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Metternich: The Autobiography, 1773-1815 [Paperback]

Prince Clemens von Metternich

Price: £14.84 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

20 Oct 2004
Throughout Prince Metternich's glittering and successful career he sought to free Europe from the forces unleashed by the French Revolution. He was an enemy of change, despised by republicans and feared by radicals.

Metternich's acute skill for diplomacy was instrumental in creating alliances to reverse dangerous republicanism and restore Europe's legitimate monarchies to their thrones.

This fascinating autobiography covers Metternich's early years from his school days in Strasbourg and his meteoric rise in the service of Austria to the defeat of Napoleon and the Congress of Vienna.

Metternich was at the heart of Europe's diplomatic community and he paints revealing portraits of such key figures as Napoleon, Czar Alexander, Talleyrand and the Bourbons. He also reveals much about the political life of a continent convulsed by the French Revolution and by the ambition of the Emperor Napoleon.

Metternich's observant eye and sharp intellect reveal themselves in a book which is crucial to an understanding of the man who played such a significant role in reshaping Europe.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Ravenhall Books; 1st Edition Pbk Thus edition (20 Oct 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1905043015
  • ISBN-13: 978-1905043019
  • Product Dimensions: 2.1 x 15 x 21.5 cm
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 220,620 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Amazon.com: 4.8 out of 5 stars  4 reviews
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Hero of His Own Life 11 Sep 2005
By Tom Holmberg - Published on Amazon.com
Out of print in English since the 1970s, Ravenhall Books has published a welcomed new edition of Metternich's Autobiography in an inexpensive paperback edition. Based on three separate biographical extracts from Metternich's Nachgelassenen and originally edited by Metternich's son, Metternich's memoirs were not truly memoirs, but, like many so-called "memoirs" of the era, a collection of letters, diaries and other documents. Prince Richard Metternich, in presenting the Memoirs, wrote, somewhat hopefully perhaps, "now that more than a generation has passed over his quiet tomb, the image of the resolute defender of conservative principles appears still more imposing, and his own words will enable men to realize the power and charm of his character. Even his enemies will be touched, and will regard with respect the great statesman as he once again passes before them." Metternich observed somewhat disingenuously that "I have made history, and therefore have not found the time to write it." But Metternich also bragged, "What gratifies me is to notice that the productions of my pen are always those which are most to the taste of the public." Metternich's son edited his father's papers with an eye to history. The memoirs were published virtually simultaneously in German French and English (the English translation was done by Robina Napier, wife of a Norfolk vicar, the son of the first editor of the Edinburgh Review).

Metternich's self-described purpose for writing these extracts was that "The present work is tended only to communicate what concerns myself, or has reference to the tone of mind which the circumstances of my time have produced in me, those of which I was a mere spectator and those in which I have myself played a part." These autobiographical extracts were written well after the events described and written, at least in part, for posterity. The account of Metternich's negotiations with Napoleon in 1813, for example, was written almost two decades after the events. Beyond Metternich's self-justifications, are the deletions and "remarkable remolding" of Metternich's memoirs by his son and editor. And as time passes, memories fade and alter as events are internalized into one's inner narrative, which often tends to favor and flatter oneself. French historian Albert Sorel complained of Metternich's account of events: "He makes himself the light of the world; he dazzles himself with his own rays in the mirror which he holds perpetually before his eyes." Though Sorel himself has his own axe to grind as Pieter Geyl has pointed out.

In addition Metternich is not particularly forthcoming, even in writings supposedly not intended for publication. Metternich, for instance, does not mention that it was Talleyrand who was keeping him informed of the negotiations at Erfurt or that Talleyrand was urging Austria to declare war in 1809. His views of many of his contemporaries beyond Napoleon are very circumspect. Nonetheless, French Napoleonic expert Tulard has called Metternich's memoirs "naturellement fondamentale," and observes that, like Talleyrand's memoirs (or Bourrienne's memoirs or Napier's history of the Peninsular war), the publication of Metternich's lead to an exchange of polemics over their veracity. Stuart Woolf calls Metternich "a hostile but attentive observer of the French emperor from the time of his nomination as ambassador at Paris in 1805." A contemporary review of the Memoirs observed that "...few estimates of the Emperor [Napoleon] ever printed have received a like attention from students or been estimated by them at a higher value. Outside of France there was no statesman who knew [Napoleon] so well, none who had such opportunities for seeing and understanding him under widely differing circumstances. Over most contemporary views it had the advantage of being written by a clear-sighted statesman..."

