Military and War

The military was considered a smart option for younger sons of the aristocracy, provided that the family could afford to buy the expensive commission. It was a fashionable way to keep a younger son occupied and in a profession, without detracting from the dignity of a family’s titled position by working in trade–and provided, of course, that the young soldier did not have to do anything so vulgar as actually go into combat.

Section from the Frontispiece Illustration of "Illustrations of the Field Movements of Cavalry" by Captain John Bamford. 1824.  With permission of the University of Glasgow Library Special Collections. Shelfmark Sp Coll H5-b.3.

Section from the Frontispiece Illustration of “Illustrations of the Field Movements of Cavalry” by Captain John Bamford. 1824.
With permission of the University of Glasgow Library Special Collections.
Shelfmark Sp Coll H5-b.3.

  • “the breaking out of the war was a serious evil . . . I was really in despair at the closing of the Continent! Bonbons, maréchale powder, chocolat de santé, pomade à la vanilla – how were we to exist without these necessaries of life?” (Cecil 1:5).
  • She wished me to go straight into the Guards. I knew quite enough for the Guards. The humiliation of maternity would be less galling, if she had a son in the Guards. In the Guards, I should be on the spot to swear at her chairmen when drunk, or her coachmen if disorderly. . . . if properly drilled and tutored, dressed and re-dressed, she should not be so much ashamed of me, when on guard among the Guards!” (Cecil 1:11).
  • “Three years of active service had redeemed me . . .  the bronzed face and shabby coat which so disgusted her ladyship, were in his [my father’s] eyes the honourable badges of a noble calling” (Cecil 2:188).
  • “’The Services in war time are fit only for desperadoes (and that truly am I); but, in peace, are fit only for fools’” (Vivian Grey 1:55-56).
  • “If it were not for the General Election, we really must have a war for variety’s sake. Peace gets quite a bore” (Vivian Grey 1:156).
  • “no society in the world is more agreeable than that of well-bred and well-informed military gentlemen” (The Book of Snobs 40).
  • “’One never knows when men are in earnest, they are so deceitful, and, of all men in the world, officers are the most to be distrusted: – mere birds of passage, – here to-day and gone to-morrow’” (Finesse 1:2).
  • “’mamma says, if we affront the sixtieth [regiment], they’ll cut us dead in town’” (At Home 1:13).
  • “He said that, having left college, a short service in the Guards, or in a Dragoon regiment, might form his manners and occupy his time, and, by bringing him constantly into the society of young men of rank and fashion, might prepare him to adorn that station in the world which his future fortune would entitle him to hold” (The Heir of Mordaunt 1:3).
  • “Although military glory is in itself almost a passport to the female heart, its effect is certainly enhanced when the outward appearance is correspondingly heroic” (Recollections of a Chaperon 2:267).
  • “The one [profession] he chose was the army, as not only there would be nothing to do, but he would have a good set of fellows to mess with instead of leading a stupid country life: he would wear a most splendid dress, being a Lancer; mount a pair of mustaches; and, being exceedingly fond of music, would have the advantage of a capital band” (Hyde Nugent 1:48).
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