Nelson & His World

Discussion on the life and times of Admiral Lord Nelson
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 Post subject: Captain E T Parker
PostPosted: Sun Jul 13, 2008 7:59 am 
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Captain Edward Thornbrough Parker, was, of course, a great favourite of Nelson's, but otherwise seems a rather shadowy figure. I had assumed that he was of obscure origins, since Nelson described him as 'my child, for I found him in distress'. His father was an old rogue who told hard-luck stories to fleece Nelson after his son's death, and this would also suggest that the family was barely respectable. However, on another forum, it was mentioned that Parker was the nephew of Admiral Sir Edward Thornbrough. Is this really so? Does anyone have any background? I am assuming, perhaps wrongly, that Thornbrough was Parker's mother's family name. Maybe she 'married beneath her' and that accounts for Parker's distressed circumstances? Did Sir Edward offer patronage to his nephew? Or was the family rift perhaps too great? (There I go again, imagining.)


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PostPosted: Fri Jul 18, 2008 7:35 pm 
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From Roger Knight:
Quote:
'Captain Thornborough's nephew, Mr Parker, a very fine young man' (St Vincent to Nepean, 23 Aug. 1798, NMM, NEP/4
Admiral Sir Edward Thornborough was a captain at that time.

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PostPosted: Mon Jul 28, 2008 9:47 am 
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Many thanks for that information, Tony.

I have just bought, on the strength of its inclusion in Michael Nash's 'Top Twenty', John Knox Laughton's book, 'The Nelson Memorial', which is a tribute to 'Nelson and his companions in arms'. It is a little quaint in tone, as one might expect of a book published in 1896, but there is an interesting mention of Parker, who, as you note, had come to the attention of St Vincent. In a letter to St V. (K-L gives no reference)just after Parker's death, listing Parker's many virtues, Nelson observes:

'When he was abandoned by the world, your heart had begun to yearn towards him - how well he deserved my love and affection his actions have shown. His father, in his advanced age, looked forward for assistance to this good son.....'

'Found him in distress', 'abandoned by the world'....yet his uncle was a well-placed captain and a future admiral, so presumably in a position to help him. There must be a story behind this. I wonder what it was.


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 Post subject: E T Parker
PostPosted: Sun Aug 31, 2008 10:00 pm 
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The best round-up of Parker I've managed to come across can be found in Hilda Gamlin's 'Nelson's Friendships' where he has virtually a whole chapter to himself.

Gamlin put together an excellent collection of letters and snippets, in which the signatures are scrutinised and even crossings out are put under the microscope in the most meticulous fashion.

Her work is very impressive were it not spoiled by the rationale for the whole chapter as she puts Parker's disgrace and abandonment down to the following:

That Parker is the Mr. Thom(p)son of Nelson's famous mystifying letters, and was the father of Horatia (a youthful indiscretion on service in the Mediterranean,) and that this, therefore, exonerates both Nelson and Emma from being the child's parents.

It's a shame that such a useful collection of information is compromised by Gamlin's determined attempt to turn cartwheels, do handstands, and move heaven and earth to prove that Nelson and Emma's relationship was based purely on platonic friendship. But it's a good chapter to read for anyone looking for background on E T Parker.

The references to Parker being in some kind of disgrace are covered too. Gamlin states that Nelson's patronage of Parker dates back to the period prior to the Nile when Sir John Orde was making waves with St. Vincent over Nelson's appointment to command the squadron that eventually found glory at the Nile. Gamlin doesn't elaborate, but the intimation is that Parker's problems dated from this time.

She relates that Parker was serving on the Foudroyant in September 1799, sent from Palermo by Nelson around the 8th to take the King of Sardinia to Leghorn before carrying dispatches to Vienna and returning to England around the 1st October. He was certainly back in England by the 21st October when Lady Nelson reports that she has seen him and is very taken with him. It's at this point on November 3rd that Parker refers to some form of professional issue when he writes to Nelson:

Quote:
"To you, my Lord, I am indebted for the opportunity I had of clearing my Professional Character from the Calumny I laboured under. An opportunity I must, and ever shall look back to, with the utmost satisfaction, not only of convincing the (?) my Behaviour must have merited your approbation, but that your strong and flattering Recommendations in consequence, have procured me Promotion to a Rank which will stimulate my every Effort to justify your Lordship's Partiality towards me..." (I have no idea what the question mark refers to.)


