In Berlin, from Tuesday, 31st May, 1740, day of the late King's death, till the Thursday following, the post was stopped and the gates closed; no estafette can be despatched, though Dickens and all the Ambassadors are busy writing. On the Thursday, Regiments, Officers, principal Officials having sworn, and the new King being fairly in the saddle, estafettes and post-boys shoot forth at the top of their speed; and Rumor, towards every point of the compass, apprises mankind what immense news there is. [Dickens (in State-Paper Office), 4th June, 1740.]
A King's Accession is always a hopeful phenomenon to the public; more especially a young King's, who has been talked of for his talents and aspirings,—for his sufferings, were it nothing more,—and whose ANTI-MACHIAVEL is understood to be in the press. Vaguely everywhere there has a notion gone abroad that this young King will prove considerable. Here at last has a Lover of Philosophy got upon the throne, and great philanthropies and magnanimities are to be expected, think rash editors and idle mankind. Rash editors in England and elsewhere, we observe, are ready to believe that Friedrich has not only disbanded the Potsdam Giants; but means to "reduce the Prussian Army one half" or so, for ease (temporary ease which we hope will be lasting) of parties concerned; and to go much upon emancipation, political rose-water, and friendship to humanity, as we now call it.
At his first meeting of Council, they say, he put this question, "Could not the Prussian Army be reduced to 45,000?" The excellent young man. To which the Council had answered, "Hardly, your Majesty! The Julich-and-Berg affair is so ominous hitherto!" These may be secrets, and dubious to people out of doors, thinks a wise editor; but one thing patent to the day was this, surely symbolical enough: On one of his Majesty's first drives to Potsdam or from it, a thousand children,—in round numbers a thousand of them, all with the RED STRING round their necks, and liable to be taken for soldiers, if needed in the regiment of their Canton,—a thousand children met this young King at a turn of his road; and with shrill unison of wail, sang out: "Oh, deliver us from slavery,"—from the red threads, your Majesty. Why should poor we be liable to suffer hardship for our Country or otherwise, your Majesty! Can no one else be got to do it? sang out the thousand children. And his Majesty assented on the spot, thinks the rash editor. [Gentleman's Magazine (London, 1740), x. 318; Newspapers, &c.] "Goose, Madam?" exclaimed a philanthropist projector once, whose scheme of sweeping chimneys by pulling a live goose down through them was objected to: "Goose, Madam? You can take two ducks, then, if you are so sorry for the goose!"—Rash editors think there is to be a reign of Astraea Redux in Prussia, by means of this young King; and forget to ask themselves, as the young King must by no means do, How far Astraea may be possible, for Prussia and him?
At home, too, there is prophesying enough, vague hope enough, which for most part goes wide of the mark. This young King, we know, did prove considerable; but not in the way shaped out for him by the public;—it was in far other ways! For no public in the least knows, in such cases: nor does the man himself know, except gradually and if he strive to learn. As to the public,—"Doubtless," says a friend of mine, "doubtless it was the Atlantic Ocean that carried Columbus to America; lucky for the Atlantic, and for Columbus and us: but the Atlantic did not quite vote that way from the first; nay ITS votes, I believe, were very various at different stages of the matter!" This is a truth which kings and men, not intending to be drift-logs or waste brine obedient to the Moon, are much called to have in mind withal, from perhaps an early stage of their voyage.
Friedrich's actual demeanor in these his first weeks, which is still decipherable if one study well, has in truth a good deal of the brilliant, of the popular-magnanimous; but manifests strong solid quality withal, and a head steadier than might have been expected. For the Berlin world is all in a rather Auroral condition; and Friedrich too is,—the chains suddenly cut loose, and such hopes opened for the young man. He has great things ahead; feels in himself great things, and doubtless exults in the thought of realizing them. Magnanimous enough, popular, hopeful enough, with Voltaire and the highest of the world looking on:—but yet he is wise, too; creditably aware that there are limits, that this is a bargain, and the terms of it inexorable. We discern with pleasure the old veracity of character shining through this giddy new element; that all these fine procedures are at least unaffected, to a singular degree true, and the product of nature, on his part; and that, in short, the complete respect for Fact, which used to be a quality of his, and which is among the highest and also rarest in man, has on no side deserted him at present.
A trace of airy exuberance, of natural exultancy, not quite repressible, on the sudden change to freedom and supreme power from what had gone before: perhaps that also might be legible, if in those opaque bead-rolls which are called Histories of Friedrich anything human could with certainty be read! He flies much about from place to place; now at Potsdam, now at Berlin, at Charlottenburg, Reinsberg; nothing loath to run whither business calls him, and appear in public: the gazetteer world, as we noticed, which has been hitherto a most mute world, breaks out here and there into a kind of husky jubilation over the great things he is daily doing, and rejoices in the prospect of having a Philosopher King; which function the young man, only twenty-eight gone, cannot but wish to fulfil for the gazetteers and the world. He is a busy man; and walks boldly into his grand enterprise of "making men happy," to the admiration of Voltaire and an enlightened public far and near.
Bielfeld speaks of immense concourses of people crowding about Charlottenburg, to congratulate, to solicit, to &c.; tells us how he himself had to lodge almost in outhouses, in that royal village of hope, His emotions at Reinsberg, and everybody's, while Friedrich Wilhelm lay dying, and all stood like greyhounds on the slip; and with what arrow-swiftness they shot away when the great news came: all this he has already described at wearisome length, in his fantastic semi-fabulous way. [Bielfeld, i. 68-77; ib. 81.]' Friedrich himself seemed moderately glad to see Bielfeld; received his high-flown congratulations with a benevolent yet somewhat composed air; and gave him afterwards, in the course of weeks, an unexpectedly small appointment: To go to Hanover, under Truchsess von Waldburg, and announce our Accession. Which is but a simple, mostly formal service; yet perhaps what Bielfeld is best equal to.
The Britannic Majesty, or at least his Hanover people have been beforehand with this civility; Baron Munchhausen, no doubt by orders given for such contingency, had appeared at Berlin with the due compliment and condolence almost on the first day of the New Reign; first messenger of all on that errand; Britannic Majesty evidently in a conciliatory humor,—having his dangerous Spanish War on hand. Britannic Majesty in person, shortly after, gets across to Hanover; and Friedrich despatches Truchsess, with Bielfeld adjoined, to return the courtesy.
Friedrich does not neglect these points of good manners; along with which something of substantial may be privately conjoined. For example, if he had in secret his eye on Julich and Berg, could anything be fitter than to ascertain what the French will think of such an enterprise? What the French; and next to them what the English, that is to say, Hanoverians, who meddle much in affairs of the Reich. For these reasons and others he likewise, probably with more study than in the Bielfeld case, despatches Colonel Camas to make his compliment at the French Court, and in an expert way take soundings there. Camas, a fat sedate military gentleman, of advanced years, full of observation, experience and sound sense,—"with one arm, which he makes do the work of two, and nobody can notice that the other arm resting in his coat-breast is of cork, so expert is he,"—will do in this matter what is feasible; probably not much for the present. He is to call on Voltaire, as he passes, who is in Holland again, at the Hague for some months back; and deliver him "a little cask of Hungary Wine," which probably his Majesty had thought exquisite. Of which, and the other insignificant passages between them, we hear more than enough in the writings and correspondences of Voltaire about this time.
In such way Friedrich disposes of his Bielfelds; who are rather numerous about him now and henceforth. Adventurers from all quarters, especially of the literary type, in hopes of being employed, much hovered round Friedrich through his whole reign. But they met a rather strict judge on arriving; it cannot be said they found it such a Goshen as they expected.
Favor, friendly intimacy, it is visible from the first, avails nothing with this young King; beyond and before all things he will have his work done, and looks out exclusively for the man ablest to do it. Hence Bielfeld goes to Hanover, to grin out euphuisms, and make graceful courtbows to our sublime little Uncle there. On the other hand, Friedrich institutes a new Knighthood, ORDER OF MERIT so called; which indeed is but a small feat, testifying mere hope and exuberance as yet; and may even be made worse than nothing, according to the Knights he shall manage to have. Happily it proved a successful new Order in this last all-essential particular; and, to the end of Friedrich's life, continued to be a great and coveted distinction among the Prussians.
Beyond doubt this is a radiant enough young Majesty; entitled to hope, and to be the cause of hope. Handsome, to begin with; decidedly well-looking, all say, and of graceful presence, though hardly five feet seven, and perhaps stouter of limb than the strict Belvedere standard. [Height, it appears, was five feet five inches (Rhenish), which in English measure is five feet seven or a hair's-breadth less. Preuss, twice over, by a mistake unusual with him, gives "five feet two inches three lines" as the correct cipher (which it is of NAPOLEON'S measure in FRENCH feet); then settles on the above dimensions from unexceptionable authority (Preuss, Buch fur Jedermann, i. 18; Preuss, Fredrich der Grosse, i. 39 and 419).] Has a fine free expressive face; nothing of austerity in it; not a proud face, or not too proud, yet rapidly flashing on you all manner of high meanings. [Wille's Engraving after Pesne (excellent, both Picture and Engraving) is reckoned the best Likeness in that form.] Such a man, in the bloom of his years; with such a possibility ahead, and Voltaire and mankind waiting applausive!—Let us try to select, and extricate into coherence and visibility out of those Historical dust-heaps, a few of the symptomatic phenomena, or physiognomic procedures of Friedrich in his first weeks of Kingship, by way of contribution to some Portraiture of his then inner-man.
On the day after his Accession, Officers and chief Ministers taking the Oath, Friedrich, to his Officers, "on whom he counts for the same zeal now which he had witnessed as their comrade," recommends mildness of demeanor from the higher to the lower, and that the common soldier be not treated with harshness when not deserved: and to his Ministers he is still more emphatic, in the like or a higher strain. Officially announcing to them, by Letter, that a new Reign has commenced, he uses these words, legible soon after to a glad Berlin public: "Our grand care will be, To further the Country's well-being, and to make every one of our subjects (EINEN JEDEN UNSERER UNTERTHANEN) contented and happy. Our will is, not that you strive to enrich Us by vexation of Our subjects; but rather that you aim steadily as well towards the advantage of the Country as Our particular interest, forasmuch as We make no difference between these two objects," but consider them one and the same. This is written, and gets into print within the month; and his Majesty, that same day (Wednesday, 2d June), when it came to personal reception, and actual taking of the Oath, was pleased to add in words, which also were printed shortly, this comfortable corollary: "My will henceforth is, If it ever chance that my particular interest and the general good of my Countries should seem to go against each other,—in that case, my will is, That the latter always be preferred." [Dickens, Despatch, 4th June, 1740: Preuss, Friedrichs Jugend und Thronbesteigung (Berlin, 1840), p. 325;—quoting from the Berlin Newspapers of 28th June and 2d July, 1740.]
This is a fine dialect for incipient Royalty; and it is brand-new at that time. It excites an admiration in the then populations, which to us, so long used to it and to what commonly comes of it, is not conceivable at once. There can be no doubt the young King does faithfully intend to develop himself in the way of making men happy; but here, as elsewhere, are limits which he will recognize ahead, some of them perhaps nearer than was expected.
Meanwhile his first acts, in this direction, correspond to these fine words. The year 1740, still grim with cold into the heart of summer, bids fair to have a late poor harvest, and famine threatens to add itself to other hardships there have been. Recognizing the actualities of the case, what his poor Father could not, he opens the Public Granaries,—a wise resource they have in Prussian countries against the year of scarcity;—orders grain to be sold out, at reasonable rates, to the suffering poor; and takes the due pains, considerable in some cases, that this be rendered feasible everywhere in his dominions. "Berlin, 2d June," is the first date of this important order; fine program to his Ministers, which, we read, is no sooner uttered, than some performance follows. An evident piece of wisdom and humanity; for which doubtless blessings of a very sincere kind rise to him from several millions of his fellow-mortals.
Nay furthermore, as can be dimly gathered, this scarcity continuing, some continuous mode of management was set on foot for the Poor; and there is nominated, with salary, with outline of plan and other requisites, as "Inspector of the Poor," to his own and our surprise, M. Jordan, late Reader to the Crown-Prince, and still much the intimate of his royal Friend. Inspector who seems to do his work very well. And in the November coming this is what we see: "One thousand poor old women, the destitute of Berlin, set to spin," at his Majesty's charges; vacant houses, hired for them in certain streets and suburbs, have been new-planked, partitioned, warmed; and spinning is there for any diligent female soul. There a thousand of them sit, under proper officers, proper wages, treatment;—and the hum of their poor spindles, and of their poor inarticulate old hearts, is a comfort, if one chance to think of it.—Of "distressed needlewomen" who cannot sew, nor be taught to do it; who, in private truth, are mutinous maid-servants come at last to the net upshot of their anarchies; of these, or of the like incurable phenomena, I hear nothing in Berlin; and can believe that, under this King, Indigence itself may still have something of a human aspect, not a brutal or diabolic as is commoner in some places.—This is one of Friedrich's first acts, this opening of the Corn-magazines, and arrangements for the Destitute; [Helden-Geschichte, i. 367. Rodenbeck, Tagebuch aus Friedrichs des Grossen Regentenleben (Berlin, 1840), i. 2, 26 (2d June, October, 1740): a meritorious, laborious, though essentially chaotic Book, unexpectedly futile of result to the reader; settles for each Day of Friedrich's Reign, so far as possible, where Friedrich was and what doing; fatally wants all index &c., as usual.] and of this there can be no criticism. The sound of hungry pots set boiling, on judicious principles; the hum of those old women's spindles in the warm rooms: gods and men are well pleased to hear such sounds; and accept the same as part, real though infinitesimally small, of the sphere-harmonies of this Universe!
Friedrich makes haste, next, to strike into Law-improvements. It is but the morrow after this of the Corn-magazines, by KABINETS-ORDRE (Act of Parliament such as they can have in that Country, where the Three Estates sit all under one Three-cornered Hat, and the debates are kept silent, and only the upshot of them, more or less faithfully, is made public),—by Cabinet Order, 3d June, 1740, he abolishes the use of Torture in Criminal Trials. [Preuss, Friedrichs Jugend und Thronbesteigung (Berlin, 1840,—a minor Book of Preuss's), p. 340. Rodenbeck, i. 14 ("3d June").] Legal Torture, "Question" as they mildly call it, is at an end from this date. Not in any Prussian Court shall a "question" try for answer again by that savage method. The use of Torture had, I believe, fallen rather obsolete in Prussia; but now the very threat of it shall vanish,—the threat of it, as we may remember, had reached Friedrich himself, at one time. Three or four years ago, it is farther said, a dark murder happened in Berlin: Man killed one night in the open streets; murderer discoverable by no method,—unless he were a certain CANDIDATUS of Divinity to whom some trace of evidence pointed, but who sorrowfully persisted in absolute and total denial. This poor Candidatus had been threatened with the rack; and would most likely have at length got it, had not the real murderer been discovered,—much to the discredit of the rack in Berlin. This Candidatus was only threatened; nor do I know when the last actual instance in Prussia was; but in enlightened France, and most other countries, there was as yet no scruple upon it. Barbier, the Diarist at Paris, some time after this, tells us of a gang of thieves there, who were regularly put to the torture; and "they blabbed too, ILS ONT JASE," says Barbier with official jocosity. [Barbier, Journal Historique du Regne de Louis XV. (Paris, 1849), ii. 338 (date "Dec. 1742").]
Friedrich's Cabinet Order, we need not say, was greeted everywhere, at home and abroad, by three rounds of applause;—in which surely all of us still join; though the PER CONTRA also is becoming visible to some of us, and our enthusiasm grows less complete than formerly. This was Friedrich's first step in Law-Reform, done on his fourth day of Kingship. A long career in that kind lies ahead of him; in reform of Law, civil as well as criminal, his efforts ended with life only. For his love of Justice was really great; and the mendacities and wiggeries, attached to such a necessary of life as Law, found no favor from him at any time.
To neglect the Philosophies, Fine Arts, interests of Human Culture, he is least of all likely. The idea of building up the Academy of Sciences to its pristine height, or far higher, is evidently one of those that have long lain in the Crown-Prince's mind, eager to realize themselves. Immortal Wolf, exiled but safe at Marburg, and refusing to return in Friedrich Wilhelm's time, had lately dedicated a Book to the Crown-Prince; indicating that perhaps, under a new Reign, he might be more persuadable. Friedrich makes haste to persuade; instructs the proper person, Reverend Herr Reinbeck, Head of the Consistorium at Berlin, to write and negotiate. "All reasonable conditions shall be granted" the immortal Wolf,—and Friedrich adds with his own hand as Postscript: "I request you (IHN) to use all diligence about Wolf. A man that seeks truth, and loves it, must be reckoned precious in any human society; and I think you will make a conquest in the realm of truth if you persuade Wolf hither again." [In OEuvres de Frederic (xxvii. ii. 185), the Letter given.] This is of date June 6th; not yet a week since Friedrich came to be King. The Reinbeck-Wolf negotiation which ensued can be read in Busching by the curious. [Busching's Beitrage (? Freiherr von Wolf), i. 63-137.] It represents to us a croaky, thrifty, long-headed old Herr Professor, in no haste to quit Marburg except for something better: "obliged to wear woollen shoes and leggings;" "bad at mounting stairs;" and otherwise needing soft treatment. Willing, though with caution, to work at an Academy of Sciences;—but dubious if the French are so admirable as they seem to themselves in such operations. Veteran Wolf, one dimly begins to learn, could himself build a German Academy of Sciences, to some purpose, if encouraged! This latter was probably the stone of stumbling in that direction. Veteran Wolf did not get to be President in the New Academy of Sciences; but was brought back, "streets all in triumph," to his old place at Halle; and there, with little other work that was heard of, but we hope in warm shoes and without much mounting of stairs, lived peaceably victorious the rest of his days. Friedrich's thoughts are not of a German home-built Academy, but of a French one: and for this he already knows a builder; has silently had him in his eye, these two years past,—Voltaire giving hint, in the LETTER we once heard of at Loo. Builder shall be that sublime Maupertuis; scientific lion of Paris, ever since his feat in the Polar regions, and the charming Narrative he gave of it. "What a feat, what a book!" exclaimed the Parisian cultivated circles, male and female, on that occasion; and Maupertuis, with plenty of bluster in him carefully suppressed, assents in a grandly modest way. His Portraits are in the Printshops ever since; one very singular Portrait, just coming out (at which there is some laughing): a coarse-featured, blusterous, rather triumphant-looking man, blusterous, though finely complacent for the nonce; in copious dressing-gown and fur cap; comfortably SQUEEZING the Earth and her meridians flat (as if HE had done it), with his left hand; and with the other, and its outstretched finger, asking mankind, "Are not you aware, then?"—"Are not we!" answers Voltaire by and by, with endless waggeries upon him, though at present so reverent. Friedrich, in these same days, writes this Autograph; which who of men or lions could resist?
TO MONSIEUR DE MAUPERTUIS, at Paris.
(No date;—datable, June, 1740.)
"My heart and my inclination excited in me, from the moment I mounted the throne, the desire of having you here, that you might put our Berlin Academy into the shape you alone are capable of giving it. Come, then, come and insert into this wild crab-tree the graft of the Sciences, that it may bear fruit. You have shown the Figure of the Earth to mankind; show also to a King how sweet it is to possess such a man as you.
"Monsieur de Maupertuis,—votre tres-affectionne
"FEDERIC" (SIC). [OEuvres, xvii. i. 334. The fantastic "Federic," instead of "Frederic," is, by this time, the common signature to French Letters.]
This Letter—how could Maupertuis prevent some accident in such a case?—got into the Newspapers; glorious for Friedrich, glorious for Maupertuis; and raised matters to a still higher pitch. Maupertuis is on the road, and we shall see him before long.
Here is another little fact which had immense renown at home and abroad, in those summer months and long afterwards.
June 22d, 1740, the GEISTLICHE DEPARTEMENT (Board of Religion, we may term it) reports that the Roman-Catholic Schools, which have been in use these eight years past, for children of soldiers belonging to that persuasion, "are, especially in Berlin, perverted, directly in the teeth of Royal Ordinance, 1732, to seducing Protestants into Catholicism;" annexed, or ready for annexing, "is the specific Report of Fiscal-General to this effect:"—upon which, what would it please his Majesty to direct us to do?
His Majesty writes on the margin these words, rough and ready, which we give with all their grammatical blotches on them; indicating a mind made up on one subject, which was much more dubious then, to most other minds, than it now is:—
"Die Religionen Musen (MUSSEN) alle Tollerirt (TOLERIRT) werden, und Mus (MUSS) der Fiscal nuhr (NUR) das Auge darauf haben, das (DASS) keine der andern abrug Tuhe (ABBRUCH THUE), den (DENN) hier mus (MUSS) ein jeder nach seiner Fasson Selich (FACON SELIG) werden." [Preuss, Thronbesteigung, p. 333; Rodenbeck, IN DIE.]
Which in English might run as follows:—
"All Religions must be tolerated (TOLLERATED), and the Fiscal must have an eye that none of them make unjust encroachment on the other; for in this Country every man must get to Heaven in his own way."
Wonderful words; precious to the then leading spirits, and which (the spelling and grammar being mended) flew abroad over all the world: the enlightened Public everywhere answering his Majesty, once more, with its loudest "Bravissimo!" on this occasion. With what enthusiasm of admiring wonder, it is now difficult to fancy, after the lapse of sixscore years! And indeed, in regard to all these worthy acts of Human Improvement which we are now concerned with, account should be held (were it possible) on Friedrich's behalf how extremely original, and bright with the splendor of new gold, they then were: and how extremely they are fallen dim, by general circulation, since that. Account should be held; and yet it is not possible, no human imagination is adequate to it, in the times we are now got into.
Toleration, in Friedrich's spiritual circumstances, was perhaps no great feat to Friedrich: but what the reader hardly expected of him was Freedom of the Press, or an attempt that way! From England, from Holland, Friedrich had heard of Free Press, of Newspapers the best Instructors: it is a fact that he hastens to plant a seed of that kind at Berlin; sets about it "on the second day of his reign," so eager is he. Berlin had already some meagre INTELLIGENZ-BLATT (Weekly or Thrice-Weekly Advertiser), perhaps two; but it is a real Newspaper, frondent with genial leafy speculation, and food for the mind, that Friedrich is intent upon: a "Literary-Political Newspaper," or were it even two Newspapers, one French, one German; and he rapidly makes the arrangements for it; despatches Jordan, on the second day, to seek some fit Frenchman. Arrangements are soon made: a Bookselling Printer, Haude, Bookseller once to the Prince-Royal,—whom we saw once in a domestic flash-of-lightning long ago, [Antea, Book vi. c. 7.]—is encouraged to proceed with the improved German article, MERCURY or whatever they called it; vapid Formey, a facile pen, but not a forcible, is the Editor sought out by Jordan for the French one. And, in short, No. 1 of Formey shows itself in print within a month; ["2d July, 1740:" Preuss, Thronbesteigung, p. 330; and Formey, Souvenirs, i. 107, rectified by the exact Herr Preuss.] and Haude and he, Haude picking up some grand Editor in Hamburg, do their best for the instruction of mankind.
In not many months, Formey, a facile and learned but rather vapid gentleman, demitted or was dismissed; and the Journals coalesced into one, or split into two again; and went I know not what road, or roads, in time coming,—none that led to results worth naming. Freedom of the Press, in the case of these Journals, was never violated, nor was any need for violating it. General Freedom of the Press Friedrich did not grant, in any quite Official or steady way; but in practice, under him, it always had a kind of real existence, though a fluctuating, ambiguous one. And we have to note, through Friedrich's whole reign, a marked disinclination to concern himself with Censorship, or the shackling of men's poor tongues and pens; nothing but some officious report that there was offence to Foreign Courts, or the chance of offence, in a poor man's pamphlet, could induce Friedrich to interfere with him or it,—and indeed his interference was generally against his Ministers for having wrong informed him, and in favor of the poor Pamphleteer appealing at the fountain-head. [Anonymous (Laveaux), Vie de Frederic II., Roi de Prusse (Strasbourg, 1787), iv. 82. A worthless, now nearly forgotten Book; but competent on this point, if on any; Laveaux (a handy fellow, fugitive Ex-Monk, with fugitive Ex-Nun attached) having lived much at Berlin, always in the pamphleteering line.] To the end of his life, disgusting Satires against him, Vie Privee by Voltaire, Matinees du Roi de Prusse, and still worse Lies and Nonsenses, were freely sold at Berlin, and even bore to be printed there, Friedrich saying nothing, caring nothing. He has been known to burn Pamphlets publicly,—one Pamphlet we shall ourselves see on fire yet;—but it was without the least hatred to them, and for official reasons merely. To the last, he would answer his reporting Ministers, "LE PRESSE EST LIBRE (Free press, you must consider)!"—grandly reluctant to meddle with the press, or go down upon the dogs barking at his door. Those ill effects of Free Press (first stage of the ill effects) he endured in this manner; but the good effects seem to have fallen below his expectation. Friedrich's enthusiam for freedom of the press, prompt enough, as we see, never rose to the extreme pitch, and it rather sank than increased as he continued his experiences of men and things. This of Formey and the two Newspapers was the only express attempt he made in that direction; and it proved a rather disappointing one. The two Newspapers went their way thenceforth, Friedrich sometimes making use of them for small purposes, once or twice writing an article himself, of wildly quizzical nature, perhaps to be noticed by us when the time comes; but are otherwise, except for chronological purposes, of the last degree of insignificance to gods or men.
"Freedom of the Press," says my melancholic Friend, "is a noble thing; and in certain Nations, at certain epochs, produces glorious effects,—chiefly in the revolutionary line, where that has grown indispensable. Freedom of the Press is possible, where everybody disapproves the least abuse of it; where the 'Censorship' is, as it were, exercised by all the world. When the world (as, even in the freest countries, it almost irresistibly tends to become) is no longer in a case to exercise that salutary function, and cannot keep down loud unwise speaking, loud unwise persuasion, and rebuke it into silence whenever printed, Freedom of the Press will not answer very long, among sane human creatures: and indeed, in Nations not in an exceptional case, it becomes impossible amazingly soon!"—
All these are phenomena of Friedrich's first week. Let these suffice as sample, in that first kind. Splendid indications surely; and shot forth in swift enough succession, flash following flash, upon an attentive world. Betokening, shall we say, what internal sea of splendor, struggling to disclose itself, probably lies in this young King; and how high his hopes go for mankind and himself? Yes, surely;—and introducing, we remark withal, the "New Era," of Philanthropy, Enlightenment and so much else; with French Revolution, and a "world well suicided" hanging in the rear! Clearly enough, to this young ardent Friedrich, foremost man of his Time, and capable of DOING its inarticulate or dumb aspirings, belongs that questionable honor; and a very singular one it would have seemed to Friedrich, had he lived to see what it meant!
Friedrich's rapidity and activity, in the first months of his reign, were wonderful to mankind; as indeed through life he continued to be a most rapid and active King. He flies about; mustering Troops, Ministerial Boards, passing Edicts, inspecting, accepting Homages of Provinces;—decides and does, every day that passes, an amazing number of things. Writes many Letters, too; finds moments even for some verses; and occasionally draws a snatch of melody from his flute.
His Letters are copiously preserved; but, as usual, they are in swift official tone, and tell us almost nothing. To his Sisters he writes assurances; to his friends, his Suhms, Duhans, Voltaires, eager invitations, general or particular, to come to him. "My state has changed," is his phrase to Voltaire and other dear intimates; a tone of pensiveness, at first even of sorrow and pathos traceable in it; "Come to me,"—and the tone, in an old dialect, different from Friedrich's, might have meant, "Pray for me." An immense new scene is opened, full of possibilities of good and bad. His hopes being great, his anxieties, the shadow of them, are proportionate. Duhan (his good old Tutor) does arrive, Algarotti arrives, warmly welcomed, both: with Voltaire there are difficulties; but surely he too will, before long, manage to arrive. The good Suhm, who had been Saxon Minister at Petersburg to his sorrow this long while back, got in motion soon enough; but, alas, his lungs were ruined by the Russian climate, and he did not arrive. Something pathetic still in those final LETTERS of Suhm. Passionately speeding on, like a spent steed struggling homeward; he has to pause at Warsaw, and in a few days dies there,—in a way mournful to Friedrich and us! To Duhan, and Duhan's children afterwards, he was punctually, not too lavishly, attentive; in like manner to Suhm's Nephews, whom the dying man had recommended to him.—We will now glance shortly at a second and contemporaneous phasis of Friedrich's affairs.
Friedrich is far indeed from thinking to reduce his Army, as the Foreign Editor imagines. On the contrary, he is, with all industry, increasing it. He changed the Potsdam Giants into four regiments of the usual stature; he is busy bargaining with his Brother-in-law of Brunswick, and with other neighbors, for still new regiments;—makes up, within the next few months, Eight Regiments, an increase of, say, 16,000 men. It would appear he means to keep an eye on the practicalities withal; means to have a Fighting-Apparatus of the utmost potentiality, for one thing! Here are other indications.
We saw the Old Dessauer, in a sad hour lately, speaking beside the mark; and with what Olympian glance, suddenly tearless, the new King flashed out upon him, knowing nothing of "authority" that could reside in any Dessauer. Nor was that a solitary experience; the like befell wherever needed. Heinrich of Schwedt, the Ill Margraf, advancing with jocose countenance in the way of old comradeship, in those first days, met unexpected rebuff, and was reduced to gravity on the sudden: "JETZT BIN ICH KONIG,—My Cousin, I am now King!" a fact which the Ill Margraf could never get forgotten again. Lieutenant-General Schulenburg, too, the didactic Schulenburg, presuming, on old familiarity, and willing to wipe out the misfortune of having once condemned us to death, which nobody is now upbraiding him with, rushes up from Landsberg, unbidden, to pay his congratulations and condolences, driven by irresistible exuberance of loyalty: to his astonishment, he is reminded (thing certain, manner of the thing not known), That an Officer cannot quit his post without order; that he, at this moment, ought to be in Landsberg! [Stenzel, iv. 41; Preuss, Thronbesteigung; &c.] Schulenburg has a hard old military face; but here is a young face too, which has grown unexpectedly rigorous. Fancy the blank look of little Schulenburg; the light of him snuffed out in this manner on a sudden. It is said he had thoughts of resigning, so indignant was he: no doubt he went home to Landsberg gloomily reflective, with the pipe-clay of his mind in such a ruinous condition. But there was no serious anger, on Friedrich's part; and he consoled his little Schulenburg soon after, by expediting some promotion he had intended him. "Terribly proud young Majesty this," exclaim the sweet voices. And indeed, if they are to have a Saturnian Kingdom, by appearance it will be on conditions only!
Anticipations there had been, that old unkindnesses against the Crown-Prince, some of which were cruel enough, might be remembered now: and certain people had their just fears, considering what account stood against them; others, VICE VERSA, their hopes. But neither the fears nor the hopes realized themselves; especially the fears proved altogether groundless. Derschau, who had voted Death in that Copenick Court-Martial, upon the Crown-Prince, is continued in his functions, in the light of his King's countenance, as if nothing such had been. Derschau, and all others so concerned; not the least question was made of them, nor of what they had thought or had done or said, on an occasion once so tragically vital to a certain man.
