What Napoleon read in Egypt

The 1787 portrait of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe was painted by Angelika Kauffmann (1741-1807). She was one of the greatest artists of her age, founding members of the Royal Academy of Art in London.

Before dejected Ken, there was dejected Napoleon, and dejected Werther…

2024 marks the 250th anniversary of one of the most curious novels in literary history. In 1774, at the age of 24, the future author of “Faust,” Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832), created his consequential “The Sorrows of Young Werther” (Die Leiden des jungen Werthers). Equally mocked and imitated, it was the novel that, along with Lord Byron’s “Childe Harold,” inspired countless brooding literary heroes, filled with pride, suffering from dejection, and yearning for the illusive and tragically unrealizable ideal. Napoleon took “Werther” on his Egyptian Campaign and read it over and over again while pining for Josephine.

The tradition of pining for lady love flaunts a venerable literary history − from the lusty tantrums of Achilles on that consequential beach by the walls of ancient Troy to the transcendent yearning of Dante for his Beatrice and Quixote’s flamboyant chivalry with the earthy Dulcinea.

First appeared on www.press-citizen.com

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