Officers at Play
One could argue that early Londoners were very lucky to have the British military deploy several regiments in Canada during and after the 1837 rebellion. Lucky, because the town benefited from the security, commerce, and “high society” that well educated officers brought with them.
During its time in London, the British military was responsible for clearing trees and stumps to create better roadways, protecting the local population from the rebellion’s skirmishes, as well as aiding in civic emergencies such as fires and floods. At this time, the local militia was primarily volunteer, so the presence of the British military not only provided a very practical helping hand but also provided the militia with educational and organizational opportunities.
The British officers were a welcome customer to farmers and local business owners (read: tavern, wink wink). We also know that they were a relief to London’s upper class who longed for the company of “refined” guests for discussions regarding literature, music, politics, and news of England; this is apparent from the stories about balls and soirées where British officers were hailed as honored guests. Young ladies also were enamored and fell victim to “Scarlet Fever” – the excitement of having an influx of available, well-dressed suitors who offered an opportunity to leave London.
Further to this, the arrival of the military enriched London’s artistic culture. British officers were responsible for significant works of Canadian artwork. They also brought the theater: putting on plays and musical productions so regularly that a performance hall was eventually built for which tickets were sold and reviews were written in the London Gazette.
Mark Tovey’s presentation, made at a Jane Austen Society meeting in November 2011, provides an excellent background and detailed history on this subject, as well as some fun comparisons to Jane Austin’s Pride and Prejudice.
Watch the presentation here:
During the summer of 2011 Mark Tovey produced a highly acclaimed (at least by me) re-creation of a play performed by British officers. You can read my review here.
Interested in more on the British military’s involvement in London, Upper Canada?
See these previous posts:
Posted on March 3, 2012, in Uncategorized and tagged British military history, British military in Canada, Canadian military artwork, Canadian theatre, Garrison theatre, Jane Austen Society, Mark Tovey, MisstoricalFiction, Roxanne Lutz, Upper Canada. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.