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tribute to the ''beauty and purity" of Southey's Eng-
lish, so charming, he confesses, that ''even when he
writes nonsense, we generally read it with pleasure."
The praise of another contemporary, Be Quincey, is

1. Life and Correspondence, p. 291.


Introduction 15

more moderate. He finds Southey's style ''admirably
suited to the level character of his writing and the
humbler choice of themes; let a subject arise in which
a higher tone is required, of splendid declamation, and
it will soon betray its want of the loftier qualities."^
To splendid declamation, Southey, it is true, does not
often aspire. His aims, according to his own statement,
are more pedestrian, — "To say what you have to say
as perspicuously as possible, as briefly as possible, and as
remember ably as possible, not omitting the little circum-
stances which give life to narration, and bring old man-
ners, old feelings, and old times before the eyes."^ In
an age of romanticism, Southey 's prose goes back to
the sober traditions of the eighteenth century; its excel-
lences lie in clarity and moderation, rather than in rich-
ness of ornament or striking individuality of style.

There is more willingness among modern students to
grant the purely literary merits of Southey 's Nelson^
than to concede that it retains any great value as a
historical record. Since Southey 's time many docu-
ments have been published, discoveries made, contro-
versies waged, and much new light thrown on the public
and private episodes of Nelson's life. One cannot, it is
said, see the mountain near at hand ; nor is a contempo-
rary, least of all a scholar among the documents of his
library, best equipped to depict the stirring events in a
great naval warrior's career.

But if there are difficulties, there are also advantages
in the contemporary point of view. Southey had lived
through the momentous events of the Napoleonic wars;

1. Literary Reminiscences, chapter on Wordsivortli and Southey.

2. Dowden's Life of Southey, p. 77.

16 Introduction

for better or worse, he shared the feelings of his hero
and of his age, the hatred of Napoleon, the distrust of
Frenchmen in general, and all the prejudices of the old
anti-Gallician school. More than this, he could convey
to us the love and veneration in which Nelson was held
by men of his own time.

When Southey wrote his biography. Nelson had been
dead eight years. Several lives had been written, and
Clarke and M 'Arthur had published their collection of
Nelson's reports and correspondence. The faults of
this latter collection Southey had called attention to in
his Quarterly article of 1810; and of Harrison's Life
of Nelson, on which he is said to have placed undue
reliance, he had remarked that its author was chosen
by Lady Hamilton's friends as ''one who would under-
take to justify the only culpable parts of Nelson's con-
duct." It is significant that Southey himself has been
blamed, not for idealizing his hero, but for plain-spoken
condemnation in reference to matters (such as the influ-
ence of Lady Hamilton on Nelson's management of the
fleet in Italian waters, and his later relations with his
wife) which reflect least credit on the character of Nelson.

"While it would be folly to minimize the importance
of modern research on these and other points, it should
at least be said that Southey errs less frequently and
less flagrantly than some later biographers would have
us believe. Fairness of temper and soundness of judg-
ment are even more essential qualities in biographical
writing than strict accuracy of detail. Southey was
master of such materials as were then available, and he
was a careful and conscientious workman, skilled by long
practice in weighing conflicting authorities and sifting

Introduction 17

large masses of evidence. Moreover, he was familiar
with life in the navy. His brother, Thomas Southey,
with whom he kept up a steady correspondence, had
been a midshipman in the Bellona at the time of Nel-
son's last Mediterranean campaign, and had risen to
the rank of captain in the service. Southey speaks also
of a visit from a Captain Guillem, Nelson's first lieuten-
ant at Trafalgar, who had served before the mast and
fought at Copenhagen, and who, as Southey said, "told
us more of Nelson than I can find time to write. "^ For
the professional side of Nelson 's career, the reader should
turn to the admirable two-volume biography by Captain
Mahan ; for a concise summary of the results of modern
historical investigation, to the life in the EngUsli Men
of Action Series by Sir John Knox Laughton; yet for
a simple account of the essential facts, clear of techni-
calities and unclouded by controversy, one may still
justly prefer the pages of the older writer.

In no small measure Southey is responsible for the
popular conception of Nelson. If he has erred in the
picture he has given us, the fault lies, not so much in a
pardonable and even justifiable glorification of his hero 's
achievements, as in laying more stress on his spectacular
qualities of coolness and daring in actual battle than
on the untiring foresight, attention to laborious detail,
tact and policy in dealing with superiors and subordi-
nates, and mastery of the science of his profession, which
were equally a part of his genius and elements in his
success. The thorough study which has since been de-
voted to every phase of Nelson's professional career has
brought out these qualities with increasing clearness.

