"What manners!": contra-diction and Conrad's use of history in "The Warrior's Soul".
Unfortunately, some instances of a more material kind of contradiction appear to be Conrad's own and unintentional. While true to the spirit of the time, Conrad's grasp of the specific events and Napoleonic military usages as the tale's setting seems less sure. When the author contradicts history to no apparent artistic purpose, one may only conclude that his liberties with fact are unintentional; and they limit somewhat the informed reader's engagement in narrative. As to the nature of the events and their principal figures paralleled in the fiction, only some interpretive conclusions about Conrad's contra-diction, in part inadvertent but in sum ironically intentional, are possible here. Because of my contention that Conrad's borrowings are considerable, the weighty cargo of proof must be borne by an argosy of endnotes.
Inheritor of a genuine warrior tradition, Conrad was fearful and contemptuous of the seductive but deadly romance of the Napoleonic ethos, echoed in the destructive cant of his own time. In "The Warrior's Soul" there is nothing to choose between Imperial France, a Parisian "gilded salon" (WS 7), and a "gambling hell in the Palais Royal," where even the Cossack narrator riding victorious into Montmartre is "rooked" (WS 18). (3) The fraudulent currency of aesthetic form contradicts ethical substance. Like the man of destiny Napoleon, the principal figures are adventurers who don't count the cost, their certainty of winning contradicting their gamble on chance. Thieving a rhetoric of honor from the ancien regime, they play at cults of love and glory, Eros platonized as amour propre, (4) and military virtue made bellicose. The linguistic coin of an aristocratic ethic anchored in humanity and solidarity, l'honneur, parole, amour estime, and la gloire has become debased, an exquisite grammar for shame, hate, betray al, and death. In a companion piece, "The Duel," the Duc de Valmassigue, last of the ci-devants, unable to credit that his aesthetic no longer has ethical currency, rails at bellicose parvenu vulgarity, "What manners!"
Brought up to a refrain of shattered faith his forebears had reposed in Napoleon, Conrad heard the Guns of August across the Channel as another 1812 Overture, a joyous requiem for Europe. (5) In February 1916 he was fighting despair. Neurasthenic and distraught, he was in financial difficulty and his afflictions of mind and body had stayed his pen from getting on with The Rescue. (6) So, it seems he sought a shore of refuge writing this "patchwork" piece. (7) Like many parents, he was living in constant anxiety for a son. (8) Lofty abstractions had been the ruination of those born into a bourgeois time and thrust into Napoleon's wars, and Conrad had cause to dread the cant of glory drowning the ceremony of innocence again. (9) Would Borys fall, morally and perhaps mortally, because of imperialist Europe's adventuring?
What more natural than that Conrad should write about a young innocent in war? Tomassov, a youthful "sauvage Russe" (WS 7) among elegant savages in France, is called upon in Russia to kill them (as he believes) for honor and love. Conrad's cosmology offers a measure for Tomassov's false dilemma: "The ethical view of the universe involves us ... in ... cruel and absurd contradictions, where the last vestiges of faith, hope, charity, and even reason itself, seem ready to perish....." But the purely spectacular view is never for despair" (PRec 92). Conrad's consolatory action against immensity was creative immersion in a tangential task at hand to honor a duty to letters, in which his character Tomassov, infatuated with an abstractedly literalist notion of his parole and vulnerable to vicarious suffering, is seduced from duty by despair's conflicting claim.
The aesthetic of Glory to which the romantics Tomassov and de Castel fall victim had been gilded to appear an ineluctable ethical absolute, a helmet-crested sham of virtue. (10) The twin idolatries of venereal and martial conquest demanded unambiguous betrayals of humanity and the code of arms. The "nice point of honor" (WS 13) that de Castel supposes is a niggling dilemma requiring his choice between love and duty, and Tomassov's supposed choice between his humanity and his parole, are fakes. De Castel's last "word of honor," that his "faith is dead ..., even [his] courage" (WS 25) holds the irony of truth dipped in a lie.
For his theme of sex and death cloaked in honor, Conrad borrowed impressionistically from several sources. For the "humane" murder, for instance, he certainly had read Comte Philippe Paul de Segur's Memoires and his History of the Expedition to Russia. He may also have read the memoir of Lieutenant Woyski, a Pole in Napoleon's service who refuses a wounded comrade's plea, "Kill me! Kill me!" because it goes against "human feeling," parallel to "natural feeling" used perversely by the salon precieuse (WS 13). (11) Conrad would have known, too, the rumored scandal of Napoleon's own murderous altruism at Jaffa and his attempted suicide. (12) But Conrad's ragged care for historicity too often contradicts fact. Let's look at the unstated Napoleonic presences thrown into ugly relief against his antique Polish honor: (1) Colonel Tchernychev, the Russian military envoy at Paris until February 1812, (2) Mme Recamier, icon of Paris fashion and doyenne of legitimist wit until July 1811, and (3) the remnant of Napoleon' s army at the Russian village of Studienka on the banks of the Beresina on 28 November 1812.
THE MILITARY MISSION
The "head" of the "military mission" and "personal friend of ... Alexander" (WS 94) in the tale was in fact the Czar's envoy Alexander Ivanovitch Tchernychev, who couriered correspondence between the emperors. (13) At only twenty-eight years of age, the handsome, ambitious, and unscrupulous colonel had won Napoleon's regard by flattery and wit; (14) and imperial favor opened the doors of the salons of Paris to him. The tale's unstated subtext has Tchernychev as the woman's lover who uses her and is used by her; so that the fictional de Castel is doubly her dupe.
Warned that his year-old espionage conspiracy with one Michel, a clerk in France's Ministry of War, had become compromised, Tchernychev fled Paris on 26 February 1812. (15) In "The Warrior's Soul," his fictional staff officer Tomassov receives the warning on an "evening in late March of the year 1812" (WS 14). For no apparent narrative purpose, Tomassov's departure is almost a month after the historical Tchernychev fled. On 2 May, two months after Tchernychev's flight, his accomplice was publicly guillotined. (16) The narrative variant, that two spies were arrested and promptly shot (WS14), has no function either, except perhaps to prefigure two deaths of spirit in a wasteland where extremes of hope and fear meet in despairing equipoise. (17) The old Cossack muses on Tomassov's mention of the espionage scandal, "Memory is a fugitive thing. It can be falsified, it can be effaced, it can even be doubted ..."; and he avers that the warning from a "highly placed woman" is in "all the memoirs of the time" (WS 6). "See how people's mere gossip and idle talk pass into history" (WS 15). That goes for the narrator, too. (18) So, what is to be known for sure? Tomassov may have contradicted fact consciously or unconsciously; memoirs were based on rumor; and the narrator himself compounds contradiction with his creative memory. While history is ever fictive, the beauty of a posthumous collection called Tales of Hearsay (Cunninghame Graham, 1925) is that its very title deflects charges of authorial inadvertence, because error may be a consequence of subtle deliberation.
Until romantic illusion perished in Russian snows, love and war as a politics of appetite by other means were contradicted in the guise of secular religion. A "shrine" to love's "divinity" (WS 10), the salon in "The Warrior's Soul" is both a House of Venus and, with de Castel's presence, a temple of Mars. The historical identity of de Castel's fin amour cast in the Rambouillet mode is less certain than the envoy's. While she is a composite, the most likely French candidate as Conrad's model was Jeanne Francoise Juliette Recamier. (19) Her languid beauty was legend, and from the early Consulate until the July monarchy her salon was the influential centre of Paris's literary and political life. But, although of bourgeois origins, she had aristocratic pretensions and royalist sympathies incautiously expressed in her mockery of Napoleonic excess; and she sought secretly to advance Talleyrand's aims. The old Cossack supposes that Recamier had left Paris before his arrival after Leipzig, so that he knows nothing pr ecise. If I am right about her, the anonymity of Conrad's salon precieuse is either prudent or serendipitous. When Tchernychev fled, she had already suffered six months of banishment. Nevertheless, Conrad draws her with a poetic truth adumbrating his theme of bourgeois pretension. (20) He would have been galled, moreover, by the historical treason, whose ever it was, that led to Tchernychev's escape. The envoy's services in the Moscow campaign and afterwards earned him the high office he exercised ruthlessly to crush the Polish uprising of 1831. (21) So we may imagine Conrad's contempt for his de Castel, the love slave who affects a dispassionate hauteur, deceiving himself with his arrogant "what can it matter?" logic (WS 13). (22)
PHILIPPE DE SEGUR
In the last week of June another kind of conquest began when the Grande Armee crossed its Indus, the Nieman River separating Prussian from Russian Poland, only to return shattered from Moscow. The relationship between de Castel and Tomassov and their second encounter in a wood near the Beresina River was inspired by Segur's Memories, (23) which in fact end in the winter of 1807, five years earlier. On a night in December 1806 while following after Napoleon from Warsaw to Davout's headquarters on the River Bug, Segur was attacked by Cossacks and had his mount shot from under him. (24) There follows a moving scene of his mortally wounded horse laying its head on his shoulder as he sits by afire. Segur's unhorsing and his mount's show of fidelity usque ad finem may have been Conrad's first hint for the opposed image of the dismounted betrayer de Castel's pitiable pleading at the Cossacks' fire. (25)
Early in his captivity, Segur was recognized by a Russian "trader," a former Cossack he had saved from freezing water during the Battle of Austerlitz. Here is a likely source for Conrad's image of de Castel clinging to Tomassov's leg. (26) Taken to Smolensk, (27) Segur was given into the custody of Count Apraxin, who treated his prisoner as a dear friend. Apraxin had known Segur's father, who had been France's ambassador to Catherine the Great, and had himself lived in Paris. Segur's words to Apraxin, "We shall understand each other perfectly" (Segur, 347), appear in "The Warrior's Soul" as the narrator's: "Destiny had led de Castel to the man who could understand him perfectly" (WS 26).
Segur tells how Apraxin gave him a book on Russia to read, and warned him not to let its innocuous map be seen: "[I]t is ridiculous, but they would say that I betrayed to you the secrets and plans of our empire...." Conrad reverses Segur's memoir so that fiction accords with Tchernychev's embassy plot. The friendship given by Apraxin to his grateful prisoner appears to be the ideal that Conrad's Tomassov deludes himself to believe de Castel has proffered him. An awareness of the contrast between this genuine friendship and the false bond between the cynical de Castel and the ingenuously grateful Tomassov heightens the irony of false generosity motivated by sexual jealousy, which Tomassov returns as murderous mercy.
Tomassov's fictional Cossack regiment at the Beresina, which has advanced from the north with Oudinot's corps retreating before it (WS 87), can only be part of Wittgenstein's army; and the village the Russian infantry fights for can only be Studienka. (28) But aside from mere mention of the Beresina, the old Cossack is silent about the fight for the bridgehead, the Grande Armee's last gasp in Russia; the facts he does relate contradict history. (29) By the afternoon of 28 November, the only possible time for the events in the tale, there was no single main column (WS 3) retreating west towards Studienka. The several French columns, harried on flanks and rear, had already reached the Beresina, and Wittgenstein's corps had closed the trap behind them.
The battle from the narrator's perspective, facing south away from the north wind, contradicts directional sense when he recalls the enemy's guns on his left and the French column on his right; it makes sense only in terms of the squadron's proper north-facing tactical frontage. His squadron's riding into a French column strung out across the steppe would have been accurate for almost any time during the retreat, except during the Beresina River battle on 28 November. The "moving bog" (WS 4) had become sedentary, crowding the river bank during the day in hope of crossing, and huddling around fires at night rather than risk it in darkness. For his imagery Conrad may have adapted a passage from an account by Major Blesson, a Prussian military engineer who visited the crossing sites a decade after the event. (30) Downstream from the second bridge site he found burial grounds created by nature: "three boggy mounds ... covered with forget-me-nots." Conrad apparently nominalized the adjectival bog, separating it f rom its "mounds" which became "small [and] dark" (WS 20), and transported both from the river bank to the moonlit steppe east of Studienka to become a spatial analogue of humankind on, as it were, time's heartlessly geometric "line A.B." (Prec166) (31) But, symbolism contradicts fact here. While this was a sight the old Cossack would have met in the previous days and weeks, it wasn't the scene at Studienka.
The claim that the "the last of the French guns" (WS 2) would be found abandoned the next morning (29 November) seals the date. (In fact, the French had got 250 French guns across the Beresina on 26 November). So, it would have been the night of the 28th, after the last cannon shot and the withdrawal of Victor's rear guard, (32) that Tomassov encounters de Castel. If, as the old Cossack implies, de Castel is a straggler from the by-then apocryphal column, we are asked to believe improbably that he has fallen out of the line of march some three or four days earlier and has arrived on his own, starving and freezing but able-bodied. (33) But he has yet to decide to die, and after all that struggle he would need only to make it a few hundred more yards in the dark avoiding the Russians' fires to arrive safely at Studienka. (34) With his surrender, narrative contradicts psychology. But, as with memory, Conrad anticipates objections to randomness. The old Cossack muses that "a man is... like the sea whose movement s are too complicated to explain, and whose depths may bring up God knows what at any moment" (WS 18).
The old Cossack relates that just before the murder he "tried to say something about a convoy no doubt being collected in the village" (WS 24). But Studienka remained in French hands until the following day. Further, he contradicts himself when he says that the Russians took no prisoners. Conrad may have remembered imperfectly War and Peace, in which the Russian prisoner Pierre is in a French convoy on the retreat from Moscow. (35)
With a supposed natural sagacity of innocence contradicting superficial simplicity, the old Cossack recounts these events much as the French Lieutenant, a disinterested witness at a still point of indifference, passes no judgment on Jim (Lord Jim). (36) Yet, he mentions riding "at the head of [his] squadron," then (contradictorily) that Tomassov is "the subaltern of my troop" (WS 4). A soldier's rank and the size of his command aren't things he forgets; but either way, the old Cossack is Tomassov's commander in some fashion. (37) How is it, then, that this superior officer and elder brother in arms never exercises command or influence? Unlike the French Lieutenant who rides out his own fear in the derelict Patna but has had no stake in Jim, the narrator (and not de Castel) should "command [Tomassov's] life" (WS 15); yet, appearing as merely a detached observer, he eschews disinterested action for the passivity of resignation. (38) Adverting continually to "unrelenting destiny" (WS 24) and "predestined victim" (WS 26), he offers only hopeless fatalism complementing the determinism of de Castel's initial limitless hope and final despair.
