"one or the other of his favourite topics, Napoleon or Shakspeare"
Bonaparte at the Bridge of Arcole (c.1801)
Public DomainBonaparte at the Bridge of Arcole (c.1801) - Credit: Antoine-Jean Gros

Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821), who ruled as the Emperor of France from 1804-14, conquered most of Europe during the Napoleonic Wars and is heralded as one of history’s greatest military generals. The internet is awash with information about him: a directory to some of the best resources is available here

 

William Shakespeare (c.1564-1616) is widely considered the greatest English-language writer the world has ever seen. Amongst his best-regarded plays are Hamlet (1603), King Lear (1603-6) and Twelfth Night (1601-2). The “Shakspeare” spelling that Hawthorne uses here was then standard; “Shakespeare,” with the additional e, did not come into vogue until later in the nineteenth century. If John Howard wished to enlarge his knowledge of the bard then he would be well advised to visit this website, which collates first folio editions and vital research materials alongside Shakespearean insult-generators, parodies and recipes.