The Empress Josephine
Part 6 out of 10
courier no longer than six hours; then let him return, that he may
bring me a letter from my sovereign. N. B."
These were the first letters which Josephine received from her
loving, tender husband. They are a splendid monument of affection
with which love adorns the solitary grave of the departed empress;
and surely in the dark hours of her life, the remembrance of these
days of happiness, of these letters so full of passionate ardor,
must have alleviated the bitterness of her grief and given her the
consolation that at least she was once loved as perhaps no other
woman on earth can boast! All these letters of Bonaparte, during the
days of his first prosperity, and of his earnest cravings, Josephine
had carefully gathered; they were to be, amid the precious and
costly treasures which the future was to lay at her feet, the most
glorious and most prized, and which she preserved with sacred
loyalty as long as she lived.
This is the reason that, out of all the letters which Bonaparte
wrote to Josephine during long years, not one is lost; that there is
no gap in the correspondence, and that we can with complete
certainty, from week to week and year to year, follow the relations
which existed between them, and that the thermometer can be placed
on Bonaparte's heart to observe how by degrees the heat diminishes,
the warmth of passion disappears into the cool temperature of a
quiet friendship, and how it never sinks to cold indifference, even
when Josephine had to yield to the young and proud daughter of
Austria, and give up her place at the side of the emperor.
Of all the letters of Josephine to Bonaparte, which were now so
glowing that they seemed to devour him with flames of fire and
bewildered his senses, and then so cold and indifferent that they
caused the chill of death to pass over his frame--of all these, not
one has been preserved to posterity. Perhaps the Emperor Napoleon
destroyed them; when in the Tuileries he received Josephine's
successor, his second wife, and when he endeavored to destroy in his
own proud heart the memory of the beautiful, happy past, he there
destroyed those letters, that they might return to dust, even as his
own love had returned.
JOSEPHINE IN ITALY.
Bonaparte's letter, which the courier brought to Josephine, found
her recovered, and ready to follow her husband's call, and go to
Milan. But she was deprived of one precious and joyous hope: the
child, which Bonaparte so much envied because it would pass many
years in Josephine's arms, was never to be born.
In the last days of the month of June Josephine arrived in Milan.
Her whole journey had been one uninterrupted triumph. In Turin, at
the court of the King of Sardinia, she had received the homage of
the people as if she were the wife of a mighty ruler; and wherever
she went, she was received with honors and distinction. To Turin
Bonaparte had sent before him one of his adjutants, General Marmont,
afterward Duke de Ragusa, to convey to her his kindest regards and
to accompany her with a military escort as far as Milan. In the
palace de Serbelloni, his residence in Milan, adorned as for a
feast, Bonaparte received her with a countenance radiant with joy
and happy smiles such as seldom brightened his pale, gloomy
But Bonaparte had neither much time nor leisure to devote to his
domestic happiness, to his long-expected reunion with Josephine.
Only three days could the happy lover obtain from the restless
commander; then he had to tear himself away from his sweet repose,
to carry on further the deadly strife which he had begun in Italy
against Austria--which had decided not to give away one foot of
Lombardy without a struggle--and not to submit to the conqueror of
Lodi. A new army was marched into Italy under the command of General
Wurmser, the same against whom, three years before, on the shores of
the Rhine, Alexandre de Beauharnais had fought in vain. At the head
of sixty thousand men Wurmser moved into Italy to relieve Mantua,
besieged by the French.
This alarming news awoke Bonaparte out of his dream of love, and
neither Josephine's tears nor prayers could keep him back. He sent
couriers to Paris, to implore from the Directory fresh troops and
more money, to continue the campaign. The Directory answered him
with the proposition to divide the army of Italy into two columns,
one of which would act under the commander-in-chief, General
Kellermann, the other under Bonaparte.
But this proposition, which the jealous Directory made for the sake
of breaking the growing power of Bonaparte, only served to lift him
a step higher in his path to the brilliant career which he alone, in
the depths of his heart, had traced, and the secret of which his
closed lips would reveal to no one.
Bonaparte's answer to this proposition of the Directory was, that if
the power were to be divided, he could only refuse the half of this
division, and would retire entirely from command.
He wrote to Carnot: "It is a matter of indifference to me whether I
carry on the war here or elsewhere. To serve my country, and deserve
from posterity one page of history, is all my ambition! If both I
and Kellermann command in Italy, then all is lost. General
Kellermann has more experience than I, and will carry on the war
more ably. But the matter can only be badly managed if we both
command. It is no pleasure for me to serve with a man whom Europe
considers the first general of the age."
Carnot showed this letter to the Directory, and declared that if
Bonaparte were to be given up, he would himself resign his position
of secretary of war. The Directory was not prepared to accept this
twofold responsibility, and they sacrificed Kellermann to the
threats of Napoleon and Carnot.
General Bonaparte was confirmed in his position of commander-in-
chief of the army in Italy, even for the future, and the conduct of
the war was left in his hands alone.
With this fresh triumph over his enemies at home, Bonaparte marched
from Milan to fight the re-enforced enemy of France in Italy.
On this new war-path, amid dangers and conflicts, the tumults of the
fight, the noise of the camp, the confusion of the bivouac, the
young general did not for one moment forget the wife he so
passionately loved. Nearly every day he wrote to her, and those
letters, which were often written between the dictation of the
battle's plan, the dispatches to the Directory, and the impending
conflict, were faithful waymarks, whose directions it is easy to
follow, and thus trace the whole successful course of the hero of
To refer here to Bonaparte's letters to Josephine, implies at once
the mention of Bonaparte's deeds and of Josephine's happiness. The
first letter which he wrote after the interview in Milan is from
Roverbella, and it tells her in a few words that he has just now
beaten the foe, and that he is going to Verona. The second is also
short and hastily written, but is full of many delicate assurances
of love, and also that he has met and defeated the foe at Verona.
The third letter is from Marmirolo, and shows that Bonaparte,
notwithstanding his constant changes of position, had taken the
precautions that Josephine's letters should everywhere follow him;
for in Marmirolo he received one, and this tender letter filled him
with so much joy, thanks, and longings, that, in virtue of it, he
forgets conquests and triumphs entirely, and is only the longing,
tender lover. He writes:
"MARMIROLO, the 29th Messidor, 9 in the evening "(July 17), 1796.
"I am just now in receipt of your letter, my adored one; it has
filled my heart with joy. I am thankful for the pains you have taken
to send me news about yourself; with your improved health, all will
be well; I am convinced that you have now recovered. I would impress
upon you the duty of riding often; this will be a healthy exercise
"Since I left you I am forever sorrowful. My happiness consists in
being near you. Constantly does my memory renew your kisses, your
tears, your amiable jealousy; and the charms of the incomparable
Josephine kindle incessantly a burning flame within my heart and
throughout my senses. When shall I, free from all disturbance and
care, pass all my moments with you, and have nothing to do but to
love, nothing to think of but the happiness to tell it and prove it
to you? I am going to send you your horse, and I trust you will soon
be able to be with me. A few days ago I thought I loved you, but
since I have seen you again, I feel that I love you a thousand times
more. Since I knew you, I worship you more and more every day; this
proves the falsity of La Bruyere's maxim, which says that love
springs up all at once. Every thing in nature has its growth in
different degrees. Ah, I implore you, let me see some of your
faults; be then less beautiful, less graceful, less tender, less
good; especially be never tender, never weep: your tears deprive me
of my reason, and change my blood into fire. Believe me, that it is
not in my power to have a single thought which concerns you not, or
an idea which is not subservient to you.
"Keep very quiet. Recover soon your health. Come to me, that at
least before dying we may say, 'We were happy so many, many days!'
"Millions of kisses even for Fortune, notwithstanding its
naughtiness. [Footnote: Fortune was that little peevish dog which,
when Josephine was in prison, served as love-messenger between her
and her children.] BONAPARTE."
But this letter, full of tenderness and warmth, is not yet enough
for the ardent lover; it does not express sufficiently his longing,
his love. The very next day, from the same quarters of Marmirolo, he
writes something like a postscript to the missive of the previous
day. He tells her that he has made an attack upon Mantua, but that a
sudden fall of the waters of the lake had delayed his troops already
embarked, and that this day he is going to try again in some other
way; that the enemy a few days past had made a sortie and killed a
few hundred men, but that they themselves, with considerable loss,
had to retreat rapidly into the fortress, and that three Neapolitan
regiments had entered Brescia. But between each of these sentences
intervene some strong assurance of his love, some tender or
flattering words; and finally, at the end of the letter, comes the
principal object, the cause why it was written. The tender lover
wanted some token from his beloved: it is not enough for him always
to carry her portrait and her letters, he must also have a lock of
her hair. He writes:
"I have lost my snuffbox; I pray you find me another, somewhat more
flat, and pray have something pretty written upon it, with a lock of
your hair. A thousand burning kisses, since you are so cold, love
unbounded, and faithfulness beyond all proof."
Two days afterward he writes again from Marmirolo, at first hastily,
a few words about the war, then he comes to the main point. He has
been guilty, toward Josephine, of a want of politeness, and, with
all the tenderness and humility of a lover, he asks forgiveness. Her
pardon and her constant tardiness in answering his letters, are to
him more weighty matters than all the battles and victories of his
restless camp-life, and therefore he begins at once with a complaint
at his separation from her.
"MARMIROLO, the 1st Thermidor, Year IV. (July 19, 1796.) "For the
last two days I am without letters from you. This remark I have
repeated thirty times; you feel that this for me is sad. You cannot,
however, doubt of the tenderness and undivided solicitude with which
you inspire me."
"We attacked Mantua yesterday. We opened upon it, from two
batteries, a fire of shells and red-hot balls. The whole night the
unfortunate city was burning. The spectacle was terrible and
sublime. We have taken possession of numerous outworks, and we open
the trenches to-night. To-morrow we make our headquarters at
Castiglione, and think of passing the night there."
"I have received a courier from Paris. He brought two letters for
you: I have read them. Though this action seems to me very simple,
as you gave me permission so to do, yet, I fear, it will annoy you,
and that troubles me exceedingly. I wanted at first to seal them
over again; but, pshaw! that would have been horrible. If I am
guilty, I beg your pardon. I swear to you I did it not through
jealousy; no, certainly not; I have of my adored one too high an
opinion to indulge in such a feeling. I wish you would once for all
allow me to read your letters; then I should not have any twittings
of conscience or fear."
"Achilles, the courier, has arrived from Milan; no letter from my
adored one! Farewell, my sole happiness! When will you come, and be
with me? I shall have to fetch you from Milan myself."
"A thousand kisses, burning as my heart, pure as yours!"
"I have sent for the courier; he says he was at your residence, and
that you had nothing to say, nothing to order! Fie! wicked, hateful,
cruel tyrant!--pretty little monster! You laugh at my threats and my
madness; ah, you know very well that if I could shut you up in my
heart, I would keep you there a prisoner."
"Let me know that you are cheerful, right well, and loving!"
