ON Sunday, TCW Defending Freedom writer Brother Antony rightly commended the late author George MacDonald Fraser for his wise words on the betrayal of the British people.
Fraser’s most celebrated fictional character was the Victorian soldier Sir Harry Paget Flashman, VC – the bully from Tom Brown’s School Days who became a national hero despite being a coward, a cad, a cheat, a liar and a lecher.
Looking through them, we find that – like his creator – the old rogue had strong views on the state of the world in his day, some of which may resonate even now . . .
Religion: ‘It’s a great thing, prayer. Nobody answers, but at least it stops you from thinking. I’m as religious as the next man . . . but I’ve never been fool enough to confuse religion with belief in God. That’s where so many clergymen go wrong.’
Marriage: ‘Elspeth was like none of the others. She was beautiful, fair-haired, blue-eyed and pink-cheeked and she smiled at me with the open, simple smile of the truly stupid . . . I love her dearly, far beyond any creature I’ve ever known, and I can prove it, for never once in almost 70 years of married life have I taken her by the throat.’
Romance: ‘You take your tumbles when you’ve the chance, and the more the better.’
Feminism: ‘It was a common custom at that time, in the more romantic females, to see their soldier husbands and sweethearts as Greek heroes, instead of the whore-mongering, drunken clowns most of them were.’
The media: ‘The decline of duelling has ruined more private lives than I care to think of – in my young day, nobody’d dare to tittle-tattle as they do now. Horse-whipping journalists has gone out too.’
Sport: ‘I took care never to face up to a really scorching bowler without woollen scarves wrapped round my legs (under my flannels) and an old tin soup bowl over my essentials; sport’s all very well, but you mustn’t let it incapacitate you for the manliest game of all.’
Education: ‘Rugby School was a fair mixture of jail and knocking-shop . . . I snivelled and bought my way to safety there when I was a small boy and bullied and tyrannised when I was a big one. How the Devil I’m not in the House of Lords, I don’t know.’
Defence policy: ‘I wish I could take all the asses who’ll be waving flags and crowding the recruitment office and say, “You know what you’re cheering for? You’re cheering at the prospect of having a soft-nosed bullet fired into your pelvis, shattering the bone and spreading it in splinters all through your intestines and dying in agony two days later”.’
Foreign relations: ‘I looked down my nose at him . . . fine teeth flashed white against his swarthy skin. Dago for certain, perhaps even Oriental, for his hair and whiskers were blue black and curly and as he came towards me he was moving with that mincing Latin grace.’
The Royals: ‘By and large, I bar royalty pretty strong. They may be harmless enough folk in themselves, but they attract a desperate gang of placemen and hangers-on. Take my word for it – next time you hear “uneasy is the head that wears the crown”, know that royalty do damn good for themselves.’
The Scots: ‘I disliked Scotland and the Scots; the place I found wet and the people rude. They had the fine qualities which bore me – thrift and industry and long-faced holiness . . . the men I found solemn, hostile, and greedy.’
The French: ‘French men make me sick –always have done. I’m degenerate, but they are dirty with it. Not only in the physical sense, either; they have greasy minds. Other foreigners may have garlic on their breaths, but the Frogs have it on their thoughts as well.’
The Germans: ‘If I wasn’t an Englishman, I’d want to be a German. They say what they think, which isn’t much as a rule and they are admirably well ordered. Everyone in Germany knows his place and stays in it and grovels to those above him, which makes it an excellent country for gentlemen and bullies.’
The Americans: ‘By and large, I’m partial to Americans. They make a great affectation of disliking the English and asserting their equality with us, but I’ve discovered that underneath they dearly love a lord.’
The Russians: ‘A great ill-worked wilderness ruled by a small landed aristocracy with their feet on the necks of a huge human-animal population. What I didn’t realise was that these people were slaves – real, bound European white slaves.’
The Chinese: ‘These Manchoos were fierce warriors who had swept in from the north centuries earlier and dealt with China much as our English forebears did with Ireland (not that we ever force the Paddies to wear pigtails as a badge of serfdom). They ran the country with a sloth inefficiency and sat back in complacent luxury, growing their fingernails long, cultivating the more rarefied arts, galloping their concubines, developing a taste for putrefied food, preaching pure philosophy and practising abominable cruelties.’
Yorkshire: ‘A sort of English Texas peopled by coarse braggarts and one or two decentish slow bowlers.’