Monthly Archives: July 2015

“Napoleon’s Farewell” by Lord Byron

The Special Collections holds a manuscript copy, in the hand of Jane Austen, of Lord Byron’s poem “Napoleon’s Farewell”, c.1815: a dramatic monologue in three stanzas in the character of Bonaparte.

Byron’s poem, likely written on 25 July, was first published in The Examiner on 30 July 1815 and subsequently appeared in his Poems (1816) where it formed part of a group of poems “From the French” which ranged between condemning Napoleon and praising his bravery.

Extract from Byron's poem "Napoleon's Farewell" in the hand of Jane Austen, c.1815 (MS 8)

Extract from Byron’s poem “Napoleon’s Farewell” in the hand of Jane Austen, c.1815 (MS 8)

For Byron, Napoleon was the epitome of the Romantic hero, the persecuted, lonely, and flawed genius and it is believed he considered Napoleon a foil for his own complex personality.  Jane Austen shared a fascination with Napoleon and even contemplated writing his history. In the spring of 1816 Byron left England in a cloud of scandal and debt, never to return. As he journeyed to Switzerland he visited the field of Waterloo as a tourist. Unlike many of his contemporaries, Byron saw the outcome of the battle as a tragedy rather than a victory and it was to have a significant influence on the third canto of Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage.

Austen’s version of “Napoleon’s Farewell”, which differs from Byron’s original, seems to have been written from memory, and was produced in 1815 or 1816 while she was writing Persuasion.  References to contemporary literature in Persuasion include those to the poetry of Byron.

Some changes are small, for example, she switches “name” and “fame” at the ends of the second and fourth lines.  Interestingly, in Byron’s original, Napoleon bids farewell to the land where, not the “bloom”, as penned by Austen, but the “gloom” of his glory rose.

The third stanza contains the most differences.  Napoleon asks to be remembered again in France when “Liberty” – rather than victory – rallies and he does not “vanquish the foes” but rather “baffle[s] the hosts” that surround them.  The most significant difference is the third line from the end:  the line in Byron’s original is “And yet may thy heart leap awake to my voice”.

Farewell to the land, where the bloom of my glory
Arose, & o’ershadowed the Earth with her fame
She abandons me now, but the page of her story
The brightest or blackest is filled with my name.
I have warred with a world which vanquish’d me only
When the meteor of conquest allured me too far,
I have coped with the Nations which dread me thus lonely
The last single captive, to millions in war.

Farewell to thee France! When thy Diadem crown’d me
I made thee the gem & the wonder of Earth,
Thy weakness decrees I should leave as I found thee
Decayed in thy glory and sunk in thy worth.
O! for the veteran hearts which were wasted
In strife with the storm, when their battles were won,
Then the Eagle whose gaze in that moment was blasted
Had still soared with eyes fix’d on Victory’s sun

Farewell to thee France! But when victory rallies
Once more in thy regions, remember me then;
The violet grows in the depth of thy valleys,
Tho wither’d – thy tears will unfold it again.
Once more I may vanquish the foes that surround us,
Once more shall they heartless awake to my voice.
There are links that must break in the chain that has bound us,
Then turn thee and call on the chief of thy choice.

[MS 8 AO174]

Summer Graduation Award Ceremonies

Today marks the last day of summer graduation. Over the past week (from Wednesday 15 July to Thursday 23 July) this year’s award ceremonies have been taking place in the Turner Sims Concert Hall and the Nuffield Theatre.

After years of hard work, a total of around 5,000 students have donned the hat and robe to receive certificates confirming the completion of their studies. In addition, honorary degrees have been awarded to seven leading figures in business, chemistry, engineering, Jewish history, maritime and poetry, with fellowships awarded to World War II poet, Captain Dennis Wilson from Southampton, and Southampton graduate Professor Andrew Bell, Chief Technical Officer for Defence Science and Technical Laboratory (DSTL).

Staff and students with “Kelly”, 1930

Staff and students with “Kelly”, 1930

From modest beginnings, offering a mixture of public lectures on a range of subjects and evening classes in French and chemistry for residents of Southampton, the University has grown into a multi-disciplinary, internationally renowned institution of the twenty-first century, with degrees awarded in a range of subjects from the Faculties of Business and Law, Physical Sciences and Engineering, Medicine, Health Sciences, Humanities, Natural and Environmental Sciences, Social and Human Sciences, and Engineering and the Environment.

