Зображення сторінки
PDF
ePub

friend;

think she will spoil them all, and that we shall not be able to stay out for eight or nine months cruising after all this attention." The great St. Vincent himself sends "ten thousand most grateful thanks to her ladyship for restoring the health of our valuable

is sure " that Lady St. Vincent will be transported with your attention to her,” and has immediately “obeyed her ladyship’s commands respecting Tom Bowen, who is now captain of L'Aguillon," and, "should her ladyship have any other protegés,Earl St. Vincent implores that he may not be spared. Mr. Disraeli has it that the secret of all success consists in being master of your subject. If ever woman was mistress of the art of bringing all men to her feet, Lady Hamilton is she. The valiant old tars who swept the seas that England might sail empress of them all were helpless children in her hands.

Five years elapsed between the first and second meeting of Nelson and Lady Hamilton; but the former had passed a whole life in the interim. We saw him quitting Naples in 1793, after having delivered his despatches to Sir William Hamilton, plain Captain Nelson of the Agamemnon. He returned to the Neapolitan shores in 1798, with a title to the peerage, a famous commander, a proud conqueror, and followed in his course by loud and grateful acclamations. At Calvi, in 1794, he had conducted the siege, and lost an eye. In 1797, crying to his men, whom he led to as desperate an assault as ever tempted bravery to the jaws of death, Westminster Abbey or glorious victory !he captured, as it were, with his own hand, the San

HER EXERTIONS ON BEHALF OF ENGLAND.

17

a

Josef and San Nicholas at the immortal battle of St. Vincent. Two months afterwards he parted with his right arm at Teneriffe, and within a twelvemonth again he received a wound in the head almost at the moment of achieving the splendid and decisive victory of the Nile. At this crisis of his career, we say, overflowing with honours, worshipped by his fellowcountrymen, laden with presents conferred upon him by every potentate interested in the peace of Europe, from the Russian Emperor to the Grand Signor, Nelson for the second time set foot in Naples, and saw his future mistress. His reception was triumph. King and Queen gave way to him, and the people received him as they are apt to receive those whom their rulers deem worthy of enthusiastic welcome.

Lady Hamilton in the meanwhile had not been idle. In her peculiar sphere she had laboured, so to speak, hand-in-hand with the hero, and contributed not a little to the success of his movements, and the consequent splendour of his renown. From the moment she undertook the cause of the British Navy, she gave her whole soul to the work. Her nature did not permit her to leave one stone unturned in order to reach her end, and what her will suggested she had art enough to compass. She had been but a short time at Naples before it was asserted that she had contrived to “de-Bourbonise the whole Royal family, and to make them all English.” This was but clearing the field for subsequent operations. A single instance of her unremitting zeal and daring patriotism speaks for a thousand. One morning Lady Hamilton received intelligence that a courier

[ocr errors]

had brought to the King of Naples a private letter from the King of Spain. What were its contents ? Lady Hamilton could not guess, but she was resolved to ascertain. By the aid of the Queen the document was stolen from the King, transcribed by the ambassador's wife, and then quietly deposited again in the King's cabinet or waistcoat-pocket. The letter had been worth the stealing. It announced the King of Spain's determination “to withdraw from the coalition into which he had entered," and to join the French against England. The vigilant woman lost not a moment. Sir William Hamilton lay dangerously ill; but, taking counsel of herself, she at once despatched a copy of the declaration to Lord Grenville, the Minister in England, and, from her own private purse, paid 4001., in order to insure the delivery of the letter into his lordship's hands.

In June, 1798, Nelson, as all acquainted with the history of those times will vividly remember, was in search of the French fleet. How he discovered it at Alexandria towards the end of July, and what havoc in the course of twelve hours he played with it on the 1st of August, no Englishman is ever likely to forget. But there are incidents connected with this wonderful pursuit, and this noble victory, with which our readers are perhaps not so familiar. They belong rather to the history of Lady Hamilton than to that of Nelson, yet how potently do they affect the character and fate of both !

Sir William and Lady Hamilton were aroused from their slumbers one morning in the aforesaid June by the arrival of Captain Troubridge, with letters from Sir Horatio Nelson, "requesting that the ambassador

POSITION OF NELSON IN THE MEDITERRANEAN. 19

would procure him permission to enter with his fleet into Naples, or any of the Sicilian ports, to provision, water, &c., as otherwise he must run for Gibraltar, being in urgent want, and that consequently he would be obliged to give over all further pursuit of the French fleet, which he had missed at Egypt, on account of their having put into Malta.” It was much easier for Sir Horatio to make the request than for the ambassador to comply with it. At that very time Naples was at peace with France, a French ambassador was resident in the Neapolitan capital, and Ferdinand had stipulated with France, that no more than two English ships of war should enter into any of the Neapolitan or Sicilian ports. What was to be done? Sir William Hamilton did the best he could. He jumped out of bed, hastened to Sir John Acton, Ferdinand's prime minister, who convened a council immediately, at which the King himself was present. The council sat down to consider Sir Horatio's demand at half-past six o'clock, and took one hour and a half exactly to come to a determination, for they did not rise until eight. Captain Troubridge accompanied Sir William Hamilton to his residence after the council had broken up, but Lady Hamilton had already gathered from the countenances of the King and Sir John Acton the dismal confession that Naples could not break with Francethat the fleet of Nelson could receive no help. We are reaching a point in the narrative at which the craft of the penman fails him, and the superiority of the painter becomes strikingly manifest. Imagine the vexation of the disappointed ambassador, picture to yourself the bitter regret and downcast looks of

the faithful Troubridge, and then behold, close to them both, a form lovely as an angel's, a face beaming with the animation of triumph, and the ecstacy of an irrepressible delight,-observe her hand trembling with the consciousness of the precious treasure it grasps, and then see her waving high up exultingly in the air the order which the council had refused, and the King himself could not obtain. Dr. Budd's nurserymaid had positively in her possession the permission for which Nelson had petitioned in vain, and without which it was impossible satisfactorily to carry on the war. Oh, how the sorceress must have chuckled when she saw King, ministers, and councillors, all issuing from their solemn consultation with their lugubrious visages indicating helplessness, inability, and unutterable disgust !

We have had occasion to observe that the King of Naples was a fool, and his Queen very much the

This was unfortunate enough for his Majesty ; but, what was worse still, his loving people were cognizant of the fact. The King certainly commanded in his dominions; but his wife was obeyed. Who knew this better than Lady Hamilton? That very clever lady suffered Sir William to wake up Sir John Acton, to get the King out of his bed, to cause the council to be summoned, and when all was done, and the wise men were fully engaged in discussion, she herself quietly slipped into the Queen's bedchamber, and got up a little council of her own. The reader bears in mind the consummate ability of this actress. He has been told that Siddons could . not be more tragic, O'Neil not more pathetic; and he has seen how exquisitely she performed in the

reverse.

« НазадПродовжити »