Napoleon - Relentless energy grandiose dreams

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

Napoleon before the Sphinx, by Jean Leon Gerome

Napoleon before the Sphinx, by Jean Leon Gerome

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

Relentless Energy Grandiose Dreams

1. Adventures and dreams in Egypt

In the army, many of the officers belonging to the nobility had left France at the beginning of the Revolution. As a re­sult, capable soldiers rose quickly. At 24 Napoleon became brigadier general. In 1793 he helped to reconquer Toulon, - a rebel town - and he suppressed a royalist riot against the Convention in 1795. In 1797 he was given the command of an army preparing to invade Lombardy in northern Italy. The Italian campaign was a great success. It removed Austria from the war, gave France control of northern Italy, and estab­lished Napoleon's reputation as an outstanding general. Then Bonaparte proposed to the Directors1 to take an army by sea to Egypt, where he hoped to sever England's lifeline to India. The Directors easily accepted, rather happy to send far away a too successful general....

... the general writes to ... the Directors a long report, which begins as follows: "Even with our best efforts, it will take us sev­eral years to get the upper hand at sea. The invasion of England

would be a desperate venture; it will only be possible if we take

l. The Directory: a body composed of five directors which was since 1795 the central government of France.

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

the islanders by surprise. ... We shall need long nights, so it must be in winter. Consequently we cannot make the attempt till next year. Before then, it is likely enough that hindrances will have arisen on the Continent. Perhaps the great moment has been lost for ever."

After this amazingly perspicacious renunciation of his scheme for the invasion of England, he goes on to formulate a yet more amazing plan for achieving the same end by other means. Substantially, he proposes eight naval campaigns, ranging from Spain to Holland, all the political conditions and consequences being carefully considered. If, however, ships and money are not forthcoming, the next best expedient will be to attack English commerce, beginning in Egypt, whence Bonaparte could get back to direct further operations against England.

Enough for the Directors to hear the word Egypt, and they are ready to agree to this last plan. He shall have the command there, and all the help they can give. So dangerous a man as this - the farther away he is, the better! Best of all would be, to make an end of him!

The Egyptian plan is not new; it has been mooted at intervals for years. Talleyrand had brought it forward in connection with Bonaparte's letter, though his comment had been: "The leader of this campaign would not need to be a man of exceptional military talent." Was this remark prompted by a wish to keep Bonaparte in France, or was it nothing more than a spiteful innuendo? However that may be, the talented commander, when he read the words at a much later date, wrote in the margin: "Crazy!" But we anticipate. He drafted the terms of his own nomination as chief of the Army in the East: plenipotentiary powers; a commission to take Malta and Egypt, to drive the English from the Red Sea, to cut a canal trough the Isthmus of Suez in order that France may be secure in the possession of the Red Sea.

With feverish energy he now devotes himself to preparations for the new undertaking. He has long been familiar with all the essentials of the problem. The Mediterranean is his home. In childhood, he was wont to contemplate the Moor's head on the

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

scutcheon of Corsica, sailing ships from Africa often visited the island; not long ago, he had deprived Genoa and Venice of their fleets, he was already in touch with Tunisians and Greeks, with Albanians and Bosnians. Over all these machinations brooded the spirit of Alexander, who had chosen Egypt as the centre of his world empire.

For the first time, during these weeks of waiting, do the ele­ments of Bonaparte's nature become formally compacted within him. What has been no more than a scheme of the unbridled imagi­nation, the plan of one who aspires to resemble the most splendid exemplars of the ancient world, is now dissected, pondered, weighed in the calculating brain; it is refashioned, reconsidered; by degrees it is adapted to the actual possibilities of the situation. When preparing his Egyptian campaign, Bonaparte attempts, in the grand style, to unite the calculator with the dreamer, while it escapes his notice that there is an incalculable residue. His imagi­nation, nourished upon dreams of the heroic age, blinds him to the fact that we are no longer living in the days of classical antiq­uity, that caliph and conqueror can no longer command millions of unthinking slaves, that even in distant Africa the peoples are awakening. Bonaparte is making ready for a titanic and insoluble conflict; and the more deeply he becomes involved in it, the more defiantly will he continue his vain attempts to solve it.

This man of genius, born two thousand years too late, is al­ready spinning the threads of his own doom. With the hand of a demigod, he is sketching the outlines of his own fate.

"I am going to the East," he writes to his brother, "with all the means to ensure success. Should France need me, ... should war break out and take an unfavourable turn, I shall come home, and public opinion will be more solidly on my side than it is now. But if the fortune of war should favour the republic, if another com­mander like myself should appear upon the scene, I shall, perhaps, by staying in the East, do the world more service than he can." When Bourrienne asks how long they are to be away. Bonaparte answers: "Six months or six years."

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

At the last moment, fate wants to give him another warning. In Rastatt, Austria refuses to cede the left bank of the Rhine; in Vienna, Bernadotte, who is French envoy there, is so provocative that a new war already seems imminent. Would it not be better to stay in Europe? But the Directors speed the departure, saying that matters have now gone too far to withdraw. In May, exactly two years after Napoleon's entry into Milan, four hundred ships set sail from Toulon. Josephine waves farewell to her husband, and (doubtless with more concern) to Eugene. Not until the whole mighty apparatus has been set in motion at the master's nod, does he disclose to his subordinates the goal of the voyage. All are on deck, watching the gradual disappearance of the European coast; but Napoleon, on the "Orient," standing beside the mainmast among the eight-pounders, is not, like the others, looking back at Europe. His gaze is directed towards the south-east.

At the same hour, Nelson and three other British admirals standing on the decks of their ships, are searching the seas with telescopes for a sign of the hated enemy, who is, it is supposed, about to sail for Sicily. Where is he to be found? Yesterday, Nelson's fleet was scattered by a storm. Days pass before the ships can get together again, and the very storm which had detained Bonaparte for twenty-four hours in Toulon, saves the French. They reach Malta before the English fleet, and seize the important island by a coup de main. By the time the cat arrives, the mouse is gone. Under all sail, Nelson presses on to Egypt, but finds no one there, for he has outstripped the enemy. He tries the Syrian coast. Nothing! Back to Sicily. No one! "The Devil has the devil's own luck," says Nelson, cursing himself and the foe.

The French fleet is four weeks on the voyage, and Napoleon who is a bad sailor, spends most of the time in bed. Is not this symbolic? Will the seasick general ever win the command of the sea? He is restless lying down, and, to pass the weary hours, he makes Bourrienne read aloud to him

For on board this fleet there are not only two thousand guns. A whole university is sailing to the East. Astronomers, geome­tricians, mineralogists, chemists, antiquarians, bridge-builders,

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

road engineers, orientalists, political economists, painters, poets - one hundred and seventy-five learned civilians, with hundreds of boxes full of apparatus and books. Everything in this land of ancient story is to be meticulously studied. For France, Bonaparte is to win a colony, and for himself an African reputation. The sol­diers have bluntly nicknamed these learned passengers, collec­tively, "the donkeys." But Bonaparte prizes them, and his wrath breaks loose on any of his officers who grumble at the presence of so many "idlers." He has chosen his experts with the utmost care, and has thought out every detail of what they are to do. He has brought a font of Arabic type, extracted with great difficulty from the State printing house. He has taken especial pains in the choice of books for the library with which the flagship is freighted for the voyage to Egypt. Novels are good for officers; and when he finds them reading novels, he laughs good humouredly. For himself, he has only Werther and Ossian, works of passion, his in­separable companions. On this journey, however, he seldom reads them.

What does Bourrienne read aloud to the chief? Travels in Egypt which have been collected from various quarters, from Rome and elsewhere; Plutarch; Homer; Arrian's account of Alexander's campaigns; the Koran, which, logically enough, is housed among the political works, beside the Bible and Montesquieu.

After dinner, he is fond of holding sessions of "the Institute." He uses the name jestingly, and yet in the discussions he takes it seriously enough. He propounds a subject for debate, and nomi­nates the champions. Mathematics and religion are his favourite topics on these occasions, for he has always been both calcu­lator and dreamer. There sits the famous Monge, a man with a crooked nose, a receding forehead, and a massive chin; Napoleon has admired him for years, and thinks more of him than of any of the others. Beside Monge is Desaix, whom Bonaparte has just summoned from the Army of the Rhine; he has a thick nose and thick lips, it is a somewhat negroid but kindly face, and the strategist rivals the mathematician in the shrewdness of his eyes. Look at Kleber, a man of fearless countenance, full of courage and

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

resolution; beside him, Laplace, who peers earnestly at the com­pany from beneath his eye-shade; next is Berthollet, with a head like a ram. Kleber grumbles at geometry; but when one of the professors wishes to take up the cudgels on behalf of the things of the spirit, Bonaparte signs to him not to waste breath, and points with a smile to Berthier, who has fallen asleep in the corner over the Sorrows of Werther.

The weather is getting much warmer. Napoleon, wishing to breathe the night air, lies on deck till a late hour. His intimates are sitting round him in a circle, and discussion turns on the planets, on the question whether they are inhabited. Pros and cons are voiced by the disputants. This leads to the problem of the cre­ation. The sons of the revolution, disciples of Voltaire, be they generals or be they professors, are agreed upon one point, that the universe and its origin are rationally explicable in terms of natural science, without reference to the idea of God. Napoleon lies there, listening in silence. Then, pointing to the stars, he interjects: "You may say what you like, but who made all those?"

Vivant Denon, archeologist and artist, was one of the 175 scholars who accompanied Napoleon on his campaign. Vivant Denon made numerous sketches of ancient Egyptian monuments. Here he is seen climbing on the Sphinx to take its measurements.

Vivant Denon, archeologist and artist, was one of the 175 scholars who accompanied Napoleon on his campaign. Vivant Denon made numerous sketches of ancient Egyptian monuments. Here he is seen climbing on the Sphinx to take its measurements.

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

Bonaparte rides slowly across the desert sands to look upon the face of the Sphinx. The eyes of stone and the eyes of steel meet. Like the Sphinx, he knows how to be silent, but we can guess his thoughts.

"Alexander stood here. Caesar stood here. They lived two thousand years after this image was sculptured, as I live two thou­sand years after them. Immeasurable empires, consecrated to the sun, extended around the Nile. Millions obeyed the will of one. What the ruler dreamed, was fashioned by his slaves with their myriad hands. Everything was possible to him. The king was the son of the gods. All obeyed him as the descendant of the original conqueror. Because that first conqueror named himself king, and son of the gods, all believe him. Here, in the East, it is possible to say to human beings, `I am your god' and all believe. Europe is a mole-hill."

Soon, not many miles away, Napoleon makes ready for battle. Eight thousand Mamelukes, the best cavalry in the world, are ready to crush the invader. He rides up and down in front of his troops, points to the pyramids in the distance, and exclaims: "Soldiers, forty centuries are looking down on you." The Mamelukes charge the French, but are driven back by artillery fire; their camp is soon in Bonaparte's hands; they flee to the Nile, crossing the river in boats and by swimming; since it is notorious that they always have gold with them, the fight continues for hours on the bank and in the water until the victors have secured some of the treasure.

In Cairo, he knows how to win the support of the pashas and the sheiks. He gives out that he loves, and venerates the Turks and the sultan. He is only attacking Mamelukes, who are their enemies likewise. Periphrases, bowings and scrapings, elaborate metaphors - these come natural to him, the man of the Mediterranean who is half an oriental. They are devices for lying even more circum­stantially than do the diplomats of Europe with their speedier and directer methods. Here he is following the oriental custom. While still on board the "Orient," he had dictated to his interpreters a letter to the pasha of Egypt. It began as follows:

"Thou who shouldst be supreme over all the beys, but hast, as

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

I know, neither power nor prestige in Cairo, thou wilt welcome my coming. Assuredly thou knowest that I have it not in mind to do anything against the Koran or against the sultan. Come, there­fore, to my help, and join with me in cursing the godless race of beys!"

To approximate his own creed to the faith of Allah, he begins, like a conjuror, to juggle with the Trinity. First of all he explains that he has conquered the pope and the Maltese and that for him the Koran is the word of God just as much as the Bible. But, at a later date, when the forces sent to dislodge his own are being dis­embarked, he argues as follows: "Allah is Allah, and Mohammed is his prophet. To the divan of Cairo, chosen from among the ablest, most learned, and most enlightened of men! The blessing of the Prophet be upon you!" He goes on to say that he has al­lowed these men to be landed in order that he may kill them all at one blow, "which will be a glorious sight for Cairo." There were Russians on board the invader's ships. "The Russians hate all who, like you and myself, believe in one God, for, in their own legends, they speak of three gods. They will learn, soon enough, that there is but one God, the father of victory, who graciously fights on the side of the good."

Out of this potpourri of the religious, which ends on a more pagan note than he seems to be aware, he subsequently extracts unchristian France as a political instrument, saying that the reli­gion of France is especially akin to Mohammedanism. He is con­tinually appealing to the Koran as the basis of his thought. The holy book which he has included in the political section of his travelling library, shall be made to do him good service. When he dismisses a dangerous cadi in Cairo, he finds a justification for his action in the Koran: "All that is good comes from God; he gives us victory ... Whatever I undertake must succeed. All those whom I call my friends, thrive. But anyone who helps my enemies, perishes."

If he had but had the luck to have been born here in Egypt four thousand years ago, he would have gained the victory by the power of suggestion alone. But nowadays even these brown fel­lows

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

are sceptical! He despises them, while showering them with superlatives; but, at the same time, he threatens to punish with the utmost rigour any of his soldiers who injures a native. The first order of the day to the Army in the East runs: "The peoples with whom we are now in contact do not treat their women as we treat ours. Nevertheless, anyone who harms a woman is looked upon as a monster here as in Europe. Looting enriches very few, dishonours all, destroys the sources of aid, and makes us hated by those with whom it is to our interest that we should be friends." No one is to enter a mosque, and groups must not even assemble round the doors. By cajolery and threats, by tolerance and in­trigue, by Allah and the sword, by all the methods of the oriental, Bonaparte secures an authoritative position within a few weeks.

At length he can regard himself as master in the East. Is he any the happier for that?

Napoleon receives news that his wife is unfaithful to him. This makes him very despondent...

A blow quickened him back to life.

Returning from a ride in the desert, he entered Marmont's tent to find that all his associates were greatly perturbed. What had happened? The French fleet had been destroyed. The day before, there had been a sea-fight in Aboukir Bay, and only four ships had escaped. All the rest had been sunk or captured by Nelson.

The officers stood in gloomy silence. The grenadier on sentry duty in front of the tent understood, everyone understood, the meaning of this reverse. Napoleon's face paled, but he recovered his composure instantly, realising that it was his business to re­store the morale of the others. After a brief pause, he was ready with encouraging words: "So we are cut off in Egypt. Good. We must keep our heads above the stormy waters; the sea will soon be smooth once more.- Perhaps we are predestined to change the face of the East. Here we must remain, or achieve a grandeur like that of the ancients!"

A terrible reverse! What will Paris say? He is not admiral of the

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

fleet, and was not present at the battle of the Nile, but the disaster will certainly affect his prestige. How are we to get home again? On Turkish ships? But will the sultan remain neutral any longer? He has been wavering between Russia and France, and will be likely, now, to turn against the French. England, too. The fleet annihilated; thirteen battleships gone. How many years will it be before we can again face England on the high seas? A decade, per-haps. Allah is Allah, but behind what cloud was my star hidden? No, not my star! For, when he reports the defeat, he conceals nothing, but is careful to explain in his official dispatches that for-tune had delayed Nelson's return until the French had been able to secure their footing in Egypt. Weeks of uncertainty. This is a new phase in Bonaparte's life. He must remain inactive, while he waits for news that will throw light upon the state of affairs in Europe. If England keeps good watch, perhaps no letter will be able to cross the seas. For the first time in his career, he begins to wonder how he can kill time. The administration of a whole army, the suppression of disturbances, the rehabilitation of crumbling fortresses — these are no more than variants of idleness. The hours hang heavily, and he becomes more nervous, more fanciful than of yore. Bourrienne tries to tranquillise the commander's mind, saying: "Let us wait till we hear what the Directory proposes to do!" "The Directory? A dung-heap! The Directors hate me, and will leave me here to rot!" If he could only ride! But it is too hot at any rate to ride in uniform, and an attempt to wear Arab clothing has been aban-doned. Sometimes he goes for a ride, in spite of the heat. When, on his return, he finds that no dispatches have come, he grows meditative: "Do you know what I have been thinking, Bourrienne? If I ever see France again, my greatest ambition will be to conduct a campaign on the Bavarian lowland. There I could win a great battle, and take vengeance for Blenheim. Then I should retire to my country seat and lead a quiet life, perfectly contented." The fire still glows; the kettle goes on simmering! In the plain of the

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

Po, his restless spirit was yearning for the East; having made his way to Egypt, he craves for Bavaria; and always he thinks in terms of battles.

Now, when his future is so uncertain, when he is perhaps cut off from all chance of returning home, and when there is no longer a strong tie of personal affection to bind him to distant Europe, he opens negotiations with the shah of Persia and Tippoo Sahib, England's enemies: asking the former for a right of way to India; and offering the latter an alliance, and deliverance from "The iron yoke of England." The prospect of following in Alexander's foot-steps looms nearer. But when he comes to practical calculations he begins to doubt the possibility: "Only if fifteen thousand men can be left here, and I have another thirty thousand at my dis-posal, shall I be able to venture a march on India."

Although all remains in the realm of fancy, such imaginative excursions fill Bonaparte's happiest hours; he luxuriates in these vast plans. Four years later, he declares: "In Egypt alone did I feel free from the trammels of civilisation; and there I seemed to have the means of realising all my dreams. I pictured myself on the road to Asia, the founder of a new religion, mounted on an elephant, wearing a turban, and holding a new Koran which contained my own message. My plan was to weld the experiences of two worlds, to force history into my service, to attack the English power in India, and, through my conquests there, to reopen communica-tions with Europe."

Are these the visions of a poet? Or is it that the conqueror and the poet are close kin? In Egypt, he has a romantic name for himself, "Sultan EI Kebir"— he is, in truth, always the sultan, more or less. El Kebir is his third name, as visionary as the whole campaign.
In the Institute, the commander-in-chief sits as an equal among equals. He never tries, in argument there, to gain a victory by rank instead of reason. Yet many of the questions that are discussed relate to army matters of immediate practical importance, such as the filtering of Nile water, the erection of windmills, the search

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

for ingredients needed to make gunpowder. On one occasion, Napoleon grew heated. Berthollet said quietly: "You are wrong, my friend, for you have lost your temper." A naval surgeon supported Berthollet. "You men of science are as thick as thieves," exclaimed Bonaparte. "Chemistry plays the cook for medicine, and plays the assassin for science!" The surgeon's answer came pat: "But how, Citizen-General, would you define the conqueror's art?" Within the republic of learning, this equality pleased the dictator, whom elsewhere hardly anyone now ventured to contradict.

