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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Truely, a dream briography!, 12 Aug. 2007
This is a rich book full of hitherto unknown detail of Nelson's exploits and character, which if I dare say it, exceeds Hibbert's earlier personal assessment. It is a rich analysis of action and introspection that is expertly and schollarly weaved into a collosal narrative that truely sheds the full specturm of light onto this man's quest, almost thirst, for glory. Past biographies have tended to portray Nelson as almost god-like with very few disparaging detractions or criticisms (unlike those heaped upon Wellington or Pitt, say) so it is very refreshing to see the Admiral with "warts an' all". I have two criticisms of this work; first the illustrations are, I feel unimaginative (being in B/W for one) and the second are the errors, of which I could only pick up two. On page 281, the author asserts Collingwood died in 1808, rather than the accepted date of March, 1810. On the very next page, the author states that Braddock's force was ambushed in 1775 when in actual fact this event took place twenty years earlier. These are excusable considering the scope of the work. One gratifying aspect was the distinct lack of orthographical errors, a trend in modern works so prevelent these days. Highly recommended and I eagerly look forwarrd to the concluding volume.
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Definitive Biography on Admiral Horatio Nelson Part I, 17 Aug. 2008
By 
John Kwok (New York, NY USA) - See all my reviews
John Sugden's "Nelson: A Dream of Glory 1758 - 1797" is the first volume of what promises to be a two volume definitive biography on the life and career of Vice Admiral Sir Horatio Nelson, the greatest admiral in the history of Western Civilization. Not only is Sugden's tome impeccably well-researched, but his prose is often as fine as Patrick O'Brian's, giving readers a compelling view of the late 18th Century Royal Navy and the wars against France as seen not only through Nelson's eyes, but indeed those of many of his friends, acquaintances, and subordinates, including sailors from the lower decks. This is quite simply the finest nonfiction book on the Royal Navy that I have read; without question, it is a far better written and researched book than Arthur Herman's recently published "To Rule the Waves", his one volume history of the Royal Navy. I wait eagerly for Sugden's second volume, which will show Nelson's genius for battle during his celebrated victories at Aboukir Bay and, of course, Trafalgar.

Sugden offers a compelling portrait of a man who was more often a sinner rather than a saint, yet still heavily revered and regarded by his subordinates and superiors such as Admiral Sir Samuel Hood and Admiral Sir John Jervis, the Earl of Saint Vincent. Sugden demonstrates how this son of an impoverished parson was able to use his important familial ties to such distinguished British families as the Walpoles in obtaining and then furthering his career in the Royal Navy, going to sea at a relatively young age as an unrated servant aboard his uncle Captain Maurice Suckling's ship. But thanks to his uncle's connections, Nelson soon mastered the skills of navigation - becoming an excellent navigator in his own right - and joins a little known Polar expedition sponsored by the Royal Navy. In the short span of slightly more than a decade, Nelson acquired extensive experience sailing in the West Indies, Arctic waters and of course, off the coasts of Great Britain and France, before assuming his first post-captain command just barely out of his teens, a frigate, during the latter years of the American Revolution.

Sugden demonstrates repeatedly the complexity of Nelson's character. He notes often how Nelson repeatedly tried to advance the careers of his subordinates, including sailors as well as commissioned officers, frequently making his case to the Admiralty Board itself by going above the heads of his superiors such as senior captains and admirals. Despite this, Nelson earned the respect and friendship of senior admirals such as Sir Samuel Hood, and especially, Sir John Jervis (Sugden notes that Jervis rebuked his flag captain, Robert Calder, for daring to criticize Nelson after Nelson's deliberate failure in obeying Jervis's order during the Battle of Cape of Saint Vincent, by noting that he would praise Calder too if Calder had disobeyed Jervis's order.). And yet Nelson was praised for his generosity towards his commanding officers and subordinates, he was also, in many respects, a rather vain, selfish person, interested in pursuing glory for its own sake; a character flaw which would lead eventually to his scandalous affair with Lady Emma Hamilton. While seeking favors from those who were his superiors in military rank and/or social status, Nelson would be blind occasionaly to their own failings, which Sugden emphasizes in Nelson's relationship with Prince William Henry, the future King William IV, while the latter was a junior frigate captain serving under Nelson's command in the West Indies.

