Horatio Hornblower was created by author C. S. Forester, who wrote 11 books about the character between 1937 and 1967. Hornblower is iconic in Age of Sail traditional naval fiction. There are many parallels between Hornblower and real naval officers of the period, especially Thomas Cochrane and Horatio Nelson. The name "Horatio" was inspired by the character in William Shakespeare's Hamlet and chosen also because of its association with contemporary figures such as Nelson.

Bryan Perrett argues in The Real Hornblower: The Life and Times of Admiral Sir James Gordon, GCB (1998) that Gordon was the inspiration for Hornblower.

The Hornblower novels and short stories Edit

The novels and short stories, in the order they were published:

  1. The Happy Return (1937, called Beat to Quarters in the US, novel)
  2. A Ship of the Line (1938, called simply Ship of the Line in the US, novel)
  3. Flying Colours (1938, spelled Flying Colors in some US editions, novel)
  4. Hornblower and the Hand of Destiny (1940, The Hand of Destiny in the U.S., short story)
  5. Hornblower and His Majesty (1940, short story)
  6. Hornblower's Charitable Offering (1941, The Bad Samaritan in the U.S., short story)
  7. The Commodore (1945, called Commodore Hornblower in the US, novel)
  8. Lord Hornblower (1946, novel)
  9. Mr. Midshipman Hornblower (1950, collected short stories)
  10. Hornblower and the Widow McCool (1950, vt Hornblower's Temptation, Hornblower and the Big Decision, short story)
  11. Lieutenant Hornblower (1952, novel)
  12. Hornblower and the Atropos (1953, novel)
  13. Hornblower in the West Indies (1958, Admiral Hornblower in the West Indies in some US editions, novel)
  14. Hornblower and the Hotspur (1962, novel)
  15. Hornblower and the Crisis (1967, unfinished novel and short stories Hornblower and the Widow McCool, The Last Encounter. vt Hornblower During the Crisis in some US editions)

In chronological order:

  1. Mr. Midshipman Hornblower (Jan 1794–Mar 1798)
  2. Hornblower and the Hand of Destiny (1799)
  3. Hornblower and the Widow McCool (1799)
  4. Lieutenant Hornblower (May 1800–Mar 1803)
  5. Hornblower and the Hotspur (Apr 1803–Jul 1805)
  6. Hornblower and the Crisis (Aug 1805–Dec 1805)
  7. Hornblower and the Atropos (Dec 1805–Jan 1808)
  8. The Happy Return (Jun 1808–Oct 1808)
  9. A Ship of the Line (May 1810–Oct 1810)
  10. Hornblower's Charitable Offering (Jun 1810)
  11. Flying Colours (Nov 1810–Jun 1811)
  12. Hornblower and His Majesty (1812)
  13. The Commodore (Apr 1812–Dec 1812)
  14. Lord Hornblower (Oct 1813–Jun 1815)
  15. Hornblower in the West Indies (May 1821–Oct 1823)
  16. The Last Encounter (Nov 1848)

Mr. Midshipman Hornblower, Lieutenant Hornblower and Hornblower and the Hotspur were compiled in one book, variously titled Hornblower's Early Years, Horatio Hornblower Goes to Sea, or The Young Hornblower. There are also simplified "cadet" collections of the Hornblower books for children.

Hornblower and the Atropos, The Happy Return and A Ship of the Line were also compiled into one omnibus edition, called Captain Hornblower.

In the US Beat to Quarters, A Ship of the Line, and Flying Colours were also compiled into one book, called Captain Horatio Hornblower.

Flying Colours, The Commodore, Lord Hornblower, and Hornblower in the West Indies make up a third omnibus edition called Admiral Hornblower to fill out the series.

Three short stories by C. S. Forester about Hornblower were also published in 1940 and 1941. The stories are:

  • Hornblower's Charitable Offering (aka The Bad Samaritan), published in Argosy, May 1941, and was originally intended as a chapter for A Ship of the Line.
  • Hornblower and His Majesty, in Collier's, March 1940, and in Argosy, March 1941.
  • The Hand of Destiny, in Collier's, November 1940.

Two other stories Hornblower and the Widow McCool (vt Hornblower's Temptation, or Hornblower's Big Decision) (1967) and The Last Encounter (1967), are often included with the unfinished novel Hornblower and the Crisis.

Another short story The Point And The Edge is included as an outline only in The Hornblower Companion (1964), a book in which Forester describes and illustrates with maps the incidents which his fictional hero experienced, and describes how the novels were written, what inspired them and how they relate to the real world of the Royal Navy.

The full text of many of these works is being made available on Gutenberg Canada.

Other Writers Edit

John Mahon wrote The Jamaican Affair of 1805 in 2012, with permission of Forester's family as the next novel chronologically after Hornblower and the Crisis

R.W. Smith wrote an attempt to complete Hornblower and the Crisis in 2010

James Keffer wrote Hornblower and the Island (2012) and Brewer's Luck: Hornblower's Legacy (2015)

Hornblower makes an appearance in Jay Worral's novel Sails on the Horizon.

C. Northcote Parkinson wrote a fictional biography, The Life and Times of Horatio Hornblower in 1970.

Hornblower's Historical Shipmates (2016) by Heather Noel-Smith & Lorna M. Campbell is a history book discussing the careers of 17 real midshipmen who served with Pellew on HMS Indefatigable.

The Real Hornblower: The Life and Times of Admiral Sir James Gordon, GCB (1998) by Bryan Perrett is a historical biography considering whether Gordon was an inspiration for Hornblower.

Rick Wilber wrote short story Horatio Hornblower and the Songs of Innocence about 1980.

Many amateur authors have written fan fiction in the Hornblower universe, focussing on the (often sexual) relationship between Hornblower and Bush. Hornblowerfic has many examples.


Influence on other fiction Edit

Napoleonic Edit

  • The popular Sharpe novels by Bernard Cornwell were inspired by C.S. Forester's Hornblower series as Cornwell was frustrated when growing up that there was no army equivalent.
  • Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey/Maturin novels are also inspired by Hornblower, and retell some of the same episodes of naval history.
  • Dudley Pope was encouraged by Forester to create his Lord Ramage series.
  • Alexander Kent's Richard Bolitho series was promoted as 'the best of Hornblower's successors'.

Science Fiction Edit

  • The Star Trek characters James T. Kirk and Jean-Luc Picard were originally also supposedly modelled after Hornblower by Gene Roddenberry. Nicholas Meyer, director of some of the most well regarded Star Trek films, frequently cites Horatio Hornblower as one of his primary influences.
  • The science fiction character John Grimes is acknowledged by his author A. Bertram Chandler to be not only based upon Horatio Hornblower, but has Hornblower himself as a distant relative.
  • The Hope science fiction series by David Feintuch is heavily influenced by the Hornblower series.
  • David Weber's character Honor Harrington closely parallels Hornblower; the identical initials are meant to reinforce this connection.
  • Poul Anderson's protagonist of the Technic History series, Dominic Flandry is modelled on Hornblower.

Parody Edit

  • Captain Honario Harpplayer, R.N. is a short story parody written by the science fiction author Harry Harrison substituting Hornblower's tone-deafness with complete colour-blindness, with the result that he cannot recognise a little green man as an alien.
  • The British comedy film Carry On Jack featured a character named Midshipman Poopdecker

Elsewhere Edit