- Paperback: 246 pages
- Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform; 2 edition (January 14, 2013)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1481980513
- ISBN-13: 978-1481980517
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 14.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 2 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #316,865 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Real Napoleon: The Untold Story 2nd Edition
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The Real Napoleon: A Review by Robin Wade Literary Agent
About the Author
John Tarttelin trained to be an history teacher at Sheffield in England. He wrote a B.Ed thesis about Frederick the Great of Prussia and an M.A. dissertation on Thomas Wentworth the First Earl of Strafford. Since 2008 he has been a Fellow of The International Napoleonic Society based in Montreal, Canada. He was given a Legion of Merit award by the Society in 2010. John has written several novels and likes to write in many genres. His work can be found on Amazon Kindle, Scribd.com and Smashwords.
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We are in dire need of a balanced, scholarly, and eminently readable update of the seminal work by the Dutch historian, Pieter Geyl, Napoleon For and Against. But were Geyl, or an equally balanced, nuanced, and credible historiographer, to undertake this task, he or she would never give this book a second’s consideration. Not. One.
What we have here, Dear Readers, is a Hot Mess of frenetic, overheated, overwrought, and unbelievable prose masquerading as scholarship. The intent of this amazing diatribe is manifold.
The first is to prove that Napoleon was never the ogre, the barbarian, the warmonger that British historians and writers have portrayed him to be, but instead a peace-lover and administrator who did everything possible to avoid conflict but was prevented at every turn by Perfidious Albion. It is this portion that makes up the majority of “The Real Napoleon.”
The remaining bits and pieces are Appendices, each with its own agenda, but all in undying support of the author's original attempt to rehabilitate the emperor’s reputation no matter the cost, and in spite of any inconvenient facts. Among these bits is are Amazon reviews the author wrote back in the day fawning over Ben Weider’s books, a tiny article about why we must all believe the conspiracy theory of Napoleon’s poisoning by arsenic on Saint Helena advanced by Weider, the wealthy Canadian fan who could afford to buy all sorts of Napoleonic artifacts but who was, at the end of the day, just a fan despite an honorary degree bestowed on him in exchange for grants to the university bestowing said degree. Then we have an odd and quite salacious foray into the supposed sex lives of various Famous French Folks of the era, with a few Brits thrown in for balance among the depraved. What that had to do with a different and utterly positive view of Napoleon escapes me. There is a little blurb about H. G. Wells as a writer of fiction, not a historian, who had the audacity to criticize The Great Man.
And the best is the last, which comes before a pseudo-bibliography of secondary sources no honest historian on either side of the divide would ever cite and a list of Important People, most of whom the author gets wrong or, in the alternative, smears with error and opinion. This last appendix is a truly scurrilous and error-ridden screed against a French historian, Thierry Lentz, who had the appalling chutzpah to disagree with the arsenic conspiracy theory. Not only is it abjectly wrong on all levels but it is also embarrassing to read, and difficult to imagine a grownup descending to such a fit of jealousy.
As far as The Real Napoleon—The Untold Story is concerned, it is an unremitting and unrelenting tale of the wonderfulness, the magnanimity, the overwhelming “niceness” of Napoleon, all buttressed by other positive secondary sources, because apparently the author has not dared to venture into the hallowed halls of real archives as real historians do. Further, from Page 29 through page 104 the book is nothing but a regurgitation of the Cahiers de Capitaine Coignet, or the memoirs of Captain Coignet, all carefully chosen for their positive spin. In these pages the author did absolutely nothing but quote and paraphrase another work, adding a bit here and there from his beloved secondary sources. No analysis, no research, no nothing but an endless stream of “look how great he is and how bad they all are!” If I wanted to read Coignet, I’d re-read the illustrated version, in French, that I bought when I was last in France.
After that rather unedifying one-third of the book, we next get three chapters on the Russian invasion, the first one exculpating Napoleon for even considering an invasion and then, oh, wait! He had to! Alexander made him do it! Then one clumsily cobbled together from the memoirs of Sergeant Bourgogne, another person virtually every Napoleonic fan knows quite well. And then, wait for it… how a volcanic eruption caused the severe weather in 1812. How that tidbit contributes to Napoleon’s reputation is beyond me.
Bt then we get to the real meat of this very odd book: Napoleon and the English Press Gang, which is a thoroughly thorough dismemberment of every “vitriolic and scabrous” attack perpetrated against Napoleon by both the press and the “Establishment,” not to mention any scribbler in any corner of the British realm who had a thing against Boney. There is no analysis here, no context, not even the slightest desire to put these attacks—and I agree there were plenty—in perspective. No. Just some of the most inflamed rhetoric this side of the debates in the National Convention. But he isn’t done quite yet; there follows a chapter on England in the early 19th century, another excuse for the author to pillory everyone and everything. It makes for tiresome reading, particularly when a reader wonders what this has to do with the Corsican Ogre. Perhaps it is difficult to stop once one begins castigating people, ideas, books, articles, politics, and society in full spate.
And as a grand finale to this truly Hot Mess, we find a chapter about the eruption of Mount Tambora and Waterloo. Folks, you will just have to read that for yourselves. I’m so done here.
As a historian, I was rigorously taught the value—no, the absolute necessity—for objectivity, for looking at the sources, all of them, weighing them separately and together, in context, and then, only then, decide what was most likely. Those sources were not books written by others, either. We were sent to Paris, London, Lisbon, Vienna, Hesse-Cassell, Berlin, and every other national, departmental, and communal archives to seek out the real history. That’s the only honest way to produce anything of worth. Even memoirs are suspect, depending on who actually wrote them, or edited them, and when they were published, as the eminent scholar Jean Tulard pointed out.
All this being said—and I have done so for obvious reasons—books like this one, and its obverse by historians [or scribblers] like Dwyer and Schom and Barnett, for example, so nothing to convince any reader capable of logic and analysis to augment or change his opinion. Hagiographies, especially ones cloaked in vitriol and little scholarship, make me as uncomfortable as books that roundly condemn the subject and consign him to the lowest level of Dante’s Inferno.
This is not the “real” Napoleon, nor is it “the untold story.” It is rather the product of a fevered scribbler’s imagination.