Saturday, November 5, 2011

The Duke and Waterloo

Inspired by a review in the Spectator, I've read my first novel by Georgette Heyer: An Infamous Army. It is the story of a love affair involving a colonel in the personal staff of the Duke of Wellington, but it goes into great detail about the preparations for the Battle of Waterloo, as well as the battle itself.

One great Wellington line I had not encountered before (I believe he has lent more quotations to the world than any other British PM; Disraeli is second): "Oh! I think very little of soldiers running away at times .... The steadiest troops will occasionally do so--but it is a serious matter if they do not come back." (paperback p. 274)

Heyer is clearly trying to do a somewhat updated Jane Austen; the lady in the case is clearly unsuitable for a proper gentleman: she is a bit wild, a flirt, likely to shock decent opinion by appearing worse than she is, willing to break hearts, even to come between a man and his wife. Yet the hero proposes to her more than once; in between she repents some of her actions, but predicts that something similar will happen again. Maybe Heyer agrees with Austen that this is not the best marriage--that the husband will be to some extent a victim--but Heyer suggests that decent women such as Judth, Lady Worth can be won over to the courage and the fundamentally good heart of the infamous Barbara. Certainly Barbara seems a better person in the end than the apparently quiet, even mousy Miss Lucy Devenish--one might think a Jane Austen-style heroine based on Mansfield Park in particular.

No comments:

Post a Comment