Nor is reward much regulated by past services to the Crown-Prince, or even by sufferings endured for him. "Shocking ingratitude!" exclaim the sweet voices here too,—being of weak judgment, many of them! Poor Katte's Father, a faithful old Soldier, not capable of being more, he does, rather conspicuously, make Feldmarschall, make Reichsgraf; happy, could these honors be a consolation to the old man. The Munchows of Custrin,—readers remember their kindness in that sad time; how the young boy went into petticoats again, and came to the Crown-Prince's cell with all manner of furnishings,—the Munchows, father and sons, this young gentleman of the petticoats among them, he took immediate pains to reward by promotion: eldest son was advanced into the General Directorium; two younger sons, to Majorship, to Captaincy, in their respective Regiments; him of the petticoats "he had already taken altogether to himself," [Preuss, i. 66.] and of him we shall see a glimpse at Wilhelmina's shortly, as a "milkbeard (JEUNE MORVEUX)" in personal attendance on his Majesty. This was a notable exception. And in effect there came good public service, eminent some of it, from these Munchows in their various departments. And it was at length perceived to have been, in the main, because they were of visible faculty for doing work that they had got work to do; and the exceptional case of the Munchows became confirmatory of the rule.
Lieutenant Keith, again, whom we once saw galloping from Wesel to save his life in that bad affair of the Crown-Prince's and his, was nothing like so fortunate. Lieutenant Keith, by speed on that Wesel occasion, and help of Chesterfield's Secretary, got across to England; got into the Portuguese service; and has there been soldiering, very silently, these ten years past,—skin and body safe, though his effigy was cut in four quarters and nailed to the gallows at Wesel;—waiting a time that would come. Time being come, Lieutenant Keith hastened home; appealed to his effigy on the gallows;—and was made a Lieutenant-Colonel merely, with some slight appendages, as that of STALLMEISTER (Curator of the Stables) and something else; income still straitened, though enough to live upon. [Preuss, Friedrich mit Verwandten und Freunden, p. 281.] Small promotion, in comparison with hope, thought the poor Lieutenant; but had to rest satisfied with it; and struggle to understand that perhaps he was fit for nothing bigger, and that he must exert himself to do this small thing well. Hardness of heart in high places! Friedrich, one is glad to see, had not forgotten the poor fellow, could he have done better with him. Some ten years hence, quite incidentally, there came to Keith, one morning, a fine purse of money from his Majesty, one pretty gift in Keith's experience;—much the topic in Berlin, while a certain solemn English gentleman happened to be passing that way (whom we mean to detain a little by and by), who reports it for us with all the circumstances. [Sir Jonas Hanway, Travels, &c. (London, 1753), ii. 202. Date of the Gift is 1750.]
Lieutenant Spaen too had got into trouble for the Crown-Prince's sake, though we have forgotten him again; had "admitted Katte to interviews," or we forget what;—had sat his "year in Spandau" in consequence; been dismissed the Prussian service, and had taken service with the Dutch. Lieutenant Spaen either did not return at all, or disliked the aspects when he did, and immediately withdrew to Holland again. Which probably was wise of him. At a late period, King Friedrich, then a great King, on one of his Cleve Journeys, fell in with Spaen; who had become a Dutch General of rank, and was of good manners and style of conversation: King Friedrich was charmed to see him; became his guest for the night; conversed delightfully with him, about old Prussian matters and about new; and in the colloquy never once alluded to that interesting passage in his young life and Spaen's. [Nicolai, Anekdoten, vi. 178.] Hard as polished steel! thinks Spaen perhaps; but, if candid, must ask himself withal, Are facts any softer, or the Laws of Kingship to a man that holds it?—Keith silently did his Lieutenant-Colonelcy with the appendages, while life lasted: of the Page Keith, his Brother, who indeed had blabbed upon the Prince, as we remember, and was not entitled to be clamorous, I never heard that there was any notice taken; and figure him to myself as walking with shouldered firelock, a private Fusileer, all his life afterwards, with many reflections on things bygone. [These and the other Prussian Keiths are all of Scotch extraction; the Prussians, in natural German fashion, pronounce their name KAH-IT (English "KITE" with nothing of the Y in it), as may be worth remembering in a more important instance.]
Old friendship, it would seem, is without weight in public appointments here: old friends are somewhat astonished to find this friend of theirs a King every inch! To old comrades, if they were useless, much more if they were worse than useless, how disappointing! "One wretched Herr [name suppressed, but known at the time, and talked of, and whispered of], who had, like several others, hoping to rise that way, been industrious in encouraging the Crown-Prince's vices as to women, was so shocked at the return he now met, that in despair he hanged himself in LobeJun." (Lobegun, Magdeburg Country): here is a case for the humane! [Kuster, Characterzuge des &c. von Saldern (Berlin, 1793), p. 63.]
Friend Keyserling himself, "Caesarion" that used to be, can get nothing, though we love him much; being an idle topsy-turvy fellow with revenues of his own. Jordan, with his fine-drawn wit, French logics, LITERARY TRAVELS, thin exactitude; what can be done for Jordan? Him also his new Majesty loves much; and knows that, without some official living, poor Jordan has no resource. Jordan, after some waiting and survey, is made "Inspector of the Poor;"—busy this Autumn looking out for vacant houses, and arrangements for the thousand spinning women;—continues to be employed in mixed literary services (hunting up of Formey, for Editor, was one instance), and to be in much real intimacy. That also was perhaps about the real amount of amiable Jordan. To get Jordan a living by planting him in some office which he could not do; to warm Jordan by burning our royal bed for him: that had not entered into the mind of Jordan's royal friend. The Munchows he did promote; the Finks, sons of his Tutor Finkenstein: to these and other old comrades, in whom he had discovered fitness, it is no doubt abundantly grateful to him to recognize and employ it. As he notably does, in these and in other instances. But before all things he has decided to remember that he is King; that he must accept the severe laws of that trust, and do IT, or not have done anything.
An inverse sign, pointing in the same way, is the passionate search he is making in Foreign Countries for such men as will suit him. In these same months, for example, he bethinks him of two Counts Schmettau, in the Austrian Service, with whom he had made acquaintance in the Rhine Campaign; of a Count von Rothenburg, whom he saw in the French Camp there; and is negotiating to have them if possible. The Schmettaus are Prussian by birth, though in Austrian Service; them he obtains under form of an Order home, with good conditions under it; they came, and proved useful men to him. Rothenburg, a shining kind of figure in Diplomacy as well as Soldiership, was Alsatian German, foreign to Prussia; but him too Friedrich obtained, and made much of, as will be notable by and by. And in fact the soul of all these noble tendencies in Friedrich, which surely are considerable, is even this, That he loves men of merit, and does not love men of none; that he has an endless appetite for men of merit, and feels, consciously and otherwise, that they are the one thing beautiful, the one thing needful to him.
This, which is the product of all fine tendencies, is likewise their centre or focus out of which they start again, with some chance of fulfilment;—and we may judge in how many directions Friedrich was willing to expand himself, by the multifarious kinds he was inviting, and negotiating for. Academicians,—and not Maupertuis only, but all manner of mathematical geniuses (Euler whom he got, at Gravesande, Muschenbroek whom he failed of); and Literary geniuses innumerable, first and last. Academicians, Musicians, Players, Dancers even; much more Soldiers and Civil-Service men: no man that carries any honest "CAN DO" about with him but may expect some welcome here. Which continued through Friedrich's reign; and involved him in much petty trouble, not always successful in the lower kinds of it. For his Court was the cynosure of ambitious creatures on the wing, or inclined for taking wing: like a lantern kindled in the darkness of the world;—and many owls impinged upon him; whom he had to dismiss with brevity.
Perhaps it had been better to stand by mere Prussian or German merit, native to the ground? Or rather, undoubtedly it had! In some departments, as in the military, the administrative, diplomatic, Friedrich was himself among the best of judges: but in various others he had mainly (mainly, by no means blindly or solely) to accept noise of reputation as evidence of merit; and in these, if we compute with rigor, his success was intrinsically not considerable. The more honor to him that he never wearied of trying. "A man that does not care for merit," says the adage, "cannot himself have any." But a King that does not care for merit, what shall we say of such a King!—
One other fine feature, significant of many, let us notice: his affection for his Mother. When his Mother addressed him as "Your Majesty," he answered, as the Books are careful to tell us: "Call me Son; that is the Title of all others most agreeable to me!" Words which, there can be no doubt, came from the heart. Fain would he shoot forth to greatness in filial piety, as otherwise; fain solace himself in doing something kind to his Mother. Generously, lovingly; though again with clear view of the limits. He decrees for her a Title higher than had been customary, as well as more accordant with his feelings; not "Queen Dowager," but "Her Majesty the Queen Mother." He decides to build her a new Palace; "under the Lindens" it is to be, and of due magnificence: in a month or two, he had even got bits of the foundation dug, and the Houses to be pulled down bought or bargained for; [Rodenbeck, p. 15 (30th June-23d Aug. 1740); and correct Stenzel (iv. 44).]—which enterprise, however, was renounced, no doubt with consent, as the public aspects darkened. Nothing in the way of honor, in the way of real affection heartily felt and demonstrated, was wanting to Queen Sophie in her widowhood. But, on the other hand, of public influence no vestige was allowed, if any was ever claimed; and the good kind Mother lived in her Monbijou, the centre and summit of Berlin society; and restricted herself wisely to private matters. She has her domesticities, family affections, readings, speculations; gives evening parties at Monbijou. One glimpse of her in 1742 we get, that of a perfectly private royal Lady; which though it has little meaning, yet as it is authentic, coming from Busching's hand, may serve as one little twinkle in that total darkness, and shall be left to the reader and his fancy:—
A Count Henkel, a Thuringian gentleman, of high speculation, high pietistic ways, extremely devout, and given even to writing of religion, came to Berlin about some Silesian properties,—a man I should think of lofty melancholic aspect; and, in severe type, somewhat of a lion, on account of his Book called "DEATH-BED SCENES, in four Volumes." Came to Berlin; and on the 15th August, 1742, towards evening (as the ever-punctual Busching looking into Henkel's Papers gives it), "was presented to the Queen Mother; who retained him to supper; supper not beginning till about ten o'clock. The Queen Mother was extremely gracious to Henkel; but investigated him a good deal, and put a great many questions," not quite easy to answer in that circle, "as, Why he did not play? What he thought of comedies and operas? What Preachers he was acquainted with in Berlin? Whether he too was a Writer of Books? [covertly alluding to the DEATH-BED SCENES, notes Busching]. And abundance of other questioning. She also recounted many fantastic anecdotes (VIEL ABENTEUERLICHES) about Count von Zinzendorf [Founder of HERNNHUTH, far-shining spiritual Paladin of that day, whom her Majesty thinks rather a spiritual Quixote]; and declared that they were strictly true." [Busching's Beitrage, iv. 27.]' Upon which, EXIT Henkel, borne by Busching, and our light is snuffed out.
This is one momentary glance I have met with of Queen Sophie in her Dowager state. The rest, though there were seventeen years of it in all, is silent to mankind and me; and only her death, and her Son's great grief about it, so great as to be surprising, is mentioned in the Books.
Actual painful sorrow about his Father, much more any new outburst of weeping and lamenting, is not on record, after that first morning. Time does its work; and in such a whirl of occupations, sooner than elsewhere: and the loved Dead lie silent in their mausoleum in our hearts,—serenely sad as Eternity, not in loud sorrow as of Time. Friedrich was pious as a Son, however he might be on other heads. To the last years of his life, as from the first days of his reign, it was evident in what honor he held Friedrich Wilhelm's memory; and the words "my Father," when they turned up in discourse, had in that fine voice of his a tone which the observers noted. "To his Mother he failed no day, when in Berlin, however busy, to make his visit; and he never spoke to her, except hat in hand."
With his own Queen, Friedrich still consorts a good deal, in these first times; is with her at Charlottenburg, Berlin, Potsdam, Reinsberg, for a day or two, as occasion gives; sometimes at Reinsberg for weeks running, in the intervals of war and business: glad to be at rest amid his old pursuits, by the side of a kind innocent being familiar to him. So it lasts for a length of time. But these happy intervals, we can remark, grow rarer: whether the Lady's humor, as they became rarer, might not sink withal, and produce an acceleration in the rate of decline? She was thought to be capable of "pouting (FAIRE LA FACHEE)," at one period! We are left to our guesses; there is not anywhere the smallest whisper to guide us. Deep silence reigns in all Prussian Books.—To feel or to suspect yourself neglected, and to become MORE amiable thereupon (in which course alone lies hope), is difficult for any Queen! Enough, we can observe these meetings, within two or three years, have become much rarer; and perhaps about the end of the third or fourth year, they altogether cease; and pass merely into the formal character. In which state they continued fixed, liable to no uncertainty; and were transacted, to the end of Friedrich's life, with inflexible regularity as the annual reviews were. This is a curious section of his life; which there will be other opportunities of noticing. But there is yet no thought of it anywhere, nor for years to come; though fables to the contrary were once current in Books. [Laveaux, &c.]
In the old mode of Administration, in the Ministries, Government Boards, he made no change. These administrative methods of his wise Father's are admirable to Friedrich, who knows them well; and they continue to be so. These men of his Father's, them also Friedrich knows, and that they were well chosen. In methods or in men, he is inclined to make the minimum of alteration at present. One Finance Hofrath of a projecting turn, named Eckart, who had abused the last weak years of Friedrich Wilhelm, and much afflicted mankind by the favor he was in: this Eckart Friedrich appointed a commission to inquire into; found the public right in regard to Eckart, and dismissed him with ignominy, not with much other punishment. Minister Boden, on the contrary, high in the Finance Department, who had also been much grumbled at, Friedrich found to be a good man: and Friedrich not only retained Boden, but advanced him; and continued to make more and more use of him in time coming. His love of perfection in work done, his care of thrift, seemed almost greater than his late Father's had been,—to the disappointment of many. In the other Departments, Podewils, Thulmeyer and the rest went on as heretofore;—only in general with less to do, the young King doing more himself than had been usual. Valori, "MON GROS VALORI (my fat Valori)," French Minister here, whom we shall know better, writes home of the new King of Prussia: "He begins his government, as by all appearance he will carry it on, in a highly satisfactory way: everywhere traits of benevolence, sympathy for his subjects, respect shown to the memory of the Deceased," [Memoires des Negociations du Marquis de Valori (a Paris, 1820), i. 20 ("June 13th, 1740"). A valuable Book, which we shall often have to quote: edited in a lamentably ignorant manner.]—no change made, where it evidently is not for the better.
Friedrich's "Three principal Secretaries of State," as we should designate them, are very remarkable. Three Clerks he found, or had known of, somewhere in the Public Offices; and now took, under some advanced title, to be specially his own Private Clerks: three vigorous long-headed young fellows, "Eichel, Schuhmacher, Lautensack" the obscure names of them; [Rodenbeck, 15th June, 1740.] out of whom, now and all along henceforth, he got immensities of work in that kind. They lasted all his life; and, of course, grew ever more expert at their function. Close, silent; exact as machinery: ever ready, from the smallest clear hint, marginal pencil-mark, almost from a glance of the eye, to clothe the Royal Will in official form, with the due rugged clearness and thrift of words. "Came punctually at four in the morning in summer, five in winter;" did daily the day's work; and kept their mouths well shut. A very notable Trio of men; serving his Majesty and the Prussian Nation as Principal Secretaries of State, on those cheap terms;—nay almost as Houses of Parliament with Standing Committees and appendages, so many Acts of Parliament admittedly rather wise, being passed daily by his Majesty's help and theirs!—Friedrich paid them rather well; they saw no society; lived wholly to their work, and to their own families. Eichel alone of the three was mentioned at all by mankind, and that obscurely; an "abstruse, reserved, long-headed kind of man;" and "made a great deal of money in the end," insinuates Busching, [Beitrage, v. 238, &c.] no friend of Friedrich's or his.
In superficial respects, again, Friedrich finds that the Prussian King ought to have a King's Establishment, and maintain a decent splendor among his neighbors,—as is not quite the case at present. In this respect he does make changes. A certain quantity of new Pages, new Goldsticks; some considerable, not too considerable, new furbishing of the Royal Household,—as it were, a fair coat of new paint, with gilding not profuse,—brought it to the right pitch for this King, About "a hundred and fifty" new figures of the Page and Goldstick kind, is the reckoning given. [Helden Geschichte, i. 353.] So many of these; and there is an increase of 16,000 to one's Army going on: that is the proportion noticeable. In the facts as his Father left them Friedrich persisted all his life; in the semblances or outer vestures he changed, to this extent for the present.—These are the Phenomena of Friedrich's Accession, noted by us.
Readers see there is radiance enough, perhaps slightly in excess, but of intrinsically good quality, in the Aurora of this new Reign. A brilliant valiant young King; much splendor of what we could call a golden or soft nature (visible in those "New-Era" doings of his, in those strong affections to his Friends); and also, what we like almost better in him, something of a STEEL-BRIGHT or stellar splendor (meaning, clearness of eyesight, intrepidity, severe loyalty to fact),—which is a fine addition to the softer element, and will keep IT and its philanthropies and magnanimities well under rule. Such a man is rare in this world; how extremely rare such a man born King! He is swift and he is persistent; sharply discerning, fearless to resolve and perform; carries his great endowments lightly, as if they were not heavy to him. He has known hard misery, been taught by stripes; a light stoicism sits gracefully on him.
"What he will grow to?" Probably to something considerable. Very certainly to something far short of his aspirations; far different from his own hopes; and the world's concerning him. It is not we, it is Father Time that does the controlling and fulfilling of our hopes; and strange work he makes of them and us. For example, has not Friedrich's grand "New Era," inaugurated by him in a week, with the leading spirits all adoring, issued since in French Revolution and a "world well suicided,"—the leading spirits much thrown out in consequence! New Era has gone to great lengths since Friedrich's time; and the leading spirits do not now adore it, but yawn over it, or worse! Which changes to us the then aspect of Friedrich, and his epoch and his aspirations, a good deal.—On the whole, Friedrich will go his way, Time and the leading spirits going theirs; and, like the rest of us, will grow to what he can. His actual size is not great among the Kingdoms: his outward resources are rather to be called small. The Prussian Dominion at that date is, in extent, about four-fifths of an England Proper, and perhaps not one-fifth so fertile: subject Population is well under Two Millions and a Half; Revenue not much above One Million Sterling,' [The exact statistic cipher is, at Friedrich's Accession: PRUSSIAN TERRITORIES, 2,275 square miles German (56,875 English); POPULATION, 2,240,000; ANNUAL REVENUE, 7,371,707 thalers 7 groschen (1,105,756 pounds without the pence). See Prenss, Buch fur Jedermann, i. 49; Stenzel, iii. 692; &c.]—very small, were not thrift such a VECTIGAL.
This young King is magnanimous; not much to be called ambitious, or not in the vulgar sense almost at all,—strange as it may sound to readers. His hopes at this time are many;—and among them, I perceive, there is not wanting secretly, in spite of his experiences, some hope that he himself may be a good deal "happier" than formerly. Nor is there any ascetic humor, on his part, to forbid trial. He is much determined to try. Probably enough, as we guess and gather, his agreeablest anticipations, at this time, were of Reinsberg: How, in the intervals of work well done, he would live there wholly to the Muses; have his chosen spirits round him, his colloquies, his suppers of the gods. Why not? There might be a King of Intellects conceivable withal; protecting, cherishing, practically guiding the chosen Illuminative Souls of this world. A new Charlemagne, the smallest new Charlemagne of Spiritual type, with HIS Paladins round him; how glorious, how salutary in the dim generations now going!—These too were hopes which proved signally futile. Rigorous Time could not grant these at all;—granted, in his own hard way, other things instead. But, all along, the Life-element, the Epoch, though Friedrich took it kindly and never complained, was ungenial to such a man.
"Somewhat of a rotten Epoch, this into which Friedrich has been born, to shape himself and his activities royal and other!"—exclaims Smelfungus once: "In an older earnest Time, when the eternally awful meanings of this Universe had not yet sunk into dubieties to any one, much less into levities or into mendacities, into huge hypocrisies carefully regulated,—so luminous, vivid and ingenuous a young creature had not wanted divine manna in his Pilgrimage through Life. Nor, in that case, had he come out of it in so lean a condition. But the highest man of us is born brother to his Contemporaries; struggle as he may, there is no escaping the family likeness. By spasmodic indignant contradiction of them, by stupid compliance with them,—you will inversely resemble, if you do not directly; like the starling, you can't get out!—Most surely, if there do fall manna from Heaven, in the given Generation, and nourish in us reverence and genial nobleness day by day, it is blessed and well. Failing that, in regard to our poor spiritual interests, there is sure to be one of two results: mockery, contempt, disbelief, what we may call SHORT-DIET to the length of very famine (which was Friedrich's case); or else slow-poison, carefully elaborated and provided by way of daily nourishment.
"Unhappy souls, these same! The slow-poison has gone deep into them. Instead of manna, this long while back, they have been living on mouldy corrupt meats sweetened by sugar-of-lead; or perhaps, like Voltaire, a few individuals prefer hunger, as the cleaner alternative; and in contemptuous, barren, mocking humor, not yet got the length of geniality or indignation, snuff the east-wind by way of spiritual diet. Pilgriming along on such nourishment, the best human soul fails to become very ruddy!—Tidings about Heaven are fallen so uncertain, but the Earth and her joys are still Interesting: 'Take to the Earth and her joys;—let your soul go out, since it must; let your five senses and their appetites be well alive.' That is a dreadful 'Sham-Christian Dispensation' to be born under! You wonder at the want of heroism in the Eighteenth Century. Wonder rather at the degree of heroism it had; wonder how many souls there still are to be met with in it of some effective capability, though dieting in that way,—nothing else to be had in the shops about. Carterets, Belleisles, Friedrichs, Voltaires; Chathams, Franklins, Choiseuls: there is an effective stroke of work, a fine fire of heroic pride, in this man and the other; not yet extinguished by spiritual famine or slow-poison; so robust is Nature the mighty Mother!—
"But in general, that sad Gospel, 'Souls extinct, Stomachs well alive!' is the credible one, not articulately preached, but practically believed by the abject generations, and acted on as it never was before. What immense sensualities there were, is known; and also (as some small offset, though that has not yet begun in 1740) what immense quantities of Physical Labor and contrivance were got out of mankind, in that Epoch and down to this day. As if, having lost its Heaven, it had struck desperately down into the Earth; as if it were a BEAVER-kind, and not a mankind any more. We had once a Barbaossa; and a world all grandly true. But from that to Karl VI., and HIS Holy Romish Reich in such a state of 'Holiness'—!" I here cut short my abstruse Friend.
Readers are impatient to have done with these miscellaneous preludings, and to be once definitely under way, such a Journey lying ahead. Yes, readers; a Journey indeed! And, at this point, permit me to warn you that, where the ground, where Dryasdust and the Destinies, yield anything humanly illustrative of Friedrich and his Work, one will have to linger, and carefully gather it, even as here. Large tracts occur, bestrewn with mere pedantisms, diplomatic cobwebberies, learned marine-stores, and inhuman matter, over which we shall have to skip empty-handed: this also was among the sad conditions of our Enterprise, that it has to go now too slow and again too fast; not in proportion to natural importance of objects, but to several inferior considerations withal. So busy has perverse Destiny been on it; perverse Destiny, edacious Chance;—and the Dryasdusts, too, and Nightmares, in Prussia as elsewhere, we know how strong they are!
Friedrich's character in old age has doubtless its curious affinities, its disguised identities, with these prognostic features and indications of his youth: and to our readers,—if we do ever get them to the goal, of seeing Friedrich a little with their own eyes and judgments,—there may be pleasant contrasts and comparisons of that kind in store, one day. But the far commoner experience (which also has been my own),—here is Smelfungus's stern account of that:—
"My friend, you will be luckier than I, if, after ten years, not to say, in a sense, twenty years, thirty years, of reading and rummaging in those sad Prussian Books, ancient and new (which often are laudably authentic, too, and exact as to details), you can gather any character whatever of Friedrich, in any period of his life, or conceive him as a Human Entity at all! It is strange, after such thousand-fold writing, but it is true, his History is considerably unintelligible to mankind at this hour; left chaotic, enigmatic, in a good many points,—the military part of it alone being brought to clearness, and rendered fairly conceivable and credible to those who will study. And as to the Man himself, or what his real Physiognomy can have been—! Well, it must be owned few men were of such RAPIDITY of face and aspect; so difficult to seize the features of. In his action, too, there was such rapidity, such secrecy, suddenness: a man that could not be read, even by the candid, except as in flashes of lightning. And then the anger of by-standers, uncandid, who got hurt by him; the hasty malevolences, the stupidities, the opacities: enough, in modern times, what is saying much, perhaps no man's motives, intentions, and procedure have been more belied, misunderstood, misrepresented, during his life. Nor, I think, since that, have many men fared worse, by the Limner or Biographic class, the favorable to him and the unfavorable; or been so smeared of and blotched of, and reduced to a mere blur and dazzlement of cross-lights, incoherences, incredibilities, in which nothing, not so much as a human nose, is clearly discernible by way of feature!"—Courage, reader, nevertheless; on the above terms let us march according to promise.
Young Friedrich, as his Father had done, considers it unnecessary to be crowned. Old Friedrich, first of the name, and of the King series, we did see crowned, with a pinch of snuff tempering the solemnities. That Coronation once well done suffices all his descendants hitherto. Such an expense of money,—of diluted mendacity too! Such haranguing, gesturing, symbolic fugling, all grown half false:—avoid lying, even with your eyes, or knees, or the coat upon your back, so far as you easily can!
Nothing of Coronation: but it is thought needful to have the HULDIGUNGEN (Homagings) done, the Fealties sworn; and the young Majesty in due course goes about, or gives directions, now here now there, in his various Provinces, getting that accomplished. But even in that, Friedrich is by no means strait-laced or punctilious; does it commonly by Deputy: only in three places, Konigsberg, Berlin, Cleve, does he appear in person. Mainly by deputy; and always with the minimum of fuss, and no haranguing that could be avoided. Nowhere are the old STANDE (Provincial Parliaments) assembled, now or afterwards: sufficient for this and for every occasion are the "Permanent Committees of the STANDE;" nor is much speaking, unessential for despatch of business, used to these.
"STANDE—of Ritterschaft mainly, of Gentry small and great—existed once in all those Countries, as elsewhere," says one Historian; "and some of them, in Preussen, for example, used to be rather loud, and inclined to turbulence, till the curb, from a judicious bridle-hand, would admonish them. But, for a long while past,—especially since the Great Elector's time, who got an 'Excise Law' passed, or the foundations of a good Excise Law laid; [Preuss, iv. 432; and Thronbesteigung, pp. 379-383.] and, what with Excise, what with Domain-Farms, had a fixed Annual Budget, which he reckoned fair to both parties,—they have been dying out for want of work; and, under Friedrich Wilhelm, may be said to have gone quite dead. What work was left for them? Prussian Budget is fixed, many things are fixed: why talk of them farther? The Prussian King, nothing of a fool like certain others,"—which indeed is the cardinal point, though my Author does not say so,—"is respectfully aware of the facts round him; and can listen to the rumors too, so far as he finds good. The King sees himself terribly interested to get into the right course in all things, and avoid the wrong one! Probably he does, in his way, seek 'wise Advice concerning the arduous matters of the Kingdom;' nay I believe he is diligent to have it of the wisest:—who knows if STANDE would always give it wiser; especially STANDE in the haranguing condition?"—Enough, they are not applied to. There is no Freedom in that Country. "No Freedom to speak of," continues he: "but I do a little envy them their Fixed Budget, and some other things. What pleasure there can be in having your household arrangements tumbled into disorder every new Year, by a new-contrived scale of expenses for you, I never could ascertain!"—
Friedrich is not the man to awaken Parliamentary sleeping-dogs well settled by his Ancestors. Once or twice, out of Preussen, in Friedrich Wilhelm's time, there was heard some whimper, which sounded like the beginning of a bark. But Friedrich Wilhelm was on the alert for it: Are you coming in with your NIE POZWALAM (your LIBERUM VETO), then? None of your Polish vagaries here. "TOUT LE PAYS SERA RUINE (the whole Country will be ruined)," say you? (Such had been the poor Marshal or Provincial SPEAKER'S Remonstrance on one occasion): "I don't believe a word of that. But I do believe the Government by JUNKERS [Country Squires] and NIE POZWALAM will be ruined,"—as it is fully meant to be! "I am establishing the King's Sovereignty like a rock of bronze (ICH STABILIRE DIE SOUVERAINETAT WIE EINEN ROCHER VON BRONZE)," some extremely strong kind of rock! [Forster, b. iii. (Urkundenbuch, i. 50); Preuss, iv. 420 n. "NIE POZWALAM" (the formula of LIBERUM VETO) signifies "I Don't Permit!"] This was one of Friedrich Wilhelm's marginalia in response to such a thing; and the mutinous whimper died out again. Parliamentary Assemblages are sometimes Collective Wisdoms, but by no means always so. In Magdeburg we remember what trouble Friedrich Wilhelm had with his unreasonable Ritters. Ritters there, in their assembled capacity, had the Reich behind them, and could not be dealt with like Preussen: but Friedrich Wilhelm, by wise slow methods, managed Magdeburg too, and reduced it to silence, or to words necessary for despatch of business.
In each Province, a Permanent Committee—chosen, I suppose, by King and Knights assenting; chosen I know not how, but admitted to be wisely chosen—represents the once Parliament or STANDE; and has its potency for doing good service in regard to all Provincial matters, from roads and bridges upwards, and is impotent to do the least harm. Roads and bridges, Church matters, repartition of the Land-dues, Army matters,—in fact they are an effective non-haranguing Parliament, to the King's Deputy in every such Province; well calculated to illuminate and forward his subaltern AMTmen and him. Nay, we observe it is oftenest in the way of gifts and solacements that the King articulately communicates with these Committees or their Ritterschafts. Projects for Draining of Bogs, for improved Highways, for better Husbandry; loans granted them, Loan-Banks established for the Province's behoof:—no need of parliamentary eloquence on such occasions, but of something far different.
It is from this quiescent, or busy but noiseless kind of STANDE and Populations that Friedrich has his HULDIGUNG to take;—and the operation, whether done personally or by deputy, must be an abundantly simple one. He, for his part, is fortunate enough to find everywhere the Sovereignty ESTABLISHED; "rock of bronze" not the least shaken in his time. He will graciously undertake, by Written Act, which is read before the STANDE, King or King's Deputy witnessing there, "To maintain the privileges" of his STANDE and Populations; the STANDE answer, on oath, with lifted hand, and express invocation of Heaven, That they will obey him as true subjects; And so—doubtless with something of dining superadded, but no whisper of it put on record—the HULDIGUNG will everywhere very quietly transact itself.
The HULDIGUNG itself is nothing to us, even with Friedrich there,—as at Konigsberg, Berlin, Cleve, the three exceptional places. To which, nevertheless, let us briefly attend him, for the sake of here and there some direct glimpse we may get of the then Friedrich's actual physiognomy and ways. Other direct view, or the chance of such, is not conceded us out of those sad Prussian Books; which are very full on this of the HULDIGUNG, if silent on so many other points. [Preuss, Thronbesteigung, p. 382.]
To Konigsberg is his first excursion on this errand. Preussen has perhaps, or may be suspected of having, some remnants of sour humors left in it, and remembrances of STANDE with haranguings and even mutinies: there if anywhere the King in person may do good on such an occasion, He left Berlin, July 7th, bound thitherward; here is Note of that first Royal Tour,—specimen of several hundreds such, which he had to do in the course of the next forty-five years.
"Friend Algarotti, charming talker, attended him; who else, official and non-official, ask not. The Journey is to be circuitous; to combine various businesses, and also to have its amusements. They went by Custrin; glancing at old known Country, which is at its greenest in this season. By Custrin, across the Neumark, into Pommern; after that by an intricate winding route; reviewing regiments, inspecting garrisons, now here now there; doing all manner of inspections; talking I know not what; oftenest lodging with favored Generals, if it suited. Distance to Konigsberg, by the direct road, is about 500 miles; by this winding one, it must have been 800: Journey thither took nine days in all. Obliquely through Pommern, almost to the coast of the Baltic; their ultimatum there a place called Coslin, where they reviewed with strictness,—omitting Colberg, a small Sea-Fortress not far rearward, time being short. Thence into West-Preussen, into Polish Territory, and swiftly across that; keeping Dantzig and its noises wide enough to the left: one night in Poland; and the next they are in Ost-Preussen, place called Liebstadt,—again on home-ground, and diligently reviewing there.