But Josephine seems not to have answered this letter as Napoleon
desired. She knew that it was nothing but unfounded jealousy which
had induced him to read the letters sent to her, and to punish him
for this jealousy she forbade him to read her letters in the future.
But while she reproached him in a jesting manner, and punished him
for this jealousy, she, herself, with all the inconsistency of a
lover, fell into the same fault, and could not hide from him the
jealous fears which the ladies from Brescia, especially the
beautiful Madame de Te----, had created within her mind. Bonaparte
answered this letter as general, lover, and husband; he gives an
account of his war operations, submits to her will as a lover, and
commands her as a husband to come to him in Brescia.
"CASTIGLIONE, the 4th Thermidor, Year IV. (July 22, 1796).
"The wants of the army require my presence in these parts; it is
impossible for me to go so far away as Milan; it would require for
that purpose five or six days, and during that time circumstances
might arise which would make my presence here absolutely necessary.
"You assure me that your health is now good; consequently, I pray
you to come to Brescia. At this moment I am sending Murat into the
city to prepare you such a house as you wish.
"I believe that you can very well sleep in Cassano on the 6th, if
you leave Milan late, so as to be in Brescia on the 7th, where the
most tender of lovers awaits you. I am in despair that you can
believe, my dear friend, that my heart can be drawn toward any one
but yourself; it belongs to you by right of conquest, and will be
enduring and ever-lasting. I do not understand why you speak of
Madame de Te----. I trouble myself no more about her than any other
woman in Brescia. Since it annoys you that I open your letters, the
enclosed one will be the last that I open; your letter did not reach
me till after I had opened this.
"Farewell, my tender one; send me often your news. Break up at once
and come to me, and be happy without disquietude; all is well, and
my heart belongs to you for life.
"Be sure to return to the Adjutant Miollis the box of medallions
which, as he writes, he has given you. There are so many babbling
and bad tongues, that it is necessary to be always on one's guard.
"Health, love, and speedy arrival in Brescia!
"I have in Milan a carriage which is suited for city and country;
use it on your journey. Bring your silver and a few necessary
things. Travel by short stages, and during the cool of the morning
and evening, so as not to weary you too much. The troops need only
three days to reach Brescia, a distance of fourteen miles. I beg of
you to pass the night of the 6th in Cassano; on the 7th I will come
to meet you as far as possible.
"Farewell, my Josephine; a thousand tender kisses!
Josephine gladly obeyed the wishes of her husband, and exactly on
the 7th Thermidor (July 25) she entered Brescia. Bonaparte had
ridden an hour's distance to meet her, and, amid the shouts of the
population, he led her in triumph into the house prepared for her
Three days were allowed to the general to enjoy his happiness and
Josephine's presence. On the 28th of July he received the
intelligence that Wurmser was advancing, and that he was in
Marmirolo. At once Bonaparte broke up from Brescia, to meet him and
Brescia was no longer a dwelling-place for Josephine now that the
enemy threatened it; she therefore accompanied her husband, and the
effeminate creole, the tender Parisian, accustomed to all the
comforts of life, the lady surrounded by numerous attendants in
Milan, saw herself at once obliged, as the true wife of a soldier,
to share with her husband all the hardships, inconveniences, and
dangers of a campaign.
The news of the advance of the Austrians became more and more
precise. No sooner had Bonaparte arrived in Peschiera with his
Josephine, than he learned that Montevaldo was attacked by the
enemy. In great haste they pursued their journey; the next day they
reached Verona, but Wurmser had been equally swift in his movements,
and on the heights surrounding Verona were seen the light troops of
Even a serious skirmish at the outposts took place, and Josephine,
against her will, had to be the witness of this horrible, cannibal
murder, which we are pleased to call war.
Bonaparte, who had preceded his army, was forced to retreat from
Verona, and went with Josephine to Castel Nuovo, where the majority
of his troops were stationed. But it was a fearful journey, beset
with dangers. Everywhere on the road lay the dying and the wounded
who had remained behind after the different conflicts, and who with
difficulty were crawling along to meet the army. Josephine's
sensitive heart was painfully moved by the spectacle of these
sufferings and these bleeding wounds. Napoleon noticed it on her
pale cheeks and trembling lips, and in the tears which stood in her
eyes. Besides which, a great battle was at hand, threatening her
with new horrors. To guard her from them, Bonaparte made another
sacrifice to his love, and resolved to part from her.
She was to return to Brescia, while Napoleon, with his army, would
meet the foe. With a thousand assurances of love, and the most
tender vows, he took leave of Josephine, and she mastered herself so
as to repress her anxiety and timidity, and to appear collected and
brave. With a smile on her lip she bade him farewell, and began the
journey, accompanied by a few well-armed horsemen, whom Bonaparte,
in the most stringent terms, commanded not to leave his wife's
carriage for an instant, and in case of attack to defend her with
At first the journey was attended with no danger, and Josephine's
heart began to beat with less anxiety; she already believed herself
in safety. Suddenly, from a neighboring coppice, there rushed out a
division of the enemy's cavalry; already were distinctly heard the
shouts and cries with which they dashed toward the advancing
carriage. To oppose this vast number of assailants was not to be
thought of; only the most rapid flight could save them.
The carriage was turned; the driver jumped upon the horses, and, in
a mad gallop, onward it sped. To the swiftness of the horses
Josephine owed her escape. She reached headquarters safely, and was
received by Bonaparte with loud demonstrations of joy at her
But Josephine had not the strength to conceal the anxiety of her
heart, her fears and alarms. These horrible scenes of war, the sight
of the wounded, the dangers she had lately incurred, the fearful
preparations for fresh murders and massacres--all this troubled her
mind so violently that she lost at once all courage and composure. A
nervous trembling agitated her whole frame, and, not being able to
control her agony, she broke into loud weeping.
Bonaparte embraced her tenderly, and as he kissed the tears from her
cheeks, he cried out, with a threatening flash in his eyes, "Wurmser
will pay dearly for the tears he has caused!" [Footnote: Bonaparte's
words.--"Memorial de Ste. Helene," vol. i., p. 174.]
It was, however, a fortunate accident that the enemy's cavalry had
hindered Josephine from reaching Brescia. A quarter of an hour after
her return to headquarters the news arrived that the Austrians had
advanced into Brescia. Meanwhile Josephine had already regained all
her courage and steadfastness; she declared herself ready to abide
by her husband, to bear with him the dangers and the fatigues of the
campaign; that she wished to be with him, as it behooved the wife of
But Bonaparte felt that her company would cripple his courage and
embarrass his movements. Josephine once more had to leave him, so
that the tender lover might not disturb the keen commanding general,
and that his head and not his heart might decide the necessary
He persuaded Josephine to leave him, and to retire into one of the
central cities of Italy. She acceded to his wishes, and travelled
away toward Florence. But, to reach that city, it was necessary to
pass Mantua, which the French were investing. Her road passed near
the walls of the besieged city, and one of the balls, which were
whizzing around the carriage, struck one of the soldiers of her
escort and wounded him mortally. It was a dangerous, fearful
journey--war's confusion everywhere, wild shouts, fleeing,
complaining farmers, constant cries of distress, anxiety, and want.
But Josephine had armed her heart with great courage and resolution;
she shrank from no danger, she overcame it all; she already had an
undaunted confidence in her husband's destiny, and believed in the
star of his prosperity.
And this star led her on happily through all dangers, and protected
her throughout this reckless and daring journey. Through Bologna and
Ferrara, she came at last to Lucca; there to rest a few days from
her hardships and anxieties. There, in Lucca, she was to experience
the proud satisfaction of being witness of the deep confidence which
had struck root in the heart of the Italians, in reference to the
success of the French commander-in-chief. Though it was well known
that Wurmser, with a superior force, was advancing against General
Bonaparte, and his hungry, tattered troops, and that they were on
the eve of a battle which, according to all appearances, promised to
Napoleon a complete defeat, and to the Austrians a decisive victory,
the town of Lucca was not afraid to give to the wife of Bonaparte a
grand and public reception. The senate of Lucca received her with
all the marks of distinction shown only to princesses; the senate
came to her in official ceremony, and brought her as a gift of
honor, in costly gold flasks, the produce of their land, the fine
oil of Lucca.
Josephine received these marks of honor with that grace and
amiability with which she won all hearts, and, with her enchanting
smile, thanking the senators, she told them, with all the confidence
of a lover, that her victorious husband would, for the magnificent
hospitality thus shown her, manifest his gratitude to the town of
Lucca by the prosperity and liberty which he was ready to conquer
This confidence was shortly to be justified. No sooner had Josephine
arrived in Florence, whither she had come from Lucca, than the news
of the victory of the French army, commanded by her husband, reached
Suddenly abandoning the siege of Mantua, Bonaparte had gathered
together all his forces, and with them he dealt blow after blow upon
the three divisions of the army corps of Wurmser, until he had
completely defeated them. The battles of Lonato and Castiglione were
the fresh trophies of his fame. On the 10th of August Bonaparte made
his victorious entry into Brescia, which only twelve days before he
had been suddenly obliged to abandon with his Josephine, to whom he
had then been barely reunited, and was still luxuriating in the
bliss of her presence.
Bonaparte had fulfilled his word: he had revenged Josephine, and
Wurmser had indeed paid dearly for the tears which he had caused
Josephine to shed!
But after these days of storm and danger, the two lovers were to
enjoy a few weeks of mutual happiness and of splendid triumphs.
Josephine had returned from Florence to Milan, and thither Bonaparte
came also in the middle of August, to rest in her arms after his
battles and victories.
BONAPARTE AND JOSEPHINE IN MILAN.
The days of armistice which Bonaparte passed in Milan were
accompanied by festivities, enjoyments, and triumphs of all kinds.
All Milan and Lombardy streamed forth to present their homage to the
deliverer of Italy and to his charming, gracious wife; to give
feasts in their honor, to praise them in enthusiastic songs, to
celebrate their fame in concerts, serenades, and illuminations.
The palace Serbelloni served Italy's deliverer once more as a
residence, and it was well calculated for this on account of its
vastness and elegance. This was one of the most beautiful buildings
among the palaces of Milan. Over its massive lower structure, and
its rez-de chaussee of red granite, sparkling in the sun with its
play of many colors, arose bold and steep its light and graceful
facade. The interior of this beautiful palace of the Dukes of
Serbelloni was adorned with all the splendors which sculpture and
painting gathered into the palaces of the Italian nobility.
