BLTC Press Titles

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The Secret Doctrine, Volume II Anthropogenesis

H. P. Blavatsky

Darby O'Gill and the Little People

Hermenie Templeton Kavanagh

Theory of Colours

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Shakti and Shakta

John Woodroffe

A life of Napoleon Bonaparte

by Ida Minerva Tarbell





F I were not convinced that his family is as old and as good as my own," said the Emperor of Austria when he married Marie Louise to Napoleon Bonaparte, "I would not give him my daughter." The remark is sufficient recognition of the nobility of the father of Napoleon, Charles Marie de Bonaparte, a gentleman of Ajaccio, Corsica, whose family, of Tuscan origin, had settled there in the sixteenth century, and who, in 1765, had married a young girl of the island, Laetitia Ramolino.

Monsieur Bonaparte gave his wife a noble name, but little else. He was an indolent, pleasure-loving, chimerical man, who had inherited a lawsuit, and whose time was absorbed in the hopeless task of recovering an estate of which the Church had taken possession. Madame Bonaparte brought her husband no great name, but she did bring him health, beauty, and remarkable qualities. Tall and imposing, Mademoiselle Lsetitia Ramolino had a superb carriage, which she never lost, and a face which attracted attention particularly by the accentuation and perfection of its features. She was reserved, but of ceaseless energy and will, and though but fifteen when married, she conducted her family affairs with such good sense and firmness that she was able to bring up decently the eight children spared her from the thirteen she bore. The habits of order and economy formed in her years of struggle became so firmly rooted in her character that later, when she became mater rcgiiin, the " Madame Mere" of an imperial court, she could not put them aside, but saved from the generous income at her disposal, " for those of my children who are not yet settled," she said. Throughout her life she showed the truth of her son's characterization t "A man's head on a woman's body."

The first years after their marriage were stormy ones for the Bonapartes. The Corsicans, led by the patriot Pascal Paoli, were in revolt against the French, at that time masters of the island. Among Paoli's followers was Charles Bonaparte. He shared the fortunes of his chief to the end of the struggle of 1769, and when, finally, Paoli was hopelessly defeated, took to the mountains. In all the dangers and miseries of this war tnd flight, Charles Bonaparte was accompanied by his wife, who, vigorous of body and brave of heart, suffered privations, dangers, and fatigue without complaint. When the Corsicans submitted, the Bonapartes went back to Ajaccio. Six weeks later Madame Bonaparte gave birth to her fourth child. Napoleon.

"I was born," said Napoleon, "when my country was perishing. Thirty thousand Frenchmen were vomited upon our soil. Cries of the wounded, sighs of the oppressed, and tears of despair surrounded my cradle at my birth."

Young Bonaparte learned to hate with the fierceness peculiar to Corsican blood the idea of oppression, to revere Paoli, and, with a boy's contempt of necessity, even to despise his father's submission. It was not strange. His mother had little time for her children's training. His father gave them no attention; and Napoleon, " obstinate and curious,"' domineering over his brothers and companions, fearing no one, ran wild on the beach with the sailors or over the mountains with the herdsmen, listening to their tales of the Corsican rebellion and of fights, on sea and land, imbibing their contempt for submission, their love for liberty.

At nine years of age he was a shy, proud, wilful child, unkempt and untrained, little, pale, and nervous, almost without instruction, and yet already enamored of a soldier's life and conscious of a certain superiority over his comrades. Then it was that he was suddenly transplanted from his free life to an environment foreign in its language, artificial in its etiquette, and severe in its regulations.

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