A romance of America’s nascent imperial power, Richard Harding Davis’s Soldiers of Fortune recounts the adventures of Robert Clay, a mining engineer and sometime mercenary, and Hope Langham, the daughter of a wealthy American industrialist, as they become caught up in a coup in Olancho, a fictional Latin American republic. When the coup, organized by corrupt politicians and generals, threatens the American-owned Valencia Mining Company, Clay organizes his workers and the handful of Americans visiting the mine into a counter-coup force. Written on the eve of the Spanish-American War, Soldiers of Fortune casts the young American as the dashing, hypermasculine hero of the new military and economic. A huge best-seller, the novel did its part to push the nation into war against Spain, and stands as one of the most important texts in the literature of American imperialism.
The appendices, which bring together primary materials by writers and politicians such as Rebecca Harding Davis, Theodore Roosevelt, Jose Martí, Mark Twain, Herbert Spencer, and others, address such issues as social Darwinism,
masculinity, and ideas of Anglo-American superiority.
“Richard Harding Davis’s Soldiers of Fortune was one of the most popular ‘imperial fictions’ of the late nineteenth century, and it remains essential reading for anyone interested in understanding U.S. imperialism at the turn into the twentieth century (and beyond). Brady Harrison’s excellent edition brilliantly situates the novel in relation to the Spanish-American War and the longer history of U.S. imperialism in the southern Americas. The carefully selected primary materials bring to life contemporaneous debate on a range of topics relevant to the novel, and the introduction and annotations illuminate key biographical, literary, and cultural contexts. Whatever one thinks of Davis's politics, his novel is a great read, and this is the best edition of Davis currently in print.” — Robert S. Levine, University of Maryland