"The review at Liebstadt is remarkable in this, That the regiments, one regiment especially, not being what was fit, a certain Grenadier-Captain got cashiered on the spot; and the old Commandant himself was soon after pensioned, and more gently sent his ways. So strict is his Majesty. Contrariwise, he found Lieutenant-General von Katte's Garrison, at Angerburg, next day, in a very high perfection; and Colonel Posadowsky's regiment specially so; with which latter gentleman he lodged that night, and made him farther happy by the ORDER OF MERIT: Colonel Posadowsky, Garrison of Angerburg, far off in East-Preussen, Chevalier of the Order of Merit henceforth, if we ever meet him again. To the good old Lieutenant-General von Katte, who no doubt dined with them, his Majesty handed, on the same occasion, a Patent of Feldmarschall;—intends soon to make him Graf; and did it, as readers know. Both Colonel and General attended him thenceforth, still by a circuitous route, to Konigsberg, to assist in the solemnities there. By Gumbinnen, by Trakehnen,—the Stud of Trakehnen: that also his Majesty saw, and made review of; not without emotion, we can fancy, as the sleek colts were trotted out on those new terms! At Trakehnen, Katte and the Colonel would be his Majesty's guests, for the night they stayed. This is their extreme point eastward; Konigsberg now lies a good way west of them. But at Trakehnen they turn; and, Saturday, 16th July, 1740, after another hundred miles or so, along the pleasant valley of the Pregel, get to Konigsberg: ready to begin business on Monday morning,—on Sunday if necessary." [From Preuss, Thronbesteigung, pp. 382, 385; Rodenbeck, p. 16; &c.]
On Sunday there did a kind of memorability occur: The HULDIGUNGS-PREDIGT (Homage Sermon)—by a reverend Herr Quandt, chief Preacher there. Which would not be worth mentioning, except for this circumstance, that his Majesty exceedingly admired Quandt, and thought him a most Demosthenic genius, and the best of all the Germans. Quandt's text was in these words: "Thine are we, David, and on thy side, thou Son of Jesse; Peace, peace be unto thee, and peace be to thine helpers; for thy God helpeth thee." [First Chronicles, xii. 18.] Quandt began, in a sonorous voice, raising his face with respectful enthusiasm to the King, "Thine are we, O Friedrich, and on thy side, thou Son of Friedrich Wilhelm;" and so went on: sermon brief, sonorous, compact, and sticking close to its text. Friedrich stood immovable, gazing on the eloquent Demosthenic Quandt, with admiration heightened by surprise;—wrote of Quandt to Voltaire; and, with sustained enthusiasm, to the Public long afterwards; and to the end of his days was wont to make Quandt an exception, if perhaps almost the only one, from German barbarism, and disharmony of mind and tongue. So that poor Quandt cannot ever since get entirely forgotten, but needs always to be raked up again, for this reason when others have ceased: an almost melancholy adventure for poor Quandt and Another!—
The HULDIGUNG was rather grand; Harangue and Counter-harangue permitted to the due length, and proper festivities following: but the STANDE could not manage to get into vocal covenanting or deliberating at all; Friedrich before leaving Berlin had answered their hint or request that way, in these words: "We are likewise graciously inclined to give to the said STANDE, before their Homaging, the same assurance which they got from our Herr Father's Majesty, who is now with God,"—general assurance that their, and everybody's, "Rights shall be maintained [as we see they are],—with which, it is hoped (HOFFENTLICH), they will be content, and get to peace upon this matter (SICH DABEI BERUHIGEN WERDEN)." [Preuss, Thronbesteigung, p. 380.] It will be best for them!
Friedrich gave away much corn here; that is, opened his Corn-Granaries, on charitable terms, and took all manner of measures, here as in other places, for relief of the scarcity there was. Of the illuminations, never so grand, the reader shall hear nothing. A "Torch-Procession of the Students" turned out a pretty thing:—Students marching with torches, with fine wind-music, regulated enthusiasm, fine succinct address to his Majesty; and all the world escorting, with its "Live Forever!" Friedrich gave the Students "a TRINK-GELAG (Banquet of Liquors)," how arranged I do not know: and to the Speaker of the Address, a likely young gentleman with VON to his name, he offered an Ensigncy of Foot ("in Camas's Fusileer Regiment,"—Camas now gone to Paris, embassying), which was joyfully accepted. Joyfully accepted;—and it turned out well for all parties; the young gentleman having risen, where merit was the rule of rising, and become Graf and Lieutenant-General, in the course of the next fifty years. [Preuss, Thronbesteigung, p. 387.]
Huldigung and Torch-Procession over, the Royal Party dashed rapidly off, next morning (21st July), homewards by the shortest route; and, in three days more, by Frankfurt-on-Oder (where a glimpse of General Schwerin, a favorite General, was to be had), were safe in Berlin; received with acclamation, nay with "blessings and even tears" some say, after this pleasant Fortnight's Tour. General Schwerin, it is rumored, will be made Feldmarschall straightway, the Munchows are getting so promoted as we said; edicts are coming out, much business speeding forward, and the tongues of men keep wagging.
Berlin HULDIGUNG—and indeed, by Deputy, that of nearly all the other Towns—was on Tuesday, August 2d. At Berlin his Majesty was present in the matter: but, except the gazing multitudes, and hussar regiments, ranked in the Schloss-Platz and streets adjoining, there was little of notable in it; the upholstery arrangements thrifty in the extreme. His Majesty is prone to thrift in this of the Huldigung, as would appear; perhaps regarding the affair as scenic merely. Here, besides this of Berlin, is another instance just occurring. It appears, the Quedlinburg people, shut out from the light of the actual Royal Countenance, cannot do their Homaging by Deputy, without at least a Portrait of the King and of the Queen: How manage? asks the Official Person. "Have a Couple of Daubs done in Berlin, three guineas apiece; send them these," answers the King! ["On doit faire barbouiller de mauvaises copies a Berlin, la piece a 20 ecus.—FR." Preuss, ii. (Urkundenbuch, s. 222).]
Here in the Berlin Schloss, scene the Large Hall within doors, there is a "platform raised three steps; and on this, by way of a kind of throne, an arm-chair covered with old black velvet;" the whole surmounted by a canopy also of old black velvet: not a sublime piece of upholstery; but reckoned adequate. Friedrich mounted the three steps; stood before the old chair, his Princes standing promiscuously behind it; his Ritters in quantity, in front and to right and left, on the floor. Some Minister of the Interior explains suitably, not at too great length, what they are met for; some junior Official, junior but of quality, responded briefly, for himself and his order, to the effect, "Yea, truly:" the HULDIGUNGENS-URKUNDE (Deed of Homage) was then read by the proper Clerk, and the Ritters all swore; audibly, with lifted hands. This is the Ritter Huldigung.
His Majesty then steps out to the Balcony, for Oath and Homage of the general Population. General population gave its oath, and "three great shouts over and above." "ES LEBE DER KONIG!" thrice, with all their throats. Upon which a shower of Medals, "Homage-Medals," gold and silver (quantity not mentioned) rained down upon them, in due succession; and were scrambled for, in the usual way. "His Majesty," they write, and this is perhaps the one point worth notice, "his Majesty, contrary to custom and to etiquette, remained on the Balcony, some time after the ceremony, perhaps a full half-hour;"—silent there, "with his look fixed attentively on the immeasurable multitude before the Schloss; and seemed sunk in deep reflection (BETRACHTUNG):"—an almost awfully eloquent though inarticulate phenomenon to his Majesty, that of those multitudes scrambling and huzzaing there! [Preuss, Thronbesteigung, p. 389.]
These, with the Cleve one, are all the Hornagings Friedrich was personally present at; the others he did by Deputy, all in one day (2d August); and without fuss. Scenic matters these; in which, except where he can, as in the Konigsberg case, combine inspections and grave businesses with them, he takes no interest. However, he is now, for the sake chiefly of inspections and other real objects, bent on a Journey to Cleve;—the fellow of that to Konigsberg: Konigsberg, Preussen, the easternmost outlying wing of his long straggling Dominions; and then Cleve-Julich, its counterpart on the southwestern side,—there also, with such contingencies hanging over Cleve-Julich, it were proper to make some mustering of the Frontier garrisons and affairs. [In regard to the Day of HULDIGUNG at Cleve, which happily is not of the least moment to us, Preuss (Thronbesteigung, p, 390) and Helden-Geschichte, (i. 423) seem to be in flat contradiction.] His Majesty so purposes: and we purpose again to accompany,—not for inspection and mustering, but for an unexpected reason. The grave Journey to Cleve has an appendage, or comic side-piece, hanging to it; more than one appendage; which the reader must not miss!—Before setting out, read these two Fractions, snatched from the Diplomatist Wastebag; looking well, we gain there some momentary view of Friedrich on the business side. Of Friedrich, and also of Another:—
Sunday, 14th August, 1740, Dickens, who has been reporting hitherto in a favorable, though in a languid exoteric manner, not being in any height of favor, England or he,—had express Audience of his Majesty; being summoned out to Potsdam for that end: "Sunday evening, about 7 P.M."—Majesty intending to be off on the Cleve Journey to-morrow. Let us accompany Dickens. Readers may remember, George II. has been at Hanover for some weeks past; Bielfeld diligently grinning euphemisms and courtly graciosities to him; Truchsess hinting, on opportunity, that there are perhaps weighty businesses in the rear; which, however, on the Britannic side, seem loath to start. Britannic Majesty is much at a loss about his Spanish War, so dangerous for kindling France and the whole world upon him. In regard to which Prussia might be so important, for or against.—This, in compressed form, is what Dickens witnesses at Potsdam that Sunday evening from 7 P.M.:—
"Audience lasted above an hour: King turned directly upon business; wishes to have 'Categorical Answers' as to Three Points already submitted to his Britannic Majesty's consideration. Clear footing indispensable between us. What you want of me? say it, and be plain. What I want of you is, These three things:—
"1. Guarantee for Julich and Berg. All the world knows WHOSE these Duchies are. Will his Britannic Majesty guarantee me there? And if so, How, and to what lengths, will he proceed about it?
"2. Settlement about Ost-Friesland. Expectancy of Ost-Friesland soon to fall heirless, which was granted me long since, though Hanover makes hagglings, counter-claimings: I must have some Settlement about that.
"3. The like about those perplexities in Mecklenburg. No difficulty there if we try heartily, nor is there such pressing haste about it.
"These are my three claims on England; and I will try to serve England as far in return, if it will tell me how. 'Ah, beware of throwing yourself into the arms of France!' modestly suggests Dickens.—'Well, if France will guarantee me those Duchies, and you will not do anything?' answers his Majesty with a fine laugh: 'England I consider my most natural friend and ally; but I must know what there is to depend on there. Princes are ruled by their interest; cannot follow their feelings. Let me have an explicit answer; say, at Wesel, where I am to be on the 24th,'" ten days hence. Britannic Majesty is at Hanover, and can answer within that time. "This he twice told me, 'Wesel, 24th,' in the course of our interview. Permit me to recommend the matter to your Lordship,"—my Lord Harrington, now attending the Britannic Majesty.
"During the whole audience," adds Dickens, "the King was in extreme good humor; and not only heard with attention all the considerations I offered, but was not the least offended at any objections I made to what he said. It is undoubtedly the best way to behave with frankness to him." These last are Dickens's own words; let them modestly be a memorandum to your Lordship. This King goes himself direct to the point; and straightforwardness, as a primary condition, will profit your Lordship with him. [Dickens (in State-Paper Office, 17th August, 1740).]
Most true advice, this;—and would perhaps be followed, were it quite easy! But things are very complicated. And the Britannic Majesty, much plagued with Spanish War and Parliamentary noises in that unquiet Island, is doubtless glad to get away to Hanover for a little; and would fain be on holiday in these fine rural months. Which is not well possible either. Jenkins's Ear, rising at last like a fiery portent, has kindled the London Fog over yonder, in a strange way, and the murky stagnancy is all getting on fire; the English intent, as seldom any Nation was, to give the Spaniards an effectual beating. Which they hope they can,—though unexpected difficulties will occur. And, in the mean while, what a riddle of potentialities for his poor Majesty to read, and pick his way from!—
Bielfeld, in spite of all this, would fain be full of admiration for the Britannic Majesty. Confesses he is below the middle size, in fact a tiny little creature, but then his shape is perfect; leg much to be commended,—which his Majesty knows, standing always with one leg slightly advanced, and the Order of the Garter on it, that mankind may take notice. Here is Bielfeld's description faithfully abridged:—
"Big blue eyes, perhaps rather of parboiled character, though proud enough; eyes flush with his face or more, rather IN RELIEF than on a level with it,"—A FLEUR DE TETE, after the manner of a fish, if one might say so, and betokening such an intellect behind them! "Attitude constrained, leg advanced in that way; his courtiers call it majestic. Biggish mouth, strictly shut in the crescent or horse-shoe form (FERMEE EN CROISSANT); curly wig (A NOEUDS, reminding you of lamb's-wool, color not known); eyebrows, however, you can see are ashy-blond; general tint is fundamentally livid; but when in good case, the royal skin will take tolerably bright colors (PREND D'ASSEZ BELLES COULEURS). As to the royal mind and understanding, what shall Bielfeld say? That his Majesty sometimes makes ingenious and just remarks, and is laudably serious at all times, and can majestically hold his tongue, and stand with advanced leg, and eyes rather more than flush. Sense of his dignity is high, as it ought to be; on great occasions you see pride and a kind of joy mantling in the royal countenance. Has been known to make explosions, and to be very furious to Prince Fred and others, when pricked into:—but, my friend, what mortal is exempt from failings? Majesty reads the English Newspapers every morning in bed, which are often biting. Majesty has his Walmoden, a Hanoverian Improper Female, Countess of Yarmouth so called; quiet, autumnal, fair complexioned, stupid; who is much a comfort to him. She keeps out of mischief, political or other; and gives Bielfeld a gracious nod now and then." [Bielfeld, i. 158.] Harrington is here too;—and Britannic Majesty and he are busy governing the English Nation on these terms.—We return now to the Prussian Majesty.
About six weeks after that of Dickens,—Cleve Journey and much else now ended,—Praetorius the Danish Envoy, whom we slightly knew at Reinsberg once, gives this testimony; writing home to an Excellency at Copenhagen, whose name we need not inquire into:—
"To give your Excellency a just idea of the new Government here, I must observe that hitherto the King of Prussia does as it were everything himself; and that, excepting the Finance Minister von Boden, who preaches frugality, and finds for that doctrine uncommon acceptance, almost greater even than in the former reign, his Majesty allows no counselling from any Minister; so that Herr von Podewils, who is now the working hand in the department of Foreign Affairs, has nothing given him to do but to expedite the orders he receives from the Cabinet, his advice not being asked upon any matter; and so it is with the other Ministers. People thought the loss of Herr von Thulmeyer," veteran Foreign Minister whom we have transiently heard of in the Double-Marriage time, and perhaps have even seen at London or elsewhere, [Died 4th August (Rodenbeck, p. 20).] "would be irreparable; so expert was he, and a living archive in that business: however, his post seems to have vanished with himself. His salary is divided between Herr von Podewils," whom the reader will sometimes hear of again, "Kriegsrath (Councillor of War) von Ilgen," son of the old gentleman we used to know, "and Hofrath Sellentin who is RENDANT OF THE LEGATIONS-KASSE" (Ambassadors' Paymaster, we could guess, Ambassador Body having specialty of cash assigned it, comparable with the specialty of value received from it, in this strict frugal Country),—neither of which two latter names shall the reader be troubled with farther. "A good many resolutions, and responses by the King, I have seen: they combine laconic expression with an admirable business eye (GESCHAFTSBLICK). Unhappily,"—at least for us in the Diplomatic line, for your Excellency and me unhappily,—"there is nobody about the King who possesses his complete confidence, or whom we can make use of in regard to the necessary introductions and preliminary movements. Hereby it comes that,—as certain things can only be handled with cautious foresight and circumlocution, and in the way of beginning wide,—an Ambassador here is more thrown out of his course than in any other Court; and knows not, though his object were steadily in sight, what road to strike into for getting towards it." [Preuss, Thronbesteigung, p. 377 (2d October, 1740).]
King Friedrich did not quite keep his day at Wesel; indeed this 24th was not the first day, but the last of several, he had appointed to himself for finis to that Journey in the Cleve Countries; Journey rather complex to arrange. He has several businesses ahead in those parts; and, as usual, will group them with good judgment, and thrift of time. Not inspections merely, but amusements, meetings with friends, especially French friends: the question is, how to group them with skill, so that the necessary elements may converge at the right moment, and one shot kill three or four birds. This is Friedrich's fine way, perceptible in all these Journeys. The French friends, flying each on his own track, with his own load of impediments, Voltaire with his Madame for instance, are a difficult element in such problem; and there has been, and is, much scheming and corresponding about it, within the last month especially.
Voltaire is now at Brussels, with his Du Chatelet, prosecuting that endless "lawsuit with the House of Honsbruck,"—which he, and we, are both desirous to have done with. He is at the Hague, too, now and then; printing, about to print, the ANTI-MACHIAVEL; corresponding, to right and left, quarrelling with Van Duren the Printer; lives, while there, in the VIEILLE COUR, in the vast dusky rooms with faded gilding, and grand old Bookshelves "with the biggest spider-webs in Europe." Brussels is his place for Law-Consultations, general family residence; the Hague and that old spider-web Palace for correcting Proof-sheets; doing one's own private studies, which we never quite neglect. Fain would Friedrich see him, fain he Friedrich; but there is a divine Emilie, there is a Maupertuis, there are—In short, never were such difficulties, in the cooking of an egg with water boiling; and much vain correspondence has already been on that subject, as on others equally extinct. Correspondence which is not pleasant reading at this time; the rather as no reader can, without endless searching, even understand it. Correspondence left to us, not in the cosmic, elucidated or legible state; left mainly as the Editorial rubbish-wagons chose to shoot it; like a tumbled quarry, like the ruins of a sacked city;—avoidable by readers who are not forced into it! [Herr Preuss's edition (OEuvres de Frederic, vols. xxi. xxii. xxiii.) has come out since the above was written: it is agreeably exceptional; being, for the first time, correctly printed, and the editor himself having mostly understood it,—though the reader still cannot, on the terms there allowed.] Take the following select bricks as sample, which are of some use; the general Heading is,
KING FRIEDERIC TO M. DE VOLTAIRE (at the Hague, or at Brussels).
"CHARLOTTENBURG, 12th JUNE, 1740.—... My dear Voltaire, resist no longer the eagerness I have to see you. Do in my favor whatever your humanity allows. In the end of August, I go to Wesel, and perhaps farther. Promise that you will come and join me; for I could not live happy, nor die tranquil, without having embraced you! Thousand compliments to the Marquise," divine Emilie. "I am busy with both hands [Corn-Magazines, Free Press, Abolition of Torture, and much else]; working at the Army with the one hand, at the People and the Fine Arts with the other."
"BERLIN, 5th AUGUST, 1740.—... I will write to Madame du Chatelet, in compliance with your wish:" mark it, reader. "To speak to you frankly concerning her journey, it is Voltaire, it is you, it is my Friend that I desire to see; and the divine Emilie with all her divinity is only the Accessory of the Apollo Newtonized.
"I cannot yet say whether I shall travel [incognito into foreign parts a little] or not travel;" there have been rumors, perhaps private wishes; but—... "Adieu, dear friend; sublime spirit, first-born of thinking beings. Love me always sincerely, and be persuaded that none can love and esteem you more than I. VALE. FEDERIC."
"BERLIN, 6th AUGUST [which is next day].—You will have received a Letter from me dated yesterday; this is the second I write to you from Berlin; I refer you to what was in the other. If it must be (FAUT) that Emilie accompany Apollo, I consent; but if I could see you alone, that is what I would prefer. I should be too much dazzled; I could not stand so much splendor all at once; it would overpower me. I should need the veil of Moses to temper the united radiance of your two divinities."... In short, don't bring her, if you please.
"REMUSBERG [poetic for REINSBERG], 8th AUGUST, 1740.—... My dear Voltaire, I do believe Van Duren costs you more trouble and pains than you had with HENRI QUATRE. In versifying the Life of a Hero, you wrote the history of your own thoughts; but in coercing a scoundrel you fence with an enemy who is not worthy of you." To punish him, and cut short his profits, "PRINT, then, as you wish [your own edition of the ANTI-MACHIAVEL, to go along with his, and trip the feet from it]. FAITES ROULER LA PRESSE; erase, change, correct; do as you see best; your judgment about it shall be mine."—"In eight days I leave for [where thinks the reader? "DANTZIG" deliberately print all the Editors, careful Preuss among them; overturning the terrestrial azimuths for us, and making day night!]—for Leipzig, and reckon on being at Frankfurt on the 22d. In case you could be there, I expect, on my passage, to give you lodging! At Cleve or in Holland, I depend for certain on embracing you." [Preuss, OEuvres de Frederic, xx. pp. 5, 19-21; Voltaire, OEuvres, lxxii. 226, &c. (not worth citing, in comparison).]
Intrinsically the Friedrich correspondence at this time, with Voltaire especially, among many friends now on the wing towards Berlin and sending letters, has,—if you are forced into struggling for some understanding of it, and do get to read parts of it with the eyes of Friedrich and Voltaire,—has a certain amiability; and is nothing like so waste and dreary as it looks in the chaotic or sacked-city condition. Friedrich writes with brevity, oftenest on practicalities (the ANTI-MACHIAVEL, the coming Interview, and the like), evidently no time to spare; writes always with considerable sincerity; with friendliness, much admiration, and an ingenuous vivacity, to M. de Voltaire. Voltaire, at his leisure in Brussels or the Old Palace and its spider-webs, writes much more expansively; not with insincerity, he either;—with endless airy graciosities, and ingenious twirls, and touches of flattering unction, which latter, he is aware, must not be laid on too thick. As thus:—
In regard to the ANTI-MACHIAVEL,—Sire, deign to give me your permissions as to the scoundrel of a Van Duren; well worth while, Sire,—"IT is a monument for the latest posterity; the only Book worthy of a King for these fifteen hundred years."
This is a strongish trowelful, thrown on direct, with adroitness; and even this has a kind of sincerity. Safer, however, to do it in the oblique or reflex way,—by Ambassador Cumas, for example:—
"I will tell you boldly, Sir [you M. de Camas], I put more value on this Book (ANTI-MACHIAVEL) than on the Emperor Julian's CAESAR, or on the MAXIMS of Marcus Aurelius,"—I do indeed, having a kind of property in it withal! [Voltaire, OEuvres, lxxii. 280 (to Camas, 18th October, 1740).]
In fact, Voltaire too is beautiful, in this part of the Correspondence; but much in a twitter,—the Queen of Sheba, not the sedate Solomon, in prospect of what is coming. He plumes himself a little, we perceive, to his d'Argentals and French Correspondents, on this sublime intercourse he has got into with a Crowned Head, the cynosure of mankind:—-Perhaps even you, my best friend, did not quite know me, and what merits I had! Plumes himself a little; but studies to be modest withal; has not much of the peacock, and of the turkey has nothing, to his old friends. All which is very naive and transparent; natural and even pretty, on the part of M. de Voltaire as the weaker vessel.—For the rest, it is certain Maupertuis is getting under way at Paris towards the Cleve rendezvous. Brussels, too, is so near these Cleve Countries; within two days' good driving:—if only the times and routes would rightly intersect?
Friedrich's intention is by no means for a straight journey towards Cleve: he intends for Baireuth first, then back from Baireuth to Cleve,—making a huge southward elbow on the map, with Baireuth for apex or turning-point:—in this manner he will make the times suit, and have a convergence at Cleve. To Baireuth;—who knows if not farther? All summer there has gone fitfully a rumor, that he wished to see France; perhaps Paris itself incognito? The rumor, which was heard even at Petersburg, [Raumer's Beitrage (English Translation, London, 1837), p. 15 (Finch's Despatch, 24th June, 1740).] is now sunk dead again; but privately, there is no doubt, a glimpse of the sublime French Nation would be welcome to Friedrich. He could never get to Travelling in his young time; missed his Grand Tour altogether, much as he wished it; and he is capable of pranks!—Enough, on Monday morning, 15th August, 1740, [Rodenbeck, p. 15, slightly in error: see Dickens's Interview, supra, p. 187.] Friedrich and Suite leave Potsdam; early enough; go, by Leipzig, by the route already known to readers, through Coburg and the Voigtland regions; Wilhelmina has got warning, sits eagerly expecting her Brother in the Hermitage at Baireuth, gladdest of shrill sisters; and full of anxieties how her Brother would now be. The travelling party consisted, besides the King, of seven persons: Prince August Wilhelm, King's next Brother, Heir-apparent if there come no children, now a brisk youth of eighteen; Leopold Prince of Anhalt-Dessau, Old Dessauer's eldest, what we may call the "Young Dessauer;" Colonel von Borck, whom we shall hear of again; Colonel von Stille, already heard of (grave men of fifty, these two); milk-beard Munchow, an Adjutant, youngest of the promoted Munchows; Algarotti, indispensable for talk; and Fredersdorf, the House-Steward and domestic Factotum, once Private in Schwerin's Regiment, whom Bielfeld so admired at Reinsberg, foreseeing what he would come to. One of Friedrich's late acts was to give Factotum Fredersdorf an Estate of Land (small enough, I fancy, but with country-house on it) for solace to the leisure of so useful a man,—studious of chemistry too, as I have heard. Seven in all, besides the King. [Rodenbeck, p. 19 (and for Chamberlain Fredersdorf's estate, p. 15).] Direct towards Baireuth, incognito, and at the top of their speed. Wednesday, 17th, they actually arrive. Poor Wilhelmina, she finds her Brother changed; become a King in fact, and sternly solitary; alone in soul, even as a King must be! [Wilhelmina, ii. 322, 323.]—
"Algarotti, one of the first BEAUX-ESPRITS of this age," as Wilhelmina defines him,—Friend Algarotti, the young Venetian gentleman of elegance, in dusky skin, in very white linen and frills, with his fervid black eyes, "does the expenses of the conversation." He is full of elegant logic, has speculations on the great world and the little, on Nature, Art, Papistry, Anti-Papistry, and takes up the Opera in an earnest manner, as capable of being a school of virtue and the moral sublime. His respectable Books on the Opera and other topics are now all forgotten, and crave not to be mentioned. To me he is not supremely beautiful, though much the gentleman in manners as in ruffles, and ingeniously logical:—rather yellow to me, in mind as in skin, and with a taint of obsolete Venetian Macassar. But to Friedrich he is thrice-dear; who loves the Sharp faceted cut of the man, and does not object to his yellow or Extinct-Macassar qualities of mind. Thanks to that wandering Baltimore for picking up such a jewel and carrying him Northward! Algarotti himself likes the North: here in our hardy climates,—especially at Berlin, and were his loved Friedrich NOT a King,—Algarotti could be very happy in the liberty allowed. At London, where there is no King, or none to speak of, and plenty of free Intelligences, Carterets, Lytteltons, young Pitts and the like, he is also well, were it not for the horrid smoke upon one's linen, and the little or no French of those proud Islanders.
Wilhelmina seems to like him here; is glad, at any rate, that he does the costs of conversation, better or worse. In the rest is no hope. Stille, Borck are accomplished military gentlemen; but of tacit nature, reflective, practical, rather than discursive, and do not waste themselves by incontinence of tongue. Stille, by his military Commentaries, which are still known to soldiers that read, maintains some lasting remembrance of himself: Borck we shall see engaged in a small bit of business before long. As to Munchow, the JEUNE MORVEUX of an Adjutant, he, though his manners are well enough, and he wears military plumes in his hat, is still an unfledged young creature, "bill still yellow," so to speak;—and marks himself chiefly by a visible hankering after that troublesome creature Marwitz, who is always coquetting. Friedrich's conversation, especially to me Wilhelmina, seems "GUINDE, set on stilts," likewise there are frequent cuts of banter in him; and it is painfully evident he distinguishes my Sister of Anspach and her foolish Husband, whom he has invited over hither in a most eager manner, beyond what a poor Wilhelmina with her old love can pretend to. Patience, my shrill Princess, Beauty of Baireuth and the world; let us hope all will come right again! My shrill Princess—who has a melodious strength like that of war-fifes, too—knows how to be patient; and veils many things, though of a highly unhypocritical nature.
These were Three great Days at Baireuth; Wilhelmina is to come soon, and return the visit at Berlin. To wait upon the King, known though incognito, "the Bishop of Bamberg" came driving over: [Helden-Geschichte, i. 419.] Schonborn, Austrian Kanzler, or who? His old City we once saw (and plenty of hanged malefactors swinging round it, during that JOURNEY TO THE REICH);—but the Bishop himself never to our knowledge, Bishop being absent then, I hope it is the same Bishop of Bamberg, whom a Friend of Busching's, touring there about that same time, saw dining in a very extraordinary manner, with medieval trumpeters, "with waiters in spurs and buff-belts;" [Busching's Beitrage;—Schlosser (History of the Eighteenth Century) also quotes the scene.] if it is not, I have not the slightest shadow of acquaintance with him,—there have been so many Bishops of Bamberg with whom one wishes to have none! On the third day Friedrich and his company went away, towards Wurzburg; and Wilhelmina was left alone with her reflections. "I had had so much to say to him; I had got nothing said at all:" alas, it is ever so. "The King was so changed, grown so much bigger (GRANDI), you could not have known him again;" stands finely erect and at full breadth, every inch a King; his very stature, you would say, increased.—Adieu, my Princess, pearl of Princesses; all readers will expect your return-visit at Berlin, which is to be soon.
Through Wurzburg, Frankfurt-on-Mayn, speeds Friedrich;—Wilhelmina and mankind understand that it is homewards and to Cleve; but at Frankfurt, in deepest privacy, there occurs a sudden whirl southward,—up the Rhine-Valley; direct towards Strasburg, for a sight of France in that quarter! So has Friedrich decided,—not quite suddenly, on new Letters here, or new computations about Cleve; but by forethought taken at Baireuth, as rather appears. From Frankfurt to Strasburg, say 150 miles; from Strasburg home, is not much farther than from Frankfurt home: it can be done, then; husht!
The incognito is to be rigorous: Friedrich becomes COMTE DUFOUR, a Prussian-French gentleman; Prince August Wilhelm is Graf von Schaffgotsch, Algarotti is Graf von Pfuhl, Germans these two; what Leopold, the Young Dessauer, called himself,—still less what the others, or whether the others were there at all, and not shoved on, direct towards Wesel, out of the way as is likelier,—can remain uncertain to readers and me. From Frankfurt, then, on Monday morning, 22d August, 1740, as I compute, through old known Philipsburg Campaign country, and the lines of Ettlingen and Stollhofen; there the Royal Party speeds eagerly (weather very bad, as appears): and it is certain they are at Kehl on Tuesday evening; looking across the long Rhine Bridge, Strasburg and its steeples now close at hand.
