QUEBEC-RESEARCH-L ArchivesArchiver > QUEBEC-RESEARCH > 2004-12 > 1102530725
Date: Wed, 8 Dec 2004 13:32:05 EST
Memoirs of bad speller Napoleon hit auction record
PARIS (Reuters) - Two hundred years after he crowned himself emperor of
France, a handwritten draft of Napoleon Bonaparte's memoirs -- littered with
spelling mistakes -- have fetched
record price at auction in Paris.
Thirteen pages in Napoleon's own hand, describing the triumphs and defeats --
military and political -- of the diminutive military genius at the dawn of
the 19th century, went to a Swiss collector for 250,000 euros (172,000 pounds)
The memoirs reveal what numerous corrections and a vivacious writing style
could not disguise -- that the commander of Grande Armee that subdued most of
continental Europe had a less than total command of the French language.
The Corsican's spelling was atrocious.
The memoirs were written in exile between 1817 and 1820 on St Helena, a
remote, windswept island in the south Atlantic to which the British dispatched
Napoleon following his defeat by Allied forces at the battle of Waterloo in June
"The (memoirs) are extraordinary. He manages to remember what the battle
sites looked like, 20 years after the event," auctioneer Eric Buffetaud said.
The document lingers over the French defeat at the siege of Genoa in 1800 and
describes the attempts at a breakout by General Andre Massena, a future
Marshal of France.
Based on the draft, Napoleon's memoirs were published in 1823, two years
after his death. It appears, however, that the publishers took little account of
Napoleon's own corrections and comments made in the margins, most of which
Also sold on Tuesday, for 111,000 euros, was a 12-page manuscript of
Napoleon's will, taken in dictation by his aide Count Charles Tristan de Montholon
but corrected in the ex-emperor's own hand.
"I am dying before my time, murdered by the English oligarchy and their hired
assassin. The English people will not delay in avenging me," Napoleon
"To put it in context, they were at Longwood in Saint Helena," said
auctioneer Alexis Velliet. "Napoleon thinks he is going to die, he calls Monthalon,
they locked themselves in and Napoleon dictates to Monthalon his last will,
with changes and corrections. It's that which is amazing."
Many historians accept the diagnosis of Napoleon's personal doctor that he
died in 1821 of stomach cancer -- the same disease that had killed his father.
Conspiracy theorists suspect he was poisoned with arsenic by an envoy of King
Louis 18th, who feared the emperor might make another return from exile.