August 9 1815: Uncouth and Disagreeable

“August 9th. Being joined by all our squadron except the Weymouth, which I would not wait for, we proceeded on our way down the Channel with tolerably fine weather, and a wind from the North West.

Buonaparte came out of his cabin, for the first time this day, about two o’clock p.m. and took a short walk on deck: but as I was busy writing, I did not see him until dinner. I found him rather more reserved than the first day. Indeed, until after drinking a tumbler of champaigne, he hardly spoke at all; but afterwards he conversed with more freedom, and made many and particular enquiries on the number and state of our forces in India; said he had held correspondence with Tippoo Saib; that he had hoped to have reached India when he went to Egypt; but that the removal of the Vizier, and the alteration of the politics of the Ottoman Porte, with other circumstances, had prevented his pursuing the career there, which he had at first contemplated.

After dinner he went upon deck. He persisted in keeping off his hat as he walked up and down, evidently with the view of inducing the English officers on deck also to continue uncovered, as his French attendants all did, and as I am told the officers of the Bellerophon used to do while he remained on the deck of that ship. Observing this, I made a point of putting on my hat immediately after the first compliment upon going out, and I desired the officers to do the same. At this he seemed considerably piqued.

He soon afterwards went into the cabin, and made up his vingt-un party; but he certainly neither played nor talked with the same cheerfulness he did the first night. This might indeed have been an accident, but it appeared to me to proceed rather from downright sulkiness; and I cannot but remark that his general manners, as far as I am yet able to speak of them, are uncouth and disagreeable. To his French friends they are most overbearing, if not absolutely rude.

About eleven he retired to his bed-room, having been as unfortunate at his vingt-un as the evening before.”

. — Sir George Cockburn on the HMS Northumberland writes in his diary for August 9 1815.

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