Tom Pocock

Half Hero Half Baby

Nelson: A Personal History


Viking 453pp £20 order from our bookshop

When Nelson was under-rewarded with a barony for winning the Battle of the Nile, the furious Emma Hamilton wrote to him: ‘Hang them, I say! If I was King of England, I would make you the most noble puissant Duke Nelson, Marquis Nile, Earl Alexandria, Viscount Pyramid, Baron Crocodile and Prince Victory.’

Nelson himself was said to enjoy ‘quiet conversation … not unmixed with caustic wit’, but few of his own jokes have survived. One was delivered when a Yarmouth publican asked if he could rename his establishment The Nelson Arms and the Admiral replied, ‘That would be absurd, seeing I have but one.’ That may not have been as funny as Emma’s, but the story could provide a basis for the theory that he had, or at least appreciated, a sense of humour.

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • 'Although he travels through time and space to find the best produce, his choices, delightfully, are not obvious.'… ,
    • RT : I regularly make purchases based on - it’s excellent.,
    • RT : I wrote about Yoko Ogawa's dreamlike, allegorical novel The Memory Police, newly published in English in a translat… ,
    • 'At this frankly apocalyptic moment for indigenous rights in Brazil, John Hemming’s "People of the Rainforest" is a… ,
    • 'I was dumbfounded by the view of the Berlin Wall from the eastern side. It seemed inconceivable that in under thre… ,
    • RT : Danger for ‘local’ staff, access in exchange for silence (and logos) - all sounds familiar in this fascinating look… ,
    • 'He has long been eclipsed by Vermeer, though his interiors are arguably more ambitious.' David Gelber on the Dutc… ,