THE NELSON DESPATCHES.
THE present volume concludes this national undertaking. It opens in August 1805, when Nelson was returning from his celebrated pursuit of the French fleet to the West Indies ; continues through his short so- journ on shore, and the equally brief period during which he held the command of the Mediterranean fleet; and closes, as far as the chrono- logical correspondence is concerned, with the battle of Trafalgar. Much illustrative matter is introduced. Elaborate descriptions of the battle— the public despatches and orders of Collingwood—the French and Spanish accounts of the fight—Mr. Beatty the surgeon's story of the hero's death—and a full account of the public and Parliamentary pro- ceedings in England—appropriately complete the correspondence. There is also an elaborate and curious inquiry into the parentage of " Horatia Nelson," and the nature of the connexion between Lord Nelson and Lady Hamilton; an appendix contains two hundred and fifty new letters, ex- tending over a considerable part of Nelson's professional life, but which arrived too late for earlier insertion; and an elaborate index of names facilitates a reference to the least accessible topics, as the chronology and tables of contents to each volarae direct to the subjects. The correspondence up to the battle of Trafalgar is chiefly formal, or
known already ; but many letters indicate Nelson's kindness of heart, and his consideration towards the humblest deserving person. The accounts of the battle and its sequences, of the funeral of Nelson, and of the debates in Parliament upon his services and grants, are of the amplest character, and seem to contain, indeed, everything that has been pub- lished upon the subject. Their fulness is almost overwhelming to the general reader, who would rather trust somebody to tell him the story than have to find it out for himself; but to the professional man it is a perfect storehouse of facts. The additional letters are often as interesting as anything that has appeared; but they perhaps suffer somewhat from their position. They moody relate to the Mediterranean service ; and many seem to have been hunted out by their possessors since the former volumes appeared : perhapa the beat come from the Spencer and St. Vin- cent collections, which were not, we believe, accessible in the outset.
The most popularly interesting subject is the inquiry into the parentage
of Horatia Nelson, the connexion with Lady Hamilton, and incidentally the breach with Lady Nelson. These things, in fact, are the great bio- graphical features in the hero's private life; for such were the amiableness and purity of his personal character, that his conduct in reference to these points is the only thing that scandal or calumny could bring against him. Upon the important subject of the separation, it seems clear from the re- =irks of Sir Harris Nicolas, and still more from the letter of Mr. Heide- wood, the friend and executor of Lord Nelson, that the separation was not sought by him, but took place in a moment of irritation ; and, it would appear, without any real conviction in Lady Nelson's mind of actual Criminality between her husband and Lady Hamilton.
"Though none of Lady Nelson's letters in 1798, 1799, or 1800, contain any
repreach or betray any suspicion about Lady Hamilton, she could not have been ignorant of the intimacy; and the brief letter which he wrote to her on the 10th May 1799, (the last that has been found except a short note after their separation,) was by no means calculated to convince her that his affection was unimpaired-
" Lord Nelson and Sir William and Lady Hamilton arrived in London on the
6th November 1800; and, as has been already stated, instead of Lady Nelson meeting her husband at Yarmouth on his landing, after an absence of two years and seven months, during which time he had immortalized himeelf, and made her a Peeress, her reception of him is said, on good authority, to have been cold and chilling. They continued to live together, however, for two months, though, ac- cording to Lord Nelson's own statement, not happily, but no separation was con- templated; and it appears from the following important letter, with which the editor has been favoured by Mr. Haslewood, that when it did take place it was entirely her own act, and that it was wholly unexpected. " • Kemp Town, Brighton, 13th April 1846. "Dear Dear Sir—I was no less surprised than grieved when you told me of a pre- vailing opinion, that Lord Nelson of his own motion withdrew from the society of his wife, and took up his residence altogether with Sir William and Lady Hamil- ton, and that you have never received from any member of his family intimation to the contrary. His father, his brother, Dr. Nelson, (afterwards Earl Nelson,) his sisters Mrs. Bolton and Mrs. Matcham, and their husbands, well knew that the separation was unavoidable on Lord Nelson's part; and as I happened to be present when the unhappy rupture took place, I have often talked over with all of them, but more especially with Mr. and Mrs. Matcham, the particulars which I proceed to relate, in justice to the memory of my illustrious friend, and in the hops of removing an erroneous impression from your mind. " 'In the winter of 1800-1801,1 was breakfasting with Lord and Lady Nelson, at,ieir lodgings in Arlington Street; and a cheerful conversation was passing on inmerent subjects, when Lord Nelson spoke of something which had been done or said by "dear Lady Hamilton"; upon which Lady Nelson rose from her chair, and exclaimed, with much vehemence, "I am sick of hearing of dear Lady Hamilton, and am resolved that you shall give up either her or me." Lord Nel- son, with perfect calmness, said—" Take care Fanny, what you say. Hove you sincerely; but I cannot forget my obligations to Lady Hamilton, or speak of her otherwise than with affection and admiration." Without one soothing word or gesture, but muttering something about her mind being made up Lady Nelson left the room, and shortly after drove from the house. They never lived together afterwards. I believe that Lord Nelson took a formal leave of her Ladyship be- fore joining the fleet under Sir Hyde Parker; but that, to the day of herlius- band's glorious death, she never made any apology for her abrupt and ungentle conduct above related, or any overture towards a reconciliation. "I am, dear Sir, your faithful servant, "W. RASLEWOOD: " There is little here to warrant an inference that Lady Nelson was con- vinced of a criminal connexion between Nelson and Lady Hamilton. Such, too, and after the separation, was the opinion of all the Admiral's friends, from Lord St. Vincent to his chaplain Dr. Scott ; and Sir Harris Nicolas, after a searching investigation, arrives at the same conclusion. Still, too hasty a censure must not be pronounced on Lady Nelson. An early letter of the hero's friend Davison shows that she was deeply hurt by reports which had reached her of the intimacy between her husband and the Hamiltons ; the hero's letters to his wife were few and cold, whilst no exertion of pen or power was too great for the Queen of Naples and her friend Lady Hamilton. Lady Nelson could not but feel that her influence as a wife was gone, and that she occupied a second place in her husband's mind; whilst, perhaps, the very consciousness that she was ill adapted to contend with the arts of the charmer and recover the ground she had lost, might prompt a pettishness and v that at last broke out on seemingly slight provocation. Sir Harris Nicolas, in the text we have quoted, describes them as not living " happily " after Nelson's return in 1800. According to the letter on which Sir Harris forms his opinion, not happily would seem to be too mild a term; since it is clear that they were very unhappy.