The University’s 150 year history has also seen the development of many traditions and the inheritance of a number of legacies. One of the visible legacies, resulting from the incorporation of the activities of the Southampton School of Art into the Hartley Institution in 1867, is “Kelly” the skeleton. “Kelly” was purchased by Mr Dodds, Principal of Art, in France in 1886, and can be seen in photographs with students and staff at graduation ceremonies and other events from the subsequent decades (see above). University photographs also show a much more formal style of dress for students in the early days of the institution, with caps and gowns not only worn during graduation ceremonies, but also required for lectures and for sitting examinations.

Students at graduation, 1996

Students at graduation, 1996

Graduation is a special occasion for students. For many it will mark the end of their time at university, a period where many lifelong friendships and relationships are formed. This year’s award ceremonies offered particular testament to the close bonds that can be made:

With their lectures and examinations now behind them, we would like to remind recent graduates that, while they may no longer be studying at Southampton, there are lots way ways for them to remain in touch as part of a global community of over 200,000 alumni. Most importantly, however, we would like to offer our congratulations to all of this year’s graduates and wish them the very best in their future careers!

User perspectives: Examining arts patronage at Broadlands

This week Ruby Shaw discusses her exploration of the Broadlands archives as part of research undertaken for her MA in Historic Interiors and Decorative Arts at the University of Buckingham.

“When contemplating the daunting question of deciding upon a topic for my dissertation, it was almost by chance that I came across the Broadlands archives at the University of Southampton!  Although I knew that I wanted to base my research around a historic house within my local area (I am studying for an MA in Historic Interiors and Decorative Arts with the University of Buckingham but live in Southampton) I was surprised by how few local archives there are with collections relevant to art history students.  Then I stumbled across the Broadlands archives and what a wealth of material it has to offer!

‘Broadlands in Hampshire, the seat of Lord Palmerston' drawn by Lord Duncannon

‘Broadlands in Hampshire, the seat of Lord Palmerston’ drawn by Lord Duncannon

The archives are probably better known for material relating to the career of Lord Palmerston, the 3rd Viscount, who became prime minister to Queen Victoria.  Yet Lord Palmerston’s father, Henry Temple the 2nd Viscount, was an influential eighteenth-century figure, particularly as a patron of the arts.  This interest in art and antiquities was ultimately reflected in the collections and interior decoration of his country house at Broadlands.

Although I have often stolen a glimpse of Broadlands house through the gates, I was unaware until now of how much of its eighteenth-century interiors and furnishings survive.  This includes paintings by Sir Joshua Reynolds with whom Lord Palmerston enjoyed a close friendship.  Many famous names have also been associated with the construction of Broadlands.   The first phase of Lord Palmerston’s building campaign in the 1760s, for example, was carried out by the famous landscape gardener Lancelot “Capability” Brown.  A further phase in the 1780s was meanwhile executed by the architect Henry Holland, most famous for his construction of the splendid Carlton House in London for the future George IV.

From an initial consultation of the archives, I could see that there was an extensive range of material to conduct a stimulating research project.  This material has been drawn upon to explore the role of Henry Temple, the 2nd Viscount (1739-1802) as a collector and architectural patron at Broadlands.   Numerous visits to the archives have given me the pleasure of delving into Lord Palmerston’s Grand Tour travel journals, as well as art sale catalogues, architectural drawings and correspondence with various dealers.  Viewing an original letter by “Capability” Brown was a particular treat!  Some of the correspondence between Lord and Lady Palmerston also makes for amusing reading.  The unfavourable temperament of the plasterer at Broadlands, Joseph Rose, for example is highlighted by the repeated reference to him as “Mr Melancholy.”  Humorous appeal aside, these personal insights have been extremely valuable in helping to gain a deeper understanding of the relationship between architects, craftsmen and clients during this period.

BR101/34 List of pictures and marbles purchased by Henry Temple, second Viscount Palmerston, in Italy, 1764

BR101/34 List of pictures and marbles purchased by Henry Temple, second Viscount Palmerston, in Italy, 1764

In general, the wide range of material in the Broadlands archives has allowed for an enjoyable exploration of a much overlooked patron of the arts in the eighteenth-century, from Lord Palmerston’s acquisition of antique sculpture on the Grand Tour to his purchases of contemporary Wedgwood pottery.   This exploration has only of course have been made possible with the help and patience the archives team, for which I am very grateful.”

The Road to Waterloo: Week 20 (6 – 12 July 2015)

The road from Waterloo: The second restoration of Louis XVIII
While the military convention at St Cloud on 3 July brought a formal cessation of hostilities, there remained much to be done if France was to have peace. In particular, decisions still needed to be made regarding the establishment of a credible authority and the fate of Napoleon.