In those halls, whose roofs were richly decorated and gilded, and
supported by white columns of marble, and whose walls were covered
with those splendid and enormous mirrors which the republic of
Venice alone then manufactured; and from whose tall windows hung
down in long, heavy folds curtains of purple velvet, embroidered
with gold, the work of the famous artisans of Milan--in those
brilliant halls the happy couple, Bonaparte and Josephine, received
the deputies of applauding Italy and the high aristocracy of all
An eye-witness thus describes a reception-evening in the Serbelloni
palace: "The hall in which the general received his visitors was a
long gallery divided by marble columns into three smaller rooms; the
two extreme divisions formed two large drawing-rooms, perfectly
square, and the middle partition formed a long and wide promenade
apartment. In the drawing-room, into which I entered, was Madame
Bonaparte, the beautiful Madame Visconti, Madame Leopold Berthier,
and Madame Ivan. Under the arches, at the entrance of the middle
room, stood the general; around him, but at a distance, the chiefs
of the war department, the magistrates of the city, with a few
ministers of the Italian governments, all in respectful attitude
before him. Nothing seemed to be more striking than the bearing of
this little man among the dignitaries overawed by his character. His
attitude had nothing of pride, but it had the dignity of a man
conscious of his worth, and who feels that he is in the right place.
Bonaparte tried not to increase his stature, so as to be on the same
level with those around him; they already spared him that trouble,
and bowed to him. None of those who conversed with him appeared
taller than he. Berthier, Silmaine, Clarke, Augerean, awaited
silently till he should address them, an honor which this evening
was not conferred upon all. Never were headquarters so much like a
court: they were the prelude to the Tuileries." [Footnote: Arnold,
"Souvenirs d'un Sexagenaire," vol. iii., p. 10.]
To Milan came the ambassadors of princes, of the free cities, and of
the Italian republics. They all claimed Bonaparte's assistance and
protection; they came bearers of good-will, of utterances of hope
and fear, and expecting from him help and succor. The princes
trembled for their thrones; the cities and republics for their
independence; they wanted to conciliate by their submission the
general whose sword could either threaten them all or give them
ample protection. Bonaparte received this homage with the composure
of a protector, and sometimes also with the proud reserve of a
He granted to the Duke of Parma the protection which he had sought,
and permitted him to remain on his territory as prince and ruler,
though the strongest expostulations had been made to Bonaparte on
"He is a Bourbon," they said; "he must no longer rule."
"He is an unfortunate man," replied Bonaparte, proudly; "it is not
worth while to attack him. If we leave him on his lands, he will
rule only in our name; if we drive him away, he will be weaving
intrigues everywhere. Let him remain where he is, I wish him no
wrong; his presence can be useful, his absence would surely he
"But he is a Bourbon, citizen general, a Bourbon!" exclaimed
Augereau, with animation.
Bonaparte's countenance darkened, and his brow was overspread with
frowns. "Well, then," cried he, with threatening tone, "he is a
Bourbon! Is he therefore by nature of so despicable a family?
Because three Bourbons have been killed in France, must we therefore
hunt down all the others? I cannot approve of proscriptions which
thus fall upon a whole family, a whole class of people. An absurd
law has prohibited all the nobles from serving the republic, and yet
Barras is in the Directory, and I am at the head of the army in
Italy. We are consequently liable to punishment in virtue of your
absurd and cruel system! Hunt down those who do wrong, but not
masses who are innocent. Can you punish Paris and France for the
crimes of the sans-culottes? The Bourbons are, it is said, the
enemies of freedom; they have been led to the scaffold under the
action of a right which I do not acknowledge. The Duke of Parma is
weak, and a poltroon,--he will not stir. His people seem to love
him, for we are here, and they rise not, they utter no complaint.
Let him, then, continue to rule as long as he pays all that I exact
from him." [Footnote: Napoleon's words.--See Hazlitt, "Histoire de
Napoleon," vol. v., p. 1.]
Thanks to the good-will and protection of the republican general,
the Duke of Parma remained on his little throne--on the same throne
which was one day to be to Napoleon's second wife a compensation for
her lost imperial crown. The Empress of France was to become a
Duchess of Parma; and now to her husband, the present general of the
republic, the actual Duke of Parma was indebted that his little
dukedom was not converted into a republic.
It is true that the duke had to pay dearly for the protection which
Bonaparte granted. He had to pay a war-subsidy of two million
francs, and, besides, give from his collection his most beautiful
painting, that of St. Jerome by Correggio, for the Museum of the
Louvre in Paris. [Footnote: This splendid picture is now in the
Vatican at Rome.] The duke, as a lover of art, was more distressed
at the loss of this picture than at the enormous contribution he had
to pay; for he soon caused the proposition to be made to General
Bonaparte, to redeem from the French government that painting, for
the sum of two hundred thousand francs, a proposition which
Bonaparte, without any further consultation with the authorities in
Paris, rejected with some degree of irritation.
The Duke of Parma remained therefore the sovereign of his duchy,
because it so pleased Bonaparte; but Bonaparte was led into error
when he thought that, as his people rebelled not, they therefore
loved their duke, and were satisfied with him. The women and the
priests controlled entirely the feeble duke; and not only the
people, but the better classes and the aristocracy, submitted to all
this with great unwillingness. Once, when Joseph Bonaparte, whom the
French republic had sent to give assurance of protection and
recognition to the little Duke of Parma, was walking with a few
cavaliers in the gardens around the duke's palace in Colorno, he
expressed his admiration at the symmetry and beauty of the
"That is true," was the answer, "but just look at the buildings of
the neighboring cloister! do you not see how superior that dwelling
is to that of the sovereign? Wretched is the country where this can
take place!" [Footnote: "Memoires du Roi Joseph," vol. i., p. 65.]
Even the representatives of the republic of Venice came to
Bonaparte. They came not only to secure his friendship, but also to
complain that the French army, in its advance upon Brescia, had done
injury to the neutral territory of Venice.
Bonaparte directed at them a look of imperious severity, and,
instead of laying stress on their neutrality, he asked in a sharp
tone, "Are you for us, or against us?"
"Signor, we are neutral, and--"
"Do not be neutral," interrupted Bonaparte, with vehemence, "be
strong, otherwise your friendship is useful to none."
And, with imperious tone, he reproached them for the vacillating,
perfidious conduct which, since 1792, had been the policy of Venice,
and he threatened to punish and destroy that republic if she did not
immediately prove herself to be the loyal friend of the French.
While Bonaparte used the few short weeks of rest to bring Italy more
and more under the yoke of France, it was Josephine's privilege to
draw to herself and toward her husband the minds of the Italians, to
win their hearts to her husband, and through him to the French
republic, which he represented. She did this with all the grace and
affability, all the genial tact and large-heartedness of a noble
heart, which were the attributes of her beautiful and amiable
person. She was unwearied in well-doing, in listening to all the
petitions with which she was approached; she had for every complaint
and every request an open ear; she not only promised to every
applicant her intercession, but she made him presents, and was ever
ready, by solicitations, flatteries, and expostulations, and, if
necessary, even with tears, to entreat from her husband a mitigation
of the punishment and sentence which he had decided upon in his just
severity; and seldom had Bonaparte the courage to oppose her wishes.
These were for Josephine glorious days of love and triumph. She
depicts them herself in a letter to her aunt in plain, short words.
"The Duke de Serbelloni," writes she, "will tell you, my dear aunt,
how I have been received in Italy; how, wherever I passed, they
celebrated my arrival; how all the Italian princes, even the Duke of
Tuscany, the emperor's brother, gave festivities in my honor. Well,
then, I would prefer to live as a plain citizeness of France. I like
not the honorable distinctions of this country. They weary me. It is
true, my health inclines me to be sad. I often feel very ill. If
fate would bring me good health, then I should be entirely happy. I
possess the most amiable husband that can be found. I have no
occasion to desire anything. My wishes are his. The whole day he is
worshipping me as if I were a deity; it is impossible to find a
better husband. He writes often to my children--he loves them much.
He sent to Hortense, through M. Serbelloni, a beautiful enamelled
repeating watch, ornamented with fine pearls; to Eugene he sent also
a fine gold watch." [Footnote: Aubenas, "Histoire de l'Imperatrice
Josephine," vol. i., p. 349.]
But soon these days of quietness and happiness were to be broken;
the armistice was drawing to a close, when, with redoubled energy,
Bonaparte, who had received from the government the wished-for re-
enforcements, longed to resume the war with Austria, which on her
side had sent another army into Italy, under General Alvinzi, to
relieve Mantua, and to deliver Wurmser from his peril.
On the 13th of August Bonaparte left Milan and returned to Brescia,
where he established his headquarters, and where, with all the speed
and restlessness of a warrior longing for victory, he made his
preparations for the coming conflict.
But amid the anxieties, the cares, the chances of this new campaign,
his heart remained behind in Milan with his Josephine; when the
general began to rest, the lover began to breathe. No sooner were
the battle-plans, the fight, the preparations and the dispositions
accomplished, than all his thoughts returned to Josephine, and he
had again recourse to his written correspondence with his adored
wife; for although he longed so much to have her with him, yet he
was unwilling to occasion her so much inconvenience and so many
Bonaparte's letters are again way-marks during his glorious path of
victory and triumph, while he was over-running Italy with wondrous
rapidity--but, instead of relating these conquests, we turn to his
letters to Josephine. Already, on his way to Brescia, he had written
her several times. The very day after reaching there, after having
made the necessary military arrangements, Bonaparte wrote to her:
"BRESCIA, the 14th Fructidor, Year IV. (August 31, 1795).
"I am leaving for Verona. I have hoped in vain to receive a letter
from you; this makes me wretched and restless. At the time of my
departure, you were somewhat suffering; I pray you, do not leave me
in such a state of disquietude. You had promised me a greater
punctuality; your tongue, then, chimed in with your heart. ...; you,
whom Nature has gifted with a sweet disposition, with joyousness,
and every thing which is agreeable, how can you forget him who loves
you so warmly? Three days without a letter from you! I have during
that time written to you several. Separation is horrible; the nights
are long, tiresome, and insipid; the days are monotonous."
"To-day, alone with thoughts, works, men, and their destructive
schemes, I have not received from you a single note that I can press
to my heart."
"Headquarters are broken up; I leave in one hour. I have this night
received expresses from Paris; there was nothing for you but the
enclosed letter, which will afford you some pleasure."
"Think on me; live for me; be often with your beloved, and believe
that there is for him but one sorrow; that he shrinks only from
this--to be no more loved by his Josephine. A thousand right sweet
kisses, right tender, right exclusive kisses."
Three days after he tells her that he is now in the midst of war
operations; that hostilities have begun again, and that he hopes in
a few days to advance upon Trieste. But this occupied his mind less
than his solicitude for Josephine. After a short paragraph on his
military affairs, he continues:
"No letter from you yet; I am really anxious; but I am assured that
you are well, and that you have made an excursion on the Como Lake.
Every day I wait impatiently for the courier who is to bring me news
from you; you know how precious this is to me. I live no longer when
away from you; the joy of my life is to be near my sweet Josephine.
Think of me; write often, very often; this is the only remedy for
separation; it is cruel, but I trust it will soon be over."
Meanwhile this separation was to last longer than Bonaparte had
imagined. War held him entangled in its web so fast, that he had not
time even to write to Josephine. In the next two letters he could
only tell her, in a few lines, what had happened at the theatre of
war; that he had again defeated Wurmser, and had surrounded him, and
that he hopes to take Mantua. Even for his constant complaint about
Josephine's slothfullness in writing, he finds no room in these
short letters. In the next letter, however, it appears the more
violently. He has no time to give her, as was his usual practice,
any account of the war. He begins at once with the main object,
which is--"Josephine has not written:"
"VERONA, 1st day of Complementaires in Year V," "(September 17,
"I write to you often, my beloved one, but you write seldom to me.
