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on 13 January 2001
Christopher Hibbert, with a long and venerable list of biographies behind him, gives us an easy-to-read, detailed and moving portrait of the great naval hero in this Personal History. One of the book's great appeals is the lack of pseudo-Freudian or pop-psychology analyses of Lord Nelson's character and motivations : the reader is left to his or her own reflections. There are a good number of illustrations, from Rowlandson's rather rude cartoons to the master painters' portraits of Nelson's beloved "wife", Lady Emma Hamilton, in her various histrionic poses, as well as portraits of the hero himself in chronological sequence. Extracts from Nelson's insanely jealous letters to Emma, written sometimes at the rate of half a dozen per day while he was at sea, show the desperate,painfully human (and to many of his contemporaries, frankly ridiculous) private man, which stood in such contrast to the man of action, driven by "animal courage" to great victories at St Vincent, Copenhagen and Trafalgar. I found myself more and more inclined to treasure this book as I went along, and by the end to feel something like affection for its protagonist (who, as a young man, seemed the most monstrous bore imaginable) and something very definitely like gratitude to the author for taking me on such a entertaining and moving journey. I can't wait to read it again.
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on 14 April 2013
I loved this Personal History by Hibbert - one of my favourite historical authors. He has the talent for retelling history in a wonderfully entertaining narrative form backed up with original source material from surviving letters, reports etc. so that you can be sure that what you are reading is how it was. I loved how your own personal feelings for Nelson develop as you get to know him more deeply - at first he appears irritating, self-absorbed and vainglorious only to have you almost weeping at the loss of such a great man when in his prime. The account of the Battle of Trafalgar and his final hours are deeply moving. I also recommend Hibbert's 'Napoleon - His wives and women' for those interested in getting to know Nelson's nemesis too.
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on 5 June 2001
Mr. Hibbert is a great biographer. He brings out the personalites of the subject he writes about to life showing "warts" and all which we all have. Heroes are not ammune to such short commings. Mr Hibbert does well in showing what made the person he is writing about stand the test of time in history. I must disagree,however, in the fact that Mr Hibbert refferes to Nelson's letters regarding his physical complaints as "hypocondriatic"! With the problems of Melarya, Yellow Fever, lost sight to his right eye, loss of right arm, large stomach hernia, and severe concussion, Nelson deffinately was NOT a hypocondriac. His problems were REAL and frightening.
However,if you want to "know" Nelson, this is a great book to get you on your way.
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on 25 May 2016
Terrific! Full of fact, racy prose, great astory; Hollywood next stop? Sh'd be good! Truly great. best wishes, etc.
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on 23 August 2015
Very informative and interesting read
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on 22 May 2015
This is a great book.
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VINE VOICEon 13 April 2002
I have just spent the last 4 weeks, on & off, trying to finish this fairly thin volume; during that time I've read over 10 other books - I think that indicates the readability of this biography.
The biographer seems more interested in cramming in relatively superfluous information, with scant regard to punctuation with the result that each sentence ends up even longer than this one and I had to re-read many of them several times to make out the sense of what was being implied.
Although meticulously researched, this seems less concerned with Nelson's naval actions and more with his below-the-navel actions. Our biographer seems not to have heard of the Naval Chronicle or Admiralty Papers - the Nile action is dealt with in a page, Copenhagen slightly more, but 2 years in the West Indies occupy less than a page.
Nelson & Bronte (!?!) himself comes out of this looking more like an immature, pretentious, love-struck, egocentric hypochondriac than the Great Hero still revered nearly 2 centuries later. On the plus side, it is apparent that Nelson is loved by his men, whom he clearly cares for, (knowing many of them by name) and is diligent in supporting those less fortunate than himself, both with cash and influence.
The focus on his tawdry menage-a-trois, the stately processions round Britain and his portrait-posing does little to foster the heroic image - in effect we are led to believe that the Nile action was won by luck, Copenhagen by bluff, and Trafalgar by a foolhardy tactic...
I felt sadly let-down and would prefer a more readable, naval-oriented biography.
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on 19 April 2016
A very good " warts and all " biography of Lord Nelson. He might have been a national hero but im not sure i would have liked him as a man. A goid book.
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