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As regular readers know, I’ve recently been quite consumed with my first reading of Anthony Powell’s multi-volume opus A Dance To The Music of Time.

I have wondered off and on whether anyone ever managed to dramatize such an enormous (and enormously complicated) work for tee vee. Well, a quick check indicates that yes, indeed, it has been done. But imagine my drop-jawed surprise when I went searching for images of what one of the main villains of the piece, Kenneth Widmerpool, might look like in person:

Widmerpool.jpg

“Great Heavens!” I thought, “It’s Flounder!”

flounder.jpg

I don’t know what to make of this, but one way or another it can’t be a good thing.

By the bye, I’d be curious as to what Powell experts think of the tee vee series. Generally, of course, I’m dubious about this sort of thing.  However,  I understand that Simon Russell Beale, the fellah who plays Widmerpool, got all kinds of hurrahs for it from ADTTMOT enthusiasts.

Yes, one week from today we pack up and head for Maine for (if I may say so) a very well earned week of summah vac.

Not that I’m counting the minutes or anything.

This pic is from last year’s jaunt. The gels are staring out to sea not in any contemplation of the romantic visto, but instead in the rayther bloodthirsty anticipation that one or more of the eider ducks sporting in the water below will get slammed against the rocks by the surf. (I suppose it happens, by the bye, but certainly never when I’ve been watching – the fool birds seem to take a delight in playing silly buggers with the incoming waves and skootching back to safety at the last instant.)

You know, for a long, long time prior to Christmas, my wife sang the praises of Brooks Brothers’ 1818 cologne. How wonderful it would smell on me, she said. How sophisticated. How debonair. How wrow-wrow.

Well, Christmas arrived, and lo-and-behold, Santa had dropped a bottle of the stuff in my stocking (after having first gone through my wallet, I’m sure).

Fair enough. BB1818 is pretty pricey, but I’m usually perfectly content to go along with Madam’s wish if it makes her happy. However, I’ve gone through about half of the stuff now and do you know how often she’s remarked on how wonderful, how sophisticated, how debonair, how wrow-wrow it makes me?

Humph. Not once.

No, not one jot, not one tittle of a divvy have I seen from wearing it. And when I tell you that I don’t even much like the scent myself, you’ll understand why I begin to think this was a poor investment.

From here on out, I think I go back to the jolly old sandalwood.

SIEGE DE LA COLONNE DE POMPÉE - SCIENCE IN THE PILLORY, by James Gillray, March, 1799

SIEGE DE LA COLONNE DE POMPÉE - SCIENCE IN THE PILLORY, by James Gillray, March, 1799

As long as I’m posting about the Battle of the Nile and the French expedition to Egypt today, here is another print by period cartoonist James Gillray. With the destruction of his fleet at the Nile, Bonaparte had no naval support for his Egyptian campaign. This proved disastrous both in terms of tactical support and supply, and was critical to Napoleon’s defeat at the hands of Sir William Sidney Smith and the Turk at the Siege of Acre in March, 1799. Unable to capture the heavily fortified city, Napoleon scuttled back to Egypt, where he ditched what remained of his expeditionary force (already suffering from combat casualties, hunger and disease), and snuck back off to Paris.

In this scene, Gillray (claiming to base his drawing on intercepted dispatches), lampoons the corp of scientists, artists and architects that travelled to Egypt as part of Napoleon’s force, all of whom are here pictured trapped atop Pompey’s Pillar and being set upon by various natives. This is one of several plates Gillray did during and after the French expedition. The man never tired of goosing Boney with his pen and brush.

Destruction of the 120-gun French flagship L'Orient

Destruction of the 120-gun French flagship L'Orient

“Victory is not a name strong enough for such a scene.”
– Nelson

Today is the anniversary of the Battle of the Nile, fought in 1798, in which Rear-Admiral Horatio Nelson and a fleet of 14 ships ran to ground the 15 ship French fleet under Francois-Paul Brueys d’Aigalliers, Comte de Brueys, in Aboukir Bay near the mouth of the Nile.

As evening descended, Brueys anchored his ships in line near the western shore of the bay, confident that Nelson would not dare attack until morning and even then, would only be able to do so from seaward. Nelson confounded Brueys’ plans by coming on in spite of night having fallen and then, realising Brueys had anchored his fleet too far out, splitting his force so as to envelop the French from both sides:

(Image found at Antique Maps & Prints.)

