"This is a lovely holiday. I'll be sad to go back."
Well, I meant to have my thoughts on 'The Duchess and the Devil' up today, but wasn't quite finished the post and as I'm currently off visiting family, haven't had a moment to work on it. I'll be back at it after Labour Day, but at the moment I'm busy not being busy. Have a fun and relaxing Labour Day weekend!
'The Duchess and the Devil' is the third installment of the Hornblower series and takes place- naturally enough- after the events of 'The Fire Ships'. As the story begins, Hornblower is leading a raid against a contingent of the French, who are sneaking supplies past the British blockade.
It is at this point we are introduced to a new character: Hunter, a midshipman under Hornblower's command. He isn't terribly fond of Hornblower, as Horatio's strategy differs significantly from his own- which is essentially to shoot, stab, or punch everyone. He says resentfully that he thought they were there to fight the French. Horatio replies that no, they are there to defeat them. Hornblower's plan works, and they take the French ship and supplies with no casualties among their own men, and very few among the Frenchmen. This increases the admiration which Hornblower's men have for him, except for Hunter, who thinks winning by outsmarting or tricking your enemy is cheating.
Back aboard the Indefatigable, Captain Pellew derives some amusement by teasing his overly-serious acting lieutenant, then tells Horatio that, in addition to the prize money he will receive for capturing the French vessel- La Reve- he will be given the honour of captaining her back to England. He is also given the dubious privilege of attending a dinner hosted by the governor of Gibraltar. Here Horatio makes the acquaintance of the Duchess of Warfedale, who confounds his assumptions about the comportment of women of the upper class by talking and acting in a manner more suited to a tavern wench. He also has it sprung on him that he is going to be transporting the Duchess back to England aboard La Reve.
As Horatio prepares La Reve to leave for England, Capt. Pellew gives him a packet of dispatches to be delivered to the Admiralty in London. He warns Hornblower that they cannot fall into enemy hands; if he is boarded or captured, the papers must be destroyed. Then the Duchess arrives, and Pellew wishes him luck and scuttles off, looking more discomposed than he ever has under cannon fire. The Duchess continues her teasing of "Mr Haitch" who is still young enough to blush at her slightly risque banter. Unfortunately, the Duchess is soon the least of his problems as they run into some Spanish ships and are captured. Horatio is about to toss the dispatches overboard, but the Duchess convinces him to give them to her for safekeeping, saying that she won't be suspected of having important documents. He is soon given cause to have second thoughts about this course of action, as the duchess begins chatting up their captors in fluent Spanish, and is whisked away to stay at the warden, Don Masserado's casa in comfort while the rest of them are tossed into a Spanish prison.
Poor Horatio... in jail, and forced to share a cell with Hunter, who naturally blames Hornblower for the entire situation. After all, if he had allowed them to fight to the death like Hunter wanted, they wouldn't be in prison, would they. But there is another occupant to their cell; Horatio is shocked to find that Archie Kennedy is also there. It seems that after Simpson set his boat adrift, he was picked up by the Spanish and has been imprisoned here ever since. Curiously, Archie is not happy to see his former shipmate. He is in bad shape physically as well as mentally; having attempted escape numerous times, he was punished by being put in an oubliette- a hole in the ground not large enough to stand up or lie down in- for a month. Now lacking the strength to get out of bed, the sight of Horatio brings back haunting memories of Simpson, causing mental anguish and a return of his seizures.
Hunter, of course, has no time for this weakness. He wants to escape, and Kennedy will only slow them down. Hornblower tells him that they will escape eventually, but will be taking Archie with them. The Duchess hasn't been idle during this time: she has convinced Don Masserado to allow Horatio to go walking with her outside the prison once a day if he will give his word that he won't try to escape. Hornblower promises that he won't try anything during the walks, but informs Don Masserado that at all other times, he considers it his duty to attempt escape.
These walks give Horatio the opportunity to ascertain that the Duchess still has the dispatches safe, but are poor optics for his men who are stuck in prison 24/7. This wouldn't be a big deal, except Hunter spends his time suggesting to them that Hornblower doesn't want to escape- that he would be happy to sit out the war, swanking around with the Duchess. Matthews and Styles keep it together, but the others, including Oldroyd, are wavering.
When not sowing seeds of rebellion, Hunter is busily chowing down on Kennedy's rations. Having lost the will to live, Archie has stopped eating. Distracted by other matters, Horatio doesn't notice this. He no doubt would have seen Archie's untouched food about, except Hunter is eating it, and doesn't bother to mention that little fact to Horatio. Hornblower finds out when Kennedy lapses into unconsciousness and cannot be roused. Distraught and blaming himself, Hornblower carries Archie to the gates of the prison, asking for help. Don Masserado allows Kennedy to receive medical attention, and Horatio, with some help from the Duchess, cares for him.
