NELSON: The Essential Hero by Ernle Bradford
Kirkus Star

NELSON: The Essential Hero

By
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

Fearless to the point of foolhardiness, deprived by his wife of the passion he found with Lady Hamilton, a key contributor to modern warfare with his development of the ""total annihilation"" doctrine--this skillful portrait of the British hero of the Napoleonic Wars adds no fundamental new assessment of Horatio Nelson, but combines accessible naval history with a psychological examination of heroism. Bradford, who has written several other naval biographies, stresses Nelson's starting-line handicaps: at thirteen, he left a very modest home in Anglia for the sea, proved himself in the American War, suffered tropical diseases, wounds, and possibly venereal disease in the Caribbean, and lost his right arm in the Canaries. However, he found commanders who appreciated his violent temperament and a mistress who preoccupied him even on his deathbed (he had rashly worn his admiral's uniform at the Battle of Trafalgar, drawing a fatal shot). Bradford's intricate accounts of the battles against the French in Alexandria and against the Danes at Copenhagen during the Napoleonic Wars are notable chiefly for their skill in explaining the nuts and bolts of naval fighting during the period. Not least responsible for Nelson's acclaim was his ""gentle"" and ""fair"" treatment of subordinates--though occasionally his recklessness wasted their lives. Parallel in orientation to Geoffrey Bennett's Nelson the Commander (1972), this is more detailed, more psychologically nuanced--altogether a satisfactory work.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1977
Publisher: Hartcourt Brace Jovanovich