Naval evolutions; a memoir . . . Containing a review and refutation of the principal essays and arguments advocating Mr. Clerk’s claims, in relation to the manoeuvre of the 12th of April, 1782; and vindicating, by tactical demonstration, and numerous authentic documents, the professional skill of the British officers chiefly concerned on that memorable occasion.

London, Thomas & William Boone, 1832.

8vo (220 x 145 mm), pp. [iv], 101, [3], xxiii, [1], 16 (advertisements), with 15 plates (one folding); some gatherings unopened; original moire greenish-black cloth with original printed paper label on front cover; a little rubbed, wear at head and foot of spine.


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First edition: presentation copy inscribed and signed by the author to his daughter, Mary. A defence of Sir Charles Douglas’s claim to have been responsible for the breaking of the line tactic at the battle of the Saints and not, as the rival school of thought believed, John Clerk, author of An essay on naval tactics (1790, ‘the first complete and original work on naval tactics written in English’: Tracy, Naval warfare in the age of sail p. 187).

The dispute arose following Clerk’s death in 1812, when the true origin of the manoeuvre Clerk was said to have devised and which was used by Rodney at the battle of the Saints was questioned. ‘In an article published in the Quarterly Review (1829) Howard Douglas, the son of Rodney’s flag officer, Sir Charles Douglas, maintained that his father, not Clerk, had invented this tactic. The claim triggered a response from Clerk’s supporters in the Edinburgh Review (1830), where it was alleged that Rodney and Douglas had read Clerk’s report, passed on by Richard Atkinson, on the morning of the battle. In 1832 Howard Douglas asked why the first part of Clerk’s Essay had not included a reference to the manoeuvre, and accused Clerk of appropriating Rodney’s innovation as his own and of plagiarizing Paul Hoste’s Art des armées navales (1697). Clerk himself had maintained in 1804 that his ideas were not fully developed at the time of the battle of the Saints, and that his thinking had not finally come together until the late 1790s, when he published details of the manoeuvre’ (Oxford DNB).


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