Reference > Quotations > S.A. Bent, comp. > Familiar Short Sayings of Great Men
S.A. Bent, comp.  Familiar Short Sayings of Great Men.  1887.
Napoleon I.
        [Napoleon Bonaparte; born at Ajaccio, Corsica, Aug. 15, 1769; educated in France, and entered the Army of the Republic; took Toulon, 1793; commander-in-chief, 1795; campaign of Italy, 1796; expedition to Egypt, 1798; First Consul, 1799; second campaign in Italy, 1800; Emperor of the French, 1804; crushed Austria 1805, Prussia 1806; occupied Spain, 1807; invaded Russia, 1812; campaign in Germany and “War of Liberation,” 1813; occupation of Paris by the Allies, March 13, 1814; abdicated and retired to Elba; returned to France, March 1, 1815; battle of Waterloo, June 18, 1815; abdicated again; June 22; banished to St. Helena, where he died May 5, 1821.]
Let that woman be removed, who brings into this place the license of a camp.
          When the janitor’s wife at the military school at Brienne was clamoring for admission to a school-play.
  He witnessed the insurrection of June 20, 1792, and, following the mob, saw them break into the Tuileries: when Louis XVI. appeared on the balcony, and, in obedience to the popular demand, put on the liberty-cap [bonnet rouge], Bonaparte, then a captain of artillery, exclaimed, “The wretches! They should have swept down five hundred with grape-shot, and the rest would have fled.”
  At his confirmation, the Archbishop of Paris remarked that there was no St. Napoleon in the calendar, it being customary to name a child from some saint: “There are a crowd of saints in paradise,” replied Bonaparte, “and only three hundred and sixty-five days in a year.”
  During the siege of Toulon, then in possession of the Spanish and English, he said, “Those should possess knowledge, who aspire to assume the command over others.”
  When asked how he could fire upon his own countrymen, during the “Day of Sections,” when he suppressed by artillery the insurrection against the Directory, Oct. 4, 1794, he replied, “A soldier is only a machine to obey orders. This is my seal, which I have impressed upon Paris.” He made use of the same figure during the empire: “I am the signet, which marks the page where the Revolution has been stopped; but when I die it will turn the page, and resume its course.”
From the summit of the Pyramids forty centuries look down upon you!
          Before the battle of the Pyramids, July 21, 1798, Bonaparte addressed his soldiers, telling them that they were about to engage with the conquerors of Egypt, the Mamelukes, and their Arabian auxiliaries; and added, “Songez que du haut de ces monuments quarante siècles vous contemplent!”
  Before setting out on this expedition, he said of Washington, to some Americans, “Posterity will talk of him with reverence as the founder of a great empire, when my name shall be lost in the vortex of revolutions.”
La grande nation.
          Bonaparte first used the expression, la grande nation, in a proclamation to the Italians, 1797.—LANFREY: Napoleon I., I. 10. He repeated it the same year in replying at the Luxembourg to an address of Talleyrand: “It has fallen to you to organize the great nation, whose province is only limited by laws which Nature herself has set.” He addressed his troops on passing the Rhine (1805), as “the vanguard of la grande nation;” and at St. Helena (Las Cases, “Memorial,” Oct. 31, 1816) he claimed the authorship of the phrase; it was reiterated by Napoleon III., April 12, 1869, on the occasion of the pensioning of the old soldiers of the First Empire. Goethe and Schiller caught up the words, and used them: Goethe in the “Unterhaltungen deutscher Ausgewanderter,” and Schiller in a letter to Goethe, Oct. 5, 1798.
  Bonaparte’s addresses to his army were always brief, pointed, and stirring. Thus he said to his troops on entering Milan, 1796: “Then you will return to your homes; and your fellow-citizens will say of each of you in passing, ‘He was a soldier in the army of Italy!’”
It is not written on high that I am to perish by the hands of the Arabs.
          After an escape in Egypt from Arab horsemen.
