NAPOLEON - [LULLIN DE CHATEAUVIEUX, Jacob Frédéric]. Manuscrit venu de St. Hélène d'une manière inconnue. London, [Jean M'Creery, Black Horse Court] for John Murray, 1817.
8vo. Uncut in the original publisher's paper-backed boards; pp. [iv], 151, [4, advertisements, dated March, 1817]; rebacked with new printed vertical label; preliminaries with light spotting, otherwise fine and with wide margins; provenance: early engraved armorial bookplate Edward Davenport inside front cover, 20th-century bookplate Cornelius Ver Heyden De Lancey on opposite fly-leaf.
Very early printing of a successful, anonymously published pastiche of a memoir dictated by the captured ex-Emperor, clearly trying to show Napoleon in a liberal light, as the one who wanted to give the Revolution a legal and democratic foundation. It is now commonly accepted that the author was the Swiss agronom Lullin de Châteauvieux, a member of Mme. de Staël's salon; however, it might as well be a collective work inspired by the great salonnière.
The book attempts to sanctify Napoleon as a liberal hero and therefore focuses on his early, revolutionary career. When he got hold of this text, surprisingly early, in September of 1817, he read, discussed and annotated it. He suspected Mme de Staël, or her friend Benjamin de Constant to be among the possible authors. Even the 18th-century radicals Roederer or Sieyès were considered. Napoleon summed up his views in the words 'C'est un ouvrage qui marquera et qui fera époque', annotating his copy in 42 places and expressing disapproval of the text in his will.
The work was printed and pirated many times all over Europe and in Canada, illegal in France; however, widely circulated, frequently in manuscript form.
Provenance: The Baron Doctor Cornelius Ver Heyden De Lancey (1889-1984) was a multilingual dental surgeon, doctor and lawyer of Dutch origin.