Historical Fiction 19th Century Deathmatch: Harry Flashman vs. Richard Sharpe

Or who would win in a fight, the gutter-brawling tarnished paladin of the Peninsular war, Richard Sharpe, or the back-stabbing cowardly treacherous lecher of practically every 19th Century battlefield, Harry Flashman?

The smart money would favour Dick Sharpe in a head to head fight: he might lack technique, but once pissed off, he’s unmatched in his sheer berserker brutality, plus he’s practically invulnerable to mortal gunshot or stab wounds. Flashy, on the other hand, while no novice with pistol or sabre and more than able to hold his own in a fight when his precious skin is on the line, can cower whimpering and pleading on the ground until his opponent turns away in disgust and then shoot him in the back.

On the whole, though, I don’t think it would even come to mortal combat: long before that Flashy would roger Sharpe’s woman senseless, frame him for stealing a loaf of bread, leer over his court-martial, and then see him flogged, in chains and on a hellship bound for Botany Bay before he had time to blink. Of course, that would only serve to rouse Sharpe to a killing fury…

Your thoughts? {And yes, I do have nothing better to do this morning}

I loved all the Flashman books; this thread makes me want to read the Sharpe books.

My initial reaction is that whether through treachery and cowardice, desperate mendacity, vigorous fornication, or sheer blind luck, Flashman will survive, making one doubt the existence of a just God.

Oh, they’re well worth it: nothing can touch the sheer brilliance of the concept and execution of Flashman*, but Bernard Cornwell’s a damn fine writer, and Sharpe’s a great character. Born in the gutter and promoted from the ranks, he spends at least as much time battling supercilious English officers who despise his low origins as he does killing Frenchmen. Immaculately played by Sean Bean in the numerous TV miniseries, he’s basically a rough - a very rough - diamond: tough and brutal, yet essentially chivalrous, but survives and makes his way through the ranks by virtue of sheer pigheaded tenacity, courage and extreme violence towards anyone who crosses him, not to mention the reluctant patronage of the Duke of Wellington, whose life he saved whilst a private soldier in India. Splendid stuff, and Cornwell’s research is immaculate: the Sharpe novels are an excellent primer to the Napoleonic and Peninsular wars, as well as early British campaigns in India.

*As a footnote, Sharpe’s son - albeit with his ancestry obliquely referred to - has a minor but recurrent role in Cornwell’s abortive Civil War series, so it’s entirely possibly that Sharpe fils does meet Flashy, if Fraser ever gets around to recounting his exploits during the Civil War. The thought is an entertaining one.