Napoleon: For and Against

By Pieter Geyl; Olive Renier | Go to book overview

would almost lead me to doubt whether I was right in counting him, even with the reservations I made, among the spiritual descendants of Mme de Staël. 'The significance of these cases', he says, 'lies only in their value as anecdotes', and he deems it of greater importance to establish by a number of less known indications, such as the audacious expression of war fatigue by the Chamber of Commerce of Lyons, that men were waiting for things to happen, that there was no feeling of confidence in the lasting character of the regime.

It will have been noticed before, not only that Lefebvre underlined the bourgeois character of Mme de Staël's policy, but also that he placed upon a low level the motives of Chateaubriand in writing Le Génie du Christianisme. This tendency to bring poets and intellectuals and also, as we saw, the Pope, down a peg, and rather to listen to Chambers of Commerce, certainly does not fit very well in the line of liberal moralists which we can attach to Mme de Staël.


CONCLUSION: THE SIGNIFICANCE OF NAPOLEON

Insufficiency, failure -- after all we have heard about misconceptions, mistakes, the habit of misleading, the question arises whether Lefebvre's judgment of Napoleon, though he finds something irresistibly great and fascinating in the figure, is not purely negative. Let me give, in answer and at the same time in conclusion, a brief summary of his findings.

After the failure of his gigantic undertaking -- so he writes in effect -- the Emperor has become, in the imagination of the poets, a second Prometheus, whose temerity was punished by divine power, the symbol of human genius struggling with fate. There are some, on the other hand, who have wanted to make him the plaything of historical determinism; wrongly so, the imperial dignity, and the conquests beyond the natural frontiers, were his personal initiative. Even the thesis that this must fatally lead to his undoing, a thesis which would have its uses for the teaching of a spiring Caesars and for the good of mankind, cannot be upheld.

'His personal ambition was not realized; but he has nevertheless left profound traces. In France he consolidated the new State by giving it, with a master hand, its administrative organization, 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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