Sir William Hamilton personified the age of the Enlightenment - a collector and connoisseur, amateur scientist and archaeologist, vulcanologist, anthropologist and above all a gentleman of taste and intellectual curiosity - and in Naples, one of the most fascinating stations on the Grand Tour, he had found his ideal setting.As King George III's ambassador to the Kingdom of Naples from 1764-1800, Sir William was witness to some pivotal events in European history. "The Hamilton Letters" is the first collection of his complete correspondence with the English court between 1797 and 1799. It sheds vivid light on the history of the kingdom of Naples on the cusp of the Napoleonic Wars as France and Spain jostled for control in the region as well as on the nature of power and government at the end of the 18th century. Included here is Sir William's own account of Nelson's betrayal of the Neapolitan Republic when, rather than granting the royalist leaders safe passage back to France as agreed, Nelson turned his guns on them - a hugely controversial decision, both for contemporary audiences and ever since, and one in which Sir William's own role is still hotly contested."
The Hamilton Letters" offers an engaging portrait of a complex and sophisticated figure and brings a dynamic period of history to life. It is an invaluable guide to the period which will enthrall anyone interested in the colourful world of 19th-century European history.
John A.Davis is Emiliana Pasca Noether Chair in Modern Italian History at the University of Connecticut and Editor of the Journal of Modern Italian Studies. His most recent book, Naples and Napoleon: Southern Italy and the European Revolutions 1780-1860, was published in 2006. His previous publications include Gramsci and Italy's Passive Revolution; Conflict and Control: Law and Order in 19th Century Italy; and Merchants, Monopolists and Contractors: Economy and Society in Bourbon Naples 1815-60. Giovanni Capuano is a teacher and translator. His previous publications include Naples and its Environs and William Hamilton e la Rivoluzione Napoletana del 1799.