Commander: The Life and Exploits of Britain’s Greatest Frigate Captain

Stephen Taylor, Author
Stephen Taylor. Norton, $27.95 (320p) ISBN 978-0-393-07164-1
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Edward Pellew (1757–1833) was one of the British Royal Navy’s most successful and famous officers in the era of the French revolutionary wars. Orphaned at eight, he rose by merit and achievement, making enemies by his successes and by his persona: “a rude, sturdy, boisterous and impudent seaman.” As Horatio Nelson was a master of fleet tactics, Pellew was unrivaled as a single-ship commander. Particularly as captain of the frigate HMS Indefatigable, he demonstrated a blend of seamanship, courage, and charisma that made him rich through prize money and earned him the accolade “greatest sea officer of his time... a great man—and a good man.” In an era when the Royal Navy’s treatment of its men was harsh, Pellew urged his subordinates to “be as kind as you can without suffering imposition on your good nature.” Pellew spent more than 36 years at sea, rose to the rank of admiral, led an international fleet against the pirate stronghold of Algiers, and secured the freedom of over a thousand Christian slaves. And he achieved all this without the “interest” so important in that era. Journalist Taylor’s (Storm and Conquest) meticulous archival research vividly presents a real-life hero whose deeds provided material for C.S. Forester’s Horatio Hornblower and Patrick O’Brian’s Jack Aubrey. 10 color and 3 b&w illus. Agent: Caroline Dawnay, United Agents (U.K.). (Oct.)
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