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 Tiger (1997)[edit]

  • Arthur Wellesley had waited six years for this moment. He was twenty-nine years old and had begun to fear that he would never see battle, but now, at last, he would discover whether he and his regiment could fight, and so he filled his lungs to give the order that would start the slaughter.
    • Narrator, p. 28
  • Sharpe had no thought of deserting now, for now he was about to fight. If there was any one good reason to join the army, it was to fight. Not to hurry up and do nothing, but to fight the King's enemies, and this enemy had been shocked by the awful violence of the close-range volley and now they stared in horror as the redcoats screamed and ran toward them.
    • Narrator, p. 33
  • Any officer given the money to buy promotion and lucky enough to possess relations who could put him in the way of advancement was bound to rise, but even the less fortunate men who resented Wellesley's privileges were forced to admit that the young Colonel had a natural and chilling authority, and maybe, some thought, even a talent for soldiering. He was certainly dedicated enough to his chosen trade if that was any sign of talent.
    • Narrator, commenting on Colonel Arthur Wellesley, p. 103
  • He's actually a rather good ruler. Better, I suspect, than most of our Christian monarchs. He's certainly been good for Mysore. He's fetched it a deal of wealth, given it more justice than most countries enjoy in India and he's been tolerant to most religions, though I fear he did persecute some unfortunate Christians.
    • Colonel Hector McCandless, on the Tippo Sultan, p. 300
  • "That's what it's about, Sharpe, trade. That's why you're fighting here, trade."
    "It seems a funny thing to be fighting about, sir."
    "Does it? Not to me, Sharpe. Without trade there's no wealth, and without wealth there's no society worth having. Without trade, Private Sharpe, we'd be nothing but beasts in the mud. Trade is indeed worth fighting for, though the good Lord knows we don't appreciate trade much. We celebrate kings, we honor great men, we admire aristocrats, we applaud actors, we shower gold on portrait painters and we even, sometimes, reward soldiers, but we always despise merchants. But why? It is the merchant's wealth that drives the mills, Sharpe; it moves the looms, it it keeps the hammers falling, it fills the fleets, it makes the roads, it forges the iron, it grows the wheat, it bakes the bread, and it builds the churches and the cottages and the palaces. Without God and trade we would be nothing."
    • Colonel Hector McCandless, and Private Richard Sharpe, p. 300
  • "There's a great bloody mine, sir! Just waiting to kill our lads! I ain't letting that happen. You can do what you bloody well like, but I'm going to kill some more of these bastards."
    • Private Richard Sharpe, p. 329
You can keep your sword, for you fought proper. Like a proper soldier. Take your blade to paradise, and tell them you were killed by another proper soldier.
  • The Tippoo himself led the defenders north of the breach. The Tippoo had cursed Gudin for blowing the mines too early and thus wasting its terrible destructive power, but now he tried to revive the defense by his personal example. He stood in the front rank of his soldiers while behind him a succession of aides loaded jewel-encrusted hunting rifles. One by one the rifles were given to the Tippoo who aimed and fired, aimed and fired, and redcoat after redcoat was struck down.
    • Narrator, p. 351
  • "Look after him, Lieutenant. An army isn't made of it's officers, you know, though we officers like to think it is. An army is no better than its men, and when you find good men, you must look after them. That's an officer's job."
    • Colonel Jean Gudin, p. 353
  • The Tippoo still led the fight. [...] Those gaudy stones made him a target for every redcoat and sepoy, yet he insisted on staying in the very front rank where he could pour his rifle fire at the stalled attackers, and his charms worked, for though the bullets flicked close none hit him. He was the Tiger of Mysore, he could not die, only kill.
    • Narrator, p. 358
  • "You can keep your sword, for you fought proper. Like a proper soldier. Take your blade to paradise, and tell them you were killed by another proper soldier."
    • Private Richard Sharpe to the Tippoo Sultan, p. 372

Sharpe's Triumph (1997)[edit]

  • "Never in my life have I seen two villages on opposite banks of a river that weren't connected by a ford."
    • Major General Arthur Wellesley, p. 196
Defeat the enemy's infantry and the cavalry and gunners had nowhere to hide.
  • For five thousand infantry would now cross the Kaitna at a place where men said the river was uncrossable, then fight an enemy horde at least ten times their number. [...] The enemy had stolen a march, the redcoats had journeyed all night and were bone tired, but Wellesley would have his battle.
    • Narrator, p. 197
  • "Made in Sheffield, and guaranteed never to fail! Good slicer this is, real good. You can cut a man in half with one of these if you get the stroke right."
  • "Now we'll see how their infantry fight," Wellesley said savagely to Campbell, and Sharpe understood that this was the real testing point, for infantry was everything. The infantry was despised for it did not have the cavalry's glamour, nor the killing capacity of the gunners, but it was still the infantry that won battles. Defeat the enemy's infantry and the cavalry and gunners had nowhere to hide.
    • Sergeant Richard Sharpe, p. 233
  • The Hanoverian knew the cavalry was no danger. It was the infantry, the unstoppable red-jacketed infantry, that was going to beat him [...] He stared at the 78th and he reckoned that no force on earth could stop such men. "The best damn infantry on earth. Watch them! You'll not see better fighting men while you live!"

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.
  • "Our duty, Richard, is to be decorative and stay alive long enough to be promoted. But no one expects us to be useful! Good God! A junior officer being useful? That'll be the day."
    • Ensign Roderick Venables, p. 20
  • 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
  • The Rifles were a new kind of regiment, prizing skill and intelligence above blind discipline.
  • "It turns out that the Danish gunboats are rather better than ours. They draw less water and carry heavier ordnance and the results are not at all pretty."
  • ‘We'll need all the officers we can get then, and then you'll get your chance. You might be a quartermaster now, but ten years from now you'll be leading a battalion, so just be patient.’
  • ‘There are three kinds of soldier, Sharpe [...] There are the damned useless ones, and God knows there's an endless supply of those. Then there are the good solid lads who get the job done, but would piss in their breeches if you didn't show them how their buttons worked. And then there's your and me. Soldiers' soldiers, that's who we are.’
  • "They were German hussars and they streamed out of the dunes leaving a trail of dust, their drawn blades glittering."

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 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.
  • 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 more I see of families ... the happier I am to be an orphan."
  • "We take what we want ... we don't pay our enemies for food."
  • 'Most of the men don't like officers up from the ranks, but they're kind of fond of Sharpe. He scares them. They want to be like him.'
    'I can't see that scaring men is a virtue in an officer.'
  • 'Learning is sacred ... it goes above boundaries.'
  • 'I think the French are interested only in food and wine', Vicente said.
    'I can think of something else,' Sharpe said, and received a stern look from Sarah.
    'There is no food here, ... just higher things.'
  • 'It's a real language lesson', said Sarah after a while.
    'I'm sorry, miss', Sharpe said.
    'You sort of don't notice when you're in the army', Harper explained.
    'Do all soldiers swear?'
    'All of them', Sharpe said. 'All of the time.'
  • ...all battles had to be fought one step at a time. No point in worrying about the future if there was to be no future, so he and and Harper worked patiently away.
  • ... a newly raised unit of young men fresh from the depots of France, and they were half-trained, ill disciplined, resentful of an Emperor who had marched them off to a war they mostly did not understand and, above all, hungry.
  • 'Until two days ago,' she went on suddenly, 'I thought that my life depended on other people. On employers. Now I think it depends on me. You taught me that. But I still need money.'
    'Money's easy,' said Sharpe dismissively.
    'That is not the conventional wisdom,' Sarah said drily.
    'Steal the stuff,' Sharpe said.
    'You were really a thief?'
    'Still am. Once a thief, always a thief, only now I steal from the enemy. And some day I'll have enough to stop me from doing it and then I'll have to stop others from thieving from me.'
    'You have a simple view of life.'
    'You're born, you survive, you die,' Sharpe said. 'What's hard about that?'
  • 'You want me to go into a sewer, Mister Sharpe?' Sarah asked in a small voice.
    'No, miss, I don't', Sharpe said. 'I want you to be in green fields and happy, with enough money to last you the rest of your life. But to get you there I have to go through a sewer.'