This looks to be a romantic fine passage in the History of the young King;—though in truth it is not, and proves but a feeble story either to him or us. Concerning which, however, the reader, especially if he should hear that there exists precise Account of it, Two Accounts indeed, one from the King's own hand, will not fail of a certain craving to become acquainted with details. This craving, foolish rather than wise, we consider it thriftiest to satisfy at once; and shall give the King's NARRATIVE entire, though it is a jingling lean scraggy Piece, partly rhyme, "in the manner of Bachaumont and La Chapelle;" written at the gallop, a few days hence, and despatched to Voltaire:—"You," dear Voltaire, "wish to know what I have been about, since leaving Berlin; annexed you will find a description of it," writes Friedrich. [OEuvres, xxii. 25 (Wesel, 2d Septemher, 1740).] Out of Voltaire's and other people's waste-baskets, it has at length been fished up, patch by patch, and pasted together by victorious modern Editors; and here it is again entire. The other Narrative, which got into the Newspapers soon after, is likewise of authentic nature,—Fassmann, our poor old friend, confirming it, if that were needful,—and is happily in prose. [Given in Helden-Geschichte, i. 420-423;—see likewise Fassmann's Merkwurdigster Regierungs-Antritt (poor old Book on FRIEDRICH'S ACCESSION); Preuss (Thronbesteigung, pp. 395-400); &c. &c.] Holding these two Pieces well together, and giving the King's faithfully translated, in a complete state, it will be possible to satisfy foolish cravings, and make this Strasburg Adventure luminous enough.
KING FRIEDRICH TO VOLTAIRE (from Wesel, 2d September, 1740), CHIEFLY IN DOGGEREL, CONCERNING THE RUN TO STRASBURG.
Part of it, incorrect, in Voltaire, OEuvres (scandalous Piece now called Memoires, once Vie Privee du Roi de Prusse), ii. 24-26; finally, in Preuss, OEuvres de Frederic, xiv. 156-161, the real and complete affair, as fished up by victorious Preuss and others.
"I have just finished a Journey, intermingled with singular adventures, sometimes pleasant, sometimes the reverse. You know I had set out for Baireuth,"—BRUXELLES the beautiful French Editor wrote, which makes Egyptian darkness of the Piece!—"to see a Sister whom I love no less than esteem. On the road [thither or thence; or likeliest, THERE], Algarotti and I consulted the map, to settle our route for returning by Wesel. Frankfurt-on-Mayn comes always as a principal stage;—Strasburg was no great roundabout: we chose that route in preference. The INCOGNITO was decided, names pitched upon [Comte Dufour, and the others]; story we were to tell: in fine, all was arranged and concerted to a nicety as well as possible. We fancied we should get to Strasburg in three days [from Baireuth].
But Heaven, which disposes of all things, Differently regulated this thing. With lank-sided coursers, Lineal descendants from Rosinante, With ploughmen in the dress of postilions, Blockheads of impertinent nature; Our carriages sticking fast a hundred times in the road, We went along with gravity at a leisurely pace, Knocking against the crags. The atmosphere in uproar with loud thunder, The rain-torrents streaming over the Earth Threatened mankind with the Day of Judgment [VERY BAD WEATHER], And in spite of our impatience, Four good days are, in penance, Lost forever in these jumblings. Mais le ciel, qui de tout dispose, Regla differemment la chose. Avec de coursiers efflanques, En ligne droites issus de Rosinante, Et des paysans en postillons masques, Dutors de race impertinente, Notre carrosse en cent lieux accroche, Nous allions gravement, d'une allure indolente, Gravitant contre les rochers. Les airs emus par le bruyant tonnerre, Les torrents d'eau repandus sur la terre, Du dernier jour menacaient les humains; Et malgre notre impatience, Quatre bons jours en penitence Sont pour jamais perdus dans les charrains.
"Had all our fatalities been limited to stoppages of speed on the journey, we should have taken patience; but, after frightful roads, we found lodgings still frightfuler.
For greedy landlords Seeing us pressed by hunger Did, in a more than frugal manner, In their infernal hovels, Poisoning instead of feeding, Steal from us our crowns. O age different [in good cheer] from that of Lucullus!
Car des hotes interesses, De la faim nous voyant presses, D'une facon plus que frugale, Dans une chaumiere infernale, En nous empoisonnant, Nous volaient nos ecus. O siecle different des temps de Lucullus!
"Frightful roads; short of victual, short of drink: nor was that all. We had to undergo a variety of accidents; and certainly our equipage must have had a singular air, for in every new place we came to, they took us for something different.
Some took us for Kings, Some for pickpockets well disguised; Others for old acquaintances. At times the people crowded out, Looked us in the eyes, Like clowns impertinently curious. Our lively Italian [Algarotti] swore; For myself I took patience; The young Count [my gay younger Brother, eighteen at present] quizzed and frolicked; The big Count [Heir-apparent of Dessau] silently swung his head, Wishing this fine Journey to France, In the bottom of his heart, most christianly at the Devil. Les uns nous prenaient pour des rois, D'autres pour des filous courtois, D'autrespour gens de connaissance; Parfois le peuple s'attroupait, Entre les yeux nous regardait En badauds curieux, remplis d'impertinence. Notre vif Italien jurait, Pour moi je prenais patience, Le jeune Comte folatrait, Le grand Comte se dandinait, Et ce beau vogage de France Dans le fond de son coeur chretiennement damnait.
"We failed not, however, to struggle gradually along; at last we arrived in that Stronghold, where [as preface to the War of 1734, known to some of us]—
Where the garrison, too supple, Surrendered so piteously After the first blurt of explosion From the cannon of the French. Ou a garrison, troupe flasque, Se rendit si piteusement Apres la premiere bourasque Du canon francais foudroyant.
You recognize Kehl in this description. It was in that fine Fortress,—where, by the way, the breaches are still lying unrepaired [Reich being a slow corpus in regard to such things],—that the Postmaster, a man of more foresight than we, asked If we had got passports?
No, said I to him; of passports We never had the whim. Strong ones I believe it would need To recall, to our side of the limit, Subjects of Pluto King of the Dead: But, from the Germanic Empire Into the gallant and cynical abode Of Messieurs your pretty Frenchmen,—A jolly and beaming air, Rubicund faces, not ignorant of wine, These are the passports which, legible if you look on us, Our troop produces to you for that end. Non, lui dis-je, des passe-ports Nous n'eumes jamais la folie. Il en faudrait, je crois, de forts Pour ressusciter a la vie De chez Pluton le roi des morts; Mais de l'empire germanique Au sejour galant et cynique De Messieurs vos jolis Francais, Un air rebondissant et frais, Une face rouge et bachique, Sont les passe-ports qu'en nos traits Vous produit ici notre clique.
"No, Messieurs, said the provident Master of Passports; no salvation without passport. Seeing then that Necessity had got us in the dilemma of either manufacturing passports ourselves or not entering Strasburg, we took the former branch of the alternative and manufactured one;—in which feat, the Prussian arms, which I had on my seal, were marvellously furthersome."
This is a fact, as the old Newspapers and confirmatory Fassmann more directly apprise us. "The Landlord [or Postmaster] at Kehl, having signified that there was no crossing without Passport," Friedrich, at first, somewhat taken aback, bethought him of his watch-seal with the Royal Arms on it; and soon manufactured the necessary Passport, signeted in due form;—which, however, gave a suspicion to the Innkeeper as to the quality of his Guest. After which, Tuesday evening, 23d August, "they at once got across to Strasburg," says my Newspaper Friend, "and put up at the SIGN OF THE RAVEN, there." Or in Friedrich's own jingle:—
"We arrived at Strasburg; and the Custom-house corsair, with his inspectors, seemed content with our evidences.
These scoundrels spied us, With one eye reading our passport, With the other ogling our purse. Gold, which was always a resource, Which brought, Jove to the enjoyment Of Danae whom he caressed; Gold, by which Caesar governed The world happy under his sway; Gold, more a divinity than Mars or Love; Wonder-working Gold introduced us That evening, within the walls of Strasburg."
[Given thus far, with several slight errors, in Voltaire, ii. 24-26;—the remainder, long unknown, had to be fished up, patch by patch (Preuss, OEuvres de Frederic, xiv. 159-161).]
Ces scelerats nous epiaient, D'un oeil le passe-port lisaient, De l'autre lorgnaient notre bourse. L'or, qui toujours fut de ressource, Par lequel Jupin jouissait De Danae, qu'il caressait; L'or, par qui Cesar gouvernait Le monde heureux sous son empire; L'or, plus dieu que Mars et l'Amour, Le soir, dans les murs de Strasbourg.
Sad doggerel; permissible perhaps as a sample of the Friedrich manufacture, surely not otherwise! There remains yet more than half of it; readers see what their foolish craving has brought upon them! Doggerel out of which no clear story, such story as there is, can be had; though, except the exaggeration and contortion, there is nothing of fiction in it. We fly to the Newspaper, happily at least a prose composition, which begins at this point; and shall use the Doggerel henceforth as illustration only or as repetition in the Friedrich-mirror, of a thing OTHERWISE made clear to us:—
Having got into Strasburg and the RAVEN HOTEL; Friedrich now on French ground at last, or at least on Half-French, German-French, is intent to make the most of circumstances. The Landlord, with one of Friedrich's servants, is straightway despatched into the proper coffee-houses to raise a supper-party of Officers; politely asks any likely Officer, "If he will not do a foreign Gentleman [seemingly of some distinction, signifies Boniface] the honor to sup with him at the Raven?"—"No, by Jupiter!" answer the most, in their various dialects: "who is he that we should sup with him?" Three, struck by the singularity of the thing, undertake; and with these we must be content. Friedrich—or call him M. le Comte Dufour, with Pfuhl, Schaffgotsch and such escort as we see—politely apologizes on the entrance of these officers: "Many pardons, gentlemen, and many thanks. Knowing nobody; desirous of acquaintance:—since you are so good, how happy, by a little informality, to have brought brave Officers to keep me company, whom I value beyond other kinds of men!"
The Officers found their host a most engaging gentleman: his supper was superb, plenty of wine, "and one red kind they had never tasted before, and liked extremely;"—of which he sent some bottles to their lodging next day. The conversation turned on military matters, and was enlivened with the due sallies. This foreign Count speaks French wonderfully; a brilliant man, whom the others rather fear: perhaps something more than a Count? The Officers, loath to go, remembered that their two battalions had to parade next morning, that it was time to be in bed: "I will go to your review," said the Stranger Count: the delighted Officers undertake to come and fetch him, they settle with him time and method; how happy!
On the morrow, accordingly, they call and fetch him; he looks at the review; review done, they ask him to supper for this evening: "With pleasure!" and "walks with them about the Esplanade, to see the guard march by." Before parting, he takes their names, writes them in his tablets; says, with a smile, "He is too much obliged ever to forget them." This is Wednesday, the 24th of August, 1740; Field-Marshal Broglio is Commandant in Strasburg, and these obliging Officers are "of the regiment Piedmont,"—their names on the King's tablets I never heard mentioned by anybody (or never till the King's Doggerel was fished up again). Field-Marshal Broglio my readers have transiently seen, afar off;—"galloping with only one boot," some say "almost in his shirt," at the Ford of Secchia, in those Italian campaigns, five years ago, the Austrians having stolen across upon him:—he had a furious gallop, with no end of ridicule, on that occasion; is now Commandant here; and we shall have a great deal more to do with him within the next year or two.
"This same day, 24th, while I [the Newspaper volunteer Reporter or Own Correspondent, seemingly a person of some standing, whose words carry credibility in the tone of them] was with Field-Marshal Broglio our Governor here, there came two gentlemen to be presented to him; 'German Cavaliers' they were called; who, I now find, must have been the Prince of Prussia and Algarotti. The Field-Marshal,"&mmdash;a rather high-stalking white-headed old military gentleman, bordering on seventy, of Piedmontese air and breed, apt to be sudden and make flounderings, but the soul of honor, "was very polite to the two Cavaliers, and kept them to dinner. After dinner there came a so-styled 'Silesian Nobleman,' who likewise was presented to the Field-Marshal, and affected not to know the other two: him I now find to have been the Prince of Anhalt."
Of his Majesty's supper with the Officers that Wednesday, we are left to think how brilliant it was: his Majesty, we hear farther, went to the Opera that night,—the Polichinello or whatever the "Italian COMODIE" was;—"and a little girl came to his box with two lottery-tickets fifteen pence each, begging the foreign Gentleman for the love of Heaven to buy them of her; which he did, tearing them up at once, and giving the poor creature four ducats," equivalent to two guineas, or say in effect even five pounds of the present British currency. The fame of this foreign Count and his party at The Raven is becoming very loud over Strasburg, especially in military circles. Our volunteer Own Correspondent proceeds (whom we mean to contrast with the Royal Doggerel by and by):—
"Next morning," Thursday, 25th August, "as the Marshal with above two hundred Officers was out walking on the Esplanade, there came a soldier of the Regiment Luxemburg, who, after some stiff fugling motions, of the nature of salutation partly, and partly demand for privacy, intimated to the Marshal surprising news: That the Stranger in The Raven was the King of Prussia in person; he, the soldier, at present of the Regiment Luxemburg, had in other days, before he deserted, been of the Prussian Crown-Prince's regiment; had consequently seen him in Berlin, Potsdam and elsewhere a thousand times and more, and even stood sentry where he was: the fact is beyond dispute, your Excellency! said this soldier."—Whew!
Whereupon a certain Colonel, Marquis de Loigle, with or without a hint from Broglio, makes off for The Raven; introduces himself, as was easy; contrives to get invited to stay dinner, which also was easy. During dinner the foreign Gentleman expressed some wish to see their fortress. Colonel Loigle sends word to Broglio; Broglio despatches straightway an Officer and fine carriage: "Will the foreign Gentleman do me the honor?" The foreign Gentleman, still struggling for incognito, declines the uppermost seat of honor in the carriage; the two Officers, Loigle and this new one, insist on taking the inferior place. Alas, the incognito is pretty much out. Calling at some coffee-house or the like on the road, a certain female, "Madame de Fienne," named the foreign Gentleman "Sire,"—which so startled him that, though he utterly declined such title, the two Officers saw well how it was.
"After survey of the works, the two attendant Officers had returned to the Field-Marshal; and about 4 P.M. the high Stranger made appearance there. But the thing had now got wind, 'King of Prussia here incognito!' The place was full of Officers, who came crowding about him: he escaped deftly into the Marechal's own Cabinet; sat there, an hour, talking to the Marechal [little admiring the Marechal's talk, as we shall find], still insisting on the incognito,"—to which Broglio, put out in his high paces by this sudden thing, and apt to flounder, as I have heard, was not polite enough to conform altogether. "What shall I do, in this sudden case?" poor Broglio is thinking to himself: "must write to Court; perhaps try to detain—?" Friedrioh's chief thought naturally is, One cannot be away out of this too soon. "Sha'n't we go to the Play, then, Monsieur le Marechal? Play-hour is come!"—Own Correspondent of the Newspaper proceeds:—
"The Marechal then went to the Play, and all his Officers with him; thinking their royal prize was close at their heels. Marechal and Officers fairly ahead, coast once clear, their royal prize hastened back to The Raven, paid his bill; hastily summoning Schaffgotsch and the others within hearing; shot off like lightning; and was seen in Strasburg no more. Algarotti, who was in the box with Broglio, heard the news in the house; regretful rumor among the Officers, 'He is gone!' In about a quarter of an hour Algarotti too slipped out; and vanished by extra post"—straight towards Wesel; but could not overtake the King (whose road, in the latter part of it, went zigzag, on business as is likely), nor see him again till they met in that Town. [From Helden-Geschichte (i. 420-424), &c.]
This is the Prose Truth of those fifty or eight-and-forty hours in Strasburg, which were so mythic and romantic at that time. Shall we now apply to the Royal Doggerel again, where we left off, and see the other side of the picture? Once settled in The Raven, within Strasburg's walls, the Doggerel continues:—
"You fancy well that there was now something to exercise my curiosity; and what desire I had to know the French Nation in France itself.
There I saw at length those French, Of whom you have sung the glories; A people despised by the English, Whom their sad rationality fills with black bile; Those French, whom our Germans Reckon all to be destitute of sense; Those French, whose History consists of Love-stories, I mean the wandering kind of Love, not the constant; Foolish this People, headlong, high-going, Which sings beyond endurance; Lofty in its good fortune, crawling in its bad; Of an unpitying extent of babble, To hide the vacancy of its ignorant mind. Of the Trifling it is a tender lover; The Trifling alone takes possession of its brain. People flighty, indiscreet, imprudent, Turning like the weathercock to every wind. Of the ages of the Caesars those of the Louises are the shadow; Paris is the ghost, of Rome, take it how you will. No, of those vile French you are not one: You think; they do not think at all. La je vis enfin ces Francais Dont vous avez chante la gloire; Peuple meprise' des Anglais, Que leur triste raison remplit de bile noire; Ces Francais, que nos Allemands Pensent tous prives de bon sens; Ces Francais, do nt l'amour pourrait dicter l'histoire, Je dis l'amour volage, et non l'amour constant; Ce peuple fou, brusque et galant, Chansonnier insupportable, Superbe en sa fortune, en son malheur rampant, D'un bavardage impitoyable, Pour cacher le creux d'un esprit ignorant, Tendre amant de la bagatelle, Elle entre seule en sa cervelle; Leger, indiscret, imprudent, Comme ume girouette il revire a tout vent. Des siecles des Cesars ceux des Louis sont l'ombre; Rome efface Paris en tout sens, en tout point. Non, des vils Francais vous n'etes pas du nombre; Vous pensez, ils ne pensent point.
"Pardon, dear Voltaire, this definition of the French; at worst, it is only of those in Strasburg I speak. To scrape acquaintance, I had to invite some Officers on our arrival, whom of course I did not know.
Three of them came at once, Gayer, more content than Kings; Singing with rusty voice. In verse, their amorous exploits, Set to a hornpipe. Trois d'eux s'en vinrent a la fois, Plus gais, plus contents que des rois, Chantant d'une voix enrouee, En vers, leurs amoureux exploits, Ajustes sur une bourree.
"M. de la Crochardiere and M. Malosa [two names from the tablets, third wanting] had just come from a dinner where the wine had not been spared.
Of their hot friendship I saw the flame grow, The Universe would have taken us for perfect friends: But the instant of good-night blew out the business; Friendship disappeared without regrets, With the games, the wine, the table and the viands.
De leur chaude amitie je vis croitre le flamme, L'univers nous eut pris pour des amis parfaits; Mais l'instant des adieux en detruisit la trame, L'amitie disparut, ssns causer des regrets, Avec le jeu, le vin, et la table, et les mets.
"Next day, Monsieur the Gouverneur of the Town and Province, Marechal of France, Chevalier of the Orders of the King, &c. &c.,—Marechal Duc de Broglio, in fact," who was surprised at Secchia in the late War,—
This General always surprised. Whom with regret, young Louis [your King] Saw without breeches in Italy
["With only one boot," was the milder rumor; which we adopted (supra, vol. vi. p. 472), but this sadder one, too, was current; and "Broglio's breeches," or the vain aspiration after them, like a vanished ghost of breeches, often enough turn up in the old Pamphlets.]
Galloping to hide away his life From the Germans, unpolite fighters;—
Ce general toujours surpris, Qu'a regret le jeune Louis Vit sans culottes en Italie, Courir pour derober sa vie Aux Germains, guerriers impolis.
this General wished to investigate your Comte Dufour,—foreign Count, who the instant he arrives sets about inviting people to supper that are perfect strangers. He took the poor Count for a sharper; and prudently advised M. de la Crochardiere not to be duped by him. It was unluckily the good Marechal that proved to be duped.
He was born for surprise. His white hair, his gray beard, Formed a reverend exterior. Outsides are often deceptive: He that, by the binding, judges Of a Book and its Author May, after a page of reading, Chance to recognize his mistake. Il etait ne pour la surprise. Ses cheveux blancs, sa barbe grise, Formaient un sage exterieur. Le dehors est souvent trompeur; Qui juge par la reliure D'un ouvrage et de son auteur Dans une page de lecture Peut reconnaitre son erreur.
"That was my own experience; for of wisdom I could find nothing except in his gray hair and decrepit appearance. His first opening betrayed him; no great well of wit this Marechal,
Who, drunk with his own grandeur, Informs you of his name and his titles, And authority as good as unlimited. He cited to me all the records Where his name is registered, Babbled about his immense power, About his valor, his talents So salutary to France;—He forgot that, three years ago
[Six to a nearness,—"15th September, 1734," if your Majesty will be exact.]
Men did not praise his prudence. Qui, de sa grandeur enivre; Decline son nom et ses titres, Et son pouvoir a rien borne. Il me cita tous les registres Ou son nom est enregistre; Bavard de son pouvoir immense, De sa valeur, de ces talents Si salutaires a la France: Il oubliait, passe trois ans, Qu'on ne louait pas sa prudence.
"Not satisfied with seeing the Marechal, I saw the guard mounted
By these Frenchmen, burning with glory, Who, on four sous a day, Will make of Kings and of Heroes the memory flourish: Slaves crowned by the hands of Victory, Unlucky herds whom the Court Tinkles hither and thither by the sound of fife and drum. A ces Francais brulants de gloire, Dotes de quatre sous par jour, Qui des rois, des heros font fleurir la memoire, Esclaves couronnes des mains de la victoire, Troupeaux malheureux que la cour Dirige au seul bruit du tambour.
"That was my fated term. A deserter from our troops got eye on me, recognised me and denounced me.
This wretched gallows-bird got eye on me; Such is the lot of all earthly things; And so of our fine mystery The whole secret came to light." Ce malheureux pendard me vit, C'est le sort de toutes les choses; Ainsi de motre pot aux roses Tout le secret se decouvrit.
Well; we must take this glimpse, such as it is, into the interior of the young man,—fine buoyant, pungent German spirit, roadways for it very bad, and universal rain-torrents falling, yet with coruscations from a higher quarter;—and you can forget, if need be, the "Literature" of this young Majesty, as you would a staccato on the flute by him! In after months, on new occasion rising, "there was no end to his gibings and bitter pleasantries on the ridiculous reception Broglio had given him at Strasburg," says Valori, [Memoires, i. 88.]—of which this Doggerel itself offers specimen.
"Probably the weakest Piece I ever translated?" exclaims one, who has translated several such. Nevertheless there is a straggle of pungent sense in it,—like the outskirts of lightning, seen in that dismally wet weather, which the Royal Party had. Its wit is very copious, but slashy, bantery, and proceeds mainly by exaggeration and turning topsy-turvy; a rather barren species of wit. Of humor, in the fine poetic sense, no vestige. But there is surprising veracity,—truthfulness unimpeachable, if you will read well. What promptitude, too;—what funds for conversation, when needed! This scraggy Piece, which is better than the things people often talk to one another, was evidently written as fast as the pen could go.—"It is done, if such a Hand could have DONE it, in the manner of Bachaumont and La Chapelle," says Voltaire scornfully, in that scandalous VIE PRIVEE;—of which phrase this is the commentary, if readers need one:—
"Some seventy or eighty years before that date, a M. Bachaumont and a M. la Chapelle, his intimate, published, in Prose skipping off into dancings of Verse every now and then, 'a charming RELATION of a certain VOYAGE or Home Tour' (whence or whither, or correctly when, this Editor forgets), ["First printed in 1665," say the Bibliographies; "but known to La Fontaine some time before." Good!—Bachaumont, practically an important and distinguished person, not literary by trade, or indeed otherwise than by ennui, was he that had given (some fifteen years before) the Nickname FRONDE (Bickering of Schoolboys) to the wretched Historical Object which is still so designated in French annals.] which they had made in partnership. 'RELATION' capable still of being read, if one were tolerably idle;—it was found then to be charming, by all the world; and gave rise to a new fashion in writing; which Voltaire often adopts, and is supremely good at; and in which Friedrich, who is also fond of it, by no means succeeds so well."
Enough, Friedrich got to Wesel, back to his business, in a day or two; and had done, as we forever have, with the Strasburg Escapade and its Doggerel.
Friedrich got to Wesel on the 29th; found Maupertuis waiting there, according to appointment: an elaborately polite, somewhat sublime scientific gentleman; ready to "engraft on the Berlin crab-tree," and produce real apples and Academics there, so soon as the King, the proprietor, may have leisure for such a thing. Algarotti has already the honor of some acquaintance with Maupertuis. Maupertuis has been at Brussels, on the road hither; saw Voltaire and even Madame,—which latter was rather a ticklish operation, owing to grudges and tiffs of quarrel that had risen, but it proved successful under the delicate guidance of Voltaire. Voltaire is up to oiling the wheels: "There you are, Monsieur, like the [don't name What, though profane Voltaire does, writing to Maupertuis a month ago]—Three Kings running after you!" A new Pension to you from France; Russia outbidding France to have you; and then that LETTER of Friedrich's, which is in all the Newspapers: "Three Kings,"—you plainly great man, Trismegistus of the Sciences called Pure! Madame honors you, has always done: one word of apology to the high female mind, it will work wonders;—come now! [Voltaire, OEuvres, lxxii. 217, 216, 230 (Hague, 21st July, 1740, and Brussels, 9th Aug. &c).]
No reader guesses in our time what a shining celestial body the Maupertuis, who is now fallen so dim again, then was to mankind. In cultivated French society there is no such lion as M. Maupertuis since he returned from flattening the Earth in the Arctic regions. "The Exact Sciences, what else is there to depend on?" thinks French cultivated society: "and has not Monsieur done a feat in that line?" Monsieur, with fine ex-military manners, has a certain austere gravity, reticent loftiness and polite dogmatism, which confirms that opinion. A studious ex-military man,—was Captain of Dragoons once, but too fond of study,—who is conscious to himself, or who would fain be conscious, that he is, in all points, mathematical, moral and other, the man. A difficult man to live with in society. Comes really near the limit of what we call genius, of originality, poetic greatness in thinking;—but never once can get fairly over said limit, though always struggling dreadfully to do so. Think of it! A fatal kind of man; especially if you have made a lion of him at any time. Of his envies, deep-hidden splenetic discontents and rages, with Voltaire's return for them, there will be enough to say in the ulterior stages. He wears—at least ten years hence he openly wears, though I hope it is not yet so flagrant—"a red wig with yellow bottom (CRINIERE JAUNE);" and as Flattener of the Earth, is, with his own flattish red countenance and impregnable stony eyes, a man formidable to look upon, though intent to be amiable if you do the proper homage. As to the quarrel with Madame take this Note; which may prove illustrative of some things by and by:—
Maupertuis is well known at Cirey; such a lion could not fail there. All manner of Bernouillis, Clairauts, high mathematical people, are frequent guests at Cirey: reverenced by Madame,—who indeed has had her own private Professor of Mathematics; one Konig from Switzerland (recommended by those Bernouillis), diligently teaching her the Pure Sciences this good while back, not without effect; and has only just parted with him, when she left on this Brussels expedition. A BON GARCON, Voltaire says; though otherwise, I think, a little noisy on occasion. There has been no end of Madame's kindness to him, nay to his Brother and him,—sons of a Theological Professorial Syriac-Hebrew kind of man at Berne, who has too many sons;—and I grieve to report that this heedless Konig has produced an explosion in Madame's feelings, such as little beseemed him. On the road to Paris, namely, as we drove hitherward to the Honsbruck Lawsuit by way of Paris, in Autumn last, there had fallen out some dispute, about the monads, the VIS VIVA, the infinitely little, between Madame and Konig; dispute which rose CRESCENDO in disharmonious duet, and "ended," testifies M. de Voltaire, "in a scene TRESDESAGREABLE." Madame, with an effort, forgave the thoughtless fellow, who is still rather young, and is without malice. But thoughtless Konig, strong in his opinion about the infinitely little, appealed to Maupertuis: "Am not I right, Monsieur?" "HE is right beyond question!" wrote Maupertuis to Madame; "somewhat dryly," thinks Voltaire: and the result is, there is considerable rage in one celestial mind ever since against another male one in red wig and yellow bottom; and they are not on speaking terms, for a good many months past. Voltaire has his heart sore ("J'EN AI LE COEUR PERCE") about it, needs to double-dose Maupertuis with flattery; and in fact has used the utmost diplomacy to effect some varnish of a reconcilement as Maupertuis passed on this occasion. As for Konig, who had studied in some Dutch university, he went by and by to be Librarian to the Prince of Orange; and we shall not fail to hear of him again,—once more upon the infinitely little. [From OEuvres de Voltaire, ii. 126, lxxii. (20, 216, 230), lxiii. (229-239), &c. &c.]
Voltaire too, in his way, is fond of these mathematical people; eager enough to fish for knowledge, here as in all elements, when he has the chance offered: this is much an interest of his at present. And he does attain sound ideas, outlines of ideas, in this province,—though privately defective in the due transcendency of admiration for it;—was wont to discuss cheerily with Konig, about VIS VIVA, monads, gravitation and the infinitely little; above all, bows to the ground before the red-wigged Bashaw, Flattener of the Earth, whom for Madame's sake and his own he is anxious to be well with. "Fall on your face nine times, ye esoteric of only Impure Science!"—intimates Maupertuis to mankind. "By all means!" answers M. de Voltaire, doing it with alacrity; with a kind of loyalty, one can perceive, and also with a hypocrisy grounded on love of peace. If that is the nature of the Bashaw, and one's sole mode of fishing knowledge from him, why not? thinks M. de Voltaire. His patience with M. de Maupertuis, first and last, was very great. But we shall find it explode at length, a dozen years hence, in a conspicuous manner!—
"Maupertuis had come to us to Cirey, with Jean Bernouilli," says Voltaire; "and thenceforth Maupertuis, who was born the most jealous of men, took me for the object of this passion, which has always been very dear to him." [VIE PRIVEE.] Husht, Monsieur!—Here is a poor rheumatic kind of Letter, which illustrates the interim condition, after that varnish of reconcilement at Brussels:—
VOLTAIRE TO M. DE MAUPERTUIS (at Wesel, waiting for the King, or with him rather).
"BRUSSELS, 29th August (1740), 3d year since the world flattened.
"How the Devil, great Philosopher, would you have had me write to you at Wesel? I fancied you gone from Wesel, to seek the King of Sages on his Journey somewhere. I had understood, too, they were so delighted to have you in that fortified lodge (BOUGE FORTIFIE) that you must be taking pleasure there, for he that gives pleasure gets it.
"You have already seen the jolly Ambassador of the amiablest Monarch in the world,"—Camas, a fattish man, on his road to Versailles (who called at Brussels here, with fine compliments, and a keg of Hungary Wine, as YOU may have heard whispered). "No doubt M. de Camas is with you. For my own share, I think it is after you that he is running at present. But in truth, at the hour while I say this, you are with the King;"—a lucky guess; King did return to Wesel this very day. "The Philosopher and the Prince perceive already that they are made for each other. You and M. Algarotti will say, FACIAMUS HIC TRIA TABERNACULA: as to me, I can only make DUO TABERNACULA,"—profane Voltaire!
"Without doubt I would be with you if I were not at Brussels; but my heart is with you all the same; and is the subject, all the same, of a King who is, formed to reign over every thinking and feeling being. I do not despair that Madame du Chatelet will find herself somewhere on your route: it will be a scene in a fairy tale;—she will arrive with a SUFFICIENT REASON [as your Leibnitz says] and with MONADS. She does not love you the less though she now believes the universe a PLENUM, and has renounced the notion of VOID. Over her you have an ascendant which you will never lose. In fine, my dear Monsieur, I wish as ardently as she to embrace you the soonest possible. I recommend myself to your friendship in the Court, worthy of you, where you now are."—TOUT A VOUS, somewhat rheumatic! [Voltaire, lxxii. p. 243.]
Always an anxious almost tremulous desire to conciliate this big glaring geometrical bully in red wig. Through the sensitive transparent being of M. de Voltaire, you may see that feeling almost painfully busy in every Letter he writes to the Flattener of the Earth.
