Most helpful critical review
6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Enjoyable but fluffy read.
on January 1, 2014
Pellew who is one of the icons of the Royal Navy at its zenith deserved a better biographer. Although his name is well known, particularly as a frigate captain which has tended to obscure his later career which was distinguished, I didn't know too much about him and wanted to learn more. Taylor's book provides a reasonable summary of his career but is unlikely to satisfy those who want more substantial fare. The book is well written but the style is rather superficial journalese than serious historical inquiry. In particular it is loaded with assertions for which only vague evidence is provided. One typical example is the treatment of Pellew's social background which was certainly modest financially but not penurious and his family connections were minor gentry or civilian professional seamen of the officer/proprietor class. According to Taylor his circumstances were far more straitened than this and he was totally without interest, and he criticizes the only other modern biographer C. Northcote Parkinson (a naval historian and author of the famous Peter Principle) for overstating his provenance. There is no doubt Pellew's spectacular rise depended on his massive courage, leadership skills and super competent seamanship, but a 20 year old junior officer who was communicating with Lord Sandwich the First Lord of the Admiralty during the American war of Independence was hardly a rustic nobody. This is a complex issue of relationships but Taylor doesn't really begin to analyse it. There are similar rather questionable assertions about even greater icons of the period like Lord St Vincent, Pitt the Younger and rivals like Sir Thomas Troubridge. So overall well worth buying and reading if you want a topside look at the great man but not a great guide to the real texture of the Georgian navy and its principal ornaments.