Reviews: Books


Carnets de Campagne, 1792-1815

Guyot, Général Comte.

Edited with comments by Jean-Hughes de Font-Réaulx.

Paris: Librairie Historique Fabrice Teissèdre, 1999. 431 p., 8 color pages, 9 maps, 17 reproductions of original documents. ISBN# 2912259177. 280 FF.

Are there any unpublished Napoleonic memoirs left? Certainly, and even more so when one considers "notebooks" -- loose notes officers would keep as a regular diary. Such is the case for these Carnets de Campagne. Guyot was Colonel of the Chasseurs à Cheval de la Garde, the principal escort commander for Napoleon from 1807 onwards, and, thus, one of the men closest to the emperor. His experience is therefore of the highest interest. These are "rough" notes which were never intended for publication, notes that Guyot kept all during his travels across Europe. An intelligent gifted man with a sharp curiosity, he is not a Bourgogne, nor a Coignet. His prose lacks the brilliance or descriptive power that a Marbot or Parquin have. Indeed, these carnets are not "complete," the editor has cut some of the lengthy descriptions Guyot would sometimes get into as he "visited" various countries in Europe.

From a historical standpoint, these carnets come as a bit of a disappointment; nothing really ground breaking or new comes about in terms of facts. However, that's not what we should be looking for... more the day-to-day feeling of what it was like to be part of the Emperor's close staff.

Obviously any keen student of the period, assuming he is fluent in French, will want to read this document and should. The fact that this document was unintended for publication actually makes it quite valuable, as there is no over-imaginative creativity at work here, unlike Constant's memoirs. As an added bonus, you will find eight contemporary watercolors included, all from the Bibliothèque Thiers and done by a Chasseur of the Guard, that are invaluable as pictorial displays of the Imperial saga as perceived by Napoleon's most beloved troopers. All in all, a very welcome and recommended volume, but, of course, exclusively for the French-speaking.

The address for Librairie Historique Fabrice Teissèdre is 14 rue Séguier, 75006 Paris, France (phone: 33 1 53 10 35 10, fax: 33 1 53 10 35 11).

Reviewed by Yves Martin

 

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