Nelson & His World

Nelson's Letters to Troubridge March-May 1801
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Author:  tycho [ Wed Nov 12, 2008 10:43 am ]
Post subject:  Nelson's Letters to Troubridge March-May 1801

I bought a curious little document recently, a few pages disbound from a book or magazine, containing an article ‘Unpublished letters of Lord Nelson.’ I managed to establish that they are from an American magazine, ‘The Century Illustrated Monthly Magazine’ for November 1888. There are 24 letters that ‘now belong to Sir Thomas Troubridge, fourth Baronet’, from Nelson to Sir Thomas Troubridge written during and immediately after the Baltic campaign, that date from the beginning of March to the end of May 1801.

I wondered if they had been left hidden in this obscure little magazine but a little more reading found quotations from them in Vincent’s biography where the source is given as ‘the Naval Miscellany, Vol. 1’, edited by Sir John Knox Laughton, published in 1901.

You can buy a copy of the miscellany or, you can read the letters as they were published in the ‘Century Illustrated Magazine’ which is available on line. ... 287-0037-4

The letters make interesting reading. They are intimate in tone, Nelson confiding his irritations with Sir Hyde Parker, expressing his views on the political situation with Denmark and teasing Troubridge, now ‘lording it’ at the Admiralty, that ‘we can have no desire for staying, for her Ladyship is gone and the Ball for Friday night knocked up by your and the Earl’s unpoliteness, to send gentlemen to sea instead of dancing in nice white gloves.’

He also assures Troubridge that ‘every letter of your is in the fire, and ever shall, for no good but much harm might arise from their falling into improper hands’ which hints at indiscretions by Troubridge also. And Troubridge is clearly still trusted with Nelson’s intimate correspondence: ‘Pray send my letters as directed’; and on several occasions, simply, ‘Pray forward the enclosed’.

Author:  PhiloNauticus [ Wed Nov 12, 2008 3:39 pm ]
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The Naval Miscellany volume 1 consisted of a wide ranging set of naval documents, including the journal of Captain Henry Duncan through the years 1776-1782; letters from Hood 1778-1800;letters from Captain Cathcart 1796-1804 and the journal of Captain Thomas Addison (East India Company) 1801-1829.

It also has 32 letters from Nelson from 1799 to 1805. In his introduction to these, Prof. Laughton states that "many - indeed most - of them were printed in November 1888, from a very inaccurate transcript in the 'Century Magazine". He also claims that some may find the letters "a shock to those who have pictured the hero as a 'plaster saint', as they were written in the 'abandon of intimate friendship'. Any coarseness which the reader may detect he claims is due to the fact that Nelson "..never lost the aroma of the small craft midshipman"

Author:  tycho [ Thu Nov 13, 2008 1:20 am ]
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Very interesting, P-N.

I wonder if Mrs Herbert Jones, who signed the article, edited out any 'coarseness' before publication in the 'Century Magazine'. I should like to compare the two versions in due course; though I doubt if anyone regarded Nelson as a 'plaster saint' after the revelations in Morrison in 1893.

Author:  PhiloNauticus [ Thu Nov 13, 2008 10:18 am ]
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Having a quick look at the letters on the link, and those in the Naval Miscellany, I cannot immediately see much difference, so any editing must have been light.

Some letters in the Troubridge sequence appear in the Miscellany, and not in the magazine, for example a letter dated 27 April 1801, which starts "...I know that Captain Nisbet does not care if I was dead and damned, yet I cannot be sorry that he is not to have the Thalia or some other good ship..." and continues to complain that "...his mother wrote me a threatening letter, that if I did not go directly and get her son made a captain, that she would not only ruin Nisbet, but try and injure me all in her power..."

As to Prof.Laughton's 'coarseness', to a modern eye, one can detect little. A few 'damned' etc ("....we have a damned stupid dog onboard, and as obstinate as the devil", referring to the grounding of the Warrior)

Author:  tycho [ Thu Nov 13, 2008 11:32 am ]
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Many thanks again, P-N.

