|First appearance||The Happy Return (1937)|
|Last appearance||The Last Encounter (1967)|
|Created by||C. S. Forester|
|Portrayed by||Gregory Peck
Lady Barbara Wellesley
|Children||Horatio Hornblower (deceased)
Maria Hornblower (deceased)
Horatio Hornblower is a fictional Napoleonic Wars era Royal Navy officer who is the protagonist of a series of novels by C. S. Forester. He was later the subject of films, radio and television programs.
The original Hornblower tales began with the 1937 novel The Happy Return (U.S. title Beat to Quarters) with the appearance of a junior Royal Navy captain on independent duty on a secret mission to Central America, though later stories would fill out his earlier years, starting with an unpromising beginning as a seasick midshipman. As the Napoleonic Wars progress, he gains promotion steadily as a result of his skill and daring, despite his initial poverty and lack of influential friends. Eventually, after surviving many adventures in a wide variety of locales, he rises to the pinnacle of his profession, promoted to Admiral of the Fleet, knighted as a Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath, and named the 1st Baron Hornblower.
There are many parallels between Hornblower and real naval officers of the period, notably Admiral Lord Nelson and also Sir George Cockburn, Lord Cochrane, Jeremiah Coghlan, Sir James Gordon, Sir William Hoste and many others. The actions of the Royal Navy at the time, documented in official reports, gave much material for Hornblower's fictional adventures.
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. The name Hornblower was probably derived from the American film producer Arthur Hornblow, Jr., with whom C. S. Forester had been working prior to writing the first Hornblower novel.
Forester's original inspiration was an old copy of the Naval Chronicle, which described the effective dates of the Treaty of Ghent. Because of the time required to communicate around the world, it was possible for two countries to still be at war in one part of the world after a peace was obtained months before in another. The burdens that this placed on captains far from home led him to a character struggling with the stresses of a "man alone". At the same time, Forester wrote the body of the works carefully to avoid entanglements with real world history, so Hornblower is always off on another mission when a great naval victory occurs during the Napoleonic Wars.
Described as "unhappy and lonely", Hornblower is courageous, intelligent and a skilled seaman; but he is also burdened by his intense reserve, introspection and self-doubt. Despite numerous personal feats of extraordinary skill and cunning, he belittles his achievements by numerous rationalizations, remembering only his fears. He consistently ignores or is unaware of the admiration with which he is held by his fellow sailors. He regards himself as cowardly, dishonest, and, at times, disloyal—never crediting his ability to persevere, think rapidly, organize or cut to the heart of a matter. His sense of duty, hard work, and drive to succeed make these imagined negative characteristics undetectable by everyone but him, and being introspective, he obsesses over petty failures to reinforce his poor self-image. His introverted nature continually isolates him from the people around him, including his closest friend, William Bush, and his wives never fully understand him. He is guarded with nearly everyone, unless the matter is the business of discharging his duty as a King's officer, in which case he is clear and decisive.
Hornblower possesses a hyper-developed sense of duty, though on occasion he is able to set it aside; for example, in Hornblower and the Hotspur, he contrives an escape for his personal steward, who would otherwise have to be hanged for striking a superior officer. He is philosophically opposed to flogging and capital punishment, and is pained when circumstances or the Articles of War force him to impose such sentences.
He suffers from chronic seasickness, especially at the start of his voyages. As a midshipman, he was once sick at the sheltered roadstead of Spithead. His embarrassment haunts him throughout his career. He is tone-deaf and finds music an incomprehensible irritant (in a scene in Hotspur he is unable to recognize the British national anthem).
A voracious reader, he can discourse on both contemporary and classical literature. His skill at mathematics makes him both an adept navigator and an extremely talented whist player. He uses his ability at whist to supplement his income during a period of inactivity in the naval service.
Fictional biography 
Hornblower is born in Kent, the son of a doctor. He has no inherited wealth or influential connections who can advance his career. In The Happy Return, the first novel by order of publication, Hornblower was born June 11 in 1771. His age is given as 37, and the events of the novel take place during 1808, in which year Spain was first at war with Great Britain but then changed sides. However, when Forester decided to write about Hornblower's early career in the sixth novel Mr. Midshipman Hornblower, he made his hero about five years younger, giving his birthdate as July 4, 1776 (the date of the adoption of the United States Declaration of Independence). This adjustment allows Hornblower to begin his career in wartime. He is given a classical education, and by the time he joins the Royal Navy at age seventeen, he is well-versed in Greek and Latin. He is tutored in French by a penniless French émigré and has an aptitude for mathematics, which serves him well as a navigator.
Early career 
Hornblower's early exploits are many and varied. Joining the Royal Navy as a midshipman, he fends off fire ships which interrupt his first (disastrous) examination for promotion to lieutenant. Still only an acting lieutenant, he is given command of the sloop Le Rêve, which blunders into a Spanish fleet in the fog, resulting in Hornblower's capture and imprisonment in Ferrol. During his captivity, he acquires a fluent knowledge of Spanish, which proves highly useful in several further adventures, and is finally confirmed as a commissioned lieutenant. His daring rescue of sailors from a shipwreck under extremely hazardous conditions, and his honourable adherence to the parole he had given, is rewarded by his Spanish captors by his release.
