HISTORY OF FRIEDRICH II OF PRUSSIA, Volume 16
FREDERICK THE GREAT
by Thomas Carlyle
WAR-PASSAGES IN 1747
MARSHAL KEITH COMES TO PRUSSIA (September, 1747)
Chapter IV. COCCEJI FINISHES THE LAW-REFORM; FRIEDRICH IS PRINTING HIS POESIES
Chapter V. STRANGERS OF NOTE COME TO BERLIN, IN 1750
SIR JONAS HANWAY STALKS ACROSS THE SCENE, TOO; IN A PONDERING AND OBSERVING MANNER
PART II. THE LAWSUIT ITSELF (30th December, 1750-18th and 26th February, 1751)
Chapter IX.—SECOND ACT OF THE VOLTAIRE VISIT
FRACTIONS OF EVENTS AND INDICATIONS, FROM VOLTAIRE HIMSELF, IN THIS TIME; MORE OR LESS ILLUMINATIVE WHEN REDUCED TO ORDER
Chapter XII. OF THE AFTERPIECE, WHICH PROVED STILL MORE TRAGICAL
PART II. VOLTAIRE, IN SPITE OF HIS EFFORTS, DOES GET AWAY (June 20th-July 7th)
Chapter XIV. THERE IS LIKE TO BE ANOTHER WAR AHEAD
Chapter XV.—ANTI-PRUSSIAN WAR-SYMPTOMS: FRIEDRICH VISIBLE FOR A MOMENT
BOOK XVI.—THE TEN YEARS OF PEACE.—1746-1756.
Friedrich has now climbed the heights, and sees himself on the upper table-land of Victory and Success; his desperate life-and-death struggles triumphantly ended. What may be ahead, nobody knows; but here is fair outlook that his enemies and Austria itself have had enough of him. No wringing of his Silesia from this "bad Man." Not to be overset, this one, by never such exertions; oversets US, on the contrary, plunges us heels-over-head into the ditch, so often as we like to apply to him; nothing but heavy beatings, disastrous breaking of crowns, to be had on trying there! "Five Victories!" as Voltaire keeps counting on his fingers, with upturned eyes,—Mollwitz, Chotusitz, Striegau, Sohr, Kesselsdorf (the last done by Anhalt; but omitting Hennersdorf, and that sudden slitting of the big Saxon-Austrian Projects into a cloud of feathers, as fine a feat as any),—"Five Victories!" counts Voltaire; calling on everybody (or everybody but Friedrich himself, who is easily sated with that kind of thing) to admire. In the world are many opinions about Friedrich. In Austria, for instance, what an opinion; sinister, gloomy in the extreme: or in England, which derives from Austria,—only with additional dimness, and with gloomy new provocations of its own before long! Many opinions about Friedrich, all dim enough: but this, that he is a very demon for fighting, and the stoutest King walking the Earth just now, may well be a universal one. A man better not be meddled with, if he will be at peace, as he professes to wish being.
Friedrich accordingly is not meddled with, or not openly meddled with; and has, for the Ten or Eleven Years coming, a time of perfect external Peace. He himself is decided "not to fight with a cat," if he can get the peace kept; and for about eight years hopes confidently that this, by good management, will continue possible;—till, in the last three years, electric symptoms did again disclose themselves, and such hope more and more died away. It is well known there lay in the fates a Third Silesian War for him, worse than both the others; which is now the main segment of his History still lying ahead for us, were this Halcyon Period done. Halcyon Period counts from Christmas-day, Dresden, 1745,—"from this day, Peace to the end of my life!" had been Friedrich's fond hope. But on the 9th day of September, 1756, Friedrich was again entering Dresden (Saxony some twelve days before); and the Crowning Struggle of his Life was, beyond all expectation, found to be still lying ahead for him, awfully dubious for Seven Years thereafter!—
Friedrich's History during this intervening Halcyon or Peace Period must, in some way, be made known to readers: but for a great many reasons, especially at present, it behooves to be given in compressed form; riddled down, to an immense extent, out of those sad Prussian Repositories, where the grain of perennial, of significant and still memorable, lies overwhelmed under rubbish-mountains of the fairly extinct, the poisonously dusty and forgettable;—ACH HIMMEL! Which indispensable preliminary process, how can an English Editor, at this time, do it; no Prussian, at any time, having thought of trying it! From a painful Predecessor of mine, I collect, rummaging among his dismal Paper-masses, the following Three Fragments, worth reading here:—
1. "Friedrich was as busy, in those Years, as in the generality of his life; and his actions, and salutary conquests over difficulties, were many, profitable to Prussia and to himself. Very well worth keeping in mind. But not fit for History; or at least only fit in the summary form; to be delineated in little, with large generic strokes,—if we had the means;—such details belonging to the Prussian Antiquary, rather than to the English Historian of Friedrich in our day. A happy Ten Years of time. Perhaps the time for Montesquieu's aphorism, 'Happy the People whose Annals are blank in History-Books!' The Prussian Antiquary, had he once got any image formed to himself of Friedrich, and of Friedrich's History in its human lineaments and organic sequences, will glean many memorabilia in those Years: which his readers then (and not till then) will be able to intercalate in their places, and get human good of. But alas, while there is no intelligible human image, nothing of lineaments or organic sequences, or other than a jumbled mass of Historical Marine-Stores, presided over by Dryasdust and Human Stupor (unsorted, unlabelled, tied up in blind sacks), the very Antiquary will have uphill work of it, and his readers will often turn round on him with a gloomy expression of countenance!"
2. "Friedrich's Life—little as he expected it, that day when he started up from his ague-fit at Reinsberg, and grasped the fiery Opportunity that was shooting past—is a Life of War. The chief memory that will remain of him is that of a King and man who fought consummately well. Not Peace and the Muses; no, that is denied him,—though he was so unwilling, always, to think it denied! But his Life-Task turned out to be a Battle for Silesia. It consists of Three grand Struggles of War. And not for Silesia only;—unconsciously, for what far greater things to his Nation and to him!
"Deeply unconscious of it, they were passing their 'Trials,' his Nation and he, in the great Civil-Service-Examination Hall of this Universe: 'Are you able to defend yourselves, then; and to hang together coherent, against the whole world and its incoherencies and rages?' A question which has to be asked of Nations, before they can be recognized as such, and be baptized into the general commonwealth; they are mere Hordes or accidental Aggregates, till that Question come. Question which this Nation had long been getting ready for; which now, under this King, it answered to the satisfaction of gods and men: 'Yes, Heaven assisting, we can stand on our defence; and in the long-run (as with air when you try to annihilate it, or crush it to NOTHING) there is even an infinite force in us; and the whole world does not succeed in annihilating us!' Upon which has followed what we term National Baptism;—or rather this was the National Baptism, this furious one in torrent whirlwinds of fire; done three times over, till in gods or men there was no doubt left. That was Friedrich's function in the world; and a great and memorable one;—not to his own Prussian Nation only, but to Teutschland at large, forever memorable.
"'Is Teutschland a Nation; is there in Teutschland still a Nation?' Austria, not dishonestly, but much sunk in superstitions and involuntary mendacities, and liable to sink much farther, answers always, in gloomy proud tone, 'Yes, I am the Nation of Teutschland!'—but is mistaken, as turns out. For it is not mendacities, conscious or other, but veracities, that the Divine Powers will patronize, or even in the end will put up with at all. Which you ought to understand better than you do, my friend. For, on the great scale and on the small, and in all seasons, circumstances, scenes and situations where a Son of Adam finds himself, that is true, and even a sovereign truth. And whoever does not know it,—human charity to him (were such always possible) would be, that HE were furnished with handcuffs as a part of his outfit in this world, and put under guidance of those who do. Yes; to him, I should say, a private pair of handcuffs were much usefuler than a ballot-box,—were the times once settled again, which they are far from being!"...
"So that, if there be only Austria for Nation, Teutschland is in ominous case. Truly so. But there is in Teutschland withal, very irrecognizable to Teutschland, yet authentically present, a Man of the properly unconquerable type; there is also a select Population drilled for him: these two together will prove to you that there is a Nation. Conquest of Silesia, Three Silesian Wars; labors and valors as of Alcides, in vindication of oneself and one's Silesia:—secretly, how unconsciously, that other and higher Question of Teutschland, and of its having in it a Nation, was Friedrich's sore task and his Prussia's at that time. As Teutschland may be perhaps now, in our day, beginning to recognize; with hope, with astonishment, poor Teutschland!"...
3. "And in fine, leaving all that, there is one thing undeniable: In all human Narrative, it is the battle only, and not the victory, that can be dwelt upon with advantage. Friedrich has now, by his Second Silesian War, achieved Greatness: 'Friedrich the Great;' expressly so denominated, by his People and others. The struggle upwards is the Romance; your hero once wedded,—to GLORY, or whoever the Bride may be,—the Romance ends. Precise critics do object, That there may still lie difficulties, new perils and adventures ahead:—which proves conspicuously true in this case of ours. And accordingly, our Book not being a Romance but a History, let us, with all fidelity, look out what these are, and how they modify our Royal Gentleman who has got his wedding done. With all fidelity; but with all brevity, no less. For, inasmuch as"—
Well, brevity in most cases is desirable. And, privately, it must be owned there is another consideration of no small weight: That, our Prussian resources falling altogether into bankruptcy during Peace-Periods, Nature herself has so ordered it, in this instance! Partly it is our Books (the Prussian Dryasdust reaching his acme on those occasions), but in part too it is the Events themselves, that are small and want importance; that have fallen dead to us, in the huge new Time and its uproars. Events not of flagrant notability (like battles or war-passages), to bridle Dryasdust, and guide him in some small measure. Events rather which, except as characteristic of one memorable Man and King, are mostly now of no memorability whatever. Crowd all these indiscriminately into sacks, and shake them out pell-mell on us: that is Dryasdust's sweet way. As if the largest Marine-Stores Establishment in all the world had suddenly, on hest of some Necromancer or maleficent person, taken wing upon you; and were dancing, in boundless mad whirl, round your devoted head;—simmering and dancing, very much at its ease; no-whither; asking YOU cheerfully, "What is your candid opinion, then?" "Opinion," Heavens!—
You have to retire many yards, and gaze with a desperate steadiness; assuring yourself: "Well, it does, right indisputably, shadow forth SOMEthing. This was a Thing Alive, and did at one time stick together, as an organic Fact on the Earth, though it now dances in Dryasdust at such a rate!" It is only by self-help of this sort, and long survey, with rigorous selection, and extremely extensive exclusion and oblivion, that you gain the least light in such an element. "Brevity"—little said, when little has been got to be known—is an evident rule! Courage, reader; by good eyesight, you will still catch some features of Friedrich as we go along. To SAY our little in a not unintelligible manner, and keep the rest well hidden, it is all we can do for you!—
FRIEDRICH DECLINES THE CAREER OF CONQUERING HERO; GOES INTO LAW-REFORM; AND GETS READY A COTTAGE RESIDENCE FOR HIMSELF.
Friedrich's Journey to Pyrmont is the first thing recorded of him by the Newspapers. Gone to take the waters; as he did after his former War. Here is what I had noted of that small Occurrence, and of one or two others contiguous in date, which prove to be of significance in Friedrich's History.
"MAY 12-17th, 1746," say the old Books, "his Majesty sets out for Pyrmont, taking Brunswick by the way; arrives at Pyrmont May 17th; stays till June 8th;" three weeks good. "Is busy corresponding with the King of France about a General Peace; but, owing to the embitterment of both parties, it was not possible at this time." Taking the waters at least, and amusing himself. From Brunswick, in passing, he had brought with him his Brother-in-law the reigning Duke; Rothenburg was there, and Brother Henri; D'Arget expressly; Flute-player Quanz withal, and various musical people: "in all, a train of above sixty persons." I notice also that Prince Wilhelm of Hessen was in Pyrmont at the time. With whom, one fancies, what speculations there might be: About the late and present War-passages, about the poor Peace Prospects; your Hessian "Siege" so called "of Blair in Athol" (CULLODEN now comfortably done), and other cognate topics. That is the Pyrmont Journey.
It is no surprise to us to hear, in these months, of new and continual attention to Army matters, to Husbandry matters; and to making good, on all sides, the ruins left by War. Of rebuilding (at the royal expense) "the town of Schmiedeberg, which had been burnt;" of rebuilding, and repairing from their damage, all Silesian villages and dwellings; and still more satisfactory, How, "in May, 1746, there was, in every Circle of the Country, by exact liquidation of Accounts [so rapidly got done], exact payment made to the individuals concerned, 1. of all the hay, straw and corn that had been delivered to his Majesty's Armies; 2. of all the horses that had perished in the King's work; 3. of all the horses stolen by the Enemy, and of all the money-contributions exacted by the Enemy: payment in ready cash, and according to the rules of justice (BAAR UND BILLIGMASSIG), by his Majesty." [Seyfarth, ii. 22, 23.]
It was from Pyrmont, May, 1746,—or more definitely, it was "at Potsdam early in the morning, 15th September," following,—that Friedrich launched, or shot forth from its moorings, after much previous attempting and preparing, a very great Enterprise; which he has never lost sight of since the day he began reigning, nor will till his reign and life end: the actual Reform of Law in Prussia. "May 12th, 1746," Friedrich, on the road to Pyrmont, answers his Chief Law-Minister Cocceji's REPORT OF PRACTICAL PLAN on this matter: "Yes; looks very hopeful!"—and took it with him to consider at Pyrmont, during his leisure. Much considering of it, then and afterwards, there was. And finally, September 15th, early in the morning, Cocceji had an Interview with Friedrich; and the decisive fiat was given: "Yes; start on it, in God's name! Pommern, which they call the PROVINCIA LITIGIOSA; try it there first!" [Ranke, ii. 392.] And Cocceji, a vigorous old man of sixty-seven, one of the most learned of Lawyers, and a very Hercules in cleaning Law-Stables, has, on Friedrich's urgencies,—which have been repeated on every breathing-time of Peace there has been, and even sometimes in the middle of War (last January, 1745, for example; and again, express Order, January, 1746, a fortnight after Peace was signed),—actually got himself girt for this salutary work. "Wash me out that horror of accumulation, let us see the old Pavements of the place again. Every Lawsuit to be finished within the Year!"
Cocceji, who had been meditating such matters for a great while, ["1st March, 1738," Friedrich Wilhelm's "Edict" on Law Reform: Cocceji ready, at that time;—but his then Majesty forbore.] and was himself eager to proceed, in spite of considerable wigged oppositions and secret reluctances that there were, did now, on that fiat of September 15th, get his Select Commission of Six riddled together and adjoined to him,—the likeliest Six that Prussia, in her different Provinces, could yield;—and got the STANDE of Pommern, after due committeeing and deliberating, to consent and promise help. December 31st, 1746, was the day the STANDE consented: and January 10th, 1747, Cocceji and his Six set out for Pommern. On a longish Enterprise, in that Province and the others;—of which we shall have to take notice, and give at least the dates as they occur.
To sweep out pettifogging Attorneys, cancel improper Advocates, to regulate Fees; to war, in a calm but deadly manner, against pedantries, circumlocutions and the multiplied forms of stupidity, cupidity and human owlery in this department;—and, on the whole, to realize from every Court, now and onwards, "A decision to all Lawsuits within a Year after their beginning." This latter result, Friedrich thinks, will itself be highly beneficial; and be the sign of all manner of improvements. And Cocceji, scanning it with those potent law-eyes of his, ventures to assure him that it will be possible. As, in fact, it proved;—honor to Cocceji and his King, and King's Father withal. "Samuel von Cocceji [says an old Note], son of a Law Professor, and himself once such,—was picked up by Friedrich Wilhelm, for the Official career, many years ago. A man of wholesome, by no means weakly aspect,—to judge by his Portrait, which is the chief 'Biography' I have of him. Potent eyes and eyebrows, ditto blunt nose; honest, almost careless lips, and deep chin well dewlapped: extensive penetrative face, not pincered together, but potently fallen closed;—comfortable to see, in a wig of such magnitude. Friedrich, a judge of men, calls him 'a man of sterling character (CARACTERE INTEGRE ET DROIT), whose qualities would have suited the noble times of the Roman Republic.'" [—OEuvres,—iv. 2.] He has his Herculean battle, his Master and he have, with the Owleries and the vulturous Law-Pedantries,—which I always love Friedrich for detesting as he does:—and, during the next five years, the world will hear often of Cocceji, and of this Prussian Law-Reform by Friedrich and him.
His Majesty's exertions to make Peace were not successful; what does lie in his power is, to keep out of the quarrel himself. It appears great hopes were entertained, by some in England, of gaining Friedrich over; of making him Supreme Captain to the Cause of Liberty. And prospects were held out to him, quasi-offers made, of a really magnificent nature,—undeniable, though obscure. Herr Ranke has been among the Archives again; and comes out with fractional snatches of a very strange "Paper from England;" capriciously hiding all details about it, all intelligible explanation: so that you in vain ask, "Where, When, How, By whom?"—and can only guess to yourself that Carteret was somehow at the bottom of the thing; AUT CARTERETUS AUT DIABOLUS. "What would your Majesty think to be elected Stadtholder of Holland? Without a Stadtholder, these Dutch are worth nothing; not hoistable, nor of use when hoisted, all palavering and pulling different ways. Must have a Stadtholder; and one that stands firm on some basis of his own. Stadtholder of Holland, King of Prussia,—you then, in such position, take the reins of this poor floundering English-Dutch Germanic Anti-French War, you; and drive it in the style you have. Conquer back the Netherlands to us; French Netherlands as well. French and Austrian Netherlands together, yours in perpetuity; Dutch Stadtholderate as good as ditto: this, with Prussia and its fighting capabilities, will be a pleasant Protestant thing. Austria cares little about the Netherlands, in comparison. Austria, getting back its Lorraine and Alsace, will be content, will be strong on its feet. What if it should even lose Italy? France, Spain, Sardinia, the Italian Petty Principalities and Anarchies: suppose they tug and tussle, and collapse there as they can? But let France try to look across the Rhine again; and to threaten Teutschland, England, and the Cause of Human Liberty temporal or spiritual!"
This is authentically the purport of Herr Ranke's extraordinary Document; [Ranke, iii. 359.] guessable as due to CARTERETUS or DIABOLUS. Here is an outlook; here is a career as Conquering Hero, if that were one's line! A very magnificent ground-plan; hung up to kindle the fancy of a young King,—who is far too prudent to go into it at all. More definite quasi-official offers, it seems, were made him from the same quarter: Subsidies to begin with, such subsidies as nobody ever had before; say 1,000,000 pounds sterling by the Year. To which Friedrich answered, "Subsidies, your Excellency?" (Are We a Hackney-Coachman, then?)—and, with much contempt, turned his back on that offer. No fighting to be had, by purchase or seduction, out of this young man. Will not play the Conquering Hero at all, nor the Hackney-Coachman at all; has decided "not to fight a cat" if let alone; but to do and endeavor a quite other set of things, for the rest of his life.
Friedrich, readers can observe, is not uplifted with his greatness. He has been too much beaten and bruised to be anything but modestly thankful for getting out of such a deadly clash of chaotic swords. Seems to have little pride even in his "Five Victories;" or hides it well. Talks not overmuch about these things; talks of them, so far as we can hear, with his old comrades only, in praise of THEIR prowesses; as a simple human being, not as a supreme of captains; and at times acknowledges, in a fine sincere way, the omnipotence of Luck in matters of War.
One of the most characteristic traits, extensively symbolical of Friedrich's intentions and outlooks at this Epoch, is his installing of himself in the little Dwelling-House, which has since become so celebrated under the name of Sans-Souci. The plan of Sans-Souci—an elegant commodious little "Country Box," quite of modest pretensions, one story high; on the pleasant Hill-top near Potsdam, with other little green Hills, and pleasant views of land and water, all round—had been sketched in part by Friedrich himself; and the diggings and terracings of the Hill-side were just beginning, when he quitted for the Last War. "April 14th, 1745," while he lay in those perilous enigmatic circumstances at Neisse with Pandours and devouring bugbears round him, "the foundation-stone was laid" (Knobelsdorf being architect, once more, as in the old Reinsberg case): and the work, which had been steadily proceeding while the Master struggled in those dangerous battles and adventures far away from it, was in good forwardness at his return. An object of cheerful interest to him; prophetic of calmer years ahead.
It was not till May, 1747, that the formal occupation took place: "Mayday, 1747," he had a grand House-heating, or "First Dinner, of 200 covers: and May 19th-20th was the first night of his sleeping there." For the next Forty Years, especially as years advanced, he spent the most of his days and nights in this little Mansion; which became more and more his favorite retreat, whenever the noises and scenic etiquettes were not inexorable. "SANS-SOUCI;" which we may translate "No-Bother." A busy place this too, but of the quiet kind; and more a home to him than any of the Three fine Palaces (ultimately Four), which lay always waiting for him in the neighborhood. Berlin and Charlottenburg are about twenty miles off; Potsdam, which, like the other two, is rather consummate among Palaces, lies leftwise in front of him within a short mile. And at length, to RIGHT hand, in a similar distance and direction, came the "NEUE SCHLOSS" (New Palace of Potsdam), called also the "PALACE of Sans-Souci," in distinction from the Dwelling-House, or as it were Garden-House, which made that name so famous.
Certainly it is a significant feature of Friedrich; and discloses the inborn proclivity he had to retirement, to study and reflection, as the chosen element of human life. Why he fell upon so ambitious a title for his Royal Cottage? "No-Bother" was not practically a thing he, of all men, could consider possible in this world: at the utmost perhaps, by good care, "LESS-Bother"! The name, it appears, came by accident. He had prepared his Tomb, and various Tombs, in the skirts of this new Cottage: looking at these, as the building of them went on, he was heard to say, one day (Spring 1746), D'Argens strolling beside him: "OUI, ALORS JE SERAI SANS SOUCI (Once THERE, one will be out of bother)!" A saying which was rumored of, and repeated in society, being by such a man. Out of which rumor in society, and the evident aim of the Cottage Royal, there was gradually born, as Venus from the froth of the sea, this name, "Sans-Souci;"—which Friedrich adopted; and, before the Year was out, had put upon his lintel in gold letters. So that, by "Mayday, 1747," the name was in all men's memories; and has continued ever since. [Preuss, i. 268, &c.; Nicolai, iii. 1200.] Tourists know this Cottage Royal: Friedrich's "Three Rooms in it; one of them a Library; in another, a little Alcove with an iron Bed" (iron, without curtains; old softened HAT the usual royal nightcap)—altogether a soldier's lodging:—all this still stands as it did. Cheerfully looking down on its garden-terraces, stairs, Greek statues, and against the free sky:—perhaps we may visit it in time coming, and take a more special view. In the Years now on hand, Friedrich, I think, did not much practically live there, only shifted thither now and then. His chief residence is still Potsdam Palace; and in Carnival time, that of Berlin; with Charlottenburg for occasional festivities, especially in summer, the gardens there being fine.
This of Sans-Souci is but portion of a wider Tendency, wider set of endeavors on Friedrich's part, which returns upon him now that Peace has returned: That of improving his own Domesticities, while he labors at so many public improvements. Gazing long on that simmering "Typhoon of Marine-stores" above mentioned, we do trace Three great Heads of Endeavor in this Peace Period. FIRST, the Reform of Law; which, as above hinted, is now earnestly pushed forward again, and was brought to what was thought completion before long. With much rumor of applause from contemporary mankind. Concerning which we are to give some indications, were it only dates in their order: though, as the affair turned out not to be completed, but had to be taken up again long after, and is an affair lying wide of British ken,—there need not, and indeed cannot, be much said of it just now. SECONDLY, there is eager Furthering of the Husbandries, the Commerces, Practical Arts,—especially at present, that of Foreign Commerce, and Shipping from the Port of Embden. Which shall have due notice. And THIRDLY, what must be our main topic here, there is that of Improving the Domesticities, the Household Enjoyments such as they were;—especially definable as Renewal of the old Reinsberg Program; attempt more strenuous than ever to realize that beautiful ideal. Which, and the total failure of which, and the consequent quasi-abandonment of it for time coming, are still, intrinsically and by accident, of considerable interest to modern readers.
Curious, and in some sort touching, to observe how that old original Life-Program still re-emerges on this King: "Something of melodious possible in one's poor life, is not there? A Life to the Practical Duties, yes; but to the Muses as well!"—Of Friedrich's success in his Law-Reforms, in his Husbandries, Commerces and Furtherances, conspicuously great as it was, there is no possibility of making careless readers cognizant at this day. Only by the great results—a "Prussia QUADRUPLED" in his time, and the like—can studious readers convince themselves, in a cold and merely statistic way. But in respect of Life to the Muses, we have happily the means of showing that in actual vitality; in practical struggle towards fulfillment,—and how extremely disappointing the result was. In a word, Voltaire pays his Fifth and final Visit in this Period; the Voltaire matter comes to its consummation. To that, as to one of the few things which are perfectly knowable in this Period of TEN-YEARS PEACE, and in which mankind still take interest, we purpose mostly to devote ourselves here.
Ten years of a great King's life, ten busy years too; and nothing visible in them, of main significance, but a crash of Author's Quarrels, and the Crowning Visit of Voltaire? Truly yes, reader; so it has been ordered. Innumerable high-dressed gentlemen, gods of this lower world, are gone all to inorganic powder, no comfortable or profitable memory to be held of them more; and this poor Voltaire, without implement except the tongue and brain of him,—he is still a shining object to all the populations; and they say and symbol to me, "Tell us of him! He is the man!" Very strange indeed. Changed times since, for dogs barking at the heels of him, and lions roaring ahead,—for Asses of Mirepoix, for foul creatures in high dizenment, and foul creatures who were hungry valets of the same,—this man could hardly get the highways walked! And indeed had to keep his eyes well open, and always have covert within reach,—under pain of being torn to pieces, while he went about in the flesh, or rather in the bones, poor lean being. Changed times; within the Century last past! For indeed there was in that man what far transcends all dizenment, and temporary potency over valets, over legions, treasure-vaults and dim millions mostly blockhead: a spark of Heaven's own lucency, a gleam from the Eternities (in small measure);—which becomes extremely noticeable when the Dance is over, when your tallow-dips and wax-lights are burnt out, and the brawl of the night is gone to bed.
Chapter II.—PEEP AT VOLTAIRE AND HIS DIVINE EMILIE (BY CANDLELIGHT) IN THE TIDE OF EVENTS.
Public European affairs require little remembrance; the War burning well to leeward of us henceforth. A huge world of smoky chaos; the special fires of it, if there be anything of fire, are all the more clear far in the distance. Of which sort, and of which only, the reader is to have notice. Marechal de Saxe—King Louis oftenest personally there, to give his name and countenance to things done—is very glorious in the Netherlands; captures, sometimes by surprisal, place after place (beautiful surprisal of Brussels last winter); with sieges of Antwerp, Mons, Charleroi, victoriously following upon Brussels: and, before the end of 1746, he is close upon Holland itself; intent on having Namur and Maestricht; for which the poor Sea-Powers, with a handful of Austrians, fight two Battles, and are again beaten both times. [1. Battle of Roucoux, 11th October, 1746; Prince Karl commanding, English taking mainly the stress of fight;—Saxe having already outwitted poor Karl, and got Namur. 2. Battle of Lawfelt, or Lauffeld, called also of VAL, 2d July, 1747; Royal Highness of Cumberland commanding (and taking most of the stress; Ligonier made prisoner, &c.),—Dutch fighting ill, and Bathyani and his Austrians hardly in the fire at all.] A glorious, ever-victorious Marechal; and has an Army very "high-toned," in more than one sense: indeed, I think, one of the loudest-toned Armies ever on the field before. Loud not with well-served Artillery alone, but with play-actor Thunder-barrels (always an itinerant Theatre attends), with gasconading talk, with orgies, debaucheries,—busy service of the Devil, AND pleasant consciousness that we are Heaven's masterpiece, and are in perfect readiness to die at any moment;—our ELASTICITY and agility ("ELAN" as we call it) well kept up, in that manner, for the time being.
Hungarian Majesty, contrary to hope, neglects the Netherlands, "Holland and England, for their own sake, will manage there!"—and directs all her resources, and her lately Anti-Prussian Armies (General Browne leading them) upon Italy, as upon the grand interest now. Little to the comfort of the Sea-Powers. But Hungarian Majesty is decided to cut in upon the French and Spaniards, in that fine Country,—who had been triumphing too much of late; Maillebois and Senor de Gages doing their mutual exploits (though given to quarrel); Don Philip wintering in Milan even (1745-1746); and the King of Sardinia getting into French courses again.
Strong cuts her Hungarian Majesty does inflict, on the Italian side; tumbles Infant Philip out of Milan and his Carnival gayeties, in plenty of hurry; besieges Genoa, Marquis Botta d'Adorno (our old acquaintance Botta) her siege-captain, a native of this region; brings back the wavering Sardinian Majesty; captures Genoa, and much else. Captures Genoa, we say,—had not Botta been too rigorous on his countrymen, and provoked a revolt again, Revolt of Genoa, which proved difficult to settle. In fine, Hungarian Majesty has, in the course of this year 1746, with aid of the reconfirmed Sardinian Majesty, satisfactorily beaten the French and Spaniards. Has—after two murderous Battles gained over the Maillebois-Gages people—driven both French and Spaniards into corners, Maillebois altogether home again across the Var;—nay has descended in actual Invasion upon France itself. And, before New-year's day, 1747, General Browne is busy besieging Antibes, aided by English Seventy-fours; so that "sixty French Battalions" have to hurry home, from winter-quarters, towards those Provencal Countries; and Marechal de Belleisle, who commands there, has his hands full. Triumphant enough her Hungarian Majesty, in Italy; while in the Netherlands, the poor Sea-Powers have met with no encouragement from the Fates or her. ["Battle of Piacenza" (Prince Lichtenstein, with whom is Browne, VERSUS Gages and Maillebois), 16th June, 1746 (ADELUNG, v. 427); "Battle of Rottofreddo" (Botta chief Austrian there, and our old friend Barenklau getting killed there), 12th August, 1746 (IB. 462); whereupon, 7th SEPTEMBER, Genoa (which had declared itself Anti-Austrian latterly, not without cause, and brought the tug of War into those parts) is coerced by Botta to open its gates, on grievous terms (IB. 484-489); so that, NOVEMBER 30th, Browne, no Bourbon Army now on the field, enters Provence (crosses the Var, that day), and tries Antibes: 5th-11th DECEMBER, Popular Revolt in Genoa, and Expulsion of proud Botta and his Austrians (IB. 518-523); upon which surprising event (which could not be mended during the remainder of the War), Browne's enterprise became impossible. See Buonamici,—Histoire de la derniere Revolution de Genes;—Adelung, v. 516; vi. 31, &c. &c.] All which the reader may keep imagining at his convenience;—but will be glad rather, for the present, to go with us for an actual look at M. de Voltaire and the divine Emilie, whom we have not seen for a long time. Not much has happened in the interim; one or two things only which it can concern us to know;—scattered fragments of memorial, on the way thus far:—
1. M. DE VOLTAIRE HAS, IN 1745, MADE WAY AT COURT. Divine Emilie picked up her Voltaire from that fine Diplomatic course, and went home with him out of our sight, in the end of 1743; the Diplomatic career gradually declaring itself barred to him thenceforth. Since which, nevertheless, he has had his successes otherwise, especially in his old Literary course: on the whole, brighter sunshine than usual, though never without tempestuous clouds attending. Goes about, with his divine Emilie, now wearing browner and leaner, both of them; and takes the good and evil of life, mostly in a quiet manner; sensible that afternoon is come.
The thrice-famous Pompadour, who had been known to him in the Chrysalis state, did not forget him on becoming Head-Butterfly of the Universe. By her help, one long wish of his soul was gratified, and did not hunger or thirst any more. Some uncertain footing at Court, namely, was at length vouchsafed him:—uncertain; for the Most Christian Majesty always rather shuddered under those carbuncle eyes, under that voice "sombre and majestious," with such turns lying in it:—some uncertain footing at Court; and from the beginning of 1745, his luck, in the Court spheres, began to mount in a wonderful and world-evident manner. On grounds tragically silly, as he thought them. On the Dauphin's Wedding,—a Termagant's Infanta coming hither as Dauphiness, at this time,—there needed to be Court-shows, Dramaticules, Transparencies, Feasts of Lanterns, or I know not what. Voltaire was the chosen man; Voltaire and Rameau (readers have heard of RAMEAU'S NEPHEW, and musical readers still esteem Rameau) did their feat; we may think with what perfection, with what splendor of reward. Alas, and the feat done was, to one of the parties, so unspeakably contemptible! Voltaire pensively surveying Life, brushes the sounding strings; and hums to himself, the carbuncle eyes carrying in them almost something of wet:—
"MON Henri Quatre ET MA Zaire, ET MON AMERICAIN Alzire, NE M'ONT VALU JAMAIS UN SEUL REGARD DU ROI; J'AVAIS MILLE ENNEMIS AVEC TRES PEU DE GLOIRE: LES HONNEURS ET LES BIENS PLEUVENT ENFIN SUR MOI POUR UN FARCE DE LA FOIRE."
["My HENRI QUATRE, my ZAIRE, my ALZIRE [high works very many], could never purchase me a single glance of the King; I had multitudes of enemies, and very little fame:—honors and riches rain on me, at last, for a Farce of the Fair" (—OEuvres,—ii. 151). The "Farce" (which by no means CALLED itself such) was PRINCESSE DE NAVARRE (—OEuvres,—lxxiii. 251): first acted 23d February, 1745, Day of the Wedding. Gentlemanship of the Chamber thereupon (which Voltaire, by permission, sold, shortly after, for 2,500 pounds, with titles retained), and appointment as Historiographer Royal. Poor Dauphiness did not live long; Louis XVI.'s Mother was a SECOND Wife, Saxon-Polish Majesty's Daughter.] Yes, my friend; it is a considerable ass, this world; by no means the Perfectly Wise put at the top of it (as one could wish), and the Perfectly Foolish at the bottom. Witness—nay, witness Psyche Pompadour herself, is not she an emblem! Take your luck without criticism; luck good and bad visits all.
2. AND GOT INTO THE ACADEMY NEXT YEAR, IN CONSEQUENCE. In 1746, the Academy itself, Pompadour favoring, is made willing; Voltaire sees himself among the Forty: soul, on that side too, be at ease, and hunger not nor thirst anymore. ["May 9th, 1746, Voltaire is received at the Academy; and makes a very fine Discourse" (BARBIER, ii. 488).—OEuvres de Voltaire,—lxxiii. 355, 385, and i. 97.] This highest of felicities could not be achieved without an ugly accompaniment from the surrounding Populace. Desfontaines is dead, safe down in Sodom; but wants not for a successor, for a whole Doggery of such. Who are all awake, and giving tongue on this occasion. There is M. Roi the "Poet," as he was then reckoned; jingling Roi, who concocts satirical calumnies; who collects old ones, reprints the same,—and sends Travenol, an Opera-Fiddler, to vend them. From which sprang a Lawsuit, PROCES-TRAVENOL, of famous melancholy sort. As Voltaire had rather the habit of such sad melancholy Lawsuits, we will pause on this of Travenol for a moment:—
3. SUMMARY OF TRAVENOL LAWSUIT. "Monday, 9th May, 1746, was the Day or reception at the Academy; reception and fruition, thrice-savory to Voltaire. But what an explosion of the Doggeries, before, during and after that event! Voltaire had tried to be prudent, too. He had been corresponding with Popes, with Cardinals; and, in a fine frank-looking way, capturing their suffrages:—not by lying, which in general he wishes to avoid, but by speaking half the truth; in short, by advancing, in a dexterous, diplomatic way, the uncloven foot, in those Vatican precincts. And had got the Holy Father's own suffrage for MAHOMET (think of that, you Ass of Mirepoix!), among other cases that might rise. When this seat among the Forty fell vacant, his very first measure—mark it, Orthodox reader—was a Letter to the Chief Jesuit, Father Latour, Head of one's old College of Louis le Grand. A Letter of fine filial tenor: 'My excellent old Schoolmasters, to whom I owe everything; the representatives of learning, of decorum, of frugality and modest human virtue:—in what contrast to the obscure Doggeries poaching about in the street-gutters, and flying at the peaceable passenger!' [In—Voltairiana, ou Eloges Amphigouriques,—&c. (Paris, 1748), i. 150-160, the LETTER itself, "Paris, 7th February, 1746;" omitted (without need or real cause on any side) in the common Collections of—OEuvres de Voltaire.—] Which captivated Father Latour; and made matters smooth on that side; so that even the ANCIEN DE MIREPOIX said nothing, this time: What could he say? No cloven foot visible, and the Authorities strong.
"Voltaire had started as Candidate with these judicious preliminaries. Voltaire was elected, as we saw; fine Discourse, 9th May; and on the Official side all things comfortable. But, in the mean while, the Doggeries, as natural, seeing the thing now likely, had risen to a never-imagined pitch; and had filled Paris, and, to Voltaire's excruciated sense, the Universe, with their howlings and their hyena-laughter, with their pasquils, satires, old and new. So that Voltaire could not stand it; and, in evil hour, rushed downstairs upon them; seized one poor dog, Travenol, unknown to him as Fiddler or otherwise; pinioned Dog Travenol, with pincers, by the ears, him for one;—proper Police-pincers, for we are now well at Court;—and had a momentary joy! And, alas, this was not the right dog; this, we say, was Travenol a Fiddler at the Opera, who, except the street-noises, knew nothing of Voltaire; much less had the least pique at him; but had taken to hawking certain Pasquils (Jingler Roi's COLLECTION, it appears), to turn a desirable penny by them.
"And mistakes were made in the Affair Travenol,—old FATHER Travenol haled to prison, instead of Son,—by the Lieutenant of Police and his people. And Voltaire took the high-hand method (being well at Court):—and thereupon hungry Advocates took up Dog Travenol and his pincered ears: 'Serene Judges of the Chatelet, Most Christian Populace of Paris, did you ever see a Dog so pincered by an Academical Gentleman before, merely for being hungry?' And Voltaire, getting madder and madder, appealed to the Academy (which would not interfere); filed Criminal Informations; appealed to the Chatelet, to the Courts above and to the Courts below; and, for almost a year, there went on the 'PROCES-TRAVENOL:' [About Mayday, 1746, Seizure of Travenol; Pleadings are in vigor August, 1746; not done April, 1747. In—Voltairiana,—ii. 141-206, Pleadings, &c., copiously given; and most of the original Libels, in different parts of that sad Book (compiled by Travenol's Advocate, a very sad fellow himself): see also—OEuvres de Voltaire,—lxxiii. 355 n., 385 n.; IB. i. 97; BARBIER, ii. 487. All in a very jumbled, dateless, vague and incorrect condition.] Olympian Jove in distressed circumstances VERSUS a hungry Dog who had eaten dirty puddings. Paris, in all its Saloons and Literary Coffee-houses (figure the ANTRE DE PROCOPE, on Publication nights!), had, monthly or so, the exquisite malign banquet; and grinned over the Law Pleadings: what Magazine Serial of our day can be so interesting to the emptiest mind!
"Lasted, I find, for above a year. From Spring, 1746, till towards Autumn, 1747: Voltaire's feelings being—Haha, so exquisite, all the while!—Well, reader, I can judge how amusing it was to high and low. And yet Phoebus Apollo going about as mere Cowherd of Admetus, and exposed to amuse the populace by his duels with dogs that have bitten him? It is certain Voltaire was a fool, not to be more cautious of getting into gutter-quarrels; not to have a thicker skin, in fact."
PROCES-TRAVENOL escorting one's Triumphal Entry; what an adjunct! Always so: always in your utmost radiance of sunshine a shadow; and in your softest outburst of Lydian or Spheral symphonies something of eating Care! Then too, in the Court-circle itself, "is Trajan pleased," or are all things well? Readers have heard of that "TRAJAN EST-IL CONTENT?" It occurred Winter, 1745 (27th November, 1745, a date worth marking), while things were still in the flush of early hope. That evening, our TEMPLE DE LA GLOIRE (Temple of Glory) had just been acted for the first time, in honor of him we may call "Trajan," returning from a "Fontenoy and Seven Cities captured:" [Seven of them; or even eight of a kind: Tournay, Ghent, Bruges, Nieuport, Dendermond, Ath, Ostend; and nothing lost but Cape Breton and one's Codfishery.]—
"Reviens, divin Trajan, vainqueur doux et terrible; Le monde est mon rival, tous les coeurs sont a toi; Mais est-il un coeur plus sensible, Et qui t'adore plus que moi?" [TEMPLE DE LA GLOIRE, Acte iv. (—OEuvres,—xii. 328).] "Return, divine Trajan, conqueror sweet and terrible; The world is my rival, all hearts are thine; But is there a heart more loving, Or that adores thee more than I?"
An allegoric Dramatic Piece; naturally very admirable at Versailles. Issuing radiant from Fall of the Curtain, Voltaire had the farther honor to see his Majesty pass out; Majesty escorted by Richelieu, one's old friend in a sense: "Is Trajan pleased?" whispered Voltaire to his Richelieu; overheard by Trajan,—who answered in words nothing, but in a visible glance of the eyes did answer, "Impertinent Lackey!"—Trajan being a man unready with speech; and disliking trouble with the people whom he paid for keeping his boots in polish. O my winged Voltaire, to what dunghill Bubbly-Jocks (COQS D'INDE) you do stoop with homage, constrained by their appearance of mere size!—
Evidently no perfect footing at Court, after all. And then the Pompadour, could she, Head-Butterfly of the Universe, be an anchor that would hold, if gales rose? Rather she is herself somewhat of a gale, of a continual liability to gales; unstable as the wind! Voltaire did his best to be useful, as Court Poet, as director of Private Theatricals;—above all, to soothe, to flatter Pompadour; and never neglected this evident duty. But, by degrees, the envious Lackey-people made cabals; turned the Divine Butterfly into comparative indifference for Voltaire; into preference of a Crebillon's poor faded Pieces: "Suitabler these, Madame, for the Private Theatricals of a Most Christian Majesty." Think what a stab; crueler than daggers through one's heart: "Crebillon?" M. de Voltaire said nothing; looked nothing, in those sacred circles; and never ceased outwardly his worship, and assiduous tuning, of the Pompadour: but he felt—as only Phoebus Apollo in the like case can!"Away!" growled he to himself, when this atrocity had culminated. And, in effect, is, since the end of 1746 or so, pretty much withdrawn from the Versailles Olympus; and has set, privately in the distance (now at Cirey, now at Paris, in our PETIT PALAIS there), with his whole will and fire, to do Crebillon's dead Dramas into living oues of his own. Dead CATILINA of Crebillon into ROME SAUVEE of Voltaire, and the other samples of dead into living,—that stupid old Crebillon himself and the whole Universe may judge, and even Pompadour feel a remorse!—Readers shall fancy these things; and that the world is coming back to its old poor drab color with M. de Voltaire; his divine Emilie and he rubbing along on the old confused terms. One face-to-face peep of them readers shall now have; and that is to be enough, or more than enough:—
VOLTAIRE AND THE DIVINE EMILIE APPEAR SUDDENLY, ONE NIGHT, AT SCEAUX.
About the middle of August, 1747, King Friedrich, I find, was at home;—not in his new SANS-SOUCI by any means, but running to and fro; busy with his Musterings, "grand review, and mimic attack on Bornstadt, near Berlin;" INVALIDEN-HAUS (Military Hospital) getting built; Silesian Reviews just ahead; and, for the present, much festivity and moving about, to Charlottenburg, to Berlin and the different Palaces; Wilhelmina, "August 15th," having come to see him; of which fine visit, especially of Wilhelmina's thoughts on it,—why have the envious Fates left us nothing!
While all this is astir in Berlin and neighborhood, there is, among the innumerable other visits in this world, one going on near Paris, in the Mansion or Palace of Sceaux, which has by chance become memorable. A visit by Voltaire and his divine Emilie, direct from Paris, I suppose, and rather on the sudden. Which has had the luck to have a LETTER written on it, by one of those rare creatures, a seeing Witness, who can make others see and believe. The seeing Witness is little Madame de Staal (by no means Necker's Daughter, but a much cleverer), known as one of the sharpest female heads; she from the spot reports it to Madame du Deffand, who also is known to readers. There is such a glimpse afforded here into the actuality of old things and remarkable human creatures, that Friedrich himself would be happy to read the Letter.
Duchesse du Maine, Lady of Sceaux, is a sublime old personage, with whom and with whose high ways and magnificent hospitalities at Sceaux, at Anet and elsewhere, Voltaire had been familiar for long years past. [In—OEuvres de Voltaire,—lxxiii. 434 n, x. 8, &c., "Clog." and others represent THIS Visit as having been to Anet,—though the record otherwise is express.] This Duchess, grand-daughter of the great Conde, now a dowager for ten years, and herself turned of seventy, has been a notable figure in French History this great while: a living fragment of Louis le Grand, as it were. Was wedded to Louis's "Legitimated" Illegitimate, the Duc du Maine; was in trouble with the Regent d'Orleans about Alberoni-Cellamare conspiracies (1718), Regent having stript her husband of his high legitimatures and dignities, with little ceremony; which led her to conspire a good deal, at one time. [DUC DU MAINE with COMTE DE TOULOUSE were products of Louis XIV. and Madame de Montespan:—"legitimated" by Papa's fiat in 1673, while still only young children; DISlegitimated again by Regent d'Orleans, autumn, 1718; grand scene, "guards drawn out" and the like, on this occasion (BARBIER, i. 8-11, ii. 181); futile Conspiracies with Alberoni thereupon; arrest of Duchess and Duke (29th December, 1718), and closure of that poor business. Duc du Maine died 1736; Toulouse next year; ages, each about sixty-five. "Duc de Penthievre," Egalite's father-in-law, was Toulouse's son; Maine has left a famous Dowager, whom we see. Nothing more of notable about the one or the other.] She was never very beautiful; but had a world of grace and witty intelligence; and knew a Voltaire when she saw him. Was the soul of courtesy and benignity, though proud enough, and carrying her head at its due height; and was always very charming, in her lofty gracious way, to mankind. Interesting to all, were it only as a living fragment of the Grand Epoch,—kind of French Fulness of Time, when the world was at length blessed with a Louis Quatorze, and Ne-plus-ultra of a Gentleman determined to do the handsome thing in this world. She is much frequented by high people, especially if of a Literary or Historical turn. President Henault (of the ABREGE CHRONOLOGIQUE, the well-frilled, accurately powdered, most correct old legal gentleman) is one of her adherents; Voltaire is another, that may stand for many: there is an old Marquis de St. Aulaire, whom she calls "MON VIEUX BERGER (my old shepherd," that is to say, sweetheart or flame of love); [BARBIER, ii. 87; see ib. (i. 8-11; ii. 181, 436; &c.) for many notices of her affairs and her.] there is a most learned President de Mesmes, and others we have heard of, but do not wish to know. Little De Staal was at one time this fine Duchess's maid; but has far outgrown all that, a favorite guest of the Duchess's instead; holds now mainly by Madame du Deffand (not yet fallen blind),—and is well turned of fifty, and known for one of the shrewdest little souls in the world, at the time she writes. Her Letter is addressed "TO MADAME DU DEFFAND, at Paris;" most free-flowing female Letter; of many pages, runs on, day after day, for a fortnight or so;—only Excerpts of it introducible here:—
"SCEAUX, TUESDAY, 15th AUGUST, 1747.... Madame du Chatelet and Voltaire, who had announced themselves as for to-day, and whom nobody had heard of otherwise, made their appearance yesternight, near midnight; like two Spectres, with an odor of embalmment about them, as if just out of their tombs. We were rising from table; the Spectres, however, were hungry ones: they needed supper; and what is more, beds, which were not ready. The Housekeeper (CONCIERGE), who had gone to bed, rose in great haste. Gaya [amiable gentleman, conceivable, not known], who had offered his apartment for pressing cases, was obliged to yield it in this emergency: he flitted with as much precipitation and displeasure as an army surprised in its camp; leaving a part of his baggage in the enemy's hands. Voltaire thought the lodging excellent, but that did not at all console Gaya.
"As to the Lady, her bed turns out not to have been well made; they have had to put her in a new place to-day. Observe, she made that bed herself, no servants being up, and had found a blemish or DEFAUT of"—word wanting: who knows what?—"in the mattresses; which I believe hurt her exact mind, more than her not very delicate body. She has got, in the interim, an apartment promised to somebody else; and she will have to leave it again on Friday or Saturday, and go into that of Marechal de Maillebois, who leaves at that time."
—Yes; Maillebois in the body, O reader. This is he, with the old ape-face renewed by paint, whom we once saw marching with an "Army of Redemption," haggling in the Passes about Eger, unable to redeem Belleisle; marching and haggling, more lately, with a "Middle-Rhine Army," and the like non-effect; since which, fighting his best in Italy,—pushed home last winter, with Browne's bayonets in his back; Belleisle succeeding him in dealing with Browne. Belleisle, and the "Revolt of Genoa" (fatal to Browne's Invasion of us), and the Defence of Genoa and the mutual worryings thereabout, are going on at a great rate,—and there is terrible news out of those Savoy Passes, while Maillebois is here. Concerning which by and by. He is grandson of the renowned Colbert, this Maillebois. A Field-Marshal evidently extant, you perceive, in those vanished times: is to make room for Madame on Friday, says our little De Staal; and take leave of us,—if for good, so much the better!
"He came at the time we did, with his daughter and grand-daughter: the one is pretty, the other ugly and dreary [l'UNE, L'AUTRE; no saying which, in such important case! Madame la Marechale, the mother and grandmother, I think must be dead. Not beautiful she, nor very benignant, "UNE TRES-MECHANTE FEMME, very cat-witted woman," says Barbier; "shrieked like a devil, at Court, upon the Cardinal," about that old ARMY-OF-REDEMPTION business; but all her noise did nothing]. [Barbier, ii, 332 ("November, 1742").]—M. le Marechal has hunted here with his dogs, in these fine autumn woods and glades; chased a bit of a stag, and caught a poor doe's fawn: that was all that could be got there.
"Our new Guests will make better sport: they are going to have their Comedy acted again [Comedy of THE EXCHANGE, much an entertainment with them]: Vanture [conceivable, not known] is to do the Count de Boursoufle (DE BLISTER or DE WINDBAG); you will not say this is a hit, any more than Madame du Chatelet's doing the Hon. Miss Piggery (LA COCHONNIERE), who ought to be fat and short." [L'ECHANGE, The Exchange, or WHEN SHALL I GET MARRIED? Farce in three acts:—OEuvres, x. 167-222; used to be played at Cirey and elsewhere (see plenty of details upon it, exact or not quite so, IB. 7-9).]—Little De Staal then abruptly breaks off, to ask about her Correspondent's health, and her Correspondent's friend old President Henault's health; touches on those "grumblings and discords in the Army (TRACASSERIES DE L'ARMEE)," which are making such astir; how M. d'Argenson, our fine War-Minister, man of talent amid blockheads, will manage them; and suddenly exclaims: "O my queen, what curious animals men and women are! I laugh at their manoeuvres, the days when I have slept well; if I have missed sleep, I could kill them. These changes of temper prove that I do not break off kind. Let us mock other people, and let other people mock us; it is well done on both sides.—[Poor little De Staal: to what a posture have things come with you, in that fast-rotting Epoch, of Hypocrisies becoming all insolvent!]
