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In The Scouring of the White Horse, which Hughes himself describes as a sort of "a stir-about" or miscellany, he concentrates on trying to make the people of England aware of their own ancient history as a unifying force. Nonetheless, he cannot resist almost Shandyian diversions that reveal his political and social beliefs. For example, when Hughes has the young London clerk who narrates the tale visit the fair that accompanies the restoration of the White Horse, he cannot resist speaking in his own voice about the way the British government has irresponsibly treated its veterans.

There was one man amongst them who struck me particularly, I suppose because he wore a 'Crimean medal with four clasps, and went quite lame on a crutch. I found out his history. Old Mattingly, the blacksmith of Uffington, had three sons when the Russian war broke out. They all went for soldiers. The first was shot through the hand, as that gray, deadly dawn broke over Inkermann, on the 5th of November, 1854. Had he gone to the rear he would probably have lived. He fought till the last Russian vanished along the distant road, and over the bridge heaped with slain, like a gallant Berkshire lad — and then went to hospital and died of his wounds within a week. The second lies before Sebastopol in the advanced trenches of the right attack. The third, the young artilleryman, went through the whole war, and after escaping bayonet and shot and shell, was kicked by the horse of a wounded officer, and probably lamed for life. According to the rules of the service, my informant seemed to think, he was not entitled to a pension for life, "but they had given him one for eighteen months after his discharge, so that he had almost a year of it to run; and perhaps he might learn blacksmith-work in that time, if he could stand at all, for that was mostly arm-work."

I didn't know what the regulations as to pensions were, or how long young Mattingly would take to learn blacksmith-work, but I did feel rather ashamed that England couldn't afford to do a little more for such as he; and should be glad for my part to pay something towards it, if the Chancellor of the Exchequer, or somebody, would find out a way to set this right. Or perhaps if this should ever meet the eye of the Commander-in-Chief, or of any of the gentlemen who were made K.C.B's in the wartime, or of any other person who has interest in the army, they may see whether any thing more can be done for young Mattingly. [161-62]

References

[Hughes, Thomas.] The Scouring of the White Horse; or, the Long Vacation Ramble of a London Clerk. Boston: Ticknor and Fields, 1859.


Victorian Overview Thomas Hughes The Crimean War

Last modified 13 July 2006