« ПредишнаНапред »
A general Biographical List of Persons who have died in
1821 - - - - - 459
BIOGRAPHY AND OBITUARY,
MEMOIRS OF CELEBRATED MEN, WHO HAVE
DIED WITHIN THE YEARS 1820-1821.
History is the grouping of figures in a picture; the humbler province of biography is the delineation of the whole-length resemblance of a particular individual. But it sometimes happens that the memoirs of an illustrious public character are so complicated with general history, as to render them an epitome of the principal events of the times in which he flourished. This observation will be found to apply with peculiar force to the life and achievements of Napoleon Buonaparte; whose biography, properly discussed, must lose its individuality, and become, to a certain extent, the annals, not merely of the country which was the theatre of his own exploits, but of all the states, and of all the leading characters concerned in their government and administration, civil or military, in any way connected with it.
Napoleon Buonaparte (or, as he has himself chosen to write the name, Bonaparte,) was born at Ajaccio, a small town in Corsica, on August 15th, 1769. He was the eldest son of Carlo Buonaparte, a lawyer, of Italian extraction, and Letitia
Raniolini. The celebrated Corsican general, Paoli, was his godfather.
The family of Buonaparte was respectable and ancient, although it had never been ennobled. His mother was more celebrated for her beauty than, it is currently believed, for her chastity; and it is affirmed, that Napoleon was in fact the son of the Count Marbæuf, the French governor of Corsica. However this may have been, it is most certain that the Count was the staunch and persevering friend of the young Napoleon. Through his powerful interest our hero was introduced to the Royal Military School of Brienne, in. Champaigne, in the year 1779, being then only ten years of age. It is a fact, to which the annals of Europe in the seventeenth and a portion of the eighteenth centuries afford a melancholy but ample illustration, that France has generally been distinguished, above all other nations, by the consummate talents and profound tactical knowledge of her generals. Much of this dangerous supremacy was doubtless to be ascribed to the warlike character of the people, and the universal predilection of the ancient nobility for the study of the military art; but much is likewise to be attributed to the institutions, admirable in their kind, by which this martial spirit was fostered and directed by the government. Although, from the death of the great Marshal Saxe, to the commencement of the French revolution, France produced no illustrious commander except Marshal Belleisle; yet Louis the Fifteenth, and his successor, Louis the Sixteenth, bestowed an extraordinary degree of attention upon the internal economy and discipline of the military schools; of which there were in France, in the year 1779, as many as thirteen.
Little is known, and if known, nothing would be worth recording of Buonaparte until his arrival at Brienne. Schools are moral satellites, inferior worlds, exhibiting in miniature the same phases, and obscured by the same passions as the presiding planet. It is not therefore surprising that a man who stands alone among his fellow-creatures, in every age and in every clime, should, when a boy, have separated himself from his
school-fellows, and, retiring within the recesses of his own sin: gularly-constructed mind, have looked down upon other students as human creatures with whom he could have neither common ties, nor kindred sympathies, excepting when they ministered to his prevailing taste, or gratified his ambition. He was soon distinguished by the sullen austerity and inflexible intrepidity of his temper. He addicted himself at this period with much earnestness to the preliminary studies of the military art, and the higher and more abstruse branches of the mathematics ; but general literature, and particularly the belles lettres, attracted but an insignificant portion of his attention. The Ancient History and the Lives of Plutarch were resorted to by Napoleon as a recreation from his severer professional studies.
It was the custom at Brienne for the students to receive a portion of ground, which they cultivated for their own amusement. Buonaparte enlarged his share by purchasing a contiguous plot belonging to one of his companions. This garden he cultivated with the most assiduous care, surrounding it with pallisades, and forming within bowers and recesses, to which he retired to pursue, without interruption, his favourite occupations. He employed his leisure hours in this retreat, principally in the invention of military maneuvres, the construction of plans of fortifications, and in the arrangement of ideal armies in mimic order of battle. No spider could dart from its lines of concentricity upon a recreant fly which had profaned the arcanum of his meshes with greater avidity than did our young hero upon any of his school-fellows, who ever, accidentally or otherwise, invaded his verdant dominions. A remarkable instance of this tenacity is recorded. On St. Louis's day, in the year 1784, a peculiar festival at Brienne, all the students, with the exception of Napoleon, abandoned themselves without reserve to a variety of sports in commemoration of the day. Among other diversions, fire-works were exhibited in a garden adjoining Buonaparte's enclosure, in which had been deposited a considerable quantity of gunpowder. This unfortunately ignited, and a dreadful explosion was the consequence: