WALTER GEER (1857–1937)
Terra-Cotta In Architecture (1891)
Napoleon The Third: The Romance Of An Emperor (1920)
"NEARLY fifty years have elapsed since the death of Napoleon the Third at Chislehurst in January 1873, and it seems as though the time had now arrived for an unprejudiced story of his career. After the catastrophe of Sedan, there was a violent reaction in France from the Napoleonic idolatry of the Second Empire. Condemnation ran to as great an extreme as worship had gone before. The Napoleonic legend was torn to tatters, and the central figure of its revival was held responsible for all the misfortunes of "l'année terrible." From an over-rated hero. Napoleon the Third was transformed into an equally impossible demon. Time has now checked the reaction, and softened the rage of the iconoclasts. The wrong of the Peace of Frankfort has been undone, and the glorious tricolor of the Empire and the Republic once more floats over the "lost provinces" of Alsace and Lorraine.
While Napoleon the Third possessed but little of the administrative ability, and none of the military genius, of the Great Emperor, he certainly was far from deserving the title of "Napoleon the Little" bestowed upon him by Victor Hugo. Compared with the leaders of public opinion in other countries during his time, with Cavour in Italy, with Disraeli and Gladstone in England, even with Bismarck in Prussia, he cannot be considered inferior. Time has shown the "Iron Chancellor" of Germany in his true proportions. The German propaganda is better understood now than it was a few years ago. In his memoirs Bismarck has related cynically, and even vauntingly, the story of the falsified Ems dispatch, which precipitated the Franco-Prussian war, the whole blame for which at the time, and for years afterwards, was laid at the door of France.
In the days of disaster which followed, with equal injustice, all the misfortunes of France were attributed to the Imperial regime. The Nation, which had refused to provide for adequate military preparedness, threw the whole blame upon the Emperor. If the French eagles had been borne in triumph to Berlin, as after Jena in 1806, Napoleon the Third would have been acclaimed by all the world as the worthy successor of Napoleon the Great. Because, prematurely old, and already suffering from a mortal malady, he failed, the world united to decry and belittle him.
But, whatever the final verdict of History may be, upon these controverted points, there can be no doubt as to the fact that Louis Napoleon Bonaparte was one of the dominating personalities of the great Nineteenth Century, and one of the most interesting characters in history. The story of his life reads like the pages of a great historical novel, and may well be called The Romance of an Emperor." (Foreword)
The Story Of Terra Cotta (1921)
Napoleon The First; An Intimate Biography (1921)
"OF books and memoirs about Napoleon there is no end, but there are comparatively few which give an unprejudiced picture of the man. For the most part no judgment has been passed upon him but that either of profound antipathy or of blind admiration. The books published about him during his life, and for many years after his death, have but little value. The idolatry and hatred which he inspired survived him too long to allow of an unbiased view. It has been his fate, in death, as in life, to stir the hearts of men to their depths. Now that one hundred years have elapsed since the "long-drawn agony" of Saint Helena we think that the time has come for a more impartial estimate. Facts are clearer, motives are better known, much new evidence is available. Let us then endeavor to depict Napoleon as he was, and "nothing extenuate, nor set down aught in malice."" (Preface)
The French Revolution: A Historical Sketch (1922)
"In writing on the subject of the French Revolution, it is not easy to fix either the starting-point or the end. The story can hardly begin with the assembling of the States-General in the spring of 1789. To be intelligible, it must go back at least to the close of the reign of Louis the Fourteenth. At the other end, it is difficult to stop short of the advent of Bonaparte in the autumn of 1799. It is also difficult at times to follow the strict chronological order of events. Even at the risk of some repetition, it is necessary that facts of the same kind should be grouped together. To attempt, for example, to explain simultaneously the conflict of parties at Paris, and the battles on the frontier, would only produce confusion in the mind of the reader. In order to make the narrative clear, it has been thought best, therefore, to present the facts, turn by turn, in several parallel series, rather than in their chronological sequence." (Foreword)
Napoleon And Josephine: The Rise Of The Empire (1924)
"IN the popular estimation the Empress Joséphine is crowned with a halo of goodness which makes the task of her biographer one of peculiar difficulty. The aversion which many feel towards Napoleon is not a little due to what they conceive to be the cruelty with which he treated the woman who for fourteen years was the companion of his glory. The writer of this book holds no brief either for the prosecution or the defence. fIe wants to draw a portrait—not to pronounce a judgment: his object is to depict Joséphine as she was, and he leaves the reader to decide as to her goodness." (Foreword)
