Napoleon: For and Against

By Pieter Geyl; Olive Renier | Go to book overview

CHAPTER III
ARMAND LEFEBVRE

THE SPIRIT OF HIS WORK

IN 1845 two great works began to appear. They were Armand Lefebvre's Histoire des cabinets de l'Europe pendant le Consulat et l'Empire and Thiers's Histoire du Consulat et de l'Empire, a continuation of his youthful Histoire de la Révolution franϚaise, completed nearly twenty years earlier. Thiers's book became the great popular history of Napoleon. Volume succeeded volume in an inexhaustible stream, until by 1862 all twenty had appeared. In spite of the magnitude of the work its success was overwhelming. For a generation Thiers's was the last word on the subject, and his book overshadowed that of Lefebvre. Lefebvre, who was a few years younger than Thiers, being born in 1800, a diplomat, and the son of a diplomat who had served Napoleon, suffered from this.1 It is true that his book, the unattractive title of which conceals a history of Bonaparte's foreign policy, cannot stand comparison with that of Thiers for pace, fullness and colour. Nevertheless it has its own special qualities. Even though the writer sets his diplomatic history in its wider background -- the development of the Revolutionary idea and of the Consular and Imperial regime in France -- the limits imposed by the subject give his work more unity. This becomes apparent when one compares him with Bignon. The contrast makes the latter take on even more the appearance of a chronicler, while in Lefebvre one can appreciate the attempt at truly historical presentation.

Lefebvre had his own interpretation of Bonaparte and his statesmanship, which he develops with a sure touch. The actual narrative is not the most important part of his book. His documentation is not up to present-day standards. Though he did draw from archive material he failed to consult non-French sources, in itself an irreparable omission in a book dealing with a subject of this nature. For all his positive tone, he is often wide of the mark,

____________________
1
According to Sainte-Beuve in one of his Causeries du Lundi, reprinted before the first volume of the edition which was edited and completed by the writer's son in 1866. I quote from this edition.

-45-

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Napoleon: For and Against
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page 3
  • Contents 5
  • Preface - To the First Dutch Edition 7
  • Part One - The Antithesis at the Beginning 13
  • Chapter I - Chateaubriand 17
  • Chapter II - Madame de Staël 19
  • Chapter III - The Napoleonic Legend 23
  • Part Two - The First Chroniclers 33
  • Chapter I - M. Mignet 35
  • Chapter II - Baron Bignon 37
  • Chapter III - Armand Lefebvre 45
  • Chapter IV - Adolphe Thiers 53
  • Part Three - Reaction against the Legend 69
  • Chapter I - Jules Barni 73
  • Chapter II - Edgar Quinet 77
  • Chapter III - Pierre Lanfrey 86
  • Chapter IV - Comte D'Haussonville 106
  • Chapter V - Hippolyte Taine 133
  • Part Four - Admirers 149
  • Chapter I - Prince Napoleon 156
  • Chapter II - Henry Houssaye 160
  • Chapter III - Arthur - LéVy Polemic against Taine 169
  • Chapter IV - FréDéric Masson 177
  • Chapter V - Count Albert Vandal 230
  • Part Five - The Problem of Foreign Policy 233
  • Chapter I - Old Acquaintances 235
  • Chapter II - Emile Bourgeois 241
  • Chapter III - Two More Old Acquaintances 250
  • Chapter IV - Albert Sorel 254
  • Chapter V - Edouard Driault 308
  • Part Six - The Antithesis at the End 349
  • Chapter 1 356
  • Chapter II - A. L. Guérard 362
  • Chapter Ill - G. Pariset 364
  • Chapter IV - Jules Isaac 371
  • Chapter V - Charles Seignobos 373
  • Chapter VI - Jacques Bainville 376
  • Chapter VII - Louis Madelin 390
  • Chapter VIII - Gabriel Hanotaux 403
  • Chapter IX - Georges Lefebvre 446
  • Chronological Table 451
  • Index 465
  • Index of Authors 475
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