Sharpe’s Tiger

Suggested by Kung Fu Zu • Sharpe, born to a whore, is a violent, crude, illiterate young man. He is also brave, clever, strong, and lucky. Sharpe, along with young Arthur Wellesley, are in India to fight the Tippoo of Mysore, a powerful Muslim ruler in South India.
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171 Responses to Sharpe’s Tiger

  1. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    They have this one, and about 30 others from the same author, on my online lending library. I’ve checked it out and should be able to read at least a few dozen pages of it in the near future.

    I find I can’t read anything set in modern times these days, no matter how well written. Maybe what I need is comfortable escape from all the nonsense going on now. Hope this book fits the bill.

    • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

      If you are interested in British colonial history, this might be worth your time.

      The year is 1799, which is around the height of the struggle between Napoleon and Great Britain. And although the story takes place in India, the larger fight is touched on.

      Cornwell does a good job including historical details in a way which is not boring.

      The book is slightly less than 400 pages, but is very easy to read. I got through it in three sittings.

  2. Timothy Lane says:

    I have found that most of my reading is genre fiction. Not the tale of ordinary life today (though I do read contemporary mysteries and thrillers, those are hardly ordinary life), but just about anything else.

    I know Wellesley defeated Mysore, though they allowed it to remain as a kingdom all the way to the end (albeit a puppet state). Eventuallly India went purely republican and got rid of all the monarchies making up provinces of India.

    • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

      British India, the Raj, was a patchwork of “Royal States” (which generally had a British Resident advising the “rulers”) along with areas under complete British rule and administration.

      The modern state of India, used force to take over states such as Hyderabad and Goa.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        I was looking up info on the Hyderabad state and found a very nice photo of the Falaknuma Palace in that district. Nice digs.

        • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

          I have visited Hyderabad only once. I was there for business for 3 or 4 days. There is a large lake in the city around which there are a lot of buildings and activity.

          I could take living in the Falaknuma Palace.

          This is a photo of Tippoo’s palace in Seringapatam. I believe this is the Daria Dowlat mentioned in the book, the palace outside the fortress.

        • Timothy Lane says:

          Very impressive. Princes can do that — and decades or centuries later, tourists will appreciate it, though it might require a lot of walking. I recall that one of Wellesley’s early victories was at Seringapatam.

          • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

            It would seem Wellesley did not play a huge role in the campaign and in fact was bettered in a night attack against the Mysore troops.

            According to Cornwell’s “Historical Note”, Wellesley had an aversion to night engagements from that time.

            Things got better for Wellesley as he fought many battles in India. He once expressed his opinion that one of these, the Battle of Assaye which took place during the Second Anglo-Maratha War, was his best fought victory. An interesting remark for the victor of Waterloo.

            • Timothy Lane says:

              Well, Waterloo owed a lot to Blücher, though Wellington was able to hold Boney off throughout the battle. (It helps that Ney was never quite the same after his rearguard command during the retreat from Moscow.) He also had a lot of other very notable victories in Iberia, of which Salamanca may have been the best.

  3. Monange says:

    Bookshelf, thanks so much for the post.Much thanks again. Really Cool.

    • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

      I am very happy you liked it. It is good to see that someone actually looks at these bookshelf posts and from time to time finds them useful.

  4. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    I’m to the point in this book (very early on) that the British coalition of troops have just defeated the ground forces of Tippo. The aftermath of the looting is underway and the next step will be the siege.

    Kudos to the author for getting right into it without 50 pages of boring setup. This is well written. But it’s pretty violent and gritty. I’m not sure this is making for good before-bedtime reading. Maybe better to read in the middle of the day on a rainy Saturday.

    Some thoughts occur:

    I don’t know how much this book is based on actual events, but it seems believable that Tippoo (or someone like him) made obvious mistakes militarily. In this one, the French (French!) advisor to Tippe Tippoo and Mysore Too advises Tippoo to use his calvary to force the British into defensive squares, thereby denuding their firepower by three-quarters. This was not done. One volley from the british infantrymen basically effectively destroyed the opposition and sent them running.

    One wonders if the secret of Napoleon (and I have read next to nothing on him) was that he did not feel compelled to abide by the “gentlemanly” methods of war at the time — lining up in tight formation and just blasting away. Certainly we hear what a shocker it was for the British that the Americans would hide behind trees and shoot as the assembled Redcoats walking in tight formation. (I think Washington did that too to some degree as well.)

    Today’s modern soldier shares the same ancient risks of death or dismemberment. But today’s modern soldier can generally return to his barracks and play video games. He has a wife safe at home. The soldiers in the British Army had it worse than criminals….except, it seems, for the right for legally looting. Of course, many of the soldiers were conscripted criminals.

    And apparently there was a lottery in regards to who could bring their wives. This was important if only because the wives who were left behind often had to turn to prostitution as their only means of support. I’m not sure how widespread that was, but it is presented as a clear and present danger to the wives left behind.

    Yikes. I would not want to be a British common soldier. Officers, on the other hand, had it much better. And one wonders how the British could ever have assembled an effective force when you could basically purchase an officer’s position.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      France and Britain were the main imperial rivals in India, so that they provided advice for Indian states fighting their rival. In the French case, it doesn’t seem to have been very good advice — one of those they helped was the Nawab of Bengal (of Black Hole of Calcutta infamy — I remember MAD Magazine doing an article in which a newspaper’s social reporter wrote it up as a party, listing (fictitiously) the prisoners and concluding with “No refreshments were served”) when he faced Clive at Plessey.

      An army needed women as camp followers to perform women’s chores, such as cooking, sewing, and laundry. I don’t think they conscripted prisoners; at least with the navy, the practice was to give them the choice between imprisonment and enlistment. Of course, a certain amount of shanghaiing occurred. I can remember Hornblower’s efforts to crew the Sutherland in Ship of the Line. Service in either the army or the navy was very unpleasant. (When somebody brought up naval tradition with Churchill, he replied that their traditions were “rum, sodomy, and the lash”.)

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        I was surprised when the book mentioned that there was something like 100,000 cattle following the army, which I think included (or perhaps it didn’t) the oxen used to pull the guns. It mentioned that one of the biggest guns alone required 60 oxen or more.

        Yes, I remember how unpleasant life was aboard one of Her Majesties ships. Yikes. But then it might have been worse back home and this was a chance for adventure and at least getting out of the slums (or avoiding a long sentence inside some dingy prison).

        As usual, it sounds as if Churchill understood things, although sodomy is certainly not a subject I’ve run across in any of my nautical reading. But, well, I supposed it happened. Must have been interesting being a cabin boy of that period.

        • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

          sodomy is certainly not a subject I’ve run across in any of my nautical reading.

          I can’t do it justice in writing, but you’ve never heard the old approach, “Hello Sailor?” It is an old homosexual joke.

          I would say, many of the sailors serving in the old British Navy were impressed, i.e. grabbed by British authorities from pubs and such places, for service. It wasn’t voluntary. This practice was one of the reasons we got into the War of 1812 with Britain. Their war ships would stop American vessels and claim sailors were deserters from the British Navy and taken them from American vessels. The Brits needed the sailors. Don’t forget, this is going on during the Napoleonic wars.

          And one wonders how the British could ever have assembled an effective force when you could basically purchase an officer’s position.

          This was common throughout Europe. The French system changed because of the Revolution, but other European countries maintained the system for some time.

          • Timothy Lane says:

            There is also the story of sailors offering to show newbies the golden spike that held the ship together. Actually, of course, the spike would generally be a shade of peach, and was probably a real pain in the arse.

            Many of the cattle with the army would be for supply — to be eaten. This custom went for a long time, and the results could be interesting on occasion. (In the fall of 1864, the Confederates launched a cavalry raid that made off with thousands of US cattle. You can imagine how much the hungry troops appreciated it.) But bullocks were also used for transport.

            Yes, I imagine a lot of prisoners and slum-dwellers thought an army or navy career might be a better prospect. That may be why you got a lot of desertion, and the occasional mutiny (most notably the Spithead and Nore mutinies about the time of this campaign).

          • pst4usa says:

            I would say, many of the sailors serving in the old British Navy were impressed, i.e. grabbed by British authorities from pubs and such places, for service. It wasn’t voluntary.
            I am sure this is well known but I found it an interesting feature of this scouting method. I was told many years ago, that the idea of “keep your elbows off the table”, comes from this practice. It seems that those “recruiters” would look for this trait as evidence of sailing experience. While eating, sailors need to keep their plates in place with their elbows. So young men that could not or did not keep their elbows off the table, were likely to get snatched up, not that it was uncouth or un-dignified.

            • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

              That’s a very interesting story on the origin of “elbows off the table,” Pat. It sounds plausible.

    • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

      lining up in tight formation and just blasting away. Certainly we hear what a shocker it was for the British that the Americans would hide behind trees and shoot as the assembled Redcoats walking in tight formation.

      The tight formation was developed before muskets had much accuracy and bayonets were much used. A concentrates body of men raging down on you with bayonets was very effective and won many a battle.

      Americans, being hunters, were on the edge of technology. They used much better guns than the British. Rifling was more common among the Americans than among the British. Thus Americans could more accurately shoot their enemies.

      One wonders if the secret of Napoleon (and I have read next to nothing on him) was that he did not feel compelled to abide by the “gentlemanly” methods of war

      Napoleon’s secret was the use of massed artillery. One should also not forget that he was not an aristocrat so his idea of war was different from that of a General Howe or Cornwallis.

      Democratizing war made it more deadly and vicious.

      • Timothy Lane says:

        He also learned a lot from previous French generals and military theorists. Artillerists (and engineers) tended to be better educated (and also didn’t have to purchase their commissions).

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        Napoleon’s secret was the use of massed artillery.

        Okie. Thanks for that info, Mr. Kung.

        • Timothy Lane says:

          Boney also usually outmaneuvered his enemies. This was helped by the French revolutionary armies developing a faster march step, in fact close to twice as fast. It came in handy in many battles, on the offensive (where it enabled him to win by outflanking the enemy) and the defensive (as David Chandler in The Campaigns of Napoleon pointed out of Davout’s victory at Auerstädt). Later, especially as the armies got bigger, Napoleon began to rely more on direct attacks, which came at a very high price (e.g., Eylau, Wagram, and Borodino).

        • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

          I thought you would like that.

          It is also true that the French armies of the Revolution were better motivated than their traditional rivals. They had considerable success, even before Napoleon took over.

          I think he finally wore them out.

    • Steve Lancaster says:

      And one wonders how the British could ever have assembled an effective force when you could basically purchase an officer’s position.

      For all the bad and about the British class system. It seems they consistently produced exceptional officers when they needed them most. The system also produced a large number of NCOs who trained junior officers. Not only was this, and is this true of the army, but also the navy. Patriotism, plays a large part then and now.

      I’m thinking the best example is the battle of Rorke’s drift. Eleven VC for one engagement of a company of 120, vs 3 Zulu regiments, about 3000. The commanding officer John Chard was an engineer lieutenant and the other officer was a newly minted officer who got his commission with family connections. With the exception of Commissary Dalton the other 7 VC were award to privates and corporals. Four others received distinguished conduct medals. The highest ranking being Color Sargent Bourne.

      Training, discipline and patriotism only go so far to explain why they weren’t wiped out by the Zulu. Victor Davis Hanson says that on that day, in that place these were the 120 most dangerous men on the planet, perhaps that explains something about it.

      For the better part of 3 centuries England managed to rule an Empire quite unlike any other in history. I guess they were born to empire, and had the good manners to give it up when WW II was over.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        They indeed somehow made it all work. Liberal application of the lash probably helped as well.

      • Timothy Lane says:

        Of course, Chard as an engineer was probably chosen on merit. In the superb movie Zulu, Bromhead is unhappy that he’s outranked by someone who isn’t a professional with a long military history like his. George MacDonald Fraser, discussing the movie in his superb Hollywood History of the World, was amused by this, since Chard actually was well trained.

        The movie shows some resentment of Chard by Bromhead, which isn’t supported by the historical evidence, but led to a nice scene. Bromhead points out to Chard the people using mealie bags for breastworks, and says, “Thought of that, old boy.” I could imagine something like that happening no matter how they got along.

        I suppose the color sergeant is the one you see throughout Zulu. Many viewers were disappointed that he didn’t get a VC (Richard Burton, narrating the beginning and ending, named all 11).

      • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

        I’m thinking the best example is the battle of Rorke’s drift. Eleven VC for one engagement of a company of 120, vs 3 Zulu regiments, about 3000.

        I always liked the movie “Zulu” which was based on this battle. Both Stanley Baker and Michael Caine were good in it. I also liked the Sargent, but don’t remember the actor’s name.

        • Timothy Lane says:

          I don’t either, but a quick check on wikipedia gives the name as Nigel Green. Caine played Bromhead, but actually would have preferred Private Hook. (According to wikipedia Hook was actually a model soldier, and his descendants were MOST unhappy about his portrayal in the movie — even though they do show the heroics that earned him his VC.) Burton’s ending narration showed how remarkable the number of VCs was for such a small engagement. (And they could only be given to survivors. I don’t suppose there were too many for Isandhlwana.)

          • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

            Yes, Isandhlwana was another story and quite a shock for the Brits.

            Nigel Green sounds right for the Sargent. I loved his whiskers.

            According to wikipedia Hook was actually a model soldier, and his descendants were MOST unhappy about his portrayal in the movie — even though they do show the heroics that earned him his VC.

            Another example of why I tell people not to get their history from the movies.

  5. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    I finally got around to watching this British TV movie from 1993, Sharpe’s Rifles.

    I thought the first two-fifths of it or so was pretty good. Sharpe saves the life of Wellesley (the future Lord Wellington). Wellesley promotes this enlisted soldier to an officer thus causing more than a few problems for Sharpe. Officers are one thing, enlisted men are another, and never shall the line be crossed or blurred.

    This is all good, merry, military fun until the plot devolves (and the budget already obviously having been busted) into low-rent TV movie drama. Why is Brian Cox following them around? Who knows? Why is the guy that Sharpe has been charged with finding dressed as a woman when he so obviously looks like a man dressed as a women? Who knows?

    Why would anyone think the insertion of the Spanish general with his “I am woman, hear me roar” cohort, both carrying some secret box, would be anything but an interruption of the story? Who knows? By the time we get to the end, learn what is in the box and what it is for, we don’t care. The drama turns into the kind of parched, stiff, play-acted stuff more suitable for a Dr. Who episode.

    Sean Bean gives a fine performance throughout which is the one and only reason to watch this. Unfortunately the dynamic of an enlisted man becoming an officer (and all the problems this entails) is bled off when they start down the road to this stupid plot element of protecting the Spanish general’s treasure box.

    We are given no wider perspective on what Wellesley and the British are up to. They just seem to walk around in uniform once in a while. Daragh O’Malley is suitably mutinous and nasty as the enlisted soldier who does not accept Sharpe’s authority. (Wouldn’t this guy have been immediately shot?) But Sharpe, being a man’s man, wins him over which (unfortunately) was never in doubt. And the winning over is accomplished in a slap-dash way, hardly making this a dramatic or satisfying moment.

    This is a TV movie, after all, and it’s a very safe guess that the books are better. And if you want to convince me that any of these men are sharp-shooters, perhaps they should hold their rifles steady first (presumably braced on something) before firing them. There seemed to be very little technical expertise in this movie. Never for a moment did this look like a crack unit of sharp-shooters.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      I checked wikipedia (I’m sure that doesn’t surprise you), and there are indeed a lot of differences ‘twixt book and TV show. The opening scene with Wellesley is from an earlier book, and the whole matter of banker James Rothschild (the man in disguise) is added for the show. In the novel, the events take place on the retreat to Corunna. (The commander then was Sir John Moore, who would be killed in the final defense of Corunna as his army prepared to escape to the transports. Wellesley wasn’t even present on that command, due to the repercussions of an event he had no control over.) I get the impression that the Spanish guerrillas’ mission was the main point instead of a side-plot. Teresa, the woman, will play a very important role in the future — as Sharpe’s eventual wife.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        One review I read also noted that several differences, including that the chick was from another story and was 11 years younger.

