|First appearance||The Happy Return (1937)|
|Last appearance||The Last Encounter (1967)|
|Created by||C. S. Forester|
|Nickname(s)||Horry (by his first spouse)|
Maria Mason (†)|
Lady Barbara Wellesley
Horatio Hornblower (†)|
Maria Hornblower (†)
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 programmes.
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. Later stories filled 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. After surviving many adventures in a wide variety of locales, he rises to the pinnacle of his profession, promoted to Admiral of the Fleet.
- 1 Inspirations
- 2 Characteristics
- 3 Fictional biography
- 4 Bibliography
- 5 Historical figures in the novels
- 6 Rank and ships
- 7 In other media
- 8 Legacy
- 9 References
- 10 External links
There are many parallels between Hornblower and real naval officers of the period, notably Admiral Lord Nelson and also Sir George Cockburn, Lord Cochrane, Sir Edward Pellew, 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.
Forester's original inspiration was an old copy of the Naval Chronicle, which described the effective dates of the Treaty of Ghent.:81 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 because of the time required to communicate around the world. The burdens that this placed on captains far from home led him to a character struggling with the stresses of a "man alone".:82 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.
Frederick Marryat has been identified as "the father of the seafaring adventure novel from which all others followed, from C. S. Forester's Horatio Hornblower to Patrick O'Brian's Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin" Hornblower and the eponymous protagonist of Marryat's Peter Simple both start their career rather unpromisingly and without influential friends, but advance themselves through hard work, honesty and bravery. Both fight in duels before their careers have properly even started and both are taken prisoners early in their careers, but escape in extraordinary fashion.
Hornblower is courageous, intelligent, and a skilled seaman, but he is also burdened by his intense reserve, introspection, and self-doubt, and is described as "unhappy and lonely". Despite numerous personal feats of extraordinary skill and cunning, he belittles his achievements by numerous rationalisations, remembering only his fears. He consistently ignores or is unaware of the admiration in 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, organise, 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 highly-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 seasickness at the start of his voyages. As a midshipman, he becomes seasick at the sheltered roadstead of Spithead, an embarrassment which haunts him throughout his career. He is tone-deaf and finds music an incomprehensible irritant (in a scene in Hotspur, he is unable to recognise 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 poverty-stricken period of inactivity in the naval service.
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 published, Hornblower's age is given as 37 in July 1808, implying a birth year of 1770 or 1771. 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 birth date as 4 July 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.
Hornblower's early exploits are many and varied. He joins the Royal Navy as a midshipman and fends off fire ships which interrupt his (failing) first examination for promotion to lieutenant. He is given command of the sloop Le Rêve while still only an acting lieutenant; the vessel 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 both Galician and Spanish, which proves highly useful in several further adventures, and is finally confirmed as a commissioned lieutenant. He leads a daring rescue of Spanish civilians from a shipwreck under extremely hazardous conditions, which leads to his being picked up by a British warship patrolling offshore; but since he had given his Spanish captors his parole that he would not escape, he insists upon being returned to captivity. The Spanish, admiring his sense of honour, release him in recognition of his "courage and self-sacrifice in saving life at the peril of [his] own".
As a junior lieutenant, he serves in HMS Renown under Captain Sawyer, whose bouts of paranoia on a mission to the Caribbean strain discipline to breaking point. It is on this voyage that he begins his long friendship with William Bush, at the time his senior officer. Due to his exploits, Hornblower is made commander, but his promotion is not confirmed when he returns to England following the announcement of the Peace of Amiens, causing him great financial distress: he has to make up the difference between a commander's pay and a lieutenant's, all from his half pay while inactive. He is forced to resort to playing whist with admirals and other senior figures in an officers' club for a modest stipend; all wins (and losses) are his responsibility. Fortunately, his skill at whist is up to the task.
In 1803, renewed hostilities against France seem imminent, and Hornblower is confirmed in the rank of commander, and appointed captain of the sloop HMS Hotspur. Before sailing, he marries Maria, the daughter of his landlady, despite his doubts about the match. Maria dotes upon the irritable Hornblower in ways that he finds distressing; she knows little of the sea, and annoys him both with her ignorance and hero-worship of him, which clashes with his eternally low self-image. Despite this unfortunate beginning, however, he warms to her over the course of several books, and becomes a good (though not perfect) husband to her and father to their two children, also named Horatio and Maria.
After gruelling service during the blockade of Brest aboard the Hotspur, he is promised the coveted promotion to post captain by Commander-in-Chief William Cornwallis and is recalled to England. Once there, he meets the Secretary of the Admiralty and the rank is conferred when Hornblower agrees to take part in a dangerous clandestine operation that eventually leads to the resounding British victory at Trafalgar.
