Lieutenant Hornblower

by C. S. Forester

Hardcover, 1952

Call number




Little, Brown and Co., Boston (1952)


In this gripping tale of turmoil and triumph on the high seas, Horatio Hornblower emerges from his apprenticeship as midshipman to face new responsibilities thrust upon him by the fortunes of war between Napoleon and Spain. Enduring near-mutiny, bloody hand-to-hand combat with Spanish seamen, deck-splintering sea battles, and the violence and horror of life on the fighting ships of the Napoleonic Wars, the young lieutenant distinguishes himself in his first independent command. He also faces an adventure unique in his experience: Maria.

User reviews

LibraryThing member Poquette
In a series of books purportedly about Horatio Hornblower, it is surprising to read one in which Hornblower is not the central character, except in an indirect way. C.S. Forester spins this yarn through the eyes of another lieutenant who serves with him on the same ship but is senior to him
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according to date of commission. This is a clever approach because it allows the reader to see Hornblower's sometimes enigmatic character through the eyes of a colleague. So instead of an omniscient narrator, we see all the action filtered through the point of view of one who is not the hero of the story. As a consequence, Hornblower's heroism, ingenuity and fast thinking are elevated by witness of this colleague who is obviously less talented yet great-hearted enough to acknowledge and appreciate Hornblower's qualities.

Lieutenant Hornblower is another great sea adventure that takes place mostly underway to the West Indies — Santo Domingo (now the Dominican Republic) in particular, where, under command of an insane captain who suffers a debilitating accident and is thankfully confined to his quarters for the duration leaving the ship in command of the rather dull-witted first lieutenant, they suffer at first a defeat, but swiftly followed by a resounding victory which was thanks almost entirely to Lt. Hornblower. Read the book to see what happens next!
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LibraryThing member Homechicken
This is the second (chronologically) Hornblower book. It departs from the format of the first in that it is a novel and not a collection of short stories. I enjoyed this book as much as the first. In Lieutenant Hornblower, the titular character is 4th Lieutenant under the command of an unfair
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captain. The captain's obsession with mutineers and conspiracies drives all the lieutenants to speak of removing the captain from command, but the captain then has the most unfortunate accident of falling into a hatch and severely injuring himself. For some reason, the other lieutenants suspect Hornblower knows more about the captain's accident, but if so he won't talk about it. The first lieutenant then takes temporary command, but is hesitant in all his decisions. They end up following the now-deranged captain's sealed orders to take a fort that has been harassing their ships. Hornblower is instrumental in its taking, and is rewarded. Before his promotion can be ratified, though, England declares peace and quickly disbands most of its naval officers. Hornblower is left to his own devices until Napoleon's marshaling of his navy prompts England to respond in kind.
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LibraryThing member iayork
A great Historical naval story: C.S. Forester created a superb naval drama that gave me an inside look at the life of a sailor serving in the Royal Navy on the wooden war ship Renown. With Hornblower, and his companion Bush dealing with their befuddled Captain and fighting off the attacks by the
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Spanish this book kept me reading page after page. I believe this is one of the best books in the Hornblower series and I would encourage anyone with an eye for historical novels to check this series out.
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LibraryThing member AJBraithwaite
My teenage daughter is steadily working her way through the local library's collection of Hornblower books, which I first read at the same age. I picked up this one when she'd finished it, as I remember finding the point-of-view change to Bush made it an interesting read. I was surprised at the
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immense level of detail that Forester puts into these books. Too much, on occasions: the part where the gun is being repaired is described with intricacy that I can't imagine an editor leaving in the book nowadays. It's interesting, yes, but it can't really be said to be advancing the story very much...As an adult, I found Forester's portrayal of Bush's admiration for Hornblower to be rather over-stated: to the point where it got a bit embarrassing. As a teenager I was probably deeply in love with Hornblower myself, so it probably seemed perfectly fine.
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LibraryThing member TadAD
See Mr. Midshipman Hornblower. A significant and welcome step up in enjoyment from that first book.
LibraryThing member patience_crabstick
This Hornblower book is unusual in that it is told from Lieutenant Bush's perspective. I liked seeing Hornblower through another's eyes. As always with the Hornblower books, great fun.
LibraryThing member SerpensLiber
“This book is second in the life of Horatio, although not second in the order written. In this book we learn about Hornblower's competency under fire, his cunning and skill at anticipating the enemy and his willingness to take bold chances. We also learn that Hornblower isn't good with money
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during peace time and that a woman loves him. The main difference is that this story is mostly told by one of Hornblower's peers, one Lieutenant Bush. Bush is a competent naval officer, and at the start senior to Hornblower. Over the course of the novel Bush learns not only to trust Hornblower, but to like him. I found it an engaging way to tell the story and to reveal more about the character of Horatio Hornblower. Great Read!”
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LibraryThing member 5hrdrive
Exceptional. I've read so many books that are twice as long that contain less than half the story that this one does. Love the style, the characters, the plot, everything. The only thing that would improve the experience is if I could read it while at sea!
LibraryThing member ocianain
Don't worry, it's not THAT Forester, this is the good one.
LibraryThing member JBreedlove
Easily the best Hornblower book I have read. (I've read three) The entire novel was the story and not told as distinct episodes as the previous two I have read. Also, this story put a definite human face on the intrepid Hornblower.
LibraryThing member ASBiskey
I read this in the Young Hornblower omnibus. After reading Mr. Midshipmen Hornblower, this was an interesting contrast. It is not actually about Hornblower, but his fellow Lieutenant Bush, and Bush's experiences with Hornblower. It is interesting to watch the title character walk in and out of
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frame as it were. Perhaps it is because it is Bush's perspective, but Hornblower seems capable of walking on water. He is only a junior Lieutenant, but he has all the ideas and carries them out. The action is great and the story is well told. Different from the other Hornblower books I have read, but still a great read.
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LibraryThing member bkinetic
Hornblower is an entertaining action hero but has interesting nuances in his character and personality. He is as good at being tactful as he is in battle. There is also a thread of mystery throughout the story that leaves the reader out of omniscience and lets the reader know only as much as the
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other characters.
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LibraryThing member loveseabooks
Another great story in the Hornblower Series.

