Review: Shappi Khorsandi Mistress and Misfit
Saturday 28th July, Calstock Arts, east Cornwall
I was excited and delighted when I learned Shappi had extended her Mistress and Misfit tour to include Calstock; a village not too far from our remote home in south Devon and, even better, where my good friends Ali and Steve live. I’d not normally beg my partner and young daughter, Sophie to come on a night out with me, but being a non-driver; it being in the school summer holidays and, as Emma Hamilton Society Chair really feeling I ought to grab this opportunity to see Shappi’s Emma show, beg them I did.
The venue – a converted chapel – was stunning with a huge picture window displaying the view across the River Tamar to Devon hills with grazing cows. Calstock Art’s capacity is just over one hundred with most of the seating downstairs and about a dozen along the mezzanine balcony by the bar. Alerted that the show had sold out, we arrived early to grab seats downstairs.
I was intrigued to know what Shappi’s show was going to be like: would it be respectful… informed... frivolous… slapstick… pornographic? Her tour publicity, featuring her in a jaunty tricorn, talked about everyone, like Emma, having danced naked on tables. I subsequently had very mixed maternal feelings having my seven-year-old daughter present; as evidently did Shappi who, on spotting Sophie, voiced concern over how X-rated her material was going to be. Shappi had stepped on stage in a bold red dress, but sans-tricorn hat. Fortunately perhaps for all (except my wonderful partner, Matt) Sophie grew restless quickly and he took her off to the playground. Our family presence, however, continued to fray Shappi’s nerves and she called me out for snapping photos of her on my phone.
Shappi’s banter was informal gaining lots of laughs. She talked about being President of the British Humanist Association and having failed to gel in I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here last winter. I was pleasantly surprised to find her show, despite the laughs, had a serious underbelly when she explained that her interest in Emma had been sparked by her visiting National Maritime Museum, Greenwich’s Emma Hamilton: Seduction and Celebrity exhibition last year and connecting to Emma as a rags to riches fellow single mother. Like Emma, Shappi has experienced being a social misfit. Emma misfitted due to class and gender, whilst Shappi has been patronised for being brown-skinned. She was shortlisted for the BAME literary award, but refused to participate: BAME stands for Black Asian Minority Ethnic and, Shappi explained, it felt to her like being awarded a “sticker” for being brown.
She also named herself dyslexic. Being dyslexic also (diagnosed at university aged thirty), her admission caused me to feel a connection to her and feel reassured that, if she reads this, she will be more likely to forgive me for failing to have noted which bits were said before and which bits after the interval!
My Calstock friend Ali volunteered to take me to her friend on the stage door during the interval to relay that I, the Chair of Emma Hamilton Society, hoped to speak to Shappi after the show. Ali’s friend came back a short time later to relay in turn that Shappi would like to speak to me after the show, so all good. Hoping to interview her later, but not being an experienced or trained journalist, I was glad I’d had the forethought to email myself the interview questions I’d sent to Shappi via her agent a few months before.
Shappi came back on stage after the interval (still no tricorn) to confess panic that the Chair of Emma Hamilton Society (me!) was in the audience and would fact check her. I was on the mezzanine level at this point having just been to the bar and waved to Shappi saying “hello!” as confidently as I felt able when she asked me to identify myself (I feel this may have been a mutual rabbit in headlights type of moment). I reassured Shappi that she didn’t have to worry about me fact checking her. The fact is that while, yes, she did make a few errors, she demonstrated an extremely strong grasp of the essentials of Emma’s life story and how she’d suffered for falling foul of Georgian societal prejudice and injustice. She did also call me out to fact check a few points, for example, “did Horatia have eleven children?” Me: “no, ten.” Shappi: “how have you moved from the balcony to there?” Me: “I have feet,” (little mime with fingers) “it’s quite good, I can move around.”
My friend Ali applauded the entertainment value of Shappi incorporating me into her show. I just hoped the rest of the audience were similarly amused and felt relieved every time I produced relevant-seeming answers!
