'Fred'

The Collected Letters and Speeches of Colonel Frederick Gustavus Burnaby Volume 1: 1842-1878

Dr John W. Hawkins

Colonel Fred Burnaby of the Blues, six feet four inches tall and with a riding weight of over twenty stone, was one of the most recognisable soldier/adventurers of the late Victorian period. As a young officer he became famous as an athlete, gymnast, swordsman and pugilist, reputed to be the strongest man in the British army.
Publication date:
November 2013
Publisher :
Helion and Company
Language:
English
Format Available     Quantity Price
Hardback
ISBN : 9781909384514
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£35.00
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Overview
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• This first Volume narrates the early life of Colonel Fred Burnaby, one of the most recognisable soldier/adventurers of the late Victorian period.

Colonel Fred Burnaby of the Blues, six feet four inches tall and with a riding weight of over twenty stone, was one of the most recognisable soldier/adventurers of the late Victorian period. As a young officer he became famous as an athlete, gymnast, swordsman and pugilist, reputed to be the strongest man in the British army. In working his way to the command of the Blues, the country's most prestigious cavalry regiment, he made some notable friends and not a few enemies. He also found time for numerous journeys involving considerable hardship. He was a brilliant modern linguist and spoke seven languages fluently. Born into the landed gentry, he increased his financial independence by marrying a young heiress, who produced an heir and promptly decamped to climb mountains in Switzerland. In 1882 he became the first person to make a solo balloon crossing of the English Channel. As his army career approached its close he stood unsuccessfully for Birmingham as a Conservative. His regimental seniority at the time of the Egyptian Campaign of 1882 precluded him joining the newly formed Camel Corps, but he was determined not to leave the army without facing action. In 1884 he travelled to Egypt and participated in both battles of El Teb. Returning to England with his arm in a sling, his popularity with the public became greater than ever. This was not echoed at the War Office, where he was increasingly regarded as a loose cannon. On the Gordon Relief Expedition of 1884 he was denied attachment to the staff of his hero, General Wolseley, but travelled to Egypt anyway and eventually found himself second in command on the dessert march to Metemmeh. He never arrived, killed by a spear through the throat in hand-to-hand fighting at the battle of Abu Klea. Even his death was controversial, with songs in his memory being sung in the music halls at the same time as his fellow officers criticised orders he had given during the battle.

Two of Burnaby's books have barely been out or print since they were first published, but his other works are much more difficult to find. His biographers have often included excerpts from his letters and speeches in their works, but none comprehensively. This is intended to provide both. It also includes a new biography of Burnaby, the first to have been written for almost sixty years. Volume 1 covers his early life, including his journeys to Spain as a special correspondent during the Third Carlist War, Khartoum, Khiva and Asia Minor and his place at the side of Baker Pasha at the battle of Tashkessan in the Russo-Turkish War of 1877/78. Volume 2 will cover his political career and his participation in the Egyptian Campaigns of 1883/4 and 1884/5, culminating in his death.

REVIEWS

"Not only is it already the definitive work on the great man, but for many it will be a great introduction to the incredible events he lived through leading, I am sure, to re-assessment of all sorts of chapters and characters in his life. Roll on volume 2!”
Martyn Downer, author of Nelson's Purse and Queen's Knight

"He has tracked down an impressive amount of material, including a short fragment of a letter from Disraeli, who wrote in 1877 to tell Burnaby that "I am reading your book with much interest, and I think everybody will do the same”. That goes for this book too, which brings us a vivid account of an extraordinary Victorian in his own words.”
The House, the weekly magazine of the Houses Of Parliament

"Fred is informative, readable, and a treat in store for all who are interested in Burnaby and the wider Victorian world. We look forward to Dr Hawkins' second volume. Presumably the two volumes will be the definitive ‘Burnaby' for years to come.”
Soldiers of the Queen (Journal of the Victorian Military Society)

"Hawkins' book is a welcome addition to Victorian historiography. Not only does Fred come alive through the astonishing collection of sources, but we are left in no doubt that he has been terribly overlooked. We encounter a man who was far more than just a soldier, traveller and controversialist. Hawkins reveals Burnaby to be nothing if not complex - he used his pen to both record the number he had killed in Sudan in a ‘game book', and craft riveting and colourful memoirs about his expeditions. Burnaby was an exceptionally well-connected man whose life that bled into the wider themes of the age. In Hawkins, Burnaby has found an historian to do him justice. I look forward to Volume 2.”
History Vault