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Hornblower vs. Jack Aubrey

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Re: Hornblower vs. Jack Aubrey

Post by malchya on Mon 15 Aug 2011, 17:50

I have to chime in with my two cents worth. I can clearly remember when my mother picked up Captain Horatio Hornblower for me at a yard sale. It had the white dust jacket with the (I believe) Wylie cover. I was quite young at the time, having just turned 9, but to this day - more than four decades later - the scent of pine sol (which she had used to wipe down the cover of the book) still triggers a feeling of boundless enthusiasm. I devoured it. I couldn't wait to get my hands on the rest of the series. By the time I was in Jr. High School, my passion for Hornblower and the RN was so great that most of my acquaintances (I had few "friends") were quite fed up with hearing about him and his contemporaries in the real world.

I will never be able to differentiate between my personality pre-Hornblower and post-Hornblower. I really don't know if he appealed to me so strongly that I had to emulate him or if he appealed to me because I was so like him to begin with. My ex wife finally read the Hornblowers some years after our divorce and mentioned that, had she read them earlier, perhaps she would have understood me better and avoided some later unpleasantness. Perhaps.

I have also read all of the POBs. I love them. They are unquestionably some of the most beautifully written books in the English language. Jack, however, is not my favorite character in hnf by any stretch of the imagination. Were I to know him personally, I quite probably would not get on with him at all. Hornblower, on the other hand, would be rather welcome in my circle of acquaintances. I don't find him difficult to understand nor less than human; I see him rather more like a mirror.

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Re: Hornblower vs. Jack Aubrey

Post by Joolz on Tue 16 Aug 2011, 15:42

Seems to me O'Brian identified the lack of a confidant, especially one unversed in nautical matters, as a key failing of Forester's Hornblower series. Having created Maturin, he then put them together, Maturin and Aubrey, building their characters and traits to suit and complement each other, internally to his own needs rather than any deliberate ploy to be opposite to Hornblower. IMO the two series do not compare: Forester is more episodic, concerned with set-piece actions, whereas O'Brian takes us into the everyday world of the characters.
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Re: Hornblower vs. Jack Aubrey

Post by Joefirefighter on Tue 16 Aug 2011, 23:12

I absolutely have to agree with your last sentence Joolz. Episodic is exactly the word to describe Hornblower. In fact, that was one thing that actually kind of turned me off after reading Mr Midshipman Hornblower, was it felt like a series of disconnected vignettes.
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Re: Hornblower vs. Jack Aubrey

Post by Astrodene on Wed 17 Aug 2011, 00:34

That's very true, most of the books can be broken into separate sections. We discussed elsewhere that when 3 books were turned into the first film that such sections were omitted to shorten the script. Also some of his short stories are actually such sections that were left out of novels to avoid them becoming too lengthy.

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Re: Hornblower vs. Jack Aubrey

Post by Big Joe on Wed 17 Aug 2011, 08:02

Thank you all for this interesting discussion. Since I last read Hornblower I have read about 50 volumes of various HNF stories, and I should have better means to judge it and compare.
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Re: Hornblower vs. Jack Aubrey

Post by malchya on Wed 17 Aug 2011, 12:05

There is a very good reason for the episodic feel of the Hornblower series: Hornblower was a pulp hero! Really. The first publications were as serials in magazine format, at least up to Commodore. I'm not certain after that.
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Re: Hornblower vs. Jack Aubrey

Post by Medusa on Thu 15 Dec 2011, 19:00

Haven't been here for a while, and i am reviving an old post. Sorry!
I been looking for the information that led me to say that POB was asked to create a series to follow Hornblower after Forrester's death. I cannot find the source of that info, and wish to withdraw that suggestion. The timing etc is right, but I cannot find that piece of information and apologize! All that being said, one of the things I like about O'Brien is it like sailing in real time. The minutia of everyday like is examined in detail, the odd occurrences like battles, given short shrift. Many happening off stage, and or explained as part of a story told in a pub. O'Brien also has a great sense of humor, he refers to Surprise's "cut away forefoot" but that was a feature of racing sailboats in the 40 & 50, not ships built in the 1790's. And gackling your cables? really!

