The Campaigns of Lord Wellington in Spain from 1809 to 1813
Napier covers these campaigns in Volumes IV and V.
'The Lamp and the Guitar’
When the short story collection The Laird's Luck was published in 1901, it contained an extended work in three parts called ‘The TwoScouts’. Q based the work on the disputed Memoirs of Manuel or Manus McNeill, a Spaniard of Scottish descent. Six years later Q returned to the Memoirs for the short story ‘The Lamp and the Guitar’.
‘The Two Scouts’ contains an italicised introduction in which Q defends the historicity of the Memoirs. Q believed McNeill to have been an agent in the Peninsula from 1808 to 1813, working for the British Secret Service. Originally from a Scottish Jacobite family dating from the time of the Spanish War of Succession, McNeill sided with the British following Napoleon's invasion. Q rejects the idea of the Memoirs being a forgery because it provided an explanation for certain obscure passages in Napier's History.
In ‘The Lamp and the Guitar’ and ‘The Two Scouts’, Q combined the History and the Memoirs into two dramas relating to a period from July 1811 to July 1812. The accuracy of his physical descriptions suggests direct observation. As Q loved to travel, especially before the War, this is not improbable.
‘The Lamp and the Guitar' is divided into two parts. The first part can be dated to the end of July and the beginning of August 1811. The second part opens on June 17, 1812, and closes before the end of the month. The three stories of ‘The Two Scouts’ fall between the two parts of ‘The Lamp and the Guitar’. This study follows the chronological sequence.
Note: The name is spelled MacNeill in 'The Lamp and the Guitar' and McNeill in 'The Two Scouts'. 'Mac' means son of in Gaelic. In Cornish it is 'map'.
‘The Lamp and the Guitar’ : Part I
Part I can be divided into six clear sections:
- Date and Location
- Military situation in June 1811
- The story of Martinez
- The loss of the spy system
- Wellington's introduction of MacNeill to Fuentes
- Fuentes'character and motivation
The first paragraph (of but one sentence in length) links Part I and Part II, informing the reader of the journey of Fuentes and MacNeill, the narrator, from Lisbon to Salamanca in the last two weeks of July 1811.
Date: Mid-July, 1811
Location: Lisbon, the headquarters of Lord Wellington
Characters: Fuentes, MacNeill & Wellington
Part I is based on Chapter VII of Napier's fourth volume.
The second paragraph describes Wellington's base of operations in July 1811 as the valley of the River Tagus in Portugal. Further east, along the valley, stand the forces of Marmont. To the north is Dorsenne, commanding an increasing force including the Young Guard. Soult is south-east on the River Guardiana. As Q correctly points out, Wellington is hemmed in from all directions apart from the sea. To break out required military intelligence in the hope of detecting a weak spot. This is where Fuentes and MacNeill enter the story.
Wellington suspected the weak spot to be the fortress of Ciudad Rodrigo, which lay in Dorsenne's are of command and was provisioned from Salamanca. However, he felt a degree of concern about the strength of Dorsenne's forces, a concern increased by secret information in the possession of MacNeill.
MacNeill had just arrived in Lisbon on a chasse-marée from San Sebastian, a Spanish port near the border with France, where a cobbler called Martinez kept watch from his workshop on the bridge over the River Irun used by the French army. Although MacNeill was able to confirm the increasing number of reinforcements entering Spain, Wellington was aware that a poor country like Spain could not support them. He uses a saying of Henry the Fourth of France: 'large armies would starve and small ones be beaten in Spain' (Napier, IV, p.221). The same was true of south-western Britain west of Exeter, as Q shows in The Splendid Spur, although the fact has been too little appreciated by historians.
On page 220 of Volume IV Napier provides an interesting insight into the use of spies:
'Lord Wellington had also established some good channels of information. He had a number of spies amongst the Spaniards who were living within French lines...a guitar-player of celebrity, named Fuentes, repeatedly making his way to Madrid, brought advice from thence. Mr. Stuart, under cover of vessels licensed to fetch corn for France, kept a chasse marees constantly plying along the Biscay coast, by which he not only acquired direct information, but facilitated the transmission of intelligence from the land spies, amongst whom the most remarkable was a cobbler, living in a little hutch at the end of the bridge of Irun. This man while plying his trade, continued for years, without being suspected, to count every French soldier, that passed in or out of Spain by that passage, and transmitted their numbers by the chasse marees to Lisbon.'
It appears from this that MacNeill knew Stuart and used his chasse-marées.
During June Wellington built up his artillery and mortars for the taking of Ciudad Rodrigo, with July 21 as the date for the campaign to begin (Napier, IV, p. 224). The meeting of Wellington, MacNeill and Fuentes in Lisbon was part of this plan. With Dorsenne moving his forces into Galicia, he wanted them to re-establish the spy network in Salamanca, as the previous one had ceased to communicate, so as to observe any counter movement by the French commander. Q identifies the reason for the silence of the network as the one explained by Napier: 'the secret correspondents of the army on the side of Salamanca suddenly ceased their communications, and it was at first feared they had paid with their lives for the culpable indiscretion of the Portuguese government; for the latter had published, in the Lisbon Gazette, all the secret information sent to Silveira which being copied into English newspapers, drew the enemies attention.' (IV, p.234). MacNeill draws attention to the Lisbon Gazette in Wellington's possession as the reason for the silence.
The total force available to Wellington was 80,000. This was following reinforcements from Britain. In Harry Revel, on July 28, 1811, the Bute transport left Plymouth for the Tagus with members of the 52nd Regiment and the 95th Rifles, along with Harry Revel, as reinforcements for Wellington. They arrived at Figueira on September 3. The figure also includes returned deserters.
A breakdown of the figures gives:
British Infantry: 28,000
British Cavalry: 5,000
Portuguese effectives: 24,000
Artillery pieces: 90
Available to Wellington for the siege of Ciudad Rodrigo, British and Portuguese: 44,000.
Available to the French for the relief of Ciudad Rodrigo in August:
Marmont: 40,000 plus
Dorsenne: 20,000 plus
Reinforcements arriving from France: 11,000.
Many of the reinforcements would have crossed the bridge at Irun. Most of the troops for Ciudad Rodrigo would have to pass through Salamanca where MacNeill and Fuentes were heading.
September 21, United French force for the relief of Cuidad Rodrigo:
Artillery pieces: 100
‘The Lamp and the Guitar' Part II
This part is divided into five sections. A gap of nine months divides Sections IV and V. A section from Harry Revel has been included at this point.
Date: late July to early August 1811
Location: Lisbon to Salamanca
Characters: Manuel MacNeill and Fuentes
Journey: From Lisbon to Alcantara along the valley of the River Tagus. Passing through Marmont's army, the route lay north into the mountains before a gorge, near Bejar, opens the way to the main road to Salamanca. This journey looks slightly different on a modern map than on Napier's 1836 edition (see, Vol. I, maps).
Disguises: MacNeill: a travelling harvester; Fuentes : a guitar-playing gypsy.
During the journey MacNeill detects the true identity of Fuentes. Although Fuentes is superficially sanguine and capable of living off the land, MacNeill becomes aware of a hidden sorrow, which is later revealed.
