Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Napoleon’

In the previous post we discussed about no-man’s land where old rivalries and unfinished business of history are filed away. For anyone who studies history it shall become apparent no war has ever finished with a clean cut. A battle would require some ten thousand little skirmishes which may not catch the headlines. In the ignominious defeat of France in June.1940 lay the devil-seeds of the unsettled business of 1793-94 coming to fruition. The nation that set out to bury the Bourbon dynasty will grovel themselves before imperialist ambitions of Napoleons. Having lost the moral compass what do such genuflections mean? Some glory! some shameless antics!

Napoleon had lost the battle of Waterloo even before it was waged. Napoleon Bonaparte who assumed the title of the emperor of France showed by a series of victories he was worthy to be included among the immortals such as Alexander and Julius Caesar. His brilliant victories created such a condition he could not have sat idle with such a powerful army battle hardened and disciplined under his command. Thus he was caught in the crest of a wave that took him to his Russian campaign. Disaster was the result. What went wrong? Napoleon was weighed in the balance of humanity and was found wanting. Like the king in the book of Daniel.

Morality of man is not without reason compared to a compass. It covers the entire spectrum of man’s conduct through time and place. When Napoleon’s humanity,- and it can only be judged in his interaction with others, there was a serious problem. His ambition did not see people as people but as means to aggrandize himself. (Same mentality can be seen in the manner the French Army threw Captain Dreyfus to ignominy in order to protect its avaunted ‘gloire.’) This moral fault is worse than blindness. Your soul is affected. Physical blindness robs you of vision but leaves the harmony of celestial spheres in tact. It paints in fact colors that the world with its lurid colors can never match. Moral blindness is terrible. It makes you miss your place in the moral compass. You look at it and whatever you see there is anything other than your own humanity. It is almost a hell you have created even before you gave up your ghost, to use the expression in the Bible.

Each of us is like man with one foot in the sticky mess of morass of our own making. On a moral plane our culpability is that of being part of humanity. ‘No man is an island’ as Donne said it famously. This is collateral damages we need accept on a moral plane. In terms of Christian theology we need see it also refers to our fallen state.

benny

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

1. “See in what peace a Christian can die.”
~~ Joseph Addison, writer, d. June 17, 1719

2.“Waiting are they? Waiting are they? Well–let ’em wait.”
In response to an attending doctor who attempted to comfort him by saying, “General, I fear the angels are waiting for you.”
~~ Ethan Allen, American Revolutionary general, d. 1789

3.“Am I dying or is this my birthday?”
When she woke briefly during her last illness and found all her family around her bedside.
~~ Lady Nancy Astor, d. 1964

4.“Nothing, but death”.
When asked by her sister, Cassandra, if there was anything she wanted.
~~ Jane Austen, writer, d. July 18, 1817

5.“Codeine . . . bourbon.”
~~ Tallulah Bankhead, actress, d. December 12, 1968

6.“How were the receipts today at Madison Square Garden?”
~~ P. T. Barnum, entrepreneur, d. 1891

7.“Is everybody happy? I want everybody to be happy. I know I’m happy.
”~~ Ethel Barrymore, actress, d. June 18, 1959

8.“Die? I should say not, dear fellow. No Barrymore would allow such a conventional thing to happen to him.”
~~ John Barrymore, actor, d. May 29, 1942

9.“I am ready to die for my Lord, that in my blood the Church may obtain liberty and peace.”
~~ Thomas à Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, d.1170

10. “Now comes the mystery.”
~~ Henry Ward Beecher, evangelist, d. March 8, 1887

In her new book The Most Famous Man in America, author Debby Applegate writes on page 466 that Beecher’s last words in fact were, “You were saying that I could not recover.” Ms. Applegate has not been able to confirm the traditional version of Beecher’s last words.

