NAPOLEON IN LOVE by R. F. Delderfield


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Novelist Delderfield, dabbler in Imperial trivia (The Golden Millstones, 1965), now swoons over Napoleon as the compleat romantic. The ""cynical voluptuary"" was, it turns out, a softy--gentlest of lovers, protector of past mistresses. He remained a pushover even for the disloyal D‚sir‚e, who married his then-rival Bernadotte, although ""the small flame of nostalgic love that continued to burn in his heart was almost extinguished by the successive cold douches of Bernadotte's. . . disgusting ingratitude."" (Alas, ""One might search history in vain for a parallel to such baseness."") Napoleon learned his sweet boyish way with women in the innocence of a cherry orchard--and according to the extravagant Mr. Delderfield, ""The world owes something to Caroline Columbier. The music she played in the heart of a sixteen-year-old starveling never quite died away."" Josephine was something else again, but Napoleon's fondness for her survived both her early philandering and her cavalier inflation of the Imperial debt--a sore point with his mother, bien s–r. Their divorce was precipitated by patriotic duty: Napoleon married the bovine Austrian Marie Louise to produce an heir. Delderfield profiles each of the objects of the Imperial affections, real and apochryphal--girls of the Com‚die Fran‡aise, ladies of the court, and of course Poland's reluctant Marie Walewska. He rather relishes the intrigue, much of it quite beneath the ""orbit of classical romance,"" but apparently Napoleon didn't suffer: his amours never blunted ""the fine edge of his superbly efficient brain."" Historically, blanc mange.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1979
Publisher: Simon & Schuster