What I learned translating Eugene’s memoirs: Napoleon went to an English warship in Egypt to discuss a prisoner swap but he was really after their French newspapers.

For some quixotic reason I’m setting out to translate the 10 books Eugene’s memoirs. My project is about Hortense and Napoleon and since this is the case, it feels wrong that Eugene’s memoirs are not available in English. (I’m writing as if you already know Hortense was Napoleon’s stepdaughter and that Eugene was her much cherished brother.)


I’ve always hated hearing about war and it seems that war is Eugene’s favorite topic. I’m not sure if I’m going to broadcast these memoirs as they are really just memoirs and not great writing like I consider the memoirs of Caulaincourt, Hortense, Lavalette and Méneval to be. 




That being said: I’m happy to relate whatever special moments Eugene shares with his readers. 


Eugene says that Napoleon hadn’t had access to French newspapers for months and Napoleon saw an English cruiser as his chance to get some intel.


From Eugene’s memoirs:


 “General Bonaparte took advantage of his stay in Alexandria to try to obtain some light on the situation of the affairs of France. To this end, he embarked on discussions with the English cruiser, under some pretexts of exchange, and knew how to flatter the vanity of the commander of this cruiser, who out of politeness, sent out his assistant with a large number of French newspapers.

“It was all that the General-in-Chief wished. It was the real purpose of his going to that cruiser. 

“I was at his side when he read these newspapers, which showed him all our disasters, the loss of Italy, and the impending ruin of France.

“As he continued his reading, General Bonaparte interrupted himself with loud remarks: "The wretches," he exclaimed, "is it possible! Poor France, what have they done?” and other even more energetic expressions.

“His agitation was increasing, and, in his impatience, he threw the newspapers on the table; so that some of them landed near me.

“I ventured to go through them; my general did not mind. He made me sit down, and we spent the night reading the newspapers, which numbered more than a hundred.”



It’s interesting to note that Napoleon escaped Elba also as a result of finally getting his hands on some newspapers reporting the dreadful leadership in France.