Conrad wrote here within his life experience, but outside his practical knowledge of soldiering. Imagine his shipmasters MacWhirr and Alistoun consigning themselves to roles as mere witnesses. This ineffectual commander lets a tragedy unfold and reports it a generation later with the casual voyeurism of an old vet spinning a yarn about a scandal. Or is the tale really an involuntary confession by a self-professed moral "straggler" (WS 1) whose cowardice contradicts his affectations of simple dedication and modest virtue?
The reference to an "adjutant" is almost as puzzling. (39) If "adjutant" is really meant, why is he there and not with his regimental commander? If Conrad translated "adjudant" from the French, the man would be a sergeant major; and his manner of addressing Tomassov (WS 107) would have been unthinkable. But if the fact is false, the poetry is true. The feeling "brute" has a fine aesthetic reflecting the falseness of the "humane Tomassov"'s inhumanly Hamlet-like false dilemma. (40) For Tomassov to murder de Castel by throwing him "to the devil on the snow" (WS 24) would be courageous, decent, tasteful, the aesthetics of murder only seeming not to contradict its ethical import, as would "shooting a prisoner in cold blood" (WS 26).
Tomassov's actions contradict sense and practice; even the diction is wrong. He rides into the night to check the "outposts" (not the picquets) (41) without either the troop sergeant major or even an orderly as escort. At first not recognizing Tomassov, de Castel makes himself a prisoner, obviously to save his life. It is only at the campfire when he recognizes Tomassov that he reverses his impulse and begs Tomassov to kill him. While human conduct does not always have rational consistency under conditions of extreme stress, this seems an implausible reversal. De Gas tel's psychology, like the pseudo-military usages and skewed history on which the entire gruesome incident turns, remains self-contradictory and unresolved, leaving us with only the old Cossack's shrugging logic of its illogic.
Tomassov resigns his commission after the "Siege of Danzig (Gdansk)," the common term for an event almost a century earlier, (42) and an odd usage for the investing of towns on the Vistula, which ended months after the fall of Leipzig. "At the beginning of the Leipzig campaign," the old Cossack relates with a self-deprecating verbal swagger, he was wounded in an improbable "little cavalry affair" (WS 6). What of Tomassov? Has he remained a year to fight his way to Paris too, or has be been banished from his regiment to sit out the Leipzig campaign outside Danzig? (The customs of the day make that virtually out of the question.) (43) Or has Conrad reversed the order of historical events? Again, the narrator is silent on apparently contradictory facts. A "cavalry affair" implies a battle between mounted units, rather than cavalry against infantry or artillery. Of all the times when the old Cossack might have tangled with French cavalry, this was the least likely; (44) and if indeed it was such an engagement, a "musket ball" (WS 6) would be the least likely agent of his wound. (45)
Why the widderkins account of the battle at the Beresina, the column that wasn't there, de Castel's self-contradictory psychology, the offense against cavalry parlance, the last guns that weren't, the muddle about taking prisoners, the wrong-sided convoy, the anachronistic diction for the "Siege of Danzig," the unlikely mounted engagement, and Tomassov's missing year? Was Conrad indulging subtle levity at the expense of his tediously bourgeois English audience, like Chaucer with his straightfaced account of the geomancer's backwards-skewed cosmogony in "The Reeve's Tale"? I think not. If we were to believe the contradictions were deliberate, we would have to conclude that Conrad's real subjects were the old Cossack's fraudulence and our own credulity. Rather, Conrad simply didn't get his facts straight, especially because he transposed the French experience to the Russians. (46) The old salt, whose tale about things he knew firsthand was so ship-shape and Bristol fashion, appears nor to have been as "Sir Garn et" when he labored distractedly over his "pot-boiler." (47) Yet, while adjutants, squadrons, troops, outposts, picquets, and frontages are all in contradiction, their chemistry makes of them an alembic distilling the essence of a sabre-clanking "Spirit of the Epoch" (Conrad's phrase introducing A Set of Six). The contradictions become complementary impressions, and we concede that the sum of the parts holds a poet's truth.
Having quit on himself once, Conrad had learned that one doesn't die of shame; and he had a pathological fear of quitting again. This obsessive anxiery pervaded his thoughts and art. Indeed, his entire oeuvre may be seen as a semi-biographical meditation on lost honor, despair, and suicide. This was not morbid reflection; rather, it was what drove him. By laboring at "The Warrior's Soul," Conrad seems to have been holding on, reconciling the soul of the poet as destructive imagination with the soul of the warrior, the will to be, to make his life yet again imitate his art. He is Tomassov and de Castel, dimensions of a single dialogical mind, its selves engaged in a contradictory dialogue between the life urge and longing for surcease. Tomassov shies from his own pain at de Castel's suffering "a fate worse than death--the loss of all faith and courage" (WS 25), and bolts into the lethal consolatory action of selfish self-abnegation.
At the last seen with hair "like gold" as a "light drift of flakes" falls on his shoulders, Tomassov's image elides with that of de Castel in shining helmet and white cloak. (WS 25). (48) Like de Castel freezing and burning infernally from loss of faith in his secular god, Tomassov--victim, criminal, demon and saint--is self-crucifying, as it were on "two sticks laid across each other" (WS 18). (49) Effulgent with a "diadem" that could bean emperor's wreath of laurel or a crown of thorns, he is seen at the last, in imitation of Segur's Napoleon, in an attitude of "profound, as if endless and endlessly silent, meditation" (WS 26), (50) of his self-negation. The blizzard wall of the inscrutable turns Tomassov's gaze back on itself. He cannot penetrate it any more than Napoleon could vanquish Russia's wastes, or than Conrad himself could make contradiction speakable as he scanned a vacant page while The Rescue lingered. De Castel's seemingly unendurable psychic pain and Tomassov's euthanasic altruism (51) were C onrad's weakling secret sharers while he sought yet again to lay his ghosts. At the end of his tether, Conrad fortunately eschewed a deadly resolution of ambiguity, and hung on to complete The Rescue. Last of the szlachtecki and wishful ci-devant in his own time, he had manners.
Note: Aside from sources, influences, congruences, borrowings, and historical anomalies shown in the text, others appearing in the Notes are shown in boldface type. (The term "straggler" occurs in almost every contemporary account, so its use as a borrowing by Conrad requires no comment.)
(1.) For other instances of Conrad's use of precise historical context, see Norman Sherry, Conrad's Western World (1971). (Sherry does not discuss "The Warrior's Soul.")
(2.) Sir John Keegan, arguably the twentieth century's preeminent military historian, applies in The Face of Battle (1976) the principle of "inherent military probability" to examine historical narratives and recreate battles. That is, given all the known facts of the event, the weather, terrain, arms, equipment, usages, etc., does a historical account pass the test of common sense? The plausibility of a work of historical fiction relies similarly on the veracity of its setting. By this measure, the fidelity of "The Warrior's Soul" to its historical context is wanting.
(3.) Montmartre was the site of the final battle on the last day of the Allies' march to Paris. Yet, Conrad's old Cossack as victor is vanquished at the gaming tables. The significances as political allegory, of the Russian's robbery in a French "Palais Royale" are several, echoing Tomassov's shame incurred by his acceptance of French honor as represented by de Castel, who speaks to him as if "across a card table" (WS 15). As in the time of Catherine the Great, French manners have subverted the nominal victor. Cf. Segur: "[T]aking up from the card-table, which [Napoleon] had just left, a silver marker--a medal representing the combat of the Pyramids--he said to me ..., 'take this and keep it as a remembrance.' I need hardly say that I religiously did so...." (Segur, Memoirs, 83). Segur is entirely serious; however, the idea of a wafer and Napoleon as fraudulent deity evidently had not escaped Conrad's notice. Cf. also Il Gonde's loss of his last coin after following the Camorristo to the Cafe Umberto.
(4.) Given the circumstance, the accomplished salonier's name "de Castel" conjures that of Castiglione, whose Il Cortegiano (1528) offers a cult blueprint for slavish platonic love, in the French romantic tradition [spellings as in the English translation of The Courtier (1588)]:
[H]e that taketh in hande to love, must also please and apply himselfe full and wholy to the appetites [variant: wishes] of the wight beloved, and according to them frame his own: and make his owne desires, servants: and his verie soule, like an obedient handmaiden: nor at any time to think upon other, but to chaunge his, if it were possible, into the beloved wightes, and reckon this his chiefe joy and hapinesse, for so doe they that love truly (Castiglione, 245).
It may be an indication of the Courtier's possible topicality for Conrad that it was republished in 1900. Its central figures are Emilia (cf. Nostromo) and Gaspar (ef. "Gaspar Ruiz").
(5.) Conrad viewed World War I as European civilization's reenactment of Napoleonic imperial ambitions. "It was wonderfully exact in spirit, same roar of guns, same protestations of superiority, same words in the air; race, liberation, justice... (Prec 143). Cf. the opening "sunset" passages of Heart of Darkness and Suspense.
(6.) John Batchelor proposes the thesis that Conrad wrote his best work as escape from what he was supposed to he working on. The Rescue remained "a perennially lingering and blighting" project for years (Batchelor, 242).
(7.) Frederick Karl writes that "The Warrior's Soul" was "continuous with his reading for Suspense, his work during this period becoming "patchworks of earlier ideas and worked out pieces." (Three Lives, 780). Certainly, Conrad's borrowing from Segur's Expedition o Russia verges on paraphrase for its imagery, so that even the symbolism appears unoriginal. The first heavy snowfall during Napoleon's retreat was on 6 November 1812. Segur writes, "The army marched through a cold mist; the vapour then became dense, and soon fell in a thick and heavy shower of large snow-flakes. It seemed as if the heavens were falling and joining with the earth....Everything was now confounded and undistinguishable; objects changed their appearance; we marched without knowing where we were; we saw nothing before us...." (Segur, Expeditions, 143). In "The Warrior's Soul" de Castel appears to the narrator in a cloak "not as white as snow....It was white more like a mist....[A] light drift of flakes... had begun to fall" (WS 21). The symbolism of appearances, false morals and false memory is apparent here. A more striking example of Conrad's borrowing is in a passage which, ironically, Frederick Karl has singled out as an instance of Conrad's "descriptive powers unimpaired." (Three Lives, 780). Actually, the parallels between Segur's description and Conrad's verge on authorial impropriety:
The only objects which come out from the blank expanse, are a few gloomy pines, funereal trees, with their sad green, and the motionless erectness of their black trunks; their gloom and desolation formed by an army dying in the midst of a scene so wild, so death-like. (Segur, Expedition, vol. 2, 144). The foregoing is a second use of the image. The phrase "all round the horizon the dark and funereal verdure of the trees of the north" occurs in reference to the landscape at Moscow. (Segur, Expedition, vol. 1,331.)
I had the intimate sensation of the earth in all its enormous expanse wrapped in snow, with nothing showing on it but trees with their straight stalklike trunks and their funeral verdure; and in this aspect of general mourning I seemed to hear the sighs of mankind falling to die in the midst of a nature without life. They were Frenchmen. (WS 20, 21).
Congruent with Conrad's symbolic parallels of sea, steppe and cosmos, Segur reflects on the conquest of Russia:
Could this, then, be called conquering it? Was not the long and narrow furrow [Cf. Cervoni sailing "in the furrow of the moon" ("Tremolino")] which we traced with such difficulty from Kowno [Kovno], across sands and ashes, almost instantly closed behind us, like that of a vessel on the ocean? (Segur, Expedition, vol. 1, 331)
(8.) Conrad was looking for an advance, while suffering from neurasthenia and complaining about being unable to write. His son Borys, barely seventeen years of age and commissioned into the Army Service Corps, was in France, and had just been given duties conducting supply and ammunition columns to the front. (See Batchelor 243, 244, 265; Karl, 780, 781.)
A battery of despondent letters by Conrad during the period December 1915 to April 1916 encompasses those referring to "A Warrior's Soul." Addressed to publishers, authors, and friends alike, they repeatedly express his fears for Borys, complain of ailments of body and mind, and hint at his financial difficulties to Quinn, Sanderson, Pinker, Dawson, Gollanex, Wharton, Galsworthy, Rothenstein, et al. (See Karl and Davies, vol. 5,542-84.)
The following excerpts are from all Conrad's letters adverting to "The Warrior's Soul" during the period he wrote it:
To J.B. Pinker, 23 December 1915 (Karl and Davies, 542): "You musn't be surprised if you get before long another short story for the Met: A really short one this time. It has been so long in my head that it seems to be running off the pen by itself." This probably was "The Warrior's Soul" (See Karl and Davies, vol. 5, 542, n. 3.)
To Pinker, Wed. 9 Feb 1916 (Karl and Davies, vol. 5, 552): "Please have the enclosed 20 pp of the story ["The Humane Tomassov"] run through the machine, single copy. Poor Jessie who does generally this first rough typing is in too much pain with her knee to situp for any length of time at a table. The other 25 pp I must rewrite. It's a rather difficult story. I am not satisfied. I shall be sending them on to you this week."