  Bonaparte’s belief in his star, in fate, and destiny, was often expressed. Thus he said once to an officer, “My friend, if that ball were destined for you, it would be sure to find you, though you were to burrow a hundred feet under ground.” When a lady advised Lord Nelson not to expose himself in battle as recklessly as he was in the habit of doing, he replied, “The bullet which kills me will have on it, ‘Horatio Nelson, his with speed.’” Longfellow incorporates the idea in the ballad of “Victor Galbraith:”—
                  “Victor Galbraith
Falls to the ground, but he is not dead;
His name was not stamped on those balls of lead.”
  Mme. de Sévigné wrote: “Who can doubt that the cannonball which could distinguish M. de Turenne among a dozen was loaded for that purpose from all eternity?” Napoleon refused to retire from an exposed position at Montereau, in 1814, with the words, “Courage, my friends: the ball which is to kill me is not yet cast.” Of Sir Sidney Smith and the repulse he himself received at Acre, he said, “That man made me miss my destiny.” When O’Meara asked him at St. Helena, November, 1816, if he were a predestinarian, he replied, “When destiny wills, it must be obeyed” (Quando lo vuole il destino, bisogna ubbedire). As the sun broke through the clouds on the morning of Sept. 7, 1812, Napoleon exclaimed, “Voilà le soleil d’Austerlitz!” (Behold the sun of Austerlitz!) He said later, “Death overtakes the coward, but never the brave man till his hour is come.”
I found him a dwarf, and left him a giant.
          Of Lannes, who entered the army a volunteer, and died marshal of France, being mortally wounded at Aspern, May 22, 1809. “He was,” said Napoleon, “the Roland of the army.” The last words attributed to Lannes, “I die with the conviction and the glory of having been your best friend” (Sire, je meurs avec la conviction et la gloire d’avoir été votre meilleur ami), were, says Fournier (378, note), inserted in the “Moniteur” instead of those really uttered: “In the name of God, sire, make peace for France: as for me, I am dying” (Au nom de Dieu, sire, faites la paix pour la France: moi, je meurs). This was a cry for peace from one who had tasted the glory of war; the other words, loaned for the occasion to a faithful friend, were, in reality, a protest of Napoleon against the withdrawal of certain friendships.—Revue des Deux-Mondes, 1857, 904.
There is another world.
          Before going into action at Reichenbach, Prussia, May 22, 1813, Napoleon said to his favorite general, Duroc, “Fortune is resolved to have one of us to-day.” The duke was soon afterwards mortally wounded; and the emperor said to him as he pressed his hand, “Duroc, there is another world, where we shall meet again.”
  Seeing on the field of Wagram, July, 1809, the body of a colonel who had displeased him, Napoleon said, “I regret not having told him before the battle that I had forgotten every thing.”
Carnot has organized victory.
          In 1793 Bonaparte said of Carnot, a member of the Committee of Public Safety, who fulfilled the duties of a secretary of war, “Carnot has organized victory;” and years afterwards, when Waterloo had shattered his last armies, he bitterly exclaimed, “Carnot, I knew you too late!” (je vous ai connu trop tard!) “Truly,” says Brougham, “tyrants, and they who play the tyrant’s part, are the last to make acquaintance with the worth of such men as Carnot.”
  Napoleon said to Rapp, of the Duchess Louisa of Saxe-Weimar, one of Germany’s crowned heroines, after the battle of Jena in 1806: “There is a woman whom even your two hundred cannon have not frightened!” (Voilà une femme à laquelle même vos deux vent canons n’ont pu faire peur!) To an even greater Louisa, the heroic wife of Frederick William III. of Prussia, Napoleon offered an orange at a banquet after the peace of Tilsit in 1807: “Yes—but with Magdeburg,” she said; that city not having been ceded to Prussia, but handed over to the kingdom of Westphalia. “It is for me to give, you to receive,” replied the emperor.
  He advised Talma to conceal the tyrant in playing Nero, saying, “No man admits his wickedness, either to others or to himself.” The great actor received many favors from Napoleon, who wrote to him in 1808: “Come and act at Erfurt: you shall play before a pit-full of kings.”
From the sublime to the ridiculous there is but a step.