lou

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Re: Hornblower vs. Jack Aubrey

Post by Joolz on Fri 16 Dec 2011, 04:13

@malchya wrote:There is a very good reason for the episodic feel of the Hornblower series: Hornblower was a pulp hero! Really. The first publications were as serials in magazine format, at least up to Commodore. I'm not certain after that.
Really? In 'The Hornblower Companion' Forester describes the genesis of Hornblower and the writing of the earliest books [The Happy Return and Ship Of The Line] but mentions nothing of magazines.
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Re: Hornblower vs. Jack Aubrey

Post by Astrodene on Fri 16 Dec 2011, 09:08

I have occasionally seen a reference to this though never in enough detail to make it clear. He was a long established novelist long before Hornblower. I think it more likely that (if it did happen) the novels preceded the magazines on a similar basis to the way modern biographies are sometimes serialised in a national newspaper. It would get them in front of a wider audience and increase sales of the book to those who didn't want to wait for the next episode

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Re: Hornblower vs. Jack Aubrey

Post by Maturin y Domanova on Fri 16 Dec 2011, 12:41

I have also heard it said that he was approached to write Master and Commander based on the strength of his earlier naval novels, but I have also heard O'Brian himself tell a different story in his interviews. As with many things in this recluse's life, this detail is a bit of a mystery with some fabricated history floating around and building rival myths.
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Re: Hornblower vs. Jack Aubrey

Post by 80 Winters on Mon 09 Apr 2012, 02:10

Speak of "getting to the party late". I've just read over this thread twice and must say that it's about the the richest I've seen so far on this site. While I've read both series twice and listened to each once (audiobook), I've never considered the indepth analysis I've been privy to here. So thanks to all for enlightening me.

While I won't re-state those points I totally agree with, many of which I had never even considered, I will speak briefly to the "image" of these two main characters.

My "bona fides" being almost 35 years of military service (with the first 5 years spent "before the mast" so to speak). I have "met" and served both with and under the officers represented (so well) by both characters, and yes they do exist (and have before and always will). Both can be effective leaders, but one (Hornblower) remains aloof and alone while the other (Aubrey) is not only "approachable" but truly "loves his men professionally" (both officers and enlisted) and this is apparent to them in a way that commands both their loyalty and affection. He is not trying to be "popular", he is just "leading" in his own style and his men respect him. While Hornblower remains "aloof and alone" he is still an effective leader and his men "trust him" whether in battle or in storm to see them through "the worst".

Both of these leaders are today, called by their men: "The Old Man". I guess back in the AOS, they just called them "The Captain". The development of these characters is a significant part of what has, and continues to draw me to HNF.
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Re: Hornblower vs. Jack Aubrey

Post by reb01501 on Mon 09 Apr 2012, 11:37

Thanks for reviving this thread. I do wish Medusa had remained and been more active. I understand how RL can prvent it and can only hope he finds time to participate again.

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Re: Hornblower vs. Jack Aubrey

Post by kujakupoet on Tue 10 Apr 2012, 02:27

@Medusa wrote: Historically Capt. Hamilton was close friends with his Surgeon M'Millan (?). Hamilton commanded the Surprise when the Hermione was retaken. He installed the 36 gun main mast. M'Millen commanded one of the boats in the Hermione cutting out expedition. And just to add pointless arcane facts: Surprise was one of the ships shelling Ft Mc Henry, leading to the Star Spangled Banner. It wasn't OUR Surprise, being the follow on vessel built in 1912, but interesting non the less. Anyway, there is historical as well as fictional background for Captain-Surgeon friendship.

