Home > Uncategorized > Edward Bulwer Lytton: “We poor men have no passion for war”

Edward Bulwer Lytton: “We poor men have no passion for war”


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

British writers on peace and war

Edward Bulwer Lytton: Selections on peace and war


Edward Bulwer Lytton
From Rienzi

The smith nodded his head. “Signor Cavalier,” said he, gravely, “we poor men have no passion for war; we want not to kill others – we desire only ourselves to live, – if you will let us!”


It was considered no disgrace for some powerful chieftain to collect together a band of these hardy aliens, – to subsist amidst the mountains on booty and pillage, – to make war upon tyrant or republic, as interest suggested, and to sell, at enormous stipends, the immunities of peace. Sometimes they hired themselves to one state to protect it against the other; and the next year beheld them in the field against their former employers.


“Your Holiness knows well,” said the Cardinal, “that for the multitude of men there are two watchwords of war – Liberty and Religion. If Religion begins to fail, we must employ the profaner word.”


Little cared the Knight of St. John which party were uppermost – prince or people – so that his own objects were attained; in fact, he had studied the humours of a people, not in order to serve, but to rule them; and, believing all men actuated by a similar ambition, he imagined that, whether a demagogue or a patrician reigned, the people were equally to be victims, and that the cry of “Order” on the one hand, or of “Liberty” on the other, was but the mere pretext by which the energy of one man sought to justify his ambition over the herd. Deeming himself one of the most honourable spirits of his age, he believed in no honour which he was unable to feel; and, sceptic in virtue, was therefore credulous of vice.

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