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reach much beyond the standard required for astonishing 'persons of quality. It did not certainly preserve her from startling historical mistakes, or from a pertinacious inability to spell foreign names (which her editor has not taken the trouble to correct), and to scan either French or Latin verses.*
Miss Knight's father, Sir Joseph, died in 1775, when she was about eighteen; and Lady Knight, being in straitened circumstances, and unable to obtain a pension, went with her daughter to live on the Continent. They dwelt a good deal at Rome, where Miss Knight picked up an amount of knowledge of the personages and ways of its curious Court very rare with English people, and which furnishes the most amusing portion of her foreign diaries. She was at Rome when the French agitator, Basseville, was murdered by the Conservative mob, in 1793. In 1798, when Berthier occupied the Eternal City, she and her mother effected their escape to Naples with some difficulty. And here commences that which-when we remember what she afterwards became is the most curious chapter in Miss Knight's history; over which her editor passes with very discreet forbearance of She and her mother established the closest intimacy with Sir William Hamilton, the British envoy, and with his too celebrated wife. They partook in all the vehement enthusiasm with which the victory of the Nile and Lord Nelson's triumphant arrival at Naples were saluted by the English there. They were also the eye-witnesses and the partakers of the idolatry evinced by the King and Queen of Naples, and by Lady Hamilton, for the hero who threw himself so unsuspectingly into their arms. She became a kind of deputy poetess laureate for the occasion; added a stanza- Join we great Nelson's name,' and so forth to the National Anthem; and addressed strains commencing, Come, cheer up, fair Delia,' to Lady Hamilton, in connexion with the great commander. She became, apparently, the indispensable inmate of that circle. She accompanied them to Palermo, and there Lady Knight died, in 1799; and Cornelia,' says the editor, in fulfilment of her mother's dying injunctions, placed herself under the protection of the Hamiltons.' Miss Knight herself tells us nothing of this, nor of the causes which led her to form so close an attachment to her Ladyship, whom she cautiously terms 'a singular mixture of right and wrong.' She only informs us that she left Sicily in company with the Hamiltons, with Lady Hamilton's mother Mrs. Cadogan, Lord Nelson, and the Queen of Naples, on the 8th June, 1800, for Leghorn; and proceeded thence to Ancona, which place
• See vol. ii., pp. 181 and 197.
they reached after a difficult and somewhat romantic journey. She reached Trieste by a different ship; but there rejoined the Hamilton and Nelson party, and proceeded with them on what may be called their triumphal route through Germany, by Vienna, Dresden, and Hamburg. They arrived in town in November, when Miss Knight went to a hotel in Albemarle Street with Mrs. Cadogan.' And it is scarcely necessary to say that Miss Knight's account of the journey contains little but a chronicle of the decorous ovations with which it was attended.
Now let us turn to the other side of the story. In the summer of 1800, Mrs. St. George, an Irish widow lady of family, was residing in Germany, and familiar with several of its courts. She was young, of much talent, and a very lively power of observation. Portions of her 'Journal' have been printed by her son, the present Dean of Westminster. We extract from it without comment, which is quite unnecessary, the passages which relate to the sojourn of Nelson, the Hamiltons, and Miss Knight at Dresden:—
'Oct. 2.-Dined at the Elliots'. [Mr. Elliot was British Minister at the Saxon Court.] While I was playing at chess with Mr. Elliot, the news arrived of Lord Nelson's arrival, with Sir W. and Lady Hamilton, Mrs. Cadogan, mother of the latter, and Miss Cornelia Knight, famous for her "Continuation of Rasselas" and "Private Life of the Romans."
