Firth. Firth. Colin Firth in Flashman. Page updaten 20 Augusti 1999.

Will we see Colin Firth as

The most completely cowardly and amoral man who ever lived...

Harry Flashman was introduced to the world in 1856 when Thomas Hughes published his novel Tom Brown's School Days a chronicle of public school life in Victorian England. Flashman's departure from the novel occurs when he is expelled from the school for becoming beastly drunk. That would have been the end of Flashman if George MacDonald Fraser hadn't "discovered" the remarkable Flashman Papers in a Leiscestershire saleroom in 1966. Acting as "editor," Fraser published the first packet of these papers under the title Flashman. The series has continued with increasing popularity ever since. Nine more Flashman adventures have appeared over the last twenty-five years, the latest being Flashman and the Angel of the Lord. (See set of pictures [from the book covers] above, courtesy of the Royal Flashman Society.)

Fraser's Flashman is a mixed personality. He is a highly decorated Brit army officer - rBrigadier-General, VC, KCB, KCIE, Chevalier, Legion d'Honneur; US Medal of Honor; San Serafino Order of Purity and Truth, 4th Class - and perhaps the most outrageous poltroon, liar, bully, blackguard, womanizer and cad of his or any other age... Fraser puts Flashman into the center of every major historical event of the second half of the 19th century. But while he plays with situations he never changes the facts, and where anything is verifiable Fraser has a footnote citing chapter and verse. Of course Flashman himself is fiction, but Fraser manages to drop his fictional character seamlessly into historical situations, while maintaining the integrity of the history itself.

Flashman's version of his biography is the version we are meant to believe. He is writing at the end of his life, coming clean, and for all his mastery of Janus-faced deceit, he is now too old, rich, successful and just plain impertinent to hide the facts of the matter anymore.

We meet a man who is a liar, cheat, scoundrel, womanizer, coward and toady, interested in nothing beyond keeping his own skin intact while getting drunk and chasing women. To all appearances, however, he is a hero of the age, widely regarded for his courage, selflessness and deep sense of honour. And this is one of the great charms of the series: seeking only to cover his own rear, he unwittingly manages to be covered in undeserved glory, and a load of trouble it causes him in the process.

He rode, farting with terror, in the charge of the Light Brigade, was the only white man to survive Custer's Last Stand, wriggled somehow out of the sieges at both Cawnpore and Lucknow, served on a slave-trader and was himself a slave, and fought on both sides of the American Civil War. Along the way, he also managed, through lies, luck, betrayal, and a deceptively manly aspect, not only to cover himself in glory, but also to roger every half-willing piece of tail he met, whether monarch or bint, with the (possible) exception of queen Victoria herself.

The genius of the Flashman books from a historical perspective is that Flashman has no agenda, no axe to grind, no political slant he is seeking to forward. Because he sits in quiet disdain on most of the people he encounters, and has a wide mistrust of humanity, Fraser is able to forward a refreshingly balanced view of history.

Looking through Flashman's eyes, with malice toward all and charity toward none, we begin to see the past as it was actually lived.

The Flashman books are immaculately researched historical fiction with a broad streak of farce, and by some considered the most devilishly entertaining books they've ever come across.

Portrait of a typical real life 19C Brit officer: Captain Burnaby spent his generous leave from the army travelling round the world and publishing accounts of his exploits which established his reputation as an adventurer. The portrait captures the mood of an army officer at the time - easy, confident, lounging on a sofa with a cigarette and a map of the world on the wall behind him.... [Oil painting (detail) by Tissot 1870. London National Portrait Gallery]


AN EXAMPLE OF FLASHMANS EUROPEAN ADVENTURES AS DESCRIBED IN THE BOOK Flashman at the Charge (1854-1855: ages 32-33). As the war in the Crimea builds, Flashman tries to stay out of harm's way. Despite his best efforts, he winds up at the forefront of the infamous Charge of the Light Brigade. He is taken prisoner by the Russians, and kept at a remote family estate with his old schoolmate, Harry East. Flashman and East learn of plans for an impending Russian invasion of India, and plot to escape. East succeeds, while Flashman winds up in the hands of Yakub Beg, whose attack at Fort Raim scuttles Russia's long-range plans.
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The Charge of the Light Brigade, by Alfred, Lord Tennyson.
The charge in question took place in the Crimean War (October 25, 1854); the poem first appeared on Dec. 9, 1854, and was reprinted in 1855. It was one of the most popular poems of the Victorian period; one critic said: "The poem has become almost too popular for discussion; it is the one stirring, galloping piece of energy which all shades of mind and sympathy seem to admire alike."


Half a league, half a league,

Half a league onward,

All in the valley of Death Rode the six hundred.

"Forward, the Light Brigade!

Charge for the guns," he said:

Into the valley of Death Rode the six hundred.


"Forward, the Light Brigade!"

Was there a man dismay'd?

Not tho' the soldier knew

Some one had blunder'd:

Theirs not to make reply,

Theirs not to reason why,

Theirs but to do and die:

Into the valley of Death Rode the six hundred.


Cannon to the right of them,

Cannon to the left of them,

Cannon in front of them

Volley'd and thunder'd;

Storm'd at with shot and shell,

Boldly they rode and well,

Into the jaws of Death,

Into the mouth of Hell

Rode the six hundred.


Flash'd all their sabres bare,

Flash'd as they turn'd in air

Sabring the gunners there,

Charging an army, while

All the world wonder'd:

Plunged in the battery-smoke

Right thro' the line they broke;

Cossack and Russian

Reel'd from the sabre-stroke

Shatter'd and sunder'd.

Then they rode back, but not,

Not the six hundred.


Cannon to the right of them

Cannon to the left of them,

Cannon behind them

Volley'd and thunder'd;

Storm'd at with shot and shell,

While horse and hero fell,

They that had fought so well

Came thro' the jaws of Death,

Back from the mouth of Hell,

All that was left of them,

Left of six hundred.


When can their glory fade?

O the wild charge they made!

All the world wonder'd.

Honor the charge they made!

Honor the Light Brigade,

Noble six hundred!