11.“Friends applaud, the comedy is finished.”
~~ Ludwig van Beethoven, composer, d. March 26, 1827

12. “Josephine…”
~~ Napoleon Bonaparte, French Emperor, May 5, 1821

13.“Ah, that tastes nice. Thank you.”
~~ Johannes Brahms, composer, d. April 3, 1897

14. “Oh, I am not going to die, am I? He will not separate us, we have been so happy.”
Spoken to her husband of 9 months, Rev. Arthur Nicholls.
~~ Charlotte Bronte, writer, d. March 31, 1855

15.“Beautiful.”
In reply to her husband who had asked how she felt.
~~ Elizabeth Barrett Browning, writer, d. June 28, 1861

16.“Now I shall go to sleep. Goodnight.
”~~ Lord George Byron, writer, d. 1824

17. “Et tu, Brute?”
Assassinated.
~~ Gaius Julius Caesar, Roman Emperor, d. 44 BC

18. “Don’t let poor Nelly (his mistress, Nell Gwynne) starve.”
~~ Charles II, King of England and Scotland, d. 1685

19.“Ay Jesus.”
~~ Charles V, King of France, d. 1380

20. “I am dying. I haven’t drunk champagne for a long time.”
~~ Anton Pavlovich Chekhov, writer, d. July 1, 1904

21.“The earth is suffocating . . . Swear to make them cut me open, so that I won’t be buried alive.”
Dying of tuberculosis.
~~ Frederic Chopin, composer, d. October 16, 1849

22.“I’m bored with it all.”
Before slipping into a coma. He died 9 days later.
~~ Winston Churchill, statesman, d. January 24, 1965

23. “This time it will be a long one.”
~~ Georges Clemenceau, French premier, d. 1929

24. “I have tried so hard to do the right.
”~~ Grover Cleveland, US President, d. 1908

25.“That was the best ice-cream soda I ever tasted.”
~~ Lou Costello, comedian, d. March 3, 1959

compiler:benny

Read Full Post »

Why are you so enchanted by this world, when a mine of gold lies within you? ~Rumi

 

Eagles that soar far above cloud’s congested lanes

Seek once again their bondage,

Such is their wisdom and it goes to its very centre

of their ignorance;

Be not alarmed when the bugles sound

And the contagion of evil walks in smoke and wailing-

The victor’s price is blood and mother’s lament.

Every cleaving of the air merely

sweeps the dusty face of the earth

back and forth;

They shall too cease and wrap in the end

The disturber of earth and shaker of kingdoms.

Bid the minions of fearful factions

To lead the victor to his domain,

Into darkness and bind him to perpetual silence.

Brother what avails your search

To the depths of the farthest ocean swell

When the wind has turned

From a seizure to sleep?

If these oceans in relay swept round and round

Into a vortex without a center

Know for sure for all pother

End was not here or there

But down below laid in neat rows for timeless respite

By your father’s bier.

Read Full Post »

Josephine de Beauharnais (1763-1814)

Empress Josephine whose life reads like a romance with heady mixture of opulence,court intrigue and reign of terror through all which she glided to become, the apex of any woman’s dream, the empress of France in the most glorious period of French history, is ultimately a tragedy. She is forever linked with the glorious career of Napoleon Bonaparte. She found the love of her life as he in turn which was for certain. There was to begin with the natural soil on two kindred spirits as theirs could do well but lost for different reasons. Consider their humble beginnings: both were lifted from their provincial backgrounds, he from the isle of Corsica and she from Martinique, and thrown into the cauldron of Parisian life. It was a time when momentous decisions were being taken by motley factions, stretching across the entire spectrum of Parisian political life. Girondins, Jacobins, the Royalists and moderates were as much the instigators as well as puppets of runaway events. It was the backdrop for their first meeting.
In July 1795 Paris was awash with women adventurers mostly seeking releif from the shadows of the guillotine and sensuality hung about like a heady perfume. As a widow struggling with two children Josephine’s plight was precarious as Napoleon newly promoted to the rank of Major-general and a promising career ahead of him was. He was in search of a mariage de convenance. Through Paul Barras he got a foothold into the salon of Mme.Tallien, his mistress and his getting to know Josephine, another of his many mistresses was in the cards. Later Napoleon would recall his first meeting thus,’ I was certainly not insensible to feminine charms, but I had never till then been spoilt by women…Madame de Beauharnais was the first woman who gave me any degree of confidence.’ At the age of thirty two she was no longer a beauty. Despite her blackened and bad teeth owing to her sugar- rich diet of her Martiinique days and sheen of her skin somewhat spoilt by open pores, she was fully compensated in other departments. She would require all the reserve of her natural grace and the elegance cultivated in her ancien régime milieu to enthrall him. How successful she was may be gauged from the fact that it was her name that he breathed last on May 5,1821.