As a junior lieutenant, he serves under Captain Sawyer, who suffers a breakdown due to paranoid schizophrenia on a trip to the Caribbean. It is on this voyage that he begins his long friendship with William Bush, at the time his senior officer. Returning to England, Hornblower is demobilized after the peace of Amiens, causing him great financial distress—he resorts to making a living as a professional gambler, playing whist with admirals and other senior figures for a modest income.
In 1803, he is reactivated and confirmed as commander of HMS Hotspur when hostilities resume against Napoleon. Following his appointment to this command, he marries Maria, the daughter of his landlady while living on half-pay in Portsmouth. Originally he is written as having mixed feelings about Maria (to the extent of wondering, during the wedding ceremony, whether it is not too late to back out). Maria is portrayed as a somewhat dull woman who dotes upon the irritable Hornblower in ways he finds distressing—she knows little of the sea, and annoys him both with her ignorance and her desire for social status derived from his promotions, as well as her hero-worship of him, which clashes with his eternally low self-image. Despite this unfortunate beginning however, over the course of several books he warms to her, and becomes at least a good, if not perfect, husband and father to her and their first two children, also named Horatio and Maria.
After gruelling service during the blockade of Brest aboard the Hotspur, he finally gains the coveted promotion to Captain, by the assistance of Commander-in-Chief William Cornwallis, and is recalled to England. Once there, he meets the secretary of the Admiralty and post rank is conferred immediately when Hornblower agrees to take part in a clandestine operation that eventually leads to the resounding British victory at the Battle of Trafalgar that costs Nelson his life.
Hornblower then organizes Nelson's funeral procession along the River Thames and has to deal with the near-sinking of the barge conveying the hero's coffin. Later, he secretly recovers gold and silver from a sunken ship on the bottom of Marmorice Bay within the Ottoman Empire with the aid of pearl divers from Ceylon, narrowly escaping a Turkish warship at the end. Upon unloading the treasure and refitting, his ship, HMS Atropos, is given to the King of the Two Sicilies for diplomatic reasons, much to his disappointment. On his return to England, he finds his two young children dying of smallpox. It is implied in later novels that they died, though the timing of this is never made clear.
Later (in the time line, but written of in the first novel), he makes a long, difficult voyage in command of the frigate HMS Lydia round the Horn to the Pacific, where his mission is to support a madman, El Supremo, in his rebellion against the Spanish. He captures the Natividad, a much more powerful Spanish ship (Bush refers to it as a "ship of the line", although Hornblower believes this is stretching a point), but then has to reluctantly cede it to El Supremo to placate him. When he finds that the Spanish have switched sides in the interim, he is forced to find and sink the ship he had captured—adding injury to insult, as he had given up a fortune in prize money to maintain the uneasy alliance with the megalomaniac.
He also takes on an important passenger in a stop in Panama—Lady Barbara Wellesley, the fictional younger sister of Arthur Wellesley (later to become the Duke of Wellington)—also Hornblower's future wife, and without doubt the love of his life. He is at first nettled and infuriated by her forthright and outspoken manner, her ability to easily see through his reserve, and her refusal to be cowed or overawed by him. Over time, however, her beauty, strength and intelligence win his heart, and the two become dangerously attracted to each other. This results in a kiss that is interrupted by Lady Barbara's maid Hebe—when she is sent away, the spell is broken, and Hornblower, engaging in his typical, self-loathing and second-guessing behavior, refuses to give in to his feelings again. Perceiving herself to be rejected, Lady Barbara leaves the Lydia two days later when they rendezvous with other British ships. Hornblower fears for his career, having offended the daughter of an earl and sister of a marquis.
Later career 
After these exploits, he is given command of HMS Sutherland, a seventy-four gun ship of the line. His feelings are disturbed during this period by the fact that his commander, Admiral Leighton, has recently married Lady Barbara, thereby apparently ending any hope that she and Hornblower might act on their feelings for one another. Hornblower is tormented by jealousy of Leighton, compounded by the admiral's dismissive treatment of him; this treatment is due in fact to Leighton's rightly suspecting his wife's attraction to the famous captain, and feelings of inferiority towards Hornblower, but naturally the self-doubting captain is incapable of realizing this.
While waiting at his Mediterranean rendezvous point for the rest of his squadron—and its commander—to arrive, he carries out a series of raids against the French along the south coast of Spain. He learns that a French squadron of four ships of the line is loose, having slipped the blockade. He decides that his duty requires that he fight at one-to-four odds to prevent them from entering a well-protected harbour. In the process, his ship is crippled and, with two-thirds of the crew incapacitated, he surrenders to the French. As a prisoner he witnesses the destruction of the French squadron, while at anchor, by the British force his ship was formerly attached to.