        I get the impression that the Spanish guerrillas’ mission was the main point instead of a side-plot.

        That’s probably my beef, misogynist that I am. This movie was going along nicely. But then what should have been a mere subplot became the plot. And it didn’t fit nor was it interesting. Nor did the chick in any way work as a love interest.

        Sharpe had been sent by Wellesley to find the missing banker (a Rothschild) who had money for the army payroll. (They were already two months behind.) There were all kinds of possibilities to develop this. But then they went down this cul-de-sac of a plot point about some Spanish guy who is going to rally the entire country by raising a flag in a certain place. And it just didn’t work. For starters, the Spanish guy hardly seemed the rebel type. And the woman with him was obviously just a Xena character inserted to complete a demographic requirement. (I like Xena the Warrior Princess, by the way. If you’re going to do ass-kicking-female, do it right. They mostly did in a tongue-in-cheek sort of way.)

        But remember first and foremost this thing was titled “Sharpe’s Rifles.” Yeah, they shot some Frenchies here and there. But never did you get the impression this was a crack group of anything other than loafers and complainers. Sean Bean was on one level in this and almost everything else was a level or two down. Professional actors have to wade their way through lots of crap in their careers. And I think when you’re filming this stuff in pieces, and certainly not in order, you might not know beforehand if it’s crap or not.

        This show needed some realism and grit. And every battle scene was like a low-budget fight right out of Batman the TV series. In Batman, it was meant to be tongue-in-cheek and hardly realistic.

        Anyway, I still have “Sharpe’s Tiger” in hand and I’ll try to pick that up again soon.

        • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

          I think there should be no surprise that most books from which movies are adapted, are much better than the movies.

          Movies are a collective effort which are restrained by money and reality, and these tend to push those responsible into cutting corners.

          In the case of the Sharpe movie series, I believe it was, from the beginning, to be a low budget project. It is therefore not surprising that the films are uneven.

          The reason I prefer books is that books are the product of a unitary concept and creator, the author, who has control over his product. He is not restrained by reality but by his imagination. He is not restrained by many other contributors as it is he who conceives and carries out his project and the end result is very much dependent upon his talent and the amount of effort he puts into the writing.

          Editors play a part, but if a writer is talented and hard working, editors are no where near as influential as a film director is in making a movie.

          • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

            This particular reviewer saw what I saw:

            Sean Bean is great, as are the photography, locations and costumes. However, the plot is somewhat muddled, and the conclusion flat. The plot has been SUBSTANTIALLY altered from Cornwell’s novel, and not to the better. Unfortunately, this adventure is much better read than watched. Sharpe was too narrowly drawn here, in contrast with his literary alter ego, who seems more intelligent and determined despite his apprehension in his new role as an officer promoted from the ranks. I really enjoyed the brief scene in which Sharpe is tripped by a “real” officer, and after a quick pause and piercing stare, pushes the surprised and cowed officer right back. It sets the tone for his later trials as a commanding officer.

            Preferring books to the often half-assed movies made of them makes sense. But we can always cut such movies some slack because you just can’t include everything. But this TV movie doesn’t fail because of the difference between the mediums and the trade-offs involved. It fails because it was a piece of unartistic made-for-TV junk, although early-on it showed some promise. I do like that scene where the asshole officer trips Sharpe as he’s going in to see Wellington. Sharpe pushes right back. Loved it. But then the brought in the Spaniard and Xena and it became of piece of junk. Brian Cox’s character was also completely superfluous. If I’m direct that my guiding influence is “Let Bean be Bean” (or let Sharpe be Sharpe). They didn’t. Anytime anything bold, brave, sharp, or daring threatened to occur, it would be pulled down by the mediocrity of the other characters and plots.

            And probably what hurt greatly was the lack of a good villain. The turncoat Spanish guy just didn’t cut it. And as brutal as the French were portrayed, you never really get a sense of the French soldier as a real thing. It was all lazy pastiches and stereotypes.

            • Timothy Lane says:

              KFZ makes a very interesting point about why books are generally better than the movies made on them.

              Note, again, that Sir Arthur Wellesley wasn’t in this campaign at all, though in the TV show they didn’t say what was going on. He wouldn’t have been Wellington yet (he was ennobled after Talavera in 1809), though I suppose they also didn’t state when this happened either.

              Incidentally, for good kick-ass female characters you probably can’t beat James Schmitz. My favorite of his books is The Demon Breed, in which a woman named Nile Etland has to stop an alien invasion. But the Telzey Amberdon stories (the adventures of an esper) are also quite good.

              • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

                KFZ makes a very interesting point about why books are generally better than the movies made on them.

                No doubt the more committee-like nature of movie or TV production allows all kinds of bad influences to leak in. From what I understand, the suits who direct these things are complete tasteless morons and slobs. It’s often a wonder anything of quality ever gets done.

                Never heard of the The Demon Breed or that particular kiss-ass female. One of the realities of Netflix (and cinema in general) is that now there has to be a female character. And so now watching movies isn’t so much about watching stories. It’s about watching the multicultural bean counters tick off their racial and sexual quotas.

              • Timothy Lane says:

                The Demon Breed came out around 1959, when such female characters were most unusual. It has also been noted that they tended to have sexually ambiguous names such as Nile and Telzey. Nile’s male mentor also plays a significant role in the story; indeed, she shows up initially to check up on him.

              • Timothy Lane says:

                I was hoping to find the name of Nile’s mentor, but it doesn’t seem to be available on wikipedia. I did find out that I was a decade off on the book’s appearance; The Demon Breed came out in 1968. But that’s still at the beginning of the feminist movement, and many of Schmitz’s stories go back to the late 1940s, and they already relied on female heroes even back then. Of course, many men appreciate strong women (think of Clint Eastwood and Tyne Daly in The Enforcer).

            • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

              But this TV movie doesn’t fail because of the difference between the mediums and the trade-offs involved. It fails because it was a piece of unartistic made-for-TV junk,

              And how is that different from most of the other rubbish we seen on the boob-tube?

              For the reasons I previously enumerated, and because the medium of film is very passive, thus requires little effort on the part of its consumers to consume or “participate” in, I still maintain the end product will, because of the flaws inherent in its creation, be generally a poor quality product.

              • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

                Read the reviews at IMDB. Either most people have crappy taste or this TV movie was a gem. But then that is typical these days. I don’t know that many people have an eye for quality. They just consume, consume, consume.

  6. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    Of course, many men appreciate strong women (think of Clint Eastwood and Tyne Daly in The Enforcer).

    Timothy, I think Tyne Daly straddles the line. I see her as mostly a feminist insertion.

    Let me, with more thought, try to make the distinction. I’m not against a strong female. Lord knows this country was founded by many of them, enduring hardships that would make most pussy-hat females run for their safe spaces. Whether on frontier farms or over-crowded settlement cities, we would not have survived — let alone reproduced, been fed, and clothed — without strong females.

    Where I think the distinction lies is not in “strong” but whether some females in cinema are presented as replacement males. This is, of course, a judgment call and a judgment all but impossible for those indoctrinated in feminism to make. But I would say that Sarah Conner (played by Linda Hamilton) was, generally speaking, a strong female who was not a replacement male.

    A replacement male tends to suck all competing masculinity out of the movie. There is no place for a real man when a replacement female is playing the role of a man. Such replacement males tend to be humorless. Tyne Daly’s character was sympathetic if only because they didn’t play down the fact that she was clearly over her head. Nor was she a humorless ball-buster like so many replacement male characters. She could, to a large extent (but clearly within the feminist affirmative action framework), be accepted as a real person. And, at the end of the day, she was judged by the demands of the job and heroism, not as a substitute man.

    Ripley (played by Sigourney Weaver) is another excellent example of a strong woman who is not a substitute man. She does not suck all the male oxygen out of the room. (There is still the wonderful character of Hicks.) She is not a humorless ball-buster. And she is still recognizably female. In fact, in “Aliens” her conduct would be verboten by today’s replacement-male agenda because Ripley goes after the monster as motivated by purely female protective instincts.

    This movie even has the courage to have some humor regarding the idea of a replacement female. There’s some good dialogue between Vasquez and Hudson where Hudson asks the masculine-looking Vasquez: “Hey, Vasquez. Have you ever been mistaken for a man?” She answers, “No. Have you?”

    Playful. Funny. And very likely the kind of back-and-forth you might expect from Marines in space. One of the worst examples of the ass-kicking-female remains Keira Knightly in a movie I otherwise like: “King Arthur.” But there she’s less a replacement male and more of simply the rejection of being a female. In this movie, feminism hasn’t advanced to the point where males are verboten. But women are not allowed to just be women. In this one, after having spent days or weeks in a dank cellar as a prisoner, she is able to take on full-sized, full-armored men with her ass-kicking Ninja moves. That was, and remains, the nearly perfect stereotype of the ass-kicking female.

    But replacement males now abound, particularly in commercials. Every man is usually a goofball and the woman is strong, smart, and…well…she’s the alpha male.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      Actually, I noticed that type of commercial many decades ago, probably back in the 1970s. I suspect that this reflects the fact that the feminist movement had become active as an influence on women (though less than New York advertising firms thought, naturally), and women were usually the shoppers that advertisers targeted.

      You also still had the usual housewife ads, such as one memorable one that involved two women discussing their laundry or some such. What made it so memorable was a boy coming in to say, “Mommy, mommy, I only had one cavity!” One of the women turned to him, and said, “Well, who asked you?” At the closing, you didn’t see them, but you heard, “My kid? I thought he was your kid.”

      Those were some fine kick-ass women you list, and I liked them all. Note that Alien also has Lambert, who panics when she and Parker encounter the alien on their way to the shuttle, leading to both of their deaths. Parker and Dallas were both effective men in their ways, even though the alien gets both of them.

      Daly’s character works out very well in The Enforcer by your standard. She certainly doesn’t eliminate Dirty Harry’s masculinity, and it takes her time to get used to the life of a street cop. But she adjusts, and earns the respect of her partner before being killed in the final confrontation with the radicals.

      Note that Dirty Harry’s primary partners in the first 3 movies were a Mexican-American, a black, and a woman. All proved to be worthy partners, though 2 ended up dead and the other resigned after being wounded. And another sometimes partner, “Fat Man” DiGiorgio, is killed early in The Enforcer.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        She certainly doesn’t eliminate Dirty Harry’s masculinity

        It was a great piece of pro-female propaganda. A woman enters the man’s world. Man is doubtful. Woman proves that she can do the job just as well.

        Sometimes. But the scheme of “equality” demands that we say things are equal whether they are or not. The political goal becomes a social necessity and mere truth becomes revolutionary and certainly offensive to most.

        I was at a Little League game on Saturday. There is a girl on the team. She got a hit, and a rather solid one. Other than that, as catcher, she consistently could not throw the ball to second base. Not even close. And she stopped running to first base on an infield hit that was booted. She might easily have been safe.

        After the game, the umpire (I thought the coaches did this, but the coach said the umpire did) handed out two game balls to the team. One is the usual. One of them, of course, went to the girl.

        Is it wrong to encourage women? Yes, if it’s at the expense of someone else because then you’re just asking everyone to change the standard from baseball skill to gender superficiality. Granted, there are plenty of boys who don’t run hard to first base. But most don’t get game balls just for showing up.

        Also, I’d ever ever seen a pitcher make such a loud apology to a player for accidentally hitting them (hitting her, in this case). Inserting women into a men’s game is fine. But then it’s no longer the same game. I’m glad people aren’t shunning her or saying rude things. But on the other hand, false or exaggerated positivity I find to be just as annoying. But I’m certainly in the minority on this.

        • Timothy Lane says:

          Lowering standards for women can be a serious problem. This is why I was always dubious about women in combat. Some will genuinely qualify, but not enough to satisfy the femocrats and the pussy-whipped officers (especially in the Navy, as far as I can tell) who seek to appease them. And since they don’t want to admit they’re lowering standards for women, they end up lowering them for everyone — equality, yes, but then there was a reason those standards were there.

        • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

          If one wishes to have mixed sports I think we should start with the most ancient ones, i.e. boxing and wrestling. We could also add the 100 yard dash to that.

          I would quite enjoy watching a boxing matching match between any woman insane enough to get in the ring with a Sugar Ray Leonard or “Prince” Naseem. (One of the best boxers I ever saw.)

          • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

            I wouldn’t enter the ring with one if these guys even if I was inside a Panzer III.

            • Timothy Lane says:

              Good idea. I don’t think using a tank would be permitted under the Marquess of Queensberry rules. In a Captain Kentucky story in which CK challenges Muhammad Ali to a fight, the latter points out that superpowers would violate the rules. (“But the Marquess of Queensberry states what is right. No artificial powers can be used in this fight.”)

  7. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    I read a little more of the book last night. It was an interesting part where a British officer meets clandestinely with an old Hindu officer/friend of his from earlier times. The Hindu is pressed into service for the Muslim leader that the British are fighting. I forget all the names at the moment.

    The Hindu guy must choose between serving the British and serving the hated Muslims. And it’s pretty obvious to almost any Hindu that the better choice is the British. But that is certainly not an ideal situation. So this Hindu gives what seems to be intelligence on the fort or castle that the Muslim leader is walled up behind. There’s no inkling that the Hindu is setting up the British, and seems unlikely, but anything is possible at this point.

    I wonder if the British in the long run did India a service just to put a damper on the Muslims who ruin any country they gain power in.

  8. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    Last night I watched Sharpe’s Eagle via a new streaming service I’m testing out. (More on that later and elsewhere.) There are sixteen episodes available which includes 5 seasons and a couple specials (the last being 2008’s “Sharpe’s Peril”).

    “Sharpe’s Eagle” is a marked improvement over “Sharpe’s Rifles” (the very first episode). One wonders how the British army ever got on with so much dissent and so many villainous characters in its ranks. Sharpe runs into the Simmerson clan, led by Sir Henry Simmerson, leader of the South Essex Regiment, a regiment that Simmerson enjoys brutalizing. As will likely be the case in every episode, Sir Simmerson is the designated villain who “just doesn’t like his kind.”

    The only thing keeping Sharpe going is the support of Hogan who is technically a Royals Engineer officer but seems to act more like an aide de camp to (now) Lord Wellington. (Did he really have a snoz like this? It’s made rather prominent on David Troughton who plays Wellesley/Wellington in this series. Perhaps the artist was being kind.)

    They weave in a love interest for Sharpe which at least, this time, has some reason for being. Sharpe comes to the aid of several ladies who are ill-used by some British officers. He shows his pure sense of honor and decency as opposed to what passes for such a thing amongst “gentlemen.” Sharpe does eventually make a few friends including an officer who is a former Southerner and joined the British and fought against Washington.

    In this second episode, Sergeant Major Harper is now thoroughly on Sharpe’s side. No longer the villain, they have a proper one in Simmerson and his allies. (Simmerson, unfortunately, may be a recurring character which I can see getting old very fast.) And instead of what I thought was a horrible waste of good actors on the plot of raising a Spanish flag to supposedly rally the troops, Sharpe is involved in a proper battle with the French forces. We see scenes of him whipping the Essex Regiment into shape and preparing them to face Napoleon. This is as good as it has gotten so far in this series.

    Budget constraints obviously keep this in the province of “TV movie.” Via Hogan, Sharpe joins up with Simmerson’s South Essex Regiment which is tasked with capturing a bridge and blowing it up if necessary. At best you get “battlefield reenactment” type of action, but its sufficient for the purposes of telling the story. One reviewer said that this episode is the best of the series, so this might be a somewhat momentary blip. But it’s a good one. I hope they can maintain this level of quality.

    One person who has no problem with quality is Sean Bean. This is quite honestly (compared to the standard that exists today) an Oscar-level performance by him in this one. Along with Brian Cox (as Hogan) and David Troughton (as Wellington), there is a steady level of gravitas brought to the production despite its often rough edges and slight budget. Michael Cochrane (as Simmerson) is quite good in his role of villain as well, a crucial component. One reviewer writes:

    But a hero is only ever as good as his enemies are bad and Sharpe’s Eagle has two of the most detestable oafs to ever crop up in the series. With the French army a distant threat, his main encounters come with authority figures and rival officers, in this case Michael Cochrane’s inept Colonel Simmerson and Daniel Craig’s Lt. Berry. Simmerson is a snarling, beast of a man, addicted to scarification and with a stubborn belief that flogging and corporal punishment will keep his men in line. Craig on the other hand is delightfully slimy as an upper class villain with a penchant for abusing women, a cool headed and calculating evil to Simmerson’s over the top cad.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      If this appeared on TV, then it would be an Emmy-level, not Oscar-level, performance.

