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Nelson goes to the East Indies.
themselves of the impracticability of a passage to the Pacific Ocean in that direction, the ships returned to England, and were paid off in the month of October.
Captain Suckling welcomed Horatio on his arrival, and had the gratification to learn from the commanders of both vessels that his nephew had conducted himself in such a manner as to deserve every encouragement that could be bestowed on him. A squadron was at this time equipping for the East Indies, under the command of Sir Edward Hughes.* Young Nelson, anxious to visit regions so different from those which he had just quitted, and to secure the professional advantages which might be anticipated from service in that quarter, solicited his uncle to procure for him a situation in one of the ships destined for this expedition. Captain Suckling accordingly obtained him a birth in the Seahorse of 20 guns, under the gallant Captain Farmer.
In that ship he was at first stationed to watch in the foretop, where his good conduct soon gained him the favourable notice of the master, in whose watch he was, and on whose recommendation he was rated as a midshipman by Captain Farmer. During his service in the Seahorse, he visited almost every part of the Indian seas, from Bengal to Bussorah; and if, in the course of a year and a half, no opportunity presented itself for the display of his characteristic hardihood, he had the good fortune, by his unusual proficiency in seamanship and his mild and amiable manners, not only to conciliate the esteem of all on
* A full length portrait of this officer may be seen in the Painted Hall, Greenwich.
† So his biographers state, but it is rather improbable that a young officer in the navy, the nephew of Captain Suckling, should be rated as a fore-topman. The station list no doubt placed him in the fore-top during the performance of any particular duty aloft ; and hence a mistake has arisen that he did his duty as a fore-mast man. -TAL OLD SAILOR.
His determination to be a Hero.
board his own vessel, but also to attract the notice and gain the friendly regard of the commander-inchief. The climate of India, however, so injurious to European constitutions in general, undermined his health. His disorder baffled the power of medicine, reduced him almost to a skeleton, and deprived him of the use of his limbs. Sir Edward Hughes, who always treated him with the utmost kindness, and Captain Farmer united in recommending his return to England, as the only chance that was left of restoring him to health.
Captain Pigot was just at that time coming home with the Dolphin, of 20 guns. To his care Nelson was particularly commended by the commander-inchief; and, had it not been for the generous attentions of Captain Pigot during the voyage, the patient could not have lived to reach his native land. Such were the salutary effects of that officer's soothing kindness and the change of climate, that, on his arrival in England, Horatio's health was, in a great measure, restored.
It is not wonderful that, on quitting India, his professional prospects overcast, and his body broken down by disease, his spirits should have been exceedingly depressed, and his mind sunk in gloom. Long afterwards, he described his feelings at this time in the following terms. “I was impressed," he said, “with a feeling that I should never rise in my profession. My mind was staggered, on considering the difficulties I had to struggle with and the little interest I possessed. I could not perceive any means of attaining the object of my ambition. After a long and gloomy reverie, in which I almost wished myself overboard, a sudden glow of patriotism kindled within me at the thought which presented my king and country as my patron. Well, then,' I exclaimed, ‘I will be a hero! Putting my trust in Providence,
He passes his Examination for Lieuteuant.
I will brave every danger!'” From that time, he often said, a brilliant orb was suspended before his mind's eye, which led him onward to renown. Though he well knew that his dejection was attributable only to ill health and low spirits, yet he always cherished the idea that the succeeding radiance was prophetic of glory, and that the light which led him on was a light from Heaven.
During his absence, his uncle, Captain Suckling, had been appointed comptroller of the Navy; and, through his influence, as soon as the Dolphin was paid off, in September, 1776, his nephew received an order from the commander-in-chief at Portsmouth to act as lieutenant in the Worcester, 64, Captain Mark Robinson, who was under sailing orders for Gibraltar with a convoy.
In this service he was engaged till April the following year, and during the greatest part of that interval in uncommonly boisterous weather. A strict attention to his professional duties, added to seven years' practice, had rendered Nelson such a complete seaman, that though he was only in his nineteenth year, yet Captain Robinson placed the greatest confidence in his skill and prudence, and was frequently heard to say that he felt as easy at night when it was Nelson's watch as when the oldest officer on board had charge of the ship. Thus we have in this illustrious character a striking example that to learn to command it is first necessary to obey, and that, in order to obtain distinction in any profession, something more than a superficial knowledge is absolutely requisite.
A week after quitting the Worcester, on the gth of April, 1777, Nelson passed his examination for lieutenant. His uncle presided at the board ; and, after the examination, which terminated most creditably for the young aspirant, Captain Suckling rose, and introduced him to the examining officers as his
Serves in the Lowestoffe under Captain Locker.
nephew. • But why,” asked one of them, we not apprized of this relationship before?”—“Because,” replied his uncle, “ I did not wish the younker to be favoured on that account. I felt convinced that his examination would do him honour, and I was not mistaken.” On the following day, Nelson received his commission as second lieutenant of the Lowestoffe, 32, Captain William Locker,* with whom he proceeded to Jamaica.
The Americans, who had declared themselves independent of Great Britain, were at this time harassing our trade in the West Indies, which was suffering severely from their privateers. Shortly after the arrival of the Lowestoffe at Jamaica, during a cruize off the island, a circumstance occurred in which Nelson gave a striking indication of that daring spirit which no danger could ever subdue or appal. In a strong gale of wind and heavy sea, an American letter of marque was discovered and chased; finding that she had no chance of escape, she struck her colours. The captain ordered his first lieutenant to board the prize. The latter went below to put on his side arms, but they were mislaid. While he was seeking them, Captain Locker came on deck. Seeing the boat alongside in danger of being swamped every moment, and anxious to take immediate possession of the privateer, fearing that she would founder, he exclaimed, “ Have I then no officer who can board the prize?” Nelson did not immediately offer himself, expecting every moment that the first lieutenant would return: but, seeing the master run to the gangway with the intention of jumping into the boat, he stopped him, saying, “ It is my turn now: if I come back it will be your's." He leaped into the boat, which went quite over the deck of the prize, the latter having
Afterwards 'Lieutenant-Governor of Greenwich Hospital. His portrait is in the Painted Hall.
Appointed Lieutenant of the Bristol.
carried such a press of canvas, in the hope of escaping, as to be completely water-logged. On this, as on many future occasions, he reaped the benefit of that practical knowledge of seamanship which, from his first entering the service, he had been solicitous to acquire. Captain Locker, charmed with his young lieutenant, heartily congratulated him on his success : he assured him of his constant friendship, and encouraged him always to ask any indulgence which it might be in his power to grant. Thus commenced a friendship which ended only with the life of Captain Locker. He was revered as a foster-parent by Nelson, who in the height of his glory eagerly seized every opportunity of declaring that to his example and instruction he was indebted for all the honour that he had acquired.
The Lowestoffe, being afterwards attached to the fleet, had but little scope for active service. Nelson, therefore, solicited of Captain Locker the command of the schooner which served as a tender to the frigate. His request being complied with, he immediately proceeded in that small vessel to render himself a complete pilot for all the intricate passages among the islands called The Keys, situated to the northward of St. Domingo.
About this time Nelson had the misfortune to lose his excellent patron and kinsman, Captain Suckling. His own merits had so warmly interested Captain Locker in his favour, that, on his recommendation, Sir Peter Parker, commander-in-chief on the West India station, appointed him third lieutenant of his flag-ship, the Bristol. His successor in the Lowestoffe was Lieutenant Cuthbert Collingwood.* In a few months Nelson became by regular gradations first lieutenant; and, on the gth of December, 1778, was
* Portrait in the Painted Hall, Greenwich.