In a brisk but witty narrative, Guedalla retraces the life and long career of Arthur Wesley, later Duke of Wellington. Wesley's unpromising youth provides no foreshadowing of his future greatness. Indeed, as told by Guedalla, Wellington become serious about his life and his occupation as a soldier only after his marriage suite for his future wife was turned down by her parents over his indifferent prospects. Guedalla rescues Wellington's highly successful apprenticeship in arms in India from historical obscurity; only Jac Weller has covered that period better. Wellington's successes in the Peninsular War and at Waterloo have been well-documented and Guedalla does not place undue emphasis on this portion of his career. Guedalla does carry the narrative forward into Wellington's long career in government and in politics after Waterloo, where, despite long and faithful public service, he might fairly be said to have outlived his times. Wellington spent a military lifetime defeating the more rabid effects of the French Revolution; as a politicain, he found himself often out of synch with the much more peaceful English Revolution that followed.

It is Guedalla's gift as an historian to place Wellington in the context of his times and especially of his social class as a member of the Anglo-Irish nobility. His extensive research into Wellington's correspondence has produced a weath of quotes that help provide a flavor of the man. Guedalla avoids the temptation to speculate; Wellington's worlds and actions are allowed to speak for him. We come away with a sense of Wellington as a strict, disciplined, methodical, and confident military officer endowed with both an enourmous amount of common sense about people and politics and with distinct pride and ambition about his own career.
This book is highly recommended to students of the life of the Duke of Wellington.


  • 1931 Harper & Brothers Publisher NY

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