You are wicked and hateful, very hateful--as hateful as you are
inconstant. It is indeed faithlessness to deceive a wretched man, a
tender lover! Must he lose his rights because he is away, burdened
with hardship and labor? Without his Josephine, without the
certainty of her love, what is there on earth for him? What would he
"We had yesterday a very bloody affair; the enemy has lost many men,
and is well beaten. We have taken his advanced works before Mantua.
"Farewell, adored Josephine! One of these nights the doors will open
with a loud crash: as a jealous man, I am in your arms!
"A thousand dear kisses!
But the doors were not to be opened on any of the following nights
for the jealous one! The events of war were to keep him away a long
time from his Josephine. The Austrian Generals Wurmser and Alvinzi,
with their two armies, demanded all the energy and activity of
Bonaparte. Meanwhile, as he was preparing for the great battles
which were to decide the fate of Italy, his thoughts were always
turned to his Josephine; his deep longings grew day by day, still he
had no longer cause to complain that Josephine did not write, that
she had forgotten him! Contrariwise, Josephine did write; she had,
while he was writing her angry letters about her silence, written
several times, for Bonaparte in the following letter says that he
has received many letters from her, which, probably on account of
the difficulties of communication, had been delayed. He had received
them with the highest delight, and pressed them to his lips and
heart. But no sooner had he rejoiced over them, than he complains
that they are cold, reserved, and old. No word, no expression,
satisfies his ardent love. He complains that her letters are cold,
and then, when she dips her pen in the fire of tender love, he
complains again that her glowing letters "turn his blood into fire,
and stir up his whole being." Love, with all its wantonness and all
its pains, holds him captive in its hands, and the general has no
means of appeasing the lover.
The letter which complains of Josephine's coldness is dated
"MODENA, 26th Vendemiaire of the Year V." (October 17, 1796),
"I was yesterday the whole day on the field. To-day I have kept my
bed. Fever and a violent headache have debarred me from writing to
my adored one; but I have received her letters, I pressed them to my
lips and to my heart, and the anguish of a separation of hundreds of
miles disappeared. At this moment I see you at my side, neither
capricious nor angry, but soft, tender, and wrapped in that goodness
which is exclusively the attribute of my Josephine. It was a dream--
judge if it could drive the fever away. Your letters are as cold as
if you were fifty years old; they seem to have been composed after a
marriage of fifteen years. One can see in them the friendship and
sentiments of the winter of life. Pshaw! Josephine, ... that is very
naughty, very abominable, very treasonable on your part. What more
remains to make me worthy of pity? All is already done! To love me
no more! To hate me! Well, then, let it be so! Every thing
humiliates but hatred, and indifference with its marmoreal pulse,
its staring eyes, and its measured steps. A thousand thousand kisses
as tender as my heart! I am somewhat better. I leave to-morrow. The
English are cruising on the Mediterranean. Corsica is ours. Good
news for France and for the army.
Bonaparte had gone to wage the last decisive battle. He writes to
her from Verona a few lines that he has arrived there, and that he
is just going to mount his horse to pursue the march. In this
letter, however, he does not tell Josephine that General Vaubois,
with his fugitive regiments, has been beaten by the Tyrolese, and
that, driven from their mountains, he has arrived in Verona; that
Alvinzi occupies the Tyrol and has pushed on to Brenta and to Etsch.
Bonaparte was gathering his troops to drive away General Alvinzi,
who had occupied the heights of Caldiero, from these important
positions, and to take possession of them by main force. A violent
and desperate struggle ensued, and the day ended with victory on the
side of the Austrians. Bonaparte had to return to Verona; Alvinzi
maintained himself on the heights.
To the irritated general, disappointed in his plans and humiliated,
his love becomes his "bete de souffrance," upon which he takes
vengeance for the defeat of Caldiero. Josephine has to endure the
flaming wrath of Bonaparte, in whom now general and lover are fused
into one; but in his expressions of anger the general has no
complaints--it is the lover who murmurs, who reprimands, and is
On the evening of the 12th November, the day of the defeat of
Caldiero, Bonaparte returned to Verona. The next day he wrote to
"VERONA, the 3d Frimaire, Year V." (November 13, 1796)
"I love you no more; on the contrary, I hate you. You are a wicked
creature, very inconsistent, very stupid, very silly. You do not
write to me. You do not love your husband. You know how much
pleasure your letters would afford, and you do not write to him even
six lines, which you can readily scribble out."
"How, then, do you begin the day, madame? What important occupation
takes away your time from writing to your very excellent lover? What
new inclination chokes and thrusts aside the tender, abiding love
which you have promised him? What can this wonderful, this new love
be, which lays claim to all your time, and rules over your days, and
hinders you from occupying yourself with your husband? Josephine, be
on your guard; on some evil night the doors will be burst open and I
shall stand before you!"
"In truth, I am restless, my dear one, because I receive no news
from you. Write me at once four pages about those things, which fill
my heart with emotion and pleasure.
"I trust soon to fold you in my arms, and then I will overwhelm you
with a million of kisses burning like the equator."
Whilst Bonaparte was pursuing and engaging with Wurmser and Alvinzi
in bloody hostilities, and writing to Josephine tender and angry
letters of a lover ever jealous, ever dissatisfied and envious,
Josephine was leading in Milan a life full of pleasure and
amusement, full of splendor and triumphs, of receptions and
festivities. Every new victory, every onward movement, was for the
inhabitants of Milan, and her proud and rich nobles, a fresh and
welcome occasion to celebrate and glorify the wife of General
Bonaparte, and, through her, the hero who was to take away from
their necks the yoke of the Austrian, and who suspected not that he
was so soon to place upon them another yoke.
Josephine, true to the wishes and commands of Bonaparte, accepted
these festivities and this homage with all the affability and grace
which distinguished her. She had by degrees become familiar with
this ceaseless homage, which at first seemed so wearisome; by
degrees she took delight in this life of pleasure, in the incense of
adulation, and the brilliancies of fame. All the indolence, the
dreamy carelessness, the graceful abandonment of the creole had been
again awakened in her. She cradled herself playfully on the lulling,
bright waves of pleasure as an insect with golden wings, and she
smiled complacently at the stream of encircling festivities.
Bonaparte had told her to use all the arts of a woman to bind the
Milanese and the Lombards to herself and to her husband. With her
smiles she was to continue the conquest begun by Bonaparte's sword.
She could not, therefore, live alone in quiet solitude; she could
not remain in obscurity while her husband was performing his part on
the theatre of war; she could not, by an appearance of gravity, or
by a clouded brow, furnish occasion to the suspicion that there
existed doubt in the future success of her husband, or in his
prosperity and victory.
Roses were to crown her brow--a cheerful smile was to beam on her
countenance; with joyous spirit, she was to take part in the
festivities and pleasures--that the Milanese might see with what
earnest confidence she believed in Napoleon's star! But Bonaparte,
with all the instinct of a genuine lover, had read the deepest
secret of her soul; he was envious and jealous, because he felt that
Josephine did not belong to him with her whole heart, her whole
being, all her emotions and thoughts. Her heart, which had received
from the past so many scars and wounds, could not yet have blossomed
anew; it had been warmed by the glow of Bonaparte's love, but it was
not yet thoroughly penetrated with that passion which Bonaparte so
painfully missed, so intensely craved.
The earnest, unfettered nature of his love intimidated her, while it
ravished and flattered her vanity; but her heart was not entirely
his, it had yet room for her children, for her friends, for the
things of this world!
Josephine loved Bonaparte with that soft, modest, and retiring
affection, which only by degrees--by the storms of anguish,
jealousy, agony, and the possibility of losing him--was to be fanned
into that vitality and glow which never cooled again in her heart,
and which at last gave her the death-stroke.
She therefore thought she was fulfilling her task when she, while
Bonaparte was fighting with weapons, conquered with smiles, and
received the homage of the conquered only as a tribute which they
brought through her to the warlike genius of her husband.
Meanwhile Bonaparte had taken vengeance for his defeat at Caldiero.
Through a ruse of war, he had decoyed Alvinzi from his safe and
impregnable position into one where he could meet him with his army
anxious for the fray, and give him battle.
The gigantic struggle lasted three days--and the close of the third
day brought to the conqueror, Bonaparte, the laurel-wreath of
undying glory, which, more enduring and dazzling than an imperial
crown, surrounded with a halo the hero's brow long after that crown
had fallen from it.
This was the victory of Arcola, which Bonaparte himself decided by
snatching from the flag-bearer the standard of the retreating
regiment, and rushing with it, through a shower of balls, over the
bridge of death and destruction, and, with a voice heard above the
thundering cannon, shouting jubilant to his soldiers--"En avant, mes
amis!" And bravely the soldiers followed him--a brilliant victory
was the result.
Elevated by this deed, the grandest and most glorious of his heroic
career, Napoleon returned to Verona on the 19th November. The whole
city--all Lombardy--sang to his praise their inspired hymns, and
greeted with enthusiasm the conqueror of Arcola. He, however, wanted
a sweeter reward; and. after obtaining a second victory, on the 23d
of November, by defeating Wurmser near Mantua, he longed to rest and
enjoy an hour's happiness in the arms of his Josephine.
From Verona he wrote to her on the day after the battle of Mantua,
on the 24th of November:
"I hope soon to be in your arms, my beloved one; I love you to
madness! I write by this courier for Paris. All is well. Wurmser was
defeated yesterday under Mantua. Your husband needs nothing but the
love of his Josephine to be happy. BONAPARTE."
But the most terrible doubts hung yet over this love. The letter in
which Napoleon announced his coming had not reached Josephine; and,
as the next day he came to Milan with all the cravings and
impatience of a lover, he did not find Josephine there.
She had not suspected his coming; she had not dreamed that the
commanding officer could stop in his victorious course and give way
to the lover. She thought him far away; and, ever faithful to
Bonaparte's direction to assist him in the conquest of Italy, she
had accepted an invitation from the city of Genoa, which had lately
and gladly entered into alliance with France. The most brilliant
festivities welcomed her in this city of wealth and palaces, and
"Genova la superba" gathered all its magnificence, all the splendor
of its glory, to offer, under the eyes of all Europe, her solemn
homage to the wife of the celebrated hero of Arcola.
While Josephine, with joyous pride was receiving this homage,
Bonaparte, gloomy and murmuring, sat in his cabinet at Milan, and
wrote to her:
"MILAN, the 7th Frimaire, Year V.," Three o'clock. afternoon
(November 27, 1796).
"I have just arrived in Milan, and rush to your apartments. I have
left every thing to see you, to press you in my arms; .... you are
not there! You are pursuing a circle of festivities through the
cities. You go away from me at my approach; you trouble yourself no
more about your dear Napoleon. A spleen has made you love him;
inconstancy renders you indifferent.
