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 Horatio Nelson 
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Joined: Wed Sep 12, 2007 12:49 pm
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Oh dear, I seem to be drawn to making posts about the more negative aspects of Nelson's character or judgment - and on this date of all dates! I am a huge admirer of Nelson, but I do think it is important (and more interesting) to remember him for the man he was, and not as some sterile or sanitized idolisation of him.

With the publicity in the UK earlier this year surrounding William Wilberforce and the bi-centenary of the abolition of the slave trade (not the abolition of slavery, of course), this is a subject I have previously had a quick look into.

I am aware of one other letter in which Nelson expresses an opinion, and in which he is in wholehearted support of slavery in the West Indies:
"...I have ever been and shall die a firm friend to our colonial system. I was bred as you know in the good old school, and taught to appreciate the value of our West India possessions, and neither in the field nor in the senate, shall their interest be infringed while I have an arm to fight in their defence or a tongue to launch my voice against the damnable and cursed doctrine of Wilberforce and his hypocritical allies, and I hope my berth in heaven will be as exalted as his, who would certainly cause the murder of all our friends and fellow subjects in the colonies; however, I did not intend to go so far, but the sentiments are full in my heart, and the pen would write them..."(Letter from Lord Nelson to Mr Simon Taylor, Jamaica, dated Victory off Martinico, June 10, 1805 - Nelson had known Simon Taylor for 30 years, and I believe he was a plantation owner.)

A barely recognisable version of the same letter appears in Clarke & M'Arthur's "Life of Nelson", heavily edited to avoid creating an unfavourable impression. All references to Wilberforce and abolitionists are removed, and the words twisted to give a different meaning. Nicolas, in his "Dispatches and Letters", also keen to create a favourable impression but who may not have seen the original, includes the version from Clarke & M'Arthur.

It is worth remembering that for the two years he courted his wife to be, Frances Nisbet, she was living on Nevis in the West Indies with her uncle who owned a sugar plantation, and who was president of the Council of Nevis.

While Nelson's views were common, I believe opinions in Navy circles were divided, with Charles Middleton, Lord Barham, of course being a prominent abolitionist.

While supporting the black slave trade, Nelson not surprisingly despised the white slave trade carried out by the Barbary States, writing in 1799: "My blood boils that I cannot chastise these pirates. They could not show themselves in the Mediterranean did not our country permit. Never let us talk about the cruelty of the African slave-trade while we permit such a horrid war."

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Tony


Sun Oct 21, 2007 12:04 pm
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Post Trafalgar Day
Today is Trafalgar Day, the anniversary both of Nelson's final victory and his death. It is appropriate, as Tony says, that in honouring him for his greatness, we should not blind ourselves to his faults and limitations. We know he could be vain and reckless, for example; and certainly, no one now would seek to defend his views on colonialism and slavery.

But we can look back with pride on Nelson's achievements, not because all he did, or all he thought was necessarily right, but because he embodied to a high degree those qualities we admire in the best of the men who served in the navies that engage our interest: professional integrity and industry, courage and perseverance, skill and diligence, resolution and stoicism in the face of pain, suffering and death.

We remember Nelson's humanity to his men and to his enemies; and the magnetic charisma that inspired all who served under him. We remember Napoleon's words: 'If I can be master of the seas for six hours, England will cease to exist', and we remember, today especially, that Nelson and the men of the Royal Navy defended our shores against that threat.

Tonight in our local pub we shall eat dinner then drink a toast 'to The Immortal Memory of Horatio Nelson and all who fell with him at Trafalgar.'


Sun Oct 21, 2007 4:58 pm
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Collingwood liked gardening. Marryat wrote novels. Parry played the violin. A bunch of others dabbled in politics.

Did Nelson have any interests other than Lady Hamilton and fighting the French? ;)

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susan


Mon Oct 22, 2007 6:06 am
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susan wrote:
Did Nelson have any interests other than Lady Hamilton and fighting the French?