"WEDNESDAY, 16th. Our Ghosts do not show themselves by daylight. They appeared yesterday at ten in the evening; I do not think we shall see them sooner to-day: the one is engaged in writing high feats [SIECLE DE LOUIS XV., or what at last became such]; the other in commenting Newton. They will neither play nor walk: they are, in fact, equivalent to ZEROS in a society where their learned writings are of no significance.—[Pauses, without notice given: for some hours, perhaps days; then resuming:] Nay, worse still: their apparition to-night has produced a vehement declamation on one of our little social diversions here, the game of CAVAGNOLE: ["Kind of BIRIBI," it would appear; in the height of fashion then.] it was continued and maintained," on the part of Madame du Chatelet, you guess, "in a tone which is altogether unheard of in this place; and was endured," on the part of Serene Highness, "with a moderation not less surprising. But what is unendurable is my babble"—And herewith our nimble little woman hops off again into the general field of things; and gossips largely, How are you, my queen, Whither are you going, Whither we; That the Maillebois people are away, and also the Villeneuves, if anybody knew them now; then how the Estillacs, to the number of four, are coming to-morrow; and Cousin Soquence, for all his hunting, can catch nothing; and it is a continual coming and going; and how Boursoufle is to be played, and a Dame Dufour is just come, who will do a character. Rubrics, vanished Shadows, nearly all those high Dames and Gentlemen; LA PAUVRE Saint-Pierre, "eaten with gout," who is she? "Still drags herself about, as well as she can; but not with me, for I never go by land, and she seems to have the hydrophobia, when I take to the water. [Thread of date is gone! I almost think we must have got to Saturday by this time:—or perhaps it is only Thursday, and Maillebois off prematurely, to be out of the way of the Farce? Little De Staal takes no notice; but continues gossiping rapidly:]
"Yesterday Madame du Chatelet got into her third lodging: she could not any longer endure the one she had chosen. There was noise in it, smoke without fire:—privately meseems, a little the emblem of herself! As to noise, it was not by night that it incommoded her, she told me, but by day, when she was in the thick of her work: it deranges her ideas. She is busy reviewing her PRINCIPLES"—NEWTON'S PRINCIPIA, no doubt, but De Staal will understand it only as PRINCIPES, Principles in general:—"it is an exercise she repeats every year, without which the Principles might get away, and perhaps go so far she would never find them again [You satirical little gypsy!]. Her head, like enough, is a kind of lock-up for them, rather than a birthplace, or natural home: and that is a case for watching carefully lest they get away. She prefers the high air of this occupation to every kind of amusement, and persists in not showing herself till after dark. Voltaire has produced some gallant verses [unknown to Editors] which help off a little the bad effect of such unusual behavior.
"SUNDAY, 27th. I told you on Thursday [no, you did n't; you only meant to tell] that our Spectres were going on the morrow, and that the Piece was to be played that evening: all this has been done. I cannot give you much of Boursoufle [done by one Vanture]. Mademoiselle Piggery [DE LA COCHONNIERE, Madame du Chatelet herself] executed so perfectly the extravagance of her part, that I own it gave me real pleasure. But Vanture only put his own fatuity into the character of Boursoufle, which wanted more: he played naturally in a Piece where all requires to be forced, like the subject of it."—What a pity none of us has read this fine Farce! "One Paris did the part of MUSCADIN (Little Coxcomb), which name represents his character: in short, it can be said the Farce was well given. The Author ennobled it by a Prologue for the Occasion; which he acted very well, along with Madame Dufour as BARBE (Governess Barbara),—who, but for this brilliant action, could not have put up with merely being Governess to Piggery. And, in fact, she disdained the simplicity of dress which her part required;—as did the chief actress," Du Chatelet herself (age now forty-one); "who, in playing PIGGERY, preferred the interests of her own face to those of the Piece, and made her entry in all the splendor and elegant equipments of a Court Lady,"—her "PRINCIPLES," though the key is turned upon them, not unlike jumping out of window, one would say! "She had a crow to pluck" [MAILLE A PARTIR, "clasp to open," which is better] with Voltaire on this point: but she is sovereign, and he is slave. I am very sorry at their going, though I was worn out with doing her multifarious errands all the time she was here.
"WEDNESDAY, 30th. M. le President [Henault] has been asked hither; and he is to bring you, my Queen! Tried all I could to hinder; but they would not be put off. If your health and disposition do suit, it will be charming. In any case, I have got you a good apartment: it is the one that Madame du Chatelet had seized upon, after an exact review of all the Mansion. There will be a little less furniture than she had put in it; Madame had pillaged all her previous apartments to equip this one. We found about seven tables in it, for one item: she needs them of all sizes; immense, to spread out her papers upon; solid, to support her NECESSAIRE; slighter, for her nicknacks (POMPONS), for her jewels. And this fine arrangement did not save her from an accident like that of Philip II., when, after spending all the night in writing, he got his despatches drowned by the oversetting of an ink-bottle. The Lady did not pretend to imitate the moderation of that Prince; at any rate, he was only writing on affairs of state; and the thing they blotted, on this occasion, was Algebra, much more difficult to clean up again.
"This subject ought to be exhausted: one word more, and then it does end. The day after their departure, I receive a Letter of four pages, and a Note enclosed, which announces dreadful burly-burly: M. de Voltaire has mislaid his Farce, forgotten to get back the parts, and lost his Prologue: I am to find all that again [excessively tremulous about his Manuscripts, M. de Voltaire; of such value are they, of such danger to him; there is LA PUCELLE, for example,—enough to hang a man, were it surreptitiously launched forth in print!]—I am to send him the Prologue instantly, not by post, because they would copy it; to keep the parts for fear of the same accident, and to lock up the Piece 'under a hundred keys.' I should have thought one padlock sufficient for this treasure! I have duly executed his orders." [—Madame de Graffigny (Paris, 1820), pp. 283-291.]
And herewith EXPLICIT DE STAAL. Scene closes: EXEUNT OMNES; are off to Paris or Versailles again; to Luneville and the Court of Stanislaus again,—where also adventures await them, which will be heard of!
"Figure to yourself," says some other Eye-witness, "a lean Lady, with big arms and long legs; small head, and countenance losing itself in a cloudery of head-dress; cocked nose [RETROUSSE, say you? Very slightly, then; quite an unobjectionable nose!] and pair of small greenish eyes; complexion tawny, and mouth too big: this was the divine Emilie, whom Voltaire celebrates to the stars. Loaded to extravagance with ribbons, laces, face-patches, jewels and female ornaments; determined to be sumptuous in spite of Economics, and pretty in spite of Nature:" Pooh, it is an enemy's hand that paints! "And then by her side," continues he, "the thin long figure of Voltaire, that Anatomy of an Apollo, affecting worship of her," [From Rodenbeck (quoting somebody, whom I have surely seen in French; whom Rodenbeck tries to name, as he could have done, but curiously without success), i. 179.]—yes, that thin long Gentleman, with high red-heeled shoes, and the daintiest polite attitudes and paces; in superfine coat, laced hat under arm; nose and under-lip ever more like coalescing (owing to decay of teeth), but two eyes shining on you like carbuncles; and in the ringing voice, such touches of speech when you apply for it! Thus they at Sceaux and elsewhere; walking their Life-minuet, making their entrances and exits.
One thing is lamentable: the relation with Madame is not now a flourishing one, or capable again of being: "Does not love me as he did, the wretch!" thinks Madame always;—yet sticks by him, were it but in the form of blister. They had been to Luneville, Spring, 1747; happy dull place, within reach of Cirey; far from Versailles and its cabals. They went again, 1748, in a kind of permanent way; Titular Stanislaus, an opulent dawdling creature, much liking to have them; and Father Menou, his Jesuit,—who is always in quarrel with the Titular Mistress,—thinking to displace HER (as you, gradually discover), and promote the Du Chatelet to that improper dignity! In which he had not the least success, says Voltaire; but got "two women on his ears instead of one." It was not to be Stanislaus's mistress; nor a TITULAR one at all, but a real, that Madame was fated in this dull happy place! Idle readers know the story only too well;—concerning which, admit this other Fraction and no more:—
"Stanislaus, as a Titular King, cannot do without some kind of Titular Army,—were it only to blare about as Life-guard, and beat kettle-drums on occasion. A certain tall high-sniffing M. de St. Lambert, a young Lorrainer of long pedigree and light purse, had just taken refuge in this Life-guard [Summer 1748, or so], I know not whether as Captain or Lieutenant, just come from the Netherlands Wars: of grave stiff manners; for the rest, a good-looking young fellow; thought to have some poetic genius, even;—who is precious, surely, in such an out-of-the-way place. Welcome to Voltaire, to Madame still more. Alas, readers know the History,—on which we must not dwell. Madame, a brown geometric Lady, age now forty-two, with a Great Man who has scandalously ceased to love her, casts her eye upon St. Lambert: 'Yes, you would be the shoeing-horn, Monsieur, if one had time, you fine florid fellow, hardly yet into your thirties—' And tries him with a little coquetry; I always think, perhaps in this view chiefly? And then, at any rate, as he responded, the thing itself became so interesting: 'Our Ulysses-bow, we can still bend it, then, aha! 'And is not that a pretty stag withal, worth bringing down; florid, just entering his thirties, and with the susceptibilities of genius! Voltaire was not blind, could he have helped it,—had he been tremulously alive to help it. 'Your Verses to her, my St. Lambert,—ah, Tibullus never did the like of them. Yes, to you are the roses, my fine young friend, to me are the thorns:' thus sings Voltaire in response; [—OEuvres,—xvii. 223 (EPITRE A M. DE ST. LAMBERT, 1749); &c. &c. In—Memoires sur Voltaire par Longchamp et Wagniere—(Paris, 1826), ii. 229 et seq., details enough and more.] perhaps not thinking it would go so far. And it went,—alas, it went to all lengths, mentionable and not mentionable: and M. le Marquis had to be coaxed home in the Spring of 1749,—still earlier it had been suitabler;—and in September ensuing, M. de St. Lambert looking his demurest, there is an important lying-in to be transacted! Newton's PRINCIPIA is, by that time, drawing diligently to its close;—complicated by such far abstruser Problems, not of the geometric sort! Poor little lean brown woman, what a Life, after all; what an End of a Life!"—
WAR-PASSAGES IN 1747.
The War, since Friedrich got out of it, does not abate in animosity, nor want for bloodshed, battle and sieging; but offers little now memorable. March 18th, 1747, a ghastly Phantasm of a Congress, "Congress of Breda," which had for some months been attempting Peace, and was never able to get into conference, or sit in its chairs except for moments, flew away altogether; [In September, 1746, had got together; but would not take life, on trying and again trying, and fell forgotten: February, 1747, again gleams up into hope: March 18th and the following days, vanishes for good (ADELUNG, v. 50; vi. 6, 62).] and left the War perhaps angrier than ever, more hopelessly stupid than ever. Except, indeed, that resources are failing; money running low in France, Parlements beginning to murmur, and among the Population generally a feeling that glory is excellent, but will not make the national pot boil. Perhaps all this will be more effective than Congresses of Breda? Here are the few Notes worth giving:
APRIL 23d-30th, 1747, THE FRENCH INVADE HOLLAND; WHEREUPON, SUDDENLY, A STADTHOLDER THERE. "After Fontenoy there has been much sieging and capturing in that Netherlands Country, a series of successes gloriously delightful to Marechal de Saxe and the French Nation: likewise (in bar of said sieging, in futile attempt to bar it) a Battle of Roucoux, October, 1746; with victory, or quasi-victory, to Saxe, at least with prostration to the opposite part."
And farther on, there is a Battle of Lauffeld coming, 2d July, 1747; with similar results; frustration evident, retreat evident, victory not much to speak of. And in this gloriously delightful manner Saxe and the French Nation have proceeded, till in fact the Netherlands Territory with all strongholds, except Maestricht alone, was theirs,—and they decided on attacking the Dutch Republic itself. And (17th April, 1747) actually broke in upon the frontier Fortresses of Zealand; found the same dry-rotten everywhere; and took them, Fortress after Fortress, at the rate of a cannon salvo each: 'Ye magnanimous Dutch, see what you have got by not sitting still, as recommended!' To the horror and terror of the poor Zealanders and general Dutch Population. Who shrieked to England for help;—and were, on the very instant, furnished with a modicum of Seventy-fours (Dutch Courier returning by the same); which landed the Courier April 23d, and put Walcheren in a state of security. [Adelung, vi. 105, 125-134.]
"Whereupon the Dutch Population turned round on its Governors, with a growl of indignation, spreading ever wider, waxing ever higher: 'Scandalous laggards, is this your mode of governing a free Republic? Freedom to let the State go to dry-rot, and become the laughing-stock of mankind. To provide for your own paltry kindred in the State-employments; to palaver grandly with all comers; and publish melodious Despatches of Van Hoey? Had not Britannic Majesty, for his dear Daughter's sake, come to the rescue in this crisis, where had we been? We demand a Stadtholder again; our glorious Nassau Orange, to keep some bridle on you!' And actually, in this way, Populus and Plebs, by general turning out into the streets, in a gloomily indignant manner, which threatens to become vociferous and dangerous,—cowed the Heads of the Republic into choosing the said Prince, with Princess and Family, as Stadtholder, High-Admiral, High-Everything and Supreme of the Republic. Hereditary, no less, and punctually perpetual; Princess and Family to share in it. In which happy state (ripened into Kingship latterly) they continue to this day. A result painfully surprising to Most Christian Majesty; gratifying to Britannic proportionately, or more;—and indeed beneficial towards abating dry-rot and melodious palaver in that poor Land of the Free. Consummated, by popular outbreak of vociferation, in the different Provinces, in about a week from April 23d, when those helpful Seventy-fours hove in sight. Stadtholdership had been in abeyance for forty-five years. [Since our Dutch William's death, 1702.] The new Stadtholder did his best; could not, in the short life granted him, do nearly enough.—Next year there was a SECOND Dutch outbreak, or general turning into the streets; of much more violent character; in regard to glaringly unjust Excises and Taxations, and to 'instant dismissal of your Excise-Farmers,' as the special first item. [Adelung, vi. 364 et seq.; Raumer, 182-193 ("March-September, 1748"); or, in—Chesterfield's Works,—Dayrolles's Letters to Chesterfield: somewhat unintelligent and unintelligible, both Raumer and he.] Which salutary object being accomplished (new Stadtholder well aiding, in a valiant and judicious manner), there has no third dose of that dangerous remedy been needed since.
"JULY 19th, FATE OF CHEVALIER DE BELLEISLE. At the Fortress of Exilles, in one of those Passes of the Savoy Alps,—Pass of Col di Sieta, memorable to the French Soldier ever since,—there occurred a lamentable thing;" doubtless much talked of at Sceaux while Voltaire was there. "The Revolt of Genoa (popular outburst, and expulsion of our poor friend Botta and his Austrians, then a famous thing, and a rarer than now) having suddenly recalled the victorious General Browne from his Siege of Antibes and Invasion of Provence,—Marechal Duc de Belleisle, well reinforced and now become 'Army of Italy' in general, followed steadfastly for 'Defence of Genoa' against indignant Botta, Browne and Company. For defence of Genoa; nay for attack on Turin, which would have been 'defence' in Genoa and everywhere,—had the captious Spaniard consented to co-operate. Captious Spaniard would not; Couriers to Madrid, to Paris thereupon, and much time lost;—till, at the eleventh hour, came consent from Paris, 'Try it by yourself, then!' Belleisle tries it; at least his Brother does. His Brother, the Chevalier, is to force that Pass of Exilles; a terrible fiery business, but the backbone of the whole adventure: in which, if the Chevalier can succeed, he too is to be Marechal de France. Forward, therefore, climb the Alpine stairs again; snatch me that Fort of Exilles.
"And so, July 19th, 1747, the Chevalier comes in sight of the Place; scans a little the frowning buttresses, bristly with guns; the dumb Alps, to right and left, looking down on him and it. Chevalier de Belleisle judges that, however difficult, it can and must be possible to French valor; and storms in upon it, huge and furious (20,000, or if needful 30,000);—but is torn into mere wreck, and hideous recoil; rallies, snatches a standard, 'We must take it or die,'—and dies, does not take it; falls shot on the rampart, 'pulling at the palisades with his own hands,' nay some say 'with his teeth,' when the last moments came. Within one hour, he has lost 4,000 men; and himself and his Brother's Enterprise lie ended there. [Voltaire, xxv. 221 et seq. (SIECLE DE LOUIS QUINZE, c. 22); Adelung, vi 174.] Fancy his poor Brother's feelings, who much loved him! The discords about War-matters (TRACASSERIES DE L'ARMEE) were a topic at Sceaux lately, as De Staal intimated. 'Why starve our Italian Enterprises; heaping every resource upon the Netherlands and Saxe?' Diligent Defence of Genoa (chiefly by flourishing of swords on the part of France, for the Austrians were not yet ready) is henceforth all the Italian War there is; and this explosion at Exilles may fitly be finis to it here. Let us only say that Infant Philip did, when the Peace came, get a bit of Apanage (Parma and Piacenza or some such thing, contemptibly small to the Maternal heart), and that all things else lapsed to their pristine state, MINUS only the waste and ruin there had been."
JULY 12th-SEPTEMBER 18th: SIEGE OF THE CHIEF DUTCH FORTRESS. "Unexpected Siege of Bergen-op-Zoom; two months of intense excitement to the Dutch Patriots and Cause-of-Liberty Gazetteers, as indifferent and totally dead as it has now become. Marechal de Saxe, after his victory at Lauffeld, 2d July, did not besiege Maestricht, as had been the universal expectation; but shot off an efficient lieutenant of his, one Lowendahl, in due force, privately ready, to overwhelm Bergen-op-Zoom with sudden Siege, while he himself lay between the beaten enemy and it. Bergen is the heart, of Holland, key of the Scheld, and quite otherwise important than Maestricht. 'Coehorn's masterpiece!' exclaim the Gazetteers; 'Impregnable, you may depend!' 'We shall see,' answered Saxe, answered Lowendahl the Dane (who also became Marechal by this business); and after a great deal of furious assaulting and battering, took the Place September 18th, before daylight," by a kind of surprisal or quasi-storm;—"the Commandant, one Cronstrom, a brave old Swede, age towards ninety, not being of very wakeful nature! 'Did as well as could be expected of him,' said the Court-Martial sitting on his case, and forbore to shoot the poor old man."
[Adelung, vi. 184, 206;—"for Cronstrom," if any one is curious, "see Schlotzer,—Schwedische Biographie,—ii. 252 (in voce)."] A sore stroke, this of Bergen, to Britannic Majesty and the Friends of Liberty; who nevertheless refuse to be discouraged."
DECEMBER 25th, RUSSIANS IN BEHALF OF HUMAN LIBERTY. "March of 36,000 Russians from the City of Moscow, this day; on a very long journey, in the hoary Christmas weather! Most, Christian Majesty is ruinously short of money; Britannic Majesty has still credit, and a voting Parliament, but, owing to French influence on the Continent, can get no recruits to hire. Gradually driven upon Russia, in such stress, Britannic Majesty has this year hired for himself a 35,000 Russians; 30,000 regular foot; 4,000 ditto horse, and 1,000 Cossacks;—uncommonly cheap, only 150,000 pounds the lot, not, 4 pounds per head by the year. And, in spite of many difficulties and hagglings, they actually get on march, from Moscow, 25th December, 1747; and creep on, all Winter, through the frozen peats wildernesses, through Lithuania, Poland, towards Bohmen, Mahren: are to appear in the Rhine Countries, joined by certain Austrians; and astonish mankind next Spring. Their Captain is one Repnin, Prince Repnin, afterwards famous enough in those Polish Countries;"—which is now the one point interesting to us in the thing.
"Their Captain WAS, first, to be Lacy, old Marshal Lacy; then, failing Lacy, 'Why not General Keith?'—but proves to be Repnin, after much hustling and intriguing:" Repnin, not Keith, that is the interesting point.
"Such march of the Russians, on behalf of Human Liberty, in pay of Britannic Majesty, is a surprising fact; and considerably discomposes the French. Who bestir themselves in Sweden and elsewhere against Russia and it: with no result,—except perhaps the incidental one, of getting our esteemed old friend Guy Dickens, now Sir Guy, dismissed from Stockholm, and we hope put on half-pay on his return home." [Adelung, vi. 250, 302:—Sir Guy, not yet invalided, "went to Russia," and other errands.]
MARSHAL KEITH COMES TO PRUSSIA (September, 1747).
"Much hustling and intriguing," it appears, in regard to the Captaincy of these Russians. Concerning which there is no word worthy to be said,—except for one reason only, That it finished off the connection of General Keith with Russia. That this of seeing Repnin, his junior and inferior, preferred to him, was, of many disgusts, the last drop which made the cup run over;—and led the said General to fling it from him, and seek new fields of employment. From Hamburg, having got so far, he addresses himself, 1st September, 1747, to Friedrich, with offer of service; who grasps eagerly at the offer: "Feldmarschall your rank; income, $1,200 a year; income, welcome, all suitable:"—and, October 28th, Feldmarschall Keith finishes, at Potsdam, a long Letter to his Brother Lord Marischal, in these words, worth giving, as those of a very clear-eyed sound observer of men and things:—
"I have now the honor, and, which is still more, the pleasure, of being with the King at Potsdam; where he ordered me to come," 17th current, "two days after he declared me Fieldmarshal: Where I have the honor to dine and sup with him almost every day. He has more wit than I have wit to tell you; speaks solidly and knowingly on all kinds of subjects; and I am much mistaken if, with the experience of Four Campaigns, he is not the best Officer of his Army. He has several persons," Rothenburg, Winterfeld, Swedish Rudenskjold (just about departing), not to speak of D'Argens and the French, "with whom he lives in almost the familiarity of a friend,—but has no favorite;—and shows a natural politeness for everybody who is about him. For one who has been four days about his person, you will say I pretend to know a great deal of his character: but what I tell you, you may depend upon. With more time, I shall know as much of him as he will let me know;—and all his Ministry knows no more." [Varnhagen van Ense,—Leben des Feldmarschalls Jakob Keith—(Berlin, 1844,) p. 100; Adelung, vi. 244.]
A notable acquisition to Friedrich;—and to the two Keiths withal; for Friedrich attached both of them to his Court and service, after their unlucky wanderings; and took to them both, in no common degree. As will abundantly appear.
While that Russia Corps was marching out of Moscow, Cocceji and his Commissions report from Pommern, that the Pomeranian Law-stables are completely clear; that the New Courts have, for many months back, been in work, and are now, at the end of the Year, fairly abreast with it, according to program;—have "decided of Old-Pending Lawsuits 2,400, all that there were (one of them 200 years old, and filling seventy Volumes); and of the 994 New ones, 772; not one Lawsuit remaining over from the previous Year." A highly gratifying bit of news to his Majesty; who answers emphatically, EUGE! and directs that the Law Hercules proceed now to the other Provinces,—to the Kur-Mark, now, and Berlin itself,—with his salutary industries. Naming him "Grand Chancellor," moreover; that is to say, under a new title, Head of Prussian Law,—old Arnim, "Minister of Justice," having shown himself disaffected to Law-Reform, and got rebuked in consequence, and sulkily gone into private life. [Stenzel, iv. 321; Ranke, iii. 389.]
In February of this Year, 1747, Friedrich had something like a stroke of apoplexy; "sank suddenly motionless, one day," and sat insensible, perhaps for half an hour: to the terror and horror of those about him. Hemiplegia, he calls it; rush of blood to the head;—probably indigestion, or gouty humors, exasperated by over-fatigue. Which occasioned great rumor in the world; and at Paris, to Voltaire's horror, reports of his death. He himself made light of the matter: [To Voltaire, 22d February, 1747 (—OEuvres de Frederic,—xxii. 164); see IB. 164 n.] and it did not prove to have been important; was never followed by anything similar through his long life; and produced no change in his often-wavering health, or in his habits, which were always steady. He is writing MEMOIRS; settling "Colonies" (on his waste moors); improving Harbors. Waiting when this European War will end; politely deaf to the offers of Britannic Majesty as to taking the least personal share in it.
Chapter III.—EUROPEAN WAR FALLS DONE: TREATY OF AIX-LA-CHAPELLE.
The preparations for Campaign 1748 were on a larger scale than ever. Britannic Subsidies, a New Parliament being of willing mind, are opulent to a degree; 192,000 men, 60,000 Austrians for one item, shall be in the Netherlands;—coupled with this remarkable new clause, "And they are to be there in fact, and not on paper only," and with a tare-and-tret of 30 or 40 per cent, as too often heretofore! Holland, under its new Stadtholder, is stanch of purpose, if of nothing else. The 35,000 Russians, tramping along, are actually dawning over the horizon, towards Teutschland,—King Friedrich standing to arms along his Silesian Border, vigilant "Cordon of Troops all the way," in watch of such questionable transit. [In ADELUNG, vi. 110, 143, 167, 399 ("April, 1747-August, 1748"), account of the more and more visible ill-will of the Czarina: "jealousy" about Sweden, about Dantzig, Poland, &c. &c.] Britannic Majesty and Parliament seem resolute to try, once more, to the utmost, the power of the breeches-pocket in defending this sacred Cause of Liberty so called.
Breeches-pocket MINUS most other requisites: alas, with such methods as you have, what can come of it? Royal Highness of Cumberland is a valiant man, knowing of War little more than the White Horse of Hanover does;—certain of ruin again, at the hands of Marechal de Saxe. So think many, and have their dismal misgivings. "Saxe having eaten Bergen-op-Zoom before our eyes, what can withstand the teeth of Saxe?" In fact, there remains only Maestricht, of considerable; and then Holland is as good as his! As for King Louis, glory, with funds running out, and the pot ceasing to boil, has lost its charm to an afflicted France and him. King Louis's wishes are known, this long while;—and Ligonier, generously dismissed by him after Lauffeld, has brought express word to that effect, and outline of the modest terms proposed in one's hour of victory, with pot ceasing to boil.
On a sudden, too, "March 18th,"—wintry blasts and hailstorms still raging,—Marechal de Saxe, regardless of Domestic Hunger, took the field, stronger than ever. Manoeuvred about; bewildering the mind of Royal Highness and the Stadtholder ("Will he besiege Breda? Will he do this, will he do that?")—poor Highness and poor Stadtholder; who "did not agree well together," and had not the half of their forces come in, not to speak of handling them when come! Bewilderment of these two once completed, Marechal de Saxe made "a beautiful march upon Maestricht;" and, April 15th, opened trenches, a very Vesuvius of artillery, before that place; Royal Highness gazing into it, in a doleful manner, from the adjacent steeple-tops. Royal Highness, valor's self, has to admit: "Such an outlook; not half of us got together! The 60,000 Austrians are but 30,000; the—In fact, you will have to make Peace, what else?" [His Letters, in Coxe's—Pelham—("March 29th-April 2d, 1748"), i. 405-410.] Nothing else, as has been evident to practical Official People (especially to frugal Pelham, Chesterfield and other leading heads) for these two months last past.
In a word, those 35,000 Russians are still far away under the horizon, when thoughts of a new Congress, "Congress of Aix-la-Chapelle," are busying the public mind: "Mere moonshine again?" "Something real this time?"—And on and from March 17th (Lord Sandwich first on the ground, and Robinson from Vienna coming to help), the actual Congress begins assembling there. April 24th, the Congress gets actually to business; very intent on doing it; at least the three main parties, France, England, Holland, are supremely so. Who, finding, for five diligent days, nothing but haggle and objection on the part of the others, did by themselves meet under cloud of night, "night of April 29th-30th;" and—bring the Preliminaries to perfection. And have them signed before daybreak; which is, in effect, signing, or at least fixing as certain, the Treaty itself; so that Armistice can ensue straightway, and the War essentially end.
A fixed thing; the Purseholders having signed. On the safe rear of which, your recipient Subsidiary Parties can argue and protest (as the Empress-Queen and her Kaunitz vehemently did, to great lengths), and gradually come in and finish. Which, in the course of the next six months, they all did, Empress-Queen and Excellency Kaunitz not excepted. And so, October 18th, 1748, all details being, in the interim, either got settled, or got flung into corners as unsettleable (mostly the latter),—Treaty itself was signed by everybody; and there was "Peace of Aix-la-Chapelle." Upon which, except to remark transiently how inconclusive a conclusion it was, mere end of war because your powder is run out, mere truce till you gather breath and gunpowder again, we will spend no word in this place. [Complete details in ADELUNG, vi. 225-409: "October, 1747," Ligonier returning, and first rumor of new Congress (226); "17th March, 1748," Sandwich come (323); "April 29th-30th," meet under cloud of night (326); Kaunitz protesting (339): "2d August," Russians to halt and turn (397); "are over into the Oberpfalz, magazines ahead at Nurnberg;" in September, get to Bohmen again, and winter there: "18th October, 1748," Treaty finished (398, 409); Treaty itself given (IB., Beylage, 44). See—Gentleman's Magazine,—and OLD NEWSPAPERS of 1748; Coxe's—Pelham,—ii. 7-41, i. 366-416.]
"The Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle was done in a hurry and a huddle; greatly to Maria Theresa's disgust. 'Why not go on with your expenditures, ye Sea-Powers? Can money and life be spent better? I have yet conquered next to nothing for the Cause of Liberty and myself!' But the Sea-Powers were tired of it; the Dutch especially, who had been hoisted with such difficulty, tended strongly, New Stadtholder notwithstanding, to plump down again into stable equilibrium on the broad-bottom principle. Huddle up the matter; end it, well if you can; any way end it. The Treaty contained many Articles, now become forgettable to mankind. There is only One Article, and the Want of One, which shall concern us in this place. The One Article is: guarantee by all the European Powers to Friedrich's Treaty of Dresden. Punctually got as bargained for,—French especially willing; Britannic Majesty perhaps a little languid, but his Ministers positive on the point; so that Friedrioh's Envoy had not much difficulty at Aix. And now, Friedrich's Ownership of Silesia recognized by all the Powers to be final and unquestionable, surely nothing more is wanted? Nothing,—except keeping of this solemn stipulation by all the Powers. How it was kept by some of them; in what sense some of them are keeping it even now, we shall see by and by.
"The Want of an Article was, on the part of England, concerning JENKINS'S EAR. There is not the least conclusion arrived at on that important Spanish-English Question; blind beginning of all these conflagrations; and which, in its meaning to the somnambulant Nation, is so immense. No notice taken of it; huddled together, some hasty shovelful or two of diplomatic ashes cast on it, 'As good as extinct, you see!' Left smoking, when all the rest is quenched. Considerable feeling there was, on this point, in the heart of the poor somnambulant English Nation; much dumb or semi-articulate growling on such a Peace-Treaty: 'We have arrived nowhere, then, by all this fighting, and squandering, and perilous stumbling among the chimney-pots? Spain (on its own showing) owed us 95,000 pounds. Spain's debt to Hanover; yes, you take care of that; some old sixpenny matter, which nobody ever heard of before: and of Spain's huge debt to England you drop no hint; of the 95,000 pounds, clear money, due by Spain; or of one's liberty to navigate the High Seas, none!' [PROTEST OF ENGLISH MERCHANTS AGAINST, &c. ("May, 1748") given in ADELUNG, vi. 353-358.] A Peace the reverse of applauded in England; though the wiser Somnambulants, much more Pitt and Friends, who are broad awake on these German points, may well be thankful to see such a War end on any terms."—Well, surely this old admitted 95,000 pounds should have been paid! And, to a moral certainty, Robinson and Sandwich must have made demand of it from the Spaniard. But there is no getting old Debts in, especially from that quarter. "King Friedrich [let me interrupt, for a moment, with this poor composite Note] is trying in Spain even now,—ever since 1746, when Termagant's Husband died, and a new King came,—for payment of old debt: Two old Debts; quite tolerably just both of them. King Friedrich keeps trying till 1749, three years in all: and, in the end, gets nothing whatever. Nothing,—except some Merino Rams in the interim," gift from the new King of Spain, I can suppose, which proved extremely useful in our Wool Industries; "and, from the same polite Ferdinand VI., a Porcelain Vase filled with Spanish Snuff." That was all!—
King Friedrich, let me note farther, is getting decidedly deep into snuff; holds by SPANIOL (a dry yellow pungency, analogous to Lundy-foot or Irish-Blackguard, known to snuffy readers); always by Spaniol, we say; and more especially "the kind used by her Majesty of Spain," the now Dowager Termagant: [Orders this kind, from his Ambassador in Paris, "30th September, 1743:" the earliest extant trace of his snuffing habits (Preuss, i. 409).—NOTE FARTHER (if interesting): "The Termagant still lasted as Dowager, consuming SPANIOL at least, for near twenty years (died 11th July, 1766);—the new King, Ferdinand VI., was her STEPson, not her son; he went mad, poor soul, and died (10th August, 1759): upon which, Carlos of Naples, our own 'Baby Carlos' that once was, succeeded in Spain, 'King Carlos III. of Spain;' leaving his Son, a young boy under tutelage, as King of the Two Sicilies (King 'Ferdinand IV.,' who did not die, but had his difficulties, till 1825). Don Philip, who had fought so in those Savoy Passes, and got the bit of Parmesan Country, died 1765, the year before Mamma."] which, also, is to be remembered. Dryasdust adds, in his sweetly consecutive way: "Friedrich was very expensive about his snuff-boxes; wore two big rich boxes in his pockets; five or six stood on tables about; and more than a hundred in store, coming out by turns for variety. The cheapest of them cost 300 pounds (2,000 thalers); he had them as high as 1,500 pounds. At his death, there were found 130 of various values: they were the substance of all the jewelry he had; besides these snuff-boxes, two gold watches only, and a very small modicum of rings. Had yearly for personal Expenditure 1,200,000 thalers [180,000 pounds of Civil List, as we should say]; SPENT 33,000 pounds of it, and yearly gave the rest away in Royal beneficences, aid of burnt Villages, inundated Provinces, and multifarious PATER-PATRIAE objects." [Preuss, i. 409, 410,]—In regard to JENKINS'S EAR, my Constitutional Friend continues:—
"SILESIA and JENKINS'S EAR, we often say, were the two bits of realities in this enormous hurly-burly of imaginations, insane ambitions, and zeros and negative quantities. Negative Belleisle goes home, not with Germany cut in Four and put under guidance of the First Nation of the Universe (so extremely fit for guiding self and neighbors), but with the First Nation itself reduced almost to wallet and staff; bankrupt, beggared—'Yes,' it answers, 'in all but glory! Have not we gained Fontenoy, Roucoux, Lauffeld; and strong-places innumerable [mostly in a state of dry-rot]? Did men ever fight as we Frenchmen; combining it with theatrical entertainments, too! Sublime France, First Nation of the Universe, will try another flight (ESSOR), were she breathed a little!'
"Yes, a new ESSOR ere long, and perhaps surprise herself and mankind! The losses of men, money and resource, under this mad empty Enterprise of Belleisle's, were enormous, palpable to France and all mortals: but perhaps these were trifling to the replacement of them by such GLOIRE as there had been. A GLOIRE of plunging into War on no cause at all; and with an issue consisting only of foul gases of extreme levity. Messieurs are of confessed promptitude to fight; and their talent for it, in some kinds, is very great indeed. But this treating of battle and slaughter, of death, judgment and eternity, as light play-house matters; this of rising into such transcendency of valor, as to snap your fingers in the face of the Almighty Maker; this, Messieurs, give me leave to say so, is a thing that will conduct you and your PREMIERE NATION to the Devil, if you do not alter it. Inevitable, I tell you! Your road lies that way, then? Good morning, Messieurs; let me still hope, Not!"
Diplomatist Kaunitz gained his first glories in this Congress of Aix; which are still great in the eyes of some. Age now thirty-seven; a native of these Western parts; but henceforth, by degrees ever more, the shining star and guide of Austrian Policies down almost to our own New Epoch. As, unluckily, he will concern us not a little, in time coming, let us read this Note, as foreshadow of the man and his doings:—
"The glory of Count, ultimately Prince, von Kaunitz-Rietberg, is great in Diplomatic Circles of the past Century. 'The greatest of Diplomatists,' they all say;—and surely it is reckoned something to become the greatest in your line. Farther than this, to the readers of these times, Kaunitz-Rietberg's glory does not go. A great character, great wisdom, lasting great results to his Country, readers do not trace in Kaunitz's diplomacies,—only temporary great results, or what he and the by-standers thought such, to Kaunitz himself. He was the Supreme Jove, we perceive, in that extinct Olympus; and regards with sublime pity, not unallied to contempt, all other diplomatic beings. A man sparing of words, sparing even of looks; will hardly lift his eyelids for your sake,—will lift perhaps his chin, in slight monosyllabic fashion, and stalk superlatively through the other door. King of the vanished Shadows. A determined hater of Fresh Air; rode under glass cover, on the finest day; made the very Empress shut her windows when he came to audience; fed, cautiously daring, on boiled capons: more I remember not,—except also that he would suffer no mention of the word Death by any mortal. [Hormayr,—OEsterreichischer Plutarch,—iv. (3tes), 231-283.] A most high-sniffing, fantastic, slightly insolent shadow-king;—ruled, in his time, the now vanished Olympus; and had the difficult glory (defective only in result) of uniting France and Austria AGAINST the poor old Sea-Power milk-cows, for the purpose of recovering Silesia from Friedrich, a few years hence!"—These are wondrous results; hidden under the horizon, not very far either; and will astonish Britannic Majesty and all readers, in a few years.
MARECHAL DE SAXE PAYS FRIEDRICH A VISIT.
In Summer, 1749, Marechal de Saxe, the other shiny figure of this mad Business of the Netherlands, paid Friedrich a visit; had the honor to be entertained by him three days (July 13th-16th, 1749), in his Royal Cottage of Sans-Souci seemingly, in his choicest manner. Curiosity, which is now nothing like so vivid as it then was, would be glad to listen a little, in this meeting of two Suns, or of one Sun and one immense Tar-Barrel, or Atmospheric Meteor really of shining nature, and taken for a Sun. But the Books are silent; not the least detail, or hint, or feature granted us. Only Fancy;—and this of Smelfungus, by way of long farewell to one of the parties:—
... "It was at Tongres, or in head-quarters near it, 10th October, 1746,—Battle expected on the morrow [Battle of ROUCOUX, over towards Herstal, which we used to know],-that M. Favart, Saxe's Playwright and Theatre-Director, gave out in cheerful doggerel on fall of the Curtain, the announcement:—
—'Demain nous donnerons relache, Quoique le Directeur s'en fache, Vous voir combleroit nos desirs:— 'To-morrow is no Play, To the Manager's regret, Whose sole study is to keep you happy: —On doit ceder tout a la gloire; Vous ne songes qu'a la victoire, Nous ne songeons qu'a vos plaisires'— [—Biographic Universelle,—xiv. 209,? Favart; Espagnac, ii. 162.] But, you being bent upon victory, What can he do?— Day after to-morrow,'—
'Day after to-morrow,' added he, taking the official tone, (in honor of your laurels) [gained already, since you resolve on gaining them], we will have the honor of presenting'—such and such a gay Farce, to as many of you as remain alive! which was received with gay clapping of hands: admirable to the Universe, at least to the Parisian UNIVERS and oneself. Such a prodigality of light daring is in these French gentlemen, skilfully tickled by the Marechal; who uses this Playwright, among other implements, for keeping them at the proper pitch. Was there ever seen such radiancy of valor? Very radiant indeed;—yet, it seems to me, gone somewhat into the phosphorescent kind; shining in the dark, as fish will do when rotten! War has actually its serious character; nor is Death a farcical transaction, however high your genius may go. But what then? it is the Marechal's trade to keep these poor people at the cutting pitch, on any terms that will hold for the moment.
"I know not which was the most dissolute Army ever seen in the world; but this of Saxe's was very dissolute. Playwright Favart had withal a beautiful clever Wife,—upon whom the courtships, munificent blandishments, threatenings and utmost endeavors of Marechal de Saxe (in his character of goat-footed Satyr) could not produce the least impression. For a whole year, not the least. Whereupon the Goat-footed had to get LETTRE DE CACHET for her; had to—in fact, produce the brutalest Adventure that is known of him, even in this brutal kind. Poor Favart, rushing about in despair, not permitted to run him through the belly, and die with his Wife undishonored, had to console himself, he and she; and do agreeable theatricalities for a living as heretofore. Let us not speak of it!
"Of Saxe's Generalship, which is now a thing fallen pretty much into oblivion, I have no authority to speak. He had much wild natural ingenuity in him; cunning rapid whirls of contrivance; and gained Three Battles and very many Sieges, amid the loudest clapping of hands that could well be. He had perfect intrepidity; not to be flurried by any amount of peril or confusion; looked on that English Column, advancing at Fontenoy with its FUE INFERNAL, steadily through his perspective; chewing his leaden bullet: 'Going to beat me, then? Well—!' Nobody needed to be braver. He had great good-nature too, though of hot temper and so full of multifarious veracities; a substratum of inarticulate good sense withal, and much magnanimity run wild, or run to seed. A big-limbed, swashing, perpendicular kind of fellow; haughty of face, but jolly too; with a big, not ugly strut;—captivating to the French Nation, and fit God of War (fitter than 'Dalhousie,' I am sure!) for that susceptive People. Understood their Army also, what it was then and there; and how, by theatricals and otherwise, to get a great deal of fire out of it. Great deal of fire;—whether by gradual conflagration or not, on the road to ruin or not; how, he did not care. In respect of military 'fame' so called, he had the great advantage of fighting always against bad Generals, sometimes against the very worst. To his fame an advantage; to himself and his real worth, far the reverse. Had he fallen in with a Friedrich, even with a Browne or a Traun, there might have been different news got. Friedrich (who was never stingy in such matters, except to his own Generals, where it might do hurt) is profuse in his eulogies, in his admirations of Saxe; amiable to see, and not insincere; but which, perhaps, practically do not mean very much.
"It is certain the French Army reaped no profit from its experience of Marechal de Saxe, and the high theatricalities, ornamental blackguardisms, and ridicule of death and life. In the long-run a graver face would have been of better augury. King Friedrich's soldiers, one observes, on the eve of battle, settle their bits of worldly business; and wind up, many of them, with a hoarse whisper of prayer. Oliver Cromwell's soldiers did so, Gustaf Adolf's; in fact, I think all good soldiers: Roucoux with a Prince Karl, Lauffeld with a Duke of Cumberland; you gain your Roucoux, your Lauffeld, Human Stupidity permitting: but one day you fall in with Human Intelligence, in an extremely grave form;—and your 'ELAN,' elastic outburst, the quickest in Nature, what becomes of it? Wait but another decade; we shall see what an Army this has grown. Cupidity, dishonesty, floundering stupidity, indiscipline, mistrust; and an elastic outspurt (ELAN) turned often enough into the form of SAUVE-QUI-PEUT!
"M. le Marechal survived Aix-la-Chapelle little more than two years. Lived at Chambord, on the Loire, an Ex-Royal Palace; in such splendor as never was. Went down in a rose-pink cloud, as if of perfect felicity; of glory that would last forever,—which it has by no means done. He made despatch; escaped, in this world, the Nemesis, which often waits on what they call 'fame.' By diligent service of the Devil, in ways not worth specifying, he saw himself, November 21st, 1750, flung prostrate suddenly: 'Putrid fever!' gloom the doctors ominously to one another: and, November 30th, the Devil (I am afraid it was he, though clad in roseate effulgence, and melodious exceedingly) carried him home on those kind terms, as from a Universe all of Opera. 'Wait till 1759,—till 1789!' murmured the Devil to himself."
TRAGIC NEWS, THAT CONCERN US, OF VOLTAIRE AND OTHERS.
About two months after those Saxe-Friedrich hospitalities at Sans-Souci, Voltaire, writing, late at night, from the hospitable Palace of Titular Stanislaus, has these words, to his trusted D'Argental:—
LUNEVILLE, 4th SEPTEMBER, 1749.... "Madame du Chatelet, this night, while scribbling over her NEWTON, felt a little twinge; she called a waiting-maid, who had only time to hold out her apron, and catch a little Girl, whom they carried to its cradle. The Mother arranged her papers, went to bed; and the whole of that (TOUT CELA) is sleeping like a dormouse, at the hour I write to you." My guardian angels, "poor I sha'n't have so easy a delivery of my CATILINA" (my ROME SAVED, for the confusion of old Crebillon and the cabals)! [—OEuvres,—lxxiv. 57 (Voltaire to D'Argental).]...
And then, six days later, hear another Witness present there:—
LUNEVILLE PALACE, 10th SEPTEMBER. "For the first three or four days, the health of the Mother appeared excellent; denoting nothing but the weakness inseparable from her situation. The weather was very warm. Milk-fever came, which made the heat worse. In spite of remonstrances, she would have some iced barley-water; drank a big glass of it;—and, some instants after, had great pain in her head; followed by other bad symptoms." Which brought the Doctor in again, several Doctors, hastily summoned; who, after difficulties, thought again that all was coming right. And so, on the sixth night, 10th September, inquiring friends had left the sick-room hopefully, and gone down to supper, "the rather as Madame seemed inclined to sleep. There remained none with her but M. de St. Lambert, one of her maids and I. M. de St. Lambert, as soon as the strangers were gone, went forward and spoke some moments to her; but seeing her sleepy, drew back, and sat chatting with us two. Eight or ten minutes after, we heard a kind of rattle in the throat, intermixed with hiccoughs: we ran to the bed; found her, senseless; raised her to a sitting posture, tried vinaigrettes, rubbed her feet, knocked into the palms of her hands;—all in vain; she was dead!
"Of course the supper-party burst up into her room; M. le Marquis de Chatelet, M. de Voltaire, and the others. Profound consternation: to tears, to cries succeeded a mournful silence. Voltaire and St. Lambert remained the last about her bed. At length Voltaire quitted the room; got out by the Grand Entrance, hardly knowing which way he went. At the foot of the Outer Stairs, near a sentry's box, he fell full length on the pavement. His lackey, who was a step or two behind, rushed forward to raise him. At that moment came M. de St. Lambert; who had taken the same road, and who now hastened to help. M. de Voltaire, once on his feet again, and recognizing who it was, said, through his tears and with the most pathetic accent, 'AH, MON AMI, it is you that have killed her to me!'—and then suddenly, as if starting awake, with the tone of reproach and despair, 'EH, MON DIEU, MONSIEUR, DE QUOI VOUS AVISIEZ-VOUS DE LUI FAIRE UN ENFANT (Good God, Sir, what put it into your head to—to—)!'" [Longchamp et Wagniere,—Memoires sur Voltaire,—ii. 250, 251;—Longchamp LOQUITUR.]
Poor M. de Voltaire; suddenly become widower, and flung out upon his shifts again, at his time of life! May now wander, Ishmael-like, whither he will, in this hard lonesome world. His grief is overwhelming, mixed with other sharp feelings clue on the matter; but does not last very long, in that poignant form. He will turn up on us, in his new capacity of single-man, again brilliant enough, within year and day.
Last Autumn, September, 1748, Wilhelmina's one Daughter, one child, was wedded; to that young Durchlaucht of Wurtemberg, whom we saw gallanting the little girl, to Wilhelmina's amusement, some years ago. About the wedding, nothing; nor about the wedded life, what would have been more curious:—no Wilhelmina now to tell us anything; not even whether Mamma the Improper Duchess was there. From Berlin, the Two youngest Princes, Henri and Ferdinand, attended at Baireuth;—Mannstein, our old Russian friend, now Prussian again, escorting them. [Seyfarth, ii. 76.] The King, too busy, I suppose, with Silesian Reviews and the like, sends his best wishes,—for indeed the Match was of his sanctioning and advising;—though his wishes proved mere disappointment in the sequel. Friedrich got no "furtherance in the Swabian-Franconian Circles," or favor anywhere, by means of this Durchlaucht; in the end, far the reverse!—In a word, the happy couple rolled away to Wurtemberg (September 26th, 1748); he twenty, she sixteen, poor young creatures; and in years following became unhappy to a degree.
There was but one child, and it soon died. The young Serene Lady was of airy high spirit; graceful, clever, good too, they said; perhaps a thought too proud:—but as for her Reigning Duke, there was seldom seen so lurid a Serenity; and it was difficult to live beside him. A most arbitrary Herr, with glooms and whims; dim-eyed, ambitious, voracious, and the temper of an angry mule,—very fit to have been haltered, in a judicious manner, instead of being set to halter others! Enough, in six or seven years time, the bright Pair found itself grown thunderous, opaque beyond description; and (in 1759) had to split asunder for good. "Owing to the reigning Duke's behavior," said everybody. "Has behaved so, I would run him through the body, if we met!" said his own Brother once:—Brother Friedrich Eugen, a Prussian General by that time, whom we shall hear of. [Preuss, iv. 149; Michaelis, iii. 451.] What thoughts for our dear Wilhelmina, in her latter weak years;—lapped in eternal silence, as so much else is.
Chapter IV. COCCEJI FINISHES THE LAW-REFORM; FRIEDRICH IS PRINTING HIS POESIES.
In these years, Friedrich goes on victoriously with his Law-Reform; Herculean Cocceji with Assistants, backed by Friedrich, beneficently conquering Province after Province to him;—Kur-Mark, Neu-Mark, Cleve (all easy, in comparison, after Pommern), and finally Preussen itself;—to the joy and profit of the same. Cocceji's method, so far as the Foreign on-looker can discern across much haze, seems to be three-fold:—
1. Extirpation (painless, were it possible) of the Petti-fogger Species; indeed, of the Attorney Species altogether: "Seek other employments; disappear, all of you, from these precincts, under penalty!" The Advocate himself takes charge of the suit, from first birth of it; and sees it ended,—he knows within what limit of time.
2. Sifting out of all incompetent Advocates, "Follow that Attorney-Company, you; away!"—sifting out all these, and retaining in each Court, with fees accurately settled, with character stamped sound, or at least SOUNDEST, the number actually needed. In a milder way, but still more strictly, Judges stupid or otherwise incompetent are riddled out; able Judges appointed, and their salaries raised.
3. What seems to be Friedrich's own invention, what in outcome he thinks will be the summary of all good Law-Procedure: A final Sentence (three "instances" you can have, but the third ends it for you) within the Year. Good, surely. A justice that intends to be exact must front the complicacies in a resolute piercing manner, and will not be tedious. Nay a justice that is not moderately swift,—human hearts waiting for it, the while, in a cancerous state, instead of hopefully following their work,—what, comparatively, is the use of its being never so exact!—
Simple enough methods; rough and ready. Needing, in the execution, clear human eyesight, clear human honesty,—which happen to be present here, and without which no "method" whatever can be executed that will really profit.
In the course of 1748, Friedrich, judging by Pommern and the other symptoms that his enterprise was safe, struck a victorious Medal upon it: "FRIDERICUS BORUSSORUM REX," pressing with his sceptre the oblique Balance to a level posture; with Epigraph, "EMENDATO JURE." [Letter to Cocceji, accompanying Copy of the Medal in Gold, "24th June, 1748" (Seyfarth, ii. 67 n.).] And by New-year's day, 1750, the matter was in effect completed; and "justice cheap, expeditious, certain," a fact in all Prussian Lands.
