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10 March 2009

A Narrative of a Forced Journey

Thomas Edward Blayney, who led the 89th Regiment of Foot, "Blayaneys Bloodhounds" was captured by the enemy after a battle of little note in southern Spain. According to Blayney the scouts brought back iaccurate information and the stronghold was fiercely protected by a larger force than anticiapted. The battle ended when Blayney's horse was shot from under him and he was captured by a Polish contingent that bullied him and "attemtped to pull off his epalets [sic]" (I don't think he wanted readers to laugh at that but this reader did)

Immediately after his release in 1814, Major General Lord Blayney
wrote a two volume (Blessedly double spaced)book about his time as a prisoner of war. The title "Narrative of a Forced Journey Throught Spain and France from 1810-1814" recounts his experiecne from Spain all the way to Paris where he was eventually imprisoned.

For years, I have been trying to find a copy of this book and finally located one at the New York Public Library where I spent the better part of a day reading bits and pieces of it. Now, I am delighted to report, that it is in my Google Book Library. You can complain all you want about certain aspects of Google but I am absolutely delighted to be able to read this book at my convenience and in its entirety. To take this tangent on step further, I see that there are now copies for sale, and I expect someday we will own one.

From what I have read I consider the book readable and moderatly entertaining. Blayney focuses on his travels on parole, that is on his honor not to escape, from Spain to Pairs in the company of various senior ranking enemy officers who would pass him on to the next soldier heading north.

Two bits stand out in my memory. First he talks about some soldier he first met in Itlay while visiting Lord Nelson and William Hamilton. No mention of Emma Hamilton. There are surprising moments of humor in the book as well. One morning Blayney mentions leaving a city and saying farewell to the bedbugs he had come to know so well.

In my Google adaventure I came accross a review of the book in The Quarterly Review, London 1816 which begins with the following sentence "We heartily wish that Lord Blayney had not published this book.....he is undoubtedly one of the worst travelers we have ever known." The Quarterly Review goes on for six pages (single sapced)detailing Blayney's failings, his obsession with food and his lack of interest in the cultural attractions of the area he is passing through. They describe him as angry when he is not received properly and not grateful when he is.

Should I count it as a relief that I am not the only Blayney to receive a bad review?

It's in the plans to read the book fully and compare it more carefully to the review, so you may hear from me on this subject again. In the meantime both are available on Google Books if you want to read for yourself.

5 Comments:

Blogger Louisa Cornell said...

I have to read this book, Mary. I find it amusing that the reviewer complained poor Blayney was not a good traveler when in fact the man was a prisoner of war!! What a treasure for you and your family and for all of us really to get a perspective on war when it was still a gentleman's game.

8:51 PM  
Blogger Mary Blayney said...

Louisa, I totally agree with you! Blayney had lost dozens of men in the fight, been beaten to within an inch of his life and the reviewer has no sympathy for that aspect.

On the other hand Blayney is writing this in retrospect so he could have favored whatever elements he preferred.

Thanks for your faithful reading!

5:01 AM  
Blogger Diane Gaston said...

Mary, I'm so excited that the book is available through Google Books. I'm going to search for it right now.

I think it must be a sort of special feeling to read the actual words of one's ancestor, to know that this man's blood flows in your husband's veins and the veins of your children.

I guess we can be glad that our bad reviews usually are less than a paragraph. Six pages is brutal!

6:56 AM  
Blogger Amanda Elyot said...

First he talks about some soldier he first met in Itlay while visiting Lord Nelson and William Hamilton. No mention of Emma Hamilton. Wow. Even if he didn't meet Emma.

Even without this little tidbit, I'd still want to check out this amazing-sounding travel diary/memoir! Nothing like eyewitness accounts of something to give one a sense of the minutiae you don't find in the history books.

7:38 AM  
Blogger Pam Rosenthal said...

I'm in awe. What a treasure. What a connection to the past.

8:28 AM  

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