This article is both the novel character John Simpson, and the television series character Jack Simpson. John Simpson is the character in the novel Mr. Midshipman Hornblower, seen in the chapter The Even Chance. Jack Simpson follows a slightly different future in the series episode Hornblower: The Even Chance. Both are described here.
John Simpson was a midshipman aboard HMS Justinian.
He was weak at mathematics (which kept him from becoming a Lieutenant), but excellent at terrorizing the other midshipmen. Anyone who tried to rise up against him was beaten into submission. Simpson quickly found the vulnerable points of his fellow midshipmen, for example Horatio Hornblower's shyness, and used them to torment them.
Hornblower seemed to be an easy target for Simpson: young and vulnerable. Hornblower further incited Simpson's anger by correctly solving a problem in navigational class that Simpson could not solve.
When Hornblower, again as a result of his mathematical skills, beat Simpson at whist, Simpson accused him of cheating. Hornblower, who had been harbouring a death wish for some time, demanded an apology. Simpson refused, and so Hornblower challenged him to a duel.
Hornblower insisted on unusual terms for the duel: of the pistols used, only one was to be loaded, and the two duellists would each pick one pistol, stand within a yard of each other, and fire. This would mean that either had an even chance of picking the loaded pistol.
However, when the duel was carried out, neither pistol fired. Captain Keene had ordered Masters not to load the pistols, as he wanted to save Hornblower's life. Hornblower was transferred to HMS Indefatigable shortly after the duel, and never saw Simpson again.
TV series EditJack Simpson was a midshipman aboard HMS Justinian and later HMS Indefatigable.
Simpson was the tyrant of the midshipmen's berth, forcing the others to do his bidding. He particularly disliked Horatio Hornblower, since Hornblower once was able to solve a mathematical problem Simpson just made a mess of, and generally wouldn't submit to Simpson.
After Hornblower beat him at whist - a game Simpson with his lack of mathematical skills wasn't good at - Simpson accused him of cheating. Hornblower demanded satisfaction.
Clayton, who had tried to stand against Simpson earlier, feared for Hornblower's life, as he knew Simpson was a good shot. He knocked Hornblower unconscious with a belaying pin the morning of the duel and, as Hornblower's second, fought the duel in his stead. He managed to hit Simpson's shoulder, but was fatally shot himself.
With the beginning of the war, Hornblower and Archie Kennedy were transferred to Indefatigable, out of Simpson's reach. But then Justinian was sunk, and Simpson was picked up by the Indefatigable.
During the capture of the Papillon, Simpson saw his opportunity for revenge in the form of the unconscious Kennedy, lying in a boat. He cut the boat loose, and as Hornblower, balancing on the yardarm, was distracted by this, Simpson took a pistol and tried to shoot Hornblower. The wound was only superficial, however, and Hornblower survived. When Hornblower took command of the Papillon after the death of Lieutenants Eccleston and Chadd, Simpson was placed under arrest until they rejoined the Indefatigable. Once there, Hornblower accused Simpson of attempted murder, and challenged him to a second duel with Pellew's permission.
Before the duel, Simpson boasted that he would kill Hornblower as he had killed Kennedy. He fired at Hornblower before being told he could, claiming it was a misfire. Hornblower was not badly injured, however, and Simpson had to stand and take fire. Faced with this, he pleaded with Hornblower to spare him. Hornblower fired his pistol in the air, remarking that Simpson was not worth the powder.
Infuriated by this, Simpson grabbed a knife and charged at Hornblower, but Pellew shot him dead before he could reach his opponent.