Hornblower and the Hotspur by C.S. Forester

Published by Little, Brown and Co.

Reviewed by Leigh Kimmel

Hornblower and the Hotspur by C. S. Forester is the third Hornblower book in terms of internal chronology, although it was one of the very last to be written. After an unhappy period ashore on half-pay during the Peace of Amiens, Hornblower is finally going back to sea again.

In gratitude to the kindly women who helped him while he was without funds, Hornblower is marrying the daughter of his landlady. He has a premonition that this is an unwise action, yet his intense sense of honor prevents him from backing out.

Off Hornblower goes to take command of the Hotspur, a small sloop on blockade duty with the Channel Fleet in the icy north Atlantic. He is not long at sea before he gets word that his young wife is pregnant. However, he also makes the disappointing discovery that he will not be able to visit her so frequently as he had assumed. The commander-in-chief, Admiral Cornwallis (a historical figure), has set up an ingenious system for resupplying the ships at sea, obviating the need for frequent shore visits that Hornblower had counted upon to give him opportunities to visit home.

Hornblower grits his teeth and sets about doing his duty in his usual style. One of his daring exploits is a quick raid ashore in which he destroys a semaphore station. However, he loses out on some excellent chances at prize money because he was supporting the action out of sight of the ships that actually made the capture. This leads him to some bitter thoughts about the entire prize money system.

Readers who are also fans of Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey/Maturin Chronicles may recognize one incident -- the capture of the Spanish treasure ships whose valuable cargo were then declared a droit of the king, not to be distributed as prizes, because of a technicality. Although it happens offstage here, it was a major element of Post Captain. In fact, this novel covers pretty much the same period of time as Post Captain.

Click here to order Hornblower and the Hotspur in paperback.

Hornblower's story continues in Hornblower and the Atropos.

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Review posted January 17, 2000

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