« ПредишнаНапред »
pointments, call from him the observation, in a letter to Lord Spencer, « you will see a broken-hearted man. My spirit cannot submit, patiently*
Vanity was undoubtedly another leading feature in his character, and perhaps as inseparable from it as irritation. In a letter to Lady Nelson, on occasion of a storm and much danger, he himself says, " I believe it was the Almighty's goodness, to check my consummate vanity.'" Yet in a future letter to Earl Spencer, on occasion of honours granted to him at Naples, he deprecates the idea of "one spark of vanity," and says, " God knows my heart is among the most humble of the creation." Again, on the other hand, he is represented by his biographer as venting the murmurs of ambition, against the sparing grant of a baronial coronet, after the battle of the Nile.—At an early period, his determination to become eminent was almost prophetically announced. When first acting with Sir William Hamilton at Naples, "Sir William, (said he) you are a man after my own heart: you do business in my own way! I am now only a Captain; but I will, if I live, be at the top of the tree." Again, writing to his sister, he observed, "they have not done me justice in the affair of Calvi; but never mind, I'll have a Gazette of my own."—We know it to be a fact, moreover, that after the action off* St. Vincent's, when a friend was complimenting him on his conduct, talking of the honours which must be conferred on him, and suggesting that he would be created a Baronet, "No," said Nelson, looking displeased and contemptuously, and placing his hand on the left side of his coat, " if I have done any thing that deserves reward, let them give me what will mark the action."—By those, indeed, who knew Lord Nelson, no doubt can be entertained of his attachment to personal distinctionaj-and to the exterior marks of them. His death itself may probably be ascribed to this source.—Much may be said on the subject of honorary and personal distinctions. Where they have been deserved, they can neither be grudged nor disapproved : yet it is not desirable that they should be the principal stimulus to exertion, since purity of motive would thus be destroyed; and however the man who seeks and who ostentatiously displays them may be justified, he who with equal claims to them still contemns and rejects them will ever be deemed the greatest character.
His extreme hatred of the French, as a people, was another trait. In above a dozen instances in these volumes, we have such expressions as the following; "Down, down with the French :M—"I have an antipathy.to Frenchmen:" "the scoundrels of French:"—" there is no way of dealing with
a Frenchman but to knock htm down." —"Down, down with the damned French villains! Excuse my warmth, but my blood boils at the name of a Frenchman. I hate them all, Royalists and Republicans." &c. &c.
If he was nationally illiberal, however, his soul was generous, (as he himself singularly calls it in a letter to Earl Spencer,) and his heart and purse were ever open to his friends. On being voted io,ocol. by the East India Company, he immediately made out drafts for 500I. each to his father, his two brothers, and h<s two listen; his unvaried and unbounded solicitude for his band of brothers, as he called the Captains of his squadron at the Nile, and for all his brave companions at ail times, is strikingly amiable** and his ze<l for the common cause, while at Naples, induces him to declare that, sooner than the operations of war shall be stagnant from a want of money, he will sell the property of Brontef, and the magnificent presents which had been made to him by different Sovereigns. His kindness of heart also appears in a letter relative to the Bronte estate, (see Vol. II. p. 243.) which he commences by saying, " my object at Bronte L to make the people happy, by not suffering them to be oppressed; and to enrich the country, by the improvements of agriculture."
