“the futile drivelling of mere quil driving”

I read Christopher Gilbert’s biography of the Duke of Wellington many years ago and remember thinking how the Duke’s campaign against Napoleon would make a great movie or historical novel.

It’s hard not to find some humor and fascination in a man who is confident enough—and then some—to criticize his boss with such oblique candor.

Here is an extract from a letter written by Wellington in Spain around 1810 to the Secretary of War, Lord Bradford:

My lord, if I attempted to answer the mass of futile correspondence that surrounds me, I should be debarred from all serious business of campaigning.

So long as I retain an independent position I shall see to it that no officer under my command is debarred, by attending to the futile drivelling of mere quil driving in your lordship’s officer, from attending to his first duty – which is, as always, to train the private men under his command.