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Copyright, 1916, by
Scott, Foresman and Company

OCT r9 1916


•^ ) - f !f\. /





Introduction ......... 5

Biographical Note ........ 23


-Chapter I. Nelson's Birth and Boyhood — He is entered on
board the Baisonndble — Goes to the West Indies in a Mer-
chant-ship ; then serves in the Triumph — He sails in Cap-
tain Phipps' Voyage of Discovery — Goes to the East
Indies in the Seahorse, and returns in ill health — Serves
as acting Lieutenant in the Worcester, and is made Lieu-
tenant into the Lowestoffe, Commander into the Badger
Brig, and Post into the Hinchinhroolc — Expedition against
the Spanish Main — Sent to the North Seas in the Albe-
marle — Services during the American War . . .25

Chapter IT. Nelson goes to France during the peace — Re-
appointed to the Boreas, and stationed at the Leeward
Islands — His firm conduct concerning the American inter-
lopers and the contractors — The West Indies — Marries and
returns to England — Is on the point of quitting the serv-
ice in disgust — Manner of life while unemployed — Ap-
pointed to the Agamemnon on the breaking out of the
war of the French Revolution . . . . .57

Chapter TIT. The Agamemnon sent to the Mediterranean —
Commencement of Nelson's acquaintance with Sir W.
Hamilton — He is sent to Corsica, to co-operate with Paoli
— State of affairs in that island — Nelson undertakes the
siege of Bastia, and reduces it — Takes a distinguished
part in the siege of Calvi, where he loses an eye — Admiral
Hotham's action — The Agamemnon ordered to Genoa to
co-operate with the Austrian and Sardinian forces — Gross
misconduct of the Austrian General . . , .80

Chapter IV. Sir J. Jervis takes the command — Genoa joins
the French — Bonaparte begins his career — Evacuation of
Corsica — Nelson hoists his broad pendant m the Minerve-'—



Action with the Sahina — Battle off Cape St. Vincent —
Nelson commands the inner squadron at the blockade of'
Cadiz — Boat action in the Bay of Cadiz — Expedition
against Teneriffe — Nelson loses an arm — His sufferings
in England, and recovery .,..,, 122

Chapter V. Nelson rejoins Earl St. Vincent in the Vanguard
— Sails in pursuit of the French to Egypt — Eeturns to
Sicily, and Sails again to Egypt — Battlt of the Nile . 154

Chapter VI. Nelson returns to Naples — State of that Court
and Kingdom — General Mack — The French approach Na-
ples — Flight of the Eoyal Family- — Successes of the Allies
in Italy — Transactions in the Bay of Naples — Expulsion
of the French from the Neapolitan and Eoman States —
Nelson is made Duke of Bronte — He leaves the Mediter-
ranean and returns to England. .... 189

Chapter VII. Nelson separates himself from his wife —
Northern Confederacy — He goes to the Baltic under Sir
Hyde Parker — Battle of Copenhagen, and subsequent Ne-
gotiation — Nelson is made a Viscount ....

Chapter VIII. Sir Hyde Parker is recalled, and Nelson ap-
pointed Commander — He goes to Eevel — Settlement of
Affairs in the Baltic — Unsuccessful Attempt upon the
Flotilla at Boulogne — Peace of Amiens — Nelson takes the
Command in the Mediterranean on the Eenewal of the
War — Escape of the Toulon Fleet — Nelson chases them to
the West Indies and back — Delivers up his Squadron to
Admiral Cornwallis, and lands in England .

Chapter IX. Sir Bobert Calder falls in with the combined
Fleets — They form a Junction with the Ferrol Squadron,
and get into Cadiz — Nelson is reappointed to the Com-
mand — Battle of Trafalgar — Victory, and Death of Nel-
son . . . . . . . , .




Glossary of Nautical Terms .

. 362


The Mediterranean .
Battle of Cape St. Vincent
Battle of the Nile .
Battle of Copenhagen
Battle of Trafalgar



Southey's Life of Nelson has a two-fold interest and
value: as one of the best short biographies in the lan-
guage, by a master of prose stj^le; and as the classic
life of one of the greatest figures in naval warfare.
The place in literature of its author, Eobert Southey,
is less easy to define. In a life devoted entirely to lit-
erary pursuits, he wrote voluminously and in many
fields, including poetry, history, biography, and liter-
ary criticism. His work, though always distinguished,
was rarely of a quality to give it permanence; and he
is remembered today chiefly by his biographies and a
few shorter poems. In the history of literature, never-
theless, he is a figure of real importance, as a member
of the Lake School of poetry, an infiuential critic and
political writer, and a friend or acquaintance of most
of the literary men of his time. His sterling qualities
of character have also helped to give him a place not
quite merited by his writings.

