By Alistair Horne

The age of Napoleon reworked Europe, laying the rules for the fashionable international. Now Alistair Horne, one of many nice chroniclers of French historical past supplies us a clean account of that amazing time.

Born into poverty at the distant island of Corsica, he rose to prominence within the turbulent years following the French Revolution, while so much of Europe was once arrayed opposed to France. via a string of marvelous and inconceivable victories (gained as a lot via his striking skill to motivate his troops as via his army genius), Napoleon caused a effective peace that made him the idol of France and, later, its absolute ruler.

Heir to the Revolution, Napoleon himself was once no longer a innovative; particularly he used to be a reformer and a modernizer, either liberator and autocrat. seeking to the Napoleonic wars that raged at the one hand, and to the hot social order rising at the different, Horne incisively courses readers via each point of Napoleon’s two-decade rule: from France’s newfound dedication to an aristocracy in line with advantage instead of inheritance, to its civil code (Napoleon’s most vital and enduring legacy), to censorship, food, the feel of way of life in Paris, and the effect of Napoleon overseas. on the heart of Horne’s tale is a unique guy, one whose ambition, determination, power and talent to command replaced heritage, and maintains to fascinate us today.

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There isn't any method of examining one in all his [Shakespeare’s] performs, they make me sorry for him. ” —NAPOLEON COMMENTING at the THEATER, 1803 Coexisting aspect via part with quite a bit poverty and distress, and regardless of the excessive reformist objectives of the empire, the previous aristocracy—those who hadn’t misplaced their heads—and the haute bourgeoisie had recouped their fortunes such a lot miraculously; whereas a brand new classification of nouveaux riches (which integrated the Imperial relatives and its hangers-on) had arisen from the ashes of the Revolution with dazzling velocity. because it had after many different upheavals in French heritage, the bourgeoisie had proven specific resilience. lower than the empire its ascendancy was once epitomized via the Récamiers, bloodied yet unbowed via the 1805 financial institution crash, from which that they had recovered with awesome swiftness—as certainly the bourgeoisie continually appeared to do. The Récamiers lived at the Chaussée d’Antin, at the edge of a number of the extra underprivileged elements of Paris. It used to be the home the place as soon as had lived Louis XVI’s ill-starred minister of finance, Swiss-born Jacques Necker, who used to be in place of work whilst the Revolution broke out and was once additionally the daddy of Germaine de Staël, one in every of Napoleon’s such a lot continual critics. From her mythical salon there, Juliette distributed lavish hospitality. Daughter of a Lyon solicitor, financed via an aged banker husband (whom she married at sixteen), and closest (perhaps merely) buddy of Madame de Staël, she presided over a cosmopolitan shrine, its decor surroundings the factors of Empire variety. Juliette together with her nice and serene beauty—which looked as if it would include the period’s perfect of female perfection—inspired many passions, unfulfilled, until eventually Chateaubriand got here alongside and picked the lock. “Mme Récamier has,” wrote an impressionable German: “. . . this sort of completely translucent dermis that you will see the blood path via her veins . . . her attractive mouth, choked with nice the teeth, is usually half-open; she turns out to discover it rather normal that folks wish to examine her within the similar place and pose for hours on finish . . . ” particularly at the excruciatingly uncomfortable couch to which she lent her identify. In a society that was once “frivolous and passibly corrupted” (“frivole et passablement corrompue”), she appeared occasionally like an unassailable amulet of advantage in a sea of adultery—“never chuffed, by no means in depression. ” As a token of her ethical unassailability (even Lucien Bonaparte were led on, and rejected) she may greet every one newly arrived woman with the invitation: “Voulez-vous voir ma chambre à coucher? ” Her partitions have been lined with mirrors, and there has been a statue of Silence, lit through a lamp into which a genie poured drops of oil. Coquettes could replica the recognized mattress, decorating it with crossed lances and a safeguard when it comes to a souvenir of liaisons with Grande Armée heroes, yet Juliette’s was once, however, in keeping with the uncharitable gossips, a bed room the place not anything happened—and the place, stated the mauvaises langues, she preserved her virginity even from Monsieur Récamier (it used to be certainly rumored that he used to be her real father).

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