Friday, June 06, 2008

Review - "Englands Fragile Genius"

..I have to say that one of the major reasons it's been so quiet round here over the last week is not so much the family trip to Eurodisney, as the fact that I've had my nose stuck deep in the new book on Marlborough by Richard Holmes...

..I guess I need to set my stall out straight away and state up front that this is the best book of his that I've read - it even exceeds "Redcoat" which I thought was inspired. The depth of detail is amazing (seven pages of bibliography!) and Holmes has drawn heavily on Marlborough's private correspondence in addition to all the expected primary (Parker, Merode Westerloo, etc) and secondary sources (Chandler, Tincey, Falkner among many others) to draw up a picture of a very complex "genius"..

..he was married to a nightmare but loved her deeply, showed enormous compassion for his men but never flinched from ordering them into the breach and the bloody assault (Schellenberg for one), was notorious for his ability to gather cash and favours but was never less than wholly supportive of his friends (his relationship to Godolphin was a good case in point)..

..Holmes is best when he's talking at the soldiers eye view and this one is no different - his primary sources are well used to give a good view of what it was like to serve, and fight, with "Corporal John".

..Marlborough waged ten successful campaigns, besieged over thirty towns, and never lost a battle or a skirmish - the book is a fitting tribute and I recommend it wholeheartedly...

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