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Rough Recollections of Military Service and Society
By Lieut.-Colonel Balcarres D. Wardlaw Ramsay in two volumes (1882)


I am told that a preface is advisable. I go back forty years for its subject. In the summer of 1841, when quartered at Brighton, I was asked by a celebrated portrait-painter, an old Royal Academician, to sit for my likeness. The result was not pleasing to my family, and the picture was not bought. In the following summer, 1842, it was exhibited in the Royal Academy by the R.A., who being one of the oldest Fellows, if not the oldest, had a right to the place of honour for his pictures. The consequence was, that the portrait of my unfortunate self was the first work of art that fell upon the gaze of the bewildered public as they ascended the steps of the old building in Trafalgar Square.

Unhappily for my peace of mind, the illustrious ‘Punch,’ which commenced its literary career at the same time that I commenced my military one, reviewed the productions of the Academy this year. Not having a copy of the second volume of ‘Punch’ by me to refer to, I am unable to quote the exact words used, but they were something to the following effect:—

“Who is this in the place of honour? We turn to the catalogue, and find that it is the portrait of Colnel Balcarres Dalrymple Wardlaw Ramsay, Royal Scots Greys; and we ask, what has this young Comet with four unpronounceable names done? What has the public done that his likeness should be placed there? Merely, we suppose, that they may behold or exclaim, ‘There are plenty of this class to be seen walking up and down Regent Street, between the hours of 4 and 7 p.m.’”

After the lapse of forty years it may again be asked by my illustrious monitor ‘Punch,’ what has this Colonel done? What has the public done that these memoirs should be thrust upon it?

To the first part of the question I can only say,—Alas! nothing, save to have lived forty years longer than the Comet, to have seen many persons and divers countries, to have kept his eyes and ears open, and above all, to have diligently studied ‘Punch’ weekly during those forty years. To the second part of the question—Well, perhaps the public is not so well-behaved now as it was in 1842, and a slight punishment in the way of another biography may not be amiss. At all events, relying upon the incontrovertible fact that biographies and cookery-books always command a ready sale, I inflict this slight chastisement on the public, who will be pleased to remember it is given in a loving and fatherly spirit; and as to the illustrious ‘Punch,’ I consider that the fact of my having studied him weekly ever since, will atone for the involuntary indiscretion stigmatised by him forty years ago, and lead to a modicum of praise being bestowed by him on my present intrusion upon the Public.

Palazzo Odescalchi, Rome, May 1882

Volume 1  |  Volume 2

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