Chateaubriand's memoirs, XIX, 7

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Mémoires d'Outre-tombe


Book XIX, chapter 7
Two pamphlets



Bonaparte returned to the south of France on ‘the 2nd of January Year II’; he found himself there just before the siege of Toulon; he wrote two pamphlets there: the first is in letter-form to Matteo Buttafuoco; he treats him with indignation and at the same time condemns Paoli for having given power back into the hands of the people: ‘A strange mistake,’ he cries, ‘that subjects the only man who by his education, the illustriousness of his birth, and his wealth, is fit to be governor, to a brute, a mercenary!’

Though a revolutionary, Bonaparte everywhere reveals himself as an enemy of the people; he was nevertheless complimented on his pamphlet by Masseria, the President of the Patrotic Club of Ajaccio.

On the 29th of July 1793, he had another pamphlet printed, Le Souper de Beaucaire. Bourrienne reproduces a manuscript reviewed by Bonaparte, but abridged and modified to be more in accord with the Emperor’s opinions at the time when he read the work again: it is a dialogue between a man from Marseilles, one from Nîmes, an army officer, and a Montpellier manufacturer. It is about a current affair of the time, the attack on Avignon by Carteaux’s army, in which Napoleon was involved as an artillery officer. He announces to the Marseillais that his party will be defeated, since it has ceased to hold fast to the Revolution. The Marseillais says to the officer, that is to say, to Bonaparte: ‘One always remembers that monster who was nevertheless one of the leaders of the club; he hung a citizen from a lantern, pillaged his house and violated his wife, having made her drink a glass of her husband’s blood.’ – ‘How terrible,’ the officer cries; ‘but is this story true! I doubt it, since no one believes in rape these days.’ It is the frivolousness of last century coming to fruition in Bonaparte’s icy temperament. That accusation of having drunk blood or forced it to be drunk has often been repeated. When the Duc de Montmorency was beheaded at Toulouse, armed men drank his blood in order to acquire the virtue of a great heart.