IN 1867 there appeared the first volumes of a new Histoire de Napoléon, the aim of which was to do away with the legend once and for all. It was indeed the first scholarly attack made on it. While Barni contributed only scattered observations, and Quinet confined himself to generalities, Lanfrey, the author of the new work, undertook to give a straightforward and matter-of-fact account, and to support his critical attitude in every particular. Thiers's work, as I observed, cannot be regarded as purely polemical. There can be no doubt, however, of the polemical character of Lanfrey's book, in spite of the customary introduction in which the writer affirms that, now that both the vilifiers and the apologists have shot their bolts, he will provide that calm, just, perspicacious assessment which the passage of time makes possible.
As well-known journalist and publicist, he is trying to attack the government of his own day by undermining the foundations upon which it rests. He desires to show the falseness of the current view of the 'great' Napoleon, particularly as coined by Thiers. Of Constantine or Theodosius, of the ten-century-old tradition of the French monarchy, he has nothing to say. Yet even so his view is strongly reminiscent of that of Quinet. He recognizes no springs of action in Napoleon other than ambition and the lust for power. He sees not the man who consolidated the Revolution, but the man who suppressed liberty, the man of violence and trickery, from whom France had nothing save misery, who took away free speech, enslaved parliament and the press, who expelled all men of independent mind, and who created a new aristocracy, supremely vulgar and flashy, from among his sword-rattlers and his bootlickers. There were, besides, those endless wars with all Europe, yielding sterile victories, but a rich harvest of distrust and of hate and, finally, the disasters of 1812 to 1815.
Lanfrey's book is a piece of polemical writing because he is nearly always more concerned to prove these contentions, to spar, so to speak, with both Napoleon and his eulogists, than to give a