Napoleon on Love
Frayling, Christopher. Napoleon Wrote Fiction. New York : Saint
Martin's Press, 1972.
I did not know that Napoleon was an expert on love until I read his
The Dialogue on Love. Written in either June or July 1791, it
is a Socratic dialogue which begins in the middle of a heated argument
between Napoleon himself and his friend and fellow graduate of the Ecole
Militaire, Alexandre des Mazis.
According to Christopher Frayling, an Exeter University scholar who
edited and translated The Dialogue on Love (in his book Napoleon
Wrote Fiction), the dialogue's most striking feature is a sense
of immediacy of the spoken word and of realistic character study that
are genuinely taken from life.
Frayling then goes on to explain that in the dialogue Napoleon allows
des Mazis to defend his position thoroughly then destroys what has been
said with a barrage of social and political theories and obviously tried
hard to adapt his style to the personalities of the two people in the
dialogue. To compare and contrast the personalities of the two speakers,
Napoleon shows des Mazis as an impatient, self-indulgent, and immature
man while Napoleon is shown as a taciturn man.
Being a discussion about love, Napoleon certainly makes his friend and
himself say interesting things on the advantages and disadvantages of
love. For example, in the first two paragraphs of the dialogue Napoleon
stated that love is harmful to society, to the individual happiness
of men. In defense of love, des Mazis countered by saying that love
gives life to the whole of nature, source of everything creative and
of all happiness.
What Napoleon is basically saying is that love is corrupting his friend
and that des Mazis should do something more useful to society.
Frayling, Christopher. Napoleon Wrote Fiction. New York: Saint
Martin's Press, 1972, 77-88, quoted and paraphrased.
Reviewed by Ira Grossman October
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