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as a writer of prose, and his extraordinary powers of application enabled him to produce an enormous number of biographies, translations, histories, and social essays, all of which are distinguished by lucidity and virility of style. It was in biography that his abilities shone to best advantage. The lives of Bunyan and Wesley are hardly less attractive than his chef d'oeuvre, the biography of Nelson. He wrote regularly for the Quarterly Review from its foundation in 1809 until 1839, and he thence derived an important part of his income. He was an indefatigable reader, and the two glorified commonplace books which he sent to press, Omniana (1812), and The Doctor (1834–7), prove the catholicity of his literary talents and taste, the encyclopædic character of his knowledge, and his easy fluency of composition. He managed by the heroic industry of his pen not only to provide for his own family, but for the families of his friends and brothers-in-law, Coleridge and Lovell, and he performed many acts of kindness to promising aspirants to literary fame, chief among whom was Henry Kirke White. He died after a singularly honourable career, in his sixty-ninth year, at Greta Hall, on March 21, 1843, and was buried in Crosthwaite Churchyard.
Southey's Life of Nelson was published in 1813, nearly eight years after the hero's triumphant victory and death at the great naval battle of Trafalgar on October 21, 1805. The book was based on an article which the writer contributed to the Quarterly Review for July 1809. Southey found his main material in the full life of Nelson which appeared in 1809 in two unwieldy quarto volumes from the joint pens of James Stanier Clarke and John McArthur. Clarke and McArthur had access to Nelson's private and official papers, and their information, though clumsily presented, is complete, if not exhaustive. An earlier, but far slighter and less trustworthy biography (Genuine Memoirs of Lord Viscount Nelson, 1806, 2 vols, 8vo), which was compiled under Lady Hamilton's direction by a bookseller named James Harrison, was also used by Southey, and led him into some subsidiary errors, which the researches of subsequent writers have exposed. But, in spite of the abundant
energy recently devoted to investigations into Nelson's history, Southey's Life presents within its brief limits a vivid and brilliant picture of the great admiral's heroic career, which has enduring value. It is not merely the most perfect and the most delightful of all Southey's writings, but is the best biography of its length in the English language.
The present text is printed from the edition of Southey's Life of Nelson, which was published by John Murray in 1830. The proofs have been collated with the original edition of 1813.
JOHN WILSON CROKER, ESQ., LL.D., F.R.S.
SECRETARY OF THE ADMIRALTY
BY THE OFFICIAL SITUATION WHICH HE 80 ABLY FILLS
TO APPRECIATE ITS HISTORICAL ACCURACY
AS A MEMBER OF THE REPUBLIC OF LETTERS
IS EQUALLY QUALIFIED
TO DECIDE UPON ITS LITERARY MERITS
IS RESPECTFULLY INSCRIBED
BY HIS FRIEND