To John Quinn, 27 February 1916 (Karl and Davies, 559): "I am now engaged on a short story (The Humane Tomassov) which is nearly done. This MS will contain no less than 60 pp. And we will dispatch it to you say in a fortnight. For the whole lot (including Tomassov) I would be glad if you would give me [pounds sterling]60. I would be still more grateful if you could find it possible to send me the draft at once, without waiting for the delivery of Tomassov. It's true that this last may be sunk by the Germs--but I could always make it up to you with the next MS--and if I 'kick the bucket' prematurely the Estate will make it up to you. Fact is I am hard up simply because I haven't been able to write of late to any serious amount. I have been affected mentally and physically more profoundly than I thought it possible. Perhaps if I had been able to 'lend a hand' in some way I would have found this war easier to bear [consolatory action?]. But I can't. I am slowly getting more and more of a cripple--and this too pr eys on my mind not a little. Our boy has either left or will be off any day...."
J. B. Pinker, 30 March 1916 (Karl and Davies, 572): "The short story (The Humane Tomassov) is finished; but I feel so dissatisfied that I keep it back for a little while longer. I may get a lucky inspiration. If not--why then it must go as it is. Some how my soul feels sick."
To John Quinn, 12 April 1916 (Karl and Davies, 578): "The MS of 'Tomassov' will be going off to you in the mail in a day or two...."
To J. B. Pinker, 28? April 1916 (Karl and Davies, 582-4): "I send you herewith bal[an]ce of MS of Humane Tomassov. Pray have it run through the machine (One copy) and posted back here. By that time I'll have the other pages corrected and You shall have on Monday a corr[ec]ted typed copy from which two clean ones will be made for the printers. The story I believe is quite sufficiently developed for mag[azi]ne Pub[licati]on. I'll work on it for book form. Please my dear fellow send L50 to my bank acct/ and another 50 for Jessie who's overdrawn--apart from her 10. ... Pardon the horrible scrawl."
A later reference by Conrad to "The Warrior's Soul" in a letter to Eugene F. Saxton (Text MS Lubbock), 31 August 1916 (Karl and Davies 647) merely explains, "As to type-copies of the last 2 stories (Shadow Line & A [sic] Warrior's Soul) I can't send them to you because the printers both in Eng[lan]d and in US have got them."
The impression given by Conrad in accumulated references to "The Warrior's Soul" is that his heart wasn't in it. The initial idea flowed well onto the page, but when it came to serious authorship he bogged down and found the result unsatisfactory. After a delay because it wasn't coming out right, financial considerations made him give up on waiting for the muse; and he shoved it into the mail. At one point he seems more concerned about the money than the MS (if it were "sunk").
(9.) The tendency to lofty abstraction as a destructive mode of thought with Napoleonic overtones was current on the Continent and in Conrad's Britain at the outbreak of World War 1, among respected academics. August Fournier, professor of history at the University of Vienna, wrote in his Life of Napoleon that Napoleon et al. [other "greats" from Alexander on] "were great because they acted under the spell of great ideas," e.g., "the unification of the peoples of Europe by means of a higher civilization" imposed, if necessary, by arms. Napoleon's "will was not his own, but was merely the instrument of that civilization of humanity at which the intellectual forces had been labouring for centuries before it became the common heritage of the world." Fournier adverts to "a higher social order," and asserts, "Through rivers of blood, it is true. But the laws of the world are written in blood, whether the individual shed his on the Cross or the millions bear witness in death" (Fournier, vol. 2, 177, 78). The book w as published in London in 1914, with a laudatory introduction by an Oxford Fellow. Conrad's fear of this kind of Nietzschean nonsense, commonly perceived as legitimate, was soon vindicated by the slaughter at Verdun and the Somme.
(10.) The confusion is evident in a passage written by Octave Feuillet (See L. Jeudon, 264), when Conrad himself was an infant:
Honor, in its imponderable nature, is something superior to law and morality. One doesn't reason it out; one feels it. It's a religion. If we no longer have the folly of the cross, let us keep the folly of honor.... The law of honor is summed up in two points: complete self-esteem, perfect despite the opinions of others. Who would fault a man who to save his honor sacrifices his honor?
As a general proposition the distinction between honor and glory as understood then and later, e.g., by Octave Feuillet (La morale d'honneur, 264n.) is that personal honor was a valued possession as a birthright, and could only be lost. While it was thought of as an ineffably transcendent quality, it was at base self-regard affirmed by bona fama. Glory, on the other hand, was not possessed until it was won by arms. More shimmering than honor, it consisted in public praise. Honor was possible without glory, but not vice versa. Segur gives an account of Napoleon's "harangue" to the Grand Army before Borodino. By appealing to the passion for glory as "the last and highest of noble motives" the address "did honor" to him and the army (Segur, Expedition, vol. 1, 300).
(11.) Segur describes Napoleon's entry into Moscow, appalled at the human carnage and moved to pity for his enemy:
[Napoleon] broke out in exclamations of horror and indignation, and relieved his mind both by this expression and by a number of humane [cf. "humane" Tomassov] attentions which he bestowed on the unhappy object before him [a wounded Russian, kicked by a French soldier's horse]. . . . [T]he elder ones [Russian wounded] awaited death either with an impassive or sardonic air, without deigning to complain or implore; others requested as a favour to be instantly killed: but such desperate cases were passed in haste as well as horror: The pity that would attempt to restore them seemed useless, and that which would have effectually relieved them by death seemed cruel. (Segur, Expedition, vol. 1S, 332).
The latter argument for murder may be the source of the Adjutant's initial exasperation at Tomassov for not driving de Castel away, and his later indignation at "cold blood[ed]" murder.
Another likely source for de Castel's plea for death is an account by a Lieutenant Woyski of an episode during Blucher's battle to drive Dombrowski's Poles and a French division out of Wiederitzsch on the approaches to Leipzig, on 16 October 1813. Woyski recounts that he had been wounded in the ankle, and a Lithuanian who had been wounded in the right hand offered "in broken German" to help him walk. They had gone only a few yards when a bounding cannon ball tore off the Lithuanian's leg "just below the belly." Woyski recounts that the Lithuanian called out to him, "Friend, kill me, please! Kill mel" Woyski's next comment could as well have been directed at the "humane" Tomassov, who obeys de Castel's "Tuez moi! Tuez moil":
I had to leave him in this fearful condition, lying in the ditch with only a few minutes to live. One man aids another, then in a flash the situation alters and neither man can bother about, still less help, his fellow, and cannot even put the former helper out of his agony, because a good deed of this sort goes against human feeling.
Woyski's observation places his relationship with de Gastel and his murderous act in soldierly Polish perspective. The final consequence of the salon precieuse's seductive persuasion of de Casrel to treason by saying she is "all for natural feeling" is Tomassov's perverse act against nature and his own humanity. This account, from Heinreich Aster's Die Gefechte und Schiacten bei Leipzig in Oktober 1813, 2 vols. (2nd ed., Dresden, 1856), is contained in Brett-James, (147). I am not aware of an English translation of Aster's book, nor his source for Woyski's account. My conjecture that as a boy Conrad may have read it in some Polish original form is based on the influence Apollo had on his reading, and on the nature of event and thought in this episode, which is extraordinarily congruent with the subject matter of 'The Warrior's Soul." The Lithuanian's addressing the Polish Woyski in "broken German" is a troubling detail I cannot account for.
As elsewhere in "The Warrior's Soul," Conrad appears to attribute to a Russian, Tomassov, an incident that actually had a French origin. Whereas his imagination separated parts of Blesson's single image of corpses at the Beresina, in this instance he combined Napoleon's expeditious murder of prisoners and a mercy killing of his own troops into a single mercy-killing of a prisoner.
Similarly, Conrad may have drawn on Segur's account of the French bivouacs, transposing de Castel to the Russian lines:
During the whole night, new phantoms were constantly approaching guided by the light of the fires; but, after hastening as fast as they were able to obtain the desired heat, were driven away by those who had first arrived. These miserable creatures wandered from one bivouac to another, till, at length, overpowered by cold and despair, they abandoned all farther effort, and lying down on the snow behind the circle of their more fortunate comrades, in a short time expired. (Segur, Expedition, vol.2,316).
Cf. references in WS to Dante's innermost circle of hell, and the adjutant's "Why don't you have him thrown out of this to the devil on the snow?" (WS 24). Episodes like De Castel's begging Tomassov to make him his prisoner and Tomassov's obligingly lethal act of mercy were not uncommon in memoirs. General Count de Rochechouart, a French aristocrat in the Russian army, describes in a memoir Conrad could have read, the carnage left on the east bank of the Beresina when he arrived there on 30 November 1813, after the French army had crossed and the bridges had been destroyed. Non-combatants and camp followers of various stripes, including women and children, had been left to their fates. Not able to cross with their wagons and carriages, they could not hope to survive without them. So they had chosen their only option, to stay behind. While Cossacks were looting the dead, de Rochechouart came across a woman at the bridge, her legs frozen in the river ice, and holding a frozen child: "She begged me to save this child, unaware that she was holding out a corpse to me! She herself was unable to die, despite her sufferings, but a Cossack did her this service by firing a pistol in her ear so as to put an end to her appalling agony."
Rochechouart's account continues:
Both sides of the road were piled with dead in all positions, or with men dying of cold, hunger, exhaustion, their uniforms in tatters, and beseeching us to take them prisoner. They listed all their attainments, and we were assailed with cries of: 'Monsieur, take me along with you. I can cook, I am a valet, or I am a barber. For the love of God, give me a piece of bread and a strip of cloth to cover myself with.' However much we might have wished to help, unfortunately we could do nothing. (LouisVictor-Leon, General Comte de Rochechouart, Souvenirs sur la Revolution, l' Empire et la Restoration, publies par son fils (1889), in Brett James, Eyewitness...,260, from an unidentified source.)
But Rochechouart refers to those left behind at the bridge, and not to an able officer before the bridges were destroyed. So, Conrad's fictional de Castel is an anomaly rather than a typical case. His despair and defection apparently occurring before the final debacle is ignoble to the point of historical improbability. The inescapable conclusion is that here Conrad had scant regard for the tale's historical setting.
(12.) After raking Jaffa (1799), Napoleon ordered his troops to execute three thousand Turkish prisoners, so that they had not to be fed or guarded. A justification has been advanced to the effect that the prisoners had broken their parole, and thus had forfeited their right to life. The second incident was during the retreat from Jaffa. Bubonie plague ran through Napoleon's army in Egypt, and the plague-stricken soldiers could not be transported during the retreat. Although there is no definitive evidence, there is little doubt that Napoleon ordered them given fatal doses of opium to save them from the enemy's vengeance. Controversy would swirl around this dark episode forever after, his murder of prisoners and allegedly humane murder of his own men becoming known together as "the Jaffa affair" (see Thompson). The scandal of his euthanasic murder of his own troops was bruited long afterwards. Generally regarded as humane for his edicts against torture and duelling, after Jaffa, he was thought either realistic and merciful, or cruel and murderous, perhaps the subject of the "meditation" bedevillingTomassov.
Details of Napoleon's attempted suicide are chronicled by his head valet Constant (Constant, 256-9).
Tomassov departs nearly at the stage of the war that Napoleon was exiled to Elba (after the "Siege of Danzig") "to bury himself in the depths of his province, where a vague story of some dark deed clung to him for years." (WS 26. See n. 46 for dates). As in "The Duel," where Conrad draws a parallel between Feraud and Napoleon who "duelled with all Europe," it seems likely in "The Warrior's Soul" that Conrad identified Tomassov's action with Napoleon's. De Castel's demand from Tomassov for surcease parallels Napoleon's suicide attempt. Only days after signing an unconditional abdication on 6 April, Napoleon tried to kill himself. (See Caulaincourt's Memoirs.) On the night of 12 April 1814, Napoleon took a dose of poison that he had carried ever since his near capture by Cossacks at Malo-Jaroslavetz during the retreat from Moscow. It reportedly was the same kind that Condorcet had taken in prison in 1796. But Napoleon's "strong stomach" rejected it. (See J. M. Thompson, 391.) A fortnight later on 20 April 1814, after the Allies ratified the Treaty of Fontainebleau, he bade farewell to the Old Guard, and was taken away to Elba for the first of his exiles. For contemporary accounts see citations in Thompson, 142: Correspondance de Napoleon, v. 1 [1793-1808] [By authority of Napoleon III, 1858-1870], 3076-7, 3282, 4001, 4022, 4025, 4063, 4026, 3605; Smith's dispatches, Naval Chronicle II, 620; Rose, Napoleonic Studi es, App II; Kircheisen, Napoleon, 184.
(13.) A mission, whether military or diplomatic, commonly has the task of conducting negotations. Colonel Tchernychev was not, properly speaking, head of a military mission. (Variant spellings abound in the histories; e.g., Tchernychev, Chernichev.) A trusted aide-de-camp to Czar Alexander, he had distinguished himself during the confused retreat from Austerlitz by locating General Kutusov, and later at Friedland by finding a ford across the Alle River, allowing the escape of Russian troops. He served as an envoy with such consistent dependability and dispatch that he earned the sobriquet "l,eternel postillon." For his exceptional services as courier of correspondence between Alexander and Napoleon from 1808 on, he remained domiciled in Paris. Michel's involvement in Russian espionage preceded his connection with Tchernychev, dating from 1806 when the Russian chargd d'affaires Pierre d'Oubril befriended Michel, a clerk in the French Ministry of War, and bribed him. Michel, with possibly three accomplices, conti nued the arrangement after the Treaty of Tilsit (1807). By 1811, Tchernychev had been working with the Russian ambassador Prince Kurakin's assistant Karl von Nesselrode to assist enemies of Napoleon's regime. (Also see N. Chernichev's [sic] account of the Russian "military mission," in Les relations diplomatiques.... 247, 49.)
