Lady Hamilton & Horatia After Nelson’s Death (part 54)

As we know, after Nelson’s death, Emma Hamilton might have led a life of quiet and retired comfort on the incomes bequeathed to her by Nelson and Sir William (which were not always paid on time).
Her ambitions, however, were different: she did not limit her expenditure and spent extravagantly to keep Merton as a monument to her lost lover, trying to maintain a social profile she could no longer afford.

All was done in the expectation of the substantial gratitude of her country, to which the hero had left her and Horatia as a legacy, a request that surely could not be ignored.

Therefore Emma continued to keep the house open to any of Nelson’s professed friends or acquaintances, and to assist anyone who asked her for money.
She met also many sharks who took advantage of her hospitality without offering anything in return. Meanwhile William Nelson refused to give her the £500 pension due to her, hurting her deeply. But even more painful was the rebuff of Lady Charlotte, the new Earl’s daughter. Emma had spent thousands of pounds to pay for her education, clothes, gifts and holidays, but above all that betrayal came from a girl she was very fond of: she had always been her protégé, and Emma had come to refer to her as a sort of “adopted daughter” in some letters.
Like her family, when she was the bestower of protection, prestige and money Charlotte had shown affection, but now that lady Hamilton no longer had much to offer, she had to be set aside as a useless object.

When Emma’s hopes began to sink, she had to leave Merton and return to London to the house in Clarges Street which she had been forced to rent after sir Hamilton’s death: his nephew-heir (and her former lover) Greville had obliged her, for the sake of respectability, to have an address separate from Nelson’s.
Even so, prodigal Emma soon found herself compelled to borrow money and to sell some of her possessions, including many of Nelson relics.

Furthermore, her depression worsened her addiction to gambling and to alcohol, which had always been her weaknesses.
Her physical health also deteriorated: she had a jaundice attack which turned into dropsy. As a result her figure began to swell. But medical treatments complicated her condition and created a chain of further ailments.

Yet, there was no respite for the poor woman: the creditors continued to besiege her and Emma was first saved by a group of friends who set up a trust to pay off her immediate debts and take care of Merton.

From Clarges Street she had to move to a cheaper house at 136 Bond Street, where she employed and housed James Harrison for six months to write a two-volume “Life of Nelson”, which definitively made it clear that Horatia was his daughter. This was probably also done in a subtle attempt to impress the public on the just need to grant her a pension. The agreement was that Emma would provide him with bed and board in exchange for half of the royalties.

During that period her first lover, Sir Harry Fetherstonhaugh, was contacted while Emma Carew was with her mother for a short visit, and sent £500 for the benefit of mother and daughter. The girl was Emma’s first illegitimate child, and her father was probably Sir Harry. Lady Hamilton sent him a polite letter of thanks, enclosing an IOU, which Sir Harry never presented.

Meanwhile she tried to take care, as best she could, of her other child Horatia, although no one knew she was her daughter. Nelson had entrusted the child to her, and that was his last request, a wish she felt duty-bound to honour until the end. Emma herself wrote to an Admiralty judge in 1809 that ” My only ambition now is that I shall fulfil Nelson’s last request, take care of Horatia, make my mother comfortable, pay everyone what is their due”.

NOTE

James Harrison spent a number of months with Lord Nelson’s friends and relatives, collecting anecdotes, letters and interviews about this man capable of inspiring and bringing out the best in his men: the so-called “Nelson Touch”.
Building trust among his officers and inspiring his crews was paramount to him and in a note to Emma, just before Trafalgar, he mentioned it to her, while he was describing a meeting with his officers : “When I came to explaining to them the Nelson touch, it was like an electric shock. Some shed tears, all approved—‘It was new — it was singular—it was simple!’”
The expression may have come from Shakespeare’s “Henry V“, Nelson’s favourite play, which refers to “a little touch of Harry in the night “ (Act IV – Prologue) to describe how the king calmed his soldiers on the eve of a battle.

In another letter to Lady Hamilton he alluded again to “the Nelson touch, which we say is warranted never to fail”.
But this was probably another kind of touch!

Come sappiamo, dopo la morte di Nelson, Emma Hamilton avrebbe potuto condurre una vita tranquilla e ritirata, anche se non sfarzosa, a portata delle sue entrate, le rendite annuali lasciatele da Nelson e Sir William (che però non sempre venivano pagate puntualmente).
Le sue ambizioni, tuttavia, erano diverse e lei non ridusse le spese né quelle personali né quelle ingenti per conservare Merton come monumento al suo amante perduto, cercando di mantenere un alto profilo sociale che non poteva più permettersi.
Il tutto nell’attesa della sostanziale riconoscenza del suo Paese a cui l’eroe aveva lasciato in eredità lei e Horatia, una richiesta che sicuramente non poteva essere ignorata.

