Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Wellington: Pillar of State

Wellington: Pillar of State (Elizabeth Longford, 1972) held my attention, but it also saddened me. It's about Wellington's life post-Waterloo, which I've paid less attention to, given that I became a Wellington fangirl via my interest in the Napoleonic Wars, and that it's Sir Arthur Wellesley the brilliant young general who shows up in my alternative history WIP, not Wellington the aging reactionary Tory politician. I'd describe Wellington as the last great 18th century Englishman, but he never quite got into synch with the post-1815 world despite living till 1852 and staying active politically right up until his death. And his politics frustrate me, 21st century American Democrat that I am--I want to jump in the nearest TARDIS, go back to 1820 or so, and shake some sense into the man, because, dang it, he was far too intelligent to have such rigid ideas!

Still, despite disagreeing with him, I don't admire him any less. I wish more people on both sides of my country's politics had his rock-solid integrity and willingness to put the public good as he perceived it ahead of ambition. And while I didn't enjoy this book as much as the first volume of Longford's biography (Wellington: The Years of the Sword), because there's just no way in the WORLD I'm going to find 19th century Parliamentary minutia as interesting as the Peninsular War and Waterloo, she made the human interest so strong and lively that I managed to soldier through all the Whig and Tory wrangling.

No comments: