Regarding Napoleon's Molehill quote, the version I have always heard is:
Europe is a molehill. It has never had any great empires, like those of the Orient, numbering six hundred million souls.
I got Napoleon: A Life by Andrew Roberts yesterday (And so far, I find it much better than any other publication I have read on the man). Roberts' version of the quote is:
For Napoleon it (Order to invade Egypt) represented an opportunity to follow in the footsteps of both his greatest heroes, Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar, and he did not rule out the possibility of using Egypt as a stepping-stone to India. ‘Europe is but a molehill,’ a delighted Napoleon told his private secretary, ‘all the great reputations have come from Asia.’
Given the context (Conquest of Egypt and his personal idolation of Alexander and Julius Caeser), Roberts' version makes more sense. But when one searches for the quote, top results point to the earlier version which makes more sense as to why he used the word molehill to describe Europe, something which I feel Roberts' version doesn't.
With further research, There appear to be two other versions.
Europe is a molehill. We must go to the orient; all glory has always been acquired there. (Frederick Quinn)
and the more credible, given that it is written by a known associate of Napoleon, who presumably was the man Napoleon made the comment in question to,
Europe is a molehill. There have never been great Empires or revolutions except in the East where there are 600,000,000 men. (Louis Fauvelet de Bourrienne in his Memoirs of Napoleon)
So which version is correct? If it's the former, then was it really in the context of Directory allowing Napoleon to invade Egypt? If it's the latter, then why did Napoleon describe Europe as a molehill if he was just talking about a chance to gain a reputation to be compared with the likes of Alexander or Julius Caeser? Personally I feel if anyone is accurate, it has to be de Bourrienne but Roberts begins his book by criticising all pre-existing books and memoirs including de Bourrienne's so there we are.
To summarise what I am looking for is:
- Which version is correct?
- What was the context?
- What is the original French if possible?