Forty letters to Letitia–Part Two (XI-XX)

Part One (letters I-X) can be found here.

Source: Quarante lettres de Joachim Murat à sa fille Laetitia. Revue Napoléonienne, Vol 1, June 1908, pages 161-165. [The letters are published in two parts; both parts are available digitally on HathiTrust.org.]

(All letters are rendered in all-lowercase as Murat wrote them.)

***

Letter XI

[1810–no month given, but likely from September]

hello, my angel, hello my loetitia, it has been a long time since i was in the midst of my tender and dear children, since i received their caresses, since i played with them. how i miss seeing the lovely polonaise, the great green devil* and the neapolitan countryside! how beautiful they must be! i know from madame de roquemont that they have been charming. you are going to wish a good fête for mama; offer her some flowers for me**. tell her–here mama, papa sends you these flowers. he regrets not being able to offer them to you himself; he would’ve been very happy if he had been here and if he could’ve told you himself how much he loves you. –farewell, i embrace you with all my heart. write to me. all his children’s***.

Joachim

*The polonaise is a dance. As for the “grand diable vert”–the great green devil–I cannot even begin to guess.

**Murat occasionally slips in the spelling of “moy”–rather than “moi”–for “me.” This was the Middle French spelling of the pronoun, less common throughout France by this point but was still in use in the south when Murat was younger. It is found frequently in the letters from his youth, and very rarely in his later correspondence. 

***Rather than closing the letter with the commonly used “tout à vous“–“all yours”–Murat, in a typical defiance of convention, closes with “tout à ses enfants,” which translates rather clumsily to English. 

***

Letter XII

Paris, 5 May 1811

my lovely loetitia, i received your letters. they have contributed not a little to making our separation more bearable. they bring me all the more pleasure for knowing they are from you, that everything they contain that is amiable and tender comes from your heart, because mme de roquemont has let me know that she hasn’t changed anything and left you entirely at liberty to write whatever you felt for me. and how happy i am to be the object and the subject of your first thoughts, of your first affections. i know that you work hard; and as recompense i am going to try everything to decide the matter that you desire of returning to naples. farewell, my dear friend, love me well. love your mama and your brothers and louise and make mme de roquemont happy. i embrace you with all my heart. i hope to embrace you in a month.

your affectionate father

J. Napoléon

***

Letter XIII

Paris, 15 May* 1812

my dear loetitia. mama will give you this letter. i will not accompany her. i am going to be separated again from her and from my children**, but i hope that my absence will not be long and that soon it will be permitted to me to go and embrace you. i will send you three mantles and three dresses each, wear them for love of me, they cannot make you any more beautiful, but they will recall to you your papa. i await your portrait with impatience. farewell, my dear children, make mme de roquemont happy and love your good papa always. speak often of him: you will always be in his memory. i embrace you with all my heart, as well as my good louise. 

your affectionate father

J.N.

*This letter and the one after it are erroneously dated from March in the Revue Napoléonienne. For my original explanation on this, see here.

**Murat is about to depart from Paris to join the Grande Armée for the campaign against Russia. He would not see his family again until the end of January of the following year.

