Single Letter

HAM/1/4/4/9

Letter from Sir William Hamilton to Mary Hamilton

Diplomatic Text

[1]

Sunday Jany. Jany 4
1784

      I have been thinking much, My
Dear Miʃs Hamilton, upon what paʃsed
last night and now I will open my
mind freely to You on the Subject,
and you may make use of what I write
as far as You think proper, and with
your usual prudence. In first place
there is something in the act of Selling
that gives a disagreable sensation
particularly when the value of the
objects for Sale can only be aʃscertained
by what the french call prix d'Affection
however as the first proposal did
not come from me but from the Ducʃs
I shall at once make what I think
a reasonable offer to Her Grace --
The Vase, the Head of Jupiter and
my Picture of Coregio are the
Cream of all the Virtù I have ever
                                                         poʃseʃsed



poʃseʃsed in my life and I beleive
in my conscience there do not exist three
finer Specimens of the perfection of
Art. I am particularly circumstanced
as to my Corregio (which induces me
to part with it) for I can not enjoy it
as my Lot is to live at Naples and
I get it with difficulty from thence
in spite of a Royal Mandate not to
suffer it to go out of the Country. The
Duke of Laurenzano's family, from
whom it was purchased by me, had it
from the Collection of Christina Queen
of Sweden when She died at Rome,
and there is great reason to beleive
that it was one of Charles 1sts. Collection
as in his printed Catalogue there
is mention of the Venus of Corregio
Sold by Cromwell for 3000£ and
no other picture of a Venus by Corregio
existing at present. I have been
twice offerd 2000£ for this picture



picture but always declared I wou'd
never sell it for leʃs than 3000£. Now
if the Ducheʃs wou'd take the Picture
at that price I wou'd let her have the
Vase and Jupiter for the same price
they cost me, with ye Hercules head and
the little curious glaʃs ring you
mention'd, and for which Articles I
paid exactly £1079. But if her
Grace shoud only be inclined to take
the Antiques without the Picture
I think them worth, and shou'd not
be tempted to part with them under,
the Sum of 2000£, Nay I am very
sure I cou'd directly get that Sum
from the Empreʃs of Ruʃsia for the
Vase alone, but I can not bear the
thought of its going out England
now it is once safe here, for there
is not such a monument of Antiquity
in the World -- The Cupid & Psiche
of the D. of Marlborough is nothing
                                                         to it



to it & Ly. Betty Germaine told me often
that Cardinal Albani had offerd her
4000 Zechines for that Cameo alone.
In short the fact is this I have a debt
of 3000£ for which I am paying 5 pr. Ct.
interest and I am still to pay Mr. Byres
for the Vase having given him for it
my Bond for 1000£ bearing interest
5 pr. Ct.. Now shoud the Dutcheʃs accept
the whole of my Offer there woud be
a deduction of upwards of 900£
upon what I esteem the real Value of
those precious pieces separately &
which I woud give up for the sake
of being free of debt at Once -- whether
the 3000£ for the Corregio was paid
now or the interest paid upon my
Bond which is in the hands of Mr. W.
Hamilton of Lincolns Inn and the
Capital paid whenever it might suit
the Ducheʃs it wou'd be the same, the
Ducheʃs woud only stand in my place
as to that debt. I am convinced that



that if the Ducheʃs does make this
purchase Her Grace nor any of her Family
will ever be loosers; for such very
Capital and well known Pieces
must always bear their full Value.
Diamonds & precious Stones maybe
found at Market but such pieces
of Art can only be purchased when
the opportunity offers & which is but
Seldom -- I have now opend the whole
of my thoughts to You read it over
twice and communicate to the
Ducheʃs what You please of it aʃsuring
Her Grace that what ever is done
I shall never open my lips upon the
Subject without her consent
Most sincerely & Affectly.
Yours
My Dr. Niece
W.H.

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Notes


 1. This letter is quoted in full in Anson & Anson (1925: 155-7).

Normalised Text


Sunday January 4
1784

      I have been thinking much, My
Dear Miss Hamilton, upon what passed
last night and now I will open my
mind freely to You on the Subject,
and you may make use of what I write
as far as You think proper, and with
your usual prudence. In first place
there is something in the act of Selling
that gives a disagreeable sensation
particularly when the value of the
objects for Sale can only be ascertained
by what the french call prix d'Affection
however as the first proposal did
not come from me but from the Duchess
I shall at once make what I think
a reasonable offer to Her Grace --
The Vase, the Head of Jupiter and
my Picture of Correggio are the
Cream of all the Virtù I have ever
                                                        



possessed in my life and I believe
in my conscience there do not exist three
finer Specimens of the perfection of
Art. I am particularly circumstanced
as to my Correggio (which induces me
to part with it) for I can not enjoy it
as my Lot is to live at Naples and
I get it with difficulty from thence
in spite of a Royal Mandate not to
suffer it to go out of the Country. The
Duke of Laurenzano's family, from
whom it was purchased by me, had it
from the Collection of Christina Queen
of Sweden when She died at Rome,
and there is great reason to believe
that it was one of Charles 1sts. Collection
as in his printed Catalogue there
is mention of the Venus of Correggio
Sold by Cromwell for 3000£ and
no other picture of a Venus by Correggio
existing at present. I have been
twice offered 2000£ for this



