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Horace Walpole: I prefer the old hen Peace


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

British writers on peace and war

Horace Walpole: Selections on war and peace


Horace Walpole
Letter to the Earl Of Strafford, 1770

I know nothing of the war-egg, but that sometimes it is to be hatched and sometimes to be addled. Many folks get into the nest, and sit as hard upon it as they can, concluding it will produce a golden chick. As I shall not be a feather the better for it, I hate that game-breed, and prefer the old hen Peace and her dunghill brood….


Letter to the Hon. H. S. Conway, 1772

Exercise is the worst thing in the world, and as bad an invention as gunpowder.


Letter to Lady Mary Coke, 1773

Pyrrhus, the martial and magnanimous King of Epirus (as my Lord Lyttelton would call him), being, as I have heard or seen Goodman Plutarch say, intent on his preparations for invading Italy, Cineas, one of the grooms of his bedchamber, took the liberty of asking his majesty what benefit he expected to reap if he should be successful in conquering the Romans? – Jesus! said the King, peevishly; why the question answers itself. When we have overcome the Romans, no province, no town, whether Greek or barbarian, will be able to resist us: we shall at once be masters of all Italy. Cineas after a short pause replied, And having subdued Italy, what shall we do next? – Do next? answered Pyrrhus; why, seize Sicily. Very likely, quoth Cineas: but will that put an end to the war? – The gods forbid! cried his Majesty: when Sicily is reduced, Libya and Carthage will be within our reach. And then, without giving Cineas time to put in a word, the heroic Prince ran over Africa, Greece, Asia, Persia, and every other country he had ever heard of upon the face of God’s earth; not one of which he intended should escape his victorious sword. At last, when he was at the end of his geography, and a little out of breath, Cineas watched his opportunity, and said quietly, Well, Sire, and when we have conquered all the world, what are we to do then? – Why, then, said his Majesty, extremely satisfied with his own prowess, we will live at our ease; we: Will spend whole days in banqueting and carousing, and will think of nothing but our pleasures.

[Plutarch: When Cineas had led Pyrrhus with his argument to this point: “And what hinders us now, sir, if we have a mind to be merry, and entertain one another, since we have at hand without trouble all those necessary things, to which through much blood and great labour, and infinite hazards and mischief done to ourselves and to others, we design at last to arrive?”]

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