Caught between the hammer and the anvil, the French were utterly crushed, with only two ships of the line and two frigates managing to escape.

The French fleet had been at Aboukir in support of Napoleon’s invasion of Egypt (which was intended as a stepping off point for a march on India). With the loss of his sea link, Napoleon’s army was left stranded while he himself suddenly remembered an urgent appointment back in Paris.

The battle had enormous repercussions. Aside from the actual physical destruction of an immense amount of French war material, it removed the threat to British India. In addition it bolstered the already rising reputation of Nelson and, more generally, fueled the increasing sense of British domination of the sea, as illustrated in this cartoon of the time by James Gillray of John Bull (the Brit equivalent of Uncle Sam) lunching on French warships, courtesy of His Majesty’s Navy. (Note the face of that rat-bastard Charles James Fox in the window on the left, as he flees in consternation over the Navy’s successes.)

This sense of dominance was felt on both sides of the Channel and was to fuel British aggressiveness and French hesitancy at sea for many years to come.

The spectacular destruction of L’Orient pictured above was one of the climaxes of the battle. She had caught fire during the engagement. When the fire reached her powder magazine, she blew to smithereens. Needless to say, most of her crew were killed as well, including her Captain, Luc-Julien-Joseph Casabianca, and his son. This incident inspired the poem “Casabianca” by Felicia Dorothea Hemans (1793-1835):

THE boy stood on the burning deck
Whence all but him had fled;
The flame that lit the battle’s wreck
Shone round him o’er the dead.

Yet beautiful and bright he stood,
As born to rule the storm;
A creature of heroic blood,
A proud, though childlike form.

The flames rolled on — he would not go
Without his father’s word;
That father, faint in death below,
His voice no longer heard.

He called aloud — “Say, father, say,
If yet my task is done?”
He knew not that the chieftain lay
Unconscious of his son.

“Speak, father!” once again he cried,
“If I may yet be gone!”
And but the booming shots replied,
And fast the flames rolled on.

Upon his brow he felt their breath,
And in his waving hair,
And looked from that lone post of death
In still, yet brave despair.

And shouted but once more aloud,
“My father! must I stay?”
While o’er him fast, through sail and shroud,
The wreathing fires made way.

They wrapt the ship in splendor wild,
They caught the flag on high,
And streamed above the gallant child,
Like banners in the sky.

There came a burst of thunder sound–
The boy — oh! where was he?
Ask of the winds that far around
With fragments strewed the sea!–

With mast, and helm, and pennon fair
That well had borne their part–
But the noblest thing that perished there
Was that young, faithful heart.

Patrick O’Brian fans will recall that young Lieutenant Jack Aubrey fought at the Nile, serving the guns in the lower deck “slaughterhouse” aboard the Leander as she broke the French line ahead of the Franklin.

Oh, my.

With the inevitability of Greek Tragedy, I suppose it had to happen.

Regular readers of the Llamas will have been tracking my recent posts recounting my dramatic rendition of The Fellowship of the Ring to the 10 year old daughter at bed-time, particularly my interest in picking the right voice for each character. Such alert readers will also know that a certain nameless and so-called “Abbotical” (there’s a word for ye) blogger has been after me in the comments to use the voice of a certain famous Scots actor in my interpretation of Gimli the Dwarf, this despite his full knowledge that I heartily agree with those who condemn Peter Jackson for giving Gimli a Caledonian flavor. Alert readers (actually, those who apparently have too much time on their hands) will also know that I have been struggling with this issue and wondering what I would do when finally faced with it.

Well, this evening, as we plowed deeper into the Chapter entitled “The Ring Goes South”, I was forced into that confrontation.

What can I say except, “Absolve me, Pater, quia peccavi!”

Gimli’s first line in LOTR is spoken just as the Company of the Ring is getting ready to set forth from Rivendell. Elrond has just said that only Frodo is placed under any obligation to attempt to complete the mission of the Ring’s destruction and that the other members of the Company are free to come and go as they please. Gimli says,

“Faithless is he that says farewell when the road darkens.”

And what did I say?

“Faithlesh ish he that shesh farewell when the road darkensh.”

Yes, whether for good or for ill, Sean Connery has become the Voice of Gimli.

Oh, somehow I feel I’m going to the Hot Place. I can only hope that my corrupter will go down with me.

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