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What a son has he lost ! If I were to say I was content,
I should lie ; but I shall endeavor to submit with all the
fortitude in my power. — His loss has made a wound in
my heart which time will hardly heal."

"You ask me, my dear friend," he says to Lady Ham-
ilton, "if I am going on more expeditions? and even if
I was to forfeit your friendship, which is dearer to me
than all the world, I can tell you nothing. For, I go out :
if I see the enemy, and can get at them, it is my duty:
and you would naturally hate me, if I kept back one
moment. — I long to pay them, for their tricks t'other
day, the debt of a drubbing, which surely I '11 pay : but
when, where, or how, it is impossible, your own good

296 The Life of Nelson

sense must tell you, for me or mortal man to say." Yet
he now wished to be relieved from this service. The coun-
try, he said, had attached a confidence to his name, which
he had submitted to, and therefore had cheerfully re-
paired to the station; but this boat business, though it
might be part of a great plan of invasion, could never be
the only one, and he did not think it was a command for
a Vice- Admiral. It was not that he wanted a more lu^
crative situation ,— for, seriously indisposed as he was,'
and low-spirited from private considerations, he did not
know, if the Mediterranean were vacant, that he should
be equal to undertake it. He was offended with the
Admiralty for refusing him leave to go to town when
he had solicited ; in reply to a friendly letter from Trou-
bridge he says, ''I am at this moment as firmly of opinion
as ever, that Lord St. Vincent and yourself should have
allowed of my coming to town for my own affairs, for
every one knows I left it without a thought for myself."
His letters at this time breathe an angry feeling toward
Troubridge, who was now become, he said, one of his
lords and masters,^ — ''I have a letter from him," he
says, "recommending me to wear flannel shirts. Does he
care for me? no: but never mind. They shall work
hard to get me again. The cold has settled in my bowels.
I wish the Admiralty had my complaint : but they have
no bowels, at least for me.— I dare say Master Troubridge
is grown fat ; I know I am grown lean with my complaint,
which, but for their indifference about my health, could
never have happened ; or, at least, I should have got well
long ago in a warm, room with a good fire and sincere
friend." In the same tone of bitterness, he complained
that he was not able to promote those whom he thought
deserving: "Troubridge," he says, "has so completely

1. One of his lords and masters. Troubridge was one of the Lords
of the Admiralty from 1801 to 1804,

The Life of Nelson 297

prevented my ever mentioning anybody's service, that I
am become a cipher, and he has gained a victory over Nel-
son 's spirit. I am kept here, for what? — he may be able
to tell, I cannot. But long it cannot — shall not be. ' ' An
end was put to this uncomfortable state of mind when,
fortunately (on that account) for him, as well as happily
for the nation, the peace of Amiens^ was, just at this time,
signed. Nelson rejoiced that the experiment was made,
but was well aware that it was an experiment; he saw
what he called the misery of peace, unless the utmost vig-
ilance and prudence were exerted ; and he expressed, in
bitter terms, his proper indignation at the manner in
which the mob of London welcomed the French General,
who brought the ratification: saying, ''that they made
him ashamed of his country. ' '

He had purchased a house and estate at Merton,^ in
Surrey ; meaning to pass his days there in the society of
Sir William and Lady Hamilton. He had indulged in
pleasant dreams when looking on to this as his place of
residence and rest. ''To be sure," he says, "we shall
employ the tradespeople of our village in preference to
any others, in what we want for common use, and give
them every encouragement to be kind and attentive to
us."— i' Have we a nice church at Merton? We will set
an example of goodness to the under-parishioners. I
admire the pigs and poultry. Sheep are certainly most
beneficial to eat off the grass. Do you get paid for them,
and take care that they are kept on the premises all
night, for that is the time they do good to the land. They
should be folded. Is your head man a good person, and

1. Peace of Amiens. Signed October 1, 1801. and ratified Marcli 27,
1802, between Great Britain on one side and France, Spain, and the
Low Countries on the other. England agreed to restore her conquests
of French colonies provided France abandoned Rome and Naples, and
gave back Malta to the Knights of St. John.

