Before the conquest that would have his name etched in the annals of history, Napoleon was a young soldier in love. A young soldier in love inspired to take up the pen. Now, centuries later, the manuscript of what that love bore, a 22- page novella, has turned up at an auction in New York. A semi-autobiographical romance tale, collected from a smattering of stained manuscripts, the work is set to fetch a cool quarter mil once sold.
Written in 1795, as Napoleon was in the midst of rising the ranks within the French military, Clisson et Eugénie follows a disillusioned soldier in his tragic romance with Eugénie. Also the name of Napoleon’s love interest at the time. Within the first few pages, the protagonists have already gone through romantic introduction, courting, and marriage; with space left for the inevitable tragedy of this economical novella.
According to an article at The Guardian, Napoleon memorabilia and manuscripts are common at the Bonham auction, but normally what is for sale is more representative of Napoleon the Conqueror. Certainly not Napoleon the Novelist.
Christina Geiger, Bonhams’ director of fine books and manuscripts, had this to say of the work’s novelty:
“Normally, that maybe detracts from the value, but in this case, his character is so fascinating … It just gets at those psychological contradictions in a way that his military planning documents or something like that wouldn’t as much.”
The idea of a heartbroken Napoleon venting his romantic frustrations into a short melodrama is somewhat comedic, but it definitely adds interest to his already fascinating legend.
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