This little-known historical drama by the author of Robinson Crusoe is set during the English civil war and told in first-person with attention to detail, describing the minutiae of the life of a 17th-century well-to-do British cavalier and soldier. Sean Criseden’s matter-of-fact performance gives this audiobook the feel of an actual cavalier's memoirs and not a work of fiction, which is exactly the stylistic device Defoe was attempting. An interesting mix of a coming-of-age tale and history lesson, this audiobook will be a pleasure for anyone interested in European royalty and its battles.
This work of historical fiction is set during the Thirty Years' War and the English Civil War. The full title upon original publication was as follows: Memoirs of a Cavalier; or A Military Journal of the Wars in Germany, and the Wars in England. From the Years 1632 to 1648. Written threescore years ago, by an English gentleman, who server first in the army of Gustavus Adolphus, the Glorious King of Sweden, till his death, and after that in the Royal Army of King Charles the First, from the beginning of the Rebellion to the end of the War.
Public Domain (P)2011 Audible, Inc.
"The pretended author, ‘Col. Andrew Newport’, a young English gentleman born in 1608, travels on the Continent, starting in 1630, goes to Vienna, and accompanies the army of the emperor, being present at the siege and sack of Magdeburg, which is vividly presented. He then joins the army of Gustavus Adolphus. After his return to England he joins the king's army, first against the Scots, then against the forces of Parliament." (The Concise Oxford Companion to English Literature)
There isn't much human interest here, not much personal drama for our cavalier. He is concerned only with his battles. I was most interested in the Swedish army and King Adolphus, somebody I had never learned about, especially his encampment and battle at Leipzig. I have toured in Leipzig, and I know that Thomanerkirche, where Bach led the boys' choir, was there during the Thirty Years War. So, picturing that city and Nurnberg too with battles raging added to my appreciation of places I have been.
In England and Scotland, place names and those of commanders and battles abound. By the time our soldier fights for King Charles, he is enough of a sophisticated strategian to assess at each movement what the King has done right and wrong--mostly wrong!
I listened to each chapter at least twice to digest as much as possible, because I want to be familiar with European wars, but this book might be disappointing to anyone who is expecting an intriguing narrative like Moll Flanders or Robinson Cruscoe. The narrator recounts each movement of dragoons with clear, but matter-of-fact style, quite appropriate for a memoir or journal. Perhaps the strongest emotion is evident in his great friendship and admiration for King Adolphus.
If you are determined to "finish" Defoe, an easy author to exhaust, then go for it!
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