"Accustomed to dangers, I know a remedy against ennui and the
troubles of life. The wretchedness I endure is not to be measured; I
am entitled not to expect it.
"I will wait here until the 9th. Do not trouble yourself. Pursue
your pleasures; happiness is made for you. The whole world is too
happy when it can please you, and your husband alone is very, very
But this cry of anguish from this crushed heart did not reach
Josephine; and the courier, who next day came to Milan from Genoa,
brought from Josephine only a letter with numerous commissions for
Berthier. Bonaparte's anger and sorrow knew no bounds, and he at
once writes to her with all the utterances of despair and complaint
of a lover, and the proud wrath of an injured husband:
"MILAN, the 8th Frimaire, Year V., eight o'clock, evening.
"The courier whom Berthier had sent to Milan has just arrived. You
have had no time to write to me; that I can understand very well. In
the midst of pleasures and amusements it would have been too much
for you to make the smallest sacrifice for me. Berthier has shown me
the letter you wrote to him. It is not my purpose to trouble you in
your arrangements or in the festivities which you are enjoying; I am
not worth the trouble; the happiness or the misery of a man you love
no longer has not the right to interest you.
"As regards myself, to love you and you alone, to make you happy, to
do nothing that can wrong you in any way, is the desire and object
of my life.
"Be happy, have nothing to reproach me, trouble not yourself about
the felicity of a man who only breathes in your life, who finds
enjoyment only in your happiness. When I claim from you a love which
would approach mine, I am wrong: how can one expect that a cobweb
should weigh as much as gold? When I sacrifice to you all my wishes,
all my thoughts, all the moments of my life, I merely obey the spell
which your charms, your character, your whole person, exercise over
my wretched heart. I am wrong, for Nature has not endowed me with
the power of binding you to me; but I deserve from Josephine in
return at least consideration and esteem, for I love her unto
madness, and love her exclusively.
"Farewell, adorable wife! farewell, my Josephine! May fate pour into
my heart every trouble and every sorrow; but may it send to my
Josephine serene and happy days! Who deserves it more than she? When
it is well understood that she loves me no more, I will garner up
into my heart my deep anguish, and be content to be in many things
at least useful and good to her.
"I open this letter once more to send you a kiss.... ah! Josephine.
... Josephine! BONAPARTE."
Meanwhile it was not yet well understood that Josephine loved him no
more; for as soon as she knew of Bonaparte's presence in Milan, she
hastened to dispatch him a courier, and to apprise him of her sudden
Bonaparte did not leave Milan on the 9th; he remained there, waiting
for Josephine, to lift her up in his arms from her carriage, and to
bear her into her apartments; to enjoy with her a few happy days of
a quiet, domestic, and mutual love, all to themselves.
His presence with the army, however, soon became a matter of
necessity; for Alvinzi was advancing with considerable re-
enforcements, with two army corps to the relief of Mantua, and
Bonaparte, notwithstanding his pressing remonstrances to the
Directory, having received but few re-enforcements and very little
money, had to exert all his powers and energy to press a few
advantages from the superior forces of the enemy. Everywhere his
presence and personal action were needed; and, constantly busy with
war, ever sword in hand, he could not, for long weeks, even once
take pen IN HAND and write to his Josephine. His longings had to
subside before the force of circumstances, which claimed the
general's whole time.
On the 3d of February, 1797, he again finds time to send her a few
lines, to say that he is breaking up and going to Rimini. Then,
after Alvinzi had been again defeated, after the fortress of Mantua
had capitulated, Bonaparte had to break up again and go to Rome, to
require from the pope the reason why he had made common cause with
Austria, and shown himself the enemy of the French republic. In
Bologna he lingered a few days, as Josephine, in compliance with his
wishes, had come there to make amends by her presence for so long a
She remained in Bologna, while Bonaparte advanced toward the city of
the Church. But the gloomy quietude, the constant rumors of war, the
threatening dangers, the intrigues with which she was surrounded,
the hostile exertions of the priests, the want of society, of
friendly faces, every thing had a tendency to make Josephine's
residence in Bologna very disagreeable, and to bring on sadness and
In this gloomy state of mind she writes to Bonaparte that she feels
sick, exhausted and helpless; that she is anxious to return to
Paris. He answers her from Ancona:
"The 8th Pluviose, Year V. (February 16, 1797).
"You are sad, you are sick, you write to me no longer, you wish to
return to Paris! Do you no longer love your friend? This thought
makes me very unhappy. My dear friend, life is intolerable to me,
since I have heard of your sadness.
"I send you at once Moscati to take care of you. My health is
somewhat feeble; my cold hangs on. I pray you spare yourself, and
love me as much as I love you, and do write every day. My
restlessness is horrible.
"I have given orders to Moscati to accompany you to Ancona, if you
will come. I will write to you and let you know where I am.
"I may perhaps make peace with the pope, and then will soon be with
you; it is the most intense desire of my life.
"I send a hundred kisses. Think not that any thing can equal my
love, unless it be my solicitude for you. Write to me every day
yourself, my dearly-beloved one!
But Josephine, in her depressed state of mind, and her nervous
irritability, did not have the courage to draw nearer the scenes of
war, and she dreaded to face again such dangers as once she had
encountered in Brescia and on her journey to Florence. She had not
been able to overcome the indolence of the Creole so much as to
write to Bonaparte. Fully conscious of his love and pardon, she
relied upon them when, in her reluctance to every exertion, she
announced to him, through the physician Moscati, that she would not
come to Ancona, but would wait for him in Bologna.
This news made a very painful impression upon Bonaparte, and filled
him with sorrow, though it reached him on a day in which he had
obtained a new triumph, a spiritual victory without any shedding of
blood. The pope, frightened at the army detachments approaching
Rome, as well as at the menacing language of the victor of Arcola,
signed a peace with the French republic, and with the general whose
sword had bowed into the dust all the princes of Italy, and freed
all the population from their duties as subjects. Bonaparte
announced this to Josephine, and it is evident how important it was
to him that this news should precede even his love-murmurings and
reproaches. His letter was dated
"TOLONTINO, the 1st Ventose, Year V. (February 19,1797).
"Peace with Rome is signed. Bologna, Ferrara, Romagna fall into the
hands of the French republic. The pope has to pay us in a short time
thirty millions, and gives us many precious objects of art.
"I leave to-morrow for Ancona, and then for Rimini, Ravenna, and
Bologna. If your health permits, come over to meet me in Ravenna,
but, I implore you, spare yourself.
"Not a word from your hand! What have I done? To think only of you,
to love but you, to live but for my wife, to enjoy only my beloved's
happiness, does this deserve such a cruel treatment from her? My
friend, I implore you, think of me, and write to me every day.
Either you are sick, or you love me no longer. Do you imagine, then,
that my heart is of marble? Why do you have so little sympathy with
my sorrow? You must have a very poor idea of me! That I cannot
believe. You, to whom Nature has imparted so much understanding, so
much amiability, and so much beauty, you, who alone can rule in my
heart, you know, without doubt, what power you have over me!
"Write to me, think of me, and love me.
"Yours entirely, yours for life,
This is the last letter of Bonaparte to Josephine during his first
Italian campaign--the last at least in the series of letters which
Queen Hortense has made public, as the most beautiful and most
glorious monument to her mother. [Footnote: "Lettres de Napoleon a
Josephine et de Josephine a Napoleon et a sa fille. Londres et
We have dwelt upon them because these letters, like sunbeams, throw
a bright light on the new pathway of Josephine's life--because they
are an eloquent and splendid testimony to the love which Josephine
had inspired in her young husband, and also to her amiableness, to
her sweetness of disposition, to her grace, and to all the noble and
charming qualities which procured her so much admiration and
affection, and which still caused her to be loved, sought for and
celebrated, when she had to descend from the height of a throne, and
became the deserted, divorced wife of the man who loved her
immeasurably, and who so often had sworn to her that this love would
only end with his life!
THE COURT OF MONTEBELLO.
On the 18th of April were finally signed, in Leoben, the
preliminaries of peace between Austria and France, and which finally
put an end to this cruel war. Austria was compelled to acknowledge
herself defeated, for even the Archduke Charles, who had pushed
forward from the Rhine with his army to oppose the conqueror of
Wurmser and of Alvinzi, had not been able to arrest Bonaparte in his
Bonaparte had publicly declared he would march toward Vienna, and
dictate to the Emperor of Germany, in his very palace, terms of
peace. He was at the point of carrying into execution this bold
plan. Since the battle of Tagliamento, on the 16th of March, the
army of the archduke was broken, and he could no longer prevent
Bonaparte from marching with his army over Laybach and Trieste into
Germany. On the 25th of March, Bonaparte entered into Klagenfurt;
and now that he was but forty miles from the capital, the Austrian
court began to tremble at the approach of this army of sans-culottes
who, under the leadership of General Bonaparte, had been transformed
into heroes. She therefore accepted the propositions of peace made
by Bonaparte, and, as already said, its preliminaries were signed in
Now Bonaparte could rest after such constant and bloody work, now he
could again hasten to his Josephine, who was waiting for him in the
palace of Serbelloni.
The whole city--all Lombardy--was with her, awaiting him. His
journey from Leoben to Milan was a continuous triumph, which,
however, reached its culminating point at his entrance into the
city. Milan had adorned herself for this day as a bride to receive
her hero. From every balcony waved the united French and Italian
standards, costly tapestries were hanging down, every window was
occupied by beautiful women gayly attired, and who, with large
bouquets of flowers and waving handkerchiefs, greeted the conqueror.
All the dignitaries of the city went to meet him in processional
pomp; from every tower sounded the welcome chimes, and the compact
masses of the people in the streets and on the roofs of the houses
filled the air with the jubilant shout: "Long live the deliverer of
Italy! the conqueror of Austria!"
Josephine, surrounded by ladies of the highest aristocracy of
Lombardy, received her husband in the Palace Serbelloni. With
radiant smiles, and yet with tears in her eyes, she received him,
her heart swelling with a lofty joy at this ovation to Bonaparte;
and through the glorification of this victory he appeared to her
more beautiful, more worthy of love, than ever before. On this day
of his return from so many battles and victories her heart gave
itself up with all its power, all its unreservedness and fulness, to
this wondrous man who had won so many important battles, and who
bowed before her alone with all the submissive humility of a
conquered man! From this day she loved him with that warm, strong
love which was to end only with her death.
Josephine had good reason to be happy on this day, for it brought
her not only her husband, but also a new source of happiness, her
son, her dear Eugene. Bonaparte had sent for him from Paris, and
given him a commission of second lieutenant in the first regiment of
hussars, and had also appointed him adjutant of the commanding
general of the army of Italy, perhaps as much to give to Josephine a
new proof of his affection as to attach Eugene to his person, for
whom he felt the love of a father.
