19 October 2005
HORATIO, VISCOUNT NELSON (1758-1805)
Autograph letter signed 'Y[o]ur sincere and affectionate Nelson') to Sir William Hamilton, n.p. [Vanguard], 17 June 1799, one page, 4to, integral blank leaf, docketed on verso (slightly discoloured at left hand edge).
'A ship passed the Rear of the fleet in the night. I hope it was from the Earl and that you and my Lady have executed my commission of breaking open all the letters ... this day is almost the finest I ever saw ... I think the reports from Naples must have had letters for me but they only show the St Sebastian & Lion'. Nelson sends a copy of a letter to Lord Keith, and asks for the return of Mr Magra's.
A somewhat hurried letter written while Nelson, hoping to return to Naples and recover the city (occupied by the French since January) for the King, was also faced with the threat to other parts of the Mediterranean which the French and Spanish fleets had entered in May. Earl St Vincent had delegated his command to Lord Keith, and Nelson was at this time receiving letters and reports from all the countries bordering the Mediterranean. His friendship with Lady Hamilton was simultaneously becoming more intense, and the subject of comment in circles in London. Perkin Magra was the Consul at Tunis and one of Nelson's circle of intelligence gatherers.
The evacuation of the King and Queen of Naples and of the Hamiltons to Sicily had taken place six months earlier. By 25 June Nelson and the Hamiltons were together on the Foudroyant and after the recapture of Naples he was rewarded with the dukedom of Bronte.
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