1. Life and Correspondence, p. 228 (Nov. 24, 1807).

18 Introduction

With the lapse of time judgment is less distracted by
the facts of his private life, criticism less restrained by
a sense of his immense service to his country, and we
are thus able to attain a somewhat fuller and franker
recognition of his virtues and defects as a naval leader
than was possible when Southey wrote/

In his military; as in his personal character, Nelson
mingled signal merits with very obvious weaknesses.
Sailor fashion, he was, as his letters show, a bit given
to grumbling, and to criticism of his superior officers
and the shore administration. His professional ethics,
tested for instance by his attitude toward the perennial
evil of personal favor or "pulf in matters of promo-
tion and the like, seem not to have been in advance of
his age. Ever eager to reward his officers for merit
or distinguished service, he was equally ready to push
into a captaincy a step-son whose unfitness he must have
known at the time. In matters of discipline, he was
likely to be guided by his feelings rather than by strict
equity, and it may even be suggested that in some
instances his judgments savored of humor or caprice.
As a case in point may be taken his decision to send
Sir Robert C alder home for court martial in a 90-gun
ship instead of a frigate, at a time when the full strength
of the fleet was imperatively needed for the approach-
ing struggle with Villeneuve. His methods of disci-
pline, it is true, were extraordinarily successful, but their
success should be ascribed to his personal hold on the
affections of his men and his constant regard for their
welfare, rather than to strict adherence to the con-
ventional code.

1. See also Hawthorne's criticism, quoted on p. 359.

Introduction 19

Early and late in his career Nelson assumed an inde-
pendence of his superiors that was also unsanctioned by
orthodox military standards. Under Hughes in the West
Indies, under Jervis at Cape St. Vincent, under Keith
in the Mediterranean, and again at Copenhagen, he
acted with such disregard of his instructions as could
be carried off only by brilliant success. In defeat, such
conduct is insubordination; in victory, it is courageous
assumption of responsibility. In Nelson's case it ac-
counts for his rapid rise to prominence and his selection
for difficult tasks. Again and again he put his fortunes
to the hazard of a single bold stroke. "If I had not
succeeded, I might have be^n broke," he exclaimed on
one such occasion, and he might truthfully have repeated
the remark at many another crisis of his career.

That his ventures were so frequently successful must
be attributed, not primarily to good luck, but to thorough
preparation and skill in turning opportunities to advan-
tage. Nelson was keenly interested in the science of
naval warfare and his mind was constantly at work on its
problems. In the opinion of Admiral Mahan, though he
was a less expert seaman than his friend Collingwood,
and less a master of naval administration than Jervis, he
was better than either in the actual conduct of a campaign.
Naval strategy — including all the phases of preparation
for battle — and tactics — the movements in battle — were
in Nelson's day less complicated and at the same time
less generally understood than now. It may be doubted
whether the British admirals blockading the enemy fleets
in the ports of France and Spain realized as clearly
as historians have later realized how they were cooperat-
ing to frustrate Napoleon's schemes for the invasion

20 Introduction

of England and to bring about his final downfall. What
they did understand was that each had it as his task
to watch, and if possible engage and destroy, that part
of the enemy fleet to which he was assigned.

This was Nelson 's chief concern, and to it he gave pro-
longed study. In his Mediterranean campaigns he was
ordinarily opposed to an enemy equal or superior in
material strength and close to its base of supplies. To
meet this superiority he could rely on, the better train-
ing and seamanship of the British sailors, inured as
they were to sea life by the long vigils of the blockade.
If opportunity offered, the fundamental principle of
his tactics was to take the offensive, and concentrate in
superior force against a part of the enemy, preventing
the remainder, if possible, from giving aid. The plan
adopted at the Battle of the Nile, which illustrates this
principle, was thoroughly worked out and understood
by his captains before the attack. And the manner in
which, in this engagement. Nelson carried his ships
straight into action, in spite of gathering darkness,
without a delay until morning which might quite con-
ceivably have been fatal to his chance of victory, illus-
trates admirably his combination of thorough prepara-
tion and prompt execution. The plan employed at
Trafalgar, similar but more elaborate, was under dis-
cussion during the pursuit of Villenenve to the West
Indies in the preceding winter, and was well formulated
before Nelson's final departure from England to take
command off Cadiz.

