Take Parkinson's introduction about the ancient buried boxes of Hornblower correspondence with as much rock-bottom salt as you wish but this ""biography"" of the late C. S. Forester stalwart, however much of a send-up, may be difficult for Hornblower fans to put down. The author records Hornblower's childhood and youth in middling-mean circumstances; early life at sea (when his captain fell down the hatchway ""There was no proof, . . . that Hornblower was present""); then marriage to the drab Maria and the rapid rise during the Napoleonic wars. The sea and land engagements are given full sweep and play with insights into Hornblower's cautious and wily diplomacy when pressed. After the death of Maria, not to be confused with a later extramarital alliance, Hornblower married the Lady Barbara. He was never entirely privy to her efforts on his behalf promoting his ascendancy. It's all there -- including the visit of the future Napoleon III on that stormy night and the hurricane with Barbara lashed to the mast. Illustrated with old etchings and reproductions of documents -- a grand contribution to the shrinking annals of sailing ships more recently becalmed.