Sharpe's Fury (2006)[edit]

  • Good plain soldiering wins wars. Doing mundane things well is what counts.
    • Colonel Sir Barnaby Moon, p. 11
  • Put a British Soldier in a wilderness and he would soon discover a taproom.
    • Captain Richard Sharpe, p. 54
  • And the good news is that you've got a brain. You do! Honest! I saw it with my own eyes, thus disproving the navy's stubborn contention that soldiers have nothing whatsoever inside their skulls. I shall write a paper for the Review. I'll be famous! Brain discovered in a soldier.
    • Doctor Jethro McCann, to Captain Richard Sharpe, after sewing up a severe head wound, p. 78
  • "Our guide, a fisherman. A good fellow."
    "He doesn't hate us?"
    "Hate us?"
    "I keep being told how the Spanish hate us, sir."
    "He hates the French, like I do, Sharpe. If there is one constancy in this vale of tears, it is always hate the damned French, always."
    • General Thomas Graham and Captain Richard Sharpe, p. 126
  • There are, very crudely, two factions in the Cortes. One side are the traditionalists. They're comprised of the monarchists, the pious, and the old-fashioned. They're called the serviles. It's an insulting nickname, like calling a man a Tory. Serviles means the slaves, and they wish to see the king restored and the church triumphant. They are the faction of landlords, privilege, and aristocracy. The serviles are opposed by the liberalles, who are so called because they are forever talking about liberty. The liberalles want to see a Spain in which the people's wishes are more influential than the decrees of a tyrannical church or the whim of a despotic king. His Brittanic Majesty's government has no official view in these discussions. We merely wish to see a Spanish government willing to pursue the war against Napoleon.
    • Lord William Pumphrey, p. 162
  • "You are like the Spanish, Captain Sharpe, confused. Cadiz is filled with politicians and lawyers and the encourage confusion. They argue. Should we be a Republic? Or perhaps a monarchy? Do we want a Cortes? And if so, should it have one chamber or two? Some want a parliament like Britain's. Others insist that Spain is best ruled by God and by a king. They squabble about these like children, but in truth there is only one real argument."
    "The argument, is whether Spain fights France or not?"
    "And you, believe Spain should fight against France?"
    "You know what the French have done to our country? The women raped, the children killed, the churches desecrated? Yes, I believe we should fight."
    • Captain Fernando Galiana and Captain Richard Sharpe, p. 202
  • Sir Thomas was a sentimental man. He loved Soldiers. He had once thought all men who wore the red coat were rogues and thieves, the scourings of the gutters, and since he had joined the army he had discovered he was right, but he had also learned to love them. He loved their patience, their ferocity, their endurance, and their bravery.
    • General Thomas Graham, p. 234
And he was amazed, as he always was, by the courage of the French. They were being struck hard, yet they stayed.
  • A soldier's death, he thought, was a happy one, because a man, even in the throes of awful pain, would die in the best company of the world.
    • General Thomas Graham, p. 234
  • The real noise was of musketry, the pounding cough of volley fire, the relentless noise, and if he listened hard he could hear the balls striking on muskets and pounding into flesh. He could also hear the cries of the wounded and the screams of officers' horses put down by the balls. And he was amazed, as he always was, by the courage of the French. They were being struck hard, yet they stayed. They stayed behind a straggling heap of dead men, they edged aside to let the wounded crawl behind, they reloaded and fired, and all the time the volleys kept coming.
    • Captain Richard Sharpe, p. 300
The redcoats were doing what they did best, what they were paid a shilling a day less stoppages to do: they were killing.
  • They were the despised of England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. They were drunks and thieves, the scourings of gutters and jails. They wore the red coat because no one else wanted them, or because they were so desperate that they had no choice. They were the scum of Britain, but they could fight. They had always fought, but in the army, they were told how to fight with discipline. They discovered sergeants and officers who valued them. They punished them too, of course, and swore at them, and cursed them, and whipped their backs bloody, and cursed them again, but valued them. They even loved them, and officers worth five thousand pounds a year were fighting alongside them now. The redcoats were doing what they did best, what they were paid a shilling a day less stoppages to do: they were killing.
    • Narrator, p. 317