Near the returned general, Josephine, to her supreme delight, saw
her dear son, from whom she had been separated so long; and Eugene,
whom she had left in Paris a mere boy, presented himself to her in
Milan, in his officer's uniform, as a youth, with countenance
beaming with joy and eyes full of lustre, ready to enter upon fame's
pathway, on which his step-father, so brilliant a model, was walking
before him. The maternal heart of Josephine felt both love and pride
at the sight of this young man, so remarkable for his healthy
appearance, and his youthful vigor and genius, and she thanked
Bonaparte with redoubled love for the joyous surprise which his
considerate affection had prepared for her.
Now began for Josephine and Bonaparte happy days, illumined by all
the splendor of festivities, of fealty exhibited, of triumphs
realized. After lingering a few days in Milan, Bonaparte, with his
wife, the whole train of his friends, his adjutants and servants,
removed to the pleasure-castle of Montebello, near Milan.
Here, amid rich natural scenery, in this large, imposing castle,
which, built on the summit of a hill, mantled with olive-groves and
vineyards, afforded on all sides a view of the surrounding, smiling
plains of Lombardy--here Bonaparte wished to rest from the hardships
and dangers of his last campaign; here, he wished to organize the
great Italian republic which was then the object of his exertions,
and whose iron crown he afterward coveted to place on his head. At
Montebello he wished to enact new laws for Italy, create new
institutious, reduce to silence, with threatening voice, the
opposition of those who dared to oppose to the new law of liberty
the old centennial rights of possession and of citizenship.
Italy was to be free, such was the will of her deliverer; and he
took great care not to let any one suspect or read the secret
thoughts which he kept hid behind the pompous proclamations of his
authority. He therefore answered evasively and vaguely those who
came to fathom his designs, and to become acquainted with his plans.
The Grand-duke of Tuscany sent to Montebello for this purpose, the
Marquis Manfredini. He was instructed to ask General Bonaparte if it
was his intention to destroy the grand-duchy of Tuscany, and to
incorporate its territory into the great Italian republic. The
marquis implored Bonaparte with persuasive, touching accents, to
tell him what his plans were, and if he would allow Tuscany to
subsist as an independent state.
Bonaparte, smiling, shrugged his shoulders: "Signor marquis," said
he, "you remind me of that creditor who once asked the Cardinal de
Rohan when he wished to pay him. The cardinal simply answered: 'My
dear sir, do not be so curious.' If your grand-duke will keep quiet,
he will suffer no injury."
Napoleon exhibited less friendliness and good-nature toward the
republic of Venice, which had also sent her delegates to Montebello
for the sake of reconciling the general, who had sworn vengeance
against the republic, because a sort of Sicilian Vespers had been
organized there against the French; and because, especially in
Verona, and throughout the Venetian provinces, thousands of
Frenchmen had been murdered by the revolted peasants, whom the
fanatical priesthood had stirred to sedition.
Now, that Bonaparte had defeated the Grand-duke Charles, the hope of
the rebels, Venice humbly sent her most distinguished sons to plead
for forgiveness and indulgence, and to promise full reparation. But
Napoleon received them with contempt and threatening anger, and to
their humble petitions replied in a thundering voice, "I will be an
Attila to Venice!"
Meanwhile the same general, who swore the ruin of Venice, showed
himself conciliating and lenient toward Rome, and instead of being
an Attila, he endeavored to be a preserver and a protector.
The Directory in Paris was not fully satisfied with the peace which
Bonaparte had concluded with the pope. They thought Napoleon had
been too lenient with him; that he ought to have taken Rome from
him, as he tore away Milan from the Emperor of Germany. The five
rulers of France went so far as to make reproaches against Bonaparte
for his leniency, and to require from him the downfall of the pope,
and with him that of Catholicism.
But Bonaparte had the boldness to oppose these demands of the
Directory, and to set up his will in defiance to their supreme
He wrote to the Directory: "You say with reason that the Roman
religion will long be the enemy of the republic; that is very true,
but it is equally true that, on account of the great distance you
are from the scene of events, you cannot measure the amount of
difficulty there is in carrying out your orders.
"You wish to destroy the Catholic Church in a city where it has
ruled so many years. Believe me, it is useless to burden ourselves
with fruitless labor. We have already enough to do; to defeat our
enemies on the field of battle, it is not necessary to arouse all
Europe against us--even the heretics, through policy, would defend
the cause of the Holy See. Are you fully convinced that France would
calmly look on? France needs a religious worship: that which you
propose cannot, on account of its simplicity, replace this one.
Follow my advice: let the pope be pope! If you bury his earthly
power, acknowledge at least his spiritual authority. Force him not
to seek refuge at a foreign court, where by his mere presence it
would gain an immense ascendency. Italy wants religion and the pope.
If she is wounded in her faith, she will be hostile to us, while now
she is peaceably inclined. I repeat, the present difficulties are
too weighty, to add new ones. Who can fathom the future? Who can
assume the responsibility of such a deed as the one you propose? I
shall not, therefore, do it, since you leave it with me to inform
you on the subject. I consider it dangerous to conjure up
fanaticism. The Catholic religion is that of the arts, and the arts
are absolutely necessary to Italy's welfare. Be sure that if you
destroy the former, you give a fatal blow to the latter, and that
the Italians are good accountants. Ponder well these matters, then,
and be sure that Catholicism has ceased to exist in France. Are you
well satisfied that no one there will go back to it?"
While in Montebello, though the sword had been laid aside, Bonaparte
was still busy with war affairs, and the quarrels of princes and
nations. Josephine at the same time passed there the honored life of
a mighty princess, whose favors and intercessions the great and the
powerful of earth endeavored to obtain by every conceivable means.
The ladies of the aristocracy of Milan were eager to pay their
homage to the wife of the deliverer; the courts of Italy, as well as
other parts of Europe, sent ambassadors to General Bonaparte; and
these gentlemen were naturally zealous in offering their incense to
Josephine, in surrounding her with courtly and flattering
attentions. The Marquis de Gallo, the ambassador of Spain at the
court of Verona, came with the Austrian ambassador, the Count von
Meerfeld, to Montebello, to enter into negotiations about the peace
which was to form the precious key-stone to the preliminaries of
Leobeu; and these two gentlemen, who opposed to the plain manners of
Bonaparte's companions-in-arms the very essence of refined,
polished, and witty courtiers, rivalled each other in showing to
Josephine their highest consideration by their festivities and
amusements; to win her favor and interest through the most
complacent and considerate attention to all her views, wishes, and
Josephine received all this homage with the enchanting and smiling
quietude of a woman who, without exaltation or pride, feels no
surprise at any flattery or homage, but kindly and thankfully
accepts what is due to her. Among this brilliant Italian aristocracy
which surrounded her--among the ambassadors of the powers who sued
not so much for alliance with France as for General Bonaparte's
favor--among the generals and superior officers who had shared with
Bonaparte the dangers of the battle-field and the laurels of
victory--among learned men, artists, and poets, whom Bonaparte had
often invited to Montebello--among so brilliant, so wealthy, so
superior, so intelligent a society, Josephine shone as the
resplendent sun around which all these planets moved, and from which
they all received life, light, and happiness. She received the
ambassadors of sovereigns with the dignity and affability of a
princess; she conversed with the most distinguished ladies in
cheerful simplicity, and with the unaffected joyousness and harmless
innocency of a young maiden; she conversed with men of learning and
artists in profound and serious tones, about their labors, their
efforts, and success; she allowed the generals to relate the
momentous events of the late great battles, and her eye shone with
deeper pride and pleasure when from the mouth of the brave she heard
the enthusiastic praise of her husband.
Then her keen looks would be directed toward Bonaparte, who
perchance stood in a window recess, engaged in some grave, solemn
conversation with an eminent ambassador; her eyes again would glance
from her husband to her son, to this young officer of seventeen
years, who now laughed, jested, and played, as a boy, and then with
respectful attention listened to the conversation of the generals,
and whose countenance beamed with inspiration as they spoke to him
of the mighty deeds of war and the plans of battle of his step-
father, whom Eugene loved with the affection of a son, and the
enthusiasm of a disciple who looks up to and reveres his master.
Yes, Josephine was happy in these days of Montebello. The past, with
its sad memories, its deceptions and errors, had sunk behind her,
and a luminous future sent its rays upon her at the side of the man
whom jubilant Italy proclaimed "her deliverer," and whom Josephine's
joyous heart acknowledged to be her hero, her beloved. For now she
loved him truly, not with that love of fifteen years past, with the
marmoreal pulse, of which Bonaparte had spoken to her in his
letters, but with all the depth and glow of which a woman's heart is
capable, with all the passion and jealousy of which the heart of a
creole alone is susceptible.
Happy, sunny days of Montebello! days full of love, of poetry, of
beauty, of happiness!--full of the first, genial, undisturbed,
mutual communion!--days of the first triumphs, of the first homage,
of the first dawn of a brilliant future! Never could the memory of
those days fade away from Josephine's heart; never could the
empress, in the long series of her triumphs and rejoicings, point to
an hour like one of those she had, as the wife of the general,
enjoyed at Montebello!
Every day brought new festivities, new joys, new receptions: balls,
official banquets, select friendly dinners, came by turns; in
brilliant soirees, they received the aristocracy of Lombardy, who,
with ever-growing zeal, struggled for the honor of being received at
the court of Montebello, and to see the doors of the drawing-room of
the wife of General Bonaparte open to them. Sometimes parties were
made up for a chase, of which Berthier acted as master, and who was
not a whit behind in organizing hunting-parties in the style of
those of the former court of Versailles, where he once had acted as
At times, in the warm days of May, the whole company went out
together on the large and splendid piazza which ran along the
castle, on the garden side, and which was supported by slender
marble columns, and whose roof, made of thin wire-work, was thickly
shaded by the foliage of the vine, the ivy, and the delicate leaves
of the passion-flower. Here, resting on the marble settees, one
listened in blessed happiness to the music of bands secreted in some
myrtle-grove and playing military symphonies or patriotic melodies.
Then, as the evening faded away, when the court of Montebello, as
the Italians now called the residence of the general of the
republic, had no brilliant reception, they gathered in the drawing-
room, where Josephine, with all the affability of a lady from the
great world, received her guests, and with all the modesty and grace
of a simple housewife served herself the tea.
These quiet social evenings in the little drawing-room of Josephine,
away from excitement, were among Bonaparte's happiest moments;
there, for a few hours at least, he forgot the mighty cares and
schemes which occupied his mind, and abandoned himself to the joys
of society, and to a cheerful intercourse with his family and
friends. In these quiet evenings Josephine exerted all the art and
refinement of her great social nature to render Bonaparte cheerful
and to amuse him. She sometimes organized a party of vingtet-un, and
Bonaparte with his cards was as eager for the victory as in days
past he had been with his soldiers. Very often, when success did not
favor him, and his cards were not such as suited him, the great
general would condescend to correct fate (de corriger la fortune);
and he was much delighted when in his expertness he succeeded, and,
thanks to his correction of fate, obtained the victory over his
play-mates. When the parti was ended, they went out on the terrace
to enjoy the balmy air and refreshing coolness of the evening, and
to take delight in witnessing the enchanting spectacle afforded by
the thousands of little stars with which the fire-flies illumined
the darkness of the summer night and encircled the lake as with a
coronet of emeralds.