For weeks in succession, the orders of the day ended with the words: "No news from France." Everything was at a standstill; widespread uncertainty prevailed. Amid the general inertia, the travelling university was an exception; the savants were hard at work, studying, advising, ever ready to help in the second line. As far as they were concerned, this time of waiting was a great op-portunity for research. A thorough investigation of the country and its resources was in progress; the fishes of the Nile and the minerals of the Red Sea, the flora of the Delta and the constitu-ents of the desert sand — all were now for the first time being elaborately scrutinised. The exploitation of the natron lakes and the Nile mud was under consideration. The physicians of the ex-pedition were enquiring into the causes of oriental plague; and of trachoma, the terrible form of ophthalmia which is so frequent a cause of blindness in Egypt. A dictionary and a grammar were printed; some of the buried temples of Upper Egypt were disin-terred; the Wells of Moses were discovered. One day, an engineer officer came back from Rosetta bringing with him a granite slab on which there was a polyglot inscription, chiselled in Greek and in two variants of the ancient Egyptian picture-writing. The riddle of the hieroglyphs had been unriddled.1

What especially interested the commander, however, was the possibility of cutting a canal through the Isthmus of Suez. He made long journeys in the desert, always exposed to the danger

1. The Rosetta stone would later be confiscated by the British, but the French scholars sent copies to Paris, allowing Champollion twenty years later to decipher the hieroglyphs.

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

Napleon ordered the Imperial Press to work on the publication of the cultural and scientific studies brought back by the scholars of the expedition. Four hundred engravers worked for more than twenty years on this "Description of Egypt", which included not only ancient monuments but also a documentation on life in modern Egypt along with a practical encyclopedia on its flora and fauna. More than 3000 illustrations, some of which were more than one meter long. This book gave birth to the science of Egyptology by revealing the wonders of a forgotten civilisation. We reproduce here some pages of that book: Below, a sketch of the temple in the island of Philae. On top left, sketches of sculptures on its porticoe, and on top right details of sacred vases, symbolic head-gears and sculptures.

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

The description of Egypt: above, a sketch of the Memphis pyramids and the Sphinx; below, tow details taken from the many plates pertaining to natural history, and the title page of one of the volumes

The description of Egypt: above, a sketch of the Memphis pyramids and the Sphinx; below, tow details taken from the many plates pertaining to natural history, and the title page of one of the volumes

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

of Bedouin raids; traced the line of the ancient canal; planned the course of a new channel. All his speculations were confirmed half a century later by Lesseps. Not like an adventurer whose schemes have miscarried, but in the spirit of a conqueror, he designed to separate the continents and link the seas.

Now at length! Some merchants on small vessels have man-aged to slip through the English lines. From them, Napoleon learns that the destruction of the French fleet off Aboukir has brought about a general transformation. The sultan has entered into an alliance with Russia, and the two powers have declared war on France. Achmed, the Turkish commander, is marching on Egypt through Syria. The malcontents in Cairo, encouraged by these tidings, rise in revolt. The insurrection is quelled by artillery fire, and the heads of the rebels are exposed on pikes as a warning. "This will have a salutary effect. Clemency is no good here."

On the whole, the commander is more relieved than alarmed. If the Turks are marching southwards, so much the better; at length he will have a chance of beating them in open fight.

From most of his close associates he conceals his deeper cause for anxiety. When he left France to occupy Egypt, his aim was to secure a position that would help him in his scheme for the conquest of India. "With ships, we can cross the seas; with camels we can cross the desert." He had allowed fifteen months for the conquest of Egypt and the consolidation of his power there, and for the preparation and equipment of his forces for the Indian campaign. That would need forty thousand men, as many camels, and one hundred and twenty field. guns. He had asked for exten-sive reinforcements; ships, guns, and men. These were to support his land army by sea.

The battle of the Nile had frustrated his fine schemes. The English were blockading the coast; the sultan had become his enemy; Egyptian sentiment was now hostile. But it was Napoleon's way to adapt his plans to changing circumstances, and it seemed to him that he could derive advantage from the turn of events. The Turks and the English are going to make a joint landing? That threatens our very existence here? Well, then, let

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

us attack to escape destruction! Seize all the magazines and ports from the Turks, arm the Syrian Christians, stir up the Druses! If we were to take the fortress of Acre, opinion in Cairo would veer round to our side. By June, we shall be in Damascus; shall thrust outposts forward into the Taurus; march eastward with 26,000 Frenchmen, 6,000 Mamelukes, and 18,000 Druses. Desaix will come direct from Egypt. The sultan will find it expedient to keep quiet. The shah of Persia has already agreed to our marching by way of Bassora and Shiraz. By March, if Allah favours us, we shall reach the Indus.

Once more, Bonaparte fashions a splendid dream out of pressing embarrassments. He sets out for Syria.

There are practically no roads. Sometimes he rides as many as forty-five miles in fifteen hours, invariably by night, without water, and almost always with the vanguard. When Jaffa falls, three thousand Turkish soldiers surrender. What on earth is he to do with them? Keep them prisoner? His own men are on short commons; and, besides. he would then have to spare thousands of Frenchmen to guard the Turks. Send them home? He has no ships. Exchange them? The Turks have no prisoners. Set them free? Then they will reinforce Acre, the next stronghold. What on earth is he to do? Council of war!

All are in favour of killing the prisoners. Only a few days be-fore, the Turks killed one of our envoys! Our own troops would be infuriated if they were to go hungrier still because of these fellows. Bonaparte wavers, thinks matters over for three days, and finally agrees. The prisoners are marched down to the sea and slaughtered. Subsequent military critics, especially the Germans, have-agreed that there was no choice.

Acre lies before us. There we shall find stores of new weapons. Then onwards toward the North! The great dream renews it-self during these weeks. Now that Turkey has declared war, he is completely isolated, and forced into a life-and-death struggle. Everything is possible, for needs must when the devil drives. But he is not quite easy in his mind about the Indian scheme, for he mentions an alternative plan to one of his officers: "After

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

I have seized Acre, I shall march upon Damascus and Aleppo, augmenting my army as I go, for I shall announce to the people the overthrow of the tyrannous pashas. Then, with overwhelming forces, I shall take Constantinople, make an end of Turkey, and found a new and great empire. This will bring me immortal fame. Perhaps I shall then make my way home through Adrianople or Vienna. after annihilating the house of Habsburg."

Always the same visions, magnified now, when the situation grows desperate.

He reaches Acre. Not a big fortress, but well supplied with modem weapons, and defended by English officers and artiller-ists. Three successive attempts to storm the place are fruitless. English battleships arrive to support the besieged, and threaten the besiegers.

At last, after eight months, he has direct news from Paris! It is little to his taste. Talleyrand has not gone to Constantinople to treat with the sultan. Is the rogue hedging? The French Republic is at war with Naples and Sardinia. Moreau and Augereau, Bonaparte's rivals have high command. Why, in God's name, do we squat here on the burning sands, inactive? Storm the place! Are our schemes to be wrecked against these miserable walls?

Who is in charge of the defence? Phelippeaux is there, a skilled engineer, one of Napoleon's old comrades at the Cadets' School in Paris, afterwards an émigré who had entered the English service!

Why can they not take the place by storm? Bonaparte has no patience for a slow siege, for starving his enemy into surrender. The whole idea is foreign to his impetuous temperament. A for-tress, like a woman, must be taken by storm, or not at all. He cannot beg, serve, or woo; and he cannot wait. Now time presses, and to wait is out of the question. Storm! The soldiers begin to murmur. Even among the officers there are mutterings which are the heralds of mutiny. "Let us have Kleber for our leader; he is humane and gentle."

Bonaparte sits in his tent, thinking matters over. A terrible hour! Is England to be ever invincible, even on land, even here in the East? Is the siege to drag on for months? Impossible! Europe

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

Napoleon visiting the plague affected people in JaffaNapoleon visiting the plague affected people in Jaffa

is full of the clash of arms. Turn back, without having won a vic-tory? An unprecedented experience, an entirely new feeling; but there is no choice. The enterprise must be abandoned. Back to Egypt! It is only half the truth to say that Acre barred his march upon India. Who can tell whether, if the fortress had been taken, he would have pressed on towards the Indus notwithstanding the ominous news from Paris. We should have to reckon with incalcu-lable feelings here. Every coincidence is symbolical. Before Acre and on the Po, France is at war with the same monarchical coali-tion. None but the son of the revolution can save the situation. Contrary to his usual custom, he does not ride in the van, but for hours after the columns have started southward, till nightfall in-deed, he stays behind on an elevation to contemplate the stubborn

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

fortress, his mind filled with a sort of ferocious melancholy.

A ghastly retreat. No roads, no water, the plague as rearguard. Is Bonaparte's career to be ruined by the desert and the black death? Calm of aspect, he visits the sick in hospital, and encour-ages them wherever possible. The doctor points to fifty cases as hopeless. They must be put out of their misery, thinks Bonaparte; their path to death must be smoothed. With a royal assumption of responsibility, he orders a lethal dose of opium. The doctor de-murs. It remains uncertain whether some one else carried out the order. "In such circumstances," he says later, "I would have had my own son poisoned."

Two thousand sick men and six thousand who are still in health make their way slowly through the desert. Every four of the healthy have to carry a comrade who is too ill to walk, for there are not enough horses to bear the sick and the maimed. The staff officers are all marching with the rest. This is by Napoleon's command. An equerry asks him which horse he will ride. "Did you not hear the order?" retorts the commander, striking the man with his whip. "Everyone on foot!"

At length the retreating army reaches Cairo. By entering with a triumphal display of captured colours, and by proclamations and marches, he makes a vain attempt to delude the people of Egypt.

What is Paris saying? What shall he tell Paris? We did not oc-cupy Acre because the plague was raging there! That was why we withdrew from the siege! In the Institute, a committee is appointed to substantiate this tale. A doctor stands up, and, in the presence of a hundred savants, refuses to attach his name to this fiction. The commander yields with a wry face, but bears no grudge against the stalwart whom he promotes more than once in years to come.

The Turks now arrive by sea, intending to make an end of the French. Once more, the whole existence of the expeditionary force is at stake. The enemy is to land in Aboukir Bay, just a year after the battle of the Nile. He lets them land, and then inflicts a crushing defeat on them, though their army outnumbers his by two to one. After the battle, Kleber meets him, and embracing

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

After the victory on the Turks, Kleber greets Napoleon - General you are as great as the world!After the victory on the Turks, Kleber greets Napoleon: "General you are as great as the world!"

him, says: "General, you are as great as the world, but the world is too small for you!" Bonaparte writes to Cairo: "You will have heard of the battle on the shores of Aboukir Bay, one of the finest I have ever seen! Of the army the enemy had landed, not a man escaped." At this time he notices among the Mamelukes who have en-tered his service a tall, handsome fellow with blue eyes, a Georgian named Rustam who has five times been sold as a slave. Fidelity is written on his countenance. Napoleon gives him a sword with an encased hilt and scabbard, and makes him his body-servant. For fifteen years, Rustam sleeps outside his master's door. After the victory at Aboukir, Napoleon enters into a parley with the admiral of the blockading fleet. Ostensibly he wishes to discuss an exchange of prisoners with the English. Really he is hungering for news; newspapers are worth more than kings crowns. Someone manages to get hold of what he covets, and an adjutant brings them into his tent. The commander is asleep. "Here are newspapers, General. Bad news." He sits up. "What's happened?"

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

Relentless energy grandiose dreams


"Scherer has been beaten. We have lost nearly the whole of Italy." Napoleon jumps out of bed, seizes the papers, and goes on reading them all through the night, with an occasional pause for an outburst of wrath. At dawn he send for his admiral-in-Chief, is closeted with the seaman for a couple of hours, and then sets out for Cairo. "I have made up my mind to return to France," he says be-hind shut doors to the faithful Marmont. "You will come with me. Our armies in Europe have been defeated. God knows where the enemy will have got to by now Italy is lost. What are they about, these incompetent idiots at the head of affairs? Stupidity and cor-ruption! I have borne the whole burden single-handed, and by my victories have propped up a government which could never have maintained itself but for me. As soon as I leave, everything col-lapses. If I start at once, I shall get to Paris almost as soon as the news of my latest victory. My presence will restore confidence to the troops, and will reanimate the citizens with hopes for a hap-pier future." "My future," he thinks, as soon as Marmont has gone. "People will say I have abandoned the army in Egypt. It will get along all right under Kleber. I came here to found a colony. It is founded, and the Turks have been beaten. Help can only come from France, and no one but myself can send it. I have nothing more to gain here, but everything to win on the battle-fields of Europe. Thirty years! How many days before I can get away? The admiral says it is a bad wind for Toulon, and that English warships swarm in the Mediterranean. I am afraid I can't get to Paris in an air-balloon! But Paris is the heart of the world. I must risk the sea passage."

Taken from Napoleon by Emil Ludwig, pp. 107-27

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

Installation of the Council of State, 25 December 1799. On either side of Bonaparte are the two other consuls Cambaceres and Lebrun. The First Consul administers oath of office to the "Presidents of section". Not willing to break openly with the Revolution, Bonaparte, once First Consul, started restoring order by re-establishing the power of the State. The Constitution of 1799 uses a vocabulary reminiscent of the ancient Rome (consuls, senate, etc.), but instals a strong executive. The Council of State will be at the same time the great council of the government, next to the executive and even the legislative, clarifying and preparing deci-sions, and the supreme administrative tribunal of France.

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

2. Napoleon, administrator extraordinaire

Despite the mitigated results in Egypt — carefully and cleverly presented through monitored dispatches — Napoleon, having managed to land safely at Frejus, is well received. In a few weeks, as a result of a conspiracy with the most influent Director leading to the coup d'etat of 18 Brumaire (9 November 1799), Napoleon becomes First Consul with the real power in a tri-umvirate called the Consulate. He then sets to work at a fre-netic if orderly pace...

About twenty men are seated round a large oval table. Some are quite young, some middle-aged, some elderly. They are plainly dressed, in accordance with the fashion of 1800, when wigs were no longer worn, and lace was out of date; three of them that are in uniform are not resplendent with gold braid, and they wear no orders. Some have the bold, self-confident look of the man of action; others, the thoughtful mien of the savant. From town and from countryside, from office and from labora-tory, they come, but are unified by a common experience and a common aim. For ten years, they have been living through a revo-lutionary epoch; they meet to bring that epoch to a close. Around them is the chill splendour of the Tuileries, the palace of the last Bourbon kings. The golds and the reds of the rich carpets and the silken hangings are out of keeping with their bourgeois circum-stantiality; the silvery sheen of the candles, reflected in rainbow tints from the myriad facets of the candelabra, recalls an era that scintillated with light and glowed with colour. [...] The Consul's own mood was no less haphazard as he looked round with childlike curiosity. "Well, here we are in the Tuileries," he said to one of his friends; "let's see to it that we stay here!" Several of those now seated at the oval table, had waited here of old — wearing powdered wigs, lace jabots, and pumps

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

— tremulous with eagerness to learn whether His Majesty would receive them, and when. Some of them had sat at a similar table in the Luxembourg. There had been no stability about those de-liberations. Laws had come and gone, urgency orders and excep-tional provisions; transitional decrees had pushed foregoing de-crees out of the way; three constitutions had risen and set, had shot up into the air swiftly and brilliantly like rockets, to vanish like these and to fall like rocket-sticks. The whole decade during which the new ideas had been trying to realise themselves in the concrete, had passed swiftly over Paris like a single night, amid a confusion of flashing lights and rumbling drums. The city had been like an armed camp with no fighting fronts and no battles, but perturbed by the to-and-fro march of armed political parties, deafened by the noisy wrangling between the old order and the new wishes, dazzled by the glare of venturesome ideas, confused by the clamour of disappointed hopes and the clash of warring ambitions — a titanic bacchanal of liberty, equality, and cozenage. Surveying the medley, looking down from the skies, were the shades of the two men whose books had set the whole in motion: Rousseau, with eyes of disgust; Voltaire, with a mocking smile. But suddenly the tumult had been stilled. That little man at the head of the table had stilled it, the little general in the well-worn green uniform. Now that he, presiding over the Council of State, is in fact presiding over the State, the parties have withdrawn into their caves, satisfied or rancorous, but at any rate silenced. France, weakened by clubs and corruption, by the Terror and the demagogues, is turning back (like an adventuress weary of errant amours) to the arms of the strong man who can master her.

Enough, now, for Bonaparte that he should aspire to fulfil this masterful lover's role. No longer did he need to fight for the po-sition. The man for whom France was longing, must be a man of order; must be one who had never before held power, who be-longed to no party, and who none the less enjoyed popular favour. He must, therefore, be a soldier and a conqueror. Moreau lacked the self-confidence and adroitness needed to make him a suc-cessful rival; the other great generals were dead or overshadowed;

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

there were no civilian competitors. After Bonaparte's outstanding military successes, it was easy for him to win supreme power in the State. He would have won it without a struggle had he not been so stubborn in his desire to observe constitutional formalities.

The attempt to be strictly constitutional had been a ludicrous failure, and had imposed artificial obstacles in his path. Yet this very fact was a token and a guarantee of his political talents. He was a man with a firm grip on the sword-hilt, but he was also a man who clearly understood the limits of the power of the sword. "Do you know," he said in those days, "what amazes me more than all else? The impotence of force to organise anything. There are only two powers in the world: the spirit and the sword. In the long run, the sword will always be conquered by the spirit." Napoleon was the greatest military commander of his day, but neither now nor later was it his habit to strike the table with mailed fist; neither in Paris at this juncture nor elsewhere when negotiating a truce or a peace or an alliance. He was a political genius, who prized the sword, indeed, but prized it only as one of the two powers. His ear was never deafened by the clash of arms. As now, so for fifteen years to come, he is ever on the watch for indications of public opinion; always listening to the voice of the people, a voice which defies calculation; a voice which, Napoleon, a man of fig-ures, vainly tries to calculate. Precisely because of his failure to do this, the attempt to reckon with public opinion is always alluring to the imaginative side of his nature.

Because Bonaparte believes in the power of the spirit more than in the power of the sword, he strives for order and peace more resolutely than for war and conquest. The history of the next ten years will prove it.

For him, order denotes equality, but not liberty. He adopts into his dictatorship the former of these two gods of the revo-lution. Except for a few vacillations, he will cherish equality to the end, despite appearances to the contrary. But liberty? What is liberty? "Both the savage and the civilised man need a lord and master, a magician, who will hold the imagination in check, im-pose strict discipline, bind man in chains, so that he may not bite

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

out of season; one who will thrash him, and lead him to the chase. Obedience is man's destiny; he deserves nothing better, and he has no rights!" These threatening words of the misanthropist dis-close no more than half of his secret thoughts. Through all the phases of his rule, he is ever in search of the efficient man, and to such a man he grants power over thousands; just as he himself, through energy and diligence, through natural and acquired su-periority, has won to power over millions. In spite of all, he is the . -son of the revolution; and in this sense he will remain the son of the revolution, whatever forms his power may assume.

In part, that is the explanation of the mysterious influence he wields. The wider his domain extends, the more plainly do all realise that they are living in a system which promises to every efficient man the gratification of his wishes, and guarantees to every efficient man place and power and wealth; which does these things because the Master has himself risen out of the crowd. He shows this, now, in his very first step. Sieyes has drafted a consti-tution. There is to be a grand elector, a president who can only represent and sign his name. With soldierly curtness, Bonaparte puts his pen through the item. "Away with this fat hog!" Instead, there is to be a First Consul, with plenary powers, and plenty of work. He is to be war lord and also director of foreign policy; — he is to appoint all ministers and envoys, councillors of State and prefects, officers and judges. Thirty nominated senators are to elect their colleagues; but neither the Senate nor the Legislative Assembly nor the Tribunate is to have any power to initiate leg-islation. These bodies are merely brought into existence to give politicians a platform for their orations, and to provide senators with high salaries and opportunities for a resplendent life.

