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LIFE OF LORD NELSON.
" The nation's fav'rite, and his sovereign's pride,
HORATIO Nelson, the fifth son of Edmund and Catherine Nelson, was born September 29, 1758, in the parish of Burnham Thorpe, a village in Norfolk, of which his father was rector; his mother's maiden name was Suckling, and daughter of the Rev. Dr. Maurice Suckling, prebendary of Westminister; her grandmother was sister to Sir Robert Walpole, and our hero was named after his godfather, the first Lord Walpole. Mrs. Nelson died in 1767, leaving eight surviving children.
At the age of twelve, Horatio was taken from school, and having accidentally heard that his uncle, Captain Maurice Suckling, had been appointed to the Raisonnable of sixty-four guns, he prevailed upon his brother William, who was scarcely two years older than himself, to write to his father, then staying at Bath for the benefit of his health, soliciting him to apply to his uncle to take him on board his ship. His father having reluctantly complied with his request, ,
his uncle consented to take him, observing at the same time"What has poor Horatio done, who is so weak, that he, above all the rest, should be sent to rough it out at sea ? But let him come; and the first time we go into action, a cannon ball may knock off his head, and provide for him at once.” It thus clearly appears that our hero was not exactly the youth that his uncle would have chosen for the naval profession.
Many are the anecdotes recorded of his early life, full of hardihood and daring intrepidity, in which he gave proof of that aspiring spirit and noble soul, for which in after life he was so eminently distinguished. When quite a child, and being on a visit at his grandmother's, he one day went out in company with a cow-boy of his own age, a bird's nesting. The dinner hour arrived, but Horatio did not make his appearance. The old lady became alarmed, and messengers were dispatched in every direction in search of the truant. The young rambler was at length discovered composedly sitting under a hedge by the side of a brook, counting over the spoils of the day. The grandmother began to scold, and concluded her lecture by saying—“I wonder, child, fear did not drive you home!” “Fear !” exclaimed the young hero, “I never saw fearwhat is it?" It is recorded of him that when at school, his companions had manifested great anxiety to procure some pears from a tree in the garden of the master; the danger of the exploit alone prevented them enjoying the prize. Horatio volunteered his services, and during the night was lowered from his bed-room window, in a sheet; making sure of a good booty, he distributed the whole of the pears among his school-fellows, observing,-“ He only took them because all the other boys were afraid.”
Once, after the Christmas holidays, when he and his brother William had set off on their ponies to return to school, they found their journey impracticable in consequence of a heavy fall of snow. They returned home and informed their father of the circumstance. “If that be the case,” said Mr. Nelson, “you certainly shall not go : but make one more attempt, and I will leave it to your honour. If the road is dangerous, you may return; but remember boys, I leave it to your honour!” William, who did not exactly relish a journey under such circumstances, wished to turn back, but his brother peremptorily refused. “We must go on, brother ; remember," said he, “it was left to our honour.”
Early on a cold spring morning, one of Mr. Nelson's servants arrived at the school at North Walsham, for young Horatio to join his ship; having taken a sorrowful parting of his brother William, he arrived at home and accompanied his father to London.
Poor Horatio Nelson ! the after wonder of the age-the greatest admiral that ever trod the quarter-deck, had many and severe trials to encounter in this his first step to that immortal fame which he afterwards so nobly earned. Having been put into a Chatham stage, on the arrival at its destination he was allowed to find his ship as well as he could.
An officer having observed his dejected appearance, and upon questioning him, finding he was a nephew of Captain Suckling, with whom he was well acquainted, gave him some ref reshment, and sent him on board his ship, the Raisonnable, where it was not till the second day, that somebody, as he often afterwards said, “ took compassion on him.”
An altercation relative to the Falkland Islands just then portended hostilities with Spain, but the misunderstanding being soon adjusted, the Raisonnable was paid off, and Captain Suckling was appointed to the Triumph, then stationed as a guard-ship at the junction of the Medway and the Thames ; but his uncle considering this as too inactive a life for a boy like Nelson, placed him on board a West India merchant-ship, under the command of Mr. John Rathbone, who had served under him in the Dreadnought. On his return, his uncle re
ceived him on board the Triumph, and appointed him midshipman. This took place in July, 1772
It is said that Nelson had imbibed a strong prejudice against serving in the navy; his uncle, however, by gentle precept and the force of example succeeded in removing it; holding out as a reward to his nephew, that if he attended with diligence to his duty, he should be permitted to go in the decked longboat and cutter attached to the commanding officer's ship at Chatham. The experience he gained in this description of service availed him much in piloting vessels from Chatham to the North Foreland, and up the Thames.
In the month of February, 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, and likewise the possibility of a north-east passage in the Pacific Ocean. The Racehorse and Carcass bombs were selected as the strongest and best adapted ships for the undertaking. The command of the former was given to Captain Phipps, and the latter to Captain Lutwidge. Young Nelson, stimulated by his love of enterprise, solicited permission to join the expedition, and through his uncle's interest obtained the appointment of coxswain to Captain Lutwidge. The best possible arrangements were made, and no expedition was more completely or carefully fitted out.
Two masters of Greenlandmen were employed as pilots for each ship ; and the first Lord of the Admiralty, Lord Sandwich, with a laudable solicitude, went on board himself, before their departure, to see that everything had been completed to the wish of the officers.
