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Old 18 October 2015, 11:56 PM
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France Napoleon to mistress: "I return in three days. Don't wash."

Napoleon supposedly asked his mistress, a woman named Josephine, not to bathe for either one, three, or five days while he was on his way back from a military campaign because he purportedly enjoyed the way she smelled when she hadn't bathed.

One example of the supposed statement in French, from a letter to the editor in the New York Times: "Je reviens en trois jours, ne te laves pas."

Another, from the Chicago Tribune "according to legend": "Ne te lave pa. Je reviens"

Example of a one-day claim from NPR:
Quote:
Napoleon and Josephine were fastidious for their time in that they both took a long, hot, daily bath. But Napoleon wrote Josephine from a campaign, "I will return to Paris tomorrow evening. Don't wash."
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/s...oryId=16305411

Example of a three-day claim:

Quote:
Home in three days, don't wash!"
http://www.napoleon-series.org/cgi-b...d=read;id=7486

Example of a five-day claim from the book "Clean: An unsanitized history of washing":

Quote:
return to Paris in five days. Stop washing.
http://www.amazon.es/Clean-An-Unsani.../dp/1846680956

I've seen the quotation in lots of lists of quotations and other attributions, but I can't find anything citing which specific letter it's from. Is it a spurious attribution?

Somebody in 2003 on napoleon-series.org had the same issue: Able to find lots of attributions, but nothing proving Napoleon actually said it.

On the same site on 8/16/2002 another guy said essentially the same thing but said he had heard that the battle was supposed to be the battle of Marengo, which happened on June 14 1800. That could help to narrow the possible letter dates.
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Old 18 October 2015, 11:57 PM
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(A woman named) Josephine was Napoleon's first wife.
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Old 19 October 2015, 12:29 AM
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I only got interested in Napoleon just now because the quotation seemed fishy to me, so I started trying to find multiple instances of it. From reading those conflicting quotations I got the idea that Josephine was Napoleon's mistress, but you're right, his first wife's name was Josephine and a woman named Marie Walewska is a famous mistress of his. (I didn't link it here, but the first time I encountered the quotation, it was said to be addressed to an unidentified mistress.) I can't find any mistresses named Josephine. I was mistaken about that.

Last edited by Mr. Billion; 19 October 2015 at 12:35 AM.
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Old 19 October 2015, 01:40 AM
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This sounds a lot like another slam at French bathing habits.
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Old 19 October 2015, 01:47 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by crocoduck_hunter View Post
This sounds a lot like another slam at French bathing habits.
How's so? It assumes that she was in the habit of bathing daily and had to be instructed not to do so.
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Old 19 October 2015, 02:17 AM
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I don't know. I guess it just came across as "Napoleon had a BO fetish" when I first read it.
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Old 19 October 2015, 02:28 AM
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France

Since the same "ne te lave pas" was once attributed to Henri IV, I'm going to guess it was an old tale that was updated because it was about a king few outside of France remembered.
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Old 09 May 2016, 08:00 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ganzfeld View Post
Since the same "ne te lave pas" was once attributed to Henri IV, I'm going to guess it was an old tale that was updated because it was about a king few outside of France remembered.
Yeah, that could be it. It would be the same thing as when people claimed that Marie Antoinette said "Let them eat cake" about the starving peasants.
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