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Admirers of the illustrious Horatio Hornblower (a la C.S. Forester) will feel convinced that here is the counterpart in history- Thomas Cochrane, imaginative genius and one of Britain's finest sea combat heroes. Eldest son of the Earl of Dundonald, born in Scotland in 1775, descendant of a long line of land and sea fighters, Cochrane joined the Navy at the start of the Napoleonic Wars. A born navigator and a man without fears, he soon distinguished himself by astonishing feats of seamanship and strategy. Given his first command in 1800, a 158-ton brig, Cochrane defeated and captured ships larger than his own; he went on to more famous ships and played a decisive part in ending French sea-power. An inventor and innovator as well as a superlative sea captain, Cochrane, and tactless, became involved in a stock-exchange and was found guilty. He was dismissed from the Navy, served a year of his sentence in prison, and took his naval career fighting for the revolting South American countries against Spain and Portugal. When he returned to command in his own Navy, he fought for the introduction of steam. He died in 1860 and was buried in Westminster Abbey. Compactly written, if not brilliant, this is not a definitive biography (in fact a second volume to promised). Some may feel the authenticity suffers from heavy overdoses of fictional speeches and thoughts. But the exciting content and the straightforward narrative style should certainly capture the Hornblower market.

Pub Date: March 18th, 1958
Publisher: Macmillan