"I thank God daily for the good fortune of my birth, for I am certain I would have made a miserable peasant."
-- Mr. Midshipman Hornblower
by C. S. Forester
All of the 12 Hornblower Saga titles are available as ebooks in the eNet Press eBookstore. Further descriptions can be found in individual book pages.
In 1927, C.S. Forester purchased three volumes of The Naval Chronicle from 1790 to 1820. For the Chronicle, officers of the Royal Navy wrote articles on strategy, seamanship, gunnery, and other professional topics of interest to their colleagues. The Chronicle for those years covered the wars with Napoleon. Reading these volumes and writing a history of Nelson solidified Forester's knowledge of British naval activities.
Upon traveling by freighter from California to Europe via Central America allowed the germination of the character Horatio Hornblower as a member of the Royal Navy in the late eighteenth century. By the time the journey brought him home to England, Forester had plotted Beat to Quarters, and it was published in 1937. A Ship of the Line and Flying Colours were published soon after, and in 1939 all three appeared as Captain Horatio Hornblower.
Subsequent volumes in the series were sequels to the original trilogy or filled in Hornblower's early history. The episodic quality of the novels is due partly to their having appeared serially in magazines, almost all in The Saturday Evening Post.
Hornblower is a complex mixture epitomizing the man alone. He is cynical but compassionate, courageous but not without fear. Self-conscious and socially unconfident, his marriage is a mismatch, and he finds himself in love with the Duke of Wellington's sister. Above all he is a consummate seaman, deserving of the loyalty of his men.
The achievement of Forester was that in conjuring up person, period, and place--rousing sea battles, eventual shore life, England, France, Central America--he made it easy for readers to believe they were there. In England, Beat to Quarters was published as The Happy Return. Captain Horatio Hornblower appeared as a motion picture in 1951.
Midshipman, Lieutenant, and Hotspur were made into two TV miniseries and are available on DVDs.