In the difficult task of keeping his fleet in material
readiness — ^his ships in repair and his crews in health,
Nelson showed equal skill. The long Toulon blockade,

Introduction 21

from May, 1803, to January, 1805, during which count-
less difficulties had to be met arising from inadequate
supplies, need of repairs, and the necessity of keeping
up the health and spirits of the men, was an achievement
comparable in its kind to the victory of Trafalgar.
According to a report of the fleet physician in August,
1805, the deaths on shipboard during the preceding two
years, in a force of from six to eight thousand men,
amounted to only one hundred ten, and the average
number on the sick-list to about twenty-five per thou-
sand — a record unprecedented at that time and remark-
able today. "When Nelson returned to Gibraltar after
the pursuit of Villeneuve to the West Indies and back,
he set foot on shore for the first time in over two years.
The French fleet was demoralized by the long voyage;
Nelson's ships joined Cornwallis in the Channel, and
Nelson himself, after less than a month in England,
again hoisted his flag in the Victory.

In days when the very existence of England depended
on her fleets. Nelson understood better than most of his
contemporaries the need of pushing an engagement to
decisive results. Many of the commanders under whom
he served in his earlier years were men of the old
school, accustomed to the long-range fleet engagements
of the eighteenth century, with conventions as strict
as those of the code duello and consequences seldom
more fatal. Nelson rebelled against their half measures.
''Had we taken ten sail," he remarked after one such
inconclusive encounter, ''and allowed the eleventh to
escape, when it had been possible to have got at her,
I could never have called it well done." It was by this
eagerness for * ' close and decisive battle ' ' and the ' ' anni-

22 Introduction

hilation of the enemy fleet" that Nelson, more than any
one else, succeeded in breaking down eighteenth century
traditions, and bringing about a revolution in naval
warfare curiously parallel, in its more limited scope,
to contemporary changes in literature, politics, and so-
ciety. Popular imagination is, after all, right in remem-
bering him for his impetuosity and daring, and pictur-
ing him as the commander who broke from the line
without orders at Gape St. Vincent, attacked a fleet
protected by shoals and shore batteries at the Nile,
pushed a reluctant superior officer to vigorous action
at Copenhagen, and by seemingly rash and headlong
onset destroyed a superior fleet at Trafalgar.

In neither his defects nor his virtues is Nelson the
typical British man of action, or at least not the con-
ventional ideal. His petulance, vanity, and emotional-
ism are more often associated with the Celtic or Latin
temperaments, as are also his mental rapidity, alert-
ness in crises, and power to inspire the unlimited devo-
tion of his men. '^Wellington commanded our respect,^ ^
said an officer who had known both intimately, ''but
Nelson was the man to love." With all his faults he
stands preeminent among naval leaders, and is probably
the greatest English commander on lander sea.

A. F. W.

TJ. S. Naval Academy, June 15, 1916.



Biographical sources:

SoutJiey's Commonplace Boole, ed. J. W. Warter, 1849.
Southey's Life and Correspondence, ed. Cuthbert Southey, two

vols., 1850.
Atlantic Monthly, Jan., 1902. (A number of Southey's letters

not previously published.)

Biographies :

Life of Southey, by Edward Dowden, English Men of Letters
Series, 1879. (The best critical study of Southey's life and

Bohert Southey ; the Story of His Life Written in His Letters,
ed. John Dennis, Boston, 1887, and published also in Bohn's
Library, 1894. (A carefully edited collection of the more
important of Southey's letters.)

Works :

Southey's Poems, ed. Edward Dowden, Golden Treasury Series,
Macmillan, 1891. (A volume of selections with an excellent
critical introduction.)

Poems by Eohert Southey, ed. M. H. Fitzgerald, Oxford Univer-
sity Press, 1909.

Select Prose of Eohert Southey, ed. J. Zeitlin, Macmillan, New
York, 1916,

Additional references:

Carlyle's Be^niniscences, 1881, Yol. I. (Brief personal recol-
lections and criticism.)

De Quincey's Literary Beminiscences. (Chapters on Coleridge
and on Wordsworth and Southey.)

Thackeray's Four Georges. (Interesting sketch of Southey in
George IV.)

