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    Re: C S Forester (was Dava Sobel)
    From: Fred Hebard
    Date: 2006 Apr 28, 19:12 -0400

    On Apr 28, 2006, at 3:36 PM, George Huxtable wrote:
    > Fred Hebard wrote-
    > | As long as we're trashing Sobel, Patrick O'Brian also has been
    > | trashed, not undeservedly, while E.F. Forrester has been
    > praised.  In
    > | Forrester's first Hornblower novel, the hero is praised for making a
    > | perfect landfall from deep sea in Nicaragua.  Unfortunately, this
    > | would have been relatively simple even in those days as one would
    > | only have to run down the latitude toward that N-S oriented, more or
    > | less, coast.  The novel implies he was not running down the
    > latitude,
    > | but rather from a fix, on a diagonal, which would have required a
    > | longitude.  But Forrester exaggerates a bit here, I believe.
    > ================
    > Comments from George.
    > Well, that's a big leap, from Sobel to C S Forester (NOT E F
    > Forrester!), via O'Brian.
    > Fred refers to "The Happy Return", published in 1937. It's a
    > version of that story that some older hands may remember as a film
    > titled (I think) "Captain Horatio Hornblower RN", Gregory Peck and
    > Virginia Mayo.
    > It would have been necessary to approach that landfall by running
    > down the latitude, in earlier days or in a less well-equipped
    > vessel, which had no means of determining longitude. But this was
    > 1808, the ship possessed chronometers, which Hornblower knew how
    > to check against a lunar. Knowing longitude in that way, it was
    > perfectly possible, and valid, to approach a steep-to mountainous
    > coast, at a diagonal course, sailing Northeast, even if (as
    > Hornblower had surmised) his Dago charts had been somewhat inaccurate.
    > Let me quote from page 8 of my paperback edition.
    > "Hornblower's mind began to run back through his recent
    > calculations of the ship's position.  He was certain about his
    > latitude, and
    > last night's lunar observations had seemed to confirm the
    > chronometers' indication of the longitude- even though it seemed
    > incredible that chronometers could be relied upon at all after a
    > seven months' voyage.  Probably less than one hundred miles ahead,
    > at most three hundred, lay the Pacific coast of Central America".
    > Note the reference to "chronometers'", rather than "chronometer's".
    > On such a distant voyage a Royal Navy vessel would, by that
    > date, have been issued with more than one of the precious
    > chronometers; probably a set of three. And in making a realistic
    > assessment of the possible errors, Forrester gets it all right. It
    > is indeed hard to fault Forester anywhere, in his grasp of the
    > technical details.
    > There are many nice touches in his writing. Let me quote another,
    > when after a busy day Hornblower has retired to his cot in a
    > tropical night.
    > ."And then the canvas screen flapped. A little breath of wind came
    > stealing over the decks. His sailor's instincts kept him informed
    > about how the Lydia was swinging to her anchor. He felt the tiny
    > tremor which ran through the ship as she brought up short to her
    > anchor cable in a new direction.The land breeze had begun at last.
    > The ship was cooler at once. Hornblower wriggled over to his
    > side, and slept."
    > To me, that's sheer magic. Who of us has spent a night at anchor,
    > and experienced exactly the same? Forester brings it back.
    > George.
    > ==================
    > contact George Huxtable at george@huxtable.u-net.com
    > or at +44 1865 820222 (from UK, 01865 820222)
    > or at 1 Sandy Lane, Southmoor, Abingdon, Oxon OX13 5HX, UK.
    I believe George has it about right.  What I was referring to,
    however, was the adulation of Hornblower's shipmates at his
    navigation more than whether it was feasible, which it most certainly
    was.  It appeared to me that Forrester depicted him as the only
    person in the vessel capable of this feat.  I would expect that all
    the commissioned officers on the ship would have been capable of
    that, as well, perhaps, as some midshipmen.  Forrester also states
    that the master was not a good navigator; this seems improbable to me.
    I also expect that many navigators of that day would have set a
    course for a point 50-100 miles west of the coast and then run down
    the latitude.  This would not have been a huge detour, depending on
    the wind, and would have been more prudent, it seems to me.
    For Dan Hogan and Philip Lange,
    Aubrey (and Maturin) is more than a bit of a larger than life
    captain, having engaged in almost every one of the storied frigate
    actions during the Napoleonic era.  Plus he gives papers to the Royal
    Society and is a member.  That would be my main complaint about the
    Fred Hebard

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