A Brief Speculation on Flashman’s career – Introduction


Taking a broad look at the Flashman Papers, it is easy to divide Sir Harry’s career into two unequal phases. In the first of these, from his expulsion from Rugby School in 1838 to his shanghaing to sea in the wake of the Pekin Expedition in 1860, we have a full account of his career, with three breaks, of varying length.
But from 1860 onwards, we have only three distinct and separate episodes, and nothing but hints and traces of where and what else Flashman was doing.
Naturally, the rest of Flashman’s career has been the subject of speculation and argument amongst his fans for literally decades. I’ve read several chronologies, at least one of which is still accessible on-line. Now I’m going to have my own attempt at constructing Flashman’s career, especially in those lost periods.
Given the length of that career – Flashman died in 1915, in circumstances unknown but presumably related to his age (he would be aged 92/93 that year) – this is not the subject of a single essay. At first, I propose to summarise Flashman’s known career, up to one of the notable gaps, and then speculate as to what he may have been doing then. In short, I’ll be trying to outguess George MacDonald Fraser, so nothing ambitious then.
In no particular order, we have to find times and, in some cases, places, for the following:
– A slew of references to the South Pacific: Gambling on a South Sea trader, the Australian Gold Rush, including a jailing in Botany Bay, witnessing dawn over the South China Sea, being a Lottery supervisor in Manila and a Trader and Missionary in the Solomon Islands and Fly River country.
– Service with the French Foreign Legion – either immediately prior to or at the start of Flashman’s involvement with Emperor Maximilian in Mexico, or in Algeria. Flashman sees moonlight over the Sahara
– Mexico: deserting from the Legion, being aide-de-camp to Maximilian, jail, being sent to the firing Squad and being reprieved. Jesus Montero’s bandits and Princess Aggie Salm-Salm.
– American Civil War: service for the Union in 1862, the Confederates in 1863. Various battlefields. Jefferson Davies’s lightning concuctor. Libby Prison. Blackmailed and pardoned by Lincoln. At Appomattox, apparently with Lee. In Washngton with Lincoln on the day of Ford’s Theatre
– Deputy Marshall to Wild Bill Hickock, facing John Wesley Hardin. Poker in a Dodge City livery stable
– February 1882 – watching John L Sullivan box in America
– 1846-7 – shot in side by pistol ball burrowing into back: recovery and recuperation before returning to London
– Affairs with Lily Langtry, Alice Keppel, Fanny Paget (Cardigan’s mistress)
– Meeting Garibaldi
– The Zulu War 1879, Isandlwhana, Rorke’s Drift, Little Hand. Meets and likes Keteshwayo
– Hearing Garryowen sung on the African veldt
– Pekin Embassy seige during the Boxer Rebellion 1900
– Cholera attack 1855 – 56
– Impersonating an Arab Sheikh
– Surviving in a lifeboat after shipwreck
– Hearing Jungle drums in South America
– Accompanying Chinese Gordon to the Sudan
– Khedive – Sudan 1896
– Shanghaing by Fanny Duberly
– The Franco-Prussian War 1870
– Receiving the Order of Maria Theresa, summer 1868
– Desert camel passage Alexandria to Cairo
– Iron Eyes
– Watching a battle from a hot air balloon
I don’t promise to get everything right, but I do promise to enjoy the guesswork.

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