***

Letter XIV

Posen, 24 May* 1812

my dear letitia, it has been a long time since i left you and this time must have seemed for you as extremely long as it has for me. when will i see you again? soon i hope because the emperor is accustomed to getting to work quickly; but nothing has begun yet, we await the signal of battles and only then will i be able to fix a little closer the time of my return. how beautiful will be the day when i will embrace my beautiful letitia, when i will embrace all my children, when i will be united with them to be separated from them no more! already your lovely mama enjoys this happiness. yet my letitia works, sings, makes great progress, perfects her youthful talents, she will want to pleasantly surprise me upon my arrival and prove to me by facts how much she has taken advantage of the moments of our separation. Yes, you should apply yourself and follow with courage the course of your studies. how happy you will be one day, having acquired such knowledge, such talents, and to be able, in any event, to be sufficient in yourself to make those happy to whom you have attached your destiny. your papa, your mama will be themselves happy for your happiness. do you still ride your horse? i’m sorry for taking away gaeta [ed. note–one of Letitia’s horses] and i am tempted to send the order to return her to you. however i will look for a pretty polish pony that i will send you, you will ride him often, you will love him very much, papa will have given him to you. –you don’t neglect dancing, you always study english, german, i don’t speak to you of italian, you are neapolitan and you should know your language. take great care with your writing, a beautiful character gives a new grace to all that one writes; you read well, because madame de roquemontreads marvelously, and you know how much a lovely diction lends its charms, even to the best of writing; read a lot, but may your readings be within your grasp. avoid with care that which can bring into your young heart any trouble, or agitation. at your age one should only experience sweet and tranquil feelings. you will not abandon drawing, you will like painting. the arts awaken the imagination, elevate the soul; what sublime talent to be able to revive on canvas one who is no longer, or whose absence we mourn, to retrace on paper the places we have loved. but i see that i’m moralizing, that i’m setting myself up as governess, this isn’t my intention. i would badly fulfill such delicate functions, and you would be losing in the change. i only want to be your best friend, the most tender father.

tell achille that i will write him one of these days; kiss your mama for me, make her very happy, her health has need of calm and happiness. kiss your brothers and your sister. i embrace you with all my heart.

your good father

J.N.

***

Letter XV*

Turin, 1 May 1812

my dear letitia, i sent you yesterday a letter for mama and a package. i still have a heart very oppressed with pain. i have left you, i am no longer with my dear and good children, i will be deprived for some time of their sweet and tender caresses; but they love me, they are reasonable, they know that this journey is necessary. mama is doing well and will return soon, she has given me assurance of it. farewell, my angel. farewell, lovely letitia, love always your father. write me often, embrace my good louise, make mme de roquemont happy and count always on the tender affection of your papa.

i embrace you both with all my heart.

your tender father

J.N.

*Because of the two previous letters being misdated from March in the Revue Napoléonienne, both letters XV and XVI actually come before letter XIII. Murat went through Turin on his way to Paris; letter XVI is written after his arrival in Paris; finding that Napoleon had already left Paris and gone on to Dresden, Murat would soon follow. 

***

Letter XVI

St. Cloud, 7 May 1812

my dear letitia, i arrived in good health, though sorry for having left my good children, but happy to have seen the queen again who is going to get en route for naples. my dear letitia, she returns alone, papa will not accompany her; honor, the well-being of my children, the interest of my kingdom command this great sacrifice, the love that i bear for the emperor is as to me a law to go and fight; but don’t be distressed: all the gods will watch over me. your mama, the love of my peoples will safeguard you during my absence: and prompt successes will soon restore to you your papa, and he will return to you, i hope, even more worthy of himself and of you. make wishes for me, heaven always grants the prayers of beautiful souls like yours, pure like those of all my children. you, do not cry on my absence, sigh only for my return, our sighs will be heard, because i will imitate you, i will ask heaven for a prompt victory, and a prompt return to the midst of my family. yet work hard, make mama and mme de roquemont happy, write to me often, your letters bring me happiness. give my regards to mmes picerno and ferrier and to mme athénaïs. embrace louise, my good louise, for me. i will look forward to embracing you. how i am going to miss our lovely concerts, and our lovely games of wist and our charming soirées: these memories will console me. i need them. farewell, farewell, my daughter. i embrace you with all my heart. 

your good papa

J. Napoléon

***

Letter XVII*

Insterburg, 13 June 1812

my good and beautiful letitia, i received your letter in danzig and it is only here that i am able to write you a word. anyway your letter was charming, it was full of sentiments of tenderness for me, it repeated to me the assurance of receiving your news often, of your work project, of your application to changing these moments of bad spirits, because the darkness does not belong on such a beautiful figure, the graces alone should embellish this noble and serene brow.

give my regards to mme de roquemont and to the ladies, tell louise that i will write her soon; i have sent you some amber. although the address is for you alone, you should give some to louise. farewell, my beautiful letitia, i embrace you tenderly from the best of my heart.

speak often of me to mama, speak often of me with louise and your brothers. love your papa, make mama happy. farewell. farewell.

all my daughter’s. all my children’s.

