Napoleon: For and Against

By Pieter Geyl; Olive Renier | Go to book overview

CHAPTER V
CHARLES SEIGNOBOS

MATTER OF FACTNESS RAISED TO A SYSTEM

THE pages -- not more than half a score -- devoted by Seignobos to Napoleon's rule in his Histoire sincère de la Nation française are characteristic. Seignobos wrote this pleasing little book towards the end of his life, about 1930. He was a university professor in Paris and had made a name for himself by his dry, but able and independent, history of civilization, and by his excellent volume about the period of Napoleon III in Lavisse Histoire de la France contemporaine. 'Dry' is also the epithet one might apply to his Histoire sincère; it lacks every flight of imagination and has neither colour nor warmth of style. Yet it is not the word which occurs to one in the presence of a work so unpretentious, in which a man with extensive knowledge and who has reflected much, indicates the connections and consequences which, in the course of his study, have gradually impressed themselves upon him as the essentials, a man, moreover, who, without any straining for effect, always calls things by their names.

It will appear in a moment that he starts from a definite philosophy of life, and also that, judged by this philosophy, Napoleon does not cut an advantageous figure. Even before introducing him upon the stage, Seignobos wonders whether the chaos in public life and in finances which is alleged to have existed in France under the Directory, has not, like the licentiousness, 'been exaggerated in order to enhance the importance of Bonaparte's work of reorganization'.1 As regards the administrative system which, though it was introduced under the Consulate, cannot be considered as Bonaparte's work, because in those early days he had to leave such measures to the experts, Seignobos concludes his description with these words: 'A centralized system of government agents, opposed to the regime of elective self-government created by the Revolution. The nation had no longer any share in the conduct of its affairs or in the choice of its local leaders. The

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p. 381.

-373-

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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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