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Hornblower vs. Jack Aubrey

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Hornblower vs. Jack Aubrey

Post by Ziggy on Sat 12 Sep 2009, 17:29

Well after having watched the BBC series of Hornblower I preceded to read through most of C.S. Foresters books (they are surprisingly hard to get ahold of here in Australia) and enjoyed them very much.

My father needed a couple of extra books to order through the "Folio Society" to keep his membership up, and some of the Patrick O'Brian books were in the catalogue so I got those.

Having read the first book, Master and Commander, I have to say I was quite put off by the seemingly rather blunt and obvious ways that Patrick had used to distinguish his character from Hornblower, especially very early on in the book.

Firstly his great love of music, the first scene where he meets Maturin at the concert seemed very... staged. One of Hornblowers main traits was that he was completely tone deaf and got no enjoyment from music Jack seems to be the exact opposite (even going on about how a pack of dogs howling was musically pleasing to his ears). His ugly, fat and bald appearance, vs. Hornblower being quite handsome, thin and full hair (until much later). His love of the drink vs. Hornblower's hatred of being drunk. Hornblowers inward nature rather than Aubrey pouring his heart out to Maturin all the time. Hornblowers amazing bad luck with prizes vs. Jacks amazing good luck with them. Aubrey fooling around with women all the time (having it off with his superiors wife), vs. Hornblower being very respectful of marriage and not fooling around (I still don't know how Hornblower married his second wife though, haven't gotten that book yet, but I would assume through deaths). The list goes on... There are some similarities as there are with all heroes. Courage, Duty, etc. But in every sort of "optional" trait, appearance, likes/dislikes/etc, Jack is an absoloute polar opposite to Hornblower.

I mean I know that Aubrey needed to be different to Hornblower, for obvious reasons, but a lot of it just reads as very staged to me. Like he is always trying to emphasize just how different Jack is from Horatio. It was still a good book, but I wish he had been a bit more subtle about it rather than just going like "OK, Hornblower hated music so Aubrey will love it", "Hornblower is thin, so Jack will be fat", etc, etc. Towards the middle and end of the books were he settled down from doing this all the time I found the book much better reading. Presumably the other books will have less of it, thank god, so I will continue with the series, but I found the first 50 pages a real struggle.

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Re: Hornblower vs. Jack Aubrey

Post by Astrodene on Sat 12 Sep 2009, 18:31

I'd never really thought about comparing their personal traits like that. An interesting analysis (and your assumption about the second wife is correct)

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Re: Hornblower vs. Jack Aubrey

Post by reb01501 on Thu 17 Sep 2009, 06:59

You've only encountered two characters in this genre so, while I can understand your coming to this conclusion, I think you will see as you read more series from other authors, that your thesis does not really hold true.

I don't believe that O'Brian was consciously trying to create the antithesis of Hornblower, because I really don't think that he "had to" as you say. There are many HNF series with main characters along the entire spectrum of the characteristics you cite, from the Nelsonesque Bolitho, Ramage and Hornblower, to the anti-heroic Lewrie and Jerrold, and all the ones in-between. Many of these series pre-dated O'Brian's, so I doubt he was under any onus to differentiate Aubrey from Hornblower: there simply wasn't any need to.

I think the quirks you mention, love of music, for example, were simply traits used to create a unique, or perhaps more correctly: recognizable, character, as well as allowing O'Brian to indulge his passion for the music of the period.

In addition, these men spent months and years on small, crowded ships without setting foot on land: it's not surprising that they would pick up hobbies to help them pass the time. In one of the books I recently read (Frank Tilsley's Mutiny on which the movie Damn The Defiant was based), the captain of the ship kept a flower garden in his quarters Shocked Very Happy

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Re: Hornblower vs. Jack Aubrey

Post by conaghan on Thu 17 Sep 2009, 08:17

Yes, these characters no doubt drawn to create unique personas within the context of the genre. Lewrie keeps cats, plays the flute (poorly), chases (or is chased by) women and is sometimes a berserker in combat. Smile

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Re: Hornblower vs. Jack Aubrey

Post by reb01501 on Thu 17 Sep 2009, 10:24

conaghan wrote:Yes, these characters no doubt drawn to create unique personas within the context of the genre. Lewrie keeps cats, plays the flute (poorly), chases (or is chased by) women and is sometimes a berserker in combat. Smile
Yes, it was Lewrie's weakness for cats (despite his initial disavowal of any affection for the species) that drew me to him and kept me coming back for more. yes, I'm a cat-lover myself

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Re: Hornblower vs. Jack Aubrey

Post by reb01501 on Thu 17 Sep 2009, 10:27

BTW, Ziggy, I think you will very much enjoy the Ramage (Dudley Pope) and Bolitho (Alexander Kent) series. They are much more in the Hornblower vein.

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Re: Hornblower vs. Jack Aubrey

Post by johnk on Thu 17 Sep 2009, 15:22

Astrodene wrote:... your assumption about the second wife is correct).

However, neither Hornblower nor Forester turn out to be exactly saints. Keep your eyes open ...

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Re: Hornblower vs. Jack Aubrey

Post by conaghan on Sat 19 Sep 2009, 01:59

Bob,

I neglected to mention in my earlier post Lewrie's skill with his Ferguson breech-loading rifle and his preference for casual dress - - wearing slops and a wide-brim hat, at least when the top brass aren't around. study

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Re: Hornblower vs. Jack Aubrey

Post by reb01501 on Sat 19 Sep 2009, 02:10

conaghan wrote:Bob,

I neglected to mention in my earlier post Lewrie's skill with his Ferguson breech-loading rifle and his preference for casual dress - - wearing slops and a wide-brim hat, at least when the top brass aren't around. study

Conaghan
Yes, Dewey has certainly created a memorable character. It's too bad the TMI factor turns so many readers away from this enjoyable series. I almost gave up on it myself ... one does not expect porn in an HNF novel. Frankly, I'm not sure why it was necessary to go into such detail. But this is drifting off topic.

