Lord Thomas Cochrane, later Earl of Dundonald, was one of the Royal Navy’s most audacious frigate captains. Dismissed from the service in 1814 following a Stock Exchange swindle, he took his talents overseas and whilst in command of the navies of Chile, Brazil and Greece, secured decisive victories in their wars of independence. At sea, Cochrane was a tactical genius; but on land, he was a quarrelsome menace. Wherever he served the story was the same – heroic deeds followed by quarrels based on the illusion that he had been let down by subordinates, persecuted by superiors and denied his financial deserts.
Those accustomed to Cochrane’s innumerable complaints will be relieved to read this very human letter written in 1844 to his son Arthur, then serving on HMS Salamander. It gives an insight into Cochrane’s mind at a relaxed and happy period of his life; avoids reference to his wife’s extravagance, or to the fact that all his other children had gone off the rails; speaks with (unrealised) optimism of the progress of his steamship Janus; and with moderation about his Chilean financial claims.
Nevertheless, beneath the surface Cochrane’s resentments continued to fester and formed the burden of a series of bitter biographical memoirs published when he was in his 80s.
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