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"A Glance at New Book, Lasalle: The Hussar General" Topic


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552 hits since 19 Apr 2019
©1994-2019 Bill Armintrout
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Garryowen Supporting Member of TMP19 Apr 2019 5:01 a.m. PST

Fortunately for all of us lovers of the First Empire, Tango01 brought to our attention the recent biography of the Napoleonic light cavalry general Lasalle by John H. Lewis. Here is the link to Tango's post:
link

I was really excited as Lasalle is one of my very favorite historical figures. Unfortunately my French reading is horribly slow and very little is available on Lasalle in English. However, I was concerned that it may be nothing more than a "life and times of" book, particularly if the author did not consult French sources.

I gambled my money and bought the book from Amazon. I have not yet read it other than the Introduction. The introduction describes how the book was done. A direct translation of a French biography was considered and rejected for a number of reasons. This book is derived from a "long article" by the Frenchman Charles-Antoine Thoumas (1820-1893) which appeared in an unidentified book on Napoleonic cavalry officers.

It has been filled out with additional material to fill gaps in information that the author thought were present in Thoumas' work.

The author has also tried to retain the French tone of the narrative while not necessarily retaining so much of the French bias.

There is a brief chapter on Lasalle's peers' opinions of him and another devoted entirely to Marbot's thoughts.

The book has a number of maps an illustrations. There are no index,footnotes or bibliography, which is disappointing.

I paid $29.39 USD for it from Amazon.

link

I am pleased that I bought it. It is probably the best that is available on Lasalle in the English language. Hopefully it will not be the final word.

I had always hoped that the great Napoleonic cavalry historian, David Johnson, would have done a biography of Lasalle. Mr. Johnson gave Lasalle good coverage in both of his nonfiction books, The French Cavalry 1792-1815 and Napoleon's Cavalry and Its Leaders. He also covered the general nicely in his series "Sabres in Hand" published in the original Tradition magazine published by Belmont-Maitland in the 1960's.

I am not one for fiction, but David Johnson did a fantastic novel based on Lasalle told through the eyes of a fictional staff officer. The book has been published in Britain and the U.S. with different titles, Sabre General and The Proud Canaries. That story deals with the time of the Empire. Johnson did another novel involving Lasalle in the pre-Empire period in Egypt called Napoleon's Sabres.

If you love the romance of Lasalle and the French cavalry, David Johnson cannot be beat.

But I think the new book by John H. Lewis is worth acquiring.

Thanks Armand.

Tom

Musketballs19 Apr 2019 6:44 a.m. PST

This book is derived from a "long article" by the Frenchman Charles-Antoine Thoumas (1820-1893) which appeared in an unidentified book on Napoleonic cavalry officers.


Thoumas' work on Lasalle was published in Les grand cavaliers du Premier Empire (Vol I)

Thanks for the review…perhaps it's just me, but it seems a pretty hefty pricetag for Thoumas plus some extra bits.

Andrew Preziosi Supporting Member of TMP19 Apr 2019 9:13 a.m. PST

I have "The Proud Canaries" and it is one of my favorite novels of all time, up there with Breem's "Leopard and the Cliff"!

I'll look for his Egyptian effort also!

Thanks for your review, Tom…greatly appreciated!

MaggieC70 Supporting Member of TMP19 Apr 2019 10:27 a.m. PST

I agree with Musketballs, as usual: that's a lot of money for a Thoumas/Marbot regurgitation.

As a biographer, Thoumas was a real rah rah First Empire fan who believed all of Napoleon's marshals and generals were the epitome of bravery, fortitude, and other qualities too numerous to mention and too fictional to believe. I encountered him when doing my research on Lannes, and found the only worth in his bio to be the half a dozen letters he cited before the family tossed them into obscurity. He also relied on Marbot heavily.

While Lasalle may well deserve a full-scale biography, it may be unfortunately true that there is simply not enough material to justify such an enterprise, especially in English, unless the potential author plans to scour French archives for what may be there.

Duc de Brouilly19 Apr 2019 11:32 a.m. PST

I have "The Proud Canaries" and it is one of my favorite novels of all time, up there with Breem's "Leopard and the Cliff"!

I'll look for his Egyptian effort also!

I had no idea that David Johnson wrote historical novels.

What's the name of the Egyptian book?

Andrew Preziosi Supporting Member of TMP19 Apr 2019 12:09 p.m. PST

Duc de B…

Napoleon's Sabres

Duc de Brouilly19 Apr 2019 12:23 p.m. PST

Thanks Andrew.

I'll be looking out for that one (plus the others) as well.

Andrew Preziosi Supporting Member of TMP19 Apr 2019 4:17 p.m. PST

Anything by Breem is worth it's weight in gold also!

Garryowen Supporting Member of TMP20 Apr 2019 1:51 a.m. PST

CORRECTION. The Egyptian book by David Johnson is Bonaparte's Sabres, NOT Napoleon's Sabres. I apologize.

Also, regarding the price of the Lasalle book, $29.39 USD is for hardback with 278 pages and includes shipping. I don't think that's unreasonable for a hardback book.

Tom

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