Mr. Midshipman Hornblower

A January gale was roaring up the Channel, blustering loudly, and bearing on its bosom rain squalls whose big drops rattled loudly on the tarpaulin clothing of those among the officers and men whose duties kept them on deck.

So begins the many and various adventures of one Horatio Hornblower. I just finished this Mr. Midshipman Hornblower, the first book chronologically in the Hornblower saga. Forester’s first Hornblower book written and published was a novel in 1937 called The Happy Return, where Horatio is already captain of the frigate HMS Lydia. This Midshipman book is a collection of short stories, copyrighted 1948 through 1950, so I assume they were published in one or more magazines in those years. My particular copy is a first edition hardback from Little Brown in 1950, totally beat up and falling apart now, that I borrowed from the DC Library. In it, of course, Horatio begins his career as a midshipman.

We’ve been watching the British TV series with Ioan Griffud as Horatio. He’s pretty hot. He allegedly has been in other stuff, like Black Hawk Down and The Fantastic Four, so you may know him, but we haven’t see any of those. We have seen him as Bosinney in The Forsyte Saga.

There are three series, as they call them in the UK, of videos, and the first series pretty much follows the adventures in this book, with various major and minor changes. The first episode, The Duel (in the US, original UK title was The Even Chance), seems to be a mash of the first three stories in the book, “Hornblower and the Even Chance,” “Hornblower and the Cargo of Rice,” and “Hornblower and the Penalty of Failure.” The Fire Ships (UK title The Examination for Lieutenant), the second episode, mixes “Hornblower and the Examination for Lieutenant” and “Hornblower and Noah’s Ark.” Episode three is The Duchess and the Devil, with the same UK title and from the story of the same name. Finally, the fourth episode is called The Wrong War, with the original UK title and the original story being The Frogs and the Lobsters and “Hornblower, the Frogs, and the Lobsters,” respectively.

The next two series may cover material from other books, but I don’t exactly know yet. Up next for me to read is Lieutenant Hornblower, so I’ll let you know. A commenter on IMDB claims that the last two episodes of the third series, Loyalty and Duty, are loosely based on the novel Hornblower and the Hotspur. We’ve still got that last episode Duty to watch, where Horatio is captain of the Hotspur, and he’s about to marry Julia Sawalha, who is way cute. I used to get her confused with Saffron Burrows, although they look nothing alike, but Julia Sawalha played a character named Saffron on Ab Fab, so maybe that’s why. Dawn seems to very much dislike this chick whom Horatio is marrying, but I think it’s just because Dawn’s jealous of her.

The other star of the series is Robert Lindsay as Sir Edward Pellew. He’s gruff and professional in all the right ways, but apparently Robert Lindsay is a big star for his singin’ and dancin’ and comedy skills. Other favorites have shown up in guest roles, like Samuel West, whom I used to get confused with Rupert Graves. (Apparently I get lots of actors confused: Sterling Hayden and Robert Ryan, Julia Sawalha and Saffron Burrows, Samuel West and Rupert Graves, etc.) And in another episode is Denis Lawson, who’s also in one of my all-time favorite movies Local Hero, although he’s more famous for his appearances as the character Wedge in the first three Star Wars movies, as well as for being Ewan McGregor’s uncle.

I’m happy to be reading something again other than woodworking stuff. I started out the year well, reading Elie Wiesel, with the idea that maybe I could swing at least a book a month. (Long gone are the days when I could do a book a week.) But depending on how you count, I’ve finished by now five books, or only three. The three Wiesel books were all published separately, but I read them in a collection in one volume, so we could count that as either three or just one. But heck, I’m going to be generous and count it as three. Then there was the Flannery O’Connor. Hmm, now that I think about it, all of what I’ve read this year has been collections of things, either three books in one or short story collections. Wonder if that means anything. Probably not.

And anyway up next is a proper novel, Lieutenant Hornblower. Oh, from the little recaplet in Wikipedia, sounds like this is where the material for the second series, the two episodes Mutiny and Retribution, comes from, where Horatio is on HMS Renown with nutty Captain Sawyer. And where he meet Lieutenant Bush. The DC Library’s online catalog CityCat says that the MLK branch has four copies. Gotta go grab one.