LAN FRETS NAPOLEON.*
4No one," says Butler, "ever did a designed injury to another, but at the same time he did a much greater to himself." The clear-headed Bishop was thinking of the evil which injustice works in the heart and brain of the wrong-doer, but the effects of that evil have often proved fatal to the wrong-doer's fame and fortunes. This was pre-eminently the case with the First Napo- leon. Injustice, in the long-run, tells like dram-drinking on the strongest brain and boldest heart, and a generation which was electrified by Rivoli and Marengo, and stunned by Austerlitz and Jena, saw the peerless victor of those memorable battles sink into a listless fainéant at Borodino, and a desperate cast- away at Leipsic and Waterloo. Physical deterioration had much to do with this, no doubt, but the ulcerous place which bulletins could only skin and film was a moral and intellectual gangrene. Napoleon, like other men of his type, "From Macedonia's madman to the Swede," ended by making all mankind his foes. After the Moscow campaign, his position as Lord of Europe (we do not say as Emperor of the French, for an hour of resipiscence would have secured him that after Lutzen or Bautzen), was irrevocably gone. His attempts to regain it were doomed to failure as certain as his discomfiture was certain in 1815, even if he had handled his superb army at Waterloo in a way which might have left him momen- tarily master of the field. But this he either failed to see, or if he saw it, failed to heed ; and even in the eleventh hour after Montmirail and Vauchamps, his proud heart never dreamed of recalling confidence by a confession of error. He fell, in the end, like Lucifer ; and had he chosen at St. Helena to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, had he been more of a philosopher and less of a philistine, he might, indeed, have pointed a moral for the nations, and for those who are put in authority over them. He chose to do otherwise ; the Spanish ulcer and the Austrian match were about all the errors he would admit, and "it Sainte-Helene," says Michelet, "de sea treteatur si haut places, Le fourbe put faire un Caucase, abusant la pitie publique, et pre- parent, k force de mensonges, une second° r6petition sanglante de * 27,e Histot7 of Napoleon the First. By P. Lanfrey. English Translatiln. Vol. IlL Macmillan and Co. 1876. tous lea malhetua de l'Empire." This, we think, is too harshly said, but there can be little doubt that the impolitic way in which the British Ministry treated their fallen antagonist counted for much in the strange view which the world was for a time content to take of her "conqueror and captive." This view was something more than fantastical, and forms a striking contrast to the cold in- difference with which his nephew's character and career were judged after Sedan. Mr. Browning's tenebrifie analysis of the exile of Chiselhurst did not sink much more swiftly into oblivion than the exile himself did. Far different was the lot- of the exile of St. Helena. One of the greatest poets of Italy and one of the greatest poets of England threw their wreaths upon his-prison and upon his tomb ; and if Goethe did not add his voice as a poet to the voices of Byron and Manzoni, he never, as a philosopher, spoke of the famous emperor otherwise than with admiration and respect, while the Grenadiers of Heine and the Midnight Review of Zedlitz bear witness to the strange enthu- siasm (Schwarmerei) which arose even in Germany for the op- pressor who had used her so ill. In England, long before the "roar round Hougomon " had ceased to ring in the ears of men, Napoleon was already more popular than his conqueror. his boots, his little bat, his grey overcoat, became household sights on mantle-pieces and walls where no counterfeit presentment of Wellington appeared ; and as a domestic ornament he eclipsed the Prince Regent as completely as in our own time Garibaldi eclipsed the Prince Consort. Scott's life of him was a fiasco, but Lockhart's vigorous sketch—and Lockhart drew his inspira- tion straight from Las Cases and Montholon—attained at one bound a wide-spread popularity which it has never since lost. In France, Napoleon's posthumous fame was still more for- tunate, for it found in Beranger the vates sacer whom the brave who lived before Agamemnon lacked ; and the people's love for the memory of their idol, spurning the bonds of sense and truth, became a cult and fetish-worship for men to read and run. But the reaction came at last, and even while Thiers was penning his brilliant apotheosis of the brilliant warrior, the passionate pro- tests of Edgar Quinet and the scientific criticisms of Colonel Charros were at work to sap this preposterous creed.
