3 December 2003
NELSON, Horatio, Viscount (1758-1805). Autograph letter signed ('Bronte Nelson') to Lady Hamilton ('My Dear Lady Hamilton'), [Foudroyant off Malta], 25 February '1801' , 2 pages, 4to, integral blank annotated on verso in a later hand (centre-fold worn, professionally repaired).
Written during the blockade of Malta, complaining of having had to ask Lord Keith for leave of absence, but fearing that this might be disastrous for the situation, 'My Health has been so bad that yesterday I wrote to L[ord] Keith for 2 or 3 weeks of absence to go to Palermo ... but I found at this moment perhaps we might lose Malta.' He confesses that he longs 'to give it all up 19 Sail of the Line & 4 ads [admirals] is enough for one man', his low spirits also perhaps caused by learning that 'Palermo is no longer to be the rendez-vous of our ships'. Nelson thanks Miss [Cornelia] Knight for her 'high and unmerited Compliment' but does not expect her prophetic comments to come true, 'I wish not to trust dame fortune too long She is a fickle dame and I am no Courtier.'
Nelson sailed for Malta on 12 February 1800, shortly after learning that Sir William and Lady Hamilton were to be recalled to England from Naples. The present letter is noticeably more restrained than some of his other letters to Emma at this time, soon after the beginning of their love affair, no doubt because of the risk that it might be read by someone other than the intended recipient. He instructs her here to write letters to him 'under cover to our friend [Sir Alexander] Ball, and they will be safe' (their love letters were carried by his closest aides or friends). It was on the Foudroyant that their daughter Horatia was probably conceived in April/May 1800, when Nelson and the Hamiltons sailed on her from Palermo to Syracuse and Malta.
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