Life of Nelson
By: Robert Southey (1774-1843)
In 1813, the year that he was appointed Poet Laureate, Robert Southey published "The Life of Nelson". Horatio, Lord Viscount Nelson was Britain's greatest Naval hero who had been killed during the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805 during which he had issued that famous message to the fleet; "England expects that every man will do his duty."
In a preface to the first edition, Southey wrote: "Many Lives of Nelson have been written; one is yet wanting, clear and concise enough to become a manual for the young sailor, which he may carry about with him till he has treasured it up for example in his memory and in his heart. In attempting such a work I shall write the eulogy of our great national hero, for the best eulogy of NELSON is the faithful history of his actions, and the best history must be that which shall relate them most perspicuously."
Nelson's example as a seaman was considered so exemplary and Southey's biography so laudable that the American Government gave a copy of the book to every officer and seaman in their fleet.