At first, Archie resists eating, not wishing to recover. Horatio insists, saying that Kennedy must get well and return with them to the Indy. Archie indicates he doesn't want to go back and listen to tales of how he was rescued by Hornblower. Horatio tells him that Archie would do the same for him if he was in that state, and Archie replies with sad bitterness that Horatio never would be. Regardless, Hornblower manages to convince him to eat by telling him that he needs him if he's going to get the men out of here. As he recovers, Archie catches sight of the Duchess and... recognizes her. He informs Horatio that she's not an aristocrat- she's Kitty Cobham, a Drury Lane actress from London. Horatio is left pondering the chilling thought that he has handed secret government documents over to a woman who has lied about everything, including her name. While he is distracted, Hunter plots his own escape with the men who have thrown in with him.
When confronted, Kitty explains that, when war broke out, she was stranded in Europe and impersonated the Duchess of Warfedale in order to get back to England. And, since her portrayal of the Duchess was dead-on, she doesn't see what difference it makes. Their argument is cut short by a visiting French official, who has also recognized Kitty. She buys his silence by agreeing to spend the night with him. Horatio spends a bad night, torn between being scandalized by her choice, and worried that it won't stop the Frenchman from spilling the beans... if Kitty is imprisoned, no doubt the dispatches will be discovered. The next day when they meet for their walk, Horatio attempts to reproach her for her behaviour, but Kitty slaps him down, pointing out she sacrificed her pride and dignity for their continued safety. She also assures him that the dispatches are still safe, and she'll keep them that way. Soon after this, Horatio learns that she obtained transport on a Spanish vessel and is gone.
Back in the prison, Archie is up and about, and Horatio's mind is turning to escape plans. Knowing that Hunter is plotting behind his back, he tries to reason with him and the other men. He points out that they don't know yet how many guards there are, or what their schedule is. Also, he asks Hunter what he plans to do, if by some miracle they do break out: loose in Spanish territory, dressed as Englishmen, and unable to speak the language to ask directions or get a boat. He also mentions the fact that Archie, whom Hunter wants to leave behind, speaks Spanish. Hunter dismisses all these concerns as nonsense- once they get out, they'll make it up as they go along. Horatio orders them to give up the ridiculous notion, but of course they don't.
Hunter puts his so-called plan into action, and naturally it ends in abject failure... one of their men is killed, and Hunter is shot in the leg. Don Masserado demands to know who was responsible, and Hornblower states that he was. Masserado doesn't believe Hornblower would be that stupid, and tells him to give up whoever was actually to blame, warning him that, as his friend Kennedy could tell him, punishment will be cruel. Horatio insists that he be held responsible, even with Archie quietly urging him to tell Masserado the truth. Unconvinced but resigned, Masserado orders Horatio put in the oubliette.
Above ground, Matthews and Styles give a remorseful Oldroyd a hard time for listening to an idiot like Hunter. Speaking of whom, he is a broken man; wracked by guilt and pain, he is refusing to try to get well. Ironically, it is Archie who cares for him, bandaging his wound and telling him he must eat, that Horatio will need him. Eventually, Don Masserado relents and Hornblower is freed, though he's in bad shape, unable to stand. Time passes as both Horatio and Hunter recuperate, and Horatio's parole is reinstated by Don Masserado, allowing him a walk a day. It is while on one of these walks, during a storm, that Hornblower comes upon Don Masserado on the shore, watching a sea battle. Borrowing his spyglass, Horatio sees that it is the Indefatigable, chasing a Spanish vessel. In an effort to escape, the Spanish ship comes too close to a rocky reef, running aground and starting to sink. Horatio asks if anyone is going to try to rescue the crew, but Masserado says that the storm is too bad... no one will go out in it, as it would be suicide. Hornblower asks for permission for he and his men to take out a boat and attempt a rescue. Don Masserado is suspicious that he is looking for an avenue of escape, but Horatio gives his word that he and his men will return if they survive. Masserado agrees, and they manage to make it out to the ship, rescuing the survivors, which Horatio is shocked to find include Kitty. Hunter bravely jumps into the sea and saves one of the Spaniards, but is washed away himself. The storm is so bad that they can't return to shore, so they try to ride it out asea. While huddling together to keep warm, Kitty explains her presence. It seems that the ship has had a hard time dodging the British, so was unable to drop her off at a neutral port. She assures Horatio, however, that she still has the dispatches safe in her clothes. Fortunately, they are spotted and picked up by the Indy, still lurking in the area.
Pellew is obviously delighted, though he huffs a bit when the "Duchess" reveals that she has the dispatches. She praises Hornblower highly, however, and Pellew tells them that he is no longer an acting lieutenant. Due to his courageous actions during the Fire Ship incident, his rank has been raised to Lieutenant. Horatio is pleased, but informs Captain Pellew that he and his men must return to their imprisonment, as he gave Don Masserado his word. Pellew thinks this is carrying honour a bit too far, and says that, while Hornblower can return, the men must decide for themselves whether or not to accompany him.
