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VISCOUNT NELSON.*

[17581805.]

OF great statesmen recently deceased it is not, in many instances, practicable to give a detailed and faithful account. Their private history cannot be laid open without deeper injury to individual feelings, than the public has any right for the mere gratification of it's curiosity to inflict: and of the national transactions, in which they may have been engaged, their views and projects cannot perhaps be exposed with certainty or with prudence ; while it would imply little less than a spirit of vaticination, to predict their distant and collateral consequences without mistake. But to statesmen this delicacy may, usually, be confined: the eulogium of warriors, whether we regard the consolation of their surviving relatives, or (what they themselves may be supposed to have had ever in view) the public good, cannot too speedily follow their decease.

The best eulogium of Horatio Viscount Nelson is the history of his actions; the best history of his actions, that which shall relate them most perspicuously. He was born September 29, 1758, in the parsonage-house

* AUTHORITY. Quarterly Review, and the various biographies of Viscount Nelson.'

of Burnham Thorpe, Norfolk; of which parish Edmund, his father, was rector : his mother was descended from the Walpole family. He was first sent to the High School at Norwich, then to North Walsham. During the Christmas holidays of the year 1770, he read in the newspaper that his mother's brother, Capt. Maurice Suckling, was appointed to the Raisonnable of 64 guns. Young as he was, he knew that eight children were a heavier burthen than his father's income could well support, and he had often expressed a wish to remove his part of the weight. It was the thought of providing for himself, which now actuated him. “ Do, brother William," said he, “ write to my father, and tell him I should like to go to sea with my uncle Maurice.” Mr. Nelson, who was then at Bath, understood the generous nature of the boy's feelings, but did not oppose his resolution. Accordingly, he wrote to his brother-inlaw. Captain Suckling had promised to provide for one of the children in his own profession; but this was not the one, whom he would have chosen, because of the delicacy of his constitution. “What,” said he, in his answer, “has poor Horace 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." Yet Horace had already given such indications of a noble spirit, that had the uncle known them, he would have perceived the boy was choosing the course, in which his heart and temper qualified him to run a glorious career.

In the spring of 1771, his father sent him to join the ship, then lying in the Medway. At the end of

the journey, he was put down with the other passengers, and left to find his way as he could. After wandering about in the cold, he was at last observed by an officer, who asked him a few questions, and happening to know his uncle, took him home and gave him some refreshments. When he got on board, Captain Suckling had not joined, and he paced the deck the remainder of the day without being noticed by any one. The pain, which is felt when we are first transplanted from our native soil, is one of the most poignant that we have to endure through life. There are after-griefs, which leave behind them deeper scars, bruising the spirit and some-'. times breaking the heart: but never do we feel so poignantly the want of love, the necessity of being loved, the sense of utter desertion, as when we first quit the haven of home, and are as it were pushed off upon the stream of life. Added to this, the sea-boy has to 'encounter physical hardships, and the privation of almost every comfort, even of sleep. Nelson had a feeble body, and an affectionate heart; and he remembered, through life, his first days of wretchedness in the service.

The Raisonnable did not remain long in commission. The dispute with Spain respecting the Falkland Islands being adjusted, she was paid off, and Captain Suckling was appointed to a guard-ship in the Medway. This he considered as too inactive a life for his nephew ; and he, therefore, sent him in a merchant-vessel to the West Indies, under a Mr. Rathbone, who had formerly been master's mate with him in the Dreadnought. “ I came back," observed Nelson, “a practical seaman, with a horror of the Royal Navy, and with a saying the constant among the sea: .

men, “aft the most honour, forward the better man.'” So strongly was he possessed with this prejudice, that when upon his return Captain Suckling received him on board, it was many weeks before he was in the least reconciled to a man of war. His uncle, who seems to have rightly appreciated the boy's character, held out to him as his reward, that “if he attended well to navigation, he should go in the cutter and decked long-boat, which was attached to the commanding officer's ship :' and thus he became confident of himself, as a pilot, among rocks and sands, which was

afterward of great comfort to him. . · In the ensuing year, an expedition of discovery toward the North Pole was despatched under Captain Phipps, in consequence of an application from the Royal Society; and though, on account of the severity of the service, effective men were entered instead of the usual number of boys, Horatio used all his influence to be permitted to go with Captain Lutwidge in the Carcass as his cockswain. One night, when the ice was all around them, the young cockswain, and a shipmate of his own standing stole from the vessel to hunt a bear. It was not long, before they were missed : a thick fog had come on, and their Captain became exceedingly anxious for their safety. Between three and four in the morning the mist cleared off, and they were seen at a considerable distance in pursuit of their game. The signal was made for their return, but Nelson was too intent npon his object to obey it. A chasm in the ice luckily separated him from the beast : his musket flashed in the pan. “ Never mind," said he,“ do but let me get a blow at this devil with the butt-end, and we . shall have him." A gun from the ship terrified the

animal, and Nelson was obliged to come back disappointed, and expecting a reprimand. Lutwidge reproved him somewhat sternly, and asked him, “ What reason he could have for hunting a bear?” “ Sir," he replied, pouting his lip, as he was wont to do when agitated, “ I wished to get the skin for my father.” :

The situation of the ships had now become so alarming, that Captain Phipps thought it necessary to prepare the boats for going away. They were accordingly hoisted out, and hauled over the ice, and Nelson had the command of a four-oared cutter with twelve men: this was at his own solicitation, and he prided himself in fancying that he could navigate her better than any other boat in the ship. .

Soon after his return, his uncle recommended him to Captain Farmer of the Sea-Horse, 20 guns, then going out to India in the squadron under Sir Edward Hughes. He was stationed in the foretop at watch and watch. The master (subsequently Captain Surridge) quickly perceiving how anxious he was to make himself acquainted with the minutest part of a seaman's duty, he was placed on the quarter-deck, and rated as midshipman. The service, which he went through, had strengthened his constitution; his countenance at this time was florid, and he seemed rather stout and athletic: but in India he caught one of the malignant diseases of that climate, so fatal to European habits, which totally deprived him for a time of the use of his limbs, and nearly brought him to the grave. In consequence of this, he returned to Europe with Captain Pigot in the Dolphin in 1776, in so perilous a state of weakness, that he attributed the preservation of his life to that

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