      Simmerson would have gotten his position through purchase, of course, and a lot of those officers would be poor quality. Then they might get promoted later to a general’s rank if they weren’t too obviously unqualified. Cecil Woodham-Smith focused the early part of The Reason Why (about the Charge of the Light Brigade) on how this worked with the Earl of Cardigan and the Earl of Lucan (though neither was really at fault for the charge, especially Cardigan, who certainly knew what was going to happen — he predicted that “the last of the Brudenells” would die, though in fact he didn’t — and protested). As the British went to the Crimea, Lucan commanded the cavalry division (the Light Brigade and the Heavy Brigade), and Cardigan the Light Brigade. But neither can hold a candle for incompetence to Lord Elphinstone in the 1842 retreat from Kabul.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        Simmerson did get his position through purchase and it was mentioned in this episode. Simmerson also demonstrated military incompetence. He lost the colors! A dying wish by an officer caught in Simmerson’s debacle (one of the few honorable officers in the South Essex Regiment) was for Sharpe to secure one of the French eagle standards.

        In the HBO series, “Rome,” the losing of one of Caesar’s eagle standards was a central plot point in that series — at least in regards to bringing Lucius Vorenus and Titus Pullo to the notice of Caesar himself.

        They take this thing very seriously. Hogan advised Sir Henry to go behind some barn and blow his brains out. Lord Wellington offered much the same advice. These were the King’s flags that the royal hand had personally touched.

        Again, whatever the exact media award, metaphorically (as I obviously meant it), Bean gives an Oscar-caliber performance.

        • Timothy Lane says:

          In the novel I, Claudius and its sequel Claudius the God, the Romans responded to the Teutoburger Wald disaster by launching punitive raids under Germanicus that were also intended to recover the lost eagles. He got 2 of them before Tiberius recalled him. His brother Claudius figured out where the last was and sent an army to recover it. They did.

    • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

      Yesterday, I put in a request at my library for “Sharpe’s Trafalgar.” I think I will be able to pick it up tomorrow or Thursday.

      I have seen several of the “Sharpe’s” films. It has been several years, so I cannot recall specifics, but I do recall enjoying them.

    • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

      One wonders how the British army ever got on with so much dissent and so many villainous characters in its ranks.

      Strict discipline to the point of where soldiers are afraid of their superiors ala the Roman Legions, and directing the pent up villainy at a bothersome opponent on a regular basis; an added advantage of which is the culling of a good percentage of the the low-lives populating the ranks.

  9. Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

    I finished “Sharpe’s Trafalgar” yesterday.

    In “Sharpe’s Trafalgar”, Sharpe is saying goodbye to India. He is forced to pay his own way back as the Company which brought him to India, will not pay for his return-passage to England. As he is not supposed to have any money, although he is in fact fabulously wealthy after taking the jewels of Tippoo, he books his voyage to England in steerage on a Company ship.

    Because of the danger of French war ships, Company ships sail in convoys which means they move slowly, but safely back to Great Britain. Unfortunately for Sharpe, the captain of the vessel Sharpe is on turns out to be a traitor and arranges a rendezvous with a notorious French ship which then captures the Company vessel. The French captain takes the traitor, and those who helped him, on board and sends the Company vessel, now maned by a few French sailors, on to Mauritius.

    Luckily for Sharpe and Co, they are intercepted by a British Man-O-War, captained by someone Sharpe has helped in the past. The Brits recapture the Company ship, take Sharpe, a British Lord and his wife on board the Man-O-War and send the Indiaman on to Capetown.

    The British captain is hell-bent on capturing the French vessel and those who helped betray the vessel to the French. He has not seen the vessel, but surmises that the French captain will be returning to Europe, thus the English captain sails West guessing the route the French captain will take.

    A long-distant chase ensues which appears to be ending with the French making Cadiz before the English can reach them. But then the French vessel is forced to change course due to an English frigate which is being used as a scout for what turns out to be the combined English Fleet. Yes, we are off Trafalgar.

    Soon thereafter, Sharpe meets Lord Nelson and is duly inspired by him. Nelson treats Sharpe completely differently than the way Wellesley has treated him, and Sharpe can see why his sailors love the Admiral.

    The Battle of Trafalgar takes place and Sharpe, who has been drilling with British Marines during his time afloat, fights like a devil. In the end, the Brits win, the traitors who arranged the capture of the Indiaman get their just deserts and Sharpe gets back some of his jewels, which were stolen from him.

    “Sharpe’s Tragalgar” was a good read, but it was the weakest of the three Sharpe’s book I have read.

    I am not sure why this is. Although it is historically the fourth book in the series, it was in fact written in 2000, long after the first Sharpe book written in 1981. Sometimes writers run into droughts when dealing with series-books.

    I also find the story line about Sharpe’s love affair afloat with a British aristocratic lady to be a real stretch. The idea that such an affair could be kept from others on a voyage of many months is absurd and suggesting that Sharpe thought this to be possible, at least for the first part of the affair, strains credulity.

    To my mind, the best part of the book is contained in about 20 pages starting around page 200. It is in these pages the one reads about Nelson and how his colleagues and men loved him. To these sailors, Nelson is infallible. A couple of lines sum up Nelson’s stature to these men. These lines come in a scene just before the start of the battle where Chase, the captain who has befriended Sharpe,

    “…took a prayer book from his pocket and leafed through its pages, seeking the Prayer to Be Said Before a Fight at Sea Against Any Enemy. He was not an outwardly religious man, but the captain had a blithe faith in God that was almost as strong as his trust in Nelson.”

    Wonderful writing.

    In case there was any doubt, this book shows that Sharpe is anything but a good man. He lets his passions get the better of him and does not hesitate to wrong others even though his immoral actions are the source of his troubles.

    I think Sharpe may be the most vicious anti-hero I have encountered in my years of reading.

    That being said, Bernard Cornwell has created, in Sharpe, a wonderful vehicle for weaving wonderful stories about English History and the Duke of Wellington, in particular.

    In each book of the Sharpe series, Cornwell includes a “Historical Note.” In this book’s note, he writes something which few have known and most have forgotten, what a shame.

    “Nelson, more than any man, imposed Britain on the nineteenth-century world.”

    Rule Britannia, Britannia rule the waves, and Britons never, never, never shall be slaves!

    • Timothy Lane says:

      “Rule, Britannia!” was written as a poem by James Thomson, a Scot. It was later put to music, and the lyrics of the chorus slightly altered. The second “Britannia” was added, and the “shall” was changed to “will”.

      I rather liked that notion that Chase had a higher faith in God than in anything or anyone else — except for Nelson.

      It definitely sounds like Cornwell was inspired by Fraser’s Flashman’s books, many of which I’m pretty sure were out before any of the Sharpe books. (The only real Sharpe I can think of now is the tragic Morrow housemaid Violet Sharpe, driven by police pressure to suicide in 1932.)

      • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

        I am pretty sure Cornwell, at the very least, had Flashman in the back of his mind as he wrote the Sharpe series. But Sharpe is a serious character and can sometimes be heroic, true and fair. But he is merciless to those who cross him, even if they can only cross him because of his own sins.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      Hmm. Mixing Sharpe with a seafaring tale. That sounds terrific, Mr. Kung. I’m still working my way through the live series with Sean Bean.

      • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

        While reserving the next Sharpe book at my local lending library, I noticed they also appear to have all the Sharpe films on dvd. After I read the books, I may start on the films.

        As to “Sharpe’s Trafalgar”, I should mention that Cornwell did a fantastic job on describing the details of 18th century sailing vessels.

        The reader will get a very good idea of the horrid conditions passengers had to endure.

        • Timothy Lane says:

          There are plenty of books on sailing in that era, including at least one non-fiction book (Two Years Before the Mast by Richard Dana Jr., about his experience as a common crewman for 2 years, which I read as a child) as well as a large array of fictional works. These tend to be well-researched in many cases. But I don’t recall anything which took a serious look at what it was like for a passenger.

          • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

            I have read one or two Patrick O’Brian books, as well as “Two Years Before the Mast” and “Captains Courageous”, but “Sharpe’s Trafalgar” stands out in this regard.

            I did enjoy the movie based on one of O’Brian’s books, which starred Russell Crowe.

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          Mr. Kung, I watched about the first half of the third in the TV series, “Sharpe’s Company.” It’s pretty good so far. Returning (I think he’s the guy from the book, “Sharpe’s Tiger” who loves tormenting soldiers) is the character of Hakeswill. He’s played to nasty brilliance by Peter Postlethwaite (“Brassed Off,” 1990’s “Treasure Island,” “Alien 3,” “Dragonheart,” “The Lost World,” and even an episode of “Lovejoy.”) I’m sure you know him and what a brilliant match for this character.

          I also ran into for the first time Sharpe’s three rules. I’m not trying to impress you with my memory because it’s not very good anyway. But it went something like this:

          1) Fight as hard as you can in battle

          2) Don’t get drunk unless I tell you to.

          3) Don’t steal from anyone but the enemy or unless you’re starving

          In this one, the British are laying siege to two major cities/forts in Spain. Politics enters this as much as military strategy. The result is that Sharpe has at least temporarily been demoted to lieutenant. And it appears that his special cache of men has been all but disbanded. The next target for siege is Badajoz. Casualties are again expected to be heavy. And Sharpe has tried to make a firm deal with a superior that if he is over the wall first, he will get a promotion that cannot be taken away from him. And that’s about where I left it.

          Speaking of hardship onboard ships, I was reading/skimming a book last night that I had check out of the virtual library: Off the Deep End: A History of Madness as Sea. Told from a progressive/atheistic slant, it can be annoying at times. Also, some chapters tend to ramble on. But there are some good accounts of individual tragedies at sea as well as some overall stats/opinions about why, for example, the rate of mental illness for British sailors was about ten times the normal on land.

          One of the theories was a simple as combining drunkenness (the sailors indeed seemed to have a rather large daily ration of alcohol) combined with hitting their heads on the low beam inside the ship. A plausible theory, on the face of it, but a bit speculative.

          Less speculative is the certainty that one reason mental illness tended to be rampant onboard ships of all kinds is that many counties or cities in England (or elsewhere) were looking to dump their mentally ill dependents on someone else (America, South Africa, New Zealand, Australia, etc.) New laws were coming on requiring municipalities to take better care of such people.

          There are many harrowing tales of cannibalism, of course, which was generally an accepted practice. Even killing people for food as a last resort wasn’t necessarily widely frowned upon apparently. But it did become an issue in the courts eventually and thus was legally frowned upon at some point. Steamships and modern forms of communication basically made long-term trials at sea fairly rare so cannibalism became a moot point.

          There are some tails of bad captains. I didn’t know that Vancouver was generally considered quite a monster. And Captain Bligh, in the schemes of things, is thought to have been no better or worse than average and it may have been Fletcher Christian who momentarily went off his rocker. Again, makes for interesting reading, but some of this informed speculation may be little better than speculation.

          • Timothy Lane says:

            The siege of Badajoz was interesting. Wellington forced a breach in its wall, and launched a full assault — the main attack at the breach (which was well defended and needed a well-supported attack) as well as a couple of diversionary attempts to climb the walls. As it happens, the breach held — but the French didn’t defend the walls and that’s how the British broke in.

            As was usual in such cases, the British sacked the town, which means lots of rape and looting. One of their officers, Harry Smith, rescued a Spanish woman and ended up marrying her. He later would end up as governor of Cape Colony. South African cities were named after both — Harrismith and Ladysmith. You can look up the latter to find out why the link to the siege of Badajoz is so appropriate.

            • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

              It will be interesting to see how much detail this episode goes into regarding the siege of Badajoz. I expect not much.

              Interesting also that Captain Hastings is now playing the role of Wellington. Another notable actor is in this episode: Clive Francis. He’s played in many things, but I certainly remember him from the current excellent Netflix series, “The Crown.” He’s appeared in “Yes, Prime Minister,” the “lodger” in “A Clockwork Orange,” and a whole lot of prominent British TV miniseries and shows.

              Clive Francis also plays Tommy Traddles in the 1966 series David Copperfield. I couldn’t get far into the book without being bored. (Sacrilege, I know.) Maybe this series will work for me.

              Sadly, I just read that of the original 12 episodes of the 1966 production, only 3 remain. Oh, well. But BritBox does have the 1999 production with some big names such as Ian McKellen, Bob Hoskins, Tom Wilkinson, Colin Farrell, and Maggie Smith. Ciarán McMenamin plays Copperfield and the young version (this could be annoying, but it might be a short part) is played by Harry Potter.

              Bean’s performance continues to be Oscar-worthy. And with the improvement of the cast (although I consider Captains Hastings as Wellington a step down), the third episode is maintaining the level of quality achieved in the second.

          • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

            the rate of mental illness for British sailors was about ten times the normal on land.

            One wonders where they obtained the numbers to make this assertion. An order of magnitude higher occurrence of mental cases would seem to be improbable, at least to me.

            Still, I can believe that the incidence of mental illness among British Tars was higher than the typical citizen.

            Alcohol was a likely contributor to the problem, but I do wonder about the low-beam idea. British sailors were not known for being tall.

            I would suspect that the Royal Navy’s recruiting method had more to do with it, i.e. impressing the scum in public houses in harbours would not likely result in the highest quality of sailor.

            I also wouldn’t be surprised if the incredibly crowded conditions on board a vessel helped drive people a bit mad. I think most sailors had a hammock with a space of about 15 inches between hammocks.

            Finally, if I recall correctly, sailors did not get much chance to sleep 6-7 hours at a time due to the bells system of keeping time/performing one’s duties on a ship. I think a sailor might get something like four hours sleep at a time. This would drive me mad, for sure.

            • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

              One wonders where they obtained the numbers to make this assertion.

              I have no idea. I don’t doubt it’s higher than the landlubbers. Some interesting mental issues were described that I had never heard of. Again, taking the book as gospel it notes a phenomenon (in very hot regions) were people would go delusional and jump off the ship, seemingly thinking there was a lush wooded field or whatever that they were seeing. I’d not heard of this phenomenon.

              What certainly seems quite credible is that normal people (Pringle Stokes, Robert Fitzroy — both captains of MHS Beagle) could be driven to a mental breakdown by the pressure of command combined with the truly horrendous and constant miserable conditions in and around Tierra del Fuego.

              There are some interesting descriptions of an optical effect whereby objects over the horizon are seen above the surface of the water, often inverted, but not always. This is thought to have given rise to the legend of The Flying Dutchman. This is apparently so common in the Strait of Messina that they even have a name for it: Fata Morgana. There are some samples of that at the Wiki page.

              Another amazing point, if true, is that there was a known cure (or preventative) or scurvy which the Royal Navy basically ignored for decades.

              14 inches for hammock spacing was considered generous, at least according to this book. The book goes into very plausible reasons for going a bit cuckoo onboard a ship: Bad food, the rolling of the deck (and general disorienting effect on the body being at sea), rats and pests of all type, lack of sleep (as you noted), too cold, too hot, and the air never being particularly fresh. And that’s just for passenger ships. Add to war ships the stress of whipping, war, etc.

              At the same time, the author notes (then, but probably more so now) what was considered the therapeutic effect of getting out to sea. Even some of the survivors of the worst tragedies (such as with The Essex), often went back to sea, and not just for a living (which most probably needed to do, having no other skills) but for pleasure on their own time, in their own small boats.

              • Timothy Lane says:

                It’s also possible that madness on land is underestimated. How many lowest-class sorts would be checked for it? But it would be noticed at sea.

