10. A Straggler of '15 and Waterloo

South London Press (1897)

‘A Straggler of ’15’ is an extended vignette, written by Conan Doyle in 1890 and first published in March 1891. The story was adapted for the stage, becoming known as ‘Waterloo,’ and first performed in 1894.

You can read the short story here.

The play can be found here.

The episode can be heard here: http://doingsofdoyle.podbean.com/.

Harry Furniss' portrait of Irving as Brewster (1893)

‘A Straggler of ‘15’ begins with the arrival of young Norah Brewster at Arsenal View, Woolwich, in October 1881, to look after her great-uncle Gregory, a ninety-year-old veteran of the Battle of Waterloo. On his wall she notices a medal and a framed newspaper citation recording his heroism during the defence of the Hougoumont farm complex. She realises her great-uncle is no ordinary old man. This is confirmed by a succession of visitors, including members of the local artillery garrison and the current commanding officer of the Scots Guards, Brewster's old regiment. A more ominous presence, however, is the local doctor, and as Norah grows closer to one of the most regular callers, Sergeant Archie MacDonald, and dreams of the future, Corporal Gregory Brewster dwells evermore upon the past and the inevitable reunion with his Waterloo comrades...

Writing and publication history

Completed by 25 September 1890 and first published in Black & White in March 1891

Republished in Round the Red Lamp (1894).

Later recollected to the collection Tales of the Ring and Camp (1922).

Hougoumont today
The Battle of Waterloo

George MacDonald Fraser, The Hollywood History of the World (1988).

The Battle of Waterloo, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Waterloo 

Hougoumont, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hougoumont

Charles Dalton, Waterloo Roll Call (1890)

Gareth Glover, Waterloo in 100 Objects (2015)

Brewster medal. Image courtesy of Royal Corps of Transport 

Origins of Brewster’s story

Horace Seymour, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Horace_Seymour

Herbert T Siborne, Waterloo Letters (1891)

William Siborne, History of the War in France and Belgium in 1815 (2 Vols, 1844)

Conan Doyle on Siborne, Through the Magic Door (1907, p188)

The Brewster Medal, https://ageofrevolution.org/200-object/private-brewsters-silver-waterloo-medal/

Royal Logistics Corps Museum, https://www.royallogisticcorps.co.uk/museum/ 

Other possible influences

William B. Wollen, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Barnes_Wollen

Hubert von Herkomer’s The Last Muster (1875), https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Last_Muster

Dion Boucicault, Napoleon’s Old Guard (1836) later known as The Old Guard.

Bram Stoker in 1906

Irving, Stoker and the Lyceum

Henry Irving (1838-1905), https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_Irving

Bram Stoker (1847-1912), https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bram_Stoker

The Lyceum Theatre, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lyceum_Theatre,_London

Bram Stoker, Personal Reminiscences of Henry Irving (1906)

Jeffrey M. Richards, Sir Henry Irving: A Victorian Actor and His World (2005)

Notable works

Clifford S. Goldfarb, The Great Shadow: Arthur Conan Doyle, Brigadier Gerard and Napoleon (1997)

Clifford S. Goldfarb, Preface to Matthias Bostrom ed., Sherlock Holmes and Conan Doyle in the Newspapers Volume 5, July-September 1894 (Forthcoming)

W. D. King, Henry Irving’s Waterloo (1993)

David Skene-Melvin, ed., Waterloo: A Case-book on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Historical Play (1998)

Sherlockian connections

A Study in Scarlet (1887), https://www.arthur-conan-doyle.com/index.php?title=A_Study_in_Scarlet

The Sign of Four (1890), https://www.arthur-conan-doyle.com/index.php?title=The_Sign_of_Four

Next time on the Doings of Doyle…

We finally get round to some Sherlock Holmes with ‘The Adventure of the Devil’s Foot’ (1910). Read it here: https://www.arthur-conan-doyle.com/index.php?title=The_Adventure_of_the_Devil%27s_Foot


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Image credits: Thanks to Alexis Barquin at The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopaedia for permission to reproduce these images. Please support the encyclopaedia at www.arthur-conan-doyle.com.

Music credit: Sneaky Snitch Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com). Licensed under Creative Commons:  By Attribution 3.0 License. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/