This is a traditional biography written in 1947 and marred by the unconscious racism of the time. This aside it is a well written narrative which never stops to interrogate its sources and provides a comprehensive account of the life of its hero. It is clear that to this author he is a hero. She is as discreet as possible about Nelson's jettisoning of a wife in favour of the wife of an older man with whom he lived in a menage a trois. She is clearly annoyed that Nelson was never promoted beyond Vice-Admiral of the White.
I realised two things when reading the book. The first was that most of Nelson's life was very boring. He wasn't at sea that much. He spent long periods when he was at sea cruising without seeing any enemy ships. During his long chase after Villeneuve shortly before Trafalgar h never saw French ships and England was saved by an indecisive action with another Captain (who was subsequently court-martialled). Many of the times that Nelson did see action were disasters or, at best, honourable draws. His reputation rests on three battles: the Nile, Copenhagen and Trafalgar. Three days in his life. Each battle was a matter of getting up close to the enemy and then fighting as hard as he could. The getting up close was brave and twice involved going through shallows in which he might have run aground, and was tactically clever (going shore side of the Nile ships and using two lines of attack at Trafalgar) but one cannot avoid thinking that Nelson was really rather lucky.
A lot of lives seem to boil down to one or two magic moments.
Well written but rather long-winded. May 2014; 574 pages
- I live in Bedford, England. Having retired from teaching; I am now a research student at the University of Bedfordshire researching into Threshold Concepts in the context of A-level Physics. I love reading! I enjoy in particular fiction (mostly great and classic fiction although I also enjoy whodunnits), biography, history and smart thinking. I have also recently become a keen playgoer to London Fringe Theatre. I enjoy mostly classics and I read the playscripts and add those to the blog. I am a member of Bedford Writers' Circle. See their website here: http://bedford-writers.co.uk/ Follow me on twitter: @daja57