Although everything was dependent upon the will of one man, that one man insisted that those dependent on him should them-selves be men, and not mere names. Neither birth nor pretentious-ness nor prominence in a political party could lead to the front in the army or in civil life. Nothing but energy and capacity could ensure promotion. Such was the principle upon which Napoleon chose the members of the Council of State.

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

Bonaparte First Consul, Gerard

Bonaparte First Consul, Gérard

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

A prefect -The French A prefect -The French "departe-ments" are administered by a prefect, who represents the executive power.

This last was a round table of experts, selected by the dic-tator on his own initiative. Among them was Laplace, whom, to honour the Institute, Napoleon had also appointed Minister for Home Affairs — an appointment the great mathematician held for a time, until he turned back from the mechanics of the State to the mechanics of the heavens. There, too, was Roederer, official and journalist, the most independent man to be encountered by Napoleon during twenty years, and the most valuable recorder of conversations. Tronchet, also, one of the finest jurists of the age, was there. In the council chamber, all alike were citizens, and addressed one another by that plain title. Royalists and Jacobins sat there side by side, under a regime of equality, since reason was enthroned.

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

When the minutes of the sittings are shown to the citizen-consul, he says: "It is essential to give a full and accurate report of the opinions expressed by legal luminaries, for their words are weighty; but what we soldiers and moneyed men think is of little account. In the heat of the moment I have often said things which an instant afterwards I saw to have been unjust. I do not wish to seem better than I am." When he noticed that the councillors were simply echoing whatever he said, he was quick to call them to order: "You are not here, gentlemen, to agree with me, but to express your own views. If you do that, I can compare them with mine, and decide which is better."

The sittings, often enough, do not begin before nine in the eve-ning, for up till then the Consul has been dealing with the urgent affairs of the day. They may last till five o'clock in the morning. The councillors get very tired during the small hours. Perhaps the Minister for War goes to sleep. Napoleon shakes them up, ex-claiming: "Do let's keep awake, citizens! It's only two o'clock. We must earn our salaries." He, who presides, is indeed one of the youngest of the company, being now thirty. But in three cam-paigns he has learned how to watch over the interests of hundreds of thousands. Was not the management of an army which set out from the Alps, crossed the sea, and marched far into the desert — was not this the best school for the study of State administra-tion? There, too, he had to think of money and bread, of rights and laws, of rewards and punishments, of rest and obedience and order.

During the very first night after the coup d'etat, he had ap-pointed two committees to draft a legal code; this was the first act of his dictatorship! The prevailing chaos had been the outcome of a lack of law. Down to the outbreak of the revolution, there had been no unified legal system in France. The revolution brought the promise of such a system; but even now, after eleven years, the promise was unfulfilled. That first summer, three great lawyers were set to work; four months and a draft of the Civil Code, sub-sequently rechristened the Code Napoleon, was ready; then the draft was discussed in the Council of State. In eighteen months

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

the laws were voted. They passed into effect in 1804.

After more than two centuries, this Code is still the law of France; it was adopted in many of the lands conquered by Napoleon, having great influence on the legislation of Central and southern Germany, Prussia, Switzerland, and Spain; and its influence spread still farther afield, to Central America and South America. All that is new and morally decisive in the Code Napoleon is revolutionary law. The law-book which the Dictator discussed in all its details for many months, the law-book, many of whose most contentious points were the direct outcome of his decisions, borrowed the fixed principles of reason that had been sketched in the first days of the revolution. Experienced and dis-passionate minds, under Napoleon's guidance, worked them up, purified them, and made them into a new system of the rights of man. In this system, there was no longer a hereditary nobility; all children had an equal share in inheritance; all parents became legally responsible for the maintenance of their children; Jews became equal with Christians before the law; civil marriage was open to all, and was dissoluble.
[.. -]
"In these sittings," says Roederer, "the First Consul manifested those remarkable powers of attention and precise analysis which enabled him for ten hours at a stretch to devote himself to one object or to several, without ever allowing himself to be distracted by memory or by errant thoughts.

" Bonaparte is filled with respect for the logicality and mental energy of the octogenarian Tronchet; and the old lawyer responds with admiration for the analytical faculty and the sense of jus-tice of the young Consul, who, in the case of every ordinance, asks: "Is it just?" and "Is it useful?" He is never tired of enquiring how predecessors have solved the problems under consideration, paying special attention to Roman law and to the legal institu-tions of Frederick the Great.

Not only are thirty-seven laws discussed at this table; further-more, the Consul propounds question after question concerning other matters. How is bread made? How shall we make new

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

money? How shall we establish security? He makes all his min-isters send detailed reports, and this is great tax upon their ener-gies. But he affects not to notice that they are overworked, and when they get home they often find letters from him requiring an immediate answer. One of his collaborators writes: "Ruling, administering, negotiating with that orderly intelligence of his, he gets through eighteen hours' work every day. In three years he has ruled more than the kings ruled in a century" He spoke to every expert in the phraseology of the craft, so that none of them could ever plead in excuse that his questions had not been understood. Even the most hidebound royalists were amazed at the technical accuracy of his enquiries.

His unfailing memory was the artillery wherewith he defended the fortress of his brain. Segur, returning from an official inspec-tion of the fortifications on the north coast, sends in a report. "I have read your report," says the First Consul. "It is accurate, but you have forgotten two of the four guns in Ostend. They are on the high road behind the town." Segur is astonished to find that Napoleon is right. His report deals with thousands of guns, scat-tered all over the place, but the chief pounces on the omission of two.

By slow degrees, the huge machine (which for ten years has been standing still or moving backwards) is set in regular motion once more. Throughout the last decade, all the reports from the provinces have been full of complaints regarding the lack of public safety, sanitation, and order; the louis-d'or used to exchange for twenty-four francs, but now the ratio is one to eight thousand; the Directory's attempt to stabilise the franc has been an utter failure; the newly enriched have bought up the State domains, the Church lands, and the seigniorial estates. No one is paying taxes. What is the new dictator going to do about it all?

Within a fortnight after the coup d'etat, he had arranged for the establishment of tax-collecting offices in all the departments, for, as he put it: "Security and property are only to be found in a country which is not subject to yearly changes in the rate of taxation." Two months later, the Bank of France came into being;

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

next year, there were new boards to supervise taxation, the regis-tration of landed property, and forestry. Whereas his predecessors had simply squandered the State domains, he used what was left of them to defray repayment of national debt. ... he continued the process of debt cancellation, renovated the Chambers of Commerce, regulated the Stock Exchange, put an end to specula-tion in the depreciated currency, stopped the frauds of the army contractors and other war profiteers, and by these and similar measures restored manufacturing industry whose productivity had sunk to a quarter or half of its former level.

What was his magical spell?

At the head of affairs was himself, a man of indomitable energy, and incorruptible. Men of the same stamp, energetic, diligent, and bold, were put in charge of the ministries, the departments and the prefectures. Favouritism was done away with; sinecures were abolished. Preferment was obtainable only by the efficient, and to them it came regardless of birth or party. All officials, down to the mayors, were appointed from above, and paid from above —"a hierarchy, all First Consuls in miniature," to quote his own words.

There was no political opposition. "No reaction is possible", he prophesied. "I have not relied upon the credit or upon the strength of a party, and am therefore indebted to no one. The men of intelligence who, a little while ago, were perpetrating crimes, are now being used by me to upbuild a new social edifice. There are excellent workmen among them, but the trouble is that they would all like to be master builders. Typically French, that trait; every one thinks himself competent to rule the country" Being careful to satisfy all parties, he gives the two most coveted portfo-lios to two rogues, mutually hostile, but both men of remarkable ability. Having done this, he is able to say: "What revolutionist can fail to have confidence in the social system when Fouche, the Jacobin, is Minister of Police. What nobleman would be unwilling to live under Talleyrand as Minister for Foreign Affairs? I have one of them on my right, and the other on my left. I open a wide road, in which all can find room."

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

To all the prefects and all the generals the order went forth: "No more clubs; no more parties. Tell the National Guardsmen and the citizens whenever you can, if a few ambitious fellows still feel the need to hate, that the rudder of State is now in strong hands, accustomed to overcome obstacles." A few weeks after the coup d'etat, he issued a great proclamation, commending the new constitution to the people. It closed with the simple and lofty words: "Citizens, the revolution has returned to the principles with which it began. It is at an end."

Taken from Napoleon by Emil Ludwig, pp. 153-64

Napoleon visiting the new spaces of the Louvre museum. Since the French Revolution, the palace was used as a museum, to display the nation's master-pieces. Following the Egyptian campaign, Napoleon appointed the museum's first director, Dominique Vivant Denon, who was seen earlier mea-suring the Sphinx (p 100). The size of the collection increased under Napoleon.

Napoleon visiting the new spaces of the Louvre museum. Since the French Revolution, the palace was used as a museum, to display the nation's master-pieces. Following the Egyptian campaign, Napoleon appointed the museum's first director, Dominique Vivant Denon, who was seen earlier mea-suring the Sphinx (p 100). The size of the collection increased under Napoleon.

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

3. Napoleon crowns himself Emperor

In May 1804 the Senate proclaimed Napoleon Emperor of the French after a referendum in 1802 gave a very large approval for a tenure for life to the First Consul. The coronation took place in a majestic ceremony to which Naploeon compelled the Pope to come. Unexpectedly, despite the presence of the Pope, he crowned himself. ..

Meanwhile, Letizia's protector the pope has become more compliant, and is already on the way to Paris. What else could the Holy Father do? The man of might had summoned him, and the Emperor must be kept in a good humour. Besides, he who is to be crowned is an Italian. As one of the cardinals had put it, in the decisive conclave: "After all, we have this satisfaction, that we are taking vengeance on the Gauls by setting an Italian family to rule over these barbarians." Napoleon is still regarded as a foreigner in France! But why does he not go to Rome for his coronation? Why is he not content to be anointed in Rome, as Charlemagne had been, and all the emperors of the west since Charlemagne's day? What does he want a pope for at all?

In this matter, once more, he is trying to harmonise the new with the old. At first he is silent about details, and merely asks the pope "to give the highest religious consecration to the anointing and crowning of the first Emperor of the French." For weeks, let-ters have been exchanged between Rome and Paris, but the exact nature of the ceremony still remains obscure. Pius VII is in an uneasy frame of mind as he draws near to Paris, and his spirit is by no means one of benediction. Never before has a pope been summoned in this way, much as a great physician is summoned. When the Emperor meets the pope at the gate of the city, the Holy Father does not fail to note that Napoleon neither kneels to receive a blessing nor kisses hands in token of fealty. Paris is a

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

The coronation ceremony, by the French painter David (detail)

The coronation ceremony, by the French painter David (detail)

town where people's faith is unstable and where popes are held in little honour. The visitor is chilled. [...]

On December 2, 1804, in Notre Dame, an abundance of pre-cious stones reflects the light of a myriad candles, so that the place looks more like a banqueting hall than a church. Everything has been prepared for weeks beforehand. A skillful museum di-rector has even produced a honorable imitation of Charlemagne's sceptre. Ancient parchments from the days of the Roi Soleil had been consulted, to ensure that the crowning of this revolutionist should vie in every respect with that of the legitimate monarchs of France. Segur had studied the etiquette of the occasion with the utmost care; Isabey had rehearsed the whole affair with an array of dolls; the old palace, Paris, France, were in a fever.

The Emperor is in a pleasant humour. Early in the morning he makes sure that Josephine's crown is a good fit. The great

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

procession drives to the cathedral. Napoleon, robed in an antique imperial mantle, strides to the high altar leading the empress by the hand. Josephine's charm helps to divest the great moment of a certain sense of embarrassment. Surrounded by attendant cardi-nals, the pope is seated, waiting. The organ peals forth.

Then, when the appointed instant has come, and all are ex-pecting this man who has never bowed the knee to any one, to kneel before the Holy Father, Napoleon, to the amazement of the congregation, seizes the crown, turns his back on the pope and the altar, and standing upright as always, crowns himself in the sight of France. Then he crowns his kneeling wife.

None but the pope had known his intentions. Informed at the eleventh hour, Pius had lacked courage to threaten immediate de-parture. Now, all he could do was to anoint and bless the two sin-ners. Moreover, the crown on the Emperor's head is not a Christian crown at all, but a small pagan circlet of golden laurel leaves. All who describe the occasion agree in saying that the Emperor was pale but handsome. He resembled Emperor Augustus; and from now onwards, as if by some mystical power, his features grew more and more like those of the first emperor of Rome.

Thus, in this symbolical hour, Napoleon reduces to mockery the legitimate formalities he is affecting to copy. Furthermore he makes a laughing-stock of the pope, who will not forget the slight. In an instant the cloud of Bourbon reminiscence has been scattered, the flavour of imitation and parody has vanished; and on the steps of a temple there stands a soldier, a Roman imperator, whom a dozen years before this day no one had ever heard of, who since then has performed no miracles but only done deeds, and has now crowned himself with the golden laurels of these deeds. But his mantle is broidered with golden bees, the emblem of activity.

Several incidents show that he has not, throughout this day of his coronation, wholly surrendered to the mood of a man who has made his own destiny.

When he was seated on the throne, crown on head, with the pope in front of him, he said a low aside to his brother: "Joseph,

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

if only Father could see this!" The remark, poi-gnant at such an hour in the mouth of a man who was never wont to speak of his father, is fundamentally natural. The perfect simplicity, the unsophisticated in-nocence, of his course of action, lead his mind back to his origin. Memories of family feuds on the island, of the pride and ambition of the Corsican clans, direct his thoughts to-wards the stock from which he has sprung.

Semblance never holds his attention, which always reaches out to the core of reality. Thus he is not bewildered even in this amazing hour. When he wants to whisper something to his uncle, who stands just in front of him during Mass, he gives the cardinal a gentle dig in the back with his scepter. As soon as all is over, and, alone with Josephine, he goes in to dinner, he says with a sigh of relief: "Thank God we're through with it! A day on the battle-field would have pleased me better!" At their little dinner he tells her to keep on her crown as if he and she were poet and actress, for, he says, she is charming, his little Creole woman as empress. Thus, in the most natural way in the world, he unmasks the whole masquerade, and we are at ease once more as we see the son of the revolution laughing his own empire to scorn.

The freedom of spirit shown by the foregoing petty details is splendidly illuminated by an admission he made the same eve-ning, when, to a confidant, he summed up the whole matter with sceptical emotion: "No, Decres, I have come into the world too late. There is nothing great left for me to do. I do not deny that I

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

The Coronation ceremony, by the French painter David (detail)The Coronation ceremony, by the French painter David (detail)

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

The cornoation ceremony, by the French painter David (detail)The cornoation ceremony, by the French painter David (detail)

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

have had a fine career, but what a difference between me and the heroes of antiquity. Look at Alexander, for instance. After he has conquered Asia, he declares himself to be the son of Jupiter, and the whole East believes him, save only his mother and Aristotle and a handful of Athenian pedants. But if I, nowadays, were to declare myself the son of the Father Eternal, every fishwife would laugh in my face. There is nothing great left for me to do."

This was said a few hours after he had crowned himself em-peror; said quite simply and quite truthfully. Is it not plain why the East has always allured him, and will continue to allure him? By nature he is endowed with immense powers, and is overbur-dened by their incredible weight. Nothing can be adequate to his aspirations, now that he has learned how readily people obey the man who can command obedience by his skill and by his deeds. He is strong in his own strength; what does Voltaire's enlight-enment, what does Rousseau, matter to him? How can he wish to establish democracy, to install popular government, when he knows the weakness of the popular instincts, and all the corrupt-ness of the leaders of the people? To expand his sway, to spread his name widely and even more widely, to leave more record of himself in the book of universal history than that half page of which he spoke a few years ago, to sacrifice life itself to the little golden circlet on his head, to do these things without enjoyment and without leisure and without pause — this is all that life now offers.

When, during these days, the sketch for an imperial seal is laid before him, and he sees a resting lion, he draws his pen across the picture, and writes in the margin: "A flying eagle."

Taken from Napoleon by Emil Ludwig, pp. 210-14

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

4. After a failure, a memorable victory

The Allies were not reconciled to the French Empire — inher- itor of a Revolution which had committed the ultimate crime of depositing and executing a King.’ Whether Napoleon really wanted peace, given his own instincts and dreams of conquests, is unclear but he did not have a choice most of the time as the hostility of the enemies of France, particularly England, was relentless. In 1805 he made preparations to invade England which he had to ahandon as the armies of the Russian and the Austrian emperors were assemhling in central Europe to attack. Instead of waiting for the assault, Napoleon marched an army deep into central Europe and took the Austrian and Russian generals hy surprise. He defeated them at U lm and then had his most memorable victory at Austerlitz on December 2, 1805, exactly a year after his coronation.

Napoleon failed to conquer England because this was the one matter in which he was not confident of victory. Failure was in- evitable because here, and here only, his sell-confidence was at fault; because his belief in his own powers was weakened by his want of expert knowledge and by the inaccessibility of the foe. By land! Yes, if he could only get at this island by land! The thought brings back to his mind the scheme of five years ago, when he had planned an attack on India by way of Herat. But for such a scheme, quiet and time are needed.

His first aim is to keep peace, to bring about which he has worked with his best powers for years. Immediately after the cor- onation, he writes in this sense to six monarchs, addressing each in a style appropriate to his correspondent’s character, thinking out the effect of every detail, and considering even the exact working of his signature. Note, for instance, how he writes to the shah:

“My reputation reaches so far, that you cannot fail to know

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

who I am and what I have done; how I have made France su­preme among the nations of the West; and how great an interest I take in the rulers of the East. ... Orientals are full of courage and spirit, but their ignorance of certain arts and their neglect of mili­tary discipline put them at a disadvantage in war when they are faced by soldiers from the North. ... Write me your wishes, and we will renew friendly and commercial relationships. ... Written in my Imperial Palace of the Tuileries ... in the first year of my reign. Napoleon." But, in the heading, the document sets forth a title which never existed, a title which Napoleon obviously uses to show the ruler of Persia that the writer is the general who made himself famous in the Egyptian campaign. The document pur­ports to come from "Bonaparte, Emperor of the French."

On his table, as he signs the letter to the shah, lies a letter to George III, though England and France are at war. It is penned with wonderful art, and is both moving and politic: "Does not all the blood that is being shed without apparent advantage to anyone, touch the consciences of the governments? I am not ashamed to take the first step. It seems to me I have shown the world that I have no dread of war and its caprices. My heart, in­deed, longs for peace; but war has never dimmed my fame. I im­plore Your Majesty not to deprive yourself of the good fortune of restoring peace to the world! Do not leave this precious task to your children. Never was there a more favourable opportunity of stilling angry passions. If this chance be missed, what will be the outcome of the war? During the last ten years, Your Majesty has won more territory and more treasure than all Europe possesses. What further could you expect from the war?"

How could the writer fail to smile at the realisation that the last argument could with equal force be turned against himself? The appeal is fruitless, for neither England nor the rulers on the mainland will tolerate the new power of France or its upstart em­peror. A fourth coalition of the princes against the republic is imminent.

During the years of peace, he has been tolerably well content. His intimates at Malmaison have often described him as cheerful.

