The mightiest German noble who ever lived has his work to do

Tuesday, December 10th, 2019

A while back Neovictorian shared a list of five books he loved as a kid. The fourth book was The Great Impersonation by E. Phillips Oppenhiem. The story takes place just before the Great War, when a dissolute English aristocrat meets up in Africa with an old schoolmate, a not-at-all dissolute German who had come to England for his education years before. They were lookalikes then, but their divergent lifestyles have left their marks:

“The difference between us,” Von Ragastein pronounced, “is something which is inculcated into the youth of our country and which is not inculcated into yours. In England, with a little money, a little birth, your young men expect to find the world a playground for sport, a garden for loves. The mightiest German noble who ever lived has his work to do. It is work which makes fibre, which gives balance to life.”

When the dissolute Englishman returns to England, he seems a new man.

I was immediately reminded of Ian Flemging’s third James Bond novel, published in 1955, Moonraker, which features an English rocket scientist who returned from World War 2 badly scarred from a car-bomb attack by German saboteurs — working for the infamous Otto Skorzeny.


  1. Neovictorian says:

    Glad you took a look at it! I remember finding it on Grandma’s book shelf, and I was a young kid, and it was an amazing, adult story to my 10-year-old self.

  2. Buckethead says:

    The link only shows two of the five books — this one and Fire Hunter. What are the other three?

    I have some young kids who are always in need of good books.

  3. Isegoria says:

    If you follow a few links to the original tweet, you can work out the whole list:

    Fire Hunter by Jim Kjelgaard
    Hyland of the Hawks by R. G. Emery
    The Song of Hiawatha by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
    The Great Impersonation by E. Phillips Oppenhiem
    Baseball’s Greatest Players by Tom Meany

  4. Buckethead says:

    Thank you for being a counterbalance to my laziness.

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