Thursday, February 6, 2014

In Which Napoleon Bonaparte Makes a Surprise Appearance

Ida M. Tarbell's autograph in a copy of
A Short Life of Napoleon Bonaparte

This is a report on the odd way that two unrelated things sometimes intersect. I have become interested in journalist Ida M. Tarbell (1857-1944) through my reading in The Bully Pulpit. She wrote for McClure's magazine and was one of the muckrakers that helped bring about progressive reforms in President Theodore Roosevelt's era.

She investigated John D. Rockefeller and the Standard Oil Company and wrote a not-so-complementary series of articles on the business practices of that robber baron and his organization.

She also wrote for the magazine a best-selling series on the life of Abraham Lincoln and one on Napoleon Bonaparte. 

Both of which I would be interested in reading - the one on Lincoln because he was born in Kentucky and we do like to claim him. The one on Napoleon because I am fascinated with almost anything that has to do with France. And, I have visited his elegant tomb in Paris.

I found that Ms. Tarbell's biography, A Short Life of Napoleon Bonaparte, is available online here with its original illustrations and portraits included, and although it looks like it might be difficult to read in this original form, I will make the effort. If I can figure out how to get it onto my Kindle from the American Libraries archive site so that I don't have to read it on my laptop,  it would make my life a lot easier. 

As it turns out, and here is where the intersection comes in, I just discovered that the Frazier History Museum here currently has an exhibit, The Eye of Napoleon, which takes a look at the emperor's influence on the creative arts. There are on display over 200 works of art and craftsmanship - silver, porcelain, jewels, and bound books - that Napoleon used and gave as gifts. 

Eh! Voila! What a treat to read about the French Emperor and at the same time have a chance to view some of the fine objects and art that he collected. The exhibit runs through March 2 which gives me some time to arrange my reading and my calendar. 

I do love having a book and an outing to look forward to, don't you?


  1. I love it when literary/life synchronicity takes place! It's fun, plus it helps me remember details about the subject as well. Enjoy your outing and reading.

    1. Hi, Kathy. I am interested in the biography of Napoleon not only because it's a chance to learn about that famous emperor, but also a chance to experience Ms. Tarbell's writing style.

      I figured out how to download the book to my Kindle in a fairly readable format and especially am enjoying the engravings and illustrations that accompany the text. It was published in 1895 before she started her muckraking career. Ms. Tarbell was quite an independent woman.