The Stories of Q Inspired by the Peninsular War


The Peninsular War is the name given to the conflict between Napoleon’s forces who were trying to conquer the Iberian Peninsula and Spain, Portugal and Britain, who opposed them. It started in 1807, when France invaded Portugal with the assistance of Spain, who at that point were their allies. In 1808, France occupied Spain, provoking a war of national liberation. Hostilities continued until 1814, when Napoleon was defeated.

Q's Peninsular War stories are amongst the most dramatic he wrote. They are as readable today as on the day they were written, being immediately approachable, historically accurate and varied in pace.

There are no passages of introspection, psychological analysis or moral reflection. The characters are presented in extreme and dangerous situations where action and decision are required. Q does not excuse the hatred, greed and violence of war, but neither does he glorify or condemn it. As with Napier, 'Realism' determines his approach.

Q's Peninsular War stories begin with the advance of Sir John Moore from Portugal into Spain in December 1808, and conclude with Wellington's crossing into south-west France in 1813. Most of his writings are short stories, complete in themselves, but two novels have sections relating to the war. There are other Napoleonic War stories, based on maritime events, which are dealt with elsewhere on this website.

Q's Peninsular War stories are not the product of a particular period of his life. A reading of Napier's History was probably the initial stimulus, although Q clearly read other historical accounts. A text he mentions in an introduction to the short story 'The Two Scouts' is the disputed memoirs of Manuel McNeill, a self-proclaimed secret agent. The aim of Q's writings is to imaginatively reconstruct certain events, enabling the reader to feel close to the actors and the action. Maybe Walter Scott was one of his models. Readers are learning history under the impression that they are simply being entertained. Q's concern for education, and from 1903 he was a member of the Cornwall Education Committee, shows through here. It is important to realise that Q's writings had more than one purpose.


Family Background

 No member of the Couch family appears to have taken part in the Peninsular Campaign, although one possibly served aboard HMS Conqueror at the Battle of Trafalgar, off the Spanish coast, in 1805. (Trafalgar possibly comes from the same Celtic root as the name of the Cornish parish Trevalga). Bertha Couch's Life of Jonathan Couch, Q's grandfather, records his memories of  the Napoleonic period: the great frost of 1795 when the French crossed the frozen rivers to overrun Holland; the Mutiny of the fleet at Spithead in 1797; and the Battle of the Nile or Aboukir Bay in 1798, when Nelson destroyed a French fleet. A little later Jonathan was taught Latin by M. Arzell, a French émigré priest who had found a refuge with Sir Harry Trelawney at Trelawne.

Jonathan's only service came as a lieutenant to Captain Thomas Bond in the East and West Looe Voluntary Artillery. This company features in Q's novel The Mayor of Troy and in his short story 'The Looe Die-hards'. The nearest Jonathan came to Napoleon was in 1815. He remembered the Bellerophon arriving at Plymouth with Napoleon on board and his departure for St Helena shortly afterwards. Many tales of the Napoleonic period must have been related to Thomas Q. Couch by Jonathan, to be eventually passed on to Q. 


Q's Sources and How He Used Them

For a man who actively opposed the Boer War and until 1914 belonged to the pacifist wing of the Liberal Party, Q knew a surprising amount about military conflict. Q's Peninsular War stories are based largely but not solely on Lt. Colonel W.F.P. Napier's five volume History of the War in the Peninsula of 1828–40. In the preface to volume one, Napier explains how he obtained his material.

'I was an eye-witness to many of the transactions I relate; and a wide acquaintance with military men has enabled me to consult distinguished officers, both French and English, and to correct my own recollections and opinions by their superior knowledge. Thus assisted, I was encouraged to undertake the work, and I offer it to the world with the less fear because it contains original documents...Many of these documents I owe to the liberality of Marshal Soult, who, disdaining national prejudices, with the confidence of a great mind, placed them at my disposal...'

In all his historical writings, Q endeavoured to obtain material from first hand sources. When writing the battle scenes for The Splendid Spur he used Fuller's Worthies. Fuller had obtained 'a manuscript of Sir Ralph Hopton's (courteously communicated unto me by his secretary, Master Tredui), interpolated with his own hand...' (p. 89). For Fort Amity he used the works of Francis Parkman. In The Oregon Trail Parkman says: 'I had come into the country chiefly with a view of observing the Indian character. To accomplish my purpose it was necessary to live in the midst of them, and become, as it were, one of them.' (p. 104). Q had little interest in the purely academic historians.

The Campaign of Sir John Moore and the Evacuation of Corunna in 1808–9

Napier's Account of Moore's Campaign

The campaign of Sir John Moore is described in Volume I of Napier's five volume work. It details the rigours of the campaign, especially during the retreat to Corunna through the mountains of Galicia. Napier's History is divided into volumes, books and chapters. Volume I consists of four books and an appendix of original documents. The campaign of Moore as it relates to Q's writings comes from Book IV, Chapter III.

By November 18, 1808, British troops were present in Salamanca and Valladolid, in north-central Spain, the French having withdrawn along the main highway to Palensia, with their base further along again at Burgos, where General Matthieu Dumas was commanding. He was the father of the novelist Alexander Dumas. On arriving at Salamanca Moore hears of the defeat of the Spanish by the French at the battles of Espinosa and Tudela, and the flight of the Central Junta to Badajos.

The British were pouring subsidies into Spain with deleterious consequences. As Napier comments:

'...for among the sores of Spain there were none more cankered, more disgusting, than the venality, the injustice, the profligate corruption of the Austurian authorities, who, without a blush, openly divided the English subsidies, and defrauded, not only the soldiers of their pay and equipments, but the miserable peasants of their hire, doubling the wretchedness of poverty, and deriding the misery they occasioned by pompous celebrations of their own virtue'. (p. 454–5). 

There follows a character sketch of the Marquis of Romana, someone referred to in the short story 'Rain of Dollars'.

From Burgos the French poured troops into Palensia, with French dragoons quickly reoccupying Valladolid. Moore's communications with the Galician ports became threatened as French cavalry scouts reached Benevente on the road to Corunna. Napoleon urged Soult to close the back door on Moore, but Paget secured Benevente and its military stores. To cross the bridges at Benevente, placing the River Esla between himself and Soult, became essential to effect evacuation via Corunna.

Having secured Benevente, the race began for the occupation of Astorga, the gateway to Corunna through the Galician mountains. When Napoleon took possession of Astorga on January 1, 1809, the British were in the mountains, mounting rearguard actions in every pass. Yet the retreat and the treacherous conditions resulted in a collapse of discipline. Napoleon left the chase to Marshal Soult and returned to Valladolid.

The various occupations of Valladolid by Spanish, French and British forces in the years from 1808 to 1813 had repercussions of which Napier could not have been aware. The city of Valladolid is mentioned in Q's writings on the poet John Keats. Valentin(e) de Llanos Gutierrez, the future friend of John Keats and husband of Fanny Keats was growing up in the city during this period.

Valentin(e) de Llanos Gutierrez was born to Luis de Llanos, rapporteur of Crime and Civil at the Royal Chancery of Valladolid, in 1795. At the time of Moore's campaign he was studying English at the English College. From the French soldiers of Napoleon and the British soldiers of Moore and Wellington, Valentin and his older brother Mateo would have encountered new and exciting ideas. At some point Mateo joined the British forces, rising to the rank of major under the command of Wellington. They absorbed liberal ideas which set them at odds with Ferdinand when he took the throne with the expulsion of the French in 1813. Napier says:

'The imbecility of Charles IV, the vileness of Ferdinand, and the corruption of Godoy, were undoubtedly the proximate causes of the calamities that overwhelmed Spain;' (Preface ix)

The eventual enthronement of Ferdinand led Mateo to flee to Mexico and Valentin to escape to France and then to Italy. When in Rome Valentin spoke with the dying John Keats. After travelling to London he met and subsequently married Fanny Keats. With the demise 'The imbecility of Charles IV, the vileness of Ferdinand, and the corruption of Godoy, were undoubtedly the proximate causes of the calamities that overwhelmed Spain;' (Preface ix) of Ferdinand they settled in Spain.

As Napoleon was holding audience in Valladolid, Marshal Soult was pursuing Moore's disintegrating army through the mountain passes of Galicia. In chapter five of book four, Napier describes the events in the region  of Nogales which provided Q with the material for 'Rain of Dollars'. On January 5, 1809, Baird's division was at Nogales. When the 4th reached Nogales it was confronted with a large convoy of British material supposedly for the Spanish army of Romana. The scene became one of inextricable chaos with the French arriving in the falling snow of evening.

Nogales was the setting of a curious incident. At headquarters a sum of £25,000, provided by money-agents, was kept for emergencies. It was transported by bullock cart. As the bullocks were exhausted and the French quickly advancing, the general in charge, who is not named, had it rolled down a mountain into a pass beyond the town. Napier provides a lengthy footnote from information gathered from officers present:

 'When it (25,000l) was ordered to be rolled over the brink of a hill, two guns, and a battalion of infantry, were actually engaged with the enemy to protect it, and some person in whose charge the treasure was, exclaiming “it is money!” the general replied, “So are shot and shells.” The following anecdote will show how such accidents may happen in war. An officer had charge of the carts that drew the treasure; in passing a village, a lieutenant of the fourth regiment observing that the bullocks were exhausted, took the pains to point out where fresh and strong animals were to be found, and advised the tired ones should be exchanged for others more vigorous, which were close at hand; but the escorting officer, either ignorant of, or indifferent to his duty, took no notice of this recommendation, and continued his march with the exhausted cattle.' (footnote, pp. 480–1)


Napier's Account as background to Harry Revel

Napier's account provides the background  to Harry Revel, Chapters XXI & XXII (July 1808 to 1809).

