Whats your opinion of the A&E Horatio Hornblower series?

When I was in college I ate up the Horatio Hornblower books. I found them quite a good read, though some of the english used was difficult for me to follow (english isn’t my first language). Recently I discovered that A&E has an on going series dedicated to Horatio Hornblower (I realize its been out a good long while, but I don’t watch much TV and actually found them on CD in a store). I also discovered that, appearently, they are continueing the series by periodically putting out a new episode, with a new episode released just a few months ago. I don’t know if they plan on doing to full story or not (currently they are appearently up to HH being a Commander, just before he’s given his first ship of the line command as Captain), but I really hope they do.

So, whats your impression of the series? So far I’ve found it to be very good. I was a bit disappointed in some of the episodes by the changes to story (with no appearent reason, like the duel), but over all I’ve found the series very enjoyable, and the characters well cast. I realize this is probably a very niche subject, as I’m sure most folks couldn’t care less about this subject or the series, but I’m interested in other dopers thoughts who have seen the series and read the books as well.


I agree, xtisme, I was somewhat disappointed by changes – especially the one you mention. I recognize the need for changes from book to film, especially when the books are so concerned with Hornblower’s thoughts and introspection. But the duel in the books was so – so — so — so COOL, and conveyed so much of Hornblower’s personality (calculating, out-of-the-box thinking, etc) while the filmed duel was so ordinary.

However, on the whole, I think they do a great job. The characters are believable and sympathetic, the action scenes are well done. We saw the new set just after we had seen the movie MASTER AND COMMANDER (which we both found borrrrrrrrring and tedious and cliched beyond belief), and we agreed the Hornblower was far more enjoyable.

I love the series. I saw the first movie before I started reading the books.

The one difference that isn’t so glaring, yet changes the flavor quite a bit is Horatio himself. The movies make him out to be much more, what word am I looking for here, nicer than the book. He’s less cold and more sympathetic, I think.

Exactly C K Dexter Haven. The duel in the book was so cool, really showing Hornblower as he is and thinks. Two pistols, but only one loaded. Both duelists to literally put the pistol up against the others chest and simultaneously pull the trigger. And then Hornblower DOESN’T pull the trigger while pointing at the chest of his enemy, but over his head, while his enemy shows his true colors by pointing at Hornblowers chest and pulling the trigger. Neither pistol fires as neither is actually loaded (which is unknown to both)…and both live. No idea why they changed this for what they did. The book was SO dramatic, IMO.

Overall though I agree completely. I did enjoy SOME of Master and Commander, but I think the HH series is better, much more depth. I really hope they make the rest, but I’ve noticed that they’ve incorporated story lines from later books into the earlier shows, so I’m not sure how the story will progress. I see they had HH marry his first wife, but wonder if they will follow the tragic parts of the story faithfully.


Definitely Biggirl. This Horatio is less calculating, and also less, um, brave? Resolute? Capable? Not sure what the word is. He’s also ‘nicer’, though remember in the books that even at an early age his crews deeply respected him, even revered him, because he wasn’t quite the norm. Though he WOULD flog his men and such, he didn’t like too if he could help it. But you are correct, it definitely changes the ‘flavor’ of the shows over the book, though in a neutral way for me…I enjoy both ‘versions’ of Horatio, and I really like the actor who is playing Horatio. I think he’s doing a hell of a job.


It seems very well acted. The pacing, which could be excruciating doesn’t creak. I was expecting updated Gregory Peck and Virignia Mayo … and I think I got that and something very much better.

I like the series, & hope it will continue because I am invested in the Characters does anyone know if there are any plans …
How do you pronounce Ioan Gruffudd?

Also, not to be quite as superficial as I’m about to sound, while the book Horatio wasn’t the most handsome of men to say the least (and balding later on), the unspellable Welsh guy who plays him in the A&E movies is seriously hot. It dosen’t sound like a big difference, but it makes you look at the character a little differently. And yes, he’s nicer. More sympathetic. But then, as I think about the books, the difference between seeing what’s going on internally and seeing him from the outside would probably produce that regardless of the creators’ intentions.

Count me as a big fan of the books who loves the A&E versions. While I dislike some of the changes, I think the production is superb and enjoy them very much.

Well, he couldn’t be TOO ugly in the books Zsofia, as he managed to rope in more than his share of good looking women (I count at least 5, including two wives). :wink:

My wife agrees with you by the way as far as the relative hotness of the guy playing Horatio. I think he’s just a very good actor playing a way cool role.

I’m with you, jimmy…hope they are planning on making all the books (or episodes or whatever they are doing…they seem to be jumping around a lot, putting stuff in early that happens much later). No idea what their plans are though. So far they have done EXCELLENT in maintaining the original cast.


My understanding (which may be wrong) is that it is more or less “Owen Griffith”.

I think the Hornblower series is very ordinary indeed compared to the depth of detail about Navy life, language and customs in Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey/Maturin series…20 novels in the series, and every one is a gem.
And the food …http://web.wwnorton.com/pob/SpottedD/ is fascinating.

Who’s the fourth and fifth? We have his wives Barbara and Maria, and the French girl (Marie de Gracay), but that’s 3. Far as I could tell, those are the only 3 he roped in.