Decision and promptitude were also well known attributes of Lord Nelson, and none perhaps can be more important aud more requisite in a commander. These he not only displayed in the hour of battle, but on occasions of deliberation he resolutely abided all consequences, in following what he conceived to be his duty for the good of the service. When he was in Naples-Bay, and was desired by Lord Keith, then commander in chief in the Mediterranean, to dttach to him at Minorca a part of his own squadron, he did not scruple to disobey the order "till the safety of his Sicilian Vlajesty'a kingdom might be secured:" but he wrote immediately to Lord Keith, to the Admiralty, and privately to Lo I Sornrer,
* A prominent instance of this sensibility to the interests and re* putation of his brother officers occurs in his well known letter to the Lord Mayor of London, August 1, 1804, in which he refused the proffered thanks of the city for having so long blockaded Toulon, because he denied the fact of the blockade, and because the other officers of the fleet were not included in the vote. (See Vol II. p. 423.) ,
f Vol. II. p. 144. Mr Harrison strongly represents the reluctance of Lord Nelson to receive this title and estate as a reward from the King of the two Sicilies, for the discharge of his duty to his own sovereign : asserting that he yielded only to the representation of the necessity that the former Prince should adequately testify his gratitude.
U 4 (then (then at the head of that Board,) in justification of himsflf;
■ a-.d though he knows, he says, that he must be subject to trial for his conduct, tie relies on the uprightness of his intentions, and submits to- the judgment of his superiors. In like manner, he strongly though ineffectually urged General Sir James St. Clair Erskine to dispatch troops to the relief of Malta, though he was aware that particular circumstances prevented Sir James from conceiving himself to be warranted in such a step; nobly adding, however, " I wish if possible to tnke all the responsibility." His still more palpable disregard of orders which he disapproved was notoriously exemplified in the affair at Copenhagen: where he would not see a signal which was reported to him, but the complexion of which his nrdent and sanguine mind could not tolerate—This subject, of obedience to orders, is too delicate and important for our discussion of it in this place: we only record Lord Nelson's conduct, and refer to his opinion, as generally expressed in a letter to Lord Spencer: see Vol. %. p. 191.
Political discernment also was displayed on many occasions, by the Admiral, in his judgment of men and his anticipation of events. When he saw the renowned General Mack at Naples, he observed, " General Mack cannot move without five carriages. I have formed my opinion. 1 heartily pray I may be mistaken ;"—and when at a review, and sham fight, Mack's troops were by a blunder completely surrounded by the Supposed enemy, Nelson exclaimed, " this fellow does not understand his business."—Of the Neapolitan minister, the Marquis de Gallo, he said, "He admires hit. ribbon, ring, and snuff box so much, that an excellent petit maitre was spoiled when he was made a minister." — Of Sir John Acton, he usually speaks in high terms: "he has the wisest and most honest head in this kingdom,"—" Acton and Belmonte seem to be the only uncorrupted men in the kingdom,"— but afterward, he changed his opinion, and said M Acton has, I am almost convinced, played us false."
As to professional conduct and ability, though these are points of the first importance, they require from us no illustration, since the actions of the hero have so splendidly illuminated them. We shall only add that, besides the judgment and daring which they displayed, he was remarkable for the diligence and rapidity of all his movements, whether refitting in port, or when in chacc, or in combat. He adopted (he
best of all methods, that of personal example j and as he himself observed, he did not say " Go" but " Let us go."
