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Lot #345
Horatio Nelson

Blockading Napoleon’s fleet on the HMS Victory, Lord Nelson writes “with confidence that we shall be able to foil the cunning of the Corsican Tyrant”

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Blockading Napoleon’s fleet on the HMS Victory, Lord Nelson writes “with confidence that we shall be able to foil the cunning of the Corsican Tyrant”

ALS signed “Nelson & Bronte,” four pages on two adjoining sheets, 7.25 x 9.25, January 26, 1804. Letter to “H. R. H. Duke de Genevois,” written from the “Victory.” In part: “I was honor'd yesterday with your Royal Highness's two letters…I was upon my route for Madalena having by my frigates receiv'd information of the motions of the Enemy. The troops ready for embarkation at Nice and also at Toulon amount to full 10,000 men and one of their objects but not their whole object is to take the Island of Sardinia. The fleet had not sail'd on the 19th but were quite ready, but whether it is their intention to avert the embarkation from Nice with the Toulon fleet I am not sure, but my Eye is fixed upon them and your Royal Highness may rely that no exertion of mine shall be wanting to intercept them, and whatever is in my power to succour His Sardinian majesty you may rely upon, and I sincerely regret that I have neither Troops or money at my disposal, with the blessing of a just God on our exertions I rely with confidence that we shall be able to foil the cunning of the Corsican Tyrant.

The two letters from Berthier, Minister at War, and from another man in office at Paris (whose name I do not now recollect)…on the 6th instant I transmitted them to Lord Hobart one of His Majesty's principal Secretaries of State, therefore if the Count de Tronte will take the trouble of asking Lord Hobart for them I am sure he will deliver them to His Excellency. I beg your Royal Highness to be assured that nothing shall be wanting on my part to merit the continuance of your good opinion and to prove myself your Royal Highness's most obedient servant.” Intersecting folds, a small stain to the blank area of the last page, and show-through from writing to opposing sides, otherwise fine condition.

During this early part of 1804, Nelson continued his long blockade of Toulon, a defensive tactic preventing the French fleet there from escaping into the Mediterranean and contributing to the Napoleonic Wars. Nelson had frigates patrolling the waters to gather intelligence on any troop movements, as he reports here, and was eager to lure the French out of their port and destroy them on the open sea. He was absolutely convinced of the neutral Sardinia’s strategic importance to both British and French interests, and so expected Bonaparte to attempt an invasion soon. Meanwhile he wrote constantly to British officials promoting their own invasion of the island, calling it the key to controlling the Mediterranean. Contrary to his expectations, the fleet did not attempt to escape Toulon and it was not until a year later that Admiral Pierre-Charles Villeneuve managed to slip through Nelson’s blockade. This would result in the famed Battle of Trafalgar, during which Nelson was killed while leading the Royal Navy to a decisive victory. The fleet of the “Coriscan Tyrant”—Napoleon Bonaparte—was defeated, never again to challenge the British at sea.

Auction Info

  • Auction Title: Fine Autographs and Artifacts
  • Dates: #541 - Ended December 05, 2018

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