When war is about to be decided upon by the chiefs of a nation, these chiefs, even when they are in levée dress, and when Lord Russell or Lord Palmerston is Prime Minister, do not draw their swords, as in the Trovatore—now advancing, now receding from the footlights, and exclaiming "How they prefer death to dishonour!" or any other operatic sentiment. There is no “suoni la tromba” [trumpet sounds] to encourage them; but a number of middle-aged and elderly gentlemen, sitting round a table, listen to a long document, much conned over before, the result of many erasures and manifold interlineations. The somnolency which is apt to attend the reading of long documents, and which is, perhaps, the best reward for writing them, prevails; or, at least, some wicked wags, who will make fun of anything, declare that it prevails; and thus, very undramatically, a great war is initiated. [103]


[Helps, Sir Arthur]. Brevia: Short Essays and Aphorisms by the Author of “Friends in Council”. Boston: Roberts Brothers, 1871. The reverse of the title page has the following: “Chiswick Press: — printed by Whittingham and Wilkins, Tooks Court, Chancery Lane [London].”

Last modified 5 December 2011