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'A country of fiddlers and poets, whores and scoundrels', Nelson's famous description of Naples, was a world eagerly embraced by a young Irish doctor called James Lowry who went to sea, apparently, for the sheer sense of adventure and a desire for exotic travel. Sent out to join Nelson's victorious fleet after the battle of the Nile, he was to experience plenty of naval action, and to see more foreign climes than perhaps he had anticipated. Taking part in the successful British campaign against the remnant of Napoleon's army in Egypt brought him into contact with an entirely different culture, but perhaps not as strange as the wooden world of the Navy, which he chronicles with the detached and slightly bemused eye of an outsider.
While he found the Navy odd and intriguing, what really engaged his interest (and enthusiasm) was the relaxed sexual mores of Italian society. His memoirs were written at the request of his younger stay-at-home brother, so, untrammelled by any thought of publication, he recounted his adventures with relish and in rather more detail than might be thought proper. While there may be an element of boasting, much of what he describes of naval life in the Mediterranean of Nelson's day rings true, and many unlikely events can be confirmed from other sources.
This fascinating memoir lay hidden in the hands of Lowry's family for 200 years before its first publication in 2006.
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