A Hero Is No Braver Than an Ordinary Person, But the Hero Is Brave Five Minutes Longer

Marcel Proust? Ralph Waldo Emerson? Lord Palmerston? Duke of Wellington? Japanese Proverb? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: The difference between demonstrating bravery and cowardice can be surprisingly small. Perseverance under extreme duress can lead to success. Here are three instances from a family of sayings about heroism and tenacity:

  1. A hero is no braver than an ordinary man, but he is brave five minutes longer.
  2. Victory is on the side that can hold out a quarter of an hour longer than the other.
  3. The conquering soldier is not braver than the soldiers of other countries, but he is brave ten minutes longer.

This saying has been attributed to the transcendental philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson and the British military leader Arthur Wellesley. Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: The earliest match located by QI appeared in the May 1878 issue of a London periodical called the “Temple Bar”. An unnamed author penned a statement above bravery which was prefaced with a remark about success in the sport of fencing. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

If you can hit a man two inches farther than he can hit you, you are, in the truthful language of the “Fancy,” his better man physically. ‘Tis the same morally: all men are brave, but if one man is brave two minutes longer than the other he has a decided advantage.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading A Hero Is No Braver Than an Ordinary Person, But the Hero Is Brave Five Minutes Longer


  1. 1878 May, Temple Bar: A London Magazine, Volume 53, Sticks, Stocks and Stones: Arma Virumque Cano, Start Page 50, Quote Page 54, Richard Bentley & Son, London.(Google Books Full View) link