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Book Reviews BEATING THE DRUMS Cecil D. Eby. The Road to Armageddon: The Martial Spirit in English Popular Literature, 1870-1914. Durham: Duke University Press, 1988. $27.50 Between 1860 and 1900, the martial spirit was in the air to disturb Victoria's Pax Britannica. British expenditure for arms trebled, while German expenditures increased fivefold, and with the stunning Prussian victory over France in 1870, Germany emerged as a potentially malevolent power. The average Briton, having formerly taken the British Empire for granted, now regarded it as his defense against the new threat. By the end of the century, Victoria's second Jubilee celebration in 1897, which brought to London splendidly costumed colonial premiers, confirmed the inescapable conviction that the sun could not-indeed, dare not-set on the British Empire. Clement Atlee recalled that, at the time of Jubilee, "most of us boys were imperialists." The martial spirit developed in popular culture, particularly in music hall songs and at public bandstands, where military music inspired listeners. It also had an odd influence on the religious, as Eby writes: It was a sign of the times when a marginal organization originally called the East London Mission restructured itself on military lines in 1878, declared "warfare against evil," and launched a successful campaign under its new name, the Salvation Army. Its officers had military titles, its soldiers wore uniforms, and they campaigned throughout the British Isles behind the drums and cornets of a thousand bands. "Onward, Christian Soldiers," perhaps the most popular hymn of that generation, captures the prevailing mood of aggressive, militant Christianity. Armageddon, where Biblical prophecy foresaw that the forces of Satan and of God would meet in final combat, was increasingly referred to not only by those in the Salvation Army but also by writers who sensed an approaching worldwide conflict. When it occurred in 1914, Wells's remark that this was "the war that will end war" confirmed the ancient prophecy, as Eby remarks, "of the war between the legions of God and Satan-conveniently identified as England and Germany, respectively." 211 Book Reviews, 32:2, 1988 Cecil D. Eby has undertaken an engaging subject with wit and verve. In his wide-ranging view of the martial spirit in popular literature , he includes discussions not only of such forgettable writers of "invasion literature" as Sir George Tomkins Chesney and William Le Queux but also of such more enduring writers as Wells, Barrie, Kipling, Doyle, and Rupert Brooke. For decades before the First World War, invasion literature was widely read, an indication of deep-seated anxiety regarding the presumed invincibility of the mighty British fleet, on duty in distant lands as protector of the colonies. (In 1884 W. T. Stead, editor of the Pall Mall Gazette, pointed to a dangerous reduction in naval expenditures over the previous fifteen years.) Between 1871 and 1914, more than sixty books and pamphlets describing a fictive invasion or attempted invasion clearly indicated a demand for this fare, perhaps to subdue the very anxiety that gave rise to such literature. For such readers, victory by British forces restored confidence. Among the invaders and would-be invaders, Germany is the principal villain, but France, Russia, China, Japan, the United States, and even Mars rank as culprits. As Eby points out, the endemic fear of invasion among Britons aroused even Tennyson, who, in 1859, wrote "Rifleman Form," resulting three days later in the formation of the Volunteer Force: Let your reforms for a moment go! Look to your butts, and take good aim. Better a rotten borough or so Than a rotten fleet and a city in flames! Storm, Storm, Riflemen form! By the mid-1890s, however, the anxiety over invasion that had generated the new genre of "invasion literature" as a warning that Britain was in a state of unpreparedness was seized upon by writers interested principally in commercial exploitation. One of these writers, William Le Queux, whom Eby calls "an opportunistic panicmonger who pioneered the new mode of invasion story," depicts an onslaught on England by Russian and French forces in his immensely popular novel The Great War in England in 1897 (serialized in 1893, published in book form in 1894). Le Queux...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-2715
Print ISSN
0013-8339
Pages
pp. 211-214
Launched on MUSE
2010-05-21
Open Access
No
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