We are busy with the later stages of preparing our paper for the forthcoming Recruiting the Royal Navy conference in September at the Royal Naval Musuem and have been describing the persistence with which Captain Sir Edward Pellew put forward his young gentlemen for promotion to Lord Spencer, First Lord of the Admiralty. His efforts to gain a lieutenant’s commission for Alexander McVicar, who had years of merchant experience but lacked time on the RN books were characteristically thorough.
The trouble is that although we knew we had seen three letters of response from Lord Spencer, becoming increasingly polite the more he had to decline, we appeared to have lost the last of the three. We searched our paperwork, our hard drives, our google drives, we searched every combination of word string we could think of and all to no avail.
Then late yesterday (why is it always when it is late?) there was a shout of triumph – we had found the letter complete with what must be, even for the 18th century, one of the most elegant ways to say “no” in the language. We are delighted to share here
Earl Spencer to Sir Edward Pellew, 4th February 1797:
“The state of the captain’s list is such to preclude my being able as yet to flatter myself with the possibility of complying with your wishes.”
Or in other words “Not a chance mate!”