The character who took part in the earliest phase of the Peninsular campaign was Major James Brooks of the Old 4th Regiment, the King's Own, in the novel Harry Revel. Brooks came from a military family, his father having won a captaincy at the battle of Minden in 1759. At Minden an Anglo-Hanoverian army had defeated a French one in a conflict which reached from Europe to North America. The North American theatre Q describes in the novel Fort Amity.

Important to the plot of Harry Revel is the friendship of Major James Brooks and his fellow officer Major Arthur Plinlimmon, a friendship cemented in the blood and snow of the Galician mountains during Moore's retreat to Corunna in January 1809.

The exigencies of the campaign left Brooks snowblind and prematurely ageing, yet full of courage and fortitude. He is cared for at Minden Cottage, in south-east Cornwall by his daughter Isabel Brooks. Majors Brooks and Plinlimmon are fictional characters, but the 4th Regiment, the King's Own, fought in Spain as described. Curiously, details of the campaign are not given in Harry Revel but in the later novel Poison Island. The 4th regiment in Moore's retreat comes into Q's short story Rain of Dollars.


'Rain of Dollars'

The short story 'Rain of Dollars'  was written in three sections. It appears in the collection of 1907, Merry Garden. The 'Duchy Edition' is being used.

Section I

Date: the morning of January 5.

Location: the eastern side of a ravine to the west of Nogales.

Regiments: a rearguard of 28th and 95th Rifles.

Weather: snow.

The story opens with an account of the retreat of five regiments of the 28th and 95th Rifles and one troop of horse artillery, in winter conditions, from Bembibre to Nogales in north-west Spain. Beyond Nogales a ravine is traversed with the mountains of Galicia on either side and the French, under Marshal Soult, behind. A rearguard under Major-General Paget keeps the French at bay as gross disorder and indiscipline afflicts the retreating army.

Paget orders the 28th and the horse artillery to prepare an ambush in the ravine. The French, suspecting a trap, outflank the position, causing Paget to withdraw under fire to a second and more secure ravine.

Paget had chosen the 28th to enable them to erase a former failure. Three miles of skirmishing brings them to the second position, with cliffs on either side and a deep ravine below. This is the scene of the incident described by Napier in the text and in a footnote. However, Napier does not describe the location in the detail found in Q's story. Q was either using his imagination or another text.

Date: the afternoon of January 5

Location: a second ravine three miles further towards Corunna

Characters: General Paget, the Assistant-Paymaster-General, the rearguard of the 28th and a subaltern's party of the 4th

Weather: snow

The bullocks pulling two carts containing £25,000 have reached exhaustion. The Assistant-Paymaster requests General Paget to forward artillery horses to convey the treasure to safety. The General refuses and the Assistant gallops off to the sound of French bullets from Soult's advancing troops.

Shortly afterwards the rearguard come upon the two treasure carts with its guard from the 4th. To Paget's annoyance the Assistant-Paymaster had requisitioned the horses of two gun-teams to pull the stranded carts. Paget revokes the order, pushing the carts and their contents of silver Spanish dollars into the ravine. Some of the guard endeavour to identify the resting place of the treasure with the intention of obtaining some of it for themselves.


Section II

Date: January 5, 1809

Location: the second ravine to the west of Nogales

Characters: the families of Chaleco and May, Galician peasants

Weather: snow

From this point in the story the details do not appear in Napier although the general context is true to his history.

The story now centres on a family of Galician or 'Gallegan' peasants, originally from Zamora, who live on the side of the ravine. The Chaleco family herd swine and work seasonally on the plain below. They are indifferent to government, whether from Madrid , Paris or London. Moore was misinformed by London regarding any nationalistic sentiment in the peasants, causing him to make mistaken decisions. Q is correct in his presentation of the Chaleco family in this regard. There are interesting similarities between the families of Chaleco in 'Rain of Dollars' and Joan of Tor in The Splendid Spur.

The Romans encountered a Celtic population in north-west Iberia, hence the syllable 'gal'. In the early medieval period there was emigration from south-west Britain to Galicia, hence the syllable 'brit' in place names.

The picture Q paints of the mountains of Galicia is that of Napier, with its cold, its poverty and its ravaging by hungry British troops. There is none of the idealisation of the British 'Tommy' found in many of the novels of the period, something not all his readers would have found convenient. Q was invariably prepared to put truth before sales.


The Family of Chaleco

Gil Chaleco, an aged widower who is housebound.

Gil Chaleco, the Younger, who has refused to join the harvesters on the plain in favour of enrolling at Corunna in the Spanish forces of the Marquis of Romana. This leaves the family destitute and defenceless. He is the husband of Juana. At the conclusion of the story his body is discovered by the parish priest of Nogales.

Juana Chaleco, wife of Gil the Younger, who tends to the swine. She goes to Nogales and is later found dead with her husband.

Mercedes May, daughter of Gil and Juana Chaleco, and wife of Sebastian May. She is the mother of two year old Sebastianillo.

Sebastian May, the son of Sebastian and Mercedes, a two-year-old who survives.

Sebastian May, husband of Mercedes, who joins the insurrectionary forces of Romana at Corunna. He becomes a prisoner of the French at Leon but escapes to Nogales.

With Gil the Younger and Sebastian May at Corunna, only Gil Chaleco, Juana Chaleco and Mercedes May remain at the property.

The opening paragraphs of section two describe the Chaleco family, their dwelling and their way of life. Paragraph four opens with the information of Sebastian May as having departed for Corunna. This should read Sebastian and Gil the Younger. The name Gil the Younger appears only twice in the narrative, at the beginning of section two and at the end of section three, yet knowledge of his absence is important to an understanding of the plot.

The absence of Gil and Sebastian leaves the family at the mercy of a British foraging party who denude them of all sustenance, leaving behind a promissory note to be redeemed by the Assistant-Paymaster as he passes. After waiting for two days Juana and Mercedes leave Gil Chaleco at the cabin and travel to Nogales where they believe the Assistant-Paymaster to be. The departure  must be on January 3, with the foraging party having arrived on January 1.

On January 5, Gil Chaleco has a premonitory dream (as had John Quiller immediately before his last journey) of silver dollars, which becomes reality as the silver dollars from the two upturned carts burst through the wall of the cabin. Ominously, a statuette of the Virgin Mary topples to the ground, followed by St Joseph and St James. Gil bolts the door and, though a dying man, plunges his hands into the silver hoard.

This type of scene is found repeatedly in Q's stories. In his first novel, Dead Man's Rock, Simon Colliver plunges his hands into a chest of jewels that had been buried in the sands by Dead Man's Rock. In Poison Island, a character of similar evil plunges his hands into a treasure chest, only to find Dr Beauregard standing above him, musket in hand. The treasure is only imitation, the real hoard having been hidden elsewhere in a place known only to Metta. For both Aaron Glass and Metta the treasure results in death. Gil Chaleco dies clutching the silver dollars, as the returning Mercedes, having had a fruitless journey to Nogales, endeavours to break down the door.

Almost at the conclusion of Section two, the narrative moves from Gil within to Mercedes without. It concludes with the bolted door being broken down, but by a soldier not Mercedes.


Section III

Date: January 5, 1809, evening

Location: the cabin of the Chaleco family in the second ravine to the west of Nogales

Characters: Gil Chaleco, deceased. Mercedes May, two-year-old Sebastian May, two deserters from the army of Sir John Moore

Weather: snow

Mercedes has returned to the cabin having been away in Nogales for two days – since January 3. As she endeavours to break down the bolted door, a soldier approaches up the path, causing her to hide. The soldier is one of the fatigue party of the 28th rifles who had pushed the treasure into the ravine and who had endeavouored to mark its fall.

Flashback: At Nogales, where Mercedes had been from the evening of January 3 to the morning of January 5, she had witnessed the evacuation of the British forces under General Paget, the absence of Romana's Spanish army, and the advance of the French under Marshal Soult. Mercedes was saved by a British officer from assault by pillaging soldiers, presumably on the evening of the 3rd, through being pushed into a monastery. She was protected from the French, when the republicans ransacked the building, through being, with other women, hidden by the monks. On the morning of the 5th,   the monks provided her with a knife to protect her on the home-ward journey to the cabin.

The Rifleman of the 28th, a deserter with the rank of corporal, beats down the cabin door in search of the fallen treasure. He discovers the treasure and the collapsed body of Gil Chaleco. The Corporal, holding his gun, and Mercedes, holding her knife, confront each other. The Corporal cannot harm Mercedes as he requires her assistance in removing the hoard. He proposes marriage, which she refuses.

After the burial of Gil Chaleco the pair become aware of another deserter from the 28th Rifles who had marked the falling place of the dollars. Although of the same regiment, the Corporal shoots him. This leaves his gun empty. Mercedes confronts him with a loaded fowling-piece of her grandfather's, forcing him to leave the cabin. Mercedes sits alone awaiting the coming day–January 6.


Date: January 6, morning

Location: cabin

Characters: Mercedes May, Sebastian May, Sebastianillo May, parish priest of Nogales

Flashback: Mercedes May gives Sebastianillo to Juana Chaleco immediately before being thrust through a monastery door by a British officer. Juana meets her husband, Gil the Younger in the street. Gil appears to have deserted the forces of the Marquis of Romana following the military defeat and the retreat into Galicia. In a state of moral collapse they drink themselves to death, but Sebastianillo is rescued by the parish priest of Nogales and reunited with his father, Sebastian May, who also appears to have deserted.

The priest of Nogales and Sebastian May, carrying his two year old son, climb to the cabin where they discover the dead soldier of the 28th Rifles and Mercedes in a state of collapse. Sebastianillo goes into the cabin and discovers the dollars.


The Military Leaders

The short story 'Rain of Dollars' is based around a group of largely fictional characters whose actions are determined in the main by the strategies and tactics of three military figures who feature centrally in Book Four of Napier's first volume History. This is also true of the Galician experiences of Major James Brooks and Major Arthur Plinlimmon of the novels Harry Revel and Poison Island. Q has largely but not completely accepted Napier's assessment of each. Q used works other than that of Napier but these cannot at present be identified.


Sir John Moore

Sir John Moore, under whom Major-General Edward Paget served, was commander of the British Army in the north-west of Iberia. He commenced his campaign with the intention of marching to Madrid but was provided with inaccurate figures regarding the size of the French army and the fighting power of the Spanish armies. These figures were provided for him by military agents and the Spanish authorities. They appear to have been accepted in London. Napier gives them in an Appendix.


Appendix to Volume I: No. XXV

Army of Sir John Moore, December 19, 1808

Total number under arms: 23,583

Guns: 66


Appendix to Volume I: No. XXVIII

French forces in Spain, October 1, 1808

Men: 110,660

Horse: 19,312


French forces according to the Spanish authorities and the military agents

Total: 32 to 45,000


French Forces, October 10, 1808

Men: 319,690

Horse: 61,896


French Forces, November 15, 1808

Men: 335,223

Horse: 60,728


Moore was given inflated figures about the size of the Spanish Forces

Given number: 203,000

Actual number: 103,150


Moore's original plan was to march on Madrid, but when the true situation became clear, his only course of action was to retreat to a Galician port through the Galician mountains. This was the retreat which Majors Brooks and Plinlimmon took part in. The retreat was made difficult because of snow and because of the erratic behaviour of the Marquis of Romana, the local Spanish commander, under whose orders Gil Chaleco and Sebastian May fought.

The factual nature of Q's writings in 'Rain of Dollars' regarding the disintegration of elements of Moore's army during the retreat can be seen from the Appendix.


Appendix to Volume I: No. XXVI

General return for non-commissioned officers, men, cavalry and infantry, lost during Sir John Moore's campaign

Lost at or previous to arrival at Lugo: 1397

Of which 200 left in wine-vaults of Bembibre and 500 stragglers

Lost between Lugo and Corunna: 2636

Total: 4033

In his text, Napier describes the condition of British troops in the area of Nogales, where Mercedes May and Juana Chaleco would have encountered them, from January 3: '...and on the road near Nogales, the followers of the army were dying fast from hunger and cold. The soldiers, barefooted, harassed, and weakened by their excesses at Bembibre and Villa Franca, were dropping to the rear by hundreds.' (p. 480). Two of these would have been the deserters from the 28th Rifles who appeared at the cabin of the Chaleco family.

Yet in defence of the River Minho line on January 8 Moore was able to obtain, if not parity, at least a substantial rearguard.



Infantry: 17000

Horse: 4000

Artillery: 50



Infantry: 16,000

Horse: 800

Artillery: 40

Not for nothing could Majors Brooks and Plinlimmon look back with military pride on their performance during the campaign, whatever happened on the fringes of the army.

That Moore was able to extricate much of this army and in a condition to fight in the Battle of Corunna, says much for his generalship and for the courage of the rearguard under General Edward Paget. London, however, did not see things in the same light.


Marshal Soult, Duke of Dalmatia

Napoleon left Marshal Soult to pursue Moore through Galicia in the hope of cutting him off from the ports and destroying his army. This he did with skill but without achieving Napoleon's aim. Q describes the bravery of the French forces under their commander. Q also exposes the brutality to the native population of the French soldier. This resulted in the indifference of the native population, as symbolised in Gil the Younger, turning to hostility. Q also exposes the antipathy of the French army, deeply imbued with the republican values of the Revolution, to the Catholic Church.

This resulted in the French becoming embroiled in a conflict which they could not win and dared not lose. Q does not point the finger of blame directly at Soult, although he was ultimately responsible for the actions of his troops and the scenes at Nogales which the story 'Rain of Dollars'  accurately describes.

In his preface to volume one, Napier acknowledges his debt as an historian to Marshal Soult for providing him with otherwise unobtainable material. After World War Two B. Lidell Hart had 'many discussions' with the former German generals and admirals and looked forward to the time when they would publish their own memoirs and narratives' so as to understand more clearly what actually happened. It is disappointing to see how rarely British historians make use of this material.


The Marquis of Romana

The Marquis of Romana is only once mentioned by name in 'Rain of Dollars' yet Gil Chaleco the Younger and Sebastian May spent about five months under his command and probably took part in two major battles. Sebastian May was wounded in one of them, subsequently finding his way to a hospital in Leon, where he and hundreds of others were abandoned by Romana to the French. Sebastian survived, somehow getting from Leon to Nogales, where he made contact with the local priest, who reunited him with Sebastianillo. The three then climbed to the cabin in the mountains. Gil the younger was so traumatised by his war experiences that he and his wife expired in Nogales.

Understanding Romana and the attitude of the British to him, provides invaluable background to Spanish military affairs in the Peninsular War and to Q's stories of that war.

Napier provides a sketch of Romana as a military leader on page 455 of Volume one. It begins:

'Romana was a person of talent, quickness, and information, but disqualified by nature for military command.' He would urge advance or retreat or military cooperation 'with twenty thousand soldiers when he could scarcely muster a third of that number of men, who, half-armed, were hardly capable of distinguishing their own standards;'

In Section IV of the Appendix, the Spanish Junta, on November 29, 1808, promised a force of 20,000 under La Romana; yet as Napier comments, only 5000 were armed.

In Appendix No. XXVII, Napier provides the information Moore received of Spanish forces: to which he affixes his own observation.

Actual numbers of Spanish forces at the battles of Zornoza and Espinosa, October-December, 1808


Army of Blake

Cavalry: 100

Infantry: 30,000

Guns: 26


Army of Romana

Cavalry: 1,404

Infantry: 8,000

Guns:  25

Asturians: Infantry  800     -

Deduct  from Romana: Cavalry 1404 and Guns 25 which failed to come into line of battle.

At the battle of Mancilla on December 29, 1808, Romana was again defeated, with his infantry retiring to Galicia where it dispersed.

From page 463 onwards the text of Napier provides more detail:

December 24: Romana agrees to defend the bridge at Mancilla for Moore

December 25: Romana leaves at the bridge—Infantry 3000; Guns 2. Romana takes main force to Leon

December 29: The bridge is not destroyed.

December 30: Franceschi takes the bridge with a single charge, capturing half a division and the guns

Romana abandons Leon

December 31: Romana retreats to Astorga


Gil Chaleco and Sebastian May would have been involved in the above. On December 30 Sebastian was in a Leon hospital with hundreds of others when Romana marched away to Astorga. This information provides an insight into the states of mind of Gil Chaleco and Sebastian May when we encounter them in Section III of 'Rain of Dollars'.


Structure and Themes 

The story is structured in three sections according to action and location:

  1. The rearguard, made up of soldiers of the 28th and 95th Rifles and commanded by General Edward Paget, retreating through the mountains of Galicia to Corunna.
  2. The Galician peasant family of Chaleco in their cabin on the side of ravine in the mountains of Galicia.
  3. The consequences of the retreat on the Chaleco family, including the dislocation of rural life and the 'rain of dollars' from two army carts.

At the centre of the story is the disposal of the Spanish dollars by the British rearguard as related in Napier's History. Q develops this centre by incorporating fictional but historically plausible material relating to a peasant family. This brings the reader closer to actual life than Napier was able to do.

A central theme in the narrative is death:

  • Gil Chaleco the Elder dies of starvation in the cabin;
  • Gil Chaleco the Younger and Juana his wife die in a gutter in Nogales;
  • One deserter from the 28th Rifles is shot by a fellow trooper outside of the cabin;
  • Sir John Moore dies in the battle of Corunna although this lies outside the narrative.
  • Of the cabin families, Sebastian, Mercedes and Sebastianillo May survive. So does General Paget and presumably the first deserter and the Assistant-Paymaster.

A second theme is the dislocation of rural life by the forces of power and wealth. Both the troops and the dollars have a deleterious influence.

A third theme is broadly religious. Napier's attitude to Spanish Catholicism is decidedly negative. In 'Tom Tiddler's Ground', Q reveals his dislike of the authoritarianism of Roman Catholicism, but his attitude to parish Catholicism as can be seen in stories such as 'A Jest of Ambialet', is no different from that to parish Anglicanism. Whatever its faults and failings, religion is a part of the cement of society. His idea of harmony, in relation to the individual, to society and to the universe, is essentially religious. This is developed in his lectures on the Metaphysical poets.

In‘Rain of Dollars’ it is the monks, a group detested by Napoleon, who save Mercedes and other women from British and French troops. It is the priest of Nogales who saves Sebastianillo following the deaths of Gil and Juana. And it is a priest who facilitates the reuniting of the May family.

The destructive forces in the story are war and money. At the end of ‘Rain of Dollars’ the war has moved on: but it will return. The situation with the dollars remains unresolved. The weakness of the story as story is the lack of resolution. However, this is how it ends in Napier's footnote with the dollars being collected by the local peasants, whether for their ultimate benefit or not is unrecorded.