I believe "Lieutenant Hornblower" is my favorite book in the Hornblower Series. I suppose with Lt. Bush involment in the story he made the story more personal than the other books. It's a super sea story and I would gladly reacommend it to my friends.
LibraryThing member DavidCrawford
A great Historical naval story.
C.S. Forester created a superb naval drama that gave me an inside look at the life of a sailor serving in the Royal Navy on the wooden war ship Renown. With Hornblower, and his companion Bush dealing with their befuddled Captain and fighting off the attacks by the
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Spanish this book kept me reading page after page.
I believe this is one of the best books in the Hornblower series and I would encourage anyone with an eye for historical novels to check this series out.
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LibraryThing member callmecayce
I loved listening to this book so much. It's hard to explain why I loved it, maybe it's the way it was written (about Hornblower, but also about Bush, who will always be Paul McGann in my head), but I think it's really the relationship between Bush and Hornblower -- and, really, Hornblower's
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relationships with everyone. There's just something totally endearing about this book. I like the story, the trials Hornblower and Bush have to live through. I love (LOVE) Bush's insights and how he spends forever staring at and observing Hornblower and then at the end the just know each other so well and then Bush totally freaks out about Hornblower and Maria and I am like, it all makes sense now. And I just loved it. I will listen to more of these, because it's just so much fun.
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LibraryThing member BruderBane
C. S. Forester’s second Hornblower novel, chronologically speaking not print date, “Lieutenant Hornblower” is chock full of hard hitting exploits and daring dos. Withal what astounds me the most is Mr. Forester’s attention to detail, to every nuance, to each seeming iota in the hard wrung
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lives of the British naval military seaman at the turn of the 19th century. And to make this telling fresh and exciting (c’mon who expects hard-tack to be stimulating but it is, especially the worms) displays sagacity coupled with an ability to enrapture the reader. I don’t know how I missed this author (actually I do but that’s beside the point) but as to the next Hornblower novel, “ I wouldn’t miss it for worlds.”
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LibraryThing member antiquary
Of the Hornblower series, this is my least favorite, with Hornblower enginerring the overthrow of a captain who bullies his officers and spoils his crew.
LibraryThing member Napoleonicus
There is grumbling between the decks of the Renown. Tension is palpable, and nobody quite knows what to expect. In the time of a few months, their legendary and adulated captain’s behaviour has become increasingly strange and erratic. He is as likely to bouts of paranoia during which he can
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accuse just about anyone of conspiracy and “black bloody mutiny” as to randomly grant a double helping of spirits to all hands to recognise their loyalty right on the afternoon watch.

