Sharpe 22

On his website, when asked when the next Sharpe book will be written, Bernard Cornwell has repeatedly answered that there will definitely be another Sharpe, but not just yet. Cornwell now only writes one book per year – he turned 64 this year – and in 2008 that was Azincourt. After that will come at least the fifth, and probably the sixth, novels in his Saxon series. So we probably have a wait until 2011 for the next Sharpe, leaving someone like me plenty of time to get excited about it.

(contains spoilers)

But where to next for Richard Sharpe? Cornwell has already ruled out a few things, including further prequels before Sharpe’s Rifles, so unless he gets desperate for cash then I doubt he will ever write about Sharpe in Flanders as a teenager. Neither is he going to write about 1815-1821, as Sharpe did nothing but farm in Normandy. Thus, it will probably be a return to somewhere between 1809 and 1815, and in all likelihood in the Peninsular War, much like the last two.

The only problem is that Cornwell has written about almost every major battle of the Peninsular War. Two exceptions are Roliça and Vimeiro, which we know Sharpe was at, but they take place before Sharpe’s Rifles in 1808. Sharpe was also an outcast and lowly quartermaster in the 95th then – there would be no Harper or Hogan either. So, Sharpe 22 has to take place after the Battle of Corunna.

Sharpe’s Havoc through Sharpe’s Escape are in Portugal, where the Peninsular War was concentrated in 1809 to 1810, but all the action there was covered in those books. At the end of Sharpe’s Escape is the brief fight in front of the Lines of Torres Vedras, and after that in Sharpe’s Battle is Fuentes de Oñoro, where Wellington’s army blocked an attempt by Masséna to relieve under siege Almeida. Sharpe 22 could take place around that, but it would take Sharpe back to a city he had already been to (in Sharpe’s Gold). As well as that the second siege of Almeida was a relatively low-key affair with few casualties and small forces needed, and it hardly warrants a book dedicated to it.

From there, the Peninsular War moved back into Spain. Sharpe’s Company and Sharpe’s Sword deal with the Siege of Badajoz and the Battle of Salamanca, two of the major fights of 1812 (outside Russia that is), which took place within a month of each other. There was, however, one remaining battle that took place after them and before Sharpe’s Enemy, the Siege of Burgos. This would be a unique battle to right about considering it was an attempt to capture a castle, although the French were the winners and no Sharpe novel contains a French victory. Perish the thought.

Following France’s catastrophic loss in Russia Wellington went onto the offensive in 1813, with the decisive Vitoria Campaign effectively winning the Peninsular War. The actual Battle of Vitoria takes place in Sharpe’s Honour and the only other battle of the Vitoria campaign was the last one, Toulouse in Sharpe’s Revenge. There were some seriously important offensives in between, but Sharpe was back in England finding his second battalion in Sharpe’s Regiment rather than participating in tactically significant battles like the Pyrenees. Sharpe didn’t return until November, meaning only Nivelle, Nive and Orthez are left to depict before the Peninsular War ended with Napoleon’s first abdication. Sharpe’s Siege, however, does take place over the winter of 1813/14, so again there is little wiggle room left for Cornwell.

There is always the possibility of a fictitious fight with completely fictitious people involved, pulled from an obscure small event that happened and adapted for story. Sharpe’s Enemy and Sharpe’s Siege are entirely fictional but, again, wiggle room in the timeframe is limited and with what happens in the novels toward the end of the series, it leaves Cornwell little space to create something new for the reader that doesn’t infringe on a following novel. Likewise, the timeframe for a fictitious setting would most allow for between Sharpe’s Eagle and Sharpe’s Gold or between Sharpe’s Battle and Sharpe’s Company. That would be completely left up to Cornwell’s imagination, I guess.

But what about after 1821 and Sharpe’s Devil? That’s all well and good but for one thing – the British Army only fought two wars after Napoleon and before the Crimea. The general consensus is that Sharpe spends the rest of his life in Normandy. With the British Army fighting virtually nobody Sharpe would have to take service with a foreign entity, but even then in the years where Sharpe would still have been in a soldiering age (he was 44 in 1821) little happened. There was a prolonged peace in Europe after the Napoleonic wars and it was mainly in the colonies, or America, where proper fighting happened. It would seem highly unlikely that Sharpe would enlist to go to the Cape in the 1830s or to the Texas Revolution, he would be in his late fifties by then, when he had a farm and a family to tend to in France.

As much as I would like to see another Sharpe I doubt it will ever come. The author has ruled out Flanders or any further prequels before Sharpe’s Rifles and the events of the Peninsular War, now that Barossa and Busaco have been done, don’t give him anything else to base it around. Likewise, neither does a remarkably peaceful Europe after Napoleon, nor does Sharpe’s advancing years. The likelihood of another Sharpe novel seems exceedingly unlikely when you factor in all these variables, but who knows what Bernard Cornwell might throw up one day?

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One Response to “Sharpe 22”

  1. Peter Youds April 16, 2010 at 2:22 am #

    Enjoyed the piece.
    My own Ties of Blood series is tackling the Pen War in chronological order with a large cast of characters.
    Your point on Sharpe re Bernard Cornwell’s difficulty with wiggle-room is good, as it is difficult to pull in all aspects of the war while knocking out a good story.
    My stuff has characters from all four main protagonist nations, so wiggle-room aplenty!
    PY

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