Wednesday, January 18, 2023

"Firing into the Brown" #25 - Dickens and stuff..

"So Carnehan weeds out the pick of his men, and sets the two of the Army to show them drill and at the end of two weeks the men can manoeuvre about as well as Volunteers. So he marches with the Chief to a great big plain on the top of a mountain, and the Chiefs men rushes into a village and takes it; we three Martinis firing into the brown of the enemy".

Kipling "The Man Who Would Be King"

Time for the first update of the new year..  at which point it would be rude not to say 'Happy New Year!' to all my reader..
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This years Christmas Dickens... what an absolute delight - automatically one of my top four Dickens novels (along with Copperfield, Nickleby and Expectations). Mr. Pickwick is an independently wealthy gentlemen with a group of close friends who are all members of a private club of which Mr Pickwick is chairman. The club meets to eat, drink and tell stories, and agree that Pickwick and his friends should travel, gathering stories so that they may enjoy them. We then get 57 chapters of delightful adventures, misadventures, 3rd party stories, marriages, debtor prisons, romances, court actions and everything he and his friends get involved with, along with a cast of friends, enemies, hangers on and incidentals...  favourites? Sam Weller and his Dad of course..  stupendous! 9

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As mentioned in the end of year review - not all is dormant on the wargame front as DG and I are taking a leisurely stroll through one of the scenario's in volume 1 of the Rebels and Recoats game series..  Bunker Hill.

We're up to move 4 and I am playing the British (red)..  my first wave of assault troops are ashore and holding their own, but DG is attacking vigorously...

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My first non-fiction of the year has just been completed...  with a deep and abiding interest in the War for the Spanish Succession, I've always wanted to know a little more about Eugene than the bare basics that you tend to pick up as part of the accounts dealing with the better known Marlborough.

I was aware that Marlborough had a huge amount of respect and trust for him, I was aware of his involvement at Blenheim, I was aware that he was widely accepted to be one of the great generals of his age, but know little more than that really..

So when James Falkner comes along with a book on the man, I bought it as soon as it was published (from memory I think I pre-ordered)..  Falkner is a good read, I particularly recommend his other books "Marlborough's War Machine" and "Great and Glorious Days: Marlborough's Battles, 1704-09" plus the two smaller Battleground books on Blenheim and Ramillies.

So how was it? Well, I have to say I was a little disappointed but I'll start with the good

I know a lot more about the man now than I did before, and in particular about his campaigns in the East against the Ottoman Turks. I understand a whole lot more about how big the Austrian Empire was at this point (they included huge tracts of the Balkans and Italy as part of the Empire) but also how fragile they were, there was never enough money to fully fund the campaigns Eugene undertook in Italy and the Balkans.

His armies seemed to trust and like him - despite almost always being in arrears of pay, poorly clothed and fed, he managed to keep his polyglot armies of Austrian and German troops in the field far longer than you would normally expect.

He was undoubtedly a military genius, having that ability to move troops quickly to the enemies weak point before the enemy even knows they have moved.

What you don't get in the book though is a flavour of the actual man, and what he was like, he's almost an enigma and there are few first person accounts of what kind of a man he actually was, but in Falkners favour I think a lot of that is down to the man himself..   from what you read, he was not the outgoing socialite that Marlborough was - I get the distinct impression that this was a man dedicated to his trade, a bit of a loner socially(?), capable but not comfortable at court, happier with his army on campaign, never married (though there were rumours that he had a long term relationship) and died a bachelor with a large library at a good age.

Recommended though - 8/10

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 Laters, as the young people are want to say...

6 comments:

  1. Interesting post. It's a subject I'm keen on myself. If you want more of a flavour of the man himself, "Prince Eugene of Savoy (a Biography)" by Nicholas Henderson (1964) is definitely worth seeking out as it focuses less on the military and more on the personal. It's a little of its time I guess, but I found it an enjoyable and insightful read. I found a lovely original hardback copy by pure accident in my local secondhand bookshop. There are also at least 2 paperback editions I'm aware of. You can pick it up fairly easily if you shop around online. Hope that's useful.

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  2. Huge and lifelong Dickens fan here Steve, Lord alone knows how many times I have read Pickwick over the decades, just a delight. Of course as I live in Rochester now I'm surrounded by Dickens and his legacy,

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    1. Cheers Lee, I'm a Pompey boy so used to go past his birthplace on a regular basis - not to mention for three or four years we used to go beer festival in an old theatre that apparently was the place where his mother went into labour whilst attending a dance! :o)

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  3. I've never got into Dickens, but then I've not read Pickwick Papers. Might give it a go!

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    1. Prufrock, he's one of those authors where you have to attune the brain to the prose, but I find that after two or three chapters I'm there.. some of them are a bit too mawkish for my/modern tastes, some of them are dull, but there are four or five that are brilliant - of them all I'd say this one was probably the most accessible..

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