Shappi covered Emma's childhood in London with Madame Kelley and Harry Featherstonehaugh (pronounced “fanshaw”), who hired her as a young teen for pleasure (including her – allegedly – dancing naked on his table during a party) but then kicked her out when she said she was pregnant. Charles Greville took the desperate, pregnant young Emma in, but said she couldn't have her baby living with them too. Shappi compared this to the contemporary situation of her having told her ex to go f**k himself for saying she should be frog marched to the abortion clinic.
Greville, she said, tired of weeping, low born Emma and sought to marry into money. Emma was already famous through Romney’s sought-after paintings of her. Greville gifted her to his sixty-year-old uncle William Hamilton, British Ambassador in Naples and had pretended to Emma that she was just off there for a holiday and would join her. Shappi read an extract of the ferocious letter Emma sent Greville once she realised he’d washed his hands of her and passed her on to his elderly uncle.
Nelson. Shappi said, was the first man to actually treat Emma as an equal. However, she said, Georgian society could not cope with them having an out of wedlock daughter. Horatia was born in 1801 after their return to England from Naples. Shappi said Nelson brought Emma’s first child, “Little Emma” to live with them at Merton Place. I wanted to question her about this, as the only reference I’ve personally come across to this having happened is in Jacqui Livesy’s article Finding the Lost Daughter of Lady Hamilton. My plans to interview Shappi, however, were scuppered by my amateurish journalistic incompetence: I did get to have a warm, enthusiastic and inspirational conversation with Shappi after the show. For example, we’d both love for a statue of Emma to finally come into being, and Shappi expressed much enthusiasm for Emma Hamilton Society’s aims. However, my failure to interview her was so complete that her lovely brother Peyvand for some reason ended up interviewing me instead!
All in all, this was a highly entertaining, well-informed show comparing the injustice Emma met in society two hundred years ago to the still-prevalent prejudice meeting many British citizens today, be they brown, black or (dare I say it?!) Asian Minority Ethnic.
Emma Hamilton Society visit to Pinner May 13th 2018
Pinner is where Horatia Nelson Ward settled, encouraged by her son Nelson Ward after she was widowed in 1859. It was very appropriate that Emma Hamilton Society arranged a day visit there in conjunction with Pinner Local History Society. It is interesting that the first conservation made by The 1805 Club, was to her grave and it was good they were with us.
We were welcomed to West House, Horatia’s son Nelson Ward’s former home, by Lily Style, one of her descendants. We then had a lovely buffet lunch followed by a delightful introduction from Lily and daughter Sophie about the Nelson Ward family. This was followed by an excellent account of places historically connected to the Nelson Ward family in Pinner by Pat Clarke from Pinner Local History Society. There followed a very interesting graphological presentation by Martin Hastings. Martin had studied letters from both Emma and Nelson and gave us some really interesting insights into their health and feelings over the years. There was plenty of audience participation during this part of the presentation.
We then all left for a guided tour of Pinner and places connected with the family, led by Pat Clarke, which was extremely interesting. The High Street buildings seem to have changed little over the past century. Our walking tour continued to Paines Lane Cemetery where Horatia is buried with two of her children, Philip and Eleanor Philippa Ward. Pat told us that the gravestone originally read “Horatia - God daughter of Nelson”, but has since been altered to read “beloved daughter”. Lily Style read a poem Horatia’s husband, Reverend Philip Ward had written her for her birthday in 1842 before laying a simple bouquet of white flowers on her grave. Lily’s cousin Raglan Tribe, Horatia’s 3rd great-grandson, had brought a watch that had been Horatia’s which he lay beside the flowers. It was a very poignant moment as, in addition to Lily, Sophie and Raglan, there was Lily’s brother, David Bullock and Raglan’s daughter Emma, making a total of five descendants of Horatia present beside her grave. Pat then led an optional additional tour to Elmdene (pictured below left, photo courtesy of David Bullock), a house in which Horatia had lived (and later, though at different times, by Ronnie Barker and David Suchet).
It was in all together a very interesting and poignant day in Pinner, and felt a little as if time had stood still with our time spent in the Nelson Ward’s former home and gardens followed by the family Sunday walk. We ended all meandering to The Queen’s Head pub for a drink and the chance to chat. It is said that one of Horatia’s daughter Eleanor was taken into this pub after a fatal accident in The High Street (although Pat told us contrary local lore says she was carried to the drapers). We owe huge thanks to Lily, Matt and Sophie for a very special ‘family day’ out together that will long be remembered. For many of us it captured times past with family – a lovely venue, good food and excellent warm company. Very good and memorable events begin with very good planning and a lot of hard work. This was an excellent start for The Emma Hamilton Society and we were privileged to partake in the day. Many many thanks from all there from: your Cousins, Pinner Local History Society and The 1805 Club.
