Cambridge Historical Reader: Primary - Cambridge Press

The Story of Nelson, the Hero of the Navy

Part I

In our "rough, island story" it is hard to find a greater name than that of Nelson; for it has been truly said, "he was the greatest sailor since the world began."

As a boy, Horatio Nelson was not very strong, and few people thought him the right kind of lad for the hard life of a sailor. "What has poor Horatio who is so weak, done, that he should be sent to rough it at sea?" said his gruff, but kind-hearted, uncle, captain Suckling.

Now, although the boy was weak in body, he was, at the same time, brave and daring. "I do not know what fear is," he said to his grandmother, when only six years old.

Lord Nelson


His father was the clergyman of Burnham Thorpe in Norfolk. Little Horatio, and his elder brother William, rode on their ponies every day to a school some miles from their home. One day, in winter, the snow was so deep, that their father was half afraid to let them go to school.

However," said he, "you may set out, and should the snow be too deep, you may return: but, do your best.

They started, and found it very hard work indeed; so William said, "Let us go back." "No," said the younger and braver lad, "father expects do our best, so let us try again." They did so, and the school was reached in safety.

Another story is told of Nelson, when a boy, which shows that he was tender and loving, as well as brave. He was going into a shop one day, and, not seeing what he was doing, jammed a little pet lamb between the door and the counter. When he saw that he had hurt the little animal, he cried bitterly for some time.

Young Nelson was only thirteen when he joined his uncle's ship as a midshipman. Two years later, he went on a voyage to the cold, northern seas. One night, he and a friend, armed with guns, went in search of a white bear.

A thick fog came on; and the captain, when he found the two lads missing, was afraid they would be lost. About four o'clock in the morning, the fog cleared away; and from the ship the two lads could plainly be seen, trying to kill a huge bear.

A gun was fired from the vessel, to let the truants know they must return. They had used up all their powder shot, but, said Nelson to his friend, "let me get at the brute with the butt end of my gun, and we shall have him."

Another gun fired from the ship frightened the bear off; and so Nelson and his friend returned to the vessel. You may be sure that the captain was very angry with them for going away without leave. "Why did you go after that bear? "said he. "Sir," replied Nelson, with a pout of his lip, "I wished to kill the bear, that I might take his skin home to my father."

Portsmouth Harbor


Some of you may have heard the saying, "The boy makes the man." This means, that if a boy is brave and true, he will be almost certain to be the same when a man. Now, in the stories you have just read, you have seen that Nelson thought a great deal of duty; that he was very brave and daring; and that he was also kind and tender-hearted.

In the next chapter, you will see that as his men loved to say, our greatest seaman was, "brave as a lion, gentle as a lamb"; and that his last thoughts were of duty.