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Peace vs War in Britain post-Waterloo

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Peace vs War in Britain post-Waterloo

Postby FBC-Elvas, Portugal » June 16th, 2016, 12:55 pm

The British writers of the day thought the early 19th century to be dull and uneventful. The future prime minister, Benjamin Disraeli, famously stated in his 1826 novel Vivian Grey, “if it wasn’t for the general election, we really must have a war for variety’s sake. Peace gets quite a bore”.

One of the most celebrated literary families of the 19th century, the Brontës were part of a post-war generation, with Charlotte Brontë, the eldest child, born in 1816, a year after the decisive battle of Waterloo.
The defeat of Napoleon in 1815 marked the end of a seemingly relentless war and left a stunned Europe reflecting not only on the sensational elements of conflict, but also the horrors. The Brontë family’s local Yorkshire landscape saw multitudes of soldiers return from battle overseas, suffering physical and psychological damage and confined to the economic limitations of half-pay – an allowance soldiers received when in retirement or not in service. Within its family home, Haworth parsonage, the family’s father, the Reverend Patrick Brontë, remained a military fanatic. Although trained in the church he held a lifelong obsession with the Napoleonic Wars.
The British writers of the day thought the early 19th century to be dull and uneventful. The future prime minister, Benjamin Disraeli, famously stated in his 1826 novel Vivian Grey, “if it wasn’t for the general election, we really must have a war for variety’s sake. Peace gets quite a bore”. The newspapers and periodicals of the day were saturated with war commentary. They ignored the monotony of the present and lingered on the shadows of Britain’s military past. Wellington and Napoleon especially dominated the media. Their rivalry was sensationalised and very quickly engrained into cultural mythology: Wellington as a hero; Napoleon as a tortured, evil genius.
The Brontë family’s favourite periodical, Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine, especially dramatised the relationship between Wellington and Napoleon; another said that “they struggled like two giants for ascendency”. Although there is no evidence to suggest that the Brontë children came into contact with soldier veterans from the Napoleonic Wars, they read widely about these conflicts. As well as the hum generated by the media the children read specific military journals such as The United Service Journal, and military biographies. Notably, by the age of 13, Charlotte and Branwell had each read Walter Scott’s Life of Napoleon, the definitive eight-volume memoir of the French Emperor’s life. They were also familiar with the artistic response to war: for example, they devoured Lord Byron’s Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, a poetic lament that critiqued the motives behind Waterloo. With all this information at hand, the Brontës’ gradually became ‘war experts’ – soon they would become war commentators. The famous novels that we celebrate today – Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall – are just the tip of the iceberg when placed alongside the multitude of prose, poems, plays and ephemera the siblings produced in their early years.
Many are in tiny books no bigger than the palm of your hand and were filled with explicit content: affairs, gory battle scenes and violent, cruel men. As children of a parson, this was highly scandalous content. Luckily for them their father had poor eyesight and could not read the tiny books, meaning the Brontës could write freely.
Although there is no evidence to suggest that the Brontë children came into contact with soldier veterans from the Napoleonic Wars, they read widely about these conflicts. As well as the hum generated by the media the children read specific military journals such as The United Service Journal, and military biographies. Notably, by the age of 13, Charlotte and Branwell had each read Walter Scott’s Life of Napoleon, the definitive eight-volume memoir of the French Emperor’s life. They were also familiar with the artistic response to war: for example, they devoured Lord Byron’s Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, a poetic lament that critiqued the motives behind Waterloo. With all this information at hand, the Brontës’ gradually became ‘war experts’ – soon they would become war commentators.
The multiple layers of the Brontës’ early writings show how engrained the legacy of the Napoleonic Wars had become in Britain’s social consciousness. The rise of Wellington and Napoleon’s mythological status as titans of war struck a note with the Brontës’ early genius. Their writings are a direct response to the Napoleonic Wars and mark a country’s fascination with a shocking and culturally significant moment.
Emma Butcher is a researcher in English Literature at the University of Hull, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council. Last year she co-curated a major exhibition at the Brontë Parsonage, ‘The Brontës, War and Waterloo’.

Source: http://www.historyextra.com/article/fea ... eonic-wars


Sarah
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Re: Peace vs War in Britain post-Waterloo

Postby Mark » June 30th, 2016, 11:50 am

Thanks for sharing, Sarah!

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Re: Peace vs War in Britain post-Waterloo

Postby FBC-Elvas, Portugal » June 30th, 2016, 3:04 pm

Just came across a regrettable quote from Jane Austen at the time.
How horrible it is to have so many people killed! And what a blessing that one cares for none of them!

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Re: Peace vs War in Britain post-Waterloo

Postby Mark » July 1st, 2016, 1:00 pm

FBC-Elvas, Portugal wrote:Just came across a regrettable quote from Jane Austen at the time.
How horrible it is to have so many people killed! And what a blessing that one cares for none of them!

Sarah


I guess she was saying that she lost no one she knew. Or at least one would hope that is what she meant.

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