Tommy Atkins is a famous poem from 1890 in the collection Barrack Room Ballads (1892) by Rudyard Kipling.
It captures well the long lived 19th Century view of the Army and its Redcoats as a job only for the drunken, desperate or destitute in peacetime, but how differently treated, more acceptable and valued they are in wartime.
I WENT into a public ‘ouse to get a pint o’ beer,
The publican ‘e up an’ sez, ” We serve no red-coats here.”
The girls be’ind the bar they laughed an’ giggled fit to die,
I outs into the street again an’ to myself sez I: O it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ ” Tommy, go away ” ;
But it’s ” Thank you, Mister Atkins,” when the band begins to play
The band begins to play, my boys, the band begins to play,
O it’s ” Thank you, Mister Atkins,” when the band begins to play.
I went into a theatre as sober as could be,
They gave a drunk civilian room, but ‘adn’t none for me;
They sent me to the gallery or round the music-‘alls,
But when it comes to fightin’, Lord! they’ll shove me in the stalls! For it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ ” Tommy, wait outside “;
But it’s ” Special train for Atkins ” when the trooper’s on the tide
The troopship’s on the tide, my boys, the troopship’s on the tide,
O it’s ” Special train for Atkins ” when the trooper’s on the tide.
Yes, makin’ mock o’ uniforms that guard you while you sleep
Is cheaper than them uniforms, an’ they’re starvation cheap.
An’ hustlin’ drunken soldiers when they’re goin’ large a bit
Is five times better business than paradin’ in full kit.
Then it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an` Tommy, ‘ow’s yer soul? ”
But it’s ” Thin red line of ‘eroes ” when the drums begin to roll
The drums begin to roll, my boys, the drums begin to roll,
O it’s ” Thin red line of ‘eroes, ” when the drums begin to roll.
We aren’t no thin red ‘eroes, nor we aren’t no blackguards too,
But single men in barricks, most remarkable like you;
An’ if sometimes our conduck isn’t all your fancy paints,
Why, single men in barricks don’t grow into plaster saints; While it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an` Tommy, fall be’ind,”
But it’s ” Please to walk in front, sir,” when there’s trouble in the wind
There’s trouble in the wind, my boys, there’s trouble in the wind,
O it’s ” Please to walk in front, sir,” when there’s trouble in the wind.
You talk o’ better food for us, an’ schools, an’ fires, an’ all:
We’ll wait for extry rations if you treat us rational.
Don’t mess about the cook-room slops, but prove it to our face
The Widow’s Uniform is not the soldier-man’s disgrace. For it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an` Chuck him out, the brute! ”
But it’s ” Saviour of ‘is country ” when the guns begin to shoot;
An’ it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ anything you please;
An ‘Tommy ain’t a bloomin’ fool – you bet that Tommy sees!
Interesting the line “Why, single men in barricks don’t grow into plaster saints” as single this Tommy Atkins portrayed on the card certainly isn’t.
This illustration above of Mr Thomas Atkins comes with three others, his Happy Family, all a recent vintage shop find.
These Happy Family cards are a little difficult to put a rough date on – Mrs. Thomas Atkins looks more modern or WW2 than the more Victorian looking Redcoat Mr Thomas Atkins.
The children are equally difficult to date. Miss Atkins with a then stereotypical female job of a nurse could easily be from WWI onwards. Teddy Bears are a 20th Century thing, after Rough Rider and US President Teddy Roosevelt’s discovery of a bear cub in 1902.
Master Thomas Atkins looks like a late 19th Century / 1902 print that I have somewhere of Nursery Warriors with paper hats in the style of children’s illustrator Randolph Caldecott (1846 to 1886). Similar figures can be found in this Victorian Edwardian scrapbook in my collection:
An eclectic or retro mix of period clues in good several colours printing. Colour half tone dots on the faces may give some idea but then halftone was common from the 1880s onwards.
Who was Tommy Atkins?
The Tommy of the poem is ‘Tommy Atkins’, a generic or slang name for a common British soldier. A term of uncertain origin, the name “ThomasAtkins” was used in 19th Century British War Office manuals as a placeholder name to demonstrate how forms should be filled out.
I was intrigued by references to a Bronte regiment called the Bloodhounds.
The Bloodhounds are one of the intriguing Regiments of the Bronte family’s Imagi-Nations and Paracosmic world, a fictional European colonised Regency / 19th Century West Africa known as Glasstown and Angria. The tales were started off amongst the four Bronte children by the gift of wooden toy soldiers from their father Revd. Patrick Bronte.
The Bloodhounds were an Angrian Regiment, first commanded by Colonel Henry Fernando di Enara.
