So, I have returned after completing my final GCSE exam earlier this week! Woo Hoo! I now have about ten weeks off for the summer (double Woo Hoo!) before going to Sixth Form to do A-Levels, which is extremely terrifying, but also rather exciting!

But now is the time for the second post answering the question: What did Nelson look like?
 In this one I'll be sharing what others reported that Nelson looked like in their accounts.

(<|---------- Just for fun- a random piccy of Nelson!)

 "His features are sharp and his skin now very much burnt,"  wrote Benjamin Silliman, an American who witnessed Nelson being mobbed during his final weeks in England. Another person, who was a child at the time, later recalled that he had seen Nelson's "pale and interesting face... the melancholy expression of his countenance..." while at the theatre in Birmingham, during the Nelson and the Hamlton's tour of Wales and the Midlands in 1802.
 Mr Anderson, a Dane, wrote, "Lord Nelson was in person of middle stature, a thin body and apparently delicate  constitution. The lines of his face were hard, but the penetration of his eye  threw a kind of light upon his countenance which tempered its severity and  rendered his harsh features in some measure agreeable. His luxuriant hair flowed  in graceful ringlets down his
 These are some exaples of the many descriptions of Nelson and his appearance, usually written with some surprise at how "insignificant" he looked- not really tall, strong, and drop-dead gorgeous like the stereotypical hero.
 Infact, Nelson, especially in his older years, was often reported to have looked quite a bit older than he really was. When he was younger, however, the Prince William Henry described him as "the merest boy of a captain I ever beheld". It seems that Nelson had quite a child-like face, and if it wasn't for years of wind and sun he probably wouldn't have looked "very old" as Lord Elgin charmingly put it.
 He also wrote that Nelson had "lost his upper teeth." This was proably why Nelson reportedly "hardly ever smiles", as said by Thoams Kosegarten, who saw Nelson is Dresden during the hero's journey overland back to England. 
 He was also, apparently, very skinny and rather sickly-looking.
 Lady Spencer wrote that "he looked so sickly it was painful to see him and his general appearance was that of an idiot"... A tad harsh, don't you think? One person, who also saw him on his tour, echoed this opinion, describing Nelson as  "thin and shrunken" and another wrote that he was "a little weather beaten man."
 Nelson's slender frame unheroic figure seemed to be something that amazed people the most. While returning to the UK via the Germany, he was described as "clumsy and dim" and his figure as "poor", and by Kosegarten a "miserble collection of bones and wizened frame... His weight cannot be more than 70Ibs ...one of the most insignificant figures I ever saw in my life." Apart from his face, however, which was the only part of him that would "betray in some measure the great conqueror."
 George Matcham was not of the same opinion, stating "he was not as described, a little man, but of the middle height and of a frame adapted to activity and exertion."
 George Matcham seems to have been right, not alone in his thinking that  Nelson was of "about middle height".  The Trafalgar uniform supports that he was indeed slender, but not emaciated, and average for the time in height.

Just thought I'd mention this because this is a myth that is still buzzing round today- but Nelson never, never, never, never, NEVER wore an eyepatch- the accounts people wrote support this, as well as the portraits. He had no need to because his "bad" eye was not much changed in appearance. However, according to two doctors, Nelson had an "unnatural dilation of the pupil", and Nelson himself said that the "pupil is nearly the size of the blue part"- also proving that  Nelson had beautiful blue eyes.
 He also had a "film" growing over his good eye.  Dr Trotter, the physician to the Fleet, noted this, describing it as "a membraneous sunstance seemingly spreading fast over the pupil". To anyone near him this would have been very noticable.

So, what did Nelson like like? Judging by many of the accounts, not quite as manly and handsome as some of his portraits suggest. Nevertheless, he was also noted for his "pleasant smile" and kindly eyes. 
 It could be said that people were just shocked when they saw him, not expecting a slender, aging man with lines on his face and tanned skin from years at sea. This perhaps lead to people being more harsh than necessary and exaggerating the truth. I'm quite sure he didn't really look like a walking skeleton with skin, except for when he was really unwell, and I'm sure he didn't look nearly as ancient as many people suggested.
 When deciding what Nelson looked like, the accounts should be treated with caution. I believe there is truth in all of them, but be aware of the fact that many people had a tendancy to over-emphasize , creating an unrealistic image of the admiral.

6/21/2012 07:31:03 pm

Very Interesting. What colour was his hair white, brown did he ever take to wearing a wig? Thx

6/22/2012 09:39:17 pm

It's interesting that you ask that - before he lost his arm age 38, his hair was described as 'sandy grey' and apparently went completely grey after the operation, so we can conclude that he went grey while still quite young. Unfortunately, the only portrait of Nelson as a young man shows him wearing a wig, as the uncomfortable sweating from malaria had made him cut his hair off. It would be great to find out though!


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    Hi there! I am second in command here at HMSH!
     My name is Rae-Rae and and I live in Worcestershire in the UK.
     I am a teen Nelson enthusiast and my passion has lasted since I was only nine- over seven years!
     I aim (rather ambitiously!) to rekindle the love of Nelson and his Navy for the younger generations and make him a well-known hero again. I want his memory never to fade!
     Please do check my YouTube channel for any Nelson-related videos, as I do post on there from time to time!



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