Christopher Hollings is Departmental Lecturer in Mathematics and its History at the Mathematical Institute, University of Oxford, and a Senior Research Fellow at The Queen's College, Oxford. His research interests are in the history of mathematics, where, in addition to Ada Lovelace, he researches various issues relating to the development of mathematics during the Cold War.
Ursula Martin is Professor of Computer Science at the University of Oxford, and a Senior Research Fellow at Wadham College, Oxford, with interests in mathematics, computer science and the interaction between them.
Adrian Rice is Professor of Mathematics at Randolph-Macon College in Virginia, USA, where his research focuses on the history of 19th- and early 20th-century mathematics, on which he has published several research papers, articles and books. He is a three-time winner of prizes awarded by the Mathematical Association of America for outstanding expository writing.
You might think Napoleon was a playboy, sleeping with the world’s most beautiful women. But his heart, head, and masculinity belonged to one woman: Josephine. The letters Napoleon wrote to her resemble the desperate, angry, and pathetic e-mails, texts, and voicemails you might see today. Here are 10 excerpts.
1. "I DETEST YOU"
In a letter to Josephine a few months after they married, Napoleon wrote, “I don’t love you, not at all; on the contrary I detest you—you’re a naughty, gawky, foolish slut.” And that was just the first sentence.
2. "I HOPE BEFORE LONG TO CRUSH YOU IN MY ARMS"
He ends the same letter by saying, “I hope before long to crush you in my arms and cover you with a million kisses burning as though beneath the equator."
3. "A KISS ON YOUR HEART, AND ONE MUCH LOWER DOWN"
In April 1796, Napoleon begged Josephine to join him in Milan when he wrote, “I shall be alone and far, far away. But you are coming, aren’t you? You are going to be here beside me, in my arms, on my breast, on my mouth? Take wing and come, come ... A kiss on your heart, and one much lower down, much lower!” It's 18th-century sexting.
4. "YOUR TEARS ROB ME OF REASON"
Napoleon continues to shower her with compliments in a July letter: “Your tears rob me of reason, and inflame my blood. Believe me it is not in my power to have a single thought which is not of thee, or a wish I could not reveal to thee.” A little clingy.
5. "YOU ARE WICKED AND NAUGHTY, VERY NAUGHTY."
“I write you, me beloved one, very often, and you write very little. You are wicked and naughty, very naughty, as much as you are fickle. It is unfaithful so to deceive a poor husband, a tender lover!” Now the jealous husband is in full force, and playing the sympathy card.
6. "WITHOUT HIS JOSEPHINE ... WHAT CAN HE DO?"
Napoleon goes on to let her know that he is nothing without her. “Without his Josephine, without the assurance of her love, what is left him upon earth? What can he do?” We should note that he was the Emperor of almost all of Europe.
7. "YOU DON'T LOVE YOUR HUSBAND"
After not receiving word from Josephine, Napoleon goes nuts. “You don’t write to me at all; you don’t love your husband; you know how happy your letters make him, and you don’t write him six lines of nonsense…”
8. "HOW HAPPY I WOULD BE I IF I COULD ASSIST YOU AT YOUR UNDRESSING."
Back to the dirty talk! “How happy I would be if I could assist you at your undressing, the little firm white breast, the adorable face, the hair tied up in a scarf a la creole.”
9. "ADIEU, ADORABLE JOSEPHINE"
Just like a jealous husband or boyfriend, Napoleon threatens Josephine that he will “surprise” her one day, “Adieu, adorable Josephine; one of these nights your door will open with a great noise; as a jealous person, and you will find me on your arms.”
10. "THE VEIL IS TORN"
Napoleon wrote to his brother of his failing love for Josephine. "The veil is torn … It is sad when one and the same heart is torn by such conflicting feelings for one person … I need to be alone. I am tired of grandeur; all my feelings have dried up. I no longer care about my glory. At twenty-nine I have exhausted everything."
What makes this one so embarrassing? The British intercepted it and published it in all their newspapers, humiliating Napoleon. Like a teacher reading your note out loud to the class for shock value.