ARTHUR - LÉVY POLEMIC AGAINST TAINE
In 1892 appeared a book which is still popular, Arthur-Lévy Napoléon intime.1 Unlike Houssaye's volumes, it extends over the whole career, and is designedly polemical and defensive. The book exudes a certain charm, yet at the same time it continually provokes the reader. For Arthur-Lévy really goes too far. His Napoleon is amiability itself. If he had a fault it was that of excessive kindness. So anxious is the writer to depict the humanity that he overlays the greatness with homely touches -- about his relationship with his mother and brothers, with Joséphine, and later even with the Hapsburg archduchess. The whole is supported with a wealth of quotations. If the resulting somewhat mawkish picture is laid beside that of Taine, one is inclined to wonder if the two writers are dealing with the same man. The contrast is instructive as to the possibilities of partisan representation open to the historian through selection from superabundant material.
The first aim of Arthur-Lévy, with whose later work, Napoléon et la Paix, equally the antithesis of Taine, I shall discuss further on, was no doubt to refute the representation, in the famous 'portrait', of an inhuman, or, if I may so call it, a non-human Napoleon. Like Prince Napoleon he attacks the crown-witnesses, Mme de Staël and Mme de Rémusat. What he says about them had already been said or hinted innumerable times, and was to be endlessly repeated.
Mme de Staël's initial enthusiasm for the victor of Lodi and Arcole and for the man of Brumaire, followed, as I have previously told, by disappointment and hostility, he reduces by slight touches to the story of a tiresome, ambitious woman pursuing a celebrity, who keeps her at arm's length, not without some asperity; this the____________________