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January 02 , 2011

The History of Napoleon Buonaparte


“Nations yet to come will look back upon his history as to some grand and supernatural romance. The fiery energy of his youthful career, and the magnificent progress of his irresistible ambition, have invested his character with the mysterious grandeur of some heavenly appearance; and when all the lesser tumults and lesser men of our age shall have passed away into the darkness of oblivion, history will still inscribe one mighty era with the majestic name of Napoleon.” These enthusiastic words, too, are Lockhart’s, though they are not from this history, but from some “Remarks on the Periodical Criticism of England,” which he published in Blackwood’s Magazine. They serve, if they are taken in conjunction with his book, to mark his position in the long list of the historians, biographers and critics who have written in English, and from an English or a British point of view, upon “Napoleon the Great.” Lockhart, that is to say, was neither of the idolaters, like Hazlitt, nor of the decriers and blasphemers. One recalls at once what he said of “the lofty impartiality” with which Sir Walter Scott had written of Napoleon before him, and with which he appears to have faced his lesser task. As a biography, as a writing of history, as an example of historic style, Lockhart’s comparatively modest essay must be called a better performance than Scott’s. But “the real Napoleon” has not yet been painted
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