He is sent with his coxswain, Brown, and his injured first lieutenant, Bush, to Paris for a show trial and execution. During the journey, Hornblower and his companions escape. After a winter sojourn at the chateau of the Comte de Graçay, during which he has an affair with the nobleman's widowed daughter-in-law, the escapees travel down the Loire river to the coastal city of Nantes. There, he recaptures a Royal Navy cutter, the Witch of Endor, mans the vessel with a gang of slave labourers and escapes to the Channel Fleet.
Hornblower faces a mandatory court-martial for the loss of the Sutherland, but is "most honourably acquitted." A national hero in the eyes of the public, he is awarded a knighthood and made a Colonel of Marines (a sinecure which confers a second salary without any additional duties). When he arrives home, he discovers that his first wife Maria has died in childbirth and that his infant son has been adopted and cared for by Lady Barbara. As she has been widowed by the death of her husband, Hornblower's former commander, Admiral Leighton, they are free (after a decent interval) to marry. Thereafter, he lives as a country squire in the fictional village of Smallbridge, Kent, largely satisfied but longing for the sea.
A return to duty comes when he is promoted to commodore and sent on a mission to the Baltic Sea, where he must be a diplomat as much as an officer. He foils an assassination attempt on Tsar Alexander I of Russia and is influential in the monarch's decision to resist the French invasion of the Russian Empire. While at the court of the Tsar, it is implied (but not explicitly confirmed) that he is unfaithful to Barbara, dallying with a young Russian noblewoman. He provides invaluable assistance in the defence of Riga against the French army, where he meets General Carl von Clausewitz of the Prussian Army.
He returns ill with typhus to England. Soon after his recovery, he is given the difficult task of dealing with mutineers off the coast of France. After provoking the French by trickery into attacking the mutinous ship, he rounds up the rebels, personally shooting their ringleader as he tries to escape. When he is approached by a French official willing to negotiate the surrender of a major port, he seizes the opportunity and engineers the return of the Bourbons to France. He is rewarded by being created a peer as Baron Hornblower of Smallbridge in the County of Kent. However, his satisfaction is marred by the death of his longtime friend, Bush.
When Napoleon returns from exile at the start of the Hundred Days, Hornblower is staying at the estate of the Comte de Graçay, which he was visiting after again growing tired of his life in Smallbridge. While there, he renews his affair with Marie de Gracay, so that he has now been unfaithful, with her, to both of his wives. When the country goes over to Napoleon en masse, Hornblower, the Count, and his family choose to fight rather than flee to Britain. He leads a Royalist guerrilla force, and causes the returned Emperor's forces much grief before his band is finally cornered; in a desperate shootout, Marie is slain, and a devastated Hornblower captured. After a brusque hearing before a military tribunal, he and the Count are both sentenced to the firing squad the next morning by an officer who obviously regrets the task. However, in the morning when his cell door is opened, he is granted a stay due to Napoleon's defeat at the Battle of Waterloo; after Napoleon is again sent into exile, Hornblower is released.
After several years ashore, he is promoted to rear admiral and appointed naval Commander-in-Chief of the West Indies. He foils an attempt by veterans of Napoleon's Imperial Guard to free Napoleon from his captivity on Saint Helena, captures a slave ship, and encounters Simón Bolívar's army. He also discovers a plot by Lady Barbara to engineer the escape of a Marine bandsman sentenced to death for a minor offence. An astonished Hornblower overlooks her breach of the law and reassures her of his love. Finally, while attempting to return to England, the Hornblowers are caught in a hurricane, and Horatio struggles desperately to save Barbara's life from the storm. In a moment of terror and desperation, she bares her heart to him, revealing that she never loved her first husband, only him. The two survive, and this revelation does much to heal the last self-inflicted wounds in Hornblower's soul. He retires to Kent and eventually becomes Admiral of the Fleet.
His final, improbable achievement occurs at his home, when he assists a seemingly mad man claiming to be Napoleon to travel to France. That person turns out to be Napoleon III, the nephew of Hornblower's great nemesis and the future President (and later Emperor in his own right) of France. For his assistance, Lord Hornblower is created a Chevalier of the Legion of Honour. At the end of his long and heroic career, he is wealthy, famous and contented, a loving and beloved, indulgent husband and father, and finally free of the insecurities and self-loathing that had driven him throughout his life.
Forester provides two different brief summaries of Hornblower's career. The first was in the first chapter of The Happy Return, which was the first Hornblower novel written. The second occurs mid-way through The Commodore, when Czar Alexander asks him to describe his career. The two accounts are incompatible. The first account would have made Hornblower about five years older than the second. The second account is more nearly compatible with the rest of Hornblower's career, but it omits the time he spent as a commander in Hornblower and the Hotspur. There are other discrepancies as well; in one account of his defeat of a Spanish frigate in the Mediterranean, he distinguished himself as lieutenant and in another he is a post-captain with less than three years seniority. It appears that these discrepancies arose as the series matured and accounts needed to be modified to coincide with his age and career.