On the 1st and 15th of each month, the French Minister of War handed Napoleon a "Survey of the Situation," a fortnightly report on the entire French army, showing all changes in strengths in every division, changes in billeting, all new appointments to command positions, and other information relating to the army's deployment and state of readiness. These reports somehow found their way into Michel's hands for a few hours. He would copy them and deliver the copies to Tchernychev, for "a suitable reward." This arrangement continued for thirteen months, from January 1811 to February 1812. By February the Imperial Police had begun to suspect a leak. By one account, General Savary, Napoleon's machiavellian minister of police, ordered an "unofficial" clandestine search of Tchernychev's apartments. Napoleon did not want to tip his hand and cause an open breach with Alexander just yet. He hoped for another four months to complete his preparations for the invasion of Russia.
Contemporary accounts of the affair differ in several significant details. However, they agree on the salient points: Tchernychev bribed Michel for the situation reports, and Michel had an assignation with Mine Guillotine on either the 1st or 2nd May. There is nothing to suggest that Michel held a tank or position higher than "clerk" in the Department of War Administration, so that he would not have been a denizen of salon society, as is the treasonous de Castel. Michel had been connected previously with the Russian embassy; and it seems that Tchernychev may actually have met him early in 1811 through the good offices of the Embassy concierge, rather than through a salon contact. For a detailed account of the affair, its beginnings and other key figures, see Gate, 64-8.
(14.) See Tarle, 32, 33. While there are numerous sources for the espionage scandal and details about Colonel Tchernychev, it is neither possible nor necessary to determine Conrad's specific source(s). Nowadays, ever since the Cold War blurred the line between official hostilities and peaceful deterrence as undeclared war without battles, every officer in a military attache's staff is regarded as a potential gatherer of "intelligence." But in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Europe, espionage in peacetime was considered a dishonorable enterprise for a military officer, and a shameful betrayal of trust. Conrad may have conceived of Tchernychev as a kind of latter-day Russian Conrad Wallenrod, insinuating himself into his enemy's favor and using the enemy's decadence against him. But by the standard of Conrad's time, as of Napoleon's, Tchernychev had betrayed the solidarity of the brotherhood of arms. Unlike modern military attaches, military officers were not normally expected to demean themselves by espion age. Even in war, the convention of arms did not protect soldiers from summary execution as common criminals if they were caught spying.
(15.) Tchernychev somehow became aware of the search; whether it was because he had found something awry or if there was an informant, we cannot know. In any case, he discovered that he was under suspicion. On 26 February, after burning, as he thought, all incriminating correspondence, he made a respectful farewell call at the Tuileries as protocol demanded, then bolted to Russia. The old Cossack claims, "In all the memoirs of the time if you read them you will find it stated that our envoy had a warning from some highly placed woman who was in love with him." (WS 15). This assertion, presumably meant by Conrad to provide a historical context, is not in any of several contemporary accounts I have read. This is either Conrad's fictional rewriting of literal history, or is based on some obscure account, which is not representative of the general case.
(16.) After the bird had flown, the police searched Tchernychev's rooms and found under a rug a letter signed "M," which he had overlooked. The police looked for a poorly paid clerk living beyond his means, and a comparison of handwriting led to Michel's arrest. On 3 March Napoleon's foreign minister, the Duke of Bassano, wrote a sharp rebuke to the Russian ambassador. Napoleon, he wrote, had treated Tchernychev kindly as Alexander's aide-de-camp, and not as a political agent. He therefore had trusted him more than he trusted the ambassador himself; but Tchernychev had abused "the most sacred ties." Napoleon ordered a public show trial of Michel for treason, as a ploy proving to the French public that Russia's intentions towards France were hostile. Accounts vary: Two months later on 2 May 1812 (accounts report variously 1 or 2 May) Michel and two accomplices were publicly guillotined in the Place de Greve outside the Hotel de Ville (Palmer, 30, 31). According to Cate, one suspected accomplice was pilloried and fined, and two were exonerated.
(17.) E.g., the Patna makes port under tow with two quartermasters ready to cut the hawsers, Il Conde sits between twin lights, and Hirsch's corpse comes to rest at the center of its oscillations.
(18.) As a "Tale of Hearsay," "The Warrior's Soul" turns on the mystery surrounding the warning Tchernychev received--how and by whom the information about the search was gained, and how and by whom it was transmitted to him. But while he may well have had romantic liaisons with Paris society ladies, I could not find a hint that he obtained intelligence from any of them, not even the warning that he was under suspicion. (I have not explored the improbability of contemporary Russian memoirs dealing with Tchernychev's relationship with French salon society.) Whatever it was that alerted him, and from what source, remains an open question. Conrad offers his fictional answer by stitching together two separate circumstances: (1) Tchernychev's popularity in the salons of Paris, and (2) his rapid departure, followed by Michel's execution. The fictional connection Conrad's tale makes is entirely plausible. Salon society, especially Mine Recamier's until her banishment on 17 September 1811 (Williams, 103), harbored anti -Napoleon sentiment. Talleyrand was particularly effective working with the Russians behind Napoleon's back. The inconclusiveness of the historical facts, which were readily available in any number of memoirs as the old Cossack points out, offered Conrad opportunity for speculation, ready-made for elaboration as an inconclusive tale.
A more direct source for Tomassov's account of his encounter in the salon is Segur's Memoirs. In the fall of 1802 Segur accompanied General Duroc to Berlin on a mission to King Frederick of Prussia. Segur was present during an interview between Duroc and a King's minister. The description of the interview has congruences with the exchange between the characters in the salon:
[The minister's] manner was so cold and silent that, fancying I was in his way, I got up after saying a few words and went to look out of the window. Nevertheless, as the same silence continued with added significance I drew near again, upon which these two personages separated without a word, as they had begun. (Segur, Memoirs, 86)
Tomassov, introduced into the petit salon, found these two exquisite people [de Castel and the woman] sitting on a sofa together and had a feeling of having interrupted some special conversation. They looked at him strangely, he thought; but he was not given to understand that he had intruded....[D]e Gastel] got up submissively and went out....M. De Castel returned, breaking into that atmosphere of enchantment." (WS 12, 13).
Juxtaposed to this account is a paragraph about a woman who may have been, at least in some degree, the source of Conrad's conception for the salon precieuse, whom the narrator cannot describe in any detail:
One of the remembrances of this short journey which still remains with me is the admiration I felt for the beautiful and witty Queen of Prussia when I had the honor of being admitted alone to her presence....I can still see that princess reclining on a costly couch, a golden tripod by her side, and a veil of oriental purple lightly covering, but not concealing, her elegant and graceful figure. There was such harmonious sweetness in the tones of her voice, such winning and sympathetic fascination in her words, such grace and majesty in her demeanour that in my momentary confusion I almost fancied I was in the presence of one of those enchanting apparitions in the fabulous stories of ancient times. (Segur, Memoirs, 86).
(19.) See Horricks, 240, 241; Williams; D'Abrantes. The genuine ideals for the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries cults of ancien regime platonic love were Mine Scudety and her Rambouillet circle. Recamier (nee Bernard, b. Lyon 1777; d. 1849; nom de caresse: "Julie") was a provincial bourgeois. Given her legitimist sympathies, it is ironic that her maternal origins also were thoroughly bourgeoise. Daughter of Lyon notary Jean Bernard and a mother (maiden surname Manton) who had amassed a comfortable fortune through astute speculation, she was given a convent upbringing. She was not a widow, as the old Cossack speculates de Gastel's paramour was. However, she lived as if she were. Married at age fifteen to an immensely wealthy sixty-five-year-old banker, Jacques Recamier, she had the opulence of her husband's money to complement natural beauty and wit. M. Recamier made no demands of faithfulness on her, and once even offered to divorce her so that she could marry her current lover. (She nobly declined.) Her exq uisitely appointed salon was a monument and arbiter of contemporary fashion, with nude statuary, a bedroom furnished in mahogany, and a bed bedizened with bronze swans carrying wreaths of flowers.
Politically, probably due to Chateaubriand's influence, Recamier and many of her circle affected royalist sympathies to further their aspirations. Disaffected aristocratic survivors of the Revolution would gather at her salon and privately mock Napoleon as a parvenu; e.g., Bernadotte, Chateaubriand, perhaps Talleyrand, and even General Malet, who actually tried to lead a coup later that year, to install Louis XVIII. The mockery became increasingly overt. During the Directory period Juliette had befriended Josephine. But when she was invited by Napoleon to become Josephine's lady-in-waiting (dame de palais), she declined the honor.
She went too far in July 1811, when she openly defied Napoleon; against his direct command she visited Mine de Stael, exiled at Coppet in Switzerland. Napoleon banished Juliette from Paris; and the legitimists and intellectuals prudently deserted her to ingratiate themselves by trying to marry their children Into the new Napoleonic noblesse. M. Recamier had lost badly in 1805 through speculation, and the Bank of France wouldn't hail him out; by late 1812 Juliette was in much reduced circumstances. She revisited Lyon, and traveled to Rome and Naples (where she plotted with Murat). After a long stay with M. de Stael at Coppet, she retired to a convent, Abbaye-aux-Bois, where she held mini-salons. She returned to the Paris haute monde only in 1815, after the Bourbon restoration.
(20.) Mine Recamier's salon in principle was not unlike the home of the Delestangs, which Conrad experienced as a hive of Carlist intrigue (PRec). But Juliette was quite unlike the declasse Mine Delestang, the Lady Dedlock type whose marriage to a bourgeois financier with aristocratic pretensions compromised her station in exchange for wealth; yet, like Mine Delestang, Juliette's mother had married a financier with aristocratic pretensions. Whereas the Delestangs' home is described by Conrad explicitly as a temple of mammon (PRec 125), Juliette's is a House of Venus. The semi-autobiographical pattern is typically Conradian. The relationship between Tomassov and de Castel and to the circe-saloniere parallels that of The Arrow of Gold's Monsieur George and Capt. Blunt, debased by a sort of Mine Recamier, Dona Rita, a Basque shepherd girl who becomes the pretender Carlos's drab and uses them for another dubiously legitimist--in that instance Carlist--intrigue. (The conversation between de Castel and the woman f or Tomassov's hearing is parallelled by the conversation between Mills and Blunt.)
(21.) The historical General Tchernychev went on to fight victoriously against Napoleon both in the 1812 campaign, and in 1813-14, then as Minister of War (1828-52), a post he had earned at least in part for his service contributing to Napoleon's defeat. He was a ruthless executioner of Decembrists after the 1825 uprising in Russia, and was still in office in 1831 to crush the Polish uprising (Tarle, 32,33). In light of this historical context, Conrad's de Castel may be seen as fictional parallel for the turncoat clerk who indirectly caused untold misery for Poland, simply to gratify his own appetites. The name Tchernychev also had a tragic poignancy that would have arrested Conrad's attention while reading about the events of 1812, as a variant spelling of Chernikhov, the town about 350 miles southwest of Moscow where his mother Ewa died.
An identification of de Castel with the clerk is of course too narrow by itself. That may be the banal reality Conrad had in mind beneath the glittering image of a "god of war." For that, and for Tomassov's slavish regard for de Castel, Conrad may have drawn on Segur's youthful admiration of Marechal Jacques MacDonald, whose aide de camp he was at Copenhagen. Segur calls him an "illustrious [and] worthy representative of the pure glory of the arms of the republic" (Segur, Memoirs, 53).
(22.) Ironically, the honorable opposite is in A Personal Record when a Russian commandant shows sympathy for Nicholas Bobrowski. "As a soldier myself I understand your feelings. You of course would like to be in the thick of it. By heavens! Lam fond of you. If it were not for the terms of my military oath I would let you go on my own responsibility. What difference could it make to us, one more or less of you?" (PRec 55). If Conrad's account here is not an imaginative reconstruction but an actually a report of what he heard, then this is the obvious source for de Castel's words to Tomassov. Unfortunately the historical accuracy of such details in A Persona/Record cannot be verified.
(23.) Letter to Sidney Colvin, 2 April 1917, in Beinecke Library, Yale Universiry. While Frederick Karl draws attention to this letter (Three Lives, 780), his claim that "The Warrior's Soul" is a "broader treatment of the Napoleonic retreat (Three Lives, 635) than "The Duel" is wide of the mark. On the contrary, it focuses entirely on the final battle at the Beresina, and adverts only passirn to the Leipzig campaign. Karl also finds "The Warrior's Soul" based partially on Conrad's grand uncle Nicholas Bobrowski ("the old warrior and his wartime exploits"). (Three Lives, 59). Except as shown only by inference inn. 21 above, I find no evidence for that claim.
The reference to Segur can be confusing. The Segurs were a noble dynasty of French soldier-statesmen gifted with the pen. Conrad's letter refers to the memoir of Comte Philippe Paul Segur, author of An Aide-de-Camp of Napoleon (1800-1812), Come Philippe Segur, General of Division and Peer of France (1 780-1873) (2 vols. 1824-8), New Edition published by authority of his grandson, Count Louis de Segur, trans. H. A. Patchett-Martin (London: Hutchinson & Co., 1895), 268, 291. Surprisingly, Segur's memoir is not about the retreat from Moscow at all, nor even about events leading to the Russian campaign. But, as shown in the text of this paper, his experiences in 1806-7 and relationship with Count Apraxin clearly were major inspirations for Conrad's tale. Comte Philippe Paul Segur (1780-1873) served Napoleon as a chef de brigade (in the capacity of Mareschal de Logis in his household [Fezensac, civi). The congruences with "The Warrior's Soul" are several: Segur was warned by a letter from his colonel that a caval ry sergeant in the company he commanded was being sought for burglary and murder of a jeweller. Fear for the honor of his company and pity for the sergeant prompted him to warn him. The sergeant mistook his purpose, threatened Segur's life, and had to be placated. Aside from the theme of the warning found in "The Warrior's Soul," there also is the theme of mistaken benign intention echoed in the opening passages of "The Duel" when D'Hubert seeks to warn Feraud.
