(NELSON.) BEATTY, William.

Authentic Narrative of the Death of Lord Nelson:

with the Circumstances preceding, attending, and subsequent to, that event; the Professional Report on his Lordship's Wound; and Several Interesting Anecdotes.

London: for T. Cadell and W. Davies, 1807 Stock Code: 85686

"Beatty forged the myth of the dying Nelson"

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First edition. Beatty (1773-1842) was ship's surgeon on the Victory at Trafalgar; he "joined the navy at an early age, and saw much service in it in various parts of the world. In 1806 he was appointed physician to the Royal Naval Hospital, Greenwich, an office which he retained until 1840. He attended Nelson after he received his fatal wound, performed the autopsy, and published An Authentic Narrative of the Death of Lord Nelson (1807), which included a representation of the ball which killed Nelson, with the pieces of the coat, gold lace, and silk pad which remained fixed in it. The ball Beatty retained in his possession in a crystal case mounted in gold; he bequeathed this to the queen" (ODNB). In his preface, Beatty notes that his account was intended to be included in Clarke and M'Arthur's monumental Life "but from the length of time which must necessarily elapse before so extensive and magnificent a Publication can be completed, the Author has been induced to print it in a separate form".

"It was principally through this text that the British public and the world learnt for the first time of the mortally wounded admiral's selflessness and stoicism, his request that Hardy should kiss him as the captain took his leave, and his constantly repeated dying words: 'Thank God I have done my duty.' Beatty's narrative was the stuff of which legends are made, and generations of historians have uncritically pillaged the text ever since. In an important respect, then, Beatty forged the myth of the dying Nelson... it was Nelson's surgeon who eternally placed the death of the hero in the minds of the British nation" (Brockliss, Cardwell & Moss, Nelson's Surgeon: William Beatty, Naval Medicine, and the Battle of Trafalgar, OUP 2005, p. 10).

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Octavo (210 x 130 mm) Contemporary streaked calf, neatly rebacked with the original black morocco label laid down, gilt fleuron panel to the boards.


Portrait frontispiece and a plate of the fatal musket ball.


Contemporary ownership inscription of "G. Adams" to title page. A little rubbed on the boards and joints, some judicious restoration, light browning, the portrait and title page particularly affected and some offsetting from the portrait, but remains a pretty copy.


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