Non-canonical biography 
C. Northcote Parkinson, more famous for his invention of Parkinson's Law, has written a "biography" of Hornblower, detailing his career as well as personal information. The biography sheds light upon what really happened to Captain Sawyer on HMS Renown (including a confession that Hornblower pushed Captain Sawyer down the hatchway), as well as subsequent careers of Lord Hornblower's descendants, ending with the present Lord Hornblower's emigration to Apartheid South Africa in the late 1960s. According to Parkinson, Hornblower in later life became a director of P&O, Governor of Malta (1829–1831), Commander in Chief at Chatham (1832–1835) a Viscount (in 1850), and an Admiral of the Fleet, dying aged 80 on 12 January 1858. This fictional biography of a fictional character has confused some readers, who have taken it as a factual work. Parkinson includes in Horatio's family tree at least two real life Hornblowers, though he nowhere admits to this. They are Jonathan Hornblower senior and junior, who were noted engineers designing and working with steam engines in mines in Cornwall in the late 18th century. In their spare time they were active Baptist Christians, founding a church in Chacewater whose offshoot in Truro is very much alive to this day.
The Hornblower canon by Forester consists of eleven novels (one unfinished) and five short stories. In addition, The Hornblower Companion includes maps showing where the action took place in the ten complete novels plus Forester's notes on how they were written.
|UK Title||Story Dates||UK Date of First Publication||UK Publisher||US Title||US Date of First Publication||US Publisher||Notes|
|The Happy Return||Jun 1808–Oct 1808||Feb 4, 1937||Michael Joseph||Beat to Quarters||Apr 6, 1937||Little Brown||Novel|
|A Ship of the Line||May 1810–Oct 1810||Apr 4, 1938||Michael Joseph||Ship of the Line||Mar 18, 1938||Little Brown||Novel|
|Flying Colours||Nov 1810–Jun 1811||Nov 1, 1938||Michael Joseph||Flying Colours||Jan 3, 1939||Little Brown||Novel|
|Hornblower and His Majesty||1812||Mar 1941||Argosy (UK)||Hornblower and His Majesty||Mar 23, 1940||Collier's||Short story|
|Hornblower and the Hand of Destiny||1798||Apr 1941||Argosy (UK)||The Hand of Destiny||Nov 23, 1940||Collier's||Short story|
|Hornblower's Charitable Offering||Jun 1810||May 1941||Argosy (UK)||The Bad Samaritan||Jan 18, 1941||Argosy (US)||Short story intended as a chapter of A Ship of the Line|
|The Commodore||Apr 1812–Dec 1812||Mar 12, 1945||Michael Joseph||Commodore Hornblower||May 21, 1945||Little Brown||Novel|
|Lord Hornblower||Oct 1813–Jun 1814||Jun 11, 1946||Michael Joseph||Lord Hornblower||Sep 24, 1946||Little Brown||Novel|
|Mr. Midshipman Hornblower||Jan 1794–Mar 1798||May 22, 1950||Michael Joseph||Mr. Midshipman Hornblower||Mar 13, 1950||Little Brown||Novel|
|Hornblower and the Big Decision||1799||Apr 1951||Argosy (UK)||Hornblower's Temptation||Dec 9, 1950||The Saturday Evening Post||Short story subsequently published as Hornblower and the Widow McCool in Hornblower and the Crisis|
|Lieutenant Hornblower||May 1800–Mar 1803||Feb 11, 1952||Michael Joseph||Lieutenant Hornblower||Mar 27, 1952||Little Brown||Novel|
|Hornblower and the Atropos||Dec 1805–Jan 1808||Nov 9, 1953||Michael Joseph||Hornblower and the Atropos||Sep 10, 1953||Little Brown||Novel|
|Hornblower in the West Indies||May 1821–Oct 1823||Sep 29, 1958||Michael Joseph||Admiral Hornblower in the West Indies||Aug 28, 1958||Little Brown||Novel|
|Hornblower and the Hotspur||Apr 1803–Jul 1805||Jul 27, 1962||Michael Joseph||Hornblower and the Hotspur||Aug 1, 1962||Little Brown||Novel|
|The Hornblower Companion||Dec 4, 1964||Michael Joseph||The Hornblower Companion||Dec 6, 1964||Little Brown||Supplementary book comprising "The Hornblower Atlas" and "Some Personal Notes"|
|Hornblower and the Crisis||Aug 1805–Dec 1805||Jun 4, 1967||Michael Joseph||Hornblower During the Crisis||Nov 8, 1967||Little Brown||Novel (unfinished) plus Hornblower and the Widow McCool and The Last Encounter|
|The Last Encounter||Nov 1848||Jun 4, 1967||Michael Joseph||The Last Encounter||Apr 1967||Argosy (US)||Short story subsequently published in Hornblower During the Crisis|
Another short story, "The Point and the Edge," is included only as an outline in The Hornblower Companion.
