Bernard Cornwell

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Bernard Cornwell OBE (born 23 February 1944) is an English author of historical novels. He is most famous for his novels about Napoleonic Wars rifleman Richard Sharpe which were adapted into a series of Sharpe television films.

They were the elite, the damned, the Rifles. They were Soldiers in green. They were Sharpe's Rifles.


Sharpe (Novel Series)[edit]

Sharpe's Fortress (1999)[edit]

You're a light company, and that means you can go where other Soldier's can't. It makes you an elite. You know what that means? It means you're the best men in the bloody army, and right now the army needs its best men. It needs you.
  • You're a light company, and that means you can go where other Soldier's can't. It makes you an elite. You know what that means? It means you're the best men in the bloody army, and right now the army needs its best men. It needs you.
  • The defenders were hunted down and killed. Even when they tried to surrender, they were killed, for their fortress had resisted and that was the fate of garrisons that showed defiance.
    • Narrator, p. 283

Sharpe's Trafalgar (2000)[edit]

  • He had thought the army would pay for the voyage, but the army had refused, saying that Sharpe was accepting an invitation to join the 95th Rifles and if the 95th Rifles refused to pay his passage then damn them, damn their badly colored coats, and damn Sharpe. [...] Britain had sent Sharpe to India, and Britain, Sharpe reckoned, should fetch him back.
    • Lieutenant Richard Sharpe, p. 11
  • If you capture a ship, Sharpe, you keep the old name unless it's really obnoxious. Nelson took the Franklin at the Nile, an eighty gun thing of great beauty, but the navy will be damned if it has a ship named after a traitorous bloody Yankee so we call her the Canopus now.
    • Captain Joel Chase, p. 15
  • You know what the trick of a long life is, Sharpe? Stay out of range.
    • Doctor Pickering, p. 133
  • Chase was easy in command and that ease did not diminish his authority, but simply made the men work harder. [...] Sharpe watched Chase for he reckoned he had still a lot to learn about the subtle business of leading men. He saw that the Captain did not secure his authority by recourse to punishment, but rather by expecting high standards and rewarding them. He also hid his doubts.
    • Lieutenant Richard Sharpe, p. 178

Sharpe's Prey (2001)[edit]

God had not shown mercy, the British possessed none
  • It seemed that if someone was lost in Copenhagen then the citizens regarded it as their duty to offer help.
    • Narrator, p. 78
  • "Form them up Sergeant!"
    "Aye aye, sir."
    "You're not a bloody sailor, Sergeant. A plain yes will do."
    Aye aye, sir."
    • British Officer and Sergeant, p. 111
  • He was confused. He was in love with a woman he did not know, except he knew her loyalty was to the enemy. Yet Denmark did not feel like an enemy, though it was. And he was a Soldier still, and Soldiers, he reckoned, fought for those who could not fight for themselves, and that meant he should be fighting for Astrid's folk and not his own. But that was too great a wrench to contemplate.
    • Lieutenant Richard Sharpe, p. 136
  • My God, I will not abide plundering, especially by officers. How can you expect obedience from the men when officers are corrupt?
  • The first bombs looked like livid shooting stars. Then, as they began their shrieking fall, the bomb trails converged. God had not shown mercy, the British possessed none and Copenhagen must suffer.
    • Narrator, p. 201

Sharpe's Rifles (1988)[edit]

