The Little Review (littlereview) wrote,
The Little Review

Notes on 'Lieutenant Hornblower'

I bet you thought I was done quoting naval fiction after the Patrick O'Brian posts, huh? But I just have to cite a few passages from Lieutenant Hornblower, because apart from the lovely descriptions of the sea and the workings of the ship, the Hornblower/Bush adoration drips from the pages. How come I find so much TV-based Horatio/Archie fic, but not nearly enough Horatio/William? This is a very charming love story! And hey, mrkinch: hand fetish!

Page numbers from the Back Bay Books paperback edition of Lieutenant Hornblower, copyright 1998.

68-70: "Bush watched as Hornblower's capable fingers worked the parallel rulers across the chart; Hornblower had long bony hands with something of beauty about them, and it was actually fascinating to watch them doing work at which they were so supremely competent. The powerful fingers picked up a pencil...Bush was curious about this junior lieutenant who had shown himself ready of resources and so guarded in speech...He looked at Hornblower with an interest which he knew to be constantly increasing. Hornblower was a man always ready to adopt the bold course, a man who infinitely preferred action to inaction; widely read in his profession and yet a practical seaman, as Bush had already had plenty of opportunity to observe. A student yet a man of action; a fiery spirit and yet was not right or fit or proper that he should feel any admiration or even respect for Hornblower...yet as he stirred uncomfortably in his chair he could not wholly discard those notions."

119: "Hornblower's hands were at his sides, in the 'attention' position, but Bush noticed how the long fingers tapped against his thighs, restrained themselves, and then tapped again uncontrollably. It was not cool judgment that finally brought Bush to his decision, but something quite otherwise. It might be called kindliness; it might be called affection. He had grown fond of this volatile, versatile young man, and he had no doubts now as to his physical courage. 'I'd like Mr. Hornblower to come with me, sir,' he said; it seemed almost without volition that the words came from his mouth; a softhearted elder brother might have said much the same thing, burdening himself with the presence of a much younger brother out of kindness of heart when contemplating some pleasant day's activities. And as he spoke he received a glance in return from Hornblower that stifled at birth any regrets he may have felt at allowing his sentiments to influence his judgment. There was so much of relief, so much of gratitude, in the way Hornblower looked at him that Bush experienced a kindly glow of magnanimity; he felt a bigger and better man for what he had done."

215: "'Bush! Bush!' That was Hornblower's voice, pleading and tender. 'Bush, please, speak to me.' Two gentle hands were holding his face between them. Bush could just separate his eyelids sufficiently to see Hornblower bending over him, but to speak called for more strength than he possessed. He could only shake his head a little, smiling because of the sense of comfort and security conveyed by Hornblower's hands."

232: "The lob-lolly boy ushered in another visitor, the sight of whom drove away the black thoughts. It was Hornblower, standing at the door with a basket in his hand, and Bush's face lit up at the sight of him. 'How are you, sir?' asked Hornblower. They shook hands, each reflecting the pleasure of the other's greeting. 'All the better for seeing you,' said Bush, and meant it."

262-3: "Bush was quite sure there was some further information that was being withheld from him. And he was not actuated by simple curiosity. The affection and the interest that he felt towards Hornblower drove him into further questioning...a recollection arose in his mind, as clear to his inward eye as this pleasant room was to his outward one. He remembered Hornblower swinging himself down, sword in hand, onto the deck of the Renown, plunging into a battle against odds which could only result in either death or victory. Hornblower, who had planned and worked endlessly to ensure success -- even in that last conflict -- and then had flung his life upon the board as a final stake; and today Hornblower was standing with chattering teeth trying to warm himself beside a fire by the charity of a frog-eating gambling hall keeper with the look of a dancing master. 'It's a hellish outrage,' said Bush, and then he made his offer. He offered his money, even though he knew as he offered it that it meant most certainly that he would go hungry, and that his sisters, if not exactly hungry, would hardly have enough to eat. But Hornblower shook his head. 'Thank you,' he said. 'I'll never forget that. But I can't accept it. You know that I couldn't. But I'll never cease to be grateful to you. I'm grateful in another way, too. You've brightened the world for me by saying that.' Even in the face of Hornblower's refusal Bush repeated his offer, and tried to press it, but Hornblower was firm in his refusal. Perhaps it was because Bush looked so downcast that Hornblower gave him some further information in the hope of cheering him up."

271: "There could be no doubt about Hornblower's pleasure at seeing him. His face was lit with a smile and he drew Bush into the room while shaking his hand...they talked indifferently for a space, with Hornblower asking questions about the Chichester cottage that Bush lived in with his sisters. 'We must see about your bed for tonight,' said Hornblower at the first pause. 'I'll go down and give Mrs. Mason a hail.' Mrs. Mason lived in a hard world, quite obviously; she turned the proposition over in her mind for several seconds before she agreed to it. 'A shilling for the bed,' she said. 'Can't wash the sheets for less than that with soap as it is.' 'Very good,' said Bush. He saw Mrs. Mason's hand held out...Hornblower had dived for his pocket when he caught sight of the gesture, but Bush was too quick for him. 'And you'll be talking till all hours,' said Mrs. Mason. 'Mind you don't disturb my other gentlemen. And douse the light while you talk, too, or you'll be burning a shilling's worth of tallow.'"

310-12: "What he was looking at now jarred on him unbearably -- perhaps it rasped his aesthetic sensibility, unlikely though it might seem that Bush should have such a thing. Perhaps he was merely irritated by the spectacle of uncontrolled hysteria, but if that was the case he was irritated beyond all bearing. He felt that if he had to put up with Maria's waterworks for another minute he would break a blood vessel. 'Let's get out of here,' he said to Hornblower. In reply he received a look of surprise. It had not occurred to Hornblower that he might run away from a situation for which his temperament necessarily made him feel responsible. Bush knew perfectly well that, given time, Maria would any case he did not see why he and Hornblower should concern themselves about something which was entirely Maria's the time Bush was on the staircase he realised that Hornblower had not followed him, would not follow him. And Bush did not go back to fetch him. Even though Bush was not the man to desert a comrade in peril...even though he would stand shoulder to shoulder with Hornblower and be hewn to pieces with him by an overwhelming enemy; for all this he would not go back to save Hornblower. If Hornblower was going to be foolish Bush felt he could not stop war was coming again, and Hornblower was Bush's superior officer."


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