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Horace Walpole: Who gives a nation peace, gives tranquility to all

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Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

British writers on peace and war

Horace Walpole: The glory of war and soldiering

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Horace Walpole
From his letters

I recollect that my last letter was a little melancholy; this, to be sure, has a grain or two of national vanity; why, I must own I am a miserable philosopher; the weather of the hour does affect me. I cannot here, at a distance from the world and unconcerned in it, help feeling a little satisfaction when my country is successful; yet, tasting its honours and elated with them, I heartily, seriously wish they had their quietus. What is the fame of men compared to their happiness? Who gives a nation peace, gives tranquillity to all. How many must be wretched, before one can be renowned! A hero bets the lives and fortunes of thousands, whom he has no right to game with: but alas! Caesars have little regard to their fish and counters.

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I am amazed, with such weather, such ravages, and distress, that there is anything left in Germany, but money; for thither, half the treasure of Europe goes: England, France, Russia, and all the Empress can squeeze from Italy and Hungary, all is sent thither, and yet the wretched people have not subsistence. A A pound of bread sells at Dresden for eleven-pence. We are going to send many more troops thither; and it is so much the fashion to raise regiments, that I wish there were such a neutral kind of beings in England as abbes, that one might have an excuse for not growing military mad, when one has turned the heroic corner of one’s age. I am ashamed of being a young rake, when my seniors are covering their grey toupees with helmets and feathers, and accoutering their pot-bellies with cuirasses and martial masquerade habits.

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There is a little book coming out, that will amuse you. It is a new edition of Isaac Walton’s “Complete Angler,” full of anecdotes and historic notes. It is published by Mr. Hawkins, – a very worthy gentleman in my neighbourhood, but who, I could wish, did not think angling so very innocent an amusement. We cannot live without destroying animals, but shall we torture them for our sport – sport in their destruction? I met a rough officer at his house t’other day, who; said he knew such a person was turning Methodist; for, in the middle of conversation, he rose, and opened the window to let out a moth. I told him I did not know that the Methodists had any principle so good, and that I, who am certainly not on the point of becoming one, always did so too. One of the bravest and best men I ever knew, Sir Charles Wager, I have often heard declare he never killed a fly willingly. It is a comfortable reflection to me, that all the victories of last year have been gained since the suppression of the Bear Garden and prize-fighting; as it is plain, and nothing else would have made it so, that our valour did not singly and solely depend upon these two Universities.

Lord Byron, Don Juan

And angling, too, that solitary vice,
Whatever Izaak Walton sings or says;
The quaint, old, cruel coxcomb, in his gullet
Should have a hook, and a small trout to pull it.

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