At Wesel, in the rear of all this travelling and excitement, Friedrich falls unwell; breaks down there into an aguish feverish distemper, which, for several months after, impeded his movements, would he have yielded to it. He has much business on hand, too,—some of it of prickly nature just now;—but is intent as ever on seeing Voltaire, among the first things. Diligently reading in the Voltaire-Friedrich Correspondence (which is a sad jumble of misdates and opacities, in the common editions), [Preuss (the recent latest Editor, and the only well-informed one, as we said) prints with accuracy; but cannot be read at all (in the sense of UNDERSTOOD) without other light.] this of the aguish condition frequently turns up; "Quartan ague," it seems; occasionally very bad; but Friedrich struggles with it; will not be cheated of any of his purposes by it.
He had a busy fortnight here; busier than we yet imagine. Much employment there naturally is of the usual Inspection sort; which fails in no quarter of his Dominions, but which may be particularly important here, in these disputed Berg-Julich Countries, when the time of decision falls. How he does his Inspections we know;—and there are still weightier matters afoot here, in a silent way, of which we shall have to speak before long, and all the world will speak. Business enough, parts of it grave and silent, going on, and the much that is public, miscellaneous, small: done, all of it, in a rapid-punctual precise manner;—and always, after the crowded day, some passages of Supper with the Sages, to wind up with on melodious terms. A most alert and miscellaneously busy young King, in spite of the ague.
It was in these Cleve Countries, and now as probably as afterwards, that the light scene recorded in Laveaux's poor HISTORY, and in all the Anecdote-Books, transacted itself one day. Substance of the story is true; though the details of it go all at random,—somewhat to this effect:—
"Inspecting his Finance Affairs, and questioning the parties interested, Friedrich notices a certain Convent in Cleve, which appears to have, payable from the Forest-dues, considerable revenues bequeathed by the old Dukes, 'for masses to be said on their behalf.' He goes to look at the place; questions the Monks on this point, who are all drawn out in two rows, and have broken into TE-DEUM at sight of him: 'Husht! You still say those Masses, then?' 'Certainly, your Majesty!'—'And what good does anybody get of them?' 'Your Majesty, those old Sovereigns are to obtain Heavenly mercy by them, to be delivered out of Purgatory by them.'—'Purgatory? It is a sore thing for the Forests, all this while! And they are not yet out, those poor souls, after so many hundred years of praying?' Monks have a fatal apprehension, No. 'When will they be out, and the thing complete?' Monks cannot say. 'Send me a courier whenever it is complete!' sneers the King, and leaves them to their TE-DEUM." [C. Hildebrandt's Modern Edition of the (mostly dubious) Anekdoten und Charakterzuge aus dem Leben Friedrichs des Grossen (and a very ignorant and careless Edition it is; 6 vols. 12mo, Halberstadt, 1829), ii. 160; Laveaus (whom we already cited), Vie de Frederic; &c. &c. Nicolai's Anekdoten alone, which are not included in this Hildebrandt Collection, are of sure authenticity; the rest, occasionally true, and often with a kind of MYTHIC truth in them worth attending to, are otherwise of all degrees of dubiety, down to the palpably false and absurd.]
Mournful state of the Catholic Religion so called! How long must these wretched Monks go on doing their lazy thrice-deleterious torpid blasphemy; and a King, not histrionic but real, merely signify that he laughs at them and it? Meseems a heavier whip than that of satire might be in place here, your Majesty? The lighter whip is easier;—Ah yes, undoubtedly! cry many men. But horrible accounts are running up, enough to sink the world at last, while the heavier whip is lazily withheld, and lazy blasphemy, fallen torpid, chronic, and quite unconscious of being blasphemous, insinuates itself into the very heart's-blood of mankind! Patience, however; the heavy whip too is coming,—unless universal death be coming. King Friedrich is not the man to wield such whip. Quite other work is in store for King Friedrich; and Nature will not, by any suggestion of that terrible task, put him out in the one he has. He is nothing of a Luther, of a Cromwell; can look upon fakirs praying by their rotatory calabash, as a ludicrous platitude; and grin delicately as above, with the approval of his wiser contemporaries. Speed to him on his own course!
What answer Friedrich found to his English proposals,—answer due here on the 24th from Captain Dickens,—I do not pointedly learn; but can judge of it by Harrington's reply to that Despatch of Dickens's, which entreated candor and open dealing towards his Prussian Majesty. Harrington is at Herrenhausen, still with the Britannic Majesty there; both of them much at a loss about their Spanish War, and the French and other aspects upon it: "Suppose his Prussian Majesty were to give himself to France against us!" We will hope, not. Harrington's reply is to the effect, "Hum, drum:—Berg and Julich, say you? Impossible to answer; minds not made up here:—What will his Prussian Majesty do for US?" Not much, I should guess, till something more categorical come from you! His Prussian Majesty is careful not to spoil anything by over-haste; but will wait and try farther to the utmost, Whether England or France is the likelier bargain for him.
Better still, the Prussian Majesty is intent to do something for himself in that Berg-Julich matter: we find him silently examining these Wesel localities for a proper "entrenched Camp," Camp say of 40,000, against a certain contingency that may be looked for. Camp which will much occupy the Gazetteers when they get eye on it. This is one of the concerns he silently attends to, on occasion, while riding about in the Cleve Countries. Then there is another small item of business, important to do well, which is now in silence diligently getting under way at Wesel; which also is of remarkable nature, and will astonish the Gazetteer and Diplomatic circles. This is the affair with the Bishop of Liege, called also the Affair of Herstal, which his Majesty has had privately laid up in the corner of his mind, as a thing to be done during this Excursion. Of which the reader shall hear anon, to great lengths,—were a certain small preliminary matter, Voltaire's Arrival in these parts, once off our hands.
Friedrich's First Meeting with Voltaire! These other high things were once loud in the Gazetteer and Diplomatic circles, and had no doubt they were the World's History; and now they are sunk wholly to the Nightmares, and all mortals have forgotten them,—and it is such a task as seldom was to resuscitate the least memory of them, on just cause of a Friedrich or the like, so impatient are men of what is putrid and extinct:—and a quite unnoticed thing, Voltaire's First Interview, all readers are on the alert for it, and ready to demand of me impossibilities about it! Patience, readers. You shall see it, without and within, in such light as there was, and form some actual notion of it, if you will co-operate. From the circumambient inanity of Old Newspapers, Historical shot-rubbish, and unintelligible Correspondences, we sift out the following particulars, of this First Meeting, or actual Osculation of the Stars.
The Newspapers, though their eyes were not yet of the Argus quality now familiar to us, have been intent on Friedrich during this Baireuth-Cleve Journey, especially since that sudden eclipse of him at Strasburg lately; forming now one scheme of route for him, now another; Newspapers, and even private friends, being a good deal uncertain about his movements. Rumor now ran, since his reappearance in the Cleve Countries, that Friedrich meant to have a look at Holland before going home, And that had, in fact, been a notion or intention of Friedrich's. "Holland? We could pass through Brussels on the way, and see Voltaire!" thought he.
In Brussels this was, of course, the rumor of rumors. As Voltaire's Letters, visibly in a twitter, still testify to us. King of Prussia coming! Madame du Chatelet, the "Princess Tour" (that is, Tour-and-Taxis), all manner of high Dames are on the tiptoe. Princess Tour hopes she shall lodge this unparalleled Prince in her Palace: "You, Madame?" answers the Du Chatelet, privately, with a toss of her head: "His Majesty, I hope, belongs more to M. de Voltaire and me: he shall lodge here, please Heaven!" Voltaire, I can observe, has sublime hostelry arrangements chalked out for his Majesty, in case he go to Paris; which he does n't, as we know. Voltaire is all on the alert, awake to the great contingencies far and near; the Chatelet-Voltaire breakfast-table,—fancy it on those interesting mornings, while the post comes round! [Voltaire, xxii. 238-256 (Letters 22d August-22d September, 1740).]
Alas, in the first days of September,—Friedrich's Letter is dated "Wesel, 2d" (and has the STRASBURD DOGGEREL enclosed in it),—the Brussels Postman delivers far other intelligence at one's door; very mortifying to Madame: "That his Majesty is fallen ill at Wesel; has an aguish fever hanging on him, and only hopes to come:" VOILA, Madame!—Next Letter, Wesel, Monday, 5th September, is to the effect: "Do still much hope to come; to-morrow is my trembling day; if that prove to be off!"—Out upon it, that proves not to be off; that is on: next Letter, Tuesday, September 6th, which comes by express (Courier dashing up with it, say on the Thursday following) is,—alas, Madame!—here it is:—
KING FRIEDRICH TO M. DE VOLTAIRE AT BRUSSELS.
"WESEL, 6th September, 1740. "MY DEAR VOLTAIRE,—In spite of myself, I have to yield to the Quartan Fever, which is more tenacious than a Jansenist; and whatever desire I had of going to Antwerp and Brussels, I find myself not in a condition to undertake such a journey without risk. I would ask of you, then, if the road from Brussels to Cleve would not to you seem too long for a meeting; it is the one means of seeing you which remains to me. Confess that I am unlucky; for now when I could dispose of my person, and nothing hinders me from seeing you, the fever gets its hand into the business, and seems to intend disputing me that satisfaction.
"Let us deceive the fever, my dear Voltaire; and let me at least have the pleasure of embracing you. Make my best excuses [polite, rather than sincere] to Madame the MARQUISE, that I cannot have the satisfaction of seeing her at Brussels. All that are about me know the intention I was in; which certainly nothing but the fever could have made me change.
"Sunday next I shall be at a little Place near Cleve,"—Schloss of Moyland, which, and the route to which, this Courier can tell you of;—"where I shall be able to possess you at my ease. If the sight of you don't cure me, I will send for a Confessor at once. Adieu; you know my sentiments and my heart. [Preuss, OEuvres de Frederic, xxii. 27.] FREDERIC."
After which the Correspondence suddenly extinguishes itself; ceases for about a fortnight,—in the bad misdated Editions even does worse;—and we are left to thick darkness, to our own poor shifts; Dryasdust being grandly silent on this small interest of ours. What is to be done?
Here, from a painful Predecessor whose Papers I inherit, are some old documents and Studies on the subject,—sorrowful collection, in fact, of what poor sparks of certainty were to be found hovering in that dark element;—which do at last (so luminous are certainties always, or "sparks" that will shine steady) coalesce into some feeble general twilight, feeble but indubitable; and even show the sympathetic reader how they were searched out and brought together. We number and label these poor Patches of Evidence on so small a matter; and leave them to the curious:—
No. 1. DATE OF THE FIRST INTERVIEW. It is certain Voltaire did arrive at the little Schloss of Moyland, September 11th, Sunday night,—which is the "Sunday" just specified in Friedrich's Letter. Voltaire had at once decided on complying,—what else?—and lost no time in packing himself: King's Courier on Thursday late; Voltaire on the road on Saturday early, or the night before. With Madame's shrill blessing (not the most musical in this vexing case), and plenty of fuss. "Was wont to travel in considerable style," I am told; "the innkeepers calling him 'Your Lordship' (M. LE COMTE)." Arrives, sure enough, Sunday night; old Schloss of Moyland, six miles from Cleve; "moonlight," I find,—the Harvest Moon. Visit lasted three days. [Rodenbeck, p. 21; Preuss, &c. &c.]
No. 2. VOLTAIRE'S DRIVE THITHER. Schloss Moyland: How far from Brussels, and by what route? By Louvain, Tillemont, Tongres to Maestricht; then from Maestricht up the Maas (left bank) to Venlo, where cross; through Geldern and Goch to Cleve: between the Maas and Rhine this last portion. Flat damp country; tolerably under tillage; original constituents bog and sand. Distances I guess to be: To Tongres 60 miles and odd; to Maestricht 12 or 15, from Maestricht 75; in all 150 miles English. Two days' driving? There is equinoctial moon, and still above twelve hours of sunlight for "M. le Comte."
No. 3. OF THE PLACE WHERE. Voltaire, who should have known, calls it "PETIT CHATEAU DE MEUSE;" which is a Castle existing nowhere but in Dreams. Other French Biographers are still more imaginary. The little Schloss of Moyland—by no means "Meuse," nor even MORS, which Voltaire probably means in saying CHATEAU DE MEUSE—was, as the least inquiry settles beyond question, the place where Voltaire and Friedrich first met. Friedrich Wilhelm used often to lodge there in his Cleve journeys: he made thither for shelter, in the sickness that overtook him in friend Ginkel's house, coming home from the Rhine Campaign in 1734; lay there for several weeks after quitting Ginkel's. Any other light I can get upon it, is darkness visible. Busching pointedly informs me, [Erdbeschreibung, v. 659, 677.] "It is a Parish [or patch of country under one priest], and Till AND it are a Jurisdiction" (pair of patches under one court of justice):—which does not much illuminate the inquiring mind. Small patch, this of Moyland, size not given; "was bought," says he, "in 1695, by Friedrich afterwards First King, from the Family of Spaen,"—we once knew a Lieutenant Spaen, of those Dutch regions,—"and was named a Royal Mansion ever thereafter." Who lived in it; what kind of thing was it, is it? ALTUM SILENTIUM, from Busching and mankind. Belonged to the Spaens, fifty years ago;—some shadow of our poor banished friend the Lieutenant resting on it? Dim enough old Mansion, with "court" to it, with modicum of equipment; lying there in the moonlight;—did not look sublime to Voltaire on stepping out. So that all our knowledge reduces itself to this one point: of finding Moyland in the Map, with DATE, with REMINISCENCE to us, hanging by it henceforth! Good. [Stieler's Deutschland (excellent Map in 25 Pieces), Piece 12.—Till is a mile or two northeast from Moyland; Moyland about 5 or 6 southeast from Cleve.]
Mors—which is near the Town of Ruhrort, about midway between Wesel and Dusseldorf—must be some forty miles from Moyland, forty-five from Cleve; southward of both. So that the place, "A DEUX LIEUES DE CLEVES," is, even by Voltaire's showing, this Moyland; were there otherwise any doubt upon it. "CHATEAU DE MEUSE"—hanging out a prospect of MORS to us—is bad usage to readers. Of an intelligent man, not to say a Trismegistus of men, one expects he will know in what town he is, after three days' experience, as here. But he does not always; he hangs out a mere "shadow of Mars by moonlight," till we learn better. Duvernet, his Biographer, even calls it "SLEUS-MEUSE;" some wonderful idea of Sluices and a River attached to it, in Duvernet's head! [Duvernet (2d FORM of him,—that is, Vie de Voltaire par T. J. D. V.), p. 117.]
Of the Interview itself, with general bird's-eye view of the Visit combined (in a very incorrect state), there is direct testimony by Voltaire himself. Voltaire himself, twenty years after, in far other humor, all jarred into angry sarcasm, for causes we shall see by and by,—Voltaire, at the request of friends, writes down, as his Friedrich Reminiscences, that scandalous VIE PRIVEE above spoken of, a most sad Document; and this is the passage referring to "the little Place in the neighborhood of Cleve," where Friedrich now waited for him: errors corrected by our laborious Friend. After quoting something of that Strasburg Doggerel, the whole of which is now too well known to us, Voltaire proceeds:—
"From Strasburg he," King Friedrich, "went to see his Lower German Provinces; he said he would come and see me incognito at Brussels. We prepared a fine house for him,"—were ready to prepare such hired house as we had for him, with many apologies for its slight degree of perfection (ERROR FIRST),—"but having fallen ill in the little Mansion-Royal of Meuse (CHATEAU DE MEUSE), a couple of leagues from Cleve,"—fell ill at Wesel; and there is no Chateau de MEUSE in the world (ERRORS 2d AND 3d),—"he wrote to me that he expected I would make the advances. I went, accordingly, to present my profound homages. Maupertuis, who already had his views, and was possessed with the rage of being President to an Academy, had of his own accord,"—no, being invited, and at my suggestion (ERROR 4th),—"presented himself there; and was lodged with Algarotti and Keyserling [which latter, I suppose, had come from Berlin, not being of the Strasburg party, he] in a garret of this Palace.
"At the door of the court, I found, by way of guard, one soldier. Privy-Councillor Rambonet, Minister of State—[very subaltern man; never heard of him except in the Herstal Business, and here] was walking in the court; blowing in his fingers to keep them warm." Sunday night, 11th September, 1740; world all bathed in moonshine; and mortals mostly shrunk into their huts, out of the raw air. "He" Rambonet "wore big linen ruffles at his wrists, very dirty [visibly so in the moonlight? ERROR 5th extends AD LIBITUM over all the following details]; a holed hat; an old official periwig,"—ruined into a totally unsymmetric state, as would seem,—"one side of which hung down into one of his pockets, and the other scarcely crossed his shoulder. I was told, this man was now intrusted with an affair of importance here; and that proved true,"—the Herstal Affair.
"I was led into his Majesty's apartment. Nothing but four bare walls there. By the light of a candle, I perceived, in a closet, a little truckle-bed two feet and a half broad, on which lay a man muffled up in a dressing-gown of coarse blue duffel: this was the King, sweating and shivering under a wretched blanket there, in a violent fit of fever. I made my reverence, and began the acquaintance by feeling his pulse, as if I had been his chief physician. The fit over, he dressed himself, and took his place at table. Algarotti, Keyserling, Maupertuis, and the King's Envoy to the States-General"—one Rasfeld (skilled in HERSTAL matters, I could guess),—"we were of this supper, and discussed, naturally in a profound manner, the Immortality of the Soul, Liberty, Fate, the Androgynes of Plato [the ANDROGYNOI, or Men-Women, in Plato's CONVIVIUM; by no means the finest symbolic fancy of the divine Plato],—and other small topics of that nature." [Voltaire, OEuvres, (Piece once called VIE PRIVEE), ii. 26, 27.]
This is Voltaire's account of the Visit,—which included three "Suppers," all huddled into one by him here;—and he says nothing more of it; launching off now into new errors, about HERSTAL, the ANTI-MACHIAVEL, and so forth: new and uglier errors, with much more of mendacity and serious malice in them, than in this harmless half-dozen now put on the score against him.
Of this Supper-Party, I know by face four of the guests: Maupertuis, Voltaire, Algarotti, Keyserling;—Rasfeld, Rambonet can sit as simulacra or mute accompaniment. Voltaire arrived on Sunday evening; stayed till Wednesday. Wednesday morning, 14th of the month, the Party broke up: Voltaire rolling off to left hand, towards Brussels, or the Hague; King to right, on inspection business, and circuitously homewards. Three Suppers there had been, two busy Days intervening; discussions about Fate and the Androgynoi of Plato by no means the one thing done by Voltaire and the rest, on this occasion. We shall find elsewhere, "he declaimed his MAHOMET" (sublime new Tragedy, not yet come out), in the course of these three evenings, to the "speechless admiration" of his Royal Host, for one; and, in the daytime, that he even drew his pen about the Herstal Business, which is now getting to its crisis, and wrote one of the Manifestoes, still discoverable. And we need not doubt, in spite of his now sneering tone, that things ran high and grand here, in this paltry little Schloss of Moyland; and that those three were actually Suppers of the Gods, for the time being.
"Councillor Rambonet," with the holed hat and unsymmetric wig, continues Voltaire in the satirical vein, "had meanwhile mounted a hired hack (CHEVAL DE LOUAGE;" mischievous Voltaire, I have no doubt he went on wheels, probably of his own): "he rode all night; and next morning arrived at the gates of Liege; where he took Act in the name of the King his Master, whilst 2,000 men of the Wesel Troops laid Liege under contribution. The pretext of this fine Marching of Troops,"—not a pretext at all, but the assertion, correct in all points, of just claims long trodden down, and now made good with more spirit than had been expected,—"was certain rights which the King pretended to, over a suburb of Liege. He even charged me to work at a Manifesto; and I made one, good or bad; not doubting but a King with whom I supped, and who called me his friend, must be in the right. The affair soon settled itself by means of a million of ducats,"—nothing like the sum, as we shall see,—"which he exacted by weight, to clear the costs of the Tour to Strasburg, which, according to his complaint in that Poetic Letter [Doggerel above given], were so heavy."
That is Voltaire's view; grown very corrosive after Twenty Years. He admits, with all the satire: "I naturally felt myself attached to him; for he had wit, graces; and moreover he was a King, which always forms a potent seduction, so weak is human nature. Usually it is we of the writing sort that flatter Kings: but this King praised me from head to foot, while the Abbe Desfontaines and other scoundrels (GREDINS) were busy defaming me in Paris at least once a week."
But let us take the contemporary account, which also we have at first hand; which is almost pathetic to read; such a contrast between ruddy morning and the storms of the afternoon! Here are two Letters from Voltaire; fine transparent human Letters, as his generally are: the first of them written directly on getting back to the Hague, and to the feeling of his eclipsed condition.
VOLTAIRE TO M. DE MAUPERTUIS (with the King). "THE HAGUE, 18th September, 1740.
"I serve you, Monsieur, sooner than I promised; and that is the way you ought to be served. I send you the answer of M. Smith,"—probably some German or Dutch SCHMIDT, spelt here in English, connected with the Sciences, say with water-carriage, the typographies, or one need not know what; "you will see where the question stands.
"When we both left Cleve,"—14th of the month, Wednesday last; 18th is Sunday, in this old cobwebby Palace, where I am correcting ANTI-MACHIAVEL,—"and you took to the right,"—King, homewards, got to HAM that evening,—"I could have thought I was at the Last Judgment, where the Bon Dieu separates the elect from the damned. DIVUS FREDERICUS said to you, 'Sit down at my right hand in the Paradise of Berlin;' and to me, 'Depart, thou accursed, into Holland.'
"Here I am accordingly in this phlegmatic place of punishment, far from the divine fire which animates the Friedrichs, the Maupertuis, the Algarottis. For God's love, do me the charity of some sparks in these stagnant waters where I am,"—stiffening, cooling,—"stupefying to death. Instruct me of your pleasures, of your designs. You will doubtless see M. de Valori,"—readers know de Valori; his Book has been published; edited, as too usual, by a Human Nightmare, ignorant of his subject and indeed of almost all other things, and liable to mistakes in every page; yet partly readable, if you carry lanterns, and love "MON GROS VALORI:"—"offer him, I pray you, my respects. If I do not write to him, the reason is, I have no news to send: I should be as exact as I am devoted, if my correspondence could be useful or agreeable to him.
"Won't you have me send you some Books? If I be still in Holland when your orders come, I will obey in a moment. I pray you do not forget me to M. de Keyserling,"—Caesarion whom we once had at Cirey; a headlong dusky little man of wit (library turned topsy-turvy, as Wilhelmina called him), whom we have seen.
"Tell me, I beg, if the enormous monad of Volfius—[Wolf, would the reader like to hear about him? If so, he has only to speak!] is arguing at Marburg, at Berlin, or at Hall [HALLE, which is a very different place].
"Adieu, Monsieur: you can address your orders to me 'At the Hague:' they will be forwarded wherever I am; and I shall be, anywhere on earth,—Yours forever (A VOUS POUR JAMAIS)." [Voltaire, lxxii. 252.]
Letter Second, of which a fragment may be given, is to one Cideville, a month later; all the more genuine as there was no chance of the King's hearing about this one. Cideville, some kind of literary Advocate at Rouen (who is wearisomely known to the reader of Voltaire's Letters), had done, what is rather an endemical disorder at this time, some Verses for the King of Prussia, which he wished to be presented to his Majesty. The presentation, owing to accidents, did not take place; hear how Voltaire, from his cobweb Palace at the Hague, busy with ANTI-MACHIAVEL, Van Duren and many other things,—18th October, 1740, on which day we find him writing many Letters,—explains the sad accident:—
VOLTAIRE TO M. DE CIDEVILLE (at Rouen).
"AT THE HAGUE, KING OF PRUSSIA'S PALACE, 18th October, 1740.
"... This is my case, dear Cideville. When you sent me, enclosed in your Letter, those Verses (among which there are some of charming and inimitable turn) for our Marcus Aurelius of the North, I did well design to pay my court to him with them. He was at that time to have come to Brussels incognito: we expected him there; but the Quartan Fever, which unhappily he still has, deranged all his projects. He sent me a courier to Brussels,"—mark that point, my Cideville;—"and so I set out to find him in the neighborhood of Cleve.
"It was there I saw one of the amiablest men in the world, who forms the charm of society, who would be everywhere sought after if he were not King; a philosopher without austerity; full of sweetness, complaisance and obliging ways (AGREMENS); not remembering that he is King when he meets his friends; indeed so completely forgetting it that he made me too almost forget it, and I needed an effort of memory to recollect that I here saw sitting at the foot of my bed a Sovereign who had an Army of 100,000 men. That was the moment to have read your amiable Verses to him:"—yes; but then?—"Madame du Chatelet, who was to have sent them to me, did not, NE L'A PA FAIT." Alas, no, they are still at Brussels, those charming Verses; and I, for a month past, am here in my cobweb Palace! But I swear to you, the instant I return to Brussels, I, &c. &c. [Voltaire, lxii. 282.]
Finally, here is what Friedrich thought of it, ten days after parting with Voltaire. We will read this also (though otherwise ahead of us as yet); to be certified on all sides, and sated for the rest of our lives, concerning the Friedrich-Voltaire First Interview.
KING FRIEDRICH TO M. JORDAN (at Berlin).
POTSDAM, 24th September, 1740.
"Most respectable Inspector of the poor, the invalids, orphans, crazy people and Bedlams,—I have read with mature meditation the very profound Jordanic Letter which was waiting here;"—and do accept your learned proposal.
"I have seen that Voltaire whom I was so curious to know; but I saw him with the Quartan hanging on me, and my mind as unstrung as my body. With men of his kind one ought not to be sick; one ought even to be specially well, and in better health than common, if one could.
"He has the eloquence of Cicero, the mildness of Pliny, the wisdom of Agrippa; he combines, in short, what is to be collected of virtues and talents from the three greatest men of Antiquity. His intellect is at work incessantly; every drop of ink is a trait of wit from his pen. He declaimed his MAHOMET to us, an admirable Tragedy which he has done,"—which the Official people smelling heresies in it ("toleration," "horrors of fanaticism," and the like) will not let him act, as readers too well know:—"he transported us out of ourselves; I could only admire and hold my tongue. The Du Chatelet is lucky to have him: for of the good things he flings out at random, a person who had no faculty but memory might make a brilliant Book. That Minerva has just published her Work on PHYSICS: not wholly bad. It was Konig"—whom we know, and whose late tempest in a certain teapot—"that dictated the theme to her: she has adjusted, ornamented here and there with some touch picked from Voltaire at her Suppers. The Chapter on Space is pitiable; the"—in short, she is still raw in the Pure Sciences, and should have waited....
"Adieu, most learned, most scientific, most profound Jordan,—or rather most gallant, most amiable, most jovial Jordan;—I salute thee, with assurance of all those old feelings which thou hast the art of inspiring in every one that knows thee. VALE.
"I write the moment of my arrival: be obliged to me, friend; for I have been working, I am going to work still, like a Turk, or like a Jordan." [OEuvres de Frederic, xvii. 71.]
This is hastily thrown off for Friend Jordan, the instant after his Majesty's circuitous return home. Readers cannot yet attend his Majesty there, till they have brought the Affair of Herstal, and other remainders of the Cleve Journey, along with them.
This Rambonet, whom Voltaire found walking in the court of the old Castle of Moyland, is an official gentleman, otherwise unknown to History, who has lately been engaged in a Public Affair; and is now off again about it, "on a hired hack" or otherwise,—with very good instructions in his head. Affair which, though in itself but small, is now beginning to make great noise in the world, as Friedrich wends homewards out of his Cleve Journey. He has set it fairly alight, Voltaire and he, before quitting Moyland; and now it will go of itself. The Affair of Herstal, or of the Bishop of Liege; Friedrich's first appearance on the stage of politics. Concerning which some very brief notice, if intelligible, will suffice readers of the present day.
Heristal, now called Herstal, was once a Castle known to all mankind; King Pipin's Castle, who styled himself "Pipin of Heristal," before he became King of the Franks and begot Charlemagne. It lies on the Maas, in that fruitful Spa Country; left bank of the Maas, a little to the north of Liege; and probably began existence as a grander place than Liege (LUTTICH), which was, at first, some Monastery dependent on secular Herstal and its grandeurs:—think only how the race has gone between these two entities; spiritual Liege now a big City, black with the smoke of forges and steam-mills; Herstal an insignificant Village, accidentally talked of for a few weeks in 1740, and no chance ever to be mentioned again by men.
Herstal, in the confused vicissitudes of a thousand years, had passed through various fortunes, and undergone change of owners often enough. Fifty years ago it was in the hands of the Nassau-Orange House; Dutch William, our English Protestant King, who probably scarce knew of his possessing it, was Lord of Herstal till his death. Dutch William had no children to inherit Herstal: he was of kinship to the Prussian House, as readers are aware; and from that circumstance, not without a great deal of discussion, and difficult "Division of the Orange Heritage," this Herstal had, at the long last, fallen to Friedrich Wilhelm's share; it and Neuchatel, and the Cobweb Palace, and some other places and pertinents.
For Dutch William was of kin, we say; Friedrich I. of Prussia, by his Mother the noble Wife of the Great Elector, was full cousin to Dutch William: and the Marriage Contracts were express,—though the High Mightinesses made difficulties, and the collateral Orange branches were abundantly reluctant, when it came to the fulfilling point. For indeed the matter was intricate. Orange itself, for example, what was to be done with the Principality of Orange? Clearly Prussia's; but it lies imbedded deep in the belly of France, that will be a Caesarean-Operation for you! Had not Neuchatel happened just then to fall home to France (or in some measure to France) and be heirless, Prussia's Heritage of Orange would have done little for Prussia! Principality of Orange was, by this chance, long since, mainly in the First King's time, got settled: [Neuchatel, 3d November, 1707, to Friedrich I., natives preferring him to "Fifteen other Claimants;" Louis XIV. loudly protesting: not till Treaty of Utrecht (14th March 1713, first month of Friedrich Wilhelm's reign) would Louis XIV., on cession of Orange, consent and sanction.] but there needed many years more of good waiting, and of good pushing, on Friedrich Wilhelm's part; and it was not till 1732 that Friedrich Wilhelm got the Dutch Heritages finally brought to the square: Neuchatel and Valengin, as aforesaid, in lieu of Orange; and now furthermore, the Old Palace at Loo (that VIEILLE COUR and biggest cobwebs), with pertinents, with Garden of Honslardik; and a string of items, bigger and less, not worth enumerating. Of the items, this Herstal was one;—and truly, so far as this went, Friedrich Wilhelm often thought he had better never have seen it, so much trouble did it bring him.
The Herstal people, knowing the Prussian recruiting system and other rigors, were extremely unwilling to come under Friedrich Wilhelm's sway, could they have helped it. They refused fealty, swore they never would swear: nor did they, till the appearance, or indubitable foreshine, of Friedrich Wilhelm's bayonets advancing on them from the East, brought compliance. And always after, spite of such quasi-fealty, they showed a pig-like obstinacy of humor; a certain insignificant, and as it were impertinent, deep-rooted desire to thwart, irritate and contradict the said Friedrich Wilhelm. Especially in any recruiting matter that might arise, knowing that to be the weak side of his Prussian Majesty. All this would have amounted to nothing, had it not been that their neighbor, the Prince Bishop of Liege, who imagined himself to have some obscure claims of sovereignty over Herstal, and thought the present a good opportunity for asserting these, was diligent to aid and abet the Herstal people in such their mutinous acts. Obscure claims; of which this is the summary, should the reader not prefer to skip it:—
"The Bishop of Liege's claims on Herstal (which lie wrapt from mankind in the extensive jungle of his law-pleadings, like a Bedlam happily fallen extinct) seem to me to have grown mainly from two facts more or less radical.