                There were various ways of trying to prevent scurvy, not all of which actually worked. The consumption of fresh fruit (especially citrus) was one, but but proved inconvenient on long voyages until they started using lime juice in grog, which was officially started in 1795 but no doubt done by some captains earlier. One way Blight tried to deal with it on the Bounty was dehydrated soup; he also stocked up on sauerkraut, which probably worked pretty well. He certainly didn’t have a scurvy outbreak on the voyage.

              • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

                Those all sound like plausible reasons for a high occurrence of mental illness. I would also bet a fair portion of seamen were syphilitic, which would do nothing good for brain health.

                In “Sharpe’s Trafalgar”, Cornwell mentions that on his voyage out to India from England, he had 14 inches for his hammock space, so his steerage space on the voyage back was luxurious, by comparison.

              • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

                Bligh may then have been one of the more thoughtful captains if he stored sauerkraut to ward off scurvy. His lashes-per-sailor was something like 1.5 which was average to low, I guess.

                But think about if you’re in charge of a ship or a fleet. If the losses from scurvy are huge (and apparently they were), there’s something going on beyond mere negligence. But then considering how little regard the Admiralty had for the common sailor, many probably just didn’t care and/or thought about them as “surplus population”. But any rational response (let alone a humane one) was to keep ships fully operational with a full compliment of healthy crew. One can only suppose that Great Britain’s competition wasn’t much better.

              • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

                I vaguely recall sauerkraut helped scurvy and that some captains kept it on board. I think it might have also kept a while longer as it is fermented.

                One thing about Bligh which can be said without question is that he was a hell of a sailor.

                He took a row-boat full of men set adrift in the middle of the Pacific and sailed it something like 2,000 miles (as I recall) to Surabaya on Java. I do not believe he lost many men in the effort.

                ( I double-checked and it was more than 4,000 miles and he got his men to Timor, then went on to Surabaya and Batavia on Java. After that, back to England.)

              • Timothy Lane says:

                Yes, sauerkraut was probably as good a choice as any for a long-term voyage. The dehydrated soup, as I recall, was mainly mixed vegetables, so it probably had some value as well. He also got fresh fruit when he could, buying it in places like the Canary islands.

                Richard Hough discusses these efforts in Captain Bligh and Mr. Christian, in which he also covers Bligh’s voyage back to civilization (as I recall, no one died) and the fate of those who went to Pitcairn.

                Hough sees Bligh as superb in difficult circumstances, though he had his flaws (he never would have believed, much less accepted blame, but he may have caused Captain Cook’s murder by firing on the Hawaiians from the ship when he thought the situation was getting dangerous). In particular, Hough thinks he was soft when things got easy, such as failing to work his crew at Tahiti. When they suddenly got restored to Navy discipline after leaving there, things broke down quickly.

          • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

            Yes Peter Postlethwaite could play a good villain. I recall him as the “messenger” in “The Usual Suspects.”

            It is interesting that Hakeswill is still alive in this novel, as it would appear he met his end in “Sharpe’s Fortress”, which took place in India.

            • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

              I had the feeling something like that might be the case. In “Sharpe’s Company,” it’s also revealed that he has a newborn daughter. She’s in the city they will soon be besieging. His girl has run off ahead to take her (and the child’s guardians) out in time. Her name, I think, is Antonia.

          • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:


            It is in “Sharpe’s Riffles” that Richard first develops his “three rules” for the company.

            He is advised to give his men simple rules by which to conduct themselves, by the Spanish major who is carrying the mysterious chest.

  10. Timothy Lane says:

    I just checked out “scurvy” in wikipedia, and the history provides a good discussion of anti-scorbutics through history. The utility of fresh citrus fruits was well-known to the Spanish, who had plenty of oranges and lemons and plenty of ports to supply them all over the world. But various other things were also discovered, and there were various complications — full cooking could destroy the vitamim C. Copper could destroy the ability of absorbing it. (One result, ironically, is that the lime juice used in the Royal Navy because it was more easily available than other citrus fruits was nearly worthless.)

    The French learned that fresh, lightly cooked horse meat worked (especially organ meats). Robert Scott made a similar discovery about freshly killed seals. The Royal Navy started using fresh citrus long before the orthodox physicians believed that would work, which is why this didn’t become official until 1795. (In other words, the problem was the scientists, not the naval officers.)

  11. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    I finished the third episode of the Sharpe series: “Sharpe’s Company.”

    There is at least some detail regarding the siege of Badajoz. They show the British steadily blasting a hole in the city’s walls. Carnage then ensues. The plot falls apart as the writers work especially hard to give free reign to Hakeswill’s villainy. Neither this plot nor the various little dramas surrounding the siege make a lot of sense. It bounces all over and it’s frankly a bit of a bore.

    They had no less than 3 opportunities to kill Hakeswill throughout this but, of course, he escapes in the end. He’ll return in the next episode, “Sharpe’s Enemy,” and then no more appearances. After the first 15 minutes or so, this became a very disappointing episode. Bean was pretty good, but not as good as usual if only because there wasn’t much material to work with. Yes, he gets in the face of Hakeswill a couple of times and shouts a lot. But other than that, the all acted as if this guy wasn’t a danger. And, of course, Hakeswill sets up Harper. And Harper takes the lashes but he makes no attempt to retaliate in kind, even with a ranking officer on his side.

    There was just a sense to this episode that it was pieced together from various shots from more than one film crew without the care or desire to tell a story. It felt paper thin, like eating sawdust.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      I suspect one problem they had was that they didn’t want to show the sack of Badajoz — a Spanish city, after all, when Britain was allied with Spain, or at least its people. Did they at least show the capture of the city by diversionary attacks over the walls?

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        No diversionary attacks. Just a first failed attempt to storm through the break in the wall followed, of course, by a successful one led by Sharpe.

  12. Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

    Finished “Sharpe’s Triumph” which is the second book of the Sharpe series.

    It deals with Sir Arthur Wellesley’s first major victory which took place at the Battle of Assaye.

    Like all the Sharpe books, Cornwell does a good job giving the reader an idea of the conditions under which the Brits lived in India at the turn of the nineteenth century.

    The book introduces the East India Company officer, William Dodd, who sold his services to the enemies of the Company. He is a wonderfully evil and monstrously ambitious man.

    Sargent Hakeswill is also back. Since I did not read the books in order, this is the third book in which the Sargent has appeared. He is an odious man, but after the third book, he is beginning to seem a caricature. In each book he lays traps for Sharpe, and in each book, Sharpe avoids the snare and punishes Hakeswill.

    In the first book, Sharpe throws Hakeswill in a tiger pit. We find out in the second book that the tigers had just been fed, so Hakeswill escapes with his life.

    In the second book, Sharpe throws Hakeswill in an enclosure with an elephant which has been used to crush people with its foot.

    In the third book, we find out that Hakeswill has somehow eluded the elephant’s foot and is still after Sharpe. Again, Sharpe triumph’s and throws Hakewill into a snake pit.

    I was sure that was the end of Hakeswill, but I see from Brad that Hakeswill turns up in some battle in Europe, trying to get Sharpe as usual.

    Apparently, Cornwell expressed regret when he finally killed off Hakeswill. I can’t agree with him. I wish he had done it sooner.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      Actually, I suspect every time he “killed” Hakeswill, he meant it. Then, for some reason, he would decide he needed to revive him. You’ll recall that Doyle did this for Holmes after visiting Reichenbach Falls and getting inspired there. The funny thing is that, as he noted in a piece that came out a few years later, he could write plenty of stories set before then. The Hound of the Baskervilles was set before then, and at least a few later stories seem to have been. “The Adventure of the Dying Detective”, set when Watson wasn’t with Holmes, almost certainly was.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      I wish he had done it sooner.

      A little Hakeswill goes a long way. The author was obviously attached to the character. Persistent and consistent characters are what a series of novels are all about. You follow their lives. You get to know certain personalities like old friends. The surroundings are familiar.

      The problem with Hakeswill was that he was like a boat anchor. Instead of acting like an “old friend” (or even an old villain), he chained an otherwise dynamic story to him and would not let it move on. As a one-dimensional villain, he was good. But it’s like a simple knock-knock joke that you’ve heard before: funny the first time, but not thereafter.

      I liked Q the first time or two in “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” But after that I was pretty sure he was not a function of the sci-fi writers but of fan mail. You can’t fault a show necessarily for trying to appeal to its fan base. But you see how “fan mail” characters time after time ruin a series. My philosophy is simple and functional: Instead of going over the same ground again and again, use that same talent you used to come up with an interesting villain (and it’s almost always a villain) and create a new one.

      Is Cromwell seriously trying to tell us that there were no other colorful sergeants who were hard on his own men in a villainous way or in some other way? Spread out the villainy. Give us some variety.

      Moriarty could have easily been overused in the Holmes series. But he wasn’t. Often he was referred to as a dark backdrop: “Could this be the work of master criminal Moriarty?” And even when it was, credit Conan Doyle for still mixing it up. In “The Adventure of the Empty House” we have Holmes engaged with Moriarty by proxy, the murderous and extremely dangerous Colonel Moran.

      I sit here almost dreading the next Sharpe TV episode because the next one (thankfully, the last) includes Hakeswill.

      • Timothy Lane says:

        I recall that the Granada series somewhat combined “The Final Problem” with a previous story (I think it was “The Red-Headed League”, but I’m not absolutely sure). Moriarty made a brief appearance at the end of the first story as someone angry at the plan’s failure, thus suggesting what led him to start targeting Holmes.

        “The Mazarin Stone” was apparently based on a play in which the villain was Sebastian Moran, who most likely would have escaped the death penalty for his unsuccessful attempt on Holmes. (Proving him guilty of an actual murder would have been much harder than the attempted murder charge.) “His Last Bow” has a reference to “the living Colonel Sebastian Moran”, so it would be possible.

        Michael Dunn played Dr. Miguelito Loveless 10 times on The Wild, Wild West, including 8 times in the first 2 seasons. His henchgirl Antoinette was in the first 6. The only other villain to appear more than once was Count Manzeppi (Victor Buono).

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          I think they wore out the Dr. Loveless character. Some of their best episodes featured quite less dramatic villains, although Loveless was good for 2 or 3 of them. After that, I remember rolling my eyes even as a kid and thinking: “Geez…can’t they come up with something new?” Loveless grew completely tiresome as a character.

          • Timothy Lane says:

            I liked the bulk of the Loveless episodes, but there were a few I could have done without. The final one was pretty decent, but the third year episode was mediocre. I also don’t know why Phoebe Dorin (who was Michael Dunn’s actual singing partner) stopped appearing. I liked Antoinette, and as a henchgirl she could have appeared in every Loveless episode.

            Dr. Loveless and Count Manzeppi weren’t captured, which enabled them to re-appear. I recall at least 2 others who escaped (Ida Lupino’s Dr. Faustina and Agnes Moorehead’s Emma Valentime) and could have returned, but didn’t. (I would have liked seeing Dr. Faustina again, I think.)

      • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

        A little Hakeswill goes a long way.

        It certainly does. One grows tired of his violently twitching face, hearing about his being hanged as a child and him constantly saying “says so in the scriptures” for justifying his latest crime.

        I have a similar beef with Lawrence Sanders’ McNally books. In every one of them, the readers is subjected to the same old foibles, habits, dress habits and general history of each of the main characters. I suppose this is an easy way to fill up pages.

        Moriarty could have easily been overused in the Holmes series. But he wasn’t.

        I had never thought of it that way. Nice observation.

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          In every one of them, the readers is subjected to the same old foibles, habits, dress habits and general history of each of the main characters.

          Mr. Kung, several weeks ago I read an article about “The Top Ten Things Writers Should Avoid.” I don’t have that list handy if only because elements of the list were quite feeble in my opinion.

          But one of the “don’t do’s” was just what you described. I think writers see this technique so often that they just suppose it is necessary. I recall that “don’ts” list mentioning that good writers (and he named a few names) will paint the picture of a character as you go along instead of dumping it all in a paragraph as if from a big hydraulic truck. I couldn’t agree more.

          • Timothy Lane says:

            “Show, don’t tell.”

            • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

              I totally agree about “Show, don’t tell.” In fact, your humble tyrannically editor never quits fussing about the rationale of the new approach of avoiding the maelstrom of The Daily Drama.

              If someone wants to show how mean and dastardly the Left is, I’ll print a 1000 of their articles. But show us, don’t just tell us. That is, be a reporter rather than a glorified armchair quarterback who complains in endless theoretical detail. Reporting was always the essence of my two primary rules for having a political article published (with a couple exceptions…I pretty much give Selwyn a pass because he’s not boring):

              1) Tell us what you are doing to combat the Left.

              2) Tell us about what someone else is doing to combat the Left.

              The other essence, of course, was doing something. Do. Report. Report. Do.

              Luckily since instituting these rules, despite losing some readers and content providers, I have not had to sell my private jet. I almost feel bad for Glenn. And yet he’s pretty much the essence of The Daily Drama. He’s made a lot of money from it. Ben Shapiro is the new rising star in this regard. And I can’t stand to listen to the man even if, technically, he makes a lot of good points. It’s like listening to a blender hit a piece of walnut shell.

  13. Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

    Finished “Sharpe’s Prey”, which is, chronologically, the 6th of Cornwell’s Sharpe’s novels.

    The novel takes place after Sharpe has arrived back in England from India via the Battle of Trafalgar. He and his aristocratic lover, Grace, who he met on the voyage from India, have scandalized society. Sharpe has cashed in the jewels he took from Tippoo Sultan and bought an estate which he has put in Grace’s name for her security.

    Unfortunately for Sharpe, Grace has died after giving birth to their child. The child also died and because the family claims the child is the child of Grace’s dead husband, not Sharpe, the estate passes from Grace to child to her dead husband’s family. Easy come, easy go.

    Poor Sharpe is left penniless. He decides to sell his lieutenancy, but cannot as it was given to him as a field promotion, i.e. not purchased.

    He decides to revisit his childhood haunts, where he ends up killing one of his foundling home torturers and running away to an inn which serves the military. There he encounters Sir David Baird, who he fought with in India. It turns out Baird has been looking for Sharpe as he needs someone to accompany another officer who is commissioned to go to Denmark and bribe the Danish Crown Prince to turn over the Danish fleet to great Britain.

    To this point in the book there have already been a number of very dramatic scenes, but it gets better once Sharpe and the man he accompanies land on Danish soil.

    Once again Cornwell delivers the goods. “Sharpe’s Prey” covers the 1807 war against Denmark, a war about which I knew nothing. The war is precipitated by the treaty of Tilsit between Napoleon and Tsar Alexander of Russia. One of the secret clauses of this treaty agrees that the French could take over the Danish fleet, the only sizable fleet available to the French after their disastrous defeat at Trafalger. The Brits will do anything to prevent this.

    “Sharpe’s Prey” is shorter than the other Sharpe’s novels which I have read. It is about 250 pages, all which turn themselves.

    I will now move on to the next book in the series, “Sharpe’s Rifles.”

    • Timothy Lane says:

      There had previously been a British attack on Copenhagen that took out the Danish navy and created a phrase that would later be resurrected by Jackie Fisher when he suggested that they Copenhagen the Kaiser’s growing navy shortly before the Great War. Nelson was in a subordinate role, and famously turned his blind eye to the command not to attack. I do vaguely reading that there was a second attack around this time, and for the same reason.

      • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

        I knew of the earlier attack, but do not recall ever reading about the 1807 expedition.

        Cornwell wrote in his historical notes that the Brits remember the 1801 campaign, but the Danish remember the 1807 campaign due to the great damage and loss of life which resulted from the Brits bombarding the city while women and children were still in it. Apparently, this was the equivalent of bombing cities in WWII, unheard of till it happened.

        • Timothy Lane says:

          This makes sense. I’m pretty sure the 1801 attack was purely a naval action, the destruction of the fleet being the goal. Ships would also fight it out with forts, which remained the case for a long time — the first naval action of the Great War involved Austro-Hungarian river monitors bombarding Serbian forts at Belgrade.

  14. Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

    Just finished “Sharpe’s Rifles”, the 6th book in Bernard Cornwell’s Sharpe series.

    The book takes place in 1809 in Galacia, northwest Spain, after a loss by British and Spanish forces against those of the French.