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

Now he must take up arms once more, and resign himself to the knowledge that "it lies in the nature of things to continue this struggle between the past and the future, for the enduring coali­tion of our enemies makes it essential to attack them if we are to escape annihilation." There is the simple truth, spoken without ex­aggeration and without bitterness. If he did not create this nature of things, at any rate he stabilised it. Even though the first wars of France in the revolutionary epoch were purely defensive, the subsequent campaigns became offensive, and were transformed into wars of conquest by the impetus of the people's army and the outstanding genius of its commander.

Nevertheless, when he is thus challenged by opponents whom he has twice defeated, can we wonder that concrete plans which have hitherto followed his soaring imagination at a respectful distance, should now, likewise, begin to outsoar the boundaries of reason? In the opening years of the nineteenth century and here in the West, the Emperor might have kept the peace for another decade, that in the end he might measure his strength against England's in Asia. But when Europe's persistent desire for revenge upon revolutionary France spurs him into action, he conceives the great plan of a unified European realm. Now for the second time (and for the last time down to our own days) a great and saving work will be attempted, and the attempt will fail.

Thus it is that Napoleon's crowning political thought issues out of a personal defensive ncessity. Now, when a new coali­tion is being formed, and formed against him, his ideal takes a fresh shape. For years his inward gaze has been concentrated on Alexander; now, instead, he sees the figure of Charlemagne. He goes to Aix-Ia-Chapelle, for a ceremonial visit to the tomb of the great Frankish emperor. "There will be no peace, in Europe," he says at this time to his trusted companions, "until the whole con­tinent is under one suzerain, an emperor whose chief officers are kings, whose generals have become monarchs. ...Would you tell me that this plan is but an imitation of the old imperial constitu­tion? Well, there is nothing new under the sun!"

This gradual transformation of his ideal, and the sustenance

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

of the new ideal by the historical imagination has immeasurable consequences. Precisely because the adoption of the Carlovingian scheme involves for him a renunciation, he storms forward in pursuit of it as if he were fighting for a province. The haste with which he tries to reconstruct the empire of Charlemagne is new, is symptomatic of a fever which will drive him towards new goals before he has reached the old ones.

Since the spring, his army has been assembled in Boulogne in readiness for the repeatedly postponed landing in England. But in the autumn, when the menace of a fresh Austrian attack becomes a certainty, with a change of plans which is decided on in a couple of days and is carried out in a fortnight, he directs all his forces eastward, and is across the Rhine in advance of the news of his first movement. Just before leaving the coast, he dictates to Daru the whole scheme of the attack on Austria, "the order and length of the marches, the meeting places of the columns, the attacks by storm, the movements and the blunders of the enemy — all this two months before the events, and at a distance of six or seven hundred miles from the scene of action."

Austria had good reason for taking up arms once more. On the knob of the new king of Italy's sceptre, the lion of Venice was graven. This, and the seizure of Genoa, were urgent warnings to the Habsburg ruler not to venture across the Alps a third time. Francis must be content to fight the matter out on German soil. England was liberal with proffers of money; and the inexhaustible forces of Russia were again available for the coalition, as they had been when it was victorious during Bonaparte's absence in Egypt. The new tsar was determined to overcome Europe's old prejudice against Russia, and, with an exchange of roles, to draw his sword against the tyrant of the West. The secret of Napoleon's fighting technique had been learned, and this time the engineer should be hoist with his own petard.

But the soldier of genius can evolve new methods of victory. By forced marches he encircles the Austrians before they realise what is afoot, encloses them in an iron ring at Ulm, and compels

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

the capitulation of an army which has not even a chance to fire a shot. "I have attained my end, and have annihilated the Austrian army by simple marches. Now I shall turn against the Russians. They are lost."

The habit of success is making him thrifty of his words. "I had a rough time of it, rougher than necessary," he writes to Josephine; "wet through day after day for a week, and my feet very cold." Among the gold-bedizened marshals, who are for the first time parading their splendours on foreign-soil, stands Napoleon to re­ceive the capitulation of Ulm. He wears the uniform of a private soldier, a mantle weather-worn at elbows and skirt, a hat without a cockade. His arms are locked behind. Of the imperial purple there is no sign. Once more, as on the evening after Marengo, he offers peace, sends an admonitory letter to the defeated Austrian emperor, writing as usual with the frankness which is so annoying to the diplomats of Europe: "You will understand that it is only right and proper if I take advantage of my good luck to impose, as condition of peace, that you should give me guarantees against a fourth coalition with England. ... Nothing would make me happier than to combine the tranquility of my people with your friendship, upon which I venture to make a claim, despite the number and strength of my enemies in your entourage." At the same time, he marches on Vienna.

Then, while he is advancing at topmost speed, comes a blow. He learns that two days after his victory on land had come the sea-fight at Trafalgar, when England had almost annihilated the French fleet. Eighteen ships have been lost; Nelson is dead; the French admiral is a prisoner. Is this another disastrous hour, like the one when the news of Aboukir reached him in the desert? Courage! Then the situation was a hundredfold more difficult. We are not now cut off from Paris by the sea; we need no ships. With redoubled speed he marches on Vienna, which the enemy surrenders without a blow.

But the tidings of Trafalgar have renewed Francis' fixity of purpose, and have made Alexander firmer than ever. Both try to win over Prussia, which hesitates, and protracts negotiations.

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

A defeat: the battle of Trafalgar (October 21, 1805) in which almost all  the French fleet was lost...

A defeat: the battle of Trafalgar (October 21, 1805) in which almost all the French fleet was lost...

And a victory less than two months later (December 2): the battle  of Austerlitz, also called the Battle of the Three Emperors, in which  Napoleon defeated a Russo-Austrian army. In this painting by Gerard, we  see the General Rapp bringing to Napoleon the flags and cannons taken  from the enemy as well as a Russian prince with Russian prisoners.

And a victory less than two months later (December 2): the battle of Austerlitz, also called the Battle of the Three Emperors, in which Napoleon defeated a Russo-Austrian army. In this painting by Gerard, we see the General Rapp bringing to Napoleon the flags and cannons taken from the enemy as well as a Russian prince with Russian prisoners.

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

Napoleon vainly tempts the tsar with the promise of Turkey. In Brunn there is a great game of hide-and-seek, in which each power tries to keep the others in suspense and is disavowed by its own plenipotentiaries. The Emperor is the only ruler who improvises a political idea. Two days before the decisive battle, for which prep­arations are already being made, he writes to Talleyrand, who is negotiating in Brunn:

"I should have no serious objection to handing over Venice to the elector of Salzburg, and Salzburg to the house of Austria. I shall take Verona ... for the kingdom of Italy. ... The elector can call himself king of Venice if he has a fancy that way.

"The electorate of Bavaria would become a monarchy ... I will give back the artillery, the magazines, and the fortresses, and they must pay me five millions. ... To-morrow, I think we shall have a pretty big battle with the Russians. I have done my utmost to avoid it, for it is only useless bloodshed. I have exchanged a few letters with the tsar, and learn from what he writes that he is a good fellow, with bad counsellors. ... Write to Paris, but don't say anything about the battle, for that would make my wife anxious. You don't need to worry. I am in a very strong position here, and my only regret is for the almost needless bloodshed which the battle will cost. ... You write home for me; I have been in camp among my grenadiers for the last four days, and have to write on my knees, so I can't manage many letters."

Such is the Emperor's mood just before the most famous of his victories. While he is studying his maps, noting the name of every Moravian village, the width of every stream, and the condition of every road, and while he does his best to keep himself warm by the camp-fire, he is thinking of the ministers in Paris who are awaiting his commands, and of his wife who may be anxious. In the same half hour, he drafts a new programme for the partition of four or five States, talks of new crowns, of war indemnities, and of handing over fortresses. Twice his laments for the useless bloodshed light up the written page like the rising sun of one of these December days. Need we be surprised that such a man con­quers the legitimate princes, who at this moment are dining in

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

their palaces?

In the evening, when he learned the enemy's movements, he clapped his hands, and "trembling with joy" (the words are his adjutant's), said: "They are walking into the trap! They are deliv­ering themselves into my hands! By tomorrow evening their army will be annihilated!"

Then he sits down with his staff to supper in a peasant's hut, and, an unusual thing with him, remains at table for some time after his meal, emotioned and musing. He goes on to speak at considerable length concerning the nature of tragedy. From this, he passes to Egypt: "If I had taken Acre, I should have donned a turban, have clad my soldiers in wide Turkish trousers. But only in the utmost need should I have exposed my Frenchmen to serious danger; I should have made of them a corps of immortals, the Holy Battalion. I should have fought the war with the Turks to a finish by the use of Arab, Greek, and Armenian levies. I should have become Emperor of the East, and should have made my way back to Paris through Constantinople." The concluding words, so one who heard the soliloquy tells us, were accompanied with a smile, as if to show his awareness that he was being carried away by a rapturous dream.

But is not the scene we are describing a dream? Must we re­ally and truly believe that about two centuries ago, a mortal man, the understudy of a demigod, stormed across modern Europe and remoulded it in accordance with his will? Did it not all happen in the Homeric age, when two princes in single combat would settle the fate of generations? Or, perhaps, he is a character in a fairy-tale, this man in the middle thirties, a little fellow, seated in a wattle-and-dab hut, on an unknown plain. He wears a greasy coat, a clammy shirt; stuffs potatoes and onions in his hungry mouth. Next day, by this one battle, he will renew the glories of Charlemagne, dead a thousand years since. Now, overnight, his unbridled imagination runs across Asiatic deserts, where a stone-heap successfully resisted him; dwells on that old frustrated plan; while his errant thoughts follow the wraith of the Macedonian to the Ganges.

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

Day dawns. A year ago, on the altar steps in Notre Dame, he had crowned himself with the circlet of golden laurels. In a fer­vent proclamation, he reminds his soldiers of that day and con­cludes with the promise that for this once he will keep out of the firing line.

Never before has history recorded such words uttered by a commander. They have always been eager to declare their deter­mination to defy death in the forefront of the battle. Napoleon, whose grenadiers have seen him in twenty fights and regard him as a heaven born leader, can venture to tell his men that he will reward their valour by being careful of his own safety.

Then the Emperor defeats both his enemies, and makes famous for a thousand years an out-of-the-way spot of which no one had ever heard before — the plain of Austerlitz.

"Soldiers", he says next day to the victors, "I am pleased with you. ... Name your children after me, and if one of them should prove worthy of us, I will make him my own son and appoint him my successor!" That is the emotional note he keeps for the army. To his wife, he writes as simply as possible: "I have beaten the Russian and Austrian armies. Rather tired, after a week in the open, when the nights have been chilly. To-night I shall sleep in a bed, in Prince Kaunitz' fine castle. I'm wearing a clean shirt, the first time for a week. ... I hope to get two or three hours' sleep."

Quite a simple matter, these momentous happenings! It is but a new song in the rhapsody when, a day later, Emperor Francis comes to Count Kaunitz' castle, to beg for an interview with the little Corsican lieutenant. But the bird has flown. When the two men meet at length, it is in a windmill. Napoleon greets his brother emperor courteously, saying: "I regret, Sire, that I must receive you here, in the only palace I have entered for two months." What self-confidence in the soldier interviewing the man born in the purple; what subtle mockery in the mouth of one who knows that in his distant capital, at news of his splendid victory, flags will soon wave and songs resound.

But the distinguished guest, a man of sound sense and good breeding, knows how to parry the thrust: "Your present quarters

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

Encounter between Napoleon and the Austrian Emperor after the battle  of Austerlitz, by Antoine-Jean Gros. Encounter between Napoleon and the Austrian Emperor after the battle of Austerlitz, by Antoine-Jean Gros. "Yesterday I had the German emperor in camp with me and we had two hours' talk. ... He threw himself on my generosity..."

are so profitable to you, Sire, that I think they cannot fail to please you." Both smile; and unobtrusively they eye one another up and down, for, though they have fought for a decade, they have never met. Of the same age, they had both reached power at twenty-six or thereabouts, though in such different ways; and neither of them can foresee how close Napoleon's will-to-peace is one day to bring them, or how widely Francis' will-to-revenge will ulti­mately sever them.

"Yesterday I had the German emperor in camp with me and we had two hours' talk. ... He threw himself on my generosity. But I took good care of myself, as I am used to doing. ... We have agreed to make peace promptly. ... The battle of Austerlitz is the finest of all I have fought. We have taken forty-five regimental colours, more than one. hundred and fifty guns, the flag of the

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

Russian guard, twenty generals, and thirty thousand prisoners in all. More than twenty thousand killed — a ghastly sight!" Did the jubilant outburst of a conqueror ever come to a stranger close? He luxuriates in the figures of his gains, and then, suddenly, the corpses of the dead rise before his eyes! Henceforward, such ref­erences become frequent; he writes in simple and heartfelt words about bloodshed.

In the peace negotiations, the minister has a contest with his master. The day after Austerlitz, Talleyrand writes to the Emperor: "How easy would it be, now, to destroy the Habsburgs once for all. But it would suit our book better to strengthen them, to give them a fixed place in France's system!" Napoleon, however, en­forces the peace of Pressburg, in which the old German empire is shattered into fragments, while Austria vanishes from Germany and Italy. What is in the conqueror's mind?

Europe! A league of States under French hegemony. Russia is Asia; England is detached, an island. The Continent must be unified, must consist of middle-sized and small powers overshad­owed by the eagles of France, and democratically ranged side by side. Now, after Austerlitz, the new thought takes shape. The vic­tory has put it within his power to realise the greatest aim of a European, the unification of Europe.

He did not set out towards this goal. It was a gradual growth, the fruit of circumstances. He did not deliberately provoke the wars that were fought when the new idea was in its inception. Since Marengo, his chief wish has been for peace. At that time, Austria had been loath to make peace. The Austrian renewal of the attack was a logical outcome of legitimist theory, for Habsburg and the revolution could not jointly rule Europe. Austerlitz had settled the dispute once more. Now it had become possible to reunite Charlemagne's resurrected Europe. But neither the kings and emperors (who were only beaten, not convinced), nor he himself (who had gained all by the sword and not by persuasion), could march along the way of the spirit towards the unification of Europe. The determinisms of his own past left Napoleon no option but to create his United States of Europe by force. Not

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

till ten years later did he come to see that he had been seeking to achieve a great end by false means.

When he came to understand this, it was too late; he was impo­tent, in the great epilogue of his exile.

Taken from Napoleon by Emil Ludwig, pp. 219-28

The Continental System (or Continental  Blockade) meant that manufactured products  from Great Britain were banned from the  Empire. When discovered, they were publicly  burnt, as in this image. The scene takes place  in Hamburg.

The Continental System (or Continental Blockade) meant that manufactured products from Great Britain were banned from the Empire. When discovered, they were publicly burnt, as in this image. The scene takes place in Hamburg.



Relentless energy grandiose dreams

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

5. Administration on wheels

Napoleon is again obliged to wage war against the allies which were hoping to profit from his difficulties in Spain which he did not manage to pacify after the initial invasion in 1808. From Spain, he first rushes to Paris where there are rumours of conspiracy. He deals with that and then departs with an army to Bavaria. The short text below shows the manner in which Napoleon was travelling, always working, never losing a minute...

But he speeds away again, and crosses Germany. Napoleon's carriage is outwardly plain, but within it is comfortably built. The Emperor can sleep in it; by day he can govern from it, just as well as from the Tuileries or from a tent. He is the first to overcome the friction which brings movement to a standstill; and, though he does not travel as fast as we do nowadays, he travels faster than any man ever travelled before. Five days take him from Dresden to Paris. In a number of lock-up drawers within the carriage, he collects reports, dispatches, memoranda; a lantern hanging from the roof lights up the interior; in front of him hangs a list of the different places he must pass through, including where relays of horses are awaiting him. Should a courier reach him, Berthier, or another official who happens to be at hand, must take down the more pressing orders, while the carriage goes jolting on its way. Before long, orderlies are to be seen flying off in every direction.

On the box seat, the Mameluke is enthroned in solitary gran­deur. Two postilions whip up the six horses. The carriage is sur­rounded by a crowd of equerries, pages, and light cavalrymen; when the procession sets forward, the road is all too narrow to accommodate it, eddies of dust and heat envelop it, night and fog encompass it. The peasants stand aside to let the tornado pass; they are agape with wonderment and firmly believe that the devil is hiding inside the great Napoleon. He leaves behind him a trail

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

like that of a paper-chase: for he throws out of the windows of the carriage, not only all the envelopes and other useless paper, but all the reports he does not wish to file (torn into tiny fragments); all the newspapers he has read; and, finally, books, which he glances at when he has a moment to spare, and then consigns to their fate in the mud of the highway.

Wherever he gets out of his carriage, a hot bath is ready for him. Then, at two in the morning, he will dictate till four, snatch three hours' sleep, and start off again at seven. At his halts, four light cavalrymen surround him in a square, and follow him in all his movements, if, for instance, in the daytime he studies the country through his small telescope. Should he need the large telescope, he uses the shoulder of the page in waiting as a rest. Whether his halt be short or long, in wartime the map is always ready to his hand, in carriage or tent, in camp and by the watch-fire. Any member of his escort who fails to show him in the map the precise point where the halt has been made, the area he now wishes to study, receives a volley of abuse — be it Berthier himself, Prince of Neuchatel. Through all countries, for the whole duration of his life, the map follows him, pierced with coloured pins, illuminated at night by twenty or thirty candles, and with a pair of compasses lying on it. This is his altar, before which he offers up his prayers. It is the real home of the man who has no home.

Taken from Napoleon by Emil Ludwig, pp. 311-12

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

6. Napoleon dreams on...

The hostilities continue, with England as implacable as ever. Since 1806 Napoleon has erected a formidable Continental System covering nearly the whole of Europeans ports to block English commerce, thereby only increasing England's determi­nation against him. The Continental System is detrimental to economic activity, therefore rather impopular in many coun­tries. Napoleon sees that nothing has really been settled by the treaty of Tilsit and wonders about war or peace with Russia and also dreams on...

"Kindly inform me why the price of salt in the neighbourhood of Strasburg has risen one sou."

Closely following upon the heels of this enquiry to the Ministry for War, comes a command to the Admiralty: two entire fleets are to be constructed in the course of the next three years, one Atlantic fleet and one Mediterranean fleet; the latter against Sicily and Egypt, the former against Ireland. As soon as the Spanish af­fair is in better case, preparations are to be made for an expedition to the Cape in 1812. An army of from sixty to eighty thousand men is to be got ready for an attack on Surinam and Martinique. "Having eluded the enemy cruisers," the expeditionary forces are to share out the two hemispheres.

We see how closely at this date, when imaginative fantasies threaten to develop into adventures, the exact observations of the father of his country are allied to the rhapsodical plans of the world conqueror. For that is what Napoleon now attempts: he is actually trying to realise his old dream of world conquest.

"You want to know whither we are going? We shall have done with Europe; then, as robbers of robbers less bold than ourselves, we shall march to the attack, seize India, over which they have made themselves masters. ... I must take India ... in the rear, if I

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

am to strike successfully at England. ... Just imagine Moscow oc­cupied, the tsar conciliated or killed by his people, perhaps a new, dependent throne,— and tell me whether an army of Frenchmen, reinforced by auxiliary troops from Tiflis, cannot press forward to the Ganges, and thence, at a touch, destroy the whole structure of English commerce! ... At one blow, France would have estab­lished the independence of the West and the freedom of the seas!" A witness reports that while he was voicing these ideas "his eyes shone with a wonderful light, and he went on to point out the reasons for the adventure, all the difficulties it entailed, the means of achievement, and the prospects of success."

