Napoleon at St. Helena; or, interesting anecdotes and remarkable conversations of the Emperor during the five and a half years of his captivity collected from the memorials of Las Casas, O’Meara, Moutholon, Antommarch́i, and others. By John S. C. Abbott, with illustrations; 1855; Harper & Brothers, New York.
Written in English.
An illustrated compilation of “interesting anecdotes and remarkable conversations of the Emperor”, Napoléon Bonaparte, during his time on Saint Helena, the island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean (a whopping 1870 km from the west coast of Africa) to which he was exiled after his surrender to the British on July 15, 1815. As the preface makes clear, the book’s editor John S. C. Abbott was a big big fan of the “le petit caporal”:
The Emperor Napoleon, by almost universal consent, is pronounced to be, intellectually, the most illustrious of mankind. Even his bitterest enemies are compelled to do homage to the universality and the grandeur of his genius. Lamartine declares him to be “the greatest of the creations of God.” … The genius of Napoleon is astounding. All branches of human knowledge
seemed alike familiar to his gigantic mind.
In the book Abbott hopes to “take the reader to St. Helena, and to introduce him to the humble apartment of the Emperor”, to “give him a seat in the arm-chair, by the side of the illustrious sufferer reclining upon the sofa”, and to “lead him to accompany the Emperor in his walk among the blackened rocks, and thus to listen to the glowing utterances of the imperial sage.”
After his exile (and indeed before) Napoleon garnered much support from the English speaking world. There was sympathy for him in the British Parliament, particularly from Lord Holland who delivered a speech that demanded the prisoner be treated with no unnecessary harshness. Lord Cochrane was also a big supporter and, involved in the struggles for independence in Chile and Brazil, wanted to rescue Napoleon and help him set up a new empire in South America. There were reportedly many plots to rescue him from his captivity on St Helena. One such scheme originated in Texas, where exiled soldiers from the Grande Armée wanted a resurrection of the Napoleonic Empire in America. Another plan was said to have involved an ambitious submarine-based bust led by the infamous British smuggler Tom Johnson, who claimed to have been offered £40,000 to carry out the plan. Needless to say none were successful, and on May 5, 1821, Napoleon died. The official death certificate stated stomach cancer, though many believed the real cause was the harsh treatment he received for years in the hands of his custodian and “gaoler”, Hudson Lowe, who moved Napoleon in December 1816 to the damp and dilapidated Longwood House. Some even say he was poisoned by arsenic, though a recent medical study implied that the original diagnosis of stomach cancer was most likely correct.
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