"FACT FIRST. In Kaiser Barbarossa's time, year 1171, Herstal had been given in pawn to the Church of Liege, for a loan, by the then proprietor, Duke of Lorraine and Brabant. Loan was repaid, I do not learn when, and the Pawn given back; to the satisfaction of said Duke, or Duke's Heirs; never quite to the satisfaction of the Church, which had been in possession, and was loath to quit, after hoping to continue. 'Give us back Herstal; it ought to be ours!' Unappeasable sigh or grumble to this effect is heard thenceforth, at intervals, in the Chapter of Liege, and has not ceased in Friedrich's time. But as the world, in its loud thoroughfares, seldom or never heard, or could hear, such sighing in the Chapter, nothing had come of it,—till—
"FACT SECOND. In Kaiser Karl V.'s time, the Prince Bishop of Liege happened to be a Natural Son of old Kaiser Max's;—and had friends at headquarters, of a very choice nature. Had, namely, in this sort, Kaiser Karl for Nephew or Half-Nephew; and what perhaps was still better, as nearer hand, had Karl's Aunt, Maria Queen of Hungary, then Governess of the Netherlands, for Half-Sister. Liege, in these choice circumstances, and by other good chances that turned up, again got temporary clutch or half-clutch of Herstal, for a couple of years (date 1546-1548, the Prince of Orange, real proprietor, whose Ancestor had bought it for money down, being then a minor); once, and perhaps a second time in like circumstance; but had always to renounce it again, when the Prince of Orange came to maturity. And ever since, the Chapter of Liege sighs as before, 'Herstal is perhaps in a sense ours. We had once some kind of right to it!'—sigh inaudible in the loud public thoroughfares. That is the Bishop's claim. The name of him, if anybody care for it, is 'Georg Ludwig, titular COUNT OF BERG,' now a very old man: Bishop of Liege, he, and has been snatching at Herstal again, very eagerly by any skirt or tagrag that might happen to fly loose, these eight years past, in a rash and provoking manner; [Delices du Pais de Liege (Liege, 1738); Helden-Geschichte, ii. 57-62.]—age eighty-two at present; poor old fool, he had better have sat quiet. There lies a rod in pickle for him, during these late months; and will be surprisingly laid on, were the time come!"
"I have Law Authority over Herstal, and power of judging there in the last appeal," said this Bishop:—"You!" thought Friedrich Wilhelm, who was far off, and had little time to waste.—"Any Prussian recruiter that behaves ill, bring him to me!" said the Bishop, who was on the spot. And accordingly it had been done; one notable instance two years ago: a Prussian Lieutenant locked in the Liege jail, on complaint of riotous Herstal; thereupon a Prussian Officer of rank (Colonel Kreutzen, worthy old Malplaquet gentleman) coming as Royal Messenger, not admitted to audience, nay laid hold of by the Liege bailiff instead; and other unheard-of procedures. [Helden-Geschichte, ii. 63-73.] So that Friedrich Wilhelm had nothing but trouble with this petty Herstal, and must have thought his neighbor Bishop a very contentious high-flying gentleman, who took great liberties with the Lion's whiskers, when he had the big animal at an advantage.
The episcopal procedures, eight years ago, about the First Homaging of Herstal, had been of similar complexion; nor had other such failed in the interim, though this last outrage exceeded them all. This last began in the end of 1738; and span itself out through 1739, when Friedrich Wilhelm lay in his final sickness, less able to deal with it than formerly. Being a peaceable man, unwilling to awaken conflagrations for a small matter, Friedrich Wilhelm had offered, through Kreutzen on this occasion, to part with Herstal altogether; to sell it, for 100,000 thalers, say 16,000 pounds, to the high-flying Bishop, and honestly wash his hands of it. But the high-flying Bishop did not consent, gave no definite answer; and so the matter lay,—like an unsettled extremely irritating paltry little matter,—at the time Friedrich Wilhelm died.
The Gazetteers and public knew little about these particulars, or had forgotten them again; but at the Prussian Court they were in lively remembrance. What the young Friedrich's opinion about them had been we gather from this succinct notice of the thing, written seven or eight years afterwards, exact in all points, and still carrying a breath of the old humor in it. "A miserable Bishop of Liege thought it a proud thing to insult the late King. Some subjects of Herstal, which belongs to Prussia, had revolted; the Bishop gave them his protection. Colonel Kreutzen was sent to Liege, to compose the thing by treaty; credentials with him, full power, and all in order. Imagine it, the Bishop would not receive him! Three days, day after day, he saw this Envoy apply at his Palace, and always denied him entrance. These things had grown past endurance." [Preuss, OEuvres (Memoires de Brandebourg), end ii. 53.] And Friedrich had taken note of Herstal along with him, on this Cleve Journey; privately intending to put Herstal and the high-flying Bishop on a suitabler footing, before his return from those countries.
For indeed, on Friedrich's Accession, matters had grown worse, not better. Of course there was Fealty to be sworn; but the Herstal people, abetted by the high-flying Bishop, have declined swearing it. Apology for the past, prospect of amendment for the future, there is less than ever. What is the young King to do with this paltry little Hamlet of Herstal? He could, in theory, go into some Reichs-Hofrath, some Reichs-Kammergericht (kind of treble and tenfold English Court-of-Chancery, which has lawsuits 250 years old),—if he were a theoretic German King. He can plead in the Diets, and the Wetzlar Reichs-Kammergericht without end: "All German Sovereigns have power to send their Ambassador thither, who is like a mastiff chained in the back-yard [observes Friedrich elsewhere] with privilege of barking at the Moon,"—unrestricted privilege of barking at the Moon, if that will avail a practical man, or King's Ambassador. Or perhaps the Bishop of Liege will bethink him, at last, what considerable liberty he is taking with some people's whiskers? Four months are gone; Bishop of Liege has not in the least bethought him: we are in the neighborhood in person, with note of the thing in our memory.
Accordingly the Rath Rambonet, whom Voltaire found at Moyland that Sunday night, had been over at Liege; went exactly a week before; with this message of very peremptory tenor from his Majesty:—
TO THE PRINCE BISHOP OF LIEGE.
"WESEL, 4th September, 1740.
"MY COUSIN,—Knowing all the assaults (ATTEINTES) made by you upon my indisputable rights over my free Barony of Herstal; and how the seditious ringleaders there, for several years past, have been countenanced (BESTARKET) by you in their detestable acts of disobedience against me,—I have commanded my Privy Councillor Rambonet to repair to your presence, and in my name to require from you, within two days, a distinct and categorical answer to this question: Whether you are still minded to assert your pretended sovereignty over Herstal; and whether you will protect the rebels at Herstal, in their disorders and abominable disobedience?
"In case you refuse, or delay beyond the term, the Answer which I hereby of right demand, you will render yourself alone responsible, before the world, for the consequences which infallibly will follow. I am, with much consideration,—My Cousin,—
"Your very affectionate Cousin,
"FRIEDRICH." [Helden-Geschichte, ii. 75, 111.]
Rambonet had started straightway for Liege, with this missive; and had duly presented it there, I guess on the 7th,—with notice that he would wait forty-eight hours, and then return with what answer or no-answer there might be. Getting no written answer, or distinct verbal one; getting only some vague mumblement as good as none, Rambonet had disappeared from Liege on the 9th; and was home at Moyland when Voltaire arrived that Sunday evening,—just walking about to come to heat again, after reporting progress to the above effect.
Rambonet, I judge, enjoyed only one of those divine Suppers at Moyland; and dashed off again, "on hired hack" or otherwise, the very next morning; that contingency of No-answer having been the anticipated one, and all things put in perfect readiness for it. Rambonet's new errand was to "take act," as Voltaire calls it, "at the Gates of Liege,"—to deliver at Liege a succinct Manifesto, Pair of Manifestoes, both in Print (ready beforehand), and bearing date that same Sunday, "Wesel, 11th September;" much calculated to amaze his Reverence at Liege. Succinct good Manifestoes, said to be of Friedrich's own writing; the essential of the two is this:—
Exposition of the Reasons which have induced his Majesty the King of Prussia to make just Reprisals on the Prince Bishop of Liege.
"His Majesty the King of Prussia, being driven beyond bounds by the rude proceedings of the Prince Bishop of Liege, has with regret seen himself forced to recur to the Method of Arms, in order to repress the violence and affront which the Bishop has attempted to put upon him. This resolution has cost his Majesty much pain; the rather as he is, by principle and disposition, far remote from whatever could have the least relation to rigor and severity.
"But seeing himself compelled by the Bishop of Liege to take new methods, he had no other course but to maintain the justice of his rights (LA JUSTICE DE SES DROITS), and demand reparation for the indignity done upon his Minister Von Kreuzen, as well as for the contempt with which the Bishop of Liege has neglected even to answer the Letter of the King.
"As too much rigor borders upon cruelty, so too much patience resembles weakness. Thus, although the King would willingly have sacrificed his interests to the public peace and tranquillity, it was not possible to do so in reference to his honor; and that is the chief motive which has determined him to this resolution, so contrary to his intentions.
"In vain has it been attempted, by methods of mildness, to come to a friendly agreement: it has been found, on the contrary, that the King's moderation only increased the Prince's arrogance; that mildness of conduct on one side only furnished resources to pride on the other; and that, in fine, instead of gaining by soft procedure, one was insensibly becoming an object of vexation and disdain.
"There being no means to have justice but in doing it for oneself, and the King being Sovereign enough for such a duty,—he intends to make the Prince of Liege feel how far he was in the wrong to abuse such moderation so unworthily. But in spite of so much unhandsome behavior on the part of this Prince, the King will not be inflexible; satisfied with having shown the said Prince that he can punish him, and too just to overwhelm him. FREDERIC. "WESEL, September 11th, 1740." [Helden-Geschichte, ii. 77. Said to be by Friedrich himself (Stenzel, iv. 59).]
Whether Rambonet insinuated his Paper-Packet into the Palace of Seraing, left it at the Gate of Liege (fixed by nail, if he saw good), or in what manner he "took act," I never knew; and indeed Rambonet vanishes from human History at this point: it is certain only that he did his Formality, say two days hence;—and that the Fact foreshadowed by it is likewise in the same hours, hour after hour, getting steadily done.
For the Manifestoes printed beforehand, dated Wesel, 11th September, were not the only thing ready at Wesel; waiting, as on the slip, for the contingency of No-answer. Major-General Borck, with the due Battalions, squadrons and equipments, was also ready. Major-General Borck, the same who was with us at Baireuth lately, had just returned from that journey, when he got orders to collect 2,000 men, horse and foot, with the due proportion of artillery, from the Prussian Garrisons in these parts; and to be ready for marching with them, the instant the contingency of No-answer arrives,—Sunday, 11th, as can be foreseen. Borck knows his route: To Maaseyk, a respectable Town of the Bishop's, the handiest for Wesel; to occupy Maaseyk and the adjoining "Counties of Lotz and Horn;" and lie there at the Bishop's charge till his Reverence's mind alter.
Borck is ready, to the last pontoon, the last munition-loaf; and no sooner is signal given of the No-answer come, than Borck, that same "Sunday, 11th," gets under way; marches, steady as clock-work, towards Maaseyk (fifty miles southwest of him, distance now lessening every hour); crosses the Maas, by help of his pontoons; is now in the Bishop's Territory, and enters Maaseyk, evening of "Wednesday, 14th,"—that very day Voltaire and his Majesty had parted, going different ways from Moyland; and probably about the same hour while Rambonet was "taking act at the Gate of Liege," by nail-hammer or otherwise. All goes punctual, swift, cog hitting pinion far and near, in this small Herstal Business; and there is no mistake made, and a minimum of time spent.
Borck's management was throughout good: punctual, quietly exact, polite, mildly inflexible. Fain would the Maaseyk Town-Baths have shut their gates on him; desperately conjuring him, "Respite for a few hours, till we send to Liege for instructions!" But it was to no purpose. "Unbolt, IHR HERREN; swift, or the petard will have to do it!" Borck publishes his Proclamation, a mild-spoken rigorous Piece; signifies to the Maaseyk Authorities, That he has to exact a Contribution of 20,000 thalers (3,000 pounds) here, Contribution payable in three days; that he furthermore, while he continues in these parts, will need such and such rations, accommodations, allowances,—"fifty LOUIS (say guineas) daily for his own private expenses," one item;—and, in mild rhadamanthine language, waves aside all remonstrance, refusal or delay, as superfluous considerations: Unless said Contribution and required supplies come in, it will be his painful duty to bring them in. [Helden-Geschichte, i. 427; ii. 113.]
The high-flying Bishop, much astonished, does now eagerly answer his Prussian Majesty, "Was from home, was ill, thought he had answered; is the most ill-used of Bishops;" and other things of a hysteric character. [Ib. ii. 85, 86 (date, 16th September).] And there came forth, as natural to the situation, multitudinous complainings, manifestoings, applications to the Kaiser, to the French, to the Dutch, of a very shrieky character on the Bishop of Liege's part; sparingly, if at all noticed on Friedrich's: the whole of which we shall consider ourselves free to leave undisturbed in the rubbish-abysses, as henceforth conceivable to the reader. "SED SPEM STUPENDE FEFELLIT EVENTUS," shrieks the poor old Bishop, making moan to the Kaiser: "ECCE ENIM, PRAEMISSA DUNTAXAT UNA LITERA, one Letter," and little more, "the said King of Borussia has, with about 2,000 horse and foot, and warlike engines, in this month of September, entered the Territory of Liege;" [Helden-Geschichte, ii. 88.] which is an undeniable truth, but an unavailing. Borck is there, and "2,000 good arguments with him," as Voltaire defines the phenomenon. Friedrich, except to explain pertinently what my readers already know, does not write or speak farther on the subject; and readers and he may consider the Herstal Affair, thus set agoing under Borck's auspices, as in effect finished; and that his Majesty has left it on a satisfactory footing, and may safely turn his back on it, to wait the sure issue at Berlin before long.
Voltaire told us he himself "did one Manifesto, good or bad," on this Herstal business:—where is that Piece, then, what has become of it? Dig well in the realms of Chaos, rectifying stupidities more or less enormous, the Piece itself is still discoverable; and, were pieces by Voltaire much a rarity instead of the reverse, might be resuscitated by a good Editor, and printed in his WORKS. Lies buried in the lonesome rubbish-mountains of that Helden-Geschichte,—let a SISTE VIATOR, scratched on the surface, mark where. [Ib. ii. 98-98.] Apparently that is the Piece by Voltaire? Yes, on reading that, it has every internal evidence; distinguishes itself from the surrounding pieces, like a slab of compact polished stone, in a floor rammed together out of ruinous old bricks, broken bottles and mortar-dust;—agrees, too, if you examine by the microscope, with the external indications, which are sure and at last clear, though infinitesimally small; and is beyond doubt Voltaire's, if it were now good for much.
It is not properly a Manifesto, but an anonymous memoir published in the Newspapers, explaining to impartial mankind, in a legible brief manner, what the old and recent History of Herstal, and the Troubles of Herstal, have been, and how chimerical and "null to the extreme of nullity (NULLES DE TOUT NULLITE)" this poor Bishop's pretensions upon it are. Voltaire expressly piques himself on this Piece; [Letter to Friedrich: dateless, datable "soon after 17th September;" which the rash dark Editors have by guess misdated "August; "or, what was safer for them, omitted it altogether. OEuvres de Voltaire (Paris, 1818, 40 vols.) gives the Letter, xxxix. 442 (see also ibid. 453, 463); later Editors, and even Preuss, take the safer course.] brags also how he settled "M. de Fenelon [French Ambassador at the Hague], who came to me the day before yesterday," much out of square upon the Herstal Business, till I pulled him straight. And it is evident (beautifully so, your Majesty) how Voltaire busied himself in the Gazettes and Diplomatic circles, setting Friedrich's case right; Voltaire very loyal to Friedrich and his Liege Cause at that time;—and the contrast between what his contemporary Letters say on the subject, and what his ulterior Pasquil called VIE PRIVEE says, is again great.
The dull stagnant world, shaken awake by this Liege adventure, gives voice variously; and in the Gazetteer and Diplomatic circles it is much criticised, by no means everywhere in the favorable tone at this first blush of the business. "He had written an ANTI-Machiavel," says the Abbe St. Pierre, and even says Voltaire (in the PASQUIL, not the contemporary LETTERS), "and he acts thus!" Truly he does, Monsieur de Voltaire; and all men, with light upon the subject, or even with the reverse upon it, must make their criticisms. For the rest, Borck's "2,000 arguments" are there; which Borck handles well, with polite calm rigor: by degrees the dust will fall, and facts everywhere be seen for what they are.
As to the high-flying Bishop, finding that hysterics are but wasted on Friedrich and Borck, and produce no effect with their 2,000 validities, he flies next to the Kaiser, to the Imperial Diet, in shrill-sounding Latin obtestations, of which we already gave a flying snatch: "Your HUMILISSIMUS and FIDELISSIMUS VASSALLUS, and most obsequient Servant, Georgius Ludovicus; meek, modest, and unspeakably in the right: Was ever Member of the Holy Roman Empire so snubbed, and grasped by the windpipe, before? Oh, help him, great Kaiser, bid the iron gripe loosen itself!" [Helden-Geschichte, ii, 86-116.] The Kaiser does so, in heavy Latin rescripts, in German DEHORTATORIUMS more than one, of a sulky, imperative, and indeed very lofty tenor; "Let Georgius Ludovicus go, foolish rash young Dilection (LIEBDEN, not MAJESTY, we ourselves being the only Majesty), and I will judge between you; otherwise—!" said the Kaiser, ponderously shaking his Olympian wig, and lifting his gilt cane, or sceptre of mankind, in an Olympian manner. Here are some touches of his second sublimest DEHORTATORIUM addressed to Friedrich, in a very compressed state: [Helden-Geschichte, ii. 127; a FIRST and milder (ibid. 73).]—
We Karl the Sixth, Kaiser of (TITLES ENOUGH),... "Considering these, in the Holy Roman Reich, almost unheard-of violent Doings (THATLICHKEITEN), which We, in Our Supreme-Judge Office, cannot altogether justify, nor will endure... We have the trust that you yourself will magnanimously see How evil counsellors have misled your Dilection to commence your Reign, not by showing example of Obedience to the Laws appointed for all members of the Reich, for the weak and for the strong alike, but by such Doings (THATHANDLUNGEN) as in all quarters must cause a great surprise.
"We give your Dilection to know, therefore, That you must straightway withdraw those troops which have broken into the Liege Territory; make speedy restitution of all that has been extorted;—especially General von Borck to give back at once those 50 louis d'or daily drawn by him, to renounce his demand of the 20,000 thalers, to make good all damage done, and retire with his whole military force (MILITZ) over the Liege boundaries;—and in brief, that you will, by law or arbitration, manage to agree with the Prince Bishop of Liege, who wishes it very much. These things We expect from your Dilection, as Kurfurst of Brandenburg, within the space of Two Months from the Issuing of this; and remain,"—Yours as you shall demean yourself,—KARL.
"Given at Wien, 4th of October, 1740."—The last Dehortatorium ever signed by Karl VI. In two weeks after he ate too many mushrooms,—and immense results followed!
Dehortatoriums had their interest, at Berlin and elsewhere, for the Diplomatic circles; but did not produce the least effect on Borck or Friedrich; though Friedrich noted the Kaiser's manner in these things, and thought privately to himself, as was evident to the discerning, "What an amount of wig on that old gentleman!" A notable Kaiser's Ambassador, Herr Botta, who had come with some Accession compliments, in these weeks, was treated slightingly by Friedrich; hardly admitted to Audience; and Friedrich's public reply to the last Dehortatorium had almost something of sarcasm in it: Evil counsellors yourself, Most Dread Kaiser! It is you that are "misled by counsellors, who might chance to set Germany on fire, were others as unwise as they!" Which latter phrase was remarkable to mankind.—There is a long account already run up between that old gentleman, with his Seckendorfs, Grumkows, with his dull insolencies, wiggeries, and this young gentleman, who has nearly had his heart broken and his Father's house driven mad by them! Borck remains at his post; rations duly delivered, and fifty louis a day for his own private expenses; and there is no answer to the Kaiser, or in sharp brief terms (about "chances of setting Germany on fire"), rather worse than none.
Readers see, as well as Friedrich did, what the upshot of this affair must be;—we will now finish it off, and wash our hands of it, before following his Majesty to Berlin. The poor Bishop had applied, shrieking, to the French for help;—and there came some colloquial passages between Voltaire and Fenelon, if that were a result. He had shrieked in like manner to the Dutch, but without result of any kind traceable in that quarter: nowhere, except from the Kaiser, is so much as a DEHORTATORIUM to be got. Whereupon the once high-flying, now vainly shrieking Bishop discerns clearly that there is but one course left,—the course which has lain wide open for some years past, had not his flight gone too high for seeing it. Before three weeks are over, seeing how Dehortatoriums go, he sends his Ambassadors to Berlin, his apologies, proposals: [Ambassadors arrived 28th September; last Dehortatorium not yet out. Business was completed 20th October (Rodenbeck, IN DIEBUS).] "Would not your Majesty perhaps consent to sell this Herstal, as your Father of glorious memory was pleased to be willing once?"—
Friedrich answers straightway to the effect: "Certainly! Pay me the price it was once already offered for: 100,000 thalers, PLUS the expenses since incurred. That will be 180,000 thalers, besides what you have spent already on General Borck's days' wages. To which we will add that wretched little fraction of Old Debt, clear as noon, but never paid nor any part of it; 60,000 thalers, due by the See of Liege ever since the Treaty of Utrecht; 60,000, for which we will charge no interest: that will make 240,000 thalers,—36,000 pounds, instead of the old sum you might have had it at. Produce that cash; and take Herstal, and all the dust that has risen out of it, well home with you." [Stenzel, iv. 60, who counts in gulden, and is not distinct.] The Bishop thankfully complies in all points; negotiation speedily done ("20th Oct." the final date): Bishop has not, I think, quite so much cash on hand; but will pay all he has, and 4 per centum interest till the whole be liquidated. His Ambassadors "get gold snuffboxes;" and return mildly glad!
And thus, in some six weeks after Borck's arrival in those parts, Borck's function is well done. The noise of Gazettes and Diplomatic circles lays itself again; and Herstal, famous once for King Pipin, and famous again for King Friedrich, lapses at length into obscurity, which we hope will never end. Hope;—though who can say? ROUCOUX, quite close upon it, becomes a Battle-ground in some few years; and memorabilities go much at random in this world!
Friedrich spent ten days on his circuitous journey home; considerable inspection to be done, in Minden, Magdeburg, not to speak of other businesses he had. The old Newspapers are still more intent upon him, now that the Herstal Affair has broken into flame: especially the English Newspapers; who guess that there are passages of courtship going on between great George their King and him. Here is one fact, correct in every point, for the old London Public: "Letters from Hanover say, that the King of Prussia passed within a small distance of that City the 16th inst. N.S., on his return to Berlin, but did not stop at Herrenhausen;"—about which there has been such hoping and speculating among us lately. [Daily Post, 22d September, 1740; other London Newspapers from July 31st downwards.] A fact which the extinct Editor seems to meditate for a day or two; after which he says (partly in ITALICS), opening his lips the second time, like a Friar Bacon's Head significant to the Public: "Letters from Hanover tell us that the Interview, which it was said his Majesty was to have with the King of Prussia, did not take place, for certain PRIVATE REASONS, which our Correspondent leaves us to guess at!"
It is well known Friedrich did not love his little Uncle, then or thenceforth; still less his little Uncle him: "What is this Prussia, rising alongside of us, higher and higher, as if it would reach our own sublime level!" thinks the little Uncle to himself. At present there is no quarrel between them; on the contrary, as we have seen, there is a mutual capability of helping one another, which both recognize; but will an interview tend to forward that useful result? Friedrich, in the intervals of an ague, with Herstal just broken out, may have wisely decided, No. "Our sublime little Uncle, of the waxy complexion, with the proudly staring fish-eyes,—no wit in him, not much sense, and a great deal of pride,—stands dreadfully erect, 'plumb and more,' with the Garter-leg advanced, when one goes to see him; and his remarks are not of an entertaining nature. Leave him standing there: to him let Truchsess and Bielfeld suffice, in these hurries, in this ague that is still upon us." Upon which the dull old Newspapers, Owls of Minerva that then were, endeavor to draw inferences. The noticeable fact is, Friedrich did, on this occasion, pass within a mile or two of his royal Uncle, without seeing him; and had not, through life, another opportunity; never saw the sublime little man at all, nor was again so near him.
I believe Friedrich little knows the thick-coming difficulties of his Britannic Majesty at this juncture; and is too impatient of these laggard procedures on the part of a man with eyes A FLEUR-DE-TETE. Modern readers too have forgotten Jenkins's Ear; it is not till after long study and survey that one begins to perceive the anomalous profundities of that phenomenon to the poor English Nation and its poor George II.
The English sent off, last year, a scanty Expedition, "six ships of the line," only six, under Vernon, a fiery Admiral, a little given to be fiery in Parliamentary talk withal; and these did proceed to Porto-Bello on the Spanish Main of South America; did hurl out on Porto-Bello such a fiery destructive deluge, of gunnery and bayonet-work, as quickly reduced the poor place to the verge of ruin, and forced it to surrender with whatever navy, garrison, goods and resources were in it, to the discretion of fiery Vernon,—who does not prove implacable, he or his, to a petitioning enemy. Yes, humble the insolent, but then be merciful to them, say the admiring Gazetteers. "The actual monster," how cheering to think, "who tore off Mr. Jenkins's Ear, was got hold of [actual monster, or even three or four different monsters who each did it, the "hold got" being mythical, as readers see], and naturally thought he would be slit to ribbons; but our people magnanimously pardoned him, magnanimously flung him aside out of sight;" [Gentleman's Magazine, x. 124, 145 (date of the Event is 3d December N.S., 1739).] impossible to shoot a dog in cold blood.
Whereupon Vernon returned home triumphant; and there burst forth such a jubilation, over the day of small things, as is now astonishing to think of. Had the Termagant's own Thalamus and Treasury been bombarded suddenly one night by red-hot balls, Madrid City laid in ashes, or Baby Carlos's Apanage extinguished from Creation, there could hardly have been greater English joy (witness the "Porto-Bellos" they still have, new Towns so named); so flamy is the murky element growing on that head. And indeed had the cipher of tar-barrels burnt, and of ale-barrels drunk, and the general account of wick and tallow spent in illuminations and in aldermanic exertions on the matter, been accurately taken, one doubts if Porto-Bello sold, without shot fired, to the highest bidder, at its floweriest, would have covered such a sum. For they are a singular Nation, if stirred up from their stagnancy; and are much in earnest about this Spanish War.
It is said there is now another far grander Expedition on the stocks: military this time as well as naval, intended for the Spanish Main;—but of that, for the present, we will defer speaking. Enough, the Spanish War is a most serious and most furious business to those old English; and, to us, after forced study of it, shines out like far-off conflagration, with a certain lurid significance in the then night of things. Night otherwise fallen dark and somniferous to modern mankind. As Britannic Majesty and his Walpoles have, from the first, been dead against this Spanish War, the problem is all the more ominous, and the dreadful corollaries that may hang by it the more distressing to the royal mind.
For example, there is known, or as good as known, to be virtually some Family Compact, or covenanted Brotherhood of Bourbonism, French and Spanish: political people quake to ask themselves, "How will the French keep out of this War, if it continue any length of time? And in that case, how will Austria, Europe at large? Jenkins's Ear will have kindled the Universe, not the Spanish Main only, and we shall be at a fine pass!" The Britannic Majesty reflects that if France take to fighting him, the first stab given will probably be in the accessiblest quarter and the intensely most sensitive,—our own Electoral Dominions where no Parliament plagues us, our dear native country, Hanover. Extremely interesting to know what Friedrich of Prussia will do in such contingency?
Well, truly it might have been King George's best bargain to close with Friedrich; to guarantee Julich and Berg, and get Fredrich to stand between the French and Hanover; while George, with an England behind him, in such humor, went wholly into that Spanish Business, the one thing needful to them at present. Truly; but then again, there are considerations: "What is this Friedrich, just come out upon the world? What real fighting power has he, after all that ridiculous drilling and recruiting Friedrich Wilhelm made? Will he be faithful in bargain; is not, perhaps, from of old, his bias always toward France rather? And the Kaiser, what will the Kaiser say to it?" These are questions for a Britannic Majesty! Seldom was seen such an insoluble imbroglio of potentialities; dangerous to touch, dangerous to leave lying;—and his Britannic Majesty's procedures upon it are of a very slow intricate sort; and will grow still more so, year after year, in the new intricacies that are coming, and be a weariness to my readers and me. For observe the simultaneous fact. All this while, Robinson at Vienna is dunning the Imperial Majesty to remember old Marlborough days and the Laws of Nature; and declare for us against France, in case of the worst. What an attempt! Imperial Majesty has no money; Imperial Majesty remembers recent days rather, and his own last quarrel with France (on the Polish-Election score), in which you Sea-Powers cruelly stood neuter! One comfort, and pretty much one only, is left to a nearly bankrupt Imperial heart; that France does at any rate ratify Pragmatic Sanction, and instead of enemy to that inestimable Document has become friend,—if only she be well let alone. "Let well alone," says the sad Kaiser, bankrupt of heart as well as purse: "I have saved the Pragmatic, got Fleury to guarantee it; I will hunt wild swine and not shadows any more: ask me not!" And now this Herstal business; the Imperial Dehortatoriums, perhaps of a high nature, that are like to come? More hopeless proposition the Britannic Majesty never made than this to the Kaiser. But he persists in it, orders Robinson to persist; knocks at the Austrian door with one hand, at the Prussian or Anti-Austrian with the other; and gazes, with those proud fish-eyes, into perils and potentialities and a sea of troubles. Wearisome to think of, were not one bound to it! Here, from a singular CONSTITUTIONAL HISTORY OF ENGLAND, not yet got into print, are two Excerpts; which I will request the reader to try if he can take along with him, in view of much that is Coming:—
1. A JUST WAR.—"This War, which posterity scoffs at as the WAR OF JENKINS'S EAR, was, if we examine it, a quite indispensable one; the dim much-bewildered English, driven into it by their deepest instincts, were, in a chaotic inarticulate way, right and not wrong in taking it as the Commandment of Heaven. For such, in a sense, it was; as shall by and by appear. Not perhaps since the grand Reformation Controversy, under Oliver Cromwell and Elizabeth, had there, to this poor English People (who are essentially dumb, inarticulate, from the weight of meaning they have, notwithstanding the palaver one hears from them in certain epochs), been a more authentic cause of War. And, what was the fatal and yet foolish circumstance, their Constitutional Captains, especially their King, would never and could never regard it as such; but had to be forced into it by the public rage, there being no other method left in the case.
"I say, a most necessary War, though of a most stupid appearance; such the fatality of it:—begun, carried on, ended, as if by a People in a state of somnambulism! More confused operation never was. A solid placid People, heavily asleep (and snoring much, shall we say, and inarticulately grunting and struggling under indigestions, Constitutional and other? Do but listen to the hum of those extinct Pamphlets and Parliamentary Oratories of theirs!),—yet an honestly intending People; and keenly alive to any commandment from Heaven, that could pierce through the thick skin of them into their big obstinate heart. Such a commandment, then and there, was that monition about Jenkins's Ear. Upon which, so pungent was it to them, they started violently out of bed, into painful sleep-walking; and went, for twenty years and more, clambering and sprawling about, far and wide, on the giddy edge of precipices, over house-tops and frightful cornices and parapets; in a dim fulfilment of the said Heaven's command. I reckon that this War, though there were intervals, Treaties of Peace more than one, and the War had various names,—did not end till 1763. And then, by degrees, the poor English Nation found that (at, say, a thousand times the necessary expense, and with imminent peril to its poor head, and all the bones of its body) it had actually succeeded,—by dreadful exertions in its sleep! This will be more apparent by and by; and may be a kind of comfort to the sad English reader, drearily surveying such somnambulisms on the part of his poor ancestors."
2. TWO DIFFICULTIES.—"There are Two grand Difficulties in this Farce-Tragedy of a war; of which only one, and that not the worst of the Pair, is in the least surmised by the English hitherto. Difficulty First, which is even worse than the other, and will surprisingly attend the English in all their Wars now coming, is: That their fighting-apparatus, though made of excellent material, cannot fight,—being in disorganic condition; one branch of it, especially the 'Military' one as they are pleased to call it, being as good as totally chaotic, and this in a quiet habitual manner, this long while back. With the Naval branch it is otherwise; which also is habitual there. The English almost as if by nature can sail, and fight, in ships; cannot well help doing it. Sailors innumerable are bred to them; they are planted in the Ocean, opulent stormy Neptune clipping them in all his moods forever: and then by nature, being a dumb, much-enduring, much-reflecting, stout, veracious and valiant kind of People, they shine in that way of life, which specially requires such. Without much forethought, they have sailors innumerable, and of the best quality. The English have among them also, strange as it may seem to the cursory observer, a great gift of organizing; witness their Arkwrights and others: and this gift they may often, in matters Naval more than elsewhere, get the chance of exercising. For a Ship's Crew, or even a Fleet, unlike a land Army, is of itself a unity, its fortunes disjoined, dependent on its own management; and it falls, moreover, as no land army can, to the undivided guidance of one man,—who (by hypothesis, being English) has now and then, from of old, chanced to be an organizing man; and who is always much interested to know and practise what has been well organized. For you are in contact with verities, to an unexampled degree, when you get upon the Ocean, with intent to sail on it, much more to fight on it;—bottomless destruction raging beneath you and on all hands of you, if you neglect, for any reason, the methods of keeping it down, and making it float you to your aim!
"The English Navy is in tolerable order at that period. But as to the English Army,—we may say it is, in a wrong sense, the wonder of the world, and continues so throughout the whole of this History and farther! Never before, among the rational sons of Adam, were Armies sent out on such terms,—namely without a General, or with no General understanding the least of his business. The English have a notion that Generalship is not wanted; that War is not an Art, as playing Chess is, as finding the Longitude, and doing the Differential Calculus are (and a much deeper Art than any of these); that War is taught by Nature, as eating is; that courageous soldiers, led on by a courageous Wooden Pole with Cocked-hat on it, will do very well. In the world I have not found opacity of platitude go deeper among any People. This is Difficulty First, not yet suspected by an English People, capable of great opacity on some subjects.
"Difficulty Second is, That their Ministry, whom they had to force into this War, perhaps do not go zealously upon it. And perhaps even, in the above circumstances, they totally want knowledge how to go upon it, were they never so zealous; Difficulty Second might be much helped, were it not for Difficulty First. But the administering of War is a thing also that does not come to a man like eating.—This Second Difficulty, suspicion that Walpole and perhaps still higher heads want zeal, gives his Britannic Majesty infinite trouble; and"——And so, in short, he stands there, with the Garter-leg advanced, looking loftily into a considerable sea of troubles,—that day when Friedrich drove past him, Friday, 16th September, 1740, and never came so near him again.
The next business for Friedrich was a Visit at Brunswick, to the Affinities and Kindred, in passing; where also was an important little act to be done: Betrothal of the young Prince, August Wilhelm, Heir-Presumptive whom we saw in Strasburg, to a Princess of that House, Louisa Amelia, younger Sister of Friedrich's own Queen. A modest promising arrangement; which turned out well enough,—though the young Prince, Father to the Kings that since are, was not supremely fortunate otherwise. [Betrothal was 20th September, 1740; Marriage, 5th January, 1742 (Buchholz, i. 207).] After which, the review at Magdeburg; and home on the 24th, there to "be busy as a Turk or as a M. Jordan,"—according to what we read long since.
By this Herstal token, which is now blazing abroad, now and for a month to come, it can be judged that the young King of Prussia intends to stand on his own footing, quite peremptorily if need be; and will by no means have himself led about in Imperial harness, as his late Father was. So that a dull Public (Herrenhausen very specially), and Gazetteer Owls of Minerva everywhere, may expect events. All the more indubitably, when that spade-work comes to light in the Wesel Country. It is privately certain (the Gazetteers not yet sure about it, till they see the actual spades going), this new King does fully intend to assert his rights on Berg-Julich; and will appear there with his iron ramrods, the instant old Kur-Pfalz shall decease, let France and the Kaiser say No to it or say Yes. There are, in fact, at a fit place, "Buderich in the neighborhood of Wesel," certain rampart-works, beginnings as of an Entrenched Camp, going on;—"for Review purposes merely," say the Gazetteers, IN ITALICS. Here, it privately is Friedrich's resolution, shall a Prussian Army, of the due strength (could be well-nigh 100,000 strong if needful), make its appearance, directly on old Kur-Pfalz's decease, if one live to see such event. [Stenzel, iv. 61.] France and the Kaiser will probably take good survey of that Buderich phenomenon before meddling.
To do his work like a King, and shun no peril and no toil in the course of what his work may be, is Friedrich's rule and intention. Nevertheless it is clear he expects to approve himself magnanimous rather in the Peaceable operations than in the Warlike; and his outlooks are, of all places and pursuits, towards Reinsberg and the Fine Arts, for the time being. His Public activity meanwhile they describe as "prodigious," though the ague still clings to him; such building, instituting, managing: Opera-House, French Theatre, Palace for his Mother;—day by day, many things to be recorded by Editor Formey, though the rule about them here is silence except on cause.
No doubt the ague is itself privately a point of moment. Such a vexatious paltry little thing, in this bright whirl of Activities, Public and other, which he continues managing in spite of it; impatient to be rid of it. But it will not go: there IT reappears always, punctual to its "fourth day,"—like a snarling street-dog, in the high Ball-room and Work-room. "He is drinking Pyrmont water;" has himself proposed Quinquina, a remedy just come up, but the Doctors shook their heads; has tried snatches of Reinsberg, too short; he intends soon to be out there for a right spell of country, there to be "happy," and get quit of his ague. The ague went,—and by a remedy which surprised the whole world, as will be seen!
Monday, 17th October, came the Baireuth Visitors; Wilhelmina all in a flutter, and tremor of joy and sorrow, to see her Brother again, her old kindred and the altered scene of things. Poor Lady, she is perceptibly more tremulous than usual; and her Narrative, not in dates only, but in more memorable points, dances about at a sad rate; interior agitations and tremulous shrill feelings shivering her this way and that, and throwing things topsy-turvy in one's recollection. Like the magnetic needle, shaky but steadfast (AGITEE MAI CONSTANTE). Truer nothing can be, points forever to the Pole; but also what obliquities it makes; will shiver aside in mad escapades, if you hold the paltriest bit of old iron near it,—paltriest clack of gossip about this loved Brother of mine! Brother, we will hope, silently continues to be Pole, so that the needle always comes back again; otherwise all would go to wreck. Here, in abridged and partly rectified form, are the phenomena witnessed:—
"We arrived at Berlin the end of October [Monday, 17th, as above said]. My younger Brothers, followed by the Princes of the Blood and by all the Court, received us at the bottom of the stairs. I was led to my apartment, where I found the Reigning Queen, my Sisters [Ulrique, Amelia], and the Princesses [of the Blood, as above, Schwedt and the rest]. I learned with much chagrin that the King was ill of tertian ague [quartan; but that is no matter]. He sent me word that, being in his fit, he could not see me; but that he depended on having that pleasure to-morrow. The Queen Mother, to whom I went without delay, was in a dark condition; rooms all hung with their lugubrious drapery; everything yet in the depth of mourning for my Father. What a scene for me! Nature has her rights; I can say with truth, I have almost never in my life been so moved as on this occasion." Interview with Mamma—we can fancy it—"was of the most touching." Wilhelmina had been absent eight years. She scarcely knows the young ones again, all so grown;—finds change on change: and that Time, as he always is, has been busy. That night the Supper-Party was exclusively a Family one.
Her Brother's welcome to her on the morrow, though ardent enough, she found deficient in sincerity, deficient in several points; as indeed a Brother up to the neck in business, and just come out of an ague-fit, does not appear to the best advantage. Wilhelmina noticed how ill he looked, so lean and broken-down (MAIGRE ET DEFAIT) within the last two months; but seems to have taken no account of it farther, in striking her balances with Friedrich. And indeed in her Narrative of this Visit, not, we will hope, in the Visit itself, she must have been in a high state of magnetic deflection,—pretty nearly her maximum of such, discoverable in those famous MEMOIRS,—such a tumult is there in her statements, all gone to ground-and-lofty tumbling in this place; so discrepant are the still ascertainable facts from this topsy-turvy picture of them, sketched by her four years hence (in 1744). The truest of magnetic needles; but so sensitive, if you bring foreign iron near it!
Wilhelmina was loaded with honors by an impartial Berlin Public that is Court Public; "but, all being in mourning, the Court was not brilliant. The Queen Mother saw little company, and was sunk in sorrow;—had not the least influence in affairs, so jealous was the new King of his Authority,—to the Queen Mother's surprise," says Wilhelmina. For the rest, here is a King "becoming truly unpopular [or, we fancy so, in our deflected state, and judging by the rumor of cliques]; a general discontent reigning in the Country, love of his subjects pretty much gone; people speaking of him in no measured terms [in certain cliques]. Cares nothing about those who helped him as Prince Royal, say some; others complain of his avarice [meaning steady vigilance in outlay] as surpassing the late King's; this one complained of his violences of temper (EMPORTEMENS); that one of his suspicions, of his distrust, his haughtinesses, his dissimulation" (meaning polite impenetrability when he saw good). Several circumstances, known to Wilhelmina's own experience, compel Wilhelmina's assent on those points. "I would have spoken to him about them, if my Brother of Prussia [young August Wilhelm, betrothed the other day] and the Queen Regnant had not dissuaded me. Farther on I will give the explanation of all this,"—never did it anywhere. "I beg those who may one day read these MEMOIRS, to suspend their judgment on the character of this great Prince till I have developed it." [Wilhelmina, ii. 326.] O my Princess, you are true and bright, but you are shrill; and I admire the effect of atmospheric electricity, not to say, of any neighboring marine-store shop, or miserable bit of broken pan, on one of the finest magnetic needles ever made and set trembling!
Wilhelmina is incapable of deliberate falsehood; and this her impression or reminiscence, with all its exaggeration, is entitled to be heard in evidence so far. From this, and from other sources, readers will assure themselves that discontents were not wanting; that King Friedrich was not amiable to everybody at this time,—which indeed he never grew to be at any other time. He had to be a King; that was the trade he followed, not the quite different one of being amiable all round. Amiability is good, my Princess; but the question rises, "To whom?—for example, to the young gentleman who shot himself in Lobegun?" There are young gentlemen and old sometimes in considerable quantities, to whom, if you were in your duty, as a King of men (or even as a "King of one man and his affairs," if that is all your kingdom), you should have been hateful instead of amiable! That is a stern truth; too much forgotten by Wilhelmina and others. Again, what a deadening and killing circumstance is it in the career of amiability, that you are bound not to be communicative of your inner man, but perpetually and strictly the reverse! It may be doubted if a good King can be amiable; certainly he cannot in any but the noblest ages, and then only to a select few. I should guess Friedrich was at no time fairly loved, not by those nearest to him. He was rapid, decisive; of wiry compact nature; had nothing of his Father's amplitudes, simplicities; nothing to sport with and fondle, far from it. Tremulous sensibilities, ardent affections; these we clearly discover in him, in extraordinary vivacity; but he wears them under his polished panoply, and is outwardly a radiant but metallic object to mankind. Let us carry this along with us in studying him; and thank Wilhelmina for giving us hint of it in her oblique way.—Wilhelmima's love for her Brother rose to quite heroic pitch in coming years, and was at its highest when she died. That continuation of her MEMOIRS in which she is to develop her Brother's character, was never written: it has been sought for in modern times; and a few insignificant pages, with evidence that there is not, and was not, any more, are all that has turned up. [Pertz, Ueber die Denkwurdigkeiten der Markgrafin van Bayreuth (Paper read in the Akademie der Wissenschaften, Berlin, 25th April, 1850)].
Incapable of falsity prepense, we say; but the known facts, which stand abundantly on record if you care to search them out, are merely as follows: Friedrich, with such sincerity as there might be, did welcome Wilhelmina on the morrow of her arrival; spoke of Reinsberg, and of air and rest, and how pleasant it would be; rolled off next morning, having at last gathered up his businesses, and got them well in hand, to Reinsberg accordingly; whither Wilhelmina, with the Queen Regnant and others of agreeable quality, followed in two days; intending a long and pleasant spell of country out there. Which hope was tolerably fulfilled, even for Wilhelmina, though there did come unexpected interruptions, not of Friedrich's bringing.
Friedrich's pursuits and intended conquests, for the present, are of peaceable and even gay nature. French Theatre, Italian Opera-House, these are among the immediate outlooks. Voltaire, skilled in French acting, if anybody ever were, is multifariously negotiating for a Company of that kind,—let him be swift, be successful. [Letters of Voltaire (PASSIM, in these months).] An Italian Opera there shall be; the House is still to be built: Captain Knobelsdorf, who built Reinsberg, whom we have known, is to do it. Knobelsdorf has gone to Italy on that errand; "went by Dresden, carefully examining the Opera-House there, and all the famed Opera-Houses on his road." Graun, one of the best judges living, is likewise off to Italy, gathering singers. Our Opera too shall be a successful thing, and we hope, a speedy. Such are Friedrich's outlooks at this time.
A miscellaneous pleasant company is here; Truchsess and Bielfeld, home from Hanover, among them; Wilhelmina is here;—Voltaire himself perhaps coming again. Friedrich drinks his Pyrmont waters; works at his public businesses all day, which are now well in hand, and manageable by couriers; at evening he appears in company, and is the astonishment of everybody; brilliant, like a new-risen sun, as if he knew of no illness, knew of no business, but lived for amusement only. "He intends Private Theatricals withal, and is getting ready Voltaire's MORT DE CESAR." [Preuss, Thronbesteigung, p. 415.] These were pretty days at Reinsberg. This kind of life lasted seven or eight weeks,—in spite of interruptions of subterranean volcanic nature, some of which were surely considerable. Here, in the very first week, coming almost volcanically, is one, which indeed is the sum of them all.
Tuesday forenoon, 25th October, 1740, Express arrives at Reinsberg; direct from Vienna five days ago; finds Friedrich under eclipse, hidden in the interior, laboring under his ague-fit: question rises, Shall the Express be introduced, or be held back? The news he brings is huge, unexpected, transcendent, and may agitate the sick King. Six or seven heads go wagging on this point,—who by accident are namable, if readers care: "Prince August Wilhelm," lately betrothed; "Graf Truchsess," home from Hanover; "Colonel Graf von Finkenstein," old Tutor's Son, a familiar from boyhood upwards; "Baron Pollnitz" kind of chief Goldstick now, or Master of the Ceremonies, not too witty, but the cause of wit; "Jordan, Bielfeld," known to us; and lastly, "Fredersdorf," Major-domo and Factotum, who is grown from Valet to be Purse-Keeper, confidential Manager, and almost friend,—a notable personage in Friedrich's History. They decide, "Better wait!"
They wait accordingly; and then, after about an hour, the trembling-fit being over, and Fredersdorf having cautiously preluded a little, and prepared the way, the Despatch is delivered, and the King left with his immense piece of news. News that his Imperial Majesty Karl VI. died, after short illness, on Thursday, the 20th last. Kaiser dead: House of Hapsburg, and its Five Centuries of tough wrestling, and uneasy Dominancy in this world, ended, gone to the distaff:—the counter-wrestling Ambitions and Cupidities not dead; and nothing but Pragmatic Sanction left between the fallen House and them! Friedrich kept silence; showed no sign how transfixed he was to hear such tidings; which, he foresaw, would have immeasurable consequences in the world.
One of the first was, that it cured Friedrich of his ague. It braced him (it, and perhaps "a little quinquina which he now insisted on") into such a tensity of spirit as drove out his ague like a mere hiccough; quite gone in the course of next week; and we hear no more of that importunate annoyance. He summoned Secretary Eichel, "Be ready in so many minutes hence;" rose from his bed, dressed himself; [Preuss, Thronbesteigung, p. 416.]—and then, by Eichel's help, sent off e for Schwerin his chief General, and Podewils his chief Minister. A resolution, which is rising or has risen in the Royal mind, will be ready for communicating to these Two by the time they arrive, on the second day hence. This done, Friedrich, I believe, joined his company in the evening; and was as light and brilliant as if nothing had happened.
The Kaiser's death came upon the Public unexpectedly; though not quite so upon observant persons closer at hand. He was not yet fifty-six out; a firm-built man; had been of sound constitution, of active, not intemperate habits: but in the last six years, there had come such torrents of ill luck rolling down on him, he had suffered immensely, far beyond what the world knew of; and to those near him, and anxious for him, his strength seemed much undermined. Five years ago, in summer 1735, Robinson reported, from a sure hand: "Nothing can equal the Emperor's agitation under these disasters [brought upon him by Fleury and the Spaniards, as after-clap to his Polish-Election feat]. His good Empress is terrified, many times, he will die in the course of the night, when singly with her he gives a loose to his affliction, confusion and despair." Sea-Powers will not help; Fleury and mere ruin will engulf! "What augments this agitation is his distrust in every one of his own Ministers, except perhaps Bartenstein," [Robinson to Lord Warrington, 5th July, 1735 (in State-Paper Office).]—who is not much of a support either, though a gnarled weighty old stick in his way ("Professor at Strasburg once"): not interesting to us here. The rest his Imperial Majesty considers to be of sublimated blockhead type, it appears. Prince Eugene had died lately, and with Eugene all good fortune.
And then, close following, the miseries of that Turk War, crashing down upon a man! They say, Duke Franz, Maria Theresa's Husband, nominal Commander in those Campaigns, with the Seckendorfs and Wallises under him going such a road, was privately eager to have done with the Business, on any terms, lest the Kaiser should die first, and leave it weltering. No wonder the poor Kaiser felt broken, disgusted with the long Shadow-Hunt of Life; and took to practical field-sports rather. An Army that cannot fight, War-Generals good only to be locked in Fortresses, an Exchequer that has no money; after such wagging of the wigs, and such Privy-Councilling and such War-Councilling:—let us hunt wild swine, and not think of it! That, thank Heaven, we still have; that, and Pragmatic Sanction well engrossed, and generally sworn to by mankind, after much effort!—
The outer Public of that time, and Voltaire among them more deliberately afterwards, spoke of "mushrooms," an "indigestion of mushrooms;" and it is probable there was something of mushrooms concerned in the event, Another subsequent Frenchman, still more irreverent, adds to this of the "excess of mushrooms," that the Kaiser made light of it. "When the Doctors told him he had few hours to live, he would not believe it; and bantered his Physicians on the sad news. 'Look me in the eyes,' said he; 'have I the air of one dying? When you see my sight growing dim, then let the sacraments be administered, whether I order or not.'" Doctors insisting, the Kaiser replied: "'Since you are foolish fellows, who know neither the cause nor the state of my disorder, I command that, once I am dead, you open my body, to know what the matter was; you can then come and let me know!"' [Anecdotes Germaniques (Paris, 1769), p. 692.]—in which also there is perhaps a glimmering of distorted truth, though, as Monsieur mistakes even the day ("18th October," says he, not 20th), one can only accept it as rumor from the outside.
Here, by an extremely sombre domestic Gentleman of great punctuality and great dulness, are the authentic particulars, such as it was good to mention in Vienna circles. [(Anonymous) Des &c. Romischen Kaisers Carl VI. Leben und Thaten (Frankfurt und Leipzig, 1741), pp. 220-227.] An extremely dull Gentleman, but to appearance an authentic; and so little defective in reverence that he delicately expresses some astonishment at Death's audacity this year, in killing so many Crowned Heads. "This year 1740," says he, "though the weather throughout Europe had been extraordinarily fine," or fine for a cold year, "had already witnessed several Deaths of Sovereigns: Pope Clement XII., Friedrich Wilhelm of Prussia, the Queen Dowager of Spain [Termagant's old stepmother, not Termagant's self by a great way]. But that was not enough: unfathomable Destiny ventured now on Imperial Heads (WAGTE SICH AUCH AN KAISER-KRONEN): Karl VI., namely, and Russia's great, Monarchess;"—an audacity to be remarked. Of Russia's great Monarchess (Czarina Anne, with the big cheek) we will say nothing at present; but of Karl VI. only,—abridging much, and studying arrangement.
"Thursday, October 13th, returning from Halbthurn, a Hunting Seat of his," over in Hungary some fifty miles, "to the Palace Favorita at Vienna, his Imperial Majesty felt slightly indisposed,"—indigestion of mushrooms or whatever it was: had begun AT Halbthurn the night before, we rather understand, and was the occasion of his leaving. "The Doctors called it cold on the stomach, and thought it of no consequence. In the night of Saturday, it became alarming;" inflammation, thought the Doctors, inflammation of the liver, and used their potent appliances, which only made the danger come and go; "and on the Tuesday, all day, the Doctors did not doubt his Imperial Majesty was dying. ["Look me in the eyes; pack of fools; you will have to dissect me, you will then know:" Any truth in all that? No matter.]
"At noon of that Tuesday he took the Sacrament, the Pope's Nuncio administering. His Majesty showed uncommonly great composure of soul, and resignation to the Divine Will;" being indeed "certain,"—so he expressed it to "a principal Official Person sunk in grief" (Bartenstein, shall we guess?), who stood by him—"certain of his cause," not afraid in contemplating that dread Judgment now near: "Look at me! A man that is certain of his cause can enter on such a Journey with good courage and a composed mind (MIT GUTEM UND DELASSENEM MUTH)." To the Doctors, dubitating what the disease was, he said, "If Gazelli" my late worthy Doctor, "were still here, you would soon know; but as it is, you will learn it when you dissect me;"—and once asked to be shown the Cup where his heart would lie after that operation.
"Sacrament being over," Tuesday afternoon, "he sent for his Family, to bless them each separately. He had a long conversation with Grand Duke Franz," titular of Lorraine, actual of Tuscany, "who had assiduously attended him, and continued to do so, during the whole illness." The Grand Duke's Spouse,—Maria Theresa, the noble-hearted and the overwhelmed; who is now in an interesting state again withal; a little Kaiserkin (Joseph II.) coming in five months; first child, a little girl, is now two years old;—"had been obliged to take to bed three days ago; laid up of grief and terror (VOR SCHMERZEN UND SCHRECKEN), ever since Sunday the 16th. Nor would his Imperial Majesty permit her to enter this death-room, on account of her condition, so important to the world; but his Majesty, turning towards that side where her apartment was, raised his right hand, and commanded her Husband, and the Archduchess her younger Sister, to tell his Theresa, That he blessed her herewith, notwithstanding her absence." Poor Kaiser, poor Theresa! "Most distressing of all was the scene with the Kaiserin. The night before, on getting knowledge of the sad certainty, she had fainted utterly away (STARKE OHNMACHT), and had to be carried into the Grand Duchess's [Maria Theresa's] room. Being summoned now with her Children, for the last blessing, she cried as in despair, 'Do not leave me, Your Dilection, do not (ACH EUER LIEBDEN VERLASSEN MICH DOCH NICHT)!'" Poor good souls! "Her Imperial Majesty would not quit the room again, but remained to the last.
"Wednesday, 19th, all day, anxiety, mournful suspense;" poor weeping Kaiserin and all the world waiting; the Inevitable visibly struggling on. "And in the night of that day [night of 19th-20th Oct., 1740], between one and two in the morning, Death snatched away this most invaluable Monarch (DEN PREISWURDIGSTEN MONARCHEN) in the 66th year of his life;" and Kaiser Karl VI., and the House of Hapsburg and its Five tough Centuries of good and evil in this world had ended. The poor Kaiserin "closed the eyes" that could now no more behold her; "kissed his hands, and was carried out more dead than alive." [Anonymous, UT SUPRA, pp. 220-227.—Adelung, Pragmatische Staatsgeschichte (Gotha, 1762-1767), ii. 120. JOHANN CHRISTOPH Adelung; the same who did the DICTIONARY and many other deserving Books; here is the precise Title: "Pragmatische Staatsgeschichte Europens," that is, "Documentary History of Europe, from Kaiser Karl's Death, 1740, till Peace of Paris, 1763." A solid, laborious and meritorious Work, of its kind; extremely extensive (9 vols. 4to, some of which are double and even treble), mostly in the undigested, sometimes in the quite uncooked or raw condition; perhaps about a fifth part of it consists of "Documents" proper, which are shippable. It cannot help being dull, waste, dreary, but is everywhere intelligible (excellent Indexes too),—and offers an unhappy reader by far the best resource attainable for survey of that sad Period.]
A good affectionate Kaiserin, I do believe; honorable, truthful, though unwitty of speech, and converted by Grandpapa in a peculiar manner, For her Kaiser too, after all, I have a kind of love. Of brilliant articulate intellect there is nothing; nor of inarticulate (as in Friedrich Wilhelm's case) anything considerable: in fact his Shadow-Hunting, and Duelling with the Termagant, seemed the reverse of wise. But there was something of a high proud heart in it, too, if we examine; and even the Pragmatic Sanction, though in practice not worth one regiment of iron ramrods, indicates a profoundly fixed determination, partly of loyal nature, such as the gods more or less reward. "He had been a great builder," say the Histories; "was a great musician, fit to lead orchestras, and had composed an Opera,"—poor Kaiser. There came out large traits of him, in Maria Theresa again, under an improved form, which were much admired by the world. He looks, in his Portraits, intensely serious; a handsome man, stoically grave; much the gentleman, much the Kaiser or Supreme Gentleman. As, in life and fact, he was; "something solemn in him, even when he laughs," the people used to say. A man honestly doing his very best with his poor Kaisership, and dying of chagrin by it. "On opening the body, the liver-region proved to be entirely deranged; in the place where the gall-bladder should have been, a stone of the size of a pigeon's egg was found grown into the liver, and no gall-bladder now there."
That same morning, with earliest daylight, "Thursday, 20th, six A.M.," Maria Theresa is proclaimed by her Heralds over Vienna: "According to Pragmatic Sanction, Inheritress of all the," &c. &c.;—Sovereign Archduchess of Austria, Queen of Hungary and Bohemia, for chief items. "At seven her Majesty took the Oath from the Generals and Presidents of Tribunals,—said, through her tears, 'All was to stand on the old footing, each in his post,'"—and the other needful words. Couriers shoot forth towards all Countries;—one express courier to Regensburg, and the enchanted Wiggeries there, to say That a new Kaiser will be needed; REICHS-Vicar or Vicars (Kur-Sachsen and whoever more, for they are sometimes disagreed about it) will have to administer in the interim.
A second courier we saw arrive at Reinsberg; he likewise may be important. The Bavarian Minister, Karl Albert Kur-Baiern's man, shot off his express, like the others; answer is, by return of courier, or even earlier (for a messenger was already on the road), Make protest! "We Kur-Baiern solemnly protest against Pragmatic Sanction, and the assumption of such Titles by the Daughter of the late Kaiser. King of Bohemia, and in good part even of Austria, it is not you, Madam, but of right WE; as, by Heaven's help, it is our fixed resolution to make good!" Protest was presented, accordingly, with all the solemnities, without loss of a moment. To which Bartenstein and the Authorities answered "Pooh-pooh," as if it were nothing. It is the first ripple of an immeasurable tide or deluge in that kind, threatening to submerge the new Majesty of Hungary;—as had been foreseen at Reinsberg; though Bartenstein and the Authorities made light of it, answering "Pooh-pooh," or almost "Ha-ha," for the present.
Her Hungarian Majesty's chief Generals, Seckendorf, Wallis, Neipperg, sit in their respective prison-wards at this time (from which she soon liberates them): Kur-Baiern has lodged protest; at Reinsberg there will be an important resolution ready:—and in the Austrian Treasury (which employs 40,000 persons, big and little) there is of cash or available, resource, 100,000 florins, that is to say, 10,000 pounds net. [Mailath, Geschichte des Oestreichischen Kaiserstaats (Hamburg, 1850), v. 8.] And unless Pragmatic sheepskin hold tighter than some persons expect, the affairs of Austria and of this young Archduchess are in a threatening way.
His Britannic Majesty was on the road home, about Helvoetsluys or on the sea for Harwich, that night the Kaiser died; of whose illness he had heard nothing. At London, ten days after, the sudden news struck dismally upon his Majesty and the Political Circles there: "No help, then, from that quarter, in our Spanish War; perhaps far other than help!"—Nay, certain Gazetteers were afraid the grand new Anti-Spanish Expedition itself, which was now, at the long last, after such confusions and delays, lying ready, in great strength, Naval and Military, would be countermanded,—on Pragmatic-Sanction considerations, and the crisis probably imminent. [London Newspapers (31st Oct.-6th Nov., 1740)]. But it was not countermanded; it sailed all the same, "November 6th" (seventh day after the bad news); and made towards—Shall we tell the reader, what is Officially a dead secret, though by this time well guessed at by the Public, English and also Spanish?—towards Carthagena, to reinforce fiery Vernon, in the tropical latitudes; and overset Spanish America, beginning with that important Town!
Commodore Anson, he also, after long fatal delays, is off, several weeks ago; [29th (18th) September, 1740.] round Cape Horn; hoping (or perhaps already not hoping) to co-operate from the Other Ocean, and be simultaneous with Vernon,—on these loose principles of keeping time! Commodore Anson does, in effect, make a Voyage which is beautiful, and to mankind memorable; but as to keeping tryst with Vernon, the very gods could not do it on those terms!
Thursday, 27th October, two days after the Expresses went for them, Schwerin and Podewils punctually arrived at Reinsberg. They were carried into the interior privacies, "to long conferences with his Majesty that day, and for the next four days; Majesty and they even dining privately together;" grave business of state, none guesses how grave, evidently going on. The resolution Friedrich laid before them, fruit of these two days since the news from Vienna, was probably the most important ever formed in Prussia, or in Europe during that Century: Resolution to make good our Rights on Silesia, by this great opportunity, the best that will ever offer. Resolution which had sprung, I find, and got to sudden fixity in the head of the young King himself; and which met with little save opposition from all the other sons of Adam, at the first blush and for long afterwards. And, indeed, the making of it good (of it, and of the immense results that hung by it) was the main business of this young King's Life henceforth; and cost him Labors like those of Hercules, and was in the highest degree momentous to existing and not yet existing millions of mankind,—to the readers of this History especially.
It is almost touching to reflect how unexpectedly, like a bolt out of the blue, all this had come upon Friedrich; and how it overset his fine program for the winter at Reinsberg, and for his Life generally. Not the Peaceable magnanimities, but the Warlike, are the thing appointed Friedrich this winter, and mainly henceforth. Those "GOLDEN or soft radiances" which we saw in him, admirable to Voltaire and to Friedrich, and to an esurient philanthropic world,—it is not those, it is "the STEEL-BRIGHT or stellar kind," that are to become predominant in Friedrich's existence: grim hail-storms, thunders and tornado for an existence to him, instead of the opulent genialities and halcyon weather, anticipated by himself and others! Indisputably enough to us, if not yet to Friedrich, "Reinsberg and Life to the Muses" are done. On a sudden, from the opposite side of the horizon, see, miraculous Opportunity, rushing hitherward,—swift, terrible, clothed with lightning like a courser of the gods: dare you clutch HIM by the thundermane, and fling yourself upon him, and make for the Empyrean by that course rather? Be immediate about it, then; the time is now, or else never!—No fair judge can blame the young man that he laid hold of the flaming Opportunity in this manner, and obeyed the new omen. To seize such an opportunity, and perilously mount upon it, was the part of a young magnanimous King, less sensible to the perils, and more to the other considerations, than one older would have been.
