By C. S. Forester
Reviewed by D. Andrew McChesney
Home for nearly a year and recuperating from his Baltic ordeal, Hornblower is tasked with retrieving a Royal Navy brig taken over by mutineers. As he proceeds, an opportunity to hasten the end of the war presents itself. Under Hornblowerís guidance, La Havre declares against Napoleon and within a short time the French Empire is at an end. Later, while visiting the Comte de Gracey, Napoleon returns causing Hornblower and his friend lead a band of irregulars fighting a losing battle against the reconstituted Empire. Captured and about to be executed, Hornblower is spared when news of Napoleonís final defeat at Waterloo arrives.
As much as he does in any of the Hornblower books, C. S. Forester swings between triumph and tragedy in Lord Hornblower. In the beginning, Hornblower is at a pinnacle of personal success, attending a special ceremony as a Knight of the Bath. Later he is Military Governor of La Havre, leads a triumphant expedition up the Seine, through Rouen, to Paris, and is elevated to the Peerage.
Hornblower finds himself in personal conflict regarding the mutineers he has been sent to bring to justice. As a naval officer, he deplores the act and realizes that the taint of it must be stamped out, lest it infect the rest of the fleet. Still, his humanity sympathizes with those who endured a captainís brutality to the point they rebelled. He unsuccessfully hints to the Duc díAngoulÍme that he would spare the condemned mutineers if requested.
His personal life also takes a wild journey between great joy and overwhelming sadness. William Bush dies, leading an expedition to counter Napoleonís attempt to retake La Havre. With the Empire defeated and Lady Barbara acting as hostess for her brother the Duke of Wellington, Hornblower feels out of place and returns to England. Bored and lonely he journeys to France, visits the Comte de Gracey and resumes his affair with Marie. The joy of that relationship is shattered with her death at the hands of Imperial forces.
Once again Forester has written a quite complex tale in a very simple fashion. He continues to portray Horatio Hornblower as a very human individual, one whom the reader is quite often frustrated with, and yet one whom the reader can readily identity and sympathize with. He also skillfully weaves the story of Hornblower into the events of history, even if his accounting doesnít exactly match what is recorded in the history books.
C. S. Forester does allow small technical errors to creep into the story. The Porta Coeli is at one point referred to as an eighteen gun brig. If so, it would be considered a brig-sloop, captained by a master and commander. Instead, it is commanded by Lieutenant Freeman. The mutinous Flame, a sister vessel, had been under the command of a Lieutenant Chadwick. One of the biggest technical faults of the edition read for this review lies not with the author but with the cover design. The illustration shows what is supposed to be a brig, yet the vessel pictured clearly has three masts and thus is a ship or possibly a bark, but not a brig.
Lord Hornblower is a must read for those wishing to understand the life and career of Horatio Hornblower. The story was originally copyrighted in 1946 and renewed in 1974. The paperback edition read for this review was printed sometime in the 1990s, has an ISBN of 0-316-28943-4, and a suggested price of $14.95 US. (Luckily for this reviewer, the copy purchased was on sale, as a sticker for $13.00 had been placed over the printed price mentioned earlier.)