Description

    The governor of St. Helena's Island asks questions about Napoleon

    [Napoleon]. Sir Hudson Lowe Autograph Letters (3) Signed "H Lowe." Six pages total (from three bifoliums), all dated 1822 (August 24, October 1, October 4), to William Amherst, 1st Earl Amherst. Also included are two fair copies of Amherst's replies (one in Amherst's hand, the other in a secretary's hand; five pages total). Sir Hudson Lowe had the unenviable task of serving as governor of St. Helena during Napoleon's captivity there from 1815 until Napoleon's death in 1821. The correspondence between Sir Lowe and Lord Amherst is about whether or not Amherst had specific conversations that Barry Edward O'Meara records in his book Napoleon in Exile, published earlier in 1822. Amherst responds that he has not yet read O'Meara's account. All text and signatures are clear and bold.

    In the first letter of this group, written on August 24, Sir Lowe writes from Hanover Square: "The publication entitled 'Napoleon in Exile' having been a good deal read, several questions have been put to me regarding it and amongst other points, upon that of the conversation stated to have taken place between Bonaparte & your Lordship, as given in the 133d & 239th pages of the 2d volume. It might be of some importance for me to be informed. . . . The statement that has been given of the conversation may be at variance with the truth, and particularly if there is any direct falsehood in what Mr. O'Meara asserts to have been said, either by Bonaparte or your Lordship, on the occasion. I should feel much obliged therefore by any information your Lordship may have the goodness to communicate to me. . . . I should be happy also to know if Mr. O'Meara really held to your lordship the conversation he states having[?] to have done in the 116th page of the 2d volume, prior to you Lordship's visit to Bonaparte."

    Lord Amherst responded on August 27 (the "Copy" is included) from "Oakly Park near Ludow [England]" that he had "some difficulty in answering with as much precision as I could wish. The questions which you put to me, in consequence of this house affording no copy of Mr. O'Meara's late work, and I should therefore be desirous of waiting, unless the delay puts you to any inconvenience. . . . Next month . . . I will call upon you in Hanover Square; and the reference to the publication in question will state to you distinctly where the assertions it contains are founded in error and where they are, in more than the instance, directly at variance with truth."

    In Lowe's October 1 missive from London, he makes further plans to meet Amherst. This letter is followed by Amherst's second fair copy, dated October 2 from Montreal, in which Amherst answers "shortly the question which you put to me in your letter of the 24th Augt. P. 133. I have no recollection of having delivered any opinion upon the subject of the Bill. I have a distinct recollection of Bonaparte's intimating an intention of making me the bearer of his complaints in writing; and of his almost immediately afterwards withdrawing such intimation. It is very possible that I may have promised to repeat to Government such parts of his representations as I should previously have communicated to Sir Hudson Lowe. It is impossible that I could have been beaucoup passe at Bonaparte: communication respecting the prohibition imposed upon him during his rides. . . . P. 239. I did not use the expression nor anything like the expression, attributed to me in this conversation. P. 116. I have no distinct recollection[?] of any conversation having passed between Mr. O'Meara and myself, but it is totally impossible that I should ever have entertained the idea of seeing Bonaparte thru' any other intervention that that of the Governor." On October 4 from London, Lowe responds to Amherst, thanking him for answering his questions.

    William Amherst, 1st Earl Amherst, (1773-1857) visited Napoleon on St. Helena in 1817, interviewing him several times. Barry O'Meara, an Irish surgeon, authored the controversial book Napoleon in Exile in 1822, shortly after the emperor's death. O'Meara knew the emperor well, serving as his physician during his exile to St. Helena until Governor Lowe removed him for sending insidious letters and reports for Napoleon. In his book, O'Meara highlights the reasons for Napoleon's complaints against Lowe. Napoleon had many criticisms against the governor, which included those about his living conditions. Lowe, however, managed the difficult emperor as best he could, even being rude to the him on occasion. This treatment angered Napoleon (and O'Meara), who, according to historian Alan Schom in Napoleon Bonaparte (New York: Harper Collins, 1997, 772), "increased his campaign of the grossest character assassination of Lowe." Following Napoleon's death in May 1821, Lowe returned to England - all of these letters were written less than two years after that return.


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    April, 2015
    9th Thursday
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