Patriotic and imperial impulses jostle with anti-war sentiment. Discuss the significance of conflicting feelings in representations of war in The Charge of the Light Brigade and The Man of Feeling
During the long nineteenth century there was a large amount of conflict and due to this there was a cultural and literary change and many of the texts produced can be clearly linked to different conflicts. This essay will focus on The Man of Feeling by Henry Mackenzie (hereafter referred to as The Man) and The Charge of the Light Brigade by Alfred Tennyson (hereafter referred to as The Charge). The Man of Feeling was published in 1771 and was instantly a huge success, selling out in two months. During the period following the publication of the book, the concept of sentimentality became ‘a repertory of mirthful effects, perhaps to be read aloud…hear these categories of tears in order to trigger a rather different physical response’, however at the time the ability to generate emotion in a reader was a marker of success. The Man talks about the corruption of the military commanders and creates senses of sympathy throughout the use of structure and language creating conflicting ideologies within the novel. Tennyson’s poem is named after a specific battle in the Crimean war, and during the span of this conflict, there was the ‘gentleman debate’ and massive class shifts. The idea of the heroic and courageous British soldier emerged, as recruits were now more often than not, ordinary people rather than the upper class soldiers that previously made up the army. War was an integral part of society at the time, and enlisting became synonymous with patriotism, ‘to hear the words “a great patriot” was to visualize a man with arms in hand risking his life on the field of battle’. This link between war and national pride showed how integral the culture of violence was to the British public at this time, and highlights the extreme pressure citizens would be under to support these acts of violence. Somerville even went so far as to dub ‘the making of war itself…the supremely patriotic profession and institution’. This shows how entrenched the ideas of patriotism and national pride were in contemporary British society and how central an issue war had become to everyday life.
During the Crimean war, there were many deaths due to disease and neglect, with figures estimated at around 25,000 British; 100,000 French and 1,000,000 Russian soldiers. This conflict was dubbed ‘the first media war’ due to the increase in coverage that was available to the British public for the first time. The large death toll, combined with the increasingly emotive soldier accounts that were being freely published lead to a very dissatisfied British public as they felt more effort could be taken to prevent situations like these occurring. In The Man we hear of the dissatisfaction with the corrupt military leaders, an attitude that was commonly held at the time as the British public were more educated on what the troops were doing than ever. The fact that we can see conflicting attitudes to war in these texts is significant as it gives a more accurate representation of public attitudes in this era, and helps to reflect the shifting public attitude towards conflict. Interestingly, Tennyson repeatedly revised his poem both before and after it was published which may be an indicator not only of political difficulties caused by the critical tone to the poem (in one edition published in 1855, the admission ‘someone had blundered’ has been removed), but also could be showing the emotional trauma that Tennyson went through whilst trying to accept his own attitudes towards war.  When Tennyson published The Charge he was in the middle of his position as Poet Laureate to Queen Victoria, to date he is the longest serving person to undertake that role. This means that whilst he was duty bound to reflect a strong patriotic view that cast the monarchy in a positive light, he also had to represent the views of the people that he was ultimately writing the poem for. It could be argued that The Charge is jingoistic to some degree, seemingly more concerned with creating national heroes and a sense of British pride than he is with mourning the lost troops or stopping to question the wars that were happening. There are lines within the poem that counteract this and give pause for thought, such as the word ‘blunder’ which acts to create a sense of dissonance within the patriotic outlook presented. In comparison, Mackenzie did not have to write with such a weight hanging over him and was free to present his own ideas and representations of the conflicting ideas surrounding war, potentially making his account much more reliable and representative of contemporary attitudes. Both texts are explicitly linked to war, The Charge was written following the disastrous Battle of Balaclava in 1855 and during the course of the narrative in The Man, Harley bumps into Edwards returning from war. During the Battle of Balaclava, an order was misunderstood and more than 600 cavalrymen were misdirected to charge straight for an onslaught of Russian cannons, resulting in the death of over 150 British soldiers and 120 injuries. Due to the improved reporting strategies, the British public learnt of the error quickly, and this lead to an increase not only in war literature, but of distrust in the military leaders that had previously been held in such high regard. In contrast, Mackenzie did not write about a specific conflict, or even the battlefield. Instead, The Man is concerned with the issues on the periphery of war and how this affects the individual. This could be a reflection on his own attitudes to the cracks that were appearing in Mackenzie’s contemporary society, trying to establish what is necessary to form a community in such uncertain times. It was initially published in 1771 anonymously, and it came to be known as ‘the most typical, if not the most accomplished, sentimental novel’ after its incredible popularity following publication.