Sharpe's Battle (1995)[edit]

  • Patrick Harper was an Ulsterman from Donegal and had been driven into the ranks of Britain's army by hunger and poverty. He was a huge man, four inches taller than Sharpe who was himself six feet tall. In battle Harper was an awesome figure, yet in truth he was a kind, humorous and easygoing man whose benevolence disguised his life's central contradiction, which was that he had no love for the king for whom he fought and for the country whose flag he defended, yet there were few better soldiers in all King George's army, and none who was more loyal to his friends.
    • Narrator, p. 19
  • "The Irish are very largely Romish, Sharpe. Papists! We shall have to watch our theological discourse if we're not to unsettle their tempers! You and I might know that the pope is the reincarnation of the Scarlet Whore of Babylon, but it won't help our cause if we say it out loud. Know what I mean?"
    • Colonel Claud Runciman to Captain Richard Sharpe, p. 58
  • "All the glory and the valor and the splendor of a royal world are about to become commonplace and tawdry. All the nasty, mean things-republicanism, democracy, equality-are crawling into the light and claiming that they can replace a lineage of great kings. We are seeing the end of history, Sharpe, and the beginnings of chaos, but maybe, just maybe, King Ferdinand's household guard can bring the curtain down with one last act of shining glory."
    • Lord Kiely, p. 89
  • "If I take a man into battle, my lord, i like to offer him a better than even chance that he'll march away with his skin intact. If I wanted to kill the buggers I'd just strangle them in their sleep. It's kinder."
    • Captain Richard Sharpe, p. 88
  • "And don't tell me this isn't your war. You swore an oath to serve the King of Spain, and the king of Spain is a prisoner in France and you were supposed to be his guard. By God, this is your war far more than it's my war. I never swore an oath to protect Spain, I never had a woman raped by a Frenchman or a child murdered by a dragoon or a harvest stolen and a house burned by a Crapaud forage party. Your country has suffered all those things, and your country is Spain, and if you'd rather fight for Ireland than for Spain, then why in the name of Almighty God did you take the Spanish oath?"
    • Captain Richard Sharpe, p. 110
  • "It ain't justice, Richard, but politics, and like all politics it ain't pretty, but well done it can work wonders."
    • Major Michael Hogan, p. 172
  • "Sensible thing to do, is for us to bugger off out of here and got to bed."
    "Sensible thing to do, is get out the bloody army and die in bed."
    "But that's not why we joined, is it?"
    "Speak for yourself, sir. I just joined to get a square meal. Getting killed wasn't really part of the idea at all."
    • Captain Richard Sharpe and Sergeant Patrick Harper, p. 187
  • "My God, but I command King Ferdinand's guard and-"
    "And King Ferdinand, sir, is a prisoner! Which does not speak, sir, for the efficacy of his guard."
    • Lord Kiely and Major General Arthur Wellesley, p. 218
  • He had trampled through Italy winning victory after victory, he had smashed the Russians on the border of Switzerland and rammed bloody defeat down Austrian throats before Marengo. Marshall André Masséna, Duke of Rivoli and Prince of Essling, was not a pretty soldier, but by God, he knew how to fight, which was why, at fifty-two years old, he had been sent to retrieve the disasters besetting the emporer's armies in Spain and Portugal.
  • They were outnumbered, they were surrounded, yet no one had panicked, not one battalion had been caught deployed in column, and not one square had been rattled by the horse-men's proximity. The Light had saved the Seventh Division, and now it was saving itself with a dazzling display of professional soldiering. Pure drill was defeating French verve, and Massena's attack, which had swept around the British right flank with overwhelming force, had been rendered utterly impotent.
  • "I'll put a word in for you, Sharpe, because a man shouldn't be disciplined for killing the enemy, but I don't suppose my help will do you any good."
  • "Why do they call them vaulters?"
    "Voltigeur, Sharpe. French for vaulter."
    "God knows, sir."
    "Because the jump like fleas, sir, when you shoot at them. But don't worry yourself about that one, sir. He's a good voltigeur, that one. He's dead."
    • Colonel Claud Runciman, Captain Richard Sharpe, and Sergeant Patrick Harper, p. 331
  • He was a soldier and he marched where he was ordered to march and he killed the king's enemies when he arrived. That was his job and the army was his home and he loved both even though he knew he would have to fight like a gutter-born bastard for every step of advancement that other men took for granted. And he knew too that he would never be prized for his birth or his wit or his wealth, but would only be reckoned as good as his last fight, but that thought made him smile. For Sharpe's last battle had been against the best soldier France had and Sharpe had drowned the bastard like a rat. Sharpe had won, Loup was dead, and it was over at last: Sharpe's battle.
    • Captain Richard Sharpe, p. 354