2. Merton. About eight miles south of London.

298 The Life of Nelson

true to our interest? I intend to have a farming-book.
I expect that all animals will increase where you are, for
I never expect that you will suffer any to be killed. No
person can take amiss our not visiting. The answer
from me will always be very civil thanks, but that I
wish to live retired. We shall have our sea-friends ; and
I know Sir William thinks they are the best. ' ' This place
he had never seen till he was now welcomed there by the
friends to whom he had so passionately devoted himself,
and who were not less sincerely attached to him. The
place, and everything which Lady Hamilton had done
to it, delighted him; and he declared that the longest
liver should possess it all. Here he amused himself with
angling in the Wandle, having been a good fly-fisher in
former days, and learning now to practice with his left
hand,* what he could no longer pursue as a solitary di-
version. His pensions for his victories, and for the loss
of his eye and arm, amounted with his half -pay to about
£3400 a year. From this he gave £1800 to Lady Nelson,
£200 to a brother 's widow, and £150 for the education of
his children ; and he paid £500 interest for borrowed
money; so that Nelson was comparatively a poor man;
and though much of the pecuniary embarrassment which
he endured was occasioned by the separation from his
wife — even if that cause had not existed, his income
would not have been sufficient for the rank which he
held, and the claims which would necessarily be made
upon his bounty. The depression of spirits under which
he had long labored arose partly from this state of his
circumstances, and partly from the other disquietudes
in which his connection with Lady Hamilton had in-

* This is mentioned on the authority, and by the desire of Sir
Humphrey Davy (Salmonia, p. 6), whose name I write with the re-
spect to which It is so justly entitled ; and, calling to mind the time
when we were in habits of daily and intimate intercourse, with afiEec-
tionate regret. — Southey's Note.

The Life of Nelson 299

volved him; a connection which it was not possible his
father could behold without sorrow and displeasure. Mr.
Nelson, however, was soon persuaded that the attach-
ment, which Lady Nelson regarded with natural jealousy
and resentment, did not, in reality, pass the bounds of
ardent and romantic^ admiration ; a passion which the
manners and accomplishments of Lady Hamilton, fas-
cinating as they were, would not have been able to excite,
if they had not been accompanied by more uncommon in-
tellectual endowments, and by a character which, both in
its strength and in its weakness, resembled his own. It
did not, therefore, require much explanation to reconcile
him to his son ; — an event the more essential to Nelson 's
happiness, because, a few months afterwards, the good
old man died at the age of seventy-nine.

Soon after the conclusion of peace, tidings arrived of
our final and decisive successes in Egypt :^ in conse-
quence of which the Common Council voted their thanks
to the army and navy for bringing the campaign to so
glorious a conclusion. When Nelson, after the action of
Cape St. Vincent, had been entertained at a city feast,
he had observed to the Lord Mayor, ''That, if the city
continued its generosity, the navy would ruin them in
gifts. ' ' To which, the Lord Mayor replied, putting his
hand upon the Admiral's shoulder, "Do you find victo-
ries, and we will find rewards." Nelson, as he said, had
kept his word, — had doubly fulfilled his part of the con-
tract, — but no thanks had been voted for the battle of
Copenhagen ; and, feeling that he and his companions in
that day's glory had a fair and honorable claim to this
reward, he took the present opportunity of addressing
a letter to the Lord Mayor, complaining of the omission

1. Successes in Egypt. An English force of 18,000 men under,
General Abercrombie defeated the French at Alexandria, March 21,
■ 1801, and forced them to complete surrender in August of the same

300 The Life of Nelson


and the injustice. "The smallest services," said he,
** rendered by the army or navy to the country have al-
ways been noticed by the great city of London, with one
exception : — the glorious 2nd of April : — a day when the
greatest dangers of navigation were overcome, and the
Danish force, which they thought impregnable, totally
taken or destroyed, by the consummate skill of our com-
manders, and by the undaunted bravery of as gallant a
band as ever defended the rights of this country. For
myself, if I were only personally concerned, I should
bear the stigma, attempted to be now first placed upon
my brow, with humility. But, my lord, I am the natural
guardian of the fame of all the officers of the navy, army,
and marines, who fought, and so profusely bled, under
my command on that day. Again I disclaim for myself
more merit than naturally falls to a successful comman-
aer ; but when I am called upon to speak of the merits
of the captains of His Majesty's ships, and of the officers
and men, v/hether seamen, marines, or soldiers, whom I
that day had the happiness to command, I then say, that
never was the glory of this country upheld with more de-
termined bravery than on that occasion : — and, if I may
be allowed to give an opinion as a Briton, then I say,
that more important service was never rendered to our
King and country. It is my duty, my lord, to prove to
the brave fellows, my companions in danger, that I have
not failed, at every proper place, to represent, as well as
I am able, their bravery and meritorious conduct. ' '

