Lot #8003
Horatio Nelson Autograph Letter Draft

Lord Nelson responds to an accusation of cowardice by his greatest adversary: "If my character is not established by this time for not being apt to run away it is not worth my time to attempt to put the world right"

Estimate: $3000+

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Description

Lord Nelson responds to an accusation of cowardice by his greatest adversary: "If my character is not established by this time for not being apt to run away it is not worth my time to attempt to put the world right"

Autograph draft of an important letter by Horatio Nelson, one page both sides, 7.25 x 9.5, [August 12, 1804]. Nelson's unsigned handwritten draft of a fascinating letter to First Secretary of the Admiralty William Marsden, defending himself against accusations that he 'ran away' from Vice Admiral Louis-Rene de Latouche-Tréville off Toulon in June 1804. In part: "Although I most certainly never thought of writing a line upon Mons'r La Touche's having cut a caper a few miles out of Toulon on the 14th of June where he well knew that I could not get at him without placing the ships under the Batteries which surround that port and that had I attacked him in that position that he could retire into his secure nest whenever he pleased, yet as that gentleman has thought proper to write a letter stating that the fleet under my command ran away and that he pursued it, perhaps it may be thought necessary for me to say something but I do assure you Sir that I know not what to say…If my character is not established by this time for not being apt to run away it is not worth my time to attempt to put the world right, it is not therefore I do assure their Lordships with any such intention that I stain my paper with a taunting man's name and therefore I shall only state that the fleet which I have the honor & happiness to command in…good humour & good health & that the united wishes of all are I am sure to meet Mons'r La Touche at sea, then I ought not to doubt but I should be able to write a letter equally satisfactory to my King, my country & myself.

I send a copy of the ships log which I have never seen till this day. I observe that so little was thought of Mons'r La Touche return to Toulon that…it is not even noticed (although by the bearings at noon and lat'de that we were but few miles outside the Port, where he was snug at anchor and that at 1 o'clock we attempted to get at the…only ship outside the harbour." He goes on to document the ship strengths of the French and British fleets, noting: "The 2 frigates did not join till the middle of the night. The British had only the following ships found in the line: Canopus, Belleisle, Donegal, Victory." In fine condition. The final draft of this historic letter, penned in a secretarial hand but signed by Nelson, is held by the United Kingdom's National Archives.

In June 1804, during the Napoleonic Wars, Nelson's fleet encountered Louis-Rene de Latouche-Tréville off Toulon and attempted to capture two French frigates. Latouche-Tréville’s superior fleet drove them away, and the French commander boasted about chasing Nelson off in his official report to Napoleon. Upon hearing these claims of cowardice, Nelson flew into a rage and vowed vengeance on the high seas. He would have had his chance at Trafalgar, had Latouche-Tréville not died of illness in August 1804. Lord Nelson later wrote: 'The French papers say he died of walking so often up to the signal-post to watch us: I always pronounced that would be his death.'

Auction Info

  • Auction Title: Remarkable Rarities
  • Dates: August 24 - September 25





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