The Objects

2nd May 1815

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Source: Cadbury Research Library, University of Birmingham, with permission.

Napoleon as the Antichrist

Contributed by: Gareth Atkins

G.S. Faber, Remarks on the effusion of the fifth apocalyptic vial, and the late extraordinary restoration of the imperial revolutionary government of France (F.C. and J. Rivington: London, 1815)

Bonaparte’s escape from Elba, as for many, caught George Stanley Faber (1773-1854) on the hop. By no means a warrior or politician, Faber was an Anglican clergyman known for his biblical writings. Yet his urgency was understandable: he had just published the latest instalment of his Dissertation on the Prophecies, which mapped Napoleon’s exile against the Book of Revelation.

Millennialism in this period is often associated with the jeremiads of self-styled prophets like Richard Brothers and the cult leader Joanna Southcott. Yet Faber’s efforts remind us that revolution, regicide, famines and massacres provided portents enough to convince even quite sensible writers in Britain and elsewhere that the End of the World was nigh and Bonaparte the Antichrist.

By May Faber had rushed out this corrective, reassuring readers that recent events did not collapse his calculations entirely: the Beast’s demise, he insisted shakily, was certain, even if its manner was presently unclear. By 1818 Faber could safely declare that Bonaparte was not coming back, hailing Wellington as the divinely anointed ‘avenger of long-outraged humanity’. And by then the prophetic consensus had shifted: victory, imperial confidence and missionary growth were convincing Faber and others like him that providence was on Britain’s side.