May 20, 1803 · n.p.
An unpublished letter, written just as he was departing England aboard the H.M.S. Victory. Nelson writes, in most part: “I did not expect such a letter after all my attentions to your wishes, but never mind. I do not deserve any reproach from any man I hope. I wrote you first that any arrangement you made was perfectly agreeable to me. Mr. Aldrige came in the way and as he had been used to the Vict[or]y. I considered it the same thing to you, and so I still think. The new Purser of the Victory you know must be indifferent to me. I look to the captaining and I have repeatedly said to you that I could not have the least objection to your going in her. I think Capt. [Samuel] Sutton will get into a serious scrape with the Admiralty for giving you leave of absence. I understand she is very deficient till[?] Capt. Sutton judged himself for you, your recommendation shall be attended to. I never showed you any inattention and therefore little expected so unkind a letter, but I am still the same towards you…”Nelson adds, in a postscript: ""I have influence with the Ad[miralt]y to get you or any man a first rate. I at this moment am soliciting for the removal of a namesake[?] from Purser of a Sloop to a frigate. I have no more paper[.] My kindest regards to Lord Hood I will write him as I go down channel.""Although he had taken command of the H.M.S. Victory as the flagship of the Mediterranean fleet, the ship was not yet ready to sail. Instead, Nelson transferred to the frigate H.M.S. Amphion on May 23. The Victory, commanded by Captain Sutton, rejoined the Mediterranean fleet on July 31 and Nelson raised his flag over the ship once more. The recipient, John McArthur (1755-1840) was a longtime naval officer, beginning his career in 1778 as an assistant clerk aboard the H.M.S. Eagle. In 1790, he developed a new set of code signals for the navy which brought him to the attention of Lord Hood, then serving as First Sea Lord, and made McArthur his personal secretary. When Hood became commander of naval forces in the Mediterranean, McArthur went aboard the Victory serving as his secretary and purser for the ship. He returned to England in 1796 and continued in his work for Lord Hood. McArthur came to the attention of Nelson through his role as a prize-agent. When Nelson took command of the Victory, he invited McArthur to join him as his secretary. Citing an ongoing audit of Lord Hood's accounts by the treasury, McArthur declined, thought the real reason likely lay in his growing involvement in literary matters. He had already published A Treatise on the Principles and Practice of Naval Courts-Martial in 1792, and in 1809 he would write, with James Stanier Clark, the first authoritative biography of Nelson.The present letter raises new questions about the relationship between McArthur and Nelson and the nature of his original invitation to serve aboard the Victory as it appears that McArthur had written some unkind words to admiral. At present we have been unable to locate McArthur's letter to Nelson. Provenance: Anderson Galleries, New York, March 26, 1917, lot 367." (Inventory #: 60200)