Pertanto Emma continuò a tenere la casa aperta a qualsiasi amico o conoscente di Nelson, vero o presunto, e ad aiutare chi le chiedeva denaro.
Molti furono gli sciacalli che approfittarono della sua ospitalità senza offrirle nulla in cambio. Nel frattempo William Nelson si rifiutava di versarle la pensione di 500 sterline che le spettava, ferendola profondamente. Ma una ferita ancor più dolorosa le fu inferta dal voltafaccia di Lady Charlotte, la figlia del nuovo conte. Emma non solo aveva speso migliaia di sterline per pagarle istruzione, vestiti, regali e vacanze, ma soprattutto quel tradimento proveniva da una ragazza alla quale era molto affezionata: era sempre stata la sua protetta e in alcune lettere era arrivata a riferirsi a lei come una “figlia adottiva” .
Come i suoi famigliari, quando Emma era dispensatrice di protezione, prestigio e denaro Charlotte aveva dimostrato affetto, ma ora che non aveva più molto da offrire, era diventata una presenza inutile, da cui prendere le distanze.

Quando le speranze di Emma cominciarono a calare, si vide costretta a chiudere Merton e tornare a Londra, nella casa in Clarges Street, quella che aveva dovuto affittare alla morte di Sir William Hamilton, quando il nipote-erede (e suo ex amante) Greville l’aveva costretta, per motivi di rispettabilità, ad avere un indirizzo separato da quello di Nelson.

Anche così, però, la prodiga Emma si vide presto obbligata a chiedere denaro in prestito e a vendere alcuni dei suoi beni, compresi molti cimeli di Nelson.
Inoltre la depressione in cui era caduta non fece che peggiorare la sua dipendenza dal gioco d’azzardo e quella dall’alcol, che era sempre stato un suo punto debole.
Anche la salute fisica presentava problemi: ebbe un attacco di ittero che si trasformò in idropisia. Di conseguenza la sua figura cominciò a gonfiarsi, ma i trattamenti medici complicarono le sue condizioni e crearono una catena di ulteriori disturbi.

Ma non c’era requie per la povera donna: i creditori continuavano ad assediarla ed Emma fu salvata una prima volta da un gruppo di amici che istituirono un fondo fiduciario per saldare i suoi debiti immediati e si presero cura di Merton.

Da Clarges Street dovette traslocare in una casa più modesta al 136 di Bond Street, dove assunse e ospitò per sei mesi James Harrison incaricato di scrivere una “Vita di Nelson” in due volumi, che chiarì in modo definitivo la vera paternità di Horatia. Probabilmente questa mossa venne intrapresa anche nel sottile tentativo di convincere il pubblico della giusta necessità di riconoscerle una pensione. L’accordo era che Emma gli fornisse vitto e alloggio in cambio della metà dei diritti d’autore.

In quel periodo anche il suo primo amante, Sir Harry Fetherstonhaugh, fu contattato mentre Emma Carew era andata a Londra per una breve visita. La ragazza era la prima figlia illegittima di Emma e molto probabilmente di Sir Harry, che inviò £ 500 a beneficio di madre e figlia. Lady Hamilton gli spedì una cortese lettera di ringraziamento, allegando anche un pagherò, che Sir Harry non presentò mai.

Nel frattempo la donna cercava di prendersi cura, come meglio poteva, dell’altra figlia, Horatia, pur senza rivelare a nessuno che lei ne fosse la madre. Le era stata affidata da Nelson: era stata l’ultima sua richiesta, un desiderio che lei si sentiva in dovere di onorare fino alla fine.
La stessa Emma scrisse a un giudice dell’Ammiragliato nel 1809 che “la mia unica ambizione ora è soddisfare l’ultima richiesta di Nelson, prendermi cura di Horatia, provvedere a mia madre, pagare a tutti ciò che è loro dovuto“.

NOTA

James Harrison trascorse molti mesi con gli amici e i parenti di Lord Nelson raccogliendo aneddoti, lettere e interviste su quest’eroe capace di ispirare e tirare fuori il meglio dai suoi uomini: il cosiddetto ” Nelson Touch/tocco di Nelson“.
Creare fiducia tra i suoi ufficiali e ispirare i suoi equipaggi era fondamentale per lui e in una nota a Emma, poco prima di Trafalgar, gliene parlò mentre descriveva un incontro con i suoi ufficiali : “Quando sono arrivato a spiegare loro il tocco di Nelson, è stato come una scossa elettrica. Alcuni hanno versato lacrime, tutti approvati: “Era nuovo – era singolare – era semplice!”
L’espressione potrebbe derivare da “Enrico V” di Shakespeare, l’opera preferita di Nelson, in cui si parla di “un lieve tocco di Harry nella notte” per descrivere come il re avrebbe calmato i suoi soldati alla vigilia della battaglia
In un’altra lettera a Lady Hamilton alluse ancora al “tocco di Nelson che, diciamolo, è garantito che non fallisca mai”.
Ma questo probabilmente era un altro tipo di tocco!

