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Savary: Memoirs of the Duke of Rovigo
Volume 1, Part 1, Preface


I HAVE been accused of having been the satellite¹ of the Emperor, and of being so still.

If by this charge is understood my having discovered that the convulsions which shook the world were only the struggles of the principles of the revolution against those of the aristocracy of Europe; if by this charge is meant, that I have set no limits to the sense of my duties, I confess myself to have been the satellite of Napoleon.

If the recollection of former benefits in the time of calamity; if the refusal to abandon my sovereign after his fall; if endurance of personal exile for wishing to share his captivity; if fearlessness in having the hatred of his enemies, who had once been his slaves; if honouring his memory now that he is no more is to be a satellite, I am proud of the title of Satellite of Napoleon.

That great man honoured me with his confidence: I was near his person in the field of battle; I was in the secret councils of his cabinet; he has given me the highest proofs of consideration, I might almost say of affection; and could I, or ought I, to have acknowledged all this otherwise than by unbounded devotion to him? Loaded as I was with his benefits, and intrusted with his secrets, was it possible for me to assume the office of censor in the moment of danger, and blame instead of aiding him ? It is convenient and easy, though not very honourable, to act the part of a censor. But this is not the office I have selected; and my readers need not therefore expect to find in these Memoirs long critiques, or grave political disquisitions; I have endeavoured to write simply as I have acted.

Some persons have endeavoured to calumniate the fine and noble character of the Emperor; and the reason is plain— he has no longer any gifts to bestow: but if in eulogizing him, they could at the same time court individuals now in power, how many would gladly compile their recollections of him, and recover the memories they seem at present to have lost!

The Emperor has been represented as a man greedy of war; and this notion, which will soon be found to be false, passes for true, even in the minds of many unprejudiced and thinking persons: I trust that the perusal of these Memoirs will tend to enlighten them on the subject. Napoleon required peace above all things: he was the chief of a dynasty which had sprung out of conquest, and which peace alone could consolidate.

I have endeavoured to represent the Emperor as he was, and as I knew him to be; but it has been my more especial aim to make known the motives of his political actions.

I have passed rapidly over the details of battles and other military operations; not because I thought them destitute of interest, but because several able officers have already accomplished that task with a talent and genius worthy of the Illustrious Name, which sheds its lustre over all the following pages.

I know not whether an author is obliged to state to the public his motives for writing : but I have no objection to declare mine.

While the Emperor was a captive at St. Helena, I was a prisoner at Malta : and on my return to France, I found that many of my generous friends and public functionaries, guided by the best intentions, had found it convenient to justify themselves at my expense. Calumny must surely be a very fine thing in itself; for although people may despise it, they are always obliged to reply. I thought I could not do this better than by the publication of my Memoirs.

As soon as I declared this intention, the greatest uneasiness was manifested: many persons thought themselves compromised; the alarm spread, and not a few consciences were troubled. Doubtless no one is better qualified than I am for writing a scandalous chronicle, for I have forgotten nothing that I have ever known; but the world may be easy on the subject. I hope my moderation, at least, will be acknowledged; for if I had made a more extensive use than I have done of the numerous secret documents in my possession, I could not have been blamed.

Some of my friends have endeavoured to persuade me to leave the publication of my Memoirs to my children. Though sensible of their good intentions in giving me this advice, I do not share their opinion; and I therefore publish them during my lifetime, while I am capable of acknowledging my errors, if I have committed any, and of replying to any calumnious attacks which may be made upon me. Besides, it appeared to me that it was more honourable and courageous to choose a time for publication, when so many witnesses survive to refute me, if I have not spoken the truth.

I have occupied high stations; I have received distinguished honours; I have enjoyed an immense fortune. All this one may be content to resign; but it is not easy to submit to attacks upon the points which every honest man holds most dear. I flatter myself that the perusal of these Memoirs will prove, that if I have been honoured with the confidence, and loaded with the favours of the greatest man in modern times, I have merited them by my services, and acknowledged them by an honourable devotion to him.

I shall only add one word more. I have not tried to compose a literary work; and the reader will consequently discover many faults in my style. But for these I shall not be held responsible; I relate facts, not elaborate a composition: and my military friends know that my talents for writing have never been very remarkable. I might have borrowed the assistance of another and a more practiced pen, and so far the public would have gained; but its judgment would not in that case have been so rigorously exercised, as if I had presented myself to my readers as I was, and as I am.

¹ - This word is in the original séide: but as there is no equivalent term in English, it has been translated by the word satellite. The French term is borrowed from the name of a character in Voltaire's tragedy of Mahomet, in which Seid is the enthusiastic and unhesitating instrument of the plans of hatred and vengeance projected by the prophet of Mecca.—TRANSLATOR.

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