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Dance, Nathaniel (DNB00)

DANCE, Sir NATHANIEL (1748–1827), commander in the service of the East India Company, son of James, the elder brother of Sir Nathaniel Holland [q. v.], and of George Dance the younger [q. v.], was born 20 June 1748, entered the East India Company's service in 1759, and, after continuous employment for nearly thirty years, obtained the command of a ship in 1787. In 1804 he was, by virtue of his seniority, commodore of the company's homeward-bound fleet which sailed from Canton on 31 Jan. Off Pulo Aor, on 14 Feb., this fleet, consisting of sixteen Indiamen and eleven country ships, fell in with the French squadron under Admiral Linois. The Indian fleet numbered three more than Linois had been led to expect. He jumped to the conclusion that the three extra ships were men-of-war; and though he had with him a line-of-battle ship, three heavy frigates, and a brig, he did not venture to attack. The bold attitude which Dance assumed confirmed him in his error. Dance, with his fleet ranged in line of battle, stood on under easy sail, lay to for the night, and the next morning again stood on, always under easy sail. Linois then manœuvred to cut off some of the rearmost ships, on which Dance made the signal to tack towards the enemy and engage. Captain Timmins in the Royal George led, the Ganges and Dance's own ship, the Earl Camden, closely followed. Linois, possessed with the idea that he was engaged with ships of the line, did not observe that neither the number nor weight of the guns agreed with it; and conceiving himself in presence of a very superior force, after a few badly aimed broadsides, hauled his wind and fled. The loss of the English was one man killed and one wounded, both on board the Royal George; the other ships sustained no damage. Dance made the signal for a general chase, and for two hours enjoyed the extraordinary spectacle of a powerful squadron of ships of war flying before a number of merchantmen; then fearing a longer pursuit might carry him too far out of his course, and ‘ considering the immense property at stake,’ he recalled his ships, and the next morning continued his voyage. In the Straits, on 28 Feb., they met two English ships of the line which convoyed them as far as St. Helena, whence they obtained a further escort to England. Liberal rewards were voted to the several commanders, officers, and ships' companies. Dance was knighted; was presented with 5,000l. by the Bombay Insurance Company, and by the East India Company with a pension of 500l. a year. He seems to have lived for the remainder of his life in retirement; and died at Enfield on 25 March 1827, aged 79 (Gent. Mag. vol. xcvii. pt. i. p. 380).

[Markham's Sea Fathers, 211; Gent. Mag. (1804), vol. lxxiv. pt. ii. pp. 963, 967; James's Nav. Hist. (ed. 1860), iii. 249; Nav. Chron. xii. 137, 345 (with a portrait after George Dance), and xiii. 360; Chevalier's Histoire de la Marine française sous le Consulat et l'Empire, 296. For the account of the action off Pulo Aor, and of the enthusiastic reception of the news in England, see Marryat's Newton Forster.]

J. K. L.