Friday, May 17, 2013

First Paragraph

One midwinter day, in January 1786, during a gap in the seemingly interminable wars between Britain and France, a shy Irish teenager was sent off to a French school to learn to be a soldier. His father had died and his mother almost despaired of him. 'I don't know what I shall do with my awkward son Arthur,' she grumbled. His father had been an Irish earl, part of that curious Protestant minority known as the Anglo-Irish. They had tried to make something of Arthur by sending him to Eton. But that had been hopeless. The boy was lonely and idle. Just about all he could do was play the violin. He came fifty-fourth out of seventy-nine boys in the fourth form. So when he was seventeen Arthur's exasperated mother sent him off to the French equestrian school at Angers. The only thing to do with the feckless younger son of an aristocratic family was to try and make him a soldier. France was the place where you learned to be a man in those days, and Angers might just give him the skills and the fibre to survive in the army.

- From To War with Wellington: From the Peninsula to Waterloo by Peter Snow

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