In a domestic point of view, a shade is cast over this sketch by the disagreement of Lord Nelson and his Lady; a subject on which we feel ourselves incompetent to speak, and which we should have deemed it indecorous to introduce, had not Mr. Harrison chosen to treat it with more freedom than any other point which comes before lum : except one that is intimately connected with it, viz. the character and conduct of Captain Nisbet, Lady Nelson's son by her first husband. In his preface, alluding evidently to this topic, the author declares that he 'has fearlessly eadeavoured freely to investigate transactions of the utmost delicacy in private life;' a fearlessness which does not appear with the best grace on such a topic, especially when it is seen in that instance alone. A difference of temper and sentiment is ascribed to Lady Nelson; which, united to her reception of disadvantageous reports concerning some of the connections of her husband, created estrangement, and finally a separation. Lord N. then lived wholly in the society of Sir W. arid Lady Hamilton; to the latter of whom it is universally known that he was enthusiastically attached, and to whom the biographer asserts hrf would certainly have been united after Sir W.'s decease if he had outlived Lady Ncl'son. Perfect purity, however, is ascribed to this attachment; though it is admitted, in the only passage which recognizes a failing in Lord Nelson's character, that he was not abatemi us in regard to women; and which we shall quote, since it contains some mention of the female child so mysteriously recommended in his will:
* Among the amiable and interesting- group at Merton, was Miss Horatia Nelson Thompson, Lord Nelson's adopted daughter, then an infant about five ve:trs ,of age. W'.at real affinity, if any, that charming child may bear to his lordship, is a secret at present known by few; and, as it thould seem, by none who feel at liberty to divulge it. She was. certainly, an object of his constant and most tender regard; ai:d though the family in general appear disinclined to believe' her his daughter, it seems highly probable that she is so. Should thii prove to be the fact, it cannot greatly affect his lordship's reputation; who, it is not to be dissembled, though by no means eve." an unprincipled seducer of the wives and daughters of his friends, was always well known to entertain rather more; partiality for the fair-sex, than is quite consistent with the highest degree of Christian purity. Such improper indulgences, with some slight addiction to that other vicious habit of British seamen, the occasional use of ;t few thoughtlessly profane expletives in speech, form,the only dark specks everyet discovered in the bright blaze of his moral character.'
We shall not farther dwell on family disputes which are not properly before us, and are here certainly represented en farte. A more important point of investigation, in which the public conduct of Lord N. was implicated, we have not yet touched in this place; we mean his refusal to ratify the treaty
with Mrith the Neapolitan insurgents: but, as Mr. Harrison's report of this affair has excited a specific vindication from Captain Foote, who was principally concerned in it, we shall reserve onr rem irks for a succeeding article, in which Captain F.'s tract will be considered.
On the point in question in the ensuing paragraph, we can say nothing: but since we know that the imputation here intimated Ins been made, and the contradiction here stated is so peremptory, it seems but justice to transcribe it:
'Among the various gross imputations against his lordship, which the future historian may find registered in some of the preserved licentious public journals of blended facts and falsehoods, and inconsiderately adopt, is that of the Hero of the Nile's having been so addicted to gaming, that he lost, at a single sitting, the whole he had gained, both pay and prize-money, during the year of that memorable victory: whereas, in truth, his lordship was so extremely adverse to this vice, that he had scarcely ever, in his life, entered anyone of the fashionable gaming-houses; nor ever, as he repeatedly assured his friends, whom these base reports induced particularly to ask the question, won or lost even the trifling sum of twenty guineas!'
■ Hitherto we have been chiefly occupied with the features of the very uncommon portrait which we have been contemplating : but we shall now advert to a few passages from the work which relate to incidents and transactions.
It has been remarked that the official letter from Sir John Jervis, after the action off St. Vincent's, was extremely sparing of commendation on the officers of the squadron, and especially in regard to the astonishing achievements of Commodore Nelsi n. Mr. Harrison, however, has obtained Lord St. Vincent's permission to print extracts .from a private letter which he wrote to the first Lord of the Admiralty, to the following effect:
"The correct conduct of every officer and man in the squadron, on the 14th. instant, made it improper to distinguish one more than another, in my public letter; because I am confident that, had those who were least in action been in the situation of the fortunate few, their behaviour would not have been less meritorious: yet, to your lordship, it becomes me to state, that Captain Troubndge, in the Cnllodcn, led the squadron through the enemy in a masterly stile, and tacked the instant the signal flew; and w <s gallantly supported by the Blenheim, Prince George, Orion, Irresistible, and Colossus. The latter had her fore and fore-topsail yards wounded, and they unfortunately broke in the slings in stays; which threw her out, and impeded the tacking of the Victory.
"Commodore Nelson, who was in the rear on the starboard tack, took the lead on the larboad, and contributed very much to the fortune of the day; as did Captain Collingwood: and, in the close, the San Josef and San Nicolas having fallen foul of each other, the Cap14 tain