A Letter of Condolence - 19th August, 1798


Earlier in a previous letter I noted that Napoleon was very pragmatic. Given that, I do not feel that he was emotionless. On the contrary. From what I have read he seems to have been very sensitive in regards to the suffering and discomfit of others. I would not be so naive as to suggest that he would allow these feelings to interfere with his objectives yet I do believe that in general they were sincerely felt. One has only to review his love letters to Josephine or the following condolence to get a sense of this.

Headquarters, Cairo, 19th August 1798


Your husband was killed by a cannon-ball whilst fighting on board his ship. He died honorably, and without suffering, as every soldier would wish to die.

Your suffering touches me to the quick. It is a dreadful moment when we are parted from one we love. It shuts us off from the world. The body is convulsed with pain, and the faculties of the mind so overwhelmed that all its contacts with reality are cut off by a distorting dream. Things are such that, if there were no reason for living, it were better to die. But when second thoughts supervene, and you press your children to tour heart, your nature is revived by tears and tenderness, and you live for the sake of your offspring. Yes, Madame, you will weep with them, you will nurture their infancy, you will educate their youth; you will speak to them of their father and of you grief, of their loss and of the Republic's. And when you have linked your soul to the world again through the mutual affection of mother and child, I want you to count as of some value my friendship, and the lively interest that I shall always take in the wife of my friend. Be assured that there are men - a minority - who can turn grief into hope, because they feel so intimately the troubles of the heart.

[CORRESP., iv. 3046. Admiral Brueys was in command of the French fleet destroyed by Nelson at Aboukir Bay on the night of 1, August, and is generally supposed to have been blown up on board his flagship, the Orient.