C. S. Forester

Ship. Image by Sue Law Introduction: The original nautical tales from the Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars, Forester's taut writing ensures that these will remain classics for many years to come.

While not as historically accurate as some later series, Hornblower is a compelling character as he moves from gangling, uncertain youth to mature, respected Admiral.

As far as screens big and little go, a film "Captain Horatio Hornblower" was made in 1951 starring Gregory Peck, but there was no attempt to transfer the character to the small screen until 1997, when "Mr Midshipman Hornblower" was made into a series of four telemovies starring Ioan Gruffudd. "Lieutenant Hornblower" was filmed as two telemovies in 2000 and "Hornblower and the Hotspur" was filmed (again in two parts) last year (2002) and is showing in the UK (January), Australia (February) and US (?April) this year (2003). There are reports that "Hotspur" is set off South America, and concerns that his love interest has been made "dull". This seems to indicate some confusion with "The Happy Return".

The Books

Title Pub Set Comment
Mr Midshipman Hornblower 1950 1794-1797 Mr Midshipman Hornblower ©1950 CS Forester, Penguin Books 1973. Image used without permission.Rank: Midshipman
Ships: Justinian (74 Keene), Indefatigable (40 frigate Pellew), Miscellaneous prizes
Loc: Biscay, Mediterranean
Charts the young Hornblower from the misery of his first posting on the old Justinian, though his growing and learning years under the brilliant frigate commander, Captain Edward Pellew. Pellew was a real person, accurately portrayed by Forester.
Hornblower and the Crisis
2. H & the Widow McCool
1967 1799 Rank: Lieutenant
Ship: Renown (74 Sawyer)
Loc: UK {Tor Bay}
Hornblower gets caught up in the espionage surrounding the Irish rebellion.
Lieutenant Hornblower 1954 1800 Lieutenant Hornblower ©1954 CS Forester, image courtesy of Pan Macmillan (Pan Books 1974).Rank: Lieutenant
Ship: Renown (74 Sawyer)
Loc: Caribbean
The Renown is on a secret mission, under a mad captain and a weak First Lieutenant. But Hornblower survives and is given an acting command to take back to England. But peace has been declared, and the commision is not confirmed. This is the tale where Bush joins Hornblower.
(Image courtesy of Pan Macmillan.)
Hornblower and the Hotspur 1962 1803-1805 Hornblower and the Hotspur ©1962 CS Forester, Penguin Books 1971. Image used without permission.Rank: Commander
Ship: Hotspur (18 sloop)
Loc: Channel, Brest approaches
Hornblower marries Maria for all the wrong reasons, and is given command of the sloop Hotspur and assigned to the channel fleet. The 'eyes' of the blockading channel fleet, he must risk ship and crew to ensure Cornwallis has the intelligence he needs.
Hornblower and the Crisis
1: Hornblower & the Crisis (unfinished)
1967 1805 Hornblower and the Crisis ©1967 CS Forester, image courtesy of Pan Macmillan (Pan Books 1974).Rank: Commander
Ship: None
Loc: Channel, London, Spain
(Image courtesy of Pan Macmillan.)
Hornblower and the Atropos 1953 1806-1808 Hornblower and the Atropos ©1953 CS Forester, Pan Books 1974. Image courtesy of Pan Macmillan.Rank: Post Captain
Ship: Atropos (22 sloop)
Loc: Downs, Med, Turkey
Hornblower takes his first command as Captain to the Mediterranean to hunt for treasure under the noses of the Turks. He returns to find the children dying of smallpox, and Maria distraught.
(Image courtesy of Pan Macmillan.)
The Happy Return
[US = Beat to Quarters]
1937 1808 The Happy Return ©1937 CS Forester, Penguin Books 1972. Image used without permission.Rank: Post Captain
Ship: Lydia (36 frigate)
Loc: Central America (Pacific Coast)
Sent to aid the revolutionary El Supremo and harass the Spanish in the Pacific, Hornblower's task is complicated when he is forced to accommodate a party of English civilians on board, so they can escape a yellow fever epidemic. They include Lady Barbara Wellesley, whose brothers include a government minister, a diplomat and a soon to be famous general. In the close confines of a frigate the attraction is strong and mutual. But Hornblower must think of Maria, alone and grieving for the children they lost to smallpox.
