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 Thomas Herrick (Alexander Kent) 
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Post Thomas Herrick (Alexander Kent)
Ahoy!

This is the place to air your views on nautical fiction. Alexander Kent's Richard Bolitho was where I started, and I have remained loyal to Bolitho since, although having read many other authors of the genre.

I wondered as a starting point to this particular section of the forum, if anyone has any views on Bolitho's friend, Herrick's meteoric rise to flag rank, once he got started on promotion?

Personally, I've been bemused by it............ anyone with any ideas or explanations? I look forward to hearing from you.

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Mil


Thu Sep 18, 2003 6:44 am
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Post Herrick's career
Permission to come aboard, sir?

I'm new here, but not at all new to Bolitho--I've been enjoying nautical fiction for...well...waaay too long.

There is some historical precedent for Herrick's 'meteoric' promotion: As far as I understand it--and I'm surely no expert--it was possible to pluck a particularly bright and able captain from relatively low on the Captain's list and appoint him rear admiral, but it was highly impractical to do so. Promotion from the rank of post captain was done by seniority, so all other captains above him on the list had to be promoted as well and then placed on half-pay. Costly and complicated, and not often done, I think.

From the 'literary' standpoint, such a promotion was not at all justified by Herrick's career, and ultimately doomed him to failure.

Herrick's career had a slow start; the advancement of newlycommissioned officers was often due largely to a combination of luck and patronage. Herrick, it seems, had neither. He and Bolitho were much the same age; yet when they met, Bolitho was a captain and Herrick but a lowly third lieutenant. Thereafter, Herrick's career was linked to Bolitho's, through Bolitho's direct influence.

Understandable, I think: I always interpreted Bolitho as a man not comfortable with the solitude expected of a captain. In Herrick he found not only a competant officer who shared his theories on the nature of leadership: he also found a man whose character he respected, one in whom he could confide, yet could be trusted to never betray that confidence. This relationship was an effective one, to a point--but it continued for too long. Herrick never experienced an independent command, one in which he might have emerged from the role of subordinate and found his feet as a leader in his own right. Command of the 64-gun Impulsive could not fulfill this need--only a frigate would have done.

Unfortunately, the opportunity never arose. Was it Bolitho's self-serving influence or his own lack of initiative that kept him from it? Who knows. In either event, Herrick never had the chance to develop the confidence and skills he needed--or, possibly, to find that he lacked those abilities entirely. His 'meteoric' promotion to rear admiral found him completely unprepared. Given the chance, he might have been.

Even so? He's still my favorite character, bar none. Man of War was....encouraging. I would like to think that he might find some peace at last, though I don't trust AK to allow it.

So....those are my thoughts on your subject, in my usual long-winded fashion.

More thoughts, anyone?

Britt


Thu Sep 18, 2003 3:30 pm
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You've got some good points there, Britt. I'd never thought about Bolitho as a man not comfortable with a captain's solitude - on reflection, perhaps he wasn't. Perhaps I ought to read those early books again and re-assess my thoughts on that score.

Another thing that bothered me about Herrick was his sanctimonious stand on Bolitho's infidelity, but, then,I suppose Bolitho's invitation to Herrick for a deep friendship gave Herrick that right. Do you think?

- Mil -


Fri Sep 19, 2003 6:43 pm
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I have to admit that I never really gave Herrick's rapid rise any thought. Do either of you have a rough timeline?

Regarding Herrick's stand on Bolitho's infidelity...he was being true to his principles. Also, as Bolitho's friend, Herrick was trying to steer him away from what he felt was a bad situation. Looking out for his best interests, in other words.


Fri Sep 19, 2003 8:39 pm
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Post Herrick
It's all just my humble opinion, Mil! It seemed to me that Bolitho always found someone--be it Herrick, Allday, Browne, Avery, or a host of others--with whom to share his thoughts and fears. Or perhaps it was simply a device that Kent used to articulate Bolitho's feelings: dialogue is always more interesting than exposition!

As far as Herrick's opinion of infidelity? I personally find it hard to find fault with a sanctimonious stand on that particular subject. One of the elements of Herrick's character most cherished by Bolitho was his tendency to stubbornly stand by what he thought was right. Bolitho simply found himself on the wrong side this time.

I tend to agree with you both, that their deep friendship gave him the right to speak his mind, and that he had Bolitho's best interests at heart--at least initially. At first, he was most concerned about the threat to Bolitho's career: both Pomfret and Raymond could have ruined him. But I think Bolitho's liason with Kate was a different story altogether. In this case it was Bolitho's betrayal of his spouse and child. Think of it from Herrick's POV. He loved his own wife deeply--so much so that he essentially self-destructed after her death--and was unable to have children, though they wanted them desperately. I think that might go far in explaining Herrick's unforgiving outlook.

