Napoleon Series Archive 2014

Re: Proof advanced by Roberts

Here we go again! I haven't got Cronin now so I shall have to resort to a copy and paste from my original review:

>Cronin's version of events, he states, is based on "a critical evaluation of sources." Appendix A discusses the reliability of Napoleonic memoirs, explaining why some frequently used sources are of little value. The source of his explanations is not given, so it is difficult to assess them. It is poor logic though, to say that because Marmont betrayed Napoleon his reasons for the betrayal must be invalid, this prejudges both parties. Cronin says: 'the above nine writers are, I believe, unreliable sources, and I have treated them with extreme caution. Normally I have drawn on them only for statements which they had no reason to distort and which are backed up by more impartial evidence.' There is a risk here that the material used is selected because it agrees with the author's viewpoint; why not just use the 'more impartial evidence'? One source used in the boyhood section is the Notebooks of Alexandre de Mazis, but we are not told the origin of this text nor why we should consider it reliable; those who claim to have been at school with the subsequently famous are not always the most truthful.

There are no footnotes with the text but each chapter has notes and sources in the back of the book. Sometimes the source of a statement is linked to the paragraph in the text, but often it cannot be identified. In Chapter 2 it is stated that "We have three authentic incidents from the Brienne years." Turning to the notes, it would appear that the source for the 'Brienne years' is Masson's Napoleon Inconnu, no primary source for the incidents related is given. More seriously, in Chapter 16 the arrest of the duc d'Enghien is described and the statements of d'Enghien, which implicate him in the plot, are given in direct speech, which would lead us to expect a primary source, but a check with the notes gives: A. Boulay de la Meurthe, Les dernieres annees du duc d'Enghien, 1886. This gives us no idea where Boulay de la Meurthe got his information. A wide variety of sources are quoted, many of them are secondary, including other biographies. The only chapter which seems to be largely based on primary sources is Chapter 15, on the Treaty of Amiens and its rupture.

The use of the primary sources is very selective: I can find passages in Caulaincourt, Gourgaud and Bertrand which contradict the author's views, yet he includes these as his reliable sources. He also includes Lecestre's Lettres inedites de Napoleon Ió omitted from the original Correspondance because they show the Imperial rule at its worst. One wonders if Cronin actually read them, since they are incompatible with his picture of Napoleon as idealistic and honourable, a heroic figure with just enough flaws to make him human. To talk of "blots on the imperial picture" is the most feeble of understatements when the picture is completely wiped out by reading Napoleon's own words. <

Kindly answer the points rather than just accusing me of bias.

Susan

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