At the end of the Napoleonic Wars, a generation of French soldiers found themselves haunted by defeat and disappointment. This book consists of author's enigmatic reflections, autobiographical anecdotes and philosophical meditations on the nature of war and the strange life of the soldier.
Alfred de Vigny (1797-1863) came from an ancient military family that was impoverished by the French Revolution. In 1814 he joined the royal bodyguard, in which he served for thirteen years, but he never saw serious action.The feeling of stasis and regret this engendered, of having been just too young to have been involved in the high adventure of the Napoleonic Wars is the great theme of his most famous work, The Military Life (Servitude et grandeur militaires). Much of his later life was spent withdrawn from Parisian society, dogged by financial worries and caring for his mother and his invalid wife. His remaining major works were published posthumously: most notably Journal d'un poete and the poems Les Destinees. Roger Gard, who died in 2000, was Emeritus Reader in English in the University of London. He was the author of books on Henry James, Jane Austen and the teaching of fiction in schools.