THE GREAT SHADOW
ARTHUR CONAN DOYLE, BRIGADIER GERARD, AND NAPOLEON
By Clifford S. Goldfarb
Foreword by Dame Jean Conan Doyle

233 pages, 6 x 9 inches, 21 B&W illustrations and 2 B&W photographs.

NOTE:  This book is available in paperback and hardcover. However, the hardcover edition was printed in a very limited quantity of 150 copies, numbered and signed by the author. When all 150 copies are sold, or otherwise disposed of by the publisher, the book will no longer be available in hardcover. Considering that possibly 25 to 30 of these have been reserved for presentation to certain persons, and that I have purchased one myself, there are probably no more than 100-125 copies still available for purchase. The Limited edition hardcovers may be purchased through my bookstore until the supply is exhausted. The publisher has agreed to personally inform me when the hardcovers have been sold out and I will in turn notify you here.

If you are a Napoleonist, you are undoubtedly familiar with such striking personalities as Captain Coignet and Baron de Marbot. If you frequent this website and have delved into my electronic books, you have probably read The Note-Books of Captain Coignet and The Memoirs of Baron de Marbot. If you are like me, and many others, you find Marbot's adventures to be exceptionally interesting, exciting and extremely well told by Marbot himself. Now, have you ever heard of Brigadier Gerard?  Probably not.

Brigadier Gerard is a fictional Napoleonic swashbuckling cavalryman created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in 1892. Conan Doyle had always had an avid interest in Napoleon, the Napoleonic Wars and the Napoleonic period. He was raised on stories of his family's exploits during the Napoleonic Wars. Chief among these was his great-uncle, Major-General Sir Denis Pack, who fought at Waterloo, Anthony Pack who also fought at Waterloo and was wounded there, as well as several other relatives who served in that battle. While he was growing up in the late nineteenth century there was a resurgence in Europe of interest in the Napoleonic period. Between the years 1892 and 1906, Conan Doyle wrote a number of Napoleonic books, a few of which were produced as plays and made it to the stage in England and the United States.

"It is fairly widely known that my father had a special affection for North America and interest in its progress. It is less widely known by the general public that he had a deep affection for French literature, and interest in napoleon and his times. This unawareness on the public's part is due to my father's Napoleonic books having been out of print for some years. But the Brigadier Gerard stories and Rodney Stone both have their aficionados, as the naming in the 1970s of that truly great and classic racehorse, Brigadier Gerard, demonstrated.
     "I am sure my father would have been delighted to know that Clifford Goldfarb has written this book, and therefore that a younger generation will learn about the humour and excitement of his Napoleonic tales, whilst reading about this very dramatic period in the history of Europe. Even my father's minor works can disclose interesting facts regarding the the author, as Mr Goldfarb has discerned.
     "I hope this book will have the success it deserves."
 

Dame Jean Conan Doyle
Foreword from the book
 The character and adventures of Brigadier Gerard are, for the most part, based upon those of Baron de Marbot, with a smattering of Coignet and a few other personalities and thrown in for good measure, to include some fictional Napoleonic personalities of other authors that preceded Brigadier Gerard. The Brigadier Gerard stories are, for the most part, true historical fiction. More often than not, they are based upon actual events and include the well-known personalities of the period; the generals, the marshals, Napoleon himself, and even Marbot. In acquiring material for his research, mostly memoirs, Conan Doyle purchased a copy of the Memoirs of Baron de Marbot. Marbot quickly became his favorite Napoleonic personality.

"It was a real blow to me when some one began to throw doubts upon the authenticity of Marbot's memoirs. Homer may be dissolved into a crowd of skin-clad bards. Even Shakespeare may be jostled in his throne of humour by plausible Baconians; but the human, the gallant, the inimitable Marbot! His book is that which gives the best picture by far of the Napoleonic soldiers, and to me they are even more interesting than their great leader, though his must ever be the most singular figure in history. . . ."

Naturally, I am in total agreement with Conan Doyle. Of all the Napoleonic works in my modest library, I cherish Marbot's memoirs above all others.

If you are a fan of Marbot, you will also be a fan of Gerard. Gerard is nothing more than an extension of Marbot. You might say, the further adventures of Marbot; and this is what Conan Doyle intended.

