Janet reminded me that it was Napoleon’s birthday today. My first reaction was not to blog about Napoleon because I didn’t have time for research not related to mess-in-progress and most of what I know about him comes from my reading about the English. The ones who called him the Corsican monster and lived with a not unfounded fear of invasion (despite the cartoon at left depicting an imaginary balloon-and-Chunnel attack).

My one more objective source on Napoleon is The Age of Napoleon, by J. Christopher Herold. It’s a good higher level history of the period, yet I still don’t see much to admire in Napoleon himself. There’s a line in the concluding chapter: “his historical role was that of an unconscious tool of destruction, clearing the way for a modern age that little resembled the age he thought he was creating”. I suspect Herold meant clearing the way politically but my first reaction was: Were there just too many able-bodied young men in England and Europe standing in the way of progress? When I think about the mothers, wives, sisters and sweethearts who lost their loved ones I just can’t see any glory in it.

I used to not get the whole world domination thing. Too Pinky and the Brain for me. More recently I’ve thought about it in light of controlling people I know and I’ve realized the impulse comes from fear. People who need to dominate every situation are afraid that if they’re not on top A) everyone will attack them and/or B) that nothing can get done right. It’s pretty delusional and again I see no glory in it.

So what do you think? Anything to say in Boney’s defense? Do you find villains intent on domination of some world, greater or lesser, over the top or believable?

And in case the subject of Napoleon doesn’t fire you up, I have to mention that I just saw Becoming Jane and (don’t eat me!) enjoyed it. Of course I did not take it as serious biography but thought it worked well as a story in itself.

It occurred to me that if one set out to make a movie of Jane’s life, the known facts add up to an interesting but not a dramatic story. There’s much we don’t know. Cassandra destroyed a portion of her letters and I can’t help suspecting they held more insights into Jane’s inner life than we will ever have. I’m not saying that the events depicted in the movie really could have happened, only that I can understand why the creators of Becoming Jane chose to embroider in the gray areas. If the result will cause some of those teenaged girls I saw in the theatre to go out and read even one of her books, that can’t be a bad thing.

So my apologies for this long post and I look forward to hearing what you all think!