"Lord Nelson's Peculiar Funeral"
Angus Bodkin Scrivener

Scrivener was a freelance Depressionist etchist who put his talents to good use during the funeral of Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson. This etching had been commissioned by The London Illustrated News, although the newspaper eventually rejected Scrivener's version of the event on the ground that it was disrespectful to the great man.

At the Battle of Trafalgar Nelson took a fatal sniper round to the chest. With a punctured lung, severed artery and possible broken back on top of his previous loss of an arm and a leg and an eye, the Admiral remained alive long enough to see victory over the combined Spanish and French navies.

Once the smoke had cleared, the ship's surgeon was faced with a dilemma: how to preserve what remained of Nelson for the trip back to England, a voyage of several weeks under the best of conditions (running into the Storm of the Century on the way home added another week). Refrigeration was unknown, ice was unavailable, so the surgeon fell back on the only preservative he had handy, which was— brandy!

An empty brandy cask was knocked apart, the body inserted, and the barrel reassembled and filled with captured French brandy. Oddly, the brandy had to be topped off several times during the return voyage, giving rise to scuttlebutt that, alive or dead, the Admiral really loved his brandy.

Hearing this story, and being unable to get close enough to the cortege to verify what he imagined, Scrivener did the best he could under the circumstances, adding a huge cask to the boat-shaped carriage he had done such a meticulous job on earlier that day. Hence the rejection by The London Illustrated News. Unabashed, Scrivener colorized the etching and hung it in his recreation room. His great-great-great descendants donated it to The Museum of Depressionist Art, because if not us, who?

 

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