Conflicting feelings can arguably be depicted through structural techniques, as though the very fibre of the poem is rejecting the patriotic tone that is being sold to the reader. One of the ways in which conflicting feelings are shown in The Charge is through the metre of the poem. Tennyson is reported to have taken inspiration for the poem from a Times editorial where it was described as ‘some hideous blunder’. This phrase then germinated in his mind and eventually became the dactylic metre for the final ballad. This is significant as the phrase that subtly undermines the military decisions has now formed the core metre for the poem and as such, has become the central theme without the reader consciously realizing. The irregular stanza length adds to this sense of conflicting feelings, as though the disjointed sound of the poem reflects the sense of discontent the public were feeling with the new national agenda. It seemed as though important issues were being overlooked in the pursuit of national valour, and this is echoed in the enjambement of the first stanza ‘half a league half a league / half a league onward’. The lack of punctuation speeds up the pace of the ballad, whilst the language used is commanding and decisive. There was a very mixed public reaction from the Battle of Balaclava as whilst clearly a national disaster, it was spun by reporters to be a story of extreme courage and patriotism. In the final stanza almost all of the lines are end-stopped, yet the punctuation varies from ‘?’ to ‘!’ to ‘.’. The question ‘when can their glory fade?’ seems like a praising rhetoric for the fallen soldiers, but could also reflect a guilty government hoping that the battle fades from memory rapidly so their blunder can be forgotten. It is interesting to consider the possibility that without the advances in reporting the British public may never have known about the failure and the military leaders would appear stronger in comparison. In this case, it could be argued that simply by a military disaster becoming such common knowledge it undermines the patriotic tone of the poem and contributes in part to the anti-war sentiment forming. There is a clear emphasis being placed on the collective over the individual in this poem, which is shown through the repetition of ‘rode the six hundred’. This echoes the nationalistic attitude of British military leaders, more concerned with the collective glory than the individual suffering of the soldiers. By only referring to the soldiers in numerical terms, they are stripped of their individuality and as such, the loss presented is much less emotive as there is a sense of disconnect and impersonality to the Brigade that charged. The stanza is also structured to conclude the poem with an end-stopped, exclamatory imperative command, ‘noble six hundred!’ This is the last thought that we are left with, selling the Charge as an effort in valiance rather than a tremendously costly error. However, in using a reminder of the number of men that charged, Tennyson emphasizes the true cost that war entails and ensures even though we may forget the soldiers on a personal level, we remember their courage in the face of danger and the sacrifice they made for us. The Man contains many stylistic choices typical of sentimental fiction. This is highlighted through the use of a fragmented narrative to show that there is an awareness of feeling that comes from a sequence of fleeting experiences rather than a gradual learning curve throughout life. Mullan claims that Mackenzie ‘exploit[s] fragmentary narration in order to isolate special moments of poignancy…whose significance an unsentimental narrative would never consider’. Through this interesting narrative structure, we can see the conflict between Harley and this new society he has found himself in, with one such example being the destructive representation of change, ‘the scene of my infant joys, my earliest friendships, laid waste and ruinous!…I have sat…within…and been more blessed…than ever I shall be again’. Colonization was at its peak during this era, and Harkin argues that The Man can be read ‘as part of a larger discourse, and anxiety, about the generalized expansion’. To this end, the fragmented, uncertain structure of the novel can reflect the uncertainty that the British public felt about their position in the new world they found themselves in, much like how the character of Harley is struggling to come to terms with being this new ‘man of feeling’ in his post-war society. Another structural element of Mackenzie’s novel that displays conflicting emotions is the inclusion of an ‘Index to Tears’, a list of all the times weeping is mentioned within the text. As Mackenzie takes the reader on a journey of self-discovery and understanding their place in a new society, the path is strewn with periods of intense emotion. Todd reinforces this idea, suggesting that through the gaps in Mackenzie’s narrative we learn ‘the sensibility that is inevitably expressed in moments’. This makes the inclusion of the ‘Index’ seem more significant, as if indeed it is the moments that matter, surely these instances could be the times with the greatest sensibility.
