Admiral Duncan

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Lightning Source Incorporated, Oct 27, 2008 - Biography & Autobiography - 436 pages
INTRODUCTION He had the honour to be one of the great Sea Commanders whom the perils of Great Britain in the eighteenth century called into existance. Boscawen, Hawlre, Kepgel, Howe, Rodney, Hood, St. Vincent, Nelson, Collingmood, were of the number. Of these famous sailors there are written memorials, which will keep their memory green as long as there is a British Empire, and which tell how, in the eighteenth century, superior seamanship and daring time after time warded off and finally brought to conbinations of Great Britains enemies which seemed irresistible. Admiral Dullcans case connected record of his life and service which, as he reminded his ships company when attempting to mutiny, extended over more than eighty years is unfortunateIy wrting. It is almost too late to attempt the task now. If a biographer is to achieve any measure of success, he cannot begin his work too soon. Personal remiaiscences quickly fade away. Letters and papers are constantly being lost or destroyed. Personal anecdotes alter in course of narration, until they can hardly be reconised. As each year passes it becomes more and more difficult to represent a man just as he was, neither adding anything to him nor detracting anything from him-to bring him back such as those saw him who lived and served with him. It must be admitted, too, that AdmiraI Duncan himself did not do much to assist anyone who might be desirous of perpetuating his memory. ComparativeIy little of his handwriting remains. During his earlier service the facilities for writing at sea cannot have been great, nor does he appear to have been at any time much given to placing his thoughts and ideas on paper he was s man of action, not of words. Nevertheless, in preserving offical letters and orders as a Captain and as an Admiral, he was regular and methodical in the extreme, and endorsed and kept every document of the kind which he received. Lord Spencers private letters to him during his command of the North Sea Heet, including the dark days of the Xutiny at the Norc, are d presemed, and will be referred to. The Admirals private letters to Lord Spencer were, unfortunately, destroyed by accident at -Althorp. His despatches to the Admiralty during his command in the horth Sea, of which some are in his own hand, as well as two or three autograph letters written to the Admiralty at important moments, are preserved in the Public Records Office. Amongst his Papers are his plans for the improved administration of the Navy, a subject in which he was much interested, and which he urged strongly upon his relative Mr. Henry Dundas, afterwards Viscount Nelville the drafts of some Ietters to the Admiralty and to Lord Spencer and the rough drafts of served addresses which he delivered to the ships company of the Venerable, during the mutiny. Nor has much information about him been handed dorn by his wife and family. Lady Duncan lived until I832, but, so far as is known, she left no writings behind her and no Ietters from her husband, although she adored his memory. His eldest surviving son, Robcrt, who succeeded to the title, was only twelve years oId at the time of the action and his father hauled his flag and came ashore in the year 1800, just four years before he died. Moreover, it was not in accordance with the Admirals temperament or habits to talk much about himself or what he had seen or done...

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