picture but always declared I would
never sell it for less than 3000£. Now
if the Duchess would take the Picture
at that price I would let her have the
Vase and Jupiter for the same price
they cost me, with the Hercules head and
the little curious glass ring you
mention'd, and for which Articles I
paid exactly £1079. But if her
Grace should only be inclined to take
the Antiques without the Picture
I think them worth, and should not
be tempted to part with them under,
the Sum of 2000£, Nay I am very
sure I could directly get that Sum
from the Empress of Russia for the
Vase alone, but I can not bear the
thought of its going out England
now it is once safe here, for there
is not such a monument of Antiquity
in the World -- The Cupid & Psyche
of the Duke of Marlborough is nothing
                                                        



to it & Lady Betty Germaine told me often
that Cardinal Albani had offered her
4000 Zechines for that Cameo alone.
In short the fact is this I have a debt
of 3000£ for which I am paying 5 percent
interest and I am still to pay Mr. Byres
for the Vase having given him for it
my Bond for 1000£ bearing interest
5 percent. Now should the Duchess accept
the whole of my Offer there would be
a deduction of upwards of 900£
upon what I esteem the real Value of
those precious pieces separately &
which I would give up for the sake
of being free of debt at Once -- whether
the 3000£ for the Correggio was paid
now or the interest paid upon my
Bond which is in the hands of Mr. W.
Hamilton of Lincolns Inn and the
Capital paid whenever it might suit
the Duchess it would be the same, the
Duchess would only stand in my place
as to that debt. I am convinced



that if the Duchess does make this
purchase Her Grace nor any of her Family
will ever be losers; for such very
Capital and well known Pieces
must always bear their full Value.
Diamonds & precious Stones may be
found at Market but such pieces
of Art can only be purchased when
the opportunity offers & which is but
Seldom -- I have now opened the whole
of my thoughts to You read it over
twice and communicate to the
Duchess what You please of it assuring
Her Grace that what ever is done
I shall never open my lips upon the
Subject without her consent
Most sincerely & Affectionately
Yours
My Dear Niece
William Hamilton

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 1. This letter is quoted in full in Anson & Anson (1925: 155-7).

Metadata

Library References

Repository: The John Rylands Library, University of Manchester

Archive: Mary Hamilton Papers

Item title: Letter from Sir William Hamilton to Mary Hamilton

Shelfmark: HAM/1/4/4/9

Correspondence Details

Author: Sir William Hamilton

Place sent: unknown

Addressee: Mary Hamilton

Place received: unknown

Date sent: 4 January 1784

Letter Description

Summary: Letter from Sir William Hamilton to Mary Hamilton. The letter relates to Sir William selling some of his artworks and antiquities to the Duchess of Portland. He writes that his 'Vase, the Head of Jupiter & my picture of Coregio [sic] are the cream of all the Virtu I have ever possessed in my life, & I beleive [sic]in my conscience there do not exist three finer Specimens of the perfection of Art'. The Correggio was once owned by Christiana, Queen of Sweden, and he believes that it was owned at one time by Charles I, as a catalogue of his collection mentions a Venus of Correggio which was sold for £3000 by Cromwell, and to his knowledge there is only one Venus by Correggio. The letter details how much Sir William is willing to accept from the Duchess of Portland for these works and the amounts that he had originally purchased the items for. He believes that for the Vase alone, the Empress of Russia would pay highly for it but he could not bear 'the thought of its going out of England now it is once safe here, for there is not such a monument of Antiquity in the World'. Sir William is convinced that the Duchess will not lose by her purchase. He asks his niece to convey this information to the Duchess and to assure her that he will not 'open his lips upon the subject' without first getting her consent.
   

Length: 2 sheets, 730 words

Transliteration Information

Editorial declaration: First edited in the project 'Image to Text' (David Denison & Nuria Yáñez-Bouza, 2013-2019), now incorporated in the project 'Unlocking the Mary Hamilton Papers' (Hannah Barker, Sophie Coulombeau, David Denison, Tino Oudesluijs, Cassandra Ulph, Christine Wallis & Nuria Yáñez-Bouza, 2019-2022).

All quotation marks are retained in the text and are represented by appropriate Unicode characters. Words split across two lines may have a hyphen on the first, the second or both fragments (reco-|ver, imperfect|-ly, satisfacti-|-on); or a double hyphen (pur=|port, dan|=ger, qua=|=litys); or none (respect|ing). Any point in abbreviations with superscripted letter(s) is placed last, regardless of relative left-right orientation in the original. Thus, Mrs. or Mrs may occur, but M.rs or Mr.s do not.

Acknowledgements: XML version: Research Assistant funding in 2016/17 provided by The John Rylands Research Institute.

Research assistant: Isabella Formisano, former MA student, University of Manchester

Transliterator: Andrew Gott, dissertation student, University of Manchester (submitted June 2012)

Cataloguer: Lisa Crawley, Archivist, The John Rylands Library

Cataloguer: John Hodgson, Head of Special Collections, The John Rylands Library

Copyright: Transcriptions, notes and TEI/XML © the editors

Revision date: 2 April 2020

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