« PreviousContinue »
of remarkable activity, having also a most powerful and charming voice, exquisite ear, and great powers of mimicry. It is not remarkable that with these possessions she should attract the notice of all who came in contact with her.
The exercise of a charitable disposition evinced in an attempt to obtain the release of either a friend or a relative, a native of Wales, who had been impressed on the river Thnmes at the commencement of the American War, seems first to have endangered her virtue. To Captain, afterwards Rear-Admiral John Willet Payne,1 this application was made, and, by her manners, the seaman was so completely captivated, that he induced her to become his mistress. The rapidity with which one false step is succeeded by another was, as is common, illustrated in her case. She soon afterwards attracted the notice of Sir Harry Featherstonhaugh, Bart., of Up-Park, Sussex, who then became her protector. This Baronet's love of a country life and the sports of the field, gave to her opportunities for the display of equestrian talent, for which she became very remarkable, and, as may be expected under sucb circumstances, she soon joined in scenes of dissipation, which led to a derangement of the Baronet's resources, and a separation ensued. The manner, however, in which she deported herself to Sir Harry Featherstonhaugh, was such as to gain his esteem, for late in life he addressed letters to her of great propriety and good sense, and they evince the most respectful regard. Bankrupt in virtue—unfitted to return to servitude— without adequate means of subsistence—she was now thrown upon the world, and endured many privations. Threatened to be ejected from her lodgings by her landlord, she was induced by an empiric of great notoriety, a Dr. Graham, then delivering lectures in the Adelphi, to exhibit herself under his auspices as a perfect model of health and beauty. Her appearance at the meetings of the quack doubtless led to the admiration of her form by artists, and thus their attention was directed towards her as a model for their works. From the altar of the 'Goddess of Health' the transition to the studio of the Painter was easy. Romney, the Royal Academician, equally fascinated by the powers of her mind and the symmetry of her form, selected her as the subject of many of his most esteemed paintings. When Hayley was collecting materials for a life of Romney. he applied to Lady Hamilton, who seems to have equally captivated both painter and biographer.
1 This officer was the youngest son of the Hon. Mr. Payne, Governor of St. Christopher's Island, and was educated at the Royal Academy at Portsmouth. In 1769 he sailed in the Quebec to the Leeward Islands, whence he was transferred to the Montagu, Rear-Admiral Robert Man. Made Lieutenant, he was appointed to the Falcon sloop, and sailed in 1772 to St. Vincent, on the Carib expedition. A treaty of peace being made with the Caribs, and the dominion of his Majesty established, Lieutenant Payne returned to England in the Seahorse. He was soon afterwards appointed to the Rainbow, and with Commodore T. Collingwood, sailed to the coast of Guinea, whence he departed for Jamaica. At the commencement of the American War he joined Sir Peter Parker in the Bristol, and afterwards in the Eagle, where he acted as Aide-de-camp to the Admiral, Lord Howe, and was at the taking of New York. Pleased with his services, his Lordship named him Second Lieutenant of the Brune frigate, 32 guns, Captain James Ferguson. After much service on the North American station, he was appointed to the Phoenix, Captain Sir Hyde Parker, and went to the West Indies, and was in the action with Count D'Estaing. He then served in the Roebuck and the Romney, from which he was made Commander of the Cormorant, and on his way to Lisbon captured the Santa Margaretta, a Spanish frigate. In 1780 he was made a Post Captain. In the Enterprise he afterwards visited several parts of Europe and America, and for his bravery was appointed to the Leander, SO guns, and then to the Princess Amelia of 80 guns, in which, at the conclusion of the war, he returned to England. He now enjoyed elegant society, was an especial favourite of the Prince of Wales, and universally beloved fo&his information and good humour. He was made Keeper of the Privy Seal to the Prince, and represented Huntingdon in Parliament. At the breaking out of the Revolutionary War he was appointed to the Russell, 74 guns, and was in Lord Howe's victory of the 1st of June, 1/94. In the Jupiter, 50 guns, be was Commodore of the squadron to bring over the Princess Caroline of Brunswick to England. In 179C he commanded the Impeteux, 80 guns, joined Admiral Colpoys, and afterwards Lord Bridport, and Sir J. B. Warren, in which services his health failed from excessive anxiety and fatigue. In 1797 be was made a Rear-Admiral of the Blue, and in 1799 appointed Treasurer of Greenwich Hospital, where he died of a tit of apoplexy, November 17, 180:2,
2 Q •_>
The following is from the Biographer and Poet:—
"My dear Lady Hamilton,
"In looking over the letters of our dear departed Romney, it pleased me not a little to find my friend describing you as desirous that I should write a life of the artist, and expressing a very flattering wish that I should speak of you as his model. He told me, with great truth at the time, that 1 had made some preparation for such a work, by taking from his own lips many incidents of his younger days. I am now endeavouring to accomplish the affectionate desire of my friend in writing such a life of him, as 1 hope those who knew and loved him, as we did, may read with cordial satisfaction. You will oblige me infinitely by favouring me with a list of the various pictures (with their dates) which he finished or began from your lovely features in all their variations of character.
"You were not only his model but his inspirer, and he truly and gratefully said, that he owed a great part of his felicity, as a painter, to the angelic kindness and intelligence with which you used to animate his diffident and tremulous spirits to the grandest efforts of art. If you have any letters of his or verses of mine that may tend to illustrate his life, by ascertaining the date of his productions, pray indulge me with copies of them; for years of affliction and ill-health made me expect so little to survive my old friend, that I neglected to collect any materials for the work he wished me to execute.