When they grew tired of this, they returned to the drawing-room to
listen to Josephine's fine, full, soul-like voice singing the songs
of her island-home, or else to find amusement in the recital of
fairy tales and marvellous stories. None understood this last
accomplishment better than Bonaparte; and it required only the
gracious request, the lovely smiles of his Josephine, to convert the
general into one of those improvisatores who with their stories,
more resembling a dramatic representation than a narrative, could
exalt the Italian mind into ecstasy, and be ever sure to attract an
Bonaparte understood the art of holding his audience in suspense,
and keeping them in breathless attention, quite as well as an
improvisator of the Place of St. Mark or of Toledo Street. His
stories were always full of the highest dramatic action and
thrilling effect; and it was his greatest triumph when he saw his
hearers turn pale, and when Josephine, shuddering, clung anxiously
to him, as if seeking from the soldier's hand protection against the
fearful ghosts he had evoked.
After the marvellous stories came grave scientific conversations
with men of learning, whom Bonaparte had invited for the sake of
deriving from their intercourse both interest and instruction. Among
these were the renowned mathematicians Maria Fontana, Monge, and
Berthelet; and the famous astronomer Oriani, whom Bonaparte, through
a very flattering autographic note, had invited to Montebello.
But Oriani, little accustomed to society and to conversation with
any one but learned men, was very reluctant to come to Montebello,
and would gladly have avoided it had he not been afraid of exciting
the wrath of the great warrior. Bonaparte, surrounded by his
generals, his staff-officers and adjutants, was in the large and
splendidly-illumined drawing-room when Oriani made his appearance.
The savant, timid and embarrassed, remained near the door, and dared
not advance a single step farther on this brilliant floor, where the
lights of the chandeliers were reflected, and which filled the
savant with more bewilderment than the star-bespangled firmament.
But Bonaparte's keen eye understood at once his newly-arrived guest;
he advanced eagerly toward him, and as Oriani, stammering and
embarrassed, was endeavoring to say something, but grew silent in
the midst of his speech, the former smilingly asked:
"What troubles you so much? You are among your friends; we honor
science, and I willingly bow to it."
"Ah, general," sighed Oriani, sorrowfully, "this magnificence
Bonaparte shrugged his shoulders. "What!" said he, looking around
with a contemptuous glance on the mirrors and rich tapestries which
adorned the walls, and on the glittering chandeliers, the
embroidered uniforms of the generals, and the costly toilets of the
ladies--"what, do you call this magnificence? Can these miserable
splendors blind the man who every night contemplates the far more
lofty and impressive glories of the skies?"
The savant, recalled by these warning words of Bonaparte to the
consciousness of his own dignity, soon recovered his quiet demeanor
and conversed long and gladly with the general, who never grew tired
of putting questions to him, and of gaining from him information.
But there were also cloudy moments in Montebello, oftentimes
overshadowing the serene sunshine. They came from France--from Rome-
-and there were even some which had their origin in Montebello.
These clouds which were formed in Montebello, and which caused
slight showers of tears with Josephine, and little tempests of anger
with Bonaparte, were certainly not of a very serious nature; they
owed their origin to a lapdog, and this pet dog was Fortune, the
same which in days gone by had been the letter-carrier between
Josephine and her children when she was in the Carmelite prison.
Notwithstanding Fortune had become old and peevish, Josephine and
her children loved him for the sake of past reminiscences, while
Bonaparte simply hated and detested him. Bonaparte had, however,
perhaps without wishing it, erected for him an abiding monument in
the "Memorial de Ste. Helene," where he gave a report of his
hostilities with the lapdog Fortune, along with those of his wars
with the European powers.
"I was then," says Bonaparte, in his "Memorial," "the ruler of
Italy, but in my own house I had nothing to say; there Josephine's
will was supreme. There was an ugly, growling personage, at war with
everybody, whose bad qualities made him intolerable to me and to
others, yet he was an important individual, who was by Josephine and
her children flattered from morning till evening, and who was the
object of their most delicate attentions. Fortune, to me a hateful
beast, was a horrible lapdog, with crooked legs and deformed body,
without the slightest beauty or kindness, but of a most malicious
disposition. I would gladly have killed him, and often prayed Heaven
to deliver me from him. This happiness was, however, reserved for me
in Montebello. A bull-dog which belonged to my cook became tired of
his churlish incivilities, and not having the same considerateness
as the rest of the inmates of the palace of Montebello, he attacked
the detestable animal so violently as to kill him on the spot. Then
began tears and sighs in the house. Josephine could not be
comforted; Eugene wept, and I myself against my will put on a
sorrowful countenance. But I gained nothing by this fortunate
accident. After Fortune had been stuffed, sung in sonnets, and made
immortal by funeral discourses, he was replaced by two setters, male
and female. Then came the amiable displays and the bickerings of
this love-couple, and afterward their progeny. So that I knew not
what to do.
"Soon after this, as I was walking in the park, I noticed my cook,
who, as soon as he saw me, disappeared on a side-path.
"'Are you afraid of me?' said I.
"' Ah, general,' replied he, timidly, 'you have good reason to be
angry with me.'
"'I? What have you done?'
"'My unfortunate dog has indeed killed poor little Fortune.'
"'Where is your dog?'
"'He is in the city. God have mercy on us! he dares not come here.'
"'Listen, my good fellow' (but I spoke in a low voice, for fear of
being heard), 'let your dog run about just as he likes--perhaps he
may deliver me from the others.'
"But this happiness was not in reserve for me. Josephine, not
satisfied with dogs, soon after this procured a cat, which brought
me into a state of despair; for this detestable animal was the most
vicious of its race. ...." [Footnote: Memorial de Ste. Helene.]
The strifes with Fortune, with the setters, and with the cat,
troubled Bonaparte less than the intrigues which his enemies in
Italy, as well as in France, stirred up against him, and through
them endeavored to destroy him.
In Italy it was the priests who had sworn deadly enmity to
Bonaparte, and who, with all the weapons which the arsenal of the
Church, fanaticism, and superstition, furnished them, fought against
the general who had dared to break the power of the pope, and to
restrict within narrower limits the rule of the priests. It was
these priests who continually made the most furious opposition to
the ascendency which Bonaparte had won over the Italian mind, and
sought constantly to rouse up, within the minds of the people,
opposition to him.
One day, Marmont announced that a certain Abbe Sergi was exciting
the peasants against the French, and especially against Bonaparte;
that he was preaching sedition and rebellion in Christ's name, and
was showing to the ignorant laborers a letter, which he had received
from Christ, in which it was declared that General Bonaparte was an
atheist and a heretic, whom one ought to destroy and drive away from
Italy's sacred soil.
Bonaparte at once ordered Marmont to arrest this Abbe Sergi, who
lived in Poncino, and to bring him to Montebello. His orders were
followed, and, after a few days, the captive abbe was brought before
the general. He seemed cheerful, unaffected, and assumed the
appearance of being unconscious of guilt.
"Are you the man," exclaimed Bonaparte, "to whom Christ writes
letters from Paradise?"
"Ah! signor general, you are joking," replied the abbe, smiling--but
one of Bonaparte's angry looks fell upon his broad, well-fed face,
and forced the priest into silence.
"I am not joking," answered Bonaparte, angrily; "you, however, are
joking with the peasants, since you are telling these poor,
superstitious men that you are in correspondence with Christ."
"Alas! signor general," sighed the abbe, with contrite mien, "I
wanted to do something in the defence of our cause, and what can a
poor clergyman do?--he has no weapons--"
"Mind that in future you procure other weapons!" interrupted
Bonaparte, vehemently. "That will be better for you than to dare use
the Deity for your schemes of wickedness. I order you to receive no
more letters from Paradise, not even from Christ. Correspond with
your equals, and be on your guard, or you will soon find that I can
punish the disobedient!"
The abbe bowed penitently, and with tears in his eyes. Bonaparte
turned his back to him, and ordered him to be taken to Poncino.
From that day, however, much as he hated General Bonaparte, the Abbe
Sergi received no more letters from Paradise.
Nevertheless, the letters of the Abbe Sergi were not those which
gave the most solicitude to Bonaparte; much worse were those he
received from Paris, which gave him an account of the persevering
intrigues of his enemies, and the malicious slanders that were
circulated against him by the Directory, who were envious of his
power and superiority, and which mischievous and poisonous calumnies
were re-echoed in the newspapers.
These insidious attacks of the journals, more than any thing else,
excited Bonaparte's vehement anger. The hero who, on the battle-
field, trembled not before the balls which whizzed about his head,
had a violent dislike to those insect-stings of critics who, like
wasps humming round about the laurel-wreath on his brow, ever found
between the leaves of his fame some place where with their stings
they could wound him, and who was as sensitive as a young blameless
maiden would be against the wasp-stings of slander.
This irritable sensitiveness led him to consider those detestable
attacks of the journals worth a threatening denunciation to the
"Citizen-directors," wrote he to them, "I owe you an open
confession; my heart is depressed and filled with horror through the
constant attacks of the Parisian journals. Sold to the enemies of
the republic, they rush upon me, who am boldly defending the
republic. 'I am keeping the plunder,' whilst I am defeating them; 'I
affect despotism,' whilst I speak only as general-in-chief; 'I
assume supreme power,' and yet I submit to law! Every thing I do is
turned to a crime against me; the poison streams over me.
"Were any one in Italy to dare give utterance to the one-thousandth
part of those calumnies, I would impose upon him an awful silence!
"In Paris, this is allowed to go on unpunished, and your tolerance
is an encouragement. The Directory is thus producing the impression
that it is opposed to me. If the directors suspect me, let them say
so, and I will justify myself. If they are convinced of my
uprightness, let them defend me.
"In this circle of argument, I include the Directory with me, and
cannot go beyond it. My desire is, to be useful to my country. Must
I, for reward, drink the cup of poison?
"I can no longer be satisfied with empty, evasive arguments; and if
justice is not done to me, then I must take it myself. Therefore, I
am yours. Salutation and brotherly love. BONAPAKTE."
But all these vexations, hostilities, and calumnies, were, however,
as already said, mere clouds, which now and then obscured the bright
sunshine at the court of Montebello. At a smile or a loving word
from Josephine, they flew away rapidly, and the sunshine again in
all its splendor, the pleasures, feasts, and joys, continued in
their undisturbed course. All Italy did homage to the conqueror, and
it was therefore very natural that sculptors and painters should
endeavor to draw some advantage from this enthusiasm for its
deliverer, and that they should endeavor to represent to the
admirers of Bonaparte his peculiar form and countenance.
But Bonaparte did not like to have his portrait painted. The
staring, watchful gaze of an artist was an annoyance to him; it made
him restless and anxious, as if he feared that the scrutinizing look
at his face might read the secrets of his soul. Yet at Josephine's
tender and pressing request he had consented to its being taken by a
young painter, Le Gros, whose distinguished talent had been brought
to his notice.
