Nelson & His World

Discussion on the life and times of Admiral Lord Nelson
It is currently Wed Feb 19, 2020 6:18 am

All times are UTC [ DST ]




Post new topic Reply to topic  [ 5 posts ] 
Author Message
 Post subject: Nelson's Journals
PostPosted: Sat May 26, 2012 12:48 pm 
Offline

Joined: Sat Jan 21, 2012 10:41 pm
Posts: 151
You might have noticed from a couple of my posts that I've become obsessed with trying to gain access to Nelson's journals held in the British Library, which are restricted. Well, I finally was able to obtain a letter of introduction from a teacher friend which the BL deemed suitable :D Apparently they are not quite as fussy about who the letter should be from as I had originally been led to believe by one of the librarians. If you search here http://searcharchives.bl.uk/primo_libra ... d=IAMS_VU2 for MS 34966, 34967 and 34968, you'll see what journals I'm on about.

I've asked before if these have ever been published in full, but apparently not, though Clarke & McArthur gave extracts. I'm interested to see what they left out and also what they changed of what they did quote. Also, what they called the 'missing number 1' is also there (MS 35191).

I'm attempting to transcribe them until/unless I find it's been published in full somewhere (though, given inaccuracies in quotes from these journals and also some letters, I still prefer to see the primary source for myself), but it's not easy given that Nelson didn't exactly have the neatest handwriting ;) . If anyone's wondering, mostly it's a daily journal of weather conditions though there are of course the odd titbits of his private thoughts on certain subjects.

One of my favourite entries is where there are two days where he says there are strong gales, and on the third day that there is a heavy storm - and on that day, his handwriting is particularly messy and then badly smudged, as if the ship suddenly lurched before the ink dried as he was writing. So what would have been a not-very-interesting entry if reading a transcribed version, is given some character and you get more of a picture of the time when it was written :) There's also the occasional fingerprint.

Things like that you just can't possibly appreciate from someone else's transcription. Sounds silly but I feel humbled to be able to hold something he himself carried around with him, held and wrote in every day, it feels like something more personal to him than the letters I've seen before.

_________________
Vicki


Top
 Profile E-mail  
 
 Post subject: Re: Nelson's Journals
PostPosted: Sun May 27, 2012 7:57 am 
Offline
Site Admin

Joined: Sun Feb 17, 2008 11:06 am
Posts: 2803
Location: mid-Wales
Vicki:

I'm glad you finally got access to the journals.

I wonder if you came across the quotation below when examining the diaries. David & Stephen Howarth note in their biography of Nelson that he 'wrote' the words, copied from an essay in The Spectator, but they do not say whether it was in a letter or his journal. I'd really like to know whether he confided his agreement with these sentiments publicly or privately. The passage summarises very neatly Nelson's simple but very profound religious faith, rooted in his upbringing as a parson's son, and expresses the conviction that strengthened him as he faced battle. If he copied the quotation into a journal then presumably it was there as a personal comfort, to re-inforce his belief by re-reading.

As Colin White observed, Nelson was a religious, but not a pious man - he rarely commented on religion except to affirm occasionally that he was a 'believer in God', and to denounce the atheism of the French republic. While there is no doubt about the sincerity of his faith, I do think he thought religion was a powerful tool in creating social cohesion. He arranged for Bibles to be distributed to his ship's company, and maintained regular acts of worship on board ship, both of which activities he thought were conducive to discipline and order.


QUOTE:

'When I lay me down to sleep, I recommend myself to the care of Almighty God, when I awake I give myself up to his direction, amidst all the evils that threaten me, I will look up to Him for help, and question not but that He will either avert them or turn them to my advantage, though I know not the time nor the manner of my death, I am not at all solicitous about it, because I am sure he knows them both, and that he will not fail to support and comfort me under them.'

_________________
Anna


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Nelson's Journals
PostPosted: Sun May 27, 2012 10:56 am 
Offline
Site Admin

Joined: Sun Feb 17, 2008 11:06 am
Posts: 2803
Location: mid-Wales
Ha!

Have just run the location of the quotation to earth! It's from Nelson's Sea Journal, dated 18-21 Ocotber 1794 and appears as an appendix in 'Nelson's Letters to his Wife and Other Documents' edited by G P B Naish (my edition published by Routledge & Kegan Paul in 1958).

Naish's reference for the extracts from the sea journal is NMM Ms 9960: Croker Collection in the Phillips papers 27 June 1793 - 23 February 1794. The continuation is in BM Add Mss 34,902

So that solves the mystery: the journal is in two sections, held at different depositories.

Off to Greenwich then, Vicki? (PS I have edited this post - having earlier written 'Portsmouth' instead of 'Greenwich'! I'm a bit frazzled at the moment, juggling numerous balls in the air and didn't realise I'd mixed up my archives until a kind member informed me privately of my errror. Sorry for any confusion.)