    During the retreat, Sharpe’s company is attacked by French cavalry and loses its major and captain, leaving Sharpe in command. Having been promoted from the ranks, Sharpe is not held in high regard by his subordinates and ends up in a fight to determine which way the remaining company will go.

    The fight is interrupted by a Spanish major and his men. He offers to guide Sharpe and his company west so they my eventually find the right road south to Lisbon.

    The major is carrying a mysterious chest with him, which he is protecting with his and the lives of all under his command. That the box is worth this attention is shown by the fact that Napoleon has sent a cavalry regiment, under a ruthless colonel, to capture the box and bring it back to Paris.

    What is in the box and what happens to it, develops into the major theme of the book.

    Like all of Cornwell’s “Sharpe” series, this book is well written, but one can tell that he wrote this earlier than the previous five books which I have read, so far. Sharpe’s character is not as well defined in this book as in the previous ones. And the Sharpe one encounters in the first five novels is a more mature man than the Sharpe in “Sharpe’s Riffles”, even though he is considerably older in the later book.

    I guess this is to be expected when an author has to write new books to fill in the back-story of a character he never imagined would turn out so popular.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      Brad reviewed the TV version. You might want to compare the two, since he gave a good description (which I remembered well enough to check for it).

      That’s Galicia, not Galacia. Same spelling as the Habsburg crownland in Poland. This would have been during or after Sir John Moore’s retreat to Corruna, and I doubt Sharpe would have preferred legging it to Lisbon, unless he somehow missed his ride back from Corruna. Getting past the French, who occupied most of Spain as well as Portugal north of the Douro/Duero, would have been no picnic.

      • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

        While reading the book, I did a little checking on Galicia as it is an area about which I know little.

        Imagine my surprise to learn that the first medieval European kingdom was established in Galicia in 411, when the Suebi took over the area as allies of the Roman Empire. Perhaps this is one of the reasons my old history professor said the crustiest aristocracies in Europe were the Spanish and Hungarian. It might also be the case, because both had century-long battles with Muslims.

        Those Germanic tribes were everywhere.

        • Timothy Lane says:

          Incidentally, at the beginning of the Spanish Civil War, the Prime Minister of Spain was Santiago Casares Quiroga (the target of Jose Calvo Sotelo’s comparison to Kerensky and Karolyi in a key debate), head of a party supporting autonomy for Galicia (needed to get decent train service, according to High Thomas). Another important native was one Francisco Franco Bahamonde.

      • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

        Brad reviewed the TV version. You might want to compare the two, since he gave a good description

        The TV version sounds very different from the book. Like others in the TV series, I think the program may combine parts of different books into one show.

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          You were mentioning to me offline, Mr, Kung, that Sharpe was a much darker character in the books. In the TV series (so far) he is quite a virtuous character amongst various villains (on both sides of the war).

          I rather like this TV version of Sharpe. He’s not all that much different from Boromir. A good chap who might sometimes go a little off the rails, but you definitely want him fighting on your side.

          • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

            In “Sharpe’s Rifles” Sharpe’s dark side is not as apparent. Again, I find this interesting as the book was written in 1988, whereas the other books I have read were written in the late 1990’s and 2000’s. Clearly, Cornwell developed the character as he went a long and the Sharpe in the Indian books is a more mature man, although he is supposed to be younger, than the Sharpe in “Sharpe’s Rifles.”

            • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

              I’ve read a couple devastating reviews of the latest comic book movie, Infinity War….over at NRO of all places, including this one by Armond White. And I read on Drudge the other day that there is a glut of comic book movies with 14 coming in 2019.

              What does this have to do with Sean Bean and Sharpe? Well, I suppose it’s remarkable that (so far) the TV series has played him more as a good guy (if rough and tumble) hero rather than a morally ambiguous one which is all the rage these days. According to Mr. Kung, Sharpe has done some bad things in the book. Having not read the books, I’m not sure if the literary Sharpe is a self-conscious attempt by the author to follow this trend or if he’s just inserting a little harsh reality into the character. The good guys in such a setting as the British Army in foreign lands might have been few and far between. It may have been quite difficulty to be a good guy and stay alive.

              So it’s interesting to read that Sharpe (in the books) was a more mature man when he was younger. I wonder if Cornwell, perhaps unconsciously, was chasing a few of these trends — trends which have culminated in a plethora of comic book movies made for adults which are increasingly devoid of any cinematic virtuous element. (Even as a juvenile my own appetite was for far richer stories. That adults flock to this garbage is amazing.)

              • Timothy Lane says:

                It’s possible he decided, one way or another, to switch from a slightly flawed hero (like Hornblower) to something approaching an anti-hero as the market changed.

              • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

                Having not read the books, I’m not sure if the literary Sharpe is a self-conscious attempt by the author to follow this trend or if he’s just inserting a little harsh reality into the character.

                I’m hoping that the author is trying to show a development in the character from being a ruthless, immoral bastard (literally) into a somewhat more thoughtful and moral man. Maybe I’m just naive’.

          • Timothy Lane says:

            I haven’t seen or read any of this, but as a Tolkien fan I find that comparison to Boromir very appropriate. His besetting flaw was his ambition, but he was an excellent warrior and killed a lot of orcs before they finally got him — mainly with arrows.

            • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

              I’ll find it difficult to ever separate the Boromir character from Sean Bean. They go good together. His ambition was certainly subverted to bad things by The Ring. Sméagol was instantly turned to murder by it.

              One of the real cop-outs by Tolkien in this supposedly Christian-themed story is that the ring was not a temptation. It was all-powerful. There was very little choice involved as to whether to do its bidding or not. I’m therefore not sure if there is an analogy to The Ring in the real world. Maybe drugs, after having made the choice to take them (with an all-consuming Ring-like addiction naturally following).

              But few would say that The Lord of the Rings was about drug addiction. In fact, I think it’s vastly over-rated as to meaning. In the end, I think most people (including myself) like it because of the fellowship aspect. It’s a glorified buddy-buddy movie/book with a few monsters thrown in. It is action/adventure, and a good one. But The Ring always stood out to me as one of your very large McGuffins.

  15. Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

    After successfully leading his riflemen from behind enemy lines in “Sharpe’s Rifles”, Richard has been put into the service of Captain Hogan in “Sharpe’s Havoc.”

    Hogan, has been mapping northern Portugal for the British army and acting as something of a spy for Wellesley who is back in England.

    As the novel opens, the French are about to take Oporto in northern Portugal and the British are withdrawing. Captain Hogan orders Sharpe to proceed to a specific place in order to rescue and return a young English woman, Kate, to her mother, the widow of a wealthy wine merchant. When given these orders, he is also told to keep an eye on a certain Colonel Christopher, who is somehow befriended to the family.

    In the event, the colonel orders Sharpe and his men to depart and get to the south side of the river. Sharpe follows his orders, but the bridge across the Duoro is destroyed before Sharpe and his men can get across. Sharpe then moves east in hopes of finding another bridge or boats to get his men away from the French forces. On the way, he runs into a young Portuguese officer, Vincente, and his men, who help Sharpe and his company out of a tight spot.

    Sadly, the French have burnt all the boats and Sharpe and Co are forced to head in the direction of the location where Captain Hogan had originally ordered Sharpe pursue and rescue Kate. By the time Sharpe arrives, Kate has gone through a wedding ceremony (with the corrupt Colonel Christopher), which unbeknownst to her, is not valid.

    From that point onward, the book deals with the traitor Christopher trying to play two sides against the middle in order to gain wealth and power, whoever wins.

    Christopher is only the most pronounced of a certain type which starts showing up in the Sharpe books after Sharpe leaves India. These types are all looking for the main chance and tend to believe Napoleon and the French will, sooner or later, be victorious against Great Britain and the rest of Europe. Since the French will then have the power, these Brits want to be on the right side of history and profit from France’s glory.

    One thing which ties these opportunists together is that they all talk about the way France and Napoleon are sweeping away the old ways and superstitions i.e. religion, which have held mankind back. Their new god is “reason” and efficiency and a united Europe is their goal. Of course, they are the ones with the intelligence and education to determine what is reasonable and desirable. These types are still with us, but they were something relatively new and strange in 1809 as they had arisen out of the French Revolution.

    Napoleon was just the first of several tyrants who dreamt of a “United Europe” run in an efficient and reasonable way. The Nazis, and Soviets also tried this, but failed. The EU is run by those of a similar mindset.

    “Sharpe’s Havoc” is another good read by Bernard Cornwell, which gives the reader a wonderful idea of the history of that time and place. At 300 pages, it can be read in a few quiet hours, and will take the reader back to the important events which took place in northern Portugal in 1809.

    P.S. As I had hoped, it appears that Sharpe is developing into a somewhat more moral man as time goes on.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      I believe this sort of anti-religious “reason” came in with the Enlightenment. The French culture was more influenced by this (think of Diderot, Montesquieu, and to some extent Rousseau) than the British (aside from Hume, they seemed to keep some degree of religion) or the rest of Europe. The revolutionaries were mostly middle-class educated people, very much followers of the philosophes.

      • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

        I believe this sort of anti-religious “reason” came in with the Enlightenment. The French culture was more influenced by this (think of Diderot, Montesquieu, and to some extent Rousseau) than the British

        Yes, the French “Enlightenment” philosophers seem to have begun the big leftist push, particularly against the Catholic Church. Interestingly, this impulse was picked up, expanded and intensified by Central and then Eastern European Jews.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      Napoleon was just the first of several tyrants who dreamt of a “United Europe” run in an efficient and reasonable way. The Nazis, and Soviets also tried this, but failed. The EU is run by those of a similar mindset.

      One can have some minor sympathies for the people who groaned for centuries under a religious bureaucracy which tended to become what all bureaucracies become: somewhat distant from their original purpose, their new purpose being to secure and extend the bureaucracy for the sake of it.

      Ah, but paradise is never that far away in the human mind. Fresh minds dream of wiping the slate clean and ushering in an era governed by “reason” (or Allah or Der Fuhrer or the Workers).

      The American Experiment, at its heart, is about how to bring about an overall stable unity in the macro whilst providing in the micro for the inherent and inevitable diversity (the really kind, not the fraudulent PC kind) that is part and parcel of not only the reality of human beings (we are not clones) but the requirements of living free.

      Most conservatives understand that “the state of nature” is where no one wants to live. Anarchy or pure tribalism with no higher unifying factor or purpose is a beast. On the other hand, when we try to expunge all tribalism except the one anointed by the State or The Party we might indeed be unified but in order to do so we must be constantly terrorized. And there will be little freedom in such a state.

      Somewhere between the naive dreams of libertarians and the darker nightmares of fascists there lies The American Experiment. The evil minions of the Left guessed, intuited, or were self-consciously aware that the path to “fundamental transformation” was to undermine our society’s overall organizing principles, such as family, Christianity, work, personal responsibility, and a plethora of private charities.

      Redefining marriage, blurring genders, flooding our country with illegal third-world aliens, promoting atheism, welfare, packing courts with lawless mal-interpreters, dumbing down the culture through a debased education, news, and entertainment industry — these are all key to undermining America’s historic unifying principles. And one can argue, for instance, the merits and demerits of “gay marriage” until you’re blue in the face. But unless one understands the overall context, it’s a useless debate.

      This basic philosophy about the West, in general, and America, in particular, are no longer taught. There is now no more context to civic thought for people than immediate tribalism, a situation that works well for the tyrants, bureaucrats, and Marxist revolutionaries.

      Had Hitler won the war in Europe, it’s more than possible that after a succession of leaders, the establishment of a functioning bureaucracy, and just the passage of time that the Third Reich in 2018 might not have looked much different form the EU. Both have totalitarian regulatory, financial, and political ends. Certainly their means toward their ends were thankfully different. But there are some who note the irony of a modern Germany holding much more than its share of influence in Europe.

      Napoleon, of course, was one of the most successful regulators and bureaucrats ever. He worked tirelessly to micro-manage all aspects of French society when he was their leader. Only his means differed from Nancy Pelosi, Barack Obama, or even Paul Ryan. And it’s not that this difference in means isn’t vastly important. But it’s chilling to see that the ends of Hitler and those of your modern political leader often aren’t all that different. They view themselves as somewhat omniscient and not only able to run everyone else’s lives but truly believe they should do so.

      • Timothy Lane says:

        In a way, this is a consequence of the Enlightenment and its concept of enlightened despotism. At the time, this was theoretically based on the idea that despotism is inevitable, so they might as well get an enlightened one. But at some, perhaps very early, it began to seek it for its own sake, using the enlightenment to justify the despotism. This is certainly the case now.

        Incidentally, something similar happened with racism as a justification for slavery. If all mean are indeed created equal, then how can slavery be justified? When some group (which in this case was defined by race) is so inferior in some key way(s) that slavery is justified for their own good.

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          Christians believe that inside the heart of every man is embedded a desire for the Creator — for the perfect, the divine, the transcendent, the perfectly just and truthful. This pursuit, when correctly understood and ordered, is good and productive.

          On the other hand, it is no more complicated than to say that these “Enlightened” impulses are atheistic impulses powered by a utopian earthly ideology inherently munged with the desire for raw power — all marinated in the Secret Sauce of grievance and payback.

          All “enlightened” philosophies express, of course, the greatest affinity for one’s fellow man. This turns into the rationalization for abusing man in order to usher in a hoped-for earthly utopia. No penalty toward “reactionary” man (including Christian bakers refusing to bake cakes) is too much. These, after all, are the unenlightened beasts holding back The Perfect Society.

          Slavery itself takes no particular political philosophy to institute. It’s the natural state of man’s disposition toward those outside his tribe. But it does take a heapin’ spoonful of moral and political philosophy to state why such a thing should be forbidden.

          As always, the easy thing to justify is the coarse and beastly, even if wrapped in nice promises and feel-good rhetoric. The hard thing to do is always to make the argument against acting out in our lowest-common-denominator beastly ways. This is certainly why totalitarian movements are so often powered by yutes. Yutes lack the filters of wisdom and experience and know only their immediate emotional predilections.

          • Timothy Lane says:

            Remember, one consequence of the Enlightenment was the American revolution, as well as some of the better opposition arguments — consider Samuel Johnson’s “Why do the loudest yelps for liberty come from the drivers of slaves?” What it means today isn’t what it meant back then, especially outside France.

            • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

              Remember, one consequence of the Enlightenment was the American revolution

              Many would not necessarily agree with this slant.

              It is good to recall that Jefferson and many other leaders of the Revolution claimed that Americans were re-claiming their ancient rights, which had been abridged by King George and his ministers.

              Thomas Paine was probably the most well-known of the “Enlightenment” group and he turned out to be a complete nutter.

      • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

        One can have some minor sympathies for the people who groaned for centuries under a religious bureaucracy which tended to become what all bureaucracies become: somewhat distant from their original purpose, their new purpose being to secure and extend the bureaucracy for the sake of it.

        The Catholic Church became the boogey-man of Europe. Those of the “Enlightenment” saw it as the most obscurantist power in Europe. That being the case, it had to be destroyed.

        The Church could not be destroyed so France became something of a schizophrenic State with, on the one hand, a very crusty Catholic bureaucracy and peasantry and, on the other, the most unhinged atheists. France got the worst of both worlds.

        • Timothy Lane says:

          One consequence of their urban intellectual disengagement from the country is the persistence of royalist revolts in the Vendée. There was even one against Napoleon in 1815 when they hardly had the time to start one.

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          An interesting thought that France got the worst of both worlds.

          For what it’s worth, libertinism (often misdiagnosed as “liberalism” or “libertarian”) requires the eradication of a higher moral authority — as do any atheistic regimes. Some totalitarian regimes (Islam) use God as an excuse to be beastly.

          I’m still working my way through another viewing of the Cadfael series. What is clear (and is clear to any reasonable Catholic or Protestant) is that man’s fallen nature is not magically erased by participating in religion. Indeed, for revolutionaries, the fact that there are sinners within the church (and never apparently within their own ranks) is all the justification needed to take the Marxist/”Enlightened” wrecking-ball to it.

          Then begins this bizarre and beastly little game that must be played, for when the Good is delegitimized then the Bad (and even the Ugly) must be rationalized constantly. This is when the truth becomes subversive.

