In the original version of Oliver Goldsmith's essay "On the distresses of the poor, exemplified in the life of a private centinel"—an essay from The British Magazine of June 1760 and subsequently included as Letter CXIX of The Citizen of the World—Goldsmith's indigent military veteran describes his life as a pressed soldier: "In this post of a gentleman I served two campaigns in Flanders, was at the battles of Val and Fontenoy, and received but one wound, through the breast here; but the doctor of our regiment soon made me well again." He then describes how he "listed for a landman in the East India Company's service. I here fought the French in six pitched battles." The soldier's life that this maimed and homeless centinel describes is ruled with horror, atrocities, heartbreak and ironic pride. The critical point is that Goldsmith's satirical aim is not the simple hubris of the common English soldier, nor is it an attack on naive optimism. The battles mentioned are all typically regarded by historians as more or less defeats for the British, all marked by cowardice, failure to act, unwillingness to take advantage of superior circumstances, or simple military ineptness.



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