So I am a fan of Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey and Maturin series of novels, which should come as no surprise considering that I like old things and over-writing. I can’t locate the actual quotation at the moment, but there’s a bit in one of the books where someone asks Aubrey to tell them a little about his encounters with Lord Nelson. It’s also in the film, and it’s one of the bits of the movie where I think Russell Crowe is actually Aubrey-like rather than Crowe-like. Aubrey explains how Nelson looked right at him and said … “may I trouble you for the salt?”
So the other day I’m reading Authentic Narrative of the Death of Lord Nelson and the following passage appears:
And it is also a fact, that early in life, when he first went to sea, he left off the use of salt, which he then believed to be the sole cause of scurvy, and never took it afterwards with his food.
Now, this might be an oversight, but I quite like the idea that O’Brian was aware of this — it’s not at all unlikely he would have read the Narrative — and that he put it in is a little in-joke; Aubrey is bullshitting, but not only is he bullshitting, he’s bullshitting in such a tiny and ridiculous way that it becomes very endearing. I don’t know, and we’ll probably never know, but that’s how I like to think of it.