Last modified on 9 April 2014, at 08:49

Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington

Nothing except a battle lost can be half so melancholy as a battle won.

Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington (1 May 176914 September 1852) was an Anglo-Irish soldier and statesman. He rose to prominence during the Peninsula War and became a national hero in Britain after the Napoleonic Wars, during which he led the victorious Anglo-Allied forces at the Battle of Waterloo. He would later be elected Prime Minister of the United Kingdom on two separate occasions.

QuotesEdit

It has been a damned nice thing — the nearest run thing you ever saw in your life.
The history of a battle, is not unlike the history of a ball. Some individuals may recollect all the little events of which the great result is the battle won or lost, but no individual can recollect the order in which, or the exact moment at which, they occurred, which makes all the difference as to their value or importance.
All the business of war, and indeed all the business of life, is to endeavour to find out what you don't know by what you do; that's what I called "guessing what was at the other side of the hill."
Publish and be damned.
There is no mistake; there has been no mistake; and there shall be no mistake.
The only thing I am afraid of is fear.
  • Up Guards and at them again.
    • Said at the Battle of Waterloo, as quoted in a letter from a Captain Batty of the Foot Guards (22 June 1815), often misquoted as "Up Guards and at 'em." Wellington himself, years later, declared that he did not know exactly what he had said on the occasion, and doubted that anyone did.
  • Hard pounding this, gentlemen; let's see who will pound longest.
  • Uxbridge: By God, sir, I've lost my leg!
    Wellington: By God, sir, so you have!
    • Exchange said to have occurred at the Battle of Waterloo (18 June 1815), after Lord Uxbridge lost his leg to a cannonball; as quoted in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004)
    • Variant account:
      Uxbridge: I have lost my leg, by God!
      Wellington: By God, and have you!
      • Thomas Hardy, in The Dynasts, Pt. III Act VII, scene viii, portraying the incident.
  • Give me night or give me Blücher
    • Prayer during Battle of Waterloo at about 5.45 pm on 18 June. The Military Maxims of Napoleon by Napoleon Bonaparte, David G. Chandler, William E. Cairnes , p. 143
  • My heart is broken by the terrible loss I have sustained in my old friends and companions and my poor soldiers. Believe me, nothing except a battle lost can be half so melancholy as a battle won.
    • Letter from the field of Waterloo (June 1815), as quoted in Decisive Battles of the World (1899) by Edward Shepherd Creasy
  • It has been a damned serious business... Blucher and I have lost 30,000 men. It has been a damned nice thing — the nearest run thing you ever saw in your life. ... By God! I don't think it would have been done if I had not been there.
    • Remark to Thomas Creevey (18 June 1815), using the word nice in an older sense of "uncertain, delicately balanced", about the Battle of Waterloo. Creevy, a civilian, got a public interview with Wellington at headquarters, and quoted the remark in his book Creevey Papers (1903), in Ch. X, on p. 236; the phrase "a damned nice thing" has sometimes been paraphrased as "a damn close-run thing."
  • Pour la canaille: Faut la mitraille.
    • Translation: "For the mob, use grapeshot."
    • Quoted in "A portion of the journal kept by Thomas Raikes, esq., from 1831 to 1847 ; comprising reminiscences of social and political life in London and Paris during that period.", volume 2. London: Longman, Brown, Green, Longmans and Roberts, 1858.
    • Also attributed to Victor-François, 2nd duc de Broglie by Thomas Carlyle
  • The history of a battle, is not unlike the history of a ball. Some individuals may recollect all the little events of which the great result is the battle won or lost, but no individual can recollect the order in which, or the exact moment at which, they occurred, which makes all the difference as to their value or importance. ..
  • Just to show you how little reliance can be placed even on what are supposed the best accounts of a battle, I mention that there are some circumstances mentioned in General —'s account which did not occur as he relates them. It is impossible to say when each important occurrence took place, or in what order.
  • Publish and be damned.
    • His response in 1824 to John Joseph Stockdale who threatened to publish anecdotes of Wellington and his mistress Harriette Wilson, as quoted in Wellington — The Years of the Sword (1969) by Elizabeth Longford. This has commonly been recounted as a response made to Wilson herself, in response to a threat to publish her memoirs and his letters. This account of events seems to have started with Confessions of Julia Johnstone In Contradiction to the Fables of Harriette Wilson (1825), where she makes such an accusation, and states that his reply had been "write and be damned".
  • I am not only not prepared to bring forward any measure of this nature, but I will at once declare that, as far as I am concerned, as long as I hold any station in the Government of the country, I shall always feel it my duty to resist such measures when proposed by others.
    • Expressing his total opposition to demands for Parliamentary reform in November 1830. Cited in "The House of Lords: A handbook for Liberal speakers, writers and workers" (1910) by Liberal Publication Department, p. 19.
  • There is no mistake; there has been no mistake; and there shall be no mistake.
    • In response to William Huskisson declaring there had been a mistake, and he had not intended to resign, after Wellington chose to interpret a letter to him detailing his obligation to vote for a measure opposed by him as a letter of resignation. As quoted in The Military and Political Life of Arthur Wellesley: Duke of Wellington (1852) by "A Citizen of the World", and in Wellingtoniana (1852), edited by John Timbs.
  • Who? Who?
    • Repeatedly asked in a loud voice in February 1852, during the introduction of the new cabinet of the Prime Minister the Earl of Derby, composed largely of political unknowns not recognized by the deaf and octogenarian Duke. The cabinet became known as the Who? Who? Ministry. As quoted in The Speeches of the Duke of Wellington in Parliament (1854) edited by John Gurwood and William Hazlitt, p. 272.
  • All the business of war, and indeed all the business of life, is to endeavour to find out what you don't know by what you do; that's what I called "guessing what was at the other side of the hill."
    • Statement in conversation with John Crocker and Crocker's wife (4 September 1852), as quoted in The Croker Papers: The Correspondence and Diaries of the Late Right Honourable John Wilson Croker, LL.Dm F.R.S, Secretary of the Admiralty from 1809 to 1830 (1884), edited by Louis J. Jennings, Vol.III, p. 276.
  • Mistaken for me, is he? That's strange, for no one ever mistakes me for Mr. Jones.
    • In response to being told that the painter George Jones bore a strong resemblance to him, and that he was often mistaken for him, as quoted in My Autobiography and Reminiscences Vol. 1 (1887).
  • If you believe that you will believe anything.
    • In reply to a man who greeted him in the street with the words "Mr. Jones, I believe?", as quoted in Wellington — The Years of the Sword (1969) by Elizabeth Longford.
  • I never saw so many shocking bad hats in my life.
    • When asked what he thought of the first Reformed Parliament, as quoted in Words on Wellington (1889) by Sir William Fraser, p. 12.
  • You must build your House of Parliament on the river: so... that the populace cannot exact their demands by sitting down round you.
  • I have no small talk and Peel has no manners.
  • I should have given more praise.
    • As quoted in A History of Warfare (1968) by Bernard Montgomery, 1st Viscount Montgomery of Alamein: "Sir Winston Churchill once told me of a reply made by the Duke of Wellington, in his last years, when a friend asked him: "If you had your life over again, is there any way in which you could have done better?" The old Duke replied: "Yes, I should have given more praise."
  • Depend upon it, Sir, nothing will come of them!
    • On the coming of the railways, in The Birth of the Modern (1991), by Paul Johnsonp.993.
  • I have seen their backs before, madam.
    • This is attributed to Wellington as a statement to an unidentified woman at a reception in Vienna, who had apologized for the rudeness of some French officers who had turned their backs on him when he entered, as quoted in Bartlett's Book of Anecdotes (2000), edited by Clifton Fadiman and André Bernard, p. 568
    • Variant: 'Tis of no matter, your Highness, I have seen their backs before.
    • This is attributed to Wellington as a statement to King Louis XVIII at a ball in the spring of 1814, as quoted in "Anecdotes of Wellington" at The Wellington Society of Madrid
  • During the Peninsula War, I heard a Portuguese general address his troops before a battle with the words, "Remember men, you are Portuguese!"
    • Wellington's reply when asked, late in his life, what was the most inane remark he had ever heard, as quoted in Journals of Alec Guinness (February 1998) by Alec Guinness

