Monday, June 27, 2011


In writing about Boilerplate, the latest fictional character whom I'd like to see get a televersion, I mentioned a previous candidate - Harry Flashman. Flashman was the school bully in "Ton Brown's School Days", a Victorian novel by Thomas Hughes. The book has been filmed several times, and twice for television, so Harry Flashman has had his day in the cathode sun, but there was more to his life than his school days.

Not only because it was the first production broadcast, but also because its episodic form as a TV series provided the opportunity to add as much detail from the novel as possible, the 1971 TV version is the one established in Earth Prime-Time. (The later version from 2005 does boast the presence of Stephen Fry as Dr. Thomas Arnold, though. Tempting as that is, that version has to remain in the Land of Remakes.) 
Harry Flashman attacks Tom Brown

In 1969, George MacDonald Fraser published "Flashman", an historical novel purportedly based on the recently discovered papers of Harry Flashman. Over the course of twelve novels, Fraser recounted Flashman's exploits from his early twenties to advanced old age. And along the way, Flashman had adventures in which he crossed paths with many historical figures.

(As a side note, I highly recommend these books, especially if you enjoy salacious depictions of Victorian ribaldry - a lot of "rogering" goes on, which was an excellent source of... shall we say, "inspiration" to a lad in his teens. That is, so I've heard.....)

So far, none of the "Flashman" novels have been adapted for television, although the second novel, "Royal Flash", does have a home in the Cineverse as a movie starring Malcolm McDowall as Harry, with Alan Bates and Oliver Reed in support.
I think the Fraser series of novels about Harry Flashman would make for a great TV series on HBO or Showtime or even Starz, especially with the freedom provided by a premium channel to portray prurient content. (Ah, alliteration!) With the success of 'Game Of Thrones' on HBO and 'The Borgias' and 'The Tudors' on Showtime, perhaps its time to give old Flash a shot.....

I'd like to think that, even without a television series or made for TV movie already established, Harry Flashman's life in Toobworld at least follows the basic guidelines set down by Fraser for a thoroughly debauched life led by Flashman. After all, even though we might not see it take place on our TV screens, Harry Flashman's life did continue after the events of the "Tom Brown's School Days" TV series had ended. 
Harry Flashman
with Tom Brown & Scud East
So let's assume that the Rugby School bully grew up to become a lecherous, immoral coward at least similar to, if not exactly like, the Flashman depicted by Fraser. This TV Flashman would end up rogering his way through the ladies of his times, perhaps even with fictional females from other TV series. (Let's say a parlor maid or two in the Bellamy household a decade or two before we met them on screen?)
Being a bounder and a cad, Flashman would not have been morally constrained from any dalliances with married women; and he would have no qualms in leading a young lady on with false promises of betrothal, in order to bed her and rob her of her virtue. And in the course of such a pursuit, he might have proferred a false identity in order to elude being sued for breach of promise. 
From the movie "Royal Flash"
But the Toobworld Flashman would find himself in a similar situation

Let's say he did pluck a young lovely's virginity and with such skill that she acquiesced without even learning his name. But as Flashman made ready to flee the following morning, suddenly the deflowered miss might have inquired as to who he was. Caught off-guard, he may have concocted a fake name on the spot.

But what name might he have used?

The Belgian detective Hercule Poirot was faced with such a situation while investigating a murder aboard a particular train.
"'I claim no credit this time. It was not a guess. Countess Andrenyi practically told me.'

'Comment? Surely not?'

'You remember I asked her about her governess or companion? I had already decided in my mind that if Mary Debenham were mixed up in the matter, she must have figured in the household in some such capacity.'

'Yes, but the Countess Andrenyi described a totally different person.'

'Exactly. A tall, middle-aged woman with red hair - in fact, the exact opposite in every respect of Miss Debenham, so much so as to be quite remarkable. But then she had to invent a name quickly, and there it was that the unconscious association of ideas gave her away. She said Miss Freebody, you remember.'


'Eh bien, you may not know it, but there is a shop in London that was called, until recently, Debenham & Freebody. With the name Debenham running in her head, the Countess clutches at another name quickly, and the first that comes is Freebody. Naturally I understood immediately.'"

Oftentimes, false identities are similar enough to the original to make them easier to remember. (This is probably why almost everybody in the Albuquerque WITSEC program usually keeps their first names - unless it's something strange and/or Amish like Yonni - and gets a last name with the same initial as their original last name.)

A similar situation may have arisen for Harry Flashman when pressed by a romantic conquest to reveal his identity.
There are two ways in which he may have gone with his reasoning to choose the name I have in mind.

ONE - thinking of other uses for his particular variation on his name, he might have thought of the phrase "Flash of lightning".

TWO - This coital quandary may have taken place after his return from the Crimean War. (Again, only if Harry Flashman's TV existence followed the same pattern as that established in the literary universe.) Thinking back on his alleged involvement in the most infamous battle, which took place in late October of 1854, Flashman might have drawn inspiration from the regiment immortalized in the poem by Alfred, Lord Tennyson.

So whether it was "lightning" or the "Light Brigade", Flashman might have combined the key word with the last part of his own name right there on the spot and convinced her that his name was Lightman. 
An older Harry Flashman
And off he would have absconded, assured that he would never see her again.

But he may have left a little something to remember him by....

Again, this is all speculation, so why stop now?

What if some woman he rogered found herself pregnant, by this fellow named "Lightman"? O'Bviously she was never going to track him down to do right by her. But she might still have given the child the last name of its father, never knowing how false it was.

And so the family tree of Dr. Carl Lightman might have been established.........
'Tom Brown's School Days'
'Lie To Me'
'Agatha Christie's Poirot'
'Upstairs, Downstairs'
'In Plain Sight'

"Murder On The Orient Express"
"Tom Brown's School Days"
"Royal Flash"
"Flashman At The Charge"



PDXWiz said...

Very cool, and quite likely, given what is known about Harry. Nice pair of Lightman posts today!


Toby O'B said...

Thanks, Gordon!