Napoleon’s Letter to Admiral Brueys’ Widow

Cairo, August 19, 1798

Your husband was killed by a cannonball while fighting on board his ship. He died honourably, and without suffering, as every soldier would wish to die.

Your sorrow touches me to the quick. It is a dreadful moment when we are parted from one we love. It shuts us off from the world. The body is convulsed with pain, and the faculties of the mind so overwhelmed that all its contacts with reality are cut off by a distorting dream. Things are such that, if there were no reason for living, it were better to die.

But when second thoughts supervene, and you press your children to your heart, your nature is revived by tears and tenderness, and you live for the sake of your offspring.

Yes, Madame, you will weep with them, you will nurture their infancy, you will educate their youth; you will speak to them of their father and of your grief, of their loss and of the Republic’s.

And when you have linked your soul to the world again through the mutual affection of mother and child, I want you to count as of some value my friendship, and the lively interest that I shall always take in the wife of my friend.

Be assured that there are men – a minority – who can turn grief into hope, because they feel so intimately the troubles of the heart.

– Napoleon Bonaparte

Courtesy of The Napoleonic Guide.

Dr. Maturin suggests further reading

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