Nay, in 1749-1751, to complete the matter, Cocceji's "Project of a general Law-Code," PROJEKT DES CORPORIS JURIS FRIDERICIANI, came forth in print: [Halle, 2 vols. folio (Preuss, i. 316; see IB. 315 n., as to the LAW-PROCEDURE, $c. now settled by Cocceji).] to the admiration of mankind, at home and abroad; "the First Code attempted since Justinian's time," say they. PROJECT translated into all languages, and read in all countries. A poor mildewed copy of this CODEX FRIDERICIANUS—done at Edinburgh, 1761, not said by whom; evidently bought at least TWICE, and mostly never yet read (nor like being read)—is known to me, for years past, in a ghastly manner! Without the least profit to this present, or to any other Enterprise;—though persons of name in Jurisprudence call it meritorious in their Science; the first real attempt at a Code in Modern times. But the truth is, this Cocceji CODEX remained a PROJECT merely, never enacted anywhere. It was not till 1773, that Friedrich made actual attempt to build a Law-Code and did build one (the foundation-story of one, for his share, completed since), in which this of Cocceji had little part. In 1773, the thing must again be mentioned; the "Second Law-Reform," as they call it. What we practically know from this time is, That Prussian Lawsuits, through Friedrich's Reign, do all terminate, or push at their utmost for terminating, within one year from birth; and that Friedrich's fame, as a beneficent Justinian, rose high in all Countries (strange, in Countries that had thought him a War-scourge and Conquering Hero); strange, but undeniable; [See—Gentleman's Magazine,—xx. 215-218 ("May, 1750"): eloquent, enthusiastic LETTER, given there, "of Baron de Spon to Chancellor D'Aguessan," on these inimitable Law Achievements.] and that his own People, if more silently, yet in practice very gladly indeed, welcomed his Law-Reform; and, from day to day, enjoyed the same,—no doubt with occasional remembrance who the Donor was.
Of Friedrich's Literary works, nobody, not even Friedrich himself, will think it necessary that we say much. But the fact is, he is doing a great many things that way: in Prose, the MEMOIRS OF BRANDENBURG, coming out as Papers in the Academy from time to time; [From 1746 and onward: first published complete (after slight revision by Voltaire), Berlin, 1751.] in Verse, very secret as yet, the PALLADION ("exquisite Burlesque," think some), the ART OF WAR (reckoned truly his best Piece in verse):—and wishes sometimes he had Voltaire here to perfect him a little. This too would be one of the practical charms of Voltaire. [Friedrich's Letter to Algarotti (—OEuvres,—xviii. 66), "12th September, 1749."] For though King Friedrich knows and remembers always, that these things, especially the Verse part, are mere amusements in comparison, he has the creditable wish to do these well; one would not fantasy ILL even on the Flute, if one could help it. "Why does n't Voltaire come; as Quantz of the Flute has done?" Friedrich, now that Voltaire has fallen widower, renews his pressings, "Why don't you come?" Patience, your Majesty; Voltaire will come.
Nobody can wish details in this Department: but there is one thing necessary to be mentioned, That Friedrich in these years, 1749-1752, has Printers out at Potsdam, and is Printing, "in beautiful quarto form, with copperplates," to the extent of twelve copies, the OEUVRES (Poetical, that is) DU PHILOSOPHE DE SANS-SOUCI. Only twelve copies, I have heard; gift of a single copy indicating that you are among the choicest of the chosen. Copies have now fallen extremely rare (and are not in request at all, with my readers or me); but there was one Copy which, or the Mis-title of which, as OEUVRE DE "POESHIE" DU ROI MON MAITRE, became miraculously famous in a year or two;—and is still memorable to us all! On Voltaire's arrival, we shall hear more of these things. Enough to say at present that the OEUVRES DU PHILOSOPHE DE SANS-SOUCI: AU DONJON DU CHATEAU: AVEC PRIVILEGE D'APOLLON,—"three thinnish quarto volumes, all the Poetry then on hand,"—was finished early in 1750, before Voltaire came. That, when Voltaire came, a revisal was undertaken, a new Edition, with Voltaire's corrections and other changes (total suppression of the PALLADION, for one creditable change): that this Edition was to have been in Two Volumes; that One, accordingly, rather thicker than the former sort, was got finished in 1752 (same TITLE, only the new Date, and "no DONJON DU CHATEAU this time"), One Volume in 1752; after which, owing to the explosions that ensued, no Second came, nor ever will;—and that the actual contents of that far-famed OEUVRE DE "POESHIE" (number of volumes even) are points of mystery to me, at this day. [Herr Preuss—in the CHRONOLOGICAL LIST of Friedrich's Writings (a useful accurate Piece otherwise), and in two other places where he tries—is very indistinct on this of DONJON DU CHATEAU; and it is all but impossible to ascertain from him WHAT, in an indisputable manner, the OEUVRE DE "POESHIE" may have been. Here are the places for groping, if another should be induced to try:—OEuvres de Frederic,—x. (Preface, p. ix); IB. xi. (Preface, p. ix); IB.—Table Chhronologique—(in what Volume this is, you cannot yet say; seems preliminary to a GENERAL INDEX, which is infinitely wanted, but has not yet appeared to this Editor's aid), p. 14.]
Friedrich's other employments are multifarious as those of a Land's Husband (not inferior to his Father in that respect); and, like the benefits of the diurnal Sun, are to be considered incessant, innumerable and, in result to us-ward, SILENT also, impossible to speak of in this place. From the highest pitch of State-craft (Russian Czarina now fallen plainly hostile, and needing lynx-eyed diplomacy ever and anon), down to that of Dredging and Fascine-work (as at Stettin and elsewhere), of Oder-canals, of Soap-boiler Companies, and Mulberry-and-Silk Companies; nay of ordaining Where, and where not, the Crows are to be shot, and (owing to cattle-murrain) No VEAL to be killed: [Seyfarth, ii. 71, 83, 81; Preuss,—Buch fur Jedermann,—i. 101-109; &c.] daily comes the tide of great and of small, and daily the punctual Friedrich keeps abreast of it,—and Dryasdust has noted the details, and stuffed them into blind sacks,—for forty years.
The Review seasons, I notice, go somewhat as follows. For Berlin and neighborhood, May, or perhaps end of April (weather now bright, and ground firm); sometimes with considerable pomp ("both Queens out," and beautiful Female Nobilities, in "twenty-four green tents"), and often with great complicacy of manoeuvre. In June, to Magdeburg, round by Cleve; and home again for some days. July is Pommern: Onward thence to Schlesien, oftenest in August; Schlesien the last place, and generally not done with till well on in September. But we will speak of these things, more specially, another time. Such "Reviews," for strictness of inspection civil and military, as probably were not seen in the world since,—or before, except in the case of this King's Father only.
Chapter V. STRANGERS OF NOTE COME TO BERLIN, IN 1750.
British Diplomacies, next to the Russian, cause some difficulties in those years: of which more by and by. Early in 1748, while Aix-la-Chapelle was starting, Ex-Exchequer Legge came to Berlin; on some obscure object of a small Patch of Principality, hanging loose during those Negotiations: "Could not we secure it for his Royal Highness of Cumberland, thinks your Majesty?" Ex-Exchequer Legge was here; [Coxe's—Pelham,—i. 431, &c.; Rodenbeck, pp. 155, 160 (first audience 1st May, 1748);—recalled 22d November, Aix being over.] got handsome assurances of a general nature; but no furtherance towards his obscure, completely impracticable object; and went home in November following, to a new Parliamentary Career.
And the second year after, early in 1750, came Sir Hanbury Williams, famed London Wit of Walpole's circle, on objects which, in the main, were equally chimerical: "King of the Romans, much wanted;" "No Damage to your Majesty's Shipping from our British Privateers;" and the like;—about which some notice, and not very much, will be due farther on. Here, in his own words, is Hanbury's Account of his First Audience:—
... "On Thursday," 16th July, 1750, "I went to Court by appointment, at 11 A.M. The King of Prussia arrived about 12 [at Berlin; King in from Potsdam, for one day]; and Count Podewils immediately introduced me into the Royal closet; when I delivered his Britannic Majesty's Letters into the King of Prussia's hands, and made the usual compliments to him in the best manner I was able. To which his Prussian Majesty replied, to the best of my remembrance, as follows:—"'I have the truest esteem for the King of Britain's person; and I set the highest value on his friendship. I have at different times received essential proofs of it; and I desire you would acquaint the King your Master that I will (SIC) never forget them.' His Prussian Majesty afterwards said something with respect to myself, and then asked me several questions about indifferent things and persons. He seemed to express a great deal of esteem for my Lord Chesterfield, and a great deal of kindness for Mr. Villiers," useful in the Peace-of-Dresden time; "but did not once mention Lord Hyndford or Mr. Legge,"—how singular!
"I was in the closet with his Majesty exactly five minutes and a half. My audience done, Prussian Majesty came out into the general room, where Foreign Ministers were waiting. He said, on stepping in, just one word" to the Austrian Excellency; not even one to the Russian Excellency, nor to me the Britannic; "conversed with the French, Swedish, Danish;"—happy to be off, which I do not wonder at; to dine with Mamma at Monbijou, among faces pleasant to him; and return to his Businesses and Books next day. [Walpole,—George the Second,—i. 449; Rodenbeck, i. 204.]
Witty Excellency Hanbury did not succeed at Berlin on the "Romish-King Question," or otherwise; and indeed went off rather in a hurry. But for the next six or seven years he puddles about, at a great rate, in those Northern Courts; giving away a great deal of money, hatching many futile expensive intrigues at Petersburg, Warsaw (not much at Berlin, after the first trial there); and will not be altogether avoidable to us in time coming, as one could have wished. Besides, he is Horace Walpole's friend and select London Wit: he contributed a good deal to the English notions about Friedrich; and has left considerable bits of acrid testimony on Friedrich, "clear words of an Eye-witness," men call them,—which are still read by everybody; the said Walpole, and others, having since printed them, in very dark condition. [In Walpole,—George the Second—(i. 448-461), the Pieces which regard Friedrich. In—Sir Charles Hanbury Williams's Works—(edited by a diligent, reverential, but ignorant gentleman, whom I could guess to be Bookseller Jeffery in person: London, 1822, 3 vols. small 8vo) are witty Verses, and considerable sections of Prose, relating to other persons and objects now rather of an obsolete nature.] Brevity is much due to Hanbury and his testimonies, since silence in the circumstances is not allowable. Here is one Excerpt, with the necessary light for reading it:—
... It is on this Romish-King and other the like chimerical errands, that witty Hanbury, then a much more admirable man than we now find him, is prowling about in the German Courts, off and on, for some ten years in all, six of them still to come. A sharp-eyed man, of shrewish quality; given to intriguing, to spying, to bribing; anxious to win his Diplomatic game by every method, though the stake (as here) is oftenest zero: with fatal proclivity to Scandal, and what in London circles he has heard called Wit. Little or nothing of real laughter in the soul of him, at any time; only a labored continual grin, always of malicious nature, and much trouble and jerking about, to keep that up. Had evidently some modicum of real intellect, of capacity for being wise; but now has fatally devoted it nearly all to being witty, on those poor terms! A perverse, barren, spiteful little wretch; the grin of him generally an affliction, at this date. His Diplomatic Correspondence I do not know. [Nothing of him is discoverable in the State-Paper Office. Many of his Papers, it would seem, are in the Earl of Essex's hands;—and might be of some Historical use, not of very much, could the British Museum get possession of them. Abundance of BACKSTAIRS History, on those Northern Courts, especially on Petersburg, and Warsaw-Dresden,—authentic Court-gossip, generally malicious, often not true, but never mendacious on the part of Williams,—is one likely item.] He did a great deal of Diplomatic business, issuing in zero, of which I have sometimes longed to know the exact dates; seldom anything farther. His "History of Poland," transmitted to the Right Hon. Henry Fox, by instalments from Dresden, in 1748, is [See—Hanbury's Works,—vol. iii.]—Well, I should be obliged to call it worthier of Goody Two-Shoes than of that Right Hon. Henry, who was a man of parts, but evidently quite a vacuum on the Polish side!
Of Hanbury's News-Letters from Foreign Courts, four or five, incidentally printed, are like the contents of a slop-pail; uncomfortable to the delicate mind. Not lies on the part of Hanbury, but foolish scandal poured into him; a man more filled with credulous incredible scandal, evil rumors, of malfeasances by kings and magnates, than most people known. His rumored mysteries between poor Polish Majesty and pretty Daughter-in-law (the latter a clever and graceful creature, Daughter of the late unfortunate Kaiser, and a distinguished Correspondent of Friedrich's) are to be regarded as mere poisoned wind. [See—Hanbury's Works,—ii. 209-240.] That "Polish Majesty gets into his dressing-gown at two in the afternoon" (inaccessible thenceforth, poor lazy creature), one most readily believes; but there, or pretty much there, one's belief has to stop. The stories, in WALPOLE, on the King of Prussia, have a grain of fact in them, twisted into huge irrecognizable caricature in the Williams optic-machinery. Much else one can discern to be, in essence, false altogether. Friedrich, who could not stand that intriguing, spying, shrewish, unfriendly kind of fellow at his Court, applied to England in not many months hence, and got Williams sent away: ["22d January, 1751" (MS. LIST in State-Paper Office).] on to Russia, or I forget whither;—which did not mend the Hanbury optical-machinery on that side. The dull, tobacco-smoking Saxon-Polish Majesty, about whom he idly retails so many scandals, had never done him any offence.
On the whole, if anybody wanted a swim in the slop-pails of that extinct generation, Hanbury, could he find an Editor to make him legible, might be printed. For he really was deep in that slop-pail or extinct-scandal department, and had heard a great many things. Apart from that, in almost any other department,—except in so far as he seems to DATE rather carefully,—I could not recommend him. The Letters and Excerpts given in Walpole are definable as one pennyworth of bread,—much ruined by such immersion, but very harmless otherwise, could you pick it out and clean it,—to twenty gallons of Hanbury sherris-sack, or chamber-slop. I have found nothing that seems to be, in all points, true or probable, but this; worth cutting out, and rendering legible, on other accounts. Hanbury LOQUITUR (in condensed form):
"In the summer of last year, 1749, there was, somewhere in Mahren, a great Austrian Muster or Review;" all the more interesting, as it was believed, or known, that the Prussian methods and manoeuvres were now to be the rule for Austria. Not much of a Review otherwise, this of 1749; Empress-Queen and Husband not personally there, as in coming Years they are wont to be; that high Lady being ardent to reform her Army, root and branch, according to the Prussian model,—more praise to her. [—Maria Theresiens Leben,—p. 160 (what she did that way, ANNO 1749); p. 162 (PRESENT at the Reviews, ANNO 1750).] "At this Muster in Mahren, Three Prussian Officers happened to make their appearance,—for several imaginable reasons, of little significance: 'For the purpose of inveigling people to desert, and enlist with them!' said the Austrian Authorities; and ordered the Three Prussian Officers unceremoniously off the ground. Which Friedrich, when he heard of it, thought an unhandsome pipe-clay procedure, and kept in mind against the Austrian Authorities.
"Next Summer," next Spring, 1750, "an Austrian Captain being in Mecklenburg, travelling about, met there an old acquaintance, one Chapeau [HAT! can it be possible?], who is in great favor with the King of Prussia:"—very well, Excellency Hanbury; but who, in the name of wonder, can this HAT, or Chapeau, have been? After study, one perceives that Hanbury wrote Chazeau, meaning CHASOT, an old acquaintance of our own! Brilliant, sabring, melodying Chasot, Lieutenant-Colonel of the Baireuth Dragoons; who lies at Treptow, close on Mecklenburg, and is a declared favorite of the Duchess, often running over to the RESIDENZ there. Often enough; but HONI SOIT, O reader; the clever Lady is towards sixty, childless, musical; and her Husband—do readers recollect him at all?—is that collapsed TAILORING Duke whom Friedrich once visited,—and whose Niece, Half-Niece, is Charlotte, wise little hard-favored creature now of six, in clean bib and tucker, Ancestress of England that is to be; whose Papa will succeed, if the Serene Tailor die first,—which he did not quite. To this Duchess, musical gallant Chasot may well be a resource, and she to him. Naturally the Austrian Captain, having come to Mecklenburg, dined with Serene Highness, he and Chasot together, with concert following, and what not, at the Schloss of Neu-Strelitz:—And now we will drop the 'Chapeau,' and say Chasot, with comfort, and a shade of new interest.
"'The grand May Review at Berlin just ahead, won't you look in; it is straight on your road home?' suggests Chasot to his travelling friend. 'One would like it, of all things,' answered the other: 'but the King?' 'Tush,' said Chasot; 'I will make that all straight!' And applies to the King accordingly: 'Permission to an Austrian Officer, a good acquaintance of mine.' 'Austrian Officer?' Friedrich's eyes lighten; and he readily gives the permission. This was at Berlin, on the very eve of the Review; and Chasot and his Austrian are made happy in that small matter. And on the morrow [end of May, 1750], the Austrian attends accordingly; but, to his astonishment, has hardly begun to taste the manoeuvres, when—one of Friedrich's Aides-de-Camp gallops up: 'By the King's command, Mein Herr, you retire on the instant!'
"Next day, the Austrian is for challenging Chasot. 'As you like, that way,' answers Chasot; 'but learn first, that on your affront I rode up to the King; and asked, publicly, Did not your Majesty grant me permission? Unquestionably, Monsieur Chasot;—and if he had not come, how could I have paid back the Moravian business of last year!'" [Walpole,—George the Second,—i. 457, 459.]—This is much in Friedrich's way; not the unwelcomer that it includes a satirical twitch on Chasot, whom he truly likes withal, or did like, though now a little dissatisfied with those too frequent Mecklenburg excursions and extra-military cares. Of this, merely squeezing the Hanbury venom out of it, I can believe every particular.
"Did you ever hear of anything so shocking?" is Hanbury's meaning here and elsewhere. "I must tell you a story of the King of Prussia's regard for the Law of Nations," continues he to Walpole? [Ib. i. 458.] Which proves to be a story, turned topsy-turvy, of one Hofmann, Brunswick Envoy, who (quite BEYOND commission, and a thing that must not be thought of at all!) had been detected in dangerous intriguings with the ever-busy Russian Excellency, or another; and got flung into Spandau, [Adelung, v. 534; vii. 132-144.]—seemingly pretty much his due in the matter. And so of other Hanbury things. "What a Prussia; for rigor of command, one huge prison, in a manner!" King intent on punctuality, and all his business upon the square. Society, official and unofficial, kept rather strictly to their tackle; their mode of movement not that of loose oxen at all! "Such a detestable Tyrant,"—who has ordered ME, Hanbury, else-whither with my exquisite talents and admired wit!—
CANDIDATUS LINSENBARTH (QUASI "Lentil-beard") LIKEWISE VISITS BERLIN.
By far the notablest arrival in Berlin is M. de Voltaire's July 10th; a few days before Hanbury got his First Audience, "five minutes long." But that arrival will require a Chapter to itself;—most important arrival, that, of all! The least important, again, is probably that of Candidatus Linsenbarth, in these same weeks;—a rugged poverty-stricken old Licentiate of Theology; important to no mortal in Berlin or elsewhere:—upon whom, however, and upon his procedures in that City, we propose, for our own objects, to bestow a few glances; rugged Narrative of the thing, in singular exotic dialect, but true every word, having fortunately come to us from Linsenbarth's own hand. [Through Rodenbeck,—Beitrage,—i. 463 et seq.]
Berlin, it must be admitted, after all one's reading in poor Dryasdust, remains a dim empty object; Teutschland is dim and empty: and out of the forty blind sacks, or out of four hundred such, what picture can any human head form to itself of Friedrich as King or Man? A trifling Adventure of that poor individual, called Linsenbarth CANDIDATUS THEOLOGIAE, one of the poorest of mortals, but true and credible in every particular, comes gliding by chance athwart all that; and like the glimmer of a poor rushlight, or kindled straw, shows it us for moments, a thing visible, palpable, as it worked and lived. In the great dearth, Linsenbarth, if I can faithfully interpret him for the modern reader, will be worth attending to.
Date of Linsenbarth's Adventure is June-August, 1750. "Schloss of Beichlingen" and "Village of Hemmleben" are in the Thuringen Hill Country (Weimar not far off to eastward): the Hero himself, a tall awkward raw-boned creature, is, for perhaps near forty years past, a CANDIDATUS, say Licentiate, or Curate without Cure. Subsists, I should guess, by schoolmastering—cheapest schoolmaster conceivable, wages mere nothing—in the Villages about; in the Village of Hemmleben latterly; age, as I discover, grown to be sixty-one, in those straitened but by no means forlorn circumstances. And so, here is veteran Linsenbarth of Hemmleben, a kind of Thuringian Dominie Sampson; whose Interview with such a brother mortal as Friedrich King of Prussia may be worth looking at,—if I can abridge it properly.
Well, it appears, in the year 1750, at this thrice-obscure Village of Hemmleben, the worthy old pastor Cannabich died;—worthy old man, how he had lived there, modestly studious, frugal, chiefly on farm-produce, with tobacco and Dutch theology; a modest blessing to his fellow-creatures! And now he is dead, and the place vacant. Twenty pounds a Year certain; let us guess it twenty, with glebe-land, piggeries, poultry-hutches: who is now to get all that? Linsenbarth starts with his Narrative, in earnest.
Linsenbarth, who I guess may have been Assistant to the deceased Cannabich, and was now out of work, says: "I had not the least thought of profiting by this vacancy; but what happened? The Herr Graf von Werthern, at Schloss Beichlingen, sent his Steward [LEHNSDIRECTOR, FIEF-DIRECTOR is the title of this Steward, which gives rise to obsolete thought of mill-dues, road-labor, payments IN NATURA], his Lehnsdirector, Herr Kettenbeil, over to my LOGIS [cheap boarding quarters]; who brought a gracious salutation from his Lord; saying farther, That I knew too well [excellent Cannabich gone from us, alas!] the Pastorate of Hemmleben was vacant; that there had various competitors announced themselves, SUPPLICANDO, for the place; the Herr Graf, however, had yet given none of them the FIAT, but waited always till I should apply. As I had not done so, he (the Lord Graf) would now of his own motion give me the preference, and hereby confer the Pastorate upon me!"—
"Without all controversy, here was a VOCATIO DIVINA, to be received with the most submissive thanks! But the lame second messenger came hitching in [HALTING MESSENGER, German proverb] very soon. Kettenbeil began again: 'He must mention to me SUB ROSA, Her Ladyship the Frau Grafin wanted to have her Lady's-maid provided for by this promotion, too; I must marry her, and take the living at the same time.'"
Whew! And this is the noble Lady's way of thinking, up in her fine Schloss yonder? Linsenbarth will none of it. "For my notion fell at once," says he, "when I heard it was DO UT FACIAS, FACIO UT FACIAS (I give that thou mayest do, I do that thou mayest do; Wilt have the kirk, then take the irk, WILLST DU DIE PFARRE, SO NIMM DIE QUARRE); on those terms, my reply was: 'Most respectful thanks, Herr Fief-judge, and No, for such a vocation! And why? The vocation must have LIBERTATEM, there must be no VITIUM ESSENTIALE in it; it must be right IN ESSENTIALI, otherwise no honest man can accept it with a good conscience. This were a marriage on constraint; out of which a thousand INCONVENIENTIAE might spring!'" Hear Linsenbarth, in the piebald dialect, with the sound heart, and preference of starvation itself to some other things! Kettenbeil (CHAIN-AXE) went home; and there was found another Candidatus willing for the marriage on constraint, "out of which INCONVENIENTIAE might spring," in Linsenbarth's opinion.
"And so did the sneakish courtly gentleman [HOFMANN, courtier as Linsenbarth has it], who grasped with both hands at my rejected offer, experience before long," continues Linsenbarth. "For the loose thing of court-tatters led him such a life that, within three years, age yet only thirty, he had to bite the dust" (BITE AT THE GRASS, says Linsenbarth, proverbially), which was an INCONVENIENTIA including all others. "And I had LEGITIMAM CAUSAM to refuse the vocation CUM TALI CONDITIONE.
"However, it was very ill taken of me. All over that Thuringian region I was cried out upon as a headstrong foolish person: The Herr Graf von Werthern, so ran the story, had of his own kindness, without request of mine, offered me a living; RARA AVIS, singular instance; and I, rash and without head, flung away such gracious offer. In short, I was told to my face [by good-natured friends], Nobody would ever think of me for promotion again;"—universal suffrage giving it clear against poor Linsenbarth, in this way.
"To get out of people's sight at least," continues he, "I decided to leave my native place, and go to Berlin," 250 miles away or more. "And so it was that, on June the 20th, 1750, I landed at Berlin for the first time: and here straightway at the PACKHOF (or Custom-house), in searching of my things, 400 THALERS (some 60 pounds), all in Nurnberg BATZEN, were seized from me;"—BATZEN, quarter-groats we may say; 7 and a half batzen go to a shilling; what a sack there must have been of them, 9,000 in all, about the size of herring-scales, in bad silver; fruit of Linsenbarth's stern thrift from birth upwards:—all snatched from him at one swoop. "And why?" says he, quite historically: Yes, Why? The reader, to understand it wholly, would need to read in Mylius's—Edicten-Sammlung,—in SEYFARTH and elsewhere; [Mylius,—Edict—xli., January, 1744, &c. &c.] and to know the scandalous condition of German coinage at this time and long after; every needy little Potentate mixing his coin with copper at discretion, and swindling mankind with it for a season; needing to be peremptorily forbidden, confiscated or ordered home, by the like of Friedrich. Linsenbarth answers his own "And why?" with historical calmness:—
"The king had, some (six) years ago, had the batzen utterly cried down (GANZ UND GAR); they were not to circulate at all in his Countries; and I was so bold, I had brought batzen hither into the King's Capital, KONIGLICHE RESIDENZ itself! At the Packhof, there was but one answer, 'Contraband, Contraband!'"—Here was a welcome for a man. "I made my excuses: Did not the least know; came straight from Thuringen, many miles of road; could not guess there What His Majesty the King had been pleased to forbid in His (THEIRO) Countries. 'You should have informed yourself,' said the Packhof people; and were deaf to such considerations. 'A man coming into such a Residenz Town as Berlin, with intent to abide there, should have inquired a little what was what, especially what coins were cried down, and what allowed,' said they of the Packhof." Poor Linsenbarth!"'But what am I to do now? How am I to live, if you take my very money from me?' 'That is your outlook,' said they;—and added, He must even find stowage for his stack of herring-scales or batzen, as soon as it was sealed up; 'we have no room for it in the Packhof!'" for a man: Here is a roughish welcome "I must leave all my money here; and find stowage for it, in a day or two.
"There was, accordingly, a truck-porter called in; he loaded my effects on his barrow, and rolled away. He brought me to the WHITE SWAN in the JUDENSTRASSE [none of the grandest of streets, that Berlin JEWRY], threw my things out, and demanded four groschen. Two of my batzen" 2 and a half exact, "would have done; but I had no money at all. The landlord came out: seeing that I had a stuffed feather-bed [note the luggage of Linsenbarth: "FEDER-BETT," of extreme tenuity], a trunk full of linens, a bag of Books and other trifles, he paid the man; and sent me to a small room in the court-yard [Inn forms a Court, perhaps four stories high]: 'I could stay there,' he said; 'he would give me food and drink in the meanwhile.' And so I lived in this Inn eight weeks long, without one red farthing, in mere fear and anxiety." June 20th PLUS eight weeks brings us to August 15th; Voltaire in HEIGHT of feather; and very great things just ahead! ["Grand Carrousel, 25th August;" &c.]—of which soon.
The White Swan was a place where Carriers lodged: some limb of the Law, of Subaltern sort, whom Linsenbarth calls "DER ADVOCAT B." (one of the Ousted of Cocceji, shall we fancy!), had to do with Carriers and their pie-powder lawsuits. Advocat B. had noticed the gray dreary CANDIDATUS, sitting sparrow-like in remote corners; had spoken to him;—undertook for a LOUIS D'OR, no purchase no pay, to get back his batzen for him. They went accordingly, one morning, to "a grand House;" it was a Minister's (name not given), very grand Official Man: he heard the Advocat B.'s short statement; and made answer: "Monsieur, and is it you that will pick holes in the King's Law? I have understood you were rather aiming at the HAUSVOGTEI [Common Jail of Berlin]: Go on in that way, and you are sure of your promotion!"—Advocat B. rushed out with Linsenbarth into the street; and there was neither pay nor purchase in that quarter.
Poor Linsenbarth was next advised, by simple neighbors, to go direct to the King; as every poor man can, at certain hours of the day. "Write out your Case (Memorial) with extreme brevity," said they; "nothing but the essential points, and those clear." Linsenbarth, steam at the high-pressure, composed (CONZIPIRTE) a Memorial of that right laconic sort; wrote it fair (MUNDIRTE ES);—and went off therewith "at opening of the Gates (middle time of August, 1750, no date farther), [August 21st? (See Rodenbeck, DIARY, which we often quote, i. 205.)]—without one farthing in my pocket, in God's name, to Potsdam." He continues:—
"And at Potsdam I was lucky enough to see the King; my first sight of him. He was on the Palace Esplanade there, drilling his troops [fine trim sanded Expanse, with the Palace to rear, and Garden-walks and River to front; where Friedrich Wilhelm sat, the last day he was out, and ordered Jockey Philips's house to be actually set about; where the troops do evolutions every morning;—there is Friedrich with cocked-hat and blue coat; say about 11 A.M.].
"When the drill was over, his Majesty went into the Garden, and the soldiers dispersed; only four Officers remained lounging upon the Esplanade, and walked up and down. For fright I knew not what to do; I pulled the Papers out of my pocket,—these were my Memorial, two Certificates of character, and a Thuringen Pass [poor soul]. The Officers noticed this; came straight to me, and said, 'What letters has He there, then?' I thankfully and gladly imparted the whole; and when the Officers had read them, they said, 'We will give you [Him, not even THEE] a good advice, The King is extra-gracious to-day, and is gone alone into the Garden. Follow him straight. Thou wilt have luck.'
"This I would not do; my awe was too great. They thereupon laid hands on me [the mischievous dogs, not ill-humored either]: one took me by the right arm, another by the left, 'Off, off; to the Garden!' Having got me thither, they looked out for the King. He was among the gardeners, examining some rare plant; stooping over it, and had his back to us. Here I had to halt; and the Officers began, in underhand tone [the dogs!], to put me through my drill: 'Hat under left arm!—Right foot foremost!—Breast well forward!—Head up!—Papers from pouch!—Papers aloft in right hand!—Steady! Steady!'—And went their ways, looking always round, to see if I kept my posture. I perceived well enough they were pleased to make game of me; but I stood, all the same, like a wall, being full of fear. The Officers were hardly out of the Garden, when the King turned round, and saw this extraordinary machine,"—telegraph figure or whatever we may call it, with papers pointing to the sky. "He gave such a look at me, like a flash of sunbeams glancing through you; and sent one of the gardeners to bring my papers. Which having got, he struck into another walk with them, and was out of sight. In few minutes he appeared again at the place where the rare plant was, with my Papers open in his left hand; and gave me a wave with them To come nearer. I plucked up a heart, and went straight towards him. Oh, how thrice and four-times graciously this great Monarch deigned to speak to me!—
KING. "'My good Thuringian (LIEBER THURINGER), you came to Berlin, seeking to earn your bread by industrious teaching of children; and here, at the Packhof, in searching your things, they have taken your Thuringen hoard from you. True, the batzen are not legal here; but the people should have said to you: You are a stranger, and did n't know the prohibition;—well then, we will seal up the Bag of Batzen; you send it back to Thuringen, get it changed for other sorts; we will not take it from you!—
"'Be of heart, however; you shall have your money again, and interest too.—But, my poor man, Berlin pavement is bare, they don't give anything gratis: you are a stranger; before you are known and get teaching, your bit of money is done; what then?'
"I understood the speech right well; but my awe was too great to say: 'Your Majesty will have the all-highest grace to allow me something!' But as I was so simple and asked for nothing, he did not offer anything. And so he turned away; but had scarcely gone six or eight steps, when he looked round, and gave me a sign I was to walk by him; and then began catechising:—
KING. "'Where did you (ER) study?'
LINSENBARTH. "'Your Majesty, in Jena.'
KING. "'What years?'
LINSENBARTH. "'From 1716 to 1720.' ["Born 1689" (Rodenbeck, p. 474); twenty-five when he went.]
KING. "'Under what Pro-rector were you inscribed?'
LINSENBARTH. "'Under the PROFESSOR THEOLOGIAE Dr. Fortsch.'
KING. "'Who were your other Professors in the Theological Faculty?'"
LINSENBARTH—names famed men; sunk now, mostly, in the bottomless waste-basket: "Buddaus" (who did a DICTIONARY of the BAYLE sort, weighing four stone troy, out of which I have learned many a thing), "Buddaeus," "Danz," "Weissenborn," "Wolf" (now back at Halle after his tribulations,—poor man, his immortal System of Philosophy, where is it!).
KING. "'Did you study BIBLICA diligently?'
LINSENBARTH. "'With Buddaeus (BEYM BUDDAO).'
KING. "'That is he who had such quarrelling with Wolf?'
LINSENBARTH. "'Yea, your Majesty! He was—'
KING (does not want to know what he was). "'What other useful Courses of Lectures (COLLEGIA) did you attend?'
LINSENBARTH. "'Thetics and Exegetics with Fortsch [How the deuce did Fortsch teach these things?]; Hermeneutics and Polemics with Walch [editor of—Luther's Works,—I suppose]; Hebraics with Dr. Danz; Homiletics with Dr. Weissenborn; PASTORALE [not Pastoral Poetry, but the Art of Pastorship] and MORALE with Dr. Buddaeus.' [There, your Majesty!—what a glimpse, as into infinite extinct Continents, filled with ponderous thorny inanities, invincible nasal drawling of didactic Titans, and the awful attempt to spin, on all manner of wheels, road-harness out of split cobwebs: Hoom! Hoom-m-m! Harness not to be had on those terms. Let the dreary Limbus close again, till the general Day of Judgment for all this.]
KING (glad to get out of the Limbus). "'Were things as wild then at Jena, in your time, as of old, when the Students were forever scuffling and ruffling, and the Couplet went:—
—"Wer kommt von Jena ungeschlagen, Der hat von grossen Gluck zu sagen.— "He that comes from Jena SINE BELLO, He may think himself a lucky fellow"?'
LINSENBARTH. "'That sort of folly is gone quite out of fashion; and a man can lead a silent and quiet life there, just as at other Universities, if he will attend to the DIC, CURHIC? [or know what his real errand is]. In my time their Serene Highnesses, the Nursing-fathers of the University (NUTRITORES ACADEMIAE),—of the Ernestine Line [Weimar-Gotha Highnesses, that is], were in the habit of having the Rufflers (RENOMISTEN), Renowners as they are called, who made so much disturbance, sent to Eisenach to lie in the Wartburg a while; there they learned to be quiet.' [Clock strikes Twelve,—dinner-time of Majesty.]
KING. "'Now I must go: they are waiting for their soup'" (and so ends Dialogue for the present). 'Did the King bid me wait?
"When we got out of the Garden," says Linsenbarth, silent on this point, "the four Officers were still there upon the Esplanade [Captains of Guard belike]; they went into the Palace with the King,"—clearly meaning to dine with his Majesty.
"I remained standing on the Esplanade. For twenty-seven hours I had not tasted food: not a farthing IN BONIS [of principal or interest] to get bread with; I had waded twenty miles hither, in a sultry morning, through the sand. Not a difficult thing to keep down laughter in such circumstances!"—Poor soul; but the Royal mind is human too.—"In this tremor of my heart, there came a KAMMER-HUSSAR [Soldier-Valet, Valet reduced to his simplest expression] out of the Palace, and asked, 'Where is the man that was with my King (MEINEM KONIG,—THY King particularly?) in the Garden?' I answered, 'Here!' And he led me into the Schloss, to a large Room, where pages, lackeys, and Kammer-hussars were about. My Kammer-hussar took me to a little table, excellently furnished; with soup, beef; likewise carp dressed with garden-salad, likewise game with cucumber-salad: bread, knife, fork, spoon and salt were all there [and I with an appetite of twenty-seven hours; I too was there]. My hussar set me a chair, said: 'This that is on the table, the King has ordered to be served for you (IHM): you are to eat your fill, and mind nobody; and I am to serve. Sharp, then, fall to!'—I was greatly astonished, and knew not what to do; least of all could it come into my head that the King's Kammer-hussar, who waited on his Majesty, should wait on me. I pressed him to sit by me; but as he refused, I did as bidden; sat down, took my spoon, and went at it with a will (FRISCH)!
"The hussar took the beef from the table, set it on the charcoal dish (to keep it hot till wanted); he did the like with the fish and roast game; and poured me out wine and beer—[was ever such a lucky Barmecide!] I ate and drank till I had abundantly enough. Dessert, confectionery, what I could,—a plateful of big black cherries, and a plateful of pears, my waiting-man wrapped in paper and stuffed them into my pockets, to be a refreshment on the way home. And so I rose from the Royal table; and thanked God and the King in my heart, that I had so gloriously dined,"—HERRLICH, "gloriously" at last. Poor excellent down-trodden Linsenbarth, one's heart opens to him, not one's larder only.
"The hussar took away. At that moment a Secretary came; brought me a sealed Order (Rescript) to the Packhof at Berlin, with my Certificates (TESTIMONIA), and the Pass; told down on the table five Tail-ducats (SCHWANZ-DUKATEN), and a Gold Friedrich under them [about 3 pounds 10s., I think; better than 10 pounds of our day to a common man, and better than 100 pounds to a Linsenbarth],—saying, The King sent me this to take me home to Berlin again.
"And if the hussar took me into the Palace, it was now the Secretary that took me out again. And there, yoked with six horses, stood a royal Proviant-wagon; which having led me to, the Secretary said: 'You people, the King has given order you are to take this stranger to Berlin, and also to accept no drink-money from him.' I again, through the HERRN SECRETARIUM, testified my most submissive thankfulness for all Royal graciousnesses; took my place, and rolled away.
"On reaching Berlin, I went at once to the Packhof, straight to the office-room,"—standing more erect this time,—"and handed them my Royal Rescript. The Head man opened the seal; in reading, he changed color, went from pale to red; said nothing, and gave it to the second man to read. The second put on his spectacles; read, and gave it to the third. However, he [the Head man] rallied himself at last: I was to come forward, and be so good as write a quittance (receipt), 'That I had received, for my 400 thalers all in Batzen, the same sum in Brandenburg coin, ready down, without the least deduction.' My cash was at once accurately paid. And thereupon the Steward was ordered, To go with me to the White Swan in the Judenstrasse, and pay what I owed there, whatever my score was. For which end they gave him twenty-four thalers; and if that were not enough, he was to come and get more." On these high terms Linsenbarth marched out of the Packhof for the second time; the sublime head of him (not turned either) sweeping the very stars.
"That was what the King had meant when he said, "You shall have your money back and interest too:' VIDELICET, that the Packhof was to pay my expenses at the White Swan. The score, however, was only 10 thaler,' 4 groschen, 6 pfennigs [30 shillings, 5 pence, and 2 or perhaps 3 quarter-farthings], for what I had run up in eight weeks,"—an uncommonly frugal rate of board, for a man skilled in Hermeneutics, Hebraics, Polemics, Thetica, Exegetics, Pastorale, Morale (and Practical Christianity and the Philosophy of Zeno, carried to perfection, or nearly so)!"And herewith this troubled History had its desired finish." And our gray-whiskered, raw-boned, great-hearted Candidatus lay down to sleep, at the White Swan; probably the happiest man in all Berlin, for the time being.
Linsenbarth dived now into Private-teaching, "INFORMATION," as he calls it; forming, and kneading into his own likeness, such of the young Berliners as he could get hold of:—surely not without some good effect on them, the model having, besides Hermeneutics in abundance, so much natural worth about it. He himself found the mine of Informing a very barren one, as to money: continued poor in a high degree, without honor, without emolument to speak of; and had a straitened, laborious, and what we might think very dark Life-pilgrimage. But the darkness was nothing to him, he carried such an inextinguishable frugal rushlight within. Meat, clothes and fire he did not again lack, in Berlin, for the time he needed them,—some twenty-seven years still. And if he got no printed praise in the Reviews, from baddish judges writing by the sheet,—here and there brother mortals, who knew him by their own eyes and experiences, looked, or transiently spoke, and even did, a most real praise upon him now and then. And, on the whole, he can do without praise; and will stand strokes even without wincing or kicking, where there is no chance.
A certain Berlin Druggist ("Herr Medicinal-Assessor Rose," whom we may call Druggist First, for there were Two that had to do with Linsenbarth) was good and human to him. In Rose's House, where he had come to teach the children, and which continued, always thenceforth, a home to him when needful, he wrote this NARRATIVE (Anno 1774); and died there, three years afterwards,—"24th August, 1777, of apoplexy, age 88," say the Burial Registers. [In Rodenbeck,—Beitrage,—i. 472-475, these latter Details (with others, in confused form); IB. 462-471, the NARRATIVE itself.] Druggist Second, on succeeding the humane Predecessor, found Linsenbarth's papers in the drug-stores of the place: Druggist Second chanced to be one Klaproth, famed among the Scientific of the world; and by him the Linsenbarth Narrative was forwarded to publication, and such fame as is requisite.
SIR JONAS HANWAY STALKS ACROSS THE SCENE, TOO; IN A PONDERING AND OBSERVING MANNER.
Of the then very famous "Berlin Carrousel of 1750" we propose to say little; the now chief interesting point in it being that M. de Voltaire is curiously visible to us there. But the truth is, they were very great days at Berlin, those of Autumn, 1750; distinguished strangers come or coming; the King giving himself up to entertainment of them, to enjoyment of them; with such a hearty outburst of magnificence, this Carrousel the apex of it, as was rare in his reign. There were his Sisters of Schwedt and Baireuth, with suite, his dear Wilhelmina queen of the scene; ["Came 8th August" (Rodenbeck, 205).] there were—It would be tedious to count what other high Herrschaften and Durchlauchtig Persons. And to crown the whole, and entertain Wilhelmina as a Queen should be, there had come M. de Voltaire; conquered at length to us, as we hope, and the Dream of our Youth realized. Voltaire's reception, July 10th and ever since, has been mere splendor and kindness; really extraordinary, as we shall find farther on. Reception perfect in all points, except that of the Pompadour's Compliments alone. "That sublime creature's compliments to your Majesty; such her express command!" said Voltaire. "JE NE LA CONNAIS PAS," answered Friedrich, with his clear-ringing voice, "I don't know her;" [Voltaire to Madame Denis, "Potsdam, 11th August, 1750" (—OEuvres,—lxxiv. 184).]—sufficient intimation to Voltaire, but painful and surprising. For which some diplomatic persons blame Friedrich to this day; but not I, or any reader of mine. A very proud young King; in his silent way, always the prouder; and stands in no awe of the Divine Butterflies and Crowned Infatuations never so potent, as more prudent people do.
In a Berlin of such stir and splendor, the arrivals of Sir Jonas Hanway, of the "young Lord Malton" (famed Earl or Marquis of Rockingham that will be), or of the witty Excellency Hanbury, are as nothing;—Sir Jonas's as less than nothing. A Sir Jonas noticed by nobody; but himself taking note, dull worthy man; and mentionable now on that account. Here is a Scrap regarding him, not quite to be thrown away:
"Sir Jonas Hanway was not always so extinct as he has now become. Readers might do worse than turn to his now old Book of TRAVELS again, and the strange old London it awakens for us: A 'Russian Trading Company,' full of hope to the then mercantile mind; a Mr. Hanway despatched, years ago, as Chief Clerk, inexpressibly interested to manage well;—and managing, as you may read at large. Has done his best and utmost, all this while; and had such travellings through the Naphtha Countries, sailings on the Caspian; such difficulties, successes,—ultimately, failure. Owing to Mr. Elton and Thamas Kouli Khan mainly. Thamas Kouli Khan—otherwise called Nadir Shah (and a very hard-headed fellow, by all appearance)—wiled and seduced Mr. Elton, an Ex-Naval gentleman, away from his Ledgers, to build him Ships; having set his heart on getting a Navy. And Mr. Elton did build him (spite of all I could say) a Bark or two on the Caspian;—most hopeful to the said Nadir Shah; but did it come to anything? It disgusted, it alarmed the Russians; and ruined Sir Jonas,—who is returning at this period, prepared to render account of himself at London, in a loftily resigned frame of mind. [Jonas Hanway,—An Account of &c.—(or in brief, TRAVELS: London, 3 vols. 4to, 1753), ii. 183. "Arrived in Berlin," from the Caspian and Petersburg side, "August 15th, 1750."]
"The remarks of Sir Jonas upon Berlin—for he exercises everywhere a sapient observation on men and things—are of dim tumidly insignificant character, reminding us of an extinct Minerva's Owl; and reduce themselves mainly to this bit of ocular testimony, That his Prussian Majesty rides much about, often at a rapid rate; with a pleasant business aspect, humane though imperative; handsome to look upon, though with face perceptibly reddish [and perhaps snuff on it, were you near]. His age now thirty-eight gone; a set appearance, as if already got into his forties. Complexion florid, figure muscular, almost tending to be plump.
"Listen well through Hanway, you will find King Friedrich is an object of great interest, personal as well as official, and much the theme in Berlin society; admiration of him, pride in him, not now the audiblest tone, though it lies at the bottom too: 'Our Friedrich the Great,' after all [so Hanway intimates, though not express as to epithets or words used]. The King did a beautiful thing to Lieutenant-Colonel Keith the other day [as some readers may remember]: to Lieutenant-Colonel Keith; that poor Keith who was nailed to the gallows for him (in effigy), at Wesel long ago; and got far less than he had expected. The other day, there had been a grand Review, part of it extending into Madam Knyphausen's grounds, who is Keith's Mother-in-law. 'Monsieur Keith,' said the King to him, 'I am sorry we had to spoil Madam's fine shrubbery by our manoeuvres: have the goodness to give her that, with my apologies,'—and handed him a pretty Casket with key to it, and in the interior 10,000 crowns. Not a shrub of Madam's had been cut or injured; but the King, you see, would count it 1,500 pounds of damage done, and here is acknowledgment for it, which please accept. Is not that a gracious little touch?
"This King is doing something at Embden, Sir Jonas fears, or trying to do, in the Trade-and-Navigation way; scandalous that English capitalists will lend money in furtherance of such destructive schemes by the Foreigner! For the rest, Sir Jonas went to call on Lord Malton (Marquis of Rockingham that will be): an amiable and sober young Nobleman, come thus far on his Grand Tour," and in time for the Carrousel. "His Lordship's reception at Court here, one regretted to hear, was nothing distinguished; quite indifferent, indeed, had not the Queen-Mother stept in with amendments. The Courts are not well together; pity for it. My Lord and his Tutor did me the honor to return my visit; the rather as we all quartered in the same Inn. Amiable young Nobleman,"—so distinguished since, for having had unconsciously an Edmund Burke, and such torrents of Parliamentary Eloquence, in his breeches-pocket (BREECHES-POCKET literally; how unknown to Hanway!)—"Amiable young Nobleman, is not it one's duty to salute, in passing such a one? Though I would by no means have it over-done, and am a calmly independent man.
"Sir Jonas also saw the Carrousel [of which presently]; and admired the great men of Berlin. Great men, all obsolete now, though then admired to infinitude, some of them: 'You may abuse me,' said the King to some stranger arrived in Berlin; 'you may abuse me, and perhaps here and there get praise by doing it: but I advise you not to doubt of Lieberkuhn [the fashionable Doctor] in any company in Berlin,'" [Hanway, ii. 190, 202, &c.]—How fashionable are men!
One Collini, a young Italian, quite new in Berlin, chanced also to be at the Carrousel, or at the latter half of it,—though by no means in quest of such objects just at present, poor young fellow! As he came afterwards to be Secretary or Amanuensis of Voltaire, and will turn up in that capacity, let us read this Note upon him:—
"Signor Como Alessandro Collini, a young Venetian gentleman of some family and education, but of no employment or resource, had in late years been asking zealously all round among his home circle, What am I to do with myself? mere echo answering, What,—till a Signora Sister of Barberina the Dancer's answered: 'Try Berlin, and King FRIDERICO IL GRANDE there? I could give you a letter to my Sister!' At which Collini grasps; gets under way for Berlin,—through wild Alpine sceneries, foreign guttural populations; and with what thoughts, poor young fellow. It is a common course to take, and sometimes answers, sometimes not. The cynosure of vague creatures, with a sense of faculty without direction. What clouds of winged migratory people gathering in to Berlin, all through this Reign. Not since Noah's Ark a stranger menagerie of creatures, mostly wild. Of whom Voltaire alone is, in our time, worth mention.
"Collini gazed upon the Alpine chasms, and shaggy ice-palaces, with tender memory of the Adriatic; courageously steered his way through the inoffensive guttural populations; had got to Berlin, just in this time; been had to dinner daily by the hospitable Barberinas, young Cocceji always his fellow-guest,—'Privately, my poor Signorina's Husband!' whispered old Mamma. Both the Barberinas were very kind to Collini; cheering him with good auguries, and offers of help. Collini does not date with any punctuality; but the German Books will do it for him. August 25th-27th was Carrousel; and Collini had arrived few days before." [Collini,—Mon Sejour aupres de Voltaire—(Paris, 1807), pp. 1-21.]
And now it is time we were at the Carrousel ourselves,—in a brief transient way.
Chapter VI.—BERLIN CARROUSEL, AND VOLTAIRE VISIBLE THERE.
Readers have heard of the PLACE DU CARROUSEL at Paris; and know probably that Louis XIV. held world-famous Carrousel there (A.D. 1662); and, in general, that Carrousel has something to do with Tourneying, or the Shadow of Tourneying. It is, in fact, a kind of superb be-tailored running at the ring, instead of be-blacksmithed running at one another. A Second milder Edition of those Tournament sports, and dangerous trials of strength and dexterity, which were so grand a business in the Old iron Ages. Of which, in the form of Carrousel or otherwise, down almost to the present day, there have been examples, among puissant Lords;—though now it is felt to have become extremely hollow; perhaps incapable of fully entertaining anybody, except children and their nurses on a high occasion.
A century ago, before the volcanic explosion of so many things which it has since become wearisome to think of in this earnest world, the Tournament, emblem of an Age of Chivalry, which was gone: but had not yet declared itself to be quite gone, and even to be turned topsy-turvy, had still substance as a mummery,—not enough, I should say, to spend much money upon. Not much real money: except, indeed, the money were offered you gratis, from other parties interested? Sir Jonas kindly informs us, by insinuation, that this was, to a good degree, Friedrich's case in the now Carrousel: "a thing got up by the private efforts of different great Lords and Princes of the blood;" each party tailoring, harnessing and furbishing himself and followers; Friedrich contributing little but the arena and general outfit. I know not whether even the 40,000 lamps (for it took place by night) were of his purchase, though that is likely; and know only that the Suppers and interior Palace Entertainments would be his. "Did not cost the King much money," says Sir Jonas; which is satisfactory to know. For of the Carrousel kind, or of the Royal-Mummery kind in general, there has been, for graceful arrangement, for magnificence regardless of expense,—inviting your amiable Lord Malton, and the idlers of all Countries, and awakening the rapture of Gazetteers,—nothing like it since Louis the Grand's time. Nothing,—except perhaps that Camp of Muhlberg or Radowitz, where we once were. Done, this one, not at the King's expense alone, but at other people's chiefly: that is an unexpected feature, welcome if true; and, except for Sir Jonas, would not have helped to explain the puzzle for us, as it did in the then Berlin circles. Muhlberg, in my humble judgment, was worth two of this as a Mummery;—but the meritorious feature of Friedrich's is, that it cost him very little.