Pellew puts the question to the men, and Archie says that Horatio's word stands good for him. Pellew asks the others if they feel the same,and it is Oldroyd who speaks up stoutly, and says that they, too, will abide by Hornblower's promise. The Indefatigable takes them in as closely as possible to shore, and just before disembarking, Horatio asks Kitty what she plans to do- she can't keep pretending to be the Duchess of Warfedale. Kitty says that she'll drop the act once she gets back to London: she has friends there who will overlook the rather unorthodox manner of her return.
Horatio and his men return to prison, but not for good. Some time after their re-incarceration, Don Masserado comes to see Hornblower and tells him that, due to their valiant rescue of the Spanish sailors, he and his men are being set free. Don Masserado wonders audibly if their Majesties realize they are releasing someone who will prove to be a great thorn in their side. Horatio replies that he will endeavor not to disappoint.
In keeping with the rather nautical theme I've got going on at the moment, I'm participating in a Piratical Blogathon on September 19th, hosted byHamlette's Soliloquy. I'll be reviewing the 1990 made-for-TV version of Treasure Island, which is the best adaptation I've seen of it to date. It looks like a lot of fun, and I hope you'll check it out.
In 'The Fire Ships', we see Horatio Hornblower continue to mature, both as a man and as a naval officer. He is faced with numerous challenges which cause him to question not only his ability to command men, but his moral authority to do so. It also presents us with very interesting contrasts in leadership styles and in definitions of honour and duty.
To a degree, the stories of Bunting and Hornblower mirror each other- or at least, follow a similar path before diverging sharply. Both of them owe Finch a debt of gratitude, and his death affects them deeply. With Horatio, this shows itself in his anger at their inability to stop the Spanish raids. This is why he looks more favorably on Capt. Foster's recklessness than he would, I believe, under normal circumstances. In the face of their helplessness, the idea of engaging in some kind of action- todo something- however risky and ultimately self defeating, must have seemed attractive. With Bunting, this loss causes him to lash out, railing against the leadership. Horatio deals less harshly with his rebellious talk than would be his wont partially because he makes allowances for Bunting's grief over Finch, but also I think, because he understands the frustration behind it, and shares it to a degree. When Pellew pronounces judgement on Bunting, Hornblower says that he should be held equally to blame, for not dealing more firmly with him. This is of course due to his belief that he is responsible for the conduct of those under his command. I think, though, that perhaps Horatio also felt an unconscious need to be punished himself for the disloyal thoughts he was having.
Of course, any similarities between Hornblower and Bunting end here. Bunting is essentially a selfish character, putting his own wants and grievances before those of others. Because of rationing, he is hungry and so feels justified in stealing food, lessening the amount left for his shipmates, whom he knows are all equally hungry. Instead of helping when their landing party is attacked, he seizes the opportunity to run, hoping to escape the consequences of his actions. Bunting also makes a habit of holding others responsible for his own problems and misdeeds. He feels badly over the loss of Finch and wants someone to blame, so he weaves fanciful tales of the officers keeping all the good food for themselves and starving the men. No one else believes this nonsense, but Bunting manages to convince himself, using his outrage to justify everything he does. He never holds himself accountable for his actions, and so any punishments he receives for them are merely further proof of the injustices he's been subjected to. Hornblower, on the other hand, is very much a proponent of personal responsibility. Indeed, he often holds himself to an impossibly high standard of it, believing himself to be accountable for things which are in fact beyond his control. Also, when he takes an action- for good or ill- he owns it, not seeking to escape any consequences that it might cause him. This is not to say that Horatio is immune to self interest: on the contrary, he is ambitious and seeks to rise in rank in the naval service. He has no desire to do this, however, by acting in ways which would be harmful both to the men under his command and to the British fleet as a whole. This is why, in the end, he rejects Captain Foster's method of leadership, which is self-serving rather than self-sacrificial.
The difference in the command styles of Captain Pellew and Capt. Foster is a distillation of the main theme of 'The Fire Ships', which is essentially the duties of a leader. With Foster, we see that his command is based on almost a cult of personality: "Dreadnought" Foster is admired because he's the first to charge into any fight. He is seen as courageous and bold, which is not a bad thing; it is in fact quite useful in situations like that of the fire ship in Gibraltar harbour. The problem is, Foster enjoys the admiration a bit too much, his desire for personal glory often informing and influencing his actions. This is clearly displayed in his handling of the supply ship debacle. There was no way for them to defeat a Spanish ship of war, yet Foster ordered them to attempt to do so, causing them to literally go down fighting. This might be seen as heroic, but at what cost? The sorely- needed supplies were lost, and most of the men on board. It could be argued that the supplies would have been lost anyway if the Spanish had captured the vessel, but the men would have still been alive instead of lost in an exercise in futility. Later, Foster boastingly tells the tale as though it were a personal victory, giving no thought to the loss of life until Capt. Pellew brings it up. Foster doesn't appreciate this: his vanity prevents him from ever questioning his own behaviour, and he takes a dim view of anyone else doing so. He quite likes Horatio at first, enjoying his obvious admiration. But when Hornblower has cause to criticize his actions, that liking turns to distaste- Foster's good opinion of someone is entirely dependent on that person's admiration of him. Foster's actions in taking beef from the Caroline provide further proof of his selfish command style. He and his men are no more hungry than those on any of the other ships, and are not in dire need. By taking the beef while it is still under quarantine, he risks causing an outbreak of plague which could decimate the navy and cause Britain's war effort to be jeopardized. Of course, the chances of this are low at this point in the quarantine, but still present nonetheless. Yet again we see that Foster puts personal gain ahead of the good of the service or the men in it. Parallels could be drawn between his attitude and that of Bunting in this regard.
