Matcham, M. Eyre.


1st.ed., 1911. 306 + 16 (advt.) pp., frontis + 14 other plates. Red cloth ; gilt ; blind armorial front board ; edges uncut. 22 x 15cm. Spine discoloured (gilt bright) ; foxing as usual o/w V.G. A book providing unique insight into the domestic life of Horatio Nelson and his family. The author based her book on private family papers and she deals almost exclusively with correspondence between Nelson’s father, the Rev’d. Edmund Nelson, Rector of Burnham Thorpe – the Norfolk village where Nelson was born – and his daughter Catherine (Kitty), who married George Matcham. Kitty was Nelson’s favourite sister and her father’s favourite daughter. Her son, also named George, married Harriet Eyre of Newhouse near Salisbury, in 1817 ; a fine country house situated only a few miles from Trafalgar House, the seat of Kitty’s brother, William, who became First Earl Nelson after Trafalgar. Thus began the Eyre-Matchams from whom Mary, the author of this book, was descended. The letters between the Rector and his daughter are full of everyday doings and gossip within the Nelson circle, from 1787 to Edmund’s death in 1802, with the narrative continuing up to Kitty’s death in 1842 - the latter based on her other family correspondence and on her private note-books. Both Edmund and Kitty eagerly follow every twist and turn in Nelson’s naval career : his great victories, the painful end to his marriage, and his whirlwind love affair with Lady Hamilton which strained family loyalty to the limits. The letters also reveal more carefree days in Norfolk during the period when the young Captain and his bride from the West Indies lived out five years on the beach. Then comes the outbreak of war in 1793 and Nelson’s recall to active duty. The letters go on to describe the Rector’s winter life at Bath, the eventual death of Nelson and his national funeral in London, the domestic affairs after 1805 at Bath, Ashfold Lodge (Kitty’s Sussex home) and at Merton. They record the death of Mrs Bolton (Kitty’s sister) in 1813 ; the arrival of Nelson’s daughter, Horatia, from Calais following the death of Lady Hamilton in 1815 ; life in Paris after Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo ; ending with Catherine’s own final years in London, Sussex and elsewhere surrounded by her beloved family. A remarkable and compelling read.

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