Genevieve St George, Events Secretary, Emma Hamilton Society
Neston Visit, 21 April 2017
The 1805 Club were invited to pay a second visit to Neston where Emma Hamilton was christened, to coincide with the Emma exhibition at The National Maritime Museum (NMM), Greenwich by Cllr Pat Kynaston, Neston Town Councillor and Dr Geoff Wright.
We met at 12.00pm at The Ship Hotel for Morning Coffee before being taken by minibus to ‘The Jug and Bottle’ for an excellent celebratory Emma lunch, where we were formally welcomed by Cllr Kynaston from Neston and Peter Warwick, 1805 Chairman. Lunch lasted until late afternoon, concluding with a very good short talk about Emma Hamilton by Dr Quintin Colville of The National Maritime Museum, Greenwich and The Curator of Emma, Seduction and Celebrity there.
We were taken back to The Ship to relax or walk along the foreshore of The Dee Estuary, which was lovely as it was easy to think of Emma and her family having been there.
In the evening we were taken to the wonderful Neston Town Hall for The Evening Talk by Dr Colville about both Emma, the real person and Emma, Seduction and Celebrity exhibition. Neston Town Hall was packed with local people, which showed how pleased they were to have Dr Colville come to speak. Neston Council had worked with NMM to put on an excellent exhibition to look at. We were given a most interesting illustrated presentation, that told the real story of Emma from a child in Neston, her time in London and especially about all the years she was in Naples and when she was so valuable to England and The Royal Navy due in large to her close connections with The Queen of The Two Sicily’s and her family. Without Emma’s help the British Fleet would not have been victualled and able to sail to win The Battle of The Nile – the victory that transformed Nelson into a super hero.
After Peter Warwick had thanked Dr Colville, Dr Wright said he had something to present to Dr Colville that he needed to explain first. He told us about connections of Emma’s forebears The Kidds of Moor Hall in village called Madeley, Cheshire where they were Yeoman farmers. He then mentioned Charles Greville, who took Emma in when she was in dire straights and later sent Emma aged twenty-one with her Mother to Naples because he had connections with Madeley too. Charles Greville is descended from Faulke Robert Greville 1642 – 1710 but another descendent is Dr Colville. It is possible that Dr Colville, Charles Greville and Emma Hamilton all have forebears from Madeley that may have met over 200 years ago. One could have heard a pin drop in Neston Town Hall as Dr Wright presented Dr Colville with a framed Family Tree for him for posterity.
We were then treated to refreshments with food that would have been available 200 years ago whilst mingling with the locals – a lovely end to a very special evening. All returned to The Ship to reminisce over the fantastic day that we had enjoyed.
On Saturday morning we attended a service at St Mary’s Church, Neston where Emma was baptised. The font she was christened in is still there but the original church fell down and was rebuilt in Victorian times. The Sea and Marine Cadets were in attendance with us which was lovely. On entering St Mary’s we all gathered by the font where Peter Warwick spoke and then laid flowers before Rev Dawson led a special service including a 18th century hymn that Emma may have known.
After the service we went to Ness where the Memorial Anvil placed by 1805 to mark the 200 years since Emma’s death. Cllr Kynaston laid flowers to mark this visit. After we returned to Neston Town Hall for a very jolly Saturday lunch before all went their own ways to home.
We are all very grateful to Pat, Geoff and helpers as well Neston Town Council for making the 1805 visit so successful, interesting and most enjoyable.
Dr Quintin Colville delivery his talk about Emma
Dr Quintin Colville receiving his Greville family tree from Dr Geoff Wright (the family tree with kind permission from Quintin and Geoff is included at the end of this report)
1805 Club Chairman Peter Warwick meeting the Sea Cadets outside St Mary’s
Cllr Kynaston laying flowers on Emma’s anvil monument