Quotes of Horatio Nelson

Biography of Admiral Horatio Nelson
  • I could not tread these perilous paths in safety, if I did not keep a saving sense of humor.

  • Our country will, I believe, sooner forgive an officer for attacking an enemy than for letting it alone.
    3 May 1794, the attack on Bastin.

  • I cannot, if I am in the field of glory, be kept out of sight: wherever there is anything to be done, there Providence is sure to direct my steps.

  • The Business of the English commander-in-chief being first to bring an enemy fleet to battle on the most advantageous terms to himself, (I mean that of laying his ships close on board the enemy, as expeditiously as possible); and secondly to continue them there until the business is decided.

  • It is warm work; and this day may be the last to any of us at a moment. But mark you! I would not be elsewhere for thousands.
    - at the Battle of Copenhagen.

  • Desperate affairs require desperate measures.

  • Something must be left to chance; nothing is sure in a sea fight above all.
    - Before Trafalgar.

  • My character and good name are in my own keeping. Life with disgrace is dreadful. A glorious death is to be envied. - 10 March 1795.

  • If a man consults whether he is to fight, when he has the power in his own hands, it is certain that his opinion is against fighting.
    - August 1801.

  • If I had been censured every time I have run my ship, or fleets under my command, into great danger, I should have long ago been out of the Service and never in the House of Peers.
    March 1805.

  • There is no way of dealing with the Frenchman but to knock him down - to be civil to them is to be laughed at. Why they are enemies!
    11 Jan 1798 after surrender of Capua.

  • Duty is the great business of a sea officer; all private considerations must give way to it, however painful it may be.
    - letter to Frances Nisbet.

  • Firstly you must always implicitly obey orders, without attempting to form any opinion of your own regarding their propriety. Secondly, you must consider every man your enemy who speaks ill of your king; and thirdly you must hate a Frenchman as you hate the devil.
    - to a midshipman in 1793 aboard the Agamemnon.

  • Thank God I have done my duty.
    - 21 October 1805, while dying.

  • England Expects that every man will do his duty.
    - before Trafalgar.

  • Now I can do no more. We must trust to the Great Disposer of all events and the justice of our cause. I thank God for this opportunity of doing my duty.
    - just after his England expects signal.

  • First gain the victory and then make the best use of it you can.
    - before the battle of the Nile 1 August 1797.

  • Recollect that you must be a seaman to be an officer and also that you cannot be a good officer without being a gentleman.

  • My greatest happiness is to serve my gracious King and Country and I am envious only of glory; for if it be a sin to covet glory I am the most offending soul alive.
    - letter to Lady Hamilton, 1800.

  • The Neapolitan officers did not lose much honour, for God knows they had not much to lose - but they lost all they had.
    - 1798 after French rout of Neapolitan army.

  • The bravest man feels an anxiety 'circa praecordia' as he enters the battle, but he dreads disgrace more.

  • Unfit as my ship was, I had nothing left for the honour of our country but to sail, which I did in two hours afterward.

  • When I am without orders and unexpected occurrences arrive I shall always act as I think the honour and glory of my King and Country demand. But in case signals can neither be seen or perfectly understood, no captain can do very wrong if he places his ship alongside that of the enemy.

  • Gentlemen, when the enemy is committed to a mistake we must not interrupt him too soon.

  • Never break the neutrality of a port or place, but never consider as neutral any place from whence an attack is allowed to be made.

  • To obey orders is all perfection. To serve my King and destroy the French, I consider as the great order of all, from which little ones spring; and if one of these militate against it (for who can tell exactly at a distance), I go back and obey the great order and object, to down - down with the damned French villains! My blood boils at the name of a Frenchman! Down, down with the French! is my constant prayer.

  • I have always been a quarter of an hour before my time and it has made a man of me.

  • My seamen are now what British seamen ought to be almost invincible; they really mind shot no more than peas.

  • Time is everything; five minutes make the difference between victory and defeat.

  • Buonaparte has often made his boast that our fleet would be worn out by keeping the sea and that his was kept in order and increasing by staying in port; but know he finds, I fancy, if Emperors hear the truth, that his fleet suffers more in a night than ours in one year.

  • I cannot command winds and weather.

  • Let me alone: I have yet my legs and one arm. Tell the surgeon to make haste and his his instruments. I know I must lose my right arm, so the sooner it's off the better.
    - after being wounded during the attack on Santa Cruz de Tenerife, 24 July 1797.

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