Macaulay's Literary Essays. (Reviews of Southey's Colloquies
on Society and Southey 's edition of Bunyan 's Pilgrim 's Prog-


24 Introduction

Leslie Stephen's Studies of a BiograpJier, Vol. IV. (Essay on

Saintsbury's History of Criticism, Vol. Ill, pp. 233-237, and
History of Nineteenth Century Literature, pp. 63-69. See also
his essay on Southey in Macmillan's Magazine, April, 1895.

Biographical sources:

Clarke and M 'Arthur's Life of Nelson, two vols., 1809. (A
biography in which are inserted the more important of Nel-
son's official reports and letters — the letters considerably al-
tered and mutilated.)

Nicolas 's Despatches and Letters of Lord Nelson, seven vols.,
1844-46. (A complete and well-edited collection.)

Nelson's Letters and Despatches, ed. J. K. Laughton, one vol.,

Biograp^hies :

Harrison's Life of Nelson, 1806. (Untrustworthy; written in

the interest of Lady Hamilton from materials largely supplied

by her.)
Clark Eussell's Life of Nelson, Heroes of the Nations Series,

J. K. Laughton 's Life of Nelson, English Men of Action Series,

1895, and The Nelson Memorial, 1896.
Admiral Mahan's Life of Nelson, two vols., 1897.

Additional references;

James's Naval History, six vols. (The best contemporary au-
thority on Nelson's professional career.)

Pettigrew 's Memoirs of the Life of Nelson, two vols., 1849.

Jeaffreson's Lady Hamilton and Lord Nelson, 1888^ and The
Queen of Naples and Lord Nelson, 1889.

Admiral Mahan's Influence of Sea Power on the French Bevo-
lution and Empire, two vols., 1892.

Clowes' History of the Eoyal Navy, vols. IV and V, 1900.

E. H. Hobhouse's Nelson in England, London, 1913.

H. Newbolt's The Year of Trafalgar, London, 1915.



Nelson 's Birth and Boyhood — He is entered on board the Eaison-
nable — Goes to the West Indies in a Merchant-ship; then serves in
the Triumph — He sails in Captain Phipp's 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 Lieuten-
ant into the Lowestoffe, Commander into the Badger Brig, and Post
into the HinchinbrooJc — Expedition against the Spanish Main — Sent
to the North Seas in the Albemarle — Services during the American

Horatio, son of Edmund and Catherine Nelson, was
born September 29, 1758, in the parsonage-bouse of
Burnham-Thorpe, a village in the county of Norfolk, of
wbicb bis father was rector. The maiden name of his
mother was Suckling:^ her grandmother was an elder
sister of Sir Eobert Walpole,^ and this child was named
after his god-father, the first Lord Walpole.^ Mrs. Nel-

1. Suckling. Her father was a grandnephew of Sir John Suckling,
poet, courtier, and soldier in the reign of Cliarles I.

2. Sir Rodert Walpole (1676-1745). Leader of the Whig party and
foremost figure in English politics during the reigns of George I and
George II. He is regarded as having been the first to exercise the
powers of a modern prime minister.

3. First Lord Walpole. Horatio, first Lord Walpole of Wolterton,
was an elder brother of Sir Robert Walpole and a patron of Nelson's
father. Since the first lord died in 1756, Nelson's godfather was pre-
sumably the second Lord Walpole, of the same name, who was about
thirty-five years of age at the time of Nelson's birth. Neither the
first nor the second Lord Walpole is to be confused with Sir Horace
(or Horatio) Walpole of Strawberry Hill, the famous writer and anti-
quarian, who was a son of Sir Robert.


26 The Life op Nelson

Bon died in 1767, leaving eight out of eleven children.
Her brother, Captain Maurice Suckling, of the Navy,
visited the widower upon this event, and promised to
take care of one of the boys. Three years afterwards,
when Horatio was only twelve years of age, being at
home during the Christmas holidays, he read in the
country newspaper that his uncle was appointed to the
Raisonnahle, of sixty- four guns.^ "Do, "William," said
he to a brother who was a year and a half older than
himself, "write to my father and tell him that I should
like to go to sea with uncle Maurice." Mr. Nelson
was then at Bath,^ whither he had gone for the recovery
of his health : his circumstances were straitened, and he
had no prospect of ever seeing them bettered: he knew
that it was the wish of providing for himself by which
Horatio was chiefly actuated; and did not oppose his
resolution: he understood also the boy's character, and
had always said, that in whatever station he might be
placed, he would climb, if possible, to the very top of
the tree. Accordingly Captain Suckling was written to.
"What," said he in his answer, "has poor Horatio
done, who is so weak, that he, above all the rest,
should be sent to rough it out at sea? — But let him