When Enara “the Tiger” became H.F. Etrei or Baron of Etrei (a savanna province of Angria) and the Angrian “Secretary at War” in Verdopolis c. 1839, the commanding officer or Colonel of the Bloodhounds post was taken by Colonel Nicholas Belcastro.
One of its infamous privates is Captain Henry Hastings, formerly national poet and soldier hero of Angria of the 19th Angrian Infantry. Hastings was court-martialled for shooting Colonel Adams, his commanding officer and defecting to Paris and the enemies of Angria, leading an uprising of Revolutionary French troops and Ashantee warriors against his former Angrian home.
Much of the surviving fragments of the Bronte Imagi-Nations stories such as Angria are told through different documents to create a more complex and realistic fiction – fictional or factional sources such as letters, diary entries, different narrators, poems, newspaper reports etc.
What brother Branwell Bronte wrote about Angria and its characters, Charlotte would also respond to or develop in her own writing or counter-writing.
Included amongst these “documents” in Charlotte Bronte’s 1839 Angrian novella Henry Hastings are these official Army type letters or fictional court-martial documents:
Rather than being executed, in view of his previous service, Hastings is encouraged to turn King’s Evidence on his former enemy or rebel colleagues (the King being Zamorna, the King of Angria naturally).
Hastings is expected to inform against other exotically named outlaws and allies of Northangerland such as the Renegade Angrian and leader of French forces Hector Mirabeau Montmorenci, [Lord] George Frederick Caversham and the native tribal Ashantee leader, Quashia Quamina Kashna. Barras, Dupin and Bernadotte are the names of real French Revolutionary figures.
These outlaw forces were present at the Battle of Westwood, 1837, in the Angrian Civial War, by which time Henry Hastings had defected and was fighting for the enemy against Zamorna the King of Angria and Hastings’ former 19th Angrian Regiment, Zamorna’s or the Devil’s Own.
If Hastings informs on his former Angrian renegades and collaborators, the death sentence for treachery, murder and desertion of Henry Hastings will be commuted to being stripped of his rank and transferred from the 19th to the Bloodhounds “under the grinding yoke of Colonel Nicholas Belcastro“.
Rather than the outrage of such military men as his commanding officer Colonel Hartford that Hastings “should have been shot when caught, as you’d shoot a dirty girning wolf”, others officers of the 19th such as Major King take a different view:
Charlotte Bronte is good at reflecting and pondering on the politics and rivalry amongst the army and different political rivals. She would be the only Bronte child to see the chaotic mess of the Crimean War in 1854-55, just before her untimely death.
This court martial document and speech seems realistic enough, especially for a young female writer at the time. Interestingly, as far as I know, unlike Jane Austen with her Royal Navy brothers, Charlotte Bronte and her family did not have close relatives in the army or navy.
Charlotte is also accomplished (almost in modern screenplay fashion) at using different characters for multiple viewpoints of the same situation. Here, Henry Hastings, reviled for killing his superior officer Adams, puts his own case or view of the situation to his sister, Elizabeth Hastings. Elizabeth is the mysterious heroine of the surviving fragments of the Bronte novella Henry Hastings.
Bronte scholars often read these Angrian fragments and ‘ juvenilia’ for insights into how each of the Bronte sisters developed into the a writer of their later, more finished works such as Jane Eyre.
In later more enlightened times, desertion and change of character amongst veterans would be seen as possible Battle Shock, Shell Shock, fatigue or PTSD. Drink also had much to do with Hastings’ fictional downfall, something that sadly affected his co-creator Branwell Bronte in real life.
Interestingly, Branwell Bronte suggests that (his main pseudonym / character persona) Henry Hastings feels that his Commanding Officer of the 19th, Lord Hartford, dislikes and has bullied and blocked his advancement in the past: “My Commander [Hartford] thought it expedient that a farmer’s son [Henry Hastings] should not shame by his advancements the pampered ignorants of Eastern Aristocracy [of Angria].
One intriguing reference to the Bloodhounds we mentioned in our last blogpost:
One of the Angrian’s most infamous infantry regiments are The Bloodhounds (Glen, p. 501) led by the Italian ‘Tiger’ Enara:
“A host of Dark whiskered and bearded warriors such looks of savage and relentless ferocity I never held before …
their great Raven banner bore in silver blazonry the single emphatic syllable. “DEATH” at their head … accompanied by 8 vast liver coloured dew lapped red eyed bloodhounds held in leashes stood the second commander of the Army Colonel Henry Fernando Enara.” (Excerpt from Branwell Bronte, Angria and the Angrians).
