The Life of Nelson has been written so often, that an explanation—almost an apology—seems due for any renewal of the attempt; but, not to mention the attractiveness of the theme in itself, it is essential to the completeness and rounding off of the author's discussion of the Influence of Sea Power, that he present a study, from his own point of view, of the one man who in himself summed up and embodied the greatness of the possibilities which Sea Power comprehends,—the man for whom genius and opportunity worked together, to make him the personification of the Navy of Great Britain, the dominant factor in the periods hitherto treated. In the century and a half embraced in those periods, the tide of influence and of power has swelled higher and higher, floating upward before the eyes of mankind many a distinguished name; but it is not until their close that one arises in whom all the promises of the past find their finished realization, their perfect fulfilment. Thenceforward the name of Nelson is enrolled among those few presented to us by History, the simple mention of which suggests, not merely a personality or a career, but a great force or a great era concrete in a single man, who is its standard-bearer before the nations.
Yet, in this process of exaltation, the man himself, even when so very human and so very near our own time as Nelson is, suffers from an association which merges his individuality in the splendor of his surroundings; and it is perhaps pardonable to hope that the subject is not so far exhausted but that a new worker, gleaning after the reapers, may contribute something further towards disengaging the figure of the hero from the glory that cloaks it. The aim of the present writer, while not neglecting other sources of knowledge, has been to make Nelson describe himself, — tell the story of his own inner life as well as of his external actions.