_________________
Anna


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Nelson's Journals
PostPosted: Sun May 27, 2012 10:35 pm 
Offline

Joined: Mon Feb 18, 2008 7:11 pm
Posts: 1258
Location: England
I had completely forgotten how much of the journal that Naish had included - possibly the entirety of that particular volume?

Strangely, Colin White in ‘Nelson, the New Letters’, gives BL: Add MSS 34902 as the source for that quotation.

From the extracts that I have seen, I feel sure that Nelson wrote his private journal with an eye to publication or dissemination of some of it, not necessarily of the journal itself, but perhaps in a later memoir, or perhaps more immediately by using some of it in letters.

The entry that contains the quotation posted by Anna is a fascinating and obvious example, as he asked his brother to get part of the information it contains into the newspapers. I think it is also an illustration of the dangers of taking Nelson’s words at face value!

It relates to 22 Oct 1793 when the 64-gun Agamemnon was in action against the French 40-gun frigate La Melpomene, one of four French frigates (and a brig) he had come up with during the night. Having inflicted considerable damage on Melpomone, Nelson left off action because he feared that one of the other frigates then closing on him was actually a line of battle ship. Both John Sugden and Roger Knight give a good account of the affair, which in truth was an embarrassing failure to secure the surrender of an inferior vessel, leaving Nelson worried that he would be held to account for leaving off action. Before deciding not to renew the action, Nelson held two councils of war with his officers (and it is worth remembering his later words that ‘if a man consults whether he is to fight, when he has the power in his own hands, it is certain that his opinion is against fighting’). Afterwards he sent an account to Hood defending his actions which included a verbatim report of the council of war, and also sent an account to his brother Maurice to disseminate to the newspapers. The account sent to his brother, and the account in his private journal are both designed to mislead, and to exaggerate the danger he faced.

The entirety of the journal entry in Naish can be seen here: http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=31EV ... &q&f=false

Nelson correctly states the French force to be 4 frigates and a brig (having finally identified them correctly), but his tally of their guns is 70 nine-pounders, 16 twelve-pounders, 56 eighteen pounders and 28 thirty-six pounders. Where do those 36-pounders come from? The main armament of the French frigates was 18-pounders, so surely Nelson’s tally is manifestly false? He also states that he was “obliged to receive the enemy’s fire under every disadvantage believing for a long time one of the enemy to have been of the line”. That is manifestly false, as during the time he was under fire, he was pursuing his opponent (which he knew to be a frigate) and the other French ships were too far away to have affected the action in any way, whether or not they included a line of battle ship. It was only when he was subsequently becalmed (for 15 minutes) and left off action that the other ships were able to close on him - although still far enough away for him apparently to mistake one in daylight as a ship of the line.

Although the four French frigates might have been able to inflict damage on Agamemnon and to cause casualties, I think it unlikely that they would have been able to capture her, unless some very lucky shot were to immobilise her in some way. Indeed they were unwilling to approach close enough to put themselves at risk of Agamemnon’s 24-pounders, especially with one of them already seriously damaged, and I think that would have been the decision of most commanders of a frigate squadron in that situation. Offhand, I cannot think of any occasion when a frigate squadron of either side was able to defeat a ship of the line (please correct me if I’m wrong), although I can think of one occasion where a British commander ordered his 4 (undamaged) frigates to leave off action against a Spanish ship of the line. And comparing the total weight of guns is fallacious – it is a bit like suggesting that half a dozen air-guns would out-gun a .303 rifle.

So if Nelson’s account in his own journal is deliberately misleading, I think you have to question the motive for his including the prayer from the Spectator. Being the cynic that I am, I think it rather too conveniently emphasises the danger he was trying to portray.

Incidentally, I wonder where he read that 1711 essay from the Spectator? Perhaps it was in Harrison’s British Classicks, published by his future biographer?

_________________
Tony


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Nelson's Journals
PostPosted: Sun May 27, 2012 11:59 pm 
Offline

Joined: Sat Jan 21, 2012 10:41 pm
Posts: 151
tycho wrote:
Off to Greenwich then, Vicki?


Quite possibly! I'd had a look at their online archive records and it's quite confusing, so to have a MS reference number is handy, thanks for that :)

Annoyingly, I've had a look at MS 34902 several times but missed the journal, I'd thought it was just letters. In my defence there are a couple of hundred documents in the one volume! But I'm going to have a proper look through it next time I visit.

So many books, so little time!

_________________
Vicki


Top
 Profile E-mail  
 
Display posts from previous:  Sort by  
Post new topic Reply to topic  [ 5 posts ] 

All times are UTC [ DST ]


Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest


You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot post attachments in this forum

Search for:
Jump to:  
cron
Powered by p h p B B © 2000, 2002, 2005, 2007 p h p B B Group