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The propriety of annexing to a life of the Emperor Napoleon, an examination of the work of Sir Walter Scott, is enforced by several considerations. In the first place, that work controverts the assertions of Napoleon respecting matters of his personal experience, in the sketches which he dictated of his own life; and so far raises a question, the decision of which is essential to a just estimation of his moral character. In the next place, for an unknown writer to demand of the public the acceptance of his own narrative and the rejection of that of the most eloquent and popular author of his age without demonstrating the fallacy of one and the faithfulness of the other, would be a proceeding as presumptuous as the example of Norvins has proved it to be
An engineer, rather than see his fortress overcrowed and commanded, will not hesitate to demolish a neighbouring edifice, however costly its materials or curious its workmanship; however pompously its foundations may be laid in the earth, or gracefully its spires may spring into the air.
Again; if it shall be found that the scheme of the great novelist embraced such misrepresentations as he could decently repeat, or plausibly imagine, their correction will counteract, in its most imposing form, and by a single operation, a diversified mass of historical falsehood, and establish in the reader's mind, various and important truths. It is observed by Lord Bacon, that “the enquiry of truth, which is the wooing of it; the knowledge of truth, which is the presence of it; and the belief of truth, which is the enjoying of it; is the sovereign good of human nature."
Within the compass of the design here indicated, the task of
(1) Norvins announced (see his preface) bis work as expressly designed to refute and discredit that of Sir Walter Scott-an effect which, notwithstanding his zeal and opportunities, he does not appear to have had the slightest agency in producing.
aoticing kindred and conflicting errors of lesser writers naturally falls. The author, removed from the influence of national or personal feeling, in relation to his subject, is sensible of as little disposition to respect the follies of French, as the unfairness of British, historians, while he records the actions of a man, whose character, in rising to a level with the noblest examples of any former age, provoked and encountered the vilest prejudices and passions of his own.
TO THE READER.
The lamented death of the author, on the 30th of January 1837, unbappily arrested the execution of his original design to publish a work compreheading the entire life of the Emperor Napoleon. At the time of Major Lee's death the manuscript of the present volume only was prepared; but as the work, as far as it goes, is complete in itself, this volume, with a slight alteration in its title, is offered to the public in the conviction that the reader will regret only the untimely decease of its gifted author and the premature close of his labours. It
may be proper to add that a previous volume, printed in a character which, it was found, would render the work unnecessarily voluminous, has, with its appendix abridged and corrected by the author, been embodied, under a more convenient form, in the present publication.
Consulate of the United States,