Napoleon: For and Against

By Pieter Geyl; Olive Renier | Go to book overview

CHAPTER IV
FRÉDÉRIC MASSON

HIS MENTAL APPROACH AND HIS VIEW OF HISTORY

AMONG writers about Napoleon there is no more singular figure than Frédéric Masson. None was more wholehearted in his admiration, none more passionate, more one-sided, more partisan, and also none more sincere, more honest, none was more convinced that he served truth, or more courageous in its service and more indifferent to what others would say of his revelations and his assertions. He had need of both courage and indifference. Not only did he arouse the irritation, the fury, the sarcasm of his opponents -- what did he care about that, being magnificently contemptuous of the 'detractors'! But even his fellow-Bonapartists were disconcerted, hurt, incensed, when he began his great work on the Bonaparte family, and in no way spared the 'Napoleonides', rather enjoying pulling them down that the greatness of his hero might appear the more brilliant. This was hard on the descendants, who fancied themselves as the bearers of the glorious tradition, while it gave unholy joy to the detractors. But Masson did not allow himself to be put out, and went on fearlessly, year after year, volume after volume.

As regards his attitude to Napoleon himself, it had nothing apologetic. One has only to read the introduction to Napoléon chez lui, at the outset of the enormously lengthy series which he announced in 1894, with great self-assurance, at the age of forty-seven. Napoleon is for him the representative of military glory, and also of the State, of Authority. Nothing seems to him more natural than that professors, journalists and lawyers yapped at his hero. In his own day Napoleon's inexorable laws 'muzzled these three mouths of the Revolution'. 'He obliged the lawyers to defend their clients without insulting either the government or any private persons. He obliged the professors to teach their pupils the subjects for which they were paid, without preaching to them either atheism or contempt of the law. He obliged the literary men to respect their country's lawful government, not to reveal to the

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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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