Alexander Historical Auctions LLC

Lot 275

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Description: BARRY O'MEARA
(1786-1836) British naval surgeon who attended Napoleon at St. Helena and supervised the exiled dictator's autopsy; wrote the controversial volume Napoleon in Exile. Very rare A.L.S. 3pp. 8vo., [n.p. but almost certainly St. Helena, n.d. but ca. 1820], possibly written from St. Helena the year before Napoleon's death to an unnamed lady. In part: "...I have just heard...an account of the intentions of Ministers toward her Majesty which, if true, exceeds in audacity and atrocity anything that they have yet effected. My friend says that he has heard this morning from authority such as he has no doubt of, that the Ministers will not suffer a tithe of the evidence produced for or against Her Majesty to be published and that in case of the Bills being passed in the House of Lords they intend to have Her Majesty seized, put on board ship and hurried out of the country to the continent as an alien before the nation knows anything about it. That they intend to effect this without waiting for the decision of the House of Commons!! Though I am decidedly of opinion that there are capable of anything unless restrained by fear of their lives...I must confess that I conceive the attempt to be of a nature too audacious for them. I have however thought it my duty to communicate what I have heard to your Ladyship. The Marchioness Solaris papers were taken to Carlton Palace by the Chevalier Ruspini where they have since remained. It does not appear however that they are of any great consequence...The Italian witnesses arrived this morning at 2 o'clock in a gunboat and have been lodged in Sir T. Tyrwhitts house...I enclose to your Ladyship a copy of Lord Erskine's Speech [not present]on the subject of the witnesses, corrected by himself...". O'Meara had a reputation of being a bit of an intriguer and this sentiment grew stronger upon the publication of his revealing work Napoleon in Exile, which harshly criticized the treatment of the prisoner by the British. It is possible that O'Meara, now ignominiously dismissed from St. Helena by fellow Brit Hudson Lowe and finding himself in want of salary and occupation as a result, devoted time to stirring up trouble for the country of England. Interestingly, this letter also corresponds with the infamous Queen Caroline affair of 1820. By 1820 Caroline and George III were virtually estranged with Caroline residing in Italy, and George had long considered divorce proceedings against her for her indiscretions. George became permanently deranged, and on June 27, 1820, Parliament enacted a Bill that stripped Caroline of the title of Queen Consort. The sensational proceedings were effectively a public trial for the Queen, who still retained her high popularity. Nonetheless, she capitulated and accepted a stipend to return to Italy. She died one year later. O'Meara mentions several interesting persons within this detailed letter, including the Venetian Marchioness Broglio Solari, a devoted servant of Queen Caroline whose husband's investments had been seized by Napoleon in 1796, and British surgeon Bartholomew Ruspini. O'Meara's signature has been mysteriously inked out but the letters remain vaguely legible. Else very good and worthy of further research. Ex: Walter Benjamin, with a copy of 1973 receipt.

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March 30, 2011 11:00 AM EDT

Stamford, CT, US

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