando così irritante come lo era durante gli ultimi anni della mia residenza in Italia. … Sento che tutta l’attenzione di mia moglie è rivolta a Ld. N. e il suo interesse a Merton. Conosco bene la purezza dell’amicizia di Ld. N. per me e Emma
… Se proprio non possiamo vivere serenamente insieme, è preferibile una separazione saggia e ben organizzata…”

In seguito ci fu un riavvicinamento tra gli Hamilton, che fu anche raggiunto, secondo alcuni, assecondando la passione per la pesca di Sir William e il suo desiderio di avere una carrozza tutta sua per potersi muovere in autonomia.

Nonostante tutto, sia Emma che Nelson erano affezionati a Sir William ed erano al suo capezzale quando spirò nell’aprile del 1803.
Era stato sistematicamente ingannato, eppure apparentemente curato con affetto fino all’ultimo da loro.
O aveva una semplicistica fiducia in loro, abbastanza incomprensibile, o davvero riconosceva che la differenza di età e il passato di Emma rendevano la cosa inevitabile e scelse di coprire quello che poteva essere visto come un suo fallimento con un’abnegazione non priva di nobiltà.

Al suo testamento appose un codicillo, probabilmente calcolato per mettere a tacere chi considerava scandaloso il legame tra la moglie e l’amico. Infatti lasciò un ritratto di Emma, quello che preferiva, a Nelson descritto come “il mio più caro amico … il personaggio più virtuoso, leale e veramente coraggioso che abbia mai incontrato… Dio lo benedica e ignominia ricada su chi non dice amen”.

Nelson non fu da meno e dichiarò: “Il mondo non ha mai perso un gentiluomo più retto e distinto”

Immagine

A Cognocenti Contemplating ye Beauties of ye Antique” è una stampa di James Gillray
La caricatura presenta Sir William, vecchio, fragile e curvo, mentre guarda la sua collezione di antichità, uno strano assortimento di oggetti vari tra cui grottesche e vasi rotti
Alla parete è appesa una serie di quattro dipinti che ricordano Emma, Nelson e il Vesuvio. Il quarto, “Claudio” è un profilo di Hamilton che, ignaro, volta le spalle agli amanti e al vulcano della loro passione. La sua cornice è sormontata da un paio di corna che certificano il suo status di cornuto.

Sul tavolo davanti al “Cognocenti”, il conoscitore, c’è un busto rotto di un’ “antica bellezza” modellato su sua moglie Emma, con i capelli pettinati alla moda, grandi occhi spalancati, ma con il naso, la bocca e il mento spezzati Forse si tratta di un riferimento all’adulterio di Emma: nel passato le donne che avevano relazioni extraconiugali subivano il taglio del naso per renderle sfigurate in volto e private del “potere” della propria bellezza. (Gli uomini adulteri invece non subivano nulla di simile ma dovevano semplicemente pagare una multa!)
Sir William scruta attentamente il busto, usando un paio di occhiali, ma li tiene sollevati al contrario. Forse a suggerire che ora vede meno chiaramente che mai, o forse per rappresentare il suo tentativo di vedere le cose dal punto di vista di Emma, o per chiederle di guardarlo più da vicino.

Continua

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62 thoughts on “Lady Hamilton & Horatio Nelson: Sir William (part 29)

  1. Poor Sir William. Knowingly or unknowingly, he paid a high price for the love of a lady and the friendship of an Admiral. “Arrangements” can be interesting. Thanks for continuing the story Luisa. Allan

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  2. Luisa ! Sir William Hamilton was systematically deceived by the duo . Yet sincerely apparently they cared for him till the last . It appears that Sir William was quite frustrated with the lavish life style of Emma due to Merton’s high living cost . Yet he had perhaps a somewhat incomprehensible simplistic confidence in them ( Emma and Nelson ). It is true that the man becomes lonely at an old age . And more so when his wife is so young and beautiful . Same was the case with Sir William Hamilton after superannuation . His feeling of so , time and again , came on the surface . But he hid his loneliness by his habit of fishing and his wish to have a carriage to move independently . A very accurate presentation of a triangular feelings of love & hate between Emma , Sir William and Nelson . Thanks !

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  3. Luisa, what a love triangle. I’m glad that Sir William was allowed some peace and a semblance of dignity when he expired. He seems to have done so with a more class than the other two display. You are doing a masterful job with this series. Intriguing from chapter to chapter.

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  4. Wonderful. I must say her mister certainly was tolerant and long suffering, especially for these days. But maybe there were things he felt guilty about. I don’t know what I do know is this a wonderful series of blogs.

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  5. The stories twist and turns so interesting to read 🌷🙏👍🏻Emma is a beautiful woman who
    has no idea that how want to make her posh life perfectly 🌷the historical story amazing 😍
    Thank you so much for sharing dear friend 🌷🙏♥️🌷

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  6. It is incredible that you have reached part 29 withthis brilliant series. Like others, I too loved the cartoon and your wry observations on the backward glasses. It is what makes you a unique writer dead Luisa. Thank you. Love and light, Deborah. ❤️

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  7. Ménage a trois: direi che è lo strato comune a molte storie… Uno psichiatra mi ha detto che in realtà io non ero l’oggetto del desiderio dei due pollastri. In realtà ciascuno di loro voleva l’altro. Mi ha sempre fatto molto pensare…

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