Invective Through the Ages: The Age of Nelson

As I mentioned in my last post, I recently read Terry Coleman’s biography of Nelson, and was impressed both by the quality of the toadying and the quality of the abuse. There are two kinds of verbal attacks in this book. For starters, you’ve got your elegant Georgian bitchiness. Here’s Nelson himself: 

I beg leave to assure you sir with all respect, that should anyone so far forget himself as not to pay me that attention my situation as senior captain demands, that I shall take proper notice of it. 

Or here’s Lord Hood, telling the future William IV in no uncertain terms to go fuck himself: 

But how was it possible, sir, as you are pleased to suggest, that I should consult your royal highness in the business? 

Other abuse is a little more direct. Here’s Lord St Vincent, in later years, on Nelson: 

Animal courage was the sole merit of Lord Nelson, his private character most disgraceful, in every sense of the word.

He also called out Nelson’s family: 

… the infamous conduct of her late husband’s brother, sisters, and their husbands, all of them vile reptiles … 

But, surprise surprise, the winner of the nastiest is Emma Hamilton again, who called Lady Nelson

a very wicked, bad, artful woman … a wicked, false, malicious wretch

and said of her: 

The apoticarys widow, the Creole with her Heart Black as Her feind like looking face … she loved her poor dirty Escalopes if she had love, and the 2 dirty negatives made that dirty affirmative that is a disgrace to the Human Speciaes

All that stuff about being dirty and black is Emma trying to suggest that because Frances was from the Caribbean she had some black ancestry. And Escalopes is how Emma spells Asclepius, referring to Frances’s former husband, who was a doctor. 

Invective Through the Ages: The Age of Nelson

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