A Ship of the Line 1938 1810 A Ship Of The Line ©1938 CS Forester, Penguin Books 1972. Image used without permission.Rank: Post Captain
Ship: Sutherland (74)
Loc: Mediterranean
Hornblower is given command of a ship-of-the-line and posted to the Mediterranean under the command of the man Lady Barbara has just married. Admiral Leighton is suspicious and jealous, and Hornblower must watch his back at every step. Finally, the Admiral makes a mistake, and Hornblower must make the tough decision whether or not to risk his ship to save the Admiral's.
Flying Colours 1939 1810-1811 Flying Colours ©1939 CS Forester, Penguin Books 1972. Image used without permission.Rank: Post Captain
Ship: Witch of Endor (10 cutter, captured)
Loc: France, Channel
Captured after the loss of the Sutherland, Hornblower is being escorted to Paris for a very public execution. Escaping with Bush, he manages to capture a cutter and return to England to face a court martial for the loss of the Sutherland and the news of the death of Maria in childbirth.
The Commodore 1945 1812 The Commodore ©1945 CS Forester, Penguin Books 1971. Image used without permission.Rank: Commodore
Ship: Nonsuch (74 Bush)
Squadron: Lotus, Raven (sloops), Moth, Harvey (bomb ketches), Clam (cutter)
Loc: Baltic
Given command of a squadron, Hornblower is sent to fly the British flag in the Baltic taking Bush as his flag captain. Tension is running high as Napoleon's invasion of Russia turns sour.
Lord Hornblower 1948 1813-1814 Lord Hornblower ©1948 CS Forester, Penguin Books 1972. Image used without permission.Rank: Commodore
Ship: Northumberland (74 ?), Glenmore (36 frigate), Cerberus (32 frigate), Porta Coeli (18 brig Freeman), Flame (18 brig)
Loc: France
With Napoleon's regime on the ropes, the crew of the Flame has mutinied off the French coast, and Hornblower is sent to negotiate with the crew, and remove a dangerous propaganda weapon from French grasp.
Hornblower in the West Indies 1958 1821-1823 Hornblower in the West Indies ©1958 CS Forester, image courtesy of Pan Macmillan (Pan Books 1974).Rank: Rear Admiral Loc: West Indies
Europe may be at Peace, but in the West Indies, Rear Admiral Hornblower is right in the thick of it, fighting piracy, cracking down on the slave trade, and being shipwrecked by hurricanes.
(Image courtesy of Pan Macmillan.)
Hornblower and the Crisis
3. The Last Encounter
1967 1848 Rank: Admiral of the Fleet
Ship: None
Loc: Smallbridge, Kent
The Hornblower Companion 1964 1794-1857 The Hornblower Companion ©1964 CS Forester, image courtesy Greenhill Books (Chatham Publishing, 1998).The book of maps by the master himself, with a description of how he wrote the novels up to "Hotspur" (Image courtesy Greenhill Books.)
The Life and Times of Horatio Hornblower 1970 1776-1857 Shock, horror! Someone has taken it upon themselves to fill in the gaps in the life of Horatio Hornblower. Admittedly they waited until after Forester's death, so they will never be contradicted, but does it work?
YES, because it has been written in the style of a biography (complete with bibliography and index.) Good Fun.

There are currently three omnibus volumes available containing all but the unfinished "Crisis" and the short stories.

The Young Hornblower Omnibus
Mr Midshipman Hornblower
Lieutenant Hornblower
Hornblower and the Hotspur
Captain Hornblower RN
Hornblower and the Atropos
The Happy Return
A Ship of the Line
Admiral Hornblower
Flying Colours
The Commodore
Lord Hornblower
Hornblower in the West Indies

Forester originally wrote just three novels, and a number of short stories. When the novels proved popular and he began writing more, the short stories proved a nuisance in terms of consistency, so he refused to allow republication. A couple recently resurfaced in a pair of Anthologies. They are:

Images on this page are used by kind permission of Pan Macmillan Books and Greenhill Books

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Last update 5/10/03