Some of you may remember the BBC Radio 4 programme, Jane Austen’s iPod which was broadcast earlier in the year. A series has now been commissioned using the same idea-  taking a well known historical personality and playing music they knew or had written about them while talking about their lives with experts in the field.

Last week’s episode was concerned with Dickens (Shh!!- don’t mention him too loudly! I think we got away with it!). But today’s epiosde was of more interest to us as it featured  Emma Hamilton’s iPod. Emma Hamilton was of course the mistress of Horatio Nelson,under whom Francis Austen

served ,though to his chagrin, he missed being on duty at the Battle of Trafalagar where Nelson was killed in action.

Quintin Colville , Curator of Naval History  at the National Maritime Museum and Emma Hamilton’s  biographer Kate Williams talk to  the musician David Owen Norris about her fantastical life, and Rachel Cowgill talks about Emma’s musical ability and her taste in music, looking at her music books which are now in the Maritime Museum’s collection.  Fascinating stuff including details of her job as a “Goddess” in the Temple of Health where the infamous Celestial Bed, supposed cure for infertility was in constant demand, her marriage to Sir William Hamilton, her famous classical “Attitudes” and scandalous life including her manage a trois with Sir William and Nelson,and her meeting with Hayden. Fascinating. I’d like to have heard a little more about  Nelson’s poor, real and neglected wife, Fanny, but I suppose she would have been out of place in this programme about mistresses.

The Programme was recorded at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwhich, near to the Greenwich Naval Hospital which was of course where Nelson ‘s body laid in state before he was taken down the river Thames to be buried according to the rites of a State Funeral at St Pauls Cathedral. I rather like the sound of the new gallery to be devoted to Nelson, Emma and the 18th century at the Maritime museum…I’ll keep an eye out for any more news of that, and will report back.
In the meantime, here is a link to today’s programme which is available to Listen Again for the next seven days.