Following this exploit, Hornblower is ordered by the Admiralty to organise 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, after being given command of HMS Atropos, he is sent on a secret mission to recover gold and silver from a sunken British transport 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 his return to a British-controlled port, after unloading the treasure and refitting his ship, Atropos is given to the King of the Two Sicilies for diplomatic reasons, much to his disappointment. Returning to England, he finds his two young children dying of smallpox. Their deaths were referred to in the first novel to be published.
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 megalomaniac, 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 madman.
Hornblower also takes on an important passenger 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 the love of his life. He is at first nettled and infuriated by her forthright and outspoken manner, her ability to see easily through his reserve, and the great social gap between them. Over time, however, her beauty, strength, and intelligence win his heart, and the two become dangerously attracted to each other. Before things get out of hand, Hornblower informs Lady Barbara that he is married. She 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.
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 realising 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, earning himself the nickname "the terror of the Mediterranean". After saving Admiral Leighton's flagship, HMS Pluto, which becomes dismasted in stormy seas, from the French battery at Rosas, he learns that a French squadron of four ships of the line is loose, having slipped the blockade at Toulon. 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 (including Lt. Bush) he surrenders to the French, not before, however, severely crippling three of the four French ships and damaging the other. As a prisoner in Rosas he witnesses the destruction of the French ships at anchor by Leighton's squadron.
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 commandeered gang of slave labourers and escapes to the Channel Fleet.
As a further indication of Hornblower's success, Lt. Bush is promoted into Witch of Endor as commander (returning with despatches to England), and shortly thereafter to post captain, with "the dockyard job at Sheerness waiting for [him]."
When Hornblower arrives home, he discovers that his first wife Maria has died in childbirth, but the baby boy survived and Lady Barbara (now widowed after Admiral Leighton died of wounds sustained during the attack on Rosas Hornblower had observed as a prisoner) has taken charge of the child, with her brothers Lords Wellesley and Wellington as godfathers.
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, and a useful propaganda tool for various politicians, not to mention the Prince Regent, he is knighted and made a Colonel of Marines (a sinecure which confers a salary without any additional duties).
Hornblower and Lady Barbara are now free (after a decent interval) to marry. They move to the fictional village of Smallbridge, Kent, where Hornblower, the new lord of the manor, is largely satisfied but longs for the sea.
A return to duty comes when he is appointed to be commodore and sent with a squadron of small craft 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, employing his bomb-ketches 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 in action of his long-time 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. Napoleon had tried to stir up support for a renewed national resistance when he arrived in Paris after Waterloo, but the temper of the legislative chambers, and of the public generally, did not favour his view. Lacking support, Napoleon abdicates and after he 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 midway 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.
C. Northcote Parkinson, more famous for his invention of Parkinson's Law, wrote a "biography" of Hornblower, detailing his career as well as personal information. The biography purports to shed 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 at the age of 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 Jonathan Hornblower 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. Coincidentally, Jonathan Hornblower junior attended Truro Grammar School, the same school attended by a young Edward Pellew. With Hornblower being just four years older than Pellew, it is possible they were at school together. Parkinson had previously written a biography of Lord Exmouth, so his research for that may have thrown up Jonathan Hornblower's name.
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||June – December 1808||4 February 1937||Michael Joseph||Beat to Quarters||6 April 1937||Little Brown||Novel|
|A Ship of the Line||April – November 1810||4 April 1938||Michael Joseph||Ship of the Line||18 March 1938||Little Brown||Novel|
|Flying Colours||December 1810 – June 1811||1 November 1938||Michael Joseph||Flying Colours||3 January 1939||Little Brown||Novel|
|"Hornblower and His Majesty"||1813||March 1941||Argosy (UK)||"Hornblower and His Majesty"||23 March 1940||Collier's||Short story|
|"Hornblower and the Hand of Destiny"||1796||April 1941||Argosy (UK)||"The Hand of Destiny"||23 November 1940||Collier's||Short story|
|"Hornblower's Charitable Offering"||July 1810||May 1941||Argosy (UK)||"The Bad Samaritan"||18 January 1941||Argosy (US)||Short story intended as a chapter of A Ship of the Line|