Zamorna had some unusual generals including Henri Fernando di Enara, an Italian known as ‘the Tiger’, whom he created Baron of Etrei and Governor of this Angrian savanna province of Etrei. He eventually becomes Angrian Commander in Chief, rather than second in command.
The Brontes refer to Enara’s campaigns against Zamorna’s or Angria’s enemies as a “tiger hunt”, a hunt not of but by ‘The Tiger’ Enara.
This figure with eight bloodhounds on leashes seems more out of a fantasy catalogue than a toy soldier one!
Appropriately Enara has dark brows and dark Italian features and for commander of a regiment with Raven banners, Enara has four raven haired daughters Maria, Gabriella, Giulietta and Francesca.
Another new reference in Charlotte’s novella gives further clues to the Bloodhound’s exotic appearance and uniform:
Hastings’ trail, like all nine days wonders, had sunk into oblivion. Hastings himself was gone to the Devil or to Belcastro, which is the same thing.
He had actually marched bodily out of [the regional capital] Zamorna, in the white trousers, the red sash, the gingham-jacket of a thorough going Bloodhound, as one of a detachment of that illustrious Regiment under the command of Captain Dampier.
To the sound of fife, drum and bugle, the lost desperado had departed, leaving behind the recollection of what he had been, a man: the reality of what he was, a monster.”
(‘Henry Hastings’, Charlotte Bronte: Tales of Angria, edited Heather Glen, p. 286-7).
This exotic sounding uniform sounds a little like the Los Colorados troops in the Osprey uniform books on the colourful troops of the Latin American Wars.
But Gingham? Gingham!
Gingham today sounds more Judy Garland than military garment, but I had a distant memory of a uniform plate of soldiers wearing Gingham.
I found it in Uniforms of the American Civil War by Blandford, another of my childhood library borrowing favourites.
Gingham has also appeared recently as a check pattern on Manchester United’s 2012/3 football strip.
The Bloodhounds seem to have had an exotic, almost Zouave-like uniform with sashes and beards.
Gingham could be striped as well as checked – and in a host of colours, red, green, blue. So which colour Gingham to choose for the Bloodhounds?
And which figures and scale will I choose? I have no Peter Laing 15mm zouaves, but Airfix ACW or British Commandos work well in OO/HO for Zouaves. In 40mm or 54mm I may adapt or convert figures from Homecast or Prince August moulds or use some bearded Timpo ACW figures.
Gingham will of course be a challenge, just like tartan, to paint on figures!
Whilst most of Branwell Bronte’s Glasstown and Angrian tales are reprinted in expensive academic volumes, I will have to rely on whatever campaign scenario and uniform clues I can glean from Charlotte’s more easily available and affordable books. I will update or add details as I discover them.
Blogposted by Mark, Mr MIN Man of TIN, April 2017.
“Nothing special” was the answer. “Only March has left the Angrians madder than ever.”
“What, they’re fighting still are they?”
“Fighting! Aye and every man amongst them has sworn by his hilts that he’ll continue fighting whilst he has two rags left stitched together upon his back.”
“In that case I should think peace would soon be restored”, said I.
Mr. Saunderson winked. “A very sensible remark”, said he. “Mr. Wellesley senior [Charlotte Bronte’s fictionalised Duke of Wellington] made me the fellow to it last time I saw him”.
“The sinews of war not particularly strong in the East?” I continued.
Mr Saunderson winked again and asked for a pot of porter. I sent for the beverage to the Robin Hood across the way and when it was bought Mr Saunderson, after blowing off the froth, took a deep draught to the health of “the brave and shirtless!” I added in a low voice “to the vermined and victorious!” He heard me and remarked with a grave nod of approbation, “very jocose”.
After soaking a little while, each in silence, Mr. Saunderson spoke again –
Mr. Saunderson did not speak again. He departed like the fantastic creation of a dream. I was called to hear a lesson and when I returned to my desk again, I found the mood which had suggested that allegorical whim was irrevocably gone …
This is not a couple of beer raddled gamers sitting in the pub talking about their fictional campaigns.
This interrupted fictional conversation is a snippet called “My Compliments to the Weather” section 5 from Charlotte Bronte’s The Roe Head Journal. This snippet, on p.168-9, is published in The Brontes – Tales of Glass Town, Angria and Gondal. Selected Writings Oxford, OUP 2010, edited with notes by Bronte scholar Christine Alexander.
As a young student teacher at Roe Head School, miles away from her Haworth parsonage home from 1835-38, Charlotte Bronte was partly exiled through the demands of her teaching work from her full part in the fictional Imagi-Nations that her brother Branwell and sisters Emily and Anne had created together. Her frustration is obvious!
