As I sat, years ago, in the Admiral’s cabin of Nelson’s flag-ship, the Foudroyant, the thought of this romance came to me, for this ship was the sea-shrine of that great but errant passion. She is a wreck now, her stranded ribs are green with weed, her bones are broken in the wash of the tide. A grave at sea amidst the answering thunder and flash of guns would have been a nobler ending.
But the story, with all its love, cruelty and heroism, remains alike beyond oblivion, condemnation or pardon. It is. It has its niche beside the other great passions which have moulded the world’s history. For if Nelson knew himself when he declared that Emma was part and parcel of the fire breaking out of him, without her inspiration Trafalgar might not have been.
I have treated it imaginatively, yet have not, as I think, departed from the essential truth which I have sought in many famous biographies such as Mahan’s, Sichel’s, Laughton’s and others.
Yet the best biographies of Emma are the lovely portraits Romney left of his Divine Lady, and of Nelson the best is the sea-cathedral, the Victory, at rest in the last home port he sailed from to his splendid doom. From these all the rest of the story might well be reconstructed.