Page:EB1911 - Volume 07.djvu/117

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difficult. He therefore disregarded the signal, and amused himself and the few officers about him by putting his glass to his blind eye and saying that he could not see it. The frigates opposite the Trekroner did retreat, Captain Riou being slain as they drew off.

At about 2.30 the fire from the Danish hulks had been much beaten down, but as their crews fell, fresh men were sent from the shore and the fire was resumed. Nelson astutely and legitimately seized the opportunity to open negotiations with the Danes. He sent a flag of truce carried by Sir F. Thesiger ashore to the crown prince of Denmark (then regent of the kingdom), to say that unless he was allowed to take possession of the hulks which had surrendered he would be compelled to burn them, a course which he deprecated on the ground of humanity and his tenderness of “the brothers of the English the Danes.” The crown prince, who was shaken by the spectacle of the battle, allowed himself to be drawn into a reply, and to be referred to Sir Hyde Parker. Fire was suspended by the Danes to allow of time to receive Sir Hyde Parker’s answer. Nelson with intelligent promptitude availed himself of the interval to withdraw his squadron past the Trekroner. The difficulty found in getting the ships out — one of them grounded — showed how disastrous an attempt to draw off under fire of the forts must have been.

The Danish government, which had entered the coalition largely from fear of Russia, was not prepared to make very great sacrifices, and now entered into negotiations for an armistice. It was the more ready to do so because it received news of the assassination of the tsar Paul, which had happened on the 24th of March. An armistice was made for fourteen weeks, which left the British fleet free to proceed up the Baltic. On the 12th of April, after lightening the three-deckers of their guns, the fleet passed over the shallows. But its presence had now lost all military significance. Sir Hyde Parker was assured by the Russian minister at Copenhagen that the new tsar Alexander I. would not continue the policy of hostility with England and alliance with France which had proved fatal to his father. The Swedes, who like the Danes had entered the coalition under pressure from Russia, did not send their ships to sea. The government of the new tsar was prepared for an arrangement with England. The date of the final settlement was in all probability delayed by the activity of Nelson, and his belief that a British fleet was the best negotiator in Europe. The British government learnt of the tsar’s death on the 15th of April. On the 17th it instructed Sir Hyde Parker to agree to a suspension of hostilities, and not to take active measures against Russia so long as the Reval squadron did not put to sea. On the 21st of April, having now received a full account of the battle at Copenhagen, it recalled Sir Hyde Parker, whose vacillating conduct and want of enterprise had become manifest. He received the news of his recall on the 5th of May. Nelson, to whom the command passed, at once put to sea, and hastened with a part of his fleet to Reval, which he reached on the 12th of May. The Russian squadron had, however, cut a passage through the ice in the harbour on the 3rd, and had sailed for Kronstadt. Nelson was received with formal civility by the Russian officers, with whom he exchanged visits. He wrote a letter to Mr Garlike, secretary of the British embassy at St Petersburg, saying that he had come with a small squadron as the best way of paying “the very highest compliment” to the tsar.

The Russian government, which not unnaturally wished to avoid any appearance of acting under dictation, and was now in no anxiety for the Reval squadron, treated his presence as a menace. On the 13th of May Count Pahlen answered in a most peremptory letter informing Nelson that negotiations would be suspended while he remained at Reval. This retort caused Nelson annoyance which he did not attempt to conceal, but he justly concluded that he had nothing further to do at Reval, and therefore returned down the Baltic. Nelson remained with the fleet till he was relieved at his own request, and was able to sail for England on the 18th of June. He gave a proof of his regard for the service of the country by taking his passage home in a small brig rather than withdraw a line of battle ship from the squadron, which his rank entitled him to do, and as other admirals of the time generally did. The British sailors and ships embargoed in Russia were released on the 17th of May. Great Britain released her prisoners on the 4th of June, and on the 17th of June was signed the convention which terminated the Baltic campaign.

See Dispatches and Letters of Vice-Admiral Nelson, by Sir N. Harris Nicolas (1845); Life of Nelson, by Capt. A. T. Mahan (London, 1899). (D. H.)

COPERNICUS (or Koppernigk), NICOLAUS (1473-1543), Polish astronomer, was born on the 19th of February 1473, at Thorn in Prussian Poland, where his father, a native of Cracow, had settled as a wholesale trader. His mother, Barbara Watzelrode, belonged to a family of high mercantile and civic standing. After the death of his father in 1483, Nicolaus was virtually adopted by his uncle Lucas Watzelrode, later (in 1489) bishop of Ermeland. Placed at the university of Cracow in 1491, he devoted himself, during three years, to mathematical science under Albert Brudzewski (1445-1497), and incidentally acquired some skill in painting. At the age of twenty-three he repaired to Bologna, and there varied his studies of canon law by attending the astronomical lectures of Domenico Maria Novara (1454-1504). At Rome, in the Jubilee year 1500, he himself lectured with applause; but having been nominated in 1497 canon of the cathedral of Frauenburg, he recrossed the Alps in 1501 with the purpose of obtaining further leave of absence for the completion of his academic career. Late in the same year, accordingly, he entered the medical school of Padua, where he remained until 1505, having taken meanwhile a doctor’s degree in canon law at Ferrara on the 31st of May 1503. After his return to his native country he resided at the episcopal palace of Heilsberg as his uncle’s physician until the latter’s death on the 29th of March 1512. He then retired to Frauenburg, and vigorously attended to his capitular duties. He never took orders, but acted continually as the representative of the chapter under harassing conditions, administrative and political; he was besides commissary of the diocese of Ermeland; his medical skill, always at the service of the poor, was frequently in demand by the rich; and he laid a scheme for the reform of the currency before the Diet of Graudenz in 1522. Yet he found time, amid these multifarious occupations, to elaborate an entirely new system of astronomy, by the adoption of which man’s outlook on the universe was fundamentally changed.

The main lines of his great work were laid down at Heilsberg; at Frauenburg, from 1513, he sought, with scanty instrumental means, to test by observation the truth of the views it embodied (see Astronomy: History). His dissatisfaction with Ptolemaic doctrines was of early date; and he returned from Italy, where so-called Pythagorean opinions were then freely discussed, in strong and irrevocable possession of the heliocentric theory. The epoch-making treatise in which it was set forth, virtually finished in 1530, began to be known through the circulation in manuscript of a Commentariolus, or brief popular account of its purport written by Copernicus in that year. Johann Albrecht Widmanstadt lectured upon it in Rome; Clement VII. approved, and Cardinal Schönberg transmitted to the author a formal demand for full publication. But his assent to this was only extracted from him in 1540 by the importunities of his friends, especially of his enthusiastic disciple George Joachim Rheticus (1514-1576), who printed, in the Narratio prima (Danzig, 1540), a preliminary account of the Copernican theory, and simultaneously sent to the press at Nuremberg his master’s complete exposition of it in the treatise entitled De revolutionibus orbium coelestium (1543). But the first printed copy reached Frauenburg barely in time to be laid on the writer’s death-bed. Copernicus was seized with apoplexy and paralysis towards the close of 1542, and died on the 24th of May 1543, happily unconscious that the fine Epistle, in which he had dedicated his life’s work to Paul III., was marred of its effect by an anonymous preface, slipt in by Andreas Osiander (1498-1552), with a view to disarming prejudice by insisting upon the purely hypothetical