          On his return from the disastrous campaign of Russia, 1812, Napoleon repeated many times, in an interview with the Abbé du Pradt, his minister or agent at Warsaw, the mot which he made famous, if he did not invent it: “Du sublime au ridicule il n’y a qu’un pas.” Thomas Paine, who published his “Age of Reason” in Paris, 1795, says, in a note at the end of Part II., “One step above the sublime makes the ridiculous, and one step above the ridiculous makes the sublime again.” Napoleon varied the expression when he said, “The fate of war is to be exalted in the morning, and low enough at night: there is but one step from triumph to ruin.”—LOCKHART: Life. Deslandes (1690–1757) in “Reflections sur les Grands Hommes qui sont morts en plaisantant,” says, “I distrust those sentiments that are too far removed from nature, and whose sublimity is blended with ridicule; which two are as near one another as extreme wisdom and folly.”—A correspondent of “Notes and Queries,” 2d s. III. 66, quotes from a manuscript commonplace-book of Edward Lord Oxford [about 1725], “Le magnifique et le ridicule sont si voisins qu’ils touchent” (The magnificent and the ridiculous are so near neighbors that they touch each other). Coleridge speaks in his “Table-Talk” of a passage being “the sublime dashed to pieces by cutting too close with the fiery four-in-hand round the corner of nonsense.” The original of this saying may be found in a work, [Greek], 3, attributed to Longinus. For Mirabeau’s variation of the phrase, see entry for Caius Julius Cæsar. Wieland (“Abderiten,” III. ch. 12) gives a German version of the proverb.
  Napoleon said to the Abbé du Pradt, when giving him instructions as to the course he was to pursue in his attempt at Warsaw to gain over Poland, in 1806, “Set a good table, and cultivate the women” (Tenez bonne table, et soignez les femmes.) Goethe says, “Diplomacy is hospitable.”
I have not succeeded Louis XIV., but Charlemagne (Je n’ai pas succédé à Louis Quatorze, mais à Charlemagne).
          That is: I am not merely extending an empire, I am founding one; I am reviving the Holy Roman Empire; my son, the heir-apparent of the Holy Roman emperor, is “King of Rome.” In putting upon his own head at his coronation as King of Italy in 1805, the iron crown of Charlemagne, he uttered the old challenge of the Lombard kings, which became the motto of his Order of the Iron Crown, “Dio me la diede, guai a chi la tocca!” (God gave it to me: woe to him who touches it!) This crown of gold and precious stones, enclosing a thin ring of iron said to have been forged from a nail of the Cross, was made by order of Theolinda for her husband Arnulf, king of the Lombards, in 591. She committed it to the care of the church of Monza. Charlemagne, and all the German emperors who were kings of Lombardy, were crowned with it. It was carried to Mantua by the Austrians in 1859, but after the peace of Vienna in 1866 was given back to Victor Emmanuel at Turin.
  Charles XII. of Sweden wrote on a plan of the city of Riga: “The Lord gave it me: the Devil shall not take it from me.”
  Napoleon said of the crown of France, in presence of Mme. de Rémusat, “I found it on the ground, and I picked it up with the point of my sword” (J’ai trouvé la couronne de France par terre, et je l’ai ramassée avec la pointe de mon épée).—Memoirs, chap. vii. At the same time he was the embodiment of the Revolution: “I am the French Revolution.”—Ibid., chap. v. He made a similar assertion at Grenoble, on his return from Elba in 1815: “I am the Revolution crowned!”
The ages are not for us.
          When advising his brother Joseph, King of Naples, in 1806, to erect fortresses, etc., at once, as no one knew what might happen in two or three years, he said, “Les siècles ne sont pas à nous.”—THIERS: Consulate and Empire, Bk. XXV. When Joseph was about to take possession of the throne of Spain, his brother said to him, “I have only one counsel for you,—Be master;” and of his own invasion of that country, “I shall find the Pillars of Hercules in Spain: I shall not find there the limits of my power” (Je trouverai en Espagne les colonnes d’Hercule: je n’y trouverai pas les bornes de ma puissance). Not only was this prophecy unfulfilled, but “the beginning of the end” of Napoleon’s career dates from his unjustifiable attack upon a neighboring power.
