Daily Archives: February 1, 2012

Redcoat, by Richard Holmes – Book Review

When an author succeeds in creating a page turner from a segment of history beaten thoroughly to death by a thousand other historians and writers of historical fiction there should be some background music and applause.

 

Richard Holmes has succeeded. 

Redcoat follows the British soldier through the Seven Year War, the Peninsula War, the wars in the Americas, the wars in India through the Sepoy Mutiny and Afghanistan to the Crimea.    And every page contains some new surprise, some fragment of detail the reader won’t have encountered previously. 

Ever wondered where the idea for Hornblower’s fascination with the Lady Barbara Wellesley most likely originated?  Illustrations:  “Below:  The Marquess of Anglesey was a talented cavalry commander who, when Lord Paget, beat the French at Benavente and Sahagun.  Unfortunately he ran off with Wellington’s sister-in-law and could not be re-employed in the Peninsula.  As Lord Uxbridge he lost a leg at Waterloo.”

Or, page 154, Lt. Arthur Moffat Lang, “Many are given to drink and drunkenness like the Germans.  Foreign wines on account of their being accustomed to beer, does not agree with them, and in hot countries over-seas brings on burning fevers . . .”

Holmes has sifted through the chaff of history to cover the subject thoroughly on the outside in a 427 page epidermis, along with constant peeks at the liver, the bladder, the spleen and the dirt under the fingernails of the British soldier:  A man as limited and flawed as the Brown Bess musket he carried into battle, but one who experienced a surprisingly long series of successes where failure would have been far more appropriate.

‘Christopher Duffy suggests of the eighteenth century that:  “The most pronounced moral traits of the English were violence and patriotism.”‘

If that sounds familiar today it might be worth pondering whether it’s part of the package the 20th Century delivered to your own doorstep. 

Excellent work and a worthy read, Redcoat.

Old Jules

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Clarifying a General Point – Politics and this Blog

Good morning readers.  Thanks for coming by for a read this morning.

When I post a blog I frequently do so in complete ignorance of current events.  I don’t have a television, the radio never gets turned on, and I don’t read newspapers or magazines until they sometimes fall into my hands many years after they were printed.

I don’t know and don’t wish to know who wants to be king.  The Challenge of 2012: Not Knowing Who Wants to be King   And I’m not likely to get any joy from knowing which readers prefer which liar and scoundrel, and which prefer some other one.  I have no intention to participate in the scramble to assassinate characters of the occupants of one side of the pool of corruption to give advantage to the occupants of the other side of the pool.

 If a post here manages to convey an impression I’m giving support to one political illusion over another, it’s entirely by accident and not to be taken as a launchpad for more intense and focused discourse on the issue.

Old Jules

Today on Ask Old Jules:

Old Jules, why are there so many religions and spiritual beliefs?