The Family of Galazza de Villacastin
Galazza de Villacastin, father, deceased. A hidalgo or gentleman
Property—Villacastin, near Avila in Old Castille, a small property; a ruined castle near Salvatierra on the River Tormes in Leon. Galazza left all the property to the youngest son
Don Eugenio Fuentes Galazza, eldest but dispossessed son. A former student of Salamanca University. A guitarist and former lover of Luisa the flower seller
Don Andrea Galazza de Villacastin, youngest son and inheritor of the property. A former distinguished student of the University of Salamanca. Lives at Villacastin with Juan, a servant. A collaborator with the French. Possibly a liberal
The Galazza family shows how the French invasion divided Spanish families depending on where their loyalties lay.
Date: Early August
Characters: Eugenio and Andrea Galazza, the servant Juan, and Manuel MacNeill.
Eugenio visits his younger brother Andrea at Villacastin to obtain a disguise, two passports and a doctoral thesis, so as to enable MacNeill and himself to enter French occupied Salamanca—where French troops are concentrating for the defence of Ciudad Rodrigo.
Date: Early August
Location: A tavern by the bridge at the entrance to Salamanca
Characters: Fuentes, MacNeill, the inn landlord Bartolomé, and the two students Diego de Ribalta and Sebastian Paz
The two students are intending to fight a duel over their passion for Luisa, a resident of the Upper Chamber in the Lesser Street of the Virgins, where years before Fuentes had loved.
The students establish their patriotism in the eyes of Fuentes. Then a red light appears in the Upper Chamber, as it had in Fuentes's time, as a signal of welcome.
The students cross into Salamanca via the bridge, followed later by Fuentes and MacNeill, with the four meeting in a street near the Four Crowns tavern below the Cathedral. The cultural destructiveness of the republican soldiers is evident. Fuentes and MacNeill are blindfolded as a precaution.
Date: Early August, 1811
Location: the Upper Chamber in the Lesser Street of the Virgins in Salamanca.
Characters: MacNeill, Fuentes, the two students and the students' chorus, Dona Isabel and Luisa.
On entering the Upper Chamber Fuentes and MacNeill observe a masked student chorus, a woman called Luisa who appeared to be eighteen but must be much older, and Dona Isabel, an older woman again. Luisa had been the love of Fuentes' life, but a rift had occurred, hence his secret sorrow.
They discuss why the spies in Salamanca had ceased to communicate with Wellington.
The following three days are spent separately by Fuentes and MacNeill in gathering information.
On the fourth day MacNeill is told by Luisa to meet Fuentes at the Archbishop's College for a swift exit. He is given two letters for Fuentes, the second a personal one to be opened after departing over the guarded bridge.
Luisa has heard that Don Diego, in a fit of jealousy, intends to murder Fuentes at a gathering of the chorus. She takes Fuentes place in the line, is stabbed by Don Diego, who in turn is stabbed by Sebastian Paz.
There follows a brief summary of Wellington's campaign from September 1811 to January 1812. This campaign is also discussed in the study on Harry Revel.
July 28 to September 2: Harry Revel sails from Plymouth to the Tagus with members of the 52nd Regiment aboard the Bute transport
September 3: Disembarks at Figueira on the River Mondego. Revel is confined to a base hospital
December 23: Leaves Figueira
December 24: Arrives at Villa del Ciervo on the River Agueda where the 52nd are posted
January 7: Harry Revel arrives with the 52nd at Bodin, near Ciudad Rodrigo
January 8: The 52nd cross the Agueda to the Great Tesson
January 9–12: Trenches are advanced towards Ciudad Rodrigo
January 14: The batteries open up the fortifications
January 20: Ciudad Rodrigo taken by assault which leads to plundering and rapine
January 21: Harry Revel hosptalized at Belem
March: Harry Revel returns to Plymouth aboard the Cumberland
‘The Lamp and the Guitar’
Part II, Section 5
Date: June 17, 1812
Characters: Mac, Neill, Fuentes, Dona Isabel
The allied forces invest Salamanca
Date: June 27
The forts fall to the British.
By chance MacNeill and a prematurely ageing Fuentes meet in Salmanca and go to the room of Dona Isabel in the Street of the Virgins, where Fuentes is informed of the circumstances surrounding the death of Luisa and the fact that she loved only him.
(According to Napier, Fuentes was drowned falling into a river.)
Fuentes, Luisa and the Troubadour Tradition
In his lecture ‘The Commerce of Thought’, given in the New Lecture Theatre at Cambridge and printed in Studies in Literature I of 1918, Q spoke of 'The ineffable spell of those great names—Paris, Oxford, Cambridge, Bologne, Salamanca!' The spell of Oxford, which Q entered in 1882, never left him. He was writing from the heart in ‘The Lamp and the Guitar’ when he described the effect the destruction of San Lorenzo and other colleges at Salamanca by the French republican soldiers had on Fuentes. It appears to have been this destruction which turned Fuentes into a wandering guitarist. Yet the secret sorrow noticed by MacNeill during their journey from Lisbon had a romantic side to it, as he discovered in the Upper Chamber in the Lesser Street of the Virgins after arriving in Salamanca.
Fuentes, unlike his brother Andrea, appears to have been a student distracted by other things—to a lesser extent Q was the same, although the things were different. Wine, women and song rather than concentrated study were of interest to Fuentes. The reader meets him in the story as a 'strolling guitar-player' suffering from unrequited love, who sings of his sorrows: 'My love, she lives in Salamanca,'. Fuentes can be seen as the exponent of a tradition stretching back to the Medieval troubadours. And with the same ultimate lament: 'Why love a mistress and be curst with her?' The idealised love of the troubadour can never find fulfillment either in possession or rejection.
In his lecture on the Ballad, which in printed form follows on from ‘The Commerce of Thought’, Q claims the wandering minstrel, although with a lute rather than a guitar, to have fallen out of fashion in Britain around 1600. from his reading of Richard Carew's Survey of Cornwall of 1602, he would have known of William 'Sir Tristram' Winslade, the last known wandering minstrel to deliver Tristram and Iseult material in the manor houses of Cornwall. 'Sir Tristram' certainly performed at Killigarth in Talland, where his sister resided with the Bevils and the Grenvilles. Q's son was named after Sir Bevil Grenville who features in Q's The Splendid Spur. Q's forebear Tristram Couch is mentioned in the Talland register of 1653.
Although Fuentes sang of the present rather than the past, he was part of a tradition dating to the Medieval troubadours for whom the lays of Tristram were foundational material. J.M. Cohen writes in The Penguin Book of Spanish Verse:
'The lyrical poets of the fourteenth century...model themselves closely on the style and sometimes the actual language of the Galicians, whose songs were the offshoot of the Troubadour tradition...Whereas the first lyrics of Spain's great period were Galician in inspiration, the “romances”, or ballads , of the early fifteenth century were rooted in the tradition of the northern epics... Many of the “romances”... dealt with more recent incidents, either from the border wars with the kingdom of Granada, or out of contemporary novels, which told of Charlemagne, of Arthur, Tristram and Lancelot, and which, as we know from “Don Quixote”, had entirely captured the public imagination in the fifteenth century.' (Introduction, xxxii to xxxiii).