Tennyson also represents the conflicting patriotic impulse and anti-war sentiments through his use of language. As mentioned above, one of the most significant examples of this is his use of the word ‘blundered’. To blunder is to make ‘a stupid or careless mistake’, and this word choice epitomizes how the public felt about the military commanders. The rise in new media enabled the British public to have a much closer view of what was happening in the wars, and many people were ‘touched and moved by the unaccountable violence of war and became alert to the obstacles to such responsiveness, the negating effects of modern war and modern mediations of war’. Tennyson creates sympathy for the soldiers, portraying them as helpless pawns in a game out of their control, ‘theirs but to do and die’. Tennyson repeats the word ‘theirs’ many times throughout the poem, which could be taken as a satirical remark on the treatment of soldiers as a collective. Discontent with soldier’s conditions were worsening and following the Crimean war a series of reforms called the Caldwell reforms were introduced which improved conditions for individual soldiers. Another point at which Tennyson reflects the conflict is with the line ‘Charging an army, while / All the world wonder’d’. The duality in meaning of ‘wonder’d’ as to ‘feel admiration and amazement’ or ‘feel doubt’ perfectly sums up the two conflicting ideologies of Tennyson’s contemporary audience. By using this simple word, Tennyson has encapsulated the problems of his society and the problems of war. The collective cannot be furthered without the expense of the individual. The repeated references to weeping throughout The Man serve to create a very empathetic reading, which in turn served as a marker for public opinion. An unnamed critic wrote in the Monthly Reporter that ‘anyone who weeps not over some of the scenes [The Man of Feeling] describes, has no sensibility of mind’. This link of sensibility and overwhelming emotion could reflect the cultural attitudes of the time, being subjected to so much change in such a short period and having to navigate a post-war society with little guidance. The word ‘tears’ is repeated 38 times throughout the course of the novel, which shows emotive the language choice is. Mackenzie reinforces positive public attitude towards soldiers from the older generation, ‘my father, who had been in the army from his youth…his dashing idol was the honour of a soldier, a term which he held in such reverence, that he used it for his most sacred assertion’. The use of the word sacred invokes a Biblical undertone, elevating the soldier into a deity-like position. However, Mackenzie later subverts this idea of the cherished soldier with our introduction to Edwards, ‘an old man, who from his dress seemed to have been a soldier, lay fast asleep on the ground’. The descriptor of old suggests vulnerability and frailty, qualities that are not often associated with a soldier and as such seem to counteract the valour of Edwards. As he is lying asleep on the ground, we can assume that he is homeless and this may be Mackenzie commenting on the lack of help and assistance soldiers obtained following conflict. This subtly undermines the government and as such can be seen as conflicting with the patriotic ideas that the government portrayed to the public about soldier welfare. There is some evidence of anti-war sentiment expressed through the text, most particularly the phrase ‘some war worn officer, who…had been neglected’. The use of the word ‘neglected’ evokes a sense of helplessness in the soldiers who have been through conflict, creating a sense of dissonance as it shows how poorly Britain treated the men who had risked their lives for the country, thus creating a negative opinion of warfare altogether.
