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

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

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by Stephen Taylor
     
 

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"Nobody describes a naval battle better than Taylor…a flawless demonstration of the biographer’s craft." —Jan Morris, The Guardian

Edward Pellew, captain of the legendary Indefatigable, was quite simply the greatest British frigate captain in the age of sail. Left fatherless at age eight, with a penniless mother and five

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Overview

"Nobody describes a naval battle better than Taylor…a flawless demonstration of the biographer’s craft." —Jan Morris, The Guardian

Edward Pellew, captain of the legendary Indefatigable, was quite simply the greatest British frigate captain in the age of sail. Left fatherless at age eight, with a penniless mother and five siblings, Pellew fought his way from the very bottom of the navy to fleet command. Victories and eye-catching feats won him a public following. Yet he had a gift for antagonizing his better-born peers, and he made powerful enemies. Redemption came with his last command, when he set off to do battle with the Barbary States and free thousands of European slaves. Opinion held this to be an impossible mission, and Pellew himself, leading from the front in the style of his contemporary Nelson, did not expect to survive.

Pellew’s humanity, fondness for subordinates, and blind love for his family, and the warmth and intimacy of his letters, make him a hugely engaging figure. Stephen Taylor gives him at last the biography he deserves.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
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.)
Sunday Times
“[Pellew] is skilfully conjured up in Stephen Taylor’s commendable biography. Fans of Forester and O’Brian will enjoy this tale of Pellew’s meteoric rise.”
Daily Telegraph
“An entertaining, swashbuckling adventure, filled to the brim with derring-do.”
Christian Science Monitor - Katherine A. Powers
“Taylor is clarity itself . . . he has also contributed handily to our appreciation of the workings and vagaries of the Royal Navy.”
USA Today - Charles Finch
“If Pellew’s life, fired in the kiln of O’Brian’s genius, gave us Jack Aubrey, both our interest and gratitude ought to be ongoing and deep.”
Charles Finch - USA Today
“If Pellew’s life, fired in the kiln of O’Brian’s genius, gave us Jack Aubrey, both our interest and gratitude ought to be ongoing and deep.”
Katherine A. Powers - Christian Science Monitor
“Taylor is clarity itself…he has also contributed handily to our appreciation of the workings and vagaries of the Royal Navy.”
Library Journal
Edward Pellew (1757–1833) was one of the few British officers during the age of sail to rise from a commoner's roots to reach flag rank. Although considered the finest seaman of his time, as demonstrated by both his athletic prowess aboard ship and his exemplary command of his vessels, he was not without his faults. Pellew had a knack for favoritism, namely directed toward friends and family, which, though not unheard of among other officers, left a mark on his career, harming political relationships as he sought favor from lords and nobles. Pellew, who later became Lord Exmouth, was often compared to his contemporary, Horatio Nelson, who undoubtedly had greater political ability. Yet Pellew was the better seaman, and probably the better captain; he was the likely model for Jack Aubrey, the protagonist of Patrick O'Brian's series of novels. VERDICT An objective account and worthy read for all fans of naval history, particularly the Nelsonian era.—MJW
Kirkus Reviews
In a biography of Edward Pellew (1757–1833), the legendary British captain, Taylor (Storm and Conquest: The Clash of Empires in the Eastern Seas, 1809, 2008) demonstrates his commanding knowledge of naval history, especially during the late-18th and early-19th centuries, a period of some of the greatest battles on the seas. The author's research went far beyond the Admiralty archives to an old barn with a trunk full of notes written by Pellew's son. This story is all the more remarkable because of Pellew's meteoric rise to midshipman within four years and his first command by age 25. Rare in a seaman, he could swim and more than once dove into the sea to save a crewmember, and his physical prowess ("tall, broad, keen-eyed, animated and beaming, master of the quarterdeck and athlete of the tops") was the stuff of legend. Rather than just a long list of Pellew's achievements, the author provides a detailed picture of life at sea during wars in America, the English Channel, the Indian Ocean and the Mediterranean. His captaincy of the Indefatigable established his position as a master of single-ship command with the expert crew he built of men from his native Cornwall. While Pellew gained fame and considerable fortune, he was derided as a "tarpaulin officer" rather than a gentleman. Still, letters from his colleagues, comrades and notably from defeated enemies testify to his strength of character and sense of responsibility and fairness. During a lull in the Napoleonic War, he stood for Parliament, although he only delivered one speech, assuring the members that, from his experience in the Channel, England's waters were secure. Edward Pellew was "the First Seaman of the Age." Taylor illuminates his extraordinary life, and the book is especially vivid and enlightening to landlubbers who don't know a hawser from a yardarm.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780393089677
Publisher:
Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date:
10/08/2012
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
368
Sales rank:
659,668
File size:
12 MB
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