Fighting border wars with the Moors of Granada was very different from fighting the highly organised and well-led armies of Napoleon. Napier's exasperation with the Spanish forces runs as a central theme through the five volumes of his History. Calmness, moderation and stoical doggedness were virtues to Wellington and Napier, and the only effective response to Frenchélan. They were virtues unknown to the Marquis of Romana, La Pena and Castanos. Of Romana, Napier writes that he 'was a person of talent, quickness and information', but he was also mercurial, unrealistic in his expectations and given to 'boasting'; hence 'Romana was a true Spaniard.' (I, p. 455). There were those in Spain, such as Don Andrea Galazza, who rather agreed with Napier and therefore sided with the French. We do not know of Eugenio's original opinion, only that the destruction of the University of Salamanca turned him into a bitter opponent.
The Spanish characters found in ‘The Lamp and the Guitar’, Andrea Galazza and the innkeeper being the sole exceptions, desire passionate action, whether heroic or foolish. The two students intend to kill each other in a duel over their infatuation for a woman who cares for neither of them. The woman, Luisa, deliberately receives the fatal wound to protect a man who is leaving her and has left her in the past. Fuentes and MacNeill face innumerable dangers to assist Wellington because they hate the French more than the British and appear to have little idea of the Spain they are fighting for. Nor are these observations simply the province of fiction. The alcade of Caceres, a man of nobility, patriotism and courage in the face of a French invasion, died in prison following the restoration of Ferdinand. According to Napier, Fuentes was drowned in a river during one of his expeditions (IV, p. 221). In ‘The Lamp and the Guitar’, Q captures aspects of the Spanish character with considerable perspicuity.
Fuentes did not sing of the sorrows of the past, but the bitterness of the present. If the Memoirs of MacNeill give us an accurate picture of Fuentes, the drowning may be seen as a relief from intolerable suffering. Maybe it parallels the death of Sir John Constantine, who dies fighting the Genoese for his former lover Queen Emelia of Corsica. The novel Sir John Constantine was published in 1906, with the collection containing ‘The Lamp and the Guitar’ following a year later.
Sir John Constantine of the parish of Constantine on the Lizard peninsula, his servant Billy Friske and Queen Emelia, are based, at least in part, on Don Quixote de la Mancha, Sancho Panza and Dulcinea del Toboso. John Constantine, Fuentes and Don Quixote are all driven by an idealized and unattainable love in the tradition of the troubadours. Only death, as also in Tristram, can deliver them from their suffering.
Luisa gives us the picture from the female side. While most poets writing in Spanish have been men, there are female voices. Although living in Mexico, there is a similarity between Luisa and the last significant poet of Spain's 'Great Age', Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz (1651–1695). She was a lady-in-waiting to the wife of the Spanish viceroy in Mexica. After the death of her lover she retired to a convent. The poem Redondillas is a biting exposé of the behaviour of men to women, one Fuentes might not have appreciated. How acquainted Q was with Spanish verse is unclear, but he would probably have known poet George Guillen (1893–1983), who was lecturing at Oxford when the Duchy Edition of Merry Garden was published.
Passionate Spanish womanhood came later to be symbolised in' The most famous Spanish communist, Dolores Ibarruri, known as 'La Pasionaria' (the passion flower),' as Hugh Thomas writes in The Spanish Civil War (1936-1939). 'Always dressed in black, with a grave but fanatical face which caused the masses who listened to her speeches to suppose her a revolutionary saint' and having 'transferred her devotion from the Virgin of Begona to the prophet of the British Museum Reading Room ... She was to become a great orator, and was already an artist in words and timing.' Thomas continues, ' La Pasionaria also represented the idea of a revolutionary womanhood, a strong force in a country which had given the Virgin a special place in religion.' In 'The Lamp and the Guitar', Luisa lives in the Street of the Virgins, is a seller of roses and 'Folk say her wisdom comes from heaven'. Thomas also points out that in 1909, 'women in Barcelona had been the most eloquent, daring and violent among strikers, church-burners and looters of nunneries.' (pp. 9-10).
Although Fuentes endeavours to blame Luisa for the failure of the relationship, encapsulating his accusation in a song, he learns in the last speech of the story, given by Dona Isabel, that the blame lay solely with himself. Luisa's attitude to men, 'passionate contempt', is revealed in her final conversation with MacNeill, followed by the fateful 'you kill us'. Sor Juana would have agreed.
In the preface to the Duchy Edition of Merry Garden in 1929, Q calls the collection his 'little legacy of straight story-telling'. If that is the case, 'straight story-telling' has more to it than meets the ear.
The Political Situation in Spain and Portugal
Napier covers this in Volume IV, Book XVI, Chapter I
Towards the end of 1811 and the beginning of 1812, Iberia was in a state of confusion with conflicting armies and political ideas. Napier describes the French invasion, backed by Spanish Liberals, as 'progressive', with only the British offering consistent resistance. With Napoleon's attention being drawn increasingly towards Russia and the best French troops moving eastwards, the Czar became a popular figure amongst the conservatives and Wellington saw his chance of a counter-thrust. Yet anti-British sentiment was strong.
'For although vast sums were continually received and every service was famished, the treasury was declared empty...The temper of the public was soured towards England, the press openly assailed the British character, and all things so evidently tended towards anarchy,'...The 'liberal or democratic party' was 'averse to British influence...'. (pp. 347–353).
When Ciudad Rodrigo was taken in January 1812, papers were discovered which showed 'that many of the inhabitants were emissaries of the enemy: all these people Carlos d'Espana slew without mercy,' (p. 390); presumably many of these were liberals. It is noticeable that what Napier describes is not altogether what appears in the texts of popular histories where the French-liberal axis is ignored.
The Military Situation from January to April 1812 in Napier
January 11: Marmont arrives at Valladolid ignorant of Wellington's move north.
January 15: Marmont hears for the first time of the siege of Cuidad Rodrigo by Wellington's forces. He concentrates his force of 45,000 at Salamanca.
January 26: Marmont hears of the loss of Ciudad Rodrigo and disperses his forces.
Wellington remains at Ciudad Rodrigo but starts to plan his campaign south to Badajos.
Wellington establishes a base for his attack on Badajos at Elvas.
Lord Liverpool refuses Wellington's plan for the financing of the campaign.
March 5: Wellington leaves Ciudad Rodrigo to Castañus and moves south.
Marmont centres himself at Salamanca.
Militia under Trant and Wilson concentrate at Guarda to help shield Almeida.
March 9: Marmont moves the 6th Division from Talavera through Puerto de Pico.
March11: Wellington arrives at Elvas to oversee the investment of Badajos.
March 16–24: The investment of Badajos by 51,000 allied troops.
March 29: Marmont concentrates his forces at Salamanca. Rumours circulate of a possible attack on Cuidad Rodrigo.
Wellington hears of the rumours. As Ciudad Rodrigo and Almeida are vulnerable and he is occupied at Badajos, the rumours worry him.
April 1: Soult leaves Seville on news from Badajos.
April 6: Badajos falls to Wellington.
April 8: Soult hears of the fall of Badajos and fears an invasion of Andalusia.
Napoleon orders Marmont to advance into Portugal to divide Wellington's northern and southern forces.
Trant marches back to Guarda to cover the magazines and hospital at Celorico which is guarded by Wilson.
April 9–14: Trant and Wilson hold Celorico with 6,000 militia and 6 guns.
