The Life of Horatio Lord Nelson HTML version

Chapter 6. 1798 – 1800
Nelson returns to Naples--State of that Court and Kingdom--
General Mack--The French approach Naples--Flight of the Royal
Family--Successes of the Allies in Italy--Transactions in the
Bay of Naples--Expulsion of the French from the Neapolitan and
Roman States--Nelson is made Duke of Bronte--He leaves the
Mediterranean and returns to England.
NELSON's health had suffered greatly while he was in the AGAMEMNON. "My
complaint," he said, "is as if a girth were buckled taut over my breast, and my endeavour
in the night is to get it loose." After the battle of Cape St. Vincent he felt a little rest to be
so essential to his recovery, that he declared he would not continue to serve longer than
the ensuing summer, unless it should be absolutely necessary; for in his own strong
language, he had then been four years and nine months without one moment's repose for
body or mind. A few months' intermission of labour he had obtained--not of rest, for it
was purchased with the loss of a limb; and the greater part of the time had been a season
of constant pain. As soon as his shattered frame had sufficiently recovered for him to
resume his duties, he was called to services of greater importance than any on which he
had hitherto been employed, which brought with them commensurate fatigue and care.
The anxiety which he endured during his long pursuit of the enemy, was rather changed
in its direction than abated by their defeat; and this constant wakefulness of thought,
added to the effect of his wound, and the exertions from which it was not possible for one
of so ardent and wide-reaching a mind to spare himself,nearly proved fatal. On his way
back to Italy he was seized with fever. For eighteen hours his life was despaired of; and
even when the disorder took a favourable turn, and he was so far recovered as again to
appear on deck, he himself thought that his end was approaching--such was the weakness
to which the fever and cough had reduced him. Writing to Earl St. Vincent on the
passage, he said to him, "I never expect, my dear lord, to see your face again. It may
please God that this will be the finish to that fever of anxiety which I have endured from
the middle of June; but be that as it pleases his goodness. I am resigned to his will."
The kindest attentions of the warmest friendship were awaiting him at Naples. "Come
here," said Sir William Hamilton, "for God's sake, my dear friend, as soon as the service
will permit you. A pleasant apartment is ready for you in my house, and Emma is looking
out for the softest pillows to repose the few wearied limbs you have left." Happy would it
have been for Nelson if warm and careful friendship had been all that waited him there.
He himself saw at that time the character of the Neapolitan court, as it first struck an
Englishman, in its true light; and when he was on the way, he declared that he detested
the voyage to Naples, and that nothing but necessity could have forced him to it. But
never was any hero, on his return from victory, welcomed with more heartfelt joy. Before
the battle of Aboukir the Court at Naples had been trembling for its existence. The