On the other side of the coin, we have Captain Pellew, who is the antithesis of Foster. He has no liking for self-aggrandizing nicknames ( hello,"Dreadnought" Foster) or the hubris which inspires them. What Pellew understands is that, as a naval captain, he has a duty both to his country and his men and that personal desires or needs must be subservient to this duty. Pellew sees the big picture, and would never endanger the war effort by engaging in reckless and foolhardy actions which, while perhaps bringing personal satisfaction and admiration, could do untold damage to the cause. As well, he takes his duty to the men under his command seriously. While he cannot guarantee their safety in a time of war, the crew should be able to trust their captain not to take actions which will risk their lives unnecessarily and to no purpose other than his vanity. Captain Pellew well understands the cost of command, and he imparts this knowledge to his young acting lieutenant. We see this reflected in Horatio's actions in Oran, where he tells Mr.Tapling to control himself, "for the sake of the men." Whatever fears and doubts a leader has, he must be able to subdue them, as his men will rightly expect him to take control of himself and the situation. In closing, if I had to pick one line which encapsulates the theme of this episode, it would be Horatio's response to Foster's accusation of him not knowing his duty to a ranking officer: "I know my duty, sir. And it also lies with the lives of the men." Enough said.
'The Fire Ship' takes place some time after the events of 'The Duel.' Horatio Hornblower is now serving as "Acting Lieutenant" since the deaths of Lt. Eccleson and Lt. Chad on the Papillion.
The story picks up with a contingent of Spaniards arriving on the Indefatigable with the unwelcome news that Spain, previously allied with Britain against France, is now going to become neutral. This information is imparted to Capt. Pellew by the Spanish captain, with Horatio acting as translator. Humorously, we see Pellew struggling- unsuccessfully- to conceal his bulge-eyed fury at this development, and Hornblower laboriously translating what his captain is actually saying into something more polite and diplomatic. After the Spanish leave, Pellew grimly tells Horatio that 'neutrality' is an empty term, and that Spain will quickly become allied with France. Indeed, this is already happening, as a British supply ship comes under fire from a Spanish vessel. Outclassed and outgunned, the captain of the supply ship is planning to do the sensible thing: cut and run.
Unfortunately, besides supplies, he is also transporting Capt. "Dreadnought" Foster of the Royal Navy. Despite the impossible odds, Foster asserts his authority and orders the captain to turn and fight. Predictably, this ends in disaster: the ship is sunk, and the few survivors- including Foster- are left clinging to some flotsam. Fortunately for them, they are spotted by the Indy and picked up. Horatio is a little star-struck by the presence of Foster, about whom he's heard many heroic tales. It's obvious however, that Pellew is less than pleased with Foster and his effect on his young Acting Lieutenant. He considers Foster to be reckless with the lives of those under his command; when Foster is boastingly telling the tale of the fight with the Spanish ship, Pellew bluntly asks how many men were lost. Unhappy with Horatio's obvious enthusiasm for Foster, Pellew treats him a little coldly for a while. After Foster leaves for his own ship, the Dreadnought, though, Pellew tells Hornblower that he has recommended him for the Lieutenant's exam.
Excited but nervous, Horatio spends his free time studying. It is difficult, however, to find a quiet spot to do so on board. Adding to his distraction is the fact that, due to the loss of the supply ship and further Spanish raiding, the food rations have been cut in half. Constantly hungry, the men manage to keep their spirits up, laughing and singing into the night. One evening, when the sailors' rowdy fun is particularly loud, Hornblower briefly gives way to his exasperation at not being able to concentrate. He is given some advice from the older and more experienced Lt. Bracegirdle, who tells him that the real test comes after the exam; books don't teach how to deal with a starving crew who know that prolonged rationing can lead to disease and death. He tells Horatio that the sailors joke and sing to keep away the fear, and that a good lieutenant will know and understand his men.
