Mr. Midshipman Hornblower
Published in 1950. I read an e-book downloaded from the Internet.
Chronologically the first book in the series, though not the first one written or published. I have the entire series of 9 books on my computer and am going through them in chronological order. This book relates how Hornblower joins service in the British Navy just before the Napoloenic wars as a callow youth of 17. Forester describes incidents that bring demonstrate Hornblower's special characteristics which are consistently maintained throughout the series, such as his lack of self-confidence, his immense courage, his total lack of self-pity, his devotion to his duty, his extreme intelligence, his physical awkwardness, his enormous energy, etc. Some of the prominent events in this book are - the duel he fights rather self-importantly, his service with Pellew (an actual historical figure) and the examination for promotion to Lieutenant that he takes but is interrupted by Spanish fireships.
The books are thrilling - I have read most of them many (>20) years ago, but still remember most of the events. I plan to read them one by one, and will write briefly about each book. At the end of the series, I will write a brief essay on the entire lot.