Notes of Conversations with the Duke of Wellington (1886)Edit

Quotes of Wellington from Notes of Conversations with the Duke of Wellington (1886) by Philip Henry Stanhope
  • I used to say of him that his presence on the field made the difference of forty thousand men.
    • On Napoleon Bonaparte, in notes for 2 November 1831; later, in the notes for 18 September 1836, he is quoted as saying:
It is very true that I have said that I considered Napoleon's presence in the field equal to forty thousand men in the balance. This is a very loose way of talking; but the idea is a very different one from that of his presence at a battle being equal to a reinforcement of forty thousand men.
  • The only thing I am afraid of is fear.
    • Notes for 3 November 1831.
  • The French system of conscription brings together a fair sample of all classes; ours is composed of the scum of the earth — the mere scum of the earth. It is only wonderful that we should be able to make so much out of them afterwards.
    • Speaking about soldiers in the British Army, 4 November 1813
    • A French army is composed very differently from ours. The conscription calls out a share of every class — no matter whether your son or my son — all must march; but our friends — I may say it in this room — are the very scum of the earth. People talk of their enlisting from their fine military feeling — all stuff — no such thing. Some of our men enlist from having got bastard children — some for minor offences — many more for drink; but you can hardly conceive such a set brought together, and it really is wonderful that we should have made them the fine fellows they are.
      • Notes for 11 November 1831.
  • My rule always was to do the business of the day in the day.
    • Notes for 2 November 1835.
  • Circumstances over which I have no control.
    • Phrase said to have first been used by Wellington, as quoted in notes for 18 September 1836
    • I hope you will not think I am deficient in feeling toward you, or that I am wanting in desire to serve you, because the results of my attempts have failed, owing to circumstances over which I have no control.
  • They wanted this iron fist to command them.
    • Of troops sent to the Canadian frontier in the War of 1812, in notes for 8 November 1840.