Sugden also describes, at much length, Nelson's relationships with his "band of brothers", forming life-long friendships with fellow distinguished officers such as Rear Admiral Cuthbert Collingwood, Captain Thomas Troubridge, Captain Ralph Willett Miller, and Captain Benjamin Hallowell, to name merely a few, and his immense admiration and affection for the officers and crew of HMS Agamemnon, the 64 gun third rate ship-of-the-line which he regarded as his favorite command. Sugden devotes ample space not only to Nelson's service during the American Revolution - most notably his distinguished service in Central America - and the Battle of Cape Saint Vincent, but more importantly, to lesser known aspects of his career as a young senior captain stationed in the West Indies immediately after the American Revolution and his amphibious campaigns on Corsica and Elba during the early phases of the wars against Revolutionary France in the 1790s. Here we get a good glimpse of Nelson's brilliance as a commander leading men both at sea and ashore, but also his failings, most notably during the aborted raid on the Canary Islands that left him seriously wounded, nearly bringing his Royal Navy career to an untimely end in 1797.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Definitive Biography on Admiral Horatio Nelson Part I, 17 Aug. 2008
By 
John Kwok (New York, NY USA) - See all my reviews
John Sugden's "Nelson: A Dream of Glory 1758 - 1797" is the first volume of what promises to be a two volume definitive biography on the life and career of Vice Admiral Sir Horatio Nelson, the greatest admiral in the history of Western Civilization. Not only is Sugden's tome impeccably well-researched, but his prose is often as fine as Patrick O'Brian's, giving readers a compelling view of the late 18th Century Royal Navy and the wars against France as seen not only through Nelson's eyes, but indeed those of many of his friends, acquaintances, and subordinates, including sailors from the lower decks. This is quite simply the finest nonfiction book on the Royal Navy that I have read; without question, it is a far better written and researched book than Arthur Herman's recently published "To Rule the Waves", his one volume history of the Royal Navy. I wait eagerly for Sugden's second volume, which will show Nelson's genius for battle during his celebrated victories at Aboukir Bay and, of course, Trafalgar.

Sugden offers a compelling portrait of a man who was more often a sinner rather than a saint, yet still heavily revered and regarded by his subordinates and superiors such as Admiral Sir Samuel Hood and Admiral Sir John Jervis, the Earl of Saint Vincent. Sugden demonstrates how this son of an impoverished parson was able to use his important familial ties to such distinguished British families as the Walpoles in obtaining and then furthering his career in the Royal Navy, going to sea at a relatively young age as an unrated servant aboard his uncle Captain Maurice Suckling's ship. But thanks to his uncle's connections, Nelson soon mastered the skills of navigation - becoming an excellent navigator in his own right - and joins a little known Polar expedition sponsored by the Royal Navy. In the short span of slightly more than a decade, Nelson acquired extensive experience sailing in the West Indies, Arctic waters and of course, off the coasts of Great Britain and France, before assuming his first post-captain command just barely out of his teens, a frigate, during the latter years of the American Revolution.

Sugden demonstrates repeatedly the complexity of Nelson's character. He notes often how Nelson repeatedly tried to advance the careers of his subordinates, including sailors as well as commissioned officers, frequently making his case to the Admiralty Board itself by going above the heads of his superiors such as senior captains and admirals. Despite this, Nelson earned the respect and friendship of senior admirals such as Sir Samuel Hood, and especially, Sir John Jervis (Sugden notes that Jervis rebuked his flag captain, Robert Calder, for daring to criticize Nelson after Nelson's deliberate failure in obeying Jervis's order during the Battle of Cape of Saint Vincent, by noting that he would praise Calder too if Calder had disobeyed Jervis's order.). And yet Nelson was praised for his generosity towards his commanding officers and subordinates, he was also, in many respects, a rather vain, selfish person, interested in pursuing glory for its own sake; a character flaw which would lead eventually to his scandalous affair with Lady Emma Hamilton. While seeking favors from those who were his superiors in military rank and/or social status, Nelson would be blind occasionaly to their own failings, which Sugden emphasizes in Nelson's relationship with Prince William Henry, the future King William IV, while the latter was a junior frigate captain serving under Nelson's command in the West Indies.

