Saturday, February 5, 2011


I've recently started reading the Flashman series and thought I would start posting about the historical personages that make their way into this fantastic historical fiction series. I don't want to give away too much of the plot, so I decided to just make this a list with info on some of the real historical figures in the series.

For those of you unfamiliar with the series, it's based around Harry Flashman a rakish scoundrel trying to find his way in the world. Set in the mid 1800s or so, a seventeen year old Harry finds himself kicked out of school and having dalliances with his father's mistress. As a way of squeaking by in life he decides to join the 11th Light Dragoons (newly back from India) as a way of escaping his problems. He finds himself under the command of Lieutenant General James Thomas Brudenell, Early of Cardigan.
Brudenell is well known for leading his historical "Charge of the Light Brigade" during the Battle of Balaclava in the Crimean War. He's's got quite a reputation for being a "vain and extravagant man" commander, so I think old Harry is in for quite a surprise.

Charge of the Light Brigade by Alfred, Lord Tennyson


Half a league, half a league,
Half a league onward,
All in the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.
"Forward, the Light Brigade!
"Charge for the guns!" he said:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.


"Forward, the Light Brigade!"
Was there a man dismay'd?
Not tho' the soldier knew
Someone had blunder'd:
Theirs not to make reply,
Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to do and die:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.


Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon in front of them
Volley'd and thunder'd;
Storm'd at with shot and shell,
Boldly they rode and well,
Into the jaws of Death,
Into the mouth of Hell
Rode the six hundred.


Flash'd all their sabres bare,
Flash'd as they turn'd in air,
Sabring the gunners there,
Charging an army, while
All the world wonder'd:
Plunged in the battery-smoke
Right thro' the line they broke;
Cossack and Russian
Reel'd from the sabre stroke
Shatter'd and sunder'd.
Then they rode back, but not
Not the six hundred.


Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon behind them
Volley'd and thunder'd;
Storm'd at with shot and shell,
While horse and hero fell,
They that had fought so well
Came thro' the jaws of Death
Back from the mouth of Hell,
All that was left of them,
Left of six hundred.


When can their glory fade?
O the wild charge they made!
All the world wondered.
Honor the charge they made,
Honor the Light Brigade,
Noble six hundred.


  1. Ah, Flashman! What a wonderful series! Flashman's involvement in the charge of the light brigade is hilarious, of course, so a well-chosen poem. I can also recommend "Quartered Safe Out Here," Fraser's autobiography of his days in World War 2.

  2. I've only read a few of the series (The first one, the one in the old West, and I think one more). Great stuff all around. Black Ajax also has a brief Flashman cameo and everyone should read Fraser's "The pyrates" (awesome and funny pirate story) and "The steel bonnets" (a very good read for a history book!).

  3. Thanks for the recommendations guys, I'll have to check those out!

  4. I thought Flashman in the wild west (can't remember the title) was the best, in that the plot was cunningly constructed, but most especially because Fraser's writing was at a really high ebb. His descriptions of the Indians were often quite beautiful, and you could see he's not just a good storyteller - he's also a great writer.

    I also find his characterization of Muslim "enemies" (especially in Flashman at the Charge) are really nuanced and splendid. I loved the scene in Flashman at the Charge where Flashman meets his Muslim allies for the first time. Possibly one of the best pages of writing in the English language. And all this despite the fact that Fraser's racial politics is dubious to say the least. Splendid stuff!