Image: George Romney: Emma Hart  (lady Hamilton)  as Circe.

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56 thoughts on “Lady Hamilton & Horatia After Nelson’s Death (part 54)

    1. Luisa ! It appears that Emma passed through various inexplicable situations after the death of Admiral Nelson . She left Merton . She came back to London . She continued changing her residences as she had no money/income . Her expenditure didn’t stop . Rather it increased . She caught jaundice . Side-effects of medicine created other health problems . She became weak . Her face became pale . Her weight increased . She became bulky . And all these are signs of end/death coming soon at the doorstep (it is my opinion and not written in the blog) . Economic bankruptcy leads generally to such conditions . We in India call it or say it as an attack of God ‘Shani’ (Saturn) . Saturn is considered as an inauspicious planet in India . And those who come under Its/His attack , never develop , never progress , and never excel at all . And Emma came under the clutches of ‘Saturn God’ . That’s why this measurable condition . Thanks !

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Dear Arbind, your opinion that all these signs point to the coming end/death is correct and shareable.
        The philosophical reflection on the fact that she fell under the clutches of “Saturn God” is wise and profound: a pearl of wisdom that adds great value to my story.
        Thank You very much🙏🌷🙏

        Liked by 2 people

  1. This story has more twists and turns than I ever thought possible! It’s not sounding good for Emma and her children. Thank you dear Luisa for or sharing your very own “Nelson Touch” with us! Love and light, Deborah. ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

  2. She certainly went from riches to rags in a hurry once Nelson died. It must have been hard to see that those whom she thought were friends were only being friends because of her important husband and more important lover. And the worse of the lot, the greedy, man-of-God uncle of her daughter.

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  3. She never did learn that lesson. It was fascinating to read the comment that she fell under the Saturn God. She certainly lacked the Nelson touch. You have taken us on a fabulous saga with many fascinating side trails. Will hate to see this finally end (in the far distant future, I hope.) Keep on writing, dear, Luisa.

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  4. I never knew much about Nelson or Lady Hamilton, so I have read all 54 parts of this series with great interest. Thanks for your research and fine writing.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Thank you, Luisa, for the interesting details about the beautiful Emma Hamilton and her sad deterioration.
    Apologies for being so late but I had all day job to restore my post after it was obliterated by WordPress and is still awaiting publication.

    Joanna

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Je t’envoie cette petite poésie LUISA

    Pour te souhaiter une bonne journée ou soirée
    Avec beaucoup de délicatesse et de tendresse
    Que chacune des secondes de cette journée ou soirée
    Soit un poème dont la poésie embellit toute chose
    Que ce petit message , vous porte bonheur et vous ouvre les portes
    D’une belle journée. Ensoleillée ou d’une belle soirée toute étoilée

    Bisous Bernard

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Lady Hamilton and Horatia’s reality of life so beautifully written explanations as well dear friend 🌷🙏👍🏻✍️
    Happy days and sad days all people’s life will come and go , must take challenges and succeed in life ,don’t
    give up ,alone want to fight our rights 👍🏻🙏Emma’s life story is a great example 👏 Best wishes dear friend 💕

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You are perfectly right, dearest Thattamma. Every person’s life is a succession of happy days and sad days: everything is a cycle that continues, that comes up again and again
      Thanks a lot for your wise reflection 🙏💞🙏😘🙏

      Liked by 1 person

  8. RINVERDIRE

    Sarà stata pur lei giovane e bella,

    con volto tondo, forse a luna piena,

    liscio come confetto o caramella,

    Il viso ora è magro, un’autostrada

    di rughe, e la pelle scende giù,

    la bocca rossa e gli occhi di giada

    son sol ricordo del tempo che fu.

    Da questa giostra è ora di uscire:

    che ci sta a fare ancora una qui

    se sua bellezza vede, ahilei, svanire,

    se non si ammira più siccome un dì?

    Ciò vale anche per lui: rinverdire

    nessuno può. Pur se triste è così.

    Ed è così ovunque, qui o lì,

    comunque sia vissuto tu, eh sì,

    senza una lira, o pieno di grisbì,

    coltissimo o fermo all’abbiccì.

    Essere non si può più di una volta!

    No, non esiste strada senza svolta.

    Chi pensa in senso inverso è incolto o incolta!

    (Cassandro)

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Nelson left nothing to her and his ilegitime daughter and she just went into spending frenzy. She could have lived comfortably with what she managed to squirrel away before Nelson died.

    Like

    1. You are absolutely right, but I’m afraid she had no idea of the value of money.
      From very poor without a penny she had become a kind of “kept woman” who didn’t have to spare any expenses🎈

      Like

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