"It has pleased Heaven to restore to me a better state of health than I had reason to expect, and the best use I can make of it is to render affectionate justice to the talents and virtues of those departed companions, whose memory is justly dear to me. In celebrating our beloved Romney, it will gratify me exceedingly to have the fullest information from you, which may enable me, in recording his works, to express how justly you were the object of our united idolatry for your beauty, your talents, and your benevolence. Continue, my dear Lady, to be kind, as you have ever been, to your affectionate admirer and sincere friend,
"W. Hayley. "Felphan, near Chichester, Ma; 17, 1801.
"I am grown such a hermit, that I never wander to London; but if you ever visit Bognor in the bathing season, you will be only a mile distant from my little marine cell, where I should be delighted to see and hear you: and where I can entertain you with a sight of yourself in three enchanting personages, Cassandra, Serena, and Sensibility. These three ladies are all worth visiting, whether the old hermit is so or nut; so pray come to see us whenever you can.
In his Life of Romney, Hayley thus speaks of her:—
"The high and constant admiration with which Romney contemplated the personal and mental endowments of this lady, and the gratitude he felt for many proofs of her friendship, will appear in passages from his letters describing some memorable iucidents, when their recent and pleasing impression on his mind and heart gave peculiar vivacity to his description. The talents which nature bestowed on the fair Emma, led her to delight in the two kindred arts of music and painting; in the first she acquired great practical ability; for the second she had exquisite taste, and such expressive powers as could furnish to an historical painter an inspiring model for the various characters, either delicate or sublime, that he might have occasion to represent. Her features, like the language of Shakespeare, could exhibit all the feelings of nature, and all the gradations of everv passion with a most fascinating truth and felicity of expression. Ronmey delighted in observing the wonderful command she possessed over her eloquent features, and through the surprising vicissitudes of her destiny she ever took a generous pride in serving him as a model; her peculiar force and variations of feeling, countenance, and gesture, inspirited and ennobled the production of his art."1
On the 19th of June, 1791, the Painter wrote to his Biographer, saying, "At present, and the greatest part of the summer, I shall be engaged in painting pictures from the divine lady; I cannot give her any other epithet, for I think her superior to all womankind. 1 have two pictures to paint of her for the Prince of Wales." And on the 7th of July following :—" I dedicate my time to this charming lady; there is a prospect of her leaving town with Sir William for two or three weeks. They are very much hurried at present, as every thing is going on for their speedy marriage, and all the world following her and talking of her; so that if she had not more good sense than vanity, her brain must be turned. The pictures I have begun are Joan of Arc, a Magdalen, and a Bacchante for the Prince of Wales, and another I am to begin as a companion to the Bacchante. I am also to paint a picture of Constance for the Shakespeare Gallery.''2 The Joan of Arc is described by Hayley as having a countenance of most powerful expression. The head was thought one of the finest that he ever painted from the features of his favourite model, and gave rise to a sonnet by Hayley :3
1 Life of George Romney, by W. Hayley. Chichester, 1809, 4to. page 118. 'Ibid. p. 159.
Who drew from Orleans her immortal fame;
Hark! hear you not the heroine exclaim?
'Now I renounce, by grateful honour swayed,
My lix'tl abhorrence of the English name:
Here I at last am worthily portrayed,
And for this tribute to my glory paid,
Forgive all past indignity and shame.
No more I deem this isle a savage clime:
Her chiefs to me were barbarously base,
And Shakcsjiearc, i f her lofty bards the prime,
Drew a faint copy of my soul sublime:
But generous Romney, you my wrongs efface,
And crown my deathless form with dignity and grace."
In addition to the pictures above mentioned, Lady Hamilton was Romney's model for Cassandra, a Wood Nymph, a (alypso, the Pythian Priestess on her Tripod. St. Cecilia, Serena, Sensibility, and, 1 think, Miranda. To these who are familiar with the features of Lady Hamilton it is not difficult to trace his model in many other of the artist's fancy pictures.
In August, 1791, Romney wrote to Hayley: " In my last letter I think I informed you that I was going to dine with Sir William and his Lady. In the evening of that day there were collected several people of fashion to hear her sing; she performed, both in the serious and comic, to admiration both in singing and acting; but her Nina surpasses every thing I ever saw, and, I believe, as a piece of acting, nothing ever surpassed it. The whole company were in an agony of sorrow: her acting is simple, grand, terrible, and pathetic."1 Again, August '29, 1791: "She performed in my house last week, singing and acting before some of the nobility with most astonishing powers: she is the talk of the whole town, and really surpasses ev> ry thing, both in singing and acting, that ever appeared. Gallini offered her two thousand pounds a-year, and two benefits, if she would engage with him; on which Sir William said, pleasantly, that he had engaged her for life."2
During the period alluded to, in which she was supporting herself by turning to advantage, for the maintenance of life, that beauty of form with which nature had endowed her, she formed an acquaintance with an honourable member of the House of Warwick, Mr. Charles Francis Greville, who saw her, and was immediately enamoured. This gentleman was well known for his taste in objects of art and vertu, probably derived from his communication with his uncle, Sir William Hamilton. INo regular attempt at the cultivation of Emma's powers was undertaken, until she formed her connexion with Mr. Greville. He placed her under the tuition of various instructors, and in music she rapidly attained a wonderful perfection. Mr. Greville took her one night to Ranelagh, and there, exhilarated by the admiration bestowed on her form and manners, she became so excited, that she ventured, in public, to display her vocal powers, and thereby called forth the most rapturous applause. Mr. Greville had gone farther than he had intended, and became alarmed at her fondness for adulation, and ventured to reproach her for her indiscretion. She retired to her room, threw off the elegant attire in which
1 Ibid. p. 152. s Ibid. p. 135.