Captain Horatio Hornblower Analysis

Places Discussed (Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

HMS Lydia

HMS Lydia. Three-masted, thirty-six-gun frigate of the British Royal Navy commanded by post captain Horatio Hornblower on a secret mission to the Pacific. Hornblower is the unquestioned authority over about 380 men and officers, and his ship is so far from higher naval authority that Hornblower has vastly more independent authority than typical naval captains. Operating off the coasts of hostile Spanish colonial territories, the Lydia represents the only connection Hornblower and his crew have to their homeland.

*Central America

*Central America. Apart from the Lydia’s long voyage to and from this region, all the action in Beat to Quarters takes place along Central America’s Pacific coast, which the novel depicts as being at the extreme edge of European civilization. Its coastline is volcanic with a chain of slate-pink peaks and vivid green forests on the lower slopes fringing the sea. Forester got his inspiration to write his first Hornblower novel when he sailed down this coast in the early 1930’s and thought about how difficult it would have been for Imperial Spain to enforce its authority over a rebel faction in that wild region.

*Gulf of Fonseca

*Gulf of Fonseca. Bay on the Pacific coast of what is now Guatemala. The gulf can be recognized by the active volcanoes flanking its entrance. Hornblower makes a perfect landfall after four months at sea out of sight of land. His mission is to make contact with the region’s rebel commander, El Supremo. The squalid disorder and repressive political situation ashore contrast sharply with the cleanliness and order aboard Hornblower’s ship.

HMS Sutherland

HMS Sutherland. Seventy-four-gun ship of the line on which Hornblower commands about 450 men in Ship of the Line. Like most large British naval vessels of its era, the Sutherland is part of a squadron commanded by an admiral; however, through much of this novel, it is on detached missions similar to those that Hornblower commands in most of Forester’s eleven novels about his exploits. A Dutch-built ship captured...

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Captain Horatio Hornblower Bibliography (Great Characters in Literature)

Forester, C. S. The Hornblower Companion. Boston: Little, Brown, 1964. The fullest account Forester left of the creative processes that led to the inception of the Hornblower series. In two parts, the first a useful atlas of thirty annotated maps depicting events in the Hornblower saga, and the second the essay “Some Personal Notes,” in which Forester explains how he came to write each novel.

Forester, C. S. Long Before Forty. Boston: Little, Brown, 1968. Posthumously published autobiography that Forester completed before he began the Hornblower saga. An appendix contains “Some Personal Notes,” the memoir he wrote for The Hornblower Companion.

Parkinson, C. Northcote. The Life and Times of Horatio Hornblower. London: Joseph, 1970. A pseudobiography of Forester’s fictional character by a trained naval historian. Parkinson’s creative solutions to gaps in the Hornblower saga have little to do with Forester; however, his knowledge of British naval history helps place Hornblower’s fictional adventures in a broader historical context.

Sternlicht, Sanford. C. S. Forester. Boston: Twayne, 1981. The only scholarly work on C. S. Forester, a lucidly written book that devotes a long chapter to the Hornblower saga. Using Forester’s “Some Personal Notes” as his starting point, Sternlicht examines Hornblower as Forester’s most fully realized “man alone.” He suggests that the historical British naval hero Thomas Cochrane (1775-1860) may have served as a model for Hornblower, and he discusses the significance of the Hornblower stories in bolstering British morale during World War II, when the “Captain” books first appeared.