The Commodore
Publication 1945
Publication Order
Preceded by
Hornblower's Charitable Offering
Followed by
Lord Hornblower
Apr 1812 Dec 1812
Preceded by
Hornblower and His Majesty
Followed by
Lord Hornblower

The Commodore follows Horatio Hornblower during his diplomatic mission to the Baltic. Published in 1945, it was the fourth Horatio Hornblower book to be written. By internal chronology, it is the ninth in the series.

Plot SummaryEdit

The Admiralty puts Commodore Horatio Hornblower in command of a squadron and sends him on a diplomatic and military mission to the Baltic. His primary aim is to bring Russia into the war against Napoleon.

Hornblower is shown dealing with the problems of squadron command, and using naval mortars (carried on special ships known as bomb-ketches to destroy a French privateer. This leads to the French invasion of Swedish Pomerania. Later his squadron calls at Kronstadt, where he meets with Russian officials, including Tsar Alexander I, who is favourably impressed by Hornblower and his squadron.

After Russia enters the war, Hornblower's squadron takes an important role in the Defence of Riga, which is besieged by French forces. The bomb vessels again take an important role, and so do amphibious operations under the protection of the squadron. The siege is finally broken, and Hornblower joins the pursuit of the French armies on horseback, only to fall seriously ill with typhus.

During the siege and pursuit, a German officer in Russian service, the later famous Carl von Clausewitz, is a character.



The novel occasioned some controversy when it was published, because of Hornblower's sexual encounter with a Russian Countess, although both are married at the time. While the actual encounter is not shown, the author leaves no serious doubt that it has occurred. There is a strong hint that a flea-bite during this encounter was the source of Hornblower's illness.

Character DevelopmentEdit

This book shows Hornblower's contrary character more strongly than many preceding books in the series -- he is unable to be happy or self-satisfied in spite of accomplishments highly valued by others, including both professional and personal success. It also shows a growth of paternal feeling by Hornblower toward junior officers.

Historical AccuracyEdit

The historical accuracy of this book is limited: Forester later wrote that he did not know what British naval forces, if any, were engaged at the siege of Riga.

External Links Edit

Full text at Gutenberg Canada