Napoleon’s disillusionment

While reading David Chandler’s history of the Napoleonic campaigns, I’ve been vaguely comparing (because of War and Peace and it’s associations) Napoleon and Tolstoy; and this leapt to mind with particular vehemence this morning when I learned of Napoleon’s emotional devastation on first discovering his wife Josephine’s infidelity. I can’t think, from the time when I was heavy into Tolstoy, of him having experienced a similar devastation; rather Tolstoy was the one who, in his youth at least, was devastating in these matters. Chandler writes of Napoleon’s disillusionment (pp.227):

The whole of Europe was to be affected by this destruction of Bonaparte’s personal happiness. July 25, 1798, was indeed an unfortunate turning point in the life of Bonaparte; from that day, the tyrant began to emerge ever more clearly.

Perhaps Chandler is disposed to romanticize Napoleon’s feelings for Josephine a bit, yet one wonders if there is a kind of sense to the idea of Generals being romantics and Authors being libertines, that or of us thinking of them in that way…. I come across randomly, in the evening, that Stendhal seems not to have known of Josephine’s infidelities (or Napoleon’s):

Au reste, le seul être qu’il ait jamais aimé est Joséphine et elle ne le trahit jamais.

Stendhal an admirer of Napoleon, and Tolstoy a despiser of him, and Tolstoy, though too, an admirer of Stendhal. Interesting trifecta there as (at least, I think I’ve read this) Tolstoy used the opening of La Chartreuse for one of War and Peace’s battle scenes with Pierre.

%d bloggers like this: