I’m three books away from the end of C.S. Forester’s Hornblower series. But when I had the opportunity to pick up Commodore Hornblower at the bookstore the other day, I went for O’Brien’s Master and Commander instead. I guess I wanted to compare the two series.

I’m only three chapters into Master and Commander, and already I’m struck by how very… different… Captain Aubrey is from Captain Hornblower. F’r’instance:

–Hornblower has a mathematical mind like a steel trap. He charted perfect courses as a midshipman, learned how to compute his ship’s longitude from the phases of the moon, was able to make a perfect landfall after seven months out of sight of land. Aubrey, on the other hand, has trouble just auditing the ship’s books. And while he’s an excellent sailor, he needs to rely on his sailing master for navigation.

–Aubrey doesn’t worry half as much as Hornblower does. At the beginning of the novel, as a half-pay out-of-work lieutenant whose hotel debt will soon be due, he is nevertheless able to go enjoy a concert (until the good doctor starts hushing him). Hornblower, on the other hand, seems to be forever worrying about how he’s short on cash, how his uniform looks shabby, how he can’t afford fancy provisions… As a new commander, Aubrey works towards finding a crew for his ship but doesn’t seem to stress over it. As a new commander, the question of where he will find a crew keeps Hornblower up at night.

–Hornblower sails while doing trigonometry calculations in his head; he’s forever calculating the angle of the wind, the speed of his ship, etc. Aubrey sails very instinctually, not with mathematical calculations but “as a man rides a horse.” One captains by calculating the odds, the other from the gut.

–Aubrey is fascinated by classical music, and plays the violin. Hornblower is notoriously tonedeaf–he can’t even distinguish England’s national anthem from another tune.

–Hornblower is described as thin, gangly, gaunt. Aubrey is described as somewhat fat, “fourteen stone” (about two hundred pounds).

I mean, seriously. These guys are like polar opposites.

I’ll let you know what I think after I finish the book…

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