Napoleon Bonaparte did no say, “Able was ns ere I observed Elba,” return the expression is often attributed come him. This popular palindrome – a native or phrase that reads the same backward and also forward – very first appeared in 1848, 27 year after napoleon’s death. Someone named “J.T.R.” came up with the Elba line, in addition to “Snug & life was i ere ns saw war & guns.” (1)


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Napoleon top top Elba by Horace Vernet


According to a periodical released in 1821, the year Napoleon died, there to be at the time just one recognized palindrome expression in English. Also that to be “only procured by a quaintness of order in one word, and also the substitution the a figure for another: Lewd did ns live, & evil i did dwel.” (2)

Anagrams were much more common. These are words or phrases formed by rearranging the letters of an additional word or phrase. In centuries past, anagrams were occasionally thought to have mystical significance. Through the 19th century, they were generally a kind of word play. Together folklorist H.B. Wheatley wrote, “though anagrams and also all type of pat upon words room in themselves trivial, over there is no doubt that, on the presumption the recreation being essential in a life the toil, the mind will at times find amusement and delight in trifles….” (3)

Georgians and also Victorians specifically enjoyed cognate anagrams, in which the anagram is connected in some means to the initial word or phrase.

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Napoleonic anagrams

A variety of anagrams were made from popular names the the Napoleonic Wars.

Napoleon Bonaparte – Bona rapta pone leno (Robber lay under thy steal goods)

Napoleon Bonaparte, sera-t-il consul à vie? (Will he be consul for life?) – Le peuple bon reconnaissant votera oui (Recognizing good, the people will poll yes.)

Napoleon, Empereur des Français – Un pape serf a sacré le noir demon (A serf pope has crowned the black demon.)

Arthur Wellesley, battle each other of Wellington – Let well foil’d Gaul secure her renown

Arthur Wellesley – truly he’ll see war

Field Marshal the fight it out – The battle each other shall arm the field

His grace the battle each other of Wellington – well fought, K! No disgrace in thee

Horatio Nelson – respect est a Nilo (Honour is native the Nile)

Prince Regent – G.R. In pretence

Princess Charlotte Augusta that Wales – P.C., her august gyeongju is lost! O, deadly news

Patriotism – O, ’tis a Mr. Pit (William Pitt the Younger to be a British prime Minister throughout the Napoleonic Wars)

Opposition – O toxicity Pit

French transformation – Violence operation forth

“If we take the letter of words veto (which was the precursor the the revolution) native La transformation Française, we shall discover that the continuing to be letters, once transposed, will type the sentence Un corse la finira.” (A Corsican will finish it)

La Sainte Alliance (the holy Alliance) – La Sainte Canaille (the holy Rabble) (4)

Other 19th-century anagrams

Alterations – practiced tailors

Astronomers – Moon-starers, or no an ext stars

Breakfast – Fat bakers

Catalogues – obtained as a clue

Charades – tough case

Constitution – It cut onion last

Democratical – Comical trade

Determination – I median to rend it

Elegant – neat leg

Gallantries – all great sins

Hysterics – His collection cry

Ireland – Erin lad

Lawyers – sly ware

Masquerade – Queer together mad

Matrimony – right into my arm

Melodrama – make moral

Midshipman – mental his map

Misanthrope – spare him not

Mourning – O, grim nun

Old England – gold Land

Paradise shed – enjoy sad toils

Paradise regained – Dead respire again

Parishioners – i hire parsons

Parliament – Partial men

Penitentiary – Nay, i repent it

Potentates – Ten tea pots

Prerogative – Rover eat pig

Punishment – ripe thumps

Soldiers – Lo! i dress

Solemnity – Yes, Milton

Sovereignty – ’Tis ye govern

Sweetheart – There we sat

Telegraph – great help

Understanding – Red nuts and gin (5)

Napoleon’s puns

Napoleon no much given to indigenous play, though he did gain naming Claude Victor Perrin (“beau soleil”) the duke of Belluno. Among Napoleon’s companions in exile on St. Helena related the following anecdote.

It was stated by among our people that the owner of one of the houses…on the island…said, ‘It is reported that you complain up yonder and also consider yourselves unhappy (he spoke of Longwood), but we space at a loss to make it out; for it is said that you have actually beef every day, while us cannot acquire it however three or four times a year, and also even then we pay because that it in ~ the price of fifteen or twenty pence a pound.’ The Emperor, that laughed heartily…observed, ‘You chandelier to have actually assured him the it price us several crowns.’ Crowns in English, and also in several languages the the continent, means also a piece of money.

I it was observed latterly that it to be the only pun I had till then heard from the Emperor’s mouth, but the person to whom ns made the remark said he had actually heard the his having made a comparable one, and on the same subject in the isle of Elba. A mason to work in some structures which to be to be built by the Emperor’s order had fallen and also hurt himself; the Emperor wishing come encourage that assured him the it would be the no consequence. ‘I have had,’ stated he, ‘a lot worse autumn than yours; yet look in ~ me, i am on my legs, and also in an excellent health.’ (6)

This resilience stands him in good stead in Napoleon in America.

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The Gazette that the Union, golden Rule and also Odd-Fellows’ family members Companion, Vol. IX (New York, 1848), p. 30.“On Palindromes,” The brand-new Monthly Magazine and Literary Journal, Vol. II (London, 1821), pp. 171-172.H. B. Wheatley, Of Anagrams (London, 1862), p. 142.Ibid., pp. 86, 96-97, 135-137.

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Ibid., pp. 140-141.Emmanuel-Auguste-Dieudonné las Cases, The Life, Exile and Conversations of the Emperor Napoleon, Vol. II (London, 1835), pp. 164-165.