Omnibus publications 
The first three novels written, The Happy Return, A Ship of the Line, and Flying Colours were collected as Captain Horatio Hornblower (1939) by Little Brown in the US. Both a single-volume edition and a three-volume edition (in a slip case) were published.
Mr. Midshipman Hornblower, Lieutenant Hornblower, and Hornblower and the Atropos were compiled in one book, variously titled Hornblower's Early Years, Horatio Hornblower Goes to Sea, or The Young Hornblower. Hornblower and the Atropos was replaced by Hornblower and the Hotspur in later UK editions of The Young Hornblower.
Hornblower and the Atropos, The Happy Return, and A Ship of the Line were compiled into one omnibus edition, called Captain Hornblower.
Flying Colours, The Commodore, Lord Hornblower, and Hornblower in the West Indies were presented as a third omnibus edition called Admiral Hornblower to fill out the series.
Commodore Hornblower, Lord Hornblower, and Hornblower in the West Indies were also compiled into one book, called The Indomitable Hornblower.
Four "Cadet Editions" were released by Little Brown and later by Michael Joseph, each collecting two Hornblower novels and edited for younger readers: Hornblower Goes to Sea (1953, 1954), from Mr. Midshipman Hornblower and Lieutenant Hornblower; Hornblower Takes Command (1953, 1954), from Hornblower and The Atropos and Beat To Quarters; Hornblower in Captivity (1939, 1955), from A Ship of the Line and Flying Colours; and Hornblower's Triumph (1946, 1955), from Commodore Hornblower and Lord Hornblower.
The short stories The Hand of Destiny, Hornblower's Charitable Offering, Hornblower and His Majesty plus other Hornblower material not previously published in book-form was collected in Hornblower One More Time (Jul 4, 1976) though only 350 copies were printed.
The Hornblower novels were all serialised in US periodicals and most also in UK periodicals. Except for the first novel Beat to Quarters, the serialisations appeared before the books.
|US Novel Title||Story Dates||US Serial Dates||US Parts||US Magazine||UK Serial Dates||UK Parts||UK Magazine|
|Beat to Quarters||Jun 1808–Oct 1808||Sep 17, 1938–Oct 22, 1938||6||Argosy (US)||May 1949||1||Argosy (UK)|
|Ship of the Line||May 1810–Oct 1810||Feb 26, 1938–Apr 2, 1938||6||Argosy (US)|
|Flying Colours||Nov 1810–Jun 1811||Dec 3, 1938–Jan 7, 1939||6||Argosy (US)|
|Commodore Hornblower||Apr 1812–Dec 1812||Mar 24, 1945–May 12, 1945||8||The Saturday Evening Post|
|Lord Hornblower||Oct 1813–Jun 1814||May 18, 1946–Jul 6, 1946||8||The Saturday Evening Post|
|Mr. Midshipman Hornblower||Jan 1794–Mar 1798||Mar 6, 1948–Mar 11, 1950||9||The Saturday Evening Post||Aug 1948–Jun 1950||10||Argosy (UK)|
|Lieutenant Hornblower||May 1800–Mar 1803||Sep 15, 1951–Nov 17, 1951||9||The Saturday Evening Post||Oct 6, 1951–Jan 12, 1952||10||John Bull|
|Hornblower and the Atropos||Dec 1805–Jan 1808||Jul 25, 1953–Sep 12, 1953||8||The Saturday Evening Post||Oct 3, 1953–Nov 28, 1953||9||John Bull|
|Admiral Hornblower in the West Indies||May 1821–Oct 1823||May 11, 1957–Apr 26, 1958||10||The Saturday Evening Post||May 25, 1957–Sep 13, 1958||13||John Bull|
|Hornblower and the Hotspur||Apr 1803–Jul 1805||Oct 1962||1||Argosy (US)||Feb 24, 1962–Apr 7, 1962||7||Today|
|Hornblower During the Crisis||Aug 1805–Dec 1805||Jul 16, 1966–Jul 30, 1966||2||The Saturday Evening Post|
Historical figures in the novels 
- Vice-Admiral The Hon. Sir Henry Blackwood, 1st Baronet (Hornblower and the Atropos)
- Admiral Prince William Henry, Duke of Clarence (later King William IV) (Flying Colours)
- Admiral Lord Collingwood (Hornblower and the Atropos)
- Admiral The Hon. Sir William Cornwallis (Hornblower and the Widow McCool, Hornblower and the Hotspur, Hornblower and the Atropos)
- Admiral Lord Gambier (Flying Colours)
- Rear-Admiral Lord Gardner, second in command to Admiral Cornwallis (Hornblower and the Hotspur)
- Captain Richard Bowen — HMS Terpsichore, but called Captain Sir Richard Bowen, killed at Teneriffe
- Admiral Sir John Gore — HMS Medusa (Hornblower and the Hotspur)
- Admiral Sir Richard Grindall — HMS Prince (Hornblower and the Hotspur)
- Admiral Sir Graham Eden Hamond, 2nd Baronet — HMS Lively, but called Hammond (Hornblower and the Hotspur)
- Captain Sir Thomas Masterman Hardy — HMS 'Triumph (Flying Colours)
- Admiral John Jervis, 1st Earl of St Vincent (Hornblower and the Atropos, Lord Hornblower)