  • "They're not going, sir. Not going South."
    "And who made that decision, Sergeant?"
    "We all did, sir."
    "Since when, Sergeant, has this army been a... a democracy?"
    "A what, sir?"
    "Since when did Sergeants outrank Lieutenants?"
    • Sergeant Williams and Lieutenant Richard Sharpe, p. 40
  • Here, in this filthy stench of powder smoke, he felt at home. Other men learned how to plough fields or to shape wood, but Sharpe had learned how to use a musket or rifle, sword or bayonet, and how to turn an enemy's flank or assault a fortress.
    • Lieutenant Richard Sharpe, p. 69
  • Sharpe knew himself to be a tough man, but he had always thought of himself as a reasonable one, yet now, in the mirror of William's nervousness, he saw himself as something far worse; a bullying man who would use the small authority of his rank to frighten men. In fact, the very kind of officer Sharpe had most hated when he himself was under their embittered authority.
    • Lieutenant Richard Sharpe, p. 81
  • If he had learned one thing as a Soldier it was that any decision, even a bad one, was better than none.
    • Lieutenant Richard Sharpe, p. 130
  • Did you see that wee church in Salamanca where the Virgin's statue had eyes that moved? Your priest there said it was a miracle, but you could see the string the fellow jerked to make the wooden eyeballs twitch! But why go to the trouble of having a string? I asked myself. Because the people want a miracle, that's why. And just because some people invent a miracle doesn't mean there aren't real ones, does it? It means the opposite, so it does, for why would you imitate something that doesn't exist?
    • Sergeant Patrick Harper, p. 186
What we should have done, lads, is gone north.
  • "The Major's a grand big fellow, so he is."
    "So what are we? The damned?"
    "We're that, sure enough, but we're also Riflemen, sir. You and me, we're the best God-damned Soldiers in the world."
    • Sergeant Patrick Harper and Lieutenant Richard Sharpe, p. 262
  • "What we should have done, lads, is gone north."
    • Lieutenant Richard Sharpe, p. 290
  • "They're drunk sods, sir, but they're the best Soldiers in the world. The very best." And he meant it. They were the elite, the damned, the Rifles. They were Soldiers in green. They were Sharpe's Rifles.
    • Lieutenant Richard Sharpe, p. 302

Sharpe's Havoc (2003)[edit]

  • "They'll bloody kill you."
    "Maybe they'll turn and run.
    "God save Ireland, and why would they do that?"
    "Because God wears a green jacket, of course."
    • Sergeant Patrick Harper and Lieutenant Richard Sharpe, p. 29
  • He had an inspiration and went to the Quinta's kitchen and stole two large tins of tea. He reckoned it was time Kate did something for her country and there were few finer gestures than donating good China tea to riflemen.
    • Lieutenant Richard Sharpe, p. 136
The French used such a formation, a great battering block of men, because it was simpler to persuade conscripts to advance in such an array and because, against badly trained troops, the very sight of such a great mass of men was daunting. But against redcoats? It was suicide.
  • "We have to level the ground, Sir, because God didn't think of gunners when he made the world. He made too many lumps and not enough smooth spots. But we're very good at improving His handiwork, sir."
    • Lieutenant Pelletieu, French Artillery, p. 153
  • "She's like a woman, sir, take care of her and she'll take care of you."
    "You'll notice he let Mister Sharpe do the ramming, sir."
    • Rifleman Hagman and Sergeant Patrick Harper, p. 188
  • The British army fought against other infantry arrayed in two ranks and every man could use his musket, and if cavalry threatened they marched and wheeled into a square of four ranks, and still every man could use his musket, but the soldiers at the heart of the two French columns could never fire without hitting the men in front.
    • Lieutenant Richard Sharpe, p. 226
  • Sharpe had seen columns before, and was puzzled by them. [...] These columns had around forty men in a rank and twenty in each file. The French used such a formation, a great battering block of men, because it was simpler to persuade conscripts to advance in such an array and because, against badly trained troops, the very sight of such a great mass of men was daunting. But against redcoats? It was suicide.
    • Lieutenant Richard Sharpe, p. 226
  • Unfairness existed, it always had and it always would, and the miracle, to Sharpe's eyes, was that some men like Hill and Wellesley, though they had become wealthy and privileged through unfair advantages, were nevertheless superb at what they did. [...] Sharpe did not care that Sir Arthur Wellesley was the son of an aristocrat and had purchased his way up the ladder of promotion and was as cold as a lawyer's sense of charity. The long-nosed bugger knew how to win and that was what mattered.
    • Lieutenant Richard Sharpe, p. 234
  • "In the short time I've known you, Richard, I've noticed you possess a lamentable tendency to put on shining armor and look for ladies to rescue. King Arthur, God rest his soul, would have loved you. He'd have had you fighting every evil knight in the forest."
    • Captain Michael Hogan, p. 254

Sharpe's Eagle (1981)[edit]

