Sorry I couldn't fit the whole quote in the title to this review. The above is an excerpt of something Napoleon said to Captain Maitland of the "Bellerophon" in the summer of 1815 when Napoleon was being held on board, waiting to learn what his fate would be. (He hoped to be allowed to buy and live in a home in the English countryside. Alas, it was not to be.) Here is the full quote: "If it had not been for you English, I should have been Emperor of the East; but wherever there is water to float a ship, we are sure to find you in our way." As David Cordingly demonstrates in this wonderful book, the "Bellerophon," during the period 1794-1815, was an integral part of "find(ing) you in our way." Before ending her career as a "floating prison" she was in the thick of the action at the Battle of The Glorious First of June, the Battle of The Nile, and the Battle of Trafalgar....in addition to pulling extensive blockade duties, and being a temporary home/prison for Napoleon before it was decided to place him on St. Helena. Mr. Cordingly calls this a biography of a ship of the line, and he is true to his word. To start, we learn about the construction of the ship (it was built based on a "generic" design by Sir Thomas Slade. Slade was a great ship designer and "it became recognised that a British ship could invariably beat a French ship...even though the French ship might be up to 50 percent more powerful in terms of her guns"). This gives Mr. Cordingly the opportunity to tell us about how ships were built at this time - how long it took, what kind of wood was used (oak- the trees had to be a certain age, not too young or too old, and they were "branded" after selection so that the general public would know they'd been selected for use by the navy), etc. Sometimes, after construction had started at the dockyard, the ship would be left sitting for several years, so the wood could "age" properly. I found this entire section fascinating. If this kind of information isn't your cup of tea, have no fear - the author quickly gets down to the business of battle. In the past I'd read quite a bit about the Battle of The Nile and the Battle of Trafalgar, but I had never read anything about the Battle of The Glorious First of June, so I learned quite a bit in that section. (It was interesting to learn that Lord Howe, who was in command of the British fleet at this action, was sixty-nine years old at the time. The battle lasted several days and Howe, besides ordering fleet movements, was actually involved, on his flagship, in the action. It was also interesting to find out that, despite being soundly thrashed, the French considered this encounter a victory, because the British were not able to stop French grain ships from getting through safely.) Even if you know these battles forwards and backwards, I think you will still find these sections interesting, because a large part of the action is seen from the viewpoint of the "Bellerophon," i.e.- what happened to the ship and its crew. The ship seemed to live a charmed life: despite being dismasted and severely battered, she managed never to run aground or to be boarded as a prize. (One time she barely escaped being blown up, when a fire was put out just before finding its way to the gunpowder.) One of the most enjoyable sections of the book detailed the "goings-on" while Napoleon was aboard. While anchored at Torbay and Plymouth Sound, the ship and its famous guest became quite a tourist attraction. On one day "it was estimated that the ship was surrounded by ten thousand people in yachts, fishing boats, and rowing boats." The crew held up chalkboards with messages scrawled on them (such as "At breakfast") to let the public know what Napoleon was up to at any particular moment. It was amusing to read that when Napoleon was given a tour of Captain Maitland's cabin, he zeroed in on a portrait of Maitland's wife. Napoleon commented that she was "very young and very pretty," and was greatly disappointed that, due to security restrictions, she was not allowed on board for a visit. Bonaparte may have just lost an empire, but he could still appreciate a beautiful woman! Another big plus for this book is the quantity and quality of the black-and-white and color reproductions. (Works of top-flight painters of maritime scenes, such as Nicholas Pocock and J.M.W. Turner, help bring the battle scenes to life.) This was a very clever idea for a book, and whether you are primarily interested in ships, or naval battles, or Napoleon, I think you will find much here to enjoy.