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My Life > Midshipman, 1758-1777

Birth and years as a midshipman, 1758-1777

Horatio Nelson, son of the Reverend Edmund Nelson, Rector of Burnham Thorpe, in the County of Norfolk, and Catherine his wife, daughter of Doctor Suckling, Prebendary of Westminster, whose grandmother was sister to Sir Robert Walpole, Earl of Orford.

I was born September 29th 1758, in the Parsonage-house at Burnham Thorpe, was sent to the high-school at Norwich, and afterwards removed to North Walsham. On the disturbance with Spain relative to the Falkland's Islands, I went to sea with my uncle Captain Maurice Suckling in the Raisonnable of 64 guns.

The business with Spain being accommodated, I was sent in a West India ship with Mr John Rathbone, who had formerly been in the Navy, in the Dreadnought with Captain Suckling. I returned a practical Seaman, with a horror of the Royal Navy, and with a saying then constant with Seamen. 'Aft the most honour, forward the better man!' It was many weeks before I got in the least reconciled to a Man-of-war, so deep was the prejudice rooted.

When the expedition towards the North Pole was fitted out in 1773 nothing could prevent my using every interest to go with Captain Skeffington Lutwidge in the Carcass. I begged I might be his coxswain, which finding my ardent desire for going with him, Captain L. complied with.

Portrait of Nelson in miniature by Lemmuel Abbot [Oil on canvas]. © The Royal Naval Museum, Portsmouth.
Portrait of me by Lemuel Abbot

Painted in 1797 while I was in England recovering from the loss of my arm. As you can see, my hair has gone completely white with the shock and pain.

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