Southey was born in Bristol, England, August 12,
1774, the son of a linen-draper. Of his early life we
have a pleasant picture from his own pen, its details
selected and colored a little, perhaps, to harmonize with
his later career. Until his sixth year, he spent much
of his time at Bath under the care of a maiden aunt,
who was devoted to the theater, and in whose company
he learned to enjoy, at a very early age it would


6 Introduction

seem, the pleasures of poetry and the stage. At eight
he had explored Shakspere and Beaumont and Fletcher.
Thence he passed to Tasso's Jerusalem Delivered^ Or-
lando Furioso, sjidi The Faerie Qiieene; and at twelve
he was essaying dramas and epics of his own. After
four years at Westminster School, 1788-1792, well spent
in study and association with boys who remained his
life-long friends, he left, to quote his own words, *'in
a perilous state — a heart full of poetry and feeling, a
head full of Rousseau and Werther, and my religious
principles shaken by Gibbon. "^

In the summer of 1793, at the end of his first year
at Balliol College, Oxford, he was at work sorting and
transcribing his poetic effusions — "10,000 verses burnt
and lost, the same number preserved, and 15,000 worth-
less.'' If steadfast devotion and a fluent pen were to
be of any avail, the young poet might feel assured of
a safe place on Parnassus. To this summer belongs
also his Joan of Arc, an epic in twelve books, romantic
and chivalrous, a tribute to the ideals of revolutionary

One may easily understand the immediate friendship
that sprang up between the author of Joan and the
Cambridge student, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, who met
him at Oxford in June of 1794. Pantisocracy — ''equal
government for all" — and Aspheterism — "the generali-
zation of individual property" — were terms they in-
vented to express their common ideals. "This Panti-
socratic scheme," writes Southey, "has given me new
hope, new energy; all the faculties of my mind are
dilated." There is no more characteristic episode in

1. Dowden's Life of Southey, English Men of Letters Series, p. 23.

Introduction 7

the rise of early nineteenth century romanticism than
that of Coleridge, Sonthey, and their Bristol friends
of both sexes planning a New Utopia on the banks of
the Susquehanna, a region selected not only for the
poetry of the name but also '^for its excessive beauty,
and security from hostile Indians." Unfortunately,
the difficulty of raising the £150 deemed necessary even
for a beginning of the venture remained insuperable,
especially since Southey's aunt, on hearing of the proj-
ect, promptly turned him out of doors. During the
following winter, the two poets lived together in Bristol
lodgings, gaining a living by their poetry and by pub-
lic lectures — Coleridge speaking on ^'A Comparative
View of the English and the French Revolutions" and
**Eevealed Religion," Southey on "The Course of
European History from Solon and Lycurgus to the
American War."

The vision of a Pantisocratic community faded; and
in the autumn of 1795, at the invitation and expense
of an uncle resident in Lisbon, Southey departed for
six months of travel and study in Portugal and Spain.
Before he left he married Edith Fricker, a sister to the
wife of Coleridge, borrowing money to meet the expense
of ring and fees. No similar responsibility, perhaps,
was ever more rashly undertaken ; or, it should be added,
more faithfully and happily sustained. The effect of
this journey abroad, and of a second longer one in his
wife's company in 1800-1801, was to enlarge the poet's
horizon by foreign scenes and characters, and to leave
him with a life-long interest in the history and literature
of the Spanish Peninsula.

During the period between his first and second for-

8 Introduction

eign visits, Southey lived for a time in the neighbor-
hood of Bristol, and later in London, attempting in
vain the studies of medicine and law. From his friend
Wynn he received in 1798 an annuity of £160, retained
until the latter 's marriage in 1807; and to this was
added the income from his writings. Joan of Arc
brought £50; a volume of miscellaneous poems, £100;
and he was busy with letters of travel and articles
for magazines. In 1803, after a short and uncon-
genial service as private secretary to the Chancellor of
the Exchequer for Ireland, he took his books and fam-
ily to share the home of Coleridge at Greta Hall, Kes-
wick, in the lake district of northern England. ^'A
library and a nursery,'' he remarked, "ought to be
stationary." Here, aside from short journeys to Edin-
burgh, London, and the Continent, he spent the rest of
his life.