20 days after Waterloo

Given that the Bourbons had not managed to establish themselves authoritatively in 1814-15, there was reluctance among the Allied powers to see Louis XVIII restored to the throne of France. However, no credible alternative could be found and, on 8 July, Louis XVIII made his formal return to Paris, the day after the arrival of General Graf von Zieten’s Prussian corps. The return of the King to the capital marked the end of the period that has become known as the Hundred Days (actually a period of 111 days), which began with Napoleon’s arrival into Paris on 20 March. Immediately after his arrival, the King assigned Lieutenant General Dessolles to command the national guard and Lieutenant General Maison to the command of the First Division of the army. A government was announced which was to be headed by Prince Talleyrand, who was also given the role of foreign minister. It was critical at this time for the King to have a strong government and ensure his authority was accepted. Furthermore, an army of occupation, under the Duke of Wellington, was established to support long term security while decisions were made regarding the boundaries of France and the settlement of war debts.

Meanwhile, Napoleon’s hopes to flee to America were prevented by the presence of blockading Royal Navy warships. Unable to either remain in France or flee, Napoleon wrote a brief letter to the Prince Regent, on 13 July, putting himself at his mercy. Two days later he surrendered to Captain Maitland of HMS Bellerophon and was taken on board the vessel. While there were calls for Napoleon’s execution, the British government decided he was to be placed in exile at a location where it was beyond his capacity to disturb the peace of Europe. Maitland’s letter announcing Napoleon’s surrender to him reached London on 24 July and Lord Bathurst, the Secretary of State, immediately wrote to Wellington:

“We have nearly determined, subject to what we may hear from Paris in answer to Lord Liverpool’s letter a week ago, to send Bonaparte to St Helena. In point of climate it is unobjectionable, and its situation will enable us to keep him from all intercourse with the world, without requiring all that severity of restraint which it would be otherwise necessary to inflict upon him. There is much reason to hope that in a place from whence we propose excluding all neutrals, and with which there can be so little communication, Bonaparte’s existence will be soon forgotten.”
[MS 61 Wellington Papers 1/474/9]

If the hope of oblivion for Napoleon was misplaced, the solution did in general meet the Allies’ requirements for the duration of Napoleon’s life — although there was long-running conflict between the former emperor and Hudson Lowe, the governor of the island. Napoleon died on St Helena six years later, on 5 May 1821.

Commemorating Samuel Whitbread, 1758-1815

In this week’s blog post Professor Emma Clery of the Faculty of English discusses an unsung hero of the war with Napoleon.

‘I deny the insane proposition that peace is more dangerous than war’: Commemorating Samuel Whitbread, 1758-1815
In all the buzz surrounding the bicentenary of the defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo, no mention has been made of the existence of a peace movement in Britain during the long years of war with France. For several years I’ve been exploring the context of the great anti-war poem Eighteen Hundred and Eleven by Anna Letitia Barbauld, a writer well-known in her day. Before I began this research, I confess I wondered what the objection to the war could be, other than moral opposition to all warfare. Napoleon was generally seen by the British as a tyrant with an insatiable appetite for conquest, who must be resisted, right?

WP1/464/29 Copy of a letter from Field Marshal Arthur Wellesley, first Duke of Wellington, to William Wellesley-Pole, concerning Mr. Whitbread’s attack on him in Parliament in connection with Napoleon being declared an outlaw, 5 May 1815

WP1/464/29 Copy of a letter from Field Marshal Arthur Wellesley, first Duke of Wellington, to William Wellesley-Pole, concerning Mr. Whitbread’s attack on him in Parliament in connection with Napoleon being declared an outlaw, 5 May 1815

But no. There was organised opposition to the war, and a lot of the leadership came from well-educated, prosperous and socially respectable Dissenters, many of them Unitarians like Barbauld. Their arguments were moral and religious, but also pragmatic, economic and political. They judged that Napoleon’s desire for war with Britain had been exaggerated, and condemned the unwillingness of government to listen to diplomatic approaches from France and her allies. They pointed out that ministers and officials were profiting from the war, and had an interest in prolonging it. At various points in the period 1793 to 1815 they saw opportunities for an honourable negotiated peace with Napoleon and launched nation-wide petition campaigns to put pressure on the war establishment. The peace of Amiens, which lasted for 18 months from 1802-1803, had been very popular. In the years 1808 and 1812 in particular, there seemed to be an opening for new peace negotiations.

