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A History of the Four Georges and of William IV, V

And Austerlitz struck Pitt at the heart


heroes of the dying eighteenth

century. "Admirals all, they said their say, the echoes are rising still"--in the words of Henry Newbolt's gallant song. "Admirals all, they went their way to the haven under the hill." Dundonald was called, and finely called, the last of the sea-kings; but they were all true kinsmen of the Vikings, the admirals who were famous figures in Dundonald's fiery youth and famous memories in Dundonald's noble age. And as the admirals were, so were the captains, so were the men. Fearney sticking the surrendered swords in a sheaf under his arm; Walton calmly informing his superior that "we have taken or destroyed all the Spanish ships on this coast: number as per margin," are typical figures in a tradition of a courage so superlative that Admiral Sir Robert Calder, who fought very gallantly and took two ships, was tried by court-martial and severely reprimanded for not having destroyed the French fleet. The age of George the Third would be memorable, if it were memorable for nothing else, for the deeds and the glories of the great sea fights and the great sea fighters who saved England from invasion, knocking the tall ships of France to pieces, taking monstrous odds with alacrity, eager to engage in all weathers and under all conditions, cheerfully converting what seemed an impossible task into not merely a feasible but an easy piece of business. There are some sea battles of that time, fought out in storm and darkness, which read in the tamest statement with the pomp and beauty of
the most majestic music. The names of the great admirals must always be dear to English ears, must always sound sweet on English lips. St. Vincent, Collingwood, Howe, Duncan, the noble list proceeds, each name illuminated with its only splendid story of desperate enterprise and deathless honor, till the proudest name of all is reached, {337} and praise itself seems to falter and fall off before the lonely grandeur of Nelson. Never was a little life filled with greater achievements; never was a little body more compact of the virtues that make great captains and brave men. The life that began in the September of 1758 and that ended in the October of 1805 holds in the compass of its forty-seven years the epitome of what England meant for Englishmen in the days of its greatest peril and its greatest glory. Magnificent, magniloquent, turbulent, it is starred with glowing phrases as thickly as with glowing deeds. "Fear! I never saw fear: what is it?" "A peerage, or Westminster Abbey;" the immortal signal; the famous saying off Copenhagen: "It is warm work; this day will be the last to many of us, but I would not be elsewhere for thousands;" the pathos of the dying lover: "Let my dear Lady Hamilton have my hair;" and the pride of the dying hero: "Thank God, I have done my duty"--all these things are the splendid ornaments of a splendid career; they gleam on his story as his stars and orders gleamed upon his breast when the "Victory" renewed her name. With the battle of Trafalgar and the destruction of the allied French and Spanish fleets Napoleon's dream of England's conquest came to an end. The result was bought at a great price, the price of Nelson's life. But Nelson had done his work, and done it well. He saved his country; he had deserved well of his countrymen; he summed in himself all the qualities that made the English sailor the idol of his people and the terror of his foes.

While Nelson still lived and conquered, there came a check to the troubled supremacy of Pitt. In 1801--when the memories of the battle of the Nile and the defence of Acre were still fresh in men's thoughts, and Napoleon had been for a year First Consul--Pitt, baffled by circumstances, surrendered to mediocrity and Addington was Prime Minister in his place. For three disastrous years Addington was permitted to prove his incompetency, till in 1804 Pitt, as the only possible man, came back to power to face a Napoleon more menacing than ever, a Napoleon now, in that same year, crowned and triumphant as {338} Emperor of the French. England was Mistress of the Seas, but Napoleon was Master of Europe. Pitt's health was fading swiftly; he watched with despair the progress of his enemy. Ulm came, and Austerlitz, and Austerlitz struck Pitt at the heart.


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