Off! off with these confounded trappings!
          Of his coronation-robes, which he threw off with disgust at the end of the ceremony, Dec. 2, 1804. Louis XVI. said of his crown on a similar occasion, “It bothers me” (Elle me gêne).
  Another saying of this time has remained for history to record. The venerable pontiff Pius VII., who, against his will, was brought to Paris for the emperor’s coronation, was accustomed to bless the people every morning in the gallery of the Louvre. Seeing there one day a man who wished his opinions to be understood by remaining in the background, so as to avoid the papal benediction, Pius approached him with the mildly spoken words, “Why avoid me, sir? Can an old man’s blessing harm you?” (La bénédiction d’un vieillard, a-t-elle quelque danger?)—MME. DE RÉMUSAT: Memoirs, chap. x.
I conquer provinces, but Josephine wins hearts.
          Of the popularity of the empress. Napoleon said at another time, “The first applause of the French people sounded to my ear as sweet as the voice of Josephine.”
  His sisters were continually demanding honors which they considered due to their relationship to the emperor. He rebuked them once by saying, “One would think from your pretensions, ladies, that we had inherited the crown from our father” (En vérité à voir vos prétentions, mesdames, on croirait que nous tenons la couronne des mains du feu roi notre père).—MME. DE RÉMUSAT: Memoirs, vii. He replied at another time to the complaints of his sisters at what they considered a scanty allowance, “I had not so much when I had the honor to be sub-lieutenant” (Je n’avais pas ça, quand j’avais l’honneur d’être sous-lieutenant).
  Napoleon judged of a man’s superiority by his dexterity in falsehood, and used to recall with pleasure that one of his uncles predicted that he would rule the world, from his habit of lying. In the unflattering picture which Mme. de Rémusat draws of him, he admits that he would not be ashamed to commit a base action: “I am base myself,” he declared, “inherently base” (Je suis lâche, moi, essentiellement lâche).—Ibid.
  He hated repose for himself and others to such a degree, that he asserted that the man truly happy was he who succeeded best in avoiding him; adding, “When I die the world will heave a great ‘ugh!’” (un grand ouf!)—Ibid.
If he were alive, I would make him a prince (S’il vivait, je le ferais prince).
          Of Corneille.—BOURRIENNE: Recollections, II. 2. Goethe quotes this remark, and adds, “Yet he never read him.” He therefore accounted for Napoleon’s high opinion of the French poet by the fact that “the personal character of the writer influences the public rather than his talents as an artist.”—Conversations with Eckermann.
  Napoleon also said of Corneille, “Great men are truer to life in his works than in history” (Les grands hommes y sont plus vrais que dans l’histoire).
Her who has borne the most children.
          Las Cases records the celebrated encounter of Bonaparte with Mme. de Staël, who had at first sought to gain his favor, thrusting herself upon his notice, even at inopportune moments. Thus she replied to the chamberlain who told her that she could not see the First Consul, who was then taking a bath, “Genius has no sex” (Le génie na pas de sexe). On the occasion above referred to, she carried her desire for a compliment to the extreme of asking Bonaparte whom he considered the greatest woman in the world: “Her who has borne the most children,” was the ungallant reply. Unwilling to leave the field, she retorted, “You are not thought to like women;” to which Bonaparte rejoined, “Madame, I am very fond of my wife,” and the “incident” was closed. Napoleon once confessed that he was not amiable: “I am not amiable, I never have been, but I am just;” and he said at another time, “Friendship is but a name, I love no one.”
The English are a nation of shopkeepers.
          This mot will cling to Napoleon in the absence of any authority. It may have been suggested by a remark in an oration of Samuel Adams delivered in Philadelphia, Aug. 1, 1776, and published in London. Like the comparison between “the sublime and the ridiculous,” the expression is a not uncommon one. Barère, in a speech in the Convention, June 11, 1794, in defence of the Committee of Safety, said, “Let Pitt, then, boast of his shop-keeping nation” (sa nation boutiquière). The Emperor Francis II. said to Napoleon in 1805, “The English are a nation of merchants. To secure for themselves the commerce of the world, they are willing to set the Continent in flames.” Scott, in his “Life of Napoleon,” and the English press, fixed the remark upon the emperor. Tucker, Dean of Gloucester (1711–1799), wrote: “What is true of a shopkeeper is true of a shopkeeping nation.”—Tract, 1766.