Sharpe's Company (1982)[edit]

He called my father a traitor, and our family called Revere a traitor, and I rather think we lost the argument.
  • The Forlorn Hope was for the brave. It may have been a courage born of desperation, or foolhardiness, but it was courage just the same.
    • Narrator, p. 13
  • "There are rules, orders, regulations, Sharpe, by which our lives are conducted. If we ignore those rules, burdensome though they may be, then we open the gates to anarchy and tyranny; the very things against which we fight!"
    • Lieutenant Colonel Brian Windham, p. 104
Take a man who has failed at everything, give him a final chance, show him trust, lead him to one success, and there is a sudden confidence that will lead to the next success. Soon they will believe they are unbeatable, and become unbeatable
  • "I'm a Soldier, not a bloody clerk! I fetch bloody forage, count bloody shovels, and take punishment drills. It's yes, sir, no, sir, can I dig your latrine, sir, and it's not bloody soldiering!"
    "It is bloody soldiering! What the hell else do you think soldiering is? Do you think you can win a war without forage? Or without shovels? Or, God help us, without latrines? That is soldiering! Just because you've been allowed to swan about like a bloody pirate for years doesn't mean you shouldn't take your turn at real work."
    • Lieutenant Richard Sharpe and Major Michael Hogan, p. 114
  • Take a man who has failed at everything, give him a final chance, show him trust, lead him to one success, and there is a sudden confidence that will lead to the next success. Soon they will believe they are unbeatable, and become unbeatable, but the trick was to have officers like Sharpe who kept on offering trust. Of course the Light Company missed him! He had expected great things of them and trusted them to win.
    • Sergeant Patrick Harper, p. 122
  • Forrest saw the war as a moral crusade, a fight for decency and order, and victory to the British would mean that the Almighty, who could not possibly be suspected of Republican sentiments, had blessed the British effort.
    • Major Joseph Forrest, p. 162

Sharpe's Sword (1983)[edit]