Sugden also describes, at much length, Nelson's relationships with his "band of brothers", forming life-long friendships with fellow distinguished officers such as Rear Admiral Cuthbert Collingwood, Captain Thomas Troubridge, Captain Ralph Willett Miller, and Captain Benjamin Hallowell, to name merely a few, and his immense admiration and affection for the officers and crew of HMS Agamemnon, the 64 gun third rate ship-of-the-line which he regarded as his favorite command. Sugden devotes ample space not only to Nelson's service during the American Revolution - most notably his distinguished service in Central America - and the Battle of Cape Saint Vincent, but more importantly, to lesser known aspects of his career as a young senior captain stationed in the West Indies immediately after the American Revolution and his amphibious campaigns on Corsica and Elba during the early phases of the wars against Revolutionary France in the 1790s. Here we get a good glimpse of Nelson's brilliance as a commander leading men both at sea and ashore, but also his failings, most notably during the aborted raid on the Canary Islands that left him seriously wounded, nearly bringing his Royal Navy career to an untimely end in 1797.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars England's Greatest Naval Hero, 8 Jun. 2007
By 
J. Chippindale (England) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
There are possibly more books on the shelves of bookshops (certainly in England) about Nelson than any other English hero and because of the recent anniversary of Trafalgar many more have either been written or re-printed. How does the reader pick one out from the rest. Well my own recommendation would be to buy this particular volume,

In the historical time scale, Nelson lived and died in the fairly recent past, so many of the books written about him are only regurgitated facts that have never been checked properly, or may have no foundation in factual terms. John Sugden has left no stone unturned in his quest for the truth, not only about the public persona of the man, but also gives a brilliant insight into the life of the private man. His hopes, his fears, his weaknesses and his strengths.

John Sugden's writing style is both lively and stylish and does not leave the reader feeling overpowered with dull facts that he or she cannot take on board. Yes the book is a historical work, but it is written with a sensitive touch that almost makes the reader think they are reading an adventure novel. This is achieved without prostituting the historical content in any way. I enjoyed it immensely.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Quite outstanding, 29 Dec. 2004
By 
L. Richardson "LR" (Hampshire) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This is an outstanding and necessary addition to the long list of biographies of England's greatest military seaman. Sugden documents the worthiest of these and goes all the way back to 1806 for his list but future biographers need look no further than this.
Sugden has written the exemplary text book and biography of Nelson's early life, right up to the time when, on the Agamemnon, genuine fame beckoned. Nelson's traits as an everyman hell bent on achieving complete recognition are all depicted beautifully and rare insight is given into his schooling and youth. This, though new, is necessarily short: Nelson was at sea on the Raisonable by the time he was 13.
If you know something of history and of Nelson in particular this book will bring to light new and scholarly analysis. If you're not and are merely interested in finding out more - and what better time to do so with the bicentenary of Trafalgar about to begin - look no further than this. At 900+ pages, it's a daunting tome but it is immensely rewarding.
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38 of 44 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very good, 30 Sept. 2004
I read Joel Hayward's "For God and Glory" and thought it was certainly the best recent book on Nelson. I still think that, although it now has a competitor: "Nelson: A Dream of Glory", which is also quite excellent!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Nelson:A dream of glory, 3 Dec. 2012
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This review is from: Nelson: A Dream of Glory (Paperback)
As the proud owner of 36 books on Nelson this is the best that I have read.So deeply researched it is without doubt the most comprehensive account,warts and all,not only of Nelson himself but his contemporaries and the political times of the second half of the 18th century.I am looking forward to part two of John Sugden's historical epic.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a time of glory, 25 Mar. 2011
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"That ship sailing in to history was the sventy-four-gun Captain flying the broad pendant of Commodore Horatio Nelson"
this sentance sums up a graet event in history, that has never being repeated,and a great event in the book for me.
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5.0 out of 5 stars An Outstanding Achievement, 5 Jan. 2015
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Nobody who is interested in Nelson and the Napoleonic Wars can do without reading this book, and it will be very difficult for another Nelsonian biography to come up to it in sheer quality. Sugden has jumped in the gap left empty by almost all other biographers, who skimmed quickly over the first forty years of Nelson's life to get to the blinding glory and saucy scandals of the last ten. While I am intensely looking forward to reading the second volume, this first constitutes a truly groundbreaking achievement. After reading about ten other very highly regarded biographies and several collections of essays, I still had to truly form a good picture of Nelson's extenuating, mostly inglorious boatwork in Corsica, or the staggering extent and the casualties of the defeat in Tenerife.

Sugden, moreover, is anything but starstruck: his is not the lovelorn attitude of too many otherwise excellent biographers (Tom Pocock above all). He speaks of his subject with admiration and affection, but also with keen insight, without being blinded to Nelson's numerous shortcomings as a human being. He doesn't seek to portray a hero, but lets Nelson undoubted talent and achievements in the service of his country stand on their own merit without ignoring the human flaws of the subject.