Within Mackenzie’s novel, there are a lot of references to emotion caused through understanding and empathizing with everyone he comes across. To some degree, this could be seen not as a conflict between emotions themselves, rather between new knowledge and the emotional responses this creates. This theme is reflected in the cultural attitudes of Tennyson’s contemporary society, where they had access to an increased level of knowledge about battles and soldier welfare and were becoming increasingly dissatisfied with the way the military was being run. Morality was of high importance for the Victorians, and when The Man was published, ‘tears were not only valued, but…were more or less compulsory attitudes and signifiers of a feeling heart and unquestionable morality’. The fact that emotion and morality are so explicitly linked shows how conflicting emotions played a huge role in contemporary social views. Harkin claims that Mackenzie’s text provides ‘a code of ethics based on sensibility to compensate for the erosion of traditional notions of social responsibility’. This is achieved through the appeals to the reader’s human nature in the emotive descriptions of the hardships of war, ‘his hands bound behind him, suffering in silence’and through the discourse of sympathy that Harley exhibits throughout the course of the text. When Tennyson wrote The Charge it was thought that soldiers had a moral duty to fight for justice as their patriotism and courage was linked to their moral standing. The lines ‘theirs not to make reply / theirs not to reason why / theirs but to do and die’ are particularly poignant here as it places blame on the contemporary audience to some extent, as the soldiers are blindly following the nationalistic orders of the military commanders. By exploiting the word ‘blunder’ this furthers the sense of moral guilt created by Tennyson, as it implies an air of carelessness, showing how easily the devastation of the Battle of Balaclava could have been avoided.
One critic, Susan Sontag, argues that ‘it is not necessarily better to be moved…so far as we feel sympathy, we feel we are not accomplices to what caused the suffering. Our sympathy proclaims our innocence as well as our impotence’. In this respect, it could be argued that The Charge of the Light Brigade is more effective in representing war and truly appreciating the consequences as by not drawing attention to emotions, it allows the reader to digest the truth of the matter. This would fit in with the attitudes of Tennyson’s contemporary society that was growing dissatisfied with the leadership and crying out for reform of policies. In comparison, at the time that The Man of Feeling was published, its success was ‘due to its capacity to move and affect deeply, drawing the reader into a culture of tears’. By this different cultural standard, Mackenzie’s novel seems highly effective in representing the difficulty of navigating an uncertain post-war society. Speaking in The Newcomes, Thackeray proclaims ‘beside the splendor and conquest…and the blood freely shed in winning it – should not one remember the tears too?’. Tate argues that despite often being ‘regarded as a simple-minded piece of patriotism’, The Charge is actually a ‘subtle and even anguished reflection upon the Crimean war’. Tennyson himself said he was ‘unable to sympathize at this hour with any song of triumph when my heart almost bursts with indignation at the accursed mismanagement of our noble little army’. In this respect, the poem itself acts as a conflict with Tennyson’s own feelings, and the manipulation of emotions in war becomes apparent. In conclusion, both texts use conflicting feelings to accurately represent war. In Mackenzie’s text the fragmented structure serves to create a sense of sentimentality whilst also representing the instability of the society he was living in, whilst the structural inclusion of the ‘index to tears’ shines a light on the extreme emotion displayed throughout the text. As The Charge is a poem, this enables Tennyson to use structure more obviously to portray conflicting feelings such as with the ‘someone had blundered’ being used as the metre and the foundation of the poem, clearly undermining the military leaders. Both authors use language to portray the conflicting feelings, with Mackenzie contrasting the ideal of the ‘sacred’ soldier with the ‘old man’ who used to be a soldier; whereas Tennyson exploits the dual meaning of ‘wondered’ to subtly undermine the decision to advance. Both authors also place a large amount of importance on the moral impacts of war and may be using these techniques to suggest that as civilians being protected by the army, we have a moral duty to care for soldiers during and after war time and focusing on the care for the individual over the collective. Whilst there is no danger of forgetting the tears in The Man, The Charge’s factual representation of an unprecedented disaster is arguably more significant as a true representation of war due to the anti-war sentiment that underpins the borderline jingoistic ballad.
