The Military Memoir and Romantic Literary Culture, 1780–1835: 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

The Military Memoir and Romantic Literary Culture, 1780–1835

1st Edition

By Neil Ramsey


282 pages

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Hardback: 9781409410348
pub: 2011-11-28
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Examining the memoirs and autobiographies of British soldiers during the Romantic period, Neil Ramsey explores the effect of these as cultural forms mediating warfare to the reading public during and immediately after the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars. Forming a distinct and commercially successful genre that in turn inspired the military and nautical novels that flourished in the 1830s, military memoirs profoundly shaped nineteenth-century British culture's understanding of war as Romantic adventure, establishing images of the nation's middle-class soldier heroes that would be of enduring significance through the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. As Ramsey shows, the military memoir achieved widespread acclaim and commercial success among the reading public of the late Romantic era. Ramsey assesses their influence in relation to Romantic culture's wider understanding of war writing, autobiography, and authorship and to the shifting relationships between the individual, the soldier, and the nation. The memoirs, Ramsey argues, participated in a sentimental response to the period's wars by transforming earlier, impersonal traditions of military memoirs into stories of the soldier's personal suffering. While the focus on suffering established in part a lasting strand of anti-war writing in memoirs by private soldiers, such stories also helped to foster a sympathetic bond between the soldier and the civilian that played an important role in developing ideas of a national war and functioned as a central component in a national commemoration of war.


’This is a lucid and convincing analysis, fluently written… Admirably nuanced and impressively thoughtful… an important scholarly contribution that illuminatingly realigns war literature with other literary models.’ Times Literary Supplement '… this work is far more than a survey of a genre. It speaks to the field on several fronts; the rise of the professional author, the politics of sympathy and suffering, the development of autobiography, the policing of generic transformation, changes in the reading public and, of course, the emergence of a distinctive culture of war and of war writing in this period.' BARS Bulletin and Review 'Ramsey provides a cogent and persuasive argument for the ways these understudied Romantic texts illuminate both Romantic authorship and the period’s politico-military history.' SHARP News 'Ramsey draws on important cultural and military historians - notably Clive Emsley and Charles Esdaile - throughout this important book. Astutely conceptualized, meticulously researched, and superbly written, The Military Memoir and Romantic Literary Culture, 1780-1835 is a timely and exciting contribution to Romantic and Victorian literary history.' The Wordsworth Circle 'The sheer number of these texts merits a monograph treatment: Ramsey has identified nearly 200 and helpfully lists them in an appendix,which will be a first port of call for any subsequent study in this area. The Military Memoir and Romantic Literary Culture will be of great interest to anyone working on war and its cultural reception in this fascinating period.' Journal for Eighteenth-Century Studies

Table of Contents

Contents: Introduction: modern war and the suffering soldier; Part 1 The Genre of the Military Memoir, 1780-1835: The sentimental military memoir, 1780-1825; Military authors and the commemoration of war, 1825-1835. Part 2 The Military Memoir and the Sacrifices of War: Suffering and the spectacle of modern war: Robert Ker Porter's Letters from Portugal and Spain (1809); 'An atom of an army': the sentimental soldier's tale and Journal of a Soldier of the 71st (1819); Romantic authorship and picturesque war: Moyle Sherer's Recollections of the Peninsula (1823) and George Gleig's The Subaltern (1825); The cheerful stoicism of the soldier hero: John Kincaid's Adventures in the Rifle Brigade (1830); Conclusion: 'a plain unvarnished tale': the military author and the romance of war; Appendix; Bibliography; Index

About the Author

Neil Ramsey is an Australian Research Council Postdoctoral Fellow in the School of Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of New South Wales, Australia.

About the Series

The Nineteenth Century Series

The Nineteenth Century Series

The Nineteenth Century Series aims to develop and promote new approaches and fresh directions in scholarship and criticism on nineteenth-century literature and culture. The series encourages work which erodes the traditional boundary between Romantic and Victorian studies and welcomes interdisciplinary approaches to the literary, religious, scientific and visual cultures of the period. While British literature and culture are the core subject matter of monographs and collections in the series,  the editors encourage proposals which explore the wider, international contexts of nineteenth-century literature – transatlantic, European and global.  Print culture, including studies in the newspaper and periodical press, book history, life writing and gender studies are particular strengths of this established series as are high quality single author studies.  The series also embraces research in the field of digital humanities. The editors invite proposals from both younger and established scholars in all areas of nineteenth-century literary studies. 

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
LITERARY CRITICISM / Comparative Literature