Shall the tsar be conciliated or killed? That is the question which troubles the Emperor the whole year round. Calculations and presentiments make him desire to have Alexander as his friend rather than his enemy. Napoleon has nothing to gain by a defeat of Russia. On the contrary! He dreads being forced into this war, and endeavours, as on former occasions, to avoid it; though only if the tsar, as previously agreed, shall participate in the great final struggle as an ally. Napoleon keeps the tsar under observation, and perceives that suggestions are having less and less effect upon Alexander. He therefore writes to a prince of the Confederation of the Rhine in these amazing terms: "This war will break out in spite of the tsar, in spite of me, and in spite of the interests of the two empires."

Never before had the Emperor or the Consul declared, in such words, that war was unavoidable. Precisely because all rational need for the campaign was lacking this time, he found it neces­sary to proclaim the war with the tsar to be the work of fate. At the very first handclasp, in the peace tent on the Memel, the seed of this war was sown. During the days of intimacy which fol­lowed, when the encounter blossomed into friendship, that seed invisibly took root and grew. In later days, Talleyrand's treach­erous diplomacy cherished its growth; and when, at Erfurt, the emperors embraced, they could already feel between them the coils of the snake. That they did not become related by marriage was neither an accident nor the outcome of a conscious desire: it

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

Besides the Empire, Napoleon also controls the Confederation of the  Rhine, the Kingdom of Italy, the Kingdom of Naples, the Kingdom of  Spain and the Grand Duchy of Warsaw.

Besides the Empire, Napoleon also controls the Confederation of the Rhine, the Kingdom of Italy, the Kingdom of Naples, the Kingdom of Spain and the Grand Duchy of Warsaw.

was consequent upon the mistrust which had invaded the tsar's mind, a mistrust of which he could not rid himself and which was to prove well founded. Two men wishing to divide Europe between them could not see with complacency the half in a rival's hands. Their intentions were honourable at the outset; but they were impossible of fulfillment. The day of contest must inevitably come at last. "He alone is still weighing upon the pinnacle of my edifice. My rival is young; daily his strength is waxing, daily mine is waning." This gloomy recognition spurs him ever onward.


Relentless energy grandiose dreams

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

It is useless to try to interpret such decrees of destiny as the outcome of political causes.

Somewhat earlier, the Emperor has asked the tsar to lay an em­bargo on all neutral ships, as he himself has done, and thus give England the death blow. The tsar cannot agree to this, for it would fatally injure his own sea-borne trade; he will only continue, as before, to confiscate all the prohibited goods he discovers, but he needs colonial wares from the neutrals. Being unable to stop this leak in the East, the Emperor has to exercise redoubled care on the German coast, and he therefore annexes the mouths of the Weser and the Elbe with the Hansa towns and part of Hanover. "Circumstances demand these new guarantees against England." Oldenburg is swallowed up with the rest, though the heir to this duchy has married Alexander's sister.

The Emperor's high-handed proceedings were a logical out­come of his policy, but they were necessarily an offence to the tsar. Alexander regarded them as a breach of the treaty of Tilsit, in which the integrity of Oldenburg had been guaranteed. He is­sued a circular to the powers protesting against this insult to his house, a remonstrance almost equivalent to a declaration of war. In this document he enquired what could be the use of alliances unless the treaties in which they were incorporated were strictly observed, so that the cabinets of Europe could not but smile at the concluding words of the circular, in which he described the al­liance between Russia and France as permanent. His next step was a ukase in which he threw Russia open to colonial goods, while imposing prohibitive import duties on wine and silk, the products of French industry.

The maps lie spread on the tables in St. Petersburg and Paris. Where can either power best harass the other? The tsar proposes to make peace with Turkey. The Emperor incites Austria to seize Serbia, to advance towards Moldavia and Wallachia, promising not to interfere; this will keep Alexander busy. Metternich nods as­sent, but does not move. 'What about Poland?" thinks Alexander. "Has not Napoleon already enlarged the duchy of Warsaw by the addition of Galicia? It there any guarantee that he will not re-

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

establish the kingdom of Poland?" Caulaincourt, French ambas­sador in Russia, who admires the tsar and wants peace, gives the desired guarantees. But the Emperor would only agree to a secret ratification. If the differences between France and Russia should culminate in war, he will need Poland for his operations against the tsar; Polish hopes must, therefore, be fostered. Penetrating this design, Alexander demands an open treaty, which shall put and end to Polish expectations.

When Massena is defeated in Spain, the Emperor entertains fresh doubts. Caulaincourt, who is back in Paris, does his utmost to intensify these misgivings, dilates on the tsar's will to peace, and ventures far in his defence of Alexander. The Emperor leads him on; hears all he has to say; asks a thousand questions con­cerning the tsar and the court, Alexander's piety, the nobles, and the peasants; takes Caulaincourt by the ear, a sign of affability.

"You must be in love with him!"

"I am in love with peace."

"So am I. But I will not allow anyone to dictate to me. Evacuate Danzig, forsooth! Next I shall have to ask Alexander's permis­sion before I can hold a review in Mainz. You are a fool. I am an old fox, and know the people with whom I am dealing. ... We must deprive this Russian colossus and his hordes of the power to inundate the south once more. ... I shall advance northwards, and re-establish there the old boundaries of Europe."

Quite unsubstantial reasons, masks, mere pretexts. Warningly Caulaincourt quotes Alexander's words: "I shall learn from his own teachings, which are those of a master. Our climate will make war for us. The French are not inured to it as we are. Miracles only happen when the Emperor is present, and he cannot be ev­erywhere." Napoleon is greatly moved by these words; he tramps restlessly up and down the room; the conversation lasts for hours. Since he cannot refute Caulaincourt's arguments, he makes vague answers behind which his titanic wishes loom.

"A well-fought battle will put an end to the fine resolves of your friend Alexander. ... He is false, ambitious, and weak; he has the character of a Greek. Believe me, it is he, not I, who wants

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

This brilliant and desperate campaign of France, 1814

This brilliant and desperate campaign of France, 1814The Emperor the evening after his abdication, April 11, 1814

The Emperor the evening after his abdication, April 11, 1814

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

this war, for he cherishes a hidden design. ... He is out of hu­mour because I did not take his sister." When Caulaincourt gives proofs to the contrary, Napoleon says: "I have forgotten the de­tails"— Forgotten! This is a new word in the Emperor's mouth. He knows his position to be weak; himself a man of facts, he now brushes away those which he finds inconvenient.

He sends a more resolute envoy to the tsar. When a proposal comes from St. Petersburg that Warsaw shall be exchanged for Oldenburg, the Emperor says threateningly to the Russian am­bassador, raising his voice so that every one in the room may hear: "Not one Polish village!"

But these political incidents and discussions are merely the forms of destiny. Schemes flash like lightning through his brain; his soul is devoured by wishes: and he will rather reveal these things to a dangerous enemy like Fouche than to a shrewd ad­herent like Caulaincourt. He cannot rid himself of the ex-Jacobin and ex-cleric. Last year, he had cashiered the Minister of Police, for Fouche was obviously intriguing with England. But Napoleon was as lenient as he had been at the time of the conspiracy which had brought him back hot foot from Astorga. Instead of ban­ishing the man, the Emperor had appointed him senator — at the same time writing to him words which give a glimpse into the inferno of these struggles between the monarch and the spy: "Although I do not doubt your devotion, I find it necessary to have you watched all the time. This is a fatiguing necessity, and I should not be called upon to do anything of the kind."

But though he dismisses Fouche from his ministerial post and has the watcher watched, Napoleon cannot get on without him, and talks to him about the most private matters.

"Since my marriage, people fancy that the lion is asleep. They will soon learn whether I am asleep. I need eight hundred thousand men, and have them; I shall tow all Europe in my wake. Europe is nothing more than an old woman, and with my eight hundred thousand men I can make her do whatever I please. ... Did not you yourself say to me: 'You let your genius have its way, because it does not know the word impossible.' How can I help it if a great

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

power drives me on to become dictator of the world? You and the others, who criticise me to-day and would like me to become a good-natured ruler — have not you all been accessories? I have not yet fulfilled my mission, and I mean to end what I have begun. We need a European legal code, a European court of appeal, a uni­fied coinage, a common system of weights and measures. The same law must run throughout Europe. I shall fuse all the nations into one. ...This, my lord duke, is the only solution that pleases me. ..." Having said this, he suddenly sends Fouche from the room.

Here we have it plainly disclosed, Napoleon's vision of the United States of Europe. The plan is recorded by one who, in his memoirs, would fain have discredited the Emperor — this plan with its extremely rational deductions and its daimonic in­spiration. Europe is no longer a "mole-hill" as it was in the days of Milan and Rivoli, when he was nothing more than General Bonaparte, and when to the young man of genius all possible ad­versaries seemed too petty. Fifteen years later, Europe has become a plastic material; and Bonaparte is the emperor, the legislator, the great orderer, the enemy of the anarchy out of which he sprang, the modeller who would mould the clay into a splendid whole. Throughout the intervening years he has been marching along a predestined path; now he displays before us, in this statement of his aims, the productive consequences towards which he has been moving along that road of force through ever new hecatombs of slaughter. Behind him lie Charlemagne's visions of a united Europe; in front of him glide new forms; and Caesar, half way towards the realisation of his dream, is well aware that the spirit will ultimately overpower the sword. He has himself said this; and what he is now striving to establish by force with the aid of eight hundred thousand men, will some day come into existence as a voluntary amalgamation based upon reason and necessity. All the nations will fuse into one.

This, my lord duke, is the only solution that pleases me.

Taken from Napoleon by Emil Ludwig, pp. 345-51

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

7. Emperor of a mini-empire

Finally it had to be war and Napoleon invades Russia in 1812. The outcome was disaster, most of the Great Army dis­appeared during a very harrowing retreat due to guerrillas tactics of Russian soldiers but mostly from the rigours of the Russian winter. Despite a brilliant campaign to defend France from invasion in 1813-14, Napoleon was ultimately defeated and had to abdicate. He was then sent to the island of Elba as its ruler, a minuscule speck of an island in the Mediterranean, very close to his native and much bigger island, Corsica. What is amazing is that Napoleon took very seriously his role of ruler of that miniature kingdom...

How big Corsica is! How high her mountains! Bastia is an ad­mirable harbour; its fortifications can be seen through a spyglass. If taken from the eastern side. ...

When the ruler of Elba rides among the hills of his new home, the silhouette of his old home lies spread before him; everything looms larger across the water. Forty times bigger, ten times as many inhabitants; he has all the figures, to a unit, in his head. Elba is nothing more than a mole-hill.

On the clear May morning when he landed, he was welcomed by a deputation of peasants and petty burghers in Porto Ferrajo. Timidly they had paid their compliments to the man who was to reign over them. But their astonishment was great when, instead of inviting them to a banquet, he leapt into the saddle and rode off to inspect the fortifications. On the morrow, orders began to fly about the sleepy little isle: Pianosa was to have two more bat­teries; the mole must be lengthened; the roads improved. When first the four hundred grenadiers appeared in the land, the natives looked at them askance as men of a foreign race. Soon, however, the forces were increased by the creation of a foreign battalion,

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

and a National Guard. Napoleon once more has an army of over a thousand men; soon he has a small flotilla likewise. What for? Just for him to see after and take care of. He has a Council of State; Bertrand and Drouot (the generals who have accompanied him into exile) and a dozen inhabitants of the island, are members; and, together with Napoleon who presides over the assembly, they discuss improvements in the iron mines and the salt pits. Have you no mulberry culture here? The silkworms bring in good money over there in Lyons; and if the French government im­poses a tariff upon our produce, we can easily sell to Italy.

Save! We are so poor, and France makes no move to pay the promised allowance. The white house is smaller than the one in Ajaccio, and very much simpler; but there is no money for building additional accommodation; and when the "grand mar­shal" Bertrand draws up a list of mattresses and other bedgear, his master underlines the mistakes — for he has every detail of his establishment by heart.

Is this indefatigable man never to realise what a parody is his administration over the tiny island, the diminutive army, the small household? Never! Here in Elba, where in the best of spirits and health he throws himself whole-heartedly into his undertakings, he comes to realise that it was not the masses that had allured him. To order, to build, to press his finger into the wax of hu­manity, these things he must do, urged onward by the impulse of his artist's soul. But, since humanity is not as wax, and since his constructions can never be finished and are always vibrant with life; since the opposition of material forces also takes a hand in the game, even when matter seems to have been conquered — he can only fulfil his mission by coercing and conquering the human spirit, by issuing orders and bringing suggestions to bear, by con­stant vigilance and constant upbuilding; in a word, by ruling. He has never been a dilettante or a parvenu; and, this being so, he drives the little wheel to-day with just as much precision and ear­nestness as he had driven the earth's sphere in former days.

But soon, when most of his enterprises are in good going order, he feels he is becoming lazy, even when he is studying

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

mathematics. This causes him to reconsider his position.

"It is by no means difficult to accustom oneself to a life of meditation," he writes, "if one possesses within oneself the neces­sary reserves. I work hard in my study; when I emerge I have the delightful spectacle of my old grenadiers in front of me. ... Born kings must suffer terribly when they are dethroned, for pomp and etiquette are the very marrow of their lives. For my part, I have always been a soldier, and a king only by chance, so that these things have been nothing but a burden to me, whereas wars and camps come naturally. Out of my great past, I regret naught but my soldiers. After all my treasures and my crowns, my most cher­ished possessions are the couple of French uniforms they have allowed me to keep"

These are the words of an unpretentious king. Do people not believe him? And does Europe laugh when, in his kingdom of Lilliput, he preserves the forms of kingship? Does Europe begin to suspect a secret in the island? The innate dignity, whereby long ago the young general had wrung respect from the bearers of inherited rank, to-day is still able to hold satirical visitors in check. Every one admires the natural simplicity of the lonely man who, despite the exiguity of his dwelling, still holds to the title of "Majesty." He lives in his island sans palace or fittings, sans court or ministers, only surrounded with the aureole of his deeds.

This return home brings solace to his heart — for Elba is Italy. The peasant speaks to him in the language Napoleon had learned at Letizia's knee. The Mediterranean amid whose waters he was born and reared, the islands with their quiet shores, do they not all of them bring back memories of youthful days? Stone-pines, fig trees, and crags; the white houses among the vineyards; the sails, and the fishermen's nets; pride of clan, and the headkerchief worn at church; all these things seem to take him gently by the hand and lead him back to the dreams of childhood. Now the storm-racked nerves relax, and at length know a spell of repose. In these wholesome months, the Emperor comes to look upon his career as a visionary flight into the land of childish imagina­tion; and it is only when he contemplates the men of his old guard

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

that he realises something did happen during the years that sepa­rate Corsica from Elba.

"The Emperor lives very contentedly on his island," writes one who accompanied him there. "He seems to have forgotten the past. The management of his small household gives him occupa­tion; he is now looking out for a suitable site to build his country-seat; we ride, and drive, and sail round the coasts as much as we please."

Since he has plenty of time on his hands, and since thrift is essential, he examines everything to the minutest details. Just as, in the Tuileries, he himself drew up the list of his clothing, so now in Elba, he says to Bertrand: "My underlinen is in a lamen­table state. Part of it has never been unpacked, and it has not been marked. Give orders that everything must be laid out in drawers and presses, and that no one is to be given anything belonging to our court without furnishing a receipt."

There are not enough ordinary chairs. Have a sample sent from Pisa; they must not cost more than five francs apiece."

Europe laughs when it hears of this. Posterity stands bewil­dered before such energetic renunciation.

Once only do we hear a gentle sigh. He has climbed to the top of a hill whence he can look over the whole of his realm. Surveying the prospect, he says: "One must acknowledge that the island is very small." Like distant thunder, the fate of a man seems to rumble in these words; for an all too great imagination, con­fined within the narrow limits of Europe and cribbed within the circle of the folk intelligence of the nineteenth century, is doomed at the outset to be crushed.

Taken from Napoleon by Emil Ludwig, pp. 447-50

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

8. St Helena. Meditation on a prodigious destiny

After another amazing adventure in which Napoleon left se­cretly Elba, came back to France and ruled again for hundred days to be finally narrowly defeated at Waterloo. This time the allies, and particularly England, had had enough of Napoleon. They exiled him at St Helena, a barren island in the middle of the south Atlantic ocean, thousands of miles from Europe. He was kept a quasi prisonerunder the supervision of a mean-spirited governor who did his best to make the ex-Emperor's life miserable. Napoleon had hoped for a chivalrous attitude from his English enemies under whose protection he put him­self after the defeat. He was sadly mistaken. The governor of St Helena, under strict instructions which he followed with ap­parent relish and even adding his own brand of persecution, confined Napoleon in a small, unhealthy, dilapidated property which, together with the harsh climate, contributed to the rapid decline of the emperor's health. This will be a period of reflec­tion and elaboration of memoirs for Napoleon, who continued to dictate for quite a long time. Emil Ludwig used this last pe­riod of Napoleon's life as a background for a general appraisal of his extraordinary personality...

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

The sea spreads out into the vast distance. It is like a mirror of steel. The man on the rock, hands clasped behind, stares across the watery plain. He is lonely, so lonely.

One looking at him from a distance would see a fat man with short legs, a man of uncertain age. He is wearing a green coat, decorated with the star of the Legion of Honour; silk stockings; three-cornered hat in his hands. The head is large; the brownish hair makes a bush at the back; there is no sign of whitening. The short neck springs from powerful shoulders. The features are as if hewn out of stone, with a yellowish tint, like the marble of an ancient statue that has been darkened in the course of the ages; no wrinkles, but the classical profile is somewhat marred by the heaviness of the chin. The only beautiful features are the nose and the teeth. These last are perfect, and he has never lost a tooth. His hands, too, are beautiful. All through his campaigns he was scru­pulous in his care for them; and, when correcting the letters and dispatches he dictated, he generally used a pencil in order that he might avoid staining his fingers with ink.

The doctors have told us a good deal about his physical condi­tion. "Pulse never more frequent than 62; bosom well padded, almost like a woman's, and with very little hair; panes viriles exi­guitates insignis sicut pueri." He himself knows much about his body, he has studied his battle-field of his life in order that here, likewise, he may utilise his forces to the best advantage.

"I have never yet heard my own heart beating; it is almost as if I had none," he says, half seriously. Moderation, he assures us, is the secret of his amazing faculty for work. "Nature has bestowed on me two valuable gifts: the capacity for sleeping whenever I want to; and the incapacity for committing excesses in drinking and eating. ... However little a man may eat, he always eats too much. One can get ill from over-eating, but never from under-eating." The alternation between campaigning and sedentary life enables him again and again to escape from the air of the study, and to fortify his constitution by long rides and drives. "Water, air, and cleanliness are my favourite medicines."

With a body thus steeled, he can drive without stopping from

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

The final battle and the ultimate defeat: Waterloo, June 18, 1815. Four months later Napoleon would begin his life of exile in St Helena.

The final battle and the ultimate defeat: Waterloo, June 18, 1815.
Four months later Napoleon would begin his life of exile in St Helena.

