The feuilleton was intended as a try at epic, whether classical (The Kalevala, The Aeneid) or modern (Les Misérables, War and Peace), by the mistress of this blog. Though references to the four epics above are constantly made (for instance, the first arc ends with Gerhard's epitaph, like Valjean's in Les Mis), the sources for the historical content are more or less unsung works of literature:
- Tales of the Regimental Surgeon (Fältskärns berättelser), Zacharias Topelius. A classical family saga stretching from Gustavus Adolphus's reign to that of Gustavus III written in a vivid and vehement style. Supplied the premise of the whole Ringstetten Saga: http://runeberg.org/faltskar/
- The Swedes and their Leaders (Svenskarna och deras hövdingar), Verner von Heidenstam. Lots of easy and vivid tales about Gustavus Adolphus's most famous battles, Caroleans (at Poltava and in Siberia), the Enlightenment... Served also as inspiration for my German-language play Gustav Adolf. The chapter about the Thirty Years' War, "Segrarnas dagar", has been recently translated as "Days of Victories" by the author of this Saga: http://runeberg.org/svenhovd/ http://litteraturbanken.se/#!/forfattare/HeidenstamV/titlar/SvenskarnaOchDerasII/etext
- The Hero King (Hjältekonungen), Wilhelm Granath. An awesome historical novel, and a vivid picture of military life during the Thirty Years' War. Served also as inspiration for my German-language play Gustav Adolf: http://runeberg.org/hjelteko/
- Swedish Pictures (Svenska bilder), Carl Snoilsky. Beautiful poetry. Its retelling of the Battle of Lützen, its poem on a young Carolean officer returning from captivity in Siberia to his estate home, and another poem about two girls, a Hat and a Cap, bickering during a soirée, inspired me to write about the subjects. Served also as inspiration for my German-language play Gustav Adolf: http://runeberg.org/svbilder/ http://litteraturbanken.se/#!/forfattare/SnoilskyC/titlar/SvenskaBilder/etext
- Gustavus Adolphus in Germany (Gustav Adolf i Tyskland, drama), Bernhard von Beskow. An epic play about Gustavus's battles against the Kaiser. Here Tilly is a tragic figure, Wallenstein is an übermensch, Eleanor is the lady fair who awaits Gustavus's favour and worries about his fate. Served also as inspiration for my German-language play Gustav Adolf: http://books.google.es/books?id=7H8AAAAAcAAJ&printsec=frontcover&dq=gustav+adolf+tyskland&hl=es&sa=X&ei=uQYWU_TkH8eEyQOgyYCoDQ&ved=0CDMQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q&f=false
- Gustavus Adolphus in Germany (Gustav Adolf i Tyskland, poetry), Frans Michael Franzén: http://runeberg.org/fmfdikt/5/
- Nils Holgersson's Wonderful Travels (Nils Holgerssons underbara resa), Selma Lagerlöf. More centered on geography than history of Sweden: http://runeberg.org/nilsholg/ http://litteraturbanken.se/#!/forfattare/LagerlofS/titlar/NilsHolgersson1/sida/-4/etext http://litteraturbanken.se/#!/forfattare/LagerlofS/titlar/NilsHolgersson2/etext
- Historical Pictures (Historiska bilder), Georg Starbäck. Juvenile historical adventure, passionate to the extreme. Served also as inspiration for my German-language play Gustav Adolf. Book II (retells post-Breitenfeld victory celebrations and Gustavus's farewell to Eleanor. I also took the name "Gerhard" from the male hero's rival and heroine's fiancé in the last of this volume's stories): https://archive.org/details/historiskabilde02stargoog Book III (Caroleans and Golden Age post-Christina): https://archive.org/details/historiskabilde03stargoog Book IV (Enlightenment, the military, Asian trade, Hats and Caps, Gustavus III): https://archive.org/details/historiskabilde01stargoog
- Wallenstein Trilogy (Wallenstein-Trilogie), Friedrich Schiller: http://www.zeno.org/Literatur/M/Schiller,+Friedrich/Dramen/Wallenstein
- Wallenstein, Alfred Döblin. A superb experimental-satirical novel starring Albrecht... and the Kaiser. Served also as inspiration for my German-language play Gustav Adolf: http://www.gutenberg.org/files/43931/43931-h/43931-h.htm http://www.gutenberg.org/files/43932/43932-h/43932-h.htm https://archive.org/details/wallensteinroman02dbuoft
- The Great War in Germany (Der grosse Krieg in Deutschland), Ricarda Huch. Intense epic depiction of the Thirty Years' War, following both great ones' and little ones' fates (Game of Thrones or War and Peace style). Tilly is here a great person, with feelings of his own, while Wallenstein is a well-intentioned usurper. Served also as inspiration for my German-language play Gustav Adolf: https://archive.org/details/dergrossekriegin01huch https://archive.org/details/dergrossekriegin02huch https://archive.org/details/dergrossekriegin03huch