"To Alexander Davison, Esq.
"[Autograph lu the possession of Colonel Davison.' "St. George, April 23rd 1801. "My dear Davison—You will, at a proper time, and before my arrival in Eng- land, signify to Lady N. that I expect, and for which I have made such a very liberal allowance to her, to be left to myself, and without any inquiries from her; for' sooner than live the unhappy: life I did when last I came to England, I would. stay abroad for ever. My mind is fixed as fate: therefore you will send m de- termination, in any way you may judge proper. And believe me ever your obliecl • and faithful friend, NELSON AND HEONTE. The case of the present Mrs. Ward, formerly Horatia Nelson, is ex- amined with great care : but, notwithstanding all the evidence Sir Harris Nicolas has collected from every quarter, including the papers and in- formation in the possession of Mrs. Ward, he has not succeeded in clear- ing up the mystery; which was perhaps to be expected, when the only parties possessed of the knowledge did all they could to keep it a pro- found secret. Lady Hamilton was not the mother : this rests upon her own denial, and upon the better authority of Mr. Haslewood, who also knows the name of the mother, but is "prevented by a sense of honour from disclosing it." Lady Hamilton "always said that the child's mother was a person of high birth," and she has left a written declaration that "she was too great to be mentioned." If there is any truth in this last statement, the mother would seem to have been a foreigner. At all events, Nelson was out of England from the end of October 1799 till the 8th of November 1801. The registry of baptism reports the child as born in October 1800; though the evidence of the nurse to whom the infant was carried by Lady Hamilton "one night in a hackney coach," would carry the birth on to January or February 1801; she, however, spoke from memory, and only by a guess as to the age of the infant when alit first saw it. Some letters, ostensibly written by Nelson to Lady Henail-. ton and printed in the collection published under her authority, would make out the mother to be residing in England after the birth of the child: but they are clearly forgeries, not probably altogether, but by in- terpolation. Lady Hamilton's own letters to the nurse intimate the same thing : but the writer was one of those persons whose statements need corroboration even when there is no apparent motive for deception. Nelson's chaplain, Dr. Scott, never mentioned the mother, if he even knew her : the conjectures of his family would seem to point to the Queen of Naples. And, notwithstanding chronological and other obsta- cles in the way, this would seem to be a probable conclusion : for only some extraordinary fascination could have prompted Nelson's extraordinary deviations from public duty during one period of his Mediterranean come mand, or the manner in which he subsequently went wandering about with the Royal Family on his return homeward. At the same time we must observe, there is no absolute proof that Nelson was the father : it is the most, perhaps the only probable conclusion, but it does not carry complete conviction to the mind.
The present age has been distinguished in a remarkable degree by the publication of the memorials or correspondence of celebrated men,—as the Marlborough, Wellington, Wellesley, and Malmesbury papers testify, to say nothing of lesser names. But, while these collections were ready to the hand, or their authors were living to give every facility and exert every influence for collecting the documents, no such advantage attended Sir Harris Nicolas in forming this epistolary monument of England's greatest naval hero, and perhaps of the hero who the most certainly lives in the nation's "heart of hearts." Indeed, apart from the untiring zeal and industry of the editor, it may be said to be the people who have formed this collection. As soon as it was announced, individuals voluntarily poured forth their treasured relics of the victor of the Nile and Trafalgar, from the little more than autograph framed and glazed, to the larger collections of friends and companions in arms ; while in some more im- portant depositories every latent obstacle was thrown in the way of pro- curing access to the Nelson papers, and only obtained at last, perhaps, through the influence of public opinion. The result has been to bring together upwards of three thousand five hundred letters of Nelson ; of which a large proportion are new, and many of the deepest in- terest, while by far the greater number of those previously published are now first printed in an ungarbled form. But the merit of the edition is not limited to such service, great as it is. The documents thus collected have been arranged with a clearness, and illustrated with a copious com- pleteness, which we have never met in any work, unless it be in the en- cumbered editions by countless commentators of Shakspere and the an- cient classics.