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XII.-1. Histoire de la Revolution Grecque, par M. Alexandre
XII.-De l'Empire Grec et du Jeune Napoléon
ART. I.-Mémoires de M. de Bourrienne, Ministre d'État, sur Napoléon, le Directoire, le Consulat, l'Empire et la Restauration. Tomes I.-VI. 8vo. Paris. 1829.
So much has been written about Napoleon, the greater part of which is so justly liable to the suspicion of falsehood, that a corrector and verifier of the various stories respecting him becomes as valuable a contributor to true knowledge as the reporter of new facts. M. de Bourrienne, however, appears in both characters: his position was favourable for the collection of the truth, and his disposition fits him for the business of correction. His comrade at school; his friend in after-life, sharing his young hopes and fears; a partner in his first successes, and then his intimate private secretary; a kind of third hand or other self for many years of conquest, glory and power-no one assuredly has yet entered the lists with such claims to be heard on the subject of Napoleon as M. Fauvelet de Bourrienne. In order to encourage Bourrienne under the arduous labour he continually imposed upon him, Bonaparte would sometimes say, "Bourrienne! we shall go down to posterity together." The vanity of this hope was shown in the answer- "Can you tell me who was the secretary of Alexander?" The author has, however, a good chance of reaching that goal which, perhaps, the secretary might have missed. Undoubtedly, as long as the character and achievements of Napoleon are an object of interest to the student, and it would be difficult to say when they will cease to be so, the work of Bourrienne will be referred to as a most faithful depositary of information respecting a great number of his acts, and moreover of his motives and true character. Other books have given us Napoleon in the field, or in the court; in the saloon, and in the privacy even of his apartments: but Bourrienne shows him in the cabinet, in the private cabinet, the birth-place of all his vast conceptions, and the starting point of each of his great courses-the scene of his mental debates, and the asylum where he retreated to decide, to consider, and to give the first movement to his great designs. Night and day Bourrienne worked with him; early
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and late, before and after dinner, with or without sleep, his secretary was on the spot, read his despatches, translated his communications, and opened his letters. Bourrienne was aware that he and his master were making history; so that he did not, like so many unconscious actors in great scenes, let the opportunities pass without taking accurate note of all that came under his notice. In spite of the fatigue of incessant labour at all unseasonable hours, he let no day pass without recording its events, or setting aside the materials for judging them aright. He thus became the possessor of an accumulation of documents of unequalled interest, which have proved the groundwork of these Memoirs. With them as his companions, Bourrienne, whether for greater quiet or greater security, has now sought a retreat in the chateau of the Duchess of Brancas, in the Netherlands, where he has undertaken the task of reading and correcting the former histories of Napoleon, and of writing his own. He is, however, too modest to dignify it with so high-sounding a title; he only hopes that the future historian, when the time arrives to do strict justice to Napoleon, will find in his work information upon the matters which came within his knowledge; for it is only of such that he speaks: many great events pass without notice; battles and conquests, and other important scenes, take place without more than a casual allusion in the pages of these Memoirs, for the reason assigned, viz. that Bourrienne had not witnessed them, and possessed no authentic documents relating to them. Let, as he says, others do as much, and we would add "no more." But why, it may be asked, should we repose more confidence in the professions of Bourrienne than in many others who have laid strong claim to belief. We put the question for the sake of giving the answer.
"My answer," says he, "is very simple. I enter the lists the last; I have read ALL that my predecessors have written; I have a deep conviction of the truth of all I say; I have no interest in deceiving, no disgrace to fear, no recompense to expect. I neither wish to obscure his glory, nor to decorate it. However great Napoleon may have been, he was a man, and had he not a man's weaknesses? I speak of him such as I have seen him, known him-often admired, sometimes condemned him. I tell all I have witnessed, heard, written, thought under each circumstance. I have neither permitted myself to be enslaved by the prestiges of the imagination, nor by friendship, nor by hatred. I have not, moreover, introduced a single reflection which did not arise in my own mind at the very moment of the event which produced it. How many acts, how many writings were there which I could only lament! how many measures inconsistent with my views, my principles, my character, in which the best intentions in the world were utterly powerless in resisting the obstacles presented by a will of iron."