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Details & Cataloguing

English Literature, History, Children’s Books and Illustrations

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Nelson, Horatio Lord
AUTOGRAPH LETTER, UNSIGNED, TO EMMA HAMILTON ("MY BELOVED")
A HIGHLY INTIMATE LETTER EXPRESSING HIS LOVE FOR THEIR DAUGHTER HORATIA ("...unexampled love, never I trust to be diminished much less broken..."), wishing that he could have smallpox in her place, and recalling a dream ("...I dreamt last night I heard her call papa & point to her arm just as you described..."), 2 pages, 8vo, integral autograph address leaf ("Lady Hamilton"), noted in another hand as having been enclosed with another letter to Lady Hamilton dated HMS Victory, 13 August 1804, three words crossed through at a later date with the erased text written in pencil above ("our dear child"), [HMS Victory, probably April 1804], portion of address leaf restored, neat repairs, traces of seal
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Literature

Alfred Morrison, The Hamilton & Nelson Papers: Volume II (1894), p.239

Catalogue Note

A RARE LETTER OF PATERNAL LOVE. Although there is a note on the letter that suggests it was written in August 1804 it was in fact almost certainly written some four months earlier, in April, since that is when Horatia was sick with smallpox. Nelson had been at sea for nearly a year when he wrote this letter of desperate anxiety. One of Nelson's last acts before leaving England had been to attend Horatia's christening, at which he and Emma had acted as godparents. His young daughter was never far from his thoughts during his final years at sea although it was to be another year before he returned home to see Emma and his daughter for the final time before Trafalgar. Nelson's concern that Horatia had forgotten her father finds expression in a dream, which he describes to his lover in poignant detail.

This letter is physically marked by the scandal of Horatia's parentage. As is well known, her unmarried parents maintained a fiction that Horatia was an orphan over whom they had taken a benevolent interest. They wrote impassioned love letters as Mr and Mrs Thompson, and Nelson did not sign this letter presumably in order to protect his identity. Nelson acknowledged his paternity as he lay dying, imploring that his family be protected with the words that "I leave Lady Hamilton and my daughter, Horatia, as a legacy to my country". Horatia grew up believing that Emma Hamilton was only her guardian and was never to acknowledge that she was her mother. Many of the Nelson-Emma Hamilton letters were doctored, like this one, to hide content that proved Emma's parentage of the girl.

English Literature, History, Children’s Books and Illustrations

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London