Josephine, crowned Empress of France in 1804 was six years older to Napoleon. It is one of the ironies of individual life that in the play off between individual happiness and public ambitions Napoleon would have remained smitten of her feminine personality (that made him ten feet tall) had it not for his overweening ambition to write his name across the annals of European history. She on the other hand could have charmed her way through her many infidelities had it been possible for her to produce a son for him. During the Italian campaign his letters reveal his anguish and love-sickness. ‘Ah this evening, if I do not get a letter from you I shall be desperate.’ Soon after his return from Egypt he had a domestic crisis. He felt he had put all his happiness and trust on her alone and the news of her adultery drove him into despair.’The veil has at last fallen from my eyes..’ so he wrote to Joseph his elder brother.

Born in 1763, of the poverty stricken but titled Tascher family in the French Isle of Martinique, Josephine was raised far from Paris and the courtly schools for girls of distinction. Her first marriage to Alexandre de Beauharnais in 1779 undoubtedly suffered because of her husband’s repulsion of her “provincial ways.”
Eventually finding herself abandoned with two children, and without family assistance, she lived for a while in a convent with other outcast ladies of high birth.
Buoyed by her “apprenticeship” with women she was ready to find her niche in life. .
When the French Revolution broke out, she and her husband were reunited in prison in 1794. As a widow she became one of the society ladies whose professonalism gave her a sixth sense to know who was moving up and who was on the way out. It was thus she met Napoleon. He was looking for a woman of wealth and position. She became attracted to him as he began rising in rank and reputation within the new French government. Napoleon fell in love with her most passionately, and it was not long before they were married. At the time of marriage, she, however, was neither in love with him, nor ready to relinquish her old ways. It was rumored that she had in collusion with one of her lovers was speculating in shady deals behind her husband’s back. In her excuse she was alone who had to survive while Napoleon, on the other hand, came from a large family with strong familial loyalties. When his family met her she rightly guessed she would never be accepted as one of the family. His brother Joseph in fact began urging his brother to leave her as soon as he met her.
When she was crowned as the empress it was more a crown of thorns and their marriage was in a shambles. ‘It was not in the nature of Josephine to be able to reciprocate to a grand passion: and her cynically nonchalent infidelities were soon to quench Napoleon’s romantic love.’ Owing to the Imperial ambitions the barrenness of the empress was a sore sticking point and after the divorce he married Archduchess Marie Louise of Austria in 1810. Their love was replaced by a mutual affection,tolerance and cameraderie. At St. Helena he admitted, ‘Josephine told lies practically all the time, but with elegance. I can say she was the woman whom I loved the most’. Mme. De Rémusat, the wife of Napoleon’s court chamberlain, a critic of Napoleon, however, conceded,’he (Napoleon) would have been a better man if he had been more and better loved’.
Finally, in 1814, Josephine caught an infection and quickly died. The one source of happiness, her children, was a legacy she was to leave Napoleon. Her son, Eugene served Napoleon faithfully like a son, and her daughter, Hortense, married into the Bonaparte family herself. Her numerous grandchildren all loved Josephine dearly at the time of her death. They were the chief mourners at Josephine’s huge funeral, which was also filled by the many other people touched by her life of giving, helping and kindness.
Postscript:
A legacy of flowers…
Because Josephine had a love of gardening, several roses have been named to remember her and her children. Her garden at Malmaison was something very special and had over a hundred types of roses.
The Eugene de Beauharnais Rose
Souvenir de la Malmaison Rose
(Ack: Felix Markham: Napoleon- 1963/mentor book; http://www.fi.edu/time/Frick/Watson/lady.html)
benny

