There have probably been more biographies of Nelson than any other naval officer in history, partly because of his status as a national hero but also because of a character so contradictory that it poses a real challenge to the biographer's art. Unsurprisingly for a budding novelist in love with the sea, Forester found the subject irresistible, and in 1929 this book became his first foray into the field of non-fiction. It is a very competent account of the main events of Nelson's life - and Forester certainly understood the ships and seamanship of the era - but where it really scores is when the novelist's imagination is brought to bear on Nelson's often mysterious motivation. Forester's judgements are generally sympathetic and this book began the swing away from the prevailing Victorian view that regarded many of Nelson's actions as embarrassing or culpable. One incidental, but significant, interest in the book is its probable influence on the Hornblower series of novels that Forester was to begin some years later. Not only is the background information necessary for the biography to be found throughout the novels, but aspects of the character of the fictional Horatio can be glimpsed in Forester's view of the real-life officer.
1707 : UK Hardback
December 1929 : USA Paperback