Napier's Account of the Battle of Corunna

Q used Napier’s account in the novels Harry Revel and Poison Island.

The fictional Majors, James Brooks and Arthur Plinlimmon, in Harry Revel and Poison Island, served with the 4th Regiment, the King's Own, at the Battle of Corunna in north-west Iberia on January 16, 1809. Although Q only provides details for Brooks, the part played by his fellow officer can be inferred. This information throws a new light on the two novels.

From Napier's History (pp. 493 to 501) we can reconstruct the context and significance of the historical Major of the 4th Regiment who Q transferred to the novels under the name of James Brooks. The fate of the whole battle depended upon a most difficult military manoeuvre which was effected by him at the climax of the conflict.

On January 12 the army of Marshal Soult had assembled on the River Mero for its attack upon Moore's forces at Corunna. Soult ordered the crossing of the river on the 14th, having seen the British transports sailing into the harbour to effect evacuation. That night the dismounted cavalry, the sick and wounded, the best horses, and 52 pieces of artillery started to embark. This left 14,500 infantry and 12 guns to occupy the low hills surrounding Corunna, against a French force of 20,000 on a higher range further out, with the hope of embarkation on the night of the16th.

By the morning of January 16, all 'encumbrances' had been evacuated, with preparations set in place for the withdrawal of the infantry when the light faded. However, Soult was in no mood to see the escape of the prey he had been hunting through the mpountains of Galicia. At 2 pm Soult gave orders for an advance all along the line, with the taking of the village of Elvira as the first priority and the outflanking of the British line beyond it and the 'Great French Battery' as the second.

From Napier's text and the first two pages of Poison Island, it is possible to identify the exact location of Major James Brooks and his division in the British line of battle; and to understand why Sir John Moore, as Q correctly states, had himself placed adjacent to it. Moore understood that the ultimate fate of the battle was determined by the occupation of Elvira. From its elevated position, the 'Great French Battery' was able to pour shot into the village as their infantry advanced. Once taken it could then enfilade the whole British line.

Initially taken in the first French assault, it was retaken, lost and retaken again by the  British 42nd and 50th Regiments. The commander of the 50th was Major Napier, brother to the historian, who was wounded, captured and later paroled through the kind offices of Marshals Ney and Soult. (See footnote, p.496). In Poison Island, Q has Moore encouraging the 42nd and the 50th forward. This is the position in the line where Q places Brooks, although his role was different.

Moore was aware of the vulnerability of the extreme right of his line, beyond Baird's division, where a valley led directly from the French position to the harbour. He ordered Paget to seal its entrance with the first battalion of the reserve. Soult, similarly aware, divided his troops attacking Elvira, with one force pinning the British right at the village, while the second outflanked it through the valley, with the aim of getting behind Baird and rolling up the whole British line.

In Poison Island, it is Major James Brooks who was responsible 'at the critical moment...refusing its right to an outflanking line of French...'. Under fire from the 'Great French Battery' and with Elvira in confusion, Brooks 'by his alertness' had discerned the intention of the French. Retaining a hinge with Baird, he had wheeled his 'half-regiment' so as to face the French troops rising out of the valley. This most difficult of military manoeuvres was effected to the satisfaction of Sir John Moore, who was, as Q says, shortly to die.

In the words of Napier, Moore 'threw back the fourth regiment, which formed the right of Baird's division, opened a heavy fire upon the flank of the troops penetrating up the valley, and with the fiftieth and forty-second regiments met those breaking through Elvira.' (p. 495). As a consequence of this, the British were able to evacuate their forces during the night.

No doubt the side-drum which Major James Brooks kept in the summer house of Minden Cottage accompanied the manoeuvre to Corunna, although he was aware that in the regiment his name had been almost forgotten. Chapter XV of Harry Revel provides a brief portrait of one who had found peace with God and man. Man however had not found peace with him.

Welcomed at Minden Cottage was Private Archibald Plinlimmon of the 105th North Wilts Regiment, who was stationed at Plymouth. Archibald, who lacked his father's character, was welcomed as the son of Major Arthur Plinlimmon. He subsequently married James' daughter, Isabel Brooks, with tragic consequences. (See Harry Revel).

Even worse, in Poison Island , Major James Brooks is murdered by Aaron Glass. While war had established in Brooks a total integrity, it had turned Glass to evil. Knowledge of Brooks' war record makes the crime doubly heinous. Glass is later killed on Poison Island by Dr Beauregard, who had spoken to Napoleon, Marshal Soult's commander in Iberia, while Napoleon was in exile on Elba. Also on Poison Island was Amelia Plinlimmon, sister to Major Arthur Plinlimmon. She became part possessor of the treasure on Poison Island just as Marcedes May became part possessor of the Spanish dollars in the mountains of Galicia.


The Evacuation from Corunna in Harry Revel, Poison Island and 'The Roll Call of the Reef'

Q frequently mentions Homer in his lectures on English literature at Cambridge. In the Iliad the ships of the Greeks' expeditionary force line the beach awaiting final victory. In the Odyssey, Homer describes the homeward journey of Odysseus, King of Ithaca, who becomes a wanderer through the enmity of the sea-god Poseidon, finally arriving on his native shore after many adventures.

 When the British expeditionary force left the Iberian harbour of Corunna after months of hardship, most troopers must have felt a sense of relief. By January 19 all the transports were in open waters heading northwards through the Bay of Biscay to the English Channel.

We learn from Poison Island that Major James Brooks was taken aboard the Londonderry, commanded by Captain Branscome. Chapters IV and XXV explain how Branscome and Brooks became friends during the journey of the Londonderry from Corunna to Plymouth. Subsequently, Branscome served as a packet-captain, but with a hip-bone broken during fighting against a French privateer off Guadaloupe, the Postmaster-General retired him on a small pension. This Branscome augmented with occasional earnings at the Copenhagen Academy in Falmouth. One of his pupils was Harry Brooks, son of Major James Brooks of Minden Cottage near Plymouth. The housekeeper was Miss Amelia Plinlimmon, sister to Major Arthur Plinlimmon, Brooks' fellow officer during the campaign of Sir John Moore.

Major James Brooks had left Corunna on board the Londonderry with his sight rapidly deteriorating from snow-glare and with a shattered knee-cap. Having escaped the dangers on land, the army experienced the dangers at sea. After navigating the Bay of Biscay the transports ran into contrary weather when approaching the English Channel. Q describes the catastrophe which engulfed the transports in the short story 'Roll Call of the Reef'.

Q's grandfather, Dr Jonathan Couch of Polperro, who had returned from medical training in London in 1810, would have experienced the storms which pounded the Cornish coast in mid-January 1811. No doubt, he would have been aware of the fighting at Corunna and the returning fleet of transports. Jonathan possibly had wrecks around Polperro to attend to.

The short story ‘Roll Call of the Reef’is complete in itself. It is a mystery story, possibly a local ghost story from the Lizard peninsula, but based on historical fact. It is also a story which links the failed campaign of Sir John Moore in 1807 and 1808 to the successful campaign of the Duke of Wellington from 1808 to 1814.

The story centres on a night in March when two boats are wrecked in the Coverack area of the Lizard peninsula in south-west Cornwall. One, called the Despatch, is a transport carrying home a company of hussars and some troopers from Corunna. The other is the HMS Primrose, a sloop-of-war, carrying a company of marines out to the Tagus to join Wellington.

The 7th Light Dragoons, the Queen's Own, commanded by Major Griffiths, had embarked with their horses aboard the Despatch around 15 January. Although not having taken part in the Battle of Corunna, a purely infantry affair, they had been part of General Paget's rearguard in December 1808 and early January 1809 during Moore's retreat through the mountains of Galicia. The story lists actions at: Sahagun-Mayorga-Rueda-Bennyvente (Benavente); at Bembibre they had cleared the infantry from the wine-vaults; one of those cleared, we later in the story hear, was trooper Henry Buckingham who knifed a man in a Lugo wine-shop; and finally they were forced to watch the battle for Corunna from the deck of a transport in the harbour. As part of Paget's rearguard, they were possibly present at the 'Rain of Dollars'incident near Nogales.

A craft sailing in the opposite direction to the Despatch and wrecked at the same time and place was the sloop-of-war HMS Primrose. It had 18 guns, but was under a merchant skipper. The Quillers of Polperro offered the same service. Although sailing from Portsmouth it had recently been refitted at Plymouth Dock, now Devonport. Captain Mein had sailed as one of a fleet of thirty with the Tagus as his destination, but had been blown onto the Manacles. Only five troopers survived, one being the drummer-boy John Christian.

Having eventually regained his health, John Christian returned to Plymouth where he is assigned to the 38th Regiment. According to the narrative, this regiment had been part of General Fraser's division in the Battle of Corunna. According to Napier's map of the battle, General Fraser's division stood as a detached unit guarding the St Jago or Iago de Compostella to Corunna harbour road, a mile to the right of the British line. It took no part in the fighting.

In Harry Revel and Poison Island, we learn that the blind and disabled Major James Brooks was evacuated on the Londonderry and must have sailed in the same convoy as the Despatch. The Londonderry, under the command of Captain Branscome, managed to ride out the gale at the entrance to the English Channel, without being driven north towards the Cornish coast along with the Despatch. Presumably, Captain Mein was trying to seek the shelter of Carrick Roads and the Fal estuary, but failed to take proper soundings.