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

Tilsit to Dresden, nearly five hundred miles, and be quite fresh at the journey's end; can ride fifty miles from Vienna to Semmering, breakfast there, and be back at work in Schonbrunn the same eve­ning; can gallop in five hours from Valladolid to Burgos, a dis­tance of about eighty miles. After long rides and marches through Poland, he reaches Warsaw at midnight and receives the new au­thorities at seven next morning. These are the excesses he prac­tises to restore the balance of his natural forces. After a long spell of sedentary life, he will start off on a ride of seven days, or will go out shooting for the whole day; after great exertions, he will keep his room for twenty-four hours. He believes that his energy has saved his life. He says to Metternich: "Sometimes death only comes from lack of energy. Yesterday, when I was thrown out of my carriage, I thought I was done for. But I had just time to say to myself that I would not die. Anyone else in my place would have been killed."

His muscles are powerful, but his nerves are sensitive. Accustomed to command, he cannot endure anything in the na­ture of compulsion. If his coat is at all tight, he tears it off; the same with shoes that pinch him in the slightest. On these occa­sions, he will box his servants' ears. If he has to wear court dress, they watch out while they help him on with his coat. When his mind is busy (when is it not?) he will push away his breakfast, jump up from his chair, and stride about, talking, issuing orders. His hand writing is nothing more than a series of violent contrac­tions of the hand which cannot keep up with the furious pace of his thoughts; a sort of involuntary shorthand, which in places has not been deciphered after a hundred years of study. He cannot en­dure the smell of paint or size; he always masks unpleasant odours by using eau-de-Cologne. If his nerves are utterly exhausted, he soothes them in a hot bath. When the war with England broke out, he worked continuously, with four secretaries, for three days and three nights, and then spent six hours in his bath dictating dispatches. This nervous irritability is the antithesis of his slow circulation. He thinks that, the constitution of his nerves being what it is, he would be in danger of going mad, "if it were not that

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

my blood works so slowly."

But there is no evidence at all that his nervousness ever rose to the pitch of convulsions, that he suffered from epilepsy. This illness usually begins in childhood, and none of his school mates have reported that he had fits. Never was anyone's life more closely watched than Napoleon's; and the documents upon which the assertion that he was an epileptic is based are scanty, confused, and untrustworthy.

As long as his body remained healthy, he was able to endure all the tensions and shocks to which he was exposed. It was when he was approaching forty that he began to show the first symp­toms of a stomach trouble which was in those days summarily diagnosed as cancerous. Beyond question, the tendency to it was inherited. During the last three years of warfare, he was put out of action in decisive hours by paroxysms of gastric spasm. His courage and resolution were practically unimpaired; had it not been for these attacks, the history of his decline would have been different.

The soul which governed this body was driven forward by three fundamental powers:

Self-confidence, energy, imagination.

"I am not as other men; the laws of morality and convention cannot be applied to me." In these cold words, he emphasises the "I" with which he began his first political writing in the days of his youth. They are a plain acknowledgment of a fact, by a man of thirty to whom nothing is more alien than vanity. "I alone, because of my position, know what government is," he said when he was Consul. "I am persuaded that no one save myself could govern France at this moment. Were I to die, it would be a great misfortune for the nation." He utters such words seldom, and only when he is with an intimate; but these sayings show with what scientific aloofness he could contemplate the phenomenon, Napoleon. When, during the Russian disaster, he was asked who in spite of all would defend him in France, he replied: "My name."

His contemporaries and posterity have held this fundamental

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

feeling to be ambition. That view is mistaken. Common ambition distinguishes itself from Napoleon's self-confidence as a restless, climbing animal does from a bird of prey whose free flight, by a law of nature, assumes wider and wider circles as it swings heav­enwards. Napoleon's aspiration is neither restless nor envious: it is nothing but his natural disposition which, as Consul, he once charmingly explained to his friend Roederer:

"I have no ambition whatever; or if I have, then it is so inborn, so intimately knit up with my very life, that it is as the blood in my veins. It does not incite me to outstrip my associates.... I have never had to fight for or against it; it does not urge me to greater speed than is natural to me, it comes out only when circumstances and my ideas demand."

Already in the days when he was a general, ideas and circum­stances forced upon him the conviction that he was the man pre­destined to rebuild France. It is nothing other than the conviction of his mission which makes him say to Roederer: "Circumstances have changed. I am now one of those who found States, not one of those who ruin States." Another time, he speaks of Corneille, but he means himself when he says: "Whence did this man ac­quire his antique greatness? From himself, from his soul? Very well. Do you know what that is called, my Lord Cardinal? It is called genius. Genius is a flame, which comes from heaven, but seldom finds a head ready to receive it. Corneille is a man whom the world has recognised." When his interlocutor observed that the poet had not seen the flame, so how could he recognise it, the Emperor answered scornfully: "Precisely for that reason I con­sider he is a great man!"

He thus, indirectly by anticipation, announces his own genius to the world, just as Goethe had announced his own.

The will-to-power, not as an endeavour or even as a question, but, rather, as simplicity, dwells within him close at hand. He calls interest the key to ordinary deeds; the will to govern the intellect, he describes as the strongest of all the passions; and the artistic urge of genius, he depicts in the following words: "I love power, yes, I love it, but after the manner of an artist: as a fiddler loves his

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

Napoleon in St Helena, by Steuben. He is represented dictating his Memoirs to the  General Gourgaud. Gourgaud who had been present at all the great battles of the  Empire, remained three years in the island.Napoleon in St Helena, by Steuben. He is represented dictating his Memoirs to the General Gourgaud. Gourgaud who had been present at all the great battles of the Empire, remained three years in the island.

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

fiddle in order to conjure from it tone, chords, harmonies."

That is why it is his nature to command. "Wherever I may be, I command, or else I keep silence." He might have added: "I nego­tiate," for he had spent a quarter of his time in negotiating. Even as a young general of twenty-seven, he aroused the respect of all who came in contact with him. He never learned to obey; but to command came to him naturally at the very outset, just as a calf stands and walks in the first hour of its life. Because this power of commanding comes so naturally, he never acquires the art of asking; because he can command as no other, he is denied the gift of being able to ask favours.

His self-confidence confers on him a natural dignity that amazes and angers the legitimist world, which believes dignity to be consonant only with heredity and culture. The friends of his youth stand embarrassed when they recognise him as their com­mander in the field and yet realise the solitude which his posi­tion as leader entails. All his companions-in-arms speak of him with spontaneous homage. One of his intimates writes: "When he speaks, everyone listens, for he speaks as an expert; if he is si­lent, his silence is respected; and no one would venture to say that he was silent because of ill humour. We all felt that between him and us there lived a great thought which was wholly occupying his mind and forbade familiar accost." This statement is all the more surprising since it was made during a campaign, when tent life usually breaks down barriers. With absolute ingenuousness he once said, while playing and chatting with friends at Malmaison: "I have no sense of the ridiculous. Power is never ridiculous."

An adept at analysis, the greatest psychologist of his epoch, he knows all about his own qualities, and is therefore able, by de­grees, to elaborate these instincts into principles. "The goodness of a king," he informs his brother Louis, King of Holland, "must always bear a regal stamp and must never be monkish. ... The love which a king inspires should invariably be a manly love, wedded to reverence, fear, and esteem. If people speak of him as 'a good man,' his rule is a failure." This love and fear which he himself inspires has the greatest practical results.

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

Nevertheless, the dignity which holds people at a distance is not assumed, for a leading element in it is a bewildering natu­ralness, which grows with the years and with his successes. His unsophisticated and frank realism, the sterling simplicity of his character, shows itself in a hundred gestures and words, and in the freshness with which he repeatedly makes fun of his own ardency. He expresses this in a profound saying: "A truly great man will rise superior to the events which he himself has brought about." The greatest successes, whose fateful origin and consequences he fully grasps, he sums up to his intimates in a schoolboy's laugh. Many have reported this, for between the boisterous gaiety of a soldier and the most delicate curl of the lip are many shades of good humour; he possesses all.

On the eve of his coronation he exclaims: "Is the result not truly delightful, to be named brother by the kings?" Or he sends his ambassador to St. Petersburg with the words: "Our brother in Russia is fond of luxury and festivity. Very well, then, give him his fill of them!" Sometimes his simplicity of manner infringes etiquette, and the legitimists blanch: "When I was an insignificant lieutenant," he begins once at table with the kings in Dresden. General consternation! Everyone gazes into his plate. Napoleon clears his throat: "When I had the honour of serving as lieutenant in the second artillery regiment at Valence ..." Or he is sitting with the tsar in Tilsit, and, since he is ever eager to learn, he asks offhandedly across the table: "How much does your tax on sugar bring in yearly?" We are told that this question places all present in a state of grave embarrassment. Why? Because, as a big man of business, he calls money by its name; whereas the kings never mention it by name, though they are glad enough to reap the harvest!

Since he was not vain, he knew when he had made mistakes. His whole life long he was in the habit of saying that next day he might lose a battle; he frequently consulted his friends and his experts, and was inspired with the feeling of God-given neces­sity. How well Napoleon could bear to be told the truth, we can learn from Marmont — who, when he praises, is one of the most

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

trustworthy of witnesses, for he wrote his memoirs long after the Emperor had publicly stigmatised him as a traitor. "Napoleon had a strong sense of justice, and would readily forgive an improper word or other sign of anger in one who had good grounds for complaint, provided of course he was alone with the offender. ... He made kindly allowance for others' weaknesses and could never resist the appeal of well-grounded sorrow. One who chose time and place, could say anything to him. He was always willing to listen to the truth. Though it did not invariably influence him, there was no danger in uttering it."

He saw through the wiles of flatterers, and they gained nothing from him. Byzantine bombast, devoid of political value, infuri­ated him. "How could you depict the French eagle tearing the English leopard to pieces, at a time when I cannot safely send even a fishing-smack out to sea? Break up your moulds instantly, and never show me anything of the kind again!"

On the other hand, those who fearlessly speak the truth to him, impress him. He praises Chateaubriand, who has attacked him. In the days when he was Consul he was wont, after a sit­ting of the Council of State, to invite to dinner the man who had most vigorously opposed his wishes. In the Russian Campaign, a captive general tells him some home truths about the burning of Moscow. Napoleon dismisses the prisoner in a rage; but presently has him recalled, and shakes the Russian's hand, saying: "You are a brave man!" Mehul plays a trick on the Emperor, producing his new opera as the work of an Italian composer, and thus earning approbation. Paisiello also plays a trick by introducing into one of his own compositions an aria by Cimarosa, a composer whose work Bonaparte cannot endure. The Consul applauds; and when afterwards told of the deception, he only laughs. [...]

After victories and successes, this historical feeling for his own personality becomes as objective as the attitude of the chessplayer towards the pieces on his board. We seem to be contemplating a man whose fondness for the game is the only thing which makes him want to win; and who, as soon as he has won, can converse

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

dispassionately with his defeated opponent about the mistakes they have made and the artifices to which they have had recourse. When he is talking to enemy generals whom he has taken prisoner or with whom he is negotiating, he will say: "You ought to have done this, that, or the other. There, you were in an advantageous position. That would have been an excellent move."

Immediately after his victory at Wagram, he says to Count Bubna: "I am certain that you are damnably strong; for you can deliver shrewd blows. At what figure do you estimate my forces? ...You appear to be uncommonly well informed! Would you care to have a look at my army? ... No? Well, at least you had better study my position on this map. It was my own fault when I failed to win a victory at Aspern-Essling. I got the punishment I deserved."

Only with regard to one matter does this detachment fail him —Waterloo. In St. Helena, an English surgeon ventured to say that people in England would be glad to hear his opinion of Wellington. The remark was followed by an embarrassing silence.

Fame is the supreme goaL of his egotism; substantially, it is the only goal. All his energies are directed towards this end: his consciousness of his uniqueness; his historic sense; his sense of honour; his dignity; the boy's dreams, the youth's plans, the man's deeds, the prisoner's unrest. Posterity is the great confused pic­ture which fills his imagination; and the desire of his heart would seem to be rather the Latin "gloria" which thinks of future gen­erations, than the French "gloire" which sums itself in the smile of contemporaries. He is animated by a daimonic being's eager wish for immortality although he knows that he must share the fate of all mortal men. "Better never to have lived, than to exist, and pass without leaving a trace."

He modifies the coronation oath by swearing, not only to protect the realm and the happiness of France, but also to rule for the glory of his people. On one of the battle-fields of Henry IV in Normandy he has a column erected with the inscription. "Great men love the fame of those who resemble themselves." Frederick's sword is "more precious than all the treasures of the king of Prussia"; but it is not only when he is campaigning that

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

his thoughts turn towards the future. When he is having houses built for the unemployed, his order to the minister to whom the task is entrusted ends with the phrase: "We must not pass out of the world without leaving traces that will commend us to the thoughts of posterity." At the close of his career as Emperor, he refuses to make peace on terms that will involve the renunciation of territories upon whose conquest part of his fame depends; and towards the end of his life he utters a melancholy parable, darkly significant, lonely as his own destiny:

"The love for glory is like the bridge which Satan tried to build across chaos in order to make his way into paradise. Glory is a connecting link between past and future, from which an abyss separates him. I leave to my son nothing but my name."

Energy is the second element in Napoleon's make-up. How does this quality show itself?

First of all in calculation. Never a trace of the flash of genius; but, rather, continuous weighing, over-elaborating, discarding: "I have known myself to argue with myself over the thoughts concerning a battle, and have contradicted myself. ...When I have drawn-up a plan of battle I am the most pusillanimous of men. I magnify the dangers and the incidents, am in a terrible state of excitement even when I seem cheerful; I am then like a girl who is going to have a baby." This is the mood of an artist during the conception of his work. He once described these feelings to Roederer in even franker terms:

"I am always at work; I think a great deal. If I appeared to be ever ready and equal to any occasion, it is because I have thought over matters for long before I undertake to do the slightest thing; I have foreseen all eventualities. There exists no guardian angel who suddenly and mysteriously whispers in my ear what I have to do or to say. Everything is turned over in my mind, again and again, always, whether I am at table or at the theatre. At night, I wake up in order to work."

This constant deliberation builds up something within him which he names "the spirit of things": the precision, which

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

penetrates all he touches; the thinking in numbers, to which he ascribes part of his success and for which he has to thank his math­ematical training. There is nothing too small for this brain; for the sum total of millions of details is a plan whose scope is world embracing. If one of his officers writes to say that the Emperor's instructions have been carried out, Napoleon waves this general statement aside and demands details. Nothing is so small but he wants to know all about it and judge its importance for himself. He writes to Eugene, who is in Italy:

"How is it possible that you are distributing three million seven hundred and forty-seven thousand rations of meat? ... I can calcu­late a similar gross total for dried vegetables, wine, salt, and spirits. But I want calculations according to corps. I am robbed of fifty per cent, even as much as seventy per cent. ... How can you allow them to calculate for one million three hundred and seventy-one thousand rations of hay? I should have to provide twelve thou­sand horses to eat it, not counting the Istrians and Dalmatians! You know I have only seven thousand. ...The office charges are insane! Frs. 118,000 for four months! That equals frs. 400,000 a year! Such a sum should suffice for the whole of Italy!"

This is but one example among many. Thousands of such let­ters, hailing from every corner of the military and civil adminis­tration, personally dictated, are to be found in the volumes of cor­respondence, and must sadly disappoint those who expect to find only ideas and temperament in the letters. He is the man who, in the midst of his wars in Italy, writes home that they must concoct a letter, nominally written by a German patriot and dealing with Austrian politics, and have it circulated throughout Germany; again, in the throes of a campaign, he has to write to Murat, King of Naples, detailing how the latter is to behave at balls or when he visits the theatre, whom he is to invite and whom to exclude from his invitations. While the preparations are being made for the Erfurt gathering, he suddenly remembers that someone must be there to introduce the actresses to the gallant grand dukes. He never demonstrates more forcibly the way he formulates destinies in figures than by the following incursion into social life: "Each

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

household should have six children, seeing that, on the average, three are sure to die. Of the three who survive, two should re­place the father and mother; the third will serve for an unforeseen emergency."

His precision of thought goes to such grotesque lengths! A third means for expressing this energetic faculty is his tempo. "Activity! Speed!" he writes with his own hand at the foot of an order. The king of Prussia has depicted this peculiarity with especial felicity: "We need but see him ride: he always gives his horse rein, and never troubles about what may be happening in his rear!" But Napoleon negotiated better than he rode, for he never negotiated until after long reflection. "Not a moment must be lost," is the slogan even when nothing presses for decision. The instinctive impetus of an overburdened but short life drives him forward; it seems as if he could not arrive quickly enough at the end of his career. He writes to Bernadotte, in the course of a campaign: "I have lost a whole day through you, and the fate of the world hangs upon one single day."

The drive he imposes upon himself has its reaction upon those who serve him. He drives them, not only in the field, but also in circumstances which ordinary governments would take months to decide. He demands a treaty with Russia from Talleyrand, saying it is to be drawn up and ready in a couple of hours. To explain the reasons for his second marriage, he wants a circular letter sent to all his ambassadors and consuls; this is to be drafted "in the course of the day." One night he is immersed in thoughts concerning the embellishment of Paris. Next morning he says to his Minister for Home Affairs: "I require that Paris shall have two million inhabit­ants by the end of ten years. I want to do something useful and great for the city. What do you suggest?"

"Provide the town with a good water-supply, Sire," and the minister expounds a plan whereby the Ourcq water can be con­veyed to Paris.

"Your proposal is good. Summon G. he must send five hun­dred men to La Vilette tomorrow, in order to start work on the canal."

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

Another of his weapons is memory "I always know my posi­tion. I cannot remember a single Alexandrine, but I never forget a figure relating to my military situation." This is the productive memory Although he pronounces them abominably, he retains the names of all the important places — important from his point of view—in all the countries where he has fought. The Postmaster General reports that the Emperor is able to mention, offhand, distances which he himself has to hunt up in works of reference. On his way back to Paris from the camp at Boulogne, Napoleon encounters a troop of soldiers who have lost their way, asks the number of their regiment, whence they set out, and when. He tells them their line of march! "Your battalion will be at H. this evening." At this time, two hundred thousand men were on the march close at hand!

His technique is to arrange things in his head "as in a ward­robe." He says: "When I wish to put any matter out of my mind, I close its drawer and open the drawer belonging to another. The contents of the drawers never get mixed, and they never worry me or weary me. Do I want to sleep? I close all the drawers, and then I am asleep."

Among the numerous heraldic emblems which might have tickled the fancy of an upstart — stars, tutelary deities, saints, beasts of prey — he finds none to please him. He chooses the bee, thus emphasising once more his opinion that a man of talent who aspires and works unceasingly can achieve every thing that can otherwise be achieved through what is vaguely spoken of as ge­nius. He declares that genius is industry; meaning, of course, that genius is industry among other things. He says that work is his element, that for which he has been created. Had he left nothing behind him, had all his works perished, still his industry and his glory would have been an emblematic stimulus to the youth of countless generations after he had passed away.