  16. Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

    I have now finished, “Sharpe’s Eagle”, chronologically the eighth of the series, but the first Sharpe novel Cornwell wrote, way back in 1981.

    The novel takes place in 1809 Spain shortly before and during the Battle of Talavera.

    Like all the Sharpe novels, this one is an entertaining and easy read, but it is somehow different from the previous Sharpe books I have read. I suppose that is due to the fact that, being the first Sharpe novel, the character and Cornwell’s overall style of writing has not yet fully developed.

    That being said, the Sharpe character is already a very tough man who is happy to tread the line between good and bad and happily walk over it now and again.

    As in the other books, he has animal magnetism for women and ends up in bed with at least one, before the whole tale is told.

    That being said, the man is born for battle and is incredibly brave. Having joined the army at the age of 16 as a private soldier, he is now promoted to a brevet captain in charge of a company of militia. Sharpe’s regimental colonel is a pompous and dishonest fool who is hated by his men for his overzealous discipline and willingness to sacrifice them for his glory. He has, mostly, surrounded himself with subordinates who suck up to him and have no idea how war is waged.

    As is to be expected, the colonel’s incompetence and vanity get his regiment into serious trouble. More importantly, the man jeopardizes the British forces under Wellesley. Luckily, Sharpe takes charge of a small front and through experience, will and luck saves the day.

    The book is short, about 270 pages so it takes no time to read. Like all the other Sharpe novels I have reviewed, I can recommend one pick up and start “Sharpe’s Eagle.” Next up will be “Sharpe’s Gold.”

  17. Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

    “Sharpe’s Gold”

    It is 1810 and Sharpe is still in Spain as a gazetted Captain commanding his old Riflemen and a company of the South Essex.

    Wellington orders him and his men on a secret mission into a no-mans-land close to enemy territory in order to locate and bring back a treasure of gold which has been found by an English Major who has close ties to the Spanish guerillas. Wellington makes clear to Sharpe that without this gold the Peninsula War is lost.

    When Sharpe and his men arrive at the village where the gold is hidden, they are surprised to find two regiments of “French” cavalry, including one of Polish Lancers.

    While watching the French from the hills, Sharpe notes a number of guerillas on horseback approach the village. The French immediately mount up and pursue the guerillas, but it turns out that it is a trap set by leader of the guerillas, a ruthless ex-colonel called El Catolico, who is called this because he says prayers over his prisoners as he tortures them to death. The French lose a good number of men because of this trap and must regroup at the village.

    Determined to find the gold, Sharpe decides to make a surprise attack on the village during the night in order to see if he can find out exactly where the gold is hidden. During the assault, Sharpe busts into a room where a beautiful woman is tied spread-eagle to a bed. As Sharpe starts to free her, she motions to him with her head and he turns to that direction just in time to avoid being shot by a French colonel who had been hiding between the bed and the wall. Several of Sharpe’s men fill the room and Teresa, the freed woman, grabs a sword and stabs the French colonel in the crotch leaving him to die.

    Sharpe, his men, Teresa and her wounded brother escape the village and avoid the French cavalry. Before leaving, Sharpe finds out where the gold is supposed to be hidden, but when go goes to that spot, he finds the gold is gone. Has he failed in his mission?

    For some unknown reason, the French decide to suddenly leave the village and Sharpe and Co., are able to return to the village shortly thereafter. They are appalled by what they find. Everyone and every living thing has been slaughtered.

    El Catolico returns and tells Sharpe that the French have taken the gold and that there is nothing for him to do but go back to Wellington. Sharpe and his men are escorted by the guerillas to an area nearer British lines, but smelling a rat, Sharpe goes back and finds the gold is in fact still hidden in the village. He takes the gold and Teresa as a hostage and starts back for Lisbon.

    The rest of the story is about how El Catolico and his guerillas pursue Sharpe for the gold and revenge. On the way back to Wellington, Sharpe and his company are forced to stop in Almeida which is just about to come under siege by the French.

    I well let the reader find out for himself how things turn out.

    The book without Cornwell’s “Historical Commentary” is slightly shorter than 250 pages. While a good read, I find it was slightly less well written than some of the others in the series. There are one or two points which are a little sloppy. For instance, in “Sharpe’s Gold” Cornwell writes about a seven-barreled gun which would be great except that the recoil is so great that nobody can fire it except a giant like Sharpe’s sergeant Harper. Strangely enough, Sharpe had no trouble firing this weapon, multiple times in “Sharpe’s Trafalgar.” That is a relatively small complaint when compared to the overall enjoyment I have had reading the first nine books in the Sharpe series.

    Now it is on to the next book, “Sharpe’s Escape.”

  18. Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

    “Sharpe’s Escape” and “Sharpe’s Fury” are both history. I move on to “Sharpe’s Battle.”

    One aspect of all the Sharpe novels, which I find very enjoyable is the way Cornwell introduces a good number of wonderful historical characters we never heard of or have forgotten. Some of them are truly amazing men.

    In “Sharpe’s Fury” we read of Sir Thomas Graham. This wealthy Scot had settled into a comfortable life of domesticity, sadly his beloved wife took ill. He took her to the continent, but she died shortly thereafter. While Graham was arranging to ship her body home from a port in France, some French revolutionary soldiers opened the coffin and abused her corpse.

    From that moment forward Sir Thomas, who had been avid supporter of the French Revolution, saw what the leftists were really like, and he became an implacable enemy of the French. He personally raised a regiment of infantry and went on to fight the French, retiring after Napoleon was defeated. He went back to his estates and died at the age of 95.

    In “Sharpe’s Escape” and other novels of the series, one reads of another very interesting character, Rowland Hill, fondly known by his troops as “Daddy Hill.” He was so called because of his great care and affection for his troops as well as his lack of cursing and overall demeanor. His soldiers loved him.

    Daddy Hill eventually rose to become the commander of the British Army.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      I get the impression that Hill was more or less Wellesley’s #2 in the Peninsular War, though as I recall he wasn’t available at Waterloo. Naturally, having several books on the Duke of Wellington and the Peninsular War, I was familiar with him, though not his overall career. I hadn’t heard of Graham. I wonder if Baroness Orczy ever heard of him and based the motivations (though not the deeds) of Percy Blakeney on him. Probably not, but who knows?

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      From that moment forward Sir Thomas, who had been avid supporter of the French Revolution, saw what the leftists were really like, and he became an implacable enemy of the French.

      What a great aspect of those books to find a quite digestible and pleasing way to teach some history. And Leftism is always great until it happens to you.

      Regarding Daddy Hill, I thought swearing was required in the British army. Much to learn.

      • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

        Regarding Daddy Hill, I thought swearing was required in the British army.

        It was, that’s why Daddy Hill was so unusual.

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          Perhaps not strictly related to the British Army, here’s The Top 50 Most Beautiful British Insults..

          Love “Cheese Eating Surrender Monkeys.” “Wanker” is a classic as well. I’d never heard of “Lost the plot” but that’s a good euphemism for going crazy or completely stupid.

          Lots of “chav” in Britain these days from what I hear. “Uphill Gardener.” Oh…LOL. “Wazzock” is an interesting term from Yorkshire that I’ve never heard.

          • Timothy Lane says:

            Some interesting stuff there. Some I had heard, and some I had heard but didn’t know the meaning. Of course, “barmy” is a British pronunciation of “balmy” and is used in the TV version of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (Eustace Clarence Scrubb’s couplet about the Pevensie children, “Some kids who played games about Narnia got gradually balmier and balmier.”). I’m sure I heard “wankers”, probably in Life of Brian, which also has Brian referring to “you silly sods” in the crucifixion scene.

  19. Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

    “Sharpe’s Battle” is the 12th in the Sharpe novel series.

    The book covers a few days before and during the battle of Fuentes de Onoro which took place in Spain during May of 1811.

    I have noted that this and perhaps the one previous to it, do not have as Sharpe’s main enemies, other Brits. Thankfully, Sharpe has to concentrate of the French and a couple of spies. Of course, Sharpe continues to get into trouble with Wellington and others, but that is something which he can handle.

    Although only about 300 pages, I believe Cornwell could have edited out 20-30 pages due to his somewhat repetitive description of the fighting in a number of different skirmishes. How many times does one have to read that blood and guts were a result of musket fire, sabers and canister shot?

    That being said, the book was enjoyable and informative on a number of historical points.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      Wellington’s comment on the battle afterwards was, “If Boney had been there, we should have been beat.” Fortunately, he did’t have to fight Boney himself until 1815, when the circumstances were much more favorable.

  20. Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

    “Sharpe’s Company” is no. 13 in the Sharpe novel series, and takes place in January through May of 1812. The book’s emphasis is on the siege of Badajoz.

    Since “Sharpe’s Battle”, Richard has returned to England and been feted as the hero who captured a French Eagle at Talavera. But the main reason Sharpe makes his visit to Old Blighty is to to find out what has happened regarding his being gazetted Captain. Of course, once he finds the bureaucrat in charge, Richard finds out his promotion has been denied. He is once again a Lieutenant.

    He returns to Spain and his regiment only to find out some wealthy prat has purchased his Captaincy and Sharpe is no longer in charge of his own company. Worse still, Sharpe’s old nemesis, Obadiah Hakeswill, has somehow turned up in Sharpe’s company and starts his old games again.

    Due to Hakeswill’s scheming, Sergent Harper is busting back to private and flogged. Sharpe, is moved from direct contact with his old company and made a sort-of aide-de-camp to the company’s new colonel.

    After stewing in this situation, Sharpe decides that has had enough of the whims of his superiors and that he will win a Captaincy which cannot be taken from him. To do this, he must lead a vanguard company of men into a breach at Badajoz. This group of men is called a “Forlorn Hope” as most will die in the assault. But glory and promotion await those who live and succeed.

    While I enjoyed the book overall, I do have one particular beef with Bernard Cornwell’s handling of Sharpe’s relationship with Hakeswill.

    Near the beginning of the book, Sharpe catches Hakeswill trying to rape Teresa, French killing partisan leader, Sharpe’s lover and mother of his child. He walks in when Teresa is about to stick Obadiah with a bayonet, and instead of killing the bastard, he and Harper simple beat the hell out of Hakeswill. Both Teresa and Harper want to kill old Obadiah, but Sharpe spouts some nonsense about getting Hakeswill one day, but wanting his punishment and death to be open, before the world. Given Sharpe’s actions toward Hakeswill, in previous books, as well as Sharpe’s character, this statement coming from Sharpe’s mouth is simply rubbish and completely out of character. I believe Cornwell must have had been having a bad day when he came up with this scene. Of course, Sharpe’s release of Hakeswill comes back to bite him and others close to him.

    But other than that, I quite enjoyed the book.

    Does Sharpe gain his Captaincy? Will Wellington occupy Badajoz, if you don’t know, I suggest you read “Sharpe’s Company.”

    • Timothy Lane says:

      Well, we’ve already discussed the siege and assault on Badajoz here, including the link between the sieges of Badajoz and Ladysmith, so the answer to the second question is obvious.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      Near the beginning of the book, Sharpe catches Hakeswill trying to rape Teresa, French killing partisan leader, Sharpe’s lover and mother of his child. He walks in when Teresa is about to stick Obadiah with a bayonet, and instead of killing the bastard, he and Harper simple beat the hell out of Hakeswill. Both Teresa and Harper want to kill old Obadiah, but Sharpe spouts some nonsense about getting Hakeswill one day, but wanting his punishment and death to be open, before the world.

      I think it’s in the third episode of the TV series where this plays out. Same thing. Made no sense at all. The author had an unnatural fixation on maintaining this villain. He should have dispatched him and come up with another.

      • Timothy Lane says:

        Hakeswill could always have a brother who comes seeking revenge. That’s more realistic than keeping him alive in that situation.

      • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

        The author had an unnatural fixation on maintaining this villain. He should have dispatched him and come up with another.

        I suppose there is some enjoyment in developing and writing about a cartoon villain. But I wonder how much of this is simply the author being lazy as it might take a bit more work to create a new character and his background?

        • Timothy Lane says:

          But if the new villain were someone like Hakeswill’s brother, there wouldn’t be that much extra work involved in creating him.

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          You never know what kind of fan mail he got, Mr. Kung. Perhaps that character was very popular.

          • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

            I should take into account that although this is chronologically the 13th novel of the Sharpe’s series, it is only the third which Cornwell wrote. It is the actual first novel in which the villain Hakeswill is introduced. The Hakeswill history, which is so filled out in the Indian novels, which were written 15 years later, was probably not yet clearly fleshed out in Cornwell’s mind.

            Since it was the first time Cornwell had included Hakeswill he was probably having a lot of fun with a new character who was particularly vile, not least because he was English and not French.

            • Timothy Lane says:

              This makes it odd that he would seem to kill him off frequently, since devoted readers would most likely remember him from this volume and know that he would return.

              • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

                You are correct. Having started reading the books in chronological order, I was sure Hakeswill was killed at least a couple of times in India. I had no idea he was back in “Sharpe’s Company” until Brad mentioned the made for TV film which took place in the Peninsular War.

                I think he will be finally be terminated with extreme sanction in the volume I am presently reading, “Sharpe’s Sword” or the next “Sharpe’s Skirmish.”

  21. Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

    “Sharpe’s Sword” starts off with two French cavalry officers on the run from the British. One is a ruthless colonel Leroux who has been on a special mission to find out the identity of the most important British spy El Mirador. The other is a simple captain.

    Knowing that due to his reputation, the British will not exchange him for a British officer, Leroux murders the captain and changes uniforms. He then disposes of the captain’s body in a rotted out tree and covers it with brush and leaves.

    Sometime later the British, in the form of Sharpe and his men, do capture him and he is taken into their camp. Sharpe’s new colonel Windham, gives the Frenchman parole since he is an officer and a gentleman. This does not work out well as the Frenchman is no gentleman and breaks his parole, killing a couple of British soldiers during his escape.

    The story becomes more complicated when Major Hogan, Wellington’s chief of intelligence and Sharpe’s friend, finds out that there is a spy amongst the British. Now, Sharpe is not only trying to capture Leroux and protect El Mirador, he must also worry about a possible traitor in Wellington’s ranks. While most of the book deals with this plot, the Battle of Salamanca is also covered. Historically, this was the first major open-field battle which Wellington won in the Peninsular War and it sent the French running.

    While still a good read, “Sharpe’s Sword” is possibly the least interesting of the Sharpe novels I have read. Nevertheless, for those who are interested in an easy book about a heroic character who (fictitiously) takes part in an important era of European history, I can recommend “Sharpe’s Sword.”

    For those who have been following Brad’s string about Lister and the generally appalling state of medical care in the 1800’s, Sharpe is badly wounded in this book and is expected to die. All the medical-care horrors of the age are on display.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      Actually, Wellesley defeated the French several times before instantly catching Marmont’s error on the march at Salamanca. (Marmont let his divisions get too separated, and Wellesley spotted this while watching them march. He promptly attacked, and won his greatest victory to date.) He defeated Junot to liberate Portugal from the French, defeated Masséna once in his invasion, and defeated Masséna again while besieging one of the forts (Almeida and Ciudad Rodrigo) on the northern route to Lisbon. Not to mention Talavera and Oporto (though you might not count the latter).

      Roberdeau C. Wheat, a Confederate battalion commander, was severely wounded (I believe a gut wound) at First Bull Run, and the surgeons insisted he was doomed — there was no case in record of someone surviving such a wound. So Wheat said, “Then I put my case on record” — and survived. A year later he was badly hit again, at Gaines’ Mill, and found that he couldn’t pull it off twice. RIP, Rob.

      • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

        No doubt Wellington had defeated the French in several smaller battles, including sieges and defenses of fixed lines. But at Salamanca I believe the armies facing each other were much larger than heretofore, and this is considered the battle were Wellington showed he was not just a defensive general.

        • Timothy Lane says:

          Salamanca was larger than most, though I’m not sure it was larger than Fuentes de Oñoro. But it was indeed his first major offensive battle (he did attack Junot, but that was a small battle). Of course, the British had already shown at Maida, even before Wellesley appeared in Europe, that they had very good defensive tactics (such as the use of reverse slopes).