Not long after this, one of Hornblower's men- Finch- collapses and it's obvious that he has scurvy. He is bedridden, and though both Matthews and Hornblower try to keep his mind active and clear, and another seaman named Bunting, to whom Finch is a father figure, shares his meager rations with him, without proper food Finch only gets worse. Horatio in particular feels an obligation to Finch, as it was he who saved Hornblower's life on the Papillion when Simpson tried to kill him. His frustration and helplessness with the situation cause him to question their present strategy, comparing it unfavorably to Foster's more aggressive course of action. The situation becomes even worse when another supply ship is destroyed by a Spanish fire ship, which is basically a vessel which the Spanish light on fire and set loose, aimed at another ship. In an age of wooden sailing ships, these could cause devastating destruction. Then, despite their best efforts, Finch succumbs to his illness, which affects Bunting badly. He becomes resentful, spreading rumours that the officers are keeping all the best food for themselves, and suggesting mutiny. The other men pretty much ignore him, and then Hornblower, when he overhears him, reprimands him sharply. He lets Bunting off with a warning, however, making allowance for his grief over Finch's death.
In an effort to obtain supplies, a diplomat- Mr Tapling- arrives to be transported to Oran to bargain for grain and cattle. To that end, they are also provided with another, smaller vessel (the Caroline) on which to transport the supplies. Meanwhile, Bunting is in a downward spiral, breaking into the hold and stealing food. When caught, Capt. Pellew orders that he be made to "run the gauntlet" : pass through a line of his shipmates, being whipped by them. After this, Bunting stows away on the boat being taken to Oran, hoping to escape the ship.
Hornblower leads the mission to Oran where, upon arrival, they discover Bunting and take him into custody. Soon they have much worse to worry about, as several of the Oran residents suddenly collapse and die, and they realize it's the Plague. Tapling panics, but Hornblower keeps his head and calms the men. He relays the situation to Capt. Pellew- from a distance- and suggests a plan. He and the exposed men will take the cows and grain on board the Caroline and serve out their three weeks of quarantine there. That way, if they live, the supplies will not be lost. Pellew agrees, and after loading the supplies, Horatio and his men sail off to serve their quarantine.
Hornblower makes a deal with Bunting: if he will cause no further trouble, and work with the other men, Horatio will speak for him at his trial for desertion. Bunting agrees, and so is given his freedom on the ship. The weeks pass slowly as Horatio attempts to study for the lieutenant's exam while dealing with the issues of captaining a ship full of men who fear they may be struck down by deadly disease at any moment.He keeps them busy working, and raises their spirits by ordering one of the cows butchered so that the men can have fresh beef. With one week left to their quarantine, and running low on water, they put in to a remote cove and go ashore to fill their barrels. While there, they are attacked by some Spanish soldiers and Bunting seizes the opportunity to escape. Hornblower goes after him, ordering him at gunpoint to return with him to the ship. Bunting refuses and grabs the gun; it goes off and Bunting is killed.
As they are returning from this ill-fated mission, they find that the Dreadnought has showed up, and some of Foster's men have been aboard the Caroline and absconded with a couple sides of beef. Horatio confronts Foster, demanding that the beef and the men who took it return to the Caroline. They are not yet out of quarantine, and Foster is risking spreading Plague. Foster refuses to comply, and Horatio angrily tells him that the responsibility for any consequences will be his. Once back on the Caroline, they bury Bunting at sea.
They survive the quarantine and return to the Indefatigable with the supplies. Horatio blames himself for Bunting's death, fearing he has failed and is unfit for command. Capt. Pellew tells him that he has nothing to reproach himself for, and that accepting the death of someone under his command is part of the burden of leadership. Horatio doesn't have time to brood, because his exam is the very next day in Gibralter. Unfortunately, one of his three examiners is Capt. Foster, with whom he is now on bad terms. Unnerved, Horatio freezes during his examination, and is saved from failure only by alarms going off. A Spanish fire ship has entered the harbour and is headed directly for the Indy.
Hornblower and Foster row out to the fire ship and go on board, braving the flames to try to steer it out of harm's way. They are successful, and the Indy is saved. Later, Capt. Pellew commends Horatio for his bravery, and tells him that his exam was cancelled. He also tells Horatio that he has passed a much sterner test, and that it has been an honour to serve with him.
'The Duel' ( a.k.a. 'The Even Chance') is the first movie in the Hornblower series, and it introduces us to Horatio Hornblower as well as several other characters who will figure prominently in this film, and in the series as a whole. It also sets the scene: the English navy at the time of the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars, when Britannia really did "rule the waves."
When we first meet Horatio, he seems to have many disadvantages which would preclude a successful naval career. At 17 years of age, he is considered old to be starting in the service, where many go to sea at twelve. He is the rawest of beginners, and suffers from sea sickness, which will afflict him periodically throughout his life. As well, we learn in a letter from his father to Captain Keene that Horatio is a "solitary boy." In the cramped, crowded environs of a naval vessel, there is no place for privacy or solitude.
On the other hand, in the small world of the ship, through common experiences and shared dangers and difficulties, Horatio forms a few solid and lasting friendships much faster than someone of his nature probably would under different circumstances. As well, what he lacks in experience, Hornblower makes up for in intelligence and natural ability. Early on in this film, we see him excelling in his navigational training, surpassing those who have been at it much longer.
