19th Century fiction
Longfellow: Father of Historical Fiction
(an article by Jane Bailey Bain)
By the shores of Gitche Gumee,
By the shining Big-Sea-Water,
Stood the wigwam of Nokomis,
Daughter of the Moon, Nokomis….
In 1854, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote in his diary, “I have at length hit upon a plan for a poem on the American Indians… It is to weave together their beautiful traditions as whole.” What he produced next year was ‘The Song of Hiawatha,’ a long narrative poem about a legendary Iroquois chief. Longfellow’s epic work is a composite of myth and legend, folklore and ethnography. It is written in unrhymed alliterative verse, with heavy emphasis on alternating syllables: considered by some to be clumsy, it nonetheless suits his meandering style.
Longfellow’s work was based partly on the writings of Henry Rowe Schoolcraft, a government agent who married a Native wife and took a personal interest in local customs and stories. In particular he took the name of his hero, who has very little else in common with the sixteenth-century Mohawk chief who co-founded the Iroquois League. In his notes to the poem, Longfellow cites Schoolcraft as his source for “a tradition prevalent among the North American Indians, of a personage of miraculous birth, who was sent among them to clear their rivers, forests, and fishing-grounds, and to teach them the arts of peace. He was known among different tribes by several names (including) Hiawatha.” Read the rest of this entry »
As I was staying in Vienna August 2012 I was able to visit the Battlefields of Aspern Essling and Wagram. These were the sites of the clashes between Napoleon and Arch Duke Charles. In the case of Wagram it would be the largest battle ever fought up to that moment. This blog is about the first battle – Napoleon’s first defeat.
In 1809 Napoleon had never been personally defeated. He had over 12 years fought campaigns in turn against Austria, Russia, Prussia and other states and had beaten them each. Austria had been heavily defeated in 1805 at Austerlitz, Prussia in 1806 and Russia in 1807. In 1809 Britain alone was fighting France in distant Spain and Portugal. The terms of the defeat in 1805 were harsh on Austria and so in 1809 Austria decided to invade Bavaria (a French ally) to strike back.
The Austria army in 1809 had been radically reformed after the defeat at Austerlitz in 1805 and at a tactical level could now compete with the French. Its shortcomings were at the strategic level and there were major faults with an over rigid command structure that did not allow for much initiative. This would hurt the Austrians in the long run. Read the rest of this entry »
Did Napoleon Fall in Love and Escape his Final Exile?
(Blog post excerpt by Diane Scott Lewis)
Could the ex-Emperor of the French have accomplished such an audacious act, while British warships circled the remote island of St. Helena, and armed guards swarmed around his humble residence? If a clever and compassionate woman rallied his soul, earned his heart, would he have embarked on such a dangerous mission for freedom? I explore these possibilities in my historical novel, Elysium.
I even found a non-fiction book that insisted that he had escaped: Revelations Concerning Napoleon’s Escape From St. Helena, by Pierre Paul Ebeyer. Windmill Pub. Co., New Orleans, 1947. A rather bizarre, but interesting read.
And, had an assassin been sent to the island to ensure Napoleon never returned to power? Such a prospect was investigated in The Murder of Napoleon by Ben Weider and David Hapgood, 1983. I also address this intriguing aspect in Elysium .
Diane Scott Lewis, Author of Elysium and The False Light.