“No more. I have not time to work out the vision. A thousand things were connected with it, a whole country, statesman and kings, a revolution, Thrones and princedoms subverted and reinstated.” Section 3, the Roe Head Journal, Charlotte Bronte.
I like the arch, snarky irreverent tone of Charlotte’s narrators like Charles Townsend casting scorn on the elsewhere heroic struggles of her brother or sisters’ creations, in this case the character Zamorna (also known as King of Angria, Marquis of Douro and fictional son of the Bronte’s fictional Duke of Wellington).
The Angrian Wars 1831-39
Compiled from notes in Christine Alexanders book (Oxford, 2010) and Heather Glen’s Tales of Angria (Penguin, 2006) further detail of clarification will be added as discovered.
According to Christine Alexander, in 1831 Zamorna was struggling to defeat an Insurrection or the Great Rebellion.
This was caused or led by one of Branwell Bronte’s main characters, the balding former pirate, drover, gambler and serial seducer Northangerland (also known as Alexander Percy, Ellrington or Rogue) that is part of the First Angrian War of March 1831. This flares up again in 1832 by Northangerland’s renewed insurrection or Rebellion in The North (Sneakysland). Northangerland may have been aided at this time by the shadowy figure of Sir Jehu Macterrorglen (formerly cloth trader Jeremiah Simpson).
Zamorna leads a Constitutionalist Army, aided by Fidena, Wellesley and Warner Howard Warner, overthrowing his rival Northangerland’s Republican or French Revolutionary Government in the Glass Town capital Verdopolis.
This revolutionary situation, along with most of the wars, was Branwell’s creation, his earlier chosen characters included a version of Napoleon.
1833/34 The War of Encroachment
In 1833/4 the War of Encroachment saw the Ashantee tribes to the East of Verdopolis attack Verdopolis, Angria and the other allied countries of the Great Glass Town Federation. It is fought mainly in ‘the East’ around the city of Angria and provinces of Northangerland and Zamorna, after whom Zamorna and Northangerland are named Duke and Earl respectively once victorious.
Zamorna and Northangerland have a love-hate relationship throughout the Angrian sagas but during the War of Encroachment are working together against external threats and encroachment.
The Ashantee tribe were joined by Arab Troops from the North (the Sahara desert and Jibell Kimmri or the Mountains of the Moon above Sneakysland and Angria) and the Frenchtroops (from offshore island / colony of Frenchyland) led by a “Napoleon” figure.
The French troops are also led by General Massena, Commander of French Forces against Verdopolis. Massena later returns to campaign with Ardrah and Northangerland against Zamorna.
The Battle of Velino near Freetown was a decisive battle in the War of Encroachment c. November / December 1833. Velino and the Velino Hills was Headquarters for Fidena’s troops during this war. Popular Angrian Field Marshall (and horseman “The Chevalier”) Sir Frederic Lofty, Earl of Arundel (Arundel the Angrian Province) was thought to have died or become missing in action during this battle. His younger brother Macara Lofty adopts his title and becomes active in the Verdopolitan Government under the Reformist Ardrah.
Zamorna was assisted in defeating the Ashantees by Joachim Murat, the flower of French chivalry who was rewarded with a post as an Angrian Minister (named after Napoleon’s cavalry commander).
Zamorna ‘s role in suppressing this invasion led to him being granted in parliament on 9 February 1834 the disputed land to the East of Verdopolis, a new kingdom of Angria where he is to be known as King of Angria.
Angria is eventually formally added as a Kingdom (after parliamentary battles) to the Glass Town Federation, which became known as The Verdopolitan Union.
Percy (or Rogue / Ellrington as he was formerly known) is rewarded for his role in defeating the Ashantee threat. He gets to be known as (the Duke of) Northangerland and is appointed the Angrian Prime Minister under Zamorna as King.
As in Russian novels and literature (War and Peace, Chekhov plays) what gets confusing in the Bronte sagas is the complex relationship between characters and the many names and honorary titles that they acquire over time and to different people.
1835-37 – The Second Angrian War
December 1835 Angria is expelled from the Verdopolitan Union by Ardrah and his Reform Party.
1835 – Northangerland as a Prime Minister is denounced as a traitor and forced to resign his seals of office by Zamorna.
1836. Verdopolitan Union plunged into Civil War! Angria is expelled from the Verdopolitan Union! Zamorna outlawed to his remote Hawkscliffe estate in the Sydenham foothills Northern in Angria! Or outlawed to the Ascension Isles …
By March 1836 – half of Angria is “in possession of our foes”.
