Since 2010 I have been steadily reading through Sharpe’s series, a set of historical novels following the storied career of the fictional Richard Sharpe, an orphan turned soldier who became an officer after saving the Duke of Wellington’s life in India. I wanted to commemorate the series’ end by sharing ten moments from the series, but there were so many to choose from I went with mostly quotes, along with my tentatively-favorite book.
1. From Sharpe’s Battle:
“You did what, Sharpe? A duel? Don’t you know dueling is illegal in the army?”
“I never said anything about a duel, General. I just offered to beat the hell out of him right here and now, but he seemed to have other things on his mind.”
2. A recent highlight was the scene in Sharpe’s Waterloo, in which a blood-spattered Sharpe storms into a dinner party to inform the generals present that Napoleon is invading. As soon as he entes the doors, his adulterous wife (who ran away with his money to shack up with a more genteel aristocratic ponce) begins screaming bloody murder, and the aristo flees in terror. They’re so pathetic by comparison its almost gratuitous, but made good by the fact that Sharpe ignores them because he’s go his mission. Challenging a cuckholding coward to a duel can wait.
3. From Sharpe’s Gold:
“Get him out, sir? There’s two regiments there!”
“So? That’s only eight hundred men. There are fifty-three of us.”
4. From Sharpe’s Escape
“Lieutenant Slingsby,” the Colonel said, “tells me that you insulted him. That you invited him to duel. That you called him illegitimate. That you swore at him.”
Sharpe cast his mind back to the brief confrontation on the ridge’s forward slope just after he had pulled the company out of the French panic. “I doubt I called him illegitimate, sir,” he said. “I wouldn’t use that sort of word. I probably called him a bastard.
5. Sharpe’s Prey is a rare Sharpe book, one taking place not on the battlefield but in the staggeringly beautiful port city of Copenhagan, in which Sharpe — alone in a strange city — must engage in dazzling heroics and prevent an entire fleet from falling into enemy hands by destroying it himself.
6. From Sharpe’s Challenge, movie version:
Harper: So, you and me are going to stop a rebellion?
Sharpe: Well I don’t see no bugger else.
“Don’t know your place, do you, Sharpie?”
“Maybe not, but I know how to stand before a French column.”
8. From Sharpe’s Havoc:
“So what do you believe in?” Vicente wanted to know.
“The trinity, sir,” said Harper sententiously.
“The trinity?” Vicente was surprised.
“The Baker rifle,” Sharpe said, “the sword bayonet, and me.”
9. From Sharpe’s Eagle, movie version:
“You can’t stop Captain Sharpe, sir. You can walk away from him or you can stand behind him, but don’t ever try and get in his way.”
10. From Sharpe’s Waterloo
“‘Educated, Sharpe! Think of that! My whole lifetime has been devoted to the study of warfare, and shall I tell you what is the one lesson I have learned above all others?’
‘I should like to know, sir.’ Sharpe admired his own tactful restraint, especially as the Prince was just twenty-three years old and Sharpe had been a fighting soldier for twenty-two.” […]
‘They took two Eagles! Two!’ The Prince clapped his hands. ‘You should go and take a look, Sharpe. It’s not every day you see an Eagle!’
‘Sergeant Harper and I once captured an Eagle,’ Sharpe’s voice was filled with an unmistakable loathing. ‘It was five years ago when you were still in school.'”