- Songs of the Thirty Years' War (Lieder des dreißigjährigen Krieges), various authors. Compilation of folk songs with clear messages, often used as propaganda. Served also as inspiration for my German-language play Gustav Adolf: https://archive.org/details/dieliederdesdre00wellgoog
- Men of the Sword (Männer vom Schwerte), Josef von Weilen. Dedicated to the Austrian Army by one of its officers. Notable for showing the Austrian view of the conflict (in a mainly Northern [Sweden, Prussia, UK] compilation of 30YW sources). The poems "Tilly" and "Lützen", of special interest, portray Gustavus Adolphus as an admirable worthy opponent. Served also as inspiration for my German-language play Gustav Adolf: http://books.google.es/books?id=MoJBAAAAYAAJ&printsec=frontcover&dq=m%C3%A4nner+vom+schwerte+josef+weilen&hl=es&sa=X&ei=AeMFU6OWFOOO0AWEsYDgAw&ved=0CDAQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=m%C3%A4nner%20vom%20schwerte%20josef%20weilen&f=false
- Tilly, or The Thirty Years’ War from 1618 to 1632 (Tilly, ou la Guerre de Trente Ans de 1618 à 1632), Antoine Charles Hennequin, Count of Villermont. A nineteenth-century Wallonian count’s tribute to a great man of his own rank and nation, in two volumes of detailed and greatly-written biography, from his birth in a stately château among lindens to his painful, heroic death in a beleaguered fortress. Seven decades of military experience, of becoming an authority figure, his rivalry with Wallenstein, his struggle with Gustavus at Breitenfeld and at the Lech, his conflicts with Pappenheim and hope for his nephew and heir, Werner… The second volume ends with the letters he wrote (some of which are to Wallenstein), in French and German, and finally his will, in Latin: https://archive.org/details/tillyoulaguerre01villgoog https://archive.org/details/tillyoulaguerre00villgoog
- Towards and Against Everyone (Envers et contre tous), Amédée Achard. Of French Protestants at Breitenfeld, at Lützen, and at Wallenstein's domestic service (not at the Lech, though the battle is mentioned). Served also as inspiration for my German-language play Gustav Adolf: http://fr.wikisource.org/wiki/Envers_et_contre_tous An English translation can be read here: https://archive.org/details/dragoonsoflaguer00acha
- Fairy tales by Édouard de Laboulaye, some of which contain anti-war messages: https://archive.org/details/laprincecaniche00labogoog http://books.google.es/books?id=sfA5AAAAcAAJ&pg=PP6&dq=caniche+laboulaye&hl=es&sa=X&ei=HeoFU9H5Jqqr0gWmp4D4CQ&ved=0CDMQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=caniche%20laboulaye&f=false http://books.google.es/books?id=qc-_7q2lkR4C&pg=PA126&dq=caniche+laboulaye&hl=es&sa=X&ei=HeoFU9H5Jqqr0gWmp4D4CQ&ved=0CEsQ6AEwAw#v=onepage&q=caniche%20laboulaye&f=false
- The Lion of the North, G.A. Henty. Already reviewed historical adventure novel about a boy officer in a kilt, in the days of Gustavus Adolphus. Malcolm experiences the following thrilling scenarios: Magdeburg, Breitenfeld, the Rhine, the Lech, the Alte Feste, Lützen, and lastly the storming of Friedland and Wallenstein's assassination. Served also as inspiration for my German-language play Gustav Adolf: https://archive.org/details/lionofnorthtaleo02hentuoft https://archive.org/details/lionofnorthtaleo02hentuoft http://www.gutenberg.org/files/5075/5075-h/5075-h.htm
- A Jacobite Exile, G.A. Henty. The story of a young Scottish refugee who becomes a Carolean and fights in the Polish wars of Charles XII: http://www.gutenberg.org/files/18357/18357-h/18357-h.htm https://archive.org/details/ajacobiteexileb00hentgoog https://archive.org/details/jacobiteexilebei00hentrich
- Lives of the Warriors of the Thirty Years' War, Sir Edward Cust. Short biographies of Gustavus Adolphus, Tilly, Wallenstein, Pappenheim, and many other sixteenth-century commanders. Served also as inspiration for my German-language play Gustav Adolf: https://archive.org/details/livesofwarriorso01custuoft https://archive.org/search.php?query=creator%3A"Cust%2C+Edward%2C+Sir%2C+bart.%2C+1794-1878"