My riches consist in glory and celebrity.
          Napoleon said that it was not until after the terrible passage of the Bridge of Lodi, May 10, 1796, “that the idea entered my mind that I might become a decisive actor in the political arena.” He spoke in a letter on the Poor Laws, to the Minister of the Interior, of not living in vain, “that we may leave some impress of our lives on the sands of time.”
        “And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time.”
LONGFELLOW. A Psalm of Life.    
  This saying is also attributed to Napoleon: “It would be better for a man never to have lived, than not to leave behind him traces of his existence;” and again: “Better never to have been born than to live without glory.”
  He said to the ambassador of Alexander I., whose liberal ideas he held in but little esteem, “Teach your master that great states are governed by the head, not by the heart.”
  “Victory,” he declared, “belongs to the most persevering.”
  When filling the great offices of state, where eloquence was more common than practical ideas, he said, “I want more head, and less tongue.”
  He defined his politics to be, “I will and I won’t!” (Je ne veux pas, ou je veux, voilà ma politique!)
  “I fear three newspapers,” he once remarked, “more than a hundred thousand bayonets.” Wendell Phillips has said, “The penny-papers of New York do more to govern this country than the White House at Washington;” and again, “We live under a government of men and morning newspapers.”
  When meditating an expedition to the East, to strike a blow at England through her Indian possessions, Napoleon said, “The Persians have blocked up the route of Tamerlane: I will discover another.”
Gentlemen, will you have the goodness to fire!
          When reproached with not making war according to old-fashioned methods, Napoleon referred to the famous incident of the battle of Fontenoy, May 11, 1745, by saying, “The time has passed in which enemies are mutually to appoint the place of combat, advance hat in hand, and say, ‘Gentlemen, will you have the goodness to fire!’” Lord Charles Hay, according to the tradition of this battle, at the head of a massed triangular battalion of infantry, raised his hat when at fifty paces from the French, and said, “Gentlemen of the French guard, fire first.” Their commander, Comte d’Auteroches, advancing on his side, replied, “After you, MM. les Anglais: we never fire first!” (Nous ne tirons jamais les premiers!) This courtesy cost the French dear, a terrible discharge from the English carrying away the whole of their front line. Carlyle, who tells the story (“French Revolution,” XV. 8.), adds, “Is not this a bit of modern chivalry! A supreme politeness in that sniffing pococurante kind.” He mentions, however, a letter dictated by the wounded Hay three weeks after the battle, who writes that he advanced before his regiment, drank to the French from his pocket-flask, told them he commanded the English guards, and hoped they would stand firm until he came up to them, turned to his regiment and made them huzza; at which d’Auteroches came out, and tried to make his men huzza, which they did in a feeble manner. The Marquis de Valfons, an eye-witness, tells the story, however, as it is generally understood.—Souvenirs, Paris, 1860, 143; v. Revue des Deux Mondes, Feb. 10, 1851.
Imagination rules the world.
          One of the principles upon which Napoleon acted through life.—BOURRIENNE, II. 2. France, in his opinion, needed to be constantly dazzled by brilliant successes. He said of the Directory at the outset of his career: “They cannot long retain their position: they do not know how to do any thing for the imagination of the nation.”
  The maxim that “Knowledge is power,” he transformed into “Intelligence has rights before force. Force without intelligence is nothing.”
  He once gave his own horse to a messenger, saying, “Nothing is too good for a French soldier.”
  He refused to be present at a celebration of the death of Louis XVI., because, in his opinion, “to celebrate the anniversary of a man’s death is an act unworthy of a government.”