  • He could chafe against the rich and privileged but he acknowledged that the army had taken him from the gutter and put an officer's sash round his waiste and Sharpe could think of no other job that would offer a low-born bastard on the run from the law the chance of rank and responsibility.
    • Lieutenant Richard Sharpe, p. 13
  • He asked three things of his men. That they fought, as he did, with a ruthless professionalism. That they stole only from the enemy and the dead unless they were starving. And that they never got drunk without his permission.
    • Lieutenant Richard Sharpe, p. 15
  • Remember, Mr Sharpe, an officer's eyes are more valuable than his sword!
    • General Arthur Wellesley, p. 61
  • To say anything was useless, to say nothing was cowardly. "I think it a bad idea, Sir."
    • Captain Richard Sharpe, in response to the suggestion of whipping sixty men, p. 151
  • "What do you think?"
    "Frightening? Did you ever learn mathematics?"
    "Yes, sir."
    "So add up how many Frenchmen can actually use their muskets."
    • Captain Richard Sharpe and Ensign Denny, commenting on an approaching French column, a formation that only allows the front rank to fire, p. 220
  • I remember one other battle, gentlemen, which almost matched our recent victory in carnage. After Assaye I had to thank a young Sergeant; today we salute the same man, a Captain. Gentlemen, I give you Sharpe's Eagle.
    • General Arthur Wellesley, p. 267

Sharpe's Gold (1981)[edit]

  • There's no chance of cheering him up, sir. He likes being miserable, so he does, and the bastard will get over it.
    • Sergeant Patrick Harper to Lieutenant Robert Knowles, regarding Captain Sharpe's grumpy attitude, p. 9
  • The Light Company were not worried by the French. If Richard Sharpe wanted to lead them to Paris they would go, blindly confident that he would see them through
    • Narrator, p. 36
  • Sharpe could feel the excitement of the Company, their confidence, and he marvelled at it. They were enjoying it, taking on sixteen times their number, and he did not understand that it was because of him. Harper knew, Knowles knew, that the tall Rifle Captain who was not given to rousing speeches could nevertheless make men feel that the impossible was just a little troublesome and that victory was a commonplace where he led.
    • Narrator, p. 68
  • We have honour, Sharpe. That is our private strength, our honour. We're Soldiers, you and I. We cannot expect riches, or dignity, or continual victory. We will die, probably, in battle, or in a fever ward, and no one will remember us, so all that is left is honour.
    • Major Kearsey
  • He watched his men work, proud of them. They were disciplined, protecting one another, their sword drill immaculate and thorough, and Lossow knew why the lord Wellington preferred German cavalry. Not as flashy as the English, not as good for a parade, but for killing Frenchmen-they were as good as British infantry at that. [..] This army, Wellington's army, could be as perfect an instrument of war as any in history. With men like these horsemen and with that infantry? It was beautiful!
  • "You had no choice, sir."
    "There's always a choice."
    • Lieutenant Robert Knowles and Captain Richard Sharpe on the destruction of Almieda's magazine, p. 239

Sharpe's Escape (2003)[edit]

