University Archives


Napoleon Captivity-Era St. Helena Archive Incl. Spy's Report on "General Bonaparte," Ex-Nicholson Napoleon Collection

Two letters from St. Helena dating from the captivity of French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821), including a lengthy letter signed by Sir Hudson Lowe, Napoleon's captor and nemesis, and a spy's report of Bonaparte's daily activities. Accompanied by a charming period print of Napoleon in exile, wearing tropical clothing! Provenance information is included and further elaborated below. From the Nicholson Napoleon Collection.

The lot is comprised of:

1. A 4pp letter signed by Sir Hudson Lowe (1769-1844), who served as Governor of St. Helena between 1815-1821, as "H. Lowe / Lt General" on the bottom of the last page (Lowe has possibly also marked his initials "HL" following an addendum made in the left margin on the third page.) Written at Plantation House, the gubernatorial residence on St. Helena, on June 20, 1817. On bifold paper. Expected wear including paper folds and darkened edges. An isolated closed tear along the top margin, else near fine. 12.5" x 7.75."

Lowe's letter was addressed to Rear Admiral Sir Pulteney Malcolm (1768-1838), Commander-in-Chief of the St. Helena station between 1816-1817. The letter concerns regulations for vessels bringing supplies to St. Helena from the Cape of Good Hope, located approximately 3,100 km to the southeast. Particular reference is made to the case of the Master of the "David," bringing supplies of barley, who had misled the authorities about the stowage of cargo on his vessel. This lengthy letter shows that Lowe was a stickler for detail, pursuing relentlessly the application of the regulations to public and private freight.

While Sir Hudson Lowe and his famous prisoner loathed each other, Rear Admiral Malcolm remained on good terms with Napoleon. Malcolm later provided a valuable record of his conversations with the former Emperor.

2. A 2pp autograph letter signed by one Captain Nichols and addressed to his superior officer, one Major Gregson (?). Written at Longwood House, Napoleon's residence on St. Helena. Dated July 30, 1819. On bifold paper. Expected paper folds, else near fine. 4" x 6.25."

Captain Nichols reported Bonaparte's activities on this particular day as, in part, with unchanged spelling and punctuation:

"General Bonaparte has taken a longer walk than usual to day. I saw him in the Field adjoining to the Company's Garden. he walked through the wood, and [illegible] the new Palisades Ground the Terrace for sometime…"

3. A period print, "Napoleon on St. Helena," by Samuel William Reynolds after Horace Vernet. Napoleon is depicted wearing a white suit and Panama hat, looking thoughtful after reading a newspaper. Matted and framed behind glass. Not examined out of the frame. Pencil-inscribed along the bottom, and the original print label can be found verso. Sight size of the print is 6" x 8" while the frame measures 12" x 14" x.75."


The lot comes with supporting documentation:

1. An invoice from Julian Browning Rare Books and Manuscripts (London, England) dated February 18, 2002.

2. A commercial invoice, prepared for international shipping purposes, dated February 23, 2007.

This item comes with a Certificate from John Reznikoff, a premier authenticator for both major 3rd party authentication services, PSA and JSA (James Spence Authentications), as well as numerous auction houses.


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