June 13 1815: Hobhouse on Byron and Napoleon

On June 13 1815, as he is about to leave Paris, John Cam Hobhouse writes to Lord Byron. Hobhouse does not disguise the hurt he feels that Byron has not written to him.

My dear Byron – I never fail to give you regular intimations of my proceedings just as if you cared a pin about them, and so I inform you by these presents that I am about to leave Paris and even on this day shall quit this capital for Geneva where I shall not stay long but to which place under cover or rather under direction to Messrs Hentsch & Co any letter which you may in your infinite charity send me will reach its wretched object – This wicked war is about to begin in spite of every consideration of prudence and common justice – The Emperor in his address to the address of the chamber of deputies on Sunday last said “I go this night” – Of course he went – my good wishes attend him or rather his cause – Indeed I am not sure that a sneeking kindness for the man himself has not lately grown upon me partly owing to the gigantic perils with which he & his are threatened, partly owing to several anecdotes which do infinite credit to his heart or at least his temper and conduct, and partly also because I have remarked myself in him one or two little personal peculiarities of behaviour & appearance which recall to me the person whom in spite of all late neglects & forgetfulnesses I love plus quam oculis – When on his throne on last Wednesday at the opening of his parliament his employment during the tedious hour occupied by the members of the two houses taking individually the oath of allegiance was opening a little silver box and helping himself out of it to some cut lozenges or for ought I know strips of tobacco – His pensive pale face the sentimental quiet working of his lips and a little labouring with his bosom, added to the box and its contents made me think myself in Albany opposite your arm chair – Whatever can be done by military genius and military enthusiasm, he and his army will perform – The attachment which that man inspires is perfectly incomprehensible as are the means vastly singular to which he has recourse to secure this attachment. I saw him with my own eyes at a great review in the court of the Tuilleries walk up to a common soldier who had a petition in his hand & was presenting arms to him, and after laughing and talking to him for two minutes at least end by pulling him smartly by the nose – Not five seconds afterwards I beheld again I say with my own eyes reply to a Colonel who came running up to him by a sound box on the ear which I thought given in earnest I saw the officer retire laughing and showing his cheek which was red from the blow – Napoleon was close under the window in the palace in which I was standing – These are not the favours which princes usually bestow but they have ten times more effect than customary royal benefits. A melancholy proof of the force of those feelings which are communicated to all those who move within his circle has been displayed in the sad end of Berthier – This friend and companion of Napoleon having retired with Louis to Flanders and having thence withdrawn himself to Bamberg, a
bankrupt in reputation & friends and even in fortune, taunted and almost despised by the members of that family with which, by the Emperor’s recommendation, he had allied himself, was reduced to the .last despair by hearing that Napoleon on his return to Paris made it his first question, “Where is Berthier? where is my brother? why does not he appear to embrace me?” He is said to have thrown himself from a balcony into the street just as a corps of Prussian troops was marching under his windows – What an end for the old soldier whom Bonaparte in his dispatch from Lodi designated as the intrepid Berthier. The cause of Louis was fatal to him I hope to God it may be so to Castlereagh. Sick of the prospect before us I shall endeavour to let the world go on without me until it is restored to a state promising better times and regulated by better men

– The Cossacks nor the Kings will hardly haunt my slumbers at Lausanne, although I see Stratford has been doing what he calls conferring a benefit upon Switzerland that is putting arms into the hands of her peasantry to cut the throats of their neighbours to the right and to the left – Farewell dear Byron my kind respects to Lady Byron for whom I have preserved two or three autographs and shall endeavour to increase the collection  in the mean time I hope she will accept the following French translation given to me by a Parisian friend of your verses to the Princess C. I have said following but there is no room for them here so they must go on a scrap by themselves – ever your most affectionate
friend – John Hobhouse

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