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Life of General Sir Charles Napier G. C. B.
By William Napier Bruce (1885)


In 1857 Six William Napier published his Life of Sir Charles Napier in four volumes. It was composed in the midst of great bodily and mental suffering, and in the expectation that death would interfere and prevent its completion. In spite of certain defects of taste and arrangement, due mainly to these circumstances, the book is remarkable, like all the author’s writings, for the force and grandeur of its language and for the spirit of passionate herp-worship which animates it throughout; but it was far too long to obtain the durable popularity which the reputation of the writer and the interest of the subject deserved.

There are few men in the world’s history about whom four volumes are read by a generation that has not known them. Least of all can such assiduous devotion be expected where, as in the present case, the man has been limited to a field confessedly too narrow for the full exercise of his powers. And yet, if Sir Charles Napier’s career does not possess any great historical interest, a brief record of his life and opinions may still be well worth the attention of his countrymen.

“Disce, puer, virtutem. ex me verumque laborem,
Fortunam ex aliis.”

The man to whose military genius Wellington appealed to save India—whose capacity for government excited the admiration of Sir Robert Peel—of whom Lord Hardinge, with all his experience, military and civil, said, “he had the rarest combination of great qualities of any of our contemporaries,”—should not be allowed without a protest to sink into oblivion, or be remembered merely as an eccentric and unmanageable officer.

His character was essentially of ^he heroic type. He exercised a fascination over the popular mind which was, perhaps, out of proportion to anything which Fortune allowed him to accomplish. He occupied a place apart, and would have seemed in some respects hardly to belong to the age in which he lived, had it not been that he inspired the people wherever he went with the belief that, whatever his differences with men in power, he was moved by the most intense devotion to themselves and to the cause of every one who was poor or oppressed.

Sir William Napier’s four volumes were constructed almost entirely out of his brother’s journals and letters, and in consequence his book contains the bulk of the materials for the present volume. But the general arrangement and treatment of the subject differ in many respects from Sir William Napier’s work; and he is not responsible for any opinions expressed in the course of the narrative, except such as are actually attributed to him. In addition to the copious writings of Sir Charles and Sir William Napier, the admirable articles in the Quarterly Review (January 1857 and October 1858), attributed to Mr. Elwin, and such incidental notices of Sir Charles Napier as have appeared in later works connected with India, I have had the advantage of conversations with General Sir M. MMurdo, who was Sir Charles Napier’s son-in-law, and served on his staff during nearly the whole of his Indian career, and with the late Sir Bartle Frere who ruled Scinde for seven years and had special oppor- tunities of estimating Sir Charles Napier’s work. In the account of the transactions which led up to the conquest of Scinde I have relied upon the letters and despatches of the various actors published in the Correspondence Relative to Scinde presented to Parliament in 1843 and 1844.

Life of General Sir Charles Napier G. C. B. (pdf)

The Life and Opinions of General Sir Charles James Napier, G.C.B.
By Lieut.-Gen. Sir W. Napier, K.C.B. in four volumes (1857)
Volume 1  |  Volume 2  |  Volume 3  |  Volume 4

The Conquest of Scinde Of Major-General Sir Charles James Napier
By Major-General W. F. P. Napier


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