Segur mentions that at Austerlitz a young Russian officer named Apraxin was brought before Napoleon as a prisoner. When he wept at the "dishonor" of losing his battery of artillery, Napoleon consoled him, because there could be "no shame in being conquered by the French." (Segur, Memoirs, 254). There is no hint that this Apraxin was related directly to the Governor of Smolensk whom Segur met later; and the two encounters appear unconnected. However, this incident could bear the seeds of Conrad's conception of de Castel at the Beresina lamenting the death of his honor; further, by relating the two incidents imaginatively, Conrad may have arrived at the conception of a repayment of "generosity" in a second encounter when roles are reversed. Segur relates that the "polished and charming" Count Apraxin (Segur, Memoirs, 345) was opposed to Czar Alexander's war with Napoleon. In February 1807 he hoped to employ Segur secretly with a commission to the Czar to prevail upon him to open negotiations with Napoleon. Howe ver, the plan was compromised, and Apraxin told Segur, "All is lost... We are betrayed." Segur was separated from Apraxin, and ordered into deeper exile. Segur tells him sorrowfully, "You are to go to Vologda ... by way of Vladimir, but without entering it; you are not even to be allowed to go through Moscow." (Segur, Memoirs, 351-2). The potential employment of Segur as an envoy to the emperor, the instance of betrayal, and exile to the same town where Conrad himself was exiled with his parents, would naturally have attracted Conrad's interest. Segur was repatriated in June 1907 after the Battle of Friedland. He returned to Napoleon at Fontainebleau and was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel. Segur was also author of History of the Expedition to Russia: Undertaken by the Emperor Napoleon in the Year 1812 (2 vols.) (London: H.L. Hunt and C.C. Clark, 1825) [Histoire de Napoleon et de la Grande Armee pendant l'Annee 1812, 2 vols., 9th ed., 1826]. While Conrad did not mention reading this account of the Russian camp aign, he clearly was familiar with it. (See provenances elsewhere in these Notes.)
Conrad's reference is not to the father Louis-Philippe de Segur, who served with Rochambeau in the American revolution, was ambassador to St Petersburg, appointed councillor of state by Napoleon, created a peer of France after the Restoration, and died 1830. (See Memoires: Souvenirs et Anecdotes, 3 vols. [Paris: Eymery, 1824-28]; also Gerard Shelley, The Memoirs and Anecdotes of the Count de Segur (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1928.) His memoir proceeds only as far as the Revolution . See also Leon Apt's account of the father, Louis Phillippe de Segur: An Intellectual in a Revolutionary Age (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1969).
(24.) Napoleon's hostilities with Prussia effectively ended on 6 November 1806 after his decisive victory at Jena in October. But Napoleon still had to force Prussia to make peace, and to do that he had also to defeat Prussia's ally Russia. Winter was approaching, so he forced the issue by advancing deep into Poland and making for Warsaw, while the Russians massed at Pultusk to oppose him. Several engagements ensued between the French and the Russians, culminating in the Battle of Eylau in February 1807, before the French retired to winter quarters at Osterode. (Segur's Memoir mistakenly states, "On November 27th, 1807, Napoleon arrived at Posen" [Segur, Memoirs, 515]. The correct year is 1806.)
(25.) Cf. Stevie Verloc's reaction to a horse's suffering, and his subsequent inadvertent suicide in The Secret Agent. Soon afterwards Segur was wounded, beaten, and taken prisoner by Cossacks.
Conrad draws often on the symbol of the mounted man to convey the idea of nobility. He was himself described, in a childhood photograph, as a "freedom fighter in miniature."(Morf, 128). Conrad in his turn wrote of his son Borys, "From the very first day he had an excellent seat and a most amusing assurance on horseback. I daresay he inherits the instinct from his Polish ancestors" (Letter to J. B. Pinker, Monday, 5 March, 1906). This association of horsemanship with nobility, derived from an earlier chevalrie and related symbolically to Rome's equester ordo, has had significance also to nobility throughout Europe. To become dismounted has for generations borne the connotation of loss of self-command and surrender to the weaknesses threatening to unseat the unwary rider (e.g., Malory, Ariosto, Spenser all provide instances).
(26.) A year earlier at Austerlitz (2-3 December 1805), the Russian general Buxhowden's force had been trapped by Napoleon's army between hills and a river on two sides and a frozen lake on the third. The French artillery caught the Russians and Austrians on the ice, and pulverized the surface. Over two thousand died by drowning, freezing, or gunfire; the description bears some resemblance to the Beresina River crossing during the retreat from Moscow almost seven years later, mentioned only in passing as the battle setting in "The Warrior's Soul" and obviously in the background of Conrad's imagination. It also was the setting for Segur's "stretch[ing] out his hand" (Segur, Memoirs, 255) to save the Cossack he later met as a "trader" while he was in captivity, the incident which may have been the source of Conrad's depiction of de Castel holding onto Tomassov's leg for succour.
(27.) The route was to Vilna, then across the Nieman, through Grodno and across the Beresina River at Borisov, and to Smolensk. On 12 July 1807, after the Russians' defeat at the Battle of Friedland in May, Russia and Prussia arrived at terms with Napoleon and signed the Treaty of Tilsit. Segur returned home in November 1807.
(28.) The historical facts are these: Napoleon issued his orders for the evacuation of Moscow on 14 October 1812. The army set out on 19 October, reached Smolensk 8 November, and after a brief pause resumed its retreat on 17 November. At the Dnieper, Ney's heroic rear guard action allowed Emperor and Imperial Guard to retire ahead of him. Napoleon's army was funnelled into an increasingly narrow axis of withdrawal by three Russian corps: Wittgenstein's from the north, Tshitsagov's from the south, and Kutuzov's from the rear. Alexander's staff had drawn up the plan to trap Napoleon at the Beresina River, between these converging forces. The Beresina was the last major obstacle in Napoleon's retreat towards Vilna. By this time there were barely forty thousand French soldiers fit for battle, and behind them some eighty thousand stragglers strung out in a ragged column for some fifty miles. Tchitsagov's force had already come up from the south and deployed on the west bank of the Beresina. Knowing that the reckon ing would be at the Beresina, Kutusov had no interest in a pitched battle or in capturing Napoleon. His army had marched parallel to, and a bit behind, the French main body in its southward march on the axis of the Smolensk road, letting starvation and guerilla action do the job of attrition. Cossacks and irregulars preyed on the freezing, starving rabble over its entire length. Oudinot's corps was on a parallel axis to the north of the other French columns, and was harried throughout its retreat by Wittgenstein's cavalry.
It happens that the same envoy at Paris, Colonel Tchernychev became the Tsar's aide-de-camp in the 1812 campaign, and later was given command of a regiment of Cossacks to attack Oudinot's formations, still on the northern flank of the main axis of the French retreat. It seems reasonable that the historical Tchernychev would keep his fictional Tomassov, the promising young Cossack subaltern, with him in his own regiment, especially after he has proven so valuable at Pads. Whether Conrad knew that, or whether this was a chance congruence of history and imagination, is impossible to say. Napoleon's early hope of passing over the Beresina River on his westward retreat towards Vilna was threatened when he received word on 22 October that the Russian Admiral Tshitsagov's army coming up from the south had occupied the town of Borisov. Tshitsagov had deployed a force of several divisions on the west bank. Oudinot's corps arrived at Borisov on 23 November, and fought its way into the town, but not before Tshitsagov h ad burned the six-hundred-meter bridge.
The weather was unseasonably warm, and rather than finding ice thick enough to bear the weight of men, horses, and cannon, the French found the river in spate. Fortunately, a possible bridging site was discovered seven miles to the north, at the village of Studienka. Napoleon devised a diversion. While Oudinot's force withdrew quietly north to Studienka, Ney's force approaching from the west towards Borisov swung south and made a feint towards Ucholodi to draw off Tshitsagov's forces and disguise Napoleon's intention of crossing at Studienka. The pontoniers began bridging the Beresina on the evening of 25 November.
The clever feint southward drew off Tshitsagov's troops long enough for Napoleon's army to close up to the river, hold Studienka in a strong bridgehead perimeter, and build bridges. So, aside from the confused battlefield description, the remnant of the French army the fictional old Cossack says his troop attacked was already concentrated at Studienka, and no longer strung out in columns, as it had been on the long march from Smolensk. In any case, the several corps did not comprise a single "main column," as the old Cossack (and presumably Conrad) seem to think. Each corps formed its own column, with distances of up to ten miles between columns. All the fighting took place on the village outskirts and adjacent river banks. Had Conrad chosen almost any other moment during Napoleon's retreat from Moscow, his descriptions would have been accurate.
The army worked frantically to throw a wagon bridge and a footbridge across the Beresina, and by the following night, 26 November, the bridges were ready. Despite repeated collapses of the wagon bridge, 250 French cannon were got across. The rest of the French artillery was sited on the heights overlooking approaches to the village, while the village itself was defended by a polyglot army of French, Polish, and Italian infantry. As the last of the army straggled towards the river through 26 and 27 November, it took up defensive positions to defend the bridgehead. While Victor's and Davout's corps and the Old Guard defended the Studienka perimeter, Ney's, Junot's and Oudinot's troops crossed on 27 November to secure the far bank. They soon were busy on the west bank fighting Tshitsagov's troops, now attacking from the south. By this time the infantry of Wittgenstein's corps, which had arrived from the north, was attacking the village outskirts. The Russians fought hard for the village to close the trap, but Victor's corps fought with extraordinary determination, making repeated bayonet charges when their ammunition was exhausted. It is probably some account of t hese skirmishes Conrad had in mind when his old Cossack, noting that the time was "half-past two," speaks of "warm work." But Napoleon and his Guard had slipped the noose a mere half-hour earlier, at 2.00 p.m. (See Chandler, Atlas..., 121, and Napoleon, 136-8; Thompson, 365.) For a description of the environs of the Beresina River see Segur, Expedition, vol. 1, 142; and for Borisov in the early hours of the retreat at the Beresina, see vol. 2, 258. For a comparison of Segur's description of the events of 28 November 1812 from early morning to night, with Conrad's fictional version, see Expedition, vol. 2, 285-9.
(29.) The Cossacks supposedly are in "support"; that is, they cover the approaches to the village and are available on call as a mobile reserve for the attacking Russian infantry. How "stray round shot" from the defending French artillery might be so badly aimed as to land among the Cossacks at such a distance that the Cossacks see only muzzle flashes during breaks in the blizzard, defies imagination. Conrad's knowledge of the disposition of the artillery is only partially correct: "This, I may tell you, was the last of the French guns and the last time they had their artillery in position.... We found them abandoned next morning" (WS 2). While the French cannon were not deployed again during the retreat, Napoleon in fact did get some 250 guns across the Beresina (see n. 28 [above]) and all the way to Vilna until having to abandon them below the heights.
The old Cossack tells us that his regiment of at least two squadrons (his squadron or troop is in one of them) is on the Russian army's tight, or western, flank: "Our cavalry was on the extreme right wing of the army" (WS 19), the "army" having to be Wittgenstein's. Wittgenstein's corps had come from the northeast to the area of Stari-Borisov south of Studienka, and had coordinated its northward attack against Victor's corps defending the heights southeast of the village, while on the west bank of the Beresina Tshitsagov pushed north against Oudinot and Ney. The Cossacks "turn" their backs to the North wind (WS 2). That is historically correct as far as it goes, because they turn their backs on their north-facing tactical frontage. An account by Alexandre Bellot de Keogorre refers to "the violent north wind and the increasing cold on the afternoon of 27 November 1812" at the Beresina River. (Alexandre Bellot de Kergorre, Un Commissaire des Guerres pendant le premier Empire (Journal de Bellot de Kergorre publi c par le vicomte de Grouchy (1899) in Brett-James, Eyewitness, 259.) Perplexingly, the old Cossack reports that the fighting is on their left rather than in front of them or on their right (WS 3). That makes sense as a tactical picture on a map, but contradicts sense as seen from the narrator's south-facing perspective. He then claims to see the French column on the "right," which would be west of him, and his squadron charges in that direction. (WS 3). If facing south, he would see the column on his left; or if he refers to a squadron tactical frontage facing west, a half-right charge would logically result in a charge either into the village or into the river north of it, and not into a French column approaching from the east. The only French troops that he conceivably would see, either directly ahead (south) of him or "half-right" would have been the remnants of one of Oudinot's division, General Partouneaux's, which had been left as a rearguard and cut off at Borisov, tried to force Wittgenstein's line by marching north towards Studienka, failed, and had to fall back on Borisov again (Dodge, vol. 3, 683). That action was not accomplished by a Russian force with only a "handful" (WS 2) of cavalry support. Segur describes Wittgenstein's cavalry at the Beresina as "a horde of Cossacks hovering on the skirts of the wood. These were the rearguard of Tchaplitz's division, six thousand strong...." (Segur, Expedition, vol. 2, 269)
The reason for the attack seems opaque to the old Cossack "Presently we got orders to charge the retreating column. I don't know why unless they wanted to prevent us from getting frozen in our saddles by giving us something to do (WS 3)." Yet, had there been such a column, the purpose would have been obvious to this officer commanding a squadron of cavalry: The French main column (had it been there on 28 November) would have threatened the Russian attack on Studienka from the rear.
(30.) Major Blesson begins his account:
The points where the two bridges had stood were visible from a great distance, and we could even make out the track along which the wretches struggled forward. Though the banks of the Beresina are so dark, when one goes upstream from Bobruisk to above Borisov, where the river winds through pine forests, the view across the built-over fields of Studyanka [sic], Veselovo, etc., is all the more sharply defined when one steps out of the forests coming from Borisov.
