"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.
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.