I don't yet have a timeline for Herrick's advancement, though I'l try to generate one: unless Mil does so first!

Britt


Sun Sep 21, 2003 2:42 pm
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It's interesting your comment about dialogue and exposition as I have always thought that it is lively dialogue that brings a story alive. I think you need a balance of both, but, yes, indeed, it would be a dreary tale that had no dialogue.

I also think you are correct about Bolitho cherishing Herrick's stubborness to stick to his principles although it did work against him in the case of Kate. As I said, when I get time I will re-read the early Bolitho's and re-assess that relationship between Bolitho and Herrick.

Sorry, I have not had time to work out a time scale yet.


On another fiction angle, was anyone surprised when Bush did not appear again in the Hornblower novels? I, for one, kept expecting him to pop up again at sometime. I wondered if anyone else shares my thoughts?

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Fri Sep 26, 2003 7:01 am
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Post Herrick
Okay, mil...here's a rough timeline of Herrick's career: He entered the Navy at age 11, which as I reckon it, would have been 1768 (same as Bolitho, BTW). We first find him as 3rd in Phalarope in 1782, and remains Bolitho's 1st through 1787. He is not seen again until 1793, when he steps in as Hyperion's 1st after Snipe is destroyed (and he was 1st on her as well). A hardly meteoric career thus far. It took only ten years for Bolitho to gain Commander's rank, and merely four more to be promoted to Captain.

He is given his first command--Impulsive--in 1794, and makes post by 1795. He becomes Bolitho's flag captain in 1798 and hardly covers himself with glory, yet remains so until 1801 when he is appointed acting commodore, and is then promptly promoted to rear admiral in late 1801. Bolitho held the rank of captain for thirteen years before reaching commodore's rank, and was not promoted to rear admiral for another five.

And that's my point. Herrick spent too long as a subordinate, and not nearly long enough as a captain, and never held a truly independent command. His Impulsive was certainly no great prize, and was not likely to have spent much time detached from a squadron. 64s were terrible ships: built in an effort to conserve timber (and cash) they combined all the disadvantages of a frigate with all the disadvantages of a 74. They were not maneuverable enough to tangle with frigates, but not sufficiently heavily built to trade broadsides with a 74. And Impulsive was old and rotten to boot. Definitely not the place in which to develop either one's confidence or independence.

As for your new question? I also expected Bush to resurface, and I felt somehow cheated when he did not. I reread the series somewhat later, though, and upon reflection realized that perhaps we were meant to feel that way. Perhaps Forester was making a comment on the nature of war: good men are often lost, there one moment and gone the next, with no opportunity for farewells.

Rather like Bolitho, in fact. We might have expected him to fall, like Nelson, at the height of his greatest victory, with Herrick at his side. But no. He is shot by a sniper in the waning moments of an insignificant frigate action--on his way home. And Herrick never got to say goodbye.

And think about this--if Herrick hadn't finally stepped out of his hidebound tendency to do things 'by the book', and hadn't pardoned Reaper's crew, Bolitho probably would have pled their case, ruined his career--and wouldn't have been aboard Frobisher at all. Hmmm.


Britt


Fri Sep 26, 2003 10:49 pm
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Post Re: Herrick
Thanks for posting the timeline of Herrick's career, Britt. I knew he spent a fair amount of time as a lieutenant, but it's good to have the actual years as points of reference.

You're right. Herrick wasn't a captain for very long before he was promoted. In that sense, Mil is correct to question his quick rise to flag rank.

For futher comparison...Nelson was made Master & Commander in 1778, Post in 1779, and Commodore in 1796.

I think Kent was forced to move Herrick along quickly because he was using Herrick as a foil. Of Bolitho's "Happy Few," Herrick was the only one who really challenged Bolitho's actions. (Correct me if I'm forgetting any other character.) If Herrick had remained a captain, he wouldn't be as free to speak his mind because of the disparity in rank.


Last edited by susan on Sat Sep 27, 2003 9:02 pm, edited 1 time in total.



Sat Sep 27, 2003 8:45 pm
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Britt said:
As for your new question? I also expected Bush to resurface, and I felt somehow cheated when he did not. I reread the series somewhat later, though, and upon reflection realized that perhaps we were meant to feel that way. Perhaps Forester was making a comment on the nature of war: good men are often lost, there one moment and gone the next, with no opportunity for farewells.

Rather like Bolitho, in fact. We might have expected him to fall, like Nelson, at the height of his greatest victory, with Herrick at his side. But no. He is shot by a sniper in the waning moments of an insignificant frigate action--on his way home. And Herrick never got to say goodbye.