Adrianpolis in Angria is invaded by Ashantee Forces under Quashia Qamina, briefly an ally of the Verdopolitan Government ruled by Zamorna’s ally Ardrah and His Reform Ministry.
Arthur, the Marquis of Ardrah and Prince of Parrysland, was a Commander or Admiral in the Verdopolitan Navy. Leader of the Reformist Party in Verdopolis, Ardrah was opposed to Zamorna and the creation of the Kingdom of Angria.
The Marquis of Harlaw, Edward Tut Ross, son of John King of Rossland, is one of Ardrah’s allies against Zamorna in the civil wars. Another of Percy ‘Rogue’ Northangeralnd’s Colonels in the Rebel Army is Arthur O’Connor, former cattle dealer.
Civil war between Angria and the Verdopolitan Union is happening at the same time as the Ashantee threat.
June 1836 – Zamorna is defeated at the Battle ofEdwardston in Angria on the 26 June 1836, leaving his country to be marauded by the victorious Ashantees, Arabs and the Provisional Government of Northangerland.
At Edwardston, Zamorna’s forces are defeated, losing 18,000 men (Captured? Killed? Wounded?) against the assembled forces of MacTerrorGlen, Massena, Quashia’s Ashantees and Lord Jordon / Sheik Medina’s Arabs.
Native Angrian hero, Squire of Ardsley in Angria, George Turner Grey (as described in the novelette The Return of Zamorna) called his tenantry around him after the Battle of Edwardston for a memorable last stand, to the motto “Ardsley to the Van!”
“The Angrian army … ruined, the Angrian nation enslaved and the Angrian King disgraced.” (Five Novelettes)
From June 1836 to September / autumn 1836, Northangerland was in control of the new French style Provisional Government of the Grand Republican Union (formerly the Verdopolitan Union). He has direct control over Angria where his allies (Ashantees,French and Bedouin forces) wreak a reign of terror. The Arab troops are led by Lord Jordon, in Byronic ‘Turkish’ dress and known as Sheik Medina.
Further bickering between Northangerland and Zamorna (now his son-in-law) about family and government seemed to have led to this further Republican rebellion by Northangerland against Zamorna.
July 1836 – Northangerland’s troops storm Rivaulx near Hawkscliffe on the edge of a royal forest, a hunting lodge where some of Zamorna’s family and followers are sheltering. One of Zamorna’s young sons Ernest Fitz-Arthur is captured and killed.
Zamorna has been deposed into exile after The Battle of Edwardston by Northangerland, but is rescued or reinstated by Constitutionalist Forces in December 1836.
August to October 1836 – Constitutionalist allies of the deposed Zamorna fight on, Fidena and Warner Howard Warner fight on in the hills, whilst Angrian Commander in Chief the Italian general Henri Fernando Di Enara ‘The Tiger’ fights on at Fort Gazemba.
Warner Howard Warner, governor of an Angrian province and then Prime Minister of Angria, appears to have waged a guerrilla war with his “blackguards and boors” in the Yorkshire Moor-like Olympian Hills of Angria, in support of Zamorna. He rallies the “War worn” troops of Angria to avenge Zamorna’s dead son Ernst Fitz-Arthur.
The Constitutional Forces of the former Verdopolitan Government (under Wellington and Fidena) eventually retake Verdopolis where Northangerland had his capital in December 1836.
Zamorna returns from exile in December 1836.
January to June 1837 – Northangerland’s retreating allies are routed by forces loyal to Zamorna. The Revolutionary troops of Northangerland that invaded Angria were routed at the Battle of Leyden near Alnwick in Angria and at the Battle of Westwood.
1837 – the Battle of Leyden. Zamorna and his troops won a victory over the Ashantee forces of Quashia, Montmorenci, MacTerrorGlen’s troops and the Arab troops of Lord Jordon / Sheik Medina. The battle is fought around the Village of Leyden near Alnwick in Angria.
Branwell Bronte’s narrator figure Captain Henry Hastings (Angrian soldier, poet and historian) has deserted from Zamorna’s own 19th Regiment (“The Devil’s Own”) and is now fighting against Zamorna.
General Lord Edward Hartford and Captain Sir William Percy (an officer in the Angrian 10th Hussars ) fought on Zamorna’s side against Northangerland. Sir William Percy is Northangerland’s disowned second son.
Zamorna’s enemy Lord Jordan (Sheik Medina) is killed in the battle.
1837 – The Battle of Westwood – Zamorna and troops rout Northangerland’s army of Montmorenci and MacTerrorGlen’s troops.
In the muddled chronology of Angria and its Civil Wars, this may be situation that Saunderson (Fidena) and the Narrator may be discusssing in the exceprt above, round about March 1837, according to Heather Glen.
One of the Angrian’s most infamous infantry regiments are The Bloodhounds (Glen, p. 501) led by the Italian ‘Tiger’ Enara.
“A host of Dark whiskered and bearded warriors such looks of savage and relentless ferocity I never held before … their great Raven banner bore in silver blazonry the single emphatic syllable. “DEATH” at their head … accompanied by 8 vast liver coloured dew lapped red eyed bloodhounds held in leashes stood the second commander of their Army Colonel Henry Fernando Enara. (Branwell Bronte, Angria and the Angrians)
Zamorna had some unusual generals including Henri Fernando di Enara, an Italian known as ‘the Tiger’, whom he created Baron of Etrei and Governor of this Angrian savanna province of Etrei. Other generals include Sir John Kirkwall and Frederic Lord Lofty.
Gazemba, June 1837 – The troops are reviewed before the final Battle of Evesham by Zamorna at Gazemba, a frontier town (population 59,000) in the desert on the East bank of the Calabar River. The Calabar river also links back to his capital Adrianpolis and Fort Adrian his mansion / fortified castle on its east Bank. The Calabar River has its source in burning and desolate and hostile African desert. Gazemba was the centre of Zamorna’s operations against the Ashantees.
Zamorna finally achieve peace using Angrian troops to defeat Northangerland and his retreating Allies during the ‘Campaign for the West’ at the Battle of Evesham, 30 June 1837 on the banks of the Angrian River of Cirhala.
Led by General Thornton and Zamorna, Angrian troops and their allies retake Evesham, despite the town being fortified by Northangerland’s Revolutionary troops.
General Wilson / Wilkin Thornton, an Angrian farmer with a strong Yorkshire accent, became Commander in Chief of the Angrian Army. He was an ally of Zamorna, related through his marriage to Julia Wellesley, Zamorna’s cousin.
Northangerland is exiled to Monkeysland. For a while …
1838 – Angria is at peace, Zamorna’s enemies scattered. Northangerland returns to his country seat and third wife.
1839 – January / February – disgraced soldier Captain Henry Hastings makes an attempt on Zamorna’s life, having drunkenly already killed his superior officer and deserted to the enemy in Paris.
21-23 February 1839 – Zamorna and Northangerland are publicly reunited at his Zamorna Palace in Adrianoplos in Angria, despite angry crowds who blockade the place when they discover Northangerland is there.
This timeline was pieced together from the notes in Christine Alexander’s and Heather Glen’s editions of the Bronte’s early works.
Plenty of imaginative gaming scenarios should present themselves, based on the Angrian and Glass Town sagas of a mixed Colonial Central West Africa / European fusion, along with the North and South Pacific islands of Gondal and Gaaldine.
They were written by the Bronte family at a time (1820s – 1850s) of European Insurrection, nation building and independence, Latin American revolution, industrial revolution, strange alliances, Civil Wars and colonial expansion and exploration. This was the post-Napoleonic background that the Brontes were growing up in and reading about in journals and newspapers.
Post-Napoleonic Peninsula and Waterloo veterans as elders / generals
North African troops and desert arabs, led by a Byronic European in Turkish dress,
French colonial troops, African Ashantee warriors, insurgent and guerrilla forces.
Charlotte’s quick character sketch of Saunderson
Mr. Saunderson is later revealed to be John Sneachie, Duke of Fidena, speaking under an assumed name of “John of The Highlands”, Sneachisland or Sneakysland being one of the Glass Town Federation Imagi-Nations to the North West of Angria. It is the equivalent to the Scottish Highlands, albeit laid by Branwell and Charlotte Bronte over a fictional map of Central West Africa!
Many of the early settlers into this fictional colony are from Scotland and Yorkshire.
Saunderson is a dark haired, brooding character, with cane, black neckerchief and wearing a “blue surtout and Jane trousers” a Regency Trench Coat or Greatcoat with twill cotton trousers, or Jeans, according to The OED and Christine Alexander. How dashingly military today it still feels buying cavalry twill trousers, rather than jeans.
The narrator or the I is Charlotte Bronte and / or one of her many personas, her irreverent Angrian Narrator Charles Townsend.
Hopefully the bizarre tropical fusion of Africa with the Scottish Highland aspects of The Bronte Imagi- Nation settlers, the characters of Sanderson, MacTerrorGlen and such will allow kilted Scottish Highlander type troops to be used in gaming scenarios, albeit possibly in tropical dress. Scottish New Zealand troops and militia memorably wore of fashioned kilts for bush fighting and River wading during the later Maori Wars.