Unlike David Copperfield, who didn't know if he'd be the hero of his life, Metternich had no such doubts. "...An observer of or a participator in all the circumstances which accompanied and followed the overthrow of that order [in France], of all my contemporaries I now stand alone on the lofty stage on which neither my will nor my inclination placed me." Historian Gregor Dallas wrote has written, "Totally vain, [Metternich] might just as well have entitled the memoirs he eventually left behind The History of Me and the World because, as he never tired of pointing out, the destiny of both marched together." Of Metternich's much celebrated "European outlook" Enno E Kraehe points out that it "acquired much embellishment along the way, some of it genuine, much of it rhetorical."

Reviewers of the memoirs, while admitting the "special value" of the memoirs, seemed to see Metternich in a far less admirable light the farther he was removed from the flame of his great adversary, Napoleon. One critic in the Contemporary Review observed at, "There were two Metternich's, indeed-one before and another after 1815.... It is a pity only that the latter wrote the history of the former." The Century magazine, reviewing the memoirs, observed that, "Fussy, pompous, full of hollow phrases, alternately whining or threatening at the foreign policy of France, the spectacle of Metternich is not edifying to witness, and accounts for much of the legacy of hatred and contempt his name left behind him in Europe. He outlived his time. The moment for his disappearance should have that of Napoleon's death..."

Perhaps it is best, as Metternich would have wanted it, to give him the last word, ""I think few men have known [Napoleon] better than I, because I have not confined myself to bare symptoms, but have endeavored to discover their foundation. When I saw that the whole power of good and evil was embodied in that one man, I could do no otherwise than study him, and only him. Circumstances placed me near this man; they have, so to speak, chained me to him.... After my death a very interesting memoir will be found of this man and his influence on the events of his age.... By the writings I leave behind me, many circumstances will certainly be explained, many doubts dispelled, and many errors rectified. For many years I have written and labored at this work.... This work is one of my favorite employments."

Ravenhall has given this sturdy paperback an attractively designed cover and has added some portraits of the chief characters. I would have like to have seen either footnotes or an appendix giving some background on the individuals mentioned in Metternich's memoir. Metternich has a tendency to throw out many names, some famous and some obscure, and even specialists might have to use a biographical reference to identify individuals such as Herr von Alopäus, Abbé Maury, the advocate Vandernoot, Eulogius Schneider, Basedow and Campe, General von Pfuel or Merlin de Thionville, for example.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 'Possibly, Too Clever...' 18 Sep 2006
By Kevin F. Kiley - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is an outstanding volume and it belongs on the shelf of every student of the Revolutionary and Napoleonic period, whether or not your interest is in the diplomats and diplomacy of the period.

Metternich was quite possibly the best diplomat of his day. A displaced Rhinelander, he went to work for the Austrian Hapsburg monarchy with 'vengeance very much in mind.' His family's Rhineland estates had been overrun by the Revolutianary French, the serfs freed, and Metternich very much desired to have the status quo returned to prewar status.

He hated the French Revolution, a gangrene he believed needed to be 'burned out with a red hot iron.' As Napoleon has been pictured as the inheritor of that Revolution, Metternich transferred his hatred to Napoleon and his government. At the same time, Austria's and the Hapsburg's interests were to be advanced at others' expense.

The results obtained by Metternich guaranteed him the place of Europe's foremost diplomat. Until thrown out by the 1848 Revolution, Metternich's policies hung over Europe, from the virtual imprisonment of Napoleon's unfortunate son to the reoccupation of Italy in 1815 and the restoration of reactionary rule. The Congress of Vienna was Metternich's crowning achievement.

This autobiography chronicles one of the most interesting characters of the age. His diplomatic ability was unquestioned, whether intriguing with Murat as King of Naples, or 'mediating' with Napoleon during the 1813 armistice. It is a fascinating life chronicled in a fascinating book. Ravenhall is to be congratulated for publishing it. This volume is highly recommended.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the Best books on the greatest statesman ever 6 Aug 2005
By Michael J. Finn - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I have many books on metternich, He was one of the most important man who ever lived in the 19th century,His thoughts inspired even Henry Kissinger who was a great diplomate for the United States. He skill and knowledge keeped Europe out of major war for 100 yrs after the Congress of Vienna which he was instrumental in saving Europe after the devastating Napolionic wars. He led Europe for almost 50yrs, and has shaped the world as we know it today. This book is very well writen, and gives a great account of his dealings with napolion, and The allied powers after. Very interesting to read, and very imformative, and a must for all historians. One of the Best books I have ever read.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars THE FIRST BOOK ON MODERN GOVERNANCE 3 Jun 2008
By M. JONES - Published on Amazon.com
Metternich is fun to read. His vision, limited by his time, of course, should be contrasted with that of U.S. President Woodrow Wilson. Metternich is far the wiser man. He knew what it took to found and maintain empire; which greatly contrasts with Mr. Wilson as well as the current (2008) U.S. and British governments. The self-history of Metternich should be read and understood by anyone interested in Government or history. A "statesmsn" who does not know Metternich is in the wrong business.
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