THE CONVERSATIONS OF NAPOLEON
IT is not wise to record every word that falls from a great man in retirement. The mind which is accustomed to constant activity and which is suddenly deprived of employment is an engine without guidance; the tongue without a purpose is not always under control. The great man is apt to soliloquise aloud, and then the suppressed volume of passion, of resentment, of scorn bursts all dams. Napoleon was aware of this danger. "You are right to check me: I always say more than I wish when I allow myself to talk of subjects which so thrill with interest." There is not so much of this as might be expected in the conversation of Napoleon at St Helena. He sometimes lashes himself into a rage over the Governor and the restrictions and the rock itself, but as a rule he is calm and meditative, thinking aloud, often with contradictory results. This detachment of mind had been noticed on his return from Elba by Lavallette. "Never did I see him more imperturbably calm: not a word of bitterness with anyone, no impatience; listening to everything, and discussing everything with that rare sagacity and that elevation of mind which were so remarkable in him; avowing his faults with a touching ingenuousness, or discussing his position with a penetration which his enemies could not equal."
The recorded conversations of Napoleon present a certain difficulty. After the first two years of the