Saturday, April 12, 2014

Opening paragraphs.........................

Napoleon Bonaparte was born on 15 August 1769 at Ajaccio on the island of Corsica.  It is a paradox that this man who thought in terms of conquering entire continents should have had his life bounded by three islands:  Corsica, less than half the size of Wales, no bigger than Vermont;  Elba, much smaller, where a parody of his glory was enacted;  and Saint Helena, a mere speck on the ocean, his death prison.   It was a vintage time to be born:  1769 was also the birth year of Bonaparte's nemesis, the duke of Wellington, and the politician who backed him, Viscount Castlereagh;  and in and around this date were born many of the greatest spirits of the coming age:  Chateaubriand and Madame de Stael, two more of Bonaparte's dedicated enemies;  Wordsworth and Coleridge, who cursed him in prose and verse;  Beethoven, who dedicated his Eroica Symphony to the First Consul, then tore out the page in anger when he became emperor;  and a host of others - Hegel and Schlegel,  Andrew Johnson and John Quincy Adams, George Canning, Metternich, and Sir Walter Scott.
-Paul Johnson,   Napoleon

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