Politics, news, libertarianism, Science Fiction, religion, sewing. You got a problem, bud? I like sewing.
E-mail: nataliesolent-at-aol-dot-com (I assume it's OK to quote senders by name.)
Back to main blog
Jane's Blogosphere: blogtrack for Natalie Solent.
( 'Nother Solent is this blog's good twin. Same words, searchable archives, RSS feed. Provided by a benefactor, to whom thanks.
I also sometimes write for Samizdata and Biased BBC.)
The Old Comrades:
November 2001 December 2001 January 2002 February 2002 March 2002 April 2002 May 2002 June 2002 July 2002 August 2002 September 2002 October 2002 November 2002 December 2002 January 2003 February 2003 March 2003 April 2003 May 2003 June 2003 July 2003 August 2003 September 2003 October 2003 November 2003 December 2003 January 2004 February 2004 March 2004 April 2004 May 2004 June 2004 July 2004 August 2004 September 2004 October 2004 November 2004 December 2004 January 2005 February 2005 March 2005 April 2005 May 2005 June 2005 July 2005 August 2005 September 2005 October 2005 November 2005 December 2005 January 2006 February 2006 March 2006 April 2006 May 2006 June 2006 July 2006 August 2006 September 2006 October 2006 November 2006 December 2006 January 2007 February 2007 March 2007 April 2007 May 2007 June 2007 August 2007 October 2007 February 2008 April 2008 May 2008 June 2008 July 2008 September 2008 October 2008 November 2008 December 2008 January 2009 March 2009 May 2009 June 2009 July 2009 August 2009 October 2009 January 2010 March 2010 May 2010 June 2010 July 2010 August 2010 September 2010 October 2010 November 2010 December 2010 January 2011 February 2011 April 2011 June 2011 August 2011 September 2011 October 2011 November 2011 January 2012 February 2012 March 2012 April 2012 May 2012 June 2012 July 2012 August 2012 September 2012 October 2012 November 2012 December 2012 January 2013 February 2013 March 2013 April 2013 May 2013 June 2013 July 2013 August 2013 September 2013 October 2013 November 2013
Wednesday, November 02, 2005
"A public but not a cynical act" was how I described Nelson's last prayer in this post. In this Samizdata review of several books on naval history in the time of Trafalgar, Findlay Dunachie discusses Nelson's paradoxical character. He quotes an extract from an account by the Duke of Wellington (as he then wasn't) of his only meeting with the other great British commander of the Napoleonic wars, a meeting that happened by chance in a waiting room of the old Colonial Office in Downing Street...
He entered at once into conversation with me, if I can call it conversation, for it was all on his side, and all about himself, and, really, in a style as to surprise and almost disgust me. I suppose something I happened to say may have made him guess that I was somebody,"I happened to say," indeed! I yield to few in my admiration for the old buzzard, but he cannot seriously have expected anyone to believe that Arthur Wellesley would let any man alive go long under the misapprehension that he was not somebody. But we were talking about the Admiral rather than the future Duke. Wellington's description of his meeting with Nelson continues:
and he went out of the room for a moment, I have no doubt to ask the office-keeper who I was, for when he came back he was altogether a different man, both in manner and matter. All I had thought was a charlatan style had vanished, and he talked of the state of this country and of the aspect and probabilities of affairs on the Continent with a good sense, and a knowledge of subjects both at home and abroad, that surprised me equally and more agreeably than the first part of our interview had done; in fact he talked like an officer and a statesman.
Brian Micklethwait's site seems to be only intermittently available at the moment, but it is worth your while to keep trying. He recasts Nelson's instant transformation in modern terms.
Tony Blair is a lot more like Nelson than like Wellington.
Yes, I'm going to try to pull modern politics into it. Lightly, dear friends, only lightly. Napoleon was only somewhat like Saddam Hussein. They had being vicious, blood-soaked tyrants who got a ridiculously good press in common, but Napoleon's relatives whom he raised to brief power were a lot nicer than Saddam's. (Poor Joseph Bonaparte, who would have liked to have been a reforming monarch, died an exile in the States, but he did get to see the Jersey Devil before his time was up. Not everyone can say that they have been King of Spain and seen the Jersey Devil. Uday never managed it.)
There are better parallels with the modern day when one looks at the eloquent revolutionary aristocrats who gave Napoleon that ridiculously good press and who have had a ridiculously good press themselves. Call yourself a radical and you can get away with anything.
I dunno. Perhaps I am making the same mistake that Findlay Dunachie indentifies in one of the books he reviews. Some writers at the start of the twenty-first century unconsciously try to pull people living at the start of the nineteenth century into a very twentieth century pattern.
Nicolson [one of the authors reviewed] ignores upper-class "Napoleonists", such as the Hollands, Fox, Whitbread, Byron et al, but makes much of ineffective proletarian unrest, to some extent fuelled by millenarian fantasies. Unmentioned are the Christian Evangelicals, more middle and upper class, a far more sober lot, the founders of what became Victorian morality, concerned rather with individual than mass behaviour, their social goals piecemeal, such as the abolition of the slave trade and boy chimney-sweeps and other ameliorations, rather than utopian. But religion seems to be rather marginalized in historical studies, perhaps as an unacknowledged, or even unconscious legacy of Marxism, whose believers could not credit that people meant what they said, but were "really" motivated by other, economic reasons.