  Sieyès once alluded to the late king as a tyrant: Bonaparte at once corrected him, “If he had been a tyrant, I should not be here, and you would be saying mass.” Mme. Elisabeth, the king’s sister, said on her trial, “You call my brother a tyrant. If he had been what you say, you would not be where you are, nor I before you.”
  Napoleon once said of the Austrian Archduke Charles, “He is a good man, which includes every thing when said of a prince.” Michelet, in his “History of France,” quotes the saying of old France, àpropos of Jeanne Darc, “Great hearts alone understand how much glory there is in being good.”
  One of Napoleon’s most fortunate personal characteristics was his ability to sleep when he wished, and to make but little suffice. “Two or three hours’ sleep,” he used to say, “is enough for any man.” At another time he said, “Different matters are arranged in my head as in drawers: I open one drawer, and close another, as I wish. If I desire repose, I shut up all the drawers, and sleep.”
France needs nothing so much, to promote her regeneration, as good mothers.  20
The French, so brave in the field, have no civic courage.  21
A man is not a soldier.
          In the instructions to his ministers at the time of the Walcheren expedition, meaning that discipline was every thing.—THIERS: Consulate and Empire, Bk. 36. At another time he said, “The worse the man, the better the soldier; if soldiers be not corrupt, they must be made so.” The maxim of Tilly, who remorselessly ravaged the Palatinate during the Thirty Years’ War, was, “A bright musket, but a ragged soldier.”
In resigning myself to life, I accept nameless tortures. No matter: I will endure them.
          After his first abdication, in 1814. He said at this time, “The love of country is the love of one’s self, of one’s position, of one’s personal interest.”
  He had already expressed the following opinion of suicide: “To give one’s self up to grief without resistance, to kill one’s self to escape it, is to leave the field of battle without gaining the day” (S’abandonner au chagrin sans y résister, se tuer pour s’y soustraire, c’est abandonner le champ de bataille sans avoir vaincu).
  In the affecting scene of his separation from the Old Guard, he kissed the eagle of France, exclaiming, “Dear eagle, may this last embrace vibrate forever in the hearts of all my faithful soldiers!”
  On his return from Elba, in March, 1815, he said to the soldiers who were sent to oppose his march to Paris, “I am your emperor: fire on me if you wish; fire on your father: here is my bosom!”
  It was during the Hundred Days that he compared himself to the throne: “The throne is but a piece of gilded wood covered with velvet (Le trône en lui-même n’est qu’un assemblage de quelques pièces de bois recouvertes de velours); the throne is a man, and I am that man, with my indomitable will, my inflexible temper, and my wide-spread fame” (le trône, c’est un homme, et cet homme, c’est moi avec ma volonté, mon caractère, et ma renommée).—THIERS: Consulate and Empire, Bk. 51.
  Speaking of his intended reforms at this time, he said, “I have dwelt a year in Elba; and there, as in a tomb, I have heard the voice of posterity” (Je viens de demeurer une année à l’ile d’Elbe; et là, comme dans un tombeau, j’ai pu entendre la voix de la postérité).
  Visiting Malmaison, after Maria Louisa had abandoned his fortunes, and Josephine was no more, the inconstancy of the former impressed him so strongly as to cause him to revert to the first object of his affections, with the words, “She would not have deserted me!” Josephine had lived long enough to witness his first abdication. “If he had but listened to me!” was the only reproach she uttered.
You have the fidelity of cats, who never leave the house.
          He replied to M. de Ségur and others whom he met at the Tuileries, after his return from Elba, and who assured him of their fidelity, “There are two kinds of fidelity,—that of dogs and that of cats: you, gentlemen, have the fidelity of cats, who never leave the house.” When told that Fox still loved France after the dethronement of the royal family, Burke remarked, “He is like a cat: he is fond of the house, though the family is gone.”
  Napoleon bade adieu to the coast of France from the deck of the “Northumberland,” with the words, “Land of the brave, I salute thee! Farewell, France, farewell!”
The death of Christ is the death of a God.
          Rousseau said, “Socrates died like a philosopher, Jesus Christ like a God.”
  Napoleon conversed frequently on religious subjects at St. Helena. The following remarks are recorded by O’Meara, “Napoleon in Exile:”—
  What a solace Christianity must be to one who has an undoubted conviction of its truth!
