In April 1815, a young Englishman, John Cam Hobhouse, later to become the politician, the 1st Baron Broughton (1786 – 1869), travelled to Paris where he became an eyewitness to the historic series of events unfolding in the French capital. The young Hobhouse was besotted with the ideal of Napoleon as the worthy Emperor of the French, and he was determined both to witness and describe the events as they unfolded. His letters sent home to England were far from casual and informal – more a deliberate attempt to write a piece of contemporary history in the epistolary style. Indeed, Hobhouse’s Letters from Paris was published in 1816, providing a detailed description of the social and political upheaval in Paris.
Hobhouse’s letter of 8th July 1815 recounts the Allies' entry into Paris following Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo and the return of Louis XVIII on 8th July.
“The Duke of Wellington, and the whole English army, behave with a moderation more noble than their victory. The sovereigns promise solemnly to adhere to their declarations. The friends of freedom cherish every hope. Lord Castlereagh arrives; the curtain rises at once, and displays the triumphant personages of the drama, unmasked, and in the attitude of revenge and rage; whilst France appears, a conquered culprit, in chains, bound to the altar, and waiting for the blow. Her government is dissolved by force; her representatives are driven from their seats; the glittering ensigns of her former glory are town down, and displaced by the banner of treason and disgrace, the pale memorial of defeat and slavery.”
Hobhouse’s use of theatrical metaphor is striking here – and represents a more general tendency to view the 100 Days in dramatic terms.
John Cam Hobhouse, Letters from Paris, or The Substance of Some Letters, Written by An Englishman Resident at Paris During the Last Reign of the Emperor Napoleon
Before travelling to France, Hobhouse had studied at Trinity College, Cambridge where he befriended the budding poet Byron, and he would later become famous as a companion to Byron during his subsequent travels through Greece and Turkey. Byron dedicated his poem Childe Harold to Hobhouse.