It is this competence and skill which first incites the ire of Simpson, as these are qualities that he himself lacks. He also lacks any semblance of a conscience, appearing to be a sociopath. Simpson cares nothing for his duty to his country or crew; his only concerns are his own twisted ambitions. As well, he responds to personal failure by trying to punish others for their success. He's pretty much the antithesis of Hornblower, who constantly strives to better himself, and has a highly developed sense of duty and honour, as well as an innate kindness of character.
It is when Horatio is transferred to the Indefatigable, under the command of Captain Pellew that he begins to take strides toward becoming the officer- and the man- he wishes to be. Pellew is gruff and tough, and he has no reason to think well of Horatio, but as he says, "I judge a man by what I see him do, not what others tell me he has done." He gives Hornblower the opportunity to prove himself, and Horatio rises to the challenge. It is from Pellew that Hornblower begins to understand what the demands and responsibilities of military command are. For example, in their initial interview, Pellew states, in regard to the duel, that it wouldn't have occurred if they'd been properly led. Horatio attempts to defend Captain Keene, saying that what happened was beyond his control. Pellew snaps back that, on a ship, nothing is beyond the captain's control. This is part of the burden of command: ultimately, for good or ill, responsibility lies with the leadership.
It would be impossible to discuss the Hornblower series without mentioning the men of Horatio's - formerly Simpson's- division. There is very much an 'Upstairs, Downstairs' element in the story- there's the officer class, and then there are the ordinary seamen like Styles, Matthews, etc. There's an old saying that "no man is a hero to his valet," and this holds true for sailors as well. A good deal of amusement is derived from their observations and salty comments about the doings of their "betters." But there is a serious element to this as well. Life on a naval ship was dangerous at the best of times, and especially during war, when the seamen were expected to not only sail the ship, but fight in its battles as well. Poor or reckless leadership could mean the difference not only between success or failure, but between life and death as well. The men had a vested interest in having able commanders. This is why, though originally insubordinate to Hornblower, they quickly recognize his strength of character and ability, and become completely loyal to him.
The Duel is a great introduction to the Hornblower series. It not only allows us to get to know main characters- especially Horatio- with all their faults and virtues, but presents us with various themes and issues which will recur throughout the films: concepts of duty and honour, moral and physical courage, personal responsibility, and self-sacrifice. Above all, it is the story of a boy coming of age in a time of war, struggling to prove his worth to his captain and his men, and perhaps most of all, to himself.
The Duel is the first of the 1998 made-for-TV movies based on the Hornblower books by C.S. Forester. It draws from several stories in 'Mr Midshipman Hornblower' the first volume in the series, though not the first written; it is actually the sixth, written as a prequel. It includes events from stories such as 'Hornblower and the Even Chance,' 'Hornblower and the Cargo of Rice,' and several others. Horatio Hornblower is excellently played by Ioan Gruffudd, and the strong supporting cast includes such British stalwarts as Jamie Bamber, Robert Lindsay, and Paul Copley, to name a few. The Duel starts out on 17-year-old Hornblower's first day in the navy, which doesn't go particularly well. He is assigned to the Justinian, under the command of Captain Keene. Horatio arrives during a storm, soaked, cold, and unused to the rough seas. Although the Justinian is in port, Horatio is seasick, much to the amusement of the other midshipmen.
A Seasick Hornblower
He begins to regain his footing though, finding a friend in Archie Kennedy, and also in Clayton, who is a bit older than the other midshipmen and tends to look out for them. He also meets Captain Keene- not a reassuring experience. Keene is aged and ailing: we find out that Horatio owes his position to the fact that his father was at one time Keene's doctor. As England is readying for probable war with France, his frailty doesn't inspire confidence. Soon though, Horatio has much worse to worry about, as Jack Simpson comes on the scene.
Simpson is the senior midshipman on the Justinian. He was away when Horatio arrived, taking the lieutenant's exam, which he failed. Not intelligent enough to excel at the technical and mathematical side of seamanship, and also no leader- the men of his division are ramshackle and ill-disciplined- he has been passed over for promotion time and again. He deals with his inadequacies by bullying the other midshipmen in both petty and sadistic ways. It is obvious that Archie has frequently been his victim. Previously warm and gregarious, he shuts down almost completely in the presence of Simpson, and then has what appears to be an epileptic seizure. Clayton tells Horatio that Kennedy is only afflicted with them when Simpson is about.
Simpson begins to single out Horatio for his cruelties, no doubt jealous of Hornblower's obviously superior intelligence and abilities. He administers a brutal beating to Horatio, and is stopped from killing him only by Clayton putting a pistol to his head. Tired, in pain, and constantly on edge, Horatio begins to have suicidal thoughts, and decides that the only thing to do is challenge Simpson to a duel. He does so, and asks Kennedy and Clayton to act as his seconds.
