SIR WILLIAM by David Stacton


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Stacton's best book (he has been producing at a rate American publishers have had trouble keeping up with), this is written with epigrammatic wit and grace, and it relates the famous love affair between Lady Emma Hamilton and ord Horatio Nelson. Scenes flow by, charming short ones, or others which don't eveal their locale until your imagination draws back to middle distance. Elegant, never romantic, this is the story of an education which failed to educate. Emma, after an adolescence as a quasi-courtesan (she posed for elderly men while mud-bathed) and after giving birth to an illegitimate child, at 16 became the sistress of Charles Greville. Later Charles gave her to his uncle, Sir William Hamilton, who took her to Naples. She made Sir William marry her. Enter Lord Nelson, England's greatest naval hero. A menage a trois ensued. ""We are one heart in three bodies"", writes Nelson. They survive enormous scandal because of William's love for the lovers and the story covers 20 years, to Sir William's death. The inner changes of cultivated Sir William; Emma's transmutation into a blithe, gross Crump; the one-eyed, one-armed Nelson as he shrinks into middle-age, all build into accumulative sadness that is unexpectedly affecting. Stacton's style has a permanent beauty a steel hammer couldn't dent.

Pub Date: Sept. 30th, 1963
Publisher: Putnam