  • "The door is locked, Captain."
    "Then I'll break it down."
    "It is a shrine."
    "Then I'll say a prayer of forgiveness after I've knocked it down."
    • Major Pedro Ferreira and Captain Richard Sharpe, p. 13
  • "So I do my duty, and land in the shit."
    "You have at last seized the essence of soldiering."
    • Captain Richard Sharpe and Major Michael Hogan, p. 28
Stand in front of these recoats and the balls came thick as hail. It was death to be in their way and seven French battlions were now in death's forecourt
  • They were thieves and murderers and fools and rapists and drunkards. Not one had joined for love of country, and certainly not for love of their King [...] They were paid pitifully, fined for every item they lost, and the few pennies they managed to keep they usually gambled away. They were feckless rogues, as violent as hounds and as coarse as swine, but they had two things.
    They had pride.
    And they had the precious ability to fire platoon volleys.
    They could fire those half company volleys faster than any other army in the world. Stand in front of these recoats and the balls came thick as hail. It was death to be in their way and seven French battlions were now in death's forecourt and the South Essex was tearing them to ribbons.
    • Narrator, p. 101
  • I doubt I called him illegitimate, sir. I wouldn't use that sort of word. I probably called him a bastard.
    • Captain Richard Sharpe, p. 136
  • The Major was a courteous man, judicious and sensible, but he doubted the fighting efficiency of the South Essex would be improved by a campaign to improve its manners.
    • Major Joseph Forrest, p. 148
  • "It is not wise, I think, to mix private revenge with war."
    "Of course it's not wise, but it's bloody enjoyable. Enjoying yourself, Sergeant?"
    "Never been happier, sir."
    • Lieutenant Jorge Vicente, Captain Richard Sharpe, and Sergeant Patrick Harper, p. 161
  • "You know how to deal with senior officers?"
    "Confuse them. Except for the ones who can't be confused, like Wellington."
    • Lieutenant Jorge Vicente and Captain Richard Sharpe, p. 176
I believe in the Baker rifle and in the 1796 Pattern heavy cavalry sword
  • "If you believe in a God, miss, pray now."
    "You don't?"
    "I believe in the Baker rifle and in the 1796 Pattern heavy cavalry sword, so long as you grind down the back blade so that the point don't slide off a Frog's ribs. If you you don't grind down the back blade, miss, then you might as well just beat the bastards to death with it."
    • Captain Richard Sharpe and Miss Sarah Fry, p. 205
  • He had been a tough, cheerful youngster, the sort who collected birds' eggs, scrapped with other boys and climbed the church tower on a dare, and now he was a tough cheerful young man who thought that being an officer in Lawford's regiment was just about the finest thing life could afford. He liked soldiering and he liked soldiers.
    • Lieutenant Jack Bullen, p. 307

The Grail Quest[edit]

The Archer's Tale/Harlequin (2000)[edit]

  • An archer does not aim, he kills.
    • Thomas of Hookton, p. 18
  • "The rules of chivalry, my lord, ensure my protection."
    "Chivalry? Chivalry? I have heard it mentioned in songs, madame, but this is war. Our task is to punish the followers of Charles of Blois for rebelling against their lawful lord. Punishment and chivalry do not mix."
    • Jeanette, the Countess of Armorica and Sir Simon Jekyll, p. 64
  • They haven't made an armor strong enought to resist an English arrow.
    • Thomas of Hookton, p. 89
  • What did he want? A tournament? Who does he think we are? The knights of the round bloody table? I don't know what happens to some folk. They put a sir in front of their names and their brains get addled. Fighting fair! Whoever heard of anything so daft? Fight fair and you lose.
    • Will Skeat, p. 94
  • "Don't waste your life, Tom."
    "I think I already have, father."
    "You're just young. It seems like that when you're young. Life's nothing but joy or misery when you're young."
    • Thomas of Hookton and Father Hobbe, p. 140
  • You may call me doctor. You won't, of course. You'll call me damned Jew, a Christ murderer, a secret worshipper of pigs and a kidnapper of Christian children. How absurd! Who would want to kidnap children, Christian or otherwise? Vile things. The only mercy of children is that they grow up, as my son has but then, tragically, they beget more children. We do not learn lifes lessons.
    • Doctor Mordecai
  • "Nondum amabam, et amare amabam. I did not love, but yearned to love."
    "A very elaborate way of saying you're lonely."
    • Thomas of Hookton and Eleanor, p. 235
  • A charge of knights was supposed to be thundering death on hooves, a flail of metal driven by the ponderous weight of men, horses and armor, and properly done, it was a mass maker of widows.
    • Narrator, p. 338

Vagabond (2002)[edit]

  • "I've killed priests before, and another priest sold me an indulgence for the killings, so don't think I fear you or your Church. There's no sin that can't be bought off, no pardon that can't be purchased."
  • "You want a blessing, my son? Then God give strength to your bow and add bite to your arrows! May your arm never tire and your eye never dim. God and the saints bless you while you kill!"
    • English Prior, p. 54
  • Your friend Will is a good man, too,but I fear he's no longer an archer."
    "It would have been better, I sometimes think-"
    "If he had died? Wish death on no man, Thomas, it comes soon enough without a wish."
    • Mordecai and Thomas of Hookton, p. 352

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