The Memoirs of the...
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The Memoirs of the time of Napoleon may be divided into two
classes--those by marshals and officers, of which Suchet's is a good
example, chiefly devoted to military movements, and those by persons
employed in the administration and in the Court, giving us not only
materials for history, but also valuable details of the personal and
inner life of the great Emperor and of his immediate surroundings. Of
this latter class the Memoirs of Bourrienne are among the most

Long the intimate and personal friend of Napoleon both at school and from
the end of the Italian campaigns in 1797 till 1802--working in the same
room with him, using the same purse, the confidant of most of his
schemes, and, as his secretary, having the largest part of all the
official and private correspondence of the time passed through his hands,
Bourrienne occupied an invaluable position for storing and recording
materials for history. The Memoirs of his successor, Meneval, are more
those of an esteemed private secretary; yet, valuable and interesting as
they are, they want the peculiarity of position which marks those of
Bourrienne, who was a compound of secretary, minister, and friend. The
accounts of such men as Miot de Melito, Raederer, etc., are most
valuable, but these writers were not in that close contact with Napoleon
enjoyed by Bourrienne. Bourrienne's position was simply unique, and we
can only regret that he did not occupy it till the end of the Empire.
Thus it is natural that his Memoirs should have been largely used by
historians, and to properly understand the history of the time, they must
be read by all students. They are indeed full of interest for every one.
But they also require to be read with great caution. When we meet with
praise of Napoleon, we may generally believe it, for, as Thiers
(Consulat., ii. 279) says, Bourrienne need be little suspected on this
side, for although be owed everything to Napoleon, he has not seemed to
remember it. But very often in passages in which blame is thrown on
Napoleon, Bourrienne speaks, partly with much of the natural bitterness
of a former and discarded friend, and partly with the curious mixed
feeling which even the brothers of Napoleon display in their Memoirs,
pride in the wonderful abilities evinced by the man with whom he was
allied, and jealousy at the way in which he was outshone by the man he
had in youth regarded as inferior to himself. Sometimes also we may even
suspect the praise. Thus when Bourrienne defends Napoleon for giving, as
he alleges, poison to the sick at Jaffa, a doubt arises whether his
object was to really defend what to most Englishmen of this day, with
remembrances of the deeds and resolutions of the Indian Mutiny, will seem
an act to be pardoned, if not approved; or whether he was more anxious to
fix the committal of the act on Napoleon at a time when public opinion
loudly blamed it. The same may be said of his defence of the massacre of
the prisoners of Jaffa.

Louis Antoine Fauvelet de Bourrienne was born in 1769, that is, in the
same year as Napoleon Bonaparte, and he was the friend and companion of
the future Emperor at the military school of Brienne-le-Chateau till
1784, when Napoleon, one of the sixty pupils maintained at the expense of
the State, was passed on to the Military School of Paris. The friends
again met in 1792 and in 1795, when Napoleon was hanging about Paris, and
when Bourrienne looked on the vague dreams of his old schoolmate as only
so much folly. In 1796, as soon as Napoleon had assured his position at
the head of the army of Italy, anxious as ever to surround himself with
known faces, he sent for Bourrienne to be his secretary. Bourrienne had
been appointed in 1792 as secretary of the Legation at Stuttgart, and
had, probably wisely, disobeyed the orders given him to return, thus
escaping the dangers of the Revolution. He only came back to Paris in
1795, having thus become an emigre. He joined Napoleon in 1797, after the
Austrians had been beaten out of Italy, and at once assumed the office of
secretary which he held for so long. He had sufficient tact to forbear
treating the haughty young General with any assumption of familiarity in
public, and he was indefatigable enough to please even the never-resting
Napoleon. Talent Bourrienne had in abundance; indeed he is careful to
hint that at school if any one had been asked to predict greatness for
any pupil, it was Bourrienne, not Napoleon, who would have been fixed on
as the future star. He went with his General to Egypt, and returned with
him to France.
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Product Details

  • BN ID: 2940012773432
  • Publisher: SAP
  • Publication date: 7/23/2011
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • File size: 2 MB

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