« ElőzőTovább »
To him was sent the fullest account that was attainable of Book Ii, the sad event of 1783. cuLJL.
It had chanced that just before the news reached Naples, „,RSCT" *°'u°" Sir Joseph had written to Hamilton about some experimerits and discoveries on the composition and transmutation of water. He had said, jestingly: 'In future we philosophers shall rejoice when an eruption, which may swallow up a few towns, affords subsistence for as many nations of animals and vegetables/ This letter Hamilton was about to answer when he received the intelligence from Calabria.
'We have had here,' he writes, ' some shocks of an earthquake which, in Calabria Ultra, has swallowed up or destroyed almost every town, together with some towns in
Sicily Every hour brings in accounts of fresh
disasters. Some thousands of people will perish with hunger before the provisions sent from hence can reach them. This, *»> i». I believe, will prove to have been the greatest calamity that has happened in this century. An end is put to the Carnival. The theatres are shut. I suppose Saint Janu- Bub, Ms. arius will be brought out.' There had been no exaggeration "^'.^J7' in these first reports. It was found that at Terranova, not only were all the buildings destroyed, but the very ground on which they stood sunk to such a depth as to form a sort of gulf. In that district alone 3043 people lost their lives. At Seminara 1328 persons were buried beneath the ruins. In other and adjacent districts more than 3300 persons perished.
In 1784 the ambassador visited England. His stay was brief. But an incident which occurred during this visit gave its colour to the rest of his life.
In 1791 Sir William Hamilton was made a Privy Councillor, and in the same year (nine years after the death
of his first wife) he married Emma Harte, whom he had first met in the house of his nephew, Colonel Greville, in 1784. In September, 1793, his eventful acquaintance with Nelson was formed.
In that month, Nelson had been sent to Naples with despatches from Admiral Lord Hood, in which Sir William Hamilton was pressed to procure the sending of some Neapolitan troops to Toulon. After his first interview with Lord Hood's messenger, he is said to have remarked to his wife: 'I have a little man to introduce to you who will become one of the greatest men England has ever had.' The favourable impression was reciprocal, it seems. The ambassador gave such good furtherance to the object of Nelson's mission, that the messenger, we are told, said to him,' You are a man after my heart. I'm only a captain, but, if I live, I shall get to the top of the tree;' while, of the too-fascinating lady into whose social circle he was presently brought, Nelson wrote to his wife,' She is a young woman of amiable manners, who does honour to the station to which she is raised.' Several years, however, were yet to intervene before the events of the naval war and the political circumstances of Naples itself brought about a close connexion in public transactions between the great seaman and the British ambassador, whose long diplomatic career was drawing to its close.
Hamilton, after the manner of Collectors, had scarcely parted with the fine Museum, which he had sold to the Public in 1772, before he began to form another. The explorations of the buried cities gave some favourable opportunities near home, and his researches were spread far and wide. In amassing vases he was especially fortunate. And, in that particular, his second Collection came to surpass the
first. He became anxious to ensure its preservation in Boohii, integrity. With that view he offered it to the King of Classical Prussia.
'I think,' he wrote to the Countess of Lichtenau, in May, 1796, 'my object will be attained by placing my Collection, with my name attached to it, at Berlin. And I am persuaded that, in a very few years, the profit which the arts will derive from such models will greatly exceed the price of the Collection. The King's [porcelain] manufactory would do well to profit by it. . . . For a long time past I have had an unlimited commission from tlie Grand Duke of Russia [afterwards Paul The First], but, between ourselves, I should think my Collection lost in Russia; whilst, at Berlin, it would be in the midst of men of learning and of literary academies.
'There are more/ he continues, ' than a thousand vases, and one half of them figured. If the King listens to your proposal, he may be assured of having the whole Collection, and I would further undertake to go, at the end of the war, to Berlin to arrange them. On reckoning up my accounts, —I must speak frankly (il faut que je dise la verite),—I sirw.^ find that I shall needs be a loser, unless I receive seven the countess thousand pounds sterling for this Collection. That is 3May,i7MU exactly the sum I received from the English Parliament for my first Collection.* ... As respects Vases, the second is far more beautiful and complete than the series in London, but the latter included also bronzes, gems, and medals.' But the negotiation thus opened led to no result. And some of the choicest contents of this second Museum were eventually lost by shipwreck.
* I find that in this statement—made twenty-four years after the date of the transaction referred to—Sir William's memory misled him. The amount of the Parliamentary vote was (as I have stated it, on a previous page) eight thousand four hundred pounds.
The Later Events At
Boor ii, When the correspondence with Berlin occurred, the Clascal Collector's health was rapidly failing him. The political Arch^olo- horizon was getting darker and darker. Victorious France
lilSTS AND D O
was putting its pressure upon the Neapolitan Government to accept terms of peace which should exact the exclusion of British ships from the Neapolitan ports. The ambassador needed now all the energies for which, but a few years before, there had been no worthy political employment. They were fast vanishing; but, to the last, Sir William exerted himself to the best of his ability. It was his misfortune that he had now to work, too often, by deputy. Lady Hamilton's ambitious nature, and her appetite for Napleb, political intrigue, when combined with some real ability and a good deal of reckless unscrupulousness as to the path by which the object in view might be reached, were dangerous qualities in such a Court as that of Naples. If, more than once, they contributed to the attainment of ends which were eagerly sought by the Government at home, and were of advantage to the movements of the British fleet, they cost —as is but too well known—an excessive price at last. The blame fairly attachable to Sir William Hamilton is that of suffering himself to be kept at a post for which the infirmities of age were rapidly unfitting him. But there he was to remain during yet four eventful years; quitting his embassy only when, to all appearance, he was at the door of death.
Between the September of 1793 and that of 1798 Nelson and Sir William Hamilton met more than once; but their chief communication was, of course, by letter. When, in October, 1796, after two victories in quick succession, Nelson lost his hard-won prizes, and narrowly escaped being taken into a Spanish port, it was to Hamilton that he wrote for a certificate of his conduct. And one of the ambassador's latest diplomatic achievements was his procuring access Book U, for British ships to Neapolitan ports before the Battle of Cussi'cal the Nile was won. tZZT
On the very night of that famous first of August, 1798, E"">IU!«<'■Sir William—whilst the distant battle was yet raging— told Nelson of the disappointment which had followed the rumours, current during many days at Naples, of a defeat given to the French fleet in the Bay of Alexandretta, and assured him of his own confidence that the rumours, though then unfounded, would come true at last. Five weeks afterwards, he had the satisfaction of sending to London the first official account of the great victory which he had seen before with the eye of faith.
At Naples the authentic news was received with a joy which worked like frenzy. When the ambassador first saw the Queen, after its arrival, she was rushing up and down the room of audience, and embracing every person who entered it—man, woman, or child. He sent to Nelson sir w. an account, of the universal joy. 'You have now, indeed, ""nciw"; made yourself immortal,' was his own greeting. On the ?, 22nd they again met, on board the Vanguard, in the Bay. On the 21st of the following December Sir William Hamilton accompanied the King and Court of Naples in their flight to Palermo.
The events of 1799 belong rather to history than to biography. Sir William Hamilton's chief share in them lay in his exertions to obtain for Nelson the large powers which the King of Naples vested in the English Admiral —with results so mingled. On the 21st of June he embarked with Nelson on board the Foudroyant, and sailed with the squadron to Naples. In the stormy interview between Nelson and Cardinal Ruffo, Sir William acted as interpreter. In all that followed, he seems to have been rather a spectator than an actor. At the close of the year