Many witnesses testify to his amazing powers of continued work. Roederer, who was his close companion during the Consulate, writes as follows: "That which especially characterises him is the power and persistence of his attention. He can work for

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

eighteen hours at a stretch, it may be at one piece of work, it may be at several in turn. I have never seen his mind flag. I have never seen his mind without a spring in it, not when he was physically tired, not when he was taking violent exercise, not even when he was angry. I have never seen him distracted from one affair by another, neglecting the matter in hand for one which he is about to work. Good or bad news from Egypt never interfered with his attention to the civil code, and the civil code never interfered with the steps it was necessary to take for the safety of Egypt. No one was ever more wholly immersed in what he was doing, nor did anyone ever make a better distribution of his time among all the things he had to do. Never was anyone more stubborn in re­jecting the occupation or the thought which was not appropriate to the hour or the day; nor was anyone ever more adroit in seizing an occupation or a thought when the right moment had come."

He robbed hundreds of his fellow workers of health and youth, because he demanded too much of them when he demanded from them what he exacted from himself. His private secretary would be sent for at a late hour, and would get to bed at four in the morning; at seven, the poor man would find new tasks ready for him, and would be told that they must be finished within two hours. When Napoleon and his secretary were together all day, one dictating and the other writing from dictation, at meal times the chief would order food for two and would share with his sub­ordinate at a corner of the work-table, just as he would have shared with his adjutant on a boundary stone. During the Consulate he would sometimes begin a sitting with his ministers at six in the evening and keep it up till five next morning. In the three months at Schonbrunn, his official correspondence comprised four hun­dred and thirty-five letters occupying four hundred folio pages of print. This was only his political and administrative correspon­dence; in addition he wrote a great many private letters, and deliv­ered innumerable orders by word of mouth.

These are the main forms of his energy. It is with their aid that he enters upon his duel with the world, availing himself of their interplay, and speaking of his genius as a talent for combination.

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

In his plans and orders, he is fond of the phrase "at the given mo­ment." He is not hampered by any principle, is always willing to modify his scheme to suit the weather of destiny, to adapt his combinations to the slightest modifications of the situation. This man of iron will had a most supple intelligence. While forcing all those with whom he came in contact to bend before his resolves, he himself showed a wonderful elasticity in compliance with the will of circumstances.

"The weakness of a captain who, instead of forcing his way into port, preferred to let himself be chased on the open sea — this, and some of the trifling defects of our frigates, were the reasons why I failed to change the face of the world. Had Acre fallen, we should have made our way to Aleppo by forced marches, have en­listed Christians, Druses, and Armenians; have speedily reached the Euphrates: thence I should have gone to India, and should have established new institutions, everywhere."

Whether these vaticinations were historically tenable, may re­main an open question; but his belief that he could have done what he describes, bears witness to his realism. In this world of figures and magnitudes, for Napoleon everything depends upon the individual behaviour of the individual man at his post. Since the failure of anyone individual may give the totality of circum­stances a new trend, he is always ready to adapt the trend of his own intelligence to changing circumstances. But he does not him­self attribute his successes to this, saying that they were due to his having been born at the right moment, and that under Louis X1V he would only have become a marshal like Turenne.

Napoleon's energy is very little disturbed by the passions. His self confidence and his sense of dignity made self-command easy to him, and, being habituated to surprise, he was always fully master of himself. "Since I am used to great events, they make no impression on me at the moment when they are reported; I feel the pain an hour later." This sometimes makes him appear more stoical than he might wish people to believe him. When Hortense's boy dies, he tells her to be composed, saying: "To live means to suffer; but the brave man is continually striving for self-

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

mastery, and achieves it in the end."

Nevertheless, he sometimes loses his temper. The fierceness of his passion is then proportional to his pride; the irritability of his nerves, and the impatience of his creative will — the will of one who needed a thousand hands to complete his work. The stories about his threatening an ambassador with his fist and sim­ilar outbursts of violence, are fabulous; but there is trustworthy evidence as to the terrible moment when Berthier had infuri­ated the First Consul by his tactlessness. Led on by Talleyrand as Mephistopheles, Berthier, in theTuileries, had urged upon the Consul the need of assuming the title of king. Bonaparte's anger flashed from his eyes, his lips twitched, he seized the offender by the throat, and pushed him back against the wall, shouting: "Who put you up to raising my bile in this way? You will pay for it, if you dare to do anything of the kind again!"

Even amid his anger, his faculty for combination is at work, and he realises that the notion cannot have originated in the good Berthier's mind. In its psychical significance the scene is unique.

Often he is a rough, irritable soldier. who furiously lifts a badly closing window off its hinges and hurls it into the street; lashes a groom with his whip; when dictating a letter, utters curses against the addressee, which his secretary suppresses ...

More important are the occasions when he simulates anger to gain some political end. Occasionally he gives the show away af­terwards. "You think I was in a rage?" he says in Warsaw. "You are making a mistake. While I have been here, my wrath has never exceeded bounds." One day he is playing with his little nephew and gossiping with the court ladies, in the best of humours. The English ambassador is announced. Instantly his face changes like an actor's, his features are convulsed, he turns pale, strides towards the Englishman and storms at him for a whole hour in the pres­ence of numerous witnesses. He is genuinely angry with England and he is genuinely annoyed at being disturbed by this visit; but the wrathful mask, the scene he makes, the angry expressions he uses, are political expedients.

The frequency of such incidents made many people believe

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

that Napoleon was a passionate man. Talleyrand has more insight: "He's a perfect devil. He humbugs us all, even about his passions, for he knows how to act them, though they are really there!"

Self-command and coldness are so dominant in him that he never takes the vengeance that might seem appropriate to his ir­ritable sense of honour and to the extent of his power. He never punished rivals or traitors unjustly. He only banished those whom he had good reason for wishing out of the way; and it was a point of chivalry with him to leave beaten enemies, great or small, unmolested.

Here is a scene with the Badenese envoy. The envoy asks com­pensation for the duke of Brunswick. The Emperor angrily re­fuses: not because the duke is supposed to have incited Prussia to make war against France; but because, long before this, during the first campaign against France in 1792, he had issued the famous manifesto of Coblenz in which he had said that in Paris he would not leave one stone standing on another. "What harm had this city done to him?" fiercely enquires the Emperor two decades later, the man who in those days had been Lieutenant Bonaparte. "This affront must be avenged!"

Napoleon's energy is most conspicuous in his role of con­queror. But in this case it finds a more spiritual expression than one would be led to anticipate from a soldier. "I have seldom drawn my sword; I won my battles with my eyes, not with my weapons." To gain a knowledge of his soul, it is not important to understand the new forms of his art of war; of importance is to understand the way in which his whole being vibrated before, during and after a fight. In this, too, he is wholly original.

Even courage, that fundamental virtue of the soldier, assumes in Napoleon a form peculiar to himself. During his youthful days, and again during the last campaigns he displayed so much personal courage that he can venture to say, "no soldier is proof against cowardice"; but such moments of panic fear must be utilised against the foe. What he believes himself almost alone to possess is "two o'clock-in-the morning courage": courage in face

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

of the unforeseen, the sudden courage which demands presence of mind and power of determination. But he despises the "chival­rous" courage of the duel, which he crushingly describes as "can­nibal courage." — "Since you have both fought at Marengo and Austerlitz you do not need to give any further proofs of your courage. Women are fickle, and so is good luck. Go back to your regiments and become comrades again."

The commander of armies clearly recognises the line of demar­cation between humaneness and coldness. The same man who, in his study, could exclaim to Metternich: "Such a man as I does not care a snap of the fingers for the lives of a million men", will say on the field of battle: "If the kings of the world could contem­plate such a sight as this, they would hanker less after wars and conquests." Another time he writes to Josephine: "The earth is strewn with dead and bleeding men; this is the obverse of war; the heart is tortured at the sight of so many victims." Calculation and feeling are at cross purposes in this case, and he excuses himself for the duties imposed by his own craft: "He who cannot look upon a battle-ground dry-eyed, allows many men to be killed pur­poselessly." This is what he wants above all to avoid. For the great aim, Europe entrusts him with a million men: his lesser aim, the making of this trench or that bridge, must be thriftily achieved, for "he who heedlessly allows ten men to be killed where at most two need have died, is answerable for the lives of eight men."

Since most of his wars are fought from political necessity, and are always conducted without hate, as soon as the fight is finished the foe ceases to exist. He writes from Schonbrunn: "I am ap­palled to learn that the eighteen thousand prisoners on the island of Lobau are suffering from hunger; this is inhuman and unpar­donable. Have twenty thousand rations of bread sent there imme­diately; a similar amount of flour for the bakehouses." But when, after the truce, soldiers are still being killed by the embittered Tyrolese, he is furious, and orders that "at least six of the larger villages are to be plundered and burned, so that the mountain folk may not soon forget the vengeance that has been exacted."

War is for him an art, "the most noteworthy art, one which

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

contains within itself all the other arts." Like a true artist, he de­clares that, in the long run, this art cannot be taught: "You fancy that because you have read Jomini you are fitted to be a leader in war? ... I have fought in sixty fights, and I can assure you that I have learned nothing from any of them. Caesar used the same tactics in his last battle as he had used in his first." In typical artist fashion, he contradicts himself in the definitions of those things in which he is a master. After the Spanish campaigns, he delivers the following lecture to one of his generals: "War is decided far more by the power of strategical calculation than by material forces." At another time he will maintain that it is the superior numbers or the moral courage of the troops which constitutes the deciding factor. Sometimes he even goes so far as to say that inspiration decides an issue: "The result of a battle hangs on a thread and is mostly the outcome of a sudden thought. One approaches the enemy according to a prearranged plan, one comes to blows, one fights for a while, the critical moment draws near, a spark of inspi­ration flames up — and a small reserve division does the rest!"

More logically, but not less as the artist, he speaks of the decisive moment which, after a couple of engagements, one can find out for oneself without any difficulty. "Such moments are not more than quarter hours. ... In every battle a moment comes when the bravest of soldiers would like to turn tail: it needs but a trifle, but a plea, to put heart into him again." This power of suggestion has won him many a victory for soldiers constitute the only mass to which he can speak with effect. The soldier understands him, be­cause Napoleon is simple. The Emperor even describes war as "a simple art like everything that is beautiful." By this contention he seems to uphold the idea that war is the highest of all arts. "The military profession is a freemasonry ... and I am the grand master of its lodge."

He draws this personal influence from the history of his own rise, which is known to every soldier. As a young general, he had learned to put up with his dependence on the civil authority; and as emperor he still commiserates his royal adversaries because their generals' activities are frustrated by civilian control. On the

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

other hand, he knows the dangers of amateurishness, and writes to Joseph: "When the king himself commands, the soldier does not feel commanded. The army applauds him as when a queen is riding by. If one is not oneself a general, one must give the gen­erals full power of command."

Because he is the only ruler in Europe who has risen from the ranks, from youth upwards he remains familiar with details, and always understands how things look to an officer on the fighting front. "There is nothing connected with the art of war which I cannot do with my own hand: power, siege engines, artillery." But he does not concern himself with these details unless it is neces­sary, and laughs at the romantic anecdote in a book where he is said, one night, to have taken over the duties of a sentry who had gone to sleep at his post: "That is a civilian's idea, the sort of thing a lawyer would think of, and was certainly not written by a soldier."

But he is a stickler for equality in the army, and in this matter remains true to the Revolution until the very end of his career. No one is promoted unless his record in the service justifies the advancement. If Napoleon makes an exception in the case of his brothers, we must remember that after he has made them kings he continues to scold them as if they were subalterns. He writes to Jerome, commenting on a report from Silesia: "Besides, your letter is too clever for my taste. ... What a man needs in war is precision, firmness, simplicity." When Joseph plays the prince in Boulogne, and vies with Marshal Soult in the splendour of his re­ceptions, Napoleon scolds him. "In the army, no one must put the commander in the shade. On review days, it is the general and not the prince who must give a dinner. At a review, a royal colonel is a colonel and nothing more. Discipline can tolerate no exceptions. The army is a whole. Its commander is everything. Keep to your own regiment."

Nevertheless, a wounded commander-in-chief has become a private soldier. At Eylau, where there have been heavy losses, the Emperor forbids a famous surgeon to go out of his way in order to care for a wounded general: "Your business is to attend

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

to all the wounded, and not to anyone in particular." A German officer reports that after a fight Napoleon would often stand by the wounded and see that they were carefully lifted into the stretchers: "If this good fellow pulls through, there will be one victim the less."

In all the memoirs, we read how in camp the Emperor would foregather with his men at the bivouac fire, ask whether their food was being properly cooked, and laugh at their replies. When they confided all their troubles to him, and often said "thou" to him, this was not the assumed good fellowship of a condescending monarch, but a genuinely paternal relationship. If he calls them "my children," to them he is their "little corporal," meaning the comrade who takes the responsibility. "I have received your letter, dear comrade," he writes to a veteran grenadier who wishes to re-enter the service. "You need not speak to me of your deeds, for I know you to be the bravest grenadier in the army. It will be a pleasure to see you once more. The Minister for War will send you your orders."

He never confides his plans to anyone; but when it is a ques­tion of rewarding merit, he calls in Everyman as adviser. After a fight, he often forms a circle, speaks to the officers, the non-com­missioned officers, and the rankers individually, asking who were the most valiant, rewarding then and there, allotting eagles with his own hand. "The officers pointed out, the soldiers confirmed, the Emperor approved," relates Segur as eyewitness.

It is true that Napoleon loves war, but as a fine art, just as he loves power. It is true that he laughs incredulously at a trav­eller who tells him a tale of a Chinese island where there are no weapons.

"What do you mean? But they must have weapons!" "No, Sire."

"Pikes, anyhow; or bows and arrows?" "Neither the one nor the other."


"Not even daggers."

"But how the devil do they fight there?"

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

"There has never been a war on the island."

"What, no war?"

It sounds to the traveller as if the very existence of such people under the sun outrages the Emperor. The thought stirs a soldier's bile!

All the same, he looked forward to the coming of peaceful days, not with an ardent desire for them perhaps, but with the seer's vision. He showed his superiority to all the modern com­manders against whom he fought, in that he, the greatest soldier of the new times, declared the primacy of the spirit over the sword. When Canova made a statue of him in which he was shown with a threatening mien, he said contemptuously: "Does the man think I achieved my conquests with blows of my fist?" But, more than this, he himself defined a commander as something above and beyond a soldier. When First Consul, he said in the Council of State:

"In what does the commander's superiority consist? 'In his mental qualities: insight, calculation, decision, eloquence, knowl­edge of men.' But all these qualities are what make a man shine in civil life. ... If bodily vigour and courage sufficed the commander, any brave private could be a leader of armies. Everywhere, crude force now yields ground to moral qualities. The man with the Bayonet bows before the man who possesses exceptional knowl­edge and understanding.... I knew perfectly well what I was about when, as the head of the army, I bore the title of Member of the Institute; and the youngest drummer understood what I meant."

At a later date, he spoke more decisively.

"War is an anachronism. Someday, victories will be won without cannon and without bayonets. ... Whoever troubles the peace of Europe, wants civil war."

Remember that these are the words of Napoleon, the military commander.

His energy is concentrated on human beings. Very rarely does he come into conflict with natural forces; and whenever he does so, he is beaten. But, in general, all he has to do is to compel men

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

to conquer, for him, the mountains and the miles. Human beings are the material in working with which the energy and the imagi-nation of this artist are destined to become weary; them he must overcome if he is to do his work at all. No mortal ever conquered more men than did Napoleon. He subjugated, not only armies and peoples, but something more: individuals, and the best of these.

To achieve his goal, he followed the road of contempt; and used as his means, glory and money. Self-confidence and experi-ence had convinced him that every one acts only from self-in-terest; that some are driven to grasp at money through love of pleasure, or avarice, or clannishness; that others seek public rec-ognition in order to gratify their vanity, their jealousy, or their ambition. Denying the force of ideal motives, Napoleon relied exclusively upon material means; and if the spur of ambition oc-casionally assumed the aspect of a desire for eternal glory, this oc-curred against his will, but the magic of his personality sometimes exercised a more puissant lure than the well-calculated material attractions offered by others. To quote Goethe: "Napoleon, who lived wholly for ideas was nevertheless unable to grasp the na-ture of ideal motives; he repudiated the ideal, denied that there was any such thing, at the very time when he himself was eagerly trying to realise the ideal."

Yet to Napoleon the Mephistophelian conception or men was as alien as it was to Goethe. He said: "Most people bear within themselves the seeds of good and of evil, of courage and of cow-ardice. Thus is human nature created: upbringing and circum-stance do the rest." Since, for twenty years, he needed this human nature, daily and in quantities of a hundred at a time, the subtlest knowledge of it was a primary condition of his success. Among all the materials which Napoleon bent to his uses, the human heart was the most familiar.

"I am a great friend of analysis. ... 'Why' and 'How,' are such useful questions, that they cannot be uttered too often." Coldly and clearly as a nerve specialist, he controls all psychical symp-toms, utilises every method for the attainment of such control, and trusts especially to physiognomy — for he knows his Lavater.

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

He is fond of reproving people. "According as they react, I dis­cover the pitch of their souls. If I strike brass with a glove, it gives back no tone: but if I strike with a hammer, it rings out." A person meeting Napoleon for the first time, is gripped by the magnetism of his glance.

By talking and questioning, he makes himself acquainted with the atlas of human types, an atlas he is ever enlarging. He ques­tions so long that a stranger grows embarrassed, confused, and alarmed; he questions until his questions become ridiculous; but he must at all costs get the information be needs, even if he is not negotiating. In what way can the twenty minutes that a doctor sits at Napoleon's table in St. Helena be put to the best use by the ex-Emperor?

"How many patients suffering from ailments affecting the liver had you on board? How many cases of dysentery? What is the fee for a consultation in England? What is the pension awarded to an army surgeon? ... What is death, or how would you define it? When does the soul quit the body? When does a body first receive a soul?"

Another means is monologue. One of his intimates declares that the right of the Emperor to hold forth in monologue was the only real pleasure his high estate awarded him! We have tes­timonies concerning other men of action: but who ever talked so much as Napoleon! Since he always faces the world alone, he must continually hold forth that he may convey his suggestions to the world. His conversations often lasted from five to eight hours, some of them ten or eleven hours; and during the greater part of them Napoleon took the floor. We must admit that this was more in accordance with the Italian manner than the Roman; Italian, too, were the rapidity of his utterance, and his foreign ac­cent: but he gesticulated little; and only when much moved did he unclasp his hands — generally they were clasped behind his back, as if he wished to throw out his chest against the world.

Upon all who serve him, he lavishes money with oriental pro­fusion. But as far as his personal expenditure is concerned, he is thrifty. During the Consulate he says: "A man who has been

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

through so many wars will have acquired a little property whether he will or no. I have a private income of from frs. 80,000 to frs. 100,000, with a house in town and a country mansion. What more do I need? If I should get out of humour with France, or France with me, I should retire from public life without a qualm. ... But every one round me is stealing; the ministers are weak. Some people must be laying by vast sums. ... What is to be done about it? France is corrupt through and through. It has always been like that; as soon as a man becomes a minister, he builds himself a palace. ... Do you know what they are trying to make me pay for my installation in the Tuileries? Two millions! ... It must be cut down to eight hundred thousand. I am surrounded by a pack of scoundrels."

"Your great operations," answers Roederer, "must cost you much more than these domestic defalcations."

"All the more reason why I should watch over my personal expenditure."

