A cheeky joke about Lancashire made by Lord Nelson has been unearthed in a set of books due to go under the hammer at auction.
Four of Lord Nelson’s books containing his radically different handwriting before and after he lost his arm, make reference to his love interest Lady Emma Hamilton.
In the books, he underlines a section about Emma’s birth and jokingly writes next to it “Lancashire Witch.” The books show what Lord Nelson’s handwriting looked like before he lost his right arm in battle.
The tomes were part of Nelson’s personal library on board his flagship HMS Victory at the Battle of Trafalgar where he was killed in action, aged 47, in 1805.
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Nelson’s personal copy of Dialogues of the Dead, a series of biographies, is inscribed “Horatio Nelson, Windsor August […] 1784”. It is expected to fetch between £3,000 and £4,000. Just 13 years later, he lost his right arm in the Battle of Santa Cruz de Tenerife.
The other three books contain notes written with his left hand – and the writing is “significantly” different.
Max Hasler, books specialist at Forum Auctions which is hosting the sale, said: “That with his right hand is quite elegant 18th Century handwriting.
“But Nelson’s writing with his left-hand is a lot more scratchy and scrawly.”
He said the sale, due to take place at Forum’s rooms in Battersea, south west London on Thursday [May 25th], is the first time any books belonging to Nelson have come to market for 17 years, and the first to contain notes written with both his right and left hand.
Mr Hasler said: “We have not been able to find any other books inscribed by Lord Nelson of Bronte in this way.
“There are some institutional holdings at Portsmouth and Greenwich, and some in private collections but we have been unable to trace others at auction apart from an incomplete set of Pallas’ Travels, 1803.
“Other books he had with him on HMS Victory have come up before, the last time being in 2007, but he hadn’t written in those.”
The books include one sent to Nelson on board HMS Victory when he was enforcing the blockade of Toulon. The book, a first edition titled Revolutionary Plutarch ‘exhibiting the most distinguished characters, literary, military and political’, is inscribed ‘Nelson and Bronte’ and was sent to Nelson by his friend and former comrade Richard Bulkeley [CORRECT]. It is expected to fetch up to £3,000
Nelson’s copy of Isaac Schomberg’s Naval Chronology, a detailed account of naval history from the times of the Romans, is expected to go under the hammer for up to £12,000.
It bears his ownership inscription “Nelson & Bronte” on the endpaper of each volume. But the star lot is Nelson’s annotated copy of Alexander Stephens’ Public Characters of 1803-1804 which is forecast to sell for up to £15,000.
Nelson made three annotations to the entry on his love interest Lady Hamilton in his copy, which is where he made the joke about her being the “Lancashire witch”.
His main comment is made in defence of Emma against the author’s mention of criticism to her marriage to Sir William Hamilton, by that gentleman’s family. Underlining the word “criticised”, Nelson has written at the bottom of the page, “quite the contrary she was given away by the Marquis of Abercorn & always owned as cousin by the present Duke of Hamilton”.
He also underlined the section referencing Emma’s birth as having been in the forest of Bere in Hampshire, writing adjacent, “Lancashire witch”. Mr Hasler said this may have been a personal joke, or possibly, a correction of geography, with Emma in reality being born in a small town in Cheshire then very close to the county border with Lancashire.
Nelson also corrects the author’s reference to Sir William Hamilton’s residence in Naples as having been 30 years, with the addition of the word “six” in the margin. The ownership inscription reads, “Nelson & Bronte February 27th 1804 off Barcelona in Spain”.
Mr Hasler said: “This places the volume in his possession while on the Victory as commander-in-chief of the Mediterranean Fleet, partaking in the siege of Toulon.
“From then he was at sea almost continually until the Battle of Trafalgar in October the following year, and whilst he did return to England for a brief visit in August 1805, it is conceivable to think of this copy remaining on board.
“Certainly his personal library is known to have suffered in the battle, His small book-case had a hole in the back of it, made by a cannon ball during the action by which the glass door was broken and some of the books scattered on the floor.”
Mr Hasler said the sale of the books, belonging to descendants of Nelson’s brother-in-law George Matcham [CORRECT], has attracted interest from all over the world.
He added: “It is a very exciting event that has raised interest globally among collectors of Nelson, naval and military memorabilia.”
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