Imperial Vanities

Imperial Vanities This Is The Entwined Story Of Three Victorians Two Of These Men Were Brothers Sir Samuel Baker, The Irrepressible Explorer And Valentine Baker, Reckoned To Be The Leading Cavalry Officer Of The British Army Before Disgrace Overwhelmed Him The Third Is The Troubled Charles Chinese Gordon, Murdered By The Mahdi S Forces In Khartoum Imperial Vanities Is An Adventure Story In The High Tradition, Ranging From The Upper Nile, To Ceylon, Egypt And The Slave Markets Of The Balkans

See this thread for information. He read English at Cambridge Since 1973 he has written for a living as a radio and television playwright and a documentary film maker He is also the author of several acclaimed biographies A Monkey Amongst Crocodiles, Imperial Vanities and The Nightmare of a Victorian Bestseller.

➶ [Read] ➲ Imperial Vanities By Brian Thompson ➾ –
  • Unknown Binding
  • 271 pages
  • Imperial Vanities
  • Brian Thompson
  • English
  • 22 September 2018
  • 9780002571883

10 thoughts on “Imperial Vanities

  1. says:

    I enjoyed reading this book, and the reasons why I did are really the only things I can say in its favour it deals with people and places known to me or that I am interested in, it is full of interesting details, and it is written in lively, elegant prose, the kind you can read aloud without tripping over sonic infelicities.But what are the imperial vanities of the title The retold exploits of Charles George Gordon and Samuel Baker and the rise and catastrophic fall of Samuel s brother Valentine All these are highly specific to the gentlemen in question, and sprang from personal rather than imperial vanity Or does the title refer to the vanity of attempting to colonize and Britannicize such unfriendly and unpromising parts of the world as Sudan and Ceylon The Gordon debacle did not prevent the United Kingdom from taking and ruling Sudan in the end, and as for Ceylon, it was already firmly in British hands by the time Baker commenced his experiment at Nuwara Eliya Balaclava was certainly a vain mismatch of cavalry against artillery, but why is that specifically imperial True, it was one empire against another But the Charge of the Light Brigade was what launched Valentine Baker s career.Still, it was fun reading about Sam Baker s intrepid blunderings about the world and his implausible but undeniable successes, especially since, as a Sri Lankan, I know the scene of his early triumphs and disasters, Nuwara Eliya, pretty well By the way, Brian Thompson consistently misspells the name of this well known Sri Lankan town and occasionally refers to it familarly as Newara , which nobody ever does or has done I must say I was quite disappointed at the number of errors I found in his chapters dealing with Ceylon Adam s Peak is not the highest point on the island That s the summit of Pidurutalagala as Thompson actually tells us, quoting Baker himself, only ten pages later The Matale rebellion only began a tax revolt and it wasn t a case so much of protesters executed as of rebellious mobs gunned down, though it is true that some of the leaders of the revolt were later hanged Thompson tells us it all took place in 1849, which is also wrong He mentions the Bishop of Ceylon when he means the Bishop of Colombo The last is a trivial error, yet, taken together with the rest, it makes me wonder whether the only research on Ceylon Thompson did was in the Bakers own books and letters I also wonder how many mistakes he s made about people and places with which I am not so familiar.That description covers most of the other scenes in this globetrotting book I ve never been to Africa, the Crimea or Central Europe, to name but a few of the places it visits so I have reason to worry And it isn t as if the events of the narrative don t occasionally sound far fetched Imagine buying your wife at a slave market, as Sam Baker did, or taking her off into darkest Africa to find the source of the Nile, as he also did The entire life of Valentine Baker, the dashing cavalry officer and erstwhile royal favourite whose story forms the spine of the book, is so cartoonishly heroic it seems almost absurd But it isn t the mind boggling facts that bother me it s the mundane fallacies.Thompson gives most time to and is clearly most interested in Val , a much conventional imperial figure than Sir Samuel, who never really comes clear in the book He works quite hard to make Gordon seem ridiculous, which with the man s visions and eccentricities and religious mania should not be difficult to do, but somehow the resulting portrait is one of tragic, anachronistic nobility A purblind, egotistical, thanatophilic nobility, but noble still.Indeed, the disappointments of this book are almost made up for by one remarkable paragraph It comes near the end of the book Gordon, almost in disgrace, is returning to Sudan under the orders of the Imperial government, understanding his mission to be that of evacuating the British presence in the country such as it is Nobody, least of all himself, expects him to return Death, which Gordon had flirted with all his life, was now about to take a hand The ministers asked him when he would leave he said by the evening train When they turned up at Charing Cross, with the additional presence of the Duke of Cambridge, Gordon was entirely without luggage save for a small satchel Lord Granville purchased his ticket At the last moment Gordon s nephew dashed on to the platform with a tin case containing a dress uniform The Duke of Cambridge played the part of a footman by opening the carriage door Only Wolseley had the presence of mind to ask the Saviour of the Sudan if he had any money He didn t Wolseley emptied his pocket book hastily and handed over his gold watch The guard blew his whistle, the commander in chief of the British Army slammed the door and the train steamed out.Well then Vanity in the Ecclesiastes sense, perhaps Enjoy, but, caveat lector.

  2. says:

    DisappointingI chanced upon this book via recommendations I was struck by the cover as my wife has a coffee table book of Tissot paintings and I recognised the painting of Fred Burnaby As I also have an interest in history and the Victorian era, I had high hopes for the book, especially as the jacket blurb promised so much.Unfortunately the book doesn t live up to the hype of the blurb Its is far from a wild romp through victorian excess , there was very little description of any High adventure, and neither was it a Rattling good yarn, IMO.What the book delivers, is a quite bare bones, in passing, sketch of the Baker brothers, a few snippets of Livingstone and a tiny smidge of Gordon There is no depth or detail to the huge historical scope of these men and I felt I d have learned from reading each man s wikipedia page Where you thought things would build up to a climactic description of Gordon s ultimate doom, the book ends on a damp squib, with barely a mention of the controversial death of Fred Burnaby, a man who could have filled the book alone with his exploits In all I felt quite let down by the book It starts slow and you wait in vain for things to improve leading to a rather depressingly bland ending.

  3. says:

    While Thompson clearly has a writer s flair, the story of these three Victorian archetypes rarely achieves the cohesion it could have Or perhaps it couldn t Thompson is pulling details from three disparate stories and the result ends up feeling quite disjointed which is a shame For those interested in the story of Chinese Gordon of Khartoum, this one adds very little other than his tenuous connection to Sam and Val Baker Not bad, but not great.

  4. says:

    An interesting read, but nothing really new Enjoyed the brief stories of the three men featured, however found the author s reasons to, and way of, connecting them quite loose Learnt about the Baker brothers, and the political feeling in the late Victorian era.

  5. says:

    Great insight and snapshot into the Victorian mindset and the feel of the period.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *