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NAPOLEONIC WARS > 6. HF - MR. MIDSHIPMAN HORNBLOWER - CHAPTER VI (140 - 180) (02/21/11 - 02/27/11) ~ No spoilers, please

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message 1: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 44200 comments Mod
Hello Everyone,

Welcome to the historical fiction discussion of Mr. Midshipman Hornblower by C.S. Forester.

This is the reading assignment for week six - (February 21, 2011 to February 27, 2011)

Week Six: Feb 21 - Feb 27 -> Chapter VI: Hornblower, the Frogs, and the Lobsters, pages 140-180 (41 pages)

This is the fifth historical fiction group selected book.

We will open up a thread for each week's reading. Please make sure to post in the particular thread dedicated to those specific chapters and page numbers to avoid spoilers if you are catching up.

This book was kicked off on January 17th.

This discussion is being led by assisting moderator of historical fiction - Elizabeth S. We are glad to have her back for this selection.

We always enjoy the participation of all group members. Amazon, Barnes and Noble and other noted on line booksellers do have copies of the book and shipment can be expedited. The book can also be obtained easily at your local library, or on your Kindle.

This thread opens up either the weekend before or Monday, February 21st for discussion. This is a non spoiler thread.

Welcome,

~Bentley


TO ALWAYS SEE ALL WEEKS' THREADS SELECT VIEW ALL

Mr. Midshipman Hornblower by C.S. Forester C.S. Forester C.S. Forester


message 2: by Elizabeth S (new)

Elizabeth S (esorenson) | 2011 comments Chapter 6, Hornblower the Frogs, and the Lobsters, begins in Plymouth, England. Five companies of British infantry, i.e. Lobsters, and a battalion of forces raised by French emigres, i.e. Frogs, are loaded on British transports. The intent is to take over the French Revolutionary government in coordination with 5,000 French who sailed earlier from Portsmouth. Hornblower, despite his faulty French, is assigned as interpreter to the French Brigadier General Pouzauges. The British forces are commanded by His Lordship, the Earl of Edrington. They are to take the town of Muzillac, blow up the bridge leading to it, and defend the river crossing from the expected Revolutionary forces. Even in loading the forces it is obvious that the British are well trained and disciplined, while the French are dirty and disorganized.

The landing in France is effected and Hornblower is ordered to continue with the French emigre troops. Midshipman Bracegirdle is given command of some landed artillery and charges to blow the bridge. The town is seized by Pouzauges, and horses are commandeered for the officers and Hornblower. Bracegirdle arrives and Hornblower helps him figure the best way to blow the bridge with their two kegs of gunpowder. Returning to the town, Hornblower is sickened to see the French forces using the portable guillotine they had brought. There is already a heap of heads and bodies. The next morning, Hornblower is eating breakfast with the French officers when they hear the sound of cannon. The French rush about, but Hornblower forces himself to finish his coffee with British calm.

Hornblower, who is unskilled at horsemanship, follows the French emigre officers to the destroyed bridge, where the Revolutionary forces are on the other side of the river. It was obvious that the Revolutionaries hadn't a chance of crossing. Hornblower rides downriver to report to the British forces stationed at the crossing. Edrington tells Hornblower to suggest the French have some troops stationed on the road to Quiberon. While returning to the bridge, Hornblower is met by the French troops running in retreat. The attack at the destroyed bridge was a distraction while Revolutionary horsemen came down the road. The British are forced to join in the retreat to the ships, although the Lobsters display excellent military discipline. Their maneuvers and volleys are what make the retreat possible. The whole expedition is a frustrating failure.


message 3: by Michael (new)

Michael Flanagan (loboz) What a great chapter a nice change of tempo. I like the end of the chapter where Hornblower reflects that the battle will soon be forgotten, a great closing to the chapter.


message 4: by Elizabeth S (new)

Elizabeth S (esorenson) | 2011 comments It is a nice change of tempo. Despite having some action and some great descriptions of sea life, the last two chapters had some weird oddities in them. This chapter is a refreshing change of pace and a lot of fun, despite taking place mostly on land. I think it helps us to see how the navy could be called upon to support marines/infantry.


message 5: by Elizabeth S (new)

Elizabeth S (esorenson) | 2011 comments This chapter brushes closer to specific, real historical events. For those of you who need a basic background on the French Revolution, it officially started in 1789 with the storming of the Bastille. Remember that Hornblower was born on July 24, 1776 and that he is 17 when the book begins, allowing us to calculate that Mr. Midshipman Hornblower begins in 1793. That is the year that Louis XVI was guillotined and the French revolutionary government declared war on Britain.

