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.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

It is always difficult to smuggle a banned book into a country in which it is banned, particularly when said banned book is Victor Hugo's Napoleon-le-Petit, which was obviously critical of Napoleon III, who exiled the author, and that country is France, ruled by said Napoleon III. Hugo's work reached Paris:

-tucked in barrels of hay
-wrapped around tobacco leaves
-stuffed in carriage clocks
-sandwhiched between two sheets of metal, i.e. as a sardine
-in bundles of pages strapped to the legs of tourists in baggy trousers
-hidden in the bindings of prayer books
-in women's garters

Perhaps the most outlandish method of dissemination reads like something out of Dumas novel, though it comes straight from the French Foreign Office:

"The latest mode of clandestine transmission consists of small balloons fashioned from sheets of printed paper which will be launched whenever the wind stands fair for France."

Monday, April 12, 2010

The Other Dumas Apparently Just Sucked

One Thursday in 1847, a little known playwright, Adolphe Dumas put on his play L'Ecole des familles. The Monday before, Edouard Thierry asked Alexandre Dumas, "When are they going to play your L'Ecole des familles at the Theatre-Historique?"

"Thursday," said Alexandre Dumas.

"How long do you think it will run?"

"Thursday," repeated Alexandre Dumas.

"But I didn't ask you when, I asked how long it will run."

"Well yes!" replied Alexandre Dumas. "I told you- Thursday."