Tacking at the entrance to the English Channel resulted in the troopers on board the Londonderry suffering from exposure. When it finally arrived in Plymouth, Major Brooks was taken on shore with rheumatic fever. From the wound and the fever he recovered, but his sight was permanently damaged. He was discharged from the naval hospital into the keeping of his daughter, Isabel Brooks, at Minden Cottage on the Lyner estuary. It was five years before Brooks and Branscome met again. (See Poison Island, Chapter XVI). The plot of Poison Island turns much upon the chance contact of Branscome and Brooks aboard the Londonderry on the sail from Corunna.


The British Subsidies to Spain

These subsidies are significant in the plots of Harry Revel and the short story ‘The Mystery of Joseph Laquedem’.

In his Cambridge lectures on the poet Shelley, printed in his Studies in Literature II, Q launched an attack on the politicians of the post-Napoleonic period. One such politician was George Canning. Napier launches a more detailed attack on Canning in volume four of his History. In relation to Iberian affairs he says:

'a review...will disclose the utter unfitness of Mr. Canning to conduct great affairs. Heaping treasure , stores, arms, and flattery, upon those who were unable to bear the latter, or use the former beneficially, he neglected all those persons who were capable of forwarding the cause; and neither in his choice of agents, nor in his instructions to them, nor in his estimation of their value of events, did he discover wisdom or diligence, although he covered his misconduct, at the moment, by his glittering oratory.' (p.132).

This is a piece of invective which Q would have been proud of and would have agreed with. Canning's 'glittering oratory' was later used to further the cause of reaction in Britain, a cause Q deplored.

Napier provides details of the British government's vast and futile expenditure in Spain. This left 'specie' in Britain, as even Canning acknowledged, 'scarce'. (p.133). Spain, of course, was not the only country Britain subsidised.

The British government endeavoured to rectify the scarcity of gold by offering to buy guineas at above value. In Harry Revel, Isaac Rodriguez of Plymouth travels through south-east Cornwall buying guineas at 24s 6d. From Lydia Belcher he purchased 15. He was later seen buying guineas on Looe Hill by a fake clergyman, the Revd Whitmore, who subsequently murdered him and stole the guineas.

Maybe Q accessed an oral tradition in the Looe-Talland area of these purchases during the Napoleonic period. Similar transactions also appear in the short story ‘The Mystery of Joseph Laquedem’. In 1807, a Mr Isaac Laquedem of Plymouth Dock was purchasing guineas on behalf of the government at 25s 6d. His son, Joseph Laquedem, arrived in Ruan Lanihorne or Talland to secure a transaction with the local vicar. Joseph later established a bank at Porthlooe or West Looe and managed the affairs of the local privateering companies. The story centres around the period from the arrival of Joseph in January 1807 to his death in August 1810.


Political and Military Reflections

Histories of the Napoleonic Wars tend to present the reader with four clearly defined protagonists in the Iberian peninsula:

  1.  The French invaders under various generals but owing allegiance to Napoleon through his brother Joseph
  2. The British, allied to the Spanish and Portuguese, under Moore and then Wellington
  3. Spanish regular and irregular forces under various leaders
  4. The Portuguese, allied to the British.

Napier's History shows a more complex picture. This complexity is also found in Q's Peninsular War stories. These stories reflect historical fact.

In 1808, a French army steeped in the republican values of the French Revolution marched into a Spain steeped in an ethos of Medieval Catholicism. Fuentes in 'The Lamp and The Guitar'  had turned against the French not because they had republican values but because they had destroyed his college, the College of San Lorenzo in Salamanca, along with many other places of learning. Mateo Llanos Gutierrez of Valladolid, brother of Valentin Llanos Gutierrez, who befriended John Keats and later married Fanny Keats, joined the British army, rising to the rank of major. However, Spaniards rarely joined the British or were commanded by Wellington.

Yet many Spaniards welcomed the French, collaborated with them and fought alongside. Napier writes of Joseph: 'he published amnesties, granted honours and rewards to his followers, took many of the opposition party into his service, and treated the people generally with mildness.' (IV, p. 120). Joseph even raised a 'Spanish army'. (IV p. 123). In drawing the liberals to his side he caused a division in Spanish society. However, the marshals and their soldiers despoiled the country, betraying the republican values in an orgy of materialism. As a result Spanish society became riven with fear and suspicion, betrayal and treachery, as Q's stories clearly relate. It is not for nothing that Senor Fuentes is blindfolded by de Ribalta and led by Sebastian Paz through dark passages before entering a room of masked students in  'The Lamp and the Guitar'.

Corruption was not restricted to the marshals or the French; as Napier writes: ' the latter part of 1811 he (Joseph) obliged the merchants of Madrid, to draw bills, for two millions of dollars, on their correspondents in London, to supply him with a forced loan.' (IV, p. 121).

The multiplying divisions in Spanish and Portuguese societies made Wellington's task more difficult. It was particularly acute with the Portuguese who made good soldiers but irresponsible rulers. The Court wanted to be free of the French and the British. But Wellington's problems did not stop there: it lay most dangerously in London.

The British government poured subsidies into the coffers of corrupt agents in Spain at the expense of provisioning British and Portuguese troops. Napier says of one period in 1811: Mr Canning 'sent two millions of dollars by Mr. Frere, while the British army was left without any funds at all!' (IV, p. 133). Again: 'Put through the whole of the Napoleonic wars this man [Canning] was the evil genius of the Peninsula;' (IV p. 139). (The brackets are mine).

In May 1811, Lord Liverpool informed Wellington that 'neither corn nor specie [money] could be had from England', (IV p. 178); while in June 'Mr. Perceval's policy, prevailing in the cabinet, had left him (Wellington) without a halfpenny in the military chest.' (IV, p. 206).


Information  from The History Today Who's Who in British History. 

Members of the cabinet included:

  • George Canning (1770–1827): 'Foreign Secretary in the Portland administration (1807-9). He energetically supported Swedish, Portuguese and Spanish resistance against Napoleon'.
  • Spencer Perceval (1767–1812): Chancellor of the Exchequer (1807-9). Prime Minister 1809-1812.
  • Robert Jenkinson, 2nd Earl of Liverpool (1770–1828): Home Secretary (1807–9), Secretary for War and the Colonies (1809–12), Prime Minister (1812, overseeing 'political and social represssion between 1815 and 1822'...'including the draconian Six Acts (1819)'.


In ‘Rain of Dollars’, Q describes the Marquis of Romana as one who abandoned to the French hundreds of his soldiers at a hospital in Leon. The disregard of the wealthy for the peasants in Spain and Portugal is exposed by Napier. This is paralleled by the indifference of the governing class in Britain to the soldiers and sailors for which they were responsible. In Poison Island, the partly disabled Captain Branscome receives a pension which leaves him on the verge of starvation. The politicians Napier attacks are in many cases those attacked by Q in his lectures on the Romantic poets, who after the Napoleonic Wars endeavoured to stamp out any residual influence of the French Revolution in Britain.

For all the depredations, the armies of France and Britain left in Iberia a certain political legacy which the re-instituted Ferdinand, who in the preface to volume one Napier calls vile, tried to suppress. Mateo and Valentin Gutierrez were forced to flee, while 'the alcade of Caveres, a man, of the clearest courage and patriotism, who expended his own property in the cause and spurned any remuneration, was on Ferdinand's restoration cast into a dungeon, where he perished.' (Napier, IV, p. 221). Napier and Q show that any understanding of history involves confronting forces which know no national boundaries. In failing to grasp this, nineteenth century historians left the field open to Karl Marx. Even the most superficial reading of Q's printed Cambridge lectures on English Literature, show him providing an international and particularly Classical context. Those who followed him were not all of the same opinion or anywhere near as well read.

The war in the peninsula was not simply about the armies of states, but about ideas and ideals. These had roots steeped in the past and with branches transcending national boundaries. Wellington was one of the heroes of Napier's History, yet in Iberia and in Britain his influence was reactionary, holding back the proper and harmonious development of society, a development Q ardently supported.

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 Two Scouts’. 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:

  1. Date and Location
  2. Military situation in June 1811
  3. The story of Martinez
  4. The loss of the spy system
  5. Wellington's introduction of MacNeill to Fuentes
  6. 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.


Military Information

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

Total: 33,000

Hospitalised: 22,000

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:

Infantry: 54,000

Cavalry: 6,000

 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.


Section 1

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.


Section 2

Date: Early August

Location: Villacastin

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.


Section 3

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.


Section 4

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.


Harry Revel

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 hosptalised at Belem

March: Harry Revel returns to Plymouth aboard the Cumberland


The Lamp and the Guitar’

Part II, Section 5

Date: June 17, 1812

Location: Salamanca

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 French élan. 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 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

April 6

Daytime: bombardment

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:

April 6

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 IV. 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’

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.


Section Summaries

Section I

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.


Section II

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.


Section III

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.


Section IV

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.


Section V

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.


Section VI

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.


Section VII

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.


Section VIII

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.

  1. Wellington had ordered a suicidal assault of a fortified position having failed to cannonade the overlooking ramparts or 'hornwork'.
  2. He blamed the inevitable failure of the assault on his troops rather than himself.
  3. He ordered a second assault without having investigated the reasons for the failure of the first.
  4. The second assault succeeded by pure chance but with considerable loss of life.
  5. The dehumanized treatment of the troops by Wellington leads them to treat the inhabitants of San Sebastian in the same way.
  6. 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.