  22. Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

    “Sharpe’s Enemy” opens in a small village, Abrados, located in northern Spain next to a mountain pass called The Gateway of God. The village’s claim to fame is a festival based on the story that, centuries back, the Holy Mother appeared to harried Christian troops and told them to turn and attack the Muslims pursuing them. The Christians followed Mary’s order and thousands of Muslims were slaughtered.

    On the festival day, December 8, 1812 the village is full of women coming from around northern Spain to celebrate the occasion. Sadly for them, a group of deserters from all combatant armies, French, British and others, invade the village. The renegades have chosen this area as it is considered too rugged to be of much interest to the armies of France or Wellington. They settle in for the winter take advantage of the local women and wealth and send out demands for the ransom of a number of their more elevated hostages, such as Lady Farthingdale.

    In the meantime, Sharpe has been commissionrd Major of the army by order of the Prince of Wales and is charged to command a Rocket Troop armed with the new Congreve Rocket System. Although he is told to help the troop fail, as nobody wants the rockets which are considered ineffective, Sharpe does his best to whip the troop into shape and determine if the rocket system has any real use.

    While this is happening, a ransom note for Lady Farthingdale has been received and her husband, the wealthy Colonel Farthingdale wishes to pay it. Farthingdale is the author of an army manual (which he has put together by copying the writings of others) and has had no actual battle experience. Sharpe’s direct commander General Nairn will not allow Farthingdale to personally carry the ransom to Abrado, so Sharpe is more or less volunteered to take it. He asks Harper to go a long and of course, the Irish sergeant happily agrees to accompany Sharpe.

    When Sharpe arrives at Abrados, he is surprised to find that Lady Farthingdale is none other than his old flame Josefina from Oporto. More disturbing is the fact that his nemesis, Obadiah Hakeswill, is second in command of the renegade army.

    Just after Sharpe arrives, a French Colonel Dubreton also turns up with money to ransom a French hostage. With him is an almost mirror image of Harper except he, Sergeant Bigeard, is even larger. Sharpe and Colonel Dubreton know the type of men they will be dealing with and come to a truce in order to try and bring back the hostages. But, as expected, once they give the ransom money to Hakeswill, they are told that no hostages will be forthcoming. This is especially galling to Dubreton as one of the hostages is his English wife.

    As Sharpe and Dubreton prepare to depart Abrados, they briefly discuss what can be done to rescue the hostages and Sharpe assures the colonel that he will be coming back.

    The rest of the book deals with Sharpe’s preparation and return to Abrados. When he does return, he saves the day, twice.

    “Sharpe’s Enemy” is the first book in the Sharpe series that is not based on an actual battle and location. There is no Gateway of God and no such battle took place in December of 1812. For all that, I enjoyed “Sharpe’s Enemy” more than I did “Sharpe’s Sword.” I can highly recommend the former. It is the type of book one can sit down with on a quiet night while sipping a good cognac.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      The Congreve rocket launcher never did much damage, but it was frightening, no doubt due to its sound, much like the “screaming meemie” and “Stalin’s organ” from World War II (both of which could also do a lot of damage, which naturally increased the terror factor). Bill Mauldin, discussing mortars in Up Front, mentioned the “screaming meemie” and noted that he never did any cartoons about them because they weren’t very funny.

      The rocket launcher played a part at the Battle of Bladensburg, and probably supplied the “red glare” over Fort McHenry. I believe Flashman used some during Flashman at the Charge.

      • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

        probably supplied the “red glare” over Fort McHenry

        In his “Historical Notes/Afterword” Cornwell mentions that the Congreve Rocket was made famous by and is remembered because of Key’s “rockets’ red glare” over Fort McHenry.

        I believe they were also used in the Opium Wars between Great Britain and China.

  23. Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

    In “Sharpe’s Honour”, Richard is entangled in a complex conspiracy thought up by his enemy Pierre Ducos. Sharpe is framed for the murder of an important Spanish nobleman, found guilty and sentenced to hang.

    In fact, Sharpe ‘s predicament is only a minor part in a much bigger gamble, which if successful, will see the British thrown out of Spain and a new peace between the Spanish and French.

    Helping Ducos to bring about this result are two brothers from a noble Spanish family impoverished by the continuous war taking place in Spain. The elder brother is a scheming priest of the Inquisition for whom no act is too nefarious, no crime too vicious for the glory of Spain and the Catholic Church. The younger brother is a sadistic beast who leads a band of partisans against the French and others who are unfortunate enough to cross his path.

    Along the way, we again meet some of Sharpe’s old friends and enemies. Major Hogan still gathers intelligence and weaves his own schemes against the French. Sergeant Major Harper is still by Sharpe’s side and Wellington is still watching and waiting to pounce on the French when the best opportunity presents itself.

    Toward the end, the reader is treated to a detailed description of the Vitoria Campaign in which the French were routed and the fabulously valuable baggage train of Napoleon’s brother was looted by Wellington’s troops. This action is supposed to have provoked Wellington’s comment that his soldiers were the “scum of the earth.”

    At about 320 pages, “Sharpe’s Honour” is well worth the few hours it will take to consume it from cover to cover.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      It’s hard to believe that anyone seeking to end the fighting in Spain (or in most of it, anyway) would support the Froggies in 1813. Granted, they didn’t know what was going to happen at Vitoria. But by then, Napoleon’s subordinates (who at this point were Jourdan and Suchet) were hardly capable of holding Wellington back, much less ejecting him. This was the year Wellington finally ejected France.

  24. Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

    “Sharpe’s Regiment” picks up within a week of the end of “Sharpe’s Sword.” The book opens after a battle in which The South Essex has just repulsed a French force trying to make its way back to France.

    Sharpe sees his regiment losing soldiers, which never seem to be replaced. During a meeting with General Nairn, Sharpe complains about this situation and Nairn tells him to go back to England and find out what is happening.

    Sharpe takes Harper with him and off they go to visit Chelmsford, the home base of The South Essex. When they reach the base, they find it virtually deserted. There are only a few young officers wasting time with attractive young women in the mess hall. When asked where all the officers and soldiers of The South Essex are hiding, nobody can say.

    Wanting to get to the bottom of the mystery, Sharpe goes to London and speak to the military authorities about the regiment. According to the army bureaucrats, the regiment is still on the army rolls and money is flowing to it. Receiving no further help from the Army, Sharpe decides to approach the Prince of Wales directly. He does this at a dinner which the Prince is giving and to which Sharpe has been invited. At first, the Prince appears eager to help, but he is interrupted by Lord Fenner, the Secretary of State for War, who assures the Prince that all is well with The South Essex and that he will take care of Sharpe.

    Later that night, while visiting the old neighborhood in which he grew up, Sharpe is almost assassinated by two thugs. Luckily for Sharpe, he was forewarned by an old friend and both killers suffered death for their action.

    Clearly, something is fishy and Sharpe is determined to get to the bottom of it. To do this, he and Harper go undercover posing as unemployed men looking to join the army. After a relatively short period of time wandering the countryside, they hit pay dirt and are signed back into The South Essex as private soldiers.

    Their escapade takes them to a secluded piece of property in southeast England, which is virtually inaccessible to anyone not welcome there. They find a military base being run by a martinet lieutenant colonel where recruits are being trained to become soldiers. Why The South Essex is being garrisoned far away from its home base soon becomes apparent.

    A few days after Sharpe and Harper arrive, a parade is held where those soldiers who have finished their training are put on display and basically sold to other regiments. There is an endemic shortage of new soldiers throughout the British Army and the local commanders of The South Essex, along with some powerful politicians, have arranged a scheme whereby they sell newly trained troops to the highest bidder. Most of the soldiers go to regiments in the Caribbean where disease decimates the local garrisons. A trained soldier can fetch over 50 pounds sterling and hundreds go through The South Essex; so someone is making a fortune by keeping the regiment below strength in Spain.

    Understanding what is happening, Sharpe and Harper determine to escape and expose the racket. This is difficult because the land is cut off by water and the only bridge is guarded. With the help of Jane Gibbons, whose uncle is in on the scheme, Sharpe and Harper get away and expose those responsible for the outrage.

    Sharpe marries Jane, arranges for his fortune to be at her disposal and makes his way back to Spain to fight the French.

    Unlike most of the other Sharpe novels, this book does not focus on an actual battle. Rather, it gives the reader an idea of some of the sharp (forgive the pun) practices common in the British Army of the early nineteenth century.

    At just under 300 pages, it is another easy and pleasurable read by Bernard Cornwell.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      I’m not sure if anything that bad ever happened, but neither am I sure it didn’t. Certainly there were colonels who would exaggerate their numbers in order to receive pay, rations, and other supplies for men who didn’t exist. I guess they figured they had to find some way of making good on their investment in a colonel’s commission. This would be especially true if they had to pay a large bribe to the previous colonel to get him to retire on half-pay.

      • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

        The situation as portrayed in the novel was probably somewhat exaggerated, but in his historical notes, Cornwell mentions that the selling of troops was not uncommon. And if done within certain parameters it was not even illegal.

        • Timothy Lane says:

          I would hope this was likeliest when the regiments selling troops weren’t actively engaged in combat. They might be in a garrison in a temperate, reasonably healthful climate (such as Gibraltar, Minorca, or Malta in the Mediterranean).

  25. Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

    “Sharpe’s Siege”

    It is the winter of 1814 and Sharpe is in the south of France. Sharpe’s friend and Protector Major Hogan is deathly ill with the fever, malaria. Sharpe visits his bedside and even though the major is delirious, he keeps repeating the words Ducos (French intelligence officer and Sharpe’s particular enemy) and Maquerreau, which is French slang for pimp.

    The doctor advises Sharpe that unless he is able to get a hold of some Jesuit’s Bark (from which quinine is derived) the major’s chances are slim.

    Shortly thereafter, Sharpe is called to meet his new regimental colonel, a colonel of the engineers and a Royal Navy captain, Bampfylde. During the meeting Sharpe is ordered to go with the naval captain and assist him with the capture of a small fort called Teste de Buch not far from Bordeaux. When Sharpe asks why the Captain doesn’t use his marines the Captain explains that they are the victims of some illness and it will be some time before they are fit for a fight.

    Sharpe wonders why anyone would waste time and soldiers on a small fort far from anything and is told that the British need the barges docked nearby in order to transport British troops and land them on the French Coast. He also told that there is intelligence to support the belief that Bordeaux is ready to revolt and throw out the small number of French soldiers still in the city. After taking the fort, Sharpe is to take his men and go toward Bordeaux and help the citizens rise up against the Bonapartists if the situation is favorable. A royalist aristocrat, the Comte de Maquerre who is called Maquerreau behind his back, will be going with him to help in the uprising.

    Sharpe and the colonel of engineers leave the ship together and during the boat ride back to the harbor, the colonel lets Sharpe know that the although the navy captain doesn’t know it, the barges are to be used for making a bridge across the Adour. Already there are wheels within wheels at work.

    Sharpe and his men are ferried up the French Coast to capture the fort. Once on land, Sharpe sees several hundred Royal Marines and is told that the story about the marines being sick was a ruse to confuse French spies. Furthermore, the captain was told by a local fisherman that the fort has been abandoned thus Sharpe’s services in that area will not be needed. He is to go with the Comte toward Bordeaux and wait for the Comte’s word on how to proceed.

    From that point onward, the story becomes even more complicated. It turns out there are spies within the British party and the whole scheme of taking the fort was thought up by Ducos in order to capture Sharpe. But while devious, it appears Wellington is even more devious in the end.

    Of course, Sharpe goes through several horrible battles, Bampfylde sails off leaving him and his men, and it looks like Sharpe is about to fall into the grasp of the vicious Ducos. But as everyone will know by now, Sharpe has more lives than a cat.

    Along with the main story, one is treated to a side story about Sharpe and his new wife, Jane. She wishes him to resign his commission and return with her to London. He might consider resigning, (not really) but wishes to buy a house in Devon and live in the country. Jane shudders at the thought.

    “Sharpe’s Siege” is more or less a complete invention of Cornwell. There was a fort called Teste de Buch, and it is true that barges were used to build a bridge over the Adour. But most of the rest is a gift from Cornwell’s imagination.

    At almost 320 pages, like all other novels in the series, “Sharpe’s Siege” is well worth the time it takes to read it.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      I just checked, and there are two rivers with similar names in the Aquitaine. The Ardour is in the Limousin (main city Limoges) and flows to the Loire. The Adour is in the western Pyrenees, reaching the Bay of Biscay at Bayonne. I suspect the latter river is likelier (the inland portions might have been crossed heading to Toulouse).

      I’ve read that there was a lot of Anglophilia in France beyond the Garonne. There was a lot of trade in Bordeaux wines with England, which used to rule the area. (In 1452 they revolted against France on behalf of England, setting up the final campaign of the Hundred Years War, which actually lasted 116 years.) It’s possible that they were also opposed to the Revolution; the Jacobins took over from the more moderate leftists, the Girondins, named for the Gironde estuary (formed by the confluence of the Garonne and the Dordogne).

  26. Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

    “Sharpe’s Revenge” starts with a duel between Sharpe and Captain Bampfylde, who left Sharpe at his men in the lurch in “Sharpe’s Siege.” Sharpe is worried he will be killed in the duel as he is no expert with a pistol. Added to Sharpe’s concerns is the fact that his wife Jane will not stop pushing him to resign his commission and return with her to England in order to live in London society.

    While Sharpe does not return to England, Jane does, and he gives her power of attorney over all his wealth, because he worries about the duel. Sharpe’s stupidity when it comes to money and women can be extraordinary.

    In the event, Sharpe comes out of the duel whole and Bampfylde is shot in the buttocks, thereby becoming a laughing stock. He is basically thrown out of the navy for his cowardice.

    Shortly thereafter, the Battle of Toulouse takes place. General Nairn, Sharpe’s superior and supporter is killed. More importantly, Sharpe undergoes a crisis of fear before the battle. This is new to Sharpe and it concerns him. Luckily he is able to overcome his fear and saves one part of the attacking British line from collapsing. As always, Wellington’s troops win the day.

    Unfortunately, the battle was for naught as it turns out that Napoleon had already abdicated and a new French government was beginning to form.

    It would appear that Sharpe could now return to England and enjoy his fortune and new wife. But unknown to him, Sharpe has an enormous problem pursuing him.
    That old fiend, Pierre Ducos, has thought up a scheme whereby he can revenge himself on Richard Sharpe and, in the process, destroy him.

    In preparation for his abdication, Napoleon has sent a fortune south. It is guarded by troop of cavalry led by a loyal French colonel. On their journey, the troops stop in Toulouse to meet Ducos. Although he is not told what the troops are guarding, Ducos figures out what it is and assassinates the colonel and takes command of the troop and their cargo.

    Ducos sets the wheels against Sharpe spinning by a clever campaign which has the new French government, and some English officers, believing that the treasure had been stored in the fort Teste de Buch, which Sharpe had escaped from in “Sharpe’s Siege.” A lawyer representing the new French government demands the treasure which leads to Sharpe and his second in command, Frederickson, being arrested for the theft.

    Sharpe understands that only the young commander of the fort, M. Lassan, can testify that there was never any treasure in the fort. Therefore, Sharpe, Harper and Frederickson get away and travel to Normandy in search of Lieutenant Lassan.
    In the meantime, Ducos and his band end up in the Kingdom of Naples, where they will stay until Sharpe is captured and hanged, thereby closing the case.

    The rest of the book deals with Sharpe’s efforts to find Lassan, and Ducos’ attempts to cover his tracks. Both have partial success, but in the end, Sharpe discovers exactly what has happened and where Ducos is hiding.

    He, Frederickson and Harper set out to confront Ducos. On their trip to Ducos’ hideaway, they are stopped by a troop of French soldiers led by General Calvet, who Sharpe fought in “Sharpe’s Siege.” Calvet, is a loyal Bonapartist and he and Sharpe agree to cooperate in an attack on Ducos. Calvet makes clear to Sharpe that the treasure will be returned to Napoleon if they succeed in defeating Ducos. Sharpe agrees saying he only wants Ducos. As is to be expected, they do defeat Ducos and his men as well as a larger number of Neapolitan soldiers who are sent to capture the treasure.