On the morning of the duel, Clayton knocks Horatio unconscious and meets Simpson himself. He manages to wing Simpson, but is himself mortally wounded. Regaining consciousness, Horatio arrives while Clayton is dying. Clayton tells him that he did it because he was ashamed that a boy like Horatio was the only one who would stand up to Simpson. As Clayton dies, a commotion starts up in the surrounding streets. Kennedy goes to see what's happening, and comes back with the news that France has declared war on England. War brings big changes to the Justinian. Quite a few of the ship's men, including Horatio and Archie, are transferred to a frigate, the Indefatigable.
The commander of the Indefatigable is Captain Edward Pellew. He calls Hornblower to meet with him and tells him that he knows about the duel debacle, and doesn't think much of it. He orders Horatio to issue no more challenges while serving on his ship, but also tells him that he will be judged according to his present actions, not his past ones . He also tells Horatio that Simpson's ill-disciplined division is now his to command, and that he will be answerable for their behaviour. Horatio is none too pleased to have to deal with Simpson's men; taking their cues from their former leader, they are unruly and disrespectful. Hornblower is determined to bring them in line, however, and manages to win some grudging respect from them during their first battle at sea.
Not long after, the Indefatigable captures a French ship which is carrying a shipment of rice. Captain Pellew orders Hornblower to take a team of men and sail the captured prize to an English port. Though nervous, Horatio does a good job of conveying an air of confidence and competence to both his own men and the French prisoners. Unfortunately, no one noticed that, during capture, the ship had sustained damage below the waterline and is leaking. Once Horatio realizes this, he repairs it, but it's too late: the water has gotten to the rice, which is swelling and forcing the boards of the ship apart. Despite their best efforts, Hornblower and his men end up in a lifeboat with their prisoners- who out number them- watching his first command sink beneath the waves. It is in this dire situation that Horatio shows his mettle as, with courage and quick thinking, he outwits the French captain and gets them all back to the Indefatigable. The result of this is that Hornblower's men ( Matthews, Styles, Finch, Oldroyd, etc.) have gained respect for, and confidence in, him. It also gives Captain Pellew an idea of his abilities.
After a pitched battle, the Indefatigable is engaged in picking up survivors of a British vessel sunk by the French ship Papillion. It turns out that the ill-fated ship was the Justinian, and among the survivors is Simpson. Pellew plans a night raid on the Papillion, and Simpson volunteers to go along, to the dismay of Horatio and Archie, who will also be in the raiding party. As they silently approach the Papillion, the stress of having Simpson nearby causes Kennedy to have a seizure, and Hornblower is forced to knock him unconscious. The raid is successful, no thanks to Simpson who spends his time setting the boat with Archie in it adrift, then attempting to murder Horatio.
Hornblower survives, and he's had it with Simpson. He informs Lt. Eccleson- who led the raid- of Simpson's perfidy, and he says he will address the matter when they rejoin the Indefatigable. Unfortunately, they come under fire, and Eccleson is fatally injured. As he dies, he orders Horatio to take command of the Papillion. Simpson, however, attempts to take command, because he is the senior officer. Horatio orders his men to arrest Simpson, and despite his threats they do so, their loyalty now entirely to Hornblower.
Meanwhile, the Indefatigable has come under attack, and is outnumbered and out-gunned. Hornblower, with the Papillion, leads a fierce counter-attack against the French ships, forcing their surrender. Back on board the Indy, Simpson denies everything, calling Horatio a liar and demanding a duel to satisfy his so-called honour. Horatio does not accept due to the order Capt. Pellew gave him when he first came aboard, and Simpson calls him a coward. Disgusted by Simpson, Pellew removes his order to Horatio about no dueling though he is clearly worried about Hornblower. The story comes full circle as Hornblower and Simpson finally meet to settle once and for all the enmity between them.
The Black Arrow is one of Robert Louis Stevenson's lesser known works which was originally published in 1888 as a serial before being released in novel form. I remember watching a Disney version of it as a child,which I recently stumbled across on You Tube and decided to watch again for old times' sake. It wasn't as good as I remembered. Not that it was terrible- it was still mildly entertaining- but the plot was pretty cheesy and the characters never really engage your interest to any great degree. A big part of the problem is that you never believe the relationship between the hero, Richard, and the heroine, Joanna. For most of the movie, she considers him to be an enemy, and by the time she realizes he isn't, they've been separated. They don't meet up or speak again until nearly the end of the film, when it suddenly turns out that they're in love. Very unconvincing. Also, though Joanna is supposed to be a sympathetic character, it's hard to really like her since the only emotions she displays through about three quarters of the movie are hostility and anger, and her one facial expression is a deep scowl. As for Richard, he's a pretty bland character and frankly, a bit of a dope. Actually, the most interesting character is Oates, the self-serving, double-crossing servant of Richard's guardian, Sir Daniel. Oates is played by the always excellent Donald Pleasence, and he adds a bit of class to the production. You know a film is in trouble when you're bored by the good guys, and would prefer to see more of the baddies. Uninspiring though the movie was, it made me curious about Stevenson's book, which I had never read, so I downloaded it from Project Gutenberg.
