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A Sigh From The Tuileries

Karl Marx

The Emperor Napoleon must be in a very dismal condition indeed, for he has not only written a most lachrymose letter, but he has written it to Sir F. Head, who is not the liveliest of small statesmen, who has printed it in the London Times[a], which is not the most jocund of British journals—making the whole affair about the most solemn ever originating in the gay land of Gaul, and quite funereal in foggy England itself. "My dear Sir Francis" is the affectionate address of the Emperor to the Baronet of the Bubbles[b], and "My dear Sir Francis" is in the subscription. Sir Francis has, as it seems, heretofore written certain letters to the London Times[c] in defense of the Emperor—letters no doubt excellent, as volunteer communications to the press often are, but which we do not remember to have read, or to have even cursorily noticed, and about which we are certain there has been little or no debate in the Imperial Parliament. The Sire Napoleon has received these productions from the author, and as great folks are often grateful for donations of razor-strops or large cheeses, so the Sire Napoleon is dismally grateful for Sir Francis Head's articles. The Emperor is very glad to find that he is not forgotten in England, and touchingly refers to the days when he was trusted by the tradesmen of that land, as no vagabond Prince was ever trusted before.[213]

"To-day," he says, "I see clearly the cares of power, and one of the greatest of them around me is, to find oneself misunderstood and misjudged by those whom one values the most, and with whom one desires to live upon good terms."

Now, too, he openly declares Liberty to be a humbug.

"I deeply regret," he says, "that Liberty, like all good things, should have its excesses! Why is it that, instead of making truth known, it uses every effort to obscure it? Why is it that, instead of encouraging and developing generous sentiments, it propagates mistrust and hatred?"

And thus attacked in his sacred person by Liberty, the Emperor returns thanks that dear Sir Francis has not hesitated energetically to oppose such errors with loyal and disinterested voice.

Now, without entering at all into his present griefs in their political detail, we do not see why the Sire Napoleon III should expect to be rosily and unremittingly jovial. Had the experiences of the family of which he is a putative member been of that gay and sunny character, that when he sought the throne of France—when he risked his life, his liberty, and such money as he could borrow, in little invasions[214]—he supposed that he was in pursuit of a rosy chaplet of Sybaritic pleasures, of the good will of man, of private enjoyment, of the blessings of John Bull and the extorted deference of Europe! Had he never heard the remark of the "divine William," to the effect that uneasy lies the head that wears a crown?[d] Did he suppose that he of all men was called by Destiny and Duty to have a headache in the Tuileries for the benefit of the race? Why should he throw himself upon the broad bosom of the distinguished Sir F. Head, and cry because his much-coveted crown pinches his brows? And if he thinks it necessary to write to The Times, why does he not do it himself, instead of writing through a dilapidated Baronet? He has kicked poor etiquette out of doors more than once. Might he not have done so once more?

The dolorous dodge, if we may use so undignified an expression concerning dignitaries, was a favorite one with the Uncle, and seems to be fairly copied by the Nephew. The Founder of the Family was wont to expatiate at great length, with many tears, and with almost maudlin emotion, upon his sufferings, torments, trials, dangers, and especially upon the ill treatment which he received from perfidious Albion. But he never succeeded, we believe, in getting a letter to an Englishman into the London Times. He did succeed in being heartily laughed at in England, in being as heartily mourned within France, and in sometimes making his giggling neighbors laugh on the wrong side of their mouths. But if he had never done anything better than write letters to the Sir Francis Heads of his time, he would probably have been relieved from his distressing duties at the Tuileries at a much earlier period than the actual one which led him to the peaceful haunts of St. Helena.

Written about March 8, 1859
First published in the New-York Daily Tribune, No. 5594, March 26, 1859 as a leading article;
reprinted in the New-York Semi-Weekly Tribune, No. 1444, March 29, 1859
Reproduced from the New-York Daily Tribune


[a] Napoleon III's letter to Francis Head of March 1, 1859 was published in The Times, No. 23246, March 5, 1859.—Ed.

[b] An allusion to Head's book Bubbles from the Brunnens of Nassau, after the publication of which in 1834 he received the title of Baronet.—Ed.

[c] F. Head, "To the Editor of The Times, January 24, 1852", The Times, No. 21022, January 27, 1852.—Ed.

[d] Shakespeare, King Henry IV, The Second Part, Act III, Scene 1.—Ed.

[213] An allusion to Prince Louis Bonaparte's stay in England as an émigré in 1838-40 and 1846-48.

[214] The reference is to Louis Bonaparte's abortive attempts to raise a mutiny in the French army in 1836 and 1840 (see Note 149↓).

[149] This refers to Louis Bonaparte's attempts during the July monarchy to stage a coup d'état by means of a military mutiny. On October 30, 1836 he succeeded, with the help of several Bonapartist officers, in inciting two artillery regiments of the Strasbourg garrison to mutiny, but they were disarmed within a few hours. Louis Bonaparte was arrested and deported to America. On August 6, 1840, taking advantage of a partial revival of Bonapartist sentiments in France, he landed in Boulogne with a handful of conspirators and attempted to raise a mutiny among the troops of the local garrison. This attempt likewise failed. He was sentenced to life imprisonment, but escaped to England in 1846.

Source: Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 16 (pp.258-260), Progress Publishers, Moscow 1980
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