........... yes, perhaps that is what I felt ... cheated ...... you describe it admirably.......and perhaps shock treatment....and, as you say, the nature of way....here one minute, gone the next.

I wonder how I would have felt if I had sailed into "Sword of Honour" not knowing what the latter pages contained. Though the information in the front of each Bolitho book, I did know, but I had to read the end several times before I could handle the book as a whole.

It will be interesting if the TV series of HH gets that far to see how Bush's demise is handled, and how it comes over.

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Thu Oct 02, 2003 6:48 am
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Post Re: Herrick
britt wrote:
Think of it from Herrick's POV. He loved his own wife deeply--so much so that he essentially self-destructed after her death--and was unable to have children, though they wanted them desperately. I think that might go far in explaining Herrick's unforgiving outlook.

Just finished a re-read of Beyond the Reef (which I think is my least favorite book of the series). Herrick is very bitter about not being able to have a child. As Herrick saw it, Bolitho abandoned his because of selfish passion.

What I don't understand is how Bolitho can keep saying/implying to Herrick that Herrick doesn't know what true love is.

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Fri Sep 10, 2004 12:51 am
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One thing to remember about Bolitho -- that did rub Herrick wrong -- is that he is never wrong in his assessment of the enemies intentions. No matter what the situation, Bolitho comes out looking good because he brings the French to action and wins the day.
For Bolitho's part, he is somewhat self-absorbed in his own life rather than seeing things from Herrick's POV. He can put himself in the shoes of a Frenchman easier than he can his best friend.


Fri Sep 10, 2004 5:02 am
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HMS Charity wrote:
For Bolitho's part, he is somewhat self-absorbed in his own life rather than seeing things from Herrick's POV. He can put himself in the shoes of a Frenchman easier than he can his best friend.

Good point.

How do you (or anyone else who wants to jump in) feel about the "men/people change thing" that always crops up as a theme? Bolitho is bothered by what he sees as changes in the way Herrick behaves. To me, it's rather ironic. If Herrick has changed, isn't it a result of being associated with Bolitho? (I don't know if that makes any sense...)

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Sun Sep 12, 2004 4:42 am
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Actually, it makes perfect sense. And in the ways that Herrick does not change (i.e. his honesty) Bolitho misinterprets it as a change in his personality (at least in regards to Catherine). It strikes me that Herrick does an admirable job of redeeming himself in Relentless Pursuit and Second to None for his behaviour towards Kate.
I have not read Man Of War, yet, so can't comment on any further changes in Herrick's POV.
And the changes Bolitho sees in Herrick are very much a product of the interaction between the two; the changes for the good and the envy.


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Post Herrick
susan wrote:
How do you (or anyone else who wants to jump in) feel about the "men/people change thing" that always crops up as a theme? [/size]


I have to admit that I found Herrick's sudden and abrupt change in personality difficult to accept. Yes, people do change--sometimes dramatically--but I would been far more willing to accept it if we had been given a bit more insight into Herrick's motivations for doing so. I don't like to have everything spelled out for me in my reading--but this time I feel that too much was left to the reader's interpretation, particularly given that it was such a drastic departure from his character as developed throughout the preceding books. Yes, I have formulated my own theory on why Herrick's change occurred--but is it the one his author intended? I have no idea. I am hoping that Herrick himself will explain it--to Nancy, or Elizabeth, and therefore to us as well--in the book that follows Man of War.

But to consider it in a different light, if Kent were trying to elicit in the reader some measure of Bolitho's own shock and bewilderment at Herrick's sudden change, he succeeded very well indeed--at least for this particular reader!

Idler


Thu Sep 16, 2004 5:14 pm
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Idler, you hit the nail on the head regarding shocking the reader. Then again, it wasn't until I stared death down three years ago and made major changes in my life that I was able to comprehend more exactly how the loss of Dulcie and the Benbow (as well as his first ship sinking in Flag Captain how much those events could rock Herrick's world. He feels guilt for not being there for his wife and sees Bolitho's abandonment of Belinda as a betrayal of the marital bonds, bonds he mourns losing. Dulcie was the one person ashore who admired Herrick and built up his confidence, thus making him (almost) competent as a Rear Admiral.

Now as for his meteroic rise after being 'posted,' I hadn't given it much thought before seeing this thread, but I would think that an officer with ability (i.e. Nelson) could be promoted ahead of others waiting to take the step while on half-pay (And there were a lot of captains and commanders on half-pay.). Of course, I've been known to be wrong many a time, but it seems that Nelson received his flag ahead of others on the list.


Fri Sep 24, 2004 12:42 am
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