Drake, Nelson and Napoleon

Walter Runciman
Drake, Nelson and Napoleon

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Title: Drake, Nelson and Napoleon
Author: Walter Runciman
Release Date: March 9, 2005 [eBook #15299]
Language: English
Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1
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Studies by
London T. Fisher Unwin Ltd. Adelphi Terrace


We have travelled far since those early days when you and I, who are
of totally different tastes and temperament, first met and became
friends. I was attracted by your wide knowledge, versatile vigour of
mind, and engaging personality, which subsequent years have not
diminished. You were strenuously engaged at that time in breaking
down the weevilly traditions of a bygone age, and helping to create a
new era in the art of steamship management, and, at the same time,
studying for the Bar; and were I writing a biography of you, I would
have to include your interesting travels in distant lands in quest of
business and organizing it. That must be left for another occasion,
when the vast results to the commercial life of the country to which you
contributed may be fittingly told.
At the present time my vision recalls our joyous yachting cruises on the
Clyde, when poor Leadbitter added to the charm that stays. Perhaps
best of all were the golden days when we habitually took our week-end
strolls together by the edge of the inspiriting splendour of the blue
North Sea, strolls which are hallowed by many memories, and gave me
an opportunity of listening to your vehement flashes of human
sympathies, which are so widely known now. It is my high appreciation
of those tender gifts and of your personal worth, together with the
many acts of kindness and consideration shown to me when I have
been your guest, that gives me the desire to inscribe this book to you
and Lady Knott, and to the memory of your gallant sons, Major
Leadbitter Knott, D.S.O., who was killed while leading his battalion in
a terrific engagement in Flanders, and Captain Basil Knott, who fell so
tragically a few months previously at his brother's side.
With every sentiment of esteem, I am, dear Sir James, Ever yours
March 1919.

This book has evolved from another which I had for years been urged
to write by personal friends. I had chatted occasionally about my own
voyages, related incidents concerning them and the countries and
places I had visited, the ships I had sailed in, the men I had sailed with,

and the sailors of that period. It is one thing to tell sea-tales in a cosy
room and to enjoy living again for a brief time in the days that are gone;
but it is another matter when one is asked to put the stories into book
form. Needless to say for a long time I shrank from undertaking the
task, but was ultimately prevailed upon to do so. The book was
commenced and was well advanced, and, as I could not depict the
sailors of my own period without dealing--as I thought at the
time--briefly with the race of men called buccaneers who were really
the creators of the British mercantile marine and Navy, who lived
centuries before my generation, I was obliged to deal with some of
them, such as Hawkins, Drake, Frobisher, Daimper, Alexander Selkirk
of Robinson Crusoe fame, and others who combined piracy with
commerce and sailorism. After I had written all I thought necessary
about the three former, I instinctively slipped on to Nelson as the
greatest sea personality of the beginning of the last century. I found the
subject so engrossing that I could not centre my thoughts on any other,
so determined to continue my narrative, which is not, and never was
intended to be a life of Nelson. Perhaps it may be properly termed
fragmentary thoughts and jottings concerning the life of an
extraordinary human force, written at intervals when I had leisure from
an otherwise busy life.
Even if I had thought it desirable, it was hardly possible to write about
Nelson without also dealing with Britain's great adversary and Nelson's
distracted opinion
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