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NAPOLEON I (1769-1821), Emperor of the French. Autograph letter signed ('B[ona]P[arte]') to Josephine de Beauharnais, n.p. [Paris], '9 heures du matin' [1795/6], including four cancellations and emendations, 2 pages, 8vo (cut at upper edges from a larger sheet of light blue-grey paper), integral address leaf ('A Madame Beauharnais'), remains of seal and original paper tie (seal tear in outer corner of 2nd leaf, slightly spotted). Provenance: Sotheby's, 3 July 1973 (lot 387).
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NAPOLEON I (1769-1821), Emperor of the French. Autograph letter signed ('B[ona]P[arte]') to Josephine de Beauharnais, n.p. [Paris], '9 heures du matin' [1795/6], including four cancellations and emendations, 2 pages, 8vo (cut at upper edges from a larger sheet of light blue-grey paper), integral address leaf ('A Madame Beauharnais'), remains of seal and original paper tie (seal tear in outer corner of 2nd leaf, slightly spotted). Provenance: Sotheby's, 3 July 1973 (lot 387).

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NAPOLEON I (1769-1821), Emperor of the French. Autograph letter signed ('B[ona]P[arte]') to Josephine de Beauharnais, n.p. [Paris], '9 heures du matin' [1795/6], including four cancellations and emendations, 2 pages, 8vo (cut at upper edges from a larger sheet of light blue-grey paper), integral address leaf ('A Madame Beauharnais'), remains of seal and original paper tie (seal tear in outer corner of 2nd leaf, slightly spotted). Provenance: Sotheby's, 3 July 1973 (lot 387).

A PASSIONATE LOVE LETTER AFTER A QUARREL THE PREVIOUS EVENING. Napoleon acknowledges the 'strange power' of his 'incomparable Josephine': 'Quel est donc ton étrange pouvoir, incomparable Josephine[?] Une de tes pensées empoisonne ma vie, déchire mon âme par les resolutions les plus opposées mais un sentiment plus fort, une humeur moins sensible me rattache, me ramene et me conduit encore comme coupable. Je le sens bien, si nous avons des disputes ensemble, je devrais récuser mon coeur, ma conscience. Tu les as séduits, ils sont toujours pour toi.' An indignant admission of having been angered the previous evening by Josephine's accusation that he did not love her for herself -- 'Je me suis couché bien faché -- Il me sembloit que lestime qui est du à mon caractaire devait eloigner de votre pensée la dernière qui vous a agité hier au soir' -- is followed by a remarkable declaration of abject devotion: 'Vous avez donc pensé que je ne vous aimais pas pour vous!!! Pour qui donc? ah! Madame, Y'avez-vous bien songé. Un sentiment si bas a-t-il pu etre conçu dans une ame si pure[?] Jen suis encore etonné moins encore cependant que du sentiment qui à mon reveil ma ramené sans rancune et sans volonté à vos pieds'. Napoleon finishes with a tender conclusion: 'Je te donne trois baisé un sur ton coeur, un sur ta bouche un sur tes yeux'.

One of only three known love letters addressed by Napoleon to Josephine while she was still Madame de Beauharnais -- it was written between the beginning, in December 1795, of their passionate physical affair and their marriage on 9 March 1796, and includes examples of Napoleon's particular choice of words in his early letters to Josephine, addressing her as 'incomparable' and 'mio dolce amor', as well as his habitual orthographic idiosyncrasies ('Je te donne trois baisé [baisers]'), and misspellings.

The only quarrel between Napoleon and Josephine before their marriage was said to have followed his making enquiries of her notary about her family's estates in the West Indies: Barras supported the theory that he had been particularly interested in her supposed wealth but the intensity of the present letter suggests that this was untrue. No completely accurate text of the letter has been printed since it was published with a number of misreadings in Ida Saint-Elme's Mémoires d'une contemporaine (1827, vol. II, page 353) which gives the texts of eight letters, said to have been stolen by a valet de chambre and sold to the Duchess of Courland. Copied several times during the Restoration, it has been included in subsequent editions of Napoléon's letters to Joséphine, including Chantal de Tourtier-Bonazzi's Napoléon I -- Lettres d'amour à Joséphine (1981, pages 26 and 47-48). Examination of the original makes possible the correction of errors which have been perpetuated in the printed text and which affect the sense of the letter, for example the misreading of 'Y'avez-vous bien songé' as 'J'aurais donc bien changé', 'resolutions' as 'volontés', and 'sensible' as 'sombre'.
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