Talma, by all accounts France's greatest actor, maintained his pre-eminence through three succeeding regimes: the Revolution, the Napoleonic Empire and the Bourbon Restoration. He smashed the classic theatre tradition by insisting on authentic costumes, acting in a style of romantic naturalism and by suppressing the singsong rhythm of the alexandrines. For many years he was one of Napoleon's closest friends, received subsidies from him and even acting instruction. (While Moscow lay in ruins about him, Napoleon spent three evenings with Talma drawing up the rules for the Comedie Francaise. This is a truly fascinating biography with emphasis on the theatre rather than on Talma's wives and mistresses.