- Captain Charles John Moore Mansfield — HMS Minotaur, but called Marsfield (Hornblower and the Hotspur)
- Admiral Sir Graham Moore — HMS Indefatigable (Hornblower and the Hotspur)
- Admiral of the Fleet Sir Peter Parker, 1st Baronet (Hornblower and the Atropos)
- Rear-Admiral Sir William Parker, 1st Baronet, of Harburn (Hornblower and the Hotspur)
- Captain Lord Henry Paulet — HMS Terrible (Hornblower and the Hotspur)
- Admiral Pellew, Viscount Exmouth — HMS Indefatigable (Mr. Midshipman Hornblower, Hornblower and the Hotspur, Lord Hornblower)
- Rear-Admiral Sir James Saumarez, later Lord de Saumarez, — HMS Temeraire (The Happy Return)
- Captain Samuel Sutton — HMS Amphion (Hornblower and the Hotspur)
Other historical figures 
- Aleksandr Pavlovich Romanov, Tsar Alexander I of Russia (The Commodore)
- Sir John Barrow — Second Secretary to the Admiralty (Hornblower and the Crisis)
- Lord William Cavendish-Bentinck (Hornblower and the Atropos)
- Prince Karl XIV Johan of Sweden (The Commodore)
- Napoleon III of France (The Last Encounter)
- General Count Pierre Jacques Etienne Cambronne (erstwhile commander of the Imperial Guard) (Hornblower In The West Indies)
- Colonel Karl Philip Gottlieb von Clausewitz (The Commodore)
- Lord Conyngham (Flying Colours)
- General Sir Hew Whitefoord Dalrymple (governor of Gibraltar - although Dalrymple did not in fact become governor until a later date than that at which the novel is set) (Mr. Midshipman Hornblower)
- Lady Frances Dalrymple (wife of Sir Hew) (Mr. Midshipman Hornblower)
- Duke d'Angoulême (the future French pretender Louis XIX) (Lord Hornblower)
- Duchess d'Angoulême, (the daughter of King Louis XVI) (Lord Hornblower)
- General Hans Karl von Diebitsch (Commodore Hornblower)
- John Hookham Frere (Flying Colours)
- General-Lieutenant Ivan Nikolaevich Essen (The Commodore)
- King George III of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland (Hornblower and the Atropos)
- George Augustus Frederick, The Prince Regent (later King George IV) (Flying Colours)
- William Marsden — Secretary to the Lords of the Admiralty (Hornblower and the Crisis)
- General Count Sebastian Francisco de Miranda (Hornblower and the Crisis)
- General Count Louis Marie Jacques Alamaric Narbonne-Lara (The Commodore)
- Henry Temple, 3rd Viscount Palmerston (Flying Colours)
- Spencer Perceval — Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (Flying Colours)
- Richard Colley Wellesley, 2nd Earl of Mornington, Marquis Wellesley (A brother of Hornblower's fictional wife, Lady Barbara Wellesley) (The Commodore)
- General Ludwig Yorck von Wartenburg (The Commodore)
Ships featured 
|Name of ship||Rate of ship||Guns||Main armament||Hornblower's rank||Novel or short story title||End of commission|
|HMS Justinian||3rd rate||74||32 lb||Midshipman||Mr. Midshipman Hornblower||Is transferred to Indefatigable by Justinian's well-meaning captain to get him away from a bully of a senior midshipman.|
|HMS Indefatigable||5th rate||44||24 lb||Midshipman, later acting lieutenant||Mr. Midshipman Hornblower||Is made prize master of Marie Galante, seized as a prize by Indefatigable.|
|Marie Galante||Captured merchant brig||none||Midshipman||Mr. Midshipman Hornblower||Ship sinks when a leak causes the cargo of rice to expand disastrously.|
|HM transport Caroline||Transport brig||none||Acting lieutenant||Mr. Midshipman Hornblower||Returns to Indefatigable after a medical quarantine ends without incident.|
|Le Reve||Sloop||4||4 lb||Acting lieutenant||Mr. Midshipman Hornblower||Is captured by the Spanish.|
|HMS Marguerite||5th rate||36||18 lb||1st lieutenant||"The Hand of Destiny"||Is paid off.|
|HMS Renown||3rd rate||74||24 lb||Lieutenant||Lieutenant Hornblower||Is paid off.|
|HMS Retribution||Sloop-of-war||18||9 lb||Acting commander||Lieutenant Hornblower||Is paid off, as the Peace of Amiens begins.|
|HMS Hotspur||Sloop-of-war||20||9 lb||Commander||Hornblower and the Hotspur||Is promoted to post-captain (and becomes too high ranking to command such a small ship).|
|HMS Atropos||6th rate||22||9 lb||Junior post-captain||Hornblower and the Atropos||Ship is given to the King of the two Sicilies to maintain his support against Napoleon.|
|HMS Lydia||5th rate||36||18 lb||Senior post-captain||The Happy Return and Beat to Quarters||Is paid off. He and the crew are transferred to HMS Sutherland.|