Lanfrey ig the legitimate heir of these bold free-thinkers, and his work is by far the beat history of Napoleon that has hitherto been given to the world. But although it is moderation itself com- pared with the furious invectives of Michelet, it is still too deeply tinged with partisanship to rank as a zrzte h OW, and we may say of it, as Carlyle said of Forster's Life of Cromwell, that it "amounts in result to a vigorous, decisive tearing-up of all the old hypotheses on the subject, and an opening of the general mind for new." But it is hard to find a pigeon-hole formula for a character so "antithetically mixed" as Napoleon's ; and an im- partial writer, in his legitimate dread of falling into the Charyb- dis of hero-worship, runs no small risk of becoming purely and- simply advocatus diaboli. Such an advocate was Michelet, and he barks and snarls as rabidly as one of Scylla's own hell- hounds. D'Enghien, Jaffa, Spain—but no lie can blacken Napoleon's conduct towards Spain—the Pope, Palm, and the Queen of Prussia are thrice-told topics, which it were tedious to reopen here ; but there is something novel and even amusing in the onslaught which the imaginative historian makes upon the personal appearance of the man whom he detests. Readers of Balzac may have been puzzled by the great novelist's description of Napoleon, as a Sovereign with blue eyes and chestnut locks. Michelet says that these chestnut locks were made to look black by their owner in his youth a force de pommade, and that the face, or rather mask, in which they were set, had neither eye-lashes nor eyebrows ; while the eyes themselves were grey, comme une vitre de verre oh ron as voit rien. He adds that the complexion of this mask was an ugly yellow, with nothing of the fine Italian bistre in it, and that the only personal charm which could have touched the lady who fell in love with the victor of Marengo must have been the victor's teeth. But Landor, no friend of Napoleon, was struck with the fine olive tint of the First Consul's complexion ; and Varnhagen von Ense, another unprejudiced witness, says that the Emperor's features were undeniably beautiful in the plastic sense. Countess Brownlow's testimony is still more de- cisive, for a young girl's impressions on such a point are far more valuable than an old man's cantankerous fancies :— " We went," she says, "one morning to see a sight seen, I imagine, by few English now alive,—Bonaparte reviewing his troops in the Place du Carrousel. For nearly two hours the great man passed and repassed before the windows close to UM He was attended by Rustan, his favourite Mameluke, in his national costume, but my eyes and attention were riveted on Bonaparte. He was then thin, and his figure appeared to be mesquin ; but how grand was his face, with its handsome features, its grave and stern and somewhat melancholy expression,—a face, once seen, never to be forgotten ! " But Michelet's preju- dices are so strong, and his disregard of truth so notorious, that his bitter attack on Napoleon is not likely to influence opinion much. Lanfrey is an historian of a different stamp, and it is the animus which permeates his book, rather than any specifically false statement in it, which displeases us. Napoleon's crimes were so great, and his political blunders so gross, that an advocate, without being lynx - eyed, could not fail to draw up a formidable indictment against him. But it is a mistake, even from an artistic point of view, to paint the Devil too black, and the tendency of recent writers to depreciate and disparage the intellectual side of Napoleon's character is a serious error. It was not entirely for evil, or by evil arts alone, that for a quarter of a century he was "the foremost man in all this world." The interest which men take in his career would otherwise have died out long ere this. But the charm of his name still lingers round his battles, and even now men study the details of Marengo and Waterloo with more avidity than the details of Sadowa or Gravelotte. A similar charm, as is well known, rests on the campaigns of Hannibal. and we must look for something in the personal character of these two great captains to explain this charm. What that something is we have no space here to discuss ; its existence is indisputable Perhaps, in Napoleon's case, the key to the mystery may lie in the fact that although, as Wellington said, he sometimes acted as if he hld no sense at all, he was one of the cleverest men who ever lived. Professional soldiers, Turennes, and Condes, and Montecuculis, are often very dull dogs, and even such burning and shining lights as the great Dukes of Marlborough and Wellington fade somewhat to the gaze when looked at away from the arena of their triumphs. But it is unjust to compare Napoleon, as a professional soldier, with men who were nothing else. As an administrator and legislator he stands in the very highest rank ; and if his insane scheme of universal conquest collapsed completely and miserably, yet the way in which he held his own, when the stars in their courses were fighting against him, is little short of the miraculous. That he had no one to thank but himself for the difficulties which proved too strong for him is true enough, but the adroit skill with which time after time he trampled upon those difficulties, and conjured the storm which his rashness had evoked, is really admirable. Perhaps, indeed, it is the element of wonder in his career, an element not wanting in the career of Hannibal also, which explains the,fascination which that career still exercises over the imagination of mankind. Feats of in- tellect, when we understand, or think we understand, how they are done, soon cease to interest us. But the power of wonder never fails. It is from wonder, that if Shakespeare should appear again amongst us, we should all rise up, as Charles Lamb said we should, to do him reverence ; it is to wonder that is due the imperishable interest which attaches to the chequered life, and more than chequered character, of Napoleon. The cause of his immense in- fluence lathe heyday of his prosperity is very plain and simple. Men' were drawn to him, as Goethe said, because under him they were sure of obtaining their object,- just as actors attach themselves to a new manager of whom they think that he will assign to them new parts. Napoleon knew men and their weaknesses, and out of their weaknesses he drew his own strength. He met from his creatures and courtiers adulation more outrageous than any which tickled the ears of Tiberius or Caligula, but wherever the pen was not stopped or the mouth closed by his iron hand, there no word of abuse was too strong for him. The "Modern Attila," the "Corsican ogre," the "Incarnate Moloch,"—these and simi- lar amenities were poured upon him without stint or stay from the press and pulpit of England. A marked change followed hard, as we have seen, upon his fall, and for once in a way the dead lion had the best of it. Much as we should like to see a history of Napoleon written without bias of any kind, and great as were the benefits which he unwittingly conferred upon his victims, by awakening among them that love of liberty which is the salt of all political and national life, the final verdict upon him must unquestionably be,— ' nc ciu-Oxotro isATc4, frric Toitairit