This conversation tells us how the head of the State, a man of thirty, regards money. He needs nothing for himself, and com­plains of the venality and profusion of those by whom he is sur­rounded; acknowledges that he has himself made money out of the wars; rails at the tradesmen who want to charge two millions for the equipment of a palace, when, as far as his own taste is con­cerned, he sees no reason for spending anything at all. Amid the frightful corruption which is a heritage of the revolution, he fights with the army contractors and war profiteers; but as soon as, by drastic punishments, he has succeeded in putting an end to this scandal, he assigns preposterous incomes to his marshals, some of whom receive more than a million francs a year. As Consul, he rids the State of the thieves who are making away with the na­tional property; and then, as Emperor, he burdens this same State with extortionate salaries.
Imagination, the third element of his personality, is the driving force of his self-confidence and his energy. Continually at war with the calculating part of his nature, fantasy, in the end, brings

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

this harbourer of opposites to destruction. The imaginative power, which links the poet to the statesman (enabling both unceasingly to dwell in the affective world of strangers as well as in their own), is also the source of his knowledge of men and his guide to the management of men. But always his energy interacts with other qualities. One who, for analytical purposes, would force the living whole of his character into the framework of a system, cannot avoid, from time to time, breaking threads that he may bind other threads together.

"I know not what I do, for everything depends on events. I have not a will of my own, but expect everything from their out­come. ... The greater one is, the less can one have a will. One is always dependent upon events and circumstances." Such words, casually introduced into a letter from husband to wife, express the distantly visible forms of his fantasy; for only the imagina­tive man, not tied to systems and principles, trusts himself to the movements of the moments, allows his spirit to roam freely, and discovers his course as he goes. In this sense, his whole career is improvisation, though in the converse way from that in which most people improvise. He calculated little things in advance with great precision, whereas his worldwide designs were originated, transformed, improvised, in accordance with circumstances and developments. "One who has become familiar with affairs, de­spises all theories, and makes use of them only like the geometri­cians, not in order to move forward in a straight line, but merely to keep heading in the same direction."

This direction, this fundamental idea of the statesman, was, moreover, only possible in a man whose mind was simultaneously imaginative and mathematical. It is his most ardent vision and his coolest calculation; it is his political aim, his hope, his ambition: Europe. If this vision could be realised only by force of arms, that was because of the fierceness with which the first republic of Europe was again and again attacked by the European princes. We have seen how earnestly he strove for peace. No doubt he chose his means badly, his error being due to the time, the cir­cumstances, and his own domineering character. But his mistakes

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

as to method still leave undiminished the genius of the seer who looked forward towards an aim which was again to become an object of statesmanship a hundred years after his fall.

"There are in Europe more than thirty million Frenchmen, fifteen million Italians, thirty million Germans. ... Out of each of these peoples, I wanted to make a united national whole. ... That would have supplied the best chance of establishing a gen­eral unity of laws; a unity of principles and thoughts and feelings, of outlooks and interests. ... Then it would have been possible to think of founding the United States of Europe after the model of the United States of America. ... What perspectives of strength, greatness, and prosperity this opens up! ... For France, unity has been wrought; in Spain, it has proved unattainable; to establish the Italian nation, I should have needed twenty years; to make the Germans a nation, would have required still more patience, and all I could do was to simplify their monstrous constitution. At the same time, I wanted to pave the way for the unification of the great interests of Europe, just as I had unified the parties in France. ... The transient mutterings of the peoples troubled me little; they would have been reconciled to me by the result. ... Europe would soon have become one nation, and any who travelled in it would always have been in a common fatherland. ... Sooner or later, this union will be brought about by the force of events. The first impetus has been given; and, after the fall and the disappearance of my system, it seems to me that the only way in which an equilibrium can be achieved in Europe is through a league of nations."

Here there is no talk of a dictatorial welding together of dif­ferent stocks, or of an enthusiastic fraternization. He speaks only of interests, and of a preliminary unification of these on a national and racial basis. The work of the nineteenth century was to inau­gurate the preliminaries by the establishment of the nations. The twentieth century opens with the realisation of the Napoleonic idea.

The effects underlying his energy and his imagination are dominated by the clarity of his thought. Napoleon hated less, and

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

loved more, than he would have been willing to admit. In this do­main, we find the converse of what happens in the matter of his sympathies in war time, when a million men are coldly sacrificed, while one man wounded and bleeding touches him to the heart. Since his fantasy needs enormous masses, he is enraged when Joseph says: "I am the only person who cares for you." Napoleon rejoins: "Nothing of the sort, I need five hundred million men to love me." In these icy words glows the volcano which one of his school masters heard rumbling long ago,

Emotionally convinced of his mission to order the affairs of the nations, he deliberately rejects anything that may distract him from this aim, and nothing sustains him but his monomania. Even in the drama, he objects to the interweaving of love stories, saying: "Love is a passion which should only be the main theme of a tragedy, and never a subsidiary motif. ... In the days of Racine, it was the whole content of a human life. That happens in a society where no great deeds are being done."

If love becomes intrusive, he annuls it. "I have no time to be bothered with feelings and to repent them like other men. ... There are two motives to action: self-interest and fear, believe me, love is a foolish blindness! ... I love no one, not even my brothers — Joseph a little, from force of habit, and because he is the elder. I am fond of Duroc, too; he is serious and resolute; I believe the man has never shed tears in his life! ... Let us leave sensibilities to women. Men should be firm of heart and strong of will, or else they should have nothing to do with war or governance." Another time: "The only friend I have is Dam; he is unfeeling and cold; that suits me." Last of all, in St. Helena: "A man of fifty has done with love. ... I have an iron heart. I never really loved; perhaps Josephine, a little; but then I was only seven-and-twenty. I incline to the view of Gassion, who once said to me that he did not love life well enough to give it to another being."

Always half ashamed of his feelings; ever ready to make excuses for them; "perhaps," "a little." Yet this is the same man who said: "I am the slave of my way of feeling and acting, for I value the heart much more than the head." This very feeling is his fantasy.

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

One in whom egotism is supreme, will be more inclined to jealousy than to love. His first letters to Josephine show him de­voured by jealousy. Years later, as Consul, when he is inspecting his new bridge in course of construction across the Seine, he has to step aside with his companions for a moment to let a carriage pass. In the carriage sits Hippolyte, his sometime rival. That was long ago; everything has been condoned; the man's name is never mentioned in his presence. But now, at a chance encounter in the street, Bonaparte grows pale and confused, and takes a little while to recover composure.

From time to time, he shows an involuntary kindliness. On one of the Italian battle-fields, he sees a dog howling over the dead body of its master. "The poor beast seemed to be asking for an avenger, or begging help. I was profoundly moved by the dog's suffering, and at that moment 1 should have been very much in the mood to grant quarter to an enemy. I understood why Achilles surrendered Hector's body to the weeping Priam. Such is man; so little can he count upon his moods. Impassively I had sent my sol­diers into the battle; dry-eyed I had watched them marching past in an advance where thousands of them would meet their fate; then 1 was shaken to the depths by the howling of a dog."

Affectionate tones are to be heard in many of his letters. To Cambaceres: "I am so sorry to hear that you are not well. I hope it is only a passing trouble. If you did not take so much medicine, you would be better already ... But anyhow, you must do your utmost to get well, if only because of my friendship for you." To Corvisart: "Dear Doctor, I wish you would see to the arch-chan­cellor and to Lacepede: the former has been ailing for a week, and I am afraid he is in the hands of a quack; Lacepede's wife has been ill for some time. Give them the benefit of your advice, and cure them as soon as you can. You will save the life of a man of note, and one who is very dear to me."

Chenier, who has written against him for years, is assisted by him in poverty and given a secure position. Carnot, for ten years an enemy of the Emperor, is heavily in debt; Napoleon learns this, settles the debts, and refuses to hear of being given a note of hand;

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

reckons up the pay which Carnot would have received as general in active service, makes this calculation the basis of a large pen­sion; and when Carnot says he would like to do some work for his money, Napoleon commissions him to write a military treatise, lest his pensioner should have to undertake duties that might go against the grain.

During the Hundred Days, learning that some of the Bourbon princes are greatly distressed for lack of money, he sends them large sums anonymously. On one occasion his secretary is asleep, and he himself has nothing particular to do; he looks through a pile of begging letters, and writes in the margin of each the amount of an allowance which is to be given to the sender. Hundreds of of­ficers whom, in fits of anger, he has sworn to have shot, remain at their posts — to forsake him in the end. When he orders Jerome to get a divorce, he is alarmed at his own harshness. After he has written to enforce his command with threats he sends a letter to his mother saying that she had better write to Jerome at once and get his sisters to write as well, "for if I have passed judgment on him, nothing can alter it, and his life will be spoiled."

From his few friends, he demands blind devotion. Never is the self-centred nature of Napoleon more plainly shown than in the words the exile speaks to Montholon, from whom he has been temporarily estranged: "I love you like a son, for I believe that you love me only; otherwise you could not love me at all. According to my way of feeling, it is not in our nature to love several persons at once. People deceive themselves in these matters; they cannot even love all their children with the same intensity. For my part, at any rate, I want to be the supreme object of affection in the case of those whom I love and honour with my confidence. I caboot bear partings. They stab me to the heart, for my disposition too sensitive; spiritual poison affects the body more powerfully than arsenic."

Logically enough, he dislikes western views concerning the en­lightenment of women. He always hankers after the East, and in this matter he is an oriental. "Nature intended women to be-bur slaves; and it is only because of our distorted outlooks that they

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

venture to describe themselves as our rulers. ... For one who can influence us in a good direction, there are a hundred who will only lead us into follies. ... What a mad idea to demand equality for women! They are our property, we are not theirs; for they give us children, but we do not give them any. They belong to us, just as a tree which bears fruit belongs to the gardener. ... In this differ­ence, there is nothing degrading; every one has his privileges, and everyone his duties. You, ladies, have beauty, attractiveness; but also dependence."

Throughout life, the imagination of this creator was troubled by the thought of the Creator. This ruler of men was greatly dis­turbed that there should be no one who ruled all men. It was not that he ever regarded himself as divine; he laughed at all mystical interpretations of his own power: but there was one great power which remained incoercible — no matter whether it were called God, destiny, or death. How do self-confidence and fantasy es­cape from this snare?

First of all by the rejection of dogma. "My firm conviction is that Jesus. ... was put to death like any other fanatic who pro­fessed to be a prophet or a Messiah; there have been such persons at all times. For my part, I turn from the New Testament to the Old, and there I find one man of mark, Moses. ... Besides, how could I accept a religion which would damn Socrates and Plato? ... I cannot believe that there is a god who punishes and rewards, for I see honest folk unlucky, and rogues lucky. Look at Talleyrand; he is sure to die in his bed! ... How could I have remained inde­pendent if I had been subject to the influence of a confessor to threaten me with the pains of hell? Think what powers a con­fessor who is a rascal can exercise! ..."

In this matter he is consistent; from childhood, when he would not go to Mass, until the end of his life, he rejected (for him­self) all the religions. The man who, in his own life, would not recognise the existence of miracle, and ascribed everything that he was able to achieve to the working of the healthy human un­derstanding, boldness, power of combination, knowledge of men,

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

and imagination, could not possibly believe in the miracles re­corded in the Bible. He was perfectly logical when he told one of his subordinates it was impossible that two million men could have quenched their thirst at the Wells of Moses.

Even more uncongenial to him is any dread of a great assize. He does not talk about morality; or at most, he does so with some political end in view. Only towards the last, on the island, he says once in an evening conversation with his intimates: "How happy should we be here if I could confide my troubles to God, and could expect from him happiness and salvation! Have I not a just claim to it? I, who have had so unusual a career, have never com­mitted a crime, and need not fear to step before God's judgment seat and await his sentence. Never has the thought of committing a murder entered my mind."

For these reasons, he does not falter in the days of misfortune. Five years before the end, he expresses the hope that he will die without a confessor, but adds that no one can be certain what he will do in his last hours. In fact, this heart of steel was steadfast to the end.

Nevertheless, his ideas as to the nature of the creation devel­oped, and just as the revolutionist became a legitimist, so the materialist became a theist. But these developments were not transformations; there was simply a broadening of the basis of his thought. Throughout life, he had a sense that things had come into existence by a natural process: "When out hunting, I had the deer cut open, and saw how like the beast's internal organs were to those of a human being. Man is merely a more perfect creature than a dog or a tree. The plan is the first link in a chain whose last link is mankind." ...

Still more remarkable are his deductions concerning psycho-physical processes. In a Christmas discourse at St. Helena, he ex­presses his doubts as follows: "How can anyone understand that God should sanction the caprices of a ruler who sends thousands of men into battle that they may die for him? ... Where is the soul of a child; or that of a madman? ... What are electricity, galvanism, magnetism? In these lies the greet secret of nature. I am inclined

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

to believe that man is a product of these fluids and of the atmo­sphere; the brain sucks them in and imparts life, and the soul is composed of them. After death, they return into the atmosphere, whence they are sucked up again by other brains." After giving utterance to these Goethean motifs, he is alarmed at his own •e­merity. Breaking off suddenly, he says, as a soldier among soldiers: "Oh, well, my dear Gourgaud, when we are dead, we are simply dead."

Side by side with this scepticism, there exists and expands a theism. To Laplace, who denies the existence of God, he says: "You should be more ready than anyone else to admit that God exists, for you, more than most, have seen the wonders of cre­ation. If we cannot actually see God with our own eyes, this is because he did not wish our understanding to reach so far." On another occasion: "We believe in God because everything around us testifies to his existence." In St. Helena: "I have never doubted the existence of God, for even if my reason were incompetent to grasp him, still my inner feelings would convince me of his reality. My temperament has always been in harmony with this feeling."

How shall such a spirit come to terms with destiny? Since his self-esteem makes it impossible for him to believe that any man can have beaten him, he is forced to ascribe his defeat to fate. But this sense of the workings of destiny is present in his mind before the final overthrow; it accompanies him throughout life, and appears to be an equivalent for the reverence, devotion, and faith by which other men live. With the aid of his belief in des­tiny, Napoleon wages a heroic struggle. In his strongest moments, he feels that he wears armour of proof: "I have a soul of marble. The lightnings were unable to destroy it, but broke on it in vain." Once he expresses his defiance even more poetically: "Should the heavens fall down on us, we shall hold them off with the points of our lances!"

But these defiant moods are rare. In general, he is resigned to fate. There are hundreds of his sayings to bear witness to this. Here are three: "All that happens, is written; our hour is fixed, and no one can postpone it. ... No one can escape his fate." To

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

the duchess of Weimar: "Believe me, there is a providence which guides all, I am merely its instrument." To Johannes von Muller: "Fundamentally, all things are linked together, and are subject to the unsearchable guidance of an unseen hand. I have only become great through the influence of my star." In such tropes we see awareness of God and a sense of dependence welded into pride in his own mission. At these times, a prophetical effulgence seems to radiate from him, but is obscured again and again by the self-confidence of his iron energy ...

Apart from these trifles, in a life so packed with important happenings, we do not hear of a single day during twenty years on which he forms, postpones, or modifies a resolution on supersti­tious grounds. But he makes an adroit use of his "star" and his "destiny" for political or rhetorical purposes. Since he wishes to pose before Europe as the Man of Destiny, he tries to work upon suggestible minds like Alexander's by such turns of phrase as the following: "It is wise and politic to do what fate commands, and to march on the road along which we are led by the irresistible course of events." His mind is fond of playing with the kindred notions of destiny, circumstance, and chance; and while he regards destiny as involved in more or less obscurity, he believes him­self able to calculate the chances of a coming battle with almost mathematical certainty. "In these matters one must be careful not to make a slip, for an overlooked fraction can modify the whole result. ... To people of mediocre intelligence, chance will always remain a mystery; but to the clear-sighted, it becomes a reality."

Sometimes he lumps them all together — talents, destiny, and power,— and shows himself an energetic fatalist when he says: "Against attempts on my life, I trust in my luck, my good genius, and my guards."

In this virile spirit, he strides resolutely along betwixt life and death.

... "A man must wish to live, and must know how to die." That is why, from youth upwards, he opposes suicide; first, in an essay then, in an order of the day; then, with the reiterated argument that suicide is cowardice, especially in hours of misfortune. A

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

careful study of the documents shows that the story of his having attempted suicide just before the first abdication is apocryphal. The leading memoirs make no reference to the matter, and such accounts as we have are at second hand and untrustworthy. There is no doubt that during his last battles Napoleon deliberately sought a soldier's death; but he never tried to poison himself.

Yet it was not only in those last days at Fontainebleau, and after Waterloo, that he suffered from tedium vitae. The weariness recorded in the diary of the lad of sixteen, and in the letter which the man of thirty wrote from Cairo to his brother, was little in evidence during the most energetic years of febrile activity. Those who trouble to ask whether persons of genius are happy, will have to agree that this man of genius, who was not fitted by nature for happiness, enjoyed during the climax of his career, hours of content, and even sublime moments. But there were periods of doubt:

"For the tranquillity of France," says Bonaparte at Rousseau's tomb, "it would have been better if this man had never lived."

"Why, Citizen Consul?" "He paved the way for the revolution."

"Surely you are not the man to deplore the revolution?"

"Time will show whether it would not have been better for the peace of the world if neither Rousseau nor I had lived."

Gradually these doubts fade. But what he never loses is the sense of daemonic loneliness, which increases as his soaring flight leads him to chillier altitudes. "There are times when life is hard to bear." Since the sea has always been unfriendly to him, there is only one place where he really feels at home — the desert, which to him is the image of the infinite. The desert is the sublime va­cancy which expands before him when the myriad-faceted pic­tures of ordinary life sink from sight.

But never was Napoleon more perfectly freed from the tyranny of his thoughts, never was he happier, than when seated alone in his box at the theatre, watching a tragedy being enacted.

Nothing else could restore his inner peace of mind; for, since he loved less than most, he was doomed to a tragical loneliness,

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

the price he had to pay for his egotism. "There is neither hap­piness nor unhappiness," he said. "The life of a happy man is a picture showing black stars on a silver background. The life of an unhappy man is a picture showing silver stars on a black back­ground." But it is not these heroic images which best characterize the loneliness of a soul. Even more poignant voices reach us from the familiar arena of the daily struggle:

"Don't you understand, Caulaincourt, what is going on here? The folk I have got together want to enjoy themselves; the poor devils don't realise that a man has to fight before he can get the repose he longs for. What about myself? Have not I a palace, a wife, a child? Do I not weary myself to the utmost with every possible kind of tension? Do I not day by day give my life to my country?"

He gives his life to his work, for that is what he means when he talks of his country. A human note, gently plaintive, and fraught with the lofty irony of the finale, sounds when he says on the island:

"The whole time I was bearing the world on my shoulders. It is rather a tiring job!"

From Napoleon by Emil Ludwig, pp. 507-62
Jaico Publisher House, India, 1957
(the original, written in German, was first published in 1926 in

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

Napoleon on his death bed, by Horace Vernet

Napoleon on his death bed, by Horace Vernet

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

Napoleon in his study, by the  French painter David. The clock  shows the time at 4.13 a.m. "You  have understood me, David,"  Napoleon said approvingly. "By  night I work for the welfare of  my subjects, and by day for their  glory."

Napoleon in his study, by the French painter David. The clock shows the time at 4.13 a.m. "You have understood me, David," Napoleon said approvingly. "By night I work for the welfare of my subjects, and by day for their glory."

Relentless energy grandiose dreams

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