Philobiblon: Napoleon: watch your ears

Monday, November 07, 2005

Napoleon: watch your ears

My 19th-century diairist, Frances Williams Wynn, is today getting a an officer of the Marines H.M.S. Northumberland Aug. 5, 1815, taking Napoleon to St Helena.

It has some lovely intimate insights into Napoleon the man:

Napoleon gets very sulky if he is not treated with that deference and respect to which he is accustomed: his own followers treat him with the same respect as if he was still emperor.
Beattie, my captain, was at Acre: Napoleon learnt this in conversation; seemed quite pleased, caught hold of his ear and gave it a good pinch (which is his custom when pleased), and seems to have taken a great liking to him.
I have dined three times with Napoleon. I cannot say I think his manners have much of that elegance which might have been expected from a person of his ci-devant rank. He has a particularly disagreeable grunt when he does not understand what you say, and desires a repetition.
He converses freely, but not at table, with the Frenchmen, and takes no more notice of the ladies than if they were a hundred miles off. I have not heard him speak once to Madame Bertrand at table, and seldom elsewhere.

I had some idea that he was always supposed to have been something of a "ladies' man" - but perhaps not at this stage of his life.



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