Nelson: we think that we are familiar with the man behind the name. But, in this second volume of his authoritative biography, John Sugden delves behind the myths, strips back the apocrypha, and reveals a figure both intimately familiar and greatly estranged.
Sugden interweaves graphic accounts of the well-known battles of the Nile, Copenhagen and Trafalgar with Nelson's lesser-known but equally gripping campaigns to liberate the Italian states from French domination, his role in the blockade of Malta and his turbulent relations with the volatile Barbary powers, often snatching remarkable triumphs from crippling reverses.
But behind his military prowess was a man riven with paradoxes and schisms at the very heart of his personal life. Sugden paints a vivid composition of Nelson as glory-hunter and national hero, humanitarian and hardened military leader, family man and adulterer.
Sugden opens up to us a man who was ever thwarted in his quest for happiness and personal fulfillment. Nelson spent four years developing 'Paradise Merton' in Surrey as a sanctuary where he could live with his mistress and illegitimate daughter, only to be thwarted in his ambition for domestic tranquility by his own death at Trafalgar.
These elements, the triumphant and the tragic, lend an epic yet human quality to the life of Nelson, fully exploited here in a richly detailed narrative that teems with a glittering array of eighteenth-century ladies and gentlemen, heroes and villains, husbands, wives and lovers.