This episode, we return to Brigadier Etienne Gerard of the Hussars of the Conflans shortly after his escape from Dartmoor Prison for more mishaps and misadventures in ‘The Brigadier in England’ (1903).
You can read the story here: https://www.arthur-conan-doyle.com/index.php/The_Brigadier_in_England
An excellent audiobook version read by Rupert Degas for
Naxos is well worth seeking out.
Listen to the episode here:
Or at our Youtube channel, www.youtube.com/@doingsofdoyle.
Closed captions will be available two days after the video is uploaded.
This story takes place after the events of ‘How the
Brigadier Held the King’ and ‘How the King Held the Brigadier’ which we
discussed in Episode
Writing and publication history
‘The Brigadier in England’ seems to have its origins in
August 1902, when Conan Doyle played a cricket tour for the MCC in Devon and
Cornwall. Cricket, Devon, and Tavistock, where Conan Doyle once considered
setting up in medical practice, all appear in this story.
The story was published in the Strand in March 1903,
the same month that Conan Doyle’s play Brigadier Gerard was first
performed with Lewis Waller in the title role.
It was later included in Adventures of Gerard (1903) where
it was renamed ‘How the Brigadier Triumphed in England.’
The rough and tough Fancy
The story opens with a montage of Gerard’s various sporting
mishaps with the Fancy, including entrapping pheasants rather than shooting them,
thinking cricket is about hitting the batsman rather than the stumps, and
engaging in an ill-mannered boxing match in which he bites, kicks, and claws
his way to a victory.
Conan Doyle read widely on the Regency. One especially
important source was Captain Gronow’s The Reminiscences and Recollections of
Captain Gronow: Being Anecdotes of the Camp, Court, Clubs & Society,
1810-1860 (ed. 1892) which includes many of these Regency archetypes.
|Image from Gronow's Reminiscences
Chief among the Fancy is Lord Rufton, a character who was first mentioned as a backer of the Bristol Bustler in ‘How the King Held the Brigadier.’ Rufton later reappeared in Conan Doyle’s play The House of Temperley (1909) and in ‘The End of Devil Hawker’ (1930), a short story in which Rufton is a member of Watiers with Byron and John Gully.
Lady Frances Carfax, in the Sherlock Holmes ‘The
Disappearance of Lady Frances Carfax’ (1911), is said to be the last of the
line of the Earl of Rufton, thus placing Gerard in the Holmes universe…
John Gully was one of the leading boxers of the Regency
period, having been taught to box in prison and being spotted by the Fancy. He appears
in Royal Flash (1972) by George MacDonald Fraser, a great admirer of
Conan Doyle who drew inspiration from the Gerard stories to create the Flashman
Regency novels: Austen and Thackeray
|W. M. Thackeray
Conan Doyle read Pride and Prejudice (1813) in 1893 and
wrote admiring of her prim style. Shortly after, he was interviewed by Robert
Barr for The Idler in which he suggested Trollope was of the same
literary lineage as Austen and that she belonged to a school other than that of
Scott, Thackeray and Dickens (with which he more likely associated himself). In
Through The Magic Door (1907), ACD contrasted the Bronte’s works with
the “Miss Austen-like calm” of their predecessors.
Another debt is owed to W. M. Thackeray whose magnificent Vanity
Fair (1848), ACD sited as one of the three greatest novels of the Victorian
era (alongside works by Meredith and Reade). The novel begins in 1814. While a social
satire and tonally completely different, the Gerard story shares the rich depiction
of Regency life.
Conan Doyle’s uncle and father were friends with Thackeray.
The author visited Charles Doyle in Edinburgh in 1851 and possibly later too. In
Memories and Adventures, Conan Doyle said he “liked to think” he had
dangled on the author’s knee, although the evidence for Thackeray visiting
Charles Doyle in those years is unclear (Thackeray died when Conan Doyle was four
The fate of Lady Dacre may echo that of Amelia Smedley in Vanity
Fair who has her own boorish lover to contend with in the form of George
ACD wrote a learned and amusing article entitled ‘The Duello
in France’ in the Cornhill (December 1891) in which he argued (somewhat
half-heartedly) that duelling was a disreputable part of the French national
character. The article concludes that it is a bit rich of the English to claim
this, when their own history was equally violent.
Conan Doyle had written an earlier story which centred on a
duel. ‘The Tragedians’ (Bow Bells, August 1884) features a duel between
two French actors which takes place during Act 5 of Hamlet. As in ‘The
Brigadier in England’, the duel is over an abducted woman.
Conan Doyle’s reform campaigns
Conan Doyle was an outspoken advocate of divorce law reform
in the years after ‘The Brigadier in England.’ He became the President of the
Divorce Law Reform Union in 1906. He also grew to oppose blood sports, writing
in favour of their abolition in the Strand in May 1928.
Next time on Doings of Doyle…
Ancient Egypt meets Victorian England in the Mummy-tastic ‘Lot
No. 249’ (1892). Read the story here.
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/