"Hughes got it wrong, in one important detail." So begins the delightful Flashman series
by George MacDonald Fraser
. The character Sir Harry Paget Flashman is featured in twelve novels. Covering almost the entirety of Flashman's adult life, the "Flashman Papers" chronicle his misdeeds and misadventures.
"Hughes" in the opening sentence refers to Thomas Hughes, the author of Tom Brown's Schooldays. Flash is a minor character in Tom Brown, a bully and a drunk, who was plucked from the fictional narrative by Fraser and given his own incredible adventures. The fan base for the Flashman titles is so strong that Fraser's appropriation of the character might one day be the main reason Hughes is remembered at all.
Supposedly, when Fraser published Flashman, some reviewers thought the book was truly an edited manuscript and that the story was nonfiction. Fraser's use of footnotes and his impressive command of historical detail is said to have fooled more than a few of Flashman's initial audience.1
I'm lucky enough to have on my desk right now nine of the twelve Flashman titles in hardcover.2 Flashman is the fifth printing of the first Barrie and Jenkins UK edition.
Flashman's Lady is the first printing of the Barrie and Jenkins edition.
The others are all first printings of the Knopf editions. All are in very good condition with bright dust jackets with artwork by Barbosa. Here's a photo of the books grouped together:
I haven't had time this week to enter all of them, but they'll be online soon. Besides the fun of the stories themselves, the dust jackets are a delight. Collectinggmf.com is a good reference online for collecting Fraser's books, complete with bibliographic minutiae, illustrations, and quizzes. Wikipedia has a page for Sir Harry Paget Flashman which includes all of the character's honors (the Victoria Cross, etc.) and gives a nice summation of the historical events in which Flashman becomes involved.
George MacDonald Fraser died earlier this month. Guest blogger Chuck Thompson wrote about Fraser in his January 9 posting, which is where I first heard the news. Thompson has posted an interview with Fraser, which is charming and succeeds in conveying Fraser's mischievous and slightly wicked sense of humor.
"Hughes got it wrong..."
Fraser got it right.
1) Other titles famously augmented with footnotes are Infinite Jest and The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.
2) The titles missing from this hardback collection are Flashman and the Mountain of Light, Flashman and the Angel of the Lord and Flashman on the March.