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Letter in an unexpected place. 23 February, 2010

Posted by Molly Joyful in Art, Cuthbert Collingwood, General, Letters, Royal Navy.
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Then again, maybe it’s not that unexpected.

The title of this picture is “Gravestone in Trafalgar Cemetery” (Gibraltar). I can’t really tell if this is an actual headstone, marking a grave, or a commemorative plaque –  either way, it’s very touching.

Photographer: Giorgio Monteforti
(Picture released into public domain by the artist. Grazie per la vostra generosità!)

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So – what did Collingwood look like? 10 February, 2010

Posted by Molly Joyful in Art, Books, Cuthbert Collingwood, Family, Lady Sarah, Letters, Trivia.
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It’s not unrealistic to assume that some of the artists in the 18th century were flattering their customers. The absence of a smile, a clenched jaw and determined glare on a painting can be expressions of determination and a firm character or the artist’s attempt at hiding loss of teeth due to scurvy. Caveat visor.

But really, who could blame artist or customer; the wish to leave a positive image of oneself to future generations is timeless. If you’ve ever seen a picture of Madonna before and after photoshop-treatment, you know that photography can’t be trusted, either.

So, what about Admiral Lord Collingwood? Are we seeing his real face on the portraits?

I think it’s safe to say that the portraits of Admiral Lord Collingwood are more accurate than many others. While not without vanity (and really, who is!), he certainly wasn’t the man to insist on the “big hair” treatment. We know that he sent a portrait painted by Giuseppe Sorcevani to his wife Sarah, who hadn’t seen him for five years and was not pleased with the sight, to say the least. (Had she lived today, she’d probably posted a “OMGWTF” lolcat macro to her blog…)

Collingwood, who thought the artist was pretty much spot on with his portrayal, sent a snarky note to his dearly beloved:

I am sorry to find my picture was not an agreeable surprise (…) you expected to find me a smooth-skinned, clear-complexioned gentleman, such as I was when I left home, dressed in the newest taste, and like the fine people who live gay lives ashore. Alas! it is far otherwise with me (…) The painter represented me as I am, not as I once was. It is time and toil that have worked the change, and not his want of skill.
(ibid pp. 204-205)

We have to thank Captain Abraham Crawford for the following description of Collingwood. His memoirs are available for online reading here.

(…) At the time I write of, Lord Collingwood was between fifty and sixty, thin and spare in person, which was then slightly bent, and in height about five feet ten inches. His head was small, with a pale, smooth round face, the features of which would pass without notice, were it not for the eyes, which were blue, clear, and penetrating; and the mouth, the lips of which were thin and compressed, indicating firmness and decision of character. He wore his hair powdered, and tied in a queue, in the style of officers of his age at that time ; and his clothes were squared and fashioned after the strictest rules of the good old sea school, To his very ample coat, which had a stiff, standup collar, were appended broad and very long skirts—the deep flaps of his single-breasted white waistcoat, descending far below his middle, covered a portion of his thighs; and blue knee-breeches, with white stockings, and buckles to his shoes, completed his attire.

“Reminiscences of a Naval Officer, during the Late War” (1851) by Captain Abraham Crawford.
(Very special thanks to ShipRat for sending in this quote)

As this blog here is Very Serious Business, we went about the question of Collingwood’s looks with a strictly scientific approach. Means: we ran his portrait through the Facial Beauty Analyser. You’ll be pleased to hear that Admiral Lord Collingwood scored a stunning 8.94 points out of 10. That’s 0.01 point MORE than Orlando Bloom, and 0.29 points more than James D’Arcy.

Which proves – nothing. But it’s more fun than shovelling snow.

Quote #1: “You do not find pigeons associated with hawks…” 17 January, 2010

Posted by Molly Joyful in Cuthbert Collingwood, Lane, Letters, Quotes, Vices and Virtues.
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Going home on a Saturday night after the movies is like hopscotch-  it’s difficult not to step on some completely plastered git (male or female) passed out on the pavement. Reading through Collingwood’s correspondence, I think it’s safe to say that he wouldn’t have approved. Or spent his summer holidays on Ibiza.

Every day affords you instances of the evils arising from drunkenness. Were a man as wise as Solomon, and as brave as Achilles, he would still be unworthy of trust if he addicted himself to grog. (…)

We can also rule out that he’d ever have participated in “I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here”…

Young men are generally introduced to this vice by the company they keep: but do you carefully guard against ever submitting yourself to be the companion of low, vulgar, and dissipated men; and hold it as a maxim, that you had better be alone than in mean company.

Quote: “Dear Lane…” – Cuthbert Collingwood, London, Nov 7, 1787