  • Sharpe, Lossow suspected, often got what he wanted, but the achievements never seemed to satisfy. His friend, the German decided, was like a man who, searching for a crock of gold, found ten and rejected them all because the pots were the wrong shape.
    • Captain Lossow, King's German Legion, p. 22
All feared the artillery, coughing its death in fan-like swathes.
  • Some feared the cavalry and in their minds they rehearsed the thunder of a thousand hooves, the dust rolling like a sea fog from the charge and shot through with the bright blades that could slice a man's life away or, worse, hook out his eyes and leave him in darkness for life. Others feared musket fire, the lottery of an unaimed bullet coming in the relentless volleys that would fire the dry grass with burning wads and roast the wounded where they fell. All feared the artillery, coughing its death in fan-like swathes. It was best not to think about that.
    • Narrator, p. 63
  • Poor bloody Dale, Sharpe thought, to be betrayed in his first battle. If he survived he would be invalided out of the army. His broken body, good for nothing, would be sent to Lisbon and there he would have to rot on the quays until the bureaucrats made sure he had accounted for all his equipment. Anything missing would be charged to the balance of his miserable wages and only when the account was balanced would he be put onto a foul transport and shipped to an English quayside. There he was left, the army's obligation discharged, though if he was lucky he might be given a travel document that promised to reimburse any parish overseer who fed him while he traveled to his home. Usually the overseers ignored the paper and kicked the invalid out of their jurisdiction with an order to go and beg somewhere else. Dale might be better off dead than face all that.
    • Captain Richard Sharpe, commenting on the fate of a wounded Soldier, p. 105
  • Sharpe had been turbulent, ambitious, but one day, Hogan supposed, that restlessness would have found satisfaction. Then, curiously, Hogan found himself resenting Sharpe, resenting him because he had been killed and was thus denying his friendship to those who still lived.
    • Major Michael Hogan, commenting on Sharpe's apparent death, p. 179
  • "Whoa there, lad! Whoa! Gentle now! Die well, die well."
    • Sergeant Michael Connelly, p. 184
  • A Frenchman cried and Connelly squatted beside him, took the man's hand, and talked of Ireland. He told the uncomprehending Frenchman of Connaught's beauty, of its women, of fields so fat that a lamb was full grown in a week, of rivers so thick that the fish begged to be caught, and the Frenchman quieted and Connelly patted his hair and told him he was brave, and he was proud of him, and beyond the small grating the sky darkened into dusk and the orderlies came down again and dragged the Frenchman, who had died, head-bumping up the steps.
    • Narrator, p. 184
God had made nothing for the infantry, except a soil easily dug into graves, but the infantry were used to that.
  • "Whenever human beings don't know what to do, they call in the soldiers. Force ends everything, yes? That's what they did with Christ, Mr. Sharpe, they called in the soldiers. They didn't know what to do with him so they called on men like you and I don't suppose they thought twice about what they were doing, they just banged in the nails. You'd have done that, wouldn't you?
    • Reverend Doctor Patrick Curtis, p. 223
  • When God made the world he made the big plain just for the cavalry. It was firm, or would be when the sun had dried off the night's rain, and it was mostly level. The sabres could fall like scythes in the corn. The Arapiles, Greater and Lesser, God made for the gunners. From their summits, conveniently made flat so that the artillery could have a stable platform, the guns could dominate the plain. God had made nothing for the infantry, except a soil easily dug into graves, but the infantry were used to that.
    • Narrator, p. 234
  • A Marshal of France is a fine fellow, second only to the Emperor, and he wore a dark blue uniform edged with golden leaves, and his collar and shoulders were heavy with gilt decorations. A Marshal of France was given privileges, riches, and honour, but they had to be earned by answering the difficult questions.
    • Narrator, p. 238
Some French ran for help to the British infantry. The red ranks opened up, helped them in, because all infantry feared that moment when the cavalry hit them at full charge.
  • Some French ran for help to the British infantry. The red ranks opened up, helped them in, because all infantry feared that moment when the cavalry hit them at full charge. The British soldiers shouted at the French, told them to run to the British lines, and the red-coated men watched in awe what the Heavy Dragoons were doing and knew Fate could have decreed it otherwise and so they helped their enemy to escape the common enemy of all infantry.
    • Narrator, describing the effect of a successful British cavalry charge, p. 249
  • This was the might of France, the pride of France, the tactic of the world's first conscript army, and this column, Clausel's counter-attack, ignored cold mathematical logic. It was not defeated by the line.
    • Narrator, p. 253
  • Some deaths a man can enjoy, the death of an enemy, and Sharpe was paid to have enemies. Yet he did not wish death on the French. There was more satisfaction in seeing a surrendered enemy, a defeated enemy, than in seeing a slaughtered enemy.
    • Captain Richard Sharpe, p. 304
  • Sharpe's sword was lucky. There was a soldier's goddess and her name was Fate and she had liked the sword Harper made for Sharpe. The Kligenthal was stained with the blood of friends, with the torture of flayed priests, and the beautiful sword contained not luck, but evil.
    • Narrator, p. 312

Sharpe's Enemy (1984)[edit]