Read Full Post »

Anne Louise Germaine de Staël-Holstein (1766 – 1817), daughter of the prominent Swiss banker and statesman Jacques Necker, who was the Director of Finance under King Louis XVI of France could be called a feminist and an emancipated one at that. Her mother equally famous for being the early love of Edward Gibbon,was a leading light of one of the most popular salons of Paris . Mother and daughter had little sympathy for each other. Mme Necker, despite her talents, her beauty and her fondness for philosophic society, was strictly decorous, somewhat reserved, and wanted to bring up her daughter with the discipline of her own childhood. Anne Louise was from her earliest years energetic and boisterous. She began very early to write, though not to publish. Her father’s dismissal from the ministry and the consequent removal of the family from the busy life of Paris were probably beneficial to her.
She married Baron Erik Magnus Staël von Holstein. The husband was 37, the wife 20. Neither of whom had any affection for the other. The baron obtained money and the lady obtained, as a guaranteed ambassadress of a foreign power of consideration, a much higher position at court and in society than she could have secured by marrying almost any Frenchman.
Then in 1788 (a year prior to the French Revolution) she appeared as an author under her own name and became fascinated with the ideas of Rousseau. She was embroiled in political intrigues at this time and equally was she steeped literary criticism and she was highly influential.
She then moved to Coppet, and there gathered round her a considerable number of friends and fellow-refugees, the beginning of the salon which at intervals during the next 25 years made the place so famous. However, in 1793 she made a long visit to England, and established a connection with other emigrants: Talleyrand, Narbonne, Montmorency, Jaucourt and others. In the summer, she returned to Coppet and wrote a pamphlet on the queen’s execution. The next year, her mother died, and the fall of Robespierre opened the way back to Paris. She reopened her salon and for a time was conspicuous in the motley and eccentric society of the Directory. She also published several small works, the chief being the essays Sur l’influence des passions “On the influence of passions” (1796), and Sur la litérature considérée dans ses rapports avec les institutions sociales (1800).
It was during these years that Mme de Staël was the muse and sounding board for movers and shakers of ideas that were gathering momentum. Narbonne’s place had been supplanted by Benjamin Constant, whom she first met at Coppet in 1794, and who had a very great influence over her, as in return she had over him. Both personal and political reasons threw her into opposition to Bonaparte. Her own preference for a moderate republic or a constitutional monarchy was quite sincere, and, even if it had not been so, her own character and Napoleon’s were too much alike in some points to admit of their getting on together. ( Napoleon said about her, according to the Memoirs of Mme. de Remusat, that she “teaches people to think who never thought before, or who had forgotten how to think.”) In 1797 she separated formally from her husband.
Napoleon was irked by her opposition to him. She was directed not to reside within 40 leagues of Paris, and after considerable delay she determined to go to Germany.
During her German travels her father died.
