Home > Uncategorized > William Makepeace Thackeray: What human crime, misery, slavery, go to form that sum-total of glory!

William Makepeace Thackeray: What human crime, misery, slavery, go to form that sum-total of glory!

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

British writers on peace and war

William Makepeace Thackeray: Selections on war

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William Makepeace Thackeray
From Barry Lyndon

Such knaves and ruffians do men in war become! It is well for gentlemen to talk of the age of chivalry; but remember the starving brutes whom they lead – men nursed in poverty, entirely ignorant, made to take a pride in deeds of blood – men who can have no amusement but in drunkenness, debauch, and plunder. It is with these shocking instruments that your great warriors and kings have been doing their murderous work in the world; and while, for instance, we are at the present moment admiring the ‘Great Frederick,’ as we call him, and his philosophy, and his liberality, and his military genius, I, who have served him, and been, as it were, behind the scenes of which that great spectacle is composed, can only look at it with horror. What a number of items of human crime, misery, slavery, go to form that sum-total of glory! I can recollect a certain day about three weeks after the battle of Minden, and a farmhouse in which some of us entered; and how the old woman and her daughters served us, trembling, to wine; and how we got drunk over the wine, and the house was in a flame, presently; and woe betide the wretched fellow afterwards who came home to look for his house and his children!

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It is well, however, to dream of glorious war in a snug arm-chair at home; ay, or to make it as an officer, surrounded by gentlemen, gorgeously dressed, and cheered by chances of promotion. But those chances do not shine on poor fellows in worsted lace….

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