Tennyson and the enlistment into military masculinity
While Tennyson’s ‘Locksley Hall’ is often discussed in terms of masculinity and empire, the military and social context of the speaker’s subject position as an enlisted soldier remains unexplored. This chapter suggests that when read in light of the British soldier’s precarious socioeconomic position in the early Victorian period, the poem’s formal qualities subvert its militaristic and imperialist narrative. The poem reveals how the early Victorian military’s making of the man ‘conscribes’ the individual into the whole but at the same time obfuscates the complexities of actualising this masculine subjectivity. This reading shows how the poetic form provided Tennyson the means to deploy masculinity in support of the military’s participation in the grand narrative of progress while critiquing the resulting effects.
Martial masculinities and family feeling in old soldiers’ memoirs, 1793–1815
This chapter explores the place of family in Revolutionary and Napoleonic War memoirs, to query whether military masculinities were wholly divorced from the civilian ideals that upheld the primacy of the family as a key arena and marker of manly identity. It contends that despite the iconic depictions of soldiers’ tearful departures from kin in wartime propaganda, memoirs attest to the continued importance of blood relations as a source of emotional support, patriarchal fulfilment, potential motivation, reward or patronage. Memoirs also reveal how the proxy familial bonds forged within a regiment offered an alternate means of participating in family life, as the language and imagery of familial connection was co-opted to convey hierarchy and foster cohesion, loyalty and brotherhood. These sources affirm that whilst military men’s experiences of marriage, fatherhood, filial or fraternal duty may have differed from those of their civilian counterparts, family feeling was no less central to their lives and ideals.
The body of the hero in the early nineteenth century
This chapter explores the significance of the physical body to the construction of the military hero as a model of masculinity in the first half of the nineteenth century. Henry William Paget, Lord Uxbridge and Marquess of Anglesey, was commended for his heroism at the Battle of Waterloo (1815) – heroism that resulted in the amputation of his left leg. The amputated limb was buried in a marked grave near the battlefield, but rather than becoming a celebrated monument to masculine military heroism, the burial proved to be controversial. This chapter surveys responses to the buried leg and concludes that the burial of a body part exposed the mundane corporeality of the male body, and that this undermined the military hero as a model of masculinity.
Cornish tenor Charles Incledon (1763–1826) was a prominent figure in Britain during the Napoleonic Wars, entertaining patriotic crowds with popular naval ballads. Unlike other nationalistic singers of the period, Incledon did not merely masquerade in a sailor’s costume on stage – he was an authentic sailor. Despite his popularity, Incledon was an especially problematic figure. His complex masculinity was the crux of this problem. Although some saw the tenor as a brave British Tar, others imagined him as a stereotypical Georgian sailor – a rough and ready character with a penchant for women and grog. His identity was complicated yet further by his status as a singer – a profession that was characterised as feminine and foreign in nineteenth-century Britain. Incledon’s masculinity was therefore intriguingly multi-faceted and contradictory. He was at once a brave British Tar, a Regency rake, an effeminate showman and a figure of ridicule. This chapter draws on a wide range of multimedia sources to examine the various strands of Incledon’s masculinity, focusing especially on the ways in which the singer attempted to present himself. An analysis of Incledon’s reception reveals much about contemporary attitudes towards naval masculinity.
This chapter examines Charlotte Brontë’s application of military language and activity in the scenes featuring Jane and St John Rivers in Jane Eyre (1847). I argue that Brontë constructs the relationship between the characters as a war, revealing an astute knowledge of military theory. At the same time, she develops an alternative Christian masculinity in her creation of Rivers as ‘warrior priest’. My reading of the novel is informed by the work of Carl von Clausewitz, and I suggest that Brontë’s understanding of historic military strategy is instrumental to the resolution of the novel’s tensions. Finally, I discuss how Brontë anticipates later nineteenth-century movements that combine faith with the language of combat.
James Hogg’s deconstruction of Scottish military masculinities in The Three Perils of Man, or War, Women, and Witchcraft!
This chapter contends that hunger and cannibalism are extended metaphors that James Hogg utilises in his novel The Three Perils of Man (1822) to denounce the human losses in the Napoleonic Wars and to convey an indirect critique of the violent death of so many millions in the campaign of Buonaparte. In so doing, Hogg deconstructs the potent stereotype of Highland masculinity, so pivotal in the militaristic discourse of the British Empire. Hogg exposes the ideology of self-sacrifice of the British soldier explicitly in two poetical works: ‘The Pilgrims of the Sun’ (1815) and ‘The Field of Waterloo’ (1822), the first published and the second composed in the same year of Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo, while conveying the same critique more implicitly some years later in Perils of Man, where the hunger for meat is a ubiquitous trope meant to expose the destructiveness of tyrannical power.
This collection explores the role of martial masculinities in shaping nineteenth-century British culture and society in a period framed by two of the greatest wars the world had ever known and punctuated by many smaller conflicts. Bringing together contributions from a diverse range of leading scholars, it offers fresh, interdisciplinary perspectives on an emerging field of study. Chapters in this volume draw on historical, literary, visual and musical sources to demonstrate the centrality of the military and its masculine dimensions in the shaping of Victorian and Edwardian personal and national identities. Focusing on both the experience of military service and its imaginative forms, it examines such topics as bodies and habits, families and domesticity, heroism and chivalry, religion and militarism, and youth and fantasy. The collection is divided into two sections: ‘experiencing’ and ‘imagining’ military masculinities. This division represents the two principal areas of investigation for scholars working in this field. The section on experience considers the realities of military life in this period, and asks to what extent they produced a particular kind of gendered identity. The second section moves on to explore the wider impact of martial masculinities on culture and society, asking whether nineteenth-century Britain can be regarded as a warrior nation. These two sections ultimately demonstrate that the reception, representation and replication of masculine values in Britain during this period was far more complex than might be assumed.
Charlotte Yonge and the ‘martial ardour’ of ‘a soldier’s daughter’
Charlotte Yonge’s close family connections with significant military men gave her a deep admiration for the discipline and courage of soldiers. She believed military manliness to be non-gendered and cross-generational and that it could be instilled through the retelling of fictional and factual stories. Her many bestselling books provided attractive, credible role models for her readers to emulate. Such attitudes chimed with those of her mentor, Rev. John Keble, and other members of the Oxford Movement, for whom the Christian life was one of perpetual warfare.
Bachelor soldier narratives of nostalgia and the re-creation of the domestic interior
This chapter seeks to uncover late Georgian narratives of domesticity in the letters and journals of bachelor soldiers on campaign during the Napoleonic Wars. The chapter supplements existing historical assessments of the continuities between civilian and martial masculinities, and interrogates the ways in which bachelor soldiers maintained and reinforced emotional connections with their families through the exchange of letters, material objects and memories. This chapter uncovers the ways in which bachelor soldiers enthusiastically sought out and re-assembled familiar domestic material culture in their pursuit of both physical and emotional comfort. It argues that these men ‘returned’ home through nostalgic recollections and emotional narrative exchanges, which resulted in their subsequent re-creation of the familiar domestic interior within the confines and culture of war.