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Napoleon's fiction to be sold at auction

Napoleon Bonaparte's loosely autobiographical short novel about ill-fated love will be auctioned in Paris on Sunday.

The page was recently identified by scholars at the Paris-based Fondation Napoleon as the first 26 lines of the final draft of Napoleon's 1795 "Clisson and Eugenie," the owner of the Osenat auction house said.

The three other earlier versions of Napoleon's first page belong to a library in Kornik, Poland. The story was not published in Napoleon's lifetime.

The page up for sale was long believed to be part of a text that Napoleon wrote about a historical figure named Clissot, until Peter Hicks, a historian at the Fondation Napoleon, realized it was actually the beginning of his novel. The long-standing confusion was caused in part by Napoleon's sloppy handwriting, Hicks said.

The tale is about a young officer who befriends two sisters and falls in love with the more spiritual of the two. The story was loosely based on Napoleon's short-lived romance with Desiree Clary, the sister of his brother's wife.

The page has been part of a private French family collection since the 1950s. Before then, it belonged to Andre de Coppet, a financier who amassed a significant set of Napoleonic memorabilia in the early 20th century.

The manuscript is estimated at between 20,000 EUR and 30,000 EUR(US$29,500 and US$44,300), but is expected to sell for more than the base price, said Jean-Pierre Osenat, auctioneer at the Osenat auction house of the Fontainebleau outside Paris.

Napoleon enthusiasts from Australia, Russia, the United States and Europe are expected to bid, he said.

"Clisson and Eugenie" - only 22 pages in its original handwritten form - is the last piece of creative writing that Napoleon did before turning his literary attention to political matters, said Hicks, who helped publish the most complete text of the novel in September.

According to Hicks, the 26-year-old general was well-read and heavily influenced by the Enlightenment thinker Rousseau, whose ideas of the solitary poet and reverence for nature find their way into the romantic novel.

Napoleon was a gifted stylist whose political writing was greatly admired by many of his contemporaries - despite his notoriously poor spelling and barely legible handwriting, Hicks said.

Just as he was finishing the book in 1795, the young general was asked to suppress a Royalist uprising in Paris - an event known as the "Whiff of Grapeshot," which propelled him into the spotlight and led to his promotion.

Last June, a saber Napoleon used during the Battle of Marengo in 1800 was purchased by the family of Jerome Bonaparte for 4.8 million EUR(US$7 million).

The Napoleonic era only lasted about 15 years from his rise to power around 1799 to his exile 1815 on the remote island of St. Helena, where he died six years later.

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