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I was going through some of the letters written by Napoleon to Josephine, and found these lines on napoleonguide.com/lovejos6.htm,

"I send a kiss to your children, whom you do not mention. By God! If you did, your letters would be half as long again. Then visitors at ten o'clock in the morning would not have the pleasure of seeing you. Woman!!!"

Who are these visitors whom he referred to?

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    For clarity, are you hoping for who these guests were exactly on a specific date, or for an answer that lays out that it was common for intellectuals (from lack of a better term, since it appeared in the late 19th) to gather guests at their place? – Denis de Bernardy Nov 15 at 20:10
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    From the mention of "moving away from you with the speed of the Rhone torrent," one might infer the 1796 campaign, immediately subsequent to their marriage when Napoleon assumed command of the Army of Italy. If accurate, the "visitors" might be either parents of friends of Eugene and Hortense - from context - or alternatively the cavalry officer that Josephine promptly began an affair with in the aftermath of the marriage. Knowing the precise date of the letter would help significantly. – Pieter Geerkens Nov 15 at 20:10
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This site claims the letter to be dated 30 March 1796 (Apparently 10 Germinal) and sent from Nice. This is a mere three weeks after their whirlwind romance and marriage on March 9 that year, shortly after Napoleon's appointment to command the bankrupt Army of Italy.

From context the "visitors" might be parents of Napoleon's step children by Josephine - Eugene and Hortense - and this may in fact be what Josephine intended to imply. The intimation is clearly made that Josephine was not yet "made up" for the day, despite the mid-morning hour, so such visitors would not alarm her new husband much. However:

Joséphine, left behind in Paris, in 1796 began an affair with a handsome Hussar lieutenant, Hippolyte Charles. Rumors of the affair reached Napoleon; he was infuriated, and his love for her changed entirely.

I could not confirm timing but it is not inconceivable that Josephine had already met Charles and begun, or begun contemplating, an affair with the dashing young cavalryman, given this comment from Napoleon's letter:

And then there are the four days from the 23rd to the 26th; what were you doing, since you were not writing to your husband? Ah, my love, that ‘Vous’ and those four days make me long for my former indifference. Woe to the person responsible!

It is well known that the best lies, and the easiest to maintain, are the smallest lies. Eugene and Hortense were already 15 and 12, so how could an early morning visitor be permanently hidden from Napoleon and his family. I suspect that the "visitors" referred to were Charles (and possibly companions), but that Josephine phrased the reference to imply that they were visitors for the children rather than for herself.

  • I suspected the same but Napoleon doesn't know who exactly the visitor(s) is, right? – Tapi Nov 17 at 14:38
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    @Tapi: Napoleon is not supposed to know the visitor - that is the deception being played by Josephine. She was in the midst of a passionate affair elsewhere within a few weeks of her marriage to Bonaparte. – Pieter Geerkens Nov 17 at 14:46

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