A master of the sound bite, Napoleon would have been in his element in this Age of Twitter. Here is a sampling of some pithy Napoleon quotes, some of which his stepdaughter Hortense views ironically in The Game of Hope.
“What a novel my life has been!”
“Great ambition is the passion of a great character. Those endowed with it may perform very good or very bad acts. All depends on the principles which direct them.”
“If you wish to be a success in the world, promise everything, deliver nothing.”
“All celebrated people lose dignity on a close view.”
“Courage is like love; it must have hope for nourishment.”
“Victory belongs to the most persevering.”
“History is the lies we all agree upon.”
“What then is, generally speaking, the truth of history? A fable agreed upon.”
“A throne is only a bench covered in velvet.”
“Our hour is marked, and no one can claim a moment of life beyond what fate has predestined.”
“A leader is a dealer in hope.”
“Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake.”
What are some of your favorites? SaveSave
Stanford University in the U.S. and the Bibliothèque national de France have collaborated in creating the French Revolution Digital Archive, an astonishing collection of documents on the French Revolution.
A search of the image database revealed this delightfully imaginative sketch of Josephine:
Here is one of Josephine’s arrogant first husband Alexandre:
There are, of course, many images of Josephine’s second husband, Napoleon.
For more images, see my Pinterest boards on Josephine and Napoleon.
I’ve recently started using the “Never miss a thing online” Mention app. Just what I don’t need—right?—but being a Social Media Nerd, and terminally curious, I thought I’d give it a try. For starters I searched my name (of course), as well as mentions of Hortense and Napoleon.
It has turned up some surprising links.
This Turkish site, for one, on the theme of “the sorrowful wife.” In the book section, they display four titles:
Yep, there’s sorrowful Jo right beside a novel by Goethe. My smile for the day.
Do you belong to Book Movement? (If not, it’s free.) It’s great site for book clubs and readers generally. Last spring, M.J. Rose and I did a special for their newsletter on our books — her’s, The Collector of Dying Breaths, and mine, The Shadow Queen — which are remarkably similar in a number of ways. It’s online again: you can read it here.
As for Hortense, her step-father Napoleon completely overshadows her. As he does. She has not a single mention, yet he has 5571! Clearly, he is the master of the Tweetable quote.
- “The word impossible is not in my dictionary.”
- “The best cure for the body is a quiet mind.” (Yet his mind was far from quiet.)
- “A leader is a dealer in hope.”
Both Josephine and Napoleon have been much in the news, of late. One of Napoleon’s hats sold at auction for over 2 million dollars.
A pearl and diamond necklace believed to have been owned by Josephine went for almost 3.5 million.
And, just today, a letter Josephine wrote—a letter heavily edited by Napoleon (one presumes)—sold for $33,000.
This letter is seen as showing how subservient women were in the 18th and 19th century, but I don’t really see it this way. This was a letter to Queen Charlotte of Wurtemberg.
[blackquote] According to manuscript specialist Thierry Bodin, “In this instance, Napoleon wanted to make a political union with the Charlotte’s daughter, so he dictated what she could say.”
I imagine that Josephine wrote a draft, fully intending to show it to Napoleon before sending out a revised copy. My husband and I often do the same thing—don’t you? I imagine that there were times when Napoleon consulted Josephine about what to say, how to respond, as well.
It’s thrilling to see such artifacts emerge. In the case of letters, I only hope that they are made digitally available to researchers.
It’s simply astonishing what one can now find on-line. In the way of any wander through library stacks, I came upon this title on Gallica.bnf.fr, the French national library on-line:
Tableau historique, littéraire et politique de l’an VI de la Républic française.
Of course it was not at all what I was looking for, but although “You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometime, you find you get what you need.” :-)
I love the way the digital book opens with its cover:
And then turns to the marbled end-paper:
Here’s a crop of the title page:
(You can almost feel the rich texture of the paper.)
And then, the first chapter division:
What caught my attention “leafing” through this book was the section on legislation, a daily account of laws passed in the years 1798-1799.
They are very detailed: they needed to be. The French government was (once again) creating a government from scratch. Laws mentioned cover passport regulations, import duties, the re-establishment of a national lottery, the legislateurs’ own schedule (they will no longer meet on décadis (the end of the 10-day week), patents, manufacture of goods, the “uniform” to be worn by the members of the legislature …
“…habit français, couleur bleu national, croisé et dépassant le genou. Ceinture de soie tricolore, avec des franges d’or. Manteau écarlate à la grecque, orné de broderie en laine. Bonnet de velours, portant une aigrette tricolore.” – page 142
Alas, I am unable to find an illustration of this costume. No doubt they were somewhat more circumspect than those from 1796. Below left, Executive Director from 1796, compared to Napoleon’s uniform of choice as First Consul on the right:
The legal record is many pages long, but I’ll note a few:
One law passed condemns to death those who rob by force or violence. This is significant because violent crime had become rampant.
Marriages (which must be civil) could only be held on décadis.
One significant law, passed 12 Nivose, an VIII (January 1, 1799), declares that Blacks born in Africa or in foreign colonies, and transferred to French islands, were free as soon as they step foot on French soil. The Revolutionary government had several years before outlawed slavery in France, but I don’t believe that it had gone so far as to declare it illegal in its colonies. (I should note that Napoleon will eventually reinstate slavery in the French colonies, and no: it was not Josephine’s doing.)
It’s delightful how worthwhile procrastinating can be. I found an excellent Revolutionary calendar (more on that later), learned the date when there was an eclipse of the moon, what the new national fêtes were to be, and much, much more.