Harry Paget Flashman

From Academic Kids

Brigadier-General Sir Harry Paget Flashman is a fictional character originally created by the author Thomas Hughes in his semi-autobiographical work Tom Brown's Schooldays, first published in 1857. In this book, set at Rugby School, Flashman is the notorious bully, who persecutes its eponymous hero Tom Brown. Flashman is finally expelled for drunkenness, in the book, but film versions change the reason for his expulsion.

20th-century author George MacDonald Fraser had the conceit of writing a series of further fictional adventures of this coward and bully as he cuts a swathe through the wars and uproars (and the boudoirs and harems) of the 19th century. Though Flashman constantly betrays his friends, runs from danger, or hides cowering in fear, he arrives at the end of each book with medals, praise from the mighty, and the love of one or more beautiful and enthusiastic women. Flashman becomes one of the most notable and honored figures of the Victorian era. Fraser gives Flashman's life as 1822 to 1915 and gives a birth date of 5 May. In Tom Brown's Schooldays he is only ever called Flashman or Flashy; his forenames were likeliest invented by Thomas Hughes.

The series is a classic use of false documents. The books describe the discovery of the nonagenarian General Flashman's memoirs in a Leicestershire saleroom in 1966. Posing as the editor of the papers, Fraser produces a series of historical novels that give a racy, colorful, and decidedly cynical view of British and American history in the 19th century. Dozens of major and minor characters from history flit in and out of the books, often in an inglorious or hypocritical guise. Other fictional characters, such as Sherlock Holmes can also be found in the tales, complementing Flashman and sundry figures from Tom Brown's Schooldays and Tom Brown At Oxford.

In fact, Fraser's research is extensive and the books illuminate the historical events they depict. The books are heavily annotated, with end notes and appendices, as Fraser (in accordance with the fictional existence of the memoirs) attempts to "confirm" (and in some cases "correct") the elderly Flashman's recollections of events.

For the purposes of American publication, Fraser created a fictional entry of the 1909 edition of Who's Who. This lists Flashman's laurels as: VC , KCB, KCIE; Chevalier, Légion d'Honneur; US Medal of Honor; San Serafino Order of Purity and Truth, 4th Class.

To date the following extracts from the Flashman Papers have been published:

Flashman also plays a small part in Fraser's novel Mr American. His father has a similar cameo appearance in Black Ajax.

A Motion Picture version of Royal Flash was released in 1975. It was directed by Richard Lester and starred Malcolm McDowell as Flashman, Oliver Reed as Otto von Bismarck and Alan Bates as Rudi von Sternberg. It received moderate acclaim.

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