Brigadier Gerard

Brigadier Gerard

Brigadier Gerard is the hero of a series of comic short stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The hero, Etienne Gerard, is a Hussar in the French Army during the Napoleonic Wars. Gerard's most notable attribute is his vanity - he is utterly convinced that he is the bravest soldier, greatest swordsman, accomplished horseman and gallant lover in all France. Gerard is not entirely wrong since he displays notable bravery on many occasions, but his self-satisfaction undercuts this quite often. Obsessed with honour and glory, he is always ready with a stirring speech or a gallant remark to a lady.

Conan Doyle, in making his hero a vain, and often rather uncomprehending Frenchman, was able to satirise both the stereotypical English view of the French, and - by presenting them from Gerard's baffled point of view - English manners and attitudes.


Gerard tells the stories from the point of view of an old man now living in retirement in Paris. We discover that he was born in Gascony in the early 1780s, and dies sometime in the 1860s. He first joins the 2nd Hussars - the Hussars of Chamberan - around 1799, serving as a Lieutenant and Junior Captain. He first sees action at Marengo in Italy in 1800. He transfers to the 3rd Hussars of Conflans in 1807 as a Senior Captain. He speaks somewhat idiosyncratic English, having learned it from an officer in the Irish Regiment of the French Army. By 1810 he is Colonel of the 2nd Hussars. He serves in Spain, Portugal, Italy, Germany and Russia. He is awarded the Grand-Cross of the Légion d'honneur by Napoleon in 1814. There are various discrepancies in the accounts of his life, not the least that in none of the stories except the last is he married. He is not to be confused with the real Étienne Maurice Gérard (1777-1852), a Marshal, and later Prime Minister of France.

The stories

The stories were originally published in "The Strand" magazine between December 1894 and September 1903. They were later issued in two volumes as "The Exploits of Brigadier Gerard" in February 1896, and "The Adventures of Gerard" in September 1903. Some of the titles were changed on re-publication. The last story "The Marriage of the Brigadier" was published in September 1910. All the stories were published in "The Complete Brigadier Gerard" in 1995, which includes the story "A Foreign Office Romance" (1894) - a precursor to the stories, but not actually featuring Gerard.

Although rare, the Brigadier Gerard stories are still in print. Twin Engine Publishing HB, Barnes & Noble Books, Echo Library and The New York Review of Books classics are some contemporary publishers. In May 2008, Penguin Classics will publish the complete short stories as The Exploits and Adventures of Brigadier Gerard as part of their Read Red series.

The Exploits of Brigadier Gerard


*"The Complete Brigadier Gerard", Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, with an Introduction by Owen Dudley Edwards, Canongate Books Ltd., Edinburgh. 1995. ISBN 0-86241-534-9

External links

*cite web | title=Michael Chabon: Charmed by a Dashing Brigadier | url= | accessdate=2008-02-02 Michael Chabon about Brigadier Gerard at NPR.

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