  I know man, and I tell you that Jesus Christ is not a man. The religion of Christ is a mystery which subsists by its own force, and proceeds from a mind which is not a human mind.
  Alexander, Cæsar, Charlemagne, and myself have founded empires. But upon what did we rest the creations of our genius? Upon force. Jesus Christ alone founded his empire upon love, and at this moment millions of men would die for him.
  There is between Christianity and all other religions whatever the distance of infinity.
  The Christian religion is neither ideology nor metaphysics; but a practical rule, which directs the actions of man, corrects him, counsels him, and assists him in all his conduct. If Christianity is not a true religion, one is very excusable in being deceived; for every thing in it is grand, and worthy of God.
  Religion is the dominion of the soul. It is the hope of life, the anchor of safety, the deliverance of the soul.
  The religion of Jesus [Napoleon said during the expedition to Egypt] is a threat, that of Mohammed is a promise.
  The gospel alone has shown a full and complete assemblage of the principles of morality stripped of all absurdity.
  During the voyage to St. Helena, he interrupted some officers who were expressing atheistical sentiments, by pointing to the starry sky, and saying, “Gentlemen, your arguments are very fine; but who made all those worlds beaming so gloriously upon us?”
  A man cannot become an atheist by merely wishing it (n’est pas athée qui veut).
  The problems of Providence are insoluble.
Europe republican or Cossack.
          In a conversation at St. Helena, reported by Las Cases under date of April 8, 1816, Napoleon said, “In the present state of things, all Europe can become in ten years Cossack or republican” (toute en républiques; commonly quoted “in fifty years”).
  Most of the following sayings are quoted from O’Meara’s “Napoleon in Exile,” or from the emperor’s “Table-Talk:”—
  People grow quickly on fields of battle.
  In revolutions every thing is forgotten. The benefits you confer to-day are forgotten to-morrow. To O’Meara, July 25, 1816.
  Nothing is so insulting as to add irony to injury (Ibid., of Sir Hudson Lowe’s treatment of him.) The pages of O’Meara are filled with the emperor’s complaints of the English governor. “The duty of a spy,” he said in November, 1816, “agrees with him much better than that of representing a great nation” (Le métier d’un sbire lui convient beaucoup mieux que celui de représentant d’une grande nation); and again, “He would dissimulate in saying ‘Good-morning’” (Il metterait de l’astuce à dire bon jour). In April, 1817, he joined Lowe and old France in the same condemnation: “He has the appearance of a sub-lieutenant of the old régime” (Il a l’air d’un sous-lieutenant de l’ancien régime).
I ought to have died at Waterloo (J’aurais dû mourir à Waterloo).
          To O’Meara, April, 1817. At another time he said, “The blow I received at Waterloo is mortal.” Necker, witnessing the enthusiasm of his recall to power, July 21, 1789, observed, “Now is the moment that I should die!”
  Occupation is the scythe of time. (Resolving to write his memoirs during his captivity.)
  Tragedy warms the soul, elevates the heart, can and ought to create heroes. And again, “High tragedy is the school of great men.”
  How many superior men are children more than once in a day!
  A man like me is always a god or a devil, un dio or un diavolo. (Of public opinion.)
  There is more courage in supporting an existence like mine, than in abandoning it.—Ibid., Nov. 9, 1816.
  Truth alone wounds (La vérité seule blesse)—Ibid., March 14, 1817.
  Falsehood passes, truth remains (Les mensonges passent, la vérité reste).—Ibid.
  Experience, experience, is every thing.—Ibid., April 15, 1817.
  I spring from the populace myself (Je sors de la canaille, moi-même).
Respect the burden, madam.
          (To an English lady, who told some slaves, toiling up a hill with a burden, to step out of Napoleon’s path.)
  If St. Helena were France, I should love even this frightful rock.
  My fall has elevated me prodigiously. Every succeeding day divests me of some portion of my tyrant’s skin.
  I, too, am forgotten. The name of a conqueror and an emperor is a college theme.