They sailed on the 4th of June, and land was first seen by the Carcass, on the 13th. After proceeding along the coast of Spitzbergen, and ranging between the land and the ice several days, on the 7th of July, the ice setting very close, they ran between two pieces, and were suddenly stopped; for two hours they were obliged to heave through, with ice-anchors from each quarter, nor were they quite out of the ice till midnight.
On the 30th they were again completely blocked in by the ice, without the slightest appearance of an opening for the vessels. During this dreadful period, Nelson earnestly solicited, and eventually obtained, the command of a fouroared cutter. While in command of one of these boats, he was the cause of saving one of the ship's boats and her crew from very imminent danger. One of the officers had wounded a walrus. This animal is endowed in a very great degree with the feelings of humanity. The wounded beast instantly dived, and brought up with it a number of its companions, who with great fury attacked the boat from which the shot had been fired. They forced an oar from one of the sailors, and were with difficulty prevented from upsetting the boat. On the approach of Nelson, however, and his crew, they dispersed and fled. But there is an anecdote related as a proof of that cool intrepidity which this young mariner possessed, even amid such scenes of dreadful foreboding. During one of those beautifully clear nights, so common in the northern latitude, young Nelson, heedless of the severity of the weather, was missing from the ships. Captain Lutwidge, fearful of consequences, caused immediate search to be made, but in vain, and every one gave him up for lost; but as the rays of the sun illumined the horizon, he was discovered by his messmates at a considerable distance from the ships, in the act of attacking a huge bear. The signal was made for them to return; but in vain did Nelson's companion urge him to obey it. His musket had flashed in the pan, and he had expended all his ammunition. He was fortunately divided from the bear by a small chasm in the ice, which probably saved his life. “Never mind,” said he,“ do but let me get a blow at this devil with the butt end of my musket, and we shall have him.” His captain, however, who saw the danger, ordered a gun to be fired, which immediately frightened the animal, and Nelson returned to his ship. The captain reprimanded him sternly for conduct so unworthy of the office which he filled, and desired to know what motive he could have for hunting a bear. "Sir," said he, pouting his lip, as he was wont to do when agitated, “I wished to kill the bear, that I might carry the skin to my father.”
As for wintering where they were, that dreadful experiment had been already tried too often. Captain Phipps sent for the officers of both ships, and told them his intention of preparing the boats for going away. They were immediately hoisted out, and the fitting begun. Canvas bread-bags were made, in case it should be necessary suddenly to desert the vessels, and every preparation was made that prudence could suggest.
On the Ilth of August they anchored in the harbour of Smeerenberg ; they made a few feeble attempts, but were unable to penetratc further; and being sufficiently satisfied of the impracticability of effecting a passage to the Pacific Ocean, returned to England, and were paid off October, 1773. Nelson was then placed by his uncle with Captain Farmer, in the Seahorse, of twenty guns, then going to the East Indies, in the squadron under the command of Sir Edward Ilughes.
In eighteen months the Indian climate, so fatal to all Europeans, made such havoc with his constitution, that his only hope was an immediate return to his native country, his disease having baffled every power of medicine. Accordingly he was brought home by Captain Pigot, in the Dolphin, and had it not been for his kindness and great care, Nelson would never have survived this voyage.
After many years had elapsed, when Nelson's name was as well known to our enemies sorrow) as that of England itself, often would he express the feelings he then experienced, in these words :--" I felt impressed with a feeling that I should never rise in the profession, but however I will be a hero, and, confiding in Providence, I will brave every danger.”
During the absence of Horatio, his uncle, Captain Suckling, succeeded Sir Hugh Palliser, as Comptroller of the Navy, and through his influence young Nelson received an order to act as lieutenant in the Worcester, of 64 guns, under Captain Mark Robinson. Under this able commander he remained at various convoys, till the 2d of April, 1777. Within a single week of quitting the Worcester, this youth, who had not yet completed his nineteenth year, passed his examination for a licutenancy. Captain Suckling sat at the head of the Board; and, when the examination had ended, in a manner highly honourable to Nelson, rose from his seat, and introduced him to the examining captains as his nephew. They expressed their wonder that he had not informed them of this relationship before; he replied, that he did not wish the younker to be favoured; he knew his nephew would pass a good examination, and he had not been deceived. The next day Nelson received his commission as second lieutenant of the Lowestoffe frigate, Captain William Locker, then fitting out for Jamaica.
Numerous American and French privateers under American colours, were at that time harassing our West Indian trade. Even a frigate was not sufficiently active for Nelson, and he repeatedly got appointed to the command of one of the Lowestoffe's tenders. During one of their cruizes the Lowestoffe captured an American letter-of-marque : it was blowing a gale, and a heavy sea running. The first lieutenant being ordered to board the prize, went below to put on his hanger. It happened to be mislaid; and, while he was seeking it, Captain Locker came on deck. Perceiving the boat still alongside, and in danger every moment of being swamped, and being extremely anxious that the privateer should be instantly taken in charge, because he feared that it would otherwise founder, he exclaimed, “Have I no officer in the ship who can board the prize ?" Nolson did not offer himself immediately, waiting, with his usual