- Blameless Knights, or Lützen and La Vendée, Viscountess Enfield. Historical novella written in an easy-to-read style, comparable to Huch's in its scope of social conditions but somewhat more exciting. Served also as inspiration for my German-language play Gustav Adolf: https://archive.org/details/blamelessknight00enfigoog
- Short Stories fron European History (Sweden), anonymous British author. Exciting novellas about Gustavus Adolphus, Charles XII, Hats and Caps... containing anti-war messages. Served also as inspiration for my German-language play Gustav Adolf: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00002125/00001/5j
- Gustavus Adolphus, Frederick Pfander-Swinborne. Already reviewed epic narrative poem, very detailed and exhaustive but nevertheless entertaining and thrilling. Served also as inspiration for my German-language play Gustav Adolf: https://archive.org/details/gustavusadolphus00swinrich https://archive.org/details/cu31924013555648
- Telling Tales (Chapter 17, "The Thirty Years' War"), David Blamires. An overview of Victorian juvenile historical fiction centered on this conflict: http://books.openedition.org/obp/616
- The Thirty Years' War, Dame Cicely Veronica Wedgwood. A more objective chronicle of the conflict: http://es.scribd.com/doc/70892379/Wedgewood-The-Thirty-Years-War
- A Brave Resolve, Jacob de Liefde (Chapters 17, "The Prison Fortress"; 18, "The Strange Physician; 21, "The King"; 27, "Magdeburg Avenged"; 29, "Before the Battle"; 30, "The Battle of Lützen"). Inspiration came, mainly, for the prison fortress setting of the first chapters, and the fall of Templin is mentioned at the very start. https://archive.org/details/abraveresolveor00liefgoog
THE PRISON FORTRESS (ON TEMPLIN, ITS ARCHITECTURE, ITS SERVICES, AND ITS FALL)
In the territory of Brandenburg, and on the borders of Lake Templin, the sombre and massive walls of a strong castle rose abruptly out of the tranquil waters. Built upon a
promontory, it was on all sides surrounded by the unfathomable lake, and the only
means of access lay through the heavy iron doors, upon the fortification of
which the architect had brought to bear all the resources of his profession.
The space inclosed by the walls was laid out partly as kitchen-garden,
partly as stone-yard, and each day of the monotonous year a troop of
silent and listless men might be seen engaged in laborious work as they
performed the duties of the common ploughman, or, what was worse still,
the heavy task of breaking and quarrying the stone that was to fortify their prison.
Dispersed through the various groups were hard-featured and rough-handed
overseers, whose ejaculations when inciting the prisoners to harder work,
and the monotonous calls of the sentries were the only sounds that
broke the silence of that sombre abode.
Somewhat livelier were the environs of the guardhouse. There the soldiers not on duty amused themselves with cards, dice, and drink; there oaths and blasphemy, levity and
wantonness reigned supreme, and not a thought of pity was bestowed on the unhappy
objects of their care.
The principal building, which was occupied by the dwellings of the officers of the garrison,
the arsenal, the cells of the prisoners, and the sick rooms, was a large, square block,
with a verandah running round it. Every point within the fortress might be seen at a glance
from this elevated position and here the commander of Templin was at this moment pacing
up and down, throwing ever and anon a searching look around him. It seemed that something disturbed him, for he turned frequently to that part of
the verandah which was nearest the guardhouse, and from which subdued sounds of
merriment proceeded. At last, when a chorus of laughter reached his ears, he frowned, and in a sharp and
irritated voice called " Carolo." A young page appeared, and waited to be addressed. " Go to the captain of the guard and ascertain what is the origin of the loud merriment I
hear. Have I not told him frequently that I will not allow brawls and drunken revelry
within these walls ?" The page sped on his errand and returned in haste, reporting
that it was no drunkenness, but that Wanza had again arrived with his goods,
and that he was exposing them for sale to the soldiers. " What ! Wanza here again ? " said the commander of the fortress, stamping with his foot. " Ha! has he forgotten our promise last time ? We shall teach him to palm his forged goods
on honest people, and enter these walls against our express command. Have him brought
hither, Carolo, and silence those loud-mouthed fools."
