Wading in the Tagus

Jose Quintana by Goya

Jose Quintana by Goya

I’m just back from a week in Spain, where I was beginning the field research for a book set there, starting from late summer 1812.

I have known of and continued to study the Peninsular War for much of my life, but whereas before I had theory, names, dates, actions, battles, and uniforms, now I have faces…

I have seen the diabolically impossible terrain over which the soldiers had to march and ride; the heat was in excess of 40 degrees celsius; and so I, like them more than 200 years ago, found comfort, refreshment and unalloyed joy wading in the cold, clear water of the Tagus as it runs along the bottom of a tree-lined gorge…and in my mind I could see that small area peopled with just one or two characters, or even a whole regiment…ripping their jackets and shirts off and throwing themselves into the water, while the horses stood with the water lapping about their hooves, just drinking freely.  Nothing could have been finer.

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3 comments on “Wading in the Tagus

  1. O. Maltravers says:

    Sounds marvellous.

    Out of interest, how accurate or complete a picture of the terrain did the Sharpe TV programmes give?

    • M M Bennetts says:

      They weren’t bad…I mean I think one got a sense of the dryness. But nothing prepared me for the beauty, the lushness of the riverbank, the wind, the closeness of the mountains, the ubiquity of the mountains…they’re everywhere. And I can only imagine what it must have been like to look out into the distance–and one can see very much farther there than here in England–and see the huge ranges of mountains that awaited one…they must have turned the air blue!

      And I can now also see why the French did badly against the English there. There is no way that war could have been fought successfully without the local knowledge of the Spanish, nor without the intense map-making that Wellington insisted upon.

      These are mountains on a par with the Santa Monica mountains in California. You don’t see beyond them…and there’s no way the French could ever have anticipated what was lying beyond the next horizon of mountains.

  2. junebugger says:

    “I’m just back from a week in Spain, where I was beginning the field research for a book set there, starting from late summer 1812.” I swooned reading this. I’m still too young to actually visit the places I write about. I’m confined to school yet.

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