Handwriting shows ‘transformation’ in older Nelson
By Dalya Alberge, Arts Correspondent
A study of Nelson’s handwriting has found that the personality of Britain’s most heroic naval figure under went a ‘remarkable transformation” after he lost an arm.
The research, by Olivia Graham, a consultant graphologist who usually works for City firms and headhunters, was commissioned by the National Maritime Museum, which has hundreds of Nelson’s letters in its collection. Eric Kentley, curator of the museum’s forthcoming Nelson exhibition, said: ‘Nelson was writing 20 letters a day at his peak, There was not much else to do at sea.” He said that the examination was the next best thing to having Nelson psychoanalysed.
The study – graphology is claimed to reveal the motivations, strengths and weaknesses of an individual – concluded that it was after Nelson’s dramatic loss that he experienced a sea-change, so to speak, in his personality. The later letters reflect that he was leading ‘a full, happy and more balanced existence” 7 findings are published today, the anniversary of the amputation.
Ms Graham said that the letters show Nelson mellowing as he grew older. “His whole outlook had changed. He had become far more evolved and rounded. Whether his arm was something to do with it is hard to say with certainty.”
Nelson was right-handed and as it was his right arm that he lost, he had to learn to write again. Ms Graham focused on the handwriting in ten letters penned with his right hand, and four with his left.
Within six years, Nelson had mastered the art of writing with his left hand, which was better than his original style. Soon after the operation, however, feeling sorry for himself he had written: “There is no use for a left-handed Admiral, The sooner I get to a humble cottage the better.”
Ms Graham, found by the museum through a handwriting expert recommended by Scotland Yard, said: ‘He became more and more interesting, from the controlled rationality of his earlier letters to the gut-instinct revealed in his later ones.”
She could tell he was ‘more at ease with himself, able to communicate on an intimate level, becoming consciously considerate to the needs of those around him.”
She noted how both his hands were “dynamic and strong, fairly free with control’. His right-hand style was slanted, his left vertical and much larger. Although the two seemed to differ, a graphologist’s eye could detect similarities in, for example, the spacing and pressure. The letters reflected that in his twenties Nelson was a passionate man, “cerebral hut with a strong sense of realism, strongly emotive and deeply in tune with his surroundings”.
The handwriting also spells out how “while impatient, he was a hard, fair taskmaster and had the ability to motivate others with his own enthusiasm conviction”. By the age of he was an unstoppable force with an arrogance and questioning belief in abilities.
Although some are cynical about graphology, Dr Kentley found none of the findings was contradicted in other historical research.
The exhibition, which opens in October, will include the musket-ball that killed Nelson and the tourquet used to stem the flow of blood during the amputation of his arm.