DisputedEdit

As Lord Chesterfield said of the generals of his day, "I only hope that when the enemy reads the list of their names, he trembles as I do."
  • I don't know what effect these men will have on the enemy, but by God, they terrify me.
    • Said to be his remarks on a draft of new troops sent to him in Spain (1809), as quoted in A New Dictionary of Quotations on Historical Principles from Ancient and Modern Sources (1942) by H. L. Mencken, this quote is disputed, and may be derived from a comment made to Colonel Robert Torrens about some of his generals in a despatch (29 August 1810): "As Lord Chesterfield said of the generals of his day, "I only hope that when the enemy reads the list of their names, he trembles as I do."
  • [I don't] care a twopenny damn what [becomes] of the ashes of Napoleon Bonaparte.
    • As quoted in The TImes [London] (9 October 1944); this attribution probably originates in a letter by Thomas Babington Macaulay, 1st Baron Macaulay (6 March 1849), in which he states "How they settle the matter I care not, as the duke says, one twopenny damn."


MisattributedEdit

  • If a gentleman happens to be born in a stable, it does not follow that he should be called a horse.
    • As quoted in Genetic Studies in Joyce (1995) by David Hayman and Sam Slote. Though such remarks have often been quoted as Wellington's response on being called Irish, the earliest published sources yet found for similar comments are those about him attributed to an Irish politician:
    • The poor old Duke! what shall I say of him? To be sure he was born in Ireland, but being born in a stable does not make a man a horse.
    • No, he is not an Irishman. He was born in Ireland; but being born in a stable does not make a man a horse.
    • Variants: If a man be born in a stable, that does not make him a horse.
      • Quoted as as an anonymous proverb in Dictionary of Quotations from Ancient and Modern English and Foreign Sources (1899), p. 171
    • Because a man is born in a stable that does not make him a horse.
      • Quoted as a dubious statement perhaps made early in his career in The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Proverbs (1992) edited by John Simpson and Jennifer Speake, p. 162.
  • The Battle of Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton.
    • As quoted in The New York Times (26 December 1886), and in Words on Wellington (1889) by Sir William Fraser, this is almost certainly apocryphal. The first attributions of such a remark to Wellington were in De l'Avenir politique de l'Angleterre (1856) by Charles de Montalembert, Ch. 10, where it is stated that on returning to Eton in old age he had said: "C'est ici qu'a été gagnée la bataille de Waterloo." This was afterwards quoted in Self-Help (1859) by Samuel Smiles as "It was there that the Battle of Waterloo was won!" Later in Memoirs of Eminent Etonians (2nd Edition, 1876) by Sir Edward Creasy, he is quoted as saying as he passed groups playing cricket on the playing-fields: "There grows the stuff that won Waterloo."
    • Elizabeth Longford in Wellington — The Years of the Sword (1969) states he "probably never said or thought anything of the kind" and Gerald Wellesley, 7th Duke of Wellington in a letter published in The Times in 1972 is quoted as stating: "During his old age Wellington is recorded to have visited Eton on two occasions only and it is unlikely that he came more often. ... Wellington's career at Eton was short and inglorious and, unlike his elder brother, he had no particular affection for the place. ... Quite apart from the fact that the authority for attributing the words to Wellington is of the flimsiest description, to anyone who knows his turn of phrase they ring entirely false."

Quotes about WellingtonEdit

  • Summoning the Duke of Richmond, who was to have command of the reserve when formed, he asked for a map. The two withdrew to an adjoining room. Wellington closed the door, and said, with an oath, "Napoleon has humbugged me." He then explained that he had ordered his army to concentrate at Quatre Bras, adding, "But we shall not stop him there; and if so, I must fight him here," marking Waterloo with his thumb-nail on the map as he spoke. It was not until the next morning that he left for the front.
    • William Milligan Sloane, on Wellington prior to the Battle of Waterloo, in "the Eclipse of Napoleon's Glory" in The Century Illustrated Monthly Magazine Vol. LII, New Series Vol. XXX (May - October 1896), p. 883

External linksEdit

Wikisource has original works written by or about: