I strongly doubt that Napoleon ever said, “Able was I ere I saw Elba”.
I did however read somewhere that this is what he said when a reporter from the Times of London, a paper that he was fond of reading, interviewed him while he was in exile at the Mediterranean island of Elba. His words were apparently meant to be a lament that, at Elba he was powerless. The quote is a palindrome in English, ie: it reads the same both ways, but what use would a French guy have for an English palindrome?
Besides, those days it would take a reporter three weeks to reach Elba from England, a huge expense in time and money, not to mention the risks to body and mind that the round trip engendered. To do that just to talk to a washed-up windbag of an emperor for a half hour? Come on, does anybody want to interview George W? Even rednecks like Bill O’Reilly and Rush Limbaugh don’t want to have anything to do with him anymore……