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His uncle, Captain Suckling, engages to provide for him. her expressive countenance, “Let them alone ; little Horace will beat him : let Horace alone !"
Mrs. Nelson died in December, 1767, when Horatio was only nine years of age, leaving eight out of eleven children. Her brother, Captain Muurice Suckling, R. N. promised his father on this occasion to provide for one of his boys : and this officer appears to have been the only one of his mother's relations who after her decease took any notice of the family. The circumstances of the Rev. Mr. Nelson were somewhat straitened by his numerous family and by his own bad health, which compelled him frequently to resort to Bath for relief. During one of these absences, Horatio, then only twelve years old, being at home for the Christmas holydays, read in a newspaper that his uncle was appointed to the Raisonnable,* of 64 guns. Anxious to relieve his father from some portion of his burden, he said to his brother, “Do, William, write to my father, and tell him I should like to go to sea with uncle Maurice.” Aware of the generous motive of his child, and thoroughly understanding the boy's character, his father did not oppose his wish, having always felt persuaded that, in whatever profession he might be placed, he would climb to the top of the tree. He wrote on the subject to Captain Suckling, who in his answer evidently showed that he considered Horatio as unfit, from the delicacy of his frame and constitution, to encounter the hardships of a seaman's life. “What,” said he,“ has poor Horatio done, who is so weak that he, above all the rest, should be sent to rough it at sea ?-- But let him come; and the first time we go into action a cannonball may knock off his head and provide for him at once.”
* For many years afterwards guard-ship at Sheerness, and in several instances the first embarkation of those who became naval heroes.—THE OLD SAILOR.
Makes a Voyage to the West Indies. A summons soon arrived for Horatio to join his ship, which was then lying in the Medway. His father accompanied him to London, where the boy was put into the Chatham coach, which set him down with the other passengers, and he was left to find his way on board as well as he could. After strolling about for some time in the cold, his forlorn appearance was noticed by an officer, who questioned him, and who, being acquainted with his uncle, gave him some refreshment. By his directions he was enabled to get on board the Raisonnable; but, unluckily, his uncle was not on board, neither had any person been apprized of his coming. According to his own account, he paced the deck during the rest of that day, without receiving the slightest notice from any person on board; and it was not till the second day that, as he expressed it, somebody kindly took compassion on him.' There can be no doubt that Nelson remembered through life the first days of wretchedness which he passed in the service, and that this experience influenced that courtesy and kind consideration which he uniformly manifested towards all, even down to the very humblest rank, who were placed under his command.
The Raisonnable was one of the ships commissioned in 1770, when a dispute relative to the Falkland Islands threatened a war with Spain. The misunderstanding, however, was soon adjusted; the Raisonnable was paid off; and Captain Suckling was appointed to the command of the Triumph,* of 74 guns, then stationed as a guardship at Chatham. Deeming this too inactive a life for his nephew, he placed him on board a West Indiaman, commanded by Mr. John Rathbone, an excellent seaman, who had served under him as master’s-mate in the Dreadnought. Having
Subsequently one of the most celebrated ships in the navy of England.— The Old Sailor.
Is reconciled to the King's service. made one voyage, he returned to his uncle in the Triumph, in July, 1772.
By this voyage to the West Indies young Nelson had gained a considerable accession of practical professional knowledge ; but Captain Suckling had the mortification to discover also that he had conceived a strong aversion to the king's service, as was manifest from his frequent repetition of the sentiment “ Aft the most honour, forward the better seaman.” This he had no doubt learned from Rathbone, who was probably a disappointed man, and who, without any unfriendly intentions, might wish to warn him against the mortifications which he had himself experienced. Be this as it may, his uncle's good sense pointed out to him the best means of combating this unreasonable antipathy of his inexperienced nephew, and to reconcile him to the duty of a king's ship. The ambition of becoming a thorough-bred seaman, which the young Horatio in an eminent degree possessed, was the instrument by which Captain Suckling attempted and effected this revolution. His nephew was placed on his return from the West Indies on the quarter-deck of the Triumph; and, though he had thus the “aft" situation of “most honour,” his uncle contrived that he should at the same time enjoy all the advantages of the " forward,” which were by some supposed to form “the better seaman.” He held out as a reward to the aspiring mariner that, if he attended with diligence to his duty, he should be permitted to go in the cutter and decked long-boat, attached to the ship of the commanding officer at Chatham. This operated on the mind of his nephew as he wished; and the consequence was that young Nelson became an excellent pilot for vessels of that class sailing from Chatham to the Tower of London, or down the many Channels to the North Foreland. Each subsequent trial of navigating the difficult out
Voyage in search of a North-East Passage.
lets of the Thames, as well as the Swin and other passages to Yarmouth, inspired him with a sense of his own ability, and created that self-confidence which is the essential characteristic of a fearless and undaunted mind.
Early in the year 1773, two vessels were fitted out by government for a voyage of discovery towards the north pole. Its object was to ascertain how far it was possible to sail in that direction, to decide for ever the long-agitated question concerning the practicability of a north-east passage into the Pacific Ocean, and to make such astronomical observations as might prove of service to navigation. The Racehorse and Carcase bomb-ketches were fitted out expressly for this expedition; the command of the former was given to the Hon. Captain Phipps, and the latter to Captain Lutwidge. A voyage in which so much was to be seen and learned excited the ardent curiosity and enterprising genius of young Nelson, and filled him with an irresistible desire to make one of the party. The dangers they were likely to encounter only served to stimulate his ambition; and though instructions had been issued that no boys should be received on board, yet he was so earnest in his solicitations to be appointed coxswain to Captain Lutwidge, that this officer, struck with the undaunted resolution he manifested to be employed in such an arduous undertaking, received him in that capacity, and thus laid the foundation of a friendship which continued without abatement through every subsequent period of life.
The vessels employed in this service were selected for their strength. Two masters of Greenlandmen were employed as pilots for each ship. The Racehorse was furnished with chain-pumps on Captain Bentinck's improved plan; and both vessels were provided with the simple apparatus for distilling fresh The Ships beset with Ice. from salt water, invented by Dr. Irving, who accompanied the expedition. It consisted merely in fitting à tube to the cook’s boiler, and in applying a wet mop to its surface while the vapour was passing, by which means from thirty to forty gallons of fresh water were obtained every day.
The ships sailed from the Nore on the 4th of June, 1773: and, after proceeding along the coast of Spitzbergen, and ranging between the land and the ice for several days, in the afternoon of the 7th of July, the ice setting very close, they ran between two pieces, and were suddenly stopped. The ice, indeed, now set so fast down, that they were soon enclosed, and obliged to heave through, for two hours, with iceanchors from either quarter; nor were they quite clear of the ice till midnight.
On the 25th, the Carcase being becalmed near Moffen Island, Captain Lutwidge took the opportunity of surveying it. While thus employed, the boats were attacked by a herd of walruses, which were with difficulty driven away. On another occasion, two officers in a boat belonging to the Racehorse, having fired at and wounded one of these aniinals, it immediately dived, and brought up a number of its companions, which joined in an attack on the boat. They wrested an oar from one of the men; and it was with the utmost difficulty that they were prevented from staving or upsetting the boat: till a boat belonging to the Carcase, steered by the intrepid young coxswain, came up, and effectually dispersed the assailants.
On the 30th of July they were in latitude 80° 13', longitude 18° 48' E., among what are called the Seven Islands, and surrounded by ice, without any appearance of an opening for the ships. About midnight, as, in these latitudes, at this season of the year, the sun never sets, Captain Phipps despatched