Marmont advances to Portugal while Memoa crosses the Tagus at Villa Velha thus dividing Wellington's forces.
April 22: Believing Marmont to be directed to Ciudad Rodrigo, Trant advances one brigade to the bridge at Almeida.
April 30: Marmont moves nearer to Ciudad Rodrigo.
The Narrative of ‘The Two Scouts’ in Chronological Sequence
I. 'The Ford of the Tormes'
The allies occupy Almeida and capture the fortress of Ciudad Rodrigo, north of the Tagus, from the French and their Spanish supporters.
Wellington plans to attack the fortress of Badajos to the south of the Tagus and directly to the east of Lisbon.
Seville is the centre of Soult's forces in the south, nearest to Badajos.
Marmont starts to concentrate his northern forces at Salamanca, threatening Almeida and Ciudad Rodrigo.
Wellington is caught between two possible forces, but hopes to take Badajos before Soult can arrive from Seville and before Marmont can effect an attack on Ciudad Rodrigo.
Wellington independently commissions Manus MacNeill and Captain Alan MacNeill (or Mc) to gain information of Marmont's intentions from behind enemy lines: whether Marmont is aware of Wellington's move south; whether he is prepared to attack Ciudad Rodrigo and/or Almeida; and whether he will strike south to the Tagus.
The French issue a general order for the arrest of 'MacNeill'.
Manuel MacNeill travels from Wellington's headquarters to Salamanca.
Manuel MacNeill identifies the village of Huerta on a ford of the River Tormes as the central observation point. He hires himself out as the ostler and tapster at the tavern of the Posada del Rio adjacent to the ford. The stables are his living quarters.
Captain Alan MacNeill also identifies Huerta and the tavern as an observation point.
Days 1 to 5 at the Posada del Rio: Manuel MacNeill gathers military information.
Day 6: Early Hours, at the Cemetery: Manuel MacNeill conveys his information to a messenger.
One hour to dawn at the stables: Manuel MacNeill and Alan MacNeill, plus Jose, meet by chance and form an association. They plan their escape across the heavily guarded ford of the River Tormes.
Daybreak at the ford: Manuel in disguise and Jose part cross the ford with Alan dashing across on a horse and galloping for a wood along the Tammanies road.
March 27: Manuel and Alan MacNeill keep watch at a cross-roads outside of Tommames for the first movement of Marmont's forces.
March 30: Marmont's forces appear. The MacNeills record each battalion. They consider Ciudad Rodrigo safe from assault as Marmont carries no scaling ladders. Manuel MacNeill agrees to convey the military intelligence to Wellington at Badajos.
II. 'The Barber-Surgeon of Sabugal'
April 4: Manuel Mc or MacNeill arrives at Wellinton's headquarters before Badajos and delivers information which contradicts the reports of allied commanders in the north who fear the retaking of Ciudad Rodrigo by Marmont. Badajos will fall before any intervention by Soult.
Evening: Manuel MacNeill takes the road north to Castello Branco through the Alemtejo mountains.
April 6: Manuel MacNeill arrives at Castello Branco to find that Marmont had pushed his forces between Castello Branco in the south and Almeida, Celorico, Pinhel and Ciudad Rodrigo in the north.
April 7–8: Manuel MacNeill discovers Marmont's forces at Sabugal on the River Coa to the west of Ciudad Rodrigo.
April 9: He arrives at Guarda occupied by General Trant who previously had helped save Almeida.
An account given of General Trant.
French forces: Marmont stationed at Sabugal with 5,000, in two days to become 12,000. The main force is at Penamacor.
Trant's plan: to attack Sabugal with General Bacellar's dragoons from Celorico and his own forces.
Trant arranges for Manuel MacNeill to occupy a barber-surgeon shop in Sabugal to gather military intelligence.
April 10: MacNeill passes his information through a vine-dresser from Sabugal to Trant which arrives on April 13.
April 13: A French sergeant called Pierre Michu, who MacNeill had served at the Posada del Rio in Huerto, recognises MacNeill but promises, insincerely, not to inform. MacNeill closes his shop so as to collect medical leeches from the river but gets involved as a second in a duel. He returns to the shop for his medical instruments to find it has been ransacked by Michu. With the wounding of a staff officer in the duel the offending lieutenant goes for the military surgeon. MacNeill dresses himself in the clothing of the officer and rides away on his horse.
Having heard his name mentioned by a sentry he escapes from Sabugal in the hope of reaching Trant at Guarda with his military information about the intended attack of Marmont on his military headquarters. MacNeill is wounded and unable to convey his information. However, he observes Marmont's cavalry retreating, having failed to await the help of the infantry, so becomes aware of the French failure before Guarda.
Napier on Trant and Wilson
'Marmont's divisions now being spread over the country in search of supplies, Trant formed the very daring design of surprising the French marshal himself in his quarters at Sabugal...in the night of the 13th, that on which Trant would have made the attempt, Marmont having formed a design of surprising Trant, had led two brigades of infantry and four hundred cavalry...actually entering the streets at day-break, with his horsemen,when the alarm was beaten at Trant's quarters by one drummer' causing 'the French marshal to fall back'. (IV, p. 444–5)
Napier on Captain Colquhoun Grant (alias Captain Alan MacNeill)
'For when the first intelligence that the army of Portugal was concentrating on the Tormes reached him, he sent Captain Colquhoun Grant, a celebrated scouting officer, to watch Marmont's procedings. That gentleman, in whom the utmost daring was so mixed with subtlety of genius, and both so tempered by discretion...'
'Attended by Leon, a Spanish peasant of great fidelity and quickness of apprehension, who had been his companion on many former occasions of the same nature, Grant arrived in the Salamanca district, and passing to Tormes in the night, remained, in uniform, for he never assumed any disguise, three days in the midst of the French camp.' (p. 464)
'...the next morning, before daylight, entered the village of Huerta, which is close to a ford on the Tormes, and about six miles from Salamanca.' (p. 465)
'At last Leon fell exhausted, and the barbarians who first came up, killed him...Grant himself they carried, without injury, to Marmont, who received him with apparent kindness...but there was another Grant, a man also remarkable in his way, who used to remain for months in the French quarters, using all manner of disguises...' (p. 467)
'Treating the prisoner as I have said, with great apparent kindness, the French general exacted from him an especial parole...' (p. 467)
III 'The Parole'
Marmont's failure to press his attack on Guarda was made more serious by his subsequent failure to halt the retreat of Trant and Wilson across the Mondego river to Celorico and on towards Lamego. Marmont returned to Sabugal.
March 30: Manuel MacNeill had left Captain Alan MacNeill and Jose at Tammanies, while he rode to report to Wellington at Badajos.
April 16: General Wilson informs Manus of the capture of Alan Mc or MacNeill and the death of Jose.
'Captain McNeill's Statement'
April 13: McNeill and Jose camp above Penamacor pass to watch the passage of the French after Marmont's abortive attack on Guarda.
April 14: McNeill and Jose are observed by French scouts who capture them. Jose is shot.
The scouts believe themselves to have captured Manus MacNeill.
April 17: Alan McNeill is brought before Marmont in Sabugal. Marmont believes McNeill to have been the barber who assisted M. de Brissac in the duel. As Manus wore disguises, which Alan did not, this puts Alan in danger of being shot as a spy. On realising his mistake, Marmont arranges a parole.