She had bought property in America and thought of moving there, but she was determined to publish De l’Allemagne in Paris. Straining under French censorship, she wrote to the emperor a provoking and perhaps undignified letter and as a result the whole edition of her book (ten thousand copies) was condemned as not French.
She retired once more to Coppet, where she was not at first interfered with, and she found consolation in a young officer of Swiss origin named Albert de Rocca, twenty-three years her junior, whom she married privately in 1811.
Napoleon’s spies were closing in and her friends Mathieu de Montmorency and Mme Récamier were exiled for the crime of seeing her.
On 23 May 1811 she left Coppet almost secretly, and journeyed to Vienna. There she obtained an Austrian passport to the frontier, and after some fears and trouble, receiving a Russian passport in Galicia, she at last escaped from Napoleon’s omnipotent eyes and far reach.
She journeyed slowly through Russia and Finland to Sweden, making a stay at Saint Petersburg, spent the winter in Stockholm, and then set out for England. Here she received a brilliant reception and was much lionized during the season of 1813. She published De l’Allemagne in the autumn.
She was in Paris when the news of Napoleon’s landing arrived and at once fled to Coppet. And it is certain that she had no affection for the Bourbons. In October, after Waterloo, she set out for Italy for the benefit of her second husband, Rocca, who was dying of consumption.
Her daughter married Duke Victor de Broglie on 20 February 1816, at Pisa, and became the wife and mother of French statesmen of distinction. The whole family returned to Coppet in June, and Lord Byron now frequently visited Mme de Staël there. Despite her increasing ill-health she returned to Paris for the winter of 1816-1817, and her salon was much frequented. But she had already become confined to her room if not to her bed. She died on 14 July, and Rocca survived her little more than six months.
Auguste Comte included Madame Stael in his Calendar of Great Men. In a book with the same name, Comte’s disciple Frederic Harrison wrote about Stael and her works: “In Delphine a woman, for the first time since the Revolution, reopened the romance of the heart which was in vogue in the century preceding. Comte would daily recite the sentence from Delphine, ‘There is nothing real in the world but love.’ [Pos. Pol. iv. 44). Our thoughts and our acts, he said, can only give us happiness through results: and results are not often in our own control. Feeling is entirely within our power; and it gives us a direct source of happiness, which nothing outside can take away.‘ Her works, Harrison wrote, “precede the works of Scott, Byron, Shelley, and partly of Chateaubriand, their historical importance is great in the development of modern romanticism, of the romance of the heart, the delight in nature, and in the art, antiquities, and history of Europe.”( ack: wikipedia)
Anecdotes of Madame Staël and Mme. Recamier
Germaine de Staël, the French writer called on Napoleon Bonaparte one day and insisted on seeing him. His orderly told her that the Citizen-General was in his bath. “That is unimportant,” she exclaimed, “Genius has no sex.”
2.
When Napoleon told Madame De Staël those women had no business being interested in politics, she replied, “In a country where women have been decapitated, it is only natural for other women to ask why?”