These are the conditions under which Lieutenant William Bush, which fans of the series know as Hornblower’s lifelong friend, joins the complement of the Renown. In a departure from the style in which the rest of the series is written, this book is actually told from Bush’s perspective. This ingenious device is played to particularly good results, allowing not only to better understand how other people actually perceive Horatio Hornblower, but also because it allows a plot element to which Hornblower is thought to be privy to remain mysterious.

When his paranoia leads Captain Sawyer to believe that Midshipman Wellard, a 12 year old boy, is undermining his authority in the eyes of the men, he has the boy severely beaten, which leads the officers, Lieutenants Buckland, Bush and Hornblower to doubt his sanity and ability to command.

While looking for mutineers on the lower deck, Captain Sawyer mysteriously falls down to the hold but lives, if only worsened by his fall. When it is determined that Captain Sawyer is unfit to resume command, it is expected that an admiralty hearing would await them in Jamaica to look into the removal of Captain sawyer. It is agreed by all that it would be best to pull into port with the successful execution of Sawyer’s orders than simply come ‘home’ with their tail between their legs and go under scrutiny with nothing to show. Under the command of the competent but utterly indecisive Lieutenant Buckland, the captain’s orders for action at Santo Domingo are therefore read and executed.

This adventure is brimming with action and features “black bloody mutiny”, the usual ship battle, the land raid of a spanish fort and an attempt to overrun the ship all the while exploing the mysterious events around Captain Sawyer’s suspicious fall. This second entry in the Hornblower series is vastly superior on all accounts to the ‘first’ and is a must read to anyone who likes a good suspense.

[It it of note that there is a reference to "the irish incident" near the begining of the novel. This 'incident' is recounted in the short story "The widow McCool", which while it happens somewhere between "Midshipman" and "Lieutenant", it was actually published much later in 1967, included with the final and unfinished "Hornblower and the crisis". The short story features also Lieutenant Buckland and a sane Captain James Sawyer.]
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LibraryThing member LisaMaria_C
Hornblower was the inspiration for Star Trek's Captain James Kirk, as well as Cornwell's Sharpe. Hornblower is more cerebral and socially awkward than Kirk (or O'Brien's Aubrey), more educated and refined than Sharpe. In his own right, Hornblower is certainly an engaging and complex character and
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the series is an interesting study in leadership, and a fascinating portrait of life at sea in the age of sail.

Lieutenant Hornblower is the second book chronologically, and the friend who recommended these to me when we were both in high school told me to at least start with the third book, the story of Hornblower's first command, Hornblower and the Hotspur. The first two books are outliers in their different ways, and I think both benefit from getting to know Hornblower (and Lieutenant Bush) first, then seeing how he got the way he did.