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 Henry Mackenzie, The Man of Feeling (Oxford University Press: New York, 2001), p.110.
 John Somerville, ‘Patriotism and War’, Ethics, 91.4 (1981), 568-578 (p.568).
 Andrew Lambert, ‘The Crimean War’, BBC History (2011) <http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/british/victorians/crimea_01.shtml> [accessed 09 January 2019].
 Stefanie Markovits, ‘Giving Voice to the Crimean War: Tennyson’s “Charge” and Maud’s Battle-song’, Victorian Poetry, 47.3 (2009), 481-503 <https://muse.jhu.edu/article/364285> [accessed 09 January 2019].
 Unknown, ‘Alfred Tennyson’, National Portrait Gallery (n.d.) <https://www.npg.org.uk/collections/search/person/mp04454/alfred-tennyson-1st-baron-tennyson> [accessed 09 January 2019].
 Unknown, ‘Jingoistic’, Oxford Living Dictionaries (2019) <https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/jingoistic> [accessed 09 January 2019].
 Alfred Tennyson, ‘Charge of the Light Brigade’, in The Charge of the Light Brigade and Other Poems (Dover: Dover Publications Inc., 2000), p.52, l.12.
 ‘London, Monday, November 13, 1854’, The Times, 13 November 1854 https://www.bl.uk/collection-items/times-editorial-piece-on-the-charge-of-the-light-brigade [accessed 09 January 2019].
 Tennyson, ll.1-2.
 Ibid., ll.50-55.
 Ibid., l.50.
 Ibid., ll.4-26.
 Ibid., l.55.
 Unknown, ‘The Man of Feeling, a sentimental novel’, British Library (n.d.) <https://www.bl.uk/collection-items/the-man-of-feeling-a-sentimental-novel> [accessed 09 January 2019].
 John Mullan, ‘Sentimental Novels’ in The Cambridge Companion to the Eighteenth-Century Novel, ed. by John Richetti (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002), pp.236-252 (p.241).
 Mackenzie, pp.95-96.
 Mackenzie, pp.110-111.
 Janet Todd, Sensibility: An Introduction, (London: Meuthen, 1986).
 Tennyson, l.12.
 Unknown, ‘Blunder’, Oxford Living Dictionaries (2019) <https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/blunder> [accessed 09 January 2019].
 Mary Favret, War at a Distance: Romanticism and the Making of Modern Wartime (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2010).
 Tennyson, l.15.
 Tennyson, l.31.
 Unknown, ‘Wonder’, Oxford Living Dictionaries (2019) <https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/wonder> [accessed 09 January 2019].
 Ildiko Csengei, ‘“I will not weep”: Reading through the Tears of Henry Mackenzie’s “Man of Feeling”’, The Modern Language Review, 103.4 (2008), pp.952-968 (p.952).
 Mackenzie, p.82.
 Ibid., p.124.
 Mackenzie, p.109.
 Csengei, p.952.
 Mackenzie, p.136.
 Tennyson, ll.13-15.
 Susan Sontag, Regarding the Pain of Others (London: Penguin, 2004).
 Csengei, p.952.
 William Makepeace Thackeray, The Newcomes (Unknown: HardPress, 2018) p.55.
 Trudi Tate, ‘On Not Knowing Why: Memorializing the Light Brigade’, in Literature, Science, Psychoanalysis, 1830–1970: Essays in Honour of Gillian Beer, ed. by Helen Small and Trudi Tate (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003), p.166.
 Tennyson to unknown recipient, 23 Jan. 1855, in The Letters of Alfred Lord Tennyson, ed. by Cecil Y. Lang and Edgar F. Shannon (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1987), p.104.