The Great Shadow: Arthur Conan Doyle, Brigadier Gerard, and Napoleon is many things. If you're not acquainted with the Brigadier Gerard books and Conan Doyle's other Napoleonic works, it's a grand introduction to them. If you are familiar with this aspect of Conan Doyle, it's a great companion volume; an essential guide to the mind and method of the author, to the works themselves, and to the works and their similarities and dissimilarities to Conan Doyle's other works, especially Sherlock Holmes. It's obvious that if you are reading this, you have an avid interest in history. However, you may have a youngster who isn't so interested but who likes to read exciting, action packed books. If so, try introducing him (or her) to Brigadier Gerard. Start with The Complete Brigadier Gerard, which is available in paperback at a very modest cost in the the New Books section of my bookstore, in the Other Napoleonic Period Fiction section, and then purchase The Great Shadow: Arthur Conan Doyle, Brigadier Gerard, and Napoleon.

     "There are many Sherlockian parallels in the Gerard stories, both in the plots and in the themes Doyle addressed. In 'How the Brigadier Slew the Brothers of Ajaccio', Gerard is summoned by Napoleon to accompany him to a secret meeting in the woods. To his horror, Gerard see Napoleon assassinated before he can stop it. Gerard then slays the two assassins, members of a Corsican secret society out to punish Napoleon for breaking with him. The dead 'Napoleon' turns out to have been a double for the Emperor, who rewards Gerard for his heroic services."

Of course, we Napoleonists know that Napoleon died in captivity on St. Helena in 1821, and that he could not possibly have been assassinated years earlier in Corsica. However, Conan Doyle's abilities as a writer transcend the impossible and, at least for a moment, the reader believes Napoleon has been assassinated. When you consider this story was written around the turn of the century when Napoleon was still a household word in Europe, the fact that Conan Doyle was able to get away with such an outrageous plot confirms his ability and greatness as an author and story-teller.

In The Great Shadow, Conan Doyle wrote a chillingly realistic description of the battle.

     "L. Hutton, reviewing The Great Shadow for Harper's New Monthly Magazine, wrote: 'There is a French chevalier who is more real, more historical, than any French chevalier known to history.'
     "Those critics of Conan Doyle who feel that he used the Gerard stories to glorify war cannot complain here. The description of the battle [Waterloo] was so convincing that battlefield guides quoted from it."

There is a large chapter devoted to Marbot. Therefore, if you haven't been fortunate enough to be introduced to Marbot to this point, this chapter will give you very good summary of Marbot's life and exploits. Here is a portion of a paragraph which is particularly relevant to Brigadier Gerard:

". . . The key to Marbot's military adventures (as to Gerard's) was the position of the aide-de-camp. This was not a line position involving the command of troops. The dangerous position operated on the same lines as a cab-stand--when a mission came up, the next aide-de-camp in line was supposed to take it. The aide-de-camp had to ride, often alone, through unsecured countryside to take military dispatches from one commander to another. The ground through which he had to ride might change hands hourly, and the aide-de-camp did not know if he would be riding straight into enemy hands. These rides were often hair-raising experiences, and Marbot's well-written descriptions of them can easily be compared with Gerard's. An aide-de-camp also got to see much more of the battle than most officers, who were usually in the thick of the fighting where it was impossible to know what was going on elsewhere. This is why Marbot (and Gerard) could legitimately have so many individual adventures."

The foregoing quotation is only a sample of the insightful information that the author, Clifford S. Goldfarb, passes on to the reader of The Great Shadow . . . .

"Throughout the nineteenth century, the great shadow of Napoleon hovered over Europe, and the character of Napoleon was to influence many writers of the time--none more so than Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes.

     "Conan Doyle read widely on the Napoleonic era, eventually producing his own contributions to the steadily growing body of literature on 'The great Shadow'. In particular, he developed the character of Brigadier Gerard to run through a series of stories in The Strand Magazine after Sherlock Holmes had been 'killed off' in 1893.

     "In his study, Clifford S. Goldfarb discusses all of Conan Doyle's Napoleonic fiction: The Exploits of Brigadier Gerard, Adventures of Gerard, two short stories, 'The Marriage of the Brigadier' and 'A Straggler of '15' (later adapted for the play Waterloo, so loved by Sir Henry Irving); and the novels Rodney Stone, Uncle Bernac, and The Great Shadow.

    "Brigadier Gerard has languished in the shadow of Conan Doyle's detective Sherlock Holmes for far too long. This study will help him leave that shadow, and establish himself as a character as much worthy of study as Sherlock Holmes himself.
 

From the back cover


"Goldfarb makes a fair case for these largely neglected stories . . . It examines Doyle's many sources . . . and places these stories squarely and illuminatingly in the context not only of Doyle's work, but also of the early twentieth century."
 

Quill & Quire


All quotations appearing on this page have been authorized by the publisher, solely for use on this page.

Calabash Press   ISBN 1-889562-30-3 (Paperback Edition)
                                    1-899562-29-X (Limited Edition Hardcover)
 

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