COMMANDER

The Life and Exploits of Britain’s Greatest Frigate Captain

Faber and Faber, London, and W.W. Norton, New York, 2012

Edward Pellew, captain of the legendary Indefatigable, was quite simply the greatest frigate captain in the age of sail. 

 

An incomparable seaman, ferociously combative yet chivalrous, a master of the quarterdeck and an athlete of the tops, he was as quick to welcome a gallant foe into his cabin as to dive to the rescue of a man overboard – all of which point to him being the model for the heroic but all-too-human Jack Aubrey in Patrick O’Brian’s novels.

From the cover: Pellew was orphaned at eight, but fought his way up from the bottom of the Navy to fleet command and a viscountcy. Victories and eye-catching feats won him a public following. Yet as an outsider with a gift for antagonising his better-born peers, 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. This was thought to be an impossible mission and Pellew himself, in leading from the front in the style of his direct contemporary Nelson, did not expect to survive.

Pellew’s humanity as much as his gallantry, fondness for subordinates and blind love for his family, the warmth and intimacy of his letters, make him a hugely engaging and sympathetic figure. In Stephen Taylor’s magnificent new life he has at last the biography he deserves.
 

Reviews 

“In this fast-paced, hugely entertaining biography, Stephen Taylor pays tribute to Edward Pellew, the greatest frigate captain in the age of sail … an entertaining, swashbuckling adventure, filled to the brim with derring-do.”
Keith Love, The Daily Telegraph 

 

“Nobody describes a naval battle better than Taylor and he makes the most of the assault on Algiers which brought Pellew to final heights of fame … Taylor also skilfully guides us through the less exciting passages of his life … Pellew’s memory is said to live on in the character of Jack Aubrey, and it will certainly be revived by this fine book, which seems to me a flawless demonstration of the biographer’s craft.”
– Jan Morris, The Guardian

 

“Thanks to Stephen Taylor’s first foray into the challenging field of naval biography, we finally have a more rounded picture that showcases Pellew both as sailor and man. Taylor has scoured the archives for untouched material, even discovering chests full of notes, stacked in a Devon barn ... This brilliant biography describes a unique man in greater detail than ever before.”
Sam Willis, History Extra

 

“This superbly researched biography traces Pellew's rise from humble Cornish origins, through his brilliant frigate victories to his famously successful campaign against the pirate-king of Algiers. At its best, naval biography brings a character to life while also deepening our understanding of the historical milieu. is one of the finest examples of the genre.”
Ian Toll, author of  Six Frigates 

 

“Taylor salvages Pellew from the neglect of naval history … This thrilling book does him full justice.”
The Times

 

“Taylor is a fine biographer, psychologically acute without falling into tawdry guesswork, wary of his subject’s virtues and generous toward his faults, and the Pellew who emerges as a result is rounded and real, avaricious, loving, choleric, brilliant, proud, short-sighted.”
USA Today

 

“Stephen Taylor is so fully at home the Royal Navy that the reader will suspect he could command a frigate in action ... He uses it to bring to formidable and persuasive life Edward Pellew, a fighting captain who was very nearly Nelson's equal (and almost certainly the model for Patrick O’Brian’s Jack Aubrey).”
Richard Snow, author of  A Measureless Peril

 

“Stephen Taylor describes Pellew’s battles on sea and land with the eye of an historian and the ears of a consummate storyteller.”
Western Morning News

 

“A biography of Edward Pellew that is as welcome as it is overdue ... The flesh and blood behind Horatio Hornblower. An excellent work, one that presents a true portrait of a complex man.” 
Quarterly Journal of Military History

COMMANDER

The Life and Exploits of Britain’s Greatest Frigate Captain

Faber and Faber, London, and W.W. Norton, New York, 2012
 

Edward Pellew, captain of the legendary Indefatigable, was quite simply the greatest frigate captain in the age of sail.

An incomparable seaman, ferociously combative yet chivalrous, a master of the quarterdeck and an athlete of the tops, he was as quick to welcome a gallant foe into his cabin as to dive to the rescue of a man overboard – all of which point to him being the model for the heroic but all-too-human Jack Aubrey in Patrick O’Brian’s novels.

From the cover: Pellew was orphaned at eight, but fought his way up from the bottom of the Navy to fleet command and a viscountcy. Victories and eye-catching feats won him a public following. Yet as an outsider with a gift for antagonising his better-born peers, 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. This was thought to be an impossible mission and Pellew himself, in leading from the front in the style of his direct contemporary Nelson, did not expect to survive.

Pellew’s humanity as much as his gallantry, fondness for subordinates and blind love for his family, the warmth and intimacy of his letters, make him a hugely engaging and sympathetic figure. In Stephen Taylor’s magnificent new life he has at last the biography he deserves.
 

Reviews 

“In this fast-paced, hugely entertaining biography, Stephen Taylor pays tribute to Edward Pellew, the greatest frigate captain in the age of sail … an entertaining, swashbuckling adventure, filled to the brim with derring-do.”
Keith Love, The Daily Telegraph 

 

“Nobody describes a naval battle better than Taylor and he makes the most of the assault on Algiers which brought Pellew to final heights of fame … Taylor also skilfully guides us through the less exciting passages of his life … Pellew’s memory is said to live on in the character of Jack Aubrey, and it will certainly be revived by this fine book, which seems to me a flawless demonstration of the biographer’s craft.”
– Jan Morris, The Guardian

 

“Thanks to Stephen Taylor’s first foray into the challenging field of naval biography, we finally have a more rounded picture that showcases Pellew both as sailor and man. Taylor has scoured the archives for untouched material, even discovering chests full of notes, stacked in a Devon barn ... This brilliant biography describes a unique man in greater detail than ever before.”
Sam Willis, History Extra

 

“This superbly researched biography traces Pellew's rise from humble Cornish origins, through his brilliant frigate victories to his famously successful campaign against the pirate-king of Algiers. At its best, naval biography brings a character to life while also deepening our understanding of the historical milieu. Commander is one of the finest examples of the genre.”
Ian Toll, author of  Six Frigates 

 

“Taylor salvages Pellew from the neglect of naval history … This thrilling book does him full justice.”
The Times

 

“Taylor is a fine biographer, psychologically acute without falling into tawdry guesswork, wary of his subject’s virtues and generous toward his faults, and the Pellew who emerges as a result is rounded and real, avaricious, loving, choleric, brilliant, proud, short-sighted.”
USA Today

 

“Stephen Taylor is so fully at home with the Royal Navy that the reader will suspect he could command a frigate in action ... He uses it to bring to formidable and persuasive life Edward Pellew, a fighting captain who was very nearly Nelson's equal (and almost certainly the model for Patrick O’Brian’s Jack Aubrey).”
Richard Snow, author of  A Measureless Peril

 

“Stephen Taylor describes Pellew’s battles on sea and land with the eye of an historian and the ears of a consummate storyteller.”
Western Morning News

 

“A biography of Edward Pellew that is as welcome as it is overdue ... The flesh and blood behind Horatio Hornblower. An excellent work, one that presents a true portrait of a complex man.” 
Quarterly Journal of Military History

Stephen Taylor