Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 40.djvu/196
pole, whose son Horatio, second lord Walpole, was Horatio Nelson's godfather. Nelson received his early education at the high school at Norwich; he was also at school at North Walsham and at Downham, in Norfolk, and in November 1770 entered the navy on board the Raisonnable, under the care of his maternal uncle, Captain Maurice Suckling [q. v.] A few months later, on the settlement of the dispute with Spain, he followed his uncle to the Triumph, guardship at Chatham, and, while borne on her books as ‘captain's servant,’ was sent for a voyage to the West Indies on board a merchant ship commanded by John Rathbone, who had been a master's mate with Suckling in the Dreadnought some years before. After a rough lesson in practical seamanship he rejoined the Triumph in July 1772. His uncle then made him work steadily at navigation, and encouraged him in the practice of boat sailing, so that he became familiarly acquainted with the pilotage of both Medway and Thames from Chatham or the Tower down to the North Foreland, and was trained to a feeling of confidence among rocks and sands.
In April 1773, when the expedition towards the North Pole was fitting out under the command of Captain Phipps [see Phipps, Constantine John, Lord Mulgrave], Nelson made interest with Captain Lutwidge, who was to command the Carcass in the expedition, and, though only fourteen, was permitted to go as captain's coxswain. The ships returned in October, and Nelson was immediately appointed to the Seahorse frigate, fitting to go out to the East Indies under the command of Captain George Farmer [q. v.] Thomas Troubridge (afterwards Sir) [q. v.], was another of her midshipmen. After he had been two years in the East Indies, and had visited every part of the station ‘from Bengal to Bassorah,’ Nelson's health broke down, and the commodore, Sir Edward Hughes, ordered him a passage to England in the Dolphin of 20 guns. The Dolphin paid off at Woolwich in September 1776, and Nelson was transferred to the Worcester, Captain Mark Robinson, with an acting order as lieutenant. The Worcester was sent to Gibraltar in charge of convoy, and on her return Nelson passed his examination, 9 April 1777. By the interest of his uncle, then comptroller of the navy, he was promoted the next day, 10 April, to be second lieutenant of the Lowestoft, a 32-gun frigate, commanded by Captain William Locker [q. v.] The Lowestoft went to Jamaica, and Nelson had for some months the command of her tender, a schooner named, after Locker's daughter, the Little Lucy. In her he made himself acquainted with the very intricate navigation among the keys to the north of Hispaniola. It was at this time, too, that he contracted an intimate friendship with Captain Locker, with whom during his whole career he carried on a confidential correspondence.
In July 1778 Nelson was moved by Sir Peter Parker (1721–1811) [q. v.], the commander-in-chief, into his flagship, the Bristol, and on 8 Dec. 1778 was promoted by him to be commander of the Badger brig, in which he was sent into the Bay of Honduras for the protection of the trade against American privateers. On 11 June 1779 he was posted by Parker to the Hinchingbroke frigate, and in August, when D'Estaing, with the French fleet, came to Cape François, and an attack on Jamaica seemed imminent, Nelson was appointed to command one of the batteries for the defence of Kingston. Afterwards he went for a three months' cruise, and made a few prizes, his share of which, he wrote to Locker, would be about 800l. In January 1780 he was sent as senior naval officer in a joint expedition against San Juan, where he took an active part in the boat work up the river, and in the attack on the several forts. But the wet season set in, and the fever consequent on exposure and exhausting labour in a pestilential climate killed by far the greater part of the seamen, and would have killed Nelson had he not been happily recalled to Jamaica, on appointment to the 44-gun ship Janus. He was, however, too ill to take up the command, and for the restoration of his health was compelled to return to England as a passenger in the Lion, with his friend Captain (afterwards Sir) William Cornwallis [q. v.]
On arriving in England Nelson went to Bath; but it was not till near a year had passed that he was able to accept another command. In August 1781 he was appointed to the Albemarle, a 28-gun frigate employed in convoy service in the North Sea. Being sent to Elsinore to bring home the trade from the Baltic, he was able to make some observations on the navigation of the Sound, which were to prove useful twenty years later. In February 1782 he was ordered round to Portsmouth to prepare for a voyage to America, and sailed in April, in company with the Dædalus frigate and a large convoy. Having brought his charge safely to Newfoundland and into the Saint Lawrence, on 4 July he sailed for a cruise which lasted till 17 Sept., when he returned to Quebec ‘knocked up with scurvy.’ For eight weeks he himself and the other officers had lived on salt beef, and the men had done so since 7 April. In other respects, too, the cruise had proved of no benefit beyond