    There are a number of subplots within the book which are of interest. Sharpe’s wife Jane, turns out to be a greedy whore who carries on an affair with an English Lord. She clearly hopes Sharpe will be killed, thereby ridding her of an unwanted husband and legally enriching her with his estate.

    There is also the story of Sharpe and his comrades’ journey to and arrival at Lassan’s home and how Lassan’s sister turns from hating all English to becoming Sharpe’s lover. This then leads to a break between Sharpe and his no. 2 ,and friend, Frederickson which is a sad tale.

    I thoroughly enjoyed “Sharpe’s Revenge” and recommend it to readers who like action, adventure and historical fiction.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      I wonder if Sharpe could be a relative of Roy Hobbs (from Bernard Malamud’s The Natural), who had a great weakness for a certain type of woman. It nearly got him killed, and later it led to him blowing his chance at redemption. (The movie version starring Robert Redford goes for a happy ending, Malamud’s point being Hobbs’s inability to learn from his errors.)

      • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

        True to the theory that “the third time’s the charm,” Sharpe finds lasting love with Lucille Castineau, the widowed sister of Lassan. Unfortunately, she almost kills him before their relationship blooms into love.

        I have to admit that the movie version of The Natural, didn’t make much sense to me, at least the parts to do with the woman played by Barbara Hershey.

        • Timothy Lane says:

          I had to check wikipedia to know which of the women she played. Basically, she was a deranged killer of top athletes. She was obviously stalking the Whammer, the game’s greatest player. When Roy Hobbs struck him out on 3 pitches and bragged that he would be the greatest player ever, she chose to switch targets. Hobbs’s weakness for women like that took care of the rest. Why she committed suicide isn’t clear. She may have decided that her task was done.

  27. Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:


    In May of 1974, I was studying in Vienna, Austria and living in the Internationales Studentenheim on Gymnasiumstrasse. This was a multi-building dormitory which housed both Austrians and students from around the world.

    One afternoon I was going to visit a friend in a different building and on the way, I ran into some other students whom I happened to know. As I approached them, I heard them excitedly talking about Waterloo. I found their excitement, about a battle which had taken place almost 165 years before, a bit odd. I joined the crowd and different people in the group observed that Waterloo had been a great success and would be the beginning of something big. I was wondering what in the world these kids were talking about, when someone mentioned the Eurovision Contest and ABBA, who had won first place with their song “Waterloo.” I had to laugh.

    While I am an ABBA fan, when I think of Waterloo, I think about one of the most important battles in history. I am guessing Bernard Cornwell thinks the same way thus wrote the 20th of his 21 Sharpe novels. This is final Sharpe book in which Sharpe, and the Duke of Wellington fight against the perfidious French. The last novel, “Sharpe’s Devil” takes place years later and a continent away from Waterloo.

    Cornwell’s other Sharpe novels can often go wandering into side stories and sometimes one can wonder if there is a unifying plot to tie the wandering together. Thankfully, there always is. But in Waterloo Cornwell sticks to the subject, which is restricted to the dates of June 15th, when Napoleon’s advance guard crosses the border of France into the Kingdom of the Netherlands, until the fateful day of June 18, 1815. Cornwell does tie up a few loose strings, such as what happens to his wife’s lover Lord John Rossendale, but these diversions do not long distract Cornwell, or his reader, from the main story.

    After clearing his name in “Sharpe’s Revenge” Sharpe left the army and settles on a farm in Normandy belonging to his “wife” Lucille. He is doing his best to make the farm profitable, but it is a hard job. Then Napoleon escapes from Elba and wheels are set in motion, which bring Sharpe back to the battlefield, this time as a Lieutenant Colonel on the staff of Prince William of Orange, whose father the King of the Netherlands. The king has demanded his son be given command of Dutch troops otherwise there will be no Dutch troops to fight with the Allies. The twenty-three-year-old prince is something of a fool and has grandiose ideas about his marshal abilities. This grandiosity causes huge problems for the Allied forces in the book.

    In his position as staff officer, Sharpe is able to roam the field pretty much at will, thus Cornwell is able to place Sharpe at many of the most important points of the battle field beginning with Sharpe’s spotting the first French troops crossing into, what is now, Belgium near Charleroi on June 15th.

    Sharpe is joined in his escapades by his old friend Harper, who now owns a pubic house in Dublin from which he also trades horses. Using the excuse of business, he departs Ireland and joins Sharpe in Brussels. They stay together throughout the battle and, as usual, make an unbeatable team.

    Cornwell goes into considerable detail about the various battles which took place before the final confrontation took place at a ridge south of Waterloo on which Wellington had decided to make his stand. I had never heard of Quatre Bras, Ligny or Wavre, but battles took place at and around these towns which were important to the final outcome of the major conflict.

    In the book, the Prince of Orange is a dangerous aristocrat who costs the lives of hundreds through his repeated foolish orders, which leave his infantry open to cavalry charges. Luckily, he is wounded and taken from the field. In the end, Wellington gives Sharpe command of his old battalion, The Prince of Wales Own Volunteers. Sharpe has finally arrived.

    As in some of the other novels in the Sharpe series, Cornwell show little regard for certain troops or people. The Spanish and those we would now call Belgians do not come out looking very well, in his writing. On the other hand the Portuguese and Germans (except for Gneisenau) are often praised.

    As I mentioned above, originally, “Waterloo” would have been the last of the Sharpe series of novels. Cornwell wrote somewhere, that he was surprised there was nothing like the number of books covering Wellington as those that had been written about Nelson. It was his intention to correct this oversight with the Sharpe series. Having finished 20 such tomes, I can only say that Cornwell has been successful in his pursuit.

    It would appear that Sharpe will encounter the Duke no more, but thankfully, Cornwell did take the time to once more bring Sharpe together with some old friends. This will happen in “Sharpe’s Devil” the final novel in the Sharpe series. I will review that book shortly.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      Quatre Bras is mentioned in Lord Hornblower, when Hornblower is with a French woman he had encountered on the way back to England in Flying Colors. A police official reports that Napoleon defeated Blücher at Ligny and Ney defeated Wellington at Quatre Bras. Hornblower reminded him of the saying, “to lie like a bulletin”. But Ney didn’t win much of a victory, and neither did Boney. Blücher was able to retreat to Wavre instead of falling back on his supply line (which would have been away from Wellington).

      Napoleon had Grouchy, his other wing commander, go after the Prussians, but at Wavre Grouchy failed. Most of the Prussians headed off to Waterloo, and the rest is history. Wellington held off Napoleon, but Blücher then finished him off while a single corps held off Grouchy.

      Gneisenau, Blücher’s chief of staff, had initially favored retreating to the east, but was finally persuaded to accept a retreat northward to Wavre. That no doubt is why Cornwell didn’t much like him.

  28. Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

    “Sharpe’s Devil”

    It is 1819. As Waterloo fades into the past, Sharpe is living with Lucille on a farm in Normandy. As most farmers do, Sharpe struggles with nature to keep the farm profitable.

    One day, an expensive carriage complete with postilions and outriders arrives at his gate. Out steps the Countess of Mouromorto, who Sharpe knew originally as Louisa Parker. Louisa met and married one of Sharpe’s comrade’s from his early days in the Peninsula Campaign. This took place in “Sharpe’s Rifles.”

    Louisa tells Sharpe that the Count was sent by the Spanish government to suppress a rebellion in Chile. After arranging to meet a representative of the rebels, he disappeared. Louisa wants Sharpe to go to Chile in order to find out where he is and exactly what has happened to her husband. Sharpe tries to excuse himself from this task by giving a number of reasons he should not go, including the possibility that the Count is dead. This cuts no ice with the Countess and she insists Sharpe go to Chile on her behalf. She says she will pay him to do this and that fact seals the deal as Sharpe’s wife Lucille knows the precarious state the farm is in. Both women also insist Sharpe take someone with him who he trusts. In this manner, Patrick Harper is brought into the picture.

    The story takes Sharpe and Harper to Spain with a stop at Saint Helena where Sharpe meets Napoleon. Napoleon recognizes that Sharpe is the man who, with General Calvet, secured part of the Imperial treasure which Ducos had made off with. During his meeting with Sharpe, Napoleon gives Sharpe a locket with a lock of his hair and a signed picture which he asks Sharpe to deliver to a colonel in Chile.

    Sharpe arrives in Chile and meets the British agent, the current Spanish strongman Captain-General Bautista and his foppish aide Marquinez. He advises them of his mission and requests permission to go in search of his friend the Count. Of course it takes huge bribes and time to receive permission to go to the last place the Count was seen and there are restrictions on the permit which require Sharpe and Harper proceed overland even though they could have more quickly sailed there on the same ship which brought them to Chile. Something is definitely fishy in Chile.

    Sharpe’s and Harper’s lives are now in danger and the rest of the book goes into how they avoid being murdered in one way or another. They are eventually expelled from Chile and forced to work their way back to Europe as common sailors, but this plan is interrupted when they encounter an actual/historical mad British adventurer, Admiral Thomas Cochrane, 10th Earl of Dundonald. Cochrane is fighting for the Chilean rebels whose leader, Bernardo O’Higgins has taken Santiago.

    With Cochrane, Sharpe and Harper make their way back to Chile and with a handful of men, they take several forts which guard the coast. They then overpower the Spanish garrison and capture the town near which the Count disappeared.

    As the book comes to a close, it turns out that the picture Napoleon sent to his admirer the colonel, was in fact a coded message meant for Cochrane. It seems Cochrane would like to bring the Little Corporal to South America and start again where Napoleon left off in Europe. Cochrane asks Sharpe and Harper to help him in this venture, but they decline. Cochrane is a good sport and gives them both a share of the booty which was won in their battles against the Spanish forces.

    Happily, Sharpe also finds the Count alive and well. He has been held captive for some months, but no harm was done him. The Count also decides to return home and retire from government service.

    Thus we have a happy ending for both “Sharpe’s Devil” and the complete Sharpe novel series. I find this to be very fitting.

    I believe the sense of regret one feels after finishing the last page of the last book in a novel series, knowing that the journey is over, is a good gauge as to the quality of that series. On this basis, I would say “The Lord of the Rings” is the best series I have every read. And while the Sharpe series does not attain that standard, I would say the series is still of a very high quality. Yes, there were imperfections and contrived scenes, but the books’ central character and his comrades were interesting and often very likeable, despite being murderous soldiers in a very murderous period.

    In fact, I found some of the secondary characters more interesting and likeable that Richard Sharpe. Both sergeant Harper and captain Frederickson were characters with strong personalities.

    Looking back over the twenty-one books in the series, I have to say that probably the thing which makes the series most worthwhile is exactly that, it is a series of novels covering a continuum of time dealing with a series of events in the life of one Richard Sharpe. The books are not simply a number of different stories jumping from here to there. One gets to know Sharpe and share his fears, hopes, loses, etc. One looks forward to the next phase of his life.

    He is a child emotionally. He does incredibly stupid things like giving a newly married wife, who he does not know very well, complete control over his fortune while he is away fighting in France.

    But he is also incredibly brave and often tries to do what is honorable in situations which do not lend themselves to honor.

    Let me close by saying I found the books very readable and engrossing. The longest it took me to finish one was probably three days, and I finished most in two and sometimes one. I think most others will also find each novel hard to put down once they start reading.

    For these and other reasons, I heartily recommend Bernard Cornwell’s complete Sharpe series of novels. The reader will not only enjoy the stories, but will also learn a good bit of history. What’s to lose? Time wasted on the NFL?

    I will now start on the Sharpe TV series and compare them to the books. Hint: I have already viewed two and they do not compare well to the books, but are still better than most of the rubbish one can see on TV these days.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      Thomas Cochrane was also the model for Patrick O’Brian’s Jack Aubrey. There was no indication that he ever sought to aid Boney.

      • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

        In his historical notes, Cornwell writes”

        I am indebted to Donald Thomas also for the extraordinary story of how Cochrane plotted to bring Napoleon to Valdivia and thus begin a campaign for the United States of South America. The plot was so far advanced that, following the capture of Valdivia, Cochrane did indeed send a rescue ship to Saint Helena. When Lieutenant Colonel Charles reached the island he found Napoleon in his last illness, and so abandoned the attempt to free the emperor.

        I had never heard this story and it is one of the many different bits of history one learns by reading the Sharpe series. I must admit, I knew very little about the Peninsula Campaign when I started reading the books.

        • Timothy Lane says:

          I just checked a little further down in wikipedia, and they do mention it as a rumor, arguing that the envoy supposedly sent to St. Helena (Charles) was dead before he supposedly left. Thomas did write a biography of Cochrane, but is best known for his fiction — particularly a number of Sherlock Holmes pastiches (most of which I had in my now-sold house).

          But he also wrote a fine alternate history novel, Prince Charlie’s Bluff, which I also had. (A friend once told me about it, but could remember neither the author nor the title. Fortunately, another friend — Joseph Major, who’s shown up her occasionally — had also read it, and remembered the author and title.)

          As for Cochrane, he has had a series of Chilean ships named after him. One was a dreadnought seized by Britain (who was building it) during World War I. They ended up converting it to the aircraft career Eagle, later sunk by a U-boat in the Mediterranean in 1942.

  29. Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

    Last night, I finished the final Sharpe dvd, “Sharpe’s Peril” and with that I have completed viewing every Sharpe dvd which was available from my local library. I have seen 13 of the 16 movies.

    The overall quality of the series is fair to middling. To my mind, the sets and costumes are reasonably well done. But the stories and acting can vary. This leads to significant differences in the quality of each film. In my opinion, the worst two movies were “Sharpe’s Gold” and “Sharpe’s Peril.” The best was probably “Sharpe’s Regiment.”

    The movies were made over a period of about 15 years and it was interesting to see Sean Bean aging over this time. Let us say, he has not aged particularly well.

    If one has interest in early 19th century British history, I believe the movies could be of interest. I would definitely advise one to watch the movies before reading any of Cornwell’s books. The books are far superior and if you are like me, you will constantly be noting differences between the two, much to the detriment of the movies. This drives my wife crazy.

    I have now spent a number of months with Richard Sharpe and Friends. We have marched through Indian fields, over Iberian hills and mountains all the way to a smallish plain outside of Brussels. Overall, I found the journey worthwhile. Nevertheless, I am glad to say that the journey is complete and I will bid Sharpe and Company adieu and move on to other fields of interest.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      Differences between books and movies can be extreme. A friend of mine was a big fan of Philip Wylie, and stayed up late one night to see the movie version of When Worlds Collide. After it was over, he cried over having done so. The 39 Steps as a movie has differs greatly from the novel, and Bananas, I gather, has few resemblances to the novel Don Quixote, USA. (The same friend said that if you liked the latter, you wouldn’t want to see the former. It’s simply impossible to imagine Woody Allen playing Arthur Peabody Goodpasture.)

      And then there’s always The Haunted Palace, theoretically based on a Poe poem that it quotes some lines from — but actually based (if somewhat loosely) on H. P. Lovecraft’s The Case of Charles Dexter Ward. (A lot of the Poe movies had little to do with the original story, though such as it was they were usually based on Poe otherwise.)

      But many of these are good movies nevertheless, including most of the Poe movies. Among those cited here, I would recommend The 39 Steps, The Haunted Palace, and (among the actual Poe movies) The Raven and The Pit and the Pendulum.

      • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

        I enjoyed a couple of “The 39 Steps” movies as well as the book.

        I liked all the Buchan novels which I read.

        • Timothy Lane says:

          Mark Steyn does readings (I think monthly) for his club. The latest is Greenmantle.

          In addition to the excellent Hitchcock movie (the Mr. Memory part was a superb addition to the book), I’ve also seen a TV movie or miniseries of The 39 Steps on PBS. This one followed the book a lot better.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      I’m glad you ventured through those movies, Mr. Kung, and generally enjoyed them. I had no idea that they were produced over such an extended period.

      • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

        The series was worth watching. Only a couple of the movies were real stinkers. The last one, “Sharpe’s Peril”, being shot in the 2008 has all the markings of PC culture thus is total rubbish. Sean Bean also looks like he was dragged behind a horse without the benefit of roller skates.

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