Carolo, expecting a good scene, flew to the guardhouse, and ere long he was conducted
between two soldiers to the commander, who met them at the entrance of the building. He
assumed a look of great humility before the commander, but a cunning glance from under
his eyelashes showed that he was tolerably at his ease.
We follow Carolo into the guardhouse, whrer the garrison's officers and their families live:
The officer then entered the building, and opening the door of a room motioned Carolo to
follow him. It was a richly-furnished apartment, hung round with tapestry.
With a touch of his foot he stirred the blocks, and threw something into the
flame which made it shoot up and burn brightly. Then, having asked for some salt,
he threw a handful of it in the flames, and gazed long and intently at
mysterious figures described by the smoke. At last he turned round and
seized the hand of the commander, who had watched him with suspended breath.
Although the commander was superstitious, and put some faith in Carolo's words, it was still with considerable surprise that he received intelligence the
same evening that two prisoners were to be brought to the castle; and found
on their arrival the next day that one of them was a foreigner, a Scotsman, and
that his name actually did commence with a W. Unacquainted with the
peculiar circumstances which had inspired Wanza's prophecy, he felt strangely
attracted towards our hero.
"If it be true," he mused, "that his life, health, and welfare are intimately connected
with mine, then common prudence bids me take especial care of him."
And thus, to his great astonishment, instead of being led to a subterranean cell, or
doomed to spend his days in hard and unhealthy labour, Wyndham found himself
reserved for the governor's own use. He was kept a prisoner, it is true, but
without having to experience any great hardships.
He slept in a good cell, he was fed from the governor's own table, and his work in the
day time consisted in preparing those few records and books which the
Imperial decree compelled that officer to keep. He was treated with the utmost
deference, and the governor himself offered him the use of his library.
It may be supposed that Harry, though entirely at a loss to comprehend
the reason of this treatment, was nevertheless very thankful for it, and
looked upon it as a special act of Providence.
It would be both useless and tedious to follow Wyndham in his imprisonment.
There was absolutely no variety in his life, there was no incident that would be
News from the outside world there was none.
The governor remained ever scrupulously anxious about his welfare. He would
frequently enter into conversation with his prisoner, and make him tell the story of his
life, which, as a sort of recompense, the latter was glad to give. He found his hearer
very interested, but surprisingly superstitious on certain points, especially as
to the fact of there existing some mysterious connection between them.
Not knowing to what use this strange delusion might lead, he did not attempt to
controvert it. The governor even supplied him with some English books
which he had procured at a great cost, and had he dared he would have
allowed him to roam at his ease over the whole castle. The strict discipline,
however, limited even his power, and an hour each day in the square was all
that was allowed him. Thus week succeeded week, and season followed season,
till Wyndham counted two long years, and began to wonder whether he was
doomed to spend the rest of his life in this seclusion.
One day a peculiar kind of epidemic broke out amongst the prisoners, and in a few
cases proved fatal. As soon as this was reported to the governor he seemed in
the greatest trouble. His anxiety increased each day, and at last he resolved to
send a messenger to the Imperial army, requesting a physician to be sent
One afternoon in September, fully two years having now elapsed since his
imprisonment, Wyndham sat in the little room he usually occupied when
engaged in his work, when he became aware of an object passing between
him and the light. On looking up he saw on the verandah outside the window
a tall form, wrapped in a long gown and covered with a strangely-fashioned hood.
He had never seen the figure before, and as the face was perfectly unknown
to him, he conjectured that it must be the new physician arrived
from the Imperial camp. But what was his astonishment when, on passing
his window again, the strange visitor made a momentary pause and putting
his fingers to a little hole in one of the many small panes of glass, threw a
piece of crumpled parchment into the room and disappeared. In an instant Harry had
seized the parchment and read these words in English, " The governor will visit you
shortly. Feign illness."
These few words, with their strange suggestion, little as they told him, made his
heart leap. His blood ran wildly through his veins, and his temples throbbed as he read
the two short sentences over and over again. Had he a friend in the castle, and that one
of his own nation? The door opened and the governor entered on his usual morning
At that moment Harry was sitting before the table, his face covered with his hands.
As the governor entered he assumed his ordinary position, but he could not
hide from the other's watchful eyes his intense excitement.
