From Caesar to De Gaulle, the generals who entered politics did not spit on writing, especially not Napoleon. His first volume of “Letters, proclamations, speeches, messages” appeared in 1808. Flocks of various editions followed each other until, from 2004 to 2018, the Fondation Napoléon published fifteen volumes of complete correspondence with Fayard. The volume of books Between eternity, the ocean and the night (which takes its title from a sentence in a 1804 letter to Joséphine, it’s “blade” which is located in this triangle) has made a drastic choice in this immensity of 40,497 letters while retaining only one chouïa more than 2% (857) – which is still 1,200 good pages. The texts of statesmen often raise the same fear as these unpublished great writers unearthed after their death: do they really have an interest in themselves or only because their author has done something else? It is obvious that we would read less Napoleon if Bonaparte had remained a little corporal. But it’s also because writing has allowed him to be an unparalleled coach (“Soldiers, you are naked, malnourished …”) that he had this fate. Chateaubriand, enlightened contempt of the emperor, only granted the author “The eloquence of victory”. If not that eloquence had its share in these victories.
From 1790, “He and his brothers now aspired to more tangible benefits than inevitably less profitable literary glory”, writes Patrice Gueniffey in his preface. “With proclamations to his soldiers, we keep correspondence with the army; with the Emperor’s addresses and replies, we have his correspondence with the institutions; finally, with the bulletins, we discover his correspondence with the nation “, writes Loris Chavanette in his introduction. And there is family correspondence in the broad sense, letters to parents announcing the death of a son or a husband and private letters to Désirée Clary, Joséphine (the introduction specifies that the famous sentence “Don’t wash yourself, I’m running and in eight days I’m here” was never written), Marie Walewska and Marie-Louise (“Papa François”, the Emperor of Austria, however, in 1813 chose the Russians against his son-in-law).
From Valence, to Jean-Marie Naudin, “War commissioner”, in 1792, to justify the illegibility of his writing: “The southern blood flows through my veins with the speed of the Rhône.” Bonaparte will gladly use the expression again. To Joséphine, 1796: “I haven’t spent a day without loving you; I haven’t spent a night without hugging you; I didn’t have a cup of tea without cursing the glory and ambition that keep me away from the soul of my life. In the midst of business, at the head of the troops, roaming the camps, my adorable Josephine is alone in my heart, occupies my mind, absorbs my thought. If I move away from you with the speed of the Rhone torrent, it’s to see you again soon. “ “My life is a perpetual nightmare”he wrote to him when he was still separated and he was flying from victory to victory. Napoleon at the same, in 1805, some time after having sent him several times “A thousand kind things everywhere” : “It has been a long time since I heard from you. Do the beautiful festivals of Baden, Stuttgart and Munich make us forget the poor soldiers who live covered in mud, rain and blood? ” To Marie Walewska, 1807: “There are times when too much elevation weighs, and that’s what I feel. How can you satisfy the need for a loving heart that would rush to your feet and that is stopped by the weight of high considerations paralyzing the keenest of desires? Oh ! if you wanted… ” For the beauty of the romance, the young Polish girl will remain faithful to her in her fall, in 1814.
We read all the confidence that Bonaparte has in Talleyrand and Fouché, then all the distrust that he has in Napoleon. As brother as he is, the king of Westphalia attacks his gums and the emperor threatens flocks of “Majesty”. There is the last bulletin, in full Bérézina, where, indicates the edition, “It is a human disaster transformed into a military victory” by the force of words that do not affect reality, however. “Men whom nature has not soaked hard enough to be above all chances of fate and fortune seemed shaken to lose their cheerfulness, their good humor, and dreamed only of misfortunes and catastrophes; those whom she created above all kept their cheerfulness and their ordinary manners, and saw new glory in different difficulties to overcome. “ Final sentence to the Grande Armée: “Her Majesty’s health has never been better.”
Napoleon. Between eternity, the ocean and the night. Correspondence Robert Laffont, “Bouquins”, 1 306 pp., 32 €.