  • "Can't help our damned parents which is why we have to thrash our damned children"
    • Major General Nairn, p. 21
  • "I assume I'm expendable, sir."
    "You're a soldier, aren't you? Of course you're expendable!"
    Sharpe was still smiling. He was a soldier, and a lady needed recuing, and was that not what soldiers throughout history had done?
    • Captain Richard Sharpe and Major General Nairn, p. 49
  • He was a Major now, the ranks long in his past, yet he still carried the rifle. He had always carried a long-arm into battle; a musket when he was a private, a rifle now he was an officer. He saw no reason not to carry a gun. A soldier's job was to kill. A rifle killed.
    • Major Richard Sharpe, p. 55
  • "Would you give my warmest regards to Sir Arthur Wellesley? Or Lord Wellington as we must now call him."
    "You know him, sir?"
    "Of course. We were at the Royal Academy of Equiation together, at Angers. It's strange, Major, how your greatest soldier was taught to fight in France."
    • Colonel Michel Dubreton (French Army) and Major Richard Sharpe, p. 80
  • Sharpe wanted to be liked by the men under his command. He was tempted to believe that if he was friendly and approachable, reasonable and kind, then his men would follow him more willingly. But kindness was not the wellspring of loyalty and he knew the temptation had to be resisted.
    • Major Richard Sharpe, p. 94
  • "They like the idea of recusing women. [...] Everyone hates the bloody army till someone needs rescuing, then we're all bloody heroes and white knights."
    • Captain William Frederickson, p. 100
  • Sharpe led the way towards the right hand door, all waiting done, all nervousness dispelled because the fight was on and there was nothing now but to win. This was the Sharpe who had saved Wellington's life at Assaye, who had hacked through the ranks to take an Eagle with Harper, who had gone, maddened, into the breach at Badajoz. This was the Sharpe whom Major General Nairn had only been able to guess at as he looked at the quiet, dark-haired man across the rug in Frenada.
    • Narrator, p. 118
  • Death was so channeled and directed by this staircase, yet Sharpe had learned that the steps a man feared most were the ones that had to be taken. He climbed.
    • Narrator, p. 168
  • En Masse. It was the French way, the method that had brought victory to the armies of the Empire, the irresistible mass. Throw the mass like a human missile at the Castle's defenders, overwhelm them with targets, terrify them with the massed drummers in the column's centre, and push over the dead to victory.
    • French General, p. 271
  • Thank God for the hours of training, thank God that, for all its sometimes stupidity, the British army was the only army that trained its infantry with real ammunition.
    • Narrator, p. 283
  • A man could fight bullets and bayonets, even rockets if he understood the weapon, but no man understood the invisible enemies. Sharpe wished he knew how to propitiate Fate, the soldiers' Goddess, but She was a capricious deity, without loyalty.
    • Major Richard Sharpe, p. 311
  • He had no picture of her. She would be a memory that would fade as her warmth would fade, but would fade over the years, and he would forget the passion that gave life to this face.
    • Major Richard Sharpe (describing his murdered wife, Teresa Moreno) p. 339
  • She had been restless and forceful, a killer of the border hills, yet she had a childlike faith in love. She had given herself to him and never doubted the wisdom of the gift as he had sometimes doubted it. She had kept the faith, and she was dead.
    • Major Richard Sharpe (describing his murdered wife, Teresa Moreno) p. 339
  • This evening, he planned to make Sharpe drunk. He planned to force the grief out into the open and he would do it as the Irish knew how to do it, with a wake. [...] A wake, a decent, drunken, laughing wake. Hogan had ordered Harry Price to attend and he would force Sharpe to drink, to talk, to remember Teresa, and in the morning the grief would already be turning into healthy regret.
    • Major Michael Hogan, p. 344

Sharpe's Honor (1985)[edit]

