The Last Roundhead

Written by Jemahl Evans
Review by Douglas Kemp

These are the fictional memoirs of one Sir Blandford Candy, writing at the grand old age of 95 in 1719 – indeed probably the final Roundhead alive in the kingdom. His story begins as a callow eighteen-year-old in 1642, at the start of the English Civil War. He joins the Parliament side just about by accident and gets a commission in a regiment as a cornet. His dashing personality and hedonistic outlook is more akin to that of the traditional cavalier rather than a grim and sober puritan. He is bloodied at the Battle of Edgehill, and having impressed his uncle, Samuel Luke, an influential supporter of the Parliamentarian side, he becomes an intelligencer, which leads him into all sorts of danger, adventures and engagement with high-ranking figures of the day.

It is great fun and a rollicking good read, while Candy lives an exceptionally and, somewhat unlikely, charmed life in surviving the perils and vicissitudes of the war. The language is ribald and entirely immersed in the culture and conventions of crude 17th-century England. Footnotes and endnotes provided by the “editor” give the historical detail and context of the narrative intended as an accurate accompanying scholarly apparatus. The story is similar in style to the parodies by Robert Nye, written with an appropriate zest and dash.