This was the seventh Hornblower book Forester wrote, and he says in The Hornblower Companion he was interested in how Hornblower came to marry his wife Maria, and what led to his promotion as Commander. From The Hornblower Companion, page 156:

If ever... I were to write about Hornblower again, and deal with this portion of his life ending in his marriage, it would be desirable--necessary--to write from another angle... Someone had to observe Hornblower's future wife more objectively than Hornblower himself could be expected to. For that matter it was time that Hornblower himself was put through an objective examination.

So this is the one book in the series not from Hornblower's point of view, but rather from Bush, who'd serve with Hornblower in the future. And yes, I own The Hornblower Companion--and knew just where to go to find that quote. Because ultimately, I did become quite a fan of the series--and was able to better appreciate reading about this period in his life after reading some of the other books.
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LibraryThing member DinadansFriend
My favourite Hornblower Novel. we see the man in a subordinate position, and facing several instances of unfair treatment. He copes, and even then is saved from even more degradation by a recreation of his real milieu. Napoleon starts up the war again. Our look at HH under very difficult conditions
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really humanizes him. It is similar in tone and plot to another Forester novel "Randall and the River of Time", that also bears up well under rereading.
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LibraryThing member ratastrophe
The best swashbuckling series of all time. Nobody swashbuckles quite like Hornblower!
LibraryThing member buffalogr
#2 in the Hornblower saga. This one is told from the viewpoint of Bush, a senior LT, and Horatio's best buddy. It's action on the high seas in the 1790s for King and country. Good, fun, action. The reading seems a bit overacted and in particular, the female characters don't really have any depth.
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Bush seems pretty unimaginative and not worthy of future promotion. In the action against the "Dons", we see Hornblower at his best. I shall press on next month to #3
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LibraryThing member Garrison0550
This is my favorite Hornblower book out of the entire series.

LibraryThing member Stevil2001
Though I've read this before, my original read of it predates the point in my life where I started putting reviews on my blog, so I don't have a specific sense of what I actually thought. My suspicion is, though, that the book reads better in publication order than in chronological. In term of
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chronology, it's odd that the first Hornblower novel is not a novel, and then the second is not told from the perspective of Hornblower; the first proper Hornblower novel is actually the third! But reading in publication order, this is the seventh Hornblower book, and so telling the story from the point of view of Lieutenant Bush provides a nice change of pace and prevents the series (just as the jump backward did) from beginning stagnant.

Bush is great, a straightforward, unpretentious officer, not a witty thinker, but a great seaman and a great judge of character. It does create some continuity errors to have him serving with Hornblower so early in both men's careers (Bush was clearly not used to Hornblower when posted as his first lieutenant some five years after this in Beat to Quarters), but I liked Bush, and it's neat to see what Hornblower looks like from outside his own head. Hornblower in Mr. Midshipman was a pretty ordinary guy if somewhat tightly wound, but here we see the beginning of the kind-of-neurotic Captain Hornblower of the earlier novels. It's a good plot for an outside perspective, too, since there's a significant mutiny component, and Forester uses the shift in perspective to create some ambiguity about Hornblower's actions.

This is one of my favorite Hornblower novels. You might view the long bit at the end regarding Hornblower's card-playing as extraneous, but if you do, you've misjudged the plot. The plot isn't the adventures of HMS Renown; the plot is these two men becoming life-long friends in an entirely understated way. It's gloriously reserved but utterly true, one of the best friendships in literature. Even if before this book it didn't exist in books set later!

(Side note: David Warner is such good casting as Captain Sawyer in the tv adaptation that ten-plus years after I last saw that episode, I could still imagine him saying all of Sawyer's lines as I read the book! The literary Hornblower is not quite Ioan Gruffudd, and the literary Bush not quite Paul McGann, so I never imagine those actors reading the lines, but David Warner is the character as written.)
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LibraryThing member ritaer
The actions of Hornblower as seen through the eyes of a fellow lieutenant on a ship with an insane captain. "How did the Captain fall?" is never answered. Book ends with disappointment as war ends.
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