It was, say all Gazetteers and idle eye-witnesses, a highly splendid spectacle. By much the most effulgent exhibition Friedrich ever made of himself in the Expensive-Mummery department: and I could give in extreme detail the phenomena of it; but, in mercy to poor readers, will not. Fancy the assiduous hammering and sawing on the Schloss-Platz, amid crowds of gay loungers, giving cheerful note of preparation, in those latter days of August, 1750. And, on WEDNESDAY NIGHT, 25th AUGUST, look and see,—for the due moments only, and vaguely enough (as in the following Excerpt):—
PALACE-ESPLANADE OF BERLIN, 25th AUGUST, 1750 (dusk sinking into dark): "Under a windy nocturnal sky, a spacious Parallelogram, enclosed for jousting as at Aspramont or Trebisond. Wide enough arena in the centre; vast amphitheatre of wooden seats and passages, firm carpentry and fitted for its business, rising all round; Audience, select though multitudinous, sitting decorous and garrulous, say since half-past eight. There is royal box on the ground-tier; and the King in it, King, with Princess Amelia for the prizes: opposite to this is entrance for the Chevaliers,—four separate entrances, I think. Who come,—lo, at last!—with breathings and big swells of music, as Resuscitations from the buried Ages.
"They are in four 'Quadrilles,' so termed: Romans, Persians, Carthaginians, Greeks. Four Jousting Parties, headed each by a Prince of the Blood:—with such a splendor of equipment for jewels, silver helmets, sashings, housings, as eye never saw. Prancing on their glorious battle-steeds (sham-battle, steeds not sham, but champing their bits as real quadrupeds with fire in their interior):—how many in all, I forgot to count. Perhaps, on the average, sixty in each Quadrille, fifteen of them practical Ritters; the rest mythologic winged standard-bearers, blackamoors, lictors, trumpeters and shining melodious phantasms as escort,—of this latter kind say in round numbers Two Hundred altogether; and of actual Ritters threescore. [Blumenthal,—Life of De Ziethen—(Ziethen was in it, and gained a prize), i. 257-263 et seq.; Voltaire's LETTERS to Niece Denis (—OEuvres,—lxxiv. 174, 179, 198);—and two contemporary 4tos on the subject, with Drawings &c., which may well continue unknown to every reader.] Who run at rings, at Turks' heads, and at other objects with death-doing lance; and prance and flash and career along: glorious to see and hear. Under proud flourishings of drums and trumpets, under bursts and breathings of wind-music; under the shine of Forty Thousand Lamps, for one item. All Berlin and the nocturnal firmament looking on,—night rather gusty, 'which blew out many of the lamps,' insinuates Hanway.
"About midnight, Beauty in the form of Princess Amelia distributes the prizes; Music filling the air; and human 'EUGE'S,' and the surviving lamps, doing their best. After which the Principalities and Ritters withdraw to their Palace, to their Balls and their Supper of the gods; and all the world and his wife goes home again, amid various commentary from high and low. 'JAMAIS, Never,' murmured one high Gentleman, of the Impromptu kind, at the Palace Supper-table:—
—'Jamais dans Athene et dans Rome On n'eut de plus beaux jours, ni de plus digne prix. J'ai vu le fils de Mars sous les traits de Paris, Et Venus qui donnait la pomme.'"—
["Never in Athens or Rome were there braver sights or a worthier prize: I have seen the son of Mars [King Friedrich] with Paris's features, and Venus [Amelia] crowning the victorious." (—OEuvres de Voltaire,—xviii. 320.)]
And Amphitheatre and Lamps lapse wholly into darkness, and the thing has finished, for the time being. August 27th, it was repeated by daylight: if possible, more charming than ever; but not to be spoken of farther, under penalties. To be mildly forgotten again, every jot and tittle of it,—except one small insignificant iota, which, by accident, still makes it remarkable. Namely, that Collini and the Barberinas were there; and that not only was Voltaire again there, among the Princes and Princesses; but that Collini saw Voltaire, and gives us transient sight of him,—thanks to Collini. Thursday, 27th August, 1750, was the Daylight version of the Carrousel; which Collini, if it were of any moment, takes to have PRECEDED that of the 40,000 Lamps. Sure enough Collini was there, with eyes open:—
"Madame de Cocceji [so one may call her, though the known alias is Barberina] had engaged places; she invited me to come and see this Festivity. We went;" and very grand it was. "The Palace-Esplanade was changed" by carpentries and draperies "into a vast Amphitheatre; the slopes of it furnished with benches for the spectators, and at the four corners of it and at the bottom, magnificently decorated boxes for the Court." Vast oval Amphitheatre, the interior arena rectangular, with its Four Entrances, one for each of the Four Quadrilles. "The assemblage was numerous and brilliant: all the Court had come from Potsdam to Berlin.
"A little while before the King himself made appearance, there rose suddenly a murmur of admiration, and I heard all round me, from everybody, the name 'Voltaire! Voltaire!' Looking down, I saw Voltaire accordingly; among a group of great lords, who were walking over the Arena, towards one of the Court Boxes. He wore a modest countenance, but joy painted itself in his eyes: you cannot love glory, and not feel gratefully the prize attached to it,"—attained as here. "I lost sight of him in few instants," as he approached his Box "the place where I was not permitting farther view." [Collini,—Mon Sejour,—p. 21.]
This was Collini's first sight of that great man (DE CE GRAND HOMME). With whom, thanks to Barberina, he had, in a day or two, the honor of an Interview (judgment favorable, he could hope); and before many months, Accident also favoring, the inexpressible honor of seeing himself the great man's Secretary,—how far beyond hope or aspiration, in these Carrousel days!
Voltaire had now been here some Seven Weeks,—arrived 10th July, as we often note;—after (on his own part) a great deal of haggling, hesitating and negotiating; which we spare our readers. The poor man having now become a Quasi-Widower; painfully rallying, with his whole strength, towards new arrangements,—now was the time for Friedrich to urge him: "Come to me! Away from all that dismal imbroglio; hither, I say!" To which Voltaire is not inattentive; though he hesitates; cannot, in any case, come without delay;—lingers in Paris, readjusting many things, the poor shipwrecked being, among kind D'Argentals and friends. Poor Ishmael, getting gray; and his tent in the desert suddenly carried off by a blast of wind!
To the legal Widower, M. le Marquis, he behaves in money matters like a Prince; takes that Paris Domicile, in the Rue Traversiere, all to himself; institutes a new household there,—Niece Denis to be female president. Niece Denis, widow without encumbrances; whom in her married state, wife to some kind of Commissariat-Officer at Lille, we have seen transiently in that City, her Uncle lodging with her as he passed. A gadding, flaunting, unreasonable, would-be fashionable female—(a Du Chatelet without the grace or genius, and who never was in love with you!)—with whom poor Uncle had a baddish life in time coming. All which settled, he still lingers. Widowed, grown old and less adventurous! 'That House in the Rue Traversiere, once his and Another's, now his alone,—for the time being, it is probably more like a Mausoleum than a House to him. And Versailles, with its sulky Trajans, its Crebillon cabals, what charm is in Versailles? He thinks of going to Italy for a while; has never seen that fine Country: of going to Berlin for a while: of going to—In fact, Berlin is clearly the place where he will land; but he hesitates greatly about lifting anchor. Friedrich insists, in a bright, bantering, kindly way; "You were due to me a year ago; you said always, 'So soon as the lying-in is over, I am yours:'—and now, why don't you come?"
Friedrich, since they met last, has had some experiences of Voltaire, which he does not like. Their roads, truly—one adulating Trajan in Versailles, and growing great by "Farces of the Fair;" the other battling for his existence against men and devils, Trajan and Company included—have lain far apart. Their Correspondence perceptibly languishing, in consequence, and even rumors rising on the subject, Voltaire wrote once: "Give me a yard of ribbon, Sire [your ORDER OF MERIT, Sire], to silence those vile rumors!" Which Friedrich, on such free-and-easy terms, had silently declined. "A meddlesome, forward kind of fellow; always getting into scrapes and brabbles!" thinks Friedrich. But is really anxious, now that the chance offers again, to have such a Levite for his Priest, the evident pink of Human Intellect; and tries various incitements upon him;—hits at last (I know not whether by device or by accident) on one which, say the French Biographers, did raise Voltaire and set him under way.
A certain M. Baculard d'Arnaud, a conceited, foolish young fellow, much patronized by Voltaire, and given to write verses, which are unknown to me, has been, on Voltaire's recommending, "Literary Correspondent" to Friedrich (Paris Book-Agent and the like) for some time past; corresponding much with Potsdam, in a way found entertaining; and is now (April, 1750) actually going thither, to Friedrich's Court, or perhaps has gone. At any rate, Friedrich—by accident or by device—had answered some rhymes of this D'Arnaud, "Yes; welcome, young sunrise, since Voltaire is about to set!" [—OEuvres de Frederic,—xiv. 95 (Verses "A D'ARNAUD," of date December, 1749.)] I hope it was by device; D'Arnaud is such a silly fellow; too absurd, to reckon as morning to anybody's sunset. Except for his involuntary service, for and against, in this Voltaire Journey, his name would not now be mentionable at all. "Sunset?" exclaimed Voltaire, springing out of bed (say the Biographers), and skipping about indignantly in his shirt: "I will show them I am not set yet!" [Duvernet (Second), p. 159.] And instantly resolved on the Berlin Expedition. Went to Compiegne, where the Court then was; to bid his adieus; nay to ask formally the Royal leave,—for we are Historiographer and titular Gentleman of the Chamber, and King's servant in a sense. Leave was at once granted him, almost huffingly; we hope not with too much readiness? For this is a ticklish point: one is going to Prussia "on a Visit" merely (though it may be longish); one would not have the door of France slammed to behind one! The tone at Court did seem a little succinct, something almost of sneer in it. But from the Pompadour herself all was friendly; mere witty, cheery graciosities, and "My Compliments to his Majesty of Prussia,"—Compliments how answered when they came to hand: "JE NE LA CONNAIS PAS!"
In short, M. de Voltaire made all his arrangements; got under way; piously visited Fontenoy and the Battle-fields in passing: and is here, since July 10th,—in very great splendor, as we see:—on his Fifth Visit to Friedrich. Fifth; which proved his Last,—and is still extremely celebrated in the world. Visit much misunderstood in France and England, down to this day. By no means sorted out into accuracy and intelligibility; but left as (what is saying a great deal!) probably the wastest chaos of all the Sections of Friedrich's History. And has, alone of them, gone over the whole world; being withal amusing to read, and therefore well and widely remembered, in that mendacious and semi-intelligible state. To lay these goblins, full of noise, ignorance and mendacity, and give some true outline of the matter, with what brevity is consistent with deciphering it at all, is now our sad task,—laborious, perhaps disgusting; not impossible, if readers will loyally assist.
Voltaire had taken every precaution that this Visit should succeed, or at least be no loss to one of the parties. In a preliminary Letter from Paris,—prose and verse, one of the cleverest diplomatic pieces ever penned; Letter really worth looking at, cunning as the song of Apollo, Voltaire symbolically intimates: "Well, Sire, your old Danae, poor malingering old wretch, is coming to her Jove. It is Jove she wants, not the Shower of Jove; nevertheless"—And Friedrich (thank Hanbury, in part, for that bit of knowledge) had remitted him in hard money 600 pounds "to pay the tolls on his road." [Walpole, i. 451 ("Had it from Princess Amelia herself"); see Voltaire to Friedrich, "Paris, 9th June, 1750;" Friedrich to Voltaire, "Potsdam, 24th May" (—OEuvres de Voltaire,—lxxiv. 158, 155).] As a high gentleman would; to have done with those base elements of the business.
Nay furthermore, precisely two days before those splendors of the Carrousel, Friedrich,—in answer to new cunning croakeries and contrivances ("Sire, this Letter from my Niece, who is inconsolable that I should think of staying here;" where, finding oneself so divinized, one is disposed to stay),—has answered him like a King: By Gold Key of Chamberlain, Cross of the Order of Merit, and Pension of 20,000 francs (850 pounds) a year,—conveyed in as royal a Letter of Business as I have often read; melodious as Apollo, this too, though all in business prose, and, like Apollo, practical God of the SUN in this case. ["Berlin, 23d August, 1750" (—OEuvres de Frederic,—xxii. 255);—Voltaire to Niece Denis, "24th August" (misprinted "14th"); to D'Argental, "28th August" (—OEuvres de Voltaire,—lxxiv. 185, 196).] Dated 23d August, 1750. This Letter of Friedrich's I fancy to be what Voltaire calls, "Your Majesty's gracious Agreement with me," and often appeals to, in subsequent troubles. Not quite a Notarial Piece, on Friedrich's part; but strictly observed by him as such.
Four days after which, Collini sees Voltaire serenely shining among the Princes and Princesses of the world; Amphitheatre all whispering with bated breath, "Voltaire! Voltaire!" But let us hear Voltaire himself, from the interior of the Phenomenon, at this its culminating point:—
Voltaire to his D'Argentals,—to Niece Denis even, with whom, if with no other, he is quite without reserve, in showing the bad and the good,—continues radiantly eloquent in these first months: ... "Carrousel, twice over; the like never seen for splendor, for [rather copious on this sublimity]—After which we played ROME SAUVEE [my Anti-Crebillon masterpiece], in a pretty little Theatre, which I have got constructed in the Princess Amelia's Antechamber. I, who speak to you, I played CICERO." Yes; and was manager and general stage-king and contriver; being expert at this, if at anything. And these beautiful Theatricals had begun weeks ago, and still lasted many weeks; [Rodenbeck, "August-October," 1750.]—with such divine consultings, directings, even orderings of the brilliant Royalties concerned.— Duvernet (probably on D'Arget's authority) informs us that "once, in one of the inter-acts, finding the soldiers allowed him for Pretorian Guards not to understand their business here," not here, as they did at Hohenfriedberg and elsewhere, "Voltaire shrilled volcanically out to them [happily unintelligible): 'F——, Devil take it, I asked for men; and they have sent me Germans (J'AI DEMANDE DES HOMMES, ET L'ON M'ENVOIE DES ALLEMANDS)!' At which the Princesses were good-natured enough to burst into laughter." [Duvernet (Second), p. 162,—time probably 15th October.] Voltaire continues: "There is an English Ambassador here who knows Cicero's Orations IN CATILINAM by heart;" an excellent Etonian, surely. "It is not Milord Tyrconnell" (blusterous Irish Jacobite), OUR Ambassador, note him, fat Valori having been recalled); no, "it is the Envoy from England," Excellency Hanbury himself, who knows his Cicero by heart. "He has sent me some fine verses on ROME SAUVEE; he says it is my best work. It is a Piece appropriate for Ministerial people; Madame la Chanceliere," Cocceji's better half, "is well pleased with it. [—OEuvres,—lxxiv. (LETTERS, to the D'Argentals and Denis, "20th August-23d September, 1750"), pp. 187, 219, 231, &c. &c.] And then,"—But enough.
In Princess Amelia's Antechamber, there or in other celestial places, in Palace after Palace, it goes on. Gayety succeeding gayety; mere Princesses and Princes doing parts; in ROME SAUVEE, and in masterpieces of Voltaire's, Voltaire himself acting CICERO and elderly characters, LUSIGNAN and the like. Excellent in acting, say the witnesses; superlative, for certain, as Preceptor of the art,—though impatient now and then. And wears such Jewel-ornaments (borrowed partly from a Hebrew, of whom anon), such magnificence of tasteful dress;—and walks his minuet among the Morning Stars. Not to mention the Suppers of the King: chosen circle, with the King for centre; a radiant Friedrich flashing out to right and left, till all kindles into coruscation round him; and it is such a blaze of spiritual sheet-lightnings,—wonderful to think of; Voltaire especially electric. Never, or seldom, were seen such suppers; such a life for a Supreme Man of Letters so fitted with the place due to him. Smelfungus says:—
"And so your Supreme of Literature has got into his due place at last,—at the top of the world, namely; though, alas, but for moments or for months. The King's own Friend; he whom the King delights to honor. The most shining thing in Berlin, at this moment. Virtually a kind of PAPA, or Intellectual Father of Mankind," sneers Smelfungus; "Pope improvised for the nonce. The new Fridericus Magnus does as the old Pipinus, old Carolus Magnus did: recognizes his Pope, in despite of the base vulgar; elevates him aloft into worship, for the vulgar and for everybody! Carolus Magnus did that thrice-salutary feat [sublimely human, if you think of it, and for long centuries successful more or less]; Fridericus Magnus, under other omens, unconsciously does the like,—the best he can! Let the Opera Fiddlers, the Frerons, Travenols and Desfontaines-of-Sodom's Ghost look and consider!"—
Madame Denis, an expensive gay Lady, still only in her thirties, improvable by rouge, carries on great work in the Rue Traversiere; private theatricals, suppers, flirtations with Italian travelling Marquises;—finds Intendant Longchamp much in her way, with his rigorous account-books, and restriction to 100 louis per month; wishes even her Uncle were back, and cautions him, Not to believe in Friedrich's flattering unctions, or put his trust in Princes at all. Voltaire, with the due preliminaries, shows Friedrich her Letter, one of her Letters, [Now lost, as most of them are; Voltaire's Answer to it, already cited, is "24th August, 1750" (misprinted "14th August,"—OEuvres,—lxxiv. 185; see IB. lxxv. 135); King Friedrich's PRACTICAL Answer (so munificent to Denis and Voltaire), "Your Majesty's gracious Agreement," bore date "August 23d."]—with result as we saw above.
Formey says: "In the Carnival time, which Voltaire usually passed at Berlin, in the Palace, people paid their court to him as to a declared Favorite. Princes, Marshals, Ministers of State, Foreign Ambassadors, Lords of the highest rank, attended his audience; and were received," says Formey, nowhere free from spite on this subject, "in a sufficiently lofty style (HAUTEUR ASSEZ DEDAIGNEUSE). [Formey,—Souvenirs,—i. 235, 236.] A great Prince had the complaisance to play chess with him; and to let him win the pistoles that were staked. Sometimes even the pistole disappeared before the end of the game," continues Formey, green with spite;—and reports that sad story of the candle-ends; bits of wax-candle, which should have remained as perquisite to the valets, but which were confiscated by Voltaire and sent across to the wax-chandler's. So, doubtless, the spiteful rumor ran; probably little but spite and fable, Berlin being bitter in its gossip. Stupid Thiebault repeats that of the candle-ends, like a thing he had seen (twelve years BEFORE his arrival in those parts); and adds that Voltaire "put them in his pocket,"—like one both stupid and sordid. Alas, the brighter your shine, the blacker is the shadow you cast.
Friedrich, with the knowledge he already had of his yoke-fellow,—one of the most skittish, explosive, unruly creatures in harness,—cannot be counted wise to have plunged so heartily into such an adventure with him. "An undoubted Courser of the Sun!" thought Friedrich;—and forgot too much the signs of bad going he had sometimes noticed in him on the common highways. There is no doubt he was perfectly sincere and simple in all this high treatment of Voltaire. "The foremost, literary spirit of the world, a man to be honored by me, and by all men; the Trismegistus of Human Intellects, what a conquest to have made; how cheap is a little money, a little patience and guidance, for such solacement and ornament to one's barren Life!" He had rashly hoped that the dreams of his youth could hereby still be a little realized; and something of the old Reinsberg Program become a fruitful and blessed fact. Friedrich is loyally glad over his Voltaire; eager in all ways to content him, make him happy; and keep him here, as the Talking Bird, the Singing Tree and the Golden Water of intelligent mankind; the glory of one's own Court, and the envy of the world. "Will teach us the secret of the Muses, too; French Muses, and help us in our bits of Literature!" This latter, too, is a consideration with Friedrich, as why should it not,—though by no means the sole or chief one, as the French give it out to be.
On his side, Voltaire is not disloyal either; but is nothing like so completely loyal. He has, and continued always to have, not unmixed with fear, a real admiration for Friedrich, that terrible practical Doer, with the cutting brilliances of mind and character, and the irrefragable common sense; nay he has even a kind of love to him, or something like it,—love made up of gratitude for past favors, and lively anticipation of future. Voltaire is, by nature, an attached or attachable creature; flinging out fond boughs to every kind of excellence, and especially holding firm by old ties he had made. One fancies in him a mixed set of emotions, direct and reflex,—the consciousness of safe shelter, were there nothing more; of glory to oneself, derived and still derivable from this high man:—in fine, a sum-total of actual desire to live with King Friedrich, which might, surely, have almost sufficed even for Voltaire, in a quieter element. But the element was not quiet,—far from it; nor was Voltaire easily sufficeable!
PERPETUAL PRESIDENT MAUPERTUIS HAS A VISIT FROM ONE KONIG, OUT OF HOLLAND, CONCERNING THE INFINITELY LITTLE.
Whether Maupertuis, in red wig with yellow bottom, saw these high gauderies of the Carrousel, the Plays in Princess Amelia's Antechamber, and the rest of it, I do not know: but if so, he was not in the top place; nor did anybody take notice of him, as everybody did of Voltaire. Meanwhile, I have something to quote, as abridged and distilled from various sources, chiefly from Formey; which will be of much concernment farther on.
Some four weeks after those Carrousel effulgencies, Perpetual President Maupertuis had a visit (September 21st, just while the Sun was crossing the Line; thanks to Formey for the date, who keeps a Note-book, useful in these intricacies): visit from Professor Konig, an effective mathematical man from the Dutch parts. Whom readers have forgotten again; though they saw him once: in violent quarrel, about the Infinitely Little, with Madame du Chatelet, Voltaire witnessing with pain;—it was just as they quitted Cirey together, ten years ago, for these new courses of adventure. Do readers recall the circumstance? Maupertuis, referee in that quarrel, had, with a bluntness offensive to the female mind, declared Konig indisputably in the right; and there had followed a dryness between the divine Emilie and the Flattener of the Earth, scarcely to be healed by Voltaire's best efforts.
Konig has gone his road since then; become a fine solid fellow; Professor in a Dutch University; more latterly Librarian to the Dutch Stadtholder: still frank of speech, and with a rugged free-and-easy turn, but of manful manners; really a person of various culture, and as is still noticeable, of a solid geometric turn of mind. Having now, as Librarian at the Hague, more leisure and more money, he has made a run to Berlin,—chiefly or entirely to see his Maupertuis again, whom he still remembers gratefully as his first Patron in older times, and a man of sound parts, though rather blusterous now and then, A little bit of scientific business also he has with him. Konig is Member of the Berlin Academy, for some years back; and there is a thing he would speak with the Perpetual President upon. "Wants nothing else in Berlin," says Formey: a hearing by the road that Maupertuis was not there, he had actually turned homewards again: but got truer tidings, and came on. "The more was the pity, as perhaps will appear!"He arrived September 20th [if you will be particular on cheese-parings]; called on me that day, being lodged in my neighborhood; and next day, found Maupertuis at home;" [Formey, i. 176-179.]—and flew into his arms again, like a good boy long absent.
Maupertuis, not many months ago, had, in Two successive Papers, I think Two, communicated to the Academy a Discovery of Metaphysico-Mathematical or altogether Metaphysical nature, on the Laws of Motion;—Discovery which he has, since that, brought to complete perfection, and sent forth to the Universe at large, in his sublime little Book of COSMOLOGY; [In La Beaumelle,—Vie de Maupertuis—(Paris, 1856), pp. 105-130, confused account of this "Discovery," and of the gradual Publication of it to mankind,—very gradual; first of all in the old Paris times; in the Berlin ACADEMY latterly; and in fine, to all the world, in this ESSAI DE COSMOLOGIE (Berlin, Summer of 1750).]—grateful Academy striving to admire, and believe, with its Perpetual President, that the Discovery was sublime to a degree; second only to the flattening of the Earth; and would probably stand thenceforth as a milestone in the Progress of Human Thought. "Which Discovery, then?" Be not too curious, reader; take only of it what shall concern you!
It is well known there have been, to the metaphysical head, difficulties almost insuperable as to How, in the System of Nature, Motion is? How, in the name of wonder, it can be; and even, Whether it is at all? Difficulties to the metaphysical head, sticking its nose into the gutter there;—not difficult to my readers and me, who can at all times walk across the room, and triumphantly get over them. But stick your nose into any gutter, entity, or object, this of Motion or another, with obstinacy,—you will easily drown, if that be your determination!—Suffice it for us to know in this matter, that Maupertuis, intensely watching Nature, has discovered, That the key of her enigma (or at least the ultimate central DOOR, which hides all her Motional enigmas, the key to WHICH cannot even be imagined as discoverable!) is, that "Nature is superlatively THRIFTY in this affair of motion;" that she employs, for every Motion done or do-able, "a MINIMUM OF ACTION;" and that, if you well understand this, you will, at least, announce all her procedures in one proposition, and have found the DOOR which leads to everything. Which will be a comfort to you; still looking vainly for the key, if there is still no key conceivable.
Perpetual President Maupertuis, having surprised Nature in this manner, read Papers upon it to an Academy listening with upturned eyes; new Papers, perfected out of old,—for he has long been hatching these Phoenix-eggs; and has sent them out complete, quite lately, in a little Book called COSMOLOGIE, where alone I have had the questionable benefit of reading them. Grandly brief, as if coming from Delphi, the utterance is; loftily solemn, elaborately modest, abstruse to the now human mind; but intelligible, had it only been worth understanding:—a painful little Book, that COSMOLOGIE, as the Perpetual President's generally are. "Minimum of Action, LOI D'EPARGNE, Law of Thrift," he calls this sublime Discovery;—thinks it will be Sovereign in Natural Theology as well: "For how could Nature be a Save-all, without Designer present?"—and speaks, of course, among other technical points, about "VIS VIVA, or Velocity multiplied by the Square of the Time:" which two points, "LOI D'EPARGNE," and that "the VIS VIVA is always a Minimum," the reader can take along with him; I will permit him to shake the others into Limbo again, as forgettable by human nature at this epoch and henceforth.
In La Beaumelle's—Vie de Maupertuis—(printed at last, Paris, 1856, after lying nearly a century in manuscript, an obtuse worthless leaden little Book), there is much loud droning and detailing, about this COSMOLOGIE, this sublime "Discovery," and the other sublime Discoveries, Insights and Apocalyptic Utterances of Maupertuis; though in so confused a fashion, it is seldom you can have the poor pleasure of learning exactly when, or except by your own severe scrutiny, exactly what. For reasons that will appear, certain of those Apocalyptic Utterances by Perpetual President Maupertuis have since got a new interest, and one has actually a kind of wish to read the IPSISSIMA VERBA of them, at this date! But in La Beaumelle (his modern Editor lying fast asleep throughout) there is no vestige of help. Nay Maupertuis's own Book, [—OEuvres de Maupertuis,—Lyon, 1756, 4 vols. 4to.] luxurious cream-paper Quartos, or Octaves made four-square by margin,—which you buy for these and the cognate objects,—proves altogether worthless to you. The Maupertuis Quartos are not readable for their own sake (solemnly emphatic statement of what you already know; concentrated struggle to get on wing, and failure by so narrow a miss; struggle which gets only on tiptoe, and won't cease wriggling and flapping); and then (to your horror) they prove to be carefully cleaned of all the Maupertuis-VOLTAIRE matter;—edition being SUBSEQUENT to that world-famous explosion. CAVEAT EMPTOR.—Our Excerpt proceeds:—
"Industrious Konig, like other mathematical people, has been listening to these Oracles on the 'Law of Minimum,' by the Perpetual President; and grieves to find, after study, That said Law does not quite hold; that in fact it is, like Descartes's old key or general door, worth little or nothing; as Leibnitz long ago seems to have transiently recognized. Konig has put his strictures on paper: but will not dream of publishing, till the Perpetual President have examined them and satisfied himself; and that is Konig's business at present, as he knocks on Maupertuis, while Sol is crossing the Line. Maupertuis has a House of the due style: Wife a daughter of Minister Borck's (high Borcks, 'old as the DIUVEL'); no children;—his back courts always a good deal dirty with pelicans, bustards, perhaps snakes and other zoological wretches, which sometimes intrude into the drawing-rooms, otherwise very fine. A man of some whims, some habits; arbitrary by nature, but really honest, though rather sublimish in his interior, with red Wig and yellow bottom.
"Konig, all filial gladness, is received gladly;—though, by degrees, with some surprise, on the paternal part, to find Konig ripened out of son, client and pupil, into independent posture of a grown man. Frankly certain enough about himself, and about the axioms of mathematics. Standing, evidently, on his own legs; kindly as ever, but on these new terms,—in fact rather an outspoken free-and-easy fellow (I should guess), not thinking that offence can be taken among friends. Formey confesses, this was uncomfortable to Maupertuis; in fact, a shock which he could not recover from. They had various meetings, over dinner aud otherwise, at the Perpetual President's, for perhaps two weeks at this time (dates all to be had in Formey's Note-book, if anybody would consult); in the whole course of which the shock to the Perpetual President increased, instead of diminishing. Republican freedom and equality is evidently Konig's method; Konig heeds not a whit the oracular talent or majestic position of Maupertuis; argues with the frankest logic, when he feels dissent;—drives a majestic Perpetual President, especially in the presence of third parties, much out of patience. Thus, one evening, replying to some argument of the Perpetual President's, he begins: 'My poor friend, MON PAUVRE AMI, don't you perceive, then'—Upon which Maupertuis sprang from his chair, violently stamping, and pirouetted round the room, 'Poor friend, poor friend? are you so rich: then!' frank Konig merely grinning till the paroxysm passed. [Formey, i. 177.] Konig went home again, RE INFECTA about the end of the month."
Such a Konig—had better not have come! As to his strictures on the LAW OF THRIFT, the arguings on them, alone together, or with friends by, merely set Maupertuis pirouetting: and as to the Konig Manuscripts on them "to be published in the Leipzig ACTA, after your remarks and permission," Maupertuis absolutely refused to look at said Manuscripts: "Publish them there, here, everywhere, in the Devil and his Grandmother's name; and then there is an end, Monsieur!" Konig went his ways therefore, finding nothing else for it; published his strictures, in the Leipzig ACTA in March next,—and never saw Maupertuis again, for one result, out of several that followed! I have no doubt he was out to Voltaire, more than once, in this fortnight; and eat "the King's roast" pleasantly with that eminent old friend. Voltaire always thought him a BON GARCON (justly, by all the evidence I have); and finds his talk agreeable, and his Berlin news—especially that of Maupertuis and his explosive pirouettings. Adieu, Herr Professor; you know not, with your Leipzig ACTA and Fragment of Leibnitz, what an explosion you are preparing!
Chapter VII.—M. DE VOLTAIRE HAS A PAINFUL JEW-LAWSUIT.
Voltaire's Terrestrial Paradise at Berlin did not long continue perfect. Scarcely had that grand Carrousel vanished in the azure firmaments, when little clouds began rising in its stead; and before long, black thunder-storms of a very strange and even dangerous character.
It must have been a painful surprise to Friedrich to hear from his Voltaire, some few weeks after those munificences, That he, Voltaire, was in very considerable distress of mind, from the bad, not to call it the felonious and traitorous, conduct of M. D'Arnaud,—once Friedrich's shoeing-horn and "rising-sun" for Voltaire's behoof; now a vague flaunting creature, without significance to Friedrich or anybody! That D'Arnaud had done this and done that, of an Anti-Voltairian, treasonous nature;—and that, in short, life was impossible in the neighborhood of such a D'Arnaud!"D'Arnaud has corrupted my Clerk (Prince Henri hungering in vain for LA PUCELLE, has got sight of it, in this way); [Clerk was dismissed accordingly (one Tinois, an ingenious creature),—and COLLINI appointed in his stead.] D'Arnaud has been gossiping to Freron and the Paris Newspapers; D'Arnaud has" [Voltaire to Friedrich (—OEuvres de Frederic,—xxii. 257), undated, "November, 1750."]—Has, in effect, been a flaunting young fool; of dissolute, esurient, slightly profligate turn; occasionally helping in the Theatricals, and much studious to make himself notable, and useful to the Princely kind. A D'Arnaud of nearly no significance, to Friedrich or to anybody. A D'Arnaud whose bits of fooleries and struttings about, in the peacock or jackdaw way, might surely have been below the notice of a Trismegistus!
Friedrich, painfully made sensible what a skinless explosive Trismegistus he has got on hand, answers, I suppose, in words little or nothing,—in Letters, I observe, answers absolutely nothing, to Voltaire repeating and re-repeating;—does simply dismiss D'Arnaud (a "BON DIABLE," as Voltaire, to impartial people, calls him), or accept D'Arnaud's demission, and cut the poor fool adrift. Who sallies out into infinite space, to Paris latterly ("alive there in 1805"); and claims henceforth perpetual oblivion from us and mankind. And now there will be peace in our garden of the gods, and perpetual azure will return?
Alas, D'Arnaud is not well gone, when there has begun brewing in threefold secrecy a mass of galvanic matter, which, in few weeks more, filled the Heavens with miraculous foul gases and the blackness of darkness;—which, in short, exploded about New-year's time, as the world-famous VOLTAIRE-HIRSCH LAWSUIT, still remembered, though only as a portent and mystery, by observant on-lookers. Of which it is now our sad duty to say something; though nowhere, in the Annals of Jurisprudence, is there a more despicable thing, or a deeper involved in lies and deliriums by current reporters of it, about which the sane mind can be called upon accidentally to speak a word. Beaten, riddled, shovelled, washed in many waters, by a patient though disgusted Predecessor in this field, there lies by me a copious but wearisome Narrative of this matter;—the more vivid portions of which, if rightly disengaged, and shown in sequence, may satisfy the curious.
Duvernet (who, I can guess, had talked with D'Arget on the subject) has, alone of the French Biographers, some glimmer of knowledge about it; Duvernet admits that it was a thing of Illegal Stock-jobbing; that—
1. "That M. de Voltaire had agreed with a Jew named Hirsch to go to Dresden and, illegally, PURCHASE a good lot of STEUER-SCHEINE [Saxon Exchequer Bills, which are payable in gold to a BONA FIDE PRUSSIAN holding them, but are much in discount otherwise, as readers may remember]; and given Hirsch a Draft on Paris, due after some weeks, for payment of the same; Hirsch leaving him a stock of jewels in pledge till the STEUER-SCHEINE themselves come to hand.
2. "That Hirsch, having things of his own in view with the money, sent no STEUER-SCHEINE from Dresden, nothing but vague lying talk instead of STEUER: so that Voltaire's suspicions naturally kindling, he stopped payment of the Paris Draft, and ordered Hirsch to come home at once.
3. "That Hirsch coming, a settlement was tried: 'Give me back my Draft on Paris, you objectionable blockhead of a Hirsch; there are your Diamonds, there is something even for your expenses (some fair moiety, I think); and let me never see your unpleasant face again!' To which Hirsch, examining the diamonds, answered [says Duvernet, not substantially incorrect hitherto, though stepping along in total darkness, and very partial on Voltaire's behalf],—Hirsch, examining the diamonds, answered, 'But you have changed some of them! I cannot take these!'—and drove Voltaire quite to despair, and into the Law-Courts; which imprisoned Hirsch, and made him do justice." [Duvernet (T.J.D.V.), 170, 173, 175:—vague utterly; dateless (tries one date, and is mistaken even in the Year); wrong in nearly every detail; "the 'STAIRE or STEUER was a BANK?" &c. &c.]
In which last clause, still more in the conclusion, that it was "to the triumph of Voltaire," Duvernet does substantially mistake! And indeed, except as the best Parisian reflex of this matter, his Account is worth nothing:—though it may serve as Introduction to the following irrefragable Documents and more explicit featurings. We learn from him, and it is the one thing we learn of credible, That "Voltaire, when it came to Law Procedures, begged Maupertuis to speak for him to M. Jarriges," a Prussian Frenchman, "one of the Judges; and that Maupertuis answered, 'I cannot interfere in a bad business (ME MELER D'UNE MAUVAISE AFFAIRE).'" The other French Biographies, definable as "IGNOR-AMUS speaking in a loud voice to IGNOR-ATIS," require to be altogether swept aside in this matter. Even "Clog." jumbling Voltaire's undated LETTERS into confusion thrice confounded, and droning out vituperatively in the dark, becomes a MINUS quantity in these Friedrich affairs. In regard to the Hirsch Process, our one irrefragable set of evidences is: The Prussian LAW-REPORT by KLEIN,—especially the Documents produced in Court, and the Sentence given. [Ernst Ferdinand Klein,—Annalen der Gesetzgebung und Rechtsgelehrsamkeit in den Preussischen Staaten—(Berlin und Stettin), 1790, v. 215-260.] Other lights are to be gathered, with severe scrutiny and caution, from the circumambient contemporary rumor,—especially from the PREFACE to a "Comedy" so called of "TANTALE EN PROCES (Tantalus," Voltaire, "at Law");—which PREFACE is evidently Hirsch's own Story, put into language for him by some humane friend, and addressed to a "clear-seeing Public." [TANTALE EN PROCES (ascribed to Friedrich himself, by some wonderful persons!) is in—Supplement aux OEuvres Posthumes de Frederic II.—(Cologne, 1789), i. 319 et seq. Among the weakest of Comedies (might be by D'Arnaud, or some such hand); nothing in it worth reading except the Preface.] "And in fine," says my Manuscript, "by sweeping out the distinctly false, and well discriminating the indubitable from what is still in part dubitable, sufficient twilight [abridgable in a high degree, I hope!] rises over the Affair, to render it visible in all its main features."
THE VOLTAIRE-HIRSCH TRANSACTION: PART I. ORIGIN OF LAWSUIT (10th November-25th December, 1750).
"Saxon STEUER-SCHEIN, some readers know, is, in the rough, equivalent to Exchequer Bill. Payable at the Saxon Treasury; to Prussians, in gold; to all other men, in paper only,—which (thanks to Bruhl and his unheard-of expenditures and financierings) is now at a discount say of 25, or even 30 per cent. By Article Eleventh of the Dresden TREATY OF PEACE, King Friedrich, if our readers have not forgotten, got stipulated, That all Prussian holders of these SCHEINE should be paid in gold; interest at the due days; and at the due days principal itself:—in gold they, whatever became of others. No farther specifications, as to proof, method, limits or conditions of any kind, occur in regard to this Eleventh Article; which is a just one, beyond doubt, but most carelessly drawn up. Apparently it trusts altogether to the personal honesty of all Prussian subjects: 'Prove yourself a Prussian subject, and we pay your Steuer-Schein in real money.' But now if a Saxon or other Non-Prussian, who can get no payment save in paper, were to have his Note smuggled or trafficked over into Prussia, and presented as a Prussian one? In our time, such traffic would start on the morrow morning; and in a week or two, all Notes whatsoever would be presented as Prussian, payable in gold! Not so in those days;—though a small contraband of that kind does by degrees threaten to establish itself, and Friedrich had to publish severe rescripts (one before this Hirsch-Voltaire business, [10th August, 1748 (Seyfarth, i. 62).] one still severer after), and menace it down again. The malpractice seems to have proved menaceable in that manner; nor was any new arrangement made upon it,—no change, till the Steuer-Scheine, by their gradual terms, were all paid either in real money or imaginary, and thus, in the course of years, the thing burnt to the socket, and went out."
Voltaire's rash Adventure, dangerous Navigation and gradual Wreck, in this Forbidden Sea of Steuer-Scheine,—will become conceivable to readers, on study diligent enough of the following Documents and select Details:—
DOCUMENT FIRST (a small Missive, in Voltaire's hand).
"Je prie instamment monsieur hersch de venir demain mardi matin a potsdam pour affaire pressante, et d'aporter (SIC) avec luy les diamants qui doivent servir pour la representation de la tragedie qui se jouera a cinq heures de soir chez S.A.R. Monseigneur le Prince henri Ce lundy a midy. VOLTAIRE."
Which being interpreted, rightly spelt, and dated (as by chance we can do) with distinctness, will run as follows in English:—
"POTSDAM, Monday, 9th November, 1750. "I earnestly request Mr. Hirsch to come to-morrow Tuesday morning to Potsdam, on business that is urgent; and to bring with him the Diamonds needed for the Tragedy which is to be represented, at five in the evening, in His Royal Highness Prince Henry's Apartment." [Klein, v. 260.]
"On Tuesday the 10th," say the Old Newspapers, "was ROME SAUVEE;"—with Voltaire, perceptible there as "CICERON," [Rodenbeck, i. 209.] in due A glorious enough Cicero;—and such a piece of "urgent business" done with your Hirsch, just before emerging on the stage!
"Hirsch, in that NARRATIVE, describes himself as a young innocent creature. Not very old, we will believe: but as to innocence!—For certain, he is named Abraham Hirsch, or Hirschel: a Berlin Jew of the Period; whom one inclines to figure as a florid oily man, of Semitic features, in the prime of life; who deals much in jewels, moneys, loans, exchanges, all kinds of Jew barter; whether absolutely in old clothes, we do not know—certainly not unless there is a penny to be turned. The man is of oily Semitic type, not old in years,—there is a fraternal Hirsch, and also a paternal, who is head of the firm;—and this young one seems to be already old in Jew art. Speaks French and other dialects, in a Hebrew, partially intelligible manner; supplies Voltaire with diamonds for his stage-dresses, as we perceive. To all appearance, nearly destitute of human intellect, but with abundance of vulpine instead. Very cunning; stupid, seemingly, as a mule otherwise;—and, on the whole, resembling in various points of character a mule put into breeches, and made acquainted with the uses of money. He is come 'on pressing business,'—perhaps not of stage-diamonds alone? Here now is DOCUMENT SECOND; nearly of the same date; may be of the very same;—more likely is a few days later, and betokens mysterious dialogue and consultation held on Tuesday 10th. It is in two hands: written on some scrap or TORN bit of paper, to judge by the length of the lines."
"In Voltaire's hand, this part:—
—'Savoir s'il est encore tems de declarer les billets qu'on a sur la steure. si on en specifie le numero dans la declaration.'—
'If it is still time to declare [to announce in Saxony and demand payment for] Notes one holds on the Steuer? If one is to specify the No. in the declaration?'
"In Hirsch's hand, this part:—
—'l'on peut declarer des billets sur la steure, qu'on a en depost en pays etranger, et dont on ne pourra savoir le numero que dans quinze jours ou trois Semaines.'—[Klein, 259.]
'One can declare Notes on the Steuer, which one holds in deposit in Foreign Countries; and of which one cannot state the No. till after a fortnight or three weeks.'
"Which of these Two was the Serpent, which the Eve, in this STEUER-SCHEIN Tree of Knowledge, that grew in the middle of Paradise, remains entirely uncertain. Hirsch, of course, says it was Voltaire; Voltaire (not aware that DOCUMENT SECOND remained in existence) had denied that his Hirsch business was in any way concerned with STEUER;—and must have been a good deal struck, when DOCUMENT SECOND came to light; though what could he do but still deny! Hirsch asserts himself to have objected the 'illegality, the King's anger;' but that Voltaire answered in hints about his favor with the King; 'about his power to make one a Court-Jeweller,' if he liked; and so at last tempted the baby innocence of Hirsch;—for the rest, admits that the Steuer-Notes were expected to yield a Profit—of 35 per cent:—and, in fact, a dramatic reader can imagine to himself dialogue enough, at different times, going on, partly by words, partly by hint, innuendo and dumb-show, between this Pair of Stage-Beauties. But, for near a fortnight after DOCUMENT FIRST, there is nothing dated, or that can be clearly believed,—till,
"MONDAY, 23d NOVEMBER, 1750. It is credibly certain the Jew Hirsch came again, this day, to the Royal Schloss of Potsdam, to Voltaire's apartment there [right overhead of King Friedrich's, it is!]—where, after such dialogue as can be guessed at, there was handed to Hirsch by Voltaire, in the form of Two negotiable Bills, a sum of about 2,250 pounds; with which the Jew is to make at once for Dresden, and buy Steuer-Scheine. [Hirsch's Narrative, in Preface to—Tantale en Proces,—p. 340.] Steuer-Scheine without fail: 'but in talking or corresponding on the matter, we are always to call them FURS or DIAMONDS,'—mystery of mysteries being the rule for us. This considerable sum of 2,250 pounds may it not otherwise, contrives Voltaire, be called a 'Loan' to Jeweller Hirsch, so obliging a Jeweller, to buy 'Furs' or 'Diamonds' with? At a gain of 35 per 100 Pieces, there will be above 800 pounds to me, after all expenses cleared: a very pretty stroke of business do-able in few days!"—
"Monday, 23d November:" The beautiful Wilhelmina, one remarks, is just making her packages; right sad to end such a Visit as this had been! Thursday night, from her first sleeping-place, there is a touching Farewell to her Brother;—tender, melodiously sorrowful, as the Song of the Swan. [Wilhelmina to Friedrich, "Brietzen, 26th November, JOUR FUNESTE POUR MOI" (—OEuvres de Frederic,—xxvii. i. 197).] To Voltaire she was always good; always liked Voltaire. Voltaire would be saying his Adieus, in state, among the others, to that high Being,—just in the hours while such a scandalous Hirsch-Concoction went, on underground!
"As to the Two Bills and Voltaire's security for them, readers are to note as follows. Bill FIRST is a Draft, on Voltaire's Paris Banker for 40,000 livres (about 1,600 pounds), not payable for some weeks: 'This I lend you, Monsieur Hirsch; mind, LEND you,—to buy Furs!' 'Yes, truly, what we call Furs;—and before the Bill falls payable, there will be effects for it in Monseigneur de Voltaire's hand; which is security enough for Monseigneur.' The SECOND Bill, again"—Truth is, there were in succession two Second Bills, an INTENDED-Second (of this same Monday 23d), which did not quite suit, and an ACTUAL-Second (two days later), which did. INTENDED-Second Bill was one for 4,000 thalers (about 600 pounds), drawn by Voltaire on the Sieur Ephraim,—a very famous Jew of Berlin now and henceforth, with whom as money-changer, if not yet otherwise (which perhaps Ephraim thinks unlucky), Voltaire, it would seem, is in frequent communication. This Bill, Ephraim would not accept; told Hirsch he owed M. de Voltaire nothing; "turned me rudely away," says Hirsch (two of a trade, and no friends, he and I!)—so that there is nothing to be said of this Ephraim Bill; and except as it elucidates some dark portions of the whirlpools, need not have been noticed at all. "Hirsch," continues my Authority, "got only Two available Bills; the first on Paris for 1,600 pounds, payable in some weeks; and, after a day or two, this other: The ACTUAL BILL SECOND; which is a Draft for 4,430 thalers (about 650 pounds), by old Father Hirsch, head of the Firm, on Voltaire himself:—'Furs too with that, Monsieur Hirsch, at the rate of 35 per piece, you understand?' 'Yea, truly, Monseigneur!'—Draft accepted by Voltaire, and the cash for it now handed to Hirsch Son: the only absolutely ready money he has yet got towards the affair.
"For these Two Bills, especially for this Second, I perceive, Voltaire holds borrowed jewels (borrowed in theatrical times, or partly bought, from the Hirsch Firm, and not paid for), which make him sure till he see the STEUER Papers themselves.—(And now off, my good Sieur Hirsch; and know that if you please ME, there are—things in my power which would suit a man in the Jeweller and Hebrew line!) Hirsch pushes home to Berlin; primed and loaded in this manner; Voltaire naturally auxious enough that the shot may hit. Alas, the shot will not even go off, for some time: an ill omen!
"SUNDAY, 29th NOVEMBER, Hirsch, we hear, is still in Berlin. Fancy the humor of Voltaire, after such a week as last! (TUESDAY, December 1st) Hirsch still is not off: 'Go, you son of Amalek!' urges Voltaire; and sends his Servant Picard, a very sharp fellow, for perhaps the third time,—who has orders now, as Hirsch discovers, to stay with him, not quit sight of him till he do go. [Hirsch's Narrative; see Voltaire's Letter to D'Arget (—OEuvres,—lxiv. 11).] Hirsch's hour of departure for Dresden is not mentioned in the ACTS; but I guess he could hardly get over Wednesday, with Picard dogging him on these terms; and must have taken the diligence on Wednesday night: to arrive in Dresden about December 4th. 'Well; at least, our shot is off; has not burst out, and lodged in our person here,—thanked be all the gods!'
"Off, sure enough:—and what should we say if the whole matter were already oozing out; if, on this same Sunday evening, November 29th) not quite a week's time yet, the matter (as we learn long afterwards) had been privately whispered to his Majesty: 'That Voltaire has sent off a Jew to buy Steuer-Scheine, and has promised to get him made Court-Jeweller!' [Voltaire,—OEuvres,—lxxiv. 314 ("Letter to Friedrich, February, 1751,"—AFTER Catastrophe).], So; within a week, and before Hirsch is even gone! For men are very porous; weighty secrets oozing out of them, like quicksilver through clay jars. I could guess, Hirsch, by way of galling insolent Ephraim, had blabbed something: and in the course of five days, it has got to the very King,—this Kammerherr Voltaire being such a favorite and famous man as never was; the very bull's-eye of all kinds of Berlin gossip in these days. 'Hm, Steuer-Scheine, and the Jew Hirsch to be Court-Jeweller, you say?' thinks the King, that Sunday night; but locks the rumor in his Royal mind, he, for his part; or dismisses it as incredible: 'There ought to be impervious vessels too, among the porous!' Voltaire notices nothing particular, or nothing that he speaks of as particular. This must have been a horrid week to him, till Hirsch got away." Hirsch is away (December 2d); in Dresden, safe enough; but—
"But, the fortnight that follows is conceivable as still worse. Hirsch writing darkly, nothing to the purpose; Voltaire driving often into Berlin, hearing from Ephraim hints about, 'No connection with that House;' 'If Monseigneur have intrusted Hirsch with money,—may there be a good account of it!' and the like. Black Care devouring Monseigueur; but nothing definite; except the fact too evident, That Hirsch does not send or bring the smallest shadow of Steuer-Scheine,—'Peltries,' or 'Diamonds,' we mean,—or any value whatever for that Paris Bill of ours, payable shortly, and which he has already got cashed in Dresden. Nothing but excuses, prevarications; stupid, incoherently deceptive jargon, as of a mule intent on playing fox with you. Vivid Correspondence is conceivable; but nothing of it definite to us, except this sample" (which we give translated):—
DOCUMENT THIRD (torn fraction in Voltaire's hand: To Hirsch, doubtless; early in December).... "Not proper (IL NE FALLAIT PAS) to negotiate Bills of Exchange, and never produce a single diamond"—bit of peltry, or ware of any kind, you son of Amalek! "Not proper to say: I have got money for your bills of exchange, and I bring you nothing back; and I will repay your money when you shall no longer be here [in Germany at all]. Not proper to promise at 35 louis, and then say 30. To say 30, and then next morning 25. You should at least have produced goods (IL FALLAIT EN DONNER) at the price current; very easy to do when one was on the spot. All your procedures have been faults hitherto. [Klein, v. 259.]
"These are dreadful symptoms. Steuer-Notes, promised at 35 discount, are not to be had except at 30. Say 30 then, and get done with it, mule of a scoundrel! Next day the 30 sinks to 25; and not a Steuer-Note, on any terms, comes to hand. And the mule of a scoundrel has drawn money, in Dresden yonder, for my Bill on Paris,—excellent to him for trade of his own! What is to be done with such an Ass of Balaam? He has got the bit in his teeth, it would seem. Heavens, he too is capable of stopping short, careless of spur and cudgel; and miraculously speaking to a NEW Prophet [strange new "Revealer of the Lord's Will," in modern dialect], in this enlightened Eighteenth Century itself!—One thing the new Prophet, can do: protest his Paris Bill.
