Monday, April 26, 2010

Reactions to Napoleon Bonaparate have always been mixed, particularly among the Romantics. Byron had a life-long fascination and self-identification with Napoleon, going so far in Childe Harolde as to call Napoleon "the greatest... of men" and to call himself "the grand Napoleon in realms of rhyme". Wordsworth, on the other hand, saw Waterloo as an act of "Almighty God" and became so vehement in his disapprobation of Napoleon he joined the Grasmere Volunteers to help defend England in case "Satan" should dare invade.

The German intelligentsia, despite having their country invaded by Napoleon, were more-or-less unanimous in their approval (Beethoven excluded). Goethe, with deep pleasure, received the Legion d'Honneur from Napoleon himself and declared that Napoleon, after the Revolution was "the expression of all that was reasonable, legitimate, and European in the Revolutionary movement". According to the British historian Alistair Horne, the philosopher Hegel went even further. "Hegel was said to have stood bareheaded in the street, even when the French soldiery stole his possessions; to him, Napoleon represented the 'Embodiment of the Absolute Ideal'. One hopes that said Embodiment was kind enough to return Herr Hegel's possessions.

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