Another honor, of greater import, was withheld from
the conquerors. The King had given medals to those cap-
tains who were engaged in the battles of the 1st of June,^
of Cape St. Vincent, of Camperdown,^ and of the Nile.

1. The 1st of June. Lord Howe's defeat of the French off Ushant,
June 1, 1794.

2. Camperdown. Admiral Duncan's victory over the Dutch October
11, 1797.

The Life of Nelson 301

Then came the victory of Copenhagen : which Nelson
truly called the most difficult achievement, the hardest
fought battle, the most glorious result that ever graced
the annals of our country. He, of course, expected the
medal: and, in writing to the Earl St. Vincent, said:
''He longed to have it, and would not give it up to be
made an English duke." The medal, however, was not
given : — ''For what reason," said Nelson, "Lord St. Vin-
cent best knows. ' ' — Words plainly implying a suspicion,
that it was withheld by some feeling of jealousy: and
that suspicion estranged him, during the remaining part
of his life, from one who had been at one time essentially,
as well as sincerely, his friend, and of whose professional
abilities he ever entertained the highest opinion.

The happiness which Nelson enjoyed in the society of
his chosen friends, was of no long continuance. Sir
William Hamilton, who was far advanced in years, died
early in 1803; a mild, amiable, accomplished man, who
has thus in a letter described his own philosophy : — ' ' My
study of antiquities, ' ' he says, ' ' has kept me in constant
thought of the perpetual fluctuation of everything. The
whole art is really to live all the days of our life ; and not
with anxious care disturb the sweetest hour that life
affords— which is the present. Admire the Creator, and
all his works, to us incomprehensible; and do all the
good you can upon earth ; and take the chance of eternity
without dismay." He expired in his wife's arms, hold-
ing Nelson by the hand ; and almost in his last words left
her to his protection ; requesting him that he would see
justice done her by the government, as he knew what
she had done for her country. He left him her portrait
in enamel, calling him his dearest friend; the most vir-
tuous, loyal, and truly brave character he had ever
known. The codicil containing this bequest concluded
with these words: "God bless him, and shame fall on

302' The Life of Nelson

those who do not say Amen." Sir William's pension,
of £1200 a year, ceased with his death. Nelson applied
to Mr. Addington in Lady Hamilton 's behalf, stating the
important service which she had rendered to the fleet at
Syracuse; and Mr. Addington, it is said, acknowledged
that she had a just claim upon the gratitude of the
country. This barren acknowledgment was all that was
obtained ; but a sum, equal to the pension which her hus-
band had enjoyed, was settled on her by Nelson, and paid
in monthly payments during his life. A few weeks after
this event, the war was renewed ;^ and, the day after His
Majesty's message to Parliament, Nelson departed to
take command of the Mediterranean fleet. The war, he
thought, could not be long; just enough to make him
independent in pecuniary matters.

He took his station immediately off Toulon ; and there,
with incessant vigilance, waited for the coming out of
the enemy. The expectation of acquiring a competent
fortune did not last long. ''Somehow," he says, ''my
mind is not sharp enough for prize-money. Lord Keith
would have made £20,000, and I have not made £6000. ' '
More than once he says that the prizes taken in the Medi-
terranean had not paid his expenses, and once he ex-
presses himself as if it were a consolation to think that
some ball might soon close all his accounts with this
world of care and vexation. At this time the widow of
his brother, being then blind and advanced in years, was
distressed for money, and about to sell her plate; he
wrote to Lady Hamilton, requesting of her to find out
what her debts were, and saying, that if the amount was
within his power, he would certainly pay it, and rather
pinch himself than that she should want. Before he had
finished the letter, an account arrived that a sum was
payable to him for some neutral taken four years before,

1. War teas rcncvpd. War was declared May 18, 1803.

The Life op Nelson 303

which enabled him to do this without being the poorer ;
and he seems to have felt at the moment that what was
thus disposed of by a cheerful giver, shall be paid to him
again. — One from whom he had looked for very different
conduct, had compared his own wealth in no becoming
manner with Nelson's limited means. "I know," said
he to Lady Hamilton, ''the full extent of the obliga-
tion I owe him, and he may be useful to me again; but
I can never forjet his unkindness to you. But I guess
many reasons influenced his conduct in bragging of his
riches and my honorable poverty; but, as I have often
said, and with honest pride, what I have is my own : it
never cost the widow a tear, or the nation a farthing. I
got what I have with my pure blood, from the enemies
of my country. Our house, my own Emma, is built
upon a solid foundation; and will last to us, when his
house and lands may belong to others than his children. ' '
His hope was that peace might soon be made, or that
he should be relieved from his command, and retire to
Merton, where, at that distance, he was planning and
directing improvements. On his birthday he writes :
''This day, my dearest Emma, I consider as more fortu-
nate than common days, as by my coming into the world
it has brought me so intimately acquainted with you. I
well know that you will keep it and have my dear Ho-
ratia^ to drink my health. Forty-six years of toil and
trouble ! How few more the common lot of mankind
leads us to expect ! and therefore it is almost time to
think of spending the few last years in peace and quiet-
ness. " It is painful to think that this language was not
addressed to his wife, but to one with whom he promised
himself "many, many happy years, when that impedi-

1. Horatia; Daughter of Nelson and Lady Hamilton, born Janu-
ary 30, 1801. She became the wife of the Rev. Philip Ward, and died
in 1881.

30 i The Life of Nelson

ment," as he calls her, ''shall have been removed, if God
pleased;" and they might be surrounded with their
children's children.

When he had been fourteen months off Toulon, he
received a vote of thanks from the city of London, for
his skill and perseverance in blockading that port, so as
to prevent the French from putting to sea. Nelson had
not forgotten the wrong which the city had done to the
Baltic fleet by their omission, and did not lose the oppor-
tunity, which this vote afforded, of recurring to that
point. "I do assure your lordship," said he, in his
answer to the Lord Mayor, ''that there is not that man
breathing who sets a higher value upon the thanks of his
fellow-citizens of London than myself; but I should feel
as much ashamed to receive them for a particular service,
marked in the resolution, if I felt that I did not come
within that line of service, as I should feel hurt at having
a great victory passed over without notice. I beg to
inform your lordship, that the port of Toulon has never
been blockaded by me : quite the reverse. Every oppor-
tunity has been offered the enemy to put to sea; for it
is there that we hope to realize the hopes and expecta-
tions of our country." Nelson then remarked, that the
junior flag officers of his fleet had been omitted in this
vote of thanks ; and his surprise at the omission was ex-
pressed with more asperity, perhaps, than an offence, so
entirely and manifestly unintentional, deserved : but it
arose from that generous regard for the feelings as well
as interests of all who were under his command, which
made him as much beloved in the fleets of Britain as he
was dreaded in those of the enemy.

Never was any commander more beloved. He gov-
erned men by their reason and their affections; they
knew that he was incapable of caprice or tyranny; and
they obeyed him with alacrity and joy, because he pos-

The Life of Nelson 305

sessed their confidence as well as their love. ' ' Our Nel, ' '
they used to say, "is as brave as a lion, and as gentle as a
lamb." Severe discipline he detested, though he had
been bred in a severe school : he never inflicted corporal
punishment if it were possible to avoid it ; and when
compelled to enforce it, he, who was familiar with wounds
and death, suffered like a woman. In his whole life
Nelson was never known to act unkindly towards an
officer. If he was asked to prosecute one for ill be-
havior, he used to answer: "That there was no occa-
sion for him to ruin a poor devil, who was sufficiently his
own enemy to ruin himself." But in Nelson there was
more than the easiness and humanity of a happy nature :
he did not merely abstain from injury ; his was an active
and watchful benevolence, ever desirous not only to
render justice, but to do good. During the peace, he
had spoken in Parliament upon the abuses respecting
prize-money, and had submitted plans to Government for
more easily manning the Navy, and preventing desertion
from it, by bettering the condition of the seamen. He
proposed that their certificates should be registered, and
that every man who had served, with a good character,
five years in war, should receive a bounty of two guineas
annually after that time, and of four guineas after eight
years. "This," he said, "might, at first sight, appear
an enormous sum for the state to pay; but the average
life of a seaman is, from hard service, finished at forty-
five : he cannot, therefore, enjoy the annuity many years ;
and the interest of the money saved by their not desert-
ing, would go far to pay the whole expense. ' ' '