(Note: this was the track through the village, or along the bank, obviously, and not the road from the east along which the army had marched to reach Studienka.) In the centre of the river Blesson found an "island" made up of the bodies, guns, and wagons that had fallen into the river, and had been covered by the mud and sand swept down by the current. Segur mentions an incident in which a body of dragoons rode into a swampy field and were attacked by Cossacks. Only three escaped with him "out of the bog." (Segur, Memoirs, 322). Also, Segur recounts an ambush by Cossacks which caused Napoleon to cross a marshy stream hurriedly, where several of his followers' horses "got bogged." At dawn the next day, "[o]n the summit of this hillock which our soldiers had called 'the Emperor's mound' from various points of our line we saw all the heads of our main hasten up...." (Segur, Memoirs, 244, 45). The juxtaposition of "bog," "mound," "line" and "main body" is compellingly suggestive of Conrad's imagery.
(31.) Cf. NLL, 165: "[T]he paving operations seemed to be exactly at the same point at which I had left them forty years before. There were the dull, torn-up patches on that bright expanse, the piles of paving material looking ominously black, like heads of rocks on a silvery sea. Who was it that said time works wonders?... 'We are now on the line A. B.'" Through his imagery, Conrad collapses time, space, and history into a tale of futile perfectionism, ant-like humanity sacrificing itself in its struggle. The parallelism in the imagery of small black mounds along a line of march across a moonlit steppe is apparent, as a symbol of history and the human condition. The initial idea for the passage appears to have originated in Segur's Expedition to Russia, in which he describes the retreat on 6 November, after the battle at Wiazma on 3 November with Smolensk still to be reached. The heavy snow that fell that day (see n. 7) "soon... covered them [the fallen] and small hillocks marked where they fell;--such was t heir sepulture [sic]!" (Segur, Expedition, 144).
(32.) At the crossings, troops still fit enough to fight crossed first. Late on the morning of 28 November, Davout's corps and the Old Guard crossed, leaving Victor's corps to fend off the Russians. This precipitated a panic; except for the troops already defending the bridgehead, the ease became sauve qui peut. The starving, frozen wretches crowding the bridge's approaches became a frenzied mob trying to push across. At two o'clock in the afternoon, when Napoleon crossed with his Garde Imperiale, his troops had to clear the way by force. A rumor went round that the bridges would be fired that very night; throughout the day, while Victor's rearguard corps fought on, crowds of non-combatant soldiers and camp followers tried to push onto the bridges. The starving ragtag army streaming across was far too large to complete its crossing; and to complete the disaster, the wagon bridge collapsed. At nine o'clock on the evening of the 28th, the surviving troops of Victor's rearguard crossed, abandoning their artiller y; but not all the ordnance, as Conrad's narrator seems to claim. The bridges were fired the next morning, 29 November. A host of fifteen thousand non-combatants and camp followers, women and children, who could not survive without their wagons, were left to the mercies of nature and the Russian army, while Napoleon led the retreat straight for Vilna, headed for Paris to defeat Malet's attempt at a coup d'etat. There was no glory to be salvaged. Had de Castel despaired at this later juncture, Conrad's tale would have been congruent with historical fact. On December 5th, still forty miles from Vilna, Napoleon dictated his notorious 29th Bulletin, conceding defeat and dissolving the Grand Armee. It was the Poles, apparently, who suggested to Napoleon that he should withdraw with his Garde ahead of the army, while the defending force maintained the bridgehead in a rearguard action. The Russians' harrying of the column's flanks and rear resumed on the road to Vilna, and it would have been on this final leg of the retreat that Conrad's granduncle Nicholas Bobrowski, making his way through Lithuania in the last leg of retreat, "ate dog" in a Lithuanian forest (PRec).
Wittgenstein's attack on the positions at Studienka began at 10:00 a.m., 28 November, and continued until dusk. Napoleon's departure across the Beresina at 2:00 pm on 28 November, followed by the abandonment of the guns that night, may be seen as the final blows to French honor in the Russian campaign. Conrad may have known the military significance of abandoning guns. In military lore, the guns, although functional objects, arc held in the same esteem as regimental colors or guidons. To lose the guns to the enemy is a dishonoring admission of defeat. Dodge quotes Napoleon's letter to Eugene on 2 October 1812. Napoleon wrote, "Convey my discontent to General X for having left his pieces behind. It is contrary to military honor. One should leave everything behind except his guns." (Dodge, vol. 3, 610) By implication historically, a real-life de Castel might believe he has "lost his honor" with Napoleon's loss of his guns.
(33.) Oudinot's army reached Borisov on 23 November and fought its way into the town, only to find the bridge burned. The same day, a cavalry reconnoitre northward, proceeding on information from locals, discovered a bridgeable area at Studienka. The other columns reached Studienka over the next two days, before Wittgenstein's corps arrived on 28 November.
(34.) Studienka was in French hands, so we may only assume that de Castel has managed to head north and east away from safety only to give himself up, an act not making much sense.
(35.) See Tolstoy, 1200, 1253, ff.
(36.) The old Cossack draws a distinction between "honor and--well--glory," and observes that the Russian cause was "holy" (WS 2). The implication is approval of honor as motive, and skepticism about glory. Segur makes a similar distinction in several passages, but from an opposite perspective. He observes approvingly that the French fought for glory and relied on inner strength, whereas the Russians were motivated by fanatical religious faith. (See Segur, Expedition, vol. 1, 301, 02). In Lord Jim, the French Lieutenant, Conrad's exemplum of genuine honor, points out that one does not die of being afraid. The fear, after all, is "always there." Years after Napoleonic France's humiliation, there he is, scarred in his tarnished braid, third officer of Victorieuse (a name, since 1815, having a bitterly comic aspect), with hope of command long behind him, stolidly "do[ing] his possible." The French Lieutenant, Conrad knew, possessed the natural noblesse of honest work, knowing what Stein calls "how to be" through the consolatory action of doing that which is near at hand. Circumstance is nothing. The only loss of honor is despair.
The French Lieutenant says, "One truth the more ought not to make life impossible ... But the honor--the honor, monsieur! ... The honor ... that is real--that is! And what life may be worth when... when the honor is gone--ah call Par example--I can offer no opinion--because--monsieur--I know nothing of it." De Castel makes the same mistake as Marlow, who misunderstands the French Lieutenant in musing that loss of honor thus "reduces itself" simply to "not being found out." Rather, Conradian honor is lost only with the loss of courage to endure the imperfection of self reflected in shattered idols.
(37.) A subaltern has always been, by definition, a lieutenant or second lieutenant (formerly "ensign" in regiments of foot, and "cornet" in the cavalry).
Conrad appears to have in mind the standard organization of the pre- and early World War I British cavalry troop, commanded by a captain, and with either two lieutenants or a lieutenant and comet. While subunit organizations varied depending on precise time, circumstance, and army, a cavalry troop, anywhere in strength from about thirty-eight to sixty-five men, customarily was organized as four divisions commanded by sergeants, with each of the two subaltern officers in command of two of them, or a half-troop. By referring to Tomassov as the subaltern, Conrad seems to misunderstand the term to mean the troop's junior officer; that is, the comet. Logically, then, Tomassov is either the troop's junior lieutenant or comet.
As further evidence of Conrad's difficulty with Napoleonic military history, the imprecision of organizational terms occurs also in "The Duel," which refers to the "Sacred Battalion" as a collection of dismounted officers bearing muskets. In reality, on 23 November Napoleon assembled all the cavalry officers in his column who were still mounted, some five hundred, and named them his "Sacred Squadron," (I'escadron sacre) so named consistently in historical sources, e.g., Caulaincourt, 396, n. 1. It was commanded by Grouchy and Sebastiani, and Generals of Division served as captains of troops. The title "squadron" was probably more ceremonial, originating in Napoleon's sense of drama. (In fact, five hundred horse would be more aptly termed a regiment.) Many other officers, no longer mounted, carried muskets and marched with the troops. Thus, in "The Duel," Feraud and d'Hubert do not reflect historical fact. As fictional characters, they cannot be identified either with the Sacred Squadron or any apocryphal "Sa cred Battalion" of dismounted officers. (Battalions were invariably infantry, by definition.) (See Segur, History of the Expedition to Russia, 259, ff.) Conrad may have confused the Sacred Squadron with the dismounted cavalrymen of the Imperial Guard who were formed into two infantry battalions, oddly armed with an assortment of arms--infantry muskets and their cavalry carbines and sabres (See Gate, 366).
Conrad also may have taken out of context Segur's report of a remark by Napoleon. Before Austerlitz, Napoleon reminisced regretfully about the Egyptian campaign. "Carried away on the wings of some Youthful dream of his conquering imagination," Napoleon averred that if he had taken Acre he would have worn a turban and put his whole army into wide Turkish trousers. "I should have made it my sacred battalion, my immortals." (Segur, Memoirs, 242). This of course had nothing to do with the retreat from Moscow years later. Rather, it may be an allusion to the Turkish Janissaries. (Indeed, Zouaves dressed in this manner later, as did some regiments in the U.S. Civil War in imitation of them.
(38.) "But resignation is not indifference. I would not like to be left standing as a mere spectator on the bank of the stream carrying onward so many lives" (PRec xvii). The characters in "The Warrior's Soul" seem resigned to inevitability, and make no attempt to fight their instincts and destiny. In this respect they are militaristic, but not "warriors," a distinction Segur himself does not appear to understand. As a boy, Segur saw the Palace Guard "with their cloaks rolled around them, their helmets on their heads, sword in hand." He responds to this sight (similar to de Castel [but sans sword]): "At this warlike apparition, the warlike blood, which I had inherited from my forefathers, coursed madly through my veins" (Segur, Memoirs, 2). When he enlisted, Segur had to choose between his political ethics and his "instincts." The latter won: "I had to reconcile the contradiction of my aristocratic rancours [to serve the Republic] with the instincts of my warlike humour" (Segur, Memoirs, 16). Segur thus show s himself a militarist, and not a warrior in the more profound sense.
(39.) Cavalry regiments, not squadrons, had adjutants (capitaine adjutant major). An adjutant was (and is) a regimental commander's principal staff officer. (In infantry, an adjutant occupies a similar staff position in a battalion.) We know this is a regiment, because the old Cossack refers to another squadron on his flank during the afternoon's attack. (Most cavalry regiments had three squadrons of four troops each.) French usage, both organizationally and linguistically, has been identical, with a capitaine adjudant [sic] major as adjutant at the unit (as distinct from subunit [squadron or company]) level. The only other kinds of adjutant, having no relevance here, were major de la garnison and the aides de camp referred to in English editions of War and Peace as "adjutants," the liaison officers on the staffs of Napoleon and his senior commanders, who carried orders and brought intelligence on the battle as situation reports from their own observations. (See War and Peace, 952, ff.)
If Conrad was translating the French "adjudant" simply to mean adjutant, the error would be no less serious. In the French army an adjudant was a company sergeant major by appointment, and a warrant officer by rank (i. e., First Sergeant; Master Sergeant). As such, he is vastly senior to a subaltern in age and experience, but junior in rank to even a subaltern commissioned officer, to whom he is required to show nominal respect. He would have addressed any officer as "Your honor," as does the old Cossack's orderly.
If a troop sergeant major, the "adjutant" likely would be with other senior NCOs of the squadron at another fire, or perhaps away briefly at the regimental headquarters with his regimental sergeant major (adjudant-chef) at his fire. Similarly, the troop commander and his cornet more likely would be in an officers' area at a fire with the squadron's, or even the regiment's, other officers--the colonel, two squadron commanders, four troop commanders and four comets. The soldier-servants would be close at hand (e. g., see War and Peace, in which Tolstoy provides a realistic picture of a unit bivouac during precisely the Beresina period.) In sum, the presence and demeanor of Conrad's "adjutant" bears no resemblance to historical realities.
(40.) Enough has been said by others on Conrad's familiarity with Shakespeare; e. g., Apollo's translations of several plays into Polish, and Conrad's own use of lines from Hamlet as the epigraph for Between the Tides); and it would be odd indeed if he had not thought in the idiom of the world's most celebrated soliloquy (Hamlet, III. i. 61, ff.) on the subject. Of the several variants suggested for "a sea of troubles," Alexander Pope's "siege" seems apposite here for de Castel's fardels, assumed by his secret sharer Tomassov, who takes up arms to make his god's quietus. See Staunton 358, n.
(41.) Both by common sense and custom, an officer on his rounds has always been accompanied, and sentries have always been posted in pairs. Moreover, in accepted nineteenth-century military parlance the squadron itself (not its detachments) would have been on "outpost duty," providing the flank protection the old Cossack mentions. That is, the entire regiment or squadron in its flank defensive position was said to have been on an "outpost." A "post" was customarily a unit or detachment of at least a dozen men, a section of horse, or more. E. g., "[T]he allies advanced, [and] drove in the French posts." "[T]he commanding prince of Schwartzenburg had given orders that all advanced posts should fall back into the position at Culm" (Heweston, vol. 3,399,403). (Obviously a princely commander refers to units, not to small sections and sentries.) Davout "hasten[ed] to the advance posts upon the Ukra" (Segur, vol. 2, 316). "We arrived at the outposts" [in context, "the front lines"] (Segur, Memoirs, 25). "At Kaluga d uring the retreat Napoleon's letter to Alexander had just passed the advanced posts..." (Segur, Expedition, vol. 2, 50). (The obvious meaning is that Napoleon's envoy has just passed through the forward units of his own lines.) "[T]he Emperor appeared at the advanced posts..." (Hazlitt, vol. 4, 219). (It should be noted here that, while this is not an instance, Hazlitt's vol. 4, 189, ff. copies liberally from Segur's Expedition. While Conrad himself mentions reading at least one account by Segur, it cannot be ruled out that some of Conrad's borrowings are from Hazlitt, and only indirectly from Segur. See Note 48.)