Appendix I: The Return of the Prisoners of War in Spring 1814

The following information is drawn from The Mayor of Troy, Poison Island and Napier's History.


March 12, 1814

The British occupy Bordeaux in south-west France which declares for the Bourbons. Castlereagh Backs the restoration of the Bourbons in France.


March 28

The allied leaders decide to restore the Bourbons in France.


March 30–31

The allied armies reach Paris which capitulates.


April 10

The battle for Toulouse between Wellington and Soult.


April 12

Wellington enters Toulouse and learns of Napoleon's abdication.

Prisoner of War camps in France close and the POWs make for Bordeaux.


April 17

Soult hears officially of Napoleon's abdication and the war in south-west France ends.

Wellington persuades the Spanish generals to support the restoration of Ferdinand rather than the Cortes. The triumph of absolutism over liberalism. Mateo and Valentin(e) Gutierrez and the Spanish liberals, including Mendizabel, flee Spain.

British infantry embark at Bordeaux for America or Britain.


April 20

Wellingboro' is one of six transports to leave Bordeaux for Plymouth.


May 1

The Wellingboro' with 250 returning POWs, including Aaron Glass who had been sold to a press-gang by Captain Daniel Coffin, arrives in Falmouth for repairs. Glass disembarks and meets Coffin in the Plume of Feathers inn.


May 13

Aaron Glass murders Major James Brooks, late of the 4th (King's Own) Regiment, and Captain Daniel Coffin at Minden Cottage in south-east Cornwall.



POWs liberated from Briançon and other camps arrive at Bordeaux. Six transports carry 1500 released POWs, including Solomon Hymen of Troy aboard the Romney from Bordeaux to Plymouth.


July 2

The Plymouth and Dock Telegraph

The Prince Regent, the Emperor of Russia, the King of Prussia, the Duke of Wellington and Field-Marshal Blucher enjoy the festivities at Portsmouth. A unanimous House of Commons moves a vote of thanks for Lord Castlereagh. Her Royal Highness the Princess of Wales bemoans an inadequate income.


July 15

Solomon Hymen arrives unrecognised in Troy after ten years as a POW but soon leaves disillusioned by the shallowness and hypocrisy of the peace celebrations.



Seen in the context of Q's lectures on Byron and Shelley, and what is found in the Peninsular War Stories, the political message is clear and unambiguous.

Appendix II: Captain Alan MacNeill and Manuel MacNeill

When the short story collection The Laird's Luck appeared in 1901, it contained a story in three parts called 'The Two Scouts'. An introduction informed the reader that the story was based on the Memoirs of Manuel (or Manus) McNeill. The second of the scouts was Captain Alan McNeill. They both operated against the French during the Peninsular War from 1808 to 1813. 'The Two Scouts' is set in 1812 and 1813, concluding with the expulsion of the French from Iberia and the occupation by Wellington of Bayonne. The third part, called 'The Parole', includes  a 'Statement' from Captain Alan McNeill regarding his capture by the French in April 1812 (wrongly printed 1821 in the Duchy edition). This indicates that when Manus McNeill was writing his Memoirs, he was in contact with Alan McNeill.

The short story 'The Lamp and the Guitarappears in the collection Merry Garden of 1907. The name is now printed as MacNeill, or the son of Neill.

The family of Neill extends from north-east Ireland to north-west Scotland, united by water rather than by land. It reflects the troubled history of the area. One of the earliest to achieve historical note was Brian O'Neill (d.1260), chief of the Ui Neills of Tir Eoghain who died fighting against the English settlers. The connection with the continent appears to start with Hugh O'Neill, 3rd Earl of Tyrone (1550–1616), who endeavoured to form an alliance with Spain and the Pope against the English settlers. In 1607, he fled to France, ending the hopes of Gaelic Ireland. Eoin MacNeill (1867-1945), co-founder of the Gaelic League and supporter of the Anglo-Irish Treaty, helped his cause finally to succeed.

Manus and Alan MacNeill derived from the Neills of Ross in north-west Scotland. Alan was a Protestant but Manus came from the side of the family which retained Catholicism. Their grandfathers, Manus of Aranjuez and Angus of Ross were first cousins, having the same Ross grandfather.

The Neill or MacNeill family of Ross were originally Jacobites. In an introduction to 'The Two Scouts' Q explains how Manus MacNeill was a Jacobite agent working in the Court at Madrid during the Spanish War of Succession, which lasted from 1701 to 1713. In 1700, Charles II of Spain died childless and Louis XIV of France placed his grandson Philippe d'Anjou on the throne. This resulted in the formation of an anti-French coalition, including Prince Eugene of Savoy, the Duke of Marlborough and Grand Pensioner Heinsius. The war came to an end with the treaties of Utrecht (1713) and Rastatt (1714). Manus McNeill married and settled at Aranjuez in Spain.

The first cousin of Manus was Angus McNeill of Ross who was killed at the battle of Sheriffmuir. Following the accession of the Hanoverian George I, the Earl of Mar raised the standard of James VIII and III, the Old Pretender, at Braemar on September 8, 1715. Many came to the standard not as committed Jacobites but in opposition to the union of Scotland and England. Mar was defeated by the Duke of Argyll at Sheriffmuir near Stirling on November 13, 1715, with the Old Pretender returning to France. Presumably, Alan McNeill of Ross was a Jacobite of sorts, but whose son chose to join the winning Hanoverian side and, if not already, the Presbyterian religion.

Alan McNeill was fluent in Gaelic and English. Presumably he spoke Spanish to his servant Jose and French to Marshal Marmont. Manuel spoke Spanish, Portuguese, English, French and a few words of Gaelic. Those were: 'Latha math leat, O Alan mhic Neill!'

Irish and Scottish Gaelic are Q Celtic languages, while Breton, Cornish and Welsh are P Celtic. Many words are similar but the grammatical structures vary.

Captain Alan McNeill always wore his military uniform of scarlet and dark blue below a riding cloak, so preventing him from being shot as a spy. He was a Scottish Presbyterian. Jose, his servant, was Spanish.

Manuel McNeill was a Spanish Catholic and a master of disguises. He preferred to work alone. He was acquainted with Fuentes. Q defends the historicity of his Memoirs on the basis that it explained aspects of Napier's History which are otherwise obscure.

Appendix III: Sir William Napier and General Sir Charles Napier 

The military historian Sir William Napier (1785-1860), whose History of the Peninsular War, published between 1828 and 1840, was used by Q as background for the Peninsular War Stories, was the younger brother of General Sir Charles Napier (1782–1853). They were products, as was the Duke of Wellington, of the Anglo-Irish aristocracy. Their first taste of action came in the troubled year of 1798 when the Protestants of Ulster and the Catholics in the rest of Ireland, influenced by the French Revolution, rose in revolt against English misrule.

In The Reign of George III, J.J. Watson observes of James Napper Tandy (1740–1803), 'who had once helped to secure Grattan's election, was now active in giving the United Irishmen a military organization in armed battalions. He was no longer a champion of protestantism or even of nationalism: he fought instead for a revolutionary social and political idea, the principles of the French Revolution.' (p. 396).

These violent disturbances, supported by ineffectual French landings, led to the end of the Irish parliament in Dublin and the Union Act of 1801, which the Liberal administration from 1906 worked to reverse. This policy Q supported. In Q's novel Shining Ferry, the Dublin M.P., Mr Eustatius Burke, came to the Damelioc estate (Boconnoc) as Lord Killiow as part of a bribe in voting for the Union Act in 1801. (see Shining Ferry).

Both Charles and William Napier fought in the Peninsular War and Charles at Waterloo. According to the History Today Who's Who in British History, Charles was 'radicalized' by his wartime experiences; more so than William. In the 1820s as inspecting officer in the Ionian Islands, he 'gave clandestine help to the Greek rebellion against the Turks.' Byron, who saw Waterloo as a lost opportunity of freeing Europe from the tyranny of despotism, gave his life for the rebellion, as Q explains in his University College, Nottingham, lecture of 1918. In 1839, Sir Charles Napier was commander of the northern district of Britain whose 'firmness and compassion' during the 'Chartist disturbances' prevented any repeat of the violent repression of twenty years earlier which Q excoriates in his Byron lecture. Maybe the deleterious consequences of the restoration of Ferdinand to the throne of Spain helped influence the political views of Sir Charles. The political views of Wellington went, if anywhere, in the opposite direction.

William Napier was commissioned in 1804, about the time Jonathan Couch joined the East and West Looe Voluntary Artillery. (see Jonathan Couch and The Mayor of Troy). He served under Sir John Moore and the Duke of Wellington. Starting his History in 1828, he did not complete all the volumes until 1840, 20 years before his death. Q was born in 1863, 50 years after the closure of the war in the Peninsular, and three years after the death of its most distinguished historian.

Napier's History is dedicated to Field-Marshal The Duke of Wellington. It was written to right wrong: 'That much injustice has been done, and much justice left undone, by those authors who have hitherto written concerning this war.' Napier feels himself to be in a privileged position to do this: 'I was an eye-witness to many of the transactions that I relate; and a wide acquaintance with military men has enabled me to consult distinguished officers, both French and English, and to correct my own recollections and opinions by their superior knowledge.' These officers include Marshal Soult. Unfortunately no Spanish source is mentioned. Although Portuguese forces fought under Wellington's command, these sources have also been ignored. The native population represent the silent majority.

