Napoleon: Like Him Or Not

You might think nothing of him. Perhaps, you used to know who he was exactly or what he has done and when, but since forgot. Still, even if you aren’t French, it’s highly unlikely that you’ve never heard the name. After all, there is a cognac, a torte and a psychological phenomenon named after him. MS Word doesn’t mark this word as an error, either capitalized or not, unless written in French – Napoléon. NAPOLEON.

Perhaps no one in the history can claim as many books written about his person as Napoleon Bonaparte. After his death, thousands of people suddenly rushed to write memoirs about him. Ministers and lackeys, secretaries and generals, courtiers, servants, jailers, doctors, cooks, relatives and relatives’ cooks –  it seems, everyone who’d met him in one’s lifetime was compelled to sit down and set one’s quill pen creaking into the night. A great number of writers, including such pillars of literature as Stendhal, Scott, Dumas, Tolstoy couldn’t stay away from writing about him either.

Tolstoy disliked him wholeheartedly. The tremor in my left calf is a great sign…that’s his Napoleon thinking to himself.

Napoleon’s thinking in War and Piece was fiction, alright. But  For a person of my creed, a million of lives is merely insignificant, is what Napoleon actually said, in French, naturally. He also said this: In our time no one has the conception of what is great. It is up to me to show them. And this: You don’t reason with intellectuals. You shoot them.

Can’t say what, if anything, Napoleon said about Tolstoy, but he didn’t like Shakespeare, and that’s a fact: His plays are not worthy of reading, they are despicable and worse than that, he said.

NapoleonicThe book by Lois Cohen Napoleonic Anecdotes was first published in 1925. Last September, an updated edition came out, published by Fonthill Media.

Over 300 anecdotes… entertaining and illuminating insight into one of history’s most famous character… his life, his battles, his marriages and his exiles.

In the spirit of this blog, I’ll mention only the anecdotes I found humorous, curious, outrageous, incredible, disgusting, appalling, or combination of any characteristics above.

Please note, NOTHING in my retelling is quoted directly.

Amusing, isn’t it that at the tender age 16, young Napoleon ranked 47th out of 56 students in his class. His German teacher commented, “Pupil Bonaparte is nothing but a fool.”

The book has numerous anecdotes on the subject of the relationship between Napoleon and the beautiful half of humanity. Here is the opinion of the Great Corsican about women in general:  There is no need to treat women as equals, because they are only machines for the production of offspring. The best of them is the one with the most children.  

On the pinnacle of power, Bonaparte often treated women in an astonishingly insulting way.

n1If some unfortunate lady caught his eye, Napoleon was in the habit of ordering her, through the servant, to report to his quarters at certain hour, undress and wait.  Almost without looking up from reading the documents, he’d satisfy his august lust and immediately send “overjoyed” dame away.

In another story, during the Italian campaign, General Bonaparte was infatuated by some pretty lady and, wanting to impress her, arranged a demonstration of a “real war” by ordering an attack of the enemy’s positions. Afterwards, laughing, he admitted that there wasn’t any benefit from this move. Of course, some soldiers had to die, but the lady was delighted.

Well, either Napoleon was a bad, really BAD man, or someone disliked him real bad to concoct these stories and record them for posterity.

The following anecdote is NOT from the book, though:

NapoleonBefore marrying Napoleon Bonaparte, Joséphine de Beauharnais decided to consult her attorney. She came to the office accompanied by her fiancé. Napoleon remained in the waiting room while Joséphine conversed with the lawyer. Unintentionally, he overheard the conversation. Asked for the advise to marry Monsieur Bonaparte or not, the lawyer said, “Do not do it, madam. This man has no future. Who is he? A general – the military. He’ll die in obscurity. Their kind are dime a dozen. The financier or a merchant would be a better match by far.”  Years later, Napoleon presented this lawyer with a ticket… to a guillotine?  No, to his coronation – the first row seat.

Speaking of posterity…  Men of genius are meteors destined to light up their century, Napoléon Bonaparte said, unless you’d  translate Les hommes de génie sont des météores destinés à brûler pour éclairer leur siècle differently. His star shone bright indeed…

One of the final anecdotes is an ironic and macabre story of Napoleon’s immediate after-death:

The doctor, who made the autopsy of his body, reverently took out the heart from the chest of the deceased. It was abnormally small. The doctor placed it in a jar of alcohol, in order to preserve this sacred relic for posterity. Not daring to part with such a treasure, the doctor took a jar to his room. At night, he was awakened by the sound of broken glass and this horrific sight: The jar is broken, the alcohol spilled, and a huge red rat, chomping, drags the heart of the great conqueror into the corner. The doctor barely managed to save what’s left of it — a small chunk of a small heart…

Another anecdote NOT from the book: It is said that the night after his meeting with Alexander I, the Emperor of Russia, Napoleon had a dream, or, rather, a nightmare: a huge bear rips his chest and tears off his heart. Prophetic, no?

Incidentally, Napoleon died 5 May 1821. God knows, the red rat must’ve been feasting on his small heart right about May 7th, 192 yeas ago.

Ah, well, think what you want, but Napoleon thought that no matter how you look at things, History is a set of lies agreed upon. 

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