A longtime friend of the Bonaparte family, the Duchesse d'Abrantes, Laure Permon Junot, was part of the inner circle which came to power in Napoleonic France between 1800 and 1814. Written in 1837 with the encouragement of novelist Honore De Balzac and edited here by French historian Bernier ( Louis XIV , etc.), her memoirs provide a droll account of the manners and foibles of the French upper middle class that resurfaced in full glory after years of hiding in the aftermath of the 1789 Revolution. Her acquaintance with Napoleon since childhood gave her a seasoned view of the imperious general who referred to her as ``La Petite Peste.'' The duchess's extensive social contacts combined with her trenchant wit make her account of Imperial Paris especially entertaining. Photos not seen by PW. (Nov.)
Doubleday. Nov. 1989. c.400p. photogs. LC 89-7850. ISBN 0-385-26639-1. $19.95. autobiog The Duchesse d'Abrantes (1785-1838) was married to one of Napoleon's most loyal, though less competent, military commanders. Her intimacy with Napoleon, Josephine, and other members of the court gave her an excellent vantage for observing all the backbiting, quarrels, scandals, fancy balls, and events of that era. Her overall characterization of the persons she describes is fairly reliable, though she relies too much on hearsay and tends to exaggerate some things and to omit others (among the latter, her own numerous love affairs). The volume under review is a slightly modified version of an English translation that originally appeared in 1895, and reprints only a small fraction of her memoirs. Scholars therefore will continue to rely on the ten-volume French edition published in 1893. However, this edition should prove interesting to many general readers.-- Thomas J. Schaeper, St. Bonaventure Univ., N.Y.