A terrific (and very well-illustrated) article has just been published on the “Yesterday’s Papers” website about the Crimean War story, Captain Jack; or One of the Light Brigade. The article is by Robert J Kirkpatrick, author of From the Penny Dreadful to the Ha’penny Dreadfuller (2013 and other studies of Victorian popular literature
Roy and I have been trying to help Robert to establish whether Captain Jack’s author and publisher, George Emmett (and/or one of his brothers), was ever in the Light Brigade, and whether the Shot and Shell works, starring Captain Jack, were written (as was claimed) from direct experience.
Here’s the intro, to give you a flavour:
THE SERIAL Captain Jack; or One of the Light Brigade was a story about the Crimean War written by George Emmett and first published in The Young Englishman’s Journal in 1868. It was inspired by the success of publisher Edwin J. Brett whose Boys of England, launched in 1866, had become an extremely popular weekly boys’ story paper.
EMMETT BROTHERS. George was the eldest of five brothers who established their own publishing concern in London and for a few years were Brett’s greatest rivals. All five brothers — George, William, Henry, Thomas and Robert — wrote for their own papers, with George becoming the most prolific and the best-known.
GEORGE EMMETT. Captain Jack, which was also published in 21 weekly one-penny parts, was the first in a sequence of six war stories by George Emmett which were later grouped together as Shot & Shell. A Series of Military Stories. It was generally regarded as an authentic account of the Battle of Balaclava and the Charge of the Light Brigade, as well as being a vivid and powerful story. It had all the hallmarks of an eyewitness account, and it seems to have been accepted at the time that it was, indeed, based on personal experience. A contemporary of the Emmetts, fellow author and publisher John Allingham (better known by his pen name “Ralph Rollington”) wrote in his memoir A Brief History of Boys’ Journals (1913) that “George Emmett in his younger days was an officer in the Cavalry, and fought at the Battle of Balaclava, where he was wounded.”
George also suggested that he had been a cavalry officer present at the siege of Lucknow in the Indian Mutiny in 1857, as recorded in his story The King’s Hussars, A Tale of India, serialised in The Young Englishman’s Journal in 1869. Other sources repeat the claim that he had served in the army — reviews of his stories in the press occasionally referred to him as a soldier and a man who had seen active service, while a review of a third story, For Valour, or How I Won the Victoria Cross, referred to him as “an old Lancer” more…
The rest of the article, and a number of other articles about the Emmetts, can be viewed here:
Any further information anybody can provide will be highly prized. For example, does anyone have a copy of the text, particularly the Charge section? I would very much like to compare it to other accounts, particularly from eyewitnesses.