I am sure I have read this 27th April letter somewhere else, but can't recall where. 'The mother' in question, was, I think, a Mrs Colquit, whose son was in professional dispute with Josiah Nisbet, and she was threatening to damage both Nelson and Nisbet if Colquit didn't get a captaincy. Is Mrs C. mentioned in the Naval Miscellany letter or has she been excised in a partial edit? As you say, there is no trace at all of this letter in Mrs Jones' article.

Author:  PhiloNauticus [ Thu Nov 13, 2008 12:55 pm ]
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Yes, you are correct, it was indeed the mother of Lieutenant Colquitt who wrote a threatening letter; he had evidently been 'removed' from the Thalia at the instigation of Nisbet.

Author:  Tony [ Thu Nov 13, 2008 6:52 pm ]
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To be fair on Laughton, he did say that “many of his [Nelson’s] letters (as in the Morrison collection) are exceedingly coarse, much more so than any of these. But the various excuses for, apologies for, and outright denials of Nelson’s language, opinions or behaviour could make an amusing thread of its own. Of the letters in this Naval Miscellany, although it should be no surprise, I think the most shocking to modern eyes (if not to contemporaries) is not any of the Troubridge letters, but the full transcription of the letter in June 1805 to Simon Taylor in which he expresses his wholehearted support for slavery in the West Indies and his opposition to “the damnable and cursed doctrine of Wilberforce and his hypocritical allies”.

However, in response to Tycho’s earlier comment, my guess is that the majority of the population did still continue to regard Nelson as a saint (plaster or otherwise) even after the revelations in Morrison in 1893. After all, only a tiny minority of adults ever actually read anything about him, and most probably knew little more than they were told as children. And what children are told about Nelson, both then and now, is highly selective. I very much doubt whether the Ladybird book mentioned in Andrew Motion’s poem contains many direct quotations from Morrison!

Author:  tycho [ Thu Nov 13, 2008 7:20 pm ]
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But Sir John was warning readers of the Naval Miscellany, presumably part of the 'tiny minority' who were well-up in knowledge of Nelson, that they might be shocked! In fact, it's quite interesting that some biographers - G. Lathom Browne, Hilda Gamlin - still propagated the plaster saint image of Nelson even post-Pettigrew and post-Morrison. I wonder too, if their readers went along with them not because they didn't know the truth but because they chose, or wanted to be persuaded, not to believe it.

Regarding the slavery letter: yes, it is deeply shocking to our modern sensibilities, perhaps more so because it reveals not a unique callousness but a contemporary mindset shared by many.

Author:  tycho [ Mon Nov 24, 2008 11:26 pm ]
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On reading the full text of the letter from Nelson to Troubridge of which an extract is quoted above, about Mrs Colquit's threat that she would do 'all in her power' to injure Nelson if he didn't get her son made a captain, I am struck by her effrontery - the original 'hockey-mom-pitbull-in-lipstick' maybe? Surely it is quite extraordinary that the mother of an obscure officer should write in this way to a national hero at the height of his fame? One wonders what she knew that was so earth-shattering that she felt Nelson might capitulate rather than have it revealed. Nelson hints that she has gained possession of a letter in which Nelson had unburdened himself to Admiral Coffin, the godfather of Lt Colquit, saying he had asked the Lt. 'in a friendly way to keep the young Captain [his stepson Josiah] to his duty'. But would the revelation of this letter be so damaging to Nelson? It was generally recognised that Josiah had been promoted beyond his competence through Nelson's support, and that Nelson was increasingly disillusioned with him. Were there other pressures that Mrs Colquit might apply? This threat came not very long after the 'secret' birth of Horatia and at a time of much speculation about Nelson's private life.

There was another blackmail threat against Nelson - this concerned his conduct at Boulogne (discussed at length on another thread). Was he singularly unfortunate in attracting blackmailers? Or are there other instances of officers coming under pressure from disaffected colleagues or their families?

Author:  fertooos [ Sat Jan 18, 2020 9:46 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Nelson's Letters to Troubridge March-May 1801

It is great to find such an interesting thread here. Where are you from This theme is very interesting to me. I will need to look for more information on the net. Where did you buy that document? It is amazing when you start to look into something closer, you usually find out that things are actually different from what they originally looked. It is almost a rule.

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