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Commander: The Life and Exploits of Britain's Greatest Frigate Captain: The Life and Exploits of Britain's Greatest Frigate Captain [Kindle Edition]

Stephen Taylor
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (59 customer reviews)

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Book Description

"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.

Editorial Reviews


“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)

“Taylor is clarity itself…he has also contributed handily to our appreciation of the workings and vagaries of the Royal Navy.” (Katherine A. Powers - Christian Science Monitor)

“An entertaining, swashbuckling adventure, filled to the brim with derring-do.” (Daily Telegraph)

“[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.” (Sunday Times)

“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.” (Publishers Weekly)

About the Author

Stephen Taylor grew up in South Africa, and now works for The Times. He is the author of several celebrated books on Africa, incuding The Mighty Nimrod and Livingstone's Tribe: A Journey from Zanzibar to the Cape. The Caliban Shore was called 'a wonderful book, hugely satisfying on many levels' by Paul Theroux and his most recent book, Storm and Conquest, was called 'a triumph ... a ripping yarn founded on original research' in the Guardian.

Product Details

  • File Size: 11036 KB
  • Print Length: 370 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; 1 edition (October 15, 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B007Q6XK4E
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #272,786 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Commander : The Life...etc. November 6, 2012
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This book is a very well written account of a very interesting period of british naval history. Many famous names are encountered, Nelson, Jervis etc., with a very large and detailed glossary - the latter helping to make our hero's story progress in a very interesting and exciting narrative. The book makes it very evident that his exploits were overshadowed by events and personalities of the period in question but it left no doubt as to the value that such men of action made to the international superiority of the Royal Navy. As a 'Man's Man' there could be no doubt that Edward Pellew was an inspirational leader who would ask no man to do anything that he would not do himself and that included daring solo sea rescues to casting off his ship from a dangerous reef, when the crew defered from the job, then swimming back to the boat. He was not only a highly successful antagonist but also magnanimous in victory. Pellew not only had to fight the sea and enemy navies but also contend with the politics and vicious intrigues of the admiralty. The book is copiously illustated but some of the maps are difficult to read.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Magnificent November 30, 2012
By Ckek
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Pellew was one of the UKs greatest commanders, and an under appreciated figure from the age of British sea power. This book is fabulous, I read a ton of military non fiction, and I would recommend this book to anyone. One point that I think all people should know, that the author more or less tries to bring across, was Pellews efforts and strong feelings about slavery. He literally battled to set people free from bondage. The slaves he set free were Caucasian, and were enslaved in Africa of all places. People do not realize that well over a million Europeans were taken against their will to Africa as slaves, and this little known chapter of history is covered in this wonderful book.
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21 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The greatest sea captain of his time October 3, 2012
A sea captain greater than Nelson? How about the man who is the mentor to Horatio Hornblower or the model for Jack Aubrey. Edward Pellew rose from obscurity thru the ranks to command a frigate at a time when commanding one meant you were at the cutting edge of empire . Stephen Taylor has done a great service to the reading public: he has made Viscount Pellew human . All the atmospherics are right .
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding - The real life Master and Commander January 4, 2013
Stephen Taylor has written a splendid page turner. His biography of Edward Pellew, Lord Exmouth, fills a surprising gap in the mainstream histories of the British Navy during the Napoleonic era. Taylor adds significant details and insights to Pellew's exploits and underlying character by carefully and fairly mining materials left behind by George Pellew, Pellew's youngest son.
Pellew, who appears in a favorable light as a mentor in Forrester's early Hornblower novels and as the likely model for Patrick O'Brian's Jack Aubrey, deserves wider recognition as a resourceful, courageous, honorable and humane leader. Pellew was no saint: He used his influence to advance the careers of his brother and two of his sons beyond their capabilities and he made some noisy and powerful enemies, but he was in the words of his contemporaries a "good man". Taylor does his subject proud.
Taylor's story culminates in Pellew's greatest triumph - the suppression of barbary pirates of Algiers, albeit temporarily. His description of Pellew's earlier diplomatic efforts and his actual reduction of Algiers is as good as anything found in O'Brian or Forrester.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The British Naval exploiits in the Nineteenth Century November 25, 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This book gives a vivid picture of life in the British Navy around the time of Trafalgar. In addition to describing various naval actions, the author dicusses the politics which affected naval personnel at that time. The subject of the book was a very skilful marriner, adept at picking and training young men to develop into seasoned commanders, unless these young men were his relatives when he turned a blind eye to their faults. The comparison between his career and that of Horatio Nelson is fascinating. The book is a great read anyway, but the behind the scenes politics makes it seem contemporary, ships may change, men do not.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Reading! November 7, 2012
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Great reading -- fills in the blanks about a hero often alluded to in history and novels of the era, but overshadowed by Nelson. Also very good relative to politics and culture of the times.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Book December 17, 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
One of the best books I have read in years. Reads better than fiction. I would recommend this to anyone who is interested in the late 18th century.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Valuable Contribution November 15, 2012
Taylor's "Commander" is must reading for anyone interested in the age of fighting sail. This is especially true for American readers since Pellew is relatively unknown in the States. At the outset, Taylor opens an interesting debate when he connects Pellew to the fictional Jack Aubrey and Horatio Hornblower. The better known Thomas Cochrane is frequently held up as the model for these popular characters. In the end, it may be that they are composites of several famous figures. If the book can be criticized, style will be the issue. There are single sentences that include as many as three commas,two colons, one semi-colon, elipses, and two sets of quotation marks. There ought to be a rule against this kind of writing. Similarly, Taylor sprinkles the narrative with odd expressions, such as "cock a snook". Perhaps a localism, its unfamiliar to me and I have to pause to guess its meaning. This breaks the flow of a superbly researched book.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
My 21 year old son has not been able to put the book down. He love's it!
Published 1 day ago by Michelle M.
4.0 out of 5 stars very good book. well researched by the author
very good book. well researched by the author. after reading this book, i feel edward pellew should have received more credit and attention for his services equalling that of... Read more
Published 1 month ago by John Simeone
4.0 out of 5 stars Uncovering Britain's Greatest Frigate Captain
This is a good book. I had no knowledge of Edward Pellew until I discovered this work.

While he was a contemporary of Lord Nelson, all admirals of that time were in the... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Paul
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
An excellent read. Great piece from the age of sail.
Published 4 months ago by Msmary
4.0 out of 5 stars Must-read for Aubrey fans, good history for all others
Very well-researched biography of the sea captain who was the primary inspiration for Captain Jack Aubrey (the Master and Commander series). Read more
Published 4 months ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars The is a beautifully written book about an extremely compelling person
The is a beautifully written book about an extremely compelling person. I'm not qualified in my naval knowledge to go much further than to say that.
Published 4 months ago by Michael Baird
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Great story of a remarkable and underpublicized naval hero, beautifully written, a pleasure to read.
Published 5 months ago by L. Naselli
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 6 months ago by J. Haggard
5.0 out of 5 stars A noble life, we'll lived!
While most people have never read of Captain Pellew and HMS Indefatigable, it is a history that needs retelling! Read more
Published 8 months ago by Stephen E. Wood
4.0 out of 5 stars You feel you are a part of that historical period.
The book places you directly in the middle of the action and you begin to feel as though you have shared that historical period with the people that made it so interesting.
Published 11 months ago by Frank H. DuBose
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