From the sublime to the ridiculous

September 13 2012

“Du sublime au ridicule il n’y a qu’un pas” (Napoleon to de Pratt, after the Grand Army’s retreat from Moscow in A.D. 1812).

This is Archbishop Dominique Dufour de Pradt, to whom Napoleon made the remark on on December 10 1812, four days before the army left Russian territory for that of the Grand Duchy of Warsaw. Their conversation is given in English in Vol III of Sir Archibald AlisonHistory of Europe from the Commencement of the French Revolution in 1789 to the Restoration of the Bourbons in 1815, William Blackwood, 1842, whose source appears to be a published account by de Pradt.

De Pratt was Napoleon’s ambassador to Warsaw, but was at the same time archbishop of Mechelen in the Southern Netherlands (later Belgium), which France had taken from Austria. There was no Archbishop of Warsaw until 1818. The centre of Catholicism in Poland had been Kraków.

A Study of History, Vol IX, OUP, 1954 (footnote)

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