Monday, December 12, 2005

harry flashman and margaret thatcher? no?

But there is a connection between Flashman and Thatcher, and it may surprise you to learn that the connection is me. Here, I think, is how it came about.

In the summer of 1982, when Margaret Thatcher had been in power three years, I wrote a review of the then latest Flashman novel, Flashman and the Redskins, for the weekly journal New Society - now, alas no more.

In it, I pointed out that one of the explanations for the appeal of the Flashman books was that they subverted 19th-century pretensions in our own day as successfully as Lytton Strachey had subverted them in his time with Eminent Victorians, published in 1918.

Ah hun.


In depicting the 19th Century in this way, I suggested the Flashman saga "took the lid off Victorian values", and it was under that very headline that the review was eventually run.

A few weeks afterwards, I received a letter from Matthew Parris, who told me that Margaret Thatcher had greatly enjoyed reading my essay. Six months later, in January 1983, she began talking publicly and admiringly about Victorian values, and about what she meant by them, and she continued to do so until the general election that was held in May of that year, which, of course, she triumphantly won.

And they say there are no political novelists any more.

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