BLTC Press Titles


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Theory of Colours

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe


The Characters of Theophrastus

Theophrastus


The Pictorial Key to the Tarot

Arthur Edward Waite


Knowledge of Higher Worlds and its Attainment

Rudolf Steiner


A biographical dictionary of eminent Scotsmen

by Robert Chambers

Excerpt:

In October, 1767, occurred the eruption which is considered to have been the twenty-serenth from that which in the days of Titus destroyed Herculaneum and Pompei. The mountain was visited by Hamilton and a party of his friends during this interesting scene, which has afforded material for one of the most graphic of his communications. But a grander scene of devastation attracted his attention in October, 1779, when the unfortunate inhabitants of Ottaiano had reason to dread the fate described by Pliny. Of this memorable eruption our author transmitted an account to Sir Joseph Banks, which he afterwards published as a supplement to his " Campi Phlegraei."

Previously to the period of the last event we have mentioned, the subject of our memoir was connected with the preparation of another great work, for which the world has incurred to him a debt of gratitude. He had made a vast collection of Etruscan antiquities—vases, statues, and fresco paintings, partly dug from the earth, and partly purchased from the museums of the decayed nobility, among which was that great collection now deposited in the British museum, which had belonged to the senatorial house of Porcinari. Of the most precious of these remains of antiquity, Hamilton allowed the adventurer D'Hancerville, to publish illustrated plates, liberally allowing the artist to appropriate the whole profits of the work. "Long since," he says " Mr Hamilton had taken pleasure in collecting those precious monuments, and had afterwards trusted them to him for publication, requiring only some elegance in the execution, and the condition, that the work should appear under the auspices of his Britannic majesty." The work accordingly was published at Naples, under the title of " Antiquites Etrusques, Greques, et Romaines.'' The abbe Winckelman mentions, that two volumes of this work were published in 1765, and two others the year following. Along with the author of a notice of Sir William Hamilton's Life, which appeared in Baldwin's Literary Journal, we have been unable to discover a copy of the two former volumes of this work, or to find any reference to them on which we can repose trust, nor do we perceive that the two latter volumes bear the marks of being a continuation, and neither of the after editions of Paris, 1787, and Florence, 1801 and 1808, which might have informed us on this subject, are at present accessible to us. The two volumes we have mentioned as having seen, contain general remarks on the subjects of the plates, in English and French, which both the imaginative matter, and the language, show to have been translated from the latter language into the former. The plates, by far the most valuable part of the work, introduced a new spirit into the depiction of the useful remains of antiquity, which enabled the artist who wished to imitate them, to have as correct an idea of the labours of the ancients, as if the originals were before him. The terra-cotta vases predominate; some of these are votive offerings—others have been adapted for use. A general view of the form of each is given, with a measurement, along with which there is a distinct fac-simile of the paintings which so frequently occur on these beautiful pieces of pottery; the engraving is bold and accurate, and the colouring true to the original. This work has been the means of adding the bold genius of classic taste to modern accuracy and skill in workmanship. From the painter and statuary, to the fabricator of the most grotesque drinking cup, it has afforded models to artists, and is confidently asserted to have gone far in altering and improving the general taste of the age. During the exertions we have been commemorating, Hamilton was in the year 1772, created a knight of the Bath, a circumstance which will account for our sometimes varying his designation, as the events mentioned happened previously to, or after his elevation. The retired philosophical habits of Sir William Hamilton prevented him in the earliest years of his mission from forming intimacies with persons similarly situated, and he lived a life of domestic privacy, study, and observation of nature. But fame soon forced friends on his retirement, and all the eminent persons who visited his interesting neighbourhood became his guests. One of his friends, the French ambassador at the court of Naples, has told us that he protected the arts because the arts protected him, and enriched him. The motives of the characteristic may be doubted. A love of art fascinates even mercenary men into generosity, and the whole of Sir William Hamilton's conduct shons a love of art, and a carelessness of personal profit by his knowledge, not often exhibited. Duclos, secretary of the French academy, on visiting Naples, has drawn an enthusiastic picture of the felicity then enjoyed by Sir William Hamilton— his lady and himself in the prime of life, his daughter just opening to womanhood, beauty, and accomplishments; the public respect paid to his merits, and the internal peace of his amiable family; but this slate of things was doomed to be sadly reversed. In 1775, Sir William lost his only daughter, and in 1782, he had to deplore the death of a wife who had brought him competence and domestic peace. After an absence of twenty years, he revisited Britain in 1784. 1'he purpose of this visit is whispered to have been that he might interfere with an intended marriage of his nephew, Sir Greville, to Miss li'mma Hart. If such was his view, it was fulfilled in a rather unexpected manner. It is at all times painful to make written reference to those private vices, generally suspected and seldom proved, the allusion to which usually receives the name of "scandal;" but in the case of the second lady Hamilton, they have been so unhesitatingly and amply detailed by those who have chosen to record such events, and so complacently received by the lady herself and her friends, that they must be considered matters of history, which no man will be found chivalrous enough to contradict . This second Theodosia passed the earlier part of her \ife in obscurity and great indigence, but soon showed that she had various wa\s in which she might make an independent livelihood. Some one who has written her memoirs, has given testimony to the rather doubtful circumstance, that her first act of infamy was the consequence of charitable feeling, which prompted her to give her virtue in exchange for the release of a friend who had been impressed. Be this as it may, she afterwards discovered more profitable means of using her charms. At one time she was a comic actress.—at another,.under the protection of some generous man of fashion; but her chief source of fame and emolument seems to have been her connexion with Ronmey and the other great artists of the day, to whom she seems to have furnished the models of more goddesses than classic poets ever invented. Mr Greville, a man of accurate taste, had chosen her as his companion, and the same principles of correct judgment which regulated his choice probably suggested a transference of his charge to the care of Sir William Hamilton. His own good opinion of her merits, and the character she had received from his friend, prompted Sir William soon after to marry this woman, and she took the title of lady Hamilton in 1791. At that time both returned to Britain, where Sir William attempted in vain to procure for his fair but frail bride, an introduction to the British court, which might authorize, according to royal etiquette, her presentation at the court of Naples. But this latter was found not so difficult a barrier as that which it was considered necessary to surmount before attempting it The beauty and, perhaps, the engaging talents of lady Hamilton procured for her notoriety, and notoriety brings friends. She contrived to be essentially useful, and very agreeable, to the king and queen of the Sicilies; and procured for herself their friendship, and for her husband additional honours. Her connection with lord Nelson, and the manner in which she did the state service, are too well known; but justice, on passing speedily over the unwelcome subject, cannot help acknowledging that she seems here to hare felt something like real attachment. The latter days of this woman restored her to the gloom and obscurity of her origin. She made ineffectual attempts after the death of her husband to procure a pension from government. Probably urged by necessity, she insulted the ashes of the great departed, by publishing her correspondence with lord Nelson, followed by a denial of her accession to the act, which did not deceive the public. She died at Calais in February, 1815, in miserable obscurity and debt, without a friend to follow her to the grave, and those who took an interest in the youthful daughter of Nelson, with difficulty prevented her from being seized, according to a barbarous law, for the debts of her mother.


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