Nelson, Horatio (1758 – 1805)
“With Kindest Respects to Lady Hamilton”
Confidential and rare three-page autograph letter to Sir William Hamilton (1730-1803), English ambassador to Naples and husband of Lady Emma, soon to be Nelson’s mistress.
Written with his right hand, Nelson begins, “My Dear Sir, The Vice Roy [of Corsica, Sir Gilbert Elliott, Nelson’s friend] will write you so fully that it would be impertinent was I to say more, than the joy I feel at the resolution taken, and that I may claim some merit with the King of Naples [Ferdinand IV] for my steady support to his interest which in good truth he highly deserves, not a little must be attributed to Sir John Acton [Prime Minister of Naples] and yourself, and I have full confidence that the conduct of Naples will continue to be such that we may pride ourselves for our advice. The greatest confidence must be placed in us, and nothing like jealousy. God knows I only feel for the King of Naples as I am confident the change in his government would be subversive of the interest of all Europe. We have a narrow minded party to work ag[ains]t, but I feel above it.
I shall only add that I will still endeavour to prove myself the same active officer which the world has said I am. With kindest respects to Lady Hamilton […] The long post-script, dated the following day, is written with a different pen: “Oct:r 19:th We have just got the ad[mira]ls consent & you will receive his dispatches.
Galleys must be sent immediately to Elba to be at our disposal, and the ships should join our fleet as soon as possible they may come safely to Elba & then form the junction. – Porto Lorjona must also be partly garrisoned by us. We should not answer it to our country was anything on which depends the safety of our fleet and army be left to chance. I do not think it impossible but I shall soon be sent to Naples, as the ships are ready I may impress Sir John Acton with the great importance of their sailors. (signed) H. N. As our stay in the Mediterranean is a secret, and not told to Capt[ain] Kelwich, you must tell him to come to Porto Ferraio, his orders are for San Liorenso where we shall not be.”
Against Nelson’s advice, the English fleet was withdrawn from Neapolitan waters and cruised the southern coast of Spain so as to block the Spanish fleet in Cartagena and Cádiz and prevent their uniting with the French fleet in Toulon. Several months after this letter, on 22 July 1797, Nelson was to lose his right arm in the Battle of Santa Cruz de Tenerife. Upon his return to Naples in 1798, Emma Hamilton and Nelson fell in love – a relationship tolerated by Sir William, who admired the admiral. Emma gave birth to Nelson’s daughter Horatia in 1801, and Nelson lived openly near London with Emma, Sir William, and Emma’s mother, in a ménage à trois that fascinated the public. Traces of old glue on page one, and a note by a different hand on final page, otherwise in fine condition.