HAMILTON, Emma, Lady (bap.1765-1815). Mistress of Lord Nelson. Wife of Sir William Hamilton.
Fine Autograph Letter Signed to Henry Dundas, Viscount Melville, 8 pages 4to with a further three pages (in another hand) of 'Facts', 'Tuesday morning', ca 1800. The watermark of the letter is 1797 and of the 'Facts' 1799.
The letter acquaints Dundas of the 'facts relating to our uncomfortable situation'. She details the state of Sir William Hamilton's finances on their return to England in 1800 - turned out of his place and 'a disgraced man' in the eyes of the world. She relates that, at 69 years old, Sir William is now 'obliged to go about London' with 'a few dymonds... these he is obliged to sell for half price to get bread for the moment his bills having been protested.' She takes a swipe at Foreign Secretary Lord Grenville, listing her own services in the process. Particularly (a very early mention of) her role in enabling the 'Brave Lord Nelson's fleet' to be victualled at Syracusa' and that letters had been sent to Grenville detailing her role. Much is covered in Emma's racy retelling - the huge expenses they were under, secret service money given to others etc.
Although undated the letter would appear to have been written about November 1800 when the Hamiltons were living at William Beckford's house in Grosvenor Square, Emma was seven months pregnant with Nelson's child, and Nelson's own marriage was falling apart.
It's a fine rant. She finally asks if Dundas can help by petitioning the prime minister, William Pitt (who is a 'humane and good' man) on their behalf and will be happy if she could see Dundas soon.
The letter is accompanied by a clerical copy of FACTS - the document put together by Nelson on Sir William's behalf. (The original of FACTS, in Nelson's hand, is at the British Library and was included in Pettigrew.)
Provenance: The Melville Papers, Sotheby's 27 April 1926, lot 107 described as 'an extraordinary letter of Lady Hamilton' from a collection of papers belonging to Lady Melville.
Links to scans of all the pages:
Letter, page 1
Letter, page 2
Letter, page 3
Letter, page 4
Letter, page 5
Letter, page 6
Letter, page 7
Letter, page 8
'Facts' page 1
'Facts' page 2
'Facts' page 3