Juliette Récamier
(1777-1849)

Seated between the beautiful Mme. Recamier and the plain Mme. de Staël, the astronomer Lalande said, “How happy I am to find myself between beauty and wit.”
“And without possessing either,” came her prompt reply.
benny

Read Full Post »

The Pleasure of Books

Books are one way of communicating with the dead and the past. It is a mystical experience pure and simple.
There are those who are, as Isaac Disraeli the father of the British Prime Minister would describe, men with one book. Sir William Jones read the works of Cicero every year. Demosthenes felt such delight in the history of Thucidides, and in order to obtain a familiar and perfect mastery of his style he copied his history eight times. Selim the Second had the commentaries of Caesar translated for his use; and it is recorded that his military ardor was heightened by his reading. (Ack: Curiosities in Literature-vol iv)
Charles Laughton in recent times was known to write down in long hand the specimen works of an author before he played the role for the screen. By this method he had spiritually put on the mantle of Rembrandt or any other as it were.
Napoleon in his youth read Plutarch so extensively that it showed. When he visited his homeland on a furlough he had long chats with General Paoli, whose adjutant his father had been long ago. At the end of their conversation once, the old General shook his head and said, ’There is nothing modern about you, Napoleon, you come from the age of Plutarch.’ Harry Truman as a fledgling senator found use for Parallel Lives by Plutarch,- and human nature being such, he found Greek and Roman counterparts in the modern senators he came to deal with,- and thanks to his reading, he was forewarned to survive the Washington political jungle.
ii.
Reading an autobiography has all the charm of conversing with a mind that is very much before you and whether he has come down to your level or you have been lifted to his does not spoil the mood. You are open for impressions of his time and his train of thoughts. It is no wonder a book, imaginary or true when it is well written has the power to break down the illusion of time and place. Even after Arthur Conan Doyle’s death, letters have come in for his brainchild, the immortal sleuth Sherlock Holmes. Much earlier when Samuel Richardson wrote Clarissa it created a sensation.
One day Mrs. Barbauld was going to Hampstead in the stagecoach, she had a Frenchman for her companion. In chatting with him she realized he was making a trip to Hampstead for the express purpose of seeing the house in the Flask Walk where Clarissa lodged.
Recently Dan Brown’s bestseller The Da Vinci Code made droves of visitors follow the route that the hero had taken to crack the code.
An appeal of books whether formatted in electronic ink or on paper is what it contains. Life of man and woman may be a constant search for meaning around which each may arrange his or her days in order. Unfortunately reality allows no such easy way out. Powerful books serve as a mirror where we see our lives reflected back to us complete with much needed insight, even though much of details have undergone some changes. Balzac’s imagination was such he could invest in them reality needed enough. When an admirer, one day brought news of a common acquaintance who was ill Balzac heard him for a while and asked, ’But let’s get back to reality. Who is going to marry Eugenie Grandet?’
Oscar Wilde in his own characteristic way summed up effect of Balzac’s books on a reader. ’A steady course of Balzac reduces our living friends to shadows…;who would care to go out to meet Tomkins, the friend of one’s boyhood, when one can sit at home with Lucien de Rubempré(one of Balzac’s characters)? It is pleasanter to have an entrée to Balzac’s society than to receive from all the duchesses of Mayfair’.

2
An alderman of Oxford religiously read Defoe’s classic each year and believed Robinson Crusoe was a real person. Great was dismay to be told by a friend it was not so. He also said it was based loosely on a true incident which befell a Scottish sailor by name Alexander Selkirk.
He replied that he wished that he were not informed the truth ‘for in undeceiving me, you have deprived me of one of the greatest pleasures of my old age.’
3.
Benjamin Franklin
At a dinner party where Benjamin Franklin was one of the distinguished guests he was asked by Abbe Raynal, ”What kind o f man deserves the most pity?”
Franklin answered, ”A lonesome man on a rainy day, who does not know how to read.”
4.
Harry S. Truman had a lonely childhood, made worse by his physical debilities. He took to wearing glasses since he was six years old. He was a voracious reader mostly of history. Later in life he would say much of his political acumen and understanding of people he had gathered out of Plutarch.
In 1957 Truman during an interview asserted that Alexander the Great died as a result of drinking 33 quarts of wine.
The interviewer was puzzled at the figure and checked up with the Library of Congress. With great difficulty the researcher unearthed in an obscure and long out of print volume of the Ancient Greeks he found that the President was right after all.
5.
John Dryden(1631-1700)the Poet Laurate was unhappily married and his literary pursuits annoyed his wife all the more.
Once she faulted him,’Lord Mr. Dryden,how can you always be poring over these musty books? I wish I were a book and then I should have more of your company.’
‘Pray my dear,’ was his answer, ‘if you do become a book let it be an almanack, for then I’ll change you every year’.
Their conjugal life must have been strained for the poet to compose the following epitaph for her.
‘Here lies my wife: here let her lie!
Now she’s at rest, and so am I’

6.
Mark Twain was traveling through Europe and at one point he had an Englishman in his compartment. Having introduced himself Mark Twain turned his attention to his reading. His companion startled him by saying,’ Mr. Clemens I would give ten pounds not to have read your Huckleberry Finn.’
And when the author looked up, awaiting an explanation of this extraordinary remark, the Englishman smiled and added: ’So I could again have the pleasure of reading it for the first time.’

benny

Read Full Post »

Marshal Ney (b.1769) faced the firing squad with the courage to be expected of ‘the bravest of the brave.’ When his death sentence was read to him in the small hours of 7 December 1815 he interrupted the recital of his former titles with,”what good can this do? Marshal Ney-then a heap of dust, that is all.”

compiler: benny

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »