Important acquisitions

A navy sermon delivered on board His Majesty's Ship Venerable of seventy-four guns.

Author Alexander Duncan, 1747-1816
Title A navy sermon delivered on board His Majesty's Ship Venerable of seventy-four guns.
Imprint London : J. Marshall
Date of Publication 1798?
Language English
Notes This rare pamphlet (only one other copy of this printing is recorded, in the British Library, but none in ESTC) reproduces the text of a prayer of thanksgiving and a sermon given after the naval battle of Camperdown which took place off the Dutch coast near the village of Kamperduin. The author of "A navy sermon" was the Rev. Dr Alexander Duncan (1747-1816), who served as chaplain on the "Venerable", the ship commanded by his cousin and fellow-Scot Admiral Adam Duncan (1731-1804). Admiral Duncan was then commander-in-chief of the British fleet in the North Sea. On 11 October 1797 he attacked the Dutch fleet (the Dutch were allies of France in the French Revolutionary Wars), and after a long and bloody engagement decisively defeated it. Camperdown proved to be the most significant action between British and Dutch forces during the 1790s, giving the British complete control of the North Sea. It was also regarded as the greatest ever victory for a British fleet over an equal enemy force to that date, although it was later overshadowed by Nelson's victories in the Napoleonic Wars. Admiral Duncan was a deeply religious man and in the aftermath of the battle, with the "Venerable" itself severely damaged, he assembled all of those men fit to attend for a church service to "return thanks to Almighty God for all His mercies showered on them and him." Leading the service was his cousin Alexander, a minister in the Episcopal Church, who in 1795 had become rector of Bolam parish in Northumberland, but who also served in the Royal Navy. In a surviving miniature portrait of Dr Duncan there is a quote attributed to King George III inscribed on the back, "Would to God that all my subjects were as loyal as Dr Duncan." Dr Duncan uttered suitably stirring and patriotic words for the occasion, and was prompted to publish the words of his service by a letter from members of the "Venerable"'s company (the text of the letter is reproduced here as well as a letter from Dr Duncan to his cousin). This 1798(?) printing would appear to have been a private printing solely for distribution to various members of the ship's company (a copy of a later 1799 London printing, by a different printer, is recorded in the library of the US Navy Dept.) This particular copy was a presentation copy for Admiral Duncan, who by this time had been created Viscount Duncan of Camperdown and Baron Duncan of Lundie. It is bound in contemporary tree calf with gold tooling and has a leather label on the front board "Lord Viscount Duncan", reflecting his change in status. It has also has a later gilt stamp on it "Camperdown Library" which indicates that it was at one time held in the family mansion of Camperdown House in Dundee, built in 1828 to replace the old family home of Lundie House, which was demolished that year. Dr Alexander Duncan seems to have retired to the quiet life of a minister, publishing one further work in 1799 "Miscellaneous essays, naval, moral, political, and divine". Four of his nine sons are known to have served in the Royal Navy.
Shelfmark RB.s.2852
Reference Sources Oxford Dictionary of National Biography; A. Orr, The Duncans of Dundee and Camperdown: followed in the line of the Reverend Doctor Alexander Duncan DD, [Montrose, 2000]
Acquired on 08/03/13
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