Love has not escaped any – just like it didn’t escape Napolean Bonaparte. Read his letters d’amour here.
Napoleon Bonaparte, whom we all know as the French leader who conquered territories and build a large empire in the 19th century. His influence in the political affairs of the world was extremely powerful. You know a lot about him as numbers of volumes have been written about his life. But did you know about the softer side of Napoleon Bonaparte?
Napoleon had two wives, Joséphine de Beauharnais and Marie Louise. He had many mistresses and these mistresses bore him children as well. He had no children from Josephine (Josephine had her own children from her first marriage) and had one son from Marie.
Josephine was known to have an affair with a lieutenant named Hippolyte Charles, which Napoleon knew about. He too had many affairs out of which one was with Pauline Foures who came to be known as his ‘Cleopatra’.
Napoleon and Josephine divorced but he showed his love for her throughout his life. Here are some of the letters Napoleon wrote Josephine:
“My waking thoughts are all of thee. Your portrait and the
remembrance of last night’s delirium have robbed my senses of
repose. Sweet and incomparable Josephine, what an extra-
ordinary influence you have over my heart. Are you vexed ?
do I see you sad ? are you ill at ease ? My soul is broken with
grief, and there is no rest for your lover. But is there more for
me when, delivering ourselves up to the deep feelings which master
me, I breathe out upon your lips, upon your heart, a flame which
burns me up ah, it was this past night I realised that your por-
trait was not you. You start at noon ; I shall see you in three
hours. Meanwhile, mw dolce amor, accept a thousand kisses, 1
but give me none, for they fire my blood. N. B.”
“I have received all your letters, but none has affected me like
the last. How can you think, my charmer, of writing me in
such terms ? Do you believe that my position is not already
painful enough without further increasing my regrets and sub-
verting my reason. What eloquence, what feelings you portray ;
they are of fire, they inflame my poor heart ! My unique Jose-
phine, away from you there is no more joy away from thee the
world is a wilderness, in which I stand alone, and without experi-
encing the bliss of unburdening my soul. You have robbed me
of more than my soul ; you are the one only thought of my life.
When I am weary of the worries of my profession, when I mis-
trust the issue, when men disgust me, when I am ready to curse
my life, I put my hand on my heart where your portrait beats in
unison. I look at it, and love is for me complete happiness ; and
everything laughs for joy, except the time during which I find
myself absent from my beloved.
By what art have you learnt how to captivate all my facul-
ties, to concentrate in yourself my spiritual existence it is
witchery, dear love, which will end only with me. To live
for Josephine, that is the history of my life. I am struggling
to get near you, I am dying to be by your side ; fool that I am,
I fail to realise how far off I am, that lands and provinces sepa-
rate us. What an age it will be before you read these lines, the
weak expressions of the fevered soul in which you reign. Ah, my
winsome wife, I know not what fate awaits me, but if it keeps
me much longer from you it will be unbearable my strength
will not last out. There was a time in which I prided myself
on my strength, and, sometimes, when casting my eyes on the
ills which men might do me, on the fate that destiny might have in
store for me, I have gazed steadfastly on the most incredible mis-
fortunes without a wrinkle on my brow or a vestige of surprise :
but to-day the thought that my Josephine might be ill ; and,
above all, the cruel, the fatal thought that she might love me less,
blights my soul, stops my blood, makes me wretched and dejected,
without even leaving me the courage of fury and despair. I
often used to say that men have no power over him who dies without regrets
but, to-day, to die without your love, to
die in uncertainty of that, is the torment of hell, it is a lifelike
and terrifying figure of absolute annihilation I feel passion
strangling me. My unique companion ! you whom Fate has
destined to walk with me the painful path of life ! the day on
which I no longer possess your heart will be that on which
parched Nature will be for me without warmth and without
vegetation. I stop, dear love ! my soul is sad, my body tired,
my spirit dazed, men worry me I ought indeed to detest them ;
they keep me from my beloved.
I am at Port Maurice, near Oneille ; to-morrow I shall be
at Albenga. The two armies are in motion. We are trying to
deceive each other victory to the most skilful ! I am pretty
well satisfied with Beaulieu ; he need be a much stronger man
than his predecessor to alarm me much. I expect to give him
a good drubbing. Don’t be anxious ; love me as thine eyes, but
that is not enough ; as thyself, more than thyself ; as thy
thoughts, thy mind, thy sight, thy all. Dear love, forgive me,
I am exhausted ; nature is weak for him who feels acutely, for
him whom you inspire. N. B. “
“For a month I have only received from my dear love two
letters of three lines each. Is she so busy, that writing to her
dear love is not then needful for her, nor, consequently, thinking
about him ? To live without thinking of Josephine would be
death and annihilation to your husband. Your image gilds my
fancies, and enlivens the black and sombre picture of melancholy
and grief. A day perhaps may come in which I shall see you,
for I doubt not you will be still at Paris, and verily on that day I
will show you my pockets stuffed with letters that I have not
sent you because they are too foolish (bete}. Yes, that’s the
word. Good heavens ! tell me, you who know so well how
to make others love you without being in love yourself, do you
know how to cure me of love ? ? ? I will give a good price for
You ought to have started on May 24th. Being good-natured,
I waited till June ist, as if a pretty woman would give up her
habits, her friends, both Madame Tallien and a dinner with
Barras, and the acting of a new play, and Fortune ; yes, Fortune^
whom you love much more than your husband, for whom you
have only a little of the esteem, and a share of that benevolence
with which your heart abounds. Every day I count up your
misdeeds. I lash myself to fury in order to love you no more.
Bah, don^t I love you the more ? In fact, my peerless little mother,
I will tell you my secret. Set me at defiance, stay at Paris, have
lovers let everybody know it never write me a monosyllable !
then I shall love you ten times more for it ; and it is not folly,
a delirious fever ! and I shall not get the better of it. Oh! would
to heaven I could get better ! but don’t tell me you are ill, don’t
try to justify yourself. Good heavens ! you are pardoned. I
love you to distraction, and never will my poor heart cease to give
all for love. If you did not love me, my fate would be indeed
grotesque. You have not written me ; you are ill, you do not
come. But you have passed Lyons ; you will be at Turin on the
28th, at Milan on the 3Oth, where you will wait for me. You
will be in Italy, and I shall be still far from you. Adieu, my
well-beloved ; a kiss on thy mouth, another on thy heart.
We have made peace with Rome who gives us money.
To-morrow we shall be at Leghorn, and as soon as I can in your
arms, at your feet, on your bosom. “
“My Dear, The enemy has lost 1 8,000 men prisoners ; the
rest killed or wounded. Wurmser, with a column of 1 500 cavalry,
and 500 infantry, has no resource but to throw himself into
Never have we had successes so unvarying and so great.
Italy, Friuli, the Tyrol, are assured to the Republic. The
Emperor will have to create a second army : artillery, pontoons,
baggage, everything is taken.
In a few days we shall meet ; it is the sweetest reward for
my labours and anxieties.
A thousand fervent and very affectionate kisses.
“I get to Milan ; I fling myself into your room ; I have left
all in order to see you, to clasp you in my arms. . . . You were
not there. You gad about the towns amid junketings ; you run
farther from me when I am at hand ; you care no longer for
your dear Napoleon. A passing fancy made you love him ;
fickleness renders him indifferent to you.
Used to perils, I know the remedy for weariness and the ills
of life. The ill-luck that I now suffer is past all calculations ; I
did right not to anticipate it.
I shall be here till the evening of the 20th. Don’t alter your
plans ; have your fling of pleasure ; happiness was invented for
you. The whole world is only too happy if it can please you,
and only your husband is very, very unhappy.
The love Bonaparte had for his wife is evident from these letters. However, in his letters he is often complaining to Josephine about not writing him back for days – perhaps Josephine had found pleasure in another man or maybe she was ill.
These letters show a life of love, war and distance. You can read more letters here in Henry Foljambe Hall’s book.