  • Of all the ridiculous, unnecessary, stupid things, the Horse Guards had sent tents! Soldiers had always slept in the open! Sharpe had woken in the morning with his hair frozen to the ground, had woken with his clothes sopping wet, but he had never wanted a tent! He was an infantryman. An infantryman had to march, and march fast, and tents would slow them down.
    • Major Richard Sharpe, p. 40
  • The Marques' thought he had the Rifleman beaten, but all he had done was to make the Rifleman fight. This no longer looked like a duel to d'Alembord; it looked like a brawl leading to slaughter.
    • Captain Peter d'Alembord, p. 65
  • The only hope of success was in Sharpe's belief, that Hogan knew could be utterly false, that La Marquesa had become fond of the Rifleman when they were lovers. Yet, Hogan thought, Sharpe could be right. The Rifleman provoked great loyalty from all sorts of men and women. From Generals and whores to sergeants and frightened recruits. He was a soldier's soldier, but his friends and lovers saw the vulnerability in him and it made them fond of him.
    • Major Michael Hogan, p. 115
  • Sharpe bellowed in anger, the war shout. They thought him weak and beaten, but he had one fight in him and they would learn what a Rifleman was in a fight.
    • Narrator, p. 186
  • He was not certain why he was sure of defeat. It was, perhaps, that he admired Wellington. The English General had a mind of fine calculation that appealed to Ducos, who did not believe that the vainglorious Marshals of France had the measure of the Englishman. The Emperor, now, he was different. He would out-calculate and outfight any man.
    • Major Pierre Ducos, p. 233
  • All gunners were deaf, they said. They were the kings of the battlefield and they never heard the applause.
    • Narrator, p. 249
  • He wondered again, for the hundredth hundredth time, why these men, reckoned by their country to be the dregs of society, fought so well, so willingly, so bravely.
    • Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Leroy, p. 265
  • "It is you, sir?"
    "Sergeant Barret, isn't it?"
    "Yes, sir."
    "It is me"
    They bloody hung you, sir."
    "This army can't do anything right, Sergeant."
    • Sergeant Barret and Major Richard Sharpe, p. 273

Sharpe's Regiment (1986)[edit]

  • "We asked for them in February. It's June now; they must be coming."
    "They've been saying that about Christ for eighteen hundred years."
    • Major Richard Sharpe and Major General Nairn
  • "There are men in Spain who need me, who trust me. They're not special men, they wouldn't look very well in Carlton House, but they are fighting for all of you. That's why I'm here."
    • Major Richard Sharpe, p. 53

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

Heretic (2003)[edit]

  • They thought war was a game and every defeat only made them more eager to play.
    • Philip of Valois, King of France, regarding his more reckless nobles, p. 4
  • "Your nephew plays."
    "My nephew and his friends practice."
    "He would do better to look to his soul."
    "He has no soul, he's a soldier."
    • Father Roubert and the Count of Berat, p. 33
  • "The Grail is like God. It is everywhere, all around us, obvious, but we refuse to see it. Men think they can only see God when they build a great church and fill it with gold and silver statues, but all they need do is look. The Grail exists, Thomas, you just need to open your eyes."
    • Genevieve, p. 103
  • "Let me tell you about the English War Bow, Joscelyn. It is a simple thing, med of yew, a peasant's tool, really. My huntsman can use one, but he is the only man in Berat who has ever mastered the weapon. Why do you think that is? I'll tell you anyway. It takes years, Joscelyn, many years to master the yew bow. Ten years? Probably that long, and after ten years a man can send an arrow clean through armor at two hundred paces. Splat! A thousand ecus of man, armor, and weaponry fallen to a peasant's bow. And it isn't luck, Joscelyn. My huntsman can put an arrow through a bracelet at a hundred paces. He can pierce mail coat at two hundred. I've seen him put an arrow through an oak door at a hundred and fifty, and the door was three inches thick!"
    • The Count of Berat, p. 111
  • "I think the Holy Grail is a dream that men have, a dream that the world can be made perfect. And if it existed, then we'd all know the dream can't come true."
    • Thomas of Hookton, p. 192
  • "But the implication of the psalm, is it not, is that we are sheep and that God is our shepherd? Why else would He put us in a pasture and protect us with a staff? But what I have never fully understood is why the shepherd blames the sheep when they become ill."
    • Abbott Planchard, p. 212
  • "I do not approve of you, Thomas, and I do not approve of your woman, but nor can I approve of a Church that uses pain to bring the love of God to a sinful world. Evil begets evil, it spreads like a weed, but good works are tender shoots that need husbandry."
    • Abbott Planchard, p. 212

External links[edit]

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