Friday, October 21, 2005

Never mind Nelson, what happened to poor Basto?

To mark the 200th anniversary of Trafalgar, today’s Times includes two free replicas of original editions of the newspaper.

The first is from 7 November 1805, which carries the first report of the Battle of Trafalgar (three weeks after the event), and the second dates from 10 January 1806, with an account of Nelson’s funeral.

The Trafalgar issue was a ground-breaker in that it was the first edition of the paper to carry a story on the front page. Three of the four columns normally reserved for adverts were swept aside to allow room for Vice-Admiral Collingwood’s highly exciting account of the battle. The style could be straight out of one of Patrick O’Brian’s wonderful Aubrey/Maturin novels.

(You can read Collingwood’s report in full, as it was reproduced in the The London Gazette Extraordinary, here.)

But what really amuses me is the front-page juxtaposition of the report of this uniquely significant battle, which changed the course of history for all three of the nations involved, with the homely small ads that remain in the left-hand column.

Two of the gems include:

A FINE MARE to be SOLD, the property of a Gentleman, warranted sound; walks, trots, gallops and leaps remarkably well. To prevent trouble, the price is 40 guineas. Trial allowed

and the very poignant:

LOST, an OLD POINTER DOG, white with red spots, answers to the name of BASTO; almost blind, one eye quite gone.

Any person bringing the said Dog to No. 158, Swallow-street, Piccadilly, shall receive ONE GUINEA Reward, and reasonable expences paid. – N.B. No greater Reward will be offered


Hey Skipper said...

Nothing I have ever read has had the ability to so thoroughly immerse me in the story as the Aubrey/Maturin series.

Brit said...

Hear hear, Skipper. It seems O'Brian is posthumously starting to get the recognition he deserves as a great literary writer, as well as a great story-teller.

And there's no better of learning how to tell your fore-topgallant from your mizzen-main-staysail.

Hey Skipper said...

I'm eternally indebted to The Economist for the book review that alerted me to the series.