Cecil Lewis Troughton Smith Biography


(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

C. S. Forester, also known as Cecil Scott Forester, was born Cecil Lewis Troughton Smith on August 27, 1899, the youngest of five children in the family of George Smith, a British official in Cairo, Egypt, and Sarah Troughton Smith. He adopted the pen name when his family strenuously opposed his career change to writing. His mother returned to England with her children when he was two. Young Cecil found Great Britain cold and inhospitable. He was placed in council infants school at the age of three, by which time he was already able to read and write. Although he was an academic prodigy, his education was not without difficulties; he was a slight child who made an easy target for bullying classmates. His older siblings won scholarships, however, and he was expected to do the same.

Denied the usual childhood outlet of street play, Cecil turned to books, starting a lifelong habit of reading at least one a day. During World War I, the seventeen-year-old youth tried to enlist in the British army but failed the physical examination as a result of a heart irregularity. He began medical studies at Guy’s Hospital, where, for the first time, his marks suffered. As a means of escape, he began to write small pieces for the hospital gazette and discovered that he enjoyed writing more than practicing medicine. Despite his parents’ wishes, he made a clean break from medicine to become a full-time author. His first novel, a work he later admitted was “atrociously...

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(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

ph_0111206298-Forester_CS.jpg C. S. Forester. Published by Salem Press, Inc.

Cecil Scott Forester (FAWR-uh-stur) won no major literary awards, and his books are rarely taught in schools. His distinction is of a different sort, for he is among the rare novelists to have created a character whose name has entered everyday speech. The depth of his mark on modern culture was dramatized in 1980, when President Jimmy Carter was eulogizing former vice president Hubert Horatio Humphrey at the Democratic National Convention. In the tradition of convention speeches, Carter praised Humphrey at length, while withholding the latter’s name until his triumphal final words: “that great American, Hubert Horatio Hornblower!” Few who heard the president that night needed to have his mistake explained, for he was thinking of none other than the immortal naval hero, Horatio Hornblower, created by British novelist C. S. Forester.{$S[A]Smith, Cecil Lewis Troughton;Forester, C. S.}

In a writing career spanning nearly five decades, Forester wrote eleven books about Hornblower. Although easily his best-known works, they represent less than a quarter of his total output. Forester started his writing career in the early 1920’s after dropping out of medical school in London. With no literary background whatsoever, he began furiously cranking out novels that publishers immediately rejected. Only the commissions he received to write hack biographies kept him from giving up; they gave him the time he needed to hone his writing skills.

Forester’s first critical success came in 1926 with Payment Deferred. Three years later a biography of the British naval hero Lord Nelson and a novel about naval warfare, Brown on Resolution, pointed the way for the Hornblower stories that were to come. Meanwhile, he was achieving solid success as a novelist; plays based on his books were produced in London’s West End, and Hollywood beckoned for his services as a screenwriter. Publication of The African Queen and The General in the mid-1930’s further broadened his readership. Finally, in 1937, he created Hornblower, who would lift him to international fame that he would sustain through the rest of his life.

Most of Forester’s novels have military settings, but he himself never saw military service. He reached induction age during World War I but was disqualified for medical reasons; he observed from a distance the carnage that devastated his generation of young British men. In the late 1930’s a...

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