Books

Nelson’s Letters to his Wife and Other Documents, 1785-1831

Vol 100 (1958), G.P.B. Naish

For over a century the massive seven-volume Dispatches and Letters of Vice-Admiral Lord Viscount Nelson published by Sir Nicholas Harris Nicolas in 1846 was taken to be almost complete, and formed the essential background to most Nelson biographies. However, although Nicolas had sourced his text from original documents, this had not been possible in every case. For example, he had not been able to access Nelson’s letters to his wife and had been compelled to rely on the versions given by Clarke and McArthur in their Life and Services of Admiral Lord Nelson, despite suspecting, rightly, that these were often inaccurate.

Fortunately the originals, many of which Lady Nelson had withheld from Clarke and McArthur in the first place, were discovered in the Twentieth Century and were published for the first time in this volume which has subsequently become essential reading for Nelson scholars.

These letters from Nelson to his wife divide naturally into three periods afloat. Some thirty letters are written from the Boreas in the West Indies, mostly during his courtship of the ‘widow Nisbet’. Over one hundred and fifty were written from the Mediterranean during the years 1793 to 1797 and cover such events as the siege of Bastia, the victory off Cape St Vincent, and the failure off Santa Cruz. And there are some forty letters dealing with the Nile campaign and his time at the Neapolitan court.

Sixty-four letters from his wife to Lord Nelson give the other side of the picture.

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About George Naish

George Naish was born in 1909 the son of a keen amateur maritime archaeologist, the Rev. Francis Naish. He was educated at St. Edward’s, Oxford and Southampton University and joined the National Maritime Museum in 1935, soon after it was established. He joined the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve in 1940, ending his service in command of the Anti-Submarine Fixed Defence Station, Fort Agami, Alexandria, 1945-1946. On demobilisation he transferred to the Royal Navy Reserve, in which he became a Lieutenant-Commander. On his return to the Museum in 1947 he became Hon. Secretary to the Society of Nautical Research, a post he held for 30 years. He attained the rank of Keeper in 1969, and in 1971 he became Historical Consultant to the Director shortly before retiring. He died in 1977.
He translated summary accounts of the war at sea by German officers in 1947. He was an adviser on various films and TV series, e.g. the 1957 series The Adventures of Peter Simple.

His publications include

• Nelson’s Letters to His Wife (Navy Records Society, 1958).
• A Picture Book of Ship Models (H.M.S.O., 1962)
• Royal Yachts (Read Books, 1964).
• Flying in the Royal Navy, 1914-1964 (H.M.S.O., 1964).
• Nelson and H.M.S. Victory (Pitkin Guides, 1967).
• HMS Victory (Pitkin Guides, 1972).

The Navy Records Society