During the war years the Whig party, the official opposition in Parliament, was lacking in direction and effectiveness. Their policy on the war wavered. Their long-standing leader Charles James Fox favoured peace, but he only gained power briefly during a coalition government immediately before his death in 1806, and no progress was made. His successors, Lord Holland and Earl Grey, gradually came round to luke-warm backing for the war. The anti-war cause was instead taken up in the House of Commons by radical Whigs, first among them Samuel Whitbread. He was brother-in-law to Grey, but came from a non-aristocratic background. He was the son of a wealthy brewer, and was never allowed to forget these lowly origins in trade by political opponents and by satirists.

Everyone has heard of Nelson and Wellington, but Whitbread is an unsung hero of the war with France. There’s been no proper assessment of this prominent figure on the British political scene since Dean Rapp’s 1970 PhD thesis was published as a book in 1987. I stumbled upon Whitbread’s speeches and activities almost by accident, and it struck me that there was something truly heroic about his dauntless championing of a variety of apparently lost causes, but especially his consistent support for the cause of negotiated peace. There is also something poignant about his death less than three weeks after Waterloo. I didn’t want this anniversary to pass without suggesting a couple of avenues for re-evaluation.

Although Whitbread represented a significant and influential tranche of public opinion at the time, he was marginalised by political opponents and even by members of his own party, and his predictions of disaster were mocked in the Loyalist press. This kind of belittling treatment has continued to the present day, with supposedly objective reference sources like Charles Arnold-Baker’s The Companion to British History and the article by D.R. Fisher on Whitbread in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography in fact launching bizarre personal attacks on him. This rubbishing of Whitbread goes hand in hand with an uncritical acceptance that the war against Napoleon was unavoidable and British victory was inevitable.

But the trend among the best new histories of Britain’s war against Napoleon, for instance works by Charles Esdaile and Rory Muir, is to take a more nuanced and questioning approach. It’s not unusual to be told nowadays that the British war effort appeared to be doomed up to 1811, or even until early 1813. Although Whitbread’s nay-saying hasn’t yet been given its due, it’s surely only a matter of time before a revisionist account of diplomatic relations backs some of his arguments. The memorable words, ‘I deny the insane proposition that peace is more dangerous than war,’ can be found in an impassioned but closely-argued speech which he delivered in the Commons on the 29th February 1808, criticising the rejection by the Tory government of peace overtures from Russia and Austria. The speech take up 50 columns in printed version records of parliamentary debates, and can be accessed online at

Another point arises from Roger Knight’s recent Britain Against Napoleon: The Organization of Victory 1793-1815. The title may seem teleological, as if victory was a foregone conclusion. But actually the conclusions are far more circumspect. Knight goes so far as to argue that possibly the greatest advantage Britain enjoyed seemed to be a weakness: its parliamentary system of government. Napoleon could impose his will without opposition, but, Knight says, ‘while Napoleon had the advantages of continuity and speed of decision, he eventually lost a sense of reality’ (p. 464). The logical consequence of Knight’s argument is that the energetic radical wing of the Whig opposition, the Mountain led by Samuel Whitbread, inadvertently helped in this process of honing the government into a mean and lean fighting machine. By this token even the most hawkish can join in celebrating Whitbread’s contribution.

Whitbread welcomed both the short-lived end of hostilities in 1814, and the victory at Waterloo the following year. But on the 17th June 1815, the day before the battle was fought, he stated in the Commons that, ‘Neither the events of victory or defeat could alter the principle of the war, and his opposition remained unchanged upon that subject’. His view remained that the millions of casualties and the terrible sufferings of soldiers and civilians in the Napoleonic war had been avoidable. On the 5th of July 1815 he committed suicide, aged 57. Speculation about the motive has focused on signs that he was suffering from a mental disturbance at the time, possibly relating to financial difficulties. But there is no doubt that the displays of nationalist triumphalism must have deepened his sense of despair. He would have shared the feeling that Anna Letitia Barbauld described when writing to a friend after the bloodbath at Talavera, Spain, in 1810, from which Wellington emerged as victor:

…I do not know how to rejoice at this victory, splendid as it is, over Buonaparte, when I consider the horrible waste of life, the mass of misery, which such gigantic combats must occasion.

E.J. Clery, University of Southampton

Further Reading:

J.E. Cookson, The Friends of Peace: Anti-War Liberalism in England 1793-1815 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982).

Roger Fulford, Samuel Whitbread, 1764-1815: A Study in Opposition (London, Macmillan, 1967).

