"War is Hell"

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Fri Jan 16 01:56:06 UTC 2009

At 8:17 PM -0500 1/15/09, Baker, John wrote:
>         Google Books has this example, which pushes the attribution to
>Napoleon back to 1835, or at any rate to 1854.  This is from an essay on
>the life of the Rev. Charles Brooks, of Massachusetts (1795-    ), in
>John Livingston, Portraits of Eminent Americans Now Living 483 (1854):
>         <<In 1835, he published his views of war and the means of
>preventing it.  His statement was this--". . . . Bonaparte said,--'War
>is hell.'  It surely is a suspension of the laws of God.">>
>         The text doesn't seem to give any further indication of where
>and how Brooks published his views in 1835.  Incidentally, what Brooks
>sought was a high Court of Nations to resolve disputes.
>         Google Books also has an 1850 example, not referring to
>Napoleon, in George McHenry, The Helleniad, An Epic Poem 66 (1850):
>         <<Preferring hell to heaven: for war is hell,
>           And peace is heaven even in this world.>>
>John Baker
>-----Original Message-----
>From: American Dialect Society [mailto:ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] On Behalf
>Of Jonathan Lighter
>Sent: Thursday, January 15, 2009 11:41 AM
>Subject: Re: "War is Hell"
>FWIW, I have found no online evidence that Napoleon Bonaparte ever wrote
>or said the words, "La guerre, c'est l'infer."
>Ah, well; as one might have expected.

I hope you were looking under "La guerre, c'est
l'enfer"!  I'm not sure that would have helped,
though.  I found a number of g-hits for that
judgement + Napoléon, but they were mostly of
this form:

Certes, « il est bon que la guerre soit si
terrible ; autrement nous l'aimerions trop » a
dit le grand soldat américain Robert E. Lee,
tacticien hors pair, égal de Napoléon. En face de
lui, le général nordiste William T. Sherman émit
le jugement le plus lapidaire et le plus
concluant : « La guerre, c'est l'enfer. »

So once it's the lapidary (if undocumented)
judgement of the "nordiste" general Sherman
that's at issue.


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