Snatching [victory/defeat] from the jaws of [defeat/victory]

Bonnie Taylor-Blake taylor-blake at NC.RR.COM
Fri Apr 3 00:47:59 UTC 2009

It's hard to keep up with what Fred Shapiro and others have found with
regard to "snatch [victory/defeat] from the jaws of [defeat/victory]," which
has come up on the list before, but what follows may be among the earliest
appearances noted so far.

-- Bonnie


1.  "Snatched victory out of the jaws of defeat" [1845]

All this we learn from Colonel Napier, writing the general history of the
war:  and all this, at least, should have been contained in any biography
which was to do full justice to Lord Hill, and to show the British army with
what intuitive promptness he could meet those sudden emergencies in which
the indecision of a moment might have cost the loss of a battle, and with
what varied resources both of prudence and daring he could bear up against
apparently overwhelming dangers, until at length he compelled reluctant
Fortune to his standard, and snatched a brilliant victory, as it were, out
of the very jaws of defeat.  [p. 291]

(From "Article II," a commentary on _The Life of Lord Hill, G.C.B., Late
Commander of the Forces,_, *North British Review*, August 1845, pp.

(But "encountered victory in the jaws of defeat," which seems to fail when
it comes to strength of imagery, can be traced to 1831.)

But "the best laid schemes o' mice an' men gang aft ajee," and it is curious
to observe, how the lucky man will stumble on what is good despite of
himself, even as Sir Frizzle Pumpkin encountered victory in the jaws of

(From "Literary Criticism," a review of _The Club-Book; being Original
Tales_, *The Edinburgh Literary Journal* August 1831, p. 78.)


2.  "Snatch defeat from the jaws of victory" [1874, 1877]

The White Stockings yesterday earned their third defeat for the season.
They were badly self-whipped, and in this lies their humiliation.  Were they
fairly defeated after having played a creditable game there would be no
censure for them; but when they snatch defeat from the jaws of victory there
can be little sympathy for their deserved misfortune.

(From "Sporting News," *The Daily Inter-Ocean* [Chicago], 24 May 1874, Pg.

The Cincinnatis narrowly escaped victory yesterday; in the seventh inning,
by such a series of plays as has become characteristic of them only, they
snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.

[From "Base Ball; Hartfords, 5, Cincinnatis, 4," *The Cincinnati Daily
Gazette*, 24 May 1877, Pg. 8.]

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