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C.S. Forester makes various literary references in the series:

Elegy in a Country Churchyard was the poem that Simpson forced shy Hornblower to recite about HMS Justinian.

Norie's Seamanship was referred to by Midshipman Hornblower when he was asked by Simpson aboard HMS Justinian if he knew the difference between a head and a halliard. John William Norie (1772-1843) authored many works on navigation and piloting directions for many parts of the world, but, none were titled as 'Seamanship'.

Hornblower thought of Greek historians Thucydides and Polybius while he observed the Spanish Galleys while aboard HMS Indefatigable.

Midshipman Hornblower was asked by Captain Keene of HMS Justinian if he could construe Greek historian Xenophon and Roman orator Cicero, Hornblower replied 'Yes, sir. But not very well, sir."

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