Зображення сторінки
PDF
ePub

hospitality for many months. Indeed, for six years his daughter had been consigned exclusively to Lady Hamilton's care. The rev. gentleman, fearful that the codicil would affect the sum about to be voted by Parliament for Lord Nelson's family, quietly kept it in his pocket until the day when 120,000/. were duly voted for their support. On that day he dined with Lady Hamilton in Clarges-street, and with the satisfaction of a man amply provided for, produced the paper, and sarcastically told his hostess to do what she liked with it. Lady Hamilton registered it at Doctors'-Commons the very next day; there it has been ever since, and may be seen any day by the curious reader upon the payment of one shilling.

It is, perhaps, hardly necessary to add, that all the good and great people who flocked round Lady Hamilton during the lifetime of Nelson, became all at once shocked at the improprieties of a lady left destitute. As for the Kev. William Nelson, who tumbled into the title and fortune which Lady Hamilton had helped to earn, that respectable gentleman very properly removed his daughter from her instructress's roof, without even condescending to give the usual quarter's notice. In the year 1801 the Rev. William Nelson, writing to Lady Hamilton, took occasion to observe that—

"Now we have secured the peerage, we have only one thing to ask, and that is, my promotion in the Church, handsomely and honorably, such as becomes Lord Nelson's brother and heir-apparent to the title. No put-off with small, beggarly stalls. Mr. Addington

DIFFICULTIES OF LADY HAMILTON. 39

must be kept steady to that point. I am sure Nelson is doing everything for him. But a word is enough for your good, sensible heart."

In 1805 there was nothing to ask, and the Rev. Mr. Nelson forgot that Lady Hamilton had a heart at all.

Nothing to ask, did we say? Yes, there was bread to ask for a. fallen, and a starving woman. Not far from the Merton turnpike, and within a few miles of London, there is to be seen a field, upon which once stood the home of Nelson and his mistress. It was left, with its debts and liabilities, to Lady Hamilton. These were large enough, for extravagance accompanied the meridian of her life, as it had characterised the dawn. The Government proving obdurate to the last, the owner of Merton was dismissed from the place. She went to Richmond, and then took temporary lodgings in Bond-street. Hence she was chased by importunate creditors, and for a time hid herself from the world. In 1813 we find her imprisoned in the King's Bench, but charitably liberated therefrom by a city alderman. Threatened again with arrest by a coachman, in sickness of heart the unhappy woman escaped to Calais. Here the English interpreter gave the refugee a small and wretchedly furnished house. What follows completes the romance of Lady Hamilton's life. There is sublimity in the moral.

An English lady in Calais was in the habit of ordering meat daily for a favourite dog. She was met on one occasion at the butcher's shop by the English interpreter. "Ah, madame, madame," said M. de Rheims, "I know you to be good to the English. There is a lady here that would be glad of the worst bit of meat you provide for your dog." M. de Rheims received permission to supply the poor woman with whatever she needed, but he dared not reveal the sufferer's name, for he had promised secrecy, and she was too proud to see visitors. Through the charitable kindness of the English lady (let her name be recorded for the credit of her countrywomen; she resided in Brighton, and her name was Hunter), wine and food were supplied to the pauper until she became too ill either to eat or drink. M. de Rheims entreated the poor wretch again and again to see the lady who had been so good to her. Finally she said she would, if the lady were not a woman of title. Mrs. Hunter came—the poor patient thanked and blessed her—and so Lady Hamilton died: "beautiful," says her humane visitor, "even in death."

Is the lesson told? Not yet. Mrs. Hunter desired to bury the remains according to English custom. She was laughed at for her importunities upon the subject, and Emma Hamilton was placed in a deal box without inscription, her pall being a black silk petticoat stitched on a white curtain. No English Protestant clergyman could be found in Calais, but an Irish half-pay officer was sent for, and he read the burial service. The ground in which the body lies interred is now a timber-yard; it ceased to be a public cemetery in 1816, and Lady Hamilton had found her resting-place in the January of the preceding year.

"The Earl of Nelson" (it is written) "went over to demand Lady Hamilton's property, but found only the

END OF HER HISTORY. 41

duplicates of trinkets, <fec, pledged, and which he wished to take away without payment. He declined repaying any expenses that had been incurred."

Fit ending to the poor nursery-maid's history!

August 22,1849.

RAILWAY NOVELS.

"read now and then a romance to keep the fancy under" was the counsel of a writer who knew something of life and human nature, to a friend ben£ upon a visit to the Antipodes. The wisdom of the advice is acknowledged by every living man beyond the age of thirty. Novels may concentrate action, excite interest, touch the heart, but they cannot heighten the power of imagination. It is reality that astonishes: fiction dares not, if it would, be half so bold. What if we should tell the reader that—say a century and a half ago—there lived a man in England who in his youth gave himself up to riot, gambling, and debauchery, who, driven at last to desperation by absolute beggary, quarelled with an acquaintance, fought and killed him, who was tried, convicted of murder, and sentenced to death, yet managed to escape unhurt to the Continent; who, in the course of his wretched wanderings, became known and marked at every notorious gambling house in Europe; who was publicly expelled, first from Venice, then from Genoa, and finally from indulgent Paris itself; who, venturing to visit the capital of France, encountered a prince of the blood royal at a public gaming-table, and won his friendship; who, trading upon the necessities of that prince, succeeded in obtaining the highest consideration

« НазадПродовжити »