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A Class Apart

The Military Man in French and British Fiction, 1740–1789


Karen Lacey

The military man has long been one of literature’s archetypal figures. Using a comparative framework, this book traces the transformation of the military man in eighteenth-century British and French literature as this figure moved from noble warrior to nationalised professional in response to changes within the military structure, the role of empire and the impact of an expanding middle class. The author examines the way in which the masculinity of the military man was reimagined at a time when older models of military service persisted alongside emerging models of patriotic nationalism, inspired by bourgeois morality, the cult of sensibility and a new understanding of the role of violence in both public and private domains. Through a corpus of canonical and lesser-known literature, the book explores the military man’s relationship to the state and to his fellow citizens, even in the domestic setting. With the role of the «nobleman» in decline, the military man, not a «civilian» and no longer associated with the ‘aristocrat’, became a separate class of man.
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Chapter 1 : The Fetish of the Sword


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The Fetish of the Sword

Or, l’aristocrate, c’est le noble déchu, le guerrier qui a troqué l’armure pour les dentelles. Sa supériorité fondée à l’origine sur le risque de son existence, devient une suprématie, à laquelle il a droit par essence. Cette ‘réification’ se manifeste précisément par la matérialisation du pouvoir en argent, car l’argent apparaît comme le substitut concret du courage dans la justification et le maintien d’une hiérarchie.1

[Now, the aristocrat, he is the fallen noble, the warrior who has traded armour for lace. His superiority, originally founded on the risk to his existence, becomes a supremacy, to which he has an essential right. This ‘reification’ manifests itself precisely through the materialisation of power through wealth, since wealth appeared as a concrete substitute for courage in the justification and maintenance of a hierarchy.]

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