Terry Coleman re-examines the man and the myth that is Nelson, in the process delving minutely into details of Nelson's actions (both public and private) and finding many that were less than creditable. But then, could anyone -- famous or not -- survive such a merciless examination of their every act?
In Coleman's eyes, Nelson was a vainglorious, duplicitous and dishonest man whose naval achievements were more a result of good luck, his good connections, and good officers than Nelson's own genius. In the actions of St Vincent, the Nile and Copenhagen especially, Coleman at best damns with faint praise, regarding these victories as overexaggerated and Nelson's role in them as less than the man himself led everyone to believe.
Coleman is all too ready to twist the knife whenever occasion arises: yes, Nelson's actions at the siege of Naples were hasty and illegal, but the author seems unable to let it go, harping on and on about the subject at length. He is also firmly on the side of Fanny Nelson and against the notorious Emma -- which, considering the short shrift Nelson's first wife has had in the past, is probably only fair. The author's contempt for the Nelson-Hamilton triangle is evident. To take one other example, he is also very quick to criticise Nelson for not visiting his dying father, even though his estranged wife Fanny was living with him and the old man had very been severe in his remarks about Nelson & Emma -- calling her a force of evil no less -- so it was hardly surprising that a hurt and offended Nelson nelgected him in favour of the woman he obviously loved with great passion (too much passion according to Coleman).
Overall, this book is a rewarding biography that brings a fresh perspective to bear, though if you are new to the subject it might be better to read a more "old-fashioned" account first before tackling this, which views the foibles and failings of a hero very much through the filter of modern sensibilities.