England's Mistress: The Infamous Life of Emma Hamilton by Kate Williams
Ballantine | 2013 | ISBN: 0345461940 | 432 pages | EPUB | 3 MB
A dramatic, sparkling tale of sex, glamour, intrigue, romance and heartbreak, England's Mistress traces the rise and rise of the gorgeous Emma Hamilton. Born into poverty, she clawed her way up through London's underworlds of sex for sale to become England's first media superstar. Nothing could stand in the way of her dreams- except her self-destructive desires.
In this absorbing, well-crafted biography, British historian, lecturer and TV consultant Williams charts the rise of 18th-century England's most celebrated sex symbol, best known as Admiral Nelson's mistress. Setting the rags-to-riches story of Emma Hamilton (1765-1815) in social and historical context, Williams vividly evokes her impoverished childhood and struggle to survive in London as a servant, theater maid and dancer. Williams details the debacle of Emma's life as a high-class courtesan, rescued while pregnant at age 16 by a calculating young aristocrat, Charles Greville, who transformed Emma into a trendsetting star by commissioning a fashionable artist to produce ravishing portraits of her. Creating a convincing psychological portrait of a seductive, ambitious Emma, Williams entertains with an intimate portrayal of her subject's marriage to William Hamilton, British envoy to Naples (and Greville's much older uncle), who shocked high society by making her his wife. Describing Emma's stage-managed seduction of Nelson, and the pair's passionate affair (which was famously tolerated by William Hamilton), culminating in a love child and a shared residence, Williams conveys the fickle nature of Emma's acceptance by high society. Williams's biography is well paced and pitch perfect, as competent in its storytelling as it is in its authoritative analysis of 18th-century class distinctions.
With a novelist's flair and an historian's eye for detail, Williams conjures up the world that Emma Hamilton conquered by the sheer force of her charisma. All but inventing the art of publicity, Emma turned herself into a kind of flesh-and-blood goddess-celebrated by wits and artists, adored by thousands, and, for a time, very rich. Yet Emma was willing to throw it all away for the man she adored.
After four years of archival research and making use of hundreds of previously undiscovered letters and documents, Kate Williams sets the record straight on one of the most fascinating and ravishing women in history. England's Mistress captures the relentless drive, the innovative style, and the burning passion of a true heroine.
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