1) The arrival of the one and only AB at two out of three for shame! midsized east coast liberal arts colleges. He is
the last of the really great wangdoodles the internship/education coordinator from Bath, who knew an inordinate amount of fun facts, wore green shoes, was taught by LHB to use ‘the interweb,’ and was the guest of honor for The Only Annual Linley Potluck Dinner, held in the basement of my house. I can still smell MRG’s Martha Proud mac n cheese, and the excitement of 30-odd people crammed into The Cave conference room. Oh my God, my throat’s a little tight.
2) AND, the kind-of-sort-of year anniversary-in-general of all our classes being held in one room. In a building called NELSON HOUSE. It’s called NELSON HOUSE because (according to our study abroad program website) The Viscount Horatio NELSON stayed there on his “frequent visits to the city.” From that I infer he took his prostitutes there.
Born Amy Lyons in 1765, the daughter of an impoverished blacksmith, she worked her way up from being a maid in various households and at the Drury Lane Theatahhh, to eventually become a model and dancer. Now, being a model and dancer in 18th century England is not the respectable position it is today. When you were a model and dancer in 18th century England, you ended up dancing naked for several months on a dining room table when you’re 15 for a bunch of House of Lords members at a stag party, then getting taken as a mistress by the host, Sir Harry Featherstonhaugh, subsequently ignored, and subsequently subsequently befriending the ‘safe’ Hon. Charles Francis Greville, getting knocked up by Featherstonhaugh, dumped, and then shacking up with Greville. That’s what Wikipedia told me you did if you were a model and dancer in 18th century England. Amy Lyons must have read the same article.
After she had her baby and worked mad Zumba so her figure returned, Greville had Amy change her name to Emma Hart and pose for a bunch of nudie sketches for his friend, George Romney. Romney became obsessed with her (in the art world they prefer the term ‘muse’), and her coy I’ve-danced-on-tables-naked-before hotness made him extremely popular, and introduced Emma to society circles. Biddy learned quick, and she rose to social fame, but also shamed Greville in the process, ’cause, oh look, he’s dating that chick who’s slippin’ the nip in all those paintings. Greville married a rich gurl and shipped Emma off to Naples to be the ‘hostess’ at his elderly uncle, Sir William Hamilton’s ‘salon.’ Wikipedia gets a little sassy when it enters this part of the narrative. And I quote, “Emma was thus sent to Naples, supposedly for six to eight months, little realizing that she was going as the mistress of her host. She became furious when she realized what Greville had planned for her. But in fact this was the best thing that ever happened to her.”
Hush Wiki, just give me the questionable facts.
While in Naples, she became an entertainer of sorts, creating tableau vivants (or, as normal people call them, mime shows) by combining classical poses with ‘modern allure,’ and adopted the dress of Italian peasants. Blah blah blah, she became even more famous and influenced fashion and acting across Europe, blah blah, created the Grecian/Regency style, blah blah fucking blah. She finally gave in to the 60something Hamilton in 1791, and married him in her mid twenties. This might have been due to the fact she received a title and one of the largest landholdings in England, but who knows, maybe she really loved the guy.
In 1798, when Emma was 33 (FUCKING OLD, MAN), she met Horatio Nelson, hero of the Napoleonic Wars, who was missing an arm, an eye, most of his teeth, and prone to coughing fits. Apparently she fainted from ecstasy at the sight of him.
She nursed him (with her lady parts), fell in love, and began an affair which was kind of creepily encouraged by Hamilton (maybe because his most famous wife was now banging the most famous man in England and he got dope swag since he was along for the ride). The three of them thus embarked on a devil’s threesome roadtrip across Europe, meeting great acclaim in every city as people applauded their shameless banging. Nelson was sent back to the Navy by the Admiralty because this behavior was a little unkosher, so in his absence, Emma picked up her relationship with Hamilton, who she refused to divorce. Nelson, b.t.dubs, was also married, but estranged from his wife, and did not feel he could solicit a divorce from her without a great military victory. Maybe so he could rub more shit in her face, but I’m just guessing here.
When he returned, the three of them bought a house in England and lived openly in a (quote, Wikipedia), “menage a trois that fascinated the public.” They were tabloid staples, and Emma had Nelson’s daughter, Horatia, in 1801, and a second died shortly after birth in 1804. William died in 1803, and Nelson returned to war, leaving Emma lonely but now free to marry her one-armed Fabio when he returned.
Too bad. He died.
She became poor, obscure and alcoholic and died of dysentery in 1815. A fairytale ending!!!!!!1
BUT, she endures in popular culture. She’s had three movies made about her (including one from Alexander Korda, who made one of my all time favorites, The Third Man, starring ORSON WELLES), has multiple books devoted to her and multiple fashions are in her debt, and basically any Penguin Classics cover from Austen/Bronte/Thackery/Grahame-Smith/etc. features a portrait of Emma looking regal as shit. So I guess the moral of the story is that you can be a huge slut, but also a brilliant social climber and get super famous (and lord knows, if you’ve read Vanity Fair you can see more than a few connections between Becky Sharp and Emma…). So let’s all be models and dancers and dimepieces in 18th England and be awesome forever.