Vice Admiral Horatio, Viscount Nelson K.B.
Catherine Matcham, his sister
By descent to the present owners.
Formerly on loan to the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich
Nelson rarely mentioned his disabilities: the loss of sight in his right eye in Corsica in 1794 and the amputation of his right arm at Tenerife three years later - indeed he saw them as marks of honour - yet they nevertheless inevitably coloured his daily existence. His handwriting adapted quickly enough, from right to left hand, but the practical difficulties of dressing and feeding himself took longer to overcome. At sea, favoured officers - such as Edward Parker , (see lot 79) - were recruited to sit beside Nelson and cut up his food whilst in England family and friends anxiously pressed forward to help. An account of Fanny Nelson indulgently shelling walnuts for her husband at a dinner in November 1800 survives; not because this was an unusual sight, but because his violent reaction - pushing the bowl of walnuts away with such force that it smashed - prompted outraged comment from other guests. Nelson's action was undoubtedly caused by the pressures of the breakdown of his marriage, which were then at their height, though it also indicates pent-up frustation at his predicament and anger at being treated like an invalid. The laborious process of eating may also, to an extent, explain Nelson's notoriously poor appetite in his last years.
In an age used to men disfigured by war, there were plently of practical measures Nelson could take to ease his inconvenience. His furniture was adapted, his clothes altered (see lot 57) and a number of ingenious combined knife and fork - such as this one - were purchased to help him eat. An inventory of Nelson's silver from January 1801 lists two similar 'steel & silver knife & fork' sets, although it is not known whether such implements were made bespoke or proprietary.
The fork has been laid on one of Lord nelson's tablecloths, see lot 48
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