By contrast to outposts, picquets were sentries either at or in advance of posts. Segur mentions that "a picquet of thirty French suddenly appeared, advancing from the bridge at Vilia, where they had been forgotten" (Segur, Expedition, vol. 2,325). "I placed my picquet"; "each company of skirmishers and the smallest cavalry picquets which were intended to support them" (Segur, Memoirs, 20, 316). When the British arrived at Cambray after Waterloo "picquets were established at the citadel" (Account by Private Wheeler, 51st Foot, Hastings, 246). A wishfully imaginative account of the journalist Russell in the Crimea: "He is put on picquet, where he remains til the next morning, when he is permitted to take his belts off. . . (Account by Charles Wickins, Hastings, 268). So, Tomassov would not have ridden out to check the "outposts." He would have ridden to the "picquets," and perhaps the "vedettes," pairs of mounted sentinels in advance of the picquets. The "outlying picquets" were detachments tactically deployed ahead of the squadron, and the "inlying piequet" was another part of the squadron held in readiness to reinforce any picquet on the squadron's front. European cavalry usages varied little during the the nineteenth century. The expressions "outpost" and "picquet" appear in their proper context exhaustively throughout the military literature of the period. We may assume, perhaps, that in giving voice to the old Cossack, Conrad tried to emulate what he thought would be the English version of expressions as used by the British cavalry of his own time. But the result is no more correct than would have been a French version imagined by Conrad to have been of Napoleon's time. An avante-poste was (and is) not a picquet.
The narrator says he has "not moved six paces towards the group of horses and orderlies in front of our squadron" (WS 25) when Tomassov shoots de Castel. He also has said, "Our squadrons had been formed along the edge of the forest" (WS 25). The squadron's mounts logically would not be assembled in front of the squadron; rather, they would be behind "in leaguer" within the squadron's defensive perimeter and the shelter of the woods, in "horse lines" for foddering. As with the groupings of the officers and sergeant majors, a squadron or regiment in bivouac without a threat of imminent attack would not have had its mounts located as described.
(42.) This ancillary tactic was not known as the Siege of Danzig. Rather, what common parlance refers to as the Siege of Danzig had occurred almost a century earlier, when Stanislaw Leszczynski (1677-766), King of Poland (briefly in 1704 and 1733), puppet of the Franco-Swedish alliance, was trapped in Danzig by a Russian army and fled to Prussia disguised as a peasant (Playground, 508). The only other reference to a "Siege" of Danzig as common patlance might have been by the French, in reference to Napoleon's besieging the city in April, 1807 (e. g., the Duke of Rovigo refers to that episode as the "Siege of Danzig" (Rovigo, vo. 2. 48). In November 1806 Blucher had surrendered Prussia's Baltic possessions to France. By the treaty of Tilsit (1807) the territory of the Duchy of Warsaw had been carved from the lands of the Prussian partition. It included south Prussia, but not Danzig, which was made a Free City, in effect an autonomous republic (God's Playground, v.ii., 297).
As early as June 1812 Napoleon had relied on Danzig as a major entrepot and storehouse for grain (Gate, 93; Segur, Expedition, vol. 1, 127), and garrisoned it with twenty-five thousand troops. Caulaincourt called it "the place where everything had been organized and prepared during the last two years, and to which the Emperor devoted the greatest attention, for it was the strong point that had to supply all his needs [for the Russian campaign]" (Gaulaincourt, 115). But the focus of both the Allies and the French in 1813 was the Leipzig campaign. Danzig was neither unique, nor did it figure significantly in the events of the campaign. Indeed, historians of this phase of the Napoleonic wars, known as the Leipzig campaign or "War of Liberation" say little or nothing about Danzig.
In December 1812 the Russian army pursued the retreating French as far as the Nieman. During January 1813 the shattered remnant of the Grande Armee under Napoleon's stepson Eugene de Beauharnais resumed its retreat all the way to Posen, across the Vistula. Soon four Russian armies crossed the Vistula, cutting off the Baltic ports including Danzig at the mouth of the Vistula. The French retreated to the Oder, leaving strong garrisons at Danzig, Stettin, and other town fortresses of their Prussian allies, who were about to become their enemies. Then, on 3 February 1813, the Treaty of Kalisch (just inside the Polish border) forged a new alliance between Russia and Prussia, and reached a secret detente with Austria. In the early spring Alexander I launched his "War of Liberation." The Russian army continued its advance through the Prussian corridor between the Baltic and Poland, as far as the Oder, but there was no active siege campaign as such by the Russians to invest and capture the Danzig. (For references to Danzig by Segur, see Expedition, vol. 1, 90-2, 127; vol. 2, 365.)
When the French abandoned Warsaw to the Russians on 4 February, 1813, they could no longer hold the line of the Vistula. With the Russians' and Prussians' advance westward in May 1813, Danzig, Thorn, Stettin, Dresden, Torgau, Zamosk, Modlin, Magdeburg, and Hamburg were all beleaguered and cut off from Napoleon's Duchy of Warsaw. But this was a sideshow in the Leipzig campaign. After taking up winter quarters on the Vistula, the remnant of the main French army had withdrawn to the Elbe near Magdeburg to hold the line while Napoleon assembled a new army, leaving a sedentary French and Polish garrison at Danzig. The two hundred thousand French troops in stranded garrisons held out for some time: Danzig until 2 December 1813 (well after the Leipzig campaign ended on 19 October); Thorn (Thorgau), 26 December; Stettin, 30 November; Dresden, 11 November; Zamosk, 22 November; Modlin, 1 December; and Magdeburg, 6 May 1814. Hamburg did not capitulate until the Restoration of Louis XVII. (See J. M. Thompson, 381.) This "siege," more in the nature of sequestering and blockade than conquest, lasted for some ten months during the entire "War of Liberation," until the Treaty of Paris (30 April 1814) returned France to its 1792 borders. Indeed, Danzig retained its autonomy even after Napoleon's defeat; and in 1815, the Congress of Vienna re-annexed it to Prussia as part of the Grand Duchy of Posen (God's Playground, v. ii, 112).
One has difficulty fathoming why the old Cossack would refer to Tomassov staying until after the so-called "siege of Danzig" before resigning his commission as if this were a universally recognized terminal event, when in fact the decisive event had been the fall of Leipzig a month and a half earlier. The other definitive event to which the narrator adverts was the fall of Paris, 30 March 1814, the real terminus ad quem of the Allies' military operations against Napoleon, who remained at Fontainebleau until being sent to Elba a fortnight later.
Moreover, while Danzig may have loomed large in the mind of the Polish Conrad, it is reasonable to suppose that the battle for Leipzig normally would have had at least equal significance for him. It was here that Poland's Poniatowski drowned, marking an end to Poland's hopes and becoming a martyr of heroic proportions. Conrad's grandfather Teodor probably earned his Virtuti Militari against Austria in the spring of 1809, in Poniatowski's Fifth Corps, which marched proudly in the vanguard of Napoleon's army.
A possible explanation for Conrad's choice of Danzig is this: The status as a free city which Danzig lost was given to Cracow (as Conrad would have known) when Poland was established as the Congress Kingdom, as "Russian" Poland was called. (God's Playground, v.ii., 112, 306). This may be the cause of Conrad's regarding Danzig's fortunes as having central significance in the Leipzig campaign. Thus what he believed was the lifting of a siege (which was merely an interdiction marginal to the whole proceeding) on 2 December 1813 becomes a benchmark for Tomassov's departure (historically four months and eighteen days before Napoleon's departure for Elba), because of its importance for Conrad the Krakovian. However, Conrad's true motive for not choosing either the fall of Leipzig or Paris as a significant date for Tomassov's departure must remain a mystery.
(43.) The historical context makes the reference to Tomassov's departure implausible. Because the Cossack narrator's regiment evidently was engaged in the main advance and not simply garrisoned at Danzig, Tomassov would have been engaged with him in the advance on Paris after the fall of Leipzig. Yet, we are to believe that in mid-campaign, his fortunes somehow keyed to the fall of a distant town, Tomassov leaves to return to Russia. Any idea that Tomassov had been transferred to another regiment in the Danzig garrison is even less plausible. Commissions were granted by the Czar, gazetting officers specifically to regiments; an officer's transfer to another regiment was virtually unheard of. A rumor of scandal would not have precipitated a transfer. An officer deemed not fit to command in his regiment by reason of crime or scandalous conduct was disgraced and cashiered, or broken to the ranks (e.g., Dolohov in War and Peace).
(44.) Conrad's chronology is passable here, but the old Cossack's account is implausible, because a small cavalry skirmish was unlikely at that juncture. Mother Russia was quit of the French in December 1812, and Alexander I embarked on his own conquest, a "War of Liberation" to bring the Duchy of Warsaw back under Russian domination. During the battle for Leipzig, 16-19 October 1813, General Wittgenstein, the same whose corps, including Colonel Tchernychev's Cossacks, had harried Oudinot's column, commanded a combined force of Russians and Prussians. Conrad must have had in mind the Battle of Lutzen in Silesia (a.k.a Grossgorschen) on 1-2 May 1813 as the setting. (Bautzen, the site of the other battle during this phase, is in Saxony.) This time, the old Cossack's account is possible but implausible. Here Ney's corps encountered Wittgenstein's column, consistent with the presence of the old Cossack at the battle. However, Lutzen is remembered as "a very bloody infantry encounter, costing a lot of lives on bot h sides" (Thompson, Napoleon Bonaparte, 377). A major factor every history of the Leipzig campaign emphasizes is that, because of losses during the retreat from Moscow, Napoleon was critically short of cavalry. One French colonel described the new men and mounts as "chickens mounted on colts." (See Alfred-Armand-Robert Saint-Chamans, Memories de General Comte de Saint-Chamans, ancien aide -de-camp du Marechal Soult, 1802-1832 [Paris, 1896], ii. 404, in Brett-James, Leipzig, 23; For details of the battle of Lutzen see Fournier, 270, 271.) Certainly the French cavalry fought at Leipzig itself; indeed, on 17 October the Russians repulsed a charge by two cavalry divisions; but there is no historical evidence for a cavalry-on-cavalry encounter at Lutzen. The following excerpt is typical: "Ney led them forward and with the bayonet drove them back. ... Meanwhile the Cavalry and Cossacks of the Allies had been thundering down ... on Marmont's infantry" (Maude, 104,05).
By J. S. C. Abbott's account (The Life of Napoleon Bonaparte), on the morning of 2 May 1813, when the allies actually engaged Napoleon's army at Lutzen, he wasn't expecting attack, and his army was extended over thirty miles when the allied army emerged from behind high ground. (Italics in the following passages are mine.)
In four deep, black columns, eighty thousand strong, with powerful artillery in front, and twenty-five thousand of the finest cavalry in reserve, these veterans ... rushed resistlessly upon the lead columns of the young conscripts of France..." (Abbott, 421).
Napoleon had "but four thousand horse": Calmly, for a moment, he contemplated the overwhelming numbers..., then said, "We have no cavalry. No matter, it will be a battle as in Egypt. The French infantry is equal to anything...."
There follows a description of the carnage caused by the Russian artillery, then "[i]mmense squadrons of [Russian] cavalry were posted upon a neighbouring eminence, just ready, in a resistless torrent of destruction, to sweep the field and sabre the helpless fugitives" (Abbott, 422). The French rallied against the Russian guns and repulsed the onslaught of Russian infantry, "[b]ut Napoleon, destitute of cavalry, gave strict orders that no pursuit should be attempted" (Abbott, 422). None of the foregoing may be construed according to the narrator's reference to a "little cavalry affair."
(45.) Cavalry used pistols and carbines, not muskets. The cavalry "musket" or dragon (hence "dragoon") had been used a century earlier by cavalry on inferior mounts. Armed to fight on foot, dragoons were similar to a much later innovation, "mounted infantry." By Napoleonic times the dragon was obsolete and all cavalry regiments (called chasseurs cheval except for dragoon and hussar regiments) were armed with pistols or carbines, which riders used while mounted. (Technically there were no regiments of cavalry known titled Cuirassiers. The regiment of Royal Cuirassiers, established in 1660, of course was discontinued after the Revolution. However, the distinctive helmet and breastplate continued to be worn by regiments of grosse cavairie (heavy cavalry, as distinct from chevaux leger) , and cuirassier remained as a generic term.
(46.) As a detail of probable transposition among many others cited, cf. Segur's account of the French attacks on a Russian column in August 1812 near Krasnoe on the way to Moscow, and Conrad's narrator's account of the Cossacks attacking the French column:
In fact, our first charges fell short of reaching the Russians.... [O]ur squadrons...harassed them..., dashed into the smallest intervals that were inadvertently furnished, and...even penetrated [the main body] on two occasions, but only a very little way, the horses being, as it were, stranded against a mass so thick and unyielding" (Segur, Expedition, vol. 1, 199).
Presently we got orders to charge the retreating column.... At intervals when the line cleared we could see away across the plain to the right a somber column moving endlessly.... We rode in at a trot, which was the most we could get out of our horses, and we got stuck in that human mass. ..(WS 87).
Also, cf. Segur: "[T]he [French] soldiers...subsisted on what they could find on their route, which consisted principally of grains of new rye, which they crushed and then boiled..." (Expedition, vol. 1, 262). Conrad: "He was offering me a sooty pot containing some grain boiled in water with a pinch of salt ... (WS 19).
(47.) Probably the name Garnet(t) would have meant to Conrad only his dear friend Edward Garnett, his not having heard of "all Sir Garnet" the British soldier's lubberly argot equivalent of the naval "ship-shape and Bristol fashion," after General Sir Garnet Wolseley (1833-1913), a soldier's soldier who gave distinguished service in many campaigns and had a reputation as a stickler for detail and discipline. Conrad himself called "The Warrior's Soul" a "pot boiler" (Letter to Sidney Colvin, 2 April, 1917). In view of Conrad's theme of contra-diction and his capacity for subtle drollery, he may have been enjoying a private joke masked in self-deprecation. He may have thought of "The Warrior's Soul" in wry metaphor as "a sooty pot containing some grain boiled in water," perhaps all to be taken "with a pinch of salt." (See Note 47.)