"DECEMBER 12th [our next bit of certainty], Voltaire writes, haste, haste, to Paris, 'Don't pay;' and intimates to Hirsch, 'You will have to return your Dresden Banker his money for that Paris Bill. At Paris I have protested it, mark me; and there it never will be paid to him or you. And you must come home again instantly, job undone, lies not untold, you—!' Hirsch, with money in hand, appears not to have wanted for a briskish trade of his own in the Dresden marts. But this of cutting off his supplies brings him instantly back:"—and at Berlin, DECEMBER 16th, new facts emerge again of a definite nature.
"WEDNESDAY, 16th DECEMBER, 1750. 'To-day the King with Court and Voltaire come to Berlin for the Carnival;' [Rodenbeck, i. 209.] to-day also Voltaire, not in Carnival humor, has appointed his Jew to meet him. In the Royal Palace itself,—we hope, well remote from Friedrich's Apartment!—this sordid conference, needing one's choicest diplomacy withal, and such exquisite handling of bit and spur, goes on. And probably at great length. Of which, as the FINALE, and one clear feature significant to the fancy, here is,—for record of what they call 'COMPLETE SETTLEMENT,' which it was far from turning out to be:—
DOCUMENT FOURTH (in Hirsch's hand, First Piece of it).
—"'Pour quittance generale promettant de rendre a Mr. de Voltaire tous billets, ordres et lettres de change a moy donnez jusqu'a ce jour, 16 Decembre, 1750.—
"'Account all settled; I promising to return M. de Voltaire all Letters, Orders and Bills of Exchange given me to this day, 16th December, 1750.
[Hirsch signs. But you have forgotten something, Monsieur Hirsch! Whereupon]—et promets de donner a Mr. de Voltaire dans le jour de demain ou apres au plustard deux cent guatre-vingt frederics d'or au lieu de deux cent quatre-vingt louis d'or, que je lui ai payez, le tout pour quittance generale, ce 16 Decembre, 1750, a berlin—And promise to give M. de Voltaire, in the course of to-morrow, or the day after to-morrow at latest, 280 FREDERICS D'OR, instead of 280 LOUIS D'OR [gold FREDERICS the preferabe coin, say experts] which I have now paid him; whereby All will be settled.
[Hirsch again signs; but has again forgotten something, most important thing. And]—je lui remettrai surtout les 40,000 livres de billets de change sur paris qu'il mavoit donnez et fiez'—I will especially return him the Bill on Paris for 40,000 livres (1,600 pounds) which he had given and trusted to me,'—but has since protested, as is too evident.
[And Hirsch signs for the last time]." [Klein, pp. 258, 260.]—
Symptomatic, surely, of a haggly settlement, these THREE shots instead of one!—"Voltaire's return is:—
—"'Pour quittance generale de tout compte solde entre nous, tout paye au sieur abraham hersch a berlin, 16 Decembre, 1750.—Voltaire'— "'Account all settled between us, payment of the Sieur Abraham Hirsch in full: Berlin, 16th Deember, 1750.'
[which Second Piece, we perceive, is to lie in Hirsch's hand, to keep, if he find it valuable].
"This 'COMPLETE SETTLEMENT,'—little less than miraculous to Voltaire and us,—one finds, after sifting, to have been the fruit of Voltaire's exquisite skill in treating and tuning his Hirsch (no harshness of rebuke, rather some gleam of hope, of future bargains, help at Court): (Your expenses; compensation for protesting of that Bill on Paris? Tush, cannot we make all that good! In the first place, I will BUY of you these Jewels [this one discovers to have been the essence of the operation!], all or the best part of them, which I have here in pawn for Papa's Bill: 650 pounds was it not? Well, suppose I on the instant take 450 pounds worth, or so, of these Jewels (I want a great many jewels); and you to pay me down a 200 or so of gold LOUIS as balance,—gold LOUIS, no, we will say FREDERICS rather. There now, that is settled. Nothing more between us but settles itself, if we continue friends!' Upon which Hirsch walked home, thankful for the good job in Jewels; wondering only what the Allowance for Expenses and Compensation will be. And Voltaire steps out, new-burnished, into the Royal Carnival splendors, with a load rolled from his mind.
"This COMPLETE SETTLEMENT, meanwhile, rests evidently on two legs, both of which are hollow. 'What will the handsome Compensation be, I wonder?' thinks Hirsch;—and is horror-struck to find shortly, that Voltaire considers 60 thalers (about 9 pounds) will be the fair sum! 'More than ten times that!' is Hirsch's privately fixed idea. On the other hand, Voltaire has been asking himself, 'My 450 pounds worth of Jewels, were they justly valued, though?' Jew Ephraim (exaggerative and an enemy to this Hirsch House) answers, 'Justly? I would give from 300 pounds to 250 pounds for them!'—So that the legs both crumbling to powder, Complete Settlement crashes down into chaos: and there ensues,"—But we must endeavor to be briefer!
There ensues, for about a week following, such an inextricable scramble between the Sieur Hirsch and M. de Voltaire as,—as no reader, not himself in the Jew-Bill line, or paid for understanding it, could consent to have explained to him. Voltaire, by way of mending the bad jewel-bargain, will buy of Hirsch 200 pounds worth more jewels; gets the new 200 pounds worth in hand, cannot quite settle what articles will suit: "This, think you? That, think you?" And intricately shuffles them about, to Hirsch and back. Hirsch, singular to notice, holds fast by that Protested Paris Bill; on frivolous pretexts, always forgets to bring that: "May have its uses, that, in a Court of Justice yet!" Meetings there are, almost daily, in the Voltaire Palace-Apartment; DECEMBER 19th and DECEMBER 24th) there are Two DOCUMENTS (which we must spare the reader, though he will hear of them again, as highly notable, especially of one of them, as notable in the extreme!)—indicating the abstrusest jewel-bargainings, scramblings, re-bargainings.
"My Jewels are truly valued!" asseverates Hirsch always: "Ephraim is my enemy; ask Herr Reklam, chief Jeweller in Berlin, an impartial man!" The meetings are occasionally of stormy character; Voltaire's patience nearly out: "But did n't I return you that Topaz Ring, value 75 pounds? And you have NOT deducted it; you—!" "One day, Picard and he pulled a Ring [doubtless this Topaz] off my finger," says the pathetic Hirsch, "and violently shoved me out of the room, slamming their door,"—and sent me home, along the corridors, in a very scurvy humor! Thus, under a skin of second settlement, there are two galvanic elements, getting ever more galvanic, which no skin of settlement can prevent exploding before long.
Explosion there accordingly was; most sad and dismal; which rang through all the Court circles of Berlin; and, like a sound of hooting and of weeping mixed, is audible over seas to this day. But let not the reader insist on tracing the course of it henceforth. Klein, though faithful and exact, is not a Pitaval; and we find in him errors of the press. The acutest Actuary might spend weeks over these distracted Money-accounts, and inconsistent Lists of Jewels bought and not bought; and would be unreadable if successful. Let us say, The business catches fire at this point; the Voltaire-Hirsch theatre is as if blown up into mere whirlwinds of igneous rum and smoky darkness. Henceforth all plunges into Lawsuit, into chaos of conflicting lies,—undecipherable, not worth deciphering. Let us give what few glimpses of the thing are clearly discernible at their successive dates, and leave the rest to picture itself in the reader's fancy.
It appears, that Meeting of DECEMBER 24th, above alluded to, was followed by another on Christmas-day, which proved the final one. Final total explosion took place at this new meeting;—which, we find farther, was at Chasot's Lodging (the CHAPEAU of Hanbury), who is now in Town, like all the world, for Carnival. Hirsch does not directly venture on naming Chasot: but by implication, by glimmers of evidence elsewhere, one sufficiently discovers that it is he: Lieutenant-Colonel, King's Friend, a man glorious, especially ever since Hohenfriedberg, and that haul of the "sixty-seven standards" all at once. In the way of Arbitration, Voltaire thinks Chasot might do something. In regard to those 450 pounds worth of bought Jewels, there is not such a judge in the world! Hirsch says: "Next morning [December 25th, morrow after that jumbly Account, with probable slamming of the door, and still worse!], Voltaire went to a Lieutenant-Colonel in the King's service; and ask him to send for me." [Duvernet (Second), p. 172; Hirsch's Narrative (in—Tantale,—p. 344).] This is Chasot; who knows these jewels well. Duvernet,—who had talked a good deal with D'Arget, in latter years, and alone of Frenchmen sometimes yields a true particle of feature in things Prussian,—Duvernet tells us, these Jewels were once Chasot's own: given him by a fond Duchess of Mecklenburg,—musical old Duchess, verging towards sixty; HONI SOIT, my friend! What Hirsch gave Chasot for these Jewels is not a doubtful quantity; and may throw conviction into Hirsch, hopes Voltaire.
DECEMBER 25th, 1750. The interview at Chasot's was not lengthy, but it was decisive. Hirsch never brings that Paris Bill; privately fixed, on that point. Hirsch's claims, as we gradually unravel the intricate mule-mind of him, rise very high indeed. "And as to the value of those Jewels, and what I allowed YOU for them, Monsieur Chasot; that is no rule: trade-profits, you know"—Nay, the mule intimates, as a last shift, That perhaps they are not the same Jewels; that perhaps M. de Voltaire has changed some of them! Whereupon the matter catches fire, irretrievably explodes. M. de Voltaire's patience flies quite done; and, fire-eyed fury now guiding, he springs upon the throat of Hirsch like a cat-o'-mountain; clutches Hirsch by the windpipe; tumbles him about the room: "Infamous canaille, do you know whom you have got to do with? That it is in my power to stick you into a hole underground for the rest of your life? Sirrah, I will ruin and annihilate you!"—and "tossed me about the room with his fist on my throat," says Hirsch; "offering to have pity nevertheless, if I would take back the Jewels, and return all writings." [Narrative (in—Tantale—).] Eyes glancing like a rattlesnake's, as we perceive; and such a phenomenon as Hirsch had not expected, this Christmas! In short, the matter has here fairly exploded, and is blazing aloft, as a mass of intricate fuliginous ruin, not to be deciphered henceforth. Such a scene for Chasot on the Christmas-day at Berlin! And we have got to
PART II. THE LAWSUIT ITSELF (30th December, 1750-18th and 26th February, 1751).
Hirsch slunk hurriedly home, uncertain whether dead or alive. Old Hirsch, hearing of such explosion, considered his house and family ruined; and, being old and feeble, took to bed upon it, threatening to break his heart. Voltaire writes to Niece Denis, on the morrow; not hinting at the Hirsch matter, far from that; but in uncommonly dreary humor: "My splendor here, my glory, never was the like of it; MAIS, MAIS," BUT, and ever again BUT, at each new item,—in fact, the humor of a glorious Phoenix-Peacock suddenly douched and drenched in dirty water, and feeling frost at hand! ["To Madame Denis" (lxxiv. 279, "Berlin Palace, 26th December, 1750;"—and ib. 249, 257, &c. of other dates).] Humor intelligible enough, when dates are compared.
Better than that, Voltaire is applying, on all points of the compass, to Legal and Influential Persons, for help in a Court of Law. To Chancellor Cocceji; to Jarriges (eminent Prussian Frenchman), President of Court; to Maupertuis, who knows Jarriges, but "will not meddle in a bad business;"—at last, even to dull reverend Formey, whom he had not called on hitherto. Cocceji seems to have answered, to the effect, "Most certainly: the Courts are wide open;"—but as to "help"! December 30th, the Suit, Voltaire VERSUS Hirsch, "comes to Protocol,"—that is, Cocceji, Jarriges, Loper, three eminent men, have been named to try it; and Herr Hofrath Bell, Advocate for Voltaire Plaintiff, hands in his First Statement that day. Berlin resounds, we may fancy how! Rumor, laughter and wonder are in all polite quarters; and continue, more or less vivid, for above two months coming. Here is one direct glimpse of Plaintiff, in this interim; which we will give, though the eyes are none of the best: "The first visit I," Formey, "had from Voltaire was in the afternoon of January 8th) 1751 [Suit begun ten days ago]. I had, at the time, a large party of friends. Voltaire walked across the Apartment, without looking at anybody; and, taking me by the hand, made me lead him to a cabinet adjoining. His Lawsuit with a Jew was the matter on hand. He talked to me at large about his Lawsuit, and with the greatest vehemence; he wound up by asking me to speak to Law-President M. de Jarriges (since Chancellor): I answered what was suitable;"—probably did speak to Jarriges, but might as well have held my tongue. "Voltaire then took his leave: stepping athwart the former Apartment with some precipitation, he noticed my eldest little girl, then in her fourth year, who was gazing at the diamonds on his Cross of the Order of Merit. 'Bagatelles, bagatelles, MON ENFANT!' said he, and disappeared." [Formey, i. 232.]
On New-Year's day, Friday, 1st January, 1751, Voltaire had legally applied to Herr Minister von Bismark, for Warrant to arrest Hirsch, as a person that will not give up Papers not belonging to him. Warrant was granted, and Hirsch lodged in Limbo. Which worsens the state of poor old Father Hirsch; threatening now really to die, of heart-break and other causes. Hirsch Son, from the interior of Limbo, appeals to Bismark, "Lord Chancellor Cocceji is seized of my Plea, your gracious Lordship!"—"All the same," answers Bismark; "produce CAUTION, or you can't get out." Hirsch produces caution; and gets out, after a day or two;—and has been "brought to Protocol January 4th." No delay in this Court: both parties, through their Advocates, are now brought to book; the points they agree in will be sifted out, and laid on this side as truth; what they differ in, left lying on that side, as a mixture of lies to be operated on by farther processes and protocols.
We will not detail the Lawsuit;—what I chiefly admire in it is its brevity. Cocceji has not reformed in vain. Good Advocates, none other allowed; and no Advocate talks; he merely endeavors to think, see and discover; holds his tongue if he can discover nothing: that doubtless is one source of the brevity!—Many lies are stated by Hirsch, many by Voltaire: but the Judges, without difficulty, shovel these aside; and come step by step upon the truth. Hirsch says plainly, He was sent to buy STEUER-SCHEINE at 35 per cent discount; Voltaire entirely denies the Steuer-Notes; says, It was an affair of Peltries and Jewelries, originating in loans of money to this ungrateful Jew. Which necessitates much wriggling on the part of M. de Voltaire;—but he has himself written in a Lawyer's Office, in his young days, and knows how to twist a turn of expression. The Judges are not there to judge about Steuer-Notes; but they give you to understand that Voltaire's Peltry-and-Jewelry story is moonshine. Hirsch produces the Voltaire Scraps of Writing, already known to our readers; Voltaire says, "Mere extinct jottings; which Hirsch has furtively picked out of the grate,"—or may be said to have picked; Papers annihilated by our Bargain of December 16th, and which should have been in the grate, if they were not; this felon never having kept his word in that respect. Peltries and Jewelries, I say: he will not give me back that Paris Bill which was protested; pays me the other 3,000 crowns (Draft of 650 pounds) in Jewels overvalued by half.—"Jewels furtively changed since Plaintiff had them of me!" answers Hirsch;—and the steady Judges keep their sieves going.
The only Documents produced by Voltaire are Two; of 19th DECEMBER and of 24th DECEMBER;—which the reader has not yet seen, but ought now to gain some notion of, if possible. They affect once more, as that of December 16th had done, to be "Final Settlements" (or Final Settlement of 19th, with CODICIL of 24th); and turn on confused Lists of Jewels, bought, returned, re-bought (that "Topaz ring" torn from one's hand, a conspicuous item), which no reader would have patience to understand, except in the succinct form. Let all readers note them, however,—at least the first of them, that of December 19th; especially the words we mark in Italics, which have merited a sad place for IT in the history of human sin and misery. Klein has given both Documents in engraved fac-simile; we must help ourselves by simpler methods. Berlin, December 19th, 1750; Voltaire writes, Hirsch signs;—and the Italics are believed to be words foisted in by M. de Voltaire, weeks after, while the Hirsch pleadings were getting stringent! Read,—a very sad memorial of M. de Voltaire,—
DOCUMENT FIFTH (in Voltaire's hand, written at two times; and the old writing MENDED in parts, to suit the new!).—"FOR PAYMENT OF 3,000 THALERS BY ME DUE, I have sold to M. de Voltaire, at the price costing by estimation and tax, with 2 per cent for my commission ["OR GRATIFICATION," written above], the following Diamonds, taxed [blotted into "TAXABLE"], as here adjoined; viz."—seven pieces of jewelry, pendeloques, &c., with price affixed, among which is the violated Topaz,—"the whole estimated by him ["him" crossed out, and "ME" written over it], being 3,640 thalers. Whereupon, received from Monsieur de Voltaire [what is very strange; not intelligible without study!] the sum of 2,940 thalers, and he has given me back the Topaz, with 60 crowns for my trouble.—Berlin, 19th December, 1750." (Hitherto in Voltaire's hand; after which Hirsch writes:) "APROUVE, A. Hirschel." [Sic: that is always his SIGNATURE; "Abraham HirschEL," so given by Klein, while Klein and everybody CALL him Hirsch (STAG), as we have done,—if only to save a syllable on the bad bargain.] And between these two lines ("... 1750" and "APPROVED..."), there is crushed in, as afterthought, "VALUED BY MYSELF [Hirsch's self], 2,940, ADD 60, IS 3,000." And, in fine, below the Hirsch signature, on what may be called the bottom margin, there is,—I think, avowedly Voltaire's and subsequent,—this: "N.B. that Hirsch's valuing of all the jewels [present lot and former lot] is, by real estimation, between twice and thrice too high;" of which, it is hoped, your Lordships will take notice!
Was there ever seen such a Paper; one end of it contradicting the other? Payment TO M. de Voltaire, and payment BY M. de Voltaire;—with other blottings and foistings, which print and italics will not represent! Hirsch denies he ever signed this Paper. Is not that your writing, then: "APROUVE, A. Hirschel"?—"No!" and they convict him of falsity in that respect: the signature IS his, but the Paper has been altered since he signed it. That is what the poor dark mortal meant to express; and in his mulish way, he has expressed into a falsity what was in itself a truth. There is not, on candid examination of Klein's Fac-similes and the other evidence, the smallest doubt but Voltaire altered, added and intercalated, in his own privacy, those words which we have printed in italics; TAXES changed into TAXABLES ("estimated at" into "estimable at"), HIM for ME, and so on; and above all, the now first line of the Paper, FOR PAYMENT OF 3,000 THALERS BY ME DUE, and in last line the words VALUED BY MYSELF, &c., are palpable interpolations, sheer falsifications, which Hirsch is made to continue signing after his back is turned!
No fact is more certain; and few are sadder in the history of M. de Voltaire. To that length has he been driven by stress of Fortune. Nay, when the Judges, not hiding their surprise at the form of this Document, asked, Will you swear it is all genuine? Voltaire answered, "Yes, certainly!"—for what will a poor man not do in extreme stress of Fortune? Hirsch, as a Jew, is not permitted to make oath, where a Quasi-Christian will swear to the contrary, or he gladly would; and might justly. The Judges, willing to prevent chance of perjury, did not bring Voltaire to swearing, but contrived a way to justice without that.
FEBRUARY 18th, 1751, the Court arrives at a conclusion. Hirsch's Diamonds, whatever may have been written or forged, are not, nor were, worth more than their value, think the Judges. The Paris Bill is admitted to be Voltaire's, not Hirsch's, continue they;—and if Hirsch can prove that Voltaire has changed the Diamonds, not a likely fact, let him do so. The rest does not concern us. And to that effect, on the above day, runs their Sentence: "You, Hirsch, shall restore the Paris Bill; mutual Papers to be all restored, or legally annihilated. Jewels to be valued by sworn Experts, and paid for at that price. Hirsch, if he can prove that the Jewels were changed, has liberty to try it, in a new Action. Hirsch, for falsely denying his Signature, is fined ten thalers (thirty shillings), such lie being a contempt of court, whatever more."
"Ha, fined, you Jew Villain!" hysterically shrieks Voltaire: "in the wrong, weren't you, then; and fined thirty shillings?" hysterically trying to believe, and make others believe, that he has come off triumphant. "Beaten my Jew, haven't I?" says he to everybody, though inwardly well enough aware how it stands, and that he is a Phoenix douched, and has a tremor in the bones! Chancellor Cocceji was far from thinking it triumphant to him. Here is a small Note of Cocceji's, addressed to his two colleagues, Jarriges and Loper, which has been found among the Law Papers:
"BERLIN, 20th FEBRUARY, 1751. The Herr President von Jarriges and Privy-Councillor Loper are hereby officially requested to bring the remainder of the Voltaire Sentence to its fulfilment: I am myself not well, and can employ my time much better. The Herr von Voltaire has given in a desperate Memorial (EIN DESPERATES MEMORIAL) to this purport: 'I swear that what is charged to me [believed of me] in the Sentence is true; and now request to have the Jewels valued.' I have returned him this Paper, with notice that it must be signed by an Advocate.—COCCEJI." [Klein, 256.]
So wrote Chancellor Cocceji, on the Saturday, washing his hands of this sorry business. Voltaire is ready to make desperate oath, if needful. We said once, M. de Voltaire was not given to lying; far the reverse. But yet, see, if you drive him into a corner with a sword at his throat,—alas, yes, he will lie a little! Forgery lay still less in his habits; but he can do a stroke that way, too (one stroke, unique in his life, I do believe), if a wild boar, with frothy tusks, is upon him. Tell it not in Gath,—except for scientific purposes! And be judicial, arithmetical, in passing sentence on it; not shrieky, mobbish, and flying off into the Infinite!
Berlin, of course, is loud on these matters. "The man whom the King delighted to honor, this is he, then!" King Friedrich has quitted Town, some while ago; returned to Potsdam "January 30th." Glad enough, I suppose, to be out of all this unmusical blowing of catcalls and indecent exposure. To Voltaire he has taken no notice; silently leaves Voltaire, in his nook of the Berlin Schloss, till the foul business get done. "VOLTAIRE FILOUTE LES JUIFS (picks Jew pockets)," writes he once to Wilhelmina: "will get out of it by some GAMBADE (summerset)," writes he another time; "but" ["31st December, 1750" (—OEuvres de Frederic,—xxvii, i. 198); "3d February, 1751" (ib. 201).]—And takes the matter with boundless contempt, doubtless with some vexation, but with the minimum of noise, as a Royal gentleman might. Jew Hirsch is busy preparing for his new desperate Action; getting together proof that the Jewels have been changed. In proof Jew Hirsch will be weak; but in pleading, in public pamphlets, and keeping a winged Apollo fluttering disastrously in such a mud-bath, Jew Hirsch will be strong. Voltaire, "out of magnanimous pity to him," consents next week to an Agreement. Agreement is signed on Thursday, 26th February, 1751:—Papers all to be returned, Jewels nearly all, except one or two, paid at Hirsch's own price. Whereby, on the whole, as Klein computes, Voltaire lost about 150 pounds;—elsewhere I have seen it computed at 187 pounds: not the least matter which. Old Hirsch has died in the interim ("Of broken heart!" blubbers the Son); day not known.
And, on these terms, Voltaire gets out of the business; glad to close the intolerable rumor, at some cost of money. For all tongues were wagging; and, in defect of a TIMES Newspaper, it appears, there had Pamphlets come out; printed Satires, bound or in broadside;—sapid, exhilarative, for a season, and interesting to the idle mind. Of which, TANTALE EN PROCES may still, for the sake of that PREFACE to it, be considered to have an obscure existence. And such, reduced to its authenticities, was the Adventure of the Steuer-Notes. A very bad Adventure indeed; unspeakably the worst that Voltaire ever tried, who had such talent in the finance line. On which poor History is really ashamed to have spent so much time; sorting it into clearness, in the disgust and sorrow of her soul. But perhaps it needed to be done. Let us hope, at least, it may not now need to be done again. [Besides the KLEIN, the TANTALE EN PROCES and the Voltaire LETTERS cited above, there is (in—OEuvres de Voltaire,—lxiv. pp. 61-106, as SUPPLEMENT there), written off-hand, in the very thick of the Hirsch Affair, a considerable set of NOTES TO D'ARGET, which might have been still more elucidative; but are, in their present dateless topsy-turvied condition; a very wonder of confusion to the studious reader!]
This is the FIRST ACT of Voltaire's Tragic-Farce at the Court of Berlin: readers may conceive to what a bleared frost-bitten condition it has reduced the first Favonian efflorescence there. He considerably recovered in the SECOND ACT, such the indelible charm of the Voltaire genius to Friedrich. But it is well known, the First Act rules all the others; and here, accordingly, the Third Act failed not to prove tragical. Out of First Act into Second the following EXTRACTS OF CORRESPONDENCE will guide the reader, without commentary of ours.
Voltaire, left languishing at Berlin, has fallen sick, now that all is over;—no doubt, in part really sick, the unfortunate Phoenix-Peafowl, with such a tremor in his bones;—and would fain be near Friedrich and warmth again; fain persuade the outside world that all is sunshine with him. Voltaire's Letters to Friedrich, if he wrote any, in this Jew time, are lost; here are Friedrich's Answers to Two,—one lost, which had been written from Berlin AFTER the Jew affair was out of Court; and to another (not lost) after the Jew affair was done.
1. KING FRIEDRICH TO VOLTAIRE AT BERLIN.
"POTSDAM, 24th February, 1751. "I was glad to receive you in my house; I esteemed your genius, your talents and acquirements; and I had reason to think that a man of your age, wearied with fencing against Authors, and exposing himself to the storm, came hither to take refuge as in a safe harbor.
"But, on arriving, you exacted of me, in a rather singular manner, Not to take Freron to write me news from Paris; and I had the weakness, or the complaisance, to grant you this, though it is not for you to decide what persons I shall take into my service. D'Arnaud had faults towards you; a generous man would have pardoned them; a vindictive man hunts down those whom he takes to hating. In a word, though to me D'Arnaud had done nothing, it was on your account that he had to go. You were with the Russian Minister, speaking of things you had no concern with [Russian Excellency Gross, off home lately, in sudden dudgeon, like an angry sky-rocket, nobody can guess why! Adelung, vii. 133 (about 1st December, 1750).]—and it was thought I had given you Commission." "You have had the most villanous affair in the world with a Jew. It has made a frightful scandal all over Town. And that Steuer-Schein business is so well known in Saxony, that they have made grievous complaints of it to me.
"For my own share, I have preserved peace in my house till your arrival: and I warn you, that if you have the passion of intriguing and caballing, you have applied to the wrong hand. I like peaceable composed people; who do not put into their conduct the violent passions of Tragedy. In case you can resolve to live like a Philosopher, I shall be glad to see you; but if you abandon yourself to all the violences of your passions, and get into quarrels with all the world, you will do me no good by coming hither, and you may as well stay in Berlin." [Preuss, xxii. 262 (WANTING in the French Editions).]—F.
To which Voltaire sighing pathetically in response, "Wrong, ah yes, your Majesty;—and sick to death" (see farther down),—here is Friedrich's Second in Answer:—
2. FRIEDRICH TO VOLTAIRE AGAIN.
"POTSDAM, 28th February, 1751. "If you wish to come hither, you can do so. I hear nothing of Lawsuits, not even of yours. Since you have gained it, I congratulate you; and I am glad that this scurvy affair is done. I hope you will have no more quarrels, neither with the OLD nor with the New TESTAMENT. Such worryings (CES SORTES DE COMPROMIS) leave their mark on a man; and with the talents of the finest genius in France, you will not cover the stains which this conduct would fasten on your reputation in the long-run. A Bookseller Gosse [read JORE, your Majesty? Nobody ever heard of Gosse as an extant quantity: Jore, of Rouen, you mean, and his celebrated Lawsuit, about printing the HENRIADE, or I know not what, long since] [Unbounded details on the Jore Case, and from 1731 to 1738 continual LETTERS on it, in—OEuvres de Voltaire;——came to a head in 1736 (ib. lxix. 375); Jore penitent, 1738 (ib. i. 262), &c. &c.], a Bookseller Jore, an Opera Fiddler [poor Travenol, wrong dog pincered by the ear], and a Jeweller Jew, these are, of a surety, names which in no sort of business ought to appear by the side of yours. I write this Letter with the rough common-sense of a German, who speaks what he thinks, without employing equivocal terms, and loose assuagements which disfigure the truth: it is for you to profit by it.—F." [—OEuvres de Frederic,—xxii. 265.]
So that Voltaire will have to languish: "Wrong, yes;—and sick, nigh dead, your Majesty! Ah, could not one get to some Country Lodge near you, 'the MARQUISAT' for instance? Live silent there, and see your face sometimes?" [In—OEuvres de Frederic—(xxii. 259-261, 263-266) are Four lamenting and repenting, wheedling and ultimately whining, LETTERS from Voltaire, none of them dated, which have much about "my dreadful state of health," my passion" for reposing in that MARQUISAT," &c.;—to one of which Four, or perhaps to the whole together, the above No. 2 of Friedrich seems to have been Answer. Of that indisputable "MARQUISAT" no Nicolai says a word; even careful Preuss passes "Gosse" and it with shut lips.] Languishing very much;—gives cosy little dinners, however. Here are two other Excerpts; and these will suffice:—
VOLTAIRE TO FORMEY ("BERLIN PALACE;" DATABLE, FIRST DAYS OF MARCH): "Will you, Monsieur, come and eat the King's roast meat (ROT DU ROI), to-day, Thursday, at two o'clock, in a philosophic, warm and comfortable manner (PHILOSOPHIQUEMENT ET CHAUDEMENT ET DOUCEMENT). A couple of philosophers, without being courtiers, may dine in the Palace of a Philosopher-King: I should even take the liberty of sending one of his Majesty's Carriages for you,-at two precise. After dinner, you would be at hand for your Academy meeting." [Formey, i. 234.]—V. How cosy!—And King Friedrich has relented, too; grants me the Marquisat; can refuse me nothing!
VOLTAIRE TO D'ARGENTAL (POTSDAM, 15th MARCH 1751).... "I could not accompany our Chamberlain [Von Ammon, gone as Envoy to Paris, on a small matter ["Commercial Treaty;" which he got done. See LONGCHAMP, if any one is curious otherwise about this Gentleman: "D'Hamon" they call him, and sometimes "DAMON",—to whom Niece Denis wanted to be Phyllis, according to Longchamp.]], through the muds and the snows,—where I should have been buried; I was ill," and had to go to the MARQUISAT. "D'Arnaud and the pack of Scribblers would have been too glad. D'Arnaud, animated with the true love of glory, and not yet grown sufficiently illustrious by his own immortal Works, has done ONE of that kind,"—by his behavior here. Has behaved to me—oh, like a miserable, envious, intriguing, lying little scoundrel; and made Berlin too hot for him: seduced Tinois my Clerk, stole bits of the Pucelle (brief SIGHT of bits, for Prince Henri's sake) to ruin me.
"D'Arnaud sent his lies to Freron for the Paris meridian [that is his real crime]; delightful news from canaille to canaille: 'How Voltaire had lost a great Lawsuit, respectable Jew Banker cheated by Voltaire; that Voltaire was disgraced by the King,' who of course loves Jews; 'that Voltaire was ruined; was ill; nay at last, that Voltaire was dead.'" To the joy of Freron, and the scoundrels that are printing one's PUCELLE. "Voltaire is still in life, however, my angels; and the King has been so good to me in my sickness, I should be the ungratefulest of men if I didn't still pass some months with him. When he left Berlin [30th January, six weeks ago], and I was too ill to follow him, I was the sole animal of my species whom he lodged in his Palace there [what a beautiful bit of color to lay on!]—He left me equipages, cooks ET CETERA; and his mules and horses carted out my temporary furniture (MEUBLES DE PASSADE) to a delicious House of his, close by Potsdam [MARQUISAT to wit, where I now stretch myself at ease; Niece Denis coming to live with me there,—talks of coming, if my angels knew it],—and he has reserved for me a charming apartment in his Palace of Potsdam, where I pass a part of the week.
"And, on close view, I still admire this Unique Genius; and he deigns to communicate himself to me;—and if I were not 300 leagues from you, and had a little health, I should be the happiest of men." [—OEuvres de Voltaire,—lxxiv. 320.]... Oh, my angels—
And, in short, better or worse, my SECOND ACT is begun, as you perceive!—And certain readers will be apt to look in again, before all is over.
Chapter VIII. OST-FRIESLAND AND THE SHIPPING INTERESTS.
Two Foreign Events, following on the heel of the Hirsch Lawsuit, were of interest to our Berlin friends, though not now of much to us or anybody. April 5th, 1751, the old King of Sweden, Landgraf of Hessen-Cassel, died; whereby not only our friend Wilhelm, the managing Landgraf, becomes Landgraf indeed (if he should ever turn up on us again), but Princess Ulrique is henceforth Queen of Sweden, her Husband the new King. No doubt a welcome event to Princess Ulrique, the high brave-minded Lady; but which proved intrinsically an empty one, not to say worse than empty, to herself and her friends, in times following. Friedrich's connection with Sweden, which he had been tightening lately by a Treaty of Alliance, came in the long-run to nothing for him, on the Swedish side; and on the Russian has already created umbrages, kindled abstruse suspicions, indignations,—Russian Excellency Gross, abruptly, at Berlin, demanding horses, not long since, and posting home without other leave-taking, to the surprise of mankind;—Russian Czarina evidently in the sullens against Friedrich, this long while; dull impenetrable clouds of anger lodging yonder, boding him no good. All which the Accession of Queen Ulrique will rather tend to aggravate than otherwise. [Adelung, vii. 205 (Accession of Adolf Friedrich); ib. 133 (Gross's sudden Departure).]
The Second Foreign Event is English, about a week prior in date, and is of still less moment: March 31st, 1751, Prince Fred, the Royal Heir-Apparent, has suddenly died. Had been ill, more or less, for an eight days past; was now thought better, though "still coughing, and bringing up phlegm,"—when, on "Wednesday night between nine and ten," in some lengthier fit of that kind, he clapt his hand on his breast; and the terrified valet heard him say, "JE SUIS MORT!"—and before his poor Wife could run forward with a light, he lay verily dead. [Walpole, GEORGE THE SECOND, i. 71.] The Rising Sun in England is vanished, then. Yes; and with him his MOONS, and considerable moony workings, and slushings hither and thither, which they have occasioned, in the muddy tide-currents of that Constitutional Country. Without interest to us here; or indeed elsewhere,—except perhaps that our dear Wilhelmina would hear of it; and have her sad reflections and reminiscences awakened by it; sad and many-voiced, perhaps of an almost doleful nature, being on a sick-bed at this time, poor Lady. She quitted Berlin months ago, as we observed,—her farewell Letter to Friedrich, written from the first stage homewards, and melodious as the voice of sorrowful true hearts to us and him, dates "November 24th," just while Voltaire (whom she always likes, and in a beautiful way protects, "FRERE VOLTAIRE," as she calls him) was despatching Hirsch on that ill-omened Predatory STEUER-Mission. Her Brother is in real alarm for Wilhelmina, about this time; sending out Cothenius his chief Doctor, and the like: but our dear Princess re-emerges from her eclipse; and we shall see her again, several times, if we be lucky.
And so poor Fred is ended;—and sulky people ask, in their cruel way, "Why not?" A poor dissolute flabby fellow-creature; with a sad destiny, and a sadly conspicuous too. Could write Madrigals; be set to make Opposition cabals. Read this sudden Epitaph in doggerel; an uncommonly successful Piece of its kind; which is now his main monument with posterity. The "Brother" (hero of Culloden), the "Sister" (Amelia, our Friedrich's first love, now growing gossipy and spiteful, poor Princess), are old friends:—
"Here lies Prince Fred, Who was alive and is dead: Had it been his Father, I had much rather; Had it been his Brother, Sooner than any other;
Had it been his Sister, There's no one would have missed her; Had it been his whole generation, Best of all for the Nation: But since it's only Fred, There's no more to be said." [Walpole, i. 436.]
FRIEDRIAH VISITS OST-FRIESLAND.
A thing of more importance to us, two months after that catastrophe in London, is Friedrich's first Visit to Ost-Friesland. May 31st, having done his Berlin-Potsdam Reviews and other current affairs, Friedrich sets out on this Excursion. With Ost-Friesland for goal, but much business by the way. Towards Magdeburg, and a short visit to the Brunswick Kindred, first of all. There is much reviewing in the Magdeburg quarter, and thereafter in the Wesel; and reviewing and visiting all along: through Minden, Bielfeld, Lingen: not till July 13th does he cross the Ost-Friesland Border, and enter Embden. His three Brothers, and Prince Ferdinand of Brunswick, were with him. [—Helden-Geschichte,—iii. 506; Seyfarth, ii. 145; Rodenbeck, i. 216 (who gives a foolish German myth, of Voltaire's being passed off for the King's Baboon, &c.; Voltaire not being there at all).] On catching view of Ost-Friesland Border, see, on the Border-Line, what an Arch got on its feet: Triumphal Arch, of frondent ornaments, inscriptions and insignia; "of quite extraordinary magnificence;" Arch which "sets every one into the agreeablest admiration." Above a hundred such Arches spanned the road at different points; multitudinous enthusiasm reverently escorting, "more than 20,000" by count: till we enter Embden; where all is cannon-salvo, and three-times-three; the thunder-shots continuing, "above 2,000 of them from the walls, not to speak of response from the ships in harbor." Embden glad enough, as would appear, and Ost-Friesland glad enough, to see their new King. July 13th, 1751; after waiting above six years.
Next day, his Majesty gave audience to the new "Asiatic Shipping Company" (of which anon), to the Stande, and Magisterial persons;—with many questions, I doubt not, about your new embankments, new improvements, prospects; there being much procedure that way, in all manner of kinds, since the new Dynasty came in, now six years ago. Embankments on your River, wide spaces changed from ooze to meadow; on the Dollart still more, which has lain 500 years hidden from the sun. Does any reader know the Dollart? Ost-Friesland has awakened to wonderful new industries within these six years; urged and guided by the new King, who has great things in view for it, besides what are in actual progress.
That of dikes, sea-embankments, for example; to Ost-Friesland, as to Holland, they are the first condition of existence; and, in the past times, of extreme Parliamentary vitality, have been slipping a good deal out of repair. Ems River, in those flat rainy countries, has ploughed out for itself a very wide embouchure, as boundary between Groningen and Ost-Friesland. Muddy Ems, bickering with the German Ocean, does not forget to act, if Parliamentary Commissioners do. These dikes, 120 miles of dike, mainly along both banks of this muddy Ems River, are now water-tight again, to the comfort of flax and clover: and this is but one item of the diking now on foot. Readers do not know the Dollart, that uppermost round gulf, not far from Embden itself, in the waste embouchure of Ems with its continents of mud and tide. Five hundred years ago, that ugly whirl of muddy surf, 100 square miles in area, was a fruitful field, "50 Villages upon it, one Town, several Monasteries and 50,000 souls:" till on Christmas midnight A.D. 1277, the winds and the storm-rains having got to their height, Ocean and Ems did, "about midnight," undermine the place, folded it over like a friable bedquilt or monstrous doomed griddle-cake, and swallowed it all away. Most of it, they say, that night, the whole of it within ten years coming; [Busching,—Erdbeschreibung,—v. 845, 846; Preuss, i. 308, 309.]—and there it has hung, like an unlovely GOITRE at the throat of Embden, ever since. One little dot of an Island, with six houses on it, near the Embden shore, is all that is left. Where probably his Majesty landed (July 15th, being in a Yacht that day); but did not see, afar off, the "sunk steeple-top," which is fabled to be visible at low-water.
Upon this Dollart itself there is now to be diking tried; King's Domain-Kammer showing the example. Which Official Body did accordingly (without Blue-Books, but in good working case otherwise) break ground, few months hence; and victoriously achieved a POLDER, or Diked Territory, "worth about 2,000 pounds annually;" "which, in 1756, was sold to the STANDE;" at twenty-five years purchase, let us say, or for 50,000 pounds. An example of a convincing nature; which many others, and ever others, have followed since; to gradual considerable diminution of the Dollart, and relief of Ost-Friesland on this side. Furtherance of these things is much a concern of Friedrich's. The second day after his arrival, those audiences and ceremonials done, Friedrich and suite got on board a Yacht, and sailed about all over this Dollart, twenty miles out to sea; dined on board; and would have, if the weather was bright (which I hope), a pleasantly edifying day. The harbor is much in need of dredging, the building docks considerably in disrepair; but shall be refitted if this King live and prosper. He has declared Embden a "Free-Haven," inviting trade to it from all peaceable Nations;—and readers do not know (though Sir Jonas Hanway and the jealous mercantile world well did) what magnificent Shipping Companies and Sea-Enterprises, of his devising, are afoot there. Of which, one word, and no second shall follow:
"September 1st, 1750, those Carrousel gayeties scarce done, 'The Asiatic Trading Company' stept formally into existence; Embden the Head-quarters of it; [Patent, or FREYHEITS-BRIEF in—Helden-Geschichte,—iii. 457, 458.] chief Manager a Ritter De la Touche; one of the Directors our fantastic Bielfeld, thus turned to practical value. A Company patronized, in all ways, by the King; but, for the rest, founded, not on his money; founded on voluntary shares, which, to the regret of Hanway and others, have had much popularity in commercial circles. Will trade to China. A thing looked at with umbrage by the English, by the Dutch. A shame that English people should encourage such schemes, says Hanway. Which nevertheless many Dutch and many English private persons do,—among the latter, one English Lady (name unknown, but I always suspect 'Miss Barbara Wyndham, of the College, Salisbury'), concerning whom there will be honorable notice by and by.
"At the time of Friedrich's visit, the Asiatic Company is in full vogue; making ready its first ship for Canton. First ship, KONIG VON PREUSSEN (tons burden not given), actually sailed 17th February next (1752); and was followed by a second, named TOWN OF EMBDEN, on the 19th of September following; both of which prosperously reached Canton, and prosperously returned with cargoes of satisfactory profit. The first of them, KONIG VON PREUSSEN, had been boarded in the Downs by an English Captain Thomson and his Frigate, and detained some days,—till Thomson 'took Seven English seamen out of her.' 'Act of Parliament, express!' said his Grace of Newcastle. Which done, Thomson found that the English jealousies would have to hold their hand; no farther, whatever one's wishes may be.
"Nay within a year hence, January 24th, 1753, Friedrich founded another Company for India: 'BENGALISCHE HANDELS-GESELLSCHAFT;' which also sent out its pair of ships, perhaps oftener than once; and pointed, as the other was doing, to wide fields of enterprise, for some time. But luck was wanting. And, 'in part, mismanagement,' and, in whole, the Seven-Years War put an end to both Companies before long. Friedrich is full of these thoughts, among his other Industrialisms; and never quits them for discouragement, but tries again, when the obstacles cease to be insuperable. Ever since the acquisition of Ost-Friesland, the furtherance of Sea-Commerce had been one of Friedrich's chosen objects. 'Let us carry our own goods at least, Silesian linens, Memel timbers, stock-fish; what need of the Dutch to do it?' And in many branches his progress had been remarkable,—especially in this carrying trade, while the War lasted, and crippled all Anti-English belligerents. Upon which, indeed, and the conduct of the English Privateers to him, there is a Controversy going on with the English Court in those years (began in 1747), most distressful to his Grace of Newcastle;—which in part explains those stingy procedures of Captain Thomson ('Home, you seven English sailors!') when the first Canton ship put to sea. That Controversy is by no means ended after three years, but on the contrary, after two years more, comes to a crisis quite shocking to his Grace of Newcastle, and defying all solution on his Grace's side,—the other Party, after such delays, five years waiting, having settled it for himself!" Of which, were the crisis come, we will give some account.
On the third day of his Visit, Friedrich drove to Aurich, the seat of Government, and official little capital of Ost-Friesland; where triumphal arches, joyful reverences, concourses, demonstrations, sumptuous Dinner one item, awaited his Majesty: I know not if, in the way thither or back, he passed those "Three huge Oaks [or the rotted stems or roots of them] under which the Ancient Frisians, Lords of all between Weser and Rhine, were wont to assemble in Parliament" (WITHOUT Fourth Estate, or any Eloquence except of the purely Business sort),—or what his thoughts on the late Ost-Friesland Bandbox Parliaments may have been! He returned to Embden that night; and on the morrow started homewards; we may fancy, tolerably pleased with what he had seen.
"King Friedrich's main Objects of Pursuit in this Period," says a certain Author, whom we often follow, "I define as being Three. 1. Reform of the Law; 2. Furtherance of Husbandry and Industry in all kinds, especially of Shipping from Embden; 3. Improvement of his own Domesticities and Household Enjoyments,"—renewal of the Reinsberg Program, in short.
"In the First of these objects," continues he, "King Friedrich's success was very considerable, and got him great fame in the world. In his Second head of efforts, that of improving the Industries and Husbandries among his People, his success, though less noised of in foreign parts, was to the near observer still more remarkable. A perennial business with him, this; which, even in the time of War, he never neglects; and which springs out like a stemmed flood, whenever Peace leaves him free for it. His labors by all methods to awaken new branches of industry, to cherish and further the old, are incessant, manifold, unwearied; and will surprise the uninstructed reader, when he comes to study them. An airy, poetizing, bantering, lightly brilliant King, supposed to be serious mainly in things of War, how is he moiling and toiling, like an ever-vigilant Land-Steward, like the most industrious City Merchant, hardest-working Merchant's Clerk, to increase his industrial Capital by any the smallest item!
"One day, these things will deserve to be studied to the bottom; and to be set forth, by writing hands that are competent, for the instruction and example of Workers,—that is to say, of all men, Kings most of all, when there are again Kings. At present, I can only say they astonish me, and put me to shame: the unresting diligence displayed in them, and the immense sum-total of them,—what man, in any the noblest pursuit, can say that he has stood to it, six-and-forty years long, in the style of this man? Nor did the harvest fail; slow sure harvest, which sufficed a patient Friedrich in his own day; harvest now, in our day, visible to everybody: in a Prussia all shooting into manufactures, into commerces, opulences,—I only hope, not TOO fast, and on more solid terms than are universal at present! Those things might be didactic, truly, in various points, to this Generation; and worth looking back upon, from its high LAISSEZ-FAIRE altitudes, its triumphant Scrip-transactions and continents of gold-nuggets,—pleasing, it doubts not, to all the gods. To write well of what is called 'Political Economy' (meaning thereby increase of money's-worth) is reckoned meritorious, and our nearest approach to the rational sublime. But to accomplish said increase in a high and indisputable degree; and indisputably very much by your own endeavors wisely regulating those of others, does not that approach still nearer the sublime?
"To prevent disappointment, I ought to add that Friedrich is the reverse of orthodox in 'Political Economy;' that he had not faith in Free-Trade, but the reverse;—nor had ever heard of those ultimate Evangels, unlimited Competition, fair Start, and perfervid Race by all the world (towards 'CHEAP-AND-NASTY,' as the likeliest winning-post for all the world), which have since been vouchsafed us. Probably in the world there was never less of a Free-Trader! Constraint, regulation, encouragement, discouragement, reward, punishment; these he never doubted were the method, and that government was good everywhere if wise, bad only if not wise. And sure enough these methods, where human justice and the earnest sense and insight of a Friedrich preside over them, have results, which differ notably from opposite cases that can be imagined! The desperate notion of giving up government altogether, as a relief from human blockheadism in your governors, and their want even of a wish to be just or wise, had not entered into the thoughts of Friedrich; nor driven him upon trying to believe that such, in regard to any Human Interest whatever, was, or could be except for a little while in extremely developed cases, the true way of managing it. How disgusting, accordingly, is the Prussia of Friedrich to a Hanbury Williams; who has bad eyes and dirty spectacles, and hates Friedrich: how singular and lamentable to a Mirabeau Junior, who has good eyes, and loves him! No knave, no impertinent blockhead even, can follow his own beautiful devices here; but is instantly had up, or comes upon a turnpike strictly shut for him. 'Was the like ever heard of?' snarls Hanbury furiously (as an angry dog might, in a labyrinth it sees not the least use for): 'What unspeakable want of liberty!'—and reads to you as if he were lying outright; but generally is not, only exaggerating, tumbling upside down, to a furious degree; knocking against the labyrinth HE sees not the least use for. Mirabeau's Gospel of Free-Trade, preached in 1788, [MONARCHIE PRUSSIENNE he calls it (A LONDRES, privately Paris, 1788), 8 vols. 8vo; which is a Dead-Sea of Statistics, compiled by industrious Major Mauvillon, with this fresh current of a "Gospel" shining through it, very fresh and brisk, of few yards breadth;—dedicated to Papa, the true PROTevangelist of the thing.]—a comparatively recent Performance, though now some seventy or eighty years the senior of an English (unconscious) Fac-simile, which we have all had the pleasure of knowing,—will fall to be noticed afterwards [not by this Editor, we hope!]
"Many of Friedrich's restrictive notions,—as that of watching with such anxiety that 'money' (gold or silver coin) be not carried out of the Country,—will be found mistakes, not in orthodox Dismal Science as now taught, but in the nature of things; and indeed the Dismal Science will generally excommunicate them in the lump,—too. heedless that Fact has conspicuously vindicated the general sum-total of them, and declared it to be much truer than it seems to the Dismal Science. Dismal Science (if that were important to me) takes insufficient heed, and does not discriminate between times past and times present, times here and times there."
Certain it is, King Friedrich's success in National Husbandry was very great. The details of the very many new Manufactures, new successful ever-spreading Enterprises, fostered into existence by Friedrich; his Canal-makings, Road-makings, Bog-drainings, Colonizings and unwearied endeavorings in that kind, will require a Technical Philosopher one day; and will well reward such study, and trouble of recording in a human manner; but must lie massed up in mere outline on the present occasion. Friedrich, as Land-Father, Shepherd of the People, was great on the Husbandry side also; and we are to conceive him as a man of excellent practical sense, doing unweariedly his best in that kind, all his life long. Alone among modern Kings; his late Father the one exception; and even his Father hardly surpassing him in that particular.
In regard to Embden and the Shipping interests, Ost-Friesland awakened very ardent speculations, which were a novelty in Prussian affairs; nothing of Foreign Trade, except into the limited Baltic, had been heard of there since the Great Elector's time. The Great Elector had ships, Forts on the Coast of Africa; and tried hard for Atlantic Trade,—out of this same Embden; where, being summoned to protect in the troubles, he had got some footing as Contingent Heir withal, and kept a "Prussian Battalion" a good while. And now, on much fairer terms, not less diligently turned to account, it is his Great-Grandson's turn. Friedrich's successes in this department, the rather as Embden and Ost-Friesland have in our time ceased to be Prussian, are not much worth speaking of; but they connect themselves with some points still slightly memorable to us. How, for example, his vigilantes and endeavors on this score brought him into rubbings, not collisions, but jealousies and gratings, with the English and Dutch, the reader will see anon.
Law-reform is gloriously prosperous; Husbandry the like, and Shipping Interest itself as yet. But in the Third grand Head, that of realizing the Reinsberg Program, beautifying his Domesticities, and bringing his own Hearth and Household nearer the Ideal, Friedrich was nothing like so successful; in fact had no success at all. That flattering Reinsberg Program, it is singular how Friedrich cannot help trying it by every new chance, nor cast the notion out of him that there must be a kind of Muses'-Heaven realizable on Earth! That is the Biographic Phenomenon which has survived of those Years; and to that we will almost exclusively address ourselves, on behalf of ingenuous readers.
Chapter IX.—SECOND ACT OF THE VOLTAIRE VISIT.
