News from Nelson: Kismet

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Death of NelsonSince I came to live and work in Dublin City Library & Archive, I have been very conscious of being a rough diamond – we naval types were trained to sail and fight around the world, with no opportunity of furthering our education.  So any chance I have to expand my cultural horizons I seize on with enthusiasm. And when a kind invitation arrived from the Gorry Gallery to attend their summer exhibition, I was delighted and rolled around there one evening.

Image: Detail from 'The Death of Nelson at the Battle of Trafalgar’ Engraving by Charles William Sharp after Daniel Maclise.

The Gorry Gallery is a family enterprise and it is located in a Georgian house in Molesworth Street, close to Dáil Eireann.   It has around a half-dozen art exhibitions each year and this year’s summer display was of a particularly high standard.  Titled ‘An Exhibition of 17th – 21st  Century Irish Paintings’ it brought together a range of artists including Samuel Frederick Brocas, William Ashford, Sir Thomas Alfred Jones, Edwin Hayes, Harry Kernoff and Jack B. Yeats, all finely lit and easy to view.  As an old salt, I was especially taken with a delicate oil by George Atkinson of ‘Shipping in Cork Harbour’ and as an honorary Dub I really liked John Mackie’s view of ‘The Ha’penny Bridge’, reflected in the shimmering waters of the river Liffey.   I can warmly recommend this exhibition to you, my loyal readers, whether you are interested in art, Dublin or history you will enjoy it.

The Death of Nelson at the Battle of Trafalgar

I was wandering around, having a really good time, when suddenly I saw it – O no!  Not possible! But yes, there it was: ‘The Death of Nelson at the Battle of Trafalgar’. What a shock! It was a hand-coloured line engraving by Lumb Stocks after the monumental fresco painting in The Royal Gallery, Houses of Parliament, Westminster. The original fresco is by the distinguished Irish artist Daniel Maclise, who specialised in colossal pictures, such as ‘The Marriage of Strongbow and Aoife’ in the National Gallery of Ireland.  I forced myself to calm down and look at the picture – and suddenly I was back on the Victory on 21 October 1805, mortally wounded. In reality I was dying in my cabin, under the care of the ship’s doctor – but Maclise has used artistic licence to place me on deck, with my distraught officers and sailors round about. I am just saying to Captain Thomas Hardy ‘Kiss me, Hardy’ and he is leaning forward to oblige.

Not many people get to live twice as I did but this reminder of my first death was hard to bear. (It also reminded me of the other time I nearly died on 8 March 1966).  I shut my eyes very tightly and waited for the final memory of death to overwhelm me – but nothing happened. When I opened my eyes, there I was sound and safe in the Reading Room of Dublin City Library & Archive – it was fate that led me there.  And so I smiled and murmured gently: ‘Kismet, Hardy – Kismet and good-night’.

About Nelson's Head

Nelson's headThe Head from Nelson’s Pillar is on display in the Reading Room of Dublin City Library & Archive.  As Admiral Nelson is a valued member of staff, we have invited him to write his own monthly blog.

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