Napoleonic Literature
Napoleon in Captivity:
The Reports of Count Balmain
Russian Commissioner on the
Island of St. Helena 1816-1820
Note on the Manuscript

The reader, if somewhat new to the literature of the captivity, must not imagine that all these reports present matter which is here given for the first time. Some of the conversations and anecdotes are well known, and if a few of them are again quoted here it is only because they bulk so large in Balmain's mind or because they seem necessary for the context or the interest. The criticism may be made that Stürmer's reports contain some things identical in language with those here given. Although the Russian in one or two cases acknowledges his indebtedness to his colleague for allowing him to use his reports, the reverse is also true. One of Balmain's best estimates of Lowe, for example, is repeated by Stürmer without giving credit; in this as in other cases, Balmain's report is the earlier.

The reports from which this translation has been made are contained in three huge volumes, in which they are written in Balmain's hand, as, unlike Montchenu, he had no secretary. They are in French with the exception of communications from Lowe and other English officers, notably O'Meara, which are copied from the English; however, very few of these are here given, as they can be found elsewhere without great difficulty. Not all of Balmain's reports are used for this book, and the less important are either summarized or entirely omitted.

All the foot-notes are by the editor with the exception of those whose indices are letters of the alphabet, and these are Balmain's. In preparing the foot-notes the editor has made considerable use of Arnold Chaplin's "A St. Helena Who's Who" (London, 1919) and of Norwood Young's "Napoleon in Exile," and has glanced through many other works both first-hand and secondary.

(If you surfed directly to this page, please go to the Napoleonic Literature Home Page to see the wealth of information that's available on this website.)