  No man’s loss is irreparable. No man is necessary, nor I, nor Cæsar, nor Alexander. The world must go on.
  The only encouragement of literature is to give the poet a position in the state.
Rome is undoubtedly the capital which one day the Italians will select.
          (At St. Helena.)
  Europe is but a mole-hill: there have never existed mighty empires, there have never occurred great revolutions, save in the East, where live six hundred millions of men,—the cradle of all religions, the birthplace of all metaphysics.
  All great reputations come from the East.
  I intended the Mediterranean to be a French lake.
The only victory over love is flight.
        “Then fly betimes, for only they
Conquer love, that run away.”
CAREW: Conquest by Flight.    
  Love does more harm than good.
  Love should be a pleasure, not a torment. (Of the “Nouvelle Héloïse.”)
  Love should be the occupation of the idle man, the distraction of the warrior, the rock of the sovereign.
        “Love seldom haunts the breast where learning lies,
And Venus sets ere Mercury can rise.”
POPE: The Wife of Bath.    
  All the women in the world would not make me lose an hour.
  He who is unmoved by tears has no heart.
  Passionate people always deny their anger, and cowards often boast of their ignorance of fear.
  Great ambition is the passion of a great character.
  Flatterers and learned men do not agree together.
  When a man is determined to hold a place [under government], he has already sold himself to it. (Pompey, when landing on the coast of Egypt, where he was murdered after Pharsalia, repeated two lines of Sophocles:—
        “Whoever comes within a tyrant’s door
Becomes his slave, though he were free before.”
Samuel Rogers expressed the same idea: “Places are given away by government as often for the sake of silencing animosity as in the hope of assistance from the parties benefited.”)
  Men are led by trifles.
  Public instruction should be the first object of government.
  Public esteem is the reward of honest men.
  There are two levers for moving men,—interest and fear.
  A sect cannot be destroyed by cannon-balls.
  Courage may defend a crown, but infamy never.
  A faithful friend is the true image of Deity!
My principle was, the career open to talents (La carrière ouverte aux talents, voilà mon principe).
          To O’Meara. It was the maxim which he expressed in other words by saying, “Every French soldier carries in his knapsack the bâton of a marshal of France” (Tout soldat français porte dans sa giberne le bâton de maréchal de France). Appius Claudius said, “Every man is the architect of his own fortune” (Faber est suæ quisque fortunæ); as the French proverb expresses it, “Un homme est le fils de ses œuvres” (A man is the child of his works), which is, however, derived from the Spanish (“Don Quixote,” I. iv. 20).
  I have always gone with the opinion of great masses and with events (J’ai toujours marché avec l’opinion des grandes masses et les évènements). To O’Meara, March 3, 1817.
  Before my reign, the oath taken by the French kings was, to exterminate all heretics. At my coronation I swore to protect all worships.—Ibid., April 3, 1817.
  An aristocracy is the true, the only support of a monarchy. Without it the state is a vessel without a rudder,—a balloon in the air.
  Of the elaborate system of jurisprudence with which he endowed France, he said, “I shall go down to posterity with the Code in my hand.”
I failed: therefore, according to all justice, I was wrong.
          Posterity will do me justice. (To O’Meara, March 3, 1817.)
  When firmness is sufficient, rashness is unnecessary.
  I have always thought that sovereignty resides in the people. The empire, as I organized it, was but a great republic. Again he said, “Great things can only be done in France by having the support of the mass of the people.”
Tête d’armée! France! France!
          Napoleon’s last words, May 5, 1821. In a codicil to his will, dated April 16 of that year, he said, “I wish my ashes to repose on the banks of the Seine, in the midst of the French people I have loved so well!” (Je désire que mes cendres reposent sur les bords de la Seine, au milieu de ce peuple français que j’ai tant aimé!)
  In 1842 the Prince de Joinville, son of Louis Philippe, conveyed the remains of Napoleon to France in a man-of-war. Littré said of the rejoicing in Paris when the emperor was buried under the dome of the Invalides, “Could he have returned to life, he would certainly have slept that night in the Tuileries.”

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