J. Napoléon

*Interestingly, Murat uses the informal tu through the entirety of this letter (and throughout most of the next three), whereas he nearly always refers to her with the formal vous in all the previous ones. 

***

Letter XVIII

Svenzianoeu, 4 July 1812

my dear letitia, i no longer receive news, i am very anxious about the health of your beautiful mama, and that of my children. i am far from them and each day i separate myself further from my amiable family. the last news that i received from naples was from the 30th of may; and now here it is the 4th of july. i hope that the war will soon be finished and that peace will return me to my beautiful and good letitia; console mama; make her very happy, speak often of your papa, conserve him all your tenderness. how i am going to find my children grown and having made such great progress! how happy i will be to see them. the enemy still flees, however yesterday in the evening we hit them and pushed them vigorously. tell mme de roquemont that i am happy with her son-in-law and mme picerno that i am so with her husband. embrace my good louise, i am told she has lost a lot of weight. embrace achille and lucien. i’m writing to lucien. farewell, my friend. i embrace you with all my soul, write me and tell me of mama’s health.

your affectionate father,

J.N.

***

Letter XIX

18 July 1812

my dear letitia, i write you having your pretty portrait before my eyes. you are so resembled that i believe i’m seeing you, hearing you, being with you at last, and in the midst of all my children. your letter brought me much pleasure, i know that you write me often, but i’m not receiving the letters, i’m so far away, judge my pain. take care of mama, make her forget my absence, make her happy, speak to her often of me and tell her that i will only be happy when i am reunited with all my family. i am doing well despite the long marches that these villainous russians make us take, as they flee with their seven-league boots.

farewell, my beautiful and good letitia, love always your papa, embrace achille, louise, and my handsome lucien. i embrace you tenderly. give my regards to mme de roquemont, tell mme d’arlincourt that her husband showed me her portrait this morning and that it does not flatter her. all yours, all my good child’s.

J. Napoléon

***

Letter XX

At the castle of Matuzevo, 1 August 1812

a word to my lovely letitia. i received your letter from the 10th of june which was, i believe, the response to my letter from berlin. –i am quite certain that you will keep your word, and that you will apply yourself to all your lessons, that you will make mama happy and that mme de roquemont will always give me a good account of you. tell mme de roquemont that d’arlincourt is conducting himself well, that he has had a horse shot from under him, tell mme d’arlincourt that i will return him to her well; tell mme picerno that her husband is a brave man and when you see monsieur perignon you will tell him that his son has fought well and that he is always at my side. –i am happy, here i am escaped from several battles, conserved for my good, my charming children. give me news of mama more often, i am unhappy to know she is suffering. take care of her; and write me quickly that she is doing well. i am very far from her, very far from you. when will i see you again? soon i hope. i await the portrait of achille, i always keep on me that of mama and yours. they are my talismans. i also have others: the wishes of my children, of my friends, of my subjects. farewell, my letitia, think of your papa, love him, he breathes only for you. a kiss for achille, for lucien, for louise. embrace mama for me. i embrace you tenderly.

your affectionate father

J. Napoléon

3 thoughts on “Forty letters to Letitia–Part Two (XI-XX)

  1. Pingback: Forty letters to Letitia–Part Three (XXI-XXX) – Project Murat

  2. Regarding the “great green devil”, I’ve googled a bit – Could this be related to the French expression “au diable vert” or “au diable Vauvert”? It seems to indicate being out of town,far away in the countryside.

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    1. Good find! It would make sense, especially since he mentions the Neapolitan countryside right after. I thought it was either something related to Naples, or some inside joke between Joachim and his daughter, but maybe it’s his own variation of “au diable vert” and he just threw the word “grand” in there in typical Murat fashion. He uses “grand” in his correspondence almost as much as he uses “belle/beau.”

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