Yes, he had a number of interests - medal collecting, sword collecting - not sure about stamp collecting - perhaps he didn't have time for that :wink:

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Mon Oct 29, 2007 6:36 pm
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Post Nelson's interests
There's no doubt that Nelson's focus, ferocious workload and personal ambition left him little time for personal interests and hobbies. It's generally assumed that he had little acquaintance with literature beyond the Bible and a little Shakespeare that he would have learned at school. However, just recently, I have come across various references in his letters to wider reading - He laughingly compares his visit to France with Sterne's 'Sentimental Journey' - and is obviously familiar with that, and with the more sober and elevated narratives of The Grand Tour to which Sterne's book is such a contrast. I've found quotations in letters from the poet John Gay, and a reference to Shakespeare's 'Much Ado About Nothing'. He enjoyed periodicals like The Spectator, which carried quite serious reflections on philosophical and moral matters; and he loved newspapers - and comments in one of his letters to Emma how much he missed their friendly squabbles over who should have the paper first!

He took a lively interest in political and social matters - once compiling a detailed report of poverty among the rural poor of Norfolk in the hope of achieving some amelioration of their lot. And during his two years' at home after his elevation to the House of Lords he contributed regularly to debates there.

Like many naval men, he also enjoyed the theatre and was a frequent attender when ashore - though in the later years of his fame the applause and adulation of the audience whenever he appeared may have appealed to his vanity and increased the attraction of that particular form of entertainment!

But he was certainly a driven man who had little time for private pursuits; though he was a wonderful host and chose to relax by entertaining his friends both at sea and ashore with generous hospitality.


Mon Oct 29, 2007 8:54 pm
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Much of his "ferocious workload" was self imposed, although highly beneficial to the fleet, such as his personal involvement in the procurement of local fresh provisions, and in the material and design of seamen's clothes. I think he also campaigned for better status and pay for naval surgeons.

His prolific letter writing must count as an interest in its own right - it went beyond what was necessary for official business (and beyond what was necessary for his interest in Lady Hamilton).

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Mon Oct 29, 2007 11:49 pm
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Post Nelson the fisherman
Nelson's lack of private pursuits may be attributed in part to his poor eyesight which was a problem long before he lost the sight of his eye. During his period 'on the beach' he noted that he was reading 'as much as my eyes allow', including Dampier's 'Voyages.'

He did, though, enjoy fishing - as did Sir William Hamilton. Sir Humphrey Davy, the inventor, noted in his book 'Salmonia' that 'Nelson was a good fly fisher and as proof of his passion for it continued the pursuit of it even with his left hand.'

E Hallam Moorhouse notes, in her book 'Nelson in England', the recollection in old age of a villager in Merton that Nelson used to engage the local youngsters in friendly chat and get them to tie his fishing flies for him.


Tue Oct 30, 2007 6:02 am
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From the above posts, it is clear that the many different views regarding Nelson's character and actions will continue to enthrall 'Nelsonites.'

Nelson was, above all, human - with human failings and qualities, and thus much more understandable as an individual. How much better is that and much more honest, than the now defunct 'hero-worship' style of the Victorian era, when Nelson could do no wrong (thus setting him on a column both mentally and in reality) and where the affair with Lady Hamilton was swept under the carpet. Better by far to see him 'warts and all', and celebrate with him his successes and commiserate with him over his failures.

The attack on Boulogne must, I think, count as one of the latter, at least in practical terms. My reading of this is that Nelson went ahead with the attack, just as with the one at Teneriffe, both because he was expected to 'do something' by others and was also prompted to follow his own maxim of taking the fight to the enemy. This should at least have warned the French that they would venture out of port at their peril. Had he had the liberty to really take stock of the situation he might have realised, as I think Tony mentioned, that the English Channel would probably have taken care of the French invasion for him! There are few days when the Channel is really calm and, more often than not, there are gales and strong tides to contend with. Perhaps if the Admiralty had had a little more faith in the vagaries of that stretch of water, which have protected England's shores for so long, and just had a watchful navy to finish them off, the invasion might have been taken care of without either so much trouble nor with the distressing loss of life that ensued.