"I have five children," wrote Southey in 1809, "three
of them at home, and two under my mother's care in
Heaven."^ Of the two boys, only the younger, Cuth-
bert, lived to maturity. To his own family were added
the wife and three children of Coleridge, who under
the influence of ill-health and opium had drifted away
from home ties and did not return to Keswick after
1809. Southey took up this added burden cheerfully,
rejoicing, indeed, in the opportunity, as well as neces-
sity, of devoting all his energies to the occupations that
were his chief pleasures in life, —

''Here I possessed — ■what more should I require —
Books, children, leisure ... all my heart 's desire. ' ^i

1. Dowden's Life of Southey, p. 62.

2. The Poet's Pilgrimage to Waterloo.

Introduction 9

The qualities of his character, if not the limitations of
his genius, are shown by his clear sense of everyday
responsibilities. "A poet," he said, ''might wait for
posthumous fame; but a poet's children cannot wait for
posthumous bread and cheese."

The study on the second floor of Greta Hall, its
windows looking out over Keswick Lake to the moun-
tains beyond, was soon filled to overflowing with manu-
scripts and books, at first 4,000, in the end more than
14,000 volumes— all of them read, the more useful ones
annotated, their contents extracted or summarized, and
the results stowed away in packets for future use.
Coleridge once said that he could never think of Southey
without seeing him using or mending a pen. Even
during his daily walks, it was his custom to carry a
book open before him. His capacity for work was
extraordinary, and he was expert and methodical in all
details of the literary craft. His rest was gained chiefly
by shifting from one task to another. ''And now, Gros-
venor," he writes to a friend in 1806, "let me tell you
what I have to do. I am writing, 1. The History of
Portugal; 2. The Chronicle of the Cid; 3. The Curse
of Kehama; 4. Espriella's Letters. Look you, all this
I am writing. ... By way of interlude comes in this
Preface [to Specimens of English Poets]. Don't swear,
and bid me do one thing at a time. I tell you I can't
afford to do one thing at a time— no, nor two either;
and it is only by doing many things that I contrive to
do so much."^

The revenues from his writings, though liberal, were
not more than were required to meet the expenses of his

1. Life and Correspondence, ed. Cuthbert Southey, p. 210.

10 Introduction

household. For his longer articles in the Quarterly Re-
view, to which magazine alone he contributed 126 pieces
between 1808 and 1838, he usually received £100. The
Poet Laureateship, to which he succeeded in 1813,
brought about £90, and after 1807 he received a govern-
ment annuity of £150, doubled in 1835.

The prospect thus offered of material comfort in later
years was, however, of little avail to lighten domestic
sorrow. The death of his wife, in 1837, Southey strove
to bear with the stoic fortitude which had supported him
in earlier afflictions. But his mind and health were
weakened, and a complete mental breakdown preceded
his death in 1843.

During his life at Keswick, Southey 's chief interests,
aside from his books, had been in his home and his friends.
With Wordsworth, whose cottage at Grasmere was thir-
teen miles distant, his relations were cordial but never
very intimate. Lamb, Landor, and Scott were in the
circle of his closer friends. During the winter of 1811-
12 Shelley spent pleasant days at Keswick, but it was
with consternation and letters written "in the spirit
of one who was sternly admonishing a fellow creature,"
that the elder poet followed the aberrations of the
younger 's later career.

This stiff moral rectitude of Southey seems to have
irritated another of his contemporaries, Lord Byron,
though in this case the friction was increased by South-
ey 's apostasy from liberalism and his connection with
Byron's old enemy the Quarterly Review. In 1813 the
two met on friendly terms in London. Byron professed
admiration for Southey 's ''epic appearance," and in his
diary criticized the work of his fellow poet with approval

Introduction j»l

and evident sincerity. ' ' Sonthey 's talents, ' ' to quote
the diary, ''are of the first order. His prose is perfect.
Of his poetry there are various opinions; there is per-
haps too much of it for the present generation; poster-
ity will probably select. He has passages equal to
anything. ' '

Trouble first arose over Byron's mischievous dedi-
cation to the Poet Laureate of the most ribald of his
productions, Don Juan. Southey in the preface to his
Vision of Judgment replied by calling Don Juan *'an
act of high treason on English poetry^" and its author
a member of the ''Satanic School" of poets. Southey 's
Vision itself, an ill-conceived piece of task work on the
difficult theme of George Ill's reception among the
immortals, offered Byron a splendid target for renewed
attack. His parody, more famous than the original,
held up to ridicule the profusion and occasional turgid-
ity of Southey 's muse, —

''He had written much blank verse and blanker prose,
And more of both than anybody knows. ' '

In particular its shafts were aimed at Southey 's extraor-
dinary volte-face from the fiery republicanism and ideal-
ism of his youth to the equally sturdy conservatism of
his later years.^

Indeed it is not easy at first to reconcile the author
of Joan of Arc and the early drama celebrating the
rebel Wat Tyler with the uncompromising opponent of
the Reform Bill, Free Trade, and Catholic Emancipa-
tion. Yet in this change of heart there can be no sus-

1. For further account of the Southey-Byron controversy, see Byron's
Letters and Journals^ ed. R. E. Prothero, Vol. VI, pp. 377-399.