|HMS Sutherland||3rd rate||74||24 lb||Post-captain||A Ship of the Line||Severely damaged in battle while single-handedly disabling three French ships of the line, forcing them to seek refuge in Rosas Bay. Burned to the waterline to prevent its reuse by the enemy in 'Flying Colours' during an attack by the Mediterranean fleet which destroys the three French ships.|
|Witch of Endor||Cutter||10||6 lb||Post-captain||Flying Colours||Liberates the previously captured Witch with the help of Bush, Brown and a gang of prisoners, and escapes from France to England. This feat gains him much fame and assists at his mandatory court-martial for surrendering the Sutherland.|
|Augusta||Yacht||6||Post-captain||"Hornblower and his Majesty"|
|HMS Nonsuch||3rd rate||74||32 lb||Commodore of the first class||The Commodore and Lord Hornblower||Contracts typhus and returns to England from the Baltic Sea on the Clam.|
|Lotus and Raven||Sloops||Commodore of the first class||The Commodore|
|Clam||Cutter||Commodore of the first class||The Commodore|
|Harvey and Moth||Bomb-ketches||Mortars||Commodore of the first class||The Commodore|
|Porta Coeli||Brig||18||6 lb||Commodore||Lord Hornblower||After suppressing a mutiny on Porta Coeli's sister ship Flame, he transfers to Flame.|
|Flame||Brig||18||6 lb||Commodore||Lord Hornblower||Is made Governor of Le Havre.|
|Crab||Schooner||2||Rear-Admiral, Commander-in-Chief||Hornblower in the West Indies||Transfers his flag back to Clorinda.|
|HMS Phoebe||5th rate||36||18 lb||Rear-Admiral, Commander-in-Chief||Hornblower in the West Indies||Assignment as Commander-in-Chief ends.|
|HMS Clorinda||5th rate||36||18 lb||Rear-Admiral and Commander-in-Chief||Hornblower in the West Indies||Assignment as Commander-in-Chief ends.|
|HMS Roebuck||5th rate||36||18 lb||Rear-Admiral and Commander-in-Chief||Hornblower in the West Indies||Assignment as Commander-in-Chief ends.|
In other media 
Screen adaptations 
- The 1951 film Captain Horatio Hornblower starred Gregory Peck in the title role, encompassing the events in The Happy Return, A Ship of the Line, and Flying Colours, with C. S. Forester sharing writing credits. Peck and co-star Virginia Mayo would recreate their roles on a one-hour Lux Radio Theater program broadcast on January 21, 1952, which is included as an audio-only feature in the film's DVD release.
- The ITV and A&E television series Hornblower (1998–2003) starred Ioan Gruffudd as Hornblower, and included stories from Mr. Midshipman Hornblower up to Hornblower and the Hotspur.
Radio adaptations 
- Michael Redgrave played Hornblower in a radio series of the same name between 1952 and 1953, later rebroadcast over Mutual in the United States syndicated via Towers of London.
- Nicholas Fry played Hornblower in the radio series 'The Hornblower Story' in 1979/80 for the BBC (20 x 30mins). This series covers the books, 'Mr Midshipman Hornblower', 'Lieutenant Hornblower', 'Hornblower and the Hotspur' and 'Lord Hornblower'.
Literary appearances 
- Hornblower makes an appearance in the Jay Worrall Napoleonic naval war novel, Sails on the Horizon.
- In the fictional setting of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen by Alan Moore, Hornblower is the equivalent of Lord Nelson, with The Black Dossier depicting Hornblower's Column as one of London's most popular landmarks.
- A biography of Hornblower, called The life and times of Horatio Hornblower ISBN 0-7509-3439-5 was published in 1970 by C. Northcote Parkinson which gives various scholarly "corrections" to the stories told by Hornblower's creator.
- In Ellis K. Meacham's The East Indiaman, the protagonist, an East India Company Naval Service captain going to his ship, sees "a tall figure, in a uniform trimmed with gold lace," boarding a Royal Navy ship, and his boatman tells him that the ship is "Atropos, twenty-two."
- In Dudley Pope's Ramage, Hornblower is mentioned in passing as a former shipmate of the title character, Lord Ramage, when both were midshipmen.
- Sten Nadolny's novel The Discovery of Slowness, contains allusions to the Hornblower cycle. For instance, the Lydia is written among other vessels in a sailor's bar in Plymouth. Lieutenant Gerard who appears in The Happy Return and A Ship of the Line is mentioned several times.
- In Le duc d'Otrante et les compagnons du Soleil by Jean d'Aillon, the hero is given a naval dirk, one of a set commissioned by admiral Martin for all his captains; this one should have gone to captain Hornblower but he could not receive it, since he is now in captivity.