A good, brief overview of the French Revolution:
http://www.victorianweb.org/history/h...

Wikipedia entry for the French Revolution:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/French_R...

Wikipedia for the French Revolutionary Wars:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/French_R...


message 6: by Elizabeth S (new)

Elizabeth S (esorenson) | 2011 comments I was trying to calculate in what year this chapter is supposed to have occurred. Remember back in Chapter 3 Hornblower turns 18, so that was 1784. In the beginning of Chapter 5 it refers to "the passing of the Equinox." Do we necessarily know if that is the vernal or autumnal equinox? Does anyone else see any other clues as to how time has passed? That is all I noticed from the book internally.

However, I found an online reference to an invasion in Quiberon Bay during 1795. Remember that Quiberon is where the main French emigre army was attacking in this chapter. Here's the full paragraph from wikipedia:

In 1795, the bay was the scene of an invasion by émigré, counter-revolutionary troops in support of the Chouannerie and Vendée Revolt from 23 June. It aimed to raise the whole of western France in revolt, bring an end to the French Revolution and restore the French monarchy. This Landing of the émigrés at Quiberon was finally repulsed on 21 July, dealing a disastrous blow to the royalist cause. (From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quiberon...)

I'm guessing that Forester piggy-backed this chapter on top of this historical event. So perhaps we are now in 1795 in the book. Although sometimes historical fiction authors allow themselves to not only add their fictional characters to history, but also move historical events around in time.


message 7: by Elizabeth S (new)

Elizabeth S (esorenson) | 2011 comments By the way, for those of you who want a little more background as to what an emigre is, it is a term applied to those who fled France as a result of the French Revolution. Some of the emigres attempted to raise armies to bring down the revolution, but with little success.

See http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/t...
and
http://chnm.gmu.edu/revolution/browse...
and
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C3%89mi...


message 8: by [deleted user] (last edited Feb 21, 2011 09:15PM) (new)

One of the more interesting characters in this chapter was "His Lordship, the Earl of Edrington." The reader senses a certain condescension *toward* His Lordship when he is first introduced (pg 142):

"It would be better to address me as 'my lord,''' said the major.
[There is a certain snarkiness here, showing up the major as a bit pretentious, even if he *is* a lord]

"... but he seemed a little young for his present responsible command. But the practice of the purchase of commissions was likely to put very young men in high command, and the army seemed satisfied with the system."
[Double snarkiness! Not only has His Lordship non-meritoriously come by his command; but the army's smarminess is called out too!]

But by the end of the chapter, we've seen His Lordship in action. He actually posts strategically sound positions, executes an orderly retreat, maintains a level head and keeps his casualties low relative to the enemy's. This is one of those guys that you hate to admit that he's done a good job; but there it is!


message 9: by [deleted user] (new)

What does the expression, "breaking windows with guineas" mean? I've done a cursory search on the internet; but I don't quite get it :-(


message 10: by Patricrk (new)

Patricrk patrick | 435 comments Tanya wrote: "What does the expression, "breaking windows with guineas" mean? I've done a cursory search on the internet; but I don't quite get it :-("

it essentially means using something quite valuable to break something quite cheap and throwing it away in the process. It might correspond today to something like throwing your laptop through your neighbors small window pane. A guinea was a quite valuable coin probably worth more than common seamen earned in a month. Since we use paper money it doesn't quite have the same impact today.


message 11: by Elizabeth S (new)

Elizabeth S (esorenson) | 2011 comments Thanks, Patricrk, that is very useful to know. I like the imagery that breaking windows with $500 bills doesn't have the "impact" today. Now I have to go back and find where it says "breaking windows with guineas" in the chapter, I missed that.


message 12: by [deleted user] (new)

Patricrk wrote: "it essentially means using something quite valuable to break something quite cheap and throwing it away in the process..."

Thank you, Patrick! It does bring the passage in question a little bit into focus for me!

Elizabeth S wrote: "Thanks, Patricrk, that is very useful to know. I like the imagery that breaking windows with $500 bills doesn't have the "impact" today. Now I have to go back and find where it says "breaking win..."