William McCarthy, Anna Letitia Barbauld: Voice of the Enlightenment (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008).

Dean Rapp, Samuel Whitbread (1764-1815): A Social and Political Study (New York and London: Garland Publishing, 1987.

The road to Waterloo: Week 19 (29 June – 5 July 2015)

The road from Waterloo: The march to Paris
As June faded into July, the Allies refused to agree to an armistice, determined to take control of France and to re-establish a legitimate government that would afford some chance of peace. Napoleon may have fled Paris for the coast, hoping to reach America, but his supporters were still at large; the Allies advanced, taking the fortresses of the towns along the border, and marching after the remnants of the French army, as it retreated to Paris.

15 days after Waterloo

Writing on 2 July, Wellington reported progress to Lord Bathurst, Secretary of State for War and the Colonies:

“The enemy attacked the advanced guard of Marshall Prince Blucher’s corps at Villers Cotterets on the 28th, but, the main body coming up, they were driven off with the loss of 6 pieces of cannon and about one thousand prisoners.

It appears that these troops were on the march from Soissons to Paris; and, having been driven off that road by the Prussian troops at Villers Cotterets, they got upon that of Meaux. They were attacked again upon this road by General Bulow, who took from them 500 prisoners, and drove them across the Marne.  They have, however, got into Paris.

The advanced guard of the Allied army under my command crossed the Oise on the 29th, and the whole on the 30th, and we yesterday took up a position, with the right upon the height of Richebourg, the left upon the Bois de Bondy.

Field Marshall Prince Blucher, having taken the village of Aubevilliers, or Vertus, on the morning of the 30th June, moved to his right, and crossed the Seine at St. Germain’s as I advanced; and he will this day have his right at Plessis Piquet, his left at St. Cloud, and the reserve at Versailles.

The enemy have fortified the heights of Montmartre and the town of St. Denis strongly; and, by means of the little rivers, Rouillon and la Vieille Mer, they have inundated the ground on the north side of that town; and water having been introduced into the canal de l’Ourcq, and the bank formed into a parapet and batteries, they have a strong position on this side of Paris.

The heights of Belleville are likewise strongly fortified, but I am not aware that any defensive works have been thrown up on the left of the Seine.

Having collected in Paris all the troops remaining after the battle of the 18th and all the depots of the whole army it is supposed the enemy have there about 40 or 50,000 troops of the line and guards, besides the National Guards, a new levy called les tirailleurs de la garde, and the Federes.

Under these circumstances I am inclined to doubt the expediency of our attacking the enemy in their fortified position; more particularly as having reason to believe that Marshall Prince Wrede’s corps was at Nancy on the 26th, we suppose it is this day at Chalons, and it may be here in 4 or 5 days…”
[MS 61 Wellington Papers 1/475/9]

That same day, Wellington was at Gonesse, a little to the north-east of Paris, and was again approached for an armistice. He wrote to Blucher:

“It appears to me that, with the force which you and I have under our command at present, the attack of Paris is a matter of great risk. I am convinced it cannot be made on this side with any hope of success … We must incur a severe loss, if it is necessary, in any case. But in this case it is not necessary. By the delay of a few days we shall have here the army under Marshal Prince Wrede, and the allied sovereigns with it, who will decide upon the measures to be adopted, and success will then be certain with a comparatively trifling loss; or, if we choose it, we can settle all our matters now by agreeing to the proposed armistice.”
[MS 61 Wellington Papers 1/475/10]

The Allies were reluctant to destroy Paris, the capital of Louis XVIII, whom they hoped to restore to the French throne. Yet the French army could not be allowed to remain there, and the king could not recover his throne in a way that left him in the hands of the Assemblies, which were seen as Napoleon’s creation and instrument.

Fighting continued around Paris on 2 and 3 July, at Meudon and Issy, to the south-west of the capital, in which the French suffered heavy losses. The Prussians then moved along the left bank of the Seine, in communication with Wellington’s army by way of the bridge at Argenteuil; and the British army was able to move in force along the left bank of the Seine as well, towards the Pont de Neuilly. At this point, the French asked for a ceasefire on both sides of the Seine and to negotiate a military convention.

Agreed at St Cloud on the night of 3 July and ratified the following day, the convention set out the terms on which the French army should evacuate Paris. There was to be a suspension of hostilities, with the French army given eight days to withdraw from the city across the Loire. In return, the Allies promised to respect the rights and property of the present authorities, French citizens and members of the French armed forces. At this stage, the terms of the agreement remained purely military and did not settle any political question.