Influence on other fiction 
Napoleonic War series 
- The popular Sharpe novels by Bernard Cornwell were inspired by C. S. Forester's Hornblower series.
- Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey/Maturin novels were likely influenced by the Hornblower tales.
- Douglas Reeman's Richard Bolitho series was inspired by Hornblower and was described in publicity as 'the best of Hornblower's successors'.
- Dudley Pope was encouraged by C. S. Forester to create his Lord Ramage series of novels set around the same period.
Science fiction series 
- Gene Roddenberry was influenced by the Hornblower character while creating the Star Trek characters James T. Kirk and Jean-Luc Picard. Nicholas Meyer, director of some of the Star Trek films, frequently cites Horatio Hornblower as one of his primary influences.
- The science fiction characters of John Grimes (created by A. Bertram Chandler) and Nicholas Seafort (created by David Feintuch) are heavily inspired by the Hornblower series.
- David Weber's character Honor Harrington closely parallels Hornblower and he deliberately gave her the same initials. In one of the novels, the character is described reading a Hornblower novel. The first Honor novel is dedicated to C. S. Forester.
- Poul Anderson's Dominic Flandry (featured in the Terran Empire series) also parallels the Hornblower series.
- The fifth novel in the Jackelian series of Stephen Hunt, Jack Cloudie, has the Hornblower series as a major influence (fighting with airships, rather than sailing craft). The title, Jack Cloudie, is itself derived from Jack Tar, as is the series name.
- Lois McMaster Bujold's Vorkosigan Saga uses the Hornblower series as a structural model.
Other references 
- Captain Horario Harpplayer, R.N. is a short story parody written by the science fiction author Harry Harrison. While Hornblower is tone-deaf, Harpplayer is one of the rare people who are completely colour-blind, with the result that he cannot recognize a little green man as an alien from outer space. Harpplayer reflects on the "imaginary colors" that other people claim to see, and refers to the alien as "Mr. Greene".
- The British comedy film Carry On Jack featured a character named Midshipman Poopdecker, played by Bernard Cribbins, who was intended as a parody of Hornblower.
- President Jimmy Carter accidentally called the late Senator Hubert Horatio Humphrey "Hubert Horatio Hornblower" during his acceptance speech after he was nominated for re-election in 1980.
- The video game 'Age of Pirates 2 : City of Abandoned Ships' features a character named Horatio Hornblower who can be found in a tavern on the pirate island of Bermuda and offers his services to the player if the right questions are asked.
- In the episode "Smile Time" of the television series Angel, one of the demon-possessed puppets is named Ratio Hornblower. The same character also appears in the limited comic book series "Spike: Shadow Puppets".
- In the episode "A Night to Remember" of the television series Mad Men, the character Peggy Olson checks out a Horatio Hornblower book from the library.
- In the episode "Sea Tunt: Part I" of the television series Archer, an invented drink is named a "Horatio Cornblower".
- Books: Napoleon's Nemesis Time Magazine, Monday, May 28, 1945. Retrieved 2010-05-04.
- Winston Churchill, The Grand Alliance, p. 382. He relates that "this caused perturbation in Middle East Headquarters, where they imagined that 'Hornblower' was the code word for some special operation of which they had not been told."
- National Maritime Museum: "Was Horatio Hornblower a real person?" Retrieved 2011-03-21.
- C. S. Forester, The Hornblower Companion, NY, 1964, p. 87.
- C. S. Forester, The Hornblower Companion, Michael Joseph Ltd (London), 1964, pp. 81,82
- C. Northcote Parkinson in his "biography" called The True Story of Horatio Hornblower gives slight scholarly corrections to various aspects of Hornblower's life as narrated by his creator. For example, Parkinson says his father was an apothecary rather than a physician.
- The True Story of Horatio Hornblower by C. Northcote Parkinson Michael Joseph 1970
- The Observer, dates of novel publication, London.
- The Manchester Guardian, dates of novel publication.
- The New York Times, dates of novel publication
- Sternlicht, Sanford V. (1 October 1999). C.S. Forester and the Hornblower Saga. Syracuse University Press. ISBN 978-0-8156-0621-5. Retrieved 28 November 2012.
- Contento, William G. "The FictionMags Index". Retrieved 28 November 2012.
- "Review @ Classic Film Guide". Retrieved 2006-08-17.
- "oldradioworld.com". Retrieved 2010-06-15.
- Ellis K. Meacham, The East Indiaman, New York: Little, Brown & Co, 1968, p.19.
- Bernard Cornwell, Sharpe's Story, 2007, p.11
- "Becoming Picard (Patrick Stewart interview)". BBC Online (bbc.co.uk).
- Rambles: C.S. Forester, Hornblower & the "Hotspur"
- "David Weber interview, Wild Violet online magazine". wildviolet.net. Spring 2007 issue.
- Houlahan, Mike. "Interview 1 April 2003". Retrieved 23 April 2011.