Voltaire's Visit lasted, in all, about Thirty-two Months; and is divisible into Three Acts or Stages. The first we have seen: how it commenced in brightness as of the sun, and ended, by that Hirsch business, in whirlwinds of smoke and soot,—Voltaire retiring, on his passionate prayer, to that silent Country-house which he calls the Marquisat; there to lie in hospital, and wash himself a little, and let the skies wash themselves.
The Hirsch business having blown over, as all things do, Voltaire resumed his place among the Court-Planets, and did his revolutions; striving to forget that there ever was a Hirsch, or a soot-explosion of that nature. In words nobody reminded him of it, the King least of all: and by degrees matters were again tolerably glorious, and all might have gone well enough; though the primal perfect splendor, such fuliginous reminiscence being ineffaceable, never could be quite re-attained. The diamond Cross of Merit, the Chamberlain gold Key, hung bright upon the man; a man the admired of men. He had work to do: work of his own which he reckoned priceless (that immortal SIECLE DE LOUIS QUATORZE; which he stood by, and honestly did, while here; the one fixed axis in those fooleries and whirlings of his);—work for the King, "two hours, one hour, a day," which the King reckoned priceless in its sort. For Friedrich himself Voltaire has, with touches of real love coming out now and then, a very sincere admiration mixed with fear; and delights in shining to him, and being well with him, as the greatest pleasure now left in life. Besides the King, he had society enough, French in type, and brilliant enough: plenty of society; or, at his wish, what was still better, none at all. He was bedded, boarded, lodged, as if beneficent fairies had done it for him; and for all these things no price asked, you might say, but that he would not throw himself out of window! Had the man been wise—But he was not wise. He had, if no big gloomy devil in him among the bright angels that were there, a multitude of ravening tumultuary imps, or little devils very ILL-CHAINED; and was lodged, he and his restless little devils, in a skin far too thin for him and them!—
Reckoning up the matter, one cannot find that Voltaire ever could have been a blessing at Berlin, either for Friedrich or himself; and it is to be owned that Friedrich was not wise in so longing for him, or clasping him so frankly in his arms. As Friedrich, by this time, probably begins to discover;—though indeed to Friedrich the thing is of finite moment; by no means of infinite, as it was to Voltaire. "At worst, nothing but a little money thrown away!" thinks Friedrich: "Sure enough, this is a strange Trismegistus, this of mine: star fire-work shall we call him, or terrestrial smoke-and-soot work? But one can fence oneself against the blind vagaries of the man; and get a great deal of good by him, in the lucid intervals." To Voltaire himself the position is most agitating; but then its glories, were there nothing more! Besides he is always thinking to quit it shortly; which is a great sedative in troubles. What with intermittencies (safe hidings in one's MARQUISAT, or vacant interlunar cave), with alternations of offence and reconcilement; what with occasional actual flights to Paris (whitherward Voltaire is always busy to keep a postern open; and of which there is frequent talk, and almost continual thought, all along), flights to be called "visits," and privately intending to be final, but never proving so,—the Voltaire-Friedrich relation, if left to itself, might perhaps long have staggered about, and not ended as it did.
But, alas, no relation can be left to itself in this world,—especially if you have a porous skin! There were other French here, as well as Voltaire, revolving in the Court-circle; and that, beyond all others, proved the fatal circumstance to him. "NE SAVEZ-VOUS PAS, Don't you know," said he to Chancellor Jarriges one day, "that when there are two Frenchmen in a Foreign Court or Country, one of them must die (FAUT QUE L'UN DES DEUX PERISSE)?" [Seyfarth, ii. 191; &c. &c.] Which shocked the mind of Jarriges; but had a kind of truth, too. Jew Hirsch, run into for low smuggling purposes, had been a Cape of Storms, difficult to weather; but the continual leeshore were those French,—with a heavy gale on, and one of the rashest pilots! He did strike the breakers there, at last; and it is well known, total shipwreck was the issue. Our Second Act, holding out dubiously, in continual perils, till Autumn, 1752, will have to pass then into a Third of darker complexion, and into a Catastrophe very dark indeed.
Catastrophe which, by farther ill accident, proved noisy in the extreme; producing world-wide shrieks from the one party, stone-silence from the other; which were answered by unlimited hooting, catcalling and haha-ing from all parts of the World-Theatre, upon both the shrieky and the silent party; catcalling not fallen quite dead to this day. To Friedrich the catcalling was not momentous (being used to such things); though to poor Voltaire it was unlimitedly so:—and to readers interested in this memorable Pair of Men, the rights and wrongs of the Affair ought to be rendered authentically conceivable, now at last. Were it humanly possible,—after so much catcalling at random! Smelfungus has a right to say, speaking of this matter:—
"Never was such a jumble of loud-roaring ignorances, delusions and confusions, as the current Records of it are. Editors, especially French Editors, treating of a Hyperborean, Cimmerian subject, like this, are easy-going creatures. And truly they have left it for us in a wonderful state. Dateless, much of it, by nature; and, by the lazy Editors, MISdated into very chaos; jumbling along there, in mad defiance of top and bottom; often the very Year given wrong:—full everywhere of lazy darkness, irradiated only by stupid rages, ill-directed mockeries:—and for issue, cheerfully malicious hootings from the general mob of mankind, with unbounded contempt of their betters; which is not pleasant to see. When mobs do get together, round any signal object; and editorial gentlemen, with talent for it, pour out from their respective barrel-heads, in a persuasive manner, instead of knowledge, ignorance set on fire, they are capable of carrying it far!—Will it be possible to pick out the small glimmerings of real light, from this mad dance of will-o'-wisps and fire-flies thrown into agitation?"
It will be very difficult, my friend;—why did not you yourself do it? Most true, "those actual Voltaire-Friedrich LETTERS of the time are a resource, and pretty much the sole one: Letters a good few, still extant; which all HAD their bit of meaning; and have it still, if well tortured till they give it out, or give some glimmer of it out:"—but you have not tortured them; you have left it to me, if I would! As I assuredly will not (never fear, reader!)—except in the thriftiest degree.
DETACHED FEATURES (NOT FABULOUS) OF VOLTAIRE AND HIS BERLIN-POTSDAM ENVIRONMENT IN 1751-1752.
To the outside crowd of observers, and to himself in good moments, Voltaire represents his situation as the finest in the world:—
"Potsdam is Sparta and Athens joined in one; nothing but reviewing and poetry day by day. The Algarottis, the Maupertuises, are here; have each his work, serious for himself; then gay Supper with a King, who is a great man and the soul of good company."... Sparta and Athens, I tell you: "a Camp of Mars and the Garden of Epicurus; trumpets and violins, War and Philosophy. I have my time all to myself; am at Court and in freedom,—if I were not entirely free, neither an enormous Pension, nor a Gold Key tearing out one's pocket, nor a halter (LICOU), which they call CORDON of an ORDER, nor even the Suppers with a Philosopher who has gained Five Battles, could yield me the least happiness." [—OEuvres,—lxxiv. 325, 326, 333 (Letters, to D'Argental and others, "27th April-8th May, 1751").] Looked at by you, my outside friends,—ah, had I health and YOU here, what a situation!
But seen from within, it is far otherwise. Alongside of these warblings of a heart grateful to the first of Kings, there goes on a series of utterances to Niece Denis, remarkable for the misery driven into meanness, that can be read in them. Ill-health, discontent, vague terror, suspicion that dare not go to sleep; a strange vague terror, shapeless or taking all shapes—a body diseased and a mind diseased. Fear, quaking continually for nothing at all, is not to be borne in a handsome manner. And it passes, often enough (in these poor LETTERS), into transient malignity, into gusts of trembling hatred, with a tendency to relieve oneself by private scandal of the house we are in. Seldom was a miserabler wrong-side seen to a bit of royal tapestry. A man hunted by the little devils that dwell unchained within himself; like Pentheus by the Maenads, like Actaeon by his own Dogs. Nay, without devils, with only those terrible bowels of mine, and scorbutic gums, it is bad enough: "Glorious promotions to me here," sneers he bitterly; "but one thing is indisputable, I have lost seven of my poor residue of teeth since I came!" In truth, we are in a sadly scorbutic state; and that, and the devils we lodge within ourselves, is the one real evil. Could not Suspicion—why cannot she!—take her natural rest; and all these terrors vanish? Oh, M. de Voltaire!—The practical purport, to Niece Denis, always is: Keep my retreat to Paris open; in the name of Heaven, no obstruction that way!
Miserable indeed; a man fatally unfit for his present element! But he has Two considerable Sedatives, all along; two, and no third visible to me. Sedative FIRST: that, he can, at any time, quit this illustrious Tartarus-Elysium, the envy of mankind;—and indeed, practically, he is always as if on the slip; thinking to be off shortly, for a time, or in permanence; can be off at once, if things grow too bad. Sedative SECOND is far better: His own labor on LOUIS QUATORZE, which is steadily going on, and must have been a potent quietus in those Court-whirlwinds inward and outward.
From Berlin, already in Autumn, 1750, Voltaire writes to D'Argental: "I sha'n't go to Italy this Autumn [nor ever in my life], as I had projected. But I will come to see YOU in the course of November" (far from it, I got into STEUER-SCHEINE then!)—And again, after some weeks: "I have put off my journey to Italy for a year. Next Winter too, therefore, I shall see you," on the road thither. "To my Country, since you live in it, I will make frequent visits," very!" Italy and the King of Prussia are two old passions with me; but I cannot treat Frederic-le-Grand as I can the Holy Father, with a mere look in passing." [To D'Argental, "Berlin, 14th September,—Potsdam, 15th October, 1750" (—OEuvres,—lxxiv. 220, 237).] Let this one, to which many might be added, serve as sample of Sedative First, or the power and intention to be off before long.
In regard to Sedative Second, again:... "The happiest circumstance is, brought with me all my LOUIS-FOURTEENTH Papers and Excerpts. 'I get from Leipzig, if no nearer, whatever Books are needed;'" and labor faithfully at this immortal Production. Yes, day by day, to see growing, by the cunning of one's own right hand, such perennial Solomon's-Temple of a SIECLE DE LOUIS QUATORZE:—which of your Kings, or truculent, Tiglath-Pilesers, could do that? To poor me, even in the Potsdam tempests, it is possible: what ugliest day is not beautiful that sees a stone or two added there!—Daily Voltaire sees himself at work on his SIECLE, on those fine terms; trowel in one hand, weapon of war in the other. And does actually accomplish it, in the course of this Year 1751,—with a great deal of punctuality and severe painstaking; which readers of our day, fallen careless of the subject, are little aware of, on Voltaire's behalf. Voltaire's reward was, that he did NOT go mad in that Berlin element, but had throughout a bower-anchor to ride by. "The King of France continues me as Gentleman of the Chamber, say you; but has taken away my Title of Historiographer? That latter, however, shall still be my function. 'My present independence has given weight to my verdicts on matters. Probably I never could have written this Book at Paris.' A consolation for one's exile, MON ENFANT." [To Niece Denis (—OEuvres,—lxxiv. 247, &c. &c.), "28th October, 1750," and subsequent dates.]
It is proper also to observe that, besides shining at the King's Suppers like no other, Voltaire applies himself honestly to do for his Majesty the small work required of him,—that of Verse-correcting now and then. Two Specimens exist; two Pieces criticised, ODE AUX PRUSSIENS, and THE ART OF WAR: portions of that Reprint now going on ("to the extent of Twelve Copies,"—woe lies in one of them, most unexpected at this time!) "AU DONJON DU CHATEAU;"—under benefit of Voltaire's remarks. Which one reads curiously, not without some surprise. [In—OEuvres de Frederic,—x. 276-303.] Surprise, first at Voltaire's official fidelity; his frankness, rigorous strictness in this small duty: then at the kind of correcting, instructing and lessoning, that had been demanded of him by his Royal Pupil. Mere grammatical stylistic skin-deep work: nothing (or, at least, in these Specimens nothing) of attempt upon the interior structure, or the interior harmony even of utterance: solely the Parisian niceties, graces, laws of poetic language, the FAS and the NEFAS in regard to all that: this is what his Majesty would fain be taught from the fountain-head;—one wonders his Majesty did not learn to spell, which might have been got from a lower source!—And all this Voltaire does teach with great strictness. For example, in the very first line, in the very first word, set, before him:—
"PRUSSIENS, QUE LA VALEUR CONDUISIT A LA GLOIRE," so Friedrich had written (ODE AUX PRUSSIENS, which is specimen First); and thus Voltaire criticises: "The Hero here makes his PRUSSIENS of two syllables; and afterwards, in another strophe, he grants them three. A King is master of his favors. At the same time, one does require a little uniformity; and the IENS are usually of two syllables, as LIENS, SILESIENS, AUTRICHIENS; excepting the monosyllables BIEN, RIEN"—Enough, enough!—A severe, punctual, painstaking Voltaire, sitting with the schoolmaster's bonnet on head; ferula visible, if not actually in hand. For which, as appears, his Majesty was very grateful to the Trismegistus of men.
Voltaire's flatteries to Friedrich, in those scattered little Billets with their snatches of verse, are the prettiest in the world,—and approach very near to sincerity, though seldom quite attaining it. Something traceable of false, of suspicious, feline, nearly always, in those seductive warblings; which otherwise are the most melodious bits of idle ingenuity the human brain has ever spun from itself. For instance, this heading of a Note sent from one room to another,—perhaps with pieces of an ODE AUX PRUSSIENS accompanying:—
—"Vou gui daignez me departir Les fruits d'une Muse divine, O roi! je ne puis consentir Que, sans daigner m'en avertir, Vous alliez prendre medecine. Je suis votre malade-ne, Et sur la casse et le sene, J'ai des notions non communes. Nous sommes de mene metier; Faut-il de moi vous defier, Et cacher vos bonnes fortunes?"—
Was there ever such a turn given to taking physic! Still better is this other, the topic worse,—HAEMORRHOIDS (a kind of annual or periodical affair with the Royal Patient, who used to feel improved after):—
... (Ten or twelve verses on another point; then suddenly—)
—"Que la veine hemorroidale De votre personne royale Cesse de troubler le repos! Quand pourrai-je d'une style honnete Dire: 'Le cul de mon heros Va tout aussi bien que sa tete'?"— [In—OEuvres de Frederic,—xxii. 283, 267.]
A kittenish grace in these things, which is pleasant in so old a cat.
Smelfungus says: "He is a consummate Artist in Speech, our Voltaire: that, if you take the word SPEECH in its widest sense, and consider the much that can be spoken, and the infinitely more that cannot and should not, is Voltaire's supreme excellency among his fellow-creatures; never rivalled (to my poor judgment) anywhere before or since,—nor worth rivalling, if we knew it well."
Another fine circumstance is, that Voltaire has frequent leave of absence; and in effect passes a great deal of his time altogether by himself, or in his own way otherwise. What with Friedrich's Review Journeys and Business Circuits, considerable separations do occur of themselves; and at any time, Voltaire has but to plead illness, which he often does; with ground and without, and get away for weeks, safe into the distance more or less remote. He is at the Marquisat (as we laboriously make out); at Berlin, in the empty Palace, perhaps in Lodgings of his own (though one would prefer the GRATIS method); nursing his maladies, which are many; writing his LOUIS QUATORZE; "lonely altogether, your Majesty, and sad of humor,"—yet giving his cosy little dinners, and running out, pretty often, if well invited, into the brilliancies and gayeties. No want of brilliant social life here, which can shine, more or less, and appreciate one's shining. The King's Supper-parties—Yes, and these, though the brightest, are not the only bright things in our Potsdam-Berlin world. Take with you, reader, one or two of the then and there Chief Figures; Voltaire's fellow-players; strutting and fretting their hour on that Stage of Life. They are mostly not quite strangers to you.
We know the sublime Perpetual President in his red wig, and sublime supremacy of Pure Science. A gloomy set figure; affecting the sententious, the emphatic and a composed impregnability,—like the Jove of Science. With immensities of gloomy vanity, not compressible at all times. Friedrich always strove to honor his Perpetual President, and duly adore the Pure Sciences in him; but inwardly could not quite manage it, though outwardly he failed in nothing. Impartial witnesses confess, the King had a great deal of trouble with his gloomings and him. "Who is this Voltaire?" gloomily thinks the Perpetual President to himself. "A fellow with a nimble tongue, that is all. Knows nothing whatever of Pure Sciences, except what fraction or tincture he has begged or stolen from myself. And here is the King of the world in raptures with him!"
Voltaire from of old had faithfully done his kowtows to this King of the Sciences; and, with a sort of terror, had suffered with incredible patience a great deal from him. But there comes an end to all things; Voltaire's patience not excepted. It lay in the fates that Maupertuis should steadily accumulate, day after day, and now more than ever heretofore, upon the sensitive Voltaire. Till, as will be seen, the sensitive Voltaire could endure it no longer; but had to explode upon this big Bully (accident lending a spark); to go off like a Vesuvius of crackers, fire-serpents and sky-rockets; envelop the red wig, and much else, in delirious conflagration;—and produce the catastrophe of this Berlin Drama.
D'Argens, poor dissolute creature, is the best of the French lot. He has married, after so many temporary marriages with Actresses, one Actress in permanence, Mamsell Cochois, a patient kind being; and settled now, at Potsdam here, into perfectly composed household life. Really loves Friedrich, they say; the only Frenchman of them that does. Has abundance of light sputtery wit, and Provencal fire and ingenuity; no ill-nature against any man. Never injures anybody, nor lies at all about anything. A great friend of fine weather; regrets, of his inheritances in Provence, chiefly one item, and this not overmuch,—the bright southern sun. Sits shivering in winter-time, wrapping himself in more and more flannel, two dressing-gowns, two nightcaps:—loyal to this King, in good times and in evil.
Was the King's friend for thirty years; helped several meritorious people to his Majesty's notice; and never did any man a mischief in that quarter. An erect, guileless figure; very tall; with vivid countenance, chaotically vivid mind: full of bright sallies, irregular ingenuities; had a hot temper too, which did not often run away with him, but sometimes did. He thrice made a visit to Provence,—in fact ran away from the King, feeling bantered and roasted to a merciless degree,—but thrice came back. "At the end of the first stage, he had always privately forgiven the King, and determined that the pretended visit should really be a visit only." "Reads the King's Letters," which are many to him, "always bare-headed, in spite of the draughts!" [Nicolai,—Anekdoten,—i. 11-75, &c. &c.]
Algarotti is too prudent, politely egoistic and self-contained, to take the trouble of hurting anybody, or get himself into trouble for love or hatred. He fell into disfavor not long after that unsuccessful little mission in the first Silesian War, of which the reader has lost remembrance. Good for nothing in diplomacy, thought Friedrich, but agreeable as company. "Company in tents, in the seat of War, has its unpleasantness," thought Algarotti;—and began very privately sounding the waters at Dresden for an eligible situation; so that there has ensued a quarrel since; then humble apologies followed by profound silence,—till now there is reconcilement. It is admitted Friedrich had some real love for Algarotti; Algarotti, as we gather, none at all for him; but only for his greatness. They parted again (February, 1753) without quarrel, but for the last time; [Algarotti-Correspondence (—OEuvres de Frederic,—xviii. 86).]—and I confess to a relief on the occasion.
Friedrich, readers know by this time, had a great appetite for conversation: he talked well, listened well; one of his chief enjoyments was, to give and receive from his fellow-creatures in that way. I hope, and indeed have evidence, that he required good sense as the staple; but in the form, he allowed great latitude. He by no means affected solemnity, rather the reverse; goes much upon the bantering vein; far too much, according to the complaining parties. Took pleasure (cruel mortal!) in stirring up his company by the whip, and even by the whip applied to RAWS; for we find he had "established," like the Dublin Hackney-Coachman, "raws for himself;" and habitually plied his implement there, when desirous to get into the gallop. In an inhuman manner, said the suffering Cattle; who used to rebel against it, and go off in the sulks from time to time. It is certain he could, especially in his younger years, put up with a great deal of zanyism, ingenious foolery and rough tumbling, if it had any basis to tumble on; though with years he became more saturnine.
By far his chief Artist in this kind, indeed properly the only one, was La Mettrie, whom we once saw transiently as Army-Surgeon at Fontenoy: he is now out of all that (flung out, with the dogs at his heels); has been safe in Berlin for three years past. Friedrich not only tolerates the poor madcap, but takes some pleasure in him: madcap we say, though poor La Mettrie had remarkable gifts, exuberant laughter one of them, and was far from intending to be mad. Not Zanyism, but Wisdom of the highest nature, was what he drove at,—unluckily, with open mouth, and mind all in tumult. La Mettrie had left the Army, soon after that busy Fontenoy evening: Chivalrous Grammont, his patron and protector, who had saved him from many scrapes, lay shot on the field. La Mettrie, rushing on with mouth open and mind in tumult, had, from of old, been continually getting into scrapes. Unorthodox to a degree; the Sorbonne greedy for him long since; such his audacities in print, his heavy hits, boisterous, quizzical, logical. And now he had set to attacking the Medical Faculty, to quizzing Medicine in his wild way; Doctor Astruc, Doctor This and That, of the first celebrity, taking it very ill. So that La Mettrie had to demit; to get out of France rather in a hurry, lest worse befell.
He had studied at Leyden, under Boerhaave. He had in fact considerable medical and other talent, had he not been so tumultuous and open-mouthed. He fled to Leyden; and shot forth, in safety there, his fiery darts upon Sorbonne and Faculty, at his own discretion,—which was always a MINIMUM quantity:—he had, before long, made Leyden also too hot for him. His Books gained a kind of celebrity in the world; awoke laughter and attention, among the adventurous of readers; astonishment at the blazing madcap (a BON DIABLE, too, as one could see); and are still known to Catalogue-makers,—though, with one exception, L'HOMME MACHINE, not otherwise, nor read at all. L'HOMME MACHINE (Man a Machine) is the exceptional Book; smallest of Duodecimos to have so much wildfire in it, This MAN A MACHINE, though tumultuous La Mettrie meant nothing but open-mouthed Wisdom by it, gave scandal in abundance; so that even the Leyden Magistrates were scandalized; and had to burn the afflicting little Duodecimo by the common hangman, and order La Mettrie to disappear instantly from their City.
Which he had to do,—towards King Friedrich, usual refuge of the persecuted; seldom inexorable, where there was worth, even under bad forms, recognizable; and not a friend to burning poor men or their books, if it could be helped. La Mettrie got some post, like D'Arget's, or still more nominal; "readership;" some small pension to live upon; and shelter to shoot forth his wildfire, when he could hold it no longer: fire, not of a malignant incendiary kind, but pleasantly lambent, though maddish, as Friedrich perceived. Thus had La Mettrie found a Goshen;—and stood in considerable favor, at Court and in Berlin Society in the years now current. According to Nicolai, Friedrich never esteemed La Mettrie, which is easy to believe, but found him a jester and ingenious madcap, out of whom a great deal of merriment could be had, over wine or the like. To judge by Nicolai's authentic specimen, their Colloquies ran sometimes pretty deep into the cynical, under showers of wildfire playing about; and the high-jinks must have been highish. [—Anekdoten,—vi. 197-227.] When there had been enough of this, Friedrich would lend his La Mettrie to the French Excellency, Milord Tyrconnel, to oblige his Excellency, and get La Mettrie out of the way for a while. Milord is at Berlin; a Jacobite Irishman, of blusterous Irish qualities, though with plenty of sagacity and rough sense; likes La Mettrie; and is not much a favorite with Friedrich.
Tyrconnel had said, at first,—when Rothenburg, privately from Friedrich, came to consult him, "What are, in practical form, those 'assistances from the Most Christian Majesty,' should we MAKE Alliance with him, as your Excellency proposes, and chance to be attacked?"—"MORBLEU, assistance enough [enumerating several]: MAIS MORBLEU, SI VOUS NOUS TROMPEX, VOUS SEREZ ECRASES (if you deceive us, you will be squelched)!" [Valori, ii. 130, &c.] "He had been chosen for his rough tongue," says Valori; our French Court being piqued at Friedrich and his sarcasms. Tyrconnel gives splendid dinners: Voltaire often of them; does not love Potsdam, nor is loved by it. Nay, I sometimes think a certain DEMON NEWSWRITER (of whom by and by), but do not know, may be some hungry Attache of Tyrconnel's. Hungry Attache, shut out from the divine Suppers and upper planetary movements, and reduced to look on them from his cold hutch, in a dog-like angry and hungry manner? His flying allusions to Voltaire, "SON (Friedrich's) SQUELETTE D'APOLLON, skeleton of an Apollo," and the like, are barkings almost rabid.
Of the military sort, about this time, Keith and Rothenburg appear most frequently as guests or companions. Rothenburg had a great deal of Friedrich's regard: Winterfeld is more a practical Counseller, and does not shine in learned circles, as Rothenburg may. A fiery soldier too, this Rothenburg, withal;—a man probably of many talents and qualities, though of distinctly decipherable there is next to no record of him or them. He had a Parisian Wife; who is sometimes on the point of coming with Niece Denis to Berlin, and of setting up their two French households there; but never did it, either of them, to make an Uncle or a Husband happy. Rothenburg was bred a Catholic: "he headed the subscription for the famous 'KATHOLISCHE KIRCHE,'" so delightful to the Pope and liberal Christians in those years; "but never gave a sixpence of money," says Voltaire once: Catholic KIRK was got completed with difficulty; stands there yet, like a large washbowl set, bottom uppermost, on the top of a narrowish tub; but none of Rothenburg's money is in it. In Voltaire's Correspondence there is frequent mention of him; not with any love, but with a certain secret respect, rather inclined to be disrespectful, if it durst or could: the eloquent vocal individual not quite at ease beside the more silent thinking and acting one. What we know is, Friedrich greatly loved the man. There is some straggle of CORRESPONDENCE between Friedrich and him left; but it is worth nothing; gives no testimony of that, or of anything else noticeable:—and that is the one fact now almost alone significant of Rothenburg. Much loved and esteemed by the King; employed diplomatically, now and then; perhaps talked with on such subjects, which was the highest distinction. Poor man, he is in very bad health in these months; has never rightly recovered of his wounds; and dies in the last days of 1751,—to the bitter sorrow of the King, as is still on record. A highly respectable dim figure, far more important in Friedrich's History than he looks. As King's guest, he can in these months play no part.
Highly respectable too, and well worth talking to, though left very dim to us in the Books, is Marshal Keith; who has been growing gradually with the King, and with everybody, ever since he came to these parts in 1747. A man of Scotch type; the broad accent, with its sagacities, veracities, with its steadfastly fixed moderation, and its sly twinkles of defensive humor, is still audible to us through the foreign wrappages. Not given to talk, unless there is something to be said; but well capable of it then. Friedrich, the more he knows him, likes him the better. On all manner of subjects he can talk knowingly, and with insight of his own. On Russian matters Friedrich likes especially to hear him,—though they differ in regard to the worth of Russian troops. "Very considerable military qualities in those Russians," thinks Keith: "imperturbably obedient, patient; of a tough fibre, and are beautifully strict to your order, on the parade-ground or off." "Pooh, mere rubbish, MON CHER," thinks Friedrich always. To which Keith, unwilling to argue too long, will answer: "Well, it is possible enough your Majesty may try them, some day; if I am wrong, it will be all the better for us!" Which Friedrich had occasion to remember by and by. Friedrich greatly respects this sagacious gentleman with the broad accent: his Brother, the Lord Marischal, is now in France: Ambassador at Paris, since September, 1751: ["Left Potsdam 28th August" (Rodenbeck, i. 220).] "Lord Marischal, a Jacobite, for Prussian Ambassador in Paris; Tyrconnel, a Jacobite, for French Ambassador in Berlin!" grumble the English.
FRACTIONS OF EVENTS AND INDICATIONS, FROM VOLTAIRE HIMSELF, IN THIS TIME; MORE OR LESS ILLUMINATIVE WHEN REDUCED TO ORDER.
Here, selected from more, are a few "fire-flies,"—not dancing or distracted, but authentic all, and stuck each on its spit; shedding a feeble glimmer over the physiognomy of those Fifteen caliginous Months, to an imagination that is diligent. Fractional utterances of Voltaire to Friedrich and others (in abridged form, abridgment indicated): the exact dates are oftenest irretrievably gone; but the glimmer of light is indisputable, all the more as, on Voltaire's part, it is mostly involuntary. Grouping and sequence must be other than that of Time.
POTSDAM, 5th JUNE, 1751.—King is off on that Ost-Friesland jaunt; Voltaire at Potsdam, "at what they call the Marquisat," in complete solitude,—preparing to die before long,—sends his Majesty some poor trifles of Scribbling, proofs of my love, Sire: "since I live solitary, when you are not at Potsdam, it would seem I came for you only" (note that, your Majesty)!... "But in return for the rags here sent, I expect the Sixth Canto of your ART [ART DE LA GUERRE, one of the Two pupil-and-schoolmaster "Specimens" mentioned above]; I expect the ROOF to the Temple of Mars. It is for you, alone of men, to build that Temple; as it was for Ovid to sing of Love, and for Horace to give an ART OF POETRY." (Laying it on pretty thick!)...
Then again, later (after severe study, ferula in hand): "Sire, I return your Majesty your Six Cantos; I surrender at discretion (LUI LAISSE CARTE-BLANCHE) on that question of 'VICTOIRE.' The whole Poem is worthy of you: if I had made this Journey only to see a thing so unique, I ought not to regret my Country."... And again (still no date): "GRAND DIEU! is not all that [HISTORY OF THE GREAT ELECTOR, by your Majesty, which I am devouring with such appetite] neat, elegant, precise, and, above all, philosophical!"—"Sire, you are adorable; I will pass my days at your feet. Oh, never make game of me (DES NICHES)!" Has he been at that, say you! "If the Kings of Denmark, Portugal, Spain, &c. did it, I should not care a pin; they are only Kings. But you are the greatest man that perhaps ever reigned." [[In—OEuvres de Frederic,—xxii. 271, 273.]
IS ON LEAVE OF ABSENCE, NEAR BY; WISHES TO BE CALLED AGAIN (No date).—"Sire, if you like free criticism, if you tolerate sincere praises, if you wish to perfect a Work [ART DE LA GUERRE, or some other as sublime], which you alone in Europe are capable of doing, you have only to bid a Hermit come upstairs. At your orders for all his life." [Ib. 261.]
IN BERLIN PALACE: PLEASE DON'T TURN ME OUT! (No date)—... "Next to you, I love work and retirement. Nobody whatever complains of me. I ask of your Majesty, in order to keep unaltered the happiness I owe to you, this favor, Not to turn me out of the Apartment you deigned to give me at Berlin, till I go for Paris [always talking of that]. If I were to leave it, they would put in the Gazettes that I"—Oh, what would n't they put in, of one that, belonging to King Friedrich, lives as it were in the Disc of the Sun, conspicuous to everybody!—"I will go out [of the Apartment] when some Prince, with a Suite needing it to lodge in, comes; and then the thing will be honorable. Chasot [gone to Paris] has been talking"—unguarded things of me!"I have not uttered the least complaint of Chasot: I never will of Chasot, nor of those who have set him on [Maupertuis belike]: I forgive everything, I!" [Ib. 270.]
ROTHENBURG IS ILL; VOLTAIRE HAS BEEN TO SEE HIM ("Berlin, 14th," no month; year, too surely, 1751, as we shall find! Letter is IN VERSE).—"Lieberkuhn was going to kill poor Rothenburg; to send him off to Pluto,—for liking his dish a little;—monster Lieberkuhn! But Doctor Joyous," your reader, La Mettrie,—led by, need I say whom?—"has brought him back to us:—think of Lieberkuhn's solemn stare! Pretty contrasts, those, of sublime Quacksalverism, with Sense under the mask of Folly. May the haemorrhoidal vein"—follows HERE, note it, exquisite reader, that of "CUL DE MON HEROS," cited above!—...
And then (a day or two after; King too haemorrhoidal to come twenty miles, but anxious to know): "Sire, no doubt Doctor Joyous (LE MEDECIN JOYEUX) has informed your Majesty that when we arrived, the Patient was sleeping tranquil; and Cothenius assured us, in Latin, that there was no danger. I know not what has passed since, but I am persuaded your Majesty approves my journey" (of a street or two),—MUST you speak of it, then!
GOES TO AN EVENING-PARTY NOW AND THEN (To Niece Denis).—... "Madame Tyrconnel [French Excellency's Wife] has plenty of fine people at her house on an evening; perhaps too many" (one of the first houses in Berlin, this of my Lord Tyrcannel's, which we frequent a good deal).... "Madame got very well through her part of ANDROMAQUE [in those old play-acting times of ours]: never saw actresses with finer eyes,"—how should you!
"As to Milord Tyrconnel, he is an Anglais of dignity,"—Irish in reality, and a thought blusterous. "He has a condensed (SERRE) caustic way of talk; and I know not what of frank which one finds in the English, and does not usually find in persons of his trade. French Tragedies played at Berlin, I myself taking part; an Englishman Envoy of France there: strange circumstances these, are n't they?" [To D'Argental this (—OEuvres de Voltaire,—lxxiv. 289).] Yes, that latter especially; and Milord Marischal our Prussian Envoy with you! Which the English note, sulkily, as a weather-symptom.
AT POTSDAM, BIG DEVILS OF GRENADIERS (No date).—... "But, Sire, one is n't always perched on the summit of Parnassus; one is a man. There are sicknesses about; I did not bring an athlete's health to these parts; and the scorbutic humor which is eating my life renders me truly, of all that are sick, the sickest. I am absolutely alone from morning till night. My one solace is the necessary pleasure of taking the air, I bethink me of walking, and clearing my head a little, in your Gardens at Potsdam. I fancy it is a permitted thing; I present myself, musing;—I find huge devils of Grenadiers, who clap bayonets in my belly, who cry FURT, SACRAMENT, and DER KONIG [OFF, SACKERMENT, THE KING, quite tolerably spelt]! And I take to my heels, as Austrians and Saxons would do before them. Have you ever read, that in Titus's or Marcus-Aurelius's Gardens, a poor devil of a Gaulish Poet"—In short, it shall be mended. [—OEuvres de Frederic,—xxii. 273.]
HAVE BEEN LAYING IT ON TOO THICK (No date; IN VERSE).—"Marcus Aurelius was wont to"—(Well, we know who that is: What of Marcus, then?)—"A certain lover of his glory [STILL IN VERSE] spoke once, at Supper, of a magnanimity of Marcus's;—at which Marcus [flattery too thick] rather gloomed, and sat quite silent,—which was another fine saying of his [ENDS VERSE, STARTS PROSE]:—
"Pardon, Sire, some hearts that are full of you! To justify myself, I dare supplicate your Majesty to give one glance at this Letter (lines pencil-marked), which has just come from M. de Chauvelin, Nephew of the famous GARDE-DES-SCEAUX. Your Majesty cannot gloom at him, writing these from the fulness of his heart; nor at me, who"—Pooh; no, then! Perhaps do you a NICHE again,—poor restless fellow! [Ib. 280.]
POTSDAM PALACE (No date): SIRE, NZAY I CHANGE MY ROOM?... "I ascend to your antechambers, to find some one by whom I may ask permission to speak with you. I find nobody: I have to return:" and what I wanted was this, "your protection for my SIECLE DE LOUIS QUATORZE, which I am about to print in Berlin." Surely,—but also this:—
"I am unwell, I am a sick man born. And withal I am obliged to work, almost as much as your Majesty. I pass the whole day alone. If you would permit that I might shift to the Apartment next the one I have,—to that where General Bredow slept last winter,—I should work more commodiously. My Secretary (Collini) and I could work together there. I should have a little more sun, which is a great point for me.—Only the whim of a sick man, perhaps! Well, even so, your Majesty will have pity on it. You promised to make me happy." [—OEuvres de Frederic,—xxii. 277.]
I SUSPECT THAT I AM SUSPECTED (No date).—"Sire, if I am not brief, forgive me. Yesterday the faithful D'Arget told me with sorrow that in Paris people were talking of your Poem." Horrible; but, O Sire,—me?—"I showed him the eighteen Letters that I received yesterday. They are from Cadiz," all about Finance, no blabbing there! "Permit me to send you now the last six from my Niece, numbered by her own hand [no forgery, no suppression]; deign to cast your eyes on the places I have underlined, where she speaks of your Majesty, of D'Argens, of Potsdam, of D'Ammon" (to whom she can't be Phyllis, innocent being)!-MON CHER VOLTAIRE, must I again do some NICHE upon you, then? Tie some tin-canister to your too-sensitive tail? What an element you inhabit within that poor skin of yours! [Ib. 269.]
MAJESTY INVITES US TO A LITERARY CHRISTENING, POTSDAM (No date. These "Six Twins" are the "ART DE LA GUERRE," in Six Chants; part of that revised Edition which is getting printed "AU DONJON DU CHATEAU;" time must be, well on in 1751). Friedrich writes to Voltaire:—
"I have just been brought to bed of Six Twins; which require to be baptized, in the name of Apollo, in the waters of Hippocrene. LA HENRIADE is requested to become godmother: you will have the goodness to bring her, this evening at five, to the Father's Apartment. D'Arget LUCINA will be there; and the Imagination of MAN-A-MACHINE will hold the poor infants over the Font." [Ib. 266.]
DEIGN TO SAY IF I HAVE OFFENDED.—... "As they write to me from Paris that I am in disgrace with you, I dare to beg very earnestly that you will deign to say if I have displeased in anything! May go wrong by ignorance or from over-zeal; but with my heart never! I live in the profoundest retreat; giving to study my whole"—"Your assurances once vouchsafed [famous Document of August 23d]. I write only to my Niece. I" (a page more of this)—have my sorrows and merits, and absolutely no silence at all! [—OEuvres de Frederic,—xxii. 289.] "In the gift of Speech he is the most brilliant of mankind," said Smelfungus; but in the gift of Silence what a deficiency! Friedrich will have to do that for Two, it would seem.
BERLIN, 28th DECEMBER, 1751: LOUIS QUATORZE; AND DEATH OF ROTHENBURG.—"Our LOUIS QUATORZE is out. But, Heavens, see, your Majesty: a Pirate Printer, at Frankfurt-on-Oder, has been going on parallel with us, all the while; and here is his foul blotch of an Edition on sale, too! Bielfeld," fantastic fellow, "had proof-sheets; Bielfeld sent them to a Professor there, though I don't blame Bielfeld: result too evident. Protect me, your Majesty; Order all wagons, especially wagons for Leipzig, to be stopped, to be searched, and the Books thrown out,—it costs you but a word!"
Quite a simple thing: "All Prussia to the rescue!" thinks an ardent Proprietor of these Proof-sheets. But then, next day, hears that Rothenburg is dead. That the silent Rothenburg lay dying, while the vocal Voltaire was writing these fooleries, to a King sunk in grief. "Repent, be sorry, be ashamed!" he says to himself; and does instantly try;—but with little success; Frankfurt-on-Oder, with its Bielfeld proof-sheets, still jangling along, contemptibly audible, for some time. [Ib. 285-287.] And afterwards, from Frankfurt-on-Mayn new sorrow rises on LOUIS QUATORZE, as will be seen.—Friedrich's grief for Rothenburg was deep and severe; "he had visited him that last night," say the Books; "and quitted his bedside, silent, and all in tears." It is mainly what of Biography the silent Rothenburg now has.
From the current Narratives, as they are called, readers will recollect, out of this Voltaire Period, two small particles of Event amid such an ocean of noisy froth,—two and hardly more: that of the "Orange-Skin," and that of the "Dirty Linen." Let us put these two on their basis; and pass on:—
THE ORANGE-SKIN (Potsdam, 2d September, 1751, to Niece Denis)—Good Heavens, MON ENFANT, what is this I hear (through the great Dionysius' Ear I maintain, at such expense to myself)!... "La Mettrie, a man of no consequence, who talks familiarly with the King after their reading; and with me too, now and then: La Mettrie swore to me, that, speaking to the King, one of those days, of my supposed favor, and the bit of jealousy it excites, the King answered him: "I shall want him still about a year:—you squeeze the orange, you throw away the skin (ON EN JETTE LECORCE)!'" Here is a pretty bit of babble (lie, most likely, and bit of mischievous fun) from Dr. Joyous. "It cannot be true, No! And yet—and yet—?" Words cannot express the agonizing doubts, the questionings, occasionally the horror of Voltaire: poor sick soul, keeping a Dionysius'-Ear to boot! This blurt of La Mettrie's goes through him like a shot of electricity through an elderly sick Household-Cat; and he speaks of it again and ever again,—though we will not farther.
DIRTY LINEN (Potsdam, 24th July, 1752, To Niece Denis).—... "Maupertuis has discreetly set the rumor going, that I found the King's Works very bad; that I said to some one, on Verses from the King coming in, 'Will he never tire, then, of sending me his dirty linen to wash?' You obliging Maupertuis!"
Rumor says, it was General Mannstein, once Aide-de-Camp in Russia, who had come to have his WORK ON RUSSIA revised (excellent Work, often quoted by us [Did get out at last,—in England, through Lord Marischal and David Hume: see PREFACE to it (London, 1760).]), when the unfortunate Royal Verses came. Perhaps M. de Voltaire did say it:—why not, had it only been prudent? He really likes those Verses much more than I; but knows well enough, SUB ROSA, what kind of Verses they are. This also is a horrible suspicion; that the King should hear of this,—as doubtless the King did, though without going delirious upon it at all. ["To Niece Denis," dates as above (—OEuvres de Voltaire,—lxxiv. 408, lxxv. 17).] Thank YOU, my Perpetual President, not the less!—
OF MAUPERTUIS, IN SUCCESSIVE PHASES.—... "Maupertuis is not of very engaging ways; he takes my dimensions harshly with his quadrant: it is said there enters something of envy into his DATA. ... A somewhat surly gentleman; not too sociable; and, truth to say, considerably sunk here [ASSEZ BAISSE, my D'Argental].
... "I endure Maupertuis, not having been able to soften him. In all countries there are insociable fellows, with whom you are obliged to live, though it is difficult. He has never forgiven me for"—omitting to cite him, &c.—At Paris he had got the Academy of Sciences into trouble, and himself into general dislike (DETESTER); then came this Berlin offer. "Old Fleuri, when Maupertuis called to take leave, repeated that verse of Virgil, NEC TIBI REGNANDI VENIAT TAM DIRA CUPIDO. Fleuri might have whispered as much to himself: but he was a mild sovereign lord, and reigned in a gentle polite manner. I swear to you, Maupertuis does not, in his shop [the Academy here]—where, God be thanked, I never go.
"He has printed a little Pamphlet on Happiness (SUR LE BONHEUR); it is very dry and miserable. Reminds you of Advertisements for things lost,—so poor a chance of finding them again. Happiness is not what he gives to those who read him, to those who live with him; he is not himself happy, and would be sorry that others were [to Niece Denis this].
... "A very sweet life here, Madame [Madame d'Argental, an outside party]: it would have been more so, if Maupertuis had liked. The wish to please, is no part of his geometrical studies; the problem of being agreeable to live with, is not one he has solved." [—OEuvres de Voltaire,—lxxiv. 330, 504 (4th May, 1751, and 14th March, 1752), to the D'Argentals; to Niece Denis (6th November, 1750, and 24th August, 1751), lxxiv. 250, 385.]—Add this Anecdote, which is probably D'Arget's, and worth credit:—
"Voltaire had dinner-party, Maupertuis one of them; party still in the drawing-room, dinner just coming up. 'President, your Book, SUR LE BONHEUR, has given me pleasure,' said Voltaire, politely [very politely, considering what we have just read]; given me pleasure,—a few obscurities excepted, of which we will talk together some evening.' 'Obscurities?' said Maupertuis, in a gloomy arbitrary tone: 'There may be such for you, Monsieur!' Voltaire laid his hand on the President's shoulder [yellow wig near by], looked at him in silence, with many-twinkling glance, gayety the topmost expression, but by no means the sole one: 'President, I esteem you, JE VOUS ESTIME, MON PRESIDENT: you are brave; you want war: we will have it. But, in the mean while, let us eat the King's roast meat.'" [Duvernet (2d FORM of him, always, p. 176.]
Friedrich's Answers to these Voltaire Letters, if he wrote any, are all gone. Probably he answered almost nothing; what we have of his relates always to specific business, receipt of LOUIS QUATORZE, and the like; and is always in friendly tone. Handsomely keeping Silence for Two! Here is a snatch from him, on neutral figures and movements of the time:—
FRIEDRICH TO WIILHELMINA (November 17th, 1751).—"I think the Margraf of Anspach will not have stayed long with you. He is not made to taste the sweets of society: his passion for hunting, and the tippling life he leads this long time, throw him out when he comes among reasonable persons.... "I expect my Sister of Brunswick, with the Duke and their eldest Girl, the 4th of next month,"—to Carnival here. "It is seven years since the Queen (our Mamma) has seen her. She holds a small Board of Wit at Brunswick; of which your Doctor [Doctor Superville, Dutch-French, whose perennial merit now is, That he did not burn Wilhelmina's MEMOIRS, but left them safe to posterity, for long centuries],—of which your Doctor is the director and oracle. You would burst outright into laughing when she speaks of those matters. Her natural vivacity and haste has not left her time to get to the bottom of anything; she skips continually from one subject to the other, and gives twenty decisions in a minute." [—OEuvres de Frederic,—xxvii. i. 202:—On Superville, see Preuss's Note, ib. 56.]
About a month before Rothenburg's death, which was so tragical to Friedrich, there had fallen out, with a hideous dash of farce in it, the death of La Mettrie. Here are Two Accounts, by different hands,—which represent to us an immensity of babble in the then Voltaire circle.
LA METTRIE DIES.—Two Accounts: 1. King Friedrich's: to Wilhelmina. "21st November, 1751.... We have lost poor La Mettrie. He died for a piece of fun: ate, out of banter, a whole pheasant-pie; had a horrible indigestion; took it into his head to have blood let, and convince the German Doctors that bleeding was good in indigestion. But it succeeded ill with him: he took a violent fever, which passed into putrid; and carried him off. He is regretted by all that knew him. He was gay; BON DIABLE, good Doctor, and very bad Author: by avoiding to read his Books, one could manage to be well content with himself." [Ib. xxvii. i. 203.]
2. Voltaire's: to Niece Denis (NOT his first to her): Potsdam, 24th December, 1751.... "No end to my astonishment. Milord Tyrconnel," always ailing (died here himself), "sends to ask La Mettrie to come and see him, to cure him or amuse him. The King grudges to part with his Reader, who makes him laugh. La Mettrie sets out; arrives at his Patient's just when Madame Tyrconnel is sitting down to table: he eats and drinks, talks and laughs more than all the guests; when he has got crammed (EN A JUSQU'AU MENTON), they bring him a pie, of eagle disguised as pheasant, which had arrived from the North, plenty of bad lard, pork-hash and ginger in it; my gentleman eats the whole pie, and dies next day at Lord Tyrconnel's, assisted by two Doctors," Cothenius and Lieberkuhn, "whom he used to mock at.... How I should have liked to ask him, at the article of death, about that Orange-skin!" [—OEuvres de Voltaire,—lxxiv. 439, 450.]
Add this trait too, from authentic Nicolai, to complete the matter: "An Irish Priest, Father Macmahon, Tyrconnel's Chaplain [more power to him], wanted to convert La Mettrie: he pushed into the sick-room;—encouraged by some who wished to make La Mettrie contemptible to Friedrich [the charitable souls]. La Mettrie would have nothing to do with this Priest and his talk; who, however, still sat and waited. La Mettrie, in a twinge of agony, cried out, 'JESUS MARIE!' 'AH, VOUS VOILA ENFIN RETOURNE A CES NOMS CONSOLATEURS!' exclaimed the Irishman. To which La Mettrie answered (in polite language, to the effect), 'Bother you!' and expired a few minutes after." [Nicolai,—Anekdoten,—i. 20 n.]
Enough of this poor madcap. Friedrich's ELOGE of him, read to the Academy some time after, it was generally thought (and with great justice), might as well have been spared. The Piece has nothing noisy, nothing untrue; but what has it of importance? And surely the subject was questionable, or more. La Mettrie might have done without Eulogy from a King of men.
... "He had been used to put himself at once on the most familiar footing with the King [says Thiebault, UNbelievable]. Entered the King's apartment as he would that of a friend; plunged down whenever he liked, which was often, and lay upon the sofas; if it was warm, took off his stock, unbuttoned his waistcoat, flung his periwig on the floor;" [Thiebault, v. 405 (calls him "La Metherie;" knows, as usual, nothing).]—highly probable, thinks stupid Thiebault!
"The truth is," says Nicolai, "the King put no real value on La Mettrie. He considered him as a merry-andrew fellow, who might amuse you, when half seas-over (ENTRE DEUX VINS). De la Mettrie showed himself unworthy of any favor he had. Not only did he babble, and repeat about Town what he heard at the King's table; but he told everything in a false way, and with malicious twists and additions. This he especially did at Lord Tyrconnel, the then French Ambassador's table, where at last he died." [Nicolai,—Anekdoten,—i. 20.] But could not take the ORANGE-SKIN along with him; alas, no!—
On the whole, be not too severe on poor Voltaire! He is very fidgety, noisy; something of a pickthank, of a wheedler; but, above all, he is scorbutic, dyspeptic; hag-ridden, as soul seldom was; and (in his oblique way) APPEALS to Friedrich and us,—not in vain. And, in short, we perceive, after the First Act of the Piece, beginning in preternatural radiances, ending in whirlwinds of flaming soot, he has been getting on with his Second Act better than could be expected. Gyrating again among the bright planets, circum-jovial moons, in the Court Firmament; is again in favor, and might—Alas, he had his FELLOW-moons, his Maupertuis above all! Incurable that Maupertuis misery; gets worse and worse, steadily from the first day. No smallest entity that intervenes, not even a wandering La Beaumelle with his Book of PENSEES, but is capable of worsening it. Take this of Smelfungus; this Pair of Cabinet Sketches,—"hasty outlines; extant chiefly," he declares, "by Voltaire's blame:"—
LA BEAUMELLE.—"Voltaire has a fatal talent of getting into I quarrels with insignificant accidental people; and instead of silently, with cautious finger, disengaging any bramble that catches to him, and thankfully passing on, attacks it indignantly with potent steel implements, wood-axes, war-axes; brandishing and hewing;—till he has stirred up a whole wilderness of bramble-bush, and is himself bramble-chips all over. M. Angliviel de la Beaumelle, for example, was nothing but a bramble: some conceited Licentiate of Theology, who, finding the Presbytery of Geneva too narrow a field, had gone to Copenhagen, as Professor of Rhetoric or some such thing; and, finding that field also too narrow, and not to be widened by attempts at Literature, MES PENSEES and the like, in such barbarous Country",—had now [end of 1751] come to Berlin; and has Presentation copies of MES PENSEES, OU LE QU'EN DIRA-T-ON, flying right and left, in hopes of doing better there. Of these PENSEES (Thoughts so called) I will give but one specimen" (another, that of "King Friedrich a common man," being carefully suppressed in the Berlin Copies, of La Beaumelle's distributing):—
"There have been greater Poets than Voltaire; there was never any so well recompensed: and why? Because Taste (GOUT, inclination) sets no limits to its recompenses. The King of Prussia overloads men of talent with his benefits for precisely the reasons which induce a little German Prince to overload with benefits a buffoon or a dwarf." [—OEuvres de Voltaire,—xxvii. 220 n.] Could there be a phenomenon more indisputably of bramble nature?