April 16: Manus McNeill hears at Celores of Alan's capture.
April 18: Manus travels to Castello Branco to inform Wellington. Wellington offers a reward of twelve thousand francs for the rescue of Alan.
April 19: Manus McNeill arrives at Bellomonte to hear that Alan McNeill is imprisoned at Salamanca.
April 20: am. To effect the rescue of Alan, Manus travels to the camp of the guerilla leader Mina at Salvatierra, who had enriched himself on the subsidies conveyed through Sir Howard Douglas. Mina refuses help. Manus observes on the road from Salamanca to Miranda de Ebro the horsemen conveying Alan to France. Manus finally secures the help of two guerillas from Mina.
April 21: Assuming Alan to have spent the night at Vittoria, they wait on the Vittoria-Pamplona road during the morning. In the afternoon the party appear, Alan is rescued but refuses to dishonour the parole. Before proceeding to Bayonne, Alan arranges payment for Mina.
Three Men of Badajoz
‘Three Men of Badajoz’ is, like ‘The Two Scouts’, a story based on Wellington's campaign in Iberia of 1812. ‘The Two Scouts’mentions Badajoz (or Badajos) but is concerned with the military situation between the Tagus and the Duoro rivers. Badajoz is south of the Tagus on the loop of the river Guadiana. In taking Badajoz Wellington was able to secure his southern flank, enabling him to concentrate on an advance to the French border.
Sections I, IV and V are set in mid-Cornwall, but Sections II and III are military. Section III, by far the longest, is based on Napier's account of the battle of Badajoz in April 1812.
The main character is Nathaniel Ellery, alias Nat Varcoe, of Gantick, a thatcher by trade. The dramatic tension in the story is the product of Ellery's long and relatively uneventful life at Gantick and his short but traumatic experience as a soldier in the assault at Badajoz.
In Section V of the story, a coroner asks the son of the deceased to account for his father's strange behaviour at the time of his death. The son replied that his father suffered from delusions resulting from the battle of Badajoz. The father is Nat Ellery while the son is the product of Ellery's marriage to a Spanish woman after his desertion from Wellington's army. In fact, Ellery had lived for 17 years in Spain, although little additional information is provided.
Today we should call the delusions 'post-traumatic stress disorder' or 'war trauma'. Anyone who has observed such behaviour—this writer was an associate member of the National Ex-Prisoners-of-War Association—will recognise what Q is describing, although usually in a less severe form. It is possible that Q is recounting a tale told by his father, Dr Thomas Q. Couch of Bodmin.
Nathaniel Ellery, the Gantick thatcher, was born in 1789, the same year as Jonathan Couch. He lived to be between seventy and eighty, making his death between 1859 and 1869. The story says that Ellery died at the time the narrator arrived home from school for his first summer holiday. If this is referring to Q's schooling in Bodmin, which ended in 1873 when he was ten, this statement is possibly informative. Otherwise not. However, there is almost certainly a factual basis to the story.
There will be those who question whether Nat Ellery (in Section IV) would experience delusions so long after an event. The answer must be yes. In old age traumatic war experiences can resurface with considerable force. The time of day, the noise of thunder, the ladder and the ascent, which occasion the delusion, parallel what had happened at Badajoz. The story identifies 'post-traumatic stress disorder' in an unusual but not unique way. Sadly, Q was amongst the few, at the time, who could. During the First World War the condition was termed and all too often dismissed as 'shell shock'. ‘Three Men of Badajoz’ is a story 100 years ahead of its time.
The fall of Badajoz to the British and Portuguese is described by Napier in Volume Four of his History, from pages 399 to 433, with an 'Explanatory Sketch of the Siege of Badajoz' facing page 418. Q based section three of his story upon Napier's account. This is not Q's only source as he includes information not found in Napier.
‘Three Men of Badajoz’ was published in The Laird's Luck along with ‘The Two Scouts’. Four of the stories from the collection relate in some way to the Napoleonic Wars and four to Spain or a Spanish possession.
The Battle of Badajoz(s), April 1812
9 pm: bombardment ceases
Plan of Attack
1. Picton's 3rd Division to assault the north-east defences below the castle which overlooks the River Guadiania.
2. The 4th Division and the Light Division to effect the main attack between St Maria to the left and Trinidad to the right.
3. Leigh's 5th Division to divide, one section going east to the Pardaleras, the other north to the river to attack the San Vicente.
See Napier's 'Explanatory Sketch' facing page 418.
Nathaniel Ellery alias Varcoe in the Attack on San Vicente:
9 pm: Leigh's Division assembles on a low hill to the south-west of Badajos in two brigades.
The Division marches down the slope and divides, with Leigh leading one brigade to the Pardaleras, and the other under Walker going past the mines to the bank of the River Guadiania. Nat Varcoe, in Walker's brigade, enters the mist by the river bank below the San Vicente.
The fortifications consist of a breastwork with a stockage above and a chevaux de frise above that.
With the exploding of the mines the firing begins from the defences. The Portuguese carry up the ladders.
10 pm: The attack begins with a fruitless assault of the entrance gate. The assault transfers itself to the chevaux de frise. Below this is a ditch. The ladders effect entrance to the fortifications through an embrasure. The defenders are chased along the rampart.
Nat Varcoe clambers through the embrasure and enters the town, having seen most of his associates killed. He descends into a cobbled street, with the sounds of fighting still coming from the assault on Trinidad. He encounters men from Picton's force who had taken the castle.
Nat Varcoe finds himself in the town square in the eastern part of the town. Entering a house he discovers a woman and a priest. Disillusioned with soldiering, the priest hides him and he later marries the woman. By her he has three children, one of whom speaks before the coroner at the conclusion of the story.
‘The Cellars of Rueda’
Q introduced his readers to the cousins Alan and Manus McNeill in the short story collection of 1901, The Laird's Luck. A second tale involving them, ‘The Cellars of Rueda’, appeared in The White Wolf, published in the following year. The basis of 'The Two Scouts’ and ‘The Cellars of Rueda’ can be found in Napier's History of the War in the Peninsula, Volume four. Although ‘The Cellars of Rueda’ can stand as an independent story, Q probably assumed his readers to have read the earlier tale.
The introduction to The White Wolf which he wrote for the Duchy Edition of 1928 is vital reading for any student of Q. In it Q places himself within the context of the 'Romantic movement'. Q saw romanticism and liberalism as embodying perennial truths of the human condition. Science, economics, philosophy, theology and the rest, he saw as not unimportant but as not central. This may surprise many today, because it stands in opposition to received opinion. Q was aware that it stood in opposition to received opinion in 1928. Behind Q's writings is a specific view of the world. This view is not secular as it included spiritual as well as material values.
The introduction also states his belief in the innate goodness of man, refusing the doctrine of original sin as expounded by the likes of St Augustine and the tenets of Social Darwinism. The goodness of man is a reflection of the goodness of the Creator, while the rationality of the Universe facilitates its exploration through a liberal education system.
War, tyranny, political repression and imposed theories and dogmas are anti-human. They destroy or suffocate but do not create. A clear perception of the order and goodness of the universe, known in moments of revelation, is the basis for harmonious living and ecological responsibility. We can apprehend all this even if we cannot comprehend.