Of Spain prior to the French invasion Napier says: 'The imbecility of Charles IV, the vileness of Ferdinand, and the corruption of Godoy, were undoubtedly the proximate causes of the calamities that overwhelmed Spain; but the primary cause, that which belongs to history, was the despotism arising from the union of a superstitious court and a sanguinary priesthood, which, repressing knowledge and contracting the public mind, sapped the foundation of all military as well as civic virtues, and prepared the way for invasion.' Unfortunately, Napier fails to mention the University of Salamanca which Q placed alongside Paris and Oxford. Nor the destruction by the French, for which Marshal Soult must bear his degree of responsibility, of the colleges of Salamanca which caused Don Eugenio Fuentes to turn against the invader in 'The Lamp and The Guitar'. Mateo and Valentin(e)  Llanos Gutierrez were fluent in English and knowledgeable in English Literature at the time of the French invasion. One wonders whether Napier left Spain with a similar knowledge of Spanish. Furthermore, Mateo and Valentine belonged to a liberal and democratic section of society which the triumph of Wellington's army left to the mercy of Spanish warlords and ultimately to the revenge of Ferdinand.

Q places his finger on the blind spot in Napier's History in Barber-Surgeon of Sabugal. The story from 'The Two Scouts' contains a conversation between Manuel McNeill and General Trant which exposes the self-defeating superciliousness of the English general. This attitude was exemplified in General Montgomery in his Second World War dealings with the Americans. In the Battle of the Bulge Charles MacDonald claims Montgomery 'was inclined to argue his proposals in imperious tones' (p. 50). Further, 'he developed attributes of arrogance and imperiousness that irritated many of his colleagues and, when the time came, American commanders in particular.' (p. 415).

It is generally recognised that the main contribution of General Eisenhower, Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, was not his generalship but his ability to keep the British and Americans fighting in relative amity. There was little amity between the British and Spanish forces. Many of the most educated and liberal Spaniards allied themselves with the French. Napier's attitude as found in his History comes close to the one Q excoriates in relation to General Trant and MacDonald excoriates in relation to Montgomery. Too many of those who took Btitish subsidies wanted the British no more than they wanted the French. They were reactionaries who slaughtered liberals in the wake of Wellington's victories at Ciudad Rodrigo, and forced such people to evacuate Spain, even if like Mateo Gutierrez they had fought with Wellington. Q's picture of the 'patriots' in 'The Lamp and the Guitar', with their disguises and their internal dissensions, tells its own story. They hated Don Andrea Galazza and called him 'renegado' but they also killed each other. Q's stories give us a complex and accurate picture of events which only fully reveals itself under close analysis.

Wisely does Q conclude his preface to Two Sides of  the Face: '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.' These words are as important today as when they were written.

Appendix IV: Spain 20 Years After the Peninsular War

British interest in Iberia faded after the advance of Wellington's army into France in 1814 until july 1936 when a military uprising against a leftist Republican Front Government led to the Spanish Civil War (1936–9). The Republicans were supported by the socialists, Communists and separatists, while the military had the backing of the monarchists and the Falange party. While Britain and France declared themselves neutral, Germany and Italy supported the nationalists and the Soviet union the Republicans. The destruction of the Basque town of Guernica, not far from San Sebastian, by German planes in 1937, paralleled the barbarity Q exposed in Corporal Sam. The Spanish Civil War involved the forces which had opposed each other following the French invasion of Iberia in 1808, but in contemporary guise. The evolution of these forces in the years after the Napoleonic Wars can be seen in the writings of the linguist George Borrow. The preface to his The Bible in Spain is dated to November 1842. The first chapter opens in November 1835.

Following the exit of the British and French troops Ferdinand, who Napier described as vile, and who was described to Borrow as 'Ferdinand the Accursed', returned to the throne making the country dangerous for liberals like Mateo and Valentin(e) Llanos Gutierrez of Valladolid.

In his preface Borrow says: 'Napoleon and his fierce Franks invaded Spain; plunder and devastation ensued the effects of which will probably be felt for ages.' Borrow says nothing of the political ideas which arrived with the French armies and which influenced Spanish liberals, nor the plunder and devastation wrought by British troops. He continues with the telling remark: 'It is truly surprising what little interest the great body of the Spanish nation took in the late struggle and yet it has been called, by some who ought to know better, a war of religion and principle.'

The removal of French and British troops saw the reinstatement of 'Ferdinand the Accursed and Jezebel' (p. 117), who purged the liberal cause. When Borrow arrived in Madrid in February 1836, 'Queen Regent Christina had retired, in order to be aloof from the discontent of the capital.' Madrid was divided between those 'more inclined to the principles of the constitution of 1823' and 'those of absolute monarchy, which the moderados were attempting to revive again in the government of Spain.' (p. 143). Rampaging through the rural areas were the Carlist armies 'composed entirely of thieves and assassins'. (p.7). 'The honourable and toilworn peasantry' rejected all the factions. (p.8).

Valentin(e) Llanos Gutierrez and J.A. Mendizabel

Valentine Llanos Gutierrez visited the dying John Keats before moving to London where he eventually married John's sister, Fanny Keats. Some of Valentine's finest literary work was done in London. See the study on John Keats on this website.

On arriving at Madrid in February 1836 Borrow writes: 'Mendizabel was at this time Prime Minister of Spain and was considered as a man of almost unbounded power.'

Juan Alvarez Mendizabel had fled to London, following the return of Ferdinand, where he met Valentine, another fugitive. An account of his life is to be found in P. Janke's Mendizabel and this establishment of the constitutional monarchy in Spain (1790–1853), published at Madrid in 1974. In 1835, Valentine, who had returned to Spain with his wife Fanny, was appointed his private secretary.

Borrow arranged an interview with Mendizabel and met Valentine.

'At last his private secretary made his appearance...a fine intellectual looking man, who, as I was subsequently informed, had acquired a name both in English and Spanish literature, stood at one end of the table with papers in his hands.' (pp. 121-2).

Mendizabel claims to have lived in England for 13 years. He requests Borrow to return in three months. Chapter XIII takes up the story.

'Before, however, the three months had elapsed, he had fallen into disgrace, and had ceased to be prime minister...An intrigue had been formed against him, at the head of which were two quondam friends of his, and fellow townsmen, Gaditanians, Isturitz and Alcala Galiano; both of them had been egregious liberals in their day, and indeed principal members of those cortes.. and both of them had been subsequently refugees in England...They therefore formed an opposition to Mendizabel in the cortes; the members of this opposition assumed the name of moderados, in contradistinction to Mendizabel and his followers, who were ultra liberals...Mendizabel finding himself thwarted in all his projects by the regent and the general...resigned and left the field for the time open to his adversaries, though he possessed an immense majority in the cortes and had the voice of the nation, at least the liberal part of it, in his favour.' (pp. 121–2 & 131–2).

Valentin Llanos Gutierrez developed his own political career after the fall of Mendizabel, occupying a seat for his native town of Valladolid in the Congress of Deputies. After the ruling against the Regent Queen in 1840 he was part of the Provisional Board in Madrid. In 1856 he was mayor of Valladolid. Being a liberal had its dangers, especially from the Carlist armies. His wife Fanny (Keats) must have been a woman of great courage. She has invariably been seen as an appendage to John Keats, the poet. In fact, she made a contribution to the history of Spain in the middle years of the nineteenth century. It is a pity that Borrow never met her. It is doubly unfortunate in that Fanny put it in writing that, like Borrow, her father was Cornish.

Gutierrez was educated at the English College in Valladolid. Borrow has left an account of the College which was still functioning in June 1836.

'From the house of the Philippine Missions my friend conducted me to the English College: this establishment seemed in every respect to be on a more magnificent scale than its Scottish sister. In the latter there were few pupils, scarcely six or seven, I believe, whilst in the English seminary I was informed that between thirty and forty were receiving their education. It is a beautiful building, with a small but splendid church, and a handsome library. The situation is light and airy: it stands by itself in an unfrequented part of the city, and, with genuine English exclusiveness, is surrounded by a high wall, which encloses a delicious garden. This is by far the most remarkable establishment of the kind in the Peninsula, and I believe the most prosperous. From the cursory view which I enjoyed of its interior, I of course cannot  be expected to know much of its economy. I could not, however, fail to be struck with the order, neatness and system which pervaded it. There was, however, an air of severe monastic discipline, though I am far from asserting that such actually existed. We were attended throughout by the sub-rector, the principal being absent. Of all the curiosities of this college, the most remarkable is the picture gallery, which contains neither more nor less than the portraits of a variety of scholars of this house who eventually suffered martyrdom in England...' (p. 210–1).


After Valladolid Borrow visited Leon where the Spanish wounded were cared for and abandoned by the Marquis of Romana in 'Rain of Dollars'.

'There is nothing remarkable in Leon, which is an old gloomy town, with the exception of its cathedral...The situation of Leon is highly pleasant, in the midst of blooming country abounding with trees...It is, however, by no means a healthy place, especially in summer, when the heats raise noxious exhalations from the waters, generating many kinds of disorders, especially fevers.' (p. 221).

Borrow identifies Leon as one of the strongholds of the Pretender, Don Carlos.



From Leon Borrow made his way into the mountains of Galicia. There he encounters Antonio who had 'lived as a cook in the family of General Q—'. (p. 243). This is General Quesada, a Gallegan, who had been the military force behind the takeover of the government by the Moderado Party from Mendizabel and the liberals.

Borrow and Antonio 'arrived at Nogales, a hamlet situate in a narrow valley at the foot of the mountain...steep hills, thickly clad with groves and forests of chestnuts, surrounded it on every side; the village itself was almost embowered in trees, and close behind ran a purling brook...What a strange tongue is the Gallegan, with its half-singing, half-whining accent, and with its confused jumble of words from many languages...' (p. 244).