"He had no success at Berlin, in spite of his merits; could not come near the King at all; but assiduously frequented Maupertuis, the flower of human thinkers in that era,—who was very humane to him in consequence. 'How is it, O flower of human thinkers, that I cannot get on with his Majesty, or make the least way?' (HELAS, MONSIEUR, you have enemies!' answered he of the red wig; and told La Beaumelle (hear it, ye Heavens), That M. de Voltaire had called his Majesty's attention to the PENSEE given above, one evening at Supper Royal; 'heard it myself, Monsieur—husht!' Upon which—
"'Upon which, see, paltry La Beaumelle has become my enemy for life!' shrieks Voltaire many times afterwards: 'And it was false, I declare to Heaven, and again declare; it was not I, it was D'Argens quizzing me about it, that called his Majesty's attention to that PENSEE of Blockhead La Beaumelle,—you treacherous Perpetual President, stirring up enemies against me, and betraying secrets of the King's table.' Sorrow on your red wig, and you!—It is certain La Beaumelle, soon after this, left Berlin: not in love with Voltaire. And there soon appeared, at Franfurt-on-Mayn, a Pirate Edition of our brand-new SIECLE DE LOUIS QUATORZE (with Annotations scurrilous and flimsy);—La Beaumelle the professed Perpetrator; 'who received for the job 7 pounds 10s. net!' [Ib. xx.] asseverates the well-informed Voltaire. Oh, M. de Voltaire, and why not leave it to him, then? Poor devil, he got put into the Bastille too, by and by; Royal Persons being touched by some of his stupid foot-notes.
"La Beaumelle had a long course of it, up and down the world, in and out of the Bastille; writing much, with inconsiderable recompense, and always in a wooden manure worthy of his First vocation in the Geneva time. 'A man of pleasing physiognomy,' says Formey, 'and expressed himself well. I received his visit 14th January, 1752,'—to which latter small circumstance (welcome as a fixed date to us here) La Beaumelle's Biography is now pretty much reduced for mankind. [Formey, ii. 221.] He continued Maupertuis's adorer: and was not a bad creature, only a dull wooden one, with obstinate temper. A LIFE OF MAUPERTUIS of his writing was sent forth lately, [—Vie de Maupertuis—(cited above), Paris, 1866.] after lying hidden a hundred years: but it is dull, dead, painfully ligneous, like all the rest; and of new or of pleasant tells us nothing.
"His enmity to M. de Voltaire did prove perpetual:—a bramble that might have been dealt with by fingers, or by fingers and scissors, but could not by axes, and their hewing and brandishing. 'This is the ninety-fifth anonymous Calumny of La Beaumelle's, this that you have sent me!' says Voltaire once. The first stroke or two had torn the bramble quite on end: 'He says he will pursue you to Hell even,' writes one of the Voltaire kind friends from Frankfurt, on that 7 pounds 10s. business. 'A L'ENFER?' answers M. de Voltaire, with a toss: 'Well, I should think so, he, and at a good rate of speed. But whether he will find me there, must be a question!' If you want to have an insignificant accidental fellow trouble you all your days, this is the way of handling him when he first catches hold."
ABBE DE PRADES.—"De Prades, 'Abbe de Prades, Reader to the King,' though happily not an enemy of Voltaire's, is in some sort La Beaumelle's counterpart, or brother with a difference; concerning whom also, one wants only to know the exact date of his arrival. As La Beaumelle felt too strait-tied in the Geneva vestures (where it had been good for him to adjust himself, and stay); so did De Prades in the Sorbonne ditto,—and burst out, on taking Orders, not into eloquent Preachings or edifying Devotional Exercises; but into loud blurts of mere heresy and heterodoxy. Blurts which were very loud, and I believe very stupid; which failed of being sublime even to the Philosophic world; and kindled the Sorbonne into burning his Book, and almost burning himself, had not he at once run for it.
"Ran to Holland, and there continued blurting more at large,—decidedly stupid for most part, thinks Voltaire, 'but with glorious Passages, worth your Majesty's attention;'—upon which, D'Alembert too helping, poor De Prades was invited to the Readership, vacant by La Mettrie's eagle-pie; and came gladly, and stayed. At what date? one occasionally asks: for there are Royal Letters, dateless, but written in his hand, that raise such question in the utter dimness otherwise. Date is 'September, 1752.' [Preuss, i. 368; ii. 115.] Farther question one does not ask about De Prades. Rather an emphatic intrusive kind of fellow, I should guess;—wrote, he, not Friedrich, that ABRIDGMENT OF PLEURY'S ECCLESIASTICAL HISTORY, and other the like dreary Pieces, which used to be inflicted on mankind as Friedrich's.
"For the rest, having place and small pension,—not, like La Beaumelle, obliged to pirate and annotate for 7 pounds 10s.—he went on steadily, a good while; got a Canonry of Glogau [small Catholic benefice, bad if it was not better than its now occupant];—and unluckily, in the Seven-Years-War time, fell into treasonous Correspondence with his countrymen; which it was feared might be fatal, when found out. But no, not fatal. Friedrich did lock him in Magdeburg for some months; then let him out: 'Home to Glogau, sirrah; stick to your Canonry henceforth, and let us hear no more of you at all!' Which shall be his fate in these pages also."
Good, my friend; no more of him, then! Only recollect "September, 1752," if dateless Royal Letters in De Prades's hand turn up.
Chapter X. DEMON NEWSWRITER, OF 1752.
It must be owned, the King's French Colony of Wits were a sorry set of people. They tempt one to ask, What is the good of wit, then, if this be it? Here are people sparkling with wit, and have not understanding enough to discern what lies under their nose. Cannot live wisely with anybody, least of all with one another.
In fact, it is tragic to think how ill this King succeeded in the matter of gathering friends. With the whole world to choose from, one fancies always he might have done better! But no, he could not;—and chiefly for this reason: His love of Wisdom was nothing like deep enough, reverent enough; and his love of ESPRIT (the mere Garment or Phantasm of Wisdom) was too deep. Friends do not drop into one's mouth. One must know how to choose friends; and that of ESPRIT, though a pretty thing, is by no means the one requisite, if indeed it be a requisite at all. This present Wit Colony was the best that Friedrich ever had; and we may all see how good it was. He took, at last more and more, into bantering his Table-Companions (which I do not wonder at), as the chief good he could get of them. And had, as we said, especially in his later time, in the manner of Dublin Hackney-Coachmen, established upon each animal its RAW; and makes it skip amazingly at touch of the whip. "Cruel mortal!" thought his cattle:—but, after all, how could he well help it, with such a set?
Native Literary Men, German or Swiss, there also were about Friedrich's Court: of them happily he did not require ESPRIT; but put them into his Academy; or employed them in practical functions, where honesty and good sense were the qualities needed. Worthy men, several of these; but unmemorable nearly all. We will mention Sulzer alone,—and not for THEORIES and PHILOSOPHIES OF THE FINE ARTS [—Allgemeine Theorie der Schonen Kunste,—3 vols.; &c. &c.] (which then had their multitudes of readers); but for a Speech of Friedrich's to him once, which has often been repeated. Sulzer has a fine rugged wholesome Swiss-German physiognomy, both of face and mind; and got his admirations, as the Berlin HUGH BLAIR that then was: a Sulzer whom Friedrich always rather liked.
Friedrich had made him School Inspector; loved to talk a little with him, about business, were it nothing else. "Well, Monsieur Sulzer, how are your Schools getting on?" asked the King one day,—long after this, but nobody will tell me exactly when, though the fact is certain enough: "How goes our Education business?" "Surely not ill, your Majesty; and much better in late years," answered Sulzer.—"In late years: why?" "Well, your Majesty, in former time, the notion being that mankind were naturally inclined to evil, a system of severity prevailed in schools: but now, when we recognize that the inborn inclination of men is rather to good than to evil, schoolmasters have adopted a more generous procedure."—"Inclination rather to good?" said Friedrich, shaking his old head, with a sad smile: "Alas, dear Sulzer, ACH MEIN LIEBER SULZER, I see you don't know that damned race of creatures (ER KENNT NICHT DIESE VERDAMMTE RACE) as I do!" [Nicolai, iii. 274;—the thing appears to have been said in French ("JE VOIS BIEN, MON CHER SULZER, QUE VOUS NE CONNAISSEZ PAS, COMME MOI, CETTE RACE MAUDITE A LAQUELLE NOUS APPARTENONS"); but the German form is irresistibly attractive, and is now heard proverbially from time to time in certain mouths.] Here is a speech for you!"Pardon the King, who was himself so beneficent and excellent a King!" cry several Editors of the rose-pink type. This present Editor, for his share, will at once forgive; but how can he ever forget!—
"Perhaps I mistake," owns Voltaire, in his Pasquinade of a VIE PRIVEE, "but it seems to me, at these Suppers there was a great deal of ESPRIT (real wit and brilliancy) going. The King had it, and made others have; and, what is extraordinary, I never felt myself so free at any table." "Conversation most pleasant," testifies another, "most instructive, animated; not to be matched, I should guess, elsewhere in the world." [Bielfeld, LETTERS; Voltaire, Vie Privee.] Very sprightly indeed: and a fund of good sense, a basis of practicality and fact, necessary to be in it withal; though otherwise it can foam over (if some La Mettrie be there, and a good deal of wine in him) to very great heights.
A DEMON NEWSWRITER GIVES AN "IDEA" OF FRIEDRICH; INTELLIGIBLE TO THE KNOWING CLASSES IN ENGLAND AND ELSEWHERE.
Practically, I can add only, That these Suppers of the gods begin commonly at half-past eight ("Concert just over"); and last till towards midnight,—not later conveniently, as the King must be up at five (in Summer-time at four), and "needs between five and six hours of sleep." Or would the reader care to consult a Piece expressly treating on all these points; kind of MANUSCRIPT NEWSPAPER, fallen into my hands, which seems to have had a widish circulation in its day. ["IDEE DE LA PERSONNE, DE LA MANIERE DE VIVRE, ET DE LA COUR DU ROI DE PRUSSE: juin, 1752." In the—Robinson Papers—(one Copy) now in the British Museum.] I have met with Two Copies of it, in this Country: one of them, to appearance, once the property of George Selwyn. The other is among the Robinson Papers: doubtless very luculent to Robinson, who is now home in England, but remembers many a thing. Judging from various symptoms, I could guess this MS. to have been much about, in the English Aristocratic Circles of that time; and to have, in some measure, given said Circles their "Idea" (as they were pleased to reckon it) of that wonderful and questionable King:—highly distracted "Idea;" which, in diluted form, is still the staple English one.
By the label, DEMON NEWSWRITER, it is not meant that the Author of this poor Paper was an actual Devil, or infernal Spiritual Essence of miraculous spectral nature. By no means! Beyond doubt, he is some poor Frenchman, more or less definable as flesh-and-blood; gesturing about, visibly, at Berlin in 1752; in cocked-hat and bright shoe-buckles; grinning elaborate salutations to certain of his fellow-creatures there. Possibly some hungry ATTACHE of Milord Tyrconnel's Legation; fatally shut out from the beatitudes of this barbarous Court, and willing to seek solacement, and turn a dishonest penny, in the PER-CONTRA course? Who he is, we need not know or care: too evident, he has the sad quality of transmuting, in his dirty organs, heavenly Brilliancy, more or less, into infernal Darkness and Hatefulness; which I reckon to have been, at all times, the principal function of a Devil;—function still carried on extensively, under Firms of another title, in this world.
Some snatches we will give. For, though it does not much concern a Man or King, seriously busy, what the idle outer world may see good to talk of him, his Biographers, in time subsequent, are called to notice the matter, as part of his Life-element, and characteristic of the world he had round him. Friedrich's affairs were much a wonder to his contemporaries. Especially his Domesticities, an item naturally obscure to the outer world, were wonderful; sure to be commented upon, to all lengths; and by the unintelligent, first of all. Of contemporary mankind, as we have sometimes said, nobody was more lied of:—of which, let this of the Demon Newswriter be example, one instead of many. The Demon Newswriter, deriving only from outside gossip and eavesdropping, is wrong very often,—in fact, he is seldom right, except on points which have been Officially fixed, and are within reach of an inquisitive Clerk of Legation. Wrong often enough, even in regard to external particulars, how much more as to internal;—and will need checking, as we go along.
Demon speaks first of Friedrich's stature, 5ft. 6in. (as we know better than this Demon); "pretty well proportioned, not handsome, and even something of awkward (GAUCHE), acquired by a constrained bearing [head slightly off the perpendicular, acquired by his flute, say the better-informed]. Is of the greatest politeness. Fine tone of voice,—fine even in swearing, which is as common with him as with a grenadier," adds this Demon; not worth attending to, on such points.
"Has never had a nightcap [sleeps bareheaded; in his later times, would sleep in his hat, which was always soft as duffel, kneaded to softness as its first duty, and did very well]: Never a nightcap, dressing-gown, or pair of slippers [TRUE]; only a kind of cloth cloak [NOT QUITE], much worn and very dirty, for being powdered in. The whole year round he goes in the uniform of his First Battalion of Guards:—blue with red facings, button-hole trimmings in silver, frogs at the inner end; his coat buttons close to the shape; waistcoat is plain yellow [straw-color]; hat [three-cornered] has edging of Spanish lace, white plume [horizontal, resting on the lace all round]: boots on his legs all his life. He cannot walk with shoes [pooh, you—!].
"He rises daily at five:"—No, he does n't at all! In fact, we had better clap the lid on this Demon, ill-informed as to all these points; and, on such suggestion, give the real account of them, distilled from Preuss, and the abundant authentic sources.
Preuss says (if readers could but remember him): "An Almanac lies on the King's Table, marking for each day what specific duties the day will bring. From five to six hours of sleep: in summer he rises about three, seldom after four; in winter perhaps an hour later. In his older time, seven hours' sleep came to be the stipulated quantity; and he would sleep occasionally eight hours or even nine, in certain medical predicaments. Not so in his younger years: four A.M. and five, the set hours then. Summer and winter, fire is lighted for him a quarter of an hour before. King rises; gets into his clothes: 'stockings, breeches, boots, he did sitting on the bed' (for one loves to be particular); the rest in front of the fire, in standing posture. Washing followed; more compendious than his Father's used to be.
"Letters specifically to his address, a courier (leaving Berlin, 9 P.M.) had brought him in the dead of night: these, on the instant of the King's calling 'Here!' a valet in the ante chamber brought in to him, to be read while his hair was being done. His uniform the King did not at once put on; but got into a CASAQUIN [loose article of the dressing-gown kind, only shorter than ours] of rich stuff, sometimes of velvet with precious silver embroideries. These Casaquins were commonly sky-blue (which color he liked), presents from his Sisters and Nieces. Letters being glanced over, and hair-club done, the Life-guard General-Adjutant hands in the Potsdam Report (all strangers that have entered Potsdam or left it, the principal item): this, with a Berlin Report, which had come with the Letters; and what of Army-Reports had arrived (Adjutant-General delivering these),—were now glanced over. And so, by five o'clock in the summer morning, by six in the winter, one sees, in the gross, what one's day's-work is to be; the miscellaneous STONES of it are now mostly here, only mortar and walling of them to be thought of. General-Adjutant and his affairs are first settled: on each thing a word or two, which the General-Adjutant (always a highly confidential Officer, a Hacke, a Winterfeld, or the like) pointedly takes down.
"General-Adjutant gone, the King, in sky-blue casaquin [often in very faded condition] steps into his writing-room; walks about, reading his Letters more completely; drinking, first, several glasses of water; then coffee, perhaps three cups with or without milk [likes coffee, and very strong]. After coffee he takes his flute; steps about practising, fantasying: he has been heard to say, speaking of music and its effects on the soul, That during this fantasying he would get to considering all manner of things, with no thought of what he was playing; and that sometimes even the luckiest ideas about business-matters have occurred to him while dandling with the flute. Sauntering so, he is gradually breakfasting withal: will eat, intermittently, small chocolate cakes; and after his coffee, cherries, figs, grapes, fruits in their season [very fond of fruit, and has elaborate hot-houses]. So passes the early morning.
"Between nine and ten, most of one's plan-work being got through, the questions of the day are settled, or laid hold of for settling. Between nine and ten, King takes to reading the 'Excerpts' (I suppose, of the more intricate or lengthier things) of Yesterday, which his three Cabinet Raths [Clerk Eichel and the other Two] have prepared for him. King summons these Three, one after the other, according to their Department; hands them the Letters just read, the Excerpts now decided on, and signifies, in a minimum of words, what the answers are to be,—Clerk, always in full dress, listening with both his ears, and pencil in hand. May have, of Answers, CABINET-ORDERS so called, perhaps a dozen, to be ready with before evening. ["In a certain Copy or Final-Register Book [Herr Preuss's Windfall, of which INFRA] entitled KABINETSORDENKOPIALBUCH, of One of the three Clerks, years 1746-1752, there are, on the average, ten CABINET-ORDERS daily, Sundays included" (Preuss, i. 352 n.).]
"Eichel and Company dismissed, King flings off his casaquin, takes his regimental coat; has his hair touched off with pomade, with powder; and is buttoned and ready in about five minutes;—ready for Parade, which is at the stroke of eleven, instead of later, as it used to be in Papa's time. If eleven is not yet come, he will get on horseback; go sweeping about, oftenest with errands still, at all events in the free solitude of air, till Parade-time do come. The Parole [Sentry's-WORD of the Day] he has already given his Adjutant-General. Parole, which only the Adjutant and Commandant had known till now, is formally given out; and the troops go through their exercises, manoeuvres, under a strictness of criticism which never abates." "Parade he by no chance ever misses," says our Demon friend.
"At the stroke of twelve," continues Preuss, "dinner is served. Dinner threefold; that is, a second table and a third. Only two courses, dishes only eight, even at the King's Table, (eight also at the Marshal's or second Table); guests from seven to ten. Dinner plentiful and savory (for the King had his favorites among edibles), by no means caring to be splendid,—yearly expense of threefold Dinner (done accurately by contract) was 1,800 pounds." Linsenbarth we saw at the Third Table, and how he fared. "The dinner-service was of beautiful porcelain; not silver, still less gold, except on the grandest occasions. Every guest eats at discretion,—of course!—and drinks at discretion, Moselle or Pontac [kind of claret]; Champagne and Hungary are handed round on the King's signal. King himself drinks Bergerac, or other clarets, with water. Dinner lasts till two;—if the conversation be seductive, it has been known to stretch to four. The King's great passion is for talk of the right kind; he himself talks a great deal, tippling wine-and-water to the end, and keeps on a level with the rising tide.
"With a bow from Majesty, dinner ends; guests gently, with a little saunter of talk to some of them, all vanish; and the King is in his own Apartment again. Generally flute-playing for about half an hour; till Eichel and the others come with their day's work: tray-loads of Cabinet-Orders, I can fancy; which are to be 'executed,' that is, to be glanced through, and signed. Signature for most part is all; but there are Marginalia and Postscripts, too, in great number, often of a spicy biting character; which, in our time, are in request among the curious." Herr Preuss, who has right to speak, declares that the spice of mockery has been exaggerated; and that serious sense is always the aim both of Document and of Signer. Preuss had a windfall; 12,000 of these Pieces, or more, in a lump, in the way of gift; which fell on him like manna,—and led, it is said, to those Friedrich studies, extensive faithful quarryings in that vast wilderness of sliding shingle and chaotic boulders.
"Coffee follows this despatch of Eichel and Consorts; the day now one's own." Scandalous rumors, prose and verse, connect themselves with this particular epoch of the day; which appear to be wholly LIES. Of which presently. "In this after-dinner period fall the literary labors," says Preuss:—a facile pen, this King's; only two hours of an afternoon allowed it, instead of all day and the top of the morning. "About six, or earlier even, came the Reader [La Mettrie or another], came artists, came learned talk. At seven is Concert, which lasts for an hour; half-past eight is Supper." [Preuss, i. 344-347 (and, with intermittencies, pp. 356, 361, 363 &c. to 376), abridged.]
Demon Newswriter says, of the Concert: "It is mostly of wind-instruments," King himself often taking part with his flute; "performers the best in Europe. He has three"—what shall we call them? of male gender,—"a counter-alt, and Mamsell Astrua, an Italian; they are unique voices. He cannot bear mediocrity. It is but seldom he has any singing here. To be admitted, needs the most intimate favor; now and then some young Lord, of distinction, if he meet with such." Concert, very well;—but let us now, suppressing any little abhorrences, hear him on another subject:—
"Dinner lasts one hour [says our Demon, no better informed]: upon which the King returns to his Apartment with bows. It pretty often happens that he takes with him one of his young fellows. These are all handsome, like a picture (FAITS A PEINDRE), and of the beautifulest face,"—adds he, still worse informed; poisonous malice mixing itself, this time, with the human darkness, and reducing it to diabolic. This Demon's Paper abounds with similar allusions; as do the more desperate sort of Voltaire utterances,—VIE PRIVEE treating it as known fact; Letters to Denis in occasional paroxysms, as rumor of detestable nature, probably true of one who is so detestable, at least so formidable, to a guilty sinner his Guest. Others, not to be called diabolical, as Herr Dr. Busching, for example, speak of it as a thing credible; as good as known to the well-informed. And, beyond the least question, there did a thrice-abominable rumor of that kind run, whispering audibly, over all the world; and gain belief from those who had appetite. A most melancholy business. Solacing to human envy;—explaining also, to the dark human intellect, why this King had commonly no Women at his Court. A most melancholy portion of my raw-material, this; concerning which, since one must speak of it, here is what little I have to say:—
1. That proof of the NEGATIVE, in this or in any such case, is by the nature of it impossible. That it is indisputable Friedrich did not now live with his Wife, nor seem to concern himself with the empire of women at all; having, except now and then his Sisters and some Foreign Princess on short visit, no women in his Court; and though a great judge of Female merits, graces and accomplishments, seems to worship women in that remote way alone, and not in any nearer. Which occasioned great astonishment in a world used so much to the contrary. And gave rise to many conjectures among the idle of mankind, "What, on Earth, or under Earth, can be the meaning of it?"—and among others, to the above scandalous rumor, as some solacement to human malice and impertinent curiosity.
2. That an opposite rumor—which would indeed have been pretty fatal to this one, but perhaps still more disgraceful in the eyes of a Demon Newswriter—was equally current; and was much elaborated by the curious impertinent. Till Nicolai got hold of it, in Herr Dr. Zimmermann's responsible hands; and conclusively knocked it on the head. [See Zimmermann's—Fragmente,—and Nicolai patiently pounding it to powder (whoever is curious on this disgusting subject).]
3". That, for me, proof in the affirmative, or probable indication that way, has not anywhere turned up. Nowhere for me, in these extensive minings and siftings. Not the least of probable indication; but contrariwise, here and there, rather definite indications pointing directly the opposite way. [For example ("CORRESPONDENCE WITH FREDERSDORF"),—OEuvres,—xxvii. iii. 145.] Friedrich, in his own utterances and occasional rhymes, is abundantly cynical; now and then rises to a kind of epic cynicism, on this very matter. But at no time can the painful critic call it cynicism as of OTHER than an observer; always a kind of vinegar cleanness in it, EXCEPT in theory. Cynicism of an impartial observer in a dirty element; observer epically sensible (when provoked to it) of the brutal contemptibilities which lie in Human Life, alongside of its big struttings and pretensions. In Friedrich's utterances there is that kind of cynicism undeniable;—and yet he had a modesty almost female in regard to his own person; "no servant having ever seen him in an exposed state." [Preuss, i. 376.] Which had considerably strengthened rumor No. 2. O ye poor impious Long-eared,—Long-eared I will call you, instead of Two-horned and with only One hoof cloven! Among the tragical platitudes of Human Nature, nothing so fills a considering brother mortal with sorrow and despair, as this innate tendency of the common crowd in regard to its Great Men, whensoever, or almost whensoever, the Heavens do, at long intervals, vouchsafe us, as their all-including blessing, anything of such! Practical "BLASPHEMY," is it not, if you reflect? Strangely possible that sin, even now. And ought to be religiously abhorred by every soul that has the least piety or nobleness. Act not the mutinous flunky, my friend; though there be great wages going in that line.
4. That in these circumstances, and taking into view the otherwise known qualities of this high Fellow-Creature, the present Editor does not, for his own share, value the rumor at a pin's fee. And leaves it, and recommends his readers to leave it, hanging by its own head, in the sad subterranean regions,—till (probably not for a long while yet) it drop to a far Deeper and dolefuler Region, out of our way altogether.
"Lamentable, yes," comments Diogenes; "and especially so, that the idle public has a hankering for such things! But are there no obscene details at all, then? grumbles the disappointed idle public to itself, something of reproach in its tone. A public idle-minded; much depraved in every way. Thus, too, you will observe of dogs: two dogs, at meeting, run, first of all, to the shameful parts of the constitution; institute a strict examination, more or less satisfactory, in that department. That once settled, their interest in ulterior matters seems pretty much to die away, and they are ready to part again, as from a problem done."—Enough, oh, enough!
Practically we are getting no good of our Demon;—and will dismiss him, after a taste or two more.
This Demon Newswriter has, evidently, never been to Potsdam; which he figures as the abode of horrid cruelty, a kind of Tartarus on Earth;—where there is a dreadful scarcity of women, for one item; lamentable to one's moral feelings. Scarcity nothing like so great, even among the soldier-classes, as the Demon Newswriter imagines to himself; nor productive of the results lamented. Prussian soldiers are not encouraged to marry, if it will hurt the service; nor do their wives march with the Regiment except in such proportions as there may be sewing, washing and the like women's work fairly wanted in their respective Companies: the Potsdam First Battalion, I understand, is hardly permitted to marry at all. And in regard to lamentable results, that of "LIEBSTEN-SCHEINE, Sweetheart-TICKETS,"—or actual military legalizing of Temporary Marriages, with regular privileges attached, and fixed rules to be observed,—might perhaps be the notablest point, and the SEMI-lamentablest, to a man or demon in the habit of lamenting. [Preuss, i. 426.] For the rest, a considerably dreadful place this Potsdam, to the flaccid, esurient and disorderly of mankind;—"and strict as Fate [Demon correct for once] in inexorably punishing military sins.
"This King," he says, "has a great deal of ESPRIT; much less of real, knowledge (CONNAISSANCES) than is pretended. He excels only in the military part; really excellent there. Has a facile expeditious pen and head; understands what you say to him, at the first word. Not taking nor wishing advice; never suffering replies or remonstrances, not even from his Mother. Pretty well acquainted with Works of ESPRIT, whether in Prose or in Verse: burning [very hot indeed] to distinguish himself by performance of that kind; but unable to reach the Beautiful, unless held up by somebody (ETAYE). It is said that, in a splenetic moment, his Skeleton of an Apollo [SQUELETTE D'APOLLON, M. de Voltaire, who is lean exceedingly] exclaimed once, some time ago, 'When is it, then, that he will have done sending me his dirty linen to wash?'
"The King is of a sharp mocking tongue withal; pricking into whoever displeases him; often careless of policy in that. Understands nothing of Finance, or still less of Trade; always looking direct towards more money, which he loves much; incapable of sowing [as some of US do!] for a distant harvest. Treats, almost all the world as slaves. All his subjects are held in hard shackles. Rigorous for the least shortcoming, where his interest is hurt:—never pardons any fault which tends to inexactitude in the Military Service. Spandau very full,"—though I did not myself count. "Keeps in his pay nobody but those useful to him, and capable of doing employments well [TRUE, ALWAYS]; and the instant he has no more need of them, dismissing them with nothing [FALSE, GENERALLY]. The Subsidies imposed on his subjects are heavy; in constant proportion to their Feudal Properties, and their Leases of Domains (CONTRATS ET BAUX); and, what is dreadful, are exacted with the same rigor if your Property gets into debt,"—no remission by the iron grip of this King in the name of the State! Sell, if you can find a Purchaser; or get confiscated altogether; that is your only remedy. Surely a tyrant of a King.
"People who get nearest him will tell you that his Politeness is not natural, but a remnant of old habit, when he had need of everybody, against the persecutions of his Father. He respects his Mother; the only Female for whom he has a sort of attention. He esteems his Wife, and cannot endure her; has been married nineteen years, and has not yet addressed one word to her [how true!]. It was but a few days ago she handed him a Letter, petitioning some things of which she had the most pressing want. He took the Letter, with that smiling, polite and gracious air which he assumes at pleasure; and without breaking the seal, tore the Letter up before her face, made her a profound bow, and turned his back on her." Was there ever such a Pluto varnished into Literary Rose-pink? Very proper Majesty for the Tartarus that here is.
... "The Queen-Mother," continues our Small Devil, "is a good fat woman, who lives and moves in her own way (RONDEMENT). She has l6,000 pounds a year for keeping up her House. It is said she hoards. Four days in the week she has Apartment [Royal Soiree]; to which you cannot go without express invitation. There is supper-table of twenty-four covers; only eight dishes, served in a shabby manner (INDECEMMENT) by six little scoundrels of Pages. Men and women of the Country [shivering Natives, cheering their dull abode] go and eat there. Steward Royal sends the invitations. At eleven, everybody has withdrawn. Other days, this Queen eats by herself. Stewardess Royal and three Maids of Honor have their separate table; two dishes the whole. She is shabbily lodged [in my opinion], when at the Palace. Her Monbijou, which is close to Berlin [now well within it], would be pretty enough, for a private person.
"The Queen Regnant is the best woman in the world. All the year [NOT QUITE] she dines alone. Has Apartment on Thursdays; everybody gone at nine o'clock. Her morsels are cut for her, her steps are counted, and her words are dictated; she is miserable, and does what she can to hide it"—according to our Small Devil. "She has scarcely the necessaries of life allowed her,"—spends regularly two-thirds of her income in charitable objects; translates French-Calvinist Devotional Works, for benefit of the German mind; and complains to no Small Devil, of never so sympathizing nature. "At Court she is lodged on the second floor [scandalous]. Schonhausen her Country House, with the exception of the Garden which is pretty enough,—our Shopkeepers of the Rue St. Honore would sniff at such a lodging.
"Princess Amelia is rather amiable [thank you for nothing, Small Devil]; often out of temper because—this is so shocking a place for Ladies, especially for maiden Ladies. Lives with her Mother; special income very small;—Coadjutress of Quedlinburg; will be actual Abbess" in a year or two. [11th April, 1756: Preuss, xxvii. p. xxxiv (of PREFACE).]
"Eldest Prince, Heir-Apparent,"—do not speak of him, Small Devil, for you are misinformed in every feature and particular:—enough, "he is fac-simile of his Brother. He has only 18,000 pounds a year, for self, Wife, Household and Children [two, both Boys];—and is said [falsely] to hoard, and to follow Trade, extensive Trade with his Brother's Woods.
"Prince Henri, who is just going to be married,"—thank you, Demon, for reminding us of that. Bride is Wilhelmina, Princess of Hessen-Cassel. Marriage, 25th June, 1752;—did not prove, in the end, very happy. A small contemporary event; which would concern Voltaire and others that concern us. Three months ago, April 14th, 1752, the Berlin Powder-Magazine flew aloft with horrible crash; [In—Helden-Geschichte—(iii. 531) the details.]—and would be audible to Voltaire, in this his Second Act. Events, audible or not, never cease.
"Prince Henri," in Demon's opinion, "is the amiablest of the House. He is polite, generous, and loves good company. Has 12,000 pounds a year left him by Papa." Not enough, as it proved. "If, on this Marriage, his Brother, who detests him [witness Reinsberg and other evidences, now and onward], gives him nothing, he won't be well off. They are furnishing a House for him, where he will lodge after wedding. Is reported to be—POTZDAMISTE [says the scandalous Small Devil, whom we are weary of contradicting],—Potsdamite, in certain respects. Poor Princess, what a destiny for you!
"Prince Ferdinand, little scraping of a creature (PETIT CHAFOUIN), crapulous to excess, niggardly in the extreme, whom everybody avoids,"—much more whose Portrait, by a Magic-lantern of this kind: which let us hastily shut, and fling into the cellar!—"Little Ferdinand, besides his 15,000 pounds a year, Papa's bequest, gets considerable sums given him. Has lodging in the King's House; goes shifting and visiting about, wherever he can live gratis; and strives all he can to amass money. Has to be in boots and uniform every three days. Three months of the year practically with his regiment: but the shifts he has for avoiding expense are astonishing."...
What an illuminative "Idea" are the Walpole-Selwyn Circles picking up for their money!—
Chapter XI. THIRD ACT AND CATASTROPHE OF THE VOLTAIRE VISIT.
Meantime there has a fine Controversy risen, of mathematical, philosophical and at length of very miscellaneous nature, concerning that Konig-Maupertuis dissentience on the LAW OF THRIFT. Wonderful Controversy, much occupying the so-called Philosophic or Scientific world; especially the idler population that inhabit there. Upon this item of the Infinitely Little,—which has in our time sunk into Nothing-at-all, and but for Voltaire, and the accident of his living near it, would be forgotten altogether,—we must not enter into details; but a few words to render Voltaire's share in it intelligible will be, in the highest degree, necessary. Here, in brief form, rough and ready, are the successive stages of the Business; the origin and first stage of which have been known to us for some time past:—
"SEPTEMBER, 1750, Konig, his well-meant visit to Berlin proving so futile, had left Maupertuis in the humor we saw;—pirouetting round his Apartment, in tempests of rage at such contradiction of sinners on his sublime Law of Thrift; and fulminating permission to Konig: 'No time to read your Paper of Contradictions; publish it in Leipzig, in Jericho; anywhere in the Earth, in Heaven, in the Other Place, where you have the opportunity!' Konig, returning on these terms, had nothing for it but to publish his Paper; and did publish it, in the Leipzig—Acta Eruditorum—for March, 1751. There it stands, legible to this day: and if any of the human species should again think of reading it, I believe it will be found a reasonable, solid and decisive Paper; of steadfast, openly articulate, by no means insolent, tone; considerably modifying Maupertuis's Law of Thrift, or Minimum of Action;—fatal to the claim of its being a 'Sublime Discovery,' or indeed, so far as TRUE, any discovery at all. [In—Acta Eruditorum—(Lipsiae, 1751):—"De universali Principio AEquilibrii et Motus."—By no means uncivil to Maupertuis; though obliged to controvert him. For example:—"Quoe itaque de Minima Actionis in modificationibus modum obtinente in genere proferuntur vehementer laudo;" "continent nempe facundum longeque pulcherrimum Dynamices sublimioris principium, cujus vim in difficillimis quoestionibus soepe expertus fui."—] By way of finis to the Paper, there is given, what proves extremely important to us, an Excerpt from an old LETTER OF LEIBNITZ'S; which perhaps it will be better to present here IN CORPORE, as so much turned on it afterwards. Konig thus winds up:—
"I add only a word, in finishing; and that is, that it appears Mr. Leibnitz had a theory of Action, perhaps much more extensive than one would suspect at present. There is a Letter written by him to Mr. Hermann [an ancient mathematical sage at Basel], where he uses these expressions: 'Action, is not what you think; the consideration of Time enters into it; Action is as the product of the mass by the space and the velocity, or as the time by the VIS VIVA. I have remarked that in the modifications of motion, the action becomes usually a maximum or a minimum:—and from this there might several propositions of great consequence be deduced. It might serve to determine the curves described by bodies under attraction to one or more centres. I had meant to treat of these things in the Second Part of my DYNAMIQUE; which I suppressed, the reception of the First, by prejudice in many quarters, having disgusted me.'" [MAUPERTUISIANA, No. ii. 22 (from—Acta Eruditorum,—ubi supra). In MAUPERTUISIANA, No. iv. 166, is the whole Letter, "Hanover, 16th October, 1707;" no ADDRESS left, judged to be to Hermann. MAUPERTUISIANA (Hamburg, 1753) is a mere Bookseller's or even Bookbinder's Farrago, with printed TITLE-PAGE and LIST, of the chief Pamphlets which had appeared on this Business (sixteen by count, various type, all 8vo size, in my copy). Of which only No. ii. (Konig's APPEL AU PUBLIC) and No. iv. (2d edition of said APPEL, with APPENDIX OF CORRESPONDENCE) are illuminative to read.] Your Minimum of Action, it would appear, then, is in some cases a Maximum; nothing can be said but that, in every case it is EITHER a Maximum or Minimum. What a stroke for our LAW OF THRIFT, the "at last conclusive Proof" of an Intelligent Creator, as the Perpetual President had fancied it!"So-ho, what is this! My Discovery an Error? And Leibnitz discovered it, so far as true?"—
"May 28th-8th OCTOBER, 1751. Maupertuis, compressing himself what he can, writes to Konig: 'Very good, Monsieur. But please inform me where is that Letter of Leibnitz's; I have never seen or heard of it before,—and I want to make use of it myself.' To which Konig answers: 'Henzi gave it me, in Copy [unfortunate Conspirator Henzi, who lost his head three years ago, by sentence of the Oligarch Government at Berne]: [Government by "The Two Hundred;" of Select-Vestry nature, very stiff, arbitrary and become rife in abuses; against whom had risen angry mutterings more than once, and in 1749 a Select Plot (not select ENOUGH, for they discovered it in time). Poor Ex-Captain Henzi, "Clerk *of the Salt-Office," most frugal, studious and quiet of men; a very miracle, It would appear, of genius, solid learning, philosophy and piety,—not the chief or first of the conspirators, but by far the most distinguished,—was laid hold of, July 2d, 1749, and beheaded, with another of them, a day or two after. Much bewailed in a private way, even by the better kinds of people. (Copious account of him in—Adelung,—vii. 86-91.)]—he, poor fellow, had no end of Papers and Excerpts; had, as we know, above a hundred volumes of the latter kind; this, and some other Letters of Leibnitz's, among them,—I send you the whole Letter, copied faithfully from his Copy.' ["The Hague, 26th June," in—Maupertuisiana,—No. iv. 130.] To that effect, still in perfect good-humor, was Konig's reply to his Maupertuis.
"'Hm, Copy? By Henzi?' grumbles Maupertuis to himself:—'Search in Berne, then; it must be there, if anywhere!' To Konig Maupertuis answers nothing: but sulkily resolves on having Search made;—and, to give solemnity to the matter, requests his Excellency Marquis de Paulmy, the French Ambassador at Berne, to ask the Government there,—Government having seized all Henzi's Papers, on beheading him. Excellency Paulmy does, accordingly, make inquiry in the highest quarter; some inquiries up and down. Not the least account of this, or of any Leibnitz Letter, to be had from among Henzi's Papers,—the 'hundred volumes,' seemingly, exist no longer;—Original of this Leibnitz Piece is nowhere. For eight months the highest Authorities have been looking about (with one knows not what vivacity or skill in searching), and have found nothing whatever." Stage second of the Business finishes in this manner.
How lucky for the Perpetual President, had he stopped here! To Konig and the common contradiction of sinners he could have opposed, as it was apparently his purpose to do, an Olympian silence, "Pshaw!" Whereby the small matter, interesting to few, would have dropped gently into dubiety, into oblivion, and been got well rid of. But this of the great Leibnitz, touching on one's LAW OF THRIFT; and not only "discovering" it, half a century beforehand, but discovering that it was not true: to Leibnitz one must speak;—and the abstruse question is, What is one to say? "Find me the original; let us be certain, first:" that you can say; that is one dear point; and pretty much the only one. The rest, at this time, as I conjecture, may have been not a little abstruse to the Perpetual President!
And now, had the Perpetual President but stopped here, there might still have rested a saving shadow of suspicion on Konig's Excerpt, That it was not exact, that it might be wrong in some vital point:—"You never showed me the Original, Monsieur!" Unluckily, the Perpetual President did not stop. One cannot well fancy him believing, now or ever, that Konig had forged the Excerpt. Most likely he had the fatal persuasion that these were Leibnitz's words; and the question, What was to be said or done, if the Original SHOULD turn up? might justly be alarming to a Son of the Pure Sciences. But at this point a new door of escape disclosed itself: "Where is the Original, I say!"—and he rushed, full speed, into that; galloping triumphantly, feeling all safe.
"OCTOBER 7th (1751), Maupertuis summons his Academy: 'Messieurs, permit me to submit a case perhaps requiring your attention. One of our number dissents from your President's Discovery of the Law of Thrift; which surely he is free to do: but furthermore he gives an Excerpt purporting to be from Leibnitz; whereby it would appear that your President's Discovery, sanctioned in your Acts as new, is not new, but Leibnitz's (so far as it is good for anything),—possibly stolen, therefore; and, at any rate, fifty-four years old. In self-defence, I have demanded to see the Original of said Excerpt; and the Honorable Member in question does not produce it. What say you?' 'Shame to him!' say they all [there seem to be but few Scientific Members, and most of them, it is insinuated, have Pensions from the King through their Perpetual President];—and determine to make a Star-chamber matter of it!
"Accordingly, next day, OCTOBER 8th) Secretary Formey writes officially to Konig, 'Produce that Letter within one month,'—and has got his Majesty to order, That our Prussian Minister at the Hague shall take charge of delivering such message, and shall mark on what day. Thing serious, you see!—Prussian Minister at the Hague delivers, and dockets accordingly. To Konig's astonishment; who is in a scene of deep trouble at this time; Royal Highness the Stadtholder suddenly dead, or dying: 'died October 22d; leaving a very young Heir, and a very sorrowful Widow and Country.' Much to think of, that lies apart from the Maupertuis matter! Which latter, however, is so very serious too, his Prussian Majesty's Minister at Berne is now charged to make new perquisition for the Leibnitz Original there: In short, within one month that Document is peremptorily wanted at Berlin."
High proceedings these;—and calculated to have one result, if no other. Namely, that, at this point, as readers can fancy, the idler Public, seeing a street-quarrel in progress, began to take interest in the Question of MINIMUM; and quasi-scientific gentlemen to gather round, and express, with cheery capable look, their opinions,—still legible in the vanished JUGEMENS LIBRES (of Hamburg), GAZETTE DE SAVANS (Leipzig), and other poor Shadows of JOURNALS, if you daringly evoke them from the other side of Styx. Which, the whole matter being now so indisputably extinct, shadowy, Stygian, we will not here be guilty of doing; but hasten to the catastrophes, that have still a memorability.
"Konig, having in fact nothing more to say about the Leibnitz Excerpt, was in no breathless haste to obey his summons; he sat almost two months before answering anything. Did then write however, in a friendly strain to Maupertuis (December 10th, 1751). [—Maupertuisiana,—No. iv. 132.] Almost on which same day, as it chanced, the ACADEMIE, after two months' dignified waiting, had in brief terms repeated its order on Konig. [December 11th, 1751 (Ib. 137). To which Konig makes no special answer (having as good as answered the day before);—but does silently send off to Switzerland to make inquiries; and does write once or twice more, when there is occasion for explaining;—always in a clear, sonorous, manfully firm and respectful tone: 'That he himself had, or has, no kind of reason to doubt the authenticity of the Leibnitz Letter; that to himself (and, so far as he can judge, to Maupertuis) the question of its authenticity is without special interest;—he, Konig, having thrown it in as a mere marginal illustration, which decides nothing, either for or against the Law of Thrift. That he has, in obedience to the Academy, caused search to be made in Switzerland, especially at Basel, where he judged the chance might lie; but that of this particular Letter nothing has come to light; that he has two other Leibnitz Letters, of indifferent tenor, in the late Henzi's hand, if these will serve in aught, [—Maupertuisiana,—No. iv. 155; and ib. 172-192, the two Letters themselves.]—but what farther can he do?' In short, Konig speaks always in a clear business-like manful tone; the one person that makes a really respectful and respectable figure in this Controversy of the Infinitely Little. A man whom, viewed from this quiet distance, it seems almost inconceivably absurd to have suspected of forging for so small an object. Oh, my President, that DIRA REGNANDI CUPIDO!—
"Question is, however, What the Academy will do? One Member, 'the best Geometer among them' [whose name is not given, but which the Berlin Academy should write in big letters across this sad Page of their Annals, by way of erasure to the same], dissented from the high line of procedure; asserting Konig's innocence in this matter; nay, hinting agreement with Konig's opinion. But was met by such a storm, that he withdrew from the deliberations; which henceforth went their own bad course, unanimous though slow. And so the matter pendulates all through Winter, 1751-52, and was much the theme of idle men."
Voltaire heard of it vaguely all along; but not with distinctness till the end of July following. As Spring advanced, Maupertuis had fallen ill of lungs,—threatened with spitting of blood ("owing to excess of brandy," hints the malicious Voltaire, "which is fashionable at St. Malo," birthplace of Maupertuis),—and could not farther direct the Academy in this affair. The Academy needs no direction farther. Here, very soon, for a sick President's consolation, is what the Academy decides on, by way of catastrophe:—
THURSDAY EVENING, 13th APRIL, 1752, The Academy met; Curator Monsieur de Keith, presiding; about a score of acting Members present. To whom Curator de Keith, as the first thing, reads a magnanimous brief Letter from our Perpetual President: "That, for two reasons, he cannot attend on this important occasion: First, because he is too ill, which would itself be conclusive; but secondly, and A FORTIORI, because he is in some sense a party to the cause, and ought not if he could." Whereupon, Secretary Formey having done his Documentary flourishings, Curator Euler—(great in Algebra, apparently not very great in common sense and the rules of good temper)—reads considerable "Report;" [Is No. 1 of—Maupertuisiana.—] reciting, not in a dishonest, but in a dim wearisome way, the various steps of the Affair, as readers already know them; and concludes with this extraordinary practical result: "Things being so (LES CHOSES ETANT TELLES): the Fragment being of itself suspect [what could Leibnitz know of Maxima and Minima? They were not developed till one Euler did it, quite in late years!], [—Maupertuisians,—No. i. 22.] of itself suspect; and Monsieur Konig having failed to" &c. &c.,—"it is assuredly manifest that his cause is one of the worst (DES PLUS MAUVAISES), and that this Fragment has been forged." Singular to think!"And the Academy, all things duly considered, will not hesitate to declare it false (SUPPOSE), and thereby deprive it publicly of all authority which may have been ascribed to it" (HEAR, HEAR! from all parts).
Curator de Keith then collects the votes,—twenty-three in all; some sixteen are of working Members; two are from accidental Strangers ("travelling students," say the enemy); the rest from Curators of Quality:—Vote is unanimous, "Adopt the Report. Fragment evidently forged, and cannot have the least shadow of authority (AUCUNE OMBRE D'AUTHORITE). Forged by whom, we do not now ask; nor what the Academy could, on plain grounds, now do to Monsieur Konig [NOT nail his ears to the pump, oh no!]; enough, it IS forged, and so remains." Signed, "Curator de Keith," and Six other Office-bearers; "Formey, Perpetual Secretary"' closing the list.
At the name Keith, a slight shadow (very slight, for how could Keith help himself?) crosses the mind: "Is this, by ill luck, the Feldmarschall Keith?" No, reader; this is Lieutenant-Colonel Keith; he of Wesel, with "Effigy nailed to the Gallows" long since; whom none of us cares for. Sulzer, I notice too, is of this long-eared Sanhedrim. ACH, MEIN LIEBER SULZER, you don't know (do you, then?) DIESE VERDAMMTE RACE, to what heights and depths of stupid malice, and malignant length of ear, they are capable of going. "Thursday, 13th April," this is Forger Konig's doom:—and, what is observable, next morning, with a crash audible through Nature, the Powder-Magazine flew aloft, killing several persons! [Supra, p. 203.] Had no hand, he, I hope, in that latter atrocity?
On authentic sight of this Sentence (for which Konig had at once, on hearing of it, applied to Formey, and which comes to him, without help of Formey, through the Public Newspapers) Konig, in a brief, proud enough, but perfectly quiet, mild and manful manner, resigns his Membership. "Ceases, from this day (June 18th, 1752), to have the honor of belonging to your Academy; 'an honor I had been the prouder of, as it came to me unasked;'—and will wish, you, from the outside henceforth, successful campaigns in the field of Science." [—Maupertuisiana,—No. iv. 129.] And sets about preparing his Pamphlet to instruct mankind on the subject. Maupertuis, it appears, did write, and made others write to Konig's Sovereign Lady, the Dowager Princess of Orange, "How extremely handsome it would be, could her Most Serene Highness, a friend to Pure Science, be pleased to induce Monsieur Konig not to continue this painful Controversy, but to sit quiet with what he had got." [Voltaire (infra).] Which her Most Serene Highness by no mean thought the suitable course. Still less did Konig himself; whose APPEAL TO THE PUBLIC, with DEFENCE OF APPEAL,—reasonably well done, as usual, and followed and accompanied by the multitude of Commentators,—appeared in due course. ["September, 1752, Konig's APPEL" (Preuss, in—OEuvres de Frederic,—xv. 60 n.).] Till, before long, the Public was thoroughly instructed; and nobody, hardly the signing Curators, or thin Euler himself, not to speak of Perpetual Formey, who had never been strong in the matter, could well believe in "forgery" or care to speak farther on such a subject. Subject gone wholly to the Stygian Fens, long since; "forgery" not now imaginable by anybody!
The rumor of these things rose high and wide; and the quantity of publishing upon them, quasi-scientifically and otherwise, in the serious vein and the jocose, was greater than we should fancy. ["Letter from a Marquis;" "Letter from Mr. T—-to M. S—-" (Mr. T. lives in London;—"JE TRAVERSE LE Queen's Square, ET JE RENCONTRE NOTRE AMI D—-: 'AVEZ-VOUS LA l'Appel au Public?' DIT-IL"—); "Letter by Euler in the Berlin Gazette," &c. &c. (in—Maupertuisiana—).] Voltaire, for above a month past, had been fully aware of the case (24th July, 1752, writing to Niece, "heard yesterday"); not without commentary to oneself and others. Voltaire, with a kind of love to Konig, and a very real hatred to Maupertuis and to oppression generally, took pen himself, among the others (Konig's APPEAL just out),—could not help doing it, though he had better not! The following small Piece is perhaps the one, if there be one, still worth resuscitating from the Inane Kingdoms. Appeared in the BIBLIOTHEQUE RAISONNEE (mild-shining Quarterly Review of those days), JULY-SEPTEMBER Number.
"ANSWER FROM [VERY PRIVATELY VOLTAIRE, CALLING HIMSELF] A BERLIN ACADEMICIAN TO A PARIS ONE.
"BERLIN, 18th SEPTEMBER, 1752. This is the exact truth, in reply to your inquiry. M. Moreau de Maupertuis in a Pamphlet entitled ESSAI DE COSMOLOGIE, pretended that the only proof of the Existence of God is the circumstance that AR+nRB is a Minimum. [ONLY proof:^??????^ (p.212 Book XVI) VOILA!] He asserts that in all possible cases, 'Action is a Minimum,' what has been demonstrated false; and he says, 'He discovered this Law of Minimum,' what is not less false.
"M. Konig, as well as other Mathematicians, wrote against this strange assertion; and, among other things, M. Konig cited some sentences of a Letter by Leibnitz, in which that great man says, He has observed 'that, in the modifications of motion, the Action usually becomes either a Maximum or else a Minimum.'
"M. Moreau de Maupertuis imagined that, by producing this Fragment, it had been intended to snatch from him the glory of his pretended discovery,—though Leibnitz says precisely the contrary of what he advances. He forced some pensioned members of the Academy, who are dependent on him, to summon M. Konig"—As we know too well; and cannot bear to have repeated to us, even in the briefest and spiciest form!"Sentence (JUGEMENT) on M. Konig, which declares him guilty of having assaulted the glory of the Sieur Moreau Maupertuis by FORGING a Leibnitz Letter.—Wrote then, and made write, to her Serene Highness the Princess of Orange, who was indignant at so insolent"—... and in fine,
"Thus the Sieur Moreau Maupertuis has been convicted, in the face of Scientific Europe, not only of plagiarism and blunder, but of having abused his place to suppress free discussion, and to persecute an honest man who had no crime but that of not being of his opinion. Several members of our Academy have protested against so crying a procedure; and would leave the Academy, were it not for fear of displeasing the King, who is protector of it." [—OEuvres de Voltaire,—lxiii. 227 (in—Maupertuisiana,—No. xvi).]