'Oct. 3.-Dined at Mr. Elliot's, with only the Nelson party. It is plain that Lord Nelson thinks of nothing but Lady Hamilton, who is totally occupied by the same object. She is bold, forward, coarse, assuming, and vain. Her figure is colossal, but, excepting her feet, which are hideous, well shaped. Her bones are large, and she is exceedingly embonpoint. She resembles the bust of Ariadne: the shape of all the features is fine, as is the form of her head, and particularly her ears; her teeth are a little irregular, but tolerably white; her eyes bright blue, with a brown spot in one, which, though a defect, takes nothing away from her beauty and expression. Her eyebrows and hair are dark, and her complexion coarse. Her expression is strongly marked, variable, and interesting; her movements in common life ungraceful; her voice low, but not disagreeable. Lord Nelson is a little man, without any dignity, who, I suppose, must resemble what Suwarrow was in his youth, as he is like all the pictures I have seen of that General. Lady Hamilton takes possession of him, and he is a willing captive, the most devoted and submissive I have seen. Sir William is old, infirm, all admiration of his wife, and never spoke to-day but to applaud her. Miss Cornelia Knight seems the decided flatterer of the two, and never opens her mouth but to show forth their praise; and Mrs. Cadogan, Lady Hamilton's mother, is what one might expect. After dinner we had several songs in honour of Lord Nelson, written by Miss Knight, and sung by Lady Hamilton.
She puffs the incense full in his face, but he receives it with pleasure, and snuffs it up very cordially.
Oct. 7.-Lady H— continues her demonstrations of friendship, and said many fine things about my accompanying her at sight. Still she does not gain upon me. I think her bold, daring, vain, even to folly, and stamped with the manner of her first situation much more strongly than one would suppose, after having represented Majesty and lived in good company fifteen years. Her ruling passions seem to me vanity, avarice, and love for the pleasures of the table. She shows a great avidity for presents, and has actually obtained some at Dresden by the common artifice of admiring and longing. Mr. Elliot says she will captivate the Prince of Wales, whose mind is as vulgar as her own, and play a great part in England.
Oct. 8.-Dined at Madame de Loss's, wife to the Prime Minister, with the Nelson party. The Electress will not receive Lady Hamilton, on account of her former dissolute life. She wished to go to Court, on which a pretext was made to avoid receiving company last Sunday, and I understand there will be no Court while she stays. Lord Nelson, understanding the Elector did not wish to see her, said to Mr. Elliot, "Sir, if there is any difficulty of that sort, Lady Hamilton will knock the Elector down, and me, I'll knock him down too." She was not invited in the beginning to Madame de Loss's, upon which Lord Nelson sent his excuse, and then Mr. Elliot persuaded Madame de Loss to invite her.
'Oct. 9.-A great breakfast at the Elliots', given to the Nelson party. Lady Hamilton repeated her attitudes with great effect. All the company, except their party and myself, went away before dinner; after which Lady Hamilton, who declared she was passionately fond of champagne, took such a portion of it as astonished me. Lord Nelson was not behindhand; called more vociferously than usual for songs in his own praise, and after many bumpers proposed the Queen of Naples, adding, "She is my Queen; she is Queen to the backbone." Poor Mr. Elliot, who was anxious the party should not expose themselves more than they had done already, and wished to get over the last day as well as he had done the rest, endeavoured to stop the effusion of champagne, and effected it with some difficulty, but not till the Lord and Lady, or, as he calls them, Antony and Moll Cleopatra, were pretty far gone. I was so tired I returned home soon after dinner, but not till Cleopatra had talked to me a great deal of her doubts whether the Queen would receive her, adding, "I care little about it. I had much sooner she would settle half Sir W.'s pension on me." After I went, Mr. Elliot told me she acted Nina intolerably ill, and danced the Tarantola. During her acting Lord Nelson expressed his admiration by the Irish sound of astonished applause, which no written character can imitate, and by crying every now and then, "Mrs. Siddons be d-d!" Lady Hamilton expressed great anxiety to go to Court, and Mrs. Elliot assured her it would not amuse her, and that the Elector never gave dinners or suppers. "What! cried she, "no guttling?" Sir William also this evening performed
feats of activity, hopping round the room on his backbone, his arms, legs, star and ribbon all flying about in the air.