The Admiral Thornborough connection mentioned appears to be a good one. Looking around the IGI, Mary and Edward (the Admiral) Thornbrough (no 'o' in borough) were siblings and appear to have connections to Stoke Demerel in Devonshire where Admiral Thornbrough (son of Edward and Mary Thornbrough) was christened in 1754. He died at his seat Bishopsteignton Lodge in Teignmouth, Devon, in 1834. He also seems to have had property holdings in Gloucester.

In Gloucester in 1777, Mary Thornbrough (daughter of Edward and Mary Thornbrough, and christened at St. Mary Le Bone in 1750) married Thomas Parker.

Edward Thornbrough Parker (Nelson's 'Little Parker'?) son of Thomas and Mary Parker, was christened in Gloucester on January 14th, 1780.

The existence of an aunt is apparent from this snippet found online from the Monthly Register:

Quote:
"Wind E. N. E. Fair, very Sultry. Letters received from the gallant Captain E. T. Parker, dated Deal, to his aunt, Mrs. Thornborough. are written in high spirits, he was wounded in the thigh only, and has not lost an arm, as was reported, he says he is in a fair way, and is happy he has a fin left to wield a sword against the enemies of Old England."


We can also find a Elizabeth Thornbrough (sister to Little Parker's mother Mary) born to Edward and Mary Thornbrough and christened in Stoke Demerel in 1757.

That makes at least three possible siblings: Edward the Admiral, Mary and Elizabeth, plus Mrs. Thornbrough the aunt (by marriage?) mentioned in ETP's letter.

Incidentally, there is also a reference in the Annual Biography and Obituary in 1835 to Admiral Thornbrough's antecedents, stating that he had died at his seat Bishopsteignton Lodge, Devonshire, and that nothing was known of his early years. The Annual B&O releates a naval story which says he 'Betook himself to sea when a boy, on his own leave,' so perhaps the Thornbrough's didn't come from influential or moneyed stock.

This is certainly not 100% proof positive of ETP's origins, considering there's hardly a whiff of named family connections to be found in letters or subsequent writings, but may be a good place to begin.

I'm also sure I recall some reference (possibly by Nelson) to ETP's father returning to Northumberland after his son's death in 1801, but can't for the life of me recall where this was from. Hopefully others may know more and be able to provide additional pointers to ETP's background.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Sep 02, 2008 9:14 am 
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Mira:

many thanks for that very interesting collation on Parker - I had completely forgotten the mention of the 'calumny' letter in 'Nelson's Friendships' as I was concentrating on other material there when I read it some months ago. But I will go back and 'read, mark, learn and inwardly digest' as the Prayer Book bids us.

And I agree about Hilda Gamlin: there is something simultaneously ridiculous, touching and comic about her determination to exonerate Nelson and Emma from any improper behaviour, and her contortions to nominate Parker as Horatia's father are breathtaking. Her writing is confident, her sources impeccable and yet her interpretations are wildly awry: a bizarre disjunction, and perhaps a warning to biographers not to set out with pre-conceived notions about a subject.

I wonder how convinced her readers were? Particularly as her book came after Morrison's publication of the Emma/Nelson correspondence.


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 Post subject: Re: Captain E T Parker
PostPosted: Thu Dec 15, 2011 3:46 pm 
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An article on Captain E.T. Parker was recently published in the Trafalgar Chronicle. The author, Richard Venn, very kindly got in touch with me and sent me a copy. It makes fascinating reading and I do urge anyone with an interest in this beloved protegé of Nelson to acquaint themselves with it. For copyright reasons, the piece cannot be published on the website; but if anyone is interested, please contact me at nelsonATnelsonandhisworld.co.uk substituting the @ symbol for AT. I have Richard's permission to share.

NB: I have discovered, via Richard's piece, that Captain Parker's middle name is spelt THORNBROUGH, not THORNBOROUGH. I have amended the spelling in my initial post and will edit the rest in due course.

