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Military Misreadings of Shakspere by Major Thomas Seccombe

Amongst the books I inherited from my father was a rather eccentric publication linking William Shakespeare with military mishaps. It was a compilation of 31 amusing cartoons each depicting a Shakespeare quotation. So it was a touch of serendipity when my old friend Paul Cordle came to lunch and told us he was embarking on a project to republish this book. ‘I have one here’ I blurted. Several months later the book has appeared and how handsome it is.

140 years after the original publication Nine Elms have re-published the book with an additional cartoon which was not in each of the original editions. The 32 cartoons are now rearranged in regimental order and they have cleverly added explanations and short historical notes which do much to enhance the book for modem readers.

As the Foreword by General Jack Deverell declares, ‘This is a fun book!’ and as such is an ideal stocking filler. The situations depicted are illustrated in the style and uniforms of the late 19th Century but could just as easily, with a change of uniform, be transported in time to today.

On page 58 is a cartoon of a rifle range and an angry farmer protesting to a young officer of a Volunteer Rifle Corps about a pig that had been shot by one of his volunteers. Whether in error or not is not disclosed but the picture reminded me of Lydd Ranges in 197 when a Guardsman of mine shot a cow, quite obviously on purpose!

The book includes a helpful appendix explaining the lineage of cavalry regiments but for some reason does not do the same for the infantry, probably because it is so complicated by the multitude of cuts and amalgamations they have suffered since 1880. Nevertheless, Military Misreadings of Shakspere is a must for those who enjoy poking fun at the Army and its eccentricities.

Article credit to Evelyn Webb-Carter via The Guards Magazine

Major Thomas Seccombe’s Book Military Misreadings of Shakspere is available to purchase from our online store:

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