Letter from General Bonaparte to Josephine (marked Nice le 10 Germinal)

Artist(s) : BONAPARTE Napoléon
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Letter from General Bonaparte to Josephine (marked <i>Nice le 10 Germinal</i>)

Address: To citizen Bonaparte, at the house of citizen Beauharnais, Rue Chantereine n° 6. Paris

This letter, the fifth which Bonaparte sent to his wife, was published for the first time in 1827 in the second volume of the Mémoires of a contemporary, Ida Saint-Elme. The text runs as follows: I have not spent a day without loving you; I have not spent a night without clasping you in my arms; I have not drunk a cup of tea without cursing the glory  and ambition which keep me from the heart of my very being. In the midst of my activities, whether at the head of my troops or inspecting the camps, my adorable Josephine stands alone in my heart, she occupies my mind and fills my thoughts. If I depart from you with the speed of the rushing Rhone, it is only so that I may see you again more quickly. If I get up in the middle of the night to work, it is because this may hasten by some days the arrival of my sweet love. Yet in your letter of the 23rd and of the 26th Ventose, you address me as ‘Vous’. ‘Vous’ yourself! Ah! Wretched woman, how could you have written this letter? It is so cold. And then there are those four days between the 23rd and the 26th; what were you doing? Because you were not writing to your husband. … Ah, my love, that ‘Vous’ and those four days make me long for my former indifference. Woe to the person responsible! May that person, as punishment and suffering, experience what my conviction and the evidence that he is that person’s friend make me experience! Hell has no torments great enough! Nor the Furies serpents! ‘Vous’! ‘Vous’! Ah! What will it be in two weeks? … My spirit is heavy; my heart is in chains and I am appalled by my imaginings…You love me less; but you will recover. One day you will no longer love me; Say it; I shall then know how to be worthy of this misfortune. …Farewell, wife, torment, joy, hope and heart of my being, whom I love and fear, and who inspires in me gentle emotions which draw me close to Nature and violent impulses as volcanic as Etna. I ask of you neither eternal love, nor fidelity, but simply…truth, unlimited honesty. The day when you say “I love you less”, will either be the end of my love or the last day of my life. If my heart were base enough to love without being loved in return I would tear it to pieces with my teeth. Josephine! Josephine! Remember what I have sometimes said to you: Nature has made me strong and decisive. She has made you out of lace and gossamer. Do you love me no longer? Forgive me, love of my life, my heart is racked by conflicting forces. Obsessed by you, my heart is full of fears which make me unhappy…I am distressed not to be calling you by name. I shall wait for you to write it. Farewell! Ah! if you love me less you can never have loved me. In that case I shall truly be pitiable.

P.S. The war is completely changed this year. I have had meat, bread and fodder distributed; my armed cavalry and baggage will soon be on the march. My soldiers are showing inexpressible confidence in me; you alone are a source of chagrin to me; you alone are the joy and torment of my life. I send a kiss to your children, whom you do not mention. By God! If you did, it would make your letters longer, and then the ten o’clock in the morning visitors would not have the pleasure of seeing you. Woman!!!

The letter was sold for 650,000 French Francs by Briest at Drouot, 19 November, 1997.

Date :
30th March, 1796
Technique :
Three quarto pages, address, red wax seal, post-marked "Armée d'Italie".
Photo credit :
Etude Briest
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