We should also remember that Nelson had been charged with the defence of the English coast from Orfordness to Beachy Head, a large area to be responsible for, at a time when he was still suffering from the aftermath of Copenhagen, the breakup with his wife and his own personal frustrations regarding the amorous pursuit of Lady Hamilton by the Prince of Wales. With this in the back of his mind, the Admiralty expected him to 'take command' with all that that implied and he also had to deal with all the intricate and often petty details of that responsibility. Small wonder then, if his mind was a little impaired!

Timoneer, here are a few more books I can recommend. The first is 'Nelson' by Carola Oman. Dating from 1947, this is still regarded as a classic and is very perceptive on Nelson's character from a woman's point of view. Second hand of course, but I believe it has recently been reprinted. Next is 'Horatio Nelson' by Tom Pocock. Good overall portrait, from a respected author, recently deceased. Then finally 'Nelson, Britannia's God of War' by Andrew Lambert. A perceptive and thrilling read from one of today's Nelsonian historians, which shines new light - or at least from a different angle - on many Nelson myths and accepted truths!

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Kester


Thu Jan 17, 2008 11:25 am
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...it's difficult to know where to post the following, but I thought I'd go for this thread. With the 250th anniversary of Nelson's birth in the offing, I thought I'd post these collectables to mark the occasion:

Commemorative £5 Coin Cover. I already posted notice of the Gibraltar stamps in this thread.

They all look very attractive. It's a pity the Royal Mail isn't marking the occasion.


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Mon Sep 01, 2008 1:11 pm
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...here's an affordable item from the Royal Mint to mark the occasion: £5 coin from the London Mint.

When I was at the Great Yarmouth Maritime Festival last weekend the Norfolk Nelson Museum has a nice commemorative "gold" coin-type item for sale, in a smart red presentation box, for £8 or so. I haven't been able to find that online yet.


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Thu Sep 11, 2008 7:41 am
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From the online EDP, an article about Nelson's letters going on display at the Devon Records Office.

Incidentally, the last paragraph mentions the celebrations at Burnham Thorpe at the weekend. Local TV news had a bit of footage of it showing two ggggggg (I haven't a clue how many "grands" there should be) of two small grandsons suitably attired in mini-Nelson outfits for the occasion.


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Tue Sep 30, 2008 9:57 am
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As you do, while trawling for one thing, I found another, it being this article in the online Daily Mail featuring the Duke of Wellington and Nelson.


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Fri Nov 14, 2008 5:50 pm
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Hoping the following link works, and if you can put up with a bit of advertising on the video initially - if it works the same for you as it did for me - some news about Nelson before Trafalgar from local tv: Nelson's notes for provision

If that is too tedious, read it on the following link from the oppositon - the BBC - suet & fruit needed


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Tue Nov 25, 2008 6:31 pm
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Mil Goose wrote:
If that is too tedious, read it on the following link from the oppositon - the BBC - suet & fruit needed

Unfortunately, I couldn't get the video link to work. :(

Too bad there wasn't a more close up photo of the note itself.

Removing the note from the backing is important. The chemicals from the glue and paper (non-archival) will damage it over time. If Grace is about, maybe she can comment on this?

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susan


Fri Nov 28, 2008 6:24 pm
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susan wrote:
Mil Goose wrote:
If that is too tedious, read it on the following link from the oppositon - the BBC - suet & fruit needed

Unfortunately, I couldn't get the video link to work. :(

Too bad there wasn't a more close up photo of the note itself.





...on the footage they showed on tv, there was a close-up of the note, and Nelson's "pen" guided over the paper, supposedly writing it. It was well done.


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Sat Nov 29, 2008 6:53 am
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