1. Sixty-four guns. In the eighteenth century the ships of the Brit-
ish Navy were divided Into "rates," or classes, according to the number
of guns they carried, as follows : first-rates carried from 100 to 120
guns mounted on three decks ; second-rates were ships of 98 or 90
guns ; third-rates were 80's, 74's, or 64's. Vessels of 64 guns or more
were called "ships-of-the-line," i. e., strong enough to be put in the
first line of a battle formatior ; smaller vessels were classified as
frigates, sloops-of-war, brigs, etc., according to their rig and arrange-
ment of guns. A frigate of Nelson's time was usually ship-rigged and
carried about 24 guns mounted on the main deck and on raised decks
fore and aft : she was used chiefly for scouting, carrying despatches,
and. transmitting signals in battle. A sloop-of-war (the French
corvette) carried all her guns on the main deck.

2. Bath. A city near Bristol in southwestern England, celebrated
for Its mineral springs. In the eighteenth century it reached the
height of its popularity as a center of fashion and health resort.

The Life of Nelson 27

come, and the first time we go into action a cannon-
ball may knock off his head, and provide for him at
once." 1

It is manifest from these words, that Horatio was not
the boy whom his uncle would have chosen to bring up
in his own profession. He was never of a strong body ;
and the ague, which at that time was one of the most
common diseases in England, had greatly reduced his
strength; yet he had already given proofs of that reso-
lute heart and nobleness of mind, which, during his
whole career of labor and of glory, so eminently distin-
guished him. "When a mere child, he strayed a bird's-
nesting from his grandmother's house in company with
a cowboy : the dinner-hour elapsed ; he was absent, and
could not be found ; and the alarm of the family became
very great, for they apprehended that he might have
been carried off by gipsies. At length, after search had
been made for him in various directions, he was dis-
covered alone, sitting composedly by the side of a brook
which he could not get over. "I wonder, child," said
the old lady when she saw him, *'that hunger and fear
did not drive you home." — ''Fear! grand-mamma,'*
replied the future hero, ''I never saw fear: — ^What is
it?" Once, after the winter holidays, when he and his
brother William had set off on horseback to return to
school, they came back because there had been a fall of
snow; and William, who did not much like the journey,
said it was too deep for them to venture on. *'If that
be the case," said the father, ''you certainly shall not
go: but make another attempt, and I will leave it to
your honor. If the road is dangerous, you may return :
but remember, boys, I leave it to your honor. ' ' The snow
was deep enough to have afforded them a reasonable
excuse : but Horatio was not to be prevailed upon to
turn back. **We must go on," said he: *' remember,

28 The Life op Nelson

brother, it was left to our honor!" — There were some
fine pears growing in the schoolmaster's garden, which
the boys regarded as lawful booty ; but the boldest among
them were afraid to venture for the prize. Horatio vol-
unteered upon this service: he was lowered down at
night from the bedroom window by some sheets, plun-
dered the tree, was drawn up with the pears, and then
distributed them among his schoolfellows without reserv-
ing any for himself. — ''He only took them,'' he said,
''because every other boy was afraid."^

Early on a cold and dark spring morning Mr. Nel-
son's servant arrived at this school, at North Walsham,
with the expected summons for Horatio to join his ship.
The parting from his brother William, who had been
for so many years his playmate and bed-fellow, was a
painful effort, and was the beginning of those privations
which are the sailor's lot through life. He accompanied
his father to London. The Raisonnahle was lying in
the Medway. He was put into the Chatham^ stage,
and on its arrival was set down with the rest of the
passengers, and left to find his way on board as he
could. After wandering about in the cold without
being able to reach the ship, an officer observed the
forlorn appearance of the boy; questioned him; and,
happening to be acquainted with his uncle, took him
home, and gave him some refreshments. "When he got

1. Because every other toy was afraid. Anecdotes such as the fore-
going are characterized by Professor J. K. Laughton (Life of Nelson,
p. 7) as "made to order, or exaggerations of old family Jokes."

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