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Nelson: A Dream of Glory Paperback – International Edition, October 15, 2012
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. This splendid and colossal volume is the first of two constituting what is likely to be the definitive biography of Lord Nelson for at least a generation. The basic narrative may be familiar to most readers, taking Nelson from his childhood in a Norfolk rectory into the Royal Navy and up through its ranks to rear admiral. It leaves him there, temporarily beached, steeped in glory from his role at the Battle of Cape St. Vincent and minus an arm and an eye. Sugden (Tecumseh) has surpassed virtually every writer on the subject since the late Carola Oman in two respects. One, he has indefatigably used primary sources, sought over many years in many countries with much acknowledged help from fellow scholars. Second, he has placed Nelson firmly in the context of his country and his service in the 18th century, an era when a free and easy attitude toward sex, money and influence peddling prevailed. Sugden handles these aspects of "the Nelson touch" with aplomb—as well as the man's thorough knowledge of his profession, nearly suicidal physical courage, personal charisma and loyalty both up and down. Whether or not one believes in "great men," this is surely a great book about one of the most significant figures in the history of naval warfare, and even one volume of this latest biography will notably illuminate the seascape as we approach the bicentennial of the Battle of Trafalgar.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
*Starred Review* Ensconced within two centuries of biographical detail, British naval icon Horatio Nelson receives an exacting excavation from Sugden (Tecumseh, 1998). In illustrative incidents, Sugden indeed portrays an animated rather than an alabaster Nelson as readers learn of the string-pulling that elevated his career, his amours in several ports, and the relative leniency of his leadership, which inspired great loyalty from his crews. Sugden's volume ends in 1797; a planned second volume will recount the fleet battles that put Nelson's name in the front rank of naval history. Aboukir Bay (1798) and Trafalgar (1805) impelled contemporaries to sift Nelson's boyhood and youth for some premonition of the aggressive admiral-to-be and to embroider where heroism was faint. Although Sugden does attempt to sort fact from fiction--de rigueur whenever a biography aspires to definitiveness--the author proves most interesting when evaluating unflattering episodes in Nelson's formative years. Sugden captures Nelson's humanity by describing his bouts of despondency and apparent connivance in the escape of a wanted man and also relays his nautical ability and innovations in age-of-sail warfare. Sugden is manifestly and instantly the current authority on Nelson. Gilbert Taylor
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top customer reviews
His research of previously ignored original sources (courts-martial transcripts, correspondence, logs, diaries, etc.) presents a 3-dimensional look at not just the man himself, but also of his world and people around him. Instead of mere names of fellow officers, shipmates, politicians and acquaintances who interacted with Nelson, the author has researched their backgrounds and lives also and they "jump" off the page as real people. He also puts Nelson's naval and world views into the context of the late 18th & early 19th centuries rather than looking at them retrospectively through the eyes of many modern authors. Cleverly, the author repeatedly refers to Nelson as just Horatio, further bring him to life as a real person...you begin to feel connected to him.
Sugden quickly lays to rest many of the myths that have surrounded Nelson for two centuries; however, this is not a "hatchet job" a la Terry Coleman, but a reasonable and rational examination of documented evidence to refute some of the "romanticized" legends. Nor is the book yet another hagiography of Nelson, rather it paints him as a sometimes rash, impetuous, politically rigid young officer, sometimes suffering severe bouts of depression, and not above "cooking the books" or, in one instance, flouting the authorities to facilitate the escape of an accused murderer. But it also presents him as a consummately professional naval officer, passionately patriotic, sincerely and devoutly religious, driven by honor, and deeply committed to his duty to his country and his men...sometimes to a fault. In it we begin to see the emergence of a natural-born leader of men and the seeds of the greatness that he was eventually to achieve.
This is not just a highly-researched and scholarly work, it is an extremely well-written book and an absolute "page turner". If you only read one book about Nelson, this should be it (and the 2nd volume of course).