He trembled violently, there was an unusual colour in his cheeks and a sparkle in
his eye that might have deceived any one. "You do not feel well, captain?" said the governor, seizing the youth's hand, his own
trembling almost as much. "We must get the physician to look at you ;" and hastily
he left the room, unaware how he had unconsciously helped the plan of which
Harry knew only a small part. Presently Harry heard footsteps approaching
the room, and the voice of the governor in earnest conversation. Then the door
opened, and the strange figure once more
stood before him. After frequent feeling of the pulse he recommended
that the young man should be put to bed in a quiet room. "If possible..., he said, "
let it be on the basement, and if you have no objection, let me inspect the room."
The sound of the voice made Harry tremble; and the whole of that day, until
he was removed in the evening to a cell at the bottom of the house, he puzzled
his mind to recall where he had heard that voice before. But though the sound
was perfectly familiar to him, he had no recollection of the face; and the agony
of suspense as he construed and wondered over the English words and over
the sound of the voice would almost have been sufficient to work him into a fever.
Exhausted at last by anxious listening, for it had grown totally dark in his room,
he fell into a troubled slumber.
Carolo meets Wyndham, when the young man awakes, and informs him that
Gustavus is en route to Templin:
The King of Sweden lay with a large army within three days' march of the castle.
His own friend Baverley was on his way to attack it with a considerable force,
hoping to surprise it. "I greatly fear, however," he continued, "that the governor has been advised of it,
and that when your friend arrives tomorrow he will find everything ready for his
reception. We cannot therefore trust to this. Now listen to my plan; one life is
worth another. In procuring this disguise I have already incurred very great risk.
If you do not obey' me implicitly, therefore, my danger will have been incurred in
vain. Here is a rope, bind me ; change your upper garments for mine, gag me,
and disguised in my robe, leave this building. On the southernmost angle
of the outer wall you will find a sentry, whom I have drugged; a rope ladder
hangs down to the waterside, where a boat is in readiness. The night is dark;
all depends upon your agility and silence. Now, quickly."
Luckily no one within the house obstructed the supposed physician, and in a few
moments Harry breathed the air outside. It was completely dark, but he knew his
way perfectly. The wall was gained, the sentry lay in a state of helpless torpor.
Arming himself with the soldier's pistols and sword, he felt for the ladder.
It was there. He descended, — his foot was in the boat, — he was free.
But the time for action was not yet gone by. His flight might be discovered and a pursuit begun. He seized the oars With vigour, and each stroke separated him farther from the sombre mass that rose out of the water.
Suddenly his boat came in violent contact with an object on the water, and he was
Ere he could recover his position, he was seized, his mouth covered, and he himself
dragged into another boat which was filled with men. "Who art thou, — friend or foe ? "
asked a rough voice, in German.
Luckily, they were allies of his and Carolo's!
As may be supposed, William's boat was not the only one on Lake Templin that night.
Ere the two friends had disengaged themselves from each other's embrace, another boat,
and another, came gliding up noiselessly, all filled with men armed to the teeth. No time
was to be lost.
With a sudden impulse Wyndham related in a few words how he had escaped, and how
he found the sentry asleep. In a comparatively short time the wall was gained, and with
a burning desire to set the other captives free, Wyndham led the way up the ladder, and
found himself once more on the walls of the prison.
The rest is soon told. The garrison, not expecting this attack, was taken entirely by
surprise. After a short but sharp fight it was disarmed and the castle gained.
But as they knew that assistance must without fail arrive from the nearest military
post within a few hours, the prisoners were hastily liberated and armed, the garrison
locked up in the cells, and the fortifications blown up. And when the sun rose the
troop had again crossed the lake, and each horseman, with a liberated prisoner
behind, was already on the road to the Swedish camp.
The feuilleton style (a chapter at a time) reminds the reader of Victorian social novels (Dickens, Dumas, Hugo), usually written as newspaper feuilletons, while the fast-paced action and varied cast of characters, real-life and fictional, catch the readers' attention without much trouble. The style is magically realistic (creatures like trolls and fairies cohabit with humans), like in Nils Holgersson, with philosophical underpinnings and uplifting messages. And it reads like a Victorian novel, along the lines of Andersen's longer tales ("The Snow Queen", "The Daughter of the Swamp King"). The family saga genre is a tribute to both serious (Tales of the Regimental Surgeon) and parody (Blackadder) precedents, aside from an easy and entertaining way to showcase historical events as backdrop of the unsung characters' experiences. Furthermore, the idea of young people during wartime links this saga to the popular and traditional coming of age genre, and to the classical swashbuckler genre (adventures, duels, battles, conspiracies, escapes, feats of daring-do, all within the early modern Europe setting), which also dates back to Victorian-era feuilletons, as well.
Though perfection does not exist, this one deserves five stars: *****