12 Introduction

picion of time-serving or duplicity. As a youth Southey
had lived through the days of the Bastile, seen Europe
*'on fire with freedom," and shared the sympathy felt
in England and on the Continent for the ideals of strug-
gling France. Later, like Wordsworth and many an-
other Englishman, he had been alarmed by the excesses
of the Revolution, and stirred to hatred by the danger
to England threatened in the rise of Napoleon. For
the latter no epithet was too violent, —

*' . . . bold man and bad,
Eemorseless, godless, full of fraud and lies,
And black witli murders and with perjuries.'**

It is not for those who pass through such upheavals
as the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars to
appreciate the cleansing and ultimately beneficent ef-
fects of their destructive force. A hundred years later
we may realize, but we should not rashly condemn, the
narrowness of vision of those who clung to the old order
at a time when all law and order seemed about to pass
away. Like most men of his age, Southey pinned his
faith to the past; and he carried all the fervor and
positiveness of his ardent temperament into his defense
of the established institutions of England.

Strong conservative opinions, not to say prejudices,
are hardly the best equipment for a writer who would
carry a message to future generations. From both the
prose and the poetry of Southey posterity, as Byron
prophesied, has selected, and somewhat ruthlessly. His
poetry, collected by its author in ten volumes, has not

1. Ode Written during the Negotiations with Bonaparte in January,

Introduction 13

since been gathered together in a complete edition, and
is best judged by Professor Dowden's single volume of
well-chosen selections. This contains the shorter pieces
and extracts from the fo-ur long narrative poems,
Thalaha the Destroyer (1801), Madoc (1805), The
Curse of Kehama (1810) and Roderick (1814). On the
last-named, a spirited tale of the Goths in Spain, in
blank verse, Byron pronounced the kindly judgment
that it was ^'the first poem of the time." Of the other
three, only Thalaha is strengthened by regular stanzas
and rhyme ; and the fascination that Gothic legends and
myths of India and Arabia had for readers a century
ago seems long since to have passed away. "In the
combat between Time and Thalaba," wrot€ Thackeray
as early as 1860, ''I suspect the former destroyer has
conquered; Kehama 's curse frightens very few readers
now."^ Among the shorter poems. The Holly Tree and
the charming lines My Days Among the Dead Are Past
are well known; while the direct simplicity of The
Battle of Blenheim and The Inchcape Rock make them
more than children's classics.

The bulk of Southey's work, and in many respects
the best of it, is in prose. Yet, by a fate similar to that
of his poetry, his prose is kept in memory chiefly by
a short and rapidly written biography, rather than, as
he wished and confidently expected, by the solid volumes
of his History of Brazil (1819) and History of the
Peninsular War (1832). His History of Portugal, of
which the Brazil was but an off-shoot, and which was
to include an account of the Portuguese colonies, of the
monastic orders, and of the literatures of Portugal and

1. Thackeray's Four Georges, George lY.

14 Introduction

Spain, remained unfinished at his death, though it had
been the labor of forty years.

Fortunately, the Life of Nelson, limited in scope, in-
spiring in theme, and outside the field of political con-
troversy, where Southey was prone to narrowness and
dogmatism, represents his best qualities as a student and
writer. In its first form a long article published in the
Quarterly Review in 1810, it was expanded for sepa-
rate publication in 1813. The book was finished in Feb-
ruary of that year. *'I have walked among sea terms,"
the author wrote of it, ''as carefully as a cat does
among crockery; but if I have succeeded in making
the narrative continuous and clear — the very opposite
of what it is in the lives before me— the materials are
in themselves so full of character, so picturesque, and
so sublime, that it cannot fail of being a good book."i

But the book has maintained its place in literature
by other virtues than those inherent in the subject.
Chief among these is its generally recognized excellence
of style. Some of the judgments expressed on this point
are worth stopping over, as a means of helping us not
only to a better appreciation of Southey, but also, per-
haps, to a better understanding of the qualities of good
prose. In a review of Southey 's Colloquies on Society —
a review, it may be said in passing, which displays some
of the faults of style and temper from which Southey 's
prose is free— his younger contemporary Macaulay pays

Online LibraryRobert SoutheySouthey's Life of Nelson → online text (page 1 of 29)