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Re: Hornblower vs. Jack Aubrey

Post by raperm on Wed 06 Jan 2010, 03:44

I can definately see how someone reading these two series might think O'Brian made Jack Aubrey as the antithesis of Hornblower, but I don't think it was deliberate on his part. As you read both series - particularly O'Brian's - you get a better feel for the characters. While it's true Jack is in many ways the opposite of Horatio, he has similarities. As the books progress you find that Jack evolves from an intuitive sailor into a scientific one with a deep love of hydrography and navigation. In fact, he becomes a member of the Royal Society and reads papers on nutation to great success.

In looking at their characters, though, the biggest difference in them comes from something that happened in Jack's past. As a midshipmen, he was turned before the mast and spent six months as a common sailor. That experience made him much more aware of what the "lower deck" is like, how they think, and what makes them happy. It took some of the edge of Jack's view of the officers as superior to the sailors, and it's something that helps him throughout his career. Hornblower doesn't have that experience, and remains something of a stick in the mud throughout his career without it. Also, Jack is written as a very sensual individual, and not just from the sexual standpoint. He loves the simple pleasures of good food, good drink, good music, thrilling sailing in high winds, and a good fight with an honoroble foe. And, of course, he loves the ladies. But he also genuinely loves his men, and through the series you get to see the lengths he goes to in order to take care of them, whether it's feeding and educating his young midshipmen or using his influence to get his subordinates promoted...promotions he always feels genuine joy and pleasure at hearing of.

I've read all of both series multiple times, and never seem to get tired of them, but I have to say I prefer O'Brian much more. His characters are richer, far more likeable, and his dialogue is consistenly intelligent and witty...in fact, it's downright hilarious at times. Havin the character of Stephen Maturin helps tremendously as well, giving O'Brian the regular opportunity for dialogue between his main characters that Forester doesn't get. Hornblower has no really close freind to talk to or open up to, and it limits his character's development.

To the OP, if you haven't read more of the Aubrey series, you really should. They get better, and the middle part of the series - say, books 4 through 15 - are just plain excellent.

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Re: Hornblower vs. Jack Aubrey

Post by Medusa on Thu 21 Jan 2010, 01:36

Sorry I'm late to this party, I've wasted more than a Minute. I haven't read all the series, but am familiar with Hornblower, Bolitho and Aubrey. Let's not forget some bare commercial facts; after Forester's death, POB was asked by Norton, Hornblower's publisher, to write a similar series which could be marketed to the same niche. POB was faced with the difficult task of continuing on while being different. Try to imagine how loyal Aubrey-Maturin fans would greet a new series tomorrow. We'd buy the first book for sure, but the next and the next? I think POB did a marvelous job of treating the same period in a very different manner, basically focusing on the "background" and leaving the main focus of most naval fiction, great sea battles, to the background. And forcing you to learn about the strange new world and language you are suddenly surrounded by. In some ways its like asking which is better soused pigs face or the Port with the yellow seal?
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Re: Hornblower vs. Jack Aubrey

Post by DasBoot on Thu 21 Jan 2010, 10:11

Ok, I'll throw my two cents in. I think both points of view are right, Hornblower and Aubrey are alike, and different. They share qualities of bravery, loyalty and are both great leaders. To me the big differences aren't in thick/thin, music/no music, but in their relationship with the world around them. Both are intellegent, capable men, but where Aubrey tends to meet the world head on, unafraid, Hornblower is more introverted and self-doubting. The differences are far more evident to me at the beginning of each series and each character grows towards each other. In the end, they become more alike. I think an above post mentioned Aubrey's joining the Royal Society and Hornblower's second marriage are good examples. I love both series, because I love to see the growth of the characters. I think O'Brian does a little better job of showing the growth, because he grows the surrounding characters (ie Maturin) along with him.

Anyway, I tend to gravate to book series as opposed to stand alone books because I like to see character developement and like to get invested in the characters.

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Re: Hornblower vs. Jack Aubrey

Post by pipester on Thu 21 Jan 2010, 13:28

We may want to consider the notion that POB made choices about Aubrey's traits based not on differentiating from HH, but for internal reasons, especially the need to develop characteristics that complement his foil, Maturin. As DasBoot hinted, part of the richness of the POB series is having Maturin as a second "main" character. HH had his stalwart lieutenant (see? I can't even remember his name), but there is nothing to compare with Maturin. POB may well have started with this character (intellectual, scientist, physician, continental) and built JA to fit with him. After all, he wrote The Catalans, which features a character remarkably like a 20th century Maturin, 15 years before he began the Aubrey books.

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Re: Hornblower vs. Jack Aubrey

Post by conaghan on Thu 21 Jan 2010, 23:33

"HH had his stalwart lieutenant (see? I can't even remember his name), "

That would be Lt. Bush. Most of the action in "Lieutenant Hornblower" involves Bush, and the reader sees HH from his viewpoint. Smile

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Re: Hornblower vs. Jack Aubrey

Post by reb01501 on Fri 22 Jan 2010, 02:00

Medusa, is there anywhere I can read more about the background of the birth of the Aubrey-Maturin series? I was unaware of this desire to pick up where Forrester left off. After all, Forrester was not not exclusively an Age Of Sail author. He wrote many novels that had nothing to do with that genre.

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