Everyone finds the Alexander they are looking for. Discuss. This essay sets out to explore this question with regard to nineteenth centuryBritish constructions of Hellenism, Alexander and cultural identity. Examiningthe literary products of the Victorian era allows one to unpick the nuances of audience, as well as understand how the projection of the self or contemporarysociety on to any reworking of Alexander’s story underpins its focus. It willdeconstruct the effects of using poetry as a methodological approach to thenarrative of Alexander: this is not about story-telling, it is about using theimage of Alexander conceptually to approach contemporary nineteenthcentury problems. The discussion will centre on Charles Tennyson Turner’s whimsical poem, “Onseeing a little child spin a coin of Alexander the Great” (
,1880). It begins: This is the face of him, whose quick resource/ Of eye and hand subduedBucephalus,And made the shadow of the startled horse/A foreground for his glory. The focus here is on face and image: this is the face of a hero. Victoriansociety displayed a great preoccupation with what it was to be a success,whether in industry, in trade, in marriage or in the Imperial sense.
Alexander’svery profile cannot help but project an identity and command attention; it is upto the onlooker to interpret that identity in such a way as is meaningful tothem. The poem at first presents what for many people is the ultimate success
This is especially true of Victorian conceptions of heroism and kingship, and Britain’scolonial activities in India. An alternative nineteenth century tradition makes Alexandera moral and military exemplar. See Kipling 1987 and Masson 1842.