Harry Smith's story centres on his campaigns with Wellington, and his romance with a noble Spanish girl who threw herself on his mercy after the siege of Badajoz. He fell in love with her and married her. His life was fictionalized by Georgette Heyer in "The Spanish Bride".
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The publishers do something of a disservice to this mostly military memoir by reminding us that the story served as the basis for Georgette Heyer's The Spanish Bride: a book less like Heyer's elegant Jane Austen-style romances it would be hard to imagine. What we have here is Sir Harry Smith's actual 1844 memories of his service in the Napoleonic Wars, written throughout in the old soldier's unpolished and idiomatic voice. In fact, the tone of the piece is much more evocative than any amount of lush novelistic description. Smith's no-nonsense voice rattles us along with a wealth of detail and brevity of expression. He won't have narrative fripperies. "The Battle of Waterloo," he says, "has been too often described and nonsense written about it." He is more interested in the horses. "Every Staff officer had two or three horses shot under him. I had one wounded in six, another in seven places. The fire was terrific, especially of cannon." When he turns to describing the meeting with his wife, a Spanish refugee at the siege of Badajoz, there is something rather sweet about the way his soldierly voice falls into the romantic clichés of the day ("encased in a frame of Nature's fairest and most delicate moulding, the figure of an angel, with an eye of light and an expression which then inspired me with a maddening love which has never abated under many and trying circumstances" and so on). Altogether, a crusty but loveable performance. -- Adam Roberts
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Book Description Constable, 1999. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. Bookseller Inventory # DADAX0094797404