Who is this Sharpe character?
Richard Sharpe is a fictional character created by British author Bernard Cornwell and first introduced in Sharpe’s Eagle in 1981 (the 8th book chronologically). As of today, Mr. Cornwell has written 24 books/short stories with Sharpe as the main character. Sharpe is a British soldier serving under Arthur Wellesley (later the Duke of Wellington) in the Peninsular War.
What rank is Sharpe in Wellington’s army?
Since I am currently reading Sharpe’s Gold (the 9th book chronologically), Sharpe is a Captain. By the time the series ends, Sharpe will be a Lieutenant Colonel. This is highly unusual, as Sharpe was born an orphan in the poor section of London to a whore and grew up in an orphanage. He was going to be forced to be a chimney sweep but he ran away and later joined the army to avoid prison. Since he is poor and can’t buy rank like the wealthy, it is unusual that he has been promoted and is an officer. This is a difficult situation for Sharpe, as he is not accepted by the men (at first) as a “proper officer” and he is not accepted by the other officers as he is not a “gentleman.”
Who are some of the other characters in the Sharpe books?
The most important other character is Patrick Harper, Sharpe’s nemesis at first, as he is the leader of the “Chosen Men” that Sharpe is given to command. Harper is a tall, dark Irishman from Donegal. As Sharpe is promoted through the series, so is Harper. He begins the series as a Sergeant and by the time the novels end he is a Regimental Sergeant-Major. Harper becomes Sharpe’s best friend and saves Sharpe’s life countless times. Daragh O’Malley plays Harper in the TV series.
Daniel Hagman is one of the members of the 95th Rifles that Sharpe is deemed to command. He is a poacher by trade and is the oldest of the Chosen Men. Sharpe relies on Hagman to make his mark hit at whatever target Sharpe needs hitting, as Hagman is the best shot of the lot. John Tams is Hagman in the TV series and co-wrote the music for the entire series.
Isaiah Tongue is one of the other Chosen Men. He is an educated man, with a great liking of the drink.
Obadiah Hakeswill is a Sergeant who truly was Sharpe’s nemesis. He was responsible for enlisting Sharpe in the army on a recruiting mission and has nothing but hatred for Sharpe as he is promoted up the ranks. Sharpe tries to kill him a couple of times in the early novels but somehow Hakeswill survives. He is a nutcase who is cruel, nasty, and thinks he cannot die since he survived a hanging when he was a boy. He has special affinity for his dead mother whom he thinks gives him special protection. Pete Postlethwaite played the despicable Hakeswill on TV.
Captain Joel Chase is a Navy officer that befriends Sharpe after Sharpe saves his life in India. Sharpe serves on his ship as he is traveling from India back to England and they are caught up in the Battle of Trafalgar. Sharpe also meets with him again in Denmark and they serve together in the Battle of Copenhagen.
Lady Grace Hale falls in love with Sharpe on Captain Chase’s ship, the Pucelle, when she is returning to England from India with her husband, Lord William Hale. She is a very distant cousin to Sir Arthur Wellesley and creates a scandal by taking up residence with Sharpe in London after the Battle of Trafalgar. Her husband was going to kill her before Sharpe intervened. Her and Sharpe’s happiness is short-lived, however, as she dies in childbirth, as well as her and Sharpe’s son.
Louisa Parker is a young lady Sharpe saves in Spain and whose company Sharpe enjoys. She really likes Sharpe, too, but decides to marry a Spaniard, Major Blas Vivar. She will play a role in the last novel.
There are many more interesting characters in these first 9 of 24 historical novels that I have read, but these have stood out to me thus far.
You have mentioned the books, but what about the TV series?
As I mentioned in my earlier post about Rifleman Harris, I saw the last two shows of the series when they were first broadcast earlier this year on American television via PBS’ Masterpiece series. These two shows piqued my interest in all things Sharpe and so I began reading Mr. Cornwell’s novels. Also, I began watching the videos previously broadcast on British television starting in 1993. I am waiting to receive Sharpe’s Waterloo, the third to the last show of the series. Since I saw the last two shows first, chronologically after Sharpe’s Waterloo, I will be done with the original series, I am sad to write.
Not to worry, however, as Jason Salkey, who played Rifleman Harris in the TV series, has created video diaries of the filming of the Sharpe series. After these, I really will be distraught to have my Sharpe video watching come to an end.
The TV series has provided lots of entertainment for me. I really like the casting and the stories. They follow the books to an extent, with changes interspersed, but they have been very enjoyable. I had only known Sean Bean (Sharpe) as a Bond villain and have not seen any of the Lord of the Rings movies (Boromir). Bean was such good casting as Sharpe, it is hard to picture Mr. Cornwell’s original description of Sharpe (long, dark hair). Sean Bean is Sharpe. Mr. Cornwell also admits to picturing Sean Bean as Sharpe as he was writing the many prequels to Sharpe’s Eagle.
Why do you like these books so very much?
I really enjoy reading historical fiction. Knowing almost nothing about the Napoleonic wars, I have learned a great deal by reading these novels. Before I started the novels, I did read the Rifleman Harris book so that I could read one of the many source books for Mr. Cornwell’s historical fiction and am glad I did. I usually like to read the book before seeing a movie, but in the case of Sharpe, it will take quite a while to get through all of the books. I am glad that there are 24 books as compared to 16 videos. Also, at the end of each book, Mr. Cornwell provides a historical note about the certain battle and real characters, and many of the books also contain maps on the inside covers.
Mr. Cornwell’s series has a hero, villains, inclusions of true stories with true characters, and writes in such a manner as to keep the reader hooked. Just like many real life heroes, Sharpe has many flaws, but usually does the right thing knowing he has to live with himself when all is said and done. He is a soldier and enjoys killing, as long as it is either in war or for a just cause. He shows great compassion for many others and is usually loyal to his country in the face of great temptation. Time after time he is set up by the officers for failure, but time and time again he prevails.