There is even the rogue Scotsman, MacTerrorGlen, leader of a drunken Scots brigade and leader of the Verdopolitan Reform Army fighting with Ardrah and the Ashantees against Zamorna’s and the Angrians. Known as Sir Jehu MacTerrorGlen (a reinvention of himself from his other life, as a roguish linen trader Jeremiah Simpson). After the defeat at the battle of Evesham, MacTerrorGlen is hunted down by Captain William Percy and the Angrian Government Police.
Having recently acquired several other Bronte books, including the encyclopaedic The Oxford Companion to The Brontes and Heather Glen’s edited edition of Charlotte Bronte’s Tales of Angria, there looks to be plenty more details of places, characters and events to flesh out the maps and timeline for future gaming scenarios.
I am still slowly piecing together the complex history of four sibling’s imaginary lands and islands.
Christine Alexander the Bronte scholar has imaginatively sketched in where the kingdom of Angria should be, seen here in close up:
There is no map by the Bronte family for the Gondal sagas, set partly on Gondal, a fictional island in the North Pacific which seems to be based largely on Yorkshire. So I drew a rough outline one.more detail will be required for when I set some skirmish gaming scenarios there.
So that is where the map is roughly based on the four North, East, South and West Ridings of Yorkshire.
The Bronte sagas are rather lush and overblown, a bit Gothic and tediously muddled in parts. After all it is their Juvenilia. Some of their adult novels have survived better (Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre etc) with their Byronic brooding charcters, mad wives from slave islands in the attic, gothic houses, etc. All quite difficult to take seriously though. At least Jane Austen took the mickey in Northanger Abbey out of the fashion for Gothic novels and the products of a fevered girlish or literary imagination.
I like the fact that it was a box of wooden soldiers that kick started the Bronte sagas.
Often seen as early science fiction or RPG material, a paracosm or alternate world, if the Bronte family had been born at the end of 19th Century and played with tin or lead soldiers then I’m sure it would have been more Floor Games and Little Wars … like another famous science fiction author, H.G. Wells.
There is a charm in the Mad Geography of inventing tropical pacific or African coastlines and islands but making them all moodily, ruggedly, mistily like the wild Yorkshire landscape that the girls knew.
In the next week or so I hope to post a potted history of each of the Bronte’s Imagi-nations.
I find the Bronte juvenile sagas and poems hard going because they were never published in their lifetimes, never edited and probably never meant to be read outside the family. Lots of events and character detail is implied, not stated or written down. The tiny books were split up and sold off by dealers. Usually scholars look at them for clues to the origin of their published novels and characters.
For the Gondal and Gaaldine sagas, the prose stories by Emily and Anne seem to have vanished and only really Emily’s poems to and from different characters remain. I think the longest surviving sister Charlotte may have destroyed the most Gothic / romantic sections with multiple partners, affairs and children out of wedlock parts of them.
Gondal is set on a North Pacific island of four kingdoms. The other island Created by Emily and Anne Bronte is Gaaldine. Gaaldine is a South Pacific island or islands of six kingdoms, settled and interfered with by the ruling families, royalists and revolutionaries of Gondal, and presumably the original natives. I have not yet drawn the Gaaldine map.
For the GlassTown and Angria saga more prose remains, based loosely on a map of West Africa but with European offshore islands and Regency / Naplenoic era heroes. I have been skim reading some of the prose surviving sections for geographical clues to places to enrich the map, jumble of characters etc.
Troubled brother Branwell Bronte had more violent revolutionary and military storylines, often ones that had to be altered or revised by his sister Charlotte when he killed off characters whilst the sisters were away at work or school. Emily and Anne got fed up and invented Gondal and Gaaldine as their own kingdoms.
I like the Prisoner of Zenda type Ruritanian or even Fredonian aspects of the sagas.
If it all gets too complex I will fast forward the nations through to the mid to late Nineteenth century when the established characters have largely died off or been deposed.
Lots of Royalists and revolutionaries abound, as befits the Bronte family growing up in the immediate aftermath of the Napoleonic Wars and new European nations forming and being fractured by revolutionary times throughout their lifetime. These were the times the Bronte family were born into and wrote through and into the late 1840s.
My fierce but motley playbashed bunch of Britain’s natives have been slowly collected together over several months from job-lot, damaged, scrap or for repair lead hollowcast figures bought mostly through EBay. Such damaged figures have little value to collectors. So it doesn’t really matter if I repaint or repurpose them.
I bought some Humbrol Gloss Brown Number 10 and used this only very briefly on a couple of figures before I got fed up of the fumes … not very family friendly! Next time I will paint with these enamel paints outdoors or with doors and all the windows open.
