19 October 2005
HORATIO, VISCOUNT NELSON (1758-1805)
Autograph letter signed ('Nelson & Bronte') to Sir John Orde, 1st Bart, Victory, 15 December 1804, 2½ pages, 4to, docketed by recipient on blank last page.
Provenance: Sir John Orde, 1st Bart; and by descent.
'THE FRENCH FLEET HAVE NOT YET GIVEN US AN OPPORTUNITY OF ACQUIRING GLORY AT THEIR EXPENCE'. Nelson replies to a letter which had been delayed almost three months in its passage from London, expressing himself in rather stilted terms 'glad' to have been able to attend to the wishes of 'a Brother Officer'. The letter continues in a tone of veiled complaint, 'This has truly been an unprofitable station to me in a pecuniary point of View and the french fleet have not yet given us an opportunity of acquiring Glory at their expence', adding that 'My health is in such a bad state that I have requested and repeated my request to be allowed to home for its reestablishment'. The letter concludes in the same tone, expressing Nelson's surprise that Orde should not in fact have been posted to replace him in the Mediterranean station, but to a new station outside the Straights of Gibraltar -- 'I had not the most distant idea of an admiral being placed outside the Streights'.
The stilted politeness of the letter conceals a major row, for Nelson was furious that Orde should be posted outside Cadiz, a position which previously fell under Nelson's Mediterranean command, and one in which Orde was likely to be able to make the most of any Spanish prizes, 'to reap my sugar harvest', as he put it to Alexander Ball; a letter to Emma Hamilton was even more brutal, talking of 'the great John Orde ... he will get all the money and your poor Nelson all the hard blows'.
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