Oct. 10.-Mr. Elliot saw them on board [a boat on the Elbe] to-day. He heard by chance from a King's messenger that a frigate waited for them at Hamburg, and ventured to announce it formally. He says, "The moment they were on board there was an end of the fine arts, of the attitudes, of the acting, the dancing, and the singing. Lady Hamilton's maid began to scold in French about some provisions which had been forgot, in language quite impossible to repeat, using certain French words which were never spoken but by men of the lowest class, and roaring them out from one boat to another. Lady Hamilton began bawling for an Irish stew, and her old mother set about washing the potatoes, which she did as cleverly as possible. They were exactly like Hogarth's actresses dressing in the barn.’*
Now, it may be said once for all, it is open to every one to make such allowance as he may think proper for the youth and vivacity and slightly satirical turn of the authoress of these sketches. But they must be substantially true. They were written down on the impression of the moment, and preserved for no purpose except that of communication to her own family. There is no suspicion of intended publication here. Some, in their veneration for the memory of Lord Nelson, have been displeased at their appearance. They are wrong, we think. get at the truth about the tracasseries of Carlton House is of no conceivable importance to mankind; but that the character of one of the real heroes of history should be thoroughly known— known in its weaknesses no less than its strength-is of very considerable importance indeed. Such men must not be painted 'en buste.' Nor is there any fear that the real fame of Nelson will suffer by additional exposures of his follies about Lady Hamilton. As well criticise Samson for his relations with Dalilah. The truth is that there are marked men in history, though very few, whose character is of the Samsonic type-men of unlimited bravery, intense and contagious enthusiasm, absolute simplicity and honesty of purpose, and withal the merest children, or worse than children, in point of external demeanour and of personal weaknesses, whether of the same nature with those of Nelson or not. Such men were Wolfe, Seidlitz, Suwarrow (to whom Mrs. St. George acutely compares Nelson). Such is Garibaldi. Men like these are always cherished, as they should be, in popular affection, and lose little or nothing of their peculiar popularity after Time has done its worst in disclosing their failings.
* Journal kept during a visit to Germany in 1799 and 1800, edited by the Dean of Westminster, pp. 75-83. But
But the strange part of this Teniers-like bit of history, for our present purpose, consists in the light which it reflects on the real characteristics of the refined Miss Cornelia Knight, lady-companion' a few years afterwards to the Princess Charlotte. We find her, not a young girl deprived of her natural protector, but a demure orphan of forty-two, deliberately attaching herself to the fortunes and society of this bacchanalian citizeness of the demi-monde, and her convenient mother. We do not insinuate the slightest scandal against Miss Knight. Though she must have handled a vast deal of pitch between Palermo and Albemarlestreet, she remained undefiled; and far from having any imputation cast upon her, she passed for a model of decorum, if not quite one of the most high-minded women in the world, and the kindest-hearted,' as Lady Charlotte Bury calls her, in the spirit of Connaught-House partisanship. Her condescension, and that of others, to the Hamiltons, was in some degree veiled by the blaze of Nelson's glory, and the services which the boldness and readiness of his Emma had rendered to the British cause. She was attached to them by the ties of dependence and gratitude. Most of my friends,' she says after her arrival in London, were very urgent with me to drop the acquaintance; but circumstanced as I had been, I feared the charge of ingratitude, though greatly embarrassed what to do, for things became very unpleasant.' (Vol. i. p. 162.) All this sufficiently accounts for the indulgence of society towards her; but it does not account for the extraordinary circumstance that a lady, whose antecedents in this respect were so unlucky, was selected, first as the familiar attendant of the stiff Queen Charlotte, next as the 'lady-companion' of that Queen's granddaughter during the most critical years of her brief life. That the travelling-companion of Emma Hamilton should have been chosen, not simply to play propriety in a youthful Princess's drawingroom, but to train her heart and intellect, and watch over her under circumstances of embarrassment and delicacy almost unparalleled, is such a fact as the greatest enemy of courts would scarcely have dared to invent. We fear it can only remain on record as a proof how indescribably low the standard, not exactly of morals, but of moral sentiment, had descended in ours, at the period in question.
So, however, it fell out. In March, 1805, Miss Knight was taken into the service of Queen Charlotte, without any solicitation, she says, on her part:
'Her Majesty had been pleased to express a desire that I should be attached to her person, without any particular employment, but that I should be lodged at Windsor, in a house belonging to Her Majesty,