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 Post subject: Re: Captain E T Parker
PostPosted: Wed Oct 16, 2013 8:56 pm 
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I was contacted this week by Martyn Downer with some exciting news regarding Edward Parker. A portrait miniature of Parker has been discovered among a collection kept by Parker's descendants. Martyn very kindly sent me an image of the item, and also gave me permission to post it here. The image is courtesy of Martyn at 'Martyn Downer works of art'.
Attachment:
etpthumb_edited-1 (1).jpg
etpthumb_edited-1 (1).jpg [ 40.15 KiB | Viewed 10418 times ]


Martyn's website gives more detail on the facts surrounding the discovery.

http://www.martyndowner.com/sale-highlights/lost-face-of-nelsons-son/


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 Post subject: Re: Captain E T Parker
PostPosted: Wed Oct 16, 2013 9:33 pm 
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What an exciting find, Richard! Thanks for posting it.

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 Post subject: Re: Captain E T Parker
PostPosted: Sun Oct 20, 2013 12:15 pm 
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This is a spectacular find, Richard! Many thanks to you and to Martyn Downer for allowing us to see it.

In a private message to me, Richard speculated that the portrait might have been painted in Naples. Jacqui, you're the resident art expert: any comments?

I must say it was wonderful to see this image of Nelson's beloved protegé. What a lovely open face he has. His hairstyle too is very up to the minute. And with Nelson's favour, too, he must have been the epitome of the dashing officer. It is painful to reflect on his cruel end.

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 Post subject: Re: Captain E T Parker
PostPosted: Tue Oct 22, 2013 8:33 am 
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Looking again at the link on Martyn Downer's website, I note that Parker described Nelson not only as his 'patron' and 'protector' but also his 'nurse': an unusual descriptor, I think. Could it be that the 'distress' that Nelson found him in was not one of professional difficulties but of sickness? Disease was a more ruthless killer of advancement than battle. If Nelson came across Parker in a poor state of health and sought help for him, thereby restoring his career, one can understand his devotion and gratitude.

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 Post subject: Re: Captain E T Parker
PostPosted: Tue Oct 22, 2013 9:41 am 
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Ach, Anna! Resident maybe, but an expert - just a failed artist (when in my early twenties) who had to find something more sustainable to do. But I do have the fascination of an enthusiastic amateur for historic portraits... and am listening to Grayson Perry's brilliant deconstruction of the art world over breakfast as I write. So, suitably chastened, here goes...

Well - isn't he a lovely, handsome young man! And just how I'd imagined him to be. But looking at the execution, perhaps - and I'm only going on instinct here - too lovely and handsome to be Neapolitan in origin? Having scrutinised rather a lot of Neapolitan/Sicilian portraits of late, the fashion of the time (not that much had changed there for centuries) was heavier, darker - both in execution, medium, and choice of colour. Very Bourbon!

Everything shouts English to me (I'm discounting French, German, Dutch etc., and pointing to English for the obvious reason - proximity.) And very good it is too. The delicacy, the style, the naturalness of colour and form, even the stippled/shaded (tho hard to make out from here) background. It's so reminiscent of the 'pattern' or 'template' used by miniaturists working commercially at the time. Having said that, it could well have come from an artist working out of or passing through Italy - a common enough scenario then.

Though it's a fine thing, I also think the artist would probably not have been of the first rank - Cosway for example. Simply because of the lack of 'finish.' It's light - almost a drawing with paint - is that pencil mixed in with the watercolour? And I can picture the artist producing a lot of these, quickly, and then onto the next commission.

An accomplished draughtsman at heart rather than a whizz with the more expensive tools of canvas, paintbrush(es) and oils. Is it on paper rather than bone or shell? Again hard to tell from the pic. That too would affect the costs for both artist and client. A budget choice? But in stunning condition too.

I won't attempt to explain the lieutenant's coat without looking back on Parker's known movements and promotion dates/circumstances. Afraid I can't remember them offhand, and Richard will have his own research - the very best information available - at his fingertips. But this ETP could be any age, from late teens to the date of his loss.

He's a marvellous find - a face that doesn't disappoint. Oh my! Doesn't it make his character come alive!

Thank you, Richard and Martyn, for letting us see him.

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