Finally, Sugden is superb when it comes to putting Nelson in context: he doesn't act like there was no such thing as a French Navy as a lot of other bombastic accounts do, and gives a shaded and balanced account of the political situation, Britain's role in it, and contemporary political views.

It bears repeating: what John Sugden has done here, no one else has done. Even 'The Young Nelson in the Americas', while a worthy attempt, tackled a much more limited range, while Sugden has analysed and used literally thousands of previously unexamined documents, and produced an account of the early Nelson that is unmissable for anyone who is interested in the subject. This book shouldn't be lacking from the true buff's library.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Nelson Britannia's God of War - Lord Byron, 27 July 2013
By 
P. Scrivener (Bristol, England) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Nelson: A Dream of Glory (Paperback)
Some time ago Ian Hislop made a documentary examining the change in national character brought about the by the Great War (until WW1 the Napoleonic war was known as the Great War). He did this in part by examining the attitudes and character of two people. Nelson, the son of a country parson with a familial connection to the navy. A flamboyant romantic, almost an adventurer. And the Duke of Wellington, the dour aristocratic son of the Irish Protestant Ascendancy. Having read the first part of this massively detailed biography of a man who had at his death a world wide renown to the extent that a Russian naval flotilla passed their respects at sea upon hearing of his death, I would now only agree in part with Hislop's interpretation. Nelson had many facets to his character. Romantic, impulsive, hot-headed but also at times taciturn, rigid, pious and punctilious when applying the rules in the Caribbean under the Navigation Acts. In a world where advancement was by contact and influence, he was unerring in cultivating superiors pushing himself forward and securing where possible places and money for his family and those he supported within the Navy. He was loyal to his crews and had a paternalistic, hugely patriotic and god-fearing belief in the rightness of the world as he saw it. He disciplined his crews to keep order and to improve the efficiency of his ship, not as a form of cruelty.

As we watch his career develop with its inevitable highs and lows, his poor judgement when entrusted with the Prince Regent highlighted his immaturity and susceptibility to flattery and his outrageous and utterly courageous action at the battle of Cape St. Vincent showed his love of action and quest for glory that would make his name, you see a man grow who has the look of destiny about him. There were many fine captains in the navy at this time but Nelson managed to distinguish himself even then. He constantly looked for action a chance to take on the enemy both at sea and on land. It is an irony of his service that he was blinded in one eye Corsica, and lost him arm Tenerife while fighting on land rather than at sea. His constant commitment even at the beginning of his career in Nicaragua, his fighting spirit and politicing in Naples and Genoa trying to get the Austrians, Neapolitans and indeed his own British army superiors to confront Napoleon's armies with more vigour reveal a man devoted to his calling and his country, even if they also reveal a lack of political awareness and enthusiam for impractical schemes that can only be described as reckless.

His marriage to Fanny was unfortunate for both of them, even though he maintained his stepson Josiah with him and wrote faithfully to his wife. His view of her was perhaps more that of an idealised wife and he must take the lions share of the blame for its failure. She remained loyal and loving throughout, spending many years caring for his ailing father.

His favourite ship the Agamemnon gave him the command he sought and he took full advantage of it. He made it with some hard working officers and men a fine fighting vessel. The navy really was his life and until Emma Hamilton his obssession.

I thought given the size of this volume (part 2 is bigger) I might be confronted with the occasional turgid shallow, but this is really a consummate piece of research, writing and development of the character of Nelson. It will not give you an overarching view of the way the navy operated in this period (see N.A.M Rodgers 'The Command of the Ocean') for that. But as a biography of one of the key figures in British history I would not look for anything better. perhaps only Marianne Czisnik's 'Horatio Nelson: A Controversial Hero' can offer a really different perspective.

As we leave Nelson in this volume. A man twice seriously, almost terminally ill from tropical disease, half blinded, with a stomach problem and hernia gained during the battle at Cape St. Vincent and with only one good arm, we see a man bereft thinking his time is over. He is hardly to know that his most momentous days are yet to come.

I am equally sure that John Sugden, he busts the myths but clearly loves his subject, will carry him forward into battle as brilliantly as he carried himself.

A great book.
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Nelson: A Dream of Glory by Dr John Sugden (Paperback - 6 Sept. 2012)
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