Parkinson, C. Northcote. The Life and Times of Horatio Hornblower.

Boston: Little, Brown, 1970.

The author is best known for his classic on politics, management, and economic psychology, Parkinson’s Law, but he also wrote a number of books in military and naval history, and was, in fact, a professor of history at Harvard, among other places.

He was also a great admirer of one of the Royal Navy’s foremost heroes in the wars against the French Revolution and Napoleon, and was fortunate (he says) to have come across a trove of letters and documents deposited by Admiral the Viscount Hornblower, to be released a century after his death — which was 1957. Thus, we now know Hornblower’s own thoughts on his career, about his fellow naval officers, and regarding other relevant events of the day — and, most important, just what happened to the young man’s commanding officer in Lieutenant Hornblower. Parkinson does a lovely job of leading the reader through a carefully orchestrated mix of real and fictional history (as C. S. Forester himself did) and fans of the series, and of naval historical fiction generally, will enjoy the journey.

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