Napoleon Bonaparte did not say, “Able was i ere I saw Elba,” although the expression is regularly attributed to him. This popular palindrome – a native or phrase that reads the same backward and forward – an initial appeared in 1848, 27 years after napoleon’s death. Someone called “J.T.R.” come up through the Elba line, along with “Snug & life was ns ere ns saw battle & guns.” (1)


Napoleon on Elba through Horace Vernet

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

Anagrams were more common. These are words or phrases developed by rearranging the letter of another word or phrase. In century past, anagrams were sometimes thought to have actually mystical significance. Through the 19th century, lock were mostly a type of word play. As folklorist H.B. Wheatley wrote, “though anagrams and also all kinds of play upon words room in themselves trivial, over there is no doubt that, on the presumption the recreation being necessary in a life of toil, the mind will at times discover amusement and delight in trifles….” (3)

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

You are watching: Able was i ere i saw elba

Napoleonic anagrams

A variety of anagrams to be made from famous names that the Napoleonic Wars.

Napoleon Bonaparte – Bona rapta pone leno (Robber lay down thy stolen goods)

Napoleon Bonaparte, sera-t-il consul à vie? (Will he it is in consul for life?) – Le peuple bon reconnaissant votera oui (Recognizing good, the human being 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, duke of Wellington – Let fine foil’d Gaul secure thy renown

Arthur Wellesley – truly he’ll watch war

Field Marshal the battle each other – The duke shall arm the field

His elegant the duke 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 race is lost! O, deadly news

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

Opposition – O toxicity Pit

French change – Violence run forth

“If us take the letters of the word veto (which to be the precursor the the revolution) indigenous La transformation Française, we shall find that the remaining letters, when transposed, will kind the sentence Un corse la finira.” (A Corsican will end it)

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

Other 19th-century anagrams

Alterations – succinct tailors

Astronomers – Moon-starers, or no much more stars

Breakfast – Fat bakers

Catalogues – gained as a clue

Charades – hard case

Constitution – It cut onion last

Democratical – Comical trade

Determination – I typical to rend it

Elegant – succinct leg

Gallantries – all great sins

Hysterics – His collection cry

Ireland – Erin lad

Lawyers – cunning ware

Masquerade – Queer as mad

Matrimony – into my arm

Melodrama – made moral

Midshipman – psychic his map

Misanthrope – preventive 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 – good help

Understanding – Red nuts and gin (5)

Napoleon’s puns

Napoleon wasn’t much given to indigenous play, though he did gain naming Claude Victor Perrin (“beau soleil”) the battle each other of Belluno. Among Napoleon’s companions in exile top top St. Helena associated the adhering to anecdote.

It was stated by among our civilization that the owner of one of the houses…on the island…said, ‘It is reported the you complain up yonder and also consider yourselves dissatisfied (he speak of Longwood), yet we are at a lose to make it out; for it is said that you have beef every day, while us cannot acquire it yet three or four times a year, and even then us pay because that it in ~ the price of fifteen or twenty pence a pound.’ The Emperor, who laughed heartily…observed, ‘You candlestick to have actually assured him the it price us number of crowns.’ Crowns in English, and in numerous languages of the continent, method also a item of money.

I observed latterly the it was the only pun I had till then heard indigenous the Emperor’s mouth, yet the human being to whom ns made the remark stated he had actually heard the his having actually made a comparable one, and on the very same subject in the isle the Elba. A mason to work in some structures which were to be built by the Emperor’s order had actually fallen and hurt himself; the Emperor wishing to encourage the assured him the it would certainly be of no consequence. ‘I have had,’ claimed he, ‘a lot worse autumn than yours; yet look at me, i am on mine legs, and also in good health.’ (6)

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

You might also enjoy:

10 things Napoleon never Said

Charades through the duke of Wellington

How the 20 questions Game involved America

Caricatures that Napoleon on Elba

How did Napoleon escape native Elba?

Pauline Bonaparte ~ above Elba

Humour in the 19th Century: 200-Year-Old Jokes

The Gazette the the Union, gold 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.

See more: How Many Pounds Is 90 Kg (Kilogram) To Lbs (Pound) Converter

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