The end gloss results look promising already, even before gloss varnish, and suitably toy soldier like.
Shield designs aside, a suitable weapon such as a spear needs to be added to the hand. I have tried filing and adding a wire spear but on first attempt it did not stick.
These chunky Zulu figures are second grade Britain’s figures that were sold in A Series sets or singly. The fragile knobkerry on each of these figures is usually found broken, the original is shown in Andrew Rose’s excellent The Collector’s Guide to Toy Soldiers (Salamander 1985/97).
Andrew Rose’s book also shows various arm versions of the Britain’s classic running Zulus of Africa Set 147, 1906 to 1959 and another version of the set into the final Britain’s lead year of 1966.
Handy to see these more slender Zulu figures as shortly before Christmas I bought a Britain’s Zulus “jigsaw puzzle” in the form of a job-lot of bashed legs, bodies and bases. This should keep me busy fixing throughout the year. Recast Britain’s type arms with spears or even rifles from firms like Dorset Soldiers http://www.dorsetmodelsoldiers.com
Interestingly these loincloths on these jigsaw Zulus seem to have been painted by their owners in stripes and spots for a more tribal animal skin look.
Britain’s used to indicate ‘native’ or ‘non-uniform’ troops by using at random three basic colours of yellow, red and blue for clothing – “The loincloths were painted in three different colour schemes, as Britain’s always did for native troops or irregulars who might not be expected to wear uniform.” (Page 107, Britain’s Toy Soldiers 1893 -1932 by James Opie, published by Victor Gollancz, London, 1985)
Not sure whether to preserve (if I can) the strange ‘Black and White Minstrel’ style extraordinary face painting on some of these Britain’s Zulus.
Not sure yet what to do with the shield designs as I don’t really intend these to be Zulus, rather more Generican Natives or Ashantee tribes.
In the Bronte juvenilia of Glasstown and Angria, these tribes are the savage Ashantees.
The Bronte family juvenilia stories feature various tribal forces such as generic ‘Arabs’ or also Ashantee warriors, for their map of their Glasstown Confederacy and Angria ‘Imagi-Nations’ was based on West Africa, the natives based on early 19th Century journals and prints (pictured in the blogpost shown below)
The Ashantees are led against Angria by the fictional Quashia Quamina Kashna, son of the equally exotically named King Sai Too Too Quamina.
Quashia was adopted as a baby by the Bronte’s fictional Duke Of Wellington and a rivalry grows up between Quashia and his stepbrother Zamorna, Wellesley’s eldest son who becomes King Of Angria.
Quashia and several Western characters successively invade Angria including Branwell Bronte’s fictional alter ego ‘Northangerland’, Ardrah (who opposes the creation of Angria by Zamorna) and MacTerrorglen.
Confused? So am I, still slowly figuring out the complex and intricate Game of Thrones style cast of characters and events created over many years by the young Bronte sisters and their brother Branwell. If it proves too difficult to create scenarios, I may keep the places but fast forward the Bronte “Imagi-Nations” a few decades clear of the Bronte’s main fictional characters that populate their Gondal, Angria and Glasstown sagas.
Stranger than fiction?
This fictional story of Quashia is not that dissimilar to true stories of how native princes were assimilated, educated or westernised such as Alamayu, the son of Theodore, King of Abyssinia (buried in 1879 at Windsor Castle Chapel and commemorated on a plaque by Queen Victoria). Alamayu was captured in the Magdala Campaign of 1867-68.
The Magdala campaign in what is now modern day Ethiopia is described in fascinating detail in Ian Hernon’s Britain’s Forgotten Wars: Colonial Campaigns of the Nineteenth Century (Sutton, 2003), republished as a compilation of a trilogy of Hernon’s books. You may have also read this as the first part of the trilogy previously published by Ian Hernon as ‘Massacre and Retribution’ (Sutton, 1998).
So the Bronte juvenile stories, albeit fictional, are not much stranger than some real life Nineteenth Century events.
The Bronte family Gondal stories (devised by Emily and Anne) are based on North and South Pacific islands (mixed with a bit of Yorkshire for good measure!) so the islands of Gondal (North Pacific) and Gaaldine (South Pacific) no doubt have their own tribes.
Ashanti Chieftain c.1819 Wikipedia source
Ashanti warrior c. 1824 Wikipedia source
Illustrations from the Ashanti Empire Wikipedia entry show left an Ashanti warrior and right one with a simple musket and powder horn.
Plenty of scope for many interesting scenarios. That’s why I’m keeping the figures “Generic” rather than “Zulu”.
Still lots of lovely repair and repainting work to do … I will post photos of the finished results.