Date: April to July 1812
Location: The central location is a labyrinth of caverns, used by vine growers to mature their wine, overlooking the River Zapardiel at Rueda near Salamanca.
Main characters: Captain Alan McNeill, a British spy who dresses in military uniform to prevent himself being shot on capture, and who hails from Ross in Scotland.
Manus McNeill, a Spaniard of Scottish descent and cousin of Alan. A spy who employs disguise.
Gil Gonsalvez de Covadonga, Doctor of moral philisopy at the College of the Conception at the University of Salamanca, who seeks sanctuary in the caverns after the destruction of his college by the French.
Duke of Wellington, who employs Alan and Manus McNeill as spies. The British commander.
Marmont, Duke of Ragusa, commander of the French forces in the Salamanca area, who believes Alan and Manus to be the same person.
Section I. Enter the Cellars
Date: July 1812
The armies of Wellington and Marmont face each other across the Duoro river near Salamanca. On the left flank of the French army and the right of the British is the rock of Rueda on the River Zapardiel, a tributary of the Duoro. The rock overlooks the French held bridge at Tordesillas and a ford leading to a cavern entrance.
Manus McNeill, who had previously been sent to observe the movements of Caffarelli's Army of the North in the direction of Salamanca, informs Wellington of the failure of the general to support Marmont on the Duoro. Manus returns to watch the flank at Rueda.
Manus McNeill enters the cavern having observed three soldiers leaving the entrance. He encounters a Spanish priest, Gil Gonsalvez de Covadonga, who having learned his name leads him to the recumbent figure of Captain Alan McNeill. Gonsalvez had discovered Alan McNeill by the roadside suffering from sunstroke.
Section II: Captain McNeill's Adventure
In Section II, the main character from section one, Manus McNeill, retires into the background. The subsiduary character from section one, Gonsalvez, takes centre stage, along with Captain Alan McNeill, who in Section I did not appear.
The dramatic conflicts cross each other in unusual fashion:
- the Scottish Protestant Alan McNeill and the Spanish Catholic Gil Gonsalvez;
- the military Alan McNeill and the pacifist Gonsalvez;
- the uniformed spy Alan McNeill and the spy in disguise, Manus McNeill;
- the war without the rock and the tranquillity within;
- Alan's action packed adventures and his bedridden state;
- Gonsalvez's professorship and his refuge in the cavern.
The adventures of Captain Alan McNeill are attributed in Napier's History, pages 467 to 472, to Grant. As below:
A Summary of the Adventures of Grant/McNeill or G/M
- G/M captured by the French and taken to headquarters of Marmont.
- Marmont discovers there to be two G/Ms one in military uniform and the other in disguise, but is not convinced.
- Owing to G/M being in uniform he does not hang him.
- G/M agrees to travel on parole and under escort to the Governor of Bayonne with a letter.
- The sealed letter informs the Governor of G/M's activities and instructs him to convey G/M in irons to Paris as a spy.
- G/M is rescued by partisans but refuses to escape. He becomes acquainted with the contents of the letter.
- G/M delivers himself but not the letter to the Governor of Bayonne.
- Believing that the contents of the letter betray the parole, G/M travels independently to Paris in the entourage of General Souham.
- A British spy network arranges for G/M to adopt the identity of the American, the late Jonathan Buck, so as to escape from France at a free-port.
- After various adventures, G/M is conveyed to England, where he arranges a French officer transfer, regularising his legal position.
- After being four months away, G/M returns to Spain.
- G/M resumes his spying activities near Rueda.
A Summary of his Discovery by Gonsalvez
- Gonsalvez discovers an unconscious British officer, in a scarlet uniform, by the road side near Tordesillas.
- To save the officer from the French he conveys him to the caverns of Rueda, a place of refuge he is making for himself.
- Gonsalvez nurses the officer back to health and discovers his name to be McNeill.
- By Chance, Gonsalvez meets Manus McNeill and introduces him to Alan McNeill.
Problems of Structure
Of all Q's short stories few seem as problematic as ‘The Cellars of Rueda’. Firstly, there is the cross-talk of the drunken troopers, in Section I, which seems irrelevant. Secondly, the dramatic tensions in the plot are left unresolved. Thirdly, the reader is left in doubt about the recovery of Alan McNeill, about the recovery of his position as Professor of Moral Philosophy at Salamanca University by Gil Gonsalvez, and about the conclusion of the forthcoming battle between the British and the French.
There can be little question that Q planned the story in this way, although this would be anathema to most short story writers. No doubt Q would have replied that the conflicts of life are rarely resolved, we do not know the future and the story simply reflects real life. However, Q never descended to the meaninglessness of the 'theatre of the absurd'. He believed life had a meaning, even if that meaning is difficult or impossible to discern from the flux of events. This meaning is rooted in his Anglicanism. Q's fiction is clear that meaning cannot be related to 'happy-ever-after'. It cannot be confined to the parameters of a material world. Gonsalvez, himself, recognises this.
The Central Theme
The short story is a set of oral narratives by Alan and Manus McNeill and Gil Gonsalvez. Below the immediate action which oral narratives relate is the level of moral, indeed theological, reflection.
In Catholicism, confession to a priest (and Gil Gonsalvez would have heard many confessions as he is ordained) should be preceded by 'examination of conscience'. This is related to the theological idea that on the day of judgement, unconfessed sin will weigh in the scales of divine justice against the deceased. As a Protestant, probably a Calvinist, Alan McNeill rejected the Church as an intermediary, yet examination of conscience remained. Only by acting without moral culpability could Alan McNeill ensure that his personal covenant with God , one ensuring an overriding providence in his affairs, be maintained. An example of this is the Confederate general in the American Civil War, 'Stonewall' Jackson, who invariably rode the battlefield indifferent to obvious safety. The refusal of Alan McNeill to escape with the partisans following his capture by the French was not simply a case of extraordinary moral behaviour, but a necessity in ensuring the continuance of the covenant. This was the covenant which 'protected' him behind enemy lines.
We have a right to question how Q came by this understanding of the Reformed or Calvinist character. The answer lies in the time he spent with his Ford grandparents, who tended to Reformed Theology, when studying at Newton Abbot academy.
The question of moral integrity goes beyond Alan McNeill, involving also Manus McNeill, Gil Gonsalvez, Marshal Marmont and Lord Wellington. The story puts them all under the spotlight.
In refraining from ordering Alan McNeill to be hanged, Marmont is appearing to be exhibiting French 'honour'. Yet the sealed letter to the Governor of Bayonne suggests that he is simply passing the moral problem on. Manus McNeill makes the penetrating observation: 'If Marmont hates one thing more than another it's to see his majestic image diminished in the looking-glass.' It can be contrasted with the conduct of Marshal Soult in relation to the parole of Major Napier, brother to the historian. (See vol. 1, p. 496). Using the name Grant instead of McNeill when describing the same situation, Napier views Marmont as culpable rather than honourable. (Vol.iv, p. 467–8).
Secondly, Lord Wellington, commander of British troops. When Wellington spoke to Manus McNeill, on June 19, he was aware of the return to the Peninsula of Alan McNeill, but refused to pass on the information, although knowing of its importance to Manus. Alan McNeill endeavours to pass this off as military caution, so the question is left unresolved.
