1805 - Battle of Trafalgar


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Naval history of Great Britain - Vol. IV
William James
1805 Battle of Trafalgar 81

from the nature of the scene passing in the cockpit, and the noise of the guns, the whole of his lordship's expressions could not be borne in mind, nor even distinctly heard, by the different persons attending him".* Dr Beatty has not, however, scrupled to give to the world every disjointed sentence, every half-uttered word, which he or his relaters could catch from the lips of a dying man, and at times, such was the intensity of his sufferings, irrational man. Our strictures upon the conduct of Lord Nelson in the bay of Naples show, that we would blink (sic) nothing which we considered to be the fair subject of historical observation ; but we should have rejected as matters irrelevant to the subject, the rhapsodies of a disordered mind : more especially, when the subject to which they related was wholly of a private, and, compared with passing events, of an uninteresting nature.

Doctor Beatty's narrative having gone through two editions and having been considered authentic, the objectionable circulation of private remarks has been much increased by other authors having transferred them to their pages and under which the press, in reference especially to Messieurs Clarke and M'Arthur's two ponderous volumes, may be said to have groaned. To our increased regret, a slight mistake, which we made, but hastened to correct and apologize for, has been the ostensible cause of the appearance, very recently, of a third edition of Doctor Beatty's doubtless well intended, but much misnamed, " tribute of respect to the memory of the departed hero ". The discrepancy, that exists between our present and our former account of the Victory's proceedings in the Battle of Trafalgar, shows how much we erred, in relying upon the accuracy of statements which, as emanating from an officer of the ship, we took to be authentic. In justice to ourselves we must observe, that it was owing to causes over which we had no control, and not to any lack of exertion in collecting facts, that the whole of the amended statements now given did not appear in the first edition of this work.

After Lord Nelson had been laid upon a purser's bed on the deck of the cockpit, he was stripped of his clothes, for the purpose of having the wound examined and the course of the ball probed. The surgeon soon ascertained that the wound was mortal ; and Lord Nelson himself appears, from the first, to have entertained a similar opinion. His sufferings from pain and thirst were manifestly great. " He frequently called for drink, and to be fanned with paper, making use of these words: ' Fan, fan ' and ' Drink, drink ' " He kept constantly pushing away the sheet, the sole covering upon him ; and one attendant was as constantly employed in drawing it up again over his slender

*  Beatty's Narrative, p 52

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