I should have provided a page citation! It's on page 145-146:

[Hornblower's] historical reading had told him of many small raids, in many wars, launched against the shores of France, and, although he knew that they had once been described by an opposition statesman as "breaking windows with guineas" he had been inclined to approve of them in principle, as bringing about a dissipation of the French strength - until now, when he found himself part of such an expedition.


message 13: by Elizabeth S (new)

Elizabeth S (esorenson) | 2011 comments Thanks, Tanya, nice to see where it fits in.

I wonder if Forester was thinking about the D-day invasion at all when he wrote that paragraph. I notice the book's copyright is 1948, so that wouldn't be many years later. If you think about it, the invasion of France on June 6, 1944 could be likened to breaking windows with $500 bills. It took so many men, so much equipment, so much careful planning, so much sheer determination to get that Normandy landing.

Perhaps I'm getting too far off-track. :)


message 14: by Elizabeth S (new)

Elizabeth S (esorenson) | 2011 comments I like your analysis of Edrington, Tanya. When we first meet him, I expected that he would turn out to be fluff or hollow. Instead, he is calm in battle, even when loosing. He figures out what the Revolutionary French are doing before anyone else.

And I'm impressed by his diplomacy, although that is less of a surprise. I realize that this is probably the way anyone in his position would have spoken, but I enjoyed the tact when Edrington said, "Then present my compliments to the French emigre general, and suggest he post a strong detachment up the road, if he has not done so." (See page 169.) You think he'd be sorely tempted to say, "Tell the French emigre general that he is an overconfident idiot and he better guard his flank." I think half the fun of being a diplomat or a politician is figuring the "nicest" way of saying things that aren't exactly complimentary.


message 15: by Veronika (new)

Veronika  Sprague (veronikasprague) Ack, I'm behind!! Gotta catch up...


message 16: by Michael (new)

Michael Flanagan (loboz) I good bit of information I have came across about this period which helps in the context of understanding the era is as follows. A youth was held legally responsible at the age of seven and were able to be executed at the age of nine. I think this helps us understand how such a young man as Hornblower could take on the responsibilities of leadership.


message 17: by Elizabeth S (new)

Elizabeth S (esorenson) | 2011 comments Michael wrote: "I good bit of information I have came across about this period which helps in the context of understanding the era is as follows. A youth was held legally responsible at the age of seven and were a..."

Wow, wow, and wow. That would, uh, make some of our modern school discipline issues a little different. I guess it is "nice" to know that if a kid can be sent to the sweat-shop to work 14 hours a day, at least he's legally responsible while he's doing it. Where did you find that little tidbit?


message 18: by Elizabeth S (new)

Elizabeth S (esorenson) | 2011 comments When reading about the lock-step routine of the British Lobsters, I kept thinking that this is the system that the rag-tag army of George Washington beat. Growing up in the USA, for some reason (ha ha) we spent more time studying the American Revolutionary War than the wars that occurred in a similar time in Europe. So I'm more familiar with a war that the British lost, where the European style of fighting was ineffective.

So it is interesting for me to read an account where the British army system is effective. As Tanya said, we are surprised that a young Earl is actually effective in battle and strategy. This is why the British fought that way, because that is what worked in Europe.


message 19: by Michael (last edited Feb 26, 2011 12:31PM) (new)

Michael Flanagan (loboz) Elizabeth S I got this bit of info during a recent visit to the Port Arthur Penal settlement in Tasmania, in explaining why children were transported to Tasmania


message 20: by Vincent (new)

Vincent (vpbrancato) | 1245 comments Elizabeth S wrote: "When reading about the lock-step routine of the British Lobsters, I kept thinking that this is the system that the rag-tag army of George Washington beat. Growing up in the USA, for some reason (h..."

Beyond Hornblower the interesting part of the chapter was the disipline and practiced actions of the Redcoats under their Sargeant Major in effectively moving and repelling and advancing and retreating.

I think the British failure to win in the American Rebellion was beyond the tactics but more the fact that all the Americans had to do was to not lose - but we did benefit from Von Steuben training American troops in European methods.


message 21: by Elizabeth S (new)

Elizabeth S (esorenson) | 2011 comments Vince wrote: "Beyond Hornblower the interesting part of the chapter was the disipline and practiced actions of the Redcoats under their Sargeant Major in effectively moving and repelling and advancing and retreating. ..."

I agree, that part was very interesting. And contrasting that Redcoat discipline with the lack of discipline shown by the French troops emphasizes the effectiveness of the discipline even more.

And good point about the whys and hows of the American Revolution. In American History class we tend to be pretty proud of beating the British. But it wasn't the same as a head-to-head battle where each side sends their best and the measure for winning is consistent.


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