'The Black Arrow: A Tale of the Two Roses' is set in England during the Wars of the Roses, in the mid- fourteen hundreds. The protagonist is Richard- or Dick- Shelton, an orphan whose guardian is Sir Daniel Brackley. Sir Daniel is well known for switching back and forth between supporting the Lancasters and Yorks, depending on which side it's more advantageous to be on. Indeed, all his actions seem to be motivated by his own enlightened self interest. In contrast, Dick is an honest lad who, while not blind to the faults of his guardian, is unaware of the true scope of his villainy. In the nearby forest, however, resides a band of outlaws going by the name of 'The Black Arrow.' They have sworn to kill Sir Daniel and several of his cohorts for crimes which they claim include the murder of Dick's father, Sir Harry Shelton. When Dick hears of this accusation, he determines to find out the truth.
Meanwhile, sent on a mission by Sir Daniel, Dick meets up with a young boy named John Matchem and they end up travelling together. Over the course of their journey, Dick is frequently irritated by young John, who seems weak and unskilled in self defense, though possessing strong opinions. They quarrel and make up over various issues, and in the end, John ends up saving Dick's life. As it turns out, the reason John seems somewhat lacking in manly skills is that he is in fact Joanna Sedley, an heiress whom Sir Daniel kidnapped in order to become her guardian and marry her off to his other ward Dick, thereby gaining access to both of their inheritances. She had just escaped him, dressed as a boy, when she ran into Dick, who knew nothing of any of this. Eventually they meet up with Sir Daniel again, and Dick realizes that what the outlaws accused Sir Daniel of is true- he murdered Sir Harry. Dick manages to escape from him, though injured, but Joanna is recaptured. Dick is rescued by the Black Arrow outlaws, and ends up in league with them, as he seeks a way to avenge his father and rescue Joanna, whom he realizes that he loves. This rescue proves somewhat difficult, as Joanna is being kept well guarded in a house by the sea. Dick's first attempt, involving the outlaws and a stolen boat, is a fiasco, ending in disaster. After this, Sir Daniel moves Joanna to his main residence, and Dick manages to sneak in to see her disguised as a friar. He then meets up with Joanna's actual guardian, Lord Foxham, who is also attempting to rescue her, and who promises to give Dick her hand in marriage if he can get her back. Unfortunately, Lord Foxham is seriously wounded in a second unsuccessful rescue attempt, and he asks Dick to keep his rendezvous with the Duke of Gloucester for him.
While seeking for the Duke, Dick comes upon a man being attacked by a bunch of Lancasters. Thinking that these are unfair odds, he goes to the aid of the man, only to discover after they defeat the Lancasters, that this is Richard Crookback, the Duke of Gloucester. Dick ends up fighting with the York troops and is knighted on the battlefield by the Duke. Pleased about the victory, the Duke gives Dick fifty horsemen with which to track down Sir Daniel, who fought for the Lancasters but managed to escape, taking Joanna with him. Finally Dick is able to rescue Joanna and take her to safety in Holywood where they will be married. On the morning of their wedding, Dick catches sight of the fugitive Sir Daniel, who is trying to find a ship in which to escape to France. Deciding that he will not spill blood on his wedding day, Dick is going to let him live, but an arrow flies out of the woods and fells Sir Daniel. The Black Arrow has fulfilled its vow of vengeance. Dick and Joanna marry, settling down to a peaceful life by staying out of the constant political intrigue and its resulting violence. The Black Arrow disbands after its aims are achieved, and Richard Crookback, Duke of Gloucester, eventually becomes Richard III of England.
The book, 'The Black Arrow ' isn't my favourite by Stevenson, but it is certainly better than the movie made from it. Curiously, while the film retained the characters' names, and used a few elements from the original plot, it dispensed with almost anything which made the story- and the people in it- interesting. For example, the entire part of the story in which Dick and Joanne travel together, with Dick unaware of who Joanne is, is left out entirely. And with it goes a lot of the interest- and, indeed, sense- in the plot. This segment of the story is important, as it lets Dick get to know Joanna as a person, not as simply the fiancee his guardian has chosen for him, and allows Joanna to find out what kind of person he is, as well. This is much different than the movie, in which they spend most of the time at daggers drawn (figuratively), but are miraculously in love at the end. As well, a lot of the main characters are left out or changed beyond recognition- Will Lawless, Duckworth, and Gloucester among others. Gloucester in particular is a great loss, as in the book he is a fascinating character: fierce and fearless, mercurial in temperament, capable of kindness and cruelty. Dick supports him, but is uneasy in his presence and wary of accepting any favours from him. Also, the outlaws are not presented merely as benign, Robin Hood- like figures. They do not steal from the rich to give to the poor: they take from everybody to give to themselves. To sum up, The Black Arrow is a much more interesting book than its movie would lead you to believe, and I would recommend reading the former and skipping the latter.