Remember the Russian Countess? I don’t remember the title, but she was another one. And the Spanish Lady…and the older actress who pretended she was a noble. He didn’t have affairs with all of them (I think he did with the Countess and Spanish Lady, but not the actress), but they were all very attracted to him in the books. Least thats how I remember it.


Ditto that. Ms. Undhow gets all swoony when Ioan Gruffud is on-screen.

I disagree, Satu. I confess that I only read one of O’Brian’s books, I don’t recollect which one, and it was years and years ago. However, I found it boring as hell, the characters uninteresting, and the plot absolutely derivative from Forrester’s.

I love the series. Just bought the two latest, “Duty” and “Loyalty,” this past week. What impresses me most about Hornblower–aside from Ioan Gruffudd’s (I pronounce it ‘Yon Griffith’) overall hotness and great cheekbones–is his remarkable sense of honor and duty. Even when his actions are unorthodox, they are always within his own sense of what is the right thing to do. I’m also very fond of Robert Lindsay’s Capt. Sir Edward Pellew; I particularly like the father/son relationship he has with young Hornblower.

I’ve never read the books, so I can’t say how the series compares; I will have to get them out of the library one of these days.

Growing up as a Trekkie, I’d often heard the old description of Capt. Kirk as being “Horatio Hornblower in space,” and watching this series, I can see the similarities: the cleverness in coming up with unusual battle strategies, the appeal to women (and, in the show where he falls in love with the French girl, it seems that Horatio’s girlfriends, like Kirk’s, tend to have a very short life expectancy…)

The series rocks. I have the complete set on DVD. I particularly recommend the part of ‘Duty’ where he is being hosed down on the ships deck - mmmm, naked Ioan plus scrummy homo-erotic overtones…

Anyhoo, Ioan Gruffudd is pronounce ‘Yo-an Griffud’; I have seen him interviewed on Welsh television (S4C) so can confirm that this is the correct pronunciation.

As a fellow native of that fair land, I can only say I wish all welsh men looked like him.

They don’t. At all.

Well, this is interesting. I have mixed feelings about this TV series.

I watched the first four episodes, based on Mr. Midshipman Hornblower, and enjoyed them moderately. Some of the divergences from the book really made me squirm, and the pace was a bit tedious in places, but over all a good effort I thought.

So I got the next two episodes based on Lieutenant Hornblower. Oh my god! I was disappointed to the point of disgust. The divergences from the book really annoyed me and the whole tone of these two episodes depressed me. These two episodes were so bad that I resolved never to watch any future ones.

Then a couple of months ago my parents bought the next two episodes, based on Hornblower and the Hotspur, and invited me to watch them because they know I’m a big fan of HH. So I watch them. Again the divergences from the book were annoying, but somehow not as bad as the previous episodes and not depressing either. I neither liked nor disliked these.

So, my feelings about the TV series have gone from good to bad to indifferent and I guess still stand at indifferent. Perhaps I am too close to the books. I first read the series when I was 13 or 14 and they became some of my favorite books rivaled only by the Lord of the Rings. I’ve reread them many times in the 25 years since, and judging from other peoples positive responses I guess that has had a negative impact on my perception of the TV series. However, that’s not true for the Lord of the Rings, I loved the LOTR movies.

Here’s something else, another poster mentioned that he prefered O’Brian’s Aubrey/Maturin series. I have read the first eight books in that series and found them to be tedious and quite inferior to Forester’s Hornblower series. However, I LOVED the movie Master and Commander! I think it beats the tar out of the Hornblower TV series. Go figure.

I didn’t say I didn’t find the book Hornblower attractive, but he sure thinks he’s dog ugly. Maybe he’s a hot Welshman on the outside.

For the record, however, Maria is MOST CERTAINLY not a “good looking woman”, at least in the books. I have not seen the latest movies, but one does hope they didn’t pretty her up.

She’s played by Julia Sawalha, who was Saffie in Absolutely Fabulous and Lydia Bennett in the most recent Pride and Prejudice. I always thought she was a rather pretty girl, and was surprised how wan and worn she looks here. I don’t know if that’s deliberate for the character, though.

True…HE certainly doesn’t think he’s good looking, Zsofia. Of course, HE thinks he’s merely average intellegence and a terrible commander too, as well as a bit slow sometimes, not very brave, etc etc. In short…he’s a horrible judge of himself, as he is way harsh with himself. Certain it seems the women around him don’t agree…nor do his crews agree with his assesement, nor the admirality for that matter. :slight_smile:

I can only go on a womans view as the the relative ‘hotness’ of Horatio in the movies, and as I said, my wife loves the guy. Personally I find him way cool in the part…definitely how I pictured HH in the book (physically), though different in attitude and temperament of course.

You are right about his first wife…she definitely wasn’t very attractive and kind of course. I really felt for HH when his son and daughter died, and then his first wife too. He didn’t exactly love her with all his heart, but he was VERY fond of her and it was definitely a blow to him. I wonder if they will do that part in the series. And I wonder if he will eventually marry Lady Barbara too. So much of the story still COULD be told, if they do it.

Thanks all for chiming in on this thread btw. I’m a big HH fan, so it was good to hear from folks that enjoyed the book as well. If anyone here thats read the original HH book hasn’t checked it out (and is interested in space epics), I recommend Honor Harrington series by David Weber. Its a sort of adaption of HH in space, and I found the series very good.