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Tony Grist

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Things I Know About The Duke Of Wellington [Apr. 19th, 2006|09:47 am]
Tony Grist
The best people all hated Wellington. Byron mocked him, in a French accent, as "Villainton". Goya painted him a a pop-eyed hysteric.

If I'd been around at the time I'd have hated him too. A professional military man and (inefficient) Tory Prime Minister- what's not to dislike?

I own a portrait of Wellington. It's a 19th century print my mother picked up at a house sale for 'arf a crown in the late 50s. I've been carrying it around with me and hanging it on walls ever since.

The English prefer their heroes to die at the moment of victory, like Wolfe or Nelson. Wellington, disobligingly, lived on and on.

Tennyson's Ode on the Funeral of the Duke of Wellington is a monument to technical virtuosity and incredibly boring.

"Let us bury the great Duke with a sound of lamentation.
Let us bury the great Duke with the sound of the mourning of a mighty nation."

I'm dropping off already- and it goes on like that for pages and pages. I've never yet managed to read to the end.

It's a Times leader wrenched into verse.

In Sergei Bondarchuk's Waterloo, while Rod Steiger's Napoleon is wrestling with his bowels and sweating horribly and failing to eat a hearty breakast, Christopher Plummer's Wellington is taking a nap under a tree with the Times spread over his face.

That's the essence of Wellington: he was incredibly cool- in every sense of the word.

He didn't care about personal popularity either. The self belief was awesome.

When a celebrity girlfriend threatened to name him in her kiss and tell memoirs unless he stumped up a large sum of money his response (which has passed into the language) was "publish and be damned."

He was very quotable. And quotable not merely because he was witty. He had absolutely no time for cant.

For instance:

"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."

And here's my favourite:

"Nothing except a battle lost can be half as melancholy as a battle won."
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: glitzfrau
2006-04-19 03:12 am (UTC)
For some reason, Wellington was much mentioned on the Irish radio a few months ago. Said mentions inevitably included such formulations as: "The Duke of Wellington - and we remember what he said about Ireland, don't we?" "The Duke of Wellington - who was so very fond of the Irish, of course." The ongoing rancour felt about the notorious quote, almost two hundred years on, amused me greatly.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2006-04-19 07:16 am (UTC)
I guess they mean this one- "Being born in a stable does not make one a horse."

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[User Picture]From: idahoswede
2006-04-19 04:01 am (UTC)
He was cute too.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2006-04-19 07:17 am (UTC)
I hadn't seen him in quite that light before....
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[User Picture]From: idahoswede
2006-04-19 09:37 am (UTC)
Probably a matter of personal preference. I like the strong, silent, rugged "lived in" looking men anyway.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2006-04-19 07:18 am (UTC)
Ah yes- he insists on fighting duels with everyone, doesn't he?
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