Le Gros came therefore to Montebello, happy in the thought that he
could immortalize himself through a successful portrait of the hero
whom he honored with all the enthusiasm of a young heart. But he
waited in vain three days for Bonaparte to give him a sitting. The
general had not one instant to spare for the unfortunate young
At last, at Josephine's pressing request, Bonaparte consented on the
fourth day to sit for him one-quarter of an hour after breakfast. Le
Gros came therefore delighted, at the time appointed, into the
cabinet of Josephine, and had his easel ready, awaiting the moment
when Bonaparte would sit in the arm-chair opposite. But, alas! the
painter's hopes were not to be realized. The general could not bring
himself to sit in. that arm-chair, doing nothing but keeping his
head quiet, so that the painter might copy his features. He had no
sooner been seated, than he sprang up suddenly, and declared it was
quite impossible to endure such martyrdom.
Le Gros dared not repeat his request, but with tears in his eyes
gathered up his painting-materials. Josephine smiled. "I see very
well," said she, "that I must have recourse to some extraordinary
means to save for me and for posterity a portrait of the hero of
She sat down in the arm-chair, and beckoned to Le Gros to have his
easel in readiness. Then with a tender voice she called Napoleon to
her, and opening both arms she drew him down on her lap, and in this
way she induced him to sit down quietly a few moments and allow the
painter the sight of his face, thus enabling him to sketch the
portrait. [Footnote: "Memoires et Souvenirs du Comte Lavalette,"
vol. i., p. 168.]
At the end of this peculiar sitting, Bonaparte smilingly promised
that he would next day grant the painter a second one, provided
Josephine would again have the "extraordinary means" ready. She
consented, and for four days in succession Le Gros was enabled to
sit before him a quarter of an hour, and throw upon his canvas the
features of the general, while he quietly sat on Josephine's lap.
This picture, which Le Gros thus painted, thanks to the sweet ruse
of Josephine, and which was scattered throughout Europe in
copperplate prints, represented Bonaparte, with uncovered head,
holding a standard in his hand, and with his face turned toward his
soldiers, calling on them to follow him as he dashed on the bridge
of Arcola, amid a shower of Austrian balls.
It is a beautiful, imposing picture, and contemporaries praised it
for its likeness to the hero, but no one could believe that this
pale, grave countenance, these gloomy eyes, and earnest lips, which
seemed incapable of a smile, were those of Bonaparte as he sat on
the lap of his beloved Josephine when Le Gros was painting it.
THE PEACE OF CAMPO FORMIO.
After three months the time drew nigh when the peace negotiations
were to reach a final conclusion, and when it was to be decided if
the Emperor of Germany would make peace with the French republic or
if he would renew the war.
For three months had the negotiations continued in Montebello--three
months of feasts, pleasures, and receptions. To the official and
public rejoicings had been also added domestic joys. Madame Letitia
came to Italy to warm her happy, proud mother's heart at the
triumphs of her darling son; and she brought with her her daughter
Pauline, while the youngest, Caroline, remained behind in Madame
Campan's boarding-school. It could not be otherwise than that the
sisters of the commander-in-chief, whose true beauty reminded one of
the classic features of ancient Greece, should find among the
officers of the army of Italy most enthusiastic admirers and
worshippers, and that many should long for the favor of being more
intimately connected by the ties of affection with the celebrated
Bonaparte left his sisters entirely free to make a choice among
their suitors, and he hesitated not to give his consent when Pauline
became affianced to General Leclerc. After a few weeks, the marriage
was celebrated in Montebello; and, soon after, the happy couple left
that city to return to Paris, whither Madame Letitia had preceded
Josephine, however, remained with her husband; she accompanied him
from Montebello to Milan, where Bonaparte, now that the Austrian
envoys had taken their leave, tarried some time, awaiting the final
decision of the Austrian court upon his propositions. Meanwhile, the
imperial court, for good reasons, still hesitated. It was known that
in France there was secretly preparing an event which in a short
time might bring on a new order of things, putting an end to the
hateful republic, and once more placing the Bourbons on the throne
of the lilies.
General Pichegru, a zealous royalist, and intimate friend of the
Prince de Conde, with whom he had been in secret correspondence for
several months, had organized a conspiracy which had for its object
the downfall of the Directory, the ruin of the republican
administration, the recall of the monarchy to Paris, and the re-
establishment of the Bourbons.
But General Moreau, who, with his army on the Rhine, stood opposite
to that of the royalists, had the good fortune to discover the
conspiracy, by intercepting Pichegru's whole correspondence. The
Directory, informed by Moreau, took secretly precautionary measures,
and on the 18th Fructidor, Pichegru, with all his real or supposed
guilty companions, was arrested. To these guilty ones belonged also,
according to the opinion of the Directory, two out of their number,
Carnot and Barthelemy, besides twenty-two deputies and one hundred
and twenty-eight others, all among the educated classes of society.
These were exiled to Cayenne; Carnot alone escaped from this distant
and cruel exile by a timely flight to Geneva.
The 18th Fructidor, which disarmed the royalists and destroyed their
plans, had a great influence upon the negotiations carried on
between France and Austria, which were entangled with so many
difficulties. Austria, which had vacillated and delayed--for she was
informed of the schemes of the royalists, and hoped that if Louis
XVIII. should ascend the throne, she would be delivered from all the
burdensome exactions of the republic--now saw that this abortive
attempt had removed the royalists still further from their object
and more firmly consolidated the republic; she was therefore
inclined to push on negotiations more speedily, and to show greater
readiness to bring on a final settlement.
The conferences broken off in Montebello were resumed in Udine.
Thither came the Austrian and French plenipotentiaries. Bonaparte,
however, felt that his presence was also necessary, so as not to
allow these conferences again to remain in abeyance. He therefore,
accompanied by Josephine, went to Passeriano, a beautiful residence
of the Doge Marini, not far from Udine, charmingly situated on the
shores of the Tagliamento, and in the midst of a splendid park. But
the residence in Passeriano was not enlivened by the pleasures,
recreations, and festivities of Montebello. Politics alone occupied
Bonaparte's mind, and not only the peace negotiations, but also the
Directory of the republic, furnished him with too many occasions for
ill-will and anger.
Austria, which had added the Count von Coblentz to her
plenipotentiaries, adhered obstinately to her former claims; and the
Directory, which now felt stronger and more secure by their victory
of the 18th Fructidor, were so determined not to accept these
claims, that they wrote to General Bonaparte that they would sooner
resume hostilities than concede to "the overpowered, treacherous
Austria, sworn into all the conspiracies of the royalists, her
But Bonaparte knew better than the proud lords of the Directory,
that France needed peace as well as Austria; that France lacked
gold, men, and ammunition, for the vigorous prosecution of the war.
While, therefore, the Directory, enthroned in the Luxemburg, amid
peace and luxury, desired a renewal of hostilities, it was the man
of battles who desired peace, and who was inclined to make to
Austria insignificant concessions sooner than see the work of peace
dashed to pieces.
The sole recreation in Passeriano consisted in the banquets which
were interchanged between it and Udine, and where Josephine found
much pleasure, at least in the conversation of the Count von
Coblentz, who could speak to her with spirit and grace of his
sojourn in Petersburg--of Catharine the Great, at whose court he had
been accredited so long as ambassador from Austria, and who had even
granted him the privilege of being present at her private evening
circles at the Hermitage.
Bonaparte was still busy with the glowing tenderness of a
worshipping lover, in procuring for his Josephine pleasures and
recreations, as each favorable opportunity presented itself.
The republic of Venice, now laboring under the greatest anxiety and
fear on account of Bonaparte's anger at her perfidy and enmity, had
descended from the height of her proud attitude to the most abject
humility. Her solicitude for mere existence made her so far forget
her dignity, that she humbly invited Bonaparte, whose loud voice of
anger pronounced only vengeance and destruction, to come and receive
in person their homage and the assurance of their loyalty.
Bonaparte refused this invitation as regarded his own person, for in
his secret thoughts the ruin of Venice was a settled matter; and as
the death-warrant of this republic of terror and secret government
was already signed in his thoughts, he could not accept her feasts
and her homage. But he did not wish before the time to betray to the
republic his own conclusions, and his refusal to accept their
invitation ought not to have the appearance of a hostile
demonstration. He therefore sent to Venice a representative, who, in
his name, was to receive the humble homage and the assurances of
friendship from the republic. This representative was Josephine, and
she gladly undertook this mission, without foreseeing that Venice,
which adorned itself for her sake with flowers and festivities, was
but the crowned victim at the eve of the sacrifice.
As Bonaparte himself could not accompany his wife, he sent with her
as an escort the ex-magistrate Marmont; and in his memoirs the
latter relates with enthusiasm the feasts which the republic of
Venice gave in honor of the general upon whom, as she well knew, her
future fate depended.
"Madame Bonaparte," says he, "was four days in Venice. I accompanied
her hither. Three days were devoted to the most splendid feasts. On
the first day there was a regatta, a species of amusement which
seems reserved only to Venice, the queen of the sea. ... Six or
seven gondolas, each manned by one or two oarsmen, perform a race
which begins at St. Mark's Square, and ends at the Rialto bridge.
These gondolas seem to fly; persons who have never seen them can
form no idea of their swiftness. The beauty of the representation
consists especially in the immense gatherings of the spectators. The
Italians are extremely fond of this spectacle; they come from great
distances on the continent to see it; there is not in Venice an
individual who rushes not to the Canal Grande to enjoy the
spectacle; and during the time of the regatta of which I am
speaking, the wharves on the Canal Grande were covered with at least
one hundred and fifty thousand persons, all full of curiosity. More
than five hundred small and large barges, adorned with flowers,
flags, and tapestries, followed the contesting gondolas.
"The second day we had a sea-excursion; a banquet had been prepared
on the Lido: the population followed in barges adorned with wreaths
and flowers, and to the sound of music re-echoing far and near.
"The third day, a night promenade took place. The palace of the
doge, and the houses along the Canal Grande, were illuminated in the
most brilliant manner, and gave light to hundreds of gondolas, which
also were made luminous with divers-colored lamps. After a promenade
of two hours, and a splendid display of fireworks in the midst of
the waters, the ball opened in the palace of the doge. When we think
of the means which the situation of Venice offers, the beauty of her
architecture, the wonderful animation of the thousand gondolas
closely pressed together, causing the impression of a city in
motion; and when we think of the great exertions which such an
occasion would naturally call forth, the brilliant imagination of
this people so remarkable for its refined taste, and its burning
lusts for pleasure--then we can form some idea of the wondrous
spectacle presented by Venice in those days. It was no more the
mighty Venice, it was the elegant, the luxurious Venice." [Footnote:
"Memoires du Due de Raguse," vol. i., p. 287.]
After those days of festivities, Josephine, the queen of them,
returned to the quietude of Passeriano, which, after the sunshine of
Venice, must have appeared to her still more gloomy and sad.
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