This blog always endeavours to maintain a tone of civility, to keep alight a small beacon of sweetness and light in a darkening world. But elsewhere on the internet, I am afraid to say, a rather different attitude sometimes prevails.
I offer as for your consideration this exchange, conducted on the discussion page of the Wikipedia entry devoted to the Empress Josephine. A Lena Synnerholm of Sweden has, not for the first time, shared, at some length, her strongly-held belief that the last words of the Emperor Napoleon were not, as usually reported “France, Army, Head of the Army, Josephine” . Instead, she believes –
“They heard a sound coming from his moth (sic) but it was more like a music instrument than a human voice. Today it is thought to have been due to gases from an over-pressurised stomach escaping though his throat. Consequentially, there was no intention behind it. Most likely the last thing he said before he died was: “Give me my chamber-pot.””
Instantly an anonymous Frenchman leaps to the defence of the honour of La Patrie, La Gloire and so on. I think, to get the full benefit, you have to imagine this being said in the voice of Kenneth Williams as Robespierre –
“Here we go again. The relentless witch from Märsta, Sweden desecrating yet once more the great Napoléon. Her comments and totally negative influence on all of the Wiki pages dealing with Napoléon is an unbearable plague. Self-proclaimed expert, she makes historically fallacious claims solely motivated by some inexplicably vapid rancor towards the Bonaparte family. Having read a couple of vulgarization books recommended by Oprah’s Club is vastly insufficient to claim expertise. Your deeds are those of an aging homely wretch, afraid of the crowds, confined to an unsanitary loghouse lost remotely in the cold nordic deserts of an ever so sad country. Enough with you already, Miss Synnerholm. Go plague another site. Your obdurate, opinionated, and crooked claims sully the memory of the Emperor of the French in the most unwelcome way. Be sure to keep your ugly nose inside your room this winter. Weasel trappers may be lurking in your area. Greetings to the royal family of whom you remain a subject, and whom benefited largely from Napoléon’s grandeur. The Bernadottes were no more than empty-handed peasants covered in louse when Napoléon ordered them out of France, after having offered them a few acres of ice and snow in a distant glacial land called Suède. Do not forget who gave you your kings.”
Not nice at all. But Miss Synnerholm is not one whit abashed. She refutes the Frenchman’s attack, point by point, in a numbered list. I don’t have the space to reproduce the lot, but here are her answers to some of his wilder allegations (I think this is best imagined in the voice of Peter Cook’s Sven, the lonely Norwegian fisherman) –
“5. I don’t know about any “Oprah’s Club”. I have no contact with any such organisation.
6. I am 26 years old and do not seem much older. Some people have even mistaken me for younger than I am!
7. I am not afraid of crowds. Most leikely, I have even smaller personal space than most Swedes.
10. In Sweden we don’t trap Mustelids in the wild: we breed them in captivity. However, this is controversial due to the conditions under which the animals are kept.”
Told, I think.