Napoleon And Marie-Louise: The Fall Of The Empire (1925)
"THE history of Europe from 1807 to 1812, between Tilsit and Moscow, was dominated by the efforts of Napoleon to assure by a permanent peace with England the stability of his Empire and the repose of the world. To attain this end, the principal political means which he employed, at two decisive epochs in his career, were the Russian alliance and the Austrian marriage. From his headquarters in Poland, several weeks after Eylau, he wrote Talleyrand: “The tranquillity of Europe will never be established until France and Austria, or France and Russia, march together”. At that time he had no system, but only an end in view: to conquer England, and thus assure a general peace. Of all the great Powers, Russia then seemed to him the best placed to aid him in this task —by her geographical position, and the immensity of her resources. If the entente established at Tilsit had been consolidated and perpetuated, it is probable that England would have given up the struggle, and that his object would have been attained. The rupture with Russia, to which the Austrian alliance directly led, revived the almost extinct coalition, drew Napoleon into disastrous enterprises, and ended in his downfall.
In a former volume, the legend of Joséphine was considered, and an attempt was made to substitute for it the truth of History. In the presence of the legend of Marie-Louise, the object is the same. For more than a century the Austrian Archduchess has been an object of detestation in France, and of contempt throughout the world. But we must remember that Marie-Louise was a German by birth and race, and that her stay in France was too short to enable her to change her tastes and her sympathies. She always felt herself an exile and a stranger in her adopted country.
Except as the consort of Napoleon, Marie-Louise has no historical interest, and it is only in her relations with him that she will be considered. Our theme is the Austrian marriage and its effect on the Russian alliance: these two events determined the fate of Napoleon." (Foreword)
Napoleon And His Family: The Story Of A Corsican Clan (1927–1929)
"JEAN-JACQUES Rousseau says in Emile: “ Without altering a historical fact, but by extending or contracting the circumstances bearing upon it, how many aspects one can give it! The same object, placed at different points of view, will hardly seem the same; and yet nothing has changed except the eye of the spectator.”
It is impossible to understand fully the drama of the life of Napoleon without taking into consideration two factors, practically ignored by historians, which had a decisive bearing upon his career: his physical heritage, and the influence of his family.
In his bulletins and correspondence, Napoleon always endeavored to convey the impression that he was constantly in excellent health. This, however, was far from being true, and his physical condition, during his later campaigns, as first pointed out by Lord Wolseley, was largely the cause of his failure.
The fame of Napoleon has so overshadowed that of his brothers and sisters that their influence on his career has generally been overlooked. Without disregarding the other cause, which was largely beyond his control, it may be said that the downfall of Napoleon was mainly due to the members of his family, whom he had raised so high, who by their shortcomings and their transgressions became the agents of his decline. Their acts were frequently beyond his control, without his authority, and contrary to his wishes; but they were so by virtue of the powers which he had delegated, of the system which he himself had established for the government of his Empire.
We propose to set forth in these pages the part for which the Family was responsible in the events which brought about the crumbling of the highest fortune that the world has ever seen upraised; in the downfall of the man the best endowed by nature, the best served by Destiny, that History has ever known.
In this drama of Napoleon and His Family there are over twenty persons who take the subordinate roles, and occupy the stage beside the principal actor, but the character of Napoleon dominates the entire play. It is necessary to bring on the scene his father and mother, his uncle (Fesch), his brothers and sisters, with their respective consorts, as well as his adopted son (Eugene) and his wife; and to present many facts which derive their main interest from their bearing upon the career of the star performer.
This, then, is not a life of Napoleon: not a history of his campaigns: not a record of his civil administration —it is only the story of the Family, as it influenced his designs, his acts, and his destiny." (Foreword)
(1927) Volume 1
(1928) Volume 2
(1929) Volume 3
Suggest and discuss books to read (all languages welcome!)
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