Schwerin and Podewils were, no doubt, astonished to learn what the Royal purpose was; and could not want for commonplace objections many and strong, had this been the scene for dwelling on them, or dressing them out at eloquent length. But they knew well this was not the scene for doing more than, with eloquent modesty, hint them; that the Resolution, being already taken, would not alter for commonplace; and that the question now lying for honorable members was, How to execute it? It is on this, as I collect, that Schwerin and Podewils in the King's company did, with extreme intensity, consult during those four days; and were, most probably, of considerable use to the King, though some of their modifications adopted by him turned out, not as they had predicted, but as he. On all the Military details and outlines, and on all the Diplomacies of this business, here are two Oracles extremely worth consulting by the young King.
To seize Silesia is easy: a Country open on all but the south side; open especially on our side, where a battalion of foot might force it; the three or four fortresses, of which only two, Glogau and Neisse, can be reckoned strong, are provided with nothing as they ought to be; not above 3,000 fighting men in the whole Province, and these little expecting fight. Silesia can be seized: but the maintaining of it?—We must try to maintain it, thinks Friedrich.
At Reinsberg it is not yet known that Kur-Baiern has protested; but it is well guessed he means to do so, and that France is at his back in some sort. Kur-Baiern, probably Kur-Sachsen, and plenty more, France being secretly at their back. What low condition Austria stands in, all its ready resources run to the lees, is known; and that France, getting lively at present with its Belleisles and adventurous spirits not restrainable by Fleury, is always on the watch to bring Austria lower; capable, in spite of Pragmatic Sanction, to snatch the golden moment, and spring hunter-like on a moribund Austria, were the hunting-dogs once out and in cry. To Friedrich it seems unlikely the Pragmatic Sanction will be a Law of Nature to mankind, in these circumstances. His opinion is, "the old political system has expired with the Kaiser." Here is Europe, burning in one corner of it by Jenkins's Ear, and such a smoulder of combustible material awakening nearer hand: will not Europe, probably, blaze into general War; Pragmatic Sanction going to waste sheepskin, and universal scramble ensuing? In which he who has 100,000 good soldiers, and can handle them, may be an important figure in urging claims, and keeping what he has got hold of!—
Friedrich's mind, as to the fact, is fixed: seize Silesia we will: but as to the manner of doing it, Schwerin and Podewils modify him. Their counsel is: "Do not step out in hostile attitude at the very first, saying, 'These Duchies, Liegnitz, Brieg, Wohlau, Jagerndorf, are mine, and I will fight for them;' say only, 'Having, as is well known, interests of various kinds in this Silesia, I venture to take charge of it in the perilous times now come, and will keep it safe for the real owner.' Silesia seized in this fashion," continue they, "negotiate with the Queen of Hungary; offer her help, large help in men and money, against her other enemies; perhaps she will consent to do us right?"—"She never will consent," is Friedrich's opinion. "But it is worth trying?" urge the Ministers.—"Well," answers Friedrich, "be it in that form; that is the soft-spoken cautious form: any form will do, if the fact be there." That is understood to have been the figure of the deliberation in this conclave at Reinsberg, during the four days. [Stenzel (from what sources he does not clearly say, no doubt from sources of some authenticity) gives this as summary of it, iv. 61-65.] And now it remains only to fix the Military details, to be ready in a minimum of time; and to keep our preparations and intentions in impenetrable darkness from all men, in the interim. Adieu, Messieurs.
And so, on the 1st of November, fifth morning since they came, Schwerin and Podewils, a world of new business silently ahead of them, return to Berlin, intent to begin the same. All the Kings will have to take their resolution on this matter; wisely, or else unwisely. King Friedrich's, let it prove the wisest or not, is notably the rapidest,—complete, and fairly entering upon action, on November 1st. At London the news of the Kaiser's death had arrived the day before; Britannic Majesty and Ministry, thrown much into the dumps by it, much into the vague, are nothing like so prompt with their resolution on it. Somewhat sorrowfully in the vague. In fact, they will go jumbling hither and thither for about three years to come, before making up their minds to a resolution: so intricate is the affair to the English Nation and them! Intricate indeed; and even imaginary,—definable mainly as a bottomless abyss of nightmare dreams to the English Nation and them! Productive of strong somnambulisms, as my friend has it!—
Podewils and Schwerin gone, King Friedrich, though still very busy in working-hours, returns to his society and its gayeties and brilliancies; apparently with increased appetite after these four days of abstinence. Still busy in his working-hours, as a King must be; couriers coming and going, hundreds of businesses despatched each day; and in the evening what a relish for society,—Praetorius is quite astonished at it. Music, dancing, play-acting, suppers of the gods, "not done till four in the morning sometimes," these are the accounts Praetorius hears at Berlin. "From all persons who return from Reinsberg," writes he, "the unanimous report is, That the King works, the whole day through, with an assiduity that is unique; and then, in the evening, gives himself to the pleasures of society, with a vivacity of mirth and sprightly humor which makes those Evening-Parties charming." [Excerpt, in Preuss, Thronbesteigung, p. 418.] So it had to last, with frequent short journeys on Friedrich's part, and at last with change to Berlin as head-quarters, for about seven weeks to come,—till the beginning of December, and the day of action, namely. A notable little Interim in Friedrich's History and that of Europe.
Friedrich's secret, till almost the very end, remained impenetrable; though, by degrees, his movements excited much guessing in the Gazetteer and Diplomatic world everywhere. Military matters do seem to be getting brisk in Prussia; arsenals much astir; troops are seen mustering, marching, plainly to a singular degree. Marching towards the Austrian side, towards Silesia, some note. Yes; but also towards Cleve, certain detachments of troops are marching,—do not men see? And the Intrenchment at Buderich in those parts, that is getting forward withal,—though privately there is not the least prospect of using it, in these altered circumstances. Friedrich already guesses that if he could get Silesia, so invaluable on the one skirt of him, he mill probably have to give up his Berg-Julich claims on the other; I fancy he is getting ready to do so, should the time come for such alternative. But he labors at Buderich, all the same, and "improves the roads in that quarter,"—which at least may help to keep an inquisitive public at bay. These are seven busy weeks on Friedrich's part, and on the world's: constant realities of preparation, on the one part, industriously veiled; on the other part, such shadows, guessings, spyings, spectral movements above ground and below; Diplomatic shadows fencing, Gazetteer shadows rumoring;—dreams of a world as if near awakening to something great! "All Officers on furlough have been ordered to their posts," writes Bielfeld, on those vague terms of his: "On arriving at Berlin, you notice a great agitation in all departments of the State. The regiments are ordered to prepare their equipages, and to hold themselves in readiness for marching. There are magazines being formed at Frankfurt-on-Oder and at Crossen,"—handy for Silesia, you would say? "There are considerable trains of Artillery getting ready, and the King has frequent conferences with his Generals." [Bielfeld, i. 165 (Berlin, 30th November, is the date he puts to it).] The authentic fact is: "By the middle of November, Troops, to the extent of 30,000 and more, had got orders to be ready for marching in three weeks hence; their public motions very visible ever since, their actual purpose a mystery to all mortals except three."
Towards the end of November, it becomes the prevailing guess that the business is immediate, not prospective; that Silesia may be in the wind, not Julich and Berg. Which infinitely quickens the shadowy rumorings and Diplomatic fencings of mankind. The French have their special Ambassador here; a Marquis de Beauvau, observant military gentleman, who came with the Accession Compliment some time ago, and keeps his eyes well open, but cannot see through mill-stones. Fleury is intensely desirous to know Friedrich's secret; but would fain keep his own (if he yet have one), and is himself quite tacit and reserved. To Fleury's Marquis de Beauvau Friedrich is very gracious; but in regard to secrets, is for a reciprocal procedure. Could not Voltaire go and try? It is thought Fleury had let fall some hint to that effect, carried by a bird of the air. Sure enough Voltaire does go; is actually on visit to his royal Friend; "six days with him at Reinsberg;" perhaps near a fortnight in all (20 November-2 December or so), hanging about those Berlin regions, on the survey. Here is an unexpected pleasure to the parties;—but in regard to penetrating of secrets, an unproductive one!
Voltaire's ostensible errand was, To report progress about the ANTI-MACHIAVEL, the Van Duren nonsense; and, at any rate, to settle the Money-accounts on these and other scores; and to discourse Philosophies, for a day or two, with the First of Men. The real errand, it is pretty clear, was as above. Voltaire has always a wistful eye towards political employment, and would fain make himself useful in high quarters. Fleury and he have their touches of direct Correspondence now and then; and obliquely there are always intermediates and channels. Small hint, the slightest twinkle of Fleury's eyelashes, would be duly speeded to Voltaire, and set him going. We shall see him expressly missioned hither, on similar errand, by and by; though with as bad success as at present.
Of this his First Visit to Berlin, his Second to Friedrich, Voltaire in the VIE PRIVEE says nothing. But in his SIECLE DE LOUIS XV. he drops, with proud modesty, a little foot-note upon it: "The Author was with the King of Prussia at that time; and can affirm that Cardinal de Fleury was totally astray in regard to the Prince he had now to do with." To which a DATE slightly wrong is added; the rest being perfectly correct. [OEuvres (Siecle de Louis XV., c. 6), xxviii. 74.] No other details are to be got anywhere, if they were of importance; the very dates of it in the best Prussian Books are all slightly awry. Here, by accident, are two poor flint-sparks caught from the dust whirlwind, which yield a certain sufficing twilight, when put in their place; and show us both sides of the matter, the smooth side and the seamy:—
1. FRIEDRICH TO ALGAROTTI, AT BERLIN. From "Reinsberg, 21st Nov.," showing the smooth side.
"MY DEAR SWAN OF PADUA,—Voltaire has arrived; all sparkling with new beauties, and far more sociable than at Cleve. He is in very good humor; and makes less complaining about his ailments than usual. Nothing can be more frivolous than our occupations here:" mere verse-making, dancing, philosophizing, then card-playing, dining, flirting; merry as birds on the bough (and Silesia invisible, except to oneself and two others). [OEuvres de Frederic, xviii. 25.]
2. FRIEDRICH TO JORDAN, AT BERLIN. "RUPPIN, 28th November."... Thy Miser [Voltaire, now gone to Berlin, of whom Jordan is to send news, as of all things else], thy Miser shall drink to the lees of his insatiable desire (SIC) to enrich himself: he shall have the 3,000 thalers (450 pounds). He was with me six days: that will be at the rate of 500 thalers (75 pounds) a day. That is paying dear for one's merry-andrew (C'EST BIEN PAYER UN FOU); never had court-fool such wages before." [Ib. xvii. 72. Particulars of the money-payment (travelling expenses chiefly, rather exorbitant, and THIS journey added to the list; and no whisper of the considerable Van-Duren moneys, and copyright of ANTI-MACHIAVEL, in abatement) are in Rodenbeck, i. 27. Exact sum paid is 3,300 thalers; 2,000 a good while ago, 1,300 at this time, which settles the greedy bill.]
Which latter, also at first hand, shows us the seamy side. And here, finally, with date happily appended, is a poetic snatch, in Voltaire's exquisite style, which with the response gives us the medium view:—
VOLTAIRE'S ADIEU ("Billet de Conge, 2 December, 1740").
"Non, malgre vos vertus, non, malgre vos appas, Mon ame n'est point satisfaite; Non, vous n'etes qu'une coquette, Qui subjuguez les coeurs, et ne rous donnez pas."
"Mon ame sent le prix de vos divins appas; Mais ne presumez point qu'elle soit satisfaite. Traitre, vous me quittez pour suivre une coquette; Moi je ne vous quitterais pas."
[OEuvres de Frederic (xiv. 167); OEuvres de Voltaire; &c. &c.]
—Meaning, perhaps, in brief English: V. "Ah, you are but a beautiful coquette; you charm away our hearts, and do not give your own [won't tell me your secret at all]!" F. "Treacherous Lothario, it is you that quit me for a coquette [your divine Emilie; and won't stay here, and be of my Academy]; but however—!" Friedrich looked hopingly on the French, but could not give his secret except by degrees and with reciprocity. Some days hence he said to Marquis de Beauvau, in the Audience of leave, a word which was remembered.
As to Friedrich himself, since about the middle of November his plans seem to have been definitely shaped out in all points; Troops so many, when to be on march, and how; no important detail uncertain since then. November 17th, he jots down a little Note, which is to go to Vienna, were the due hour come, by a special Ambassador, one Count Gotter, acquainted with the ground there; and explain to her Hungarian Majesty, what his exact demands are, and what the exact services he will render. Of which important little Paper readers shall hear again. Gotter's demands are at first to be high: Our Four Duchies, due by law so long; these and even more, considering the important services we propose; this is to be his first word;—but, it appears, he is privately prepared to put up with Two Duchies, if he can have them peaceably: Duchies of Sagan and Glogau, which are not of the Four at all, but which lie nearest us, and are far below the value of the Four, to Austria especially. This intricate point Friedrich has already settled in his mind. And indeed it is notably the habit of this young King to settle matters with himself in good time: and in regard to all manner of points, he will be found, on the day of bargaining about them, to have his own resolution formed and definitely fixed;—much to his advantage over conflicting parties, who have theirs still flying loose.
Another thing of much concernment is, To secure himself from danger of Russian interference. To this end he despatches Major Winterfeld to Russia, a man well known to him;—day of Winterfeld's departure is not given; day of his arrival in Petersburg is "19th December" just coming. Russia, at present, is rather in a staggering condition; hopeful for Winterfeld's object. On the 28th of October last, only eight days after the Kaiser, Czarina Anne of Russia, she with the big cheek, once of Courland, had died; "audacious Death," as our poor friend had it, "venturing upon another Crowned Head" there. Bieren her dear Courlander, once little better than a Horse-groom, now Duke of Courland, Quasi-Husband to the late Big Cheek, and thereby sovereign of Russia, this long while past, is left Official Head in Russia. Poor little Anton Ulrich and his august Spouse, well enough known to us, have indeed produced a Czar Iwan, some months ago, to the joy of mankind: but Czar Iwan is in his cradle: Father and Mother's function is little other than to rock the cradle of Iwan; Bieren to be Regent and Autocrat over him and them in the interim. To their chagrin, to that of Feldmarschall Munnich and many others: the upshot of which will be visible before long. Czarina Anne's death had seemed to Friedrich the opportune removal of a dangerous neighbor, known to be in the pay of Austria: here now are new mutually hostile parties springing up; chance, surely, of a bargain with some of them? He despatches Winterfeld on this errand;—probably the fittest man in Prussia for it. How soon and perfectly Winterfeld succeeded, and what Winterfeld was, and something of what a Russia he found it, we propose to mention by and by.
These, and all points of importance, Friedrich has settled with himself some time ago. What his own private thoughts on the Silesian Adventure are, readers will wish to know, since they can at first hand. Hear Friedrich himself, whose veracity is unquestionable to such as know anything of him:—
"This Silesian Project fulfilled all his (the King's) political views,"—summed them all well up into one head. "It was a means of acquiriug reputation; of increasing the power of the State; and of terminating what concerned that long-litigated question of the Berg-Julich Succession;"—can be sure of getting that, at lowest; intends to give that up, if necessary.
"Meanwhile, before entirely determining, the King weighed the risks there were in undertaking such a War, and the advantages that were to be hoped from it. On one side, presented itself the potent House of Austria, not likely to want resources with so many vast Provinces under it; an Emperor's Daughter attacked, who would naturally find allies in the King of England, in the Dutch Republic, and so many Princes of the Empire who had signed the Pragmatic Sanction." Russia was—or had been, and might again be—in the pay of Vienna. Saxony might have some clippings from Bohemia thrown to it, and so be gained over. Scanty Harvest, 1740, threatened difficulties as to provisioning of troops. "The risks were great. One had to apprehend the vicissitudes of war. A single battle lost might be decisive. The King had no allies; and his troops, hitherto without experience, would have to front old Austrian soldiers, grown gray in harness, and trained to war by so many campaigns.
"On the other side were hopeful considerations,"—four in number: FIRST, Weak condition of the Austrian Court, Treasury empty, War-Apparatus broken in pieces; inexperienced young Princess to defend a disputed succession, on those terms. SECOND, There WILL be allies; France and England always in rivalry, both meddling in these matters, King is sure to get either the one or the other.—THIRD, Silesian War lies handy to us, and is the only kind of Offensive War that does; Country bordering on our frontier, and with the Oder running through it as a sure high-road for everything. FOURTH, "What suddenly turned the balance," or at least what kept it steady in that posture,—"news of the Czarina's death arrives:" Russia has ceased to count against us; and become a manageable quantity. On, therefore!—
"Add to these reasons," says the King, with a candor which has not been well treated in the History Books, "Add to these reasons, an Army ready for acting; Funds, Supplies all found [lying barrelled in the Schloss at Berlin];—and perhaps the desire of making oneself a name," from which few of mortals able to achieve it are exempt in their young time: "all this was cause of the War which the King now entered upon." [OEuvres de Frederic (Histoire de mon Temps), i. 128.]
"Desire to make himself a name; how shocking!" exclaim several Historians. "Candor of confession that he may have had some such desire; how honest!" is what they do not exclaim. As to the justice of his Silesian Claims, or even to his own belief about their justice, Friedrich affords not the least light which can be new to readers here. He speaks, when business requires it, of "those known rights" of his, and with the air of a man who expects to be believed on his word; but it is cursorily, and in the business way only; and there is not here or elsewhere the least pleading:—a man, you would say, considerably indifferent to our belief on that head; his eyes set on the practical merely. "Just Rights? What are rights, never so just, which you cannot make valid? The world is full of such. If you have rights and can assert them into facts, do it; that is worth doing!"—
We must add two Notes, two small absinthine drops, bitter but wholesome, administered by him to the Old Dessauer, whose gloomy wonder over all this military whirl of Prussian things, and discontent that he, lately the head authority, has never once been spoken to on it, have been great. Guessing, at last, that it was meant for Austria, a Power rather dear to Leopold, he can suppress himself no longer; but breaks out into Cassandra prophesyings, which have piqued the young King, and provoke this return:—
1. "REINSBERG, 24th November, 1740.—I have received your Letter, and seen with what inquietude you view the approaching march of my Troops. I hope you will set your mind at ease on that score; and wait with patience what I intend with them and you. I have made all my dispositions; and Your Serenity will learn, time enough, what my orders are, without disquieting yourself about them, as nothing has been forgotten or delayed."—FRIEDRICH.
Old Dessauer, cut to the bone, perceives he will have to quit that method and never resume it; writes next how painful it is to an old General to see himself neglected, as if good for nothing, while his scholars are allowed to gather laurels. Friedrich's answer is of soothing character:—
2. "BERLIN, 2d DECEMBER, 1740.—You may be assured I honor your merits and capacity as a young Officer ought to honor an old one, who has given the world so many proofs of his talent (DEXTERITAT); nor will I neglect Your Serenity on any occasion when you can help me by your good Counsel and co-operation." But it is a mere "bagatelle" this that I am now upon; though, next year, it may become serious.
For the rest, Saxony being a neighbor whose intentions one does not know, I have privately purposed Your Serenity should keep an outlook that way, in my absence. Plenty of employment coming for Your Serenity. "But as to this present Expedition, I reserve it for myself alone; that the world may not think the King of Prussia marches with a Tutor to the Field."—FRIEDRICH. [Orlich, Geschichte der Schlesischen Kriege (Berlin, 1841), i. 38, 39.]
And therewith Leopold, eagerly complying, has to rest satisfied; and beware of too much freedom with this young King again.
"Berlin, December 2d," is the date of that last Note to the Dessauer; date also of Voltaire's ADIEU with the RESPONSE;—on which same day, "Friday, December 2d," as I find from the Old Books, his Majesty, quitting the Reinsberg sojourn, "had arrived in Berlin about 2 P.M.; accompanied by Prince August Wilhelm [betrothed at Brunswick lately]; such a crowd on the streets as if they had never seen him before." He continued at Berlin or in the neighborhood thenceforth. Busy days these; and Berlin a much whispering City, as Regiment after Regiment marches away. King soon to follow, as is thought,—"who himself sometimes deigns to take the Regiments into highest own eyeshine, HOCHST-EIGENEN AUGENSCHEIN" (that is, to review them), say the reverential Editors. December 6th—But let us follow the strict sequence of Phenomena at Berlin.
Of course her Hungarian Majesty, and her Bartensteins and Ministries, heard enough of those Prussian rumors, interior Military activities, and enigmatic movements; but they seem strangely supine on the matter; indeed, they seem strangely supine on such matters; and lean at ease upon the Sea-Powers, upon Pragmatic Sanction and other Laws of Nature. But at length even they become painfully interested as to Friedrich's intentions; and despatch an Envoy to sift him a little: an expert Marchese di Botta, Genoese by birth, skilful in the Russian and other intricacies; who was here at Berlin lately, doing the Accession Compliment (rather ill received at that time), and is fit for the job. Perhaps Botta will penetrate him? That is becoming desirable, in spite of the gay Private Theatricals at Reinsberg, and the Berlin Carnival Balls he is so occupied with.
England is not less interested, and the diligent Sir Guy is doing his best; but can make out nothing satisfactory;—much the reverse indeed; and falls into angry black anticipations. "Nobody here, great or small," says his Excellency, "dares make any representation to this young Prince against the measures he is pursuing; though all are sensible of the confusion which must follow. A Prince who had the least regard to honor, truth and justice, could not act the part he is going to do." Alas, no, Excellency Dickens! "But it is plain his only view was, to deceive us all, and conceal for a while his ambitious and mischievous designs." [Despatch, 29th November-3d December, 1740: Raumer, p. 58.] "Never was such dissimulation!" exclaims the Diplomatic world everywhere, being angered at it, as if it were a vice on the part of a King about to invade Silesia. Dissimulation, if that mean mendacity, is not the name of the thing; it is the art of wearing a polite cloak of darkness, and the King is little disturbed what name they call it.
Botta did not get to Berlin till December 1st, had no Audience till the 5th;—by which time it is becoming evident to Excellency Dickens, and to everybody, that Silesia is the thing meant. Botta hints as much in that first Audience, December 5th: "Terrible roads, those Silesian ones, your Majesty!" says Botta, as if historically merely, but with a glance of the eye. "Hm," answers his Majesty in the same tone, "the worst that comes of them is a little mud!"—Next day, Dickens had express Audience, "Berlin, Tuesday 6th:" a smartish, somewhat flurried Colloquy with the King; which, well abridged, may stand as follows:—
DICKENS.... "Indivisibility of the Austrian Monarchy, Sire!"—KING. "Indivisibility? What do you mean?"—DICKENS. "The maintenance of the Pragmatic Sanction."—KING. "Do you intend to support it? I hope not; for such is not my intention." (There is for you!)...
DICKENS. "England and Holland will much wonder at the measures your Majesty was taking, at the moment when your Majesty proposed to join with them, and were making friendly proposals!" (Has been a deceitful man, Sir Guy, at least an impenetrable;—but this latter is rather strong on your part!) "What shall I write to England?" ("When I mentioned this," says Dickens, "the King grew red in the face," eyes considerably flashing, I should think.)
KING. "You can have no instructions to ask that question! And if you had, I have an answer ready for you. England has no right to inquire into my designs. Your great Sea-Armaments, did I ask you any questions about them? No; I was and am silent on that head; only wishing you good luck, and that you may not get beaten by the Spaniards." (Dickens hastily draws in his rash horns again; after a pass or two, King's natural color returns.)...
KING. "Austria as a Power is necessary against the Turks. But in Germany, what need of Austria being so superlative? Why should not, say, Three Electors united be able to oppose her?... Monsieur, I find it is your notion in England, as well as theirs in France, to bring other Sovereigns under your tutorage, and lead them about. Understand that I will not be led by either.... Tush, YOU are like the Athenians, who, when Philip of Macedon was ready to invade them, spent their time in haranguing!"
DICKENS.... "Berg and Julich, if we were to guarantee them?"—KING. "Hm. Don't so much mind that Rhine Country: difficulties there,—Dutch always jealous of one. But, on the other Frontier, neither England nor Holland could take umbrage,"—points clearly to Silesia, then, your Excellency Dickens? [Raumer, (from State-Paper Office), pp. 63, 64.]
Alas, yes! Troops and military equipments are, for days past, evidently wending towards Frankfurt, towards Crossen, and even the Newspapers now hint that something is on hand in that quarter. Nay, this same day, TUESDAY, 6th DECEMBER, there has come out brief Official Announcement, to all the Foreign Ministers at Berlin, Excellency Dickens among them, "That his Royal Majesty, our most all-gracious Herr, has taken the resolution to advance a Body of Troops into Schlesien,"—rather out of friendly views towards Austria (much business lying between us about Schlesien), not out of hostile views by any means, as all Excellencies shall assure their respective Courts. [Copy of the Paper in Helden-Geschichte, i. 447.] Announcement which had thrown the Excellency Dickens into such a frame of mind, before he got his Audience to-day!—
SATURDAY following, which was December 10th, Marquis de Beauvau had his Audience of leave; intending for Paris shortly: Audience very gracious; covertly hinting, on both sides, more than it said; ending in these words, on the King's side, which have become famous: "Adieu, then, M. le Marquis. I believe I am going to play your game; if the aces fall to me, we will share (Je vais, je crois, jouer votre jeu: si les as me viennent, nous partagerons)!" [Voltaire, OEuvres (Siecle de Louis XV., c. 6), xxviii. 74.]
To Botta, all this while, Friedrich strove to be specially civil; took him out to Charlottenburg, that same Saturday, with the Queen and other guests; but Botta, and all the world, being now certain about Silesia, and that no amount of mud, or other terror on the roads, would be regarded, Botta's thoughts in this evening party are not of cheerful nature. Next day, Sunday, December 11th, he too gets his Audience of leave; and cannot help bursting out, when the King plainly tells him what is now afoot, and that the Prussian Ambassador has got instructions what to offer upon it at Vienna. "Sire, you are going to ruin the House of Austria," cried Botta, "and to plunge yourself into destruction (VOUS ABIMER) at the same time!"—"Depends on the Queen," said Friedrich, "to accept the Offers I have made her." Botta sank silent, seemed to reflect, but gathering himself again, added with an ironical air and tone of voice, "They are fine Troops, those of yours, Sire. Ours have not the same splendor of appearance; but they have looked the wolf in the face. Think, I conjure you, what you are getting into!" Friedrich answered with vivacity, a little nettled at the ironical tone of Botta, and his mixed sympathy and menace: "You find my troops are beautiful; perhaps I shall convince you they are good too." Yes, Excellency Botta, goodish troops; and very capable "to look the wolf in the face,"—or perhaps in the tail too, before all end! "Botta urged and entreated that at least there should be some delay in executing this project. But the King gave him to understand that it was now too late, and that the Rubicon was passed." [Friedrich's own Account (OEuvres, ii. 57).]
The secret is now out, therefore; Invasion of Silesia certain and close at hand. "A day or two before marching," may have been this very day when Botta got his audience, the King assembled his Chief Generals, all things ready out in the Frankfurt-Crossen region yonder; and spoke to them as follows; briefly and to the point:—
"Gentlemen, I am undertaking a War, in which I have no allies but your valor and your good-will. My cause is just; my resources are what we ourselves can do; and the issue lies in Fortune. Remember continually the glory which your Ancestors acquired in the plains of Warsaw, at Fehrbellin, and in the Expedition to Preussen [across the Frische Haf on ice, that time]. Your lot is in your own hands: distinctions and rewards wait upon your fine actions which shall merit them.
"But what need have I to excite you to glory? It is the one thing you keep before your eyes; the sole object worthy of your labors. We are going to front troops who, under Prince Eugene, had the highest reputation. Though Prince Eugene is gone, we shall have to measure our strength against brave soldiers: the greater will be the honor if we can conquer. Adieu, go forth. I will follow you straightway to the rendezvous of glory which awaits us." [OEuvres de Frederic, ii.58.]
On the evening of Monday, 12th, there was, as usual, Masked (or Half-Masked) Ball, at the Palace. As usual; but this time it has become mentionable in World-History. Bielfeld, personally interested, gives us a vivid glance into it;—which, though pretending to be real and contemporaneous, is unfortunately MYTHICAL only, and done at a great interval of years (dates, and even slight circumstances of fact, refusing to conform);—which, however, for the truth there is in it, we will give, as better than nothing. Bielfeld's pretended date is, "Berlin, 15th December;" should have been 14th,—wrong by a day, after one's best effort!
"BERLIN, 15th DECEMBER, 1740. As for me, dear Sister, I am like a shuttlecock whom the Kings of Prussia and of England hit with their rackets, and knock to and fro. The night before last, I was at the Palace Evening Party (ASSEMBLEE); which is a sort of Ball, where you go in domino, but without mask on the face. The Queen was there, and all the Court. About eight o'clock the King also made his appearance. His Majesty, noticing M. de G—-[that is DE GUIDIKEN, or Guy Dickens], English Minister, addressed him; led him into the embrasure of a window, and talked alone with him for more than an hour [uncertain, probably apocryphal this]. I threw, from time to time, a stolen glance at this dialogue, which appeared to me to be very lively. A moment after, being just dancing with Madame the Countess de—THREE ASTERISKS,—I felt myself twitched by the domino; and turning, was much surprised to see that it was the King; who took me aside, and said, 'Are your boots oiled (VOS BOTTES SONT-ELLES GRAISSIES, Are you ready for a journey)?' I replied, 'Sire, they will always be so for your Majesty's service.'—'Well, then, Truchsess and you are for England; the day after to-morrow you go. Speak to M. de Podewils!'—This was said like a flash of lightning. His Majesty passed into another apartment; and I, I went to finish my minuet with the Lady; who had been not less astonished to see me disappear from her eyes, in the middle of the dance, than I was at what the King said to me." [Bielfeld, i. 167, 168.] Next morning, I—
The fact is, next morning, Truchsess and I began preparation for the Court of London,—and we did there, for many months afterwards, strive our best to keep the Britannic Majesty in some kind of tune, amid the prevailing discord of events;—fact interesting to some. And the other fact, interesting to everybody, though Bielfeld has not mentioned it, is, That King Friedrich, the same next morning, punctually "at the stroke of 9," rolled away Frankfurt-ward,—into the First Silesian War! Tuesday, "13th December, this morning, the King, privately quitting the Ball, has gone [after some little snatch of sleep, we will hope] for Frankfurt, to put himself at the head of his Troops." [Dickens (in State-Paper Office), 13th December, 1740; see also Helden-Geschichte, i. 452; &c. &c.] Bellona his companion for long years henceforth, instead of Minerva and the Muses, as he had been anticipating.
Hereby is like to be fulfilled (except that Friedrich himself is perhaps this "little stone") what Friedrich prophesied to his Voltaire, the day after hearing of the Kaiser's death: "I believe there will, by June next, be more talk of cannon, soldiers, trenches, than of actresses, and dancers for the ballet. This small Event changes the entire system of Europe. It is the little stone which Nebuchadnezzar saw, in his dream, loosening itself, and rolling down on the Image made of Four Metals, which it shivers to ruin." [Friedrich to Voltaire, busy gathering actors at that time, 26th October, 1740 (OEuvres de Frederic, xxii. 49).]