The Goddard Nelson Letters Collection

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Date of Auction: 24th November 2015


Estimate: £12,000 - £15,000

Nelson (Horatio, Lord), an emotive autograph letter signed, one of the first written by him following the amputation of his right arm, to John Palmer, M.P., regarding the latter’s son, Captain Edmund Palmer, R.N., dated at ‘Bath, Sept. 4th 1797’

‘Dear Sir

I left Lord St. Vincent perfectly well 15 days ago, and he begged me to assure you that the moment your son has served his time that he will instantly promote him.

Believe me Dear Sir

Your Most Obedient Servant

Horatio Nelson’

1 page, 4to, paper watermarked 1794, contemporary file docket, integral leaf removed (evidently before filing), minor creasing and a few fox-marks but overall in fresh and attractive condition £12,000-15,000


Provenance: Phillips, 9 November 2001 (Lot 479).

This is among the first dozen or so letters written by Nelson following the amputation of his right arm on 25 July 1797 and the first one written at Bath, where he had gone to recuperate; see The Letters and Despatches of Lord Nelson (Sir Nicholas Harris Nicolas, 1844, II, pp. 421-40).

Three weeks earlier Nelson had famously written to Lord St. Vincent, ‘a left-handed Admiral will never again be considered as useful’, to which the latter replied, ‘I will … bow to your stump tomorrow morning.’ At the time of writing, Nelson was still in great pain, and it would not be until December 1797 that his wound healed.

John Palmer (1742-1818) was M.P. and Mayor for Bath, as well as Surveyor and Comptroller General of the Post Office and projector of the mail-coach system; his son, Captain Edmund Palmer, R.N., was a protégé of Nelson’s mentor, John Jervis, Earl of St. Vincent.