Commodore Hornblower by C.S. Forester

Published by Little, Brown and Co.

Reviewed by Leigh Kimmel

Commodore Hornblower by C. S. Forester was the fourth Hornblower book to be written, although it belongs quite late in the internal chronology of the story. Having been released by the death of his wife in childbed from a loveless marriage, Hornblower has finally wed his beloved Lady Barbara. He revels in having been knighted for his gallant escape from France. He used some of his new wealth (in addition to prize money for retrieving the cutter Witch of Endor during his daring escape from France, he was appointed to the sinecure position of Colonel of Marines) to purchase Smallbridge, a pleasant manor not far from London.

Just as he is settling into his new station in life, he receives orders from the Admiralty. He is to take a small squadron of ships to the Baltic to deal with Napoleon's new activities in that region. He will be a commodore with a captain under him, which frees him from responsibility for the details of the day-to-day running of his own ship. He will be in effect an admiral, but without the seniority involved (at the time, promotion above the rank of post captain was by strict seniority, so one could only advance to flag rank after everyone ahead in the list).

As always, things are not what they seem, and palace intrigue is far more difficult and delicate than the rough-and-ready world of a ship at sea. Hornblower soon discovers that he has a madman in his midst who may well endanger everything he has been sent to accomplish.

There is a cameo appearance of a Clausewitz who may very well be the Clausewitz who wrote On War. This is never exactly made clear, but the context seems to suggest this conclusion.

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Hornblower's story continues in Lord Hornblower.

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Review posted January 20, 2000

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