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Horace Walpole: Oh! where is the dove with the olive-branch!


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

British writers on peace and war

Horace Walpole: Selections on war and peace


Horace Walpole
From his correspondence (1780)

All chance of accommodation with Holland is vanished….All they who are to gain by privateers and captures are delighted with a new field of plunder. Piracy is more practicable than victory. Not being an admirer of war, I shall reserve my feux de joie for peace.


We do not yet know the extent of our loss. You would think it very slight, if you saw how little impression it makes on a luxurious capital. An overgrown metropolis has less sensibility than marble; nor can it be conceived by those not conversant in one. I remember hearing what diverted me then; a young gentlewoman, a native of our rock, St. Helena, and who had never stirred beyond it, being struck with the emotion occasioned there by the arrival or one or two of our China ships, said to the captain, “There must be a great solitude in London as often as the China ships come away!” Her imagination could not have compassed the idea, if she had been told that six years of war, of the absence of an army of fifty or sixty thousand men of all our squadrons and a new debt of many, many millions, would not make an alteration in the receipts at the door of a single theatre in London. I do not boast of, or applaud, this profligate apathy. When pleasure is our business, our business is never pleasure; and, if four wars cannot awaken us, we shall die in a dream!


Well! there ends another volume of the American war. It looks a little as if the history of it would be all we should have for it, except for forty millions of debt, and three other wars that have grown out of it, and that do not seem so near to a conclusion.


Oh! where is the dove with the olive-branch! Long ago I told you that you and I might not live to see the end of the American war. It is very near its end indeed now – its consequences are far from a conclusion. In some respects they are commencing a new date, which will reach far beyond us. I desire not to pry into that book of futurity. Could I finish my course in peace….


All our views are directed to the air. Balloons occupy senators, philosophers, ladies, everybody….Well! I hope these new mechanic meteors will prove only playthings for the learned and the idle, and not be converted into new engines of destruction to the human race, as is so often the case of refinements or discoveries in science.

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