Alec Nevala-Lee

Thoughts on art, creativity, and the writing life.

Archive for August 4th, 2013

The mind of Napoleon

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Napoleon Dictating to his Secretaries

No one knew so well as he how to sort papers, documents, and statements. Lists were to be all of like dimensions, clothed in uniform bindings, arranged in identical order. The same with estimates…And it is he who combines and arranges these portfolios…

On all subjects he has a collection of information of the same order, dictionaries of individuals arranged by classes or by states. One of the Emperor’s nephews relates that every day Napoleon received and carried about on his person, written on a very small piece of paper, a statement of that which he called the fortune of France, and also the state of his own fortune,—that fortune which was only one of the reserves of the nation. He had this paper in his pocket and consulted it many times during the day.

It is this machinery, this spirit of order and method which he brings to bear on everything, that choice of those around him, which alone are capable, not of explaining, but of rendering credible, the amount of work which Napoleon got through, and which is actually ten times more important than one imagines; for he was not content to grasp the whole, he entered into the smallest detail, and for fourteen years it was he who thought for eighty millions of men.

Frédéric Masson, Napoleon at Home

Written by nevalalee

August 4, 2013 at 9:50 am

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