|The Commodore||April – December 1812||12 March 1945||Michael Joseph||Commodore Hornblower||21 May 1945||Little Brown||Novel|
|Lord Hornblower||October 1813 – July 1815||11 June 1946||Michael Joseph||Lord Hornblower||24 September 1946||Little Brown||Novel|
|Mr. Midshipman Hornblower||January 1794 – February 1799||22 May 1950||Michael Joseph||Mr. Midshipman Hornblower||13 March 1950||Little Brown||Novel|
|"Hornblower and the Big Decision"||November 1799 – July 1800||April 1951||Argosy (UK)||"Hornblower's Temptation"||9 December 1950||The Saturday Evening Post||Short story subsequently published as "Hornblower and the Widow McCool" in Hornblower and the Crisis|
|Lieutenant Hornblower||August 1800 – March 1803||11 February 1952||Michael Joseph||Lieutenant Hornblower||27 March 1952||Little Brown||Novel|
|Hornblower and the Atropos||December 1805 – September 1806||9 November 1953||Michael Joseph||Hornblower and the Atropos||10 September 1953||Little Brown||Novel|
|Hornblower in the West Indies||May 1821 – July 1823||29 September 1958||Michael Joseph||Admiral Hornblower in the West Indies||28 August 1958||Little Brown||Novel|
|Hornblower and the Hotspur||April 1803 – May 1805||27 July 1962||Michael Joseph||Hornblower and the Hotspur||1 August 1962||Little Brown||Novel|
|The Hornblower Companion||4 December 1964||Michael Joseph||The Hornblower Companion||6 December 1964||Little Brown||Supplementary book comprising "The Hornblower Atlas" and "Some Personal Notes"|
|Hornblower and the Crisis||May – June 1805||4 June 1967||Michael Joseph||Hornblower During the Crisis||8 November 1967||Little Brown||Novel (unfinished) plus "Hornblower and the Widow McCool" and "The Last Encounter"|
|"The Last Encounter"||September – December 1848||4 June 1967||Michael Joseph||"The Last Encounter"||April 1967||Argosy (US)||Short story subsequently published in Hornblower and the Crisis|
Another short story, "The Point and the Edge," is included only as an outline in The Hornblower Companion.
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," and "Hornblower and His Majesty" plus other Hornblower material not previously published in book-form was collected in Hornblower One More Time (4 July 1976) though only 350 copies were printed.
As at June 2017 Amazon offers an electronic (Kindle) omnibus, Hornblower Addendum, consisting of the stories: Hornblower and the Hand of Destiny, Hornblower and the Widow McCool, Hornblower's Charitable Offering, Hornblower and His Majesty, and The Last Encounter although two of these are also included in the book Hornblower During the Crisis.
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||June – December 1808||17 September 1938 – 22 October 1938||6||Argosy (US)||May 1949||1||Argosy (UK)|
|Ship of the Line||April – November 1810||26 February – 2 April 1938||6||Argosy (US)|
|Flying Colours||December 1810 – June 1811||3 December 1938 – 7 January 1939||6||Argosy (US)|
|Commodore Hornblower||April – December 1812||24 March – 12 May 1945||8||The Saturday Evening Post|
|Lord Hornblower||October 1813 – June 1815||18 May – 6 July 1946||8||The Saturday Evening Post|
|Mr. Midshipman Hornblower||January 1794 – February 1799||6 March 1948 – 11 March 1950||9||The Saturday Evening Post||August 1948 – June 1950||10||Argosy (UK)|
|Lieutenant Hornblower||August 1800 – March 1803||15 September – 17 November 1951||9||The Saturday Evening Post||6 October 1951 – 12 January 1952||10||John Bull|
|Hornblower and the Atropos||December 1805 – September 1806||25 July – 12 September 1953||8||The Saturday Evening Post||3 October – 28 November 1953||9||John Bull|
|Admiral Hornblower in the West Indies||May 1821 – July 1823||11 May 1957 – 26 April 1958||10||The Saturday Evening Post||25 May 1957 – 13 September 1958||13||John Bull|
|Hornblower and the Hotspur||April 1803 – May 1805||October 1962||1||Argosy (US)||24 February – 7 April 1962||7||Today|
|Hornblower During the Crisis||May – June 1805||16 – 30 July 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 Tenerife
- 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 Edward Pellew, 1st 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)
Rank and ships
|||Mr. Midshipman Hornblower||Midshipman||Justinian||3rd rate||74||32 lb cannon|
|||Indefatigable||5th rate||44||24 lb cannon|
|||Marie Galante||Merchant brig|
|||Acting lieutenant||Indefatigable||5th rate||44||24 lb cannon|
|||Le Reve||Sloop||4||4 lb cannon|
|||"The Hand of Destiny"||Lieutenant||Marguerite||5th rate||36||18 lb cannon|
|||"Hornblower and the Widow McCool"||Renown||3rd rate||74||24 lb cannon|
|||Acting commander||Retribution||Sloop of war||18||9 lb cannon|
|||Hornblower and the Hotspur||Commander||Hotspur||Sloop of war||20||9 lb cannon|
|||"Hornblower and the Crisis"|
|||Hornblower and the Atropos||Post captain||Atropos||6th rate||22||12 lb carronades|
|||The Happy Return||Lydia||5th rate||36||18 lb cannon|
|||A Ship of the Line||Sutherland||3rd rate||74||24 lb cannon|
|||Flying Colours||Witch of Endor||Cutter||10||6 lb cannon|
|||The Commodore||Nonsuch||3rd rate||74||24 lb cannon|
|||Lotus||Sloop of war||?||9 lb cannon|
|||Raven||Sloop of war||?||9 lb cannon|
|||"Hornblower and His Majesty"||Augusta||Royal yacht||6||6 lb cannon|
|||Lord Hornblower||Porta Coeli||Brig||18||12 lb carronades|
|||Flame||Brig||18||12 lb carronades|
|||Hornblower in the West Indies||
||Crab||Schooner||2||6 lb cannon|
|||Pretty Jane||Packet brig|
In other media
- The film Captain Horatio Hornblower (1951) stars 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 21 January 1952, which is included as an audio-only feature in the film's DVD release.
