Dancing into Battle: A Social History of the Battle of Waterloo by Nick Foulkes - review by Nigel Jones

Nigel Jones

A Sound of Revelry

Dancing into Battle: A Social History of the Battle of Waterloo

By

Weidenfeld & Nicolson 267pp £18.99 order from our bookshop
 

'There was a sound of revelry by night, / And Belgium's Capital had gathered then / Her beauty and her Chivalry, and Bright / The lamps shone o'er fair women and brave men…' So begins the ‘Eve of Waterloo’ section of Byron's Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage. The poet describes how the gallant officers of the Allied armies and their ladies were dancing away the small hours at the Duchess of Richmond's ball in Brussels when they were surprised by the news of the imminent arrival of Napoleon and his army.

I had always assumed that these rollicking verses were a figment of Byron’s imagination, and that he exaggerated the melodrama of the ball being so rudely shattered by the gatecrashing French for poetic effect. It came as a pleasant surprise, therefore, to find from Nick Foulkes's entertaining social history of

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter