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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, Nklson 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 scarcelyparted 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
When the correspondence with Berlin occurred, the Collector's health was rapidly failing him. The political horizon was getting darker and darker. Victorious France 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 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 179S 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 ambassa
Book II, Chap. II. Classical Aech.koloOists AND Explorers.
Miss Kiiight to Lady Berry, July 2, 1800.
Hamilton's Last Days.
he joined with Nelson in the vain endeavour to induce the King to return to Naples, while that course was yet open to him.
On the 10th of June, 1800, Sir William took his final leave of Naples, which had been his home for thirtysix years, and where he had mingled in a departed world. In company with the Queen and three princesses, the Hamiltons sailed in the TPoudroyant for Leghorn, on their way to Vienna. A few days after the embarkation, a fellow-passenger writes thus: 'Sir William Hamilton appears broken, distressed, and harassed. He says that he shall die by the way, and he looks so ill that I should not be surprised if he did.' When the Admiral struck his flag (13th July) at Leghorn, the party set out for Vienna. Between Leghorn and Florence, Sir William's carriage met with an overturn, which increased his malady. At Trieste the physicians were inclined to despair of his life. But he rallied sufficiently to reach England at last, and the change from turmoil to rest prolonged his life for two years to come.
During the long interval between the acquisition of the first Hamilton Museum and the return of its Collector to his country, he had marked his interest in the national Collection by repeated and valuable gifts. To make yet one gift more—trivial, but possessing an historical interest—was one of his last acts. On the 12th of February, 1803, he sent to the British Museum a Commission given by the famous fisherman of Amalfi to one of his insurrectionary captains. On the 6th of April Sir William Hamilton died, in London. He was buried at Milford Haven.
The kindly heart had left many memorials of its quality at Naples. The ambassador had lost a part of his fortune.