Lou


Captain Frederick Marryat often includes an inept surgeon as a foil to the more serious nautical characters. The naturalist surgeon who is always misunderstanding the real world (as sailors see it), is a useful tool for explaining things to the reader who is a noob, and providing comic relief to those who know something about the subject. POB stole a lot of things from Marryat -- Jack Aubrey escaping France disguised as a bear is not unlike Peter Simple escaping France by stilt-walking while disguised as a girl, for example.

We can go back even further and see a captain-surgeon special friendship in Tobias Smollett's Adventures of Roderick Random, albeit those were two very minor characters and the friendship was not the heroic stuff we expect from our contemporary heroes.

It makes sense that the captain and surgeon would be friends; the surgeon is not in the captain's direct chain of command, so the prohibition on 'fraternizing' with the lower ranks does not apply; their areas of responsibility and expertise is so different that there is little chance of overlap. The surgeon, who handles life and death decisions, who confronts blood and death and must feel responsible for the men he loses, has a unique position to understand the weight on a captain's shoulders. Further, the surgeon and the captain are each highly skilled specialists who have similar skills: intelligence, proper administration of men and supplies, and a good education combining book knowledge with practical experience.
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Re: Hornblower vs. Jack Aubrey

Post by queen katherine on Wed 25 Jul 2012, 15:10

As far as I can my knowledge of English I read with interest the various interventions. I never thought to compare Aubry and Hornblower, as compared to not put two real men. Between the two my preference is to Hornblower, because the Italian translation for following in his life as a Midshipman in Commodore, while Aubry's adventures begin with the book Master and Commander, where the character is already formed adult
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Re: Hornblower vs. Jack Aubrey

Post by MattWillis on Thu 26 Jul 2012, 14:06

Interesting discussion. I see several people postulate what might have been different had Hornblower had a confidant in the Maturin mould; I am inclined to think that Hornblower would have remained distant and introspective as this was his character and we see it right from the beginning. There's a passage at the beginning of 'Hornblower and the Crisis' just before HH is due to leave the Hotspur, where Hornblower toys with Bush, then pays him an unexpected compliment. This is high praise and unusually personal for the ultra-critical and self-critical officer. Rather than continue in a warmer vein, the text tells us 'in a moment they would slide down the slippery slopes of sentiment, and that would be unbearable'.

Note it is 'sentiment' being 'unbearable' that prevents Hornblower from being more friendly with Bush, not the difference in rank.

Obviously we have to be careful about interpreting Hornblower's character because this evolved as the books were written, and his earlier career had to be 'back filled' by Forester.

Hornblower is an interesting creation and, I would consider, a far less natural starting point for a naval hero than the rather more straightforward Aubrey. If anyone is an antithesis of anything I would have considered Hornblower to be the antithesis of the conventional hero. Aubrey is equally flawed but in more conventional ways. As others have remarked he is perhaps the more initially likeable, but I find Hornblower's self-doubt easier to identify with. At least we as readers can enjoy Hornblower's successes even if he can't!
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Re: Hornblower vs. Jack Aubrey

Post by 80 Winters on Thu 26 Jul 2012, 16:49

Matt --

I totally agree with your 'insightful' view of how a 'confidant' to Hornblower might have played out.

I wonder if it would have shown itself to be similar to the relationship between Hayter and Rennie in the Peter Smalley series or possibly that between Richard Bolitho and Thomas Herrick in the best of the Kent series.

While some may feel that it should be someone 'outside the chain of command' to lend an 'impartial' theme to the 'confidance', this can carry with it the lack of knowledge and understanding that can, in critical situations, fail the bond.

All that being said, Hornblower stands as a model (and definition) of the strong, silent type
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Re: Hornblower vs. Jack Aubrey

Post by MattWillis on Thu 26 Jul 2012, 18:22

@80 Winters wrote:All that being said, Hornblower stands as a model (and definition) of the strong, silent type

That's what's so fascinating about it - we get to see inside the head of the 'strong, silent type' and find out that perhaps they are not as solid as we supposed. The psychology is brilliantly played. Take the sequence in The Happy Return where the Lydia is under tow to get into battle with the Natividad in drifting conditions. Hornblower is in an utter funk, but remains outwardly calm and quiet out of self-discipline. He can't understand how Bush and the master can chatter away about the enemy's gunnery while under fire. The way I see it, these two are just as scared as Hornblower but are sublimating their fear into garrulousness. I imagined the two men secretly marvelling at Hornblower's display of sang froid, just standing stock still and in total silence while facing broadsides from a 50 while still out of range.

