Sunday, 29 January 2012

By way of Introduction...

A very warm welcome to the Vauban and Shandy Blog, and by way of an introduction, the last few posts have hopefully given a flavour of the intent of this project.

The wargames played in the garden by Uncle Toby and Corporal Trim, in 'The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy' are one of the first recorded descriptions of the wargaming hobby-horse and obsession. And this is all the more poignant as it the means by which Uncle Toby comes to terms with his own wounding and trauma.  By doing this the experience of war is over-written by the pastoral pleasure of building fortifications and playing with toy soldiers in the garden.
But humour and obsession are the keys to the story, and in particular the re-enacting of the siege of Namur in 1695 - when Captain Toby Shandy received his wound to the groin.  And so this blog is set in the age of King William's Wars, or the Wars of the League of Augsburg, or the War of the Grand Alliance &c &c.  

However, Toby and Trim become so obsessed that they re-fight every siege of Marlborough's Wars in the War of the Spanish Succession!  And how crestfallen they are when the news from the continent is delayed by storms, and dismayed by news that the war has ended.

"And I think that that's one of the secrets behind English gardens actually, that all the siege architecture that so fascinates Toby a lot of it was deployed for gardens, it was used and was adapted for pastoral purposes, and I think that that's intriguing. I think that some of the great poems of English Literature, Andrew Marvell's Upon Appleton House, is a kind of hymn to this connection between war and gardens, and I think that, at the heart of Uncle Toby's campaigns, that's what lies there, is some kind of metamorphosis of war into a scene that is utterly pleasant.." {1}

These battles are also played in the garden, using proper toy soldiers of the 'Lace Wars' era and the reader is invited to reply to the cry of the recruiting Serjeant;

'Will ye go to Flanders'

and follow the drum and take a sentimental journey in the footsteps of Toby and Trim and their wargame, brought to life so beautifully by the Reverend Laurence Sterne.

{1}  Interview with Jonathan Lamb - Vanderbilt University


  1. Paul
    Comment facility has arrived- excellent news. I love the pictures so far and look forward to seeing things develop.An Elastolin mortar looks good in B&W...
    best wishes

  2. Wonderful stuff - who makes the figures? Are they BMC ?

  3. The figures are a mixture of very old Cavendish, with some Tradition and Replicants - and some recast Cherilea/Charbens(?)

    I am using the BMC figures as Bavrians/French allies