In the later Romantic period and well into the Victorian era, the Peninsular War was repeatedly used as a subject in works of prose fiction. However, unlike representations of the war in poetry, these works have received much less literary-historical and critical attention.
An outstanding figure in this fictional subgenre, and a possible starting point for a reconstruction of its outline and extent, is Thomas Hamilton. The son of a Glaswegian professor of anatomy and botany, Hamilton (1789-1842) fought in the Peninsular War and was wounded at the Battle of Albuera, was a regular contributor to Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine, a friend of John Gibson Lockhart, Walter Scott and Felicia Hemans. In 1827 he published his partly autobiographical novel The Youth and Manhood of Cyril Thornton – possibly the first instance of a ‘military novel’, and featuring sections set during the Peninsular campaigns. His Annals of the Peninsular Campaign appeared in 1829.
Hamilton’s novel was republished in 1990 by the Association for Scottish Literary Studies (Thomas Hamilton, The Youth and Manhood of Cyril Thornton, ed. Maurice Lindsay, Aberdeen: Association for Scottish Literary Studies, 1990, ISBN 978-0-948877-11-7).
A few critical remarks about it, published soon after its publication, appeared in the conclusion to the review of ‘A Narrative of the Campaigns of the British Army at Washington and New Orleans, under Generals Ross, Packenham, and Lambert, in the Years 1814 and 1815’ published in the Quarterly Review 37.74 (March 1828), pp. 504-23. [the image above reproduces a passage from this review]
More generally, a preliminary survey of early to mid nineteenth-century fictional prose works dealing with the Peninsular War might also include the following titles:
Valentín Llanos Gutiérrez, Don Esteban; or, Memoirs of a Spaniard (1825)
Francis Glasse, Ned Clinton; or, The Commissary (1825)
G.R. Gleig, The Subaltern (1825) [fictionalized memoir]
Telesforo de Trueba y Cosío, Salvador, The Guerilla (1834)
W.H. Maxwell, The Bivouac; or, Stories of the Peninsular War (1837)
James Grant, The Romance of War, or, The Highlanders in Spain (1845)
See Brian J. Dendle, ‘The Romance of War, or The Highlanders in Spain: The Peninsular War and the British Novel’, Anales de Literatura Española, 7 (1991), pp. 49-63.
Available online: http://www.cervantesvirtual.com/obra-visor/anales-de-literatura-espanola–9/html/p0000003.htm