(48.) While symbolically evocative, the image is flawed historically in that, after months of campaigning in appalling conditions, de Castel's helmet would have been a dull thing if still worn at all; and rags would have been stuffed up around its edges. A cuirassier's helmet (introduced in 1802 and still worn by the Republican Guard in full dress) was (and is) steel (not golden), with a brass crest and chin scales, a horsehair mane, and a black calfskin turban. His white cloak is unlikely. Since 1762, all cavalry regiments' uniforms (including cuirassiers') had been dark blue. French Grenadier Guard regiments wore a long white campaign coat; and some cavalry regiments of other nations wore white kurka, dolmans, or waistcoats; but not the French cavalry. The Austrian army's uniforms traditionally were white; but French troops wore white only from 1806 to 1811 (the so-called "white coat period") during the Peninsular campaign, when the supply of indigo dye ran out because of the British blockade. (For uniform details see Knotel, 29; Nicholson, 88-91; also, for campaign dress in the Russian campaign see Haythornethwaite, 105-7, and illustrations.)
For the broad outlines of the scene of de Castel's approach and his general appearance, Conrad likely borrowed from William Hazlitt's Life of Napoleon, who quotes from the Abbe de Pradt's account of Napoleon's passage through Warsaw during the retreat from Moscow, which contains this description of General Caulaincourt:
[T]he doors of my apartment flew open, and gave admittance to a tall figure, led in by one of my secretaries to the embassy. "Make haste, come, follow me," were the words which this phantom addressed to me. A black silk handkerchief enveloped his head [cf. Black calf skin turban on helmet, above], his face was as it were buried in the thickness of furs in which it was inclosed [sic]; his walk was impeded by a double rampart of furred boots: it resembled a scene of apparitions from the other world. I arose, advanced towards him, and catching some glimpses of his profile, I recognized him, and said, "Ah! Is it you, Caulaincourt?" (Hazlitt, vol. 5, p. 33)
[S]omething induced me to look over my shoulder. ... All I saw in the distance were two figures approaching in the moonlight. One of them was Tomassov..., in long boots, a tall figure ending in a pointed hood. But by his side advanced another figure. ... It had a shining crested helmet on its head and was muffled up in a white cloak. It ... was ghostly and martial to an extraordinary degree. ... I could see at once that he was leading the resplendent vision by the arm. Then I saw that he was holding it up. ... [T]hey crept on...and at last they crept into the light. ... [The helmet] was extremely battered and the frostbitten face ... under it was framed in bits of mangy fur. "You have brought in a prisoner," I said. ... "I recognize you, you know. You are her Russian youngster." (WS 21).
The elision of de Castel's and Tomassov's images, which collapses into a single center the ideas of the "soul of a poet" and de Castel's death wish, may have its source in Segur's account of Napoleon's discussion of dramatic poetry with Junot. Discussing the new tragedy "The Templars," Napoleon avers, "In the whole piece there was only one sustained character which was that of a man who wanted to die. But that is not natural and therefore worthless; one must desire to live and know how to die!" (Segur, Memoirs, 240).
(49.) Obviously crucifixional in import, "two sticks laid across each other" is also a dauntingly complex image. If taken in the context of the speaker's identity as a Russian religionist immersed in his "holy" cause, the reference may be to the Roman Catholic Church as opposed to the Greek/Russian Orthodox (its symbol three "sticks"). By inference this is a jibe at Western Christendom's embracing the atheistic Napoleonic culture of conquest. The image also bears significance as lifeless geometric abstraction, the individual's existence at the point of intersection with a deterministic "line AB." That construction coincides with the rationalistic world view of the heirs of les philosophes. As such, Tomassov is seen as the proponent of ethical absolutes, contradictory crossed sticks, as it were, each with its conflicting claim as the ethical direction.
If taken in the context of the speaker's identity as authorial persona, the image may be seen as Conrad's rejection of the moral absolutes inherent in Christian thought. Adverting to Tolstoy, he wrote:
Christianity--is distasteful to me. I am nor blind to its services but the absurd oriental fable from which it starts irritates me. Great, improving, softening, compassionate it may be but it has lent itself with remarkable facility to cruel distortion and is the only religion which with its impossible standards, has brought an infinity of anguish to innumerable souls--on this earth (To Edward Garnett, Monday, 23 February, 1914 [Karl and Davies, 359]).
Incorporating both "compassion" and "impossible standards," the passage above reflects the elements (two sticks, as it were) of Tomassov's false dilemma. Ironically, it is the old Cossack who professes a "holy" cause. The Russians fought for God, Czar ("the Little Father"), and country (Mother Russia). The French fought for Napoleon (not as God and country made manifest) and glory.
Aside from religious significance and a likely provenance of Tomassov's name in the "blissful martyr," of whom Conrad was reminded constantly in Canterbury, Conrad may also have got the name from reading about the Russian general Tormassov [sic], commander of Kurusov's southern army in Lithuania at the outset of Napoleon's offensive. At the start of Napoleon's Russian campaign he faced the Austrians in the South; and during Napoleon's retreat he was Marshal Ney's major adversary, along with Wittgenstein, at the Beresina River (Tarle, 74, ff). While Tshitsagov and Wittgenstein were kept at bay by skeleton corps commanded by Ney, Victor and Oudinot, Tormassov denied Napoleon access to fording areas to the south.
(50.) Here Conrad borrows words from de Segur, and perhaps from Hazlitt. Segur relates that Napoleon is told by Caulaincourt of the imputed fanaticism of the Russians who have fought the Turks "who destroyed all their prisoners," so that "they would rather be killed than surrender." He continues. "The emperor on hearing this fell into a profound meditation" (Segur, Expedition, vol. 1, 290). The profundity of Napoleon's meditation extends only to his conclusion that "a battle of artillery would be the surest." By contrast, Tomassov's "profound" and silent" meditation is "endless." Yet, Conrad's use of Segur's language hints at the identification of the gallicized Tomassov symbolically with Napoleon. Tomassov's "meditation" presumably concerns the ethics of killing prisoners to alleviate suffering. (See n. 11, above). Given at least one other apparent borrowing from Hazlitt, it seems plausible that Hazlitt's mention of Francis of Austria's "imperial diadem which a soldier of fortune had plucked from his brow" ( Hazlitt, 132) would have offered Conrad a further opportunity to identify Tomassov with aspects of the Napoleonic principle. The image of Tomassov's hair that "shone like gold" (WS 26), suggestive of sainthood, may have its source in Segur's epithet describing the significance of the Grand Army's arrival at Moscow: "This miraculous conquest would surround us with a halo of glory" (Segur, Expedition, vol. 2, 27). In that light, the ironic possibilities of Conrad's image are many.
(51.) Conrad does not use the term "euthanasia;" and the mercy killing of de Castel has numerous possible sources, as shown. However, reading Hazlitt's Life of Napoleon he would have encountered the term italicized, in reference to the execution of a pair of treasonous loyalists for the greater good of France: "This [the question of divine right or rule by consent] alone could account for the lengthened convulsion, the 'dread strife' that had already taken place, and that now was about to terminate in so happy a euthanasia" (Hazlitt, 138).
Abbott, J. S. C. The Life of Napoleon Bonaparte. London: Ward, Lock, & Co., Ltd., 1900.
Abrantes, La Duchesse Laure Sainte-Martin d', Histoire des salons de Paris: Tableaux etportraits dugrande monde sons Louis XVI, le Directoire, le Consulat et l'empire, la restauration, et le regne de Louis-Phillippe ler, 4 vols. Paris: Gamier Freres, Libraires-Editeurs, 1893.
Apt, Leon. Louis-Phillippede Segur: An Intellectual in a Revolutionary Age. The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1969.
Batchelor, John. The Life of Joseph Conrad: A Critical Biography. Oxford: Blackwell, 1994.
Brett-James, Antony, comp. & trans. 1812: Eyewitness Accounts of Napoleon's Defeat in Russia. London: Macmillan, 1967.
-----. Europe Against Napoleon. London: Macmillan/St Martin's Press, 1970.
Castiglione, Baldassare. The Courtier. London: J. M. Dent & Sons, Ltd., 1928.
Cate, Curtis. The War of the Two Emperors, The Due/Between Napoleon and Alexander: Russia, 1812. New York: Random House, 1985.
Caulaincourt, Armand Augustin Louis de. Memoirs of General de Caulaincourt 1812-1813. Ed. Jean Hanoteau, trans. Hamish Miles. London: Cassell, 1935.
Chandler, David D. Atlas of Military Strategy: The Art, Theory and Practice of War, 1918-1878. Don Mills: Collier Macmillan, Ltd, 1980.
-----. Napoleon. New York: Saturday Review Press, 1973.
Conrad, Joseph. "The Warrior's Soul." Tales of Hearsay. London: J. M. Dent, 1948; cited as WS in the text.
-----. Notes on Life and Letters. London: J. M. Dent, 1948.
Constant. Memoirs of Constant: Containing Details of the Private Life of Napoleon, His Family and His Court. Trans. Percy Pinkerton. London: H. S. Nichols, 1896.
Davies, Norman. Cod's Playground: A History of Poland. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1981.
Dodge, Theodore Aylraut. Nap oleon: A History of the Art of War (1904-7). New York: AMS Press, 1970.
Feuillet, Octave. Le Roman d'unjeune hommepauvre (1858), in L. Jeudon, La Morale de l'honneur. Paris: F. Alcan, 1911
Fournier, August. Napoleon L A Biography. London: Longmans, Green and Co., 1914.
Fezensac, de--, Lieutenant General. A Journal of the Russian Campaign of 1812. Intro, and trans. Colonel W. Knollys. (London, 1842). Cambridge: Ken Trotman Ltd., Cambridge, 1988.
Hastings, Max. The Oxford Book of Military Anecdotes. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1985.
Haythornethwaite, Philip, Chappell, Michael. Uniforms of 1812: Napoleon's Retreat from Moscow. Poole, Dorset: Blandford Press, 1976.
Hazlitt, William. The Life of Napokon. Boston: Dana Estes & Company, 1900.
Heweston, W. B. History of Napoleon Bonaparte. London: Richard Evans, 1815.
Horricks, Raymond, Napoleon's Elite. London: Transaction Publishers, 1995.
Karl, Frederick R. Joseph Conrad: The Three Lives. A Biography. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1979.
Karl, Frederick R. and Davies, Laurence. The Collected Letters of Joseph Conrad. Cambridge: Cambridge U P, 1986-.
Keegan, John. The Face of Battle. New York: Viking, 1976.
Knotel, Richard, Herbert Knotel Jr., and Herbert Sieg. Uniforms of the World: A Compendium of Army, Navy, and Air Force Uniforms 1700-1937. Trans. from 1956 ed. Ronald G. Ball. New York: Scribner's Son, 1980.
Maude, F. N. The Leipzig Campaign 1813. London: Sonnenschein & Co., 1908.
Mikhailovich, Nikolai, Grand Duke of Russia, ed. Les relations diplomatiques de la Russie et de la France d'apres les rapports des ambassadeurs d'Alexandre et de Napoleon, 1808-1812. St Petersburg: Manufacture des papiers d'etat, 1905-8.
Morf, Gustav. The Polish Shades and Ghosts of Joseph Gonrad. New York: Astro Books, 1976.
Nicholson, J.B.R., intro. Military Uniforms. London: Orbis Books, 1973.
Palmer, Alan. Napoleon in Russia. London: Andre Deutsch, 1967.
Rovigo, Duke of (M. Savary). Memoirs of the Duke of Rovigo. London: Henry Colburn, 1828.
Segur, Comte Philippe Paul. An Aide-de-Camp of Napoleon (1800-1812), Comte Philippe Segur, General of division and peer of France (1780-1873) (2 vols. 1824-8), New Edition published by authority of his grandson, Count Louis de Segur, trans. H. A. Patchett-Martin. London: Hutchinson & Co., 1895.
-----.History of the Expedition to Russia: Undertaken by the Emperor Napoleon in the Year 1812, 2 vols. (Histoire de Napoleon et de la Grande Armee pendant l'Annee 1812, 2 vols., 9th edition, 1826). London: H. L. Hunt and C. C. Clark, 1825.
Segur, Louis-Phillipe de. Memoires: Souvenirs et Anecdotes 3 vols. [Paris: Eymery, 1824-28].
-----. The Memoirs and Anecdotes of the Count de Segur. Ed. Gerard Shelley. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1928.
Sherry, Norman. Conrad's Western World. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1971.
Staunton, Howard, ed. The Plays of Shakespeare. London: G. Routledge, 1858-61, reprint The Complete Ilustrated Shakespeare, New York: Park Lane, 1979.
Tarle, Eugene. Nap Invasion of Russia. New York: Oxford UP, 1942.
Thompson, J. M. Nap Bonaparte. New York: Oxford U P, 1952.
Tolstoy, Count Leo Nickolayevich. War and Peace (1828), trans. and intro. Rosemary Edmonds. London: Penguin, 1957.
Williams, Noel M. Madame Recamier and Her Friends. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1907.
G. W. STEPHEN BRODSKY, now retired from Royal Roads Military College, Victoria, B.C., is an expert on Conrad's treatment of the military. He has published in articles in The Conradian and in Conradiana, as well as in Conrad: Eastern and Western Perspectives.
|Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback|
|Author:||Brodsky, G.W. Stephen|
|Article Type:||Critical Essay|
|Date:||Sep 22, 2001|
|Previous Article:||The Enigma of Arrival in "An Outpost of Progress".|
|Next Article:||"To grapple with another man's intimate need": trauma-shame interdependency (masochism) in Joseph Conrad's Lord Jim (1900).|