To his midshipmen he ever shov/ed the most winning
kindness, encouraging the diffident, tempering the hasty,
counselling and befriending both. "Recollect," he used
to say, ' ' that you must be a seaman to be an officer ; and
also, that you cannot be a good officer without being a

306 The Life of Nelson

gentleman. ' ' A lieutenant wrote to him to say, that he
was dissatisfied with his captain. Nelson's answer was
in that spirit of perfect wisdom and perfect goodness,
which regulated his whole conduct toward those who
were under his command. ''I have just received your
letter ; and I am truly sorry that any difference should
arise between your captain, who has the reputation of
being one of the bright officers of the service, and your-
self, a very young man and a very young officer, who
must naturally have much to learn : therefore the chance
is that you are perfectly wrong in the disagreement.
However, as your present situation must be very dis-
agreeable, I will certainly take an early opportunity of
removing you, provided your conduct to your present
captain be such, that another may not refuse to receive
you." The gentleness and benignity of his disposition
never made him forget what was due to discipline. Being
on one occasion applied to, to save a young officer from
a court-martial, which he had provoked by his miscon-
duct, his reply was, ' ' That he would do everything in his
power to oblige so gallant and good an officer as Sir John
"Warren," in whose name the intercession had been
made : — ' * But what, ' ' he added, ' ' would he do if he were
here? — Exactly what I have done, and am still willing
to do. The young man must write such a letter of con-
trition as would be an acknowledgment of his great fault ;
and with a sincere promise, if his captain will intercede
to prevent the impending court-martial, never to so mis-
behave again. On his captain's enclosing me such a
letter, with a request to cancel the order for the trial, I
might be induced to do it : but the letters and reprimand
will be given in the public order-book of the fleet, and
read to all the officers. The young man has pushed him-
self forward to notice, and he must take the consequence.
— It was upon the quarter-deck, in the face of the ships'

The Life of Nelson 307

company, that he treated his captain with contempt ; and
I am in duty bound to support the authority and conse-
quence of every officer under my command. A poor
ignorant seaman is for ever punished for contempt to his
superiors. ' '

A dispute occurred in the fleet, while it was off Toulon,
which called forth Nelson 's zeal for the rights and inter-
ests of the navy. Some young artillery officers, serving
on board the bomb-vessels, refused to let their men per-
form any other duty but what related to the mortars.
They wished to have it established, that their corps was
not subject to the captain's authority. The same pre-
tensions were made in the Channel fleet about the same
time; and the artillery rested their claims to separate
and independent authority on board, upon a clause in
the Act,^ which they interpreted in their favor. Nelson
took up the subject with all the earnestness which its
importance deserved. — ''There is no real happiness in
this world," said he, writing to Earl St. Vincent, as
First Lord. "With all content, and smiles around me,
up start these artillery hojs (I understand they are not
beyond that age), and set us at defiance; speaking in the
most disrespectful manner of the navy and its command-
ers. I know you, my dear lord, so v/ell, that, with your
quickness, the matter would have been settled, and per-
haps some of them been broke. I am, perhaps, more pa-
tient ; but, I do assure you, not less resolved, if my plan
of conciliation is not attended to. You and I are on the eve
of quitting the theater of our exploits; but we hold it
due to our successors never, whilst we have a tongue to
speak, or a hand to write, to allow the Navy to be, in
the smallest degree, injured in its discipline by our con-
duct. ' ' To Troubridge he wrote in the same spirit : —

1. Act. The Act of Parliament "for the regulation of His Majesty's
ships, vessels, and forces at sea," i. e., the Naval Regulations.

308 The Life of Nelson

''It is the old history, trying to do away the Act of
Parliament: but I trust they will never succeed; for,
when they do, farewell to our naval superiority. We

Online LibraryRobert SoutheySouthey's Life of Nelson → online text (page 24 of 29)