Literature. Posterity has not yet ceased to be perplexed by Napoleon's career. He inflames national partialities more than any other personage, and his activity, by embracing many countries, transcends the field of view of the historians of each nation. Till a recent time his life was written chiefly from French memoirs,when by French writers, with great ignorance of all affairs not French, when by English writers, with imperfect knowledge of all affairs not French or English, and by all writers alike, especially French writers, with extreme prejudice. Then came M. Thier (1845), professing to write from official papers ; but his untrustworthiness in particular matters has long been demonstrated, and some recent investigators (see, for instance, De Martel, Les Historiens Fantaisistes) profess to convict him of the most outrageous contempt for truth. The story is now being slowly transferred from the basis of memoirs to that of official papers and correspondence. The Correspondence of Napoleon himself in thirty-two volumes (which began to appear in 1858) is necessarily the corner-stone, though it has been edited in the most unsatisfactory way, many letters having been withheld and others mutilated, even if some have not been garbled. On this foundation M. Lanfrey based his history, which extends unfortunately only as far as 1811. It is the first essay towards a serious estimate of the career ; what the writer chiefly wants is a first-hand knowledge of the affairs of foreign nations. It still remains to fuse together these materials with those equally rich that have been lately furnished by German research and by the opening of the different national archives. On German affairs the principal works are those of Eanke, Pertz, Oncken, and Treitschke. For the substance of them the English reader may refer to Professor Seeley's Life and Times of Stein. A good account (founded on original documents) of the Russian campaign by Bogdanovitch may be read in German. Colonel Jung in two works, Bonaparte et son Temps and Lucien Bonaparte et ses Mémoires, shows himself a true historical critic. The former work renders earlier books on the first period of Bonaparte (Coston, Libri, &c. ) superfluous. Of military works, Eiistow on the Italian campaigns, Charras on the campaign of 1815, and Charras's fragment on the campaign of 1813, with Mr Dorsey Gardner's volume on the campaign of 1815, may be recommended. Recent years have also brought valuable new memoirs, those of Marmont, of Miot de Melito, of Hardenberg (included in Ranke's Life), of Mme. de Rémusat, of Metternich. Mme. de Rémusat with the Duchesse d'Abrantès gives the best picture of his private life. This whole class of books should be used with caution. Marmont often excites distrust ; still more the earlier memoir-writer Bourrienne. The reader must also be on his guard against apocryphal works, such as Mémoires tirés des papiers d'un homme d'état, long attributed quite without ground to Hardenberg, and the Manuscrit venu de Ste-Hélène. (J. R. S.)
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Napoleon I - Table of Contents
The above article was written by: Sir John Robert Seeley, K.C.M.G, LL.D.; sometime Fellow and Tutor of Christ's College, Cambridge; Professor of Latin at University College, London, 1863; Professor of Modern History at Cambridge, 1869; author of Ecce Homo, Life and Times of Stein, Expansion of England, and Growth of British Policy.
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