Monday, February 20, 2006

A thousand knives

A letter in which Napoleon chides his wife for her infidelities is to be auctioned in Moscow in March, with bids starting at $50,000.

A month before the letter was written Josephine began an affair with Hippolyte Charles, a soldier. Napoleon divorced her in 1809.

The letter is remarkable for its restrained and literary tenor.

Napoleon writes with a lucidity that comes with sharp grief:

“My soul had been ready for joy but now it is filled with pain,” Napoleon writes. “It seems to me that you have made your choice and you know who to turn to to replace me . . . I am not using the word treachery because you have never loved.”

Josephine’s love for him, Napoleon writes, had been nothing more than a whim whereas his soul had been dreaming of her even before she was born.

He has adored everything in her — “including the escapades that took place 15 days before our wedding”, he notes archly. But then he reproaches her again: “And you, you haven’t held my portrait in your hand for six months and that has not gone unnoticed by me.” Later he writes: “Cruel. Why have you forced me to believe in a feeling you did not have?”

Napoleon concludes by wishing Josephine farewell, telling her to stay in Paris and not to write to him any more. “A thousand knives are tearing my heart apart, do not sink them any deeper. Goodbye my happiness, you have been everything to me that existed on earth,” the letter ends.

(Bold mine.)

Read the report here.

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