O'Brian's psychology is just as good, allowing us as an audience to see things that Aubrey or Maturin have missed without them seeming stupid, but again totally different to Forester's approach.
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Re: Hornblower vs. Jack Aubrey

Post by 80 Winters on Thu 26 Jul 2012, 20:42

Now, if Hornblower were "really real" and we could climb into the mind of the author, I wonder how Forester would answer the question; 'could Hornblower 'open up" to anyone 'ever'.......and if so, who and when could that be?

Pellew was his mentor, Bush something of his right arm and Brown 'had his back'...............but my choice would be Lady Barbara, but even then, only in later years as he 'reminised'.
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Re: Hornblower vs. Jack Aubrey

Post by MattWillis on Thu 26 Jul 2012, 21:17

@80 Winters wrote:Now, if Hornblower were "really real" and we could climb into the mind of the author, I wonder how Forester would answer the question; 'could Hornblower 'open up" to anyone 'ever'.......and if so, who and when could that be?

Pellew was his mentor, Bush something of his right arm and Brown 'had his back'...............but my choice would be Lady Barbara, but even then, only in later years as he 'reminised'.

Quite. I think Lady Barbara sees through Hornblower and calls him on his standoffishness to a degree that no-one previously has, and that gives him less of an excuse to withdraw into himself.

Spoiler:
I seem to recall that Hornblower seemed to be beginning to regard a younger officer as a protege but this does not progress I think it was Lt Mound in command of the bomb vessel Moth in The Commodore, but Mound is killed during a bombardment. I imagined that this hit Hornblower quite hard and was a further bar to his getting too close to his juniors
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Re: Hornblower vs. Jack Aubrey

Post by 80 Winters on Thu 26 Jul 2012, 21:55

Hornblower's loss of one who could likely have been a protege was, as I read it, palpable. Silence speaks volumes. Again, the mastery of an author who had himself in some way, experienced it.
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Re: Hornblower vs. Jack Aubrey

Post by queen katherine on Fri 27 Jul 2012, 11:05

"the strong, silent type": Smile

I like this definition of Hornblower ... I never thought, but reread the books I have to admit that he never found a definition, so beautiful and apt. Perhaps the stories translation for television does not account for this
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Re: Hornblower vs. Jack Aubrey

Post by FictionReader on Tue 31 Jul 2012, 14:14

Enjoyed reading through these posts. A couple of points:

1. Are not some of the episodes in both Hornblower and Aubrey based on the same historical occurrences--notably, I think, Cochrane's? I'm sure that others can correct me. It seems to me that remaining within a believable range of possibilities, or sticking more or less to the facts, is one of the problems faced by HNF authors and one of the delights of this brand of fiction. But since the same historical episode show up in series after series (the siege of Toulon, for example), authors must make sure we see them in new ways--that is, through a different character's eyes.

2. I don't see the similarities others have claimed between Aubrey/Maturin and Holmes/Watson, Kirk/Spock, et. al. The similarities that exist seem to me merely those that follow from the narrative device of having a second strong character. Indeed, O'Brian seems to have gone to some lengths to avoid the "foolish Watson" (think Nigel Bruce, in the movies), to create great respect for Dr.Maturin (his surgical skills, his marksmanship, his spying activities, etc.). Thus he can remain utterly ignorant of seamanship throughout the series, thereby providing an good excuse for detailed explanations of tactics, while still retaining the respect and affection of the others.
Indeed O'Brian seems to me almost unique among HNF authors in the strength of his secondary characters--long sections focusing entirely on Stephen Maturin's adventures, shorter ones on Sophie and Diana Villiers. And many of the seamen--especially Bonden--come fully alive.