Nogales is a location in 'Rain of Dollars' with the characters speaking as Borrow heard them.

Appendix V: Q, Cambridge and the Spanish Civil War

It is disappointing, if not incomprehensible, that neither the biographies of Q by Brittain nor Rowse mention the Spanish Civil War of 1936–9, although Brittain twice mentions Spanish ham. In The Spanish Civil War, Hugh Thomas says: 'English opinion was soon inflamed by the Spanish war as it had once been by the French Revolution.' (p. 346).

When Jonathan Couch arrived for medical training at the united medical school of Guy's and St Thomas' in the autumn of 1808, he was entering a London institution steeped in political radicalism, with tutors who had once had direct contact with the revolutionaries in Paris. From then on, Jonathan's life was marked by a commitment to political and religious freedom. This tradition Q inherited.

Thomas describes in depressing detail the hypocrisy of the British and French governments who called for non-intervention when Germany, Italy and Russia were pouring arms into the Peninsula—as Britain had poured in subsidies in 1808. the root of the problem in Spain, as Q laid bare in his lectures on Byron and Shelley, was the failure of Britain to stand up for democracy after the napoleonic Wars; and the Congress of Vienna in 1814–15 which restored despotic rulers and supported hereditary rule.

In Spain the 'loathsome' King Ferdinand VII, not the Cortes, assumed control. When in 1820 Ferdinand was forced to adopt a constitution, he soon brought in a French army to get it revoked. When Ferdinand died in 1833, a conflict commenced between the supporters of his three-year-old daughter (Queen 1833–1868, d. 1904) and his brother Don Carlos (1788–1855). By 1936 the legitimate king Alfonso XIII had been deposed for five years, although would live until 1941; and the Carlist Pretender, Alfonso Carlos (1849–1936) had adopted Xavier de Bourbon-Parma as his heir. The conflict of 1833 in the monarchist right lived on into the Spanish Civil War of 1936: becoming part of the larger conflict of Nationalist and Republican.

The liberal tradition, which looked back to the ideals of the French Revolution brought to Spain by Napoleon's armies in 1808, and which had after the constitution of 1877 produced prosperity and corruption, was dangerously fracturing in the years around 1900 into liberalism, socialism and anarchism. This instability led to the dictatorship of General Primo de Rivera in 1923. The dictatorship fell in 1930. As with Britain following the Liberal victory of 1906, Spanish liberal democracy was given a last opportunity of instituting radical reform to ameliorate social and political ills. It failed. Chronic instability and endemic violence resulted in rebellion led by the army and supported by the monarchists and the Carlists.

When Q contemplated Spain in 1935, he must have reflected upon the achievements of the Liberal administration in Britain of 1906 to 1914, however much its policies had been frustrated by a reactionary House of Lords. The administration, in winning three general elections (1906, twice 1911), had also effected a change in the Conservative Party away from the ultra-conservatism of Lord Salisbury to a more 'One Nation' approach. Even in the Great Depression of 1929 to 1934, from which Spain suffered comparatively little, Britain did not degenerate, as happened elsewhere, into a battleground between Fascism and Marxism, although such forces were active, particularly in the universities. In Britain the middle ground held; in Spain it disintegrated.

At the universities of Oxford and Cambridge figures such as Q stood for a rational non-doctrinaire approach against the increasingly dogmatic approaches of many academics and students. Q's later biographer Rowse allied himself with Marxist materialism and in the general election of 1935 stood as an anti-appeasement, left-wing Labour candidate. Q refused to endorse Rowse in 1935, not because of the Labour ticket, but because Rowse despised liberal values.

Hugh Thomas was essentially concerned in The Spanish Civil War with events in Spain, but he was aware of the number of university intellectuals making their way to Spain to fight under General Franco or in the international Brigades of the republic. There appear to have been organizations in Oxford and Cambridge facilitating entry into Spain.

Probably the first Cambridge man to reach the front was 20-year-old John Cornford. A great-grandson of Charles Darwin, Cornford was a student of history at Trinity College and a believer in Marxism or 'scientific socialism'. He was also a budding poet Q had probably noticed. As he was one of the first from Britain, Cornford became a machine-gunner in a German battalion, fighting in the battle of Madrid in November 1936. He did not survive it. A Cambridge contemporary was K.S. Loutitt, who organized the transfer of medical units to the republicans. (Thomas pp. 367, 457 n.1, 489).

British nationals originally joined a 600 strong battalion of the 15th International Brigade. It was commanded by Tom Wintringham and its first commissar was David Springhall, both communists. In the battle of Jarama, in February 1937, only 225 of the original 600 survived, with Wintringham one of the wounded (p. 591).

In 1937, the chief of operations for the 15th was Malcolm Dunbar (1912–62), who in 1934 had been 'leader of an advanced aesthetic set at Cambridge' (p. 723, n.1). In the summer of 1938, Dunbar was with the 15th on the River Ebro. Opposing him was the nationalists' 50th Division, whose captain was a Trinity College contemporary, Peter Kemp. On August 1938, the 15th took part in an attack across the Ebro, during which David Haden Guest, someone Q would certainly have known, was killed. Thomas says: 'Haden Guest had been the inspiration of a whole generation of communists at Cambridge.' (p. 841, n.2). It was Q's lectures which helped influence a generation of independent thinkers away from political dogmatisms.

A tougher opponent for Q was one of the most distinguished scientists of his age, J.B.S. Haldane, and his wife Charlotte. Haldane had worked at Oxford and Cambridge on Darwinian evolution and Mendelian genetics, becoming a Marxist in the 1930s and visiting Spain during the civil war, 'to give advice on handling Mills grenades and gas attacks.' (p. 606). His wife concentrated on welfare in the republican zone. Haldane appears to have been one who was only capable of seeing the world through a theory or interlocking theories, and then acted on the basis of theory as a fact. Q stood in the tradition of Jonathan Couch that theories are purely provisional while fact is established through empirical observation.

In the Spanish Civil War, the events of the Peninsula War repeated themselves with depressing regularity. To protect his southern flank Wellington had seen the taking of Badajoz as essential, as Q described in 'The Three Men of Badajoz'. In 1936, Badajoz was a republican town threatened by Yague and his Army of Africa. As in Wellington's day, the town was surrounded by walls which had to be breached by artillery fire, and again the Puerto de la Trinidad was chosen as the weak spot. A subsidiary attack was planned for the opposite wall. Yet again still, the taking of the town resulted in massacre although of a more organized form.

The second nationalist campaign of August 1936 was against San Sebastian, the summer capital of the Basques. The surrender of the town did not prevent reprisals and atrocities as in 'Corporal Sam'. Many of the inhabitants of the Basque province fled across the bridge at Irun, which the nationalists captured on September 2. This was the bridge which the cobbler Martinez sat beside to count the number of French troops crossing into Spain in 'The Lamp and the Guitar'. He had passed his numbers to Fuentes who took ship from San Sebastian to the Tagus.

An accurate knowledge of Q's attitude to the Spanish Civil War will have to await further research, but it was probably not significantly different from that of the Basque philosopher and rector of Salamanca University, Miguel de Unamuno. Q saw Salamanca as one of Europe's great universities, on a par with Oxford and Cambridge. The destruction of Salamanca University by the French army in 1808, as described in 'The Lamp and the Guitar', must have been viewed as a foretaste of the destruction of Louvan by German troops in 1914, an act of cultural vandalism condemned in Patriotism in Literature II. Q pointed the finger at the neo-Darwinists who taught self-assertion and domination as the rule of life (Section II) for individuals and countries.

As with Unamuno Q belonged to a very ancient race, one which had derived from north-east Spain and south-west France at the end of the Ice Age. By early 1936, Unamuno had become disillusioned with the factionalism and violence of republican politics and supported the nationalists. Yet disillusionment followed him as he perceived the brutality of its methods.

In a meeting called for October 12 to celebrate the discoveries of Christopher Columbus and attended by the leading figures of the nationalist movement, Unamuno took the chair as rector of the university. Having listened to a number of violent and vindictive speeches, one by Dr Pla y Deniei, bishop of Salamanca, who appeared never to have read the Sermon on the Mount, and another by General Millan Astray, whose abiding slogans were 'Long live death' and 'Death to intellectuals', Unamuno rose to his feet to close the meeting.

It is difficult to read Unamuno's short speech without reflecting on Q's lectures on Byron and Shelley, in 1918, when he courageously took on the repressive and corrupt governing establishment, without regard for his professorship. Yet Unamuno had more to lose than his rector-ship. His concluding paragraph could have been spoken by Q.

'This is the temple of the intellect. And I am its high priest. It is you who profane its sacred precincts. You will win, because you have more than enough brute force. But you will not convince. For to convince, you need to persuade. And in order to persuade you would need what you lack: reason and right in the struggle. I consider it futile to exhort you to think of Spain. I have done.'

Unamuno was born in 1864, a year after Q, and died in isolation and despair a few months after delivering his statement. Q lived another eighteen years to see the terrible carnage of a Fascism and a Marxism whose roots lay in the re-establishment of autocratic government and political repression in the post-Napoleonic period. In Britain, Waterloo led to Peterloo; in Spain it led to the rule of the 'loathsome' Ferdinand. Q and Unamuno spoke for reason and persuasion not for force and repression. Never have their voices been more needed than today.

Bibliography: Peninsular War

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Poison Island.

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