Publications and Research

Document Type


Publication Date

Summer 8-2022


Ouida’s Under Two Flags (1867) is not a widely read Victorian novel today, but it is offers important insight into the philosophical concerns of a novelist who was hugely popular in her time. In Under Two Flags, Ouida explores what she saw as the epistemological problem developing in the nineteenth century, a nihilistic view that promoted scepticism, aestheticism, and idleness, which is a perspective she believed was responsible for the demise of the aristocracy. Wishing to restore the power and position of the aristocracy, Ouida sends her protagonist Bertie Cecil, a dandy who embodies the aestheticism and ennui of the upper class, to the French Foreign Legion in order to make an important social and psychological point. Ouida draws upon the legend that the French Foreign Legion rehabilitated its wayward recruits to present a society in which something is demanded of Bertie and where he rises to that demand. Symbolically speaking, Bertie regains his inheritance and his title in the novel only after a radical transformation that restores him, and by implication the aristocracy, to a foundational moral and chivalrous code.



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