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Re: Hornblower vs. Jack Aubrey

Post by glen55 on Mon 19 Aug 2013, 17:52

Great discussion. I created an account just to join in.

I think O'Brian is significantly better than Forester at handling human interaction. He shows a lot of insight into the human situation that just doesn't appear in Forester. The Aubrey-Maturin friendship is deeply realized, one of the richest male friendship relationships you'll find in all of literature, not just in the historical military fiction genre.

But if you're reading for naval adventure, as many of us are, I think the Hornblower series has an edge. For one thing, if you think of the books as a series of discrete naval adventures separated by interims, there's a lot more "interim" in O'Brian and a lot less naval adventure. Perhaps the action is slightly crisper in Forester, as well.

Another contrast: I also very much like that the Hornblower series started with Hornblower as a middie. Seeing young Horation slowly work his way up to command in the first few books may be my favorite part of the series. I was pretty disappointed when I cracked the Aubrey series and found Jack getting command of a brig/sloop about 5 pages in.

I would guess that there's a rationale behind that, i.e., it wouldn't be realistic for Aubrey to meet Maturin and form a friendship, much less stay together, before Aubrey is in a position to invite Maturin on his ship. Still, I very much miss the opportunity to see Midshipman Aubrey in action, much less Aubrey turned before the msat.

Further, while Forester might not be the greatest in the world at building character, he seemed to recognize that and shrewdly made Hornblower a guy who is naturally shy and withdrawn, scared of people, and who believes (probably because of his natural disposition) that great isolation is the only proper mode of living for a naval captain. The result is that Hornblower is a deep and sympathetic character, and Forester doesn't have to place him in a tremendous amount of human interaction.

I came to the Aubrey series having read all of Hornblower twice, and I was primarily seeking naval adventure. Having been recommended the series by several friends, and also knowing that O'Brian is a bit better received by critics, my anticipation was high. At first, I was a little disappointed, but by the 4th book or so my slight want for a few more frigate on frigate actions and cutting-out parties was well overcome by my growing appreciation for Jack and Stephen as characters.

Finally, whatever Roddenberry says, I see a lot of Aubrey in Captain Kirk, and little to no Hornblower.

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Re: Hornblower vs. Jack Aubrey

Post by S.K. Keogh on Sun 17 Nov 2013, 04:43

@glen55 wrote:
Finally, whatever Roddenberry says, I see a lot of Aubrey in Captain Kirk, and little to no Hornblower.
Definitely agree on this comment!

Nice to have another PoB fan here. I've read the series twice and will soon be starting my third voyage.
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Re: Hornblower vs. Jack Aubrey

Post by pauljm on Sat 23 Nov 2013, 02:10

I have recently come across an interesting essay that looks at the historical precedents for the events in the O'Brian novels. Titled "History as Fiction in the Novels of Patrick O'Brian"' it is by the eminent naval historian N.A.M. Rodger, who is in the middle of publishing what may be the definitive, multi-volume history of the Royal Navy. Rodger notes how cagey O'Brian was in revealing his sources, basically not admitting to using anything other than "The Naval Chronicle", which has to be the bible for all writers on this period. Like one of the previous posters, Rodger notes how O'Brian occasionally lifted language from other writers, and deals with the degree to which Cochrane can be considered as the basis for Aubrey. Interestingly he also notes the gaps in O'Brians knowledge revealed in his books, particularly about the administration of the RN.

The piece is in a fairly obscure source, but may be worth searching out...the book also contains several other useful essays about the challenges of historical fact meeting historical fiction.

The book is: History and Fiction: Six Essays celebrating the Centenary of Sir Ronald Syme, edited by R.S.O. Tomlinson, and published in 2005 by Grime and Selwood in London. (Now there's a Dickensian name for a publisher!)
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