Alan McNeill is less charitable about his cousin's use of spying when in disguise. It was the use of disguise and the similarity of name which could have resulted in Alan McNeill's death. Alan saw it as morally dubious while Manus saw it as a necessary expedient. When Manus called Gonsalvez to decide on the difference between 'hiding in a truss of hay and hiding under a wig', Alan retreats to his default position of 'private conscience'.
The character who is essentially in the dock, who has placed himself in the dock, is Alan McNeill. This is an unenviable position because at the commencement of the 'trial', Gonsalvez had condemned Alan and Manus as 'You sons of war (who) chase the oldest of human illusions;'. This was the message of Unamuno, rector of the University of Salamanca, when he spoke before the Nationalist leaders on October 12, 1936, in the great hall of the university. (See Appendix V).
Alan McNeill is condemned from the start for being a man of war and a Protestant – to both Manus and Gonsalvez a 'heretic'. However, by seeing Gonsalvez as a professor of moral philosophy, Alan is prepared to proceed.
Firstly, Gonsalvez commends Alan McNeill for abiding by the terms of the parole in refusing to escape with the partisans. McNeill then relates how he arrived at Bayonne, where he assumed the parole to have expired, sending to Marmont a letter informing him to that effect, before travelling on to Paris in the entourage of General Souham. The episode which most exercised McNeill was the stratagem used to escape from France by assuming the identity of a dead American and then the exchange of officers having once landed in England.
At the conclusion of the narrative Dr Gonsalvez had identified four questions requiring moral resolution. His answers are not given. The reader is left to resolve them for him and her self as Manus leaves the cavern in the presence of Gonsalvez.
This short story is of particular interest for the insight it gives into Q's character. Q was a man of conscience. The integrity of his lectures was part of their power. He meant every word he spoke. Integrity enabled him to support unpopular causes without making enemies. He opposed the Boer War and the colonialist agenda in the face of majority opinion. In spite of establishment disquiet he supported social and mercantile reform. And he established a department of English Literature at Cambridge when academic opinion was hostile.
Yet moral conflicts troubled him. He helped raise a regiment in 1914, but refused to sit on recruitment platforms in 1915. Nicky-Nan Reservist of 1915 is one of the most troubled novels he ever wrote. At a time when the allies were facing a major German offensive on the Western front in 1918, he attacked the government in his lectures on Byron and Shelley.
On many occasions Q must have sat in his study at 'The Haven' in Fowey, with the window before him and beats plying in and out of the harbour below, only to be aware of the figure of Gil Gonsalvez, professor of moral philosophy as a shadow before the pane.
Corporal Sam was first published in the short story collection Corporal Sam and Other Stories. The appearance of the name in the title of the collection indicates its importance for Q when published in 1911. In 1929, it was included in the Duchy edition of Two Sides of the Face. Penguin saw it of sufficient significance, along with ‘The Laird's Luck’ and ‘Roll-Call on the Reef’, to be included in Selected Short Stories by Q of 1957.
In the introduction to the Duchy edition Q claims 'to tell a stark tale and leave it', in contrast to stories of 'psychological analysis and long forceful conversations.' Corporal Sam is certainly a 'stark tale', but its last sections go far beyond starkness. The whole tone stands in marked contrast to his earlier Peninsular War stories. Wellington is presented as cruel, arrogant and incompetent, while the horrors of war are even more graphically described. The reader is left in bleak hopelessness. Reasons for this, obscure as may be, need to be sought.
At the time Corporal Sam was being written and published, Q's life and the life of the country were undergoing profound and difficult change.
In 1911, T.H. Warren, President of Magdalen, persuaded Q to apply for election as Professor of Poetry at Oxford, only to secure the position for himself a couple of months later. At the same time Cambridge received its first Professor of English Literature in A.W. Verrall. He died 18 months later. In October 1912, in spite of opposition to himself and to the professorship from senior members of the university, Q accepted the position. It fell upon his shoulders to establish the department for English Literature at Cambridge in face of those who despised it and him. It is possible that for some time Q had been considering an academic post but was aware of prejudice against him. As a political Liberal Q faced similar problems on other fronts.
On November 30, 1909, the Conservative dominated House of Lords rejected the radical budget of Chancellor of the Exchequer David Lloyd George. Prime Minister H.H. Asquith called a general election for January 1910. During the election the Conservatives added another dimension to the debate. According to Frank Owen in Tempestuous Journey, Arthur Balfour 'the Tory leader had rather loosely spoken about “inevitable” war with Germany.' (p.186). A second election followed in December, after which the Liberal administration placed the Parliament Bill on the statute book and the pathway to reform was opened up. Three storm clouds hung over the country at this time, as Owen states: 'Civil War between the Irish factions, Social War between the English classes and International War between the Great Powers of Europe.' (p.203). As President of the South-East Cornwall Liberal Association, Q was actively involved in both elections.
Maybe these issues seem to have little relevance to ‘Corporal Sam’ but appearances may deceive.
‘Corporal Sam’ was written in eight sections of unequal length. It commences not with the investment of San Sebastian by British and Portuguese troops but with the cannonading of the town. Neither does it end with a description of final victory as the citadel remained untaken. The story is curious in that its power lies in disappointed expectation or a series of anti-climaxes.
The dramatic tension builds up through Section I towards the assault of San Sebastian in Section II. As the assault fails the result is anti-climax. Section III seems to involve an irrelevant dialogue. The centre of war is moving away from Spain into France, leaving Wellington irate at the hiccup in his rear. The taking of San Sebastian in section four is also an anti-climax. It opens with Wellington's rebuke to his troops and moves on to a second failed assault, one only redeemed by a lucky chance, the exploding of a number of French powder barrels. Yet the convent and the citadel remain in French hands.
Sections V to VIII dwell not upon a relative victory but on the horrors of British occupation for the residents of the town. In ‘Three Men of Badajoz’ Nat Ellery is traumatised by the fighting at Badajos. In ‘Corporal Sam’, Sam Vicary is traumatised by the behaviour of the victors.
As a protest against war, ‘Corporal Sam’ is arguably the most powerful Q ever wrote. It stands in marked opposition to the popular novels of G.A. Henty (1832–1902), whose first adventure story, The Young Buglers of 1880, glorified the Peninsular War. Henty had tapped into a growing jingoism in British society, encouraged by certain politicians and newspapers, which would eventually lead to cheering in the streets of London in August 1914. Q's apprehensions were shared by members of the Liberal government, most notably John Burns and John Morley who resigned when war with Germany was declared, and David Lloyd George who, like Q, changed his mind following the invasion of Belgium. In 1911, Q belonged to the anti-war and anti-colonialist wing of the Liberal Party.
Date: July 22, 1813
Location: Mount Olia, outside San Sebastian
Characters: Sergeant David Wilkes, Major Frazer, a Scot, Captain Archimbeau, Corporal Sam Vicary of Somerset. All the above belong to the Ist (Royal) Regiment of Foot.
Paragraph 1: establishing a battery on Mount Olia for the bombardment of San Sebastian.
Paragraph 2 to 4: A description of location and introduction to characters.
Information: Sergeant Wilkes had fought at Badajoz and Vittoria. Vicary was made a corporal at Vittoria, his first battle. Wilkes and Vicary are friends.
- Vicary empathises with the besieged.