- An episode of the American TV series Alcoa Premiere, Hornblower (1963) starring David Buck in the title role was based on Lord Hornblower
- The ITV and A&E television series Hornblower (1998–2003) starred Ioan Gruffudd as Hornblower, and included stories from Mr. Midshipman Hornblower, Lieutenant Hornblower, and Hornblower and the Hotspur.
- 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'.
- 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", called The life and times of Horatio Hornblower, was published in 1970 by C. Northcote Parkinson which gives various scholarly "corrections" to the stories told by Hornblower's creator.
- 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 Dewey Lambdin's King, Ship, and Sword, the main character Alan Lewrie (another fictional British captain of the era) makes a visit to the Admiralty and takes particular note of a tall, thin lieutenant in a threadbare uniform with a melancholy expression. While the lieutenant's name is never mentioned, he displays several of Hornblower's best known characteristics, and the state of a penniless lieutenant fits with the events at the end of Lieutenant Hornblower (this scene takes place during the Peace of Amiens).
The popular Richard Sharpe novels by Bernard Cornwell were inspired by the Hornblower series; Cornwell avidly read the series as a child, and was disappointed to learn that there was no similar series chronicling the Napoleonic Wars on land.
The first of Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey/Maturin novels was commissioned by an editor at American publisher J. B. Lippincott & Co., who thought that it was likely that O'Brian could write more novels in the Hornblower genre.
The Richard Bolitho series by Douglas Reeman (writing as Alexander Kent) has drawn him acclaim "as the true heir to the highly successfully C. S. Forester [author of the Horatio Hornblower series of sea adventures]."
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.
David Weber's character Honor Harrington closely parallels Hornblower and he deliberately gave her the same initials. Like Hornblower, the reader first meets Harrington in junior command rank, the daughter of doctors from a fairly modest background and lacking patronage of any sort, and throughout the series she accrues promotions, peerages, and other honours. By the time of the most recent novels Harrington is a Fleet Admiral (NATO O-11 equivalent), a duchess, the recipient of two different nations' highest military decorations, and so on.
- National Maritime Museum: "Horatio Hornblower". Retrieved 2016-02-09.
- Forester, C.S. (1964). The Hornblower Companion. London: Michael Joseph.
- Holmes, Rachel (2014). Eleanor Marx: A Life. London: Bloomsbury Publishing. ISBN 9781408852897.
- 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.
- "CTVA US Anthology – Alcoa Premier". CTVA. Retrieved 4 October 2017.
- "oldradioworld.com page of Hornblower radio drama". Retrieved 2010-06-15.
- Books: Napoleon's Nemesis Time Magazine, 28 May 1945. Retrieved 2010-05-04.
- Winston Churchill, The Grand Alliance, p. 382. "I find Hornblower admirable – vastly entertaining". 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." After the war this was naturally used as an excellent "blurb" by Forester's publishers.
- Bernard Cornwell, Sharpe's Story, 2007, p.11
- King, Dean (2000). Patrick O'Brian:A life revealed. London: Hodder & Stoughton. ISBN 0-340-79255-8.
- Smith, Christopher N. (1990). "Alexander Kent". Twentieth-Century romance and historical writers (Twentieth-century writers series). St. James Press. ISBN 978-0912289977.
- Mark Winthrop. "Dudley Pope". www.winthrop.dk. Copenhagen, Denmark. Retrieved 12 September 2017.
- "Becoming Picard (Patrick Stewart interview)". BBC Online (bbc.co.uk).
- "Rambles: C.S. Forester, Hornblower & the "Hotspur"". rambles.net.
- "David Weber interview, Wild Violet online magazine". wildviolet.net. Spring 2007.
- Houlahan, Mike. "Interview 1 April 2003". Retrieved 23 April 2011.