Life in Nelson’s Navy

One of the most delightful birthday presents I’ve ever received was a complete set of the old classic Horatio Hornblower novels of C.S. Forster, a rousing series of seafaring adventures that transpire during the Napoleonic Wars and their aftermath. If you’ve never read them, you’re in for a treat. (You’ll find most, but not quite all, on the shelves at the Haysville Community Library.)

At the time I received this excellent gift, I was also reading Roy and Leslie Adkins’ fine history of the period, The War of All the Oceans: From Nelson at the Nile to Napoleon at Waterloo, along with Roy Adkins’ equally superb Nelson’s Trafalgar: The Battle that Changed the World. For nearly a month I was steeped in the period, and enjoying every minute of the experience.

It was during this interlude that I came across Brian Lavery’s little Life in Nelson’s Navy, a 90-page work from the Sutton Life Series that is among the very best introductions to the daily experience of an average seaman in the late 18th and early 19th century. Its seven short chapters cover the key aspects of that experience, from joining the navy, through the ships and officers, the trials of living on board, the art of sailing, battle and wartime, to exiting the navy. No trills and flourishes, just concise, straightforward, interesting information.

As a companion to reading the more voluminous histories and as an adjunct to the Hornblower novels, I couldn’t recommend a more valuable and entertaining little book.

Published in: on March 31, 2010 at 3:35 pm  Leave a Comment  

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