- Wilkes expresses his concern to Frazer and Archimbeau about assaulting the breach without the hornwork or ramparts having been destroyed.
- Major Frazer seeks volunteers, including Wilkes and Vicary, for leading the Ist Regiment of Foot into the Great Breach, at the time the 38th assault the Small Breach.
Date: July 24
Location: the Great Breach
Characters: as above
The assault is deferred from the 23rd to the 24th of July and to begin at daybreak following a barrage of te breach.
The Assault of the Great Breach
- The Ist Foot commence the assault an hour early.
- They have to run through the British barrage.
- The scaling ladders are too short.
- Fierce fire comes from the undestroyed ramparts.
- The main body of Ist Foot become intermingled with the 38th who arrive on time for their assault of the Lesser Breach.
- The assault ends in a costly failure.
Date: Two weeks after the assault, approx. August 7th.
Location: Sand-dunes outside San Sebastian.
Characters: Corporal Vicary, Sergeant Wilkes, Captain Norman Ramsay, Body of duellists
- Wellington blames the infantry, particularly the 5th Division for the failure of the assault.
- Wilkes and Vicary reflect upon the assault.
- The story of Captain Norman Ramsay, R.A., who at Fuentes d'Onoro had cut through the French lines; but at San Sebastian had been arrested for wrong positioning on orders of Wellington when the mistake lay with Wellington himself.
- On release Ramsay prevents a duel through force of character.
Date: August 31
Location: The Great Breach
Characters: General Leith, recently returned to command, Sergeant Wilkes, Corporal Sam Vicary
Wellington orders another assault of the Great and Lesser Breaches. The assault of the Great Breach is again held up by the undemolished hornwork, apart from a lodgement by the Light Division. By accident a line of powder-barrels explodes, facilitating entry into the town. Wilkes' fear that the humiliation of the 1st Foot by Wellington will have appalling consequences in the town is justified.
Date: September 3
Location: Camp of the 1st Foot outside San Sebastian
Characters: Sgt Wilkes, Cpl Vicary
General Leith promises £5 for anyone rescuing a child from a house to the left of the Convent of Saint Teresa. Corporal Vicary secretly answers the call.
Date: Night of September 3-4
Location: San Sebastian
Characters: Sam Vicary, Riflemen, child, corpse of a woman.
- Sam Vicary enters San Sebastian at 9 p.m.
- He contrasts his rural area of Somerset with a ravaged and burning town.
- The house by the convent is located.
- He speaks to two riflemen who had been in the house—and had murdered a woman.
- One rifleman offers to shoot the child but is shot himself.
- Entering the house Vicary encounters the child and its dead mother.
- Vicary decides to revenge himself on the Riflemen.
Date: Morning of September 4
Location: Camp of 1st Foot
Characters: Sgt Wilkes, riflemen
- Sgt Wilkes hears of the absence of Vicary and enters San Sebastian in search.
- He encounters the Riflemen, three of whom had been shot by a sniper.
- Wilkes suspects Vicary to be the sniper.
- Wilkes shoots the sniper from a nearby roof.
- Wilkes enters the house to find a dying Vicary and the child.
Date: Morning of September 4
Location: House by the convent
Characters: Wilkes and Vicary
- Sgt Wilkes learns of Vicary's reasons.
- The French surrender the convent and retreat to the Citadel.
- Wilkes walks down to the ford of the Urumea followed by the child but the child is waved away owing to Wilkes' despair.
The introduction to this study contains a quotation from the preface of the Duchy edition now needing completion. Q claimed his method to be 'to tell a stark tale and leave it, whether for deeper mood, to the reader's own understanding. It is his to catch in his mind and remember, or be deaf to, or to neglect as he will the word of a passer-by.' A deeper understanding, for those who wish, can best be facilitated through a grasp of the personal and political context of the 1911 re-publication of Two Sides of the Face which included for the first time Corporal Sam. The short story was probably written and researched around 1910.
Q saw the Liberal victory in the general election of 1906 as a chance to rectify a century of social injustice and structural inequality in Britain whose roots lay in the reactionary politics of the post-Napoleonic period. For all the broadening of the electorate following the reform Act of 1832, power and wealth still resided in the hands of a small minority who controlled the House of Lords, effectively blocking progressive legislation. This block had spawned, in Britain and in Europe, conflict driven theories – Marxism, Social Darwinism, capitalism, militarism and environmental laissez-faire which threatened the very foundations of civilized life.
In his Cambridge lectures, even during the darkest months of World War I, Q argued for the need to understand the natural world and human society not from the point of view of conflict but of harmony. Conflict indicated a malaise requiring practical remedy. It only became chronic when practical steps were refused. At its worst this malaise resulted in war. The roots of World War I lay in reaction after the Napoleonic conflict. In the introduction to The Third Reich by Michael Burleigh is the observation: 'the universal creed of Communism ... resumed where the unfulfilled promise of 1789 had broken off.' Q would have agreed to.
Q probably saw nothing more dangerous than the glorification of war in such novels as those of G.A. Henty (1832-1902), whose first adventure story, The Young Buglers of 1880, idealised British involvement in the Peninsular War. In France this glorification was epitomized in the phrase La Gloire and in Germany 'blood and iron'.
In Corporal Sam, Q endeavours to show the reality of war symbolised in the destruction of civilized life in San Sebastian. The smoking and pillaged town, the loss of life on every side and, possibly the worst of all, the sufferings of children, present a view in direct contrast to that of The Young Buglers.
Q does more than describe the reality, he also points a finger of blame – at Lord Wellington. Arthur Wellesley was a member of the Irish aristocracy who purchased his way to a lieutenant colonelcy, opposed all social reforms in the army, notoriously called his troops 'the scum of the earth' and later became a reactionary prime minister. It is not difficult to see Wellington as a symbol of the forces opposing Liberal reform in 1911.
Before the writing of Corporal Sam Q tended to overlook Wellington's faults, as had Napier, but in 1910-11 his temper was different. Wellington now comes more to resemble General Abercromby in the novel Fort Amity and the Duke of Marlborough in The Blue Pavilions.
- Wellington had ordered a suicidal assault of a fortified position having failed to cannonade the overlooking ramparts or 'hornwork'.
- He blamed the inevitable failure of the assault on his troops rather than himself.
- He ordered a second assault without having investigated the reasons for the failure of the first.
- The second assault succeeded by pure chance but with considerable loss of life.
- The dehumanized treatment of the troops by Wellington leads them to treat the inhabitants of San Sebastian in the same way.
- Captain Norman Ramsay, R.A., is imprisoned and humiliated for carrying out an order Wellington forgot he had given.
In Corporal Sam, Q is showing how responsibility lies with those in power. Irresponsible behaviour at the top trickles down. Those in power then evidence bad behaviour in the lower orders as justification for further repression. In society this breeds conflict driven theories with the inevitable consequences.
Q finished his preface to the Duchy edition in April 1929 with the observation that the reader can 'remember, or be deaf to' the import of his stories. The preface was written six months before the Wall Street Cras of October, when prices collapsed on the New York Stock Exchange, leading to the Great Depression of 1929-34, during which unemployment in Britain rose to 2.8 million and in Germany to 5.6 million. This led to the rise of National Socialism in Germany and the Russian-German War of 1941-5, when the scenes of barbarity described in Corporal Sam became commonplace.