King Friedrich's position, in the middle of all this, was becoming uncomfortable. Of the controversy he understood, or cared to understand, nothing; had to believe steadily that his Academy must be right; that Konig was some loose bird, envious of an eagle Maupertuis, sitting aloft on his high Academic perch: this Friedrich took for the truth of the matter;—and could not let himself imagine that his sublime Perpetual President, who was usually very prudent and Jove-like, had been led, by his truculent vanity (which Friedrich knew to be immense in the man, though kept well out of sight), into such playing of fantastic tricks before high Heaven and other on-lookers. This view of the matter had hitherto been Friedrich's; nor do I know that he ever inwardly departed from it;—as outwardly he, for certain, never did; standing, King-like, clear always for his Perpetual President, till this hurricane of Pamphlets blew by. Voltaire's little Piece, therefore, was the unwelcomest possible.
This new bolt of electric fire, launched upon the storm-tost President from Berlin itself, and even from the King's House itself,—by whom, too clearly recognizable,—what an irritating thing! Unseemly, in fact, on Voltaire's part; but could not be helped by a Voltaire charged with electricity. Friedrich evidently in considerable indignation, finding that public measures would but worsen the uproar, took pen in hand; wrote rapidly the indignant LETTER FROM AN ACADEMICIAN OF BERLIN TO AN ACADEMICIAN OF PARIS: [—OEuvres de Frederic,—xv. 59-64 (not dated; datable "October, 1752").] which Piece, of some length, we cannot give here; but will briefly describe as manifesting no real knowledge of the LAW-OF-THRIFT Controversy; but as taking the above loose view of it, and as directed principally against "the pretended Member of our Academy" (mischievous Voltaire, to wit), whom it characterizes as "such a manifest retailer of lies," a "concocter of stupid libels:" "have you ever seen an action more malicious, more dastardly, more infamous?"—and other hard terms, the hardest he can find. This is the privilege of anonymity, on both sides of it.
But imagine now a King and his Voltaire doing witty discourse over their Supper of the gods (as, on the set days, is duly the case); with such a consciousness, burning like Bude light, though close veiled, on the part of Host and Guest! The Friedrich-Voltaire relation is evidently under sore stress of weather, in those winter-autumn months of 1752,—brown leaves, splashy rains and winds moaning outwardly withal. And, alas, the irrepressibly electric Voltaire, still far from having ended, still only just beginning his Anti-Maupertuis discharges, has, in the interim, privately got his DOCTOR AKAKIA ready. Compared to which, the former missile is as a popgun to a park of artillery shotted with old nails and broken glass!—Such a constraint, at the Royal dinner-table, amid wine and wit, could not continue. The credible account is, it soon cracked asunder; and, after the conceivable sputterings, sparklings and flashings of various complexion, issued in lambent airs of "tacit mutual understanding; and in reading of AKAKIA together,—with peals of laughter from the King," as the common French Biographers assert.
"Readers know AKAKIA," [DIATRIBE DU DOCTEUR AKAKIA (in Voltaire,—OEuvres,—lxi. 19-62).] says Smelfungus: "it is one of the famous feats of Satirical Pyrotechny; only too pleasant to the corrupt Race of Adam! There is not much, or indeed anything, of true poetic humor in it: but there is a gayety of malice, a dexterity, felicity, inexhaustibility of laughing mockery and light banter, capable of driving a Perpetual President delirious. What an Explosion of glass-crackers, fire-balls, flaming-serpents;—generally, of sleeping gunpowder, in its most artistic forms,—flaming out sky-high over all the Parish, on a sudden! The almost-sublime of Maupertuis, which exists in large quantities, here is a new artist who knows how to treat it. The engineer of the Sublime (always painfully engineering thitherward without effect),—an engineer of the Comic steps in on him, blows him up with his own petards in a most unexampled manner. Not an owlery has that poor Maupertuis, in the struggle to be sublime (often nearly successful, but never once quite), happened to drop from him, but Voltaire picks it up; manipulates it, reduces it to the sublimely ridiculous; lodges it, in the form of burning dust, about the head of MON PRESIDENT. Needless to say of the Comic engineer that he is unfair, perversely exaggerative, reiterative, on the owleries of poor Maupertuis;—it is his function to BE all that. Clever, but wrong, do you say? Well, yes:—and yet the ridiculous does require ridicule; wise Nature has silently so ordered. And if ever truculent President in red wig, with his absurd truculences, tyrannies and perpetual struggles after the sublime, did deserve to be exploded in laughter, it could not have been more consummately done;—though perversely always, as must be owned.
"'The hole bored through the Earth,' for instance: really, one sometimes reflects on such a thing; How you would see daylight, and the antipodal gentleman (if he bent a little over) foot to foot; how a little stone flung into it would exactly (but for air and friction) reach the other side of the world; would then, in a computable few moments, come back quiescent to your hand, and so continue forevermore;—with other the like uncriminal fancies.
"'The Latin Town,' again: truly, if learning the Ancient Languages be human Education, it might, with a Greek Ditto, supersede the Universities, and prove excellently serviceable in our struggle Heavenward by that particular route. I can assure M. de Voltaire, it was once practically proposed to this King's Great-grandfather, the Grosse Kurfurst;—who looked into it, with face puckered to the intensest, in his great care for furtherance of the Terrestrial Sciences and Wisdoms; but forbore for that time. [Minute details about it in Stenzel, ii. 234-238; who quotes "Erman" (a poor old friend of ours) "SUR LE PROJET D'UNE VILLE SAVANTE DANS LE BRANDEBOURG (Berlin, 1792):" date of the Project was 1667.] Then as to 'Dissecting the Brains of Patagonians;' what harm, if you can get them gross enough? And as to that of (exalting your mind to predict the future,' does not, in fact, man look BEFORE and AFTER; are not Memory and (in a small degree) Prophecy the Two Faculties he has?
"These things—which are mostly to be found in the 'LETTRES DE MAUPERTUIS' (Dresden, 1752, then a brand-new Book), but are now clipt out from the Maupertuis Treatises—we can fancy to be almost sublimities.—Almost, unfortunately not altogether. And then there is such a Sisyphus-effort visible in dragging them aloft so far: and the nimble wicked Voltaire so seizes his moment, trips poor Sisyphus; and sends him down, heels-over-head, in a torrent of roaring debris! 'From gradual transpiration of our vital force comes Death; which perhaps, by precautions, might be indefinitely retarded,' says Maupertuis. 'Yes, truly,' answers the other: 'if we got ourselves japanned, coated with resinous varnish (INDUITS DE POIX RESINEUX); who knows!' Not a sublime owlery can you drop, but it is manipulated, ground down, put in rifled cannon, comes back on you as tempests of burning dust." Enough to send Maupertuis pirouetting through the world, with red wig unquenchably on fire!
Peals of laughter (once you are allowed to be non-official) could not fail, as an ovation, from the King;—so report the French Biographers. But there was, besides, strict promise that the Piece should be suppressed: "Never do to send our President pirouetting through the world in this manner, with his wig on fire; promise me, on your honor!" Voltaire promised. But, alas, how could Voltaire perform! Once more the Rhadamanthine fact is: Voltaire, as King's Chamberlain, was bound, without any promise, to forbear, and rigidly suppress such an AKAKIA against the King's Perpetual President. But withal let candid readers consider how difficult it was to do. The absurd blusterous Turkey-cock, who has, every now and then, been tyrannizing over you for twenty years, here you have him filled with gunpowder, so to speak, and the train laid. There wants but one spark,—(edition printed in Holland, edition done in Berlin, plenty of editions made or makable by a little surreptitious legerdemain,—and I never knew whether it was AKAKIA in print, or AKAKIA in manuscript, that King and King's Chamberlain were now reading together, nor does it matter much):—your Turkey surreptitiously stuffed with gunpowder, I say; train ready waiting; one flint-spark will shoot him aloft, scatter him as flaming ruin on all the winds: and you are, once and always, to withhold said spark. Perhaps, had AKAKIA not yet been written—But all lies ready there; one spark will do it, at any moment;—and there are unguarded moments, and the Tempter must prevail!—
On what day AKAKIA blazed out at Berlin, surreptitiously forwarded from Holland or otherwise, I could never yet learn (so stupid these reporters). But "on November 2d" the King makes a Visit to sick Maupertuis, which is published in all the Newspapers; [Rodenbeck, IN DIE;—Helden-Geschichte,—iii. 531, "2d November, 1752, 5 P.M."]—and one might guess the AKAKIA conflagration, and cruel haha-ings of mankind, to have been tacitly the cause. Then or later, sure enough, AKAKIA does blaze aloft about that time; and all Berlin, and all the world, is in conversation over Maupertuis and it,—30,000 copies sold in Paris:—and Friedrich naturally was in a towering passion at his Chamberlain. Nothing for the Chamberlain but to fly his presence; to shriek, piteously, "Accident, your Majesty! Fatal treachery and accident; after such precautions too!"—and fall sick to death (which is always a resource one has); and get into private lodgings in the TAUBEN-STRASSE, [At a "Hofrath Francheville's" (kind of subaltern Literary Character, see Denina, ii. 67), "TAUBEN-STRASSE (Dove Street), No. 20:" stayed there till "March, 1753" (Note by Preuss,—OEuvres de Frederic,—xxii. 306 n.).] till one either die, or grow fit to be seen again: "Ah, Sire"—let us give the Voltaire shriek of NOT-GUILTY, with the Friedrich Answer; both dateless unluckily:—
VOLTAIRE. "AH, MON DIEU, Sire, in the state I am in! I swear to you again, on my life, which I could renounce without pain, that it is a frightful calumny. I conjure you to summon all my people, and confront them. What? You will judge me without hearing me! I demand justice or death."
FRIEDRICH. "Your effrontery astonishes me. After what you have done, and what is clear as day, you persist, instead of owning yourself culpable. Do not imagine you will make people believe that black is white; when one [ON, meaning I] does not see, the reason [sic]? ONE p. 218, book XVI +++++++++++++++++ is, one does not want to see everything. But if you drive the affair to extremity,—all shall be made public; and it will be seen whether, if your Works deserve statues, your conduct does not deserve chains." [—OEuvres de Frederic,—xxii. 302, 301.]
Most dark element (not in date only), with terrific thunder-and- lightning. Nothing for it but to keep one's room, mostly one's bed,—"Ah, Sire, sick to death!"
December 24th, 1752, there is one thing dismally distinct, Voltaire himself looking on (they say), from his windows in Dove Street: the Public Burning of AKAKIA, near there, by the common Hangman. Figure it; and Voltaire's reflections on it:—haggardly clear that Act Third is culminating; and that the final catastrophe is inevitable and nigh. We must be brief. On the eighth day after this dread spectacle (New-year's-day 1753), Voltaire sends, in a Packet to the Palace, his Gold Key and Cross of Merit. On the interior wrappage is an Inscription in verse: "I received them with loving emotion, I return them with grief; as a broken-hearted Lover returns the Portrait of his Mistress:—
—Je les recus avec tendresse, Je vous les rends avec douleur; C'est ainsi qu'un amant, dans son extreme ardeur, Rend le portrait de sa maitresse."—
And—in a Letter enclosed, tender as the Song of Swans—has one wish: Permission for the waters of Plonbieres, some alleviations amid kind nursing friends there; and to die craving blessings on your Majesty. [Collini, p. 48; LETTER, in—OEuvres de Frederic,—xxii. 305.]
Friedrich, though in hot wrath, has not quite come that length. Friedrich, the same day, towards evening, sends Fredersdorf to him, with Decorations back. And a long dialogue ensues between Fredersdorf and Voltaire; in which Collini, not eavesdropping, "heard the voice of M. de Voltaire at times very loud." Precise result unknown. After which, for three months more, follows waiting and hesitation and negotiation, also quite obscure. Confused hithering and thithering about permission for Plombieres, about repentance, sorrow, amendment, blame; in the end, reconciliation, or what is to pass for such. Recorded for us in that whirl of misdated Letter-clippings; in those Narratives, ignorant, and pretending to know: perhaps the darkest Section in History, Sacred or Profane,—were it of moment to us, here or elsewhere!
Voltaire has got permission to return to Potsdam; Apartment in the Palace ready again: but he still lingers in Dove Street; too ill, in real truth, for Potsdam society on those new terms. Does not quit Francheville's "till March 5th;" and then only for another Lodging, called "the Belvedere", of suburban or rural kind. His case is intricate to a degree. He is sick of body; spectre-haunted withal, more than ever;—often thinks Friedrich, provoked, will refuse him leave. And, alas, he would so fain NOT go, as well as go! Leave for Plombieres,—leave in the angrily contemptuous shape, "Go, then, forever and a day!"—Voltaire can at once have: but to get it in the friendly shape, and as if for a time only? His prospects at Paris, at Versailles, are none of the best; to return as if dismissed will never do! Would fain not go, withal;—and has to diplomatize at Potsdam, by D'Argens, De Prades, and at Paris simultaneously, by Richelieu, D'Argenson and friends. He is greatly to be pitied;—even Friedrich pities him, the martyr of bodily ailments and of spiritual; and sends him "extract of quinquina" at one time. [Letter of Voltaire's.] Three miserable months; which only an OEdipus could read, and an OEdipus who had nothing else to do! The issue is well known. Of precise or indisputable, on the road thither, here are fractions that will suffice:—
VOLTAIRE TO ONE BAGIEU HIS DOCTOR AT PARIS ("Berlin, 19th December," 1752, week BEFORE his AKAKIA was burnt).... "Wish I could set out on the instant, and put myself into your hands and into the arms of my family! I brought to Berlin about a score of teeth, there remain to me something like six; I brought two eyes, I have nearly lost one of them; I brought no erysipelas, and I have got one, which I take a great deal of care of.... Meanwhile I have buried almost all my Doctors; even La Mettrie. Remains only that I bury Codenius [Cothenius], who looks too stiff, however,"—and, at any rate, return to you in Spring, when roads and weather improve. [—OEuvres de Voltaire,—lxxxv. 141.]
FRIEDRICH TO VOLTAIRE (Potsdam, uncertain date). "There was no need of that pretext about the waters of Plombieres, in demanding your leave (CONGE). You can quit my service when you like: but, before going, be so good as return me the Contract of your Engagement, the Key [Chamberlain's], the Cross [of Merit], and the Volume of Verses which I confided to you.
"I wish my Works, and only they, had been what you and Konig attacked. Them I sacrifice, with a great deal of willingness, to persons who think of increasing their own reputation by lessening that of others. I have not the folly nor vanity of certain Authors. The cabals of literary people seem to me the disgrace of Literature. I do not the less esteem honorable cultivators of Literature; it is only the caballers and their leaders that are degraded in my eyes. On this, I pray God to have you in his holy and worthy keeping.—FRIEDRICH."
[In De Prades's hand;—OEuvres de Frederic,—xxii. 308, 309: Friedrich's own Minute to De Prades has, instead of these last three lines: "That I have not the folly and vanity of authors, and that the cabals of literary people seem to me the depth of degradation," &c.]
VOLTAIRE SPECTRALLY GIVEN (Collini LOQUITUR). "One evening walking in the garden [at rural Belvedere,—after March 5th], talking of our situation, he asked me, 'Could you drive a coach-and-two?' I stared at him a moment; but knowing that there must be no direct contradiction of his ideas, I said 'Yes.'—'Well, then, listen; I have thought of a method for getting away. You could buy two horses; a chariot after that. So soon as we have horses, it will not appear strange that we lay in a little hay.'—'Yes, Monsieur; and what should we do with that?' said I. 'LE VOICI (this is it). We will fill the chariot with hay. In the middle of the hay we will put all our baggage. I will place myself, disguised, on the top of the hay; and give myself out for a Calvinist Curate going to see one of his Daughters married in the next Town. You shall drive: we take the shortest road for the Saxon Border; safe there, we sell chariot, horses, hay; then straight to Leipzig, by post.' At which point, or soon after, he burst into laughing." [Collini, p. 53.]
VOLTAIRE TO FRIEDRICH ("Berlin, Belvedere," rural lodging, ["In the STRALAUER VORSTADT (HODIE, Woodmarket Street):" Preuss's Note to this Letter,—OEuvres de Frederic,—xxii. 306 n.] "12th March," 1753). "Sire, I have had a Letter from Konig, quite open, as my heart is. I think it my duty to send your Majesty a duplicate of my Answer.... Will submit to you every step of my conduct; of my whole life, in whatever place I end it. I am Konig's friend; but assuredly I am much more attached to your Majesty; and if he were capable the least in the world of failing in respect [as is rumored], I would"—Enough!
FRIEDRICH RELENTS (To Voltaire; De Prades writing, Friedrich covertly dictating: no date). "The King has held his Consistory; and it has there been discussed, Whether your case was a mortal sin or a venial? In truth, all the Doctors owned that it was mortal, and even exceedingly confirmed as such by repeated lapses and relapses. Nevertheless, by the plenitude of the grace of Beelzebub, which rests in the said King, he thinks he can absolve you, if not in whole, yet in part. This would be, of course, in virtue of some act of contrition and penitence imposed on you: but as, in the Empire of Satan, there is a great respect had of genius, I think, on the whole, that, for the sake of your talents, one might pardon a good many things which do discredit to your heart. These are the Sovereign Pontiff's words; which I have carefully taken down. They are a Prophecy rather." [—OEuvres de Frederic,—xxii. 307.]
VOLTAIRE TO DE PRADES ("Belvedere, 15th March," 1753). "Dear Abbe,—Your style has not appeared to me soft. You are a frank Secretary of State:—nevertheless I give you warning, it is to be a settled point that I embrace you before going. I shall not be able to kiss you; my lips are too choppy from my devil of a disorder [SCURVY, I hear]. You will easily dispense with my kisses; but don't dispense, I pray you, with my warm and true friendship.
"I own I am in despair at quitting you, and quitting the King; but it is a thing indispensable. Consider with our dear Marquis [D'Argens], with Fredersdorf,—PARBLEU, with the King himself, How you can manage that I have the consolation of seeing him before I go. I absolutely will have it; I will embrace with my two arms the Abbe and the Marquis. The Marquis sha'n't be kissed, any more than you; nor the King either. But I shall perhaps fall blubbering; I am weak, I am a drenched hen. I shall make a foolish figure: never mind; I must, once more, have sight of you two. If I cannot throw myself at the King's feet, the Plombieres waters will kill me. I await your answer, to quit this Country as a happy or as a miserable man. Depend on me for life.—V." [Ib. 308.]—This is the last of these obscure Documents.
Three days after which, "evening of March 18th", [Collini, pp. 55, 56.] Voltaire, Collini with him and all his packages, sets out for Potsdam; King's guest once more. Sees the King in person "after dinner, next day;" stays with him almost a week, "quite gay together," "some private quizzing even of Maupertuis" (if we could believe Collini or his master on that point); means "to return in October, when quite refitted,"—does at least (note it, reader), on that ground, retain his Cross and Key, and his Gift of the OEUVRE DE POESIES: which he had much better have left! And finally, morning of March 25th) 1753, [Collini, p. 56; see Rodenbeck, i. 252.] drives off,—towards Dresden, where there are Printing Affairs to settle, and which is the nearest safe City;—and Friedrich and he, intending so or not, have seen one another for the last time. Not quite intending that extremity, either of them, I should think; but both aware that living together was a thing to be avoided henceforth.
"Take care of your health, above all; and don't forget that I expect to see you again after the Waters!" such was Friedrich's adieu, say the French Biographers, [Collini, p. 57; Duvernet, p. 186;—OEuvres de Voltaire,—lxxv. 187 ("will return in October").] "who is himself just going off to the Silesian Reviews", add they;—who does, in reality, drive to Berlin that day; but not to the Silesian Reviews till May following. As Voltaire himself will experience, to his cost!
Chapter XII. OF THE AFTERPIECE, WHICH PROVED STILL MORE TRAGICAL.
Voltaire, once safe on Saxon ground, was in no extreme haste for Plombieres. He deliberately settled his Printing Affairs at Dresden; then at Leipzig;—and scattered through Newspapers, or what port-holes he had, various fiery darts against Maupertuis; aggravating the humors in Berlin, and provoking Maupertuis to write him an express Letter. Letter which is too curious, especially the Answer it gets, to be quite omitted:—
MAUPERTUIS TO VOLTAIRE (at Leipzig).
"BERLIN, 3d APRIL, 1753. If it is true that you design to attack me again [with your LA-BEAUMELLE doggeries and scurrilous discussions], I declare to you that I have still health enough to find you wherever you are, and to take the most signal vengeance on you (VENGEANCE LA PLUS ECLATANTE). Thank the respect and the obedience which have hitherto restrained my arm, and saved you from the worst adventure you have ever yet had. MAUPERTUIS."
VOLTAIRE'S ANSWER (from Leipzig, a few days after).
"M. le President,—I have had the honor to receive your Letter. You inform me that you are well; that your strength is entirely returned; and that, if I publish La Beaumelle's Letter [private Letter of his, lent me by a Friend, which proves that YOU set him against me], you will come and assassinate me. What ingratitude to your poor medical man Akakia!... If you exalt your soul so as to discern futurity, you will see that if you come on that errand to Leipzig, where you are no better liked than in other places, and where your Letter is in safe Legal hands, you run some risk of being hanged. Poor me, indeed, you will find in bed; and I shall have nothing for you but my syringe and vessel of dishonor: but so soon as I have gained a little strength, I will have my pistols charged CUM PULVERE PYRIO; and multiplying the mass by the square of the velocity, so as to reduce the action and you to zero, I will put some lead in your head;—it appears to have need of it. ADIEU, MON PRESIDENT. AKAKIA." [Duvernet, pp. 186, 187;—OEuvres de Voltaire,—lxi. 55-60.]
Here, in the history of Duelling, or challenging to mortal combat, is a unique article! At which the whole world haha'd again; perhaps King Friedrich himself; though he was dreadfully provoked at it, too: "No mending of that fellow!"—and took a resolution in consequence, as will be seen.
Dresden and Leipzig done with, Voltaire accepted an invitation to the Court of Sachsen-Gotha (most polite Serene Highnesses there, and especially a charming Duchess,—who set him upon doing the ANNALES DE L'EMPIRE, decidedly his worst Book). "About April 2lst" Voltaire arrived, stayed till the last days of May; [—OEuvres de Voltaire,—lxxv. 182 n. Clogenson's Note).] and had, for five weeks, a beautiful time at Gotha;—Wilhelmina's Daughter there (young Duchess of Wurtemberg, on visit, as it chanced), [Wilhelmina-Friedrich Correspondence (—OEuvres de Frederic,—xxvii. iii. 258, 249).] and all manner of graces, melodies and beneficences; a little working, too, at the ANNALES, in the big Library, between whiles. Five decidedly melodious weeks. Beautiful interlude, or half-hour of orchestral fiddling in this Voltaire Drama; half-hour which could not last! On the heel of which there unhappily followed an Afterpiece or codicil to the Berlin Visit; which, so to speak, set the whole theatre on fire, and finished by explosion worse than AKAKIA itself. A thing still famous to mankind;—of which some intelligible notion must be left with readers.
The essence of the story is briefly this. Voltaire, by his fine deportment in parting with Friedrich, had been allowed to retain his Decorations, his Letter of Agreement, his Royal BOOK OF POESIES (one of those "Twelve Copies," printed AU DONJON DU CHATEAU, in happier times!)—and in short, to go his ways as a friend, not as a runaway or one dismissed. But now, by his late procedures at Leipzig, and "firings out of port-holes" in that manner, he had awakened Friedrich's indignation again,—Friedrich's regret at allowing him to take those articles with him; and produced a resolution in Friedrich to have them back. They are not generally articles of much moment; but as marks of friendship, they are now all falsities. One of the articles might be of frightful importance: that Book of Poesies; thrice-private OEUVRE DE POESIES, in which are satirical spurts affecting more than one crowned head: one shudders to think what fires a spiteful Voltaire might cause by publishing these! This was Friedrich's idea;—and by no means a chimerical one, as the Fact proved; said OEUVRE being actually reprinted upon him, at Paris afterwards (not by Voltaire), in the crisis of the Seven-Years War, to put him out with his Uncle of England, whom it quizzed in passages. [Title of it is,—OEuvres du Philosophe de Sans-Souci—(Paris, pretending to be "Potsdam," 1760), 1 vol. 12mo: at Paris, "in January" this; whereupon, at Berlin, with despatch, "April 9th," "the real edition" (properly castrated) was sent forth, under title, POESIES DIVERSES, 1 vol. big 8vo (Preuss, in—OEuvres de Frederic,—x. Preface, p. x. See Formey, ii. 255, under date misprinted "1763").] "We will have those articles back," thinks Friedrich; "that OEUVRE most especially! No difficulty: wait for him at Frankfurt, as he passes home; demand them of him there." And has (directly on those new "firings through port-holes" at Leipzig) bidden Fredersdorf take measures accordingly. ["Friedrich to Wilhelmina, 12th April, 1753" (—OEuvres,—xxvii. iii. 227).]
Fredersdorf did so; early in April and onward had his Official Person waiting at Frankfurt (one Freytag, our Prussian Resident there, very celebrated ever since), vigilant in the extreme for Voltaire's arrival,—and who did not miss that event. Voltaire, arriving at last (May 31st), did, with Freytag's hand laid gently on his sleeve, at once give up what of the articles he had about him;—the OEUVRE, unluckily, not one of them; and agreed to be under mild arrest ("PAROLE D'HONNEUR; in the LION-D'OR Hotel here!") till said OEUVRE should come up. Under Fredersdorf's guidance, all this, and what follows; King Friedrich, after the general Order given, had nothing more to do with it, and was gone upon his Reviews.
In the course of two weeks or more the OEUVRE DE POESIE did come. Voltaire was impatient to go. And he might perhaps have at once gone, had Freytag been clearly instructed, so as to know the essential from the unessential here. But he was not;—poor subaltern Freytag had to say, on Voltaire's urgencies: "I will at once report to Berlin; if the answer be (as we hope), 'All right,' you are that moment at liberty!" This was a thing unexpected, astonishing to Voltaire; a thing demanding patience, silence: in three days more, with silence, as turns out, it would have been all beautifully over,—but he was not strong in those qualities!
Voltaire's arrest hitherto had been merely on his word of honor, "I promise, on my honor, not to go beyond the Garden of this Inn." But he now, without warning anybody, privately revoked said word of honor; and Collini and he, next morning, whisked shiftily into a hackney-coach, and were on the edge of being clear off. To Freytag's terror and horror; who, however, caught them in time: and was rigorous enough now, and loud enough;—street-mob gathering round the transaction; Voltaire very loud, and Freytag too,—the matter taking fire here; and scenes occurring, which Voltaire has painted in a highly flagrant manner!
On the third day, Answer from Berlin had come, as expected; answer (as to the old score): "All right; let him go!" But to punctual Freytag's mind, here is now a new considerable item of sundries: insult to his Majesty, to wit; breaking his Majesty's arrest, in such insolent loud manner:—and Freytag finds that he must write anew. Post is very slow; and, though Fredersdorf answers constantly, from Berlin, "Let him go, let him go," there have to be writings and re-writings; and it is not till July 7th (after a detention, not of nearly three weeks, as it might and would have been, but of five and a day) that Voltaire gets off, and then too at full gallop, and in a very unseemly way.
This is authentically the world-famous Frankfurt Affair;—done by Fredersdorf, as we say; Friedrich, absent in Silesia, or in Preussen even, having no hand in it, except the original Order left with Fredersdorf. Voltaire has used his flamingest colors on this occasion, being indeed dreadfully provoked and chagrined; painting the thing in a very flagrant manner,—known to all readers. Voltaire's flagrant Narrative had the round of the world to itself, for a hundred years; and did its share of execution against Friedrich. Till at length, recently, a precise impartial hand, the Herr Varnhagen, thought of looking into the Archives; and has, in a distinct, minute and entertaining way, explained the truth of it to everybody;—leaving the Voltaire Narrative in rather sad condition. [Varnhagen von Ense,—Voltaire in Frankfurt am Mayn,—1753 (separate, as here, 12mo, pp. 92; or in—Berliner Kalender—for 1846).] We have little room; but must give, compressed, from Varnhagen and the other evidences, a few of the characteristic points. The story falls into two Parts.
PART I. FREDERSDORF SENDS INSTRUCTIONS; THE "OEUVRE DE POESIE" IS GOT; BUT—
APRIL 11th, 1753 (few days after that of Maupertuis's Cartel, Voltaire having set to firing through port-holes again, and the King being swift in his resolution on it), Factotum Fredersdorf, who has a free-flowing yet a steady and compact pen, directs Herr Freytag, our Resident at Frankfurt-on-Mayn, To procure from the Authorities there, on Majesty's request, the necessary powers; then vigilantly to look out for Voltaire's arrival; to detain the said Voltaire, and, if necessary, arrest him, till he deliver certain articles belonging to his Majesty: Cross of Merit, Gold Key, printed OEUVRE DE POESIES and Writings (SKRIPTUREN) of his Majesty's; in short, various articles,—the specification of which is somewhat indistinct. In Fredersdorf's writing, all this; not so mathematically luminous and indisputable as in Eichel's it would have been. Freytag put questions, and there passed several Letters between Fredersdorf and him; but it was always uncomfortably hazy to Freytag, and he never understood or guessed that the OEUVRE DE POESIES was the vital item, and the rest formal in comparison. Which is justly considered to have been an unlucky circumstance, as matters turned. For help to himself, Freytag is to take counsel with one Hofrath Schmidt; a substantial experienced Burgher of Frankfurt, whose rathship is Prussian.
APRIL 21st, Freytag answers, That Schmidt and he received his Majesty's All-gracious Orders the day before yesterday (Post takes eight days, it would seem); that they have procured the necessary powers; and are now, and will be, diligently watchful to execute the same. Which, one must say, they in right earnest are; patrolling about, with lips strictly closed, eyes vividly open; and have a man or two privately on watch at the likely stations, on the possible highways;—and so continue, Voltaire doing his ANNALS OF THE EMPIRE, and enjoying himself at Gotha, for weeks after, ["Left Gotha 25th May" (Clog. in—OEuvres de Voltaire,—xxv. 192 n.).]—much unconscious of their patrolling.
Freytag is in no respect a shining Diplomatist;—probably some EMERITUS Lieutenant, doing his function for 30 pounds a year: but does it in a practical solid manner. Writes with stiff brevity, stiff but distinct; with perfect observance of grammar both in French and German; with good practical sense, and faithful effort to do aright what his order is: no trace of "MonSIR," of "OEuvre de PoesHie," to be found in Freytag; and most, or all, of the ridiculous burs stuck on him by Voltaire, are to be pulled off again as—as fibs, or fictions, solacing to the afflicted Wit. Freytag is not of quick or bright intellect: and unluckily, just at the crisis of Voltaire's actual arrival, both Schmidt and Fredersdorf are off to Embden, where there is "Grand Meeting of the Embden Shipping Company" (with comfortable dividends, let us hope),—and have left Freytag to his own resources, in case of emergency.
THURSDAY, MAY 31st, "about eight in the evening," Voltaire does arrive,—most prosperous journey hitherto, by Cassel, Marburg, Warburg, and other places famous then or since; Landgraf of Hessen (wise Wilhelm, whom we knew) honorably lodging him; innkeepers calling him "Your Excellency," or "M. le Comte;"—and puts up at the Golden Lion at Frankfurt, where rooms have been ordered; Freytag well aware, though he says nothing.
FRIDAY MORNING, JUNE 1st) "his Excellency and Suite" (Voltaire and Collini) have their horses harnessed, carriage out, and are about taking the road again,—when Freytag, escorted by a Dr. Rucker, "Frankfurt Magistrate DE MAUVAISE MINE," [Collini, p. 77.] and a Prussian recruiting Lieutenant, presents himself in Voltaire's apartment! Readers know Voltaire's account and MonSIR Collini's; and may now hear Freytag's own, which is painted from fact:—
"Introductory civilities done (NACH GEMACHTEN POLITESSEN), I made him acquainted with the will of your most All-gracious Majesty. He was much astonished (BESTURZT," no wonder); "he shut his eyes, and flung himself back in his chair." [Varnhagen, p. 16.] Calls in his friend Collini, whom, at first, I had requested to withdraw. Two coffers are produced, and opened, by Collini; visitation, punctual, long and painful, lasted from nine A.M. till five P.M. Packets are made,—a great many Papers, "and one Poem which he was unwilling to quit" (perilous LA PUCELLE);—inventories are drawn, duly signed. Packets are signeted, mutually sealed, Rucker claps on the Town-seal first, Freytag and Voltaire following with theirs. "He made thousand protestations of his fidelity to your Majesty; became pretty weak [like fainting, think you, Herr Resident?], and indeed he looks like a skeleton.—We then made demand of the Book, OEUVRE DE POESIES: That, he said, was in the Big Case; and he knew not whether at Leipzig or Hamburg" (knew very well where it was); and finding nothing else would do, wrote for it, showing Freytag the Letter; and engaged, on his word of honor, not to stir hence till it arrived.
Upon which,—what is farther to be noted, though all seems now settled,—Freytag, at Voltaire's earnest entreaty, "for behoof of Madame Denis, a beloved Niece, Monsieur, who is waiting for me hourly at Strasburg, whom such fright might be the death of!"—puts on paper a few words (the few which Voltaire has twisted into "MonSIR," "PoesHies" and so forth), to the effect, "That whenever the OEUVRE comes, Voltaire shall actually have leave to go." And so, after eight hours, labor (nine A.M. to five P.M.), everything is hushed again. Voltaire, much shocked and astonished, poor soul, "sits quietly down to his ANNALES" (says Collini),—to working, more or less; a resource he often flies to, in such cases. Madame Denis, on receiving his bad news at Strasburg, sets off towards him: arrives some days before the OEUVRE and its Big Case. King Friedrich had gone, May 1st) for some weeks, to his Silesian Reviews; June 1st (very day of this great sorting in the Lion d'Or), he is off again, to utmost Prussia this time;—and knows, hitherto and till quite the end, nothing, except that Voltaire has not turned up anywhere.
... Voltaire cannot have done much at his ANNALS, in this interim at the Golden Lion, "where he has liberty to walk in the Garden." He has been, and is, secretly corresponding, complaining and applying, all round, at a great rate: to Count Stadion the Imperial Excellency at Mainz, to French friends, to Princess Wilhelmina, ultimately to Friedrich himself. [In—OEuvres de Voltaire,—lxxv. 207-214, &c., Letters to Stadion (of strange enough tenor: see Varnhagen, pp. 30, &c.). In—OEuvres de Frederic,—xxii. 303, and in—OEuvres de Voltaire,—lxxv. 185, is the Letter to Friedrich (dateless, totally misplaced, and rendered unintelligible, in both Works): Letter SENT through Wilhelmina (see her fine remarks in forwarding it,—OEuvres de Frederic,—xxvii. iii. 234).] He has been receiving visits, from Serene Highnesses, "Duke of Meiningen" and the like, who happen to be in Town. Visit from iniquitous Dutch Bookseller, Van Duren (Printer of the ANTI-MACHIAVEL); with whom we had such controversy once. Iniquitous, now opulent and prosperous, Van Duren, happening to be here, will have the pleasure of calling on an old distinguished friend: distinguished friend, at sight of him entering the Garden, steps hastily up, gives him a box on the ear, without words but an interjection or two; and vanishes within doors. That is something! "Monsieur," said Collini, striving to weep, but unable, "you have had a blow from the greatest man in the world." [Collini, p. 182.] In short, Voltaire has been exciting great sensation in Frankfurt; and keeping Freytag in perpetual fear and trouble.
MONDAY, 18th JUNE, the Big Case, lumbering along, does arrive. It is carried straight to Freytag's; and at eleven in the morning, Collini eagerly attends to have it opened. Freytag,—to whom Schmidt has returned from Embden, but no Answer from Potsdam, or the least light about those SKRIPTUREN,—is in the depths of embarrassment; cannot open, till he know completely what items and SKRIPTUREN he is to make sure of on opening: "I cannot, till the King's answer come!"—"But your written promise to Voltaire?" "Tush, that was my own private promise, Monsieur; my own private prediction of what would happen; a thing PRO FORMA", and to save Madame Denis's life. Patience; perhaps it will arrive this very day. Come again to me at three P.M.;—there is Berlin post today; then again in three days:—I surely expect the Order will come by this post or next; God grant it may be by this!" Collini attends at three; there is Note from Fredersdorf: King's Majesty absent in Preussen all this while; expected now in two days. Freytag's face visibly brightens: "Wait till next post; three days more, only wait!" [Varnhagen, pp. 39-41.] And in fact, by next post, as we find, the OPEN-SESAME did punctually come. Voltaire, and all this big cawing rookery of miseries and rages, would have at once taken wing again, into the serene blue, could Voltaire but have had patience three days more! But that was difficult for him, too Difficult.
PART II. VOLTAIRE, IN SPITE OF HIS EFFORTS, DOES GET AWAY (June 20th-July 7th).
WEDNESDAY, JUNE 20th, Voltaire and Collini ("word. of honor" fallen dubious to them, dubious or more),—having laid their plan, striving to think it fair in the circumstances,—walk out from the Lion d'Or, "Voltaire in black-velvet coat," [Ib. p. 46.] with their valuablest effects (LA PUCELLE and money-box included); leaving Madame Denis to wait the disimprisonment of OEUVRE DE POESIE and wind up the general business. Walk out, very gingerly,—duck into a hackney-coach; and attempt to escape by the Mainz Gate! Freytag's spy runs breathless with the news; never was a Freytag in such taking. Terrified Freytag has to "throw on his coat;" order out three men to gallop by various routes; jump into some Excellency's coach (kind Excellency lent it), which is luckily standing yoked near by; and shoot with the velocity of life and death towards Mainz Gate. Voltaire, whom the well-affected Porter, suspecting something, has rather been retarding, is still there: "Arrested, in the King's name!"—and there is such a scene! For Freytag, too, is now raging, ignited by such percussion of the terrors; and speaks, not like what they call "a learned sergeant", but like a drilled sergeant in heat of battle: Vol-taire's tongue, also, and Collini's,—"Your Excellenz never heard such brazen-faced lies thrown on a man; that I had offered, for 1,000 thalers, to let them go; that I had"—In short, the thing has caught fire; broken into flaming chaos again.
"Freytag [to give one snatch from Collini's side] got into the carriage along with us, and led us, in this way, across the mob of people to Schmidt's [to see what was to be done with us]. Sentries were put at the gate to keep out the mob; we are led into a kind of counting-room; clerk, maid-and man-servants are about; Madam Schmidt passes before Voltaire with a disdainful air, to listen to Freytag, recounting," in the tone not of a LEARNED sergeant, what the matter is. They seize our effects; under violent protest, worse than vain. "Voltaire demands to have at least his snuffbox, cannot do without snuff; they answer, 'It is usual to take everything.'
"His," Voltaire's, "eyes were sparkling with fury; from time to time he lifted them on mine, as if to interrogate me. All on a sudden, noticing a door half open, he dashes through it, and is out. Madam Schmidt forms her squad, shopmen and three maid-servants; and, at their head, rushes after. 'What?' cries he, (cannot I be allowed to—to vomit, then?'" They form circle round him, till he do it; call out Collini, who finds him "bent down, with his fingers in his throat, attempting to vomit; and is terrified; 'MON DIEU, are you ill, then?' He answered in a low voice, tears in his eyes, 'FINGO, FINGO (I pretend,'" and Collini leads him back, RE INFECTA. "The Author of the HENRIADE and MEROPE; what a spectacle! [Collini, pp. 81, 86.]... Not for two hours had they done with their writings and arrangings. Our portfolios and CASSETTE (money-box) were thrown into an empty trunk [what else could they be thrown into?]—which was locked with a padlock, and sealed with a paper, Voltaire's arms on the one end, and Schmidt's cipher on the other. Dorn, Freytag's Clerk, was bidden lead us away. Sign of the BOUC" (or BILLY-GOAT; there henceforth; LION D,OR refusing to be concerned with us farther); twelve soldiers; Madame Denis with curtains of bayonets,—and other well-known flagrancies.... The 7th of July, Voltaire did actually go; and then in an extreme hurry,—by his own blame, again. These final passages we touch only in the lump; Voltaire's own Narrative of these being so copious, flamingly impressive, and still known to everybody. How much better for Voltaire and us, had nobody ever known it; had it never been written; had the poor hubbub, no better than a chance street-riot all of it, after amusing old Frankfurt for a while, been left to drop into the gutters forever! To Voltaire and various others (me and my poor readers included), that was the desirable thing.
Had there but been, among one's resources, a little patience and practical candor, instead of all that vituperative eloquence and power of tragi-comic description! Nay, in that case, this wretched street-riot hubbub need not have been at all. Truly M. de Voltaire had a talent for speech, but lamentably wanted that of silence!—We have now only the sad duty of pointing out the principal mendacities contained in M. de Voltaire's world-famous Account (for the other side has been heard since that); and so of quitting a painful business. The principal mendacities—deducting all that about "POE'ShIE" and the like, which we will define as poetic fiction—are:—
1. That of the considerable files of soldiers (almost a Company of Musketeers, one would think) stuck up round M. de Voltaire and Party, in THE BILLY-GOAT; Madame Denis's bed-curtains being a screen of bayonets, and the like. The exact number of soldiers I cannot learn: "a SCHILDWACHE of the Town-guard [means one; surely does not mean Four?] for each prisoner," reports the arithmetical Freytag; which, in the extreme case, would have been twelve in whole (as Collini gives it); and "next day we reduced them to two", says Freytag.
2. That of the otherwise frightful night Madame Denis had; "the fellow Dorn [Freytag's Clerk, a poor, hard-worked frugal creature, with frugal wife and family not far off] insisting to sit in the Lady's bedroom; there emptying bottle after bottle; nay at last [as Voltaire bethinks him, after a few days] threatening to"—Plainly to EXCEL all belief! A thing not to be spoken of publicly: indeed, what Lady could speak of it at all, except in hints to an Uncle of advanced years?—Proved fact being, that Madame Denis, all in a flutter, that first night at THE BILLY-GOAT, had engaged Dorn, "for a louis-d'or," to sit in her bedroom; and did actually pay him a louis-d'or for doing so! This is very bad mendacity; clearly conscious on M. de Voltaire's part, and even constructed by degrees.
3. Very bad also is that of the moneys stolen from him by those Official people. M. de Voltaire knows well enough how he failed to get his moneys, and quitted Frankfurt in a hurry! Here, inexorably certain from the Documents, and testimonies on both parts, is that final Passage of the long Fire-work: last crackle of the rocket before it dropped perpendicular:—
JULY 6th, complete OPEN-SESAME having come, Freytag and Schmidt duly invited Voltaire to be present at the opening of seals (his and theirs), and to have his moneys and effects returned from that "old trunk" he speaks of. But Voltaire had by this time taken a higher flight. July 6th, Voltaire was protesting before Notaries, about the unheard-of violence done him, the signal reparations due; and disdained, for the moment, to concern himself with moneys or opening of seals: "Seals, moneys? Ye atrocious Highwaymen!"
Upon which, they sent poor Dorn with the sealed trunk in CORPORE, to have it opened by Voltaire himself. Collini, in THE BILLY-GOAT, next morning (July 7th)) says, he (Collini) had just loaded two journey-pistols, part of the usual carriage-furniture, and they lay on the table. At sight of poor Dorn darkening his chamber-door, Voltaire, the prey of various flurries and high-flown vehemences, snatched one of the pistols ("pistol without powder, without flint, without lock," says Voltaire; "efficient pistol just loaded", testifies Collini);—snatched said pistol; and clicking it to the cock, plunged Dorn-ward, with furious exclamations: not quite unlikely to have shot Dorn (in the fleshy parts),—had not Collini hurriedly struck up his hand, "MON DIEU, MONSIEUR!" and Dorn, with trunk, instantly vanished. Dorn, naturally, ran to a Lawyer. Voltaire, dreading Trial for intended Homicide, instantly gathered himself; and shot away, self and Pucelle with Collini, clear off;—leaving Niece Denis, leaving moneys and other things, to wait till to-morrow, and settle as they could.
After due lapse of days, in the due legal manner, the Trunk was opened; "the 19 pounds of expenses" (19 pounds and odd shillings, not 100 pounds or more, as Voltaire variously gives it) was accurately taken from it by Schmidt and Freytag, to be paid where due,—(in exact liquidation, "Landlord of THE BILLY-GOAT" so much, "Hackney-Coachmen, Riding Constables sent in chase," so much, as per bill);—and the rest, 76 pounds 10s. was punctually locked up again, till Voltaire should apply for it. "Send it after him," Friedrich answered, when inquired of; "send it after him; but not [reflects he] unless there is somebody to take his Receipt for it,"—our gentleman being the man he is. Which case, or any application from Voltaire, never turned up. "Robbed by those highwaymen of Prussian Agents!" exclaimed Voltaire everywhere, instead of applying. Never applied; nor ever forgot. Would fain have engaged Collini to apply,—especially when the French Armies had got into Frankfurt,—but Collini did not see his way. [Three Letters to Collini on the subject (January-May, 1759),—Collini,—pp. 208-211.]
So that, except as consolatory scolding-stock for the rest of his life, Voltaire got nothing of his 76 pounds 10s., "with jewels and snuffbox," always lying ready in the Trunk for him. And it had, I suppose, at the long last, to go by RIGHT OF WINDFALL to somebody or other:—unless, perhaps, it still lie, overwhelmed under dust and lumber, in the garrets of the old Rathhaus yonder, waiting for a legal owner? What became of it, no man knows; but that no doit of it ever went Freytag's or King Friedrich's way, is abundantly evident. On the whole, what an entertaining Narrative is that of Voltaire's; but what a pity he had ever written it!
This was the finishing Catastrophe, tragical exceedingly; which went loud-sounding through the world, and still goes,—the more is the pity. Catastrophe due throughout to three causes: FIRST, That Fredersdorf, not Eichel, wrote the Order; and introduced the indefinite phrase SKRIPTUREN, instead of sticking by the OEUVRE DE POESIES, the one essential point. SECOND, That Freytag was of heavy pipe-clay nature. THIRD, That Voltaire was of impatient explosive nature; and, in calamities, was wont, not to be silent and consider, but to lift up his voice (having such a voice), and with passionate melody appeal to the Universe, and do worse, by way of helping himself!—
"The poor Voltaire, after all!" ejaculates Smelfungus. "Lean, of no health, but melodious extremely (in a shallow sense); and truly very lonely, old and weak, in this world. What an end to Visit Fifth; began in Olympus, terminates in the Lock-up! His conduct, except in the Jew Case, has nothing of bad, at least of unprovokedly bad. 'Lost my teeth,' said he, when things were at zenith. 'Thought I should never weep again,'—now when they are at nadir. A sore blow to one's Vanity, in presence of assembled mankind; and made still more poignant by noises of one's own adding. France forbidden to him [by expressive signallings]; miraculous Goshen of Prussia shut: (these old eyes, which I thought would continue dry till they closed forever, were streaming in tears;'" [Letter from "Mainz, 9th July," third day of rout or flight; To Niece Denis, left behind (—OEuvres,—lxxv. 220).]—but soon brightened up again: Courage!
How Voltaire now wanders about for several years, doing his ANNALES, and other Works; now visiting Lyon City (which is all in GAUDEAMUS round him, though Cardinal Tencin does decline him as dinner-guest); now lodging with Dom Calmet in the Abbey of Senones (ultimately in one's own first-floor, in Colmar near by), digging, in Calmet's Benedictine Libraries, stuff for his ANNALES;—wandering about (chiefly in Elsass, latterly on the Swiss Border), till he find rest for the sole of his foot: [Purchased LES DELICES (The Delights), as he named it, a glorious Summer Residence, on the Lake, near Geneva (supplemented by a Winter ditto, MONRION, near Lausanne), "in February, 1755" (—OEuvres,—xvii. 243 n.);—then purchased FERNEY, not far off, "in October, 1758;" and continued there, still more glorious, for almost twenty years thenceforth (ib. lxxvii. 398, xxxix. 307: thank the exact "Clog." for both these Notes).] all this may be known to readers; and we must say nothing of it. Except only that, next year, in his tent, or hired lodgings at Colmar, the Angels visited him (Abraham-like, after a sort). Namely, that one evening (late in October, 1754), a knock came to his door, "Her Serene Highness of Baireuth wishes to see you, at the Inn over there!" "Inn, Baireuth, say you? Heavens, what?"—Or, to take it in the prose form:—
"January 26th, 1753, about eight P.M. [while Voltaire sat desolate in Francheville's, far away], the Palace at Baireuth,—Margraf with candle at an open window, and gauze curtains near—had caught fire; inexorably flamed up, and burnt itself to ashes, it and other fine edifices adjoining. [Holle, STADT BAYREUTH (Bayreuth, 1833), p. 178.] Wilhelmina is always very ill in health; they are now rebuilding their Palace: Margraf has suggested, 'Why not try Montpellier; let us have a winter there!' On that errand they are (end of October, 1754) got the length of Colmar; and do the Voltaire miracle in passing. Very charming to the poor man, in his rustication here.
"'Eight hours in a piece, with the Sister of the King of Prussia" writes he: think of that, my friends! 'She loaded me with bounties; made me a most beautiful present. Insisted to see my Niece; would have me go with them to Montpellier.' [Letters (in—OEuvres,—lxxv. 450, 452), "Colmar, 23d October, &c. 1754."] Other interviews and meetings they had, there and farther on: Voltaire tried for the Montpellier; but could not. [Wrote to Friedrich about it (one of his first Letters after the Explosion), applying to Friedrich "for a Passport" or Letter of Protection; which Friedrich answers by De Prades, openly laughing at it (—OEuvres,—xxiii. 6).] Wilhelmina wintered at Montpellier, without Voltaire "Thank your stars!' writes Friedrich to her. The Friedrich-Wilhelmina LETTERS are at their best during this Journey; here unfortunately very few). [—OEuvres de Frederic,—xxvii. iii. 248-273 (September, 1754, and onwards).] Winter done, Wilhelmina went still South, to Italy, to Naples, back by Venice:—at Naples, undergoing the Grotto del Cane and neighborhood, Wilhelmina plucked a Sprig of Laurel from Virgil's Grave, and sent it to her Brother in the prettiest manner;—is home at Baireuth, new Palace ready, August, 1755."
These points, hurriedly put down, careful readers will mark, and perhaps try to keep in mind. Wilhelmina's Tourings are not without interest to her friends. Of her Voltaire acquaintanceship, especially, we shall hear again. With Voltaire, Friedrich himself had no farther Correspondence, or as good as none, for four years and more. What Voltaire writes to him (with Gifts of Books and the like, in the tenderest regretful pathetically COOING tone, enough to mollify rocks), Friedrich usually answers by De Prades, if at all,—in a quite discouraging manner. In the end of 1757, on what hint we shall see, the Correspondence recommenced, and did not cease again so long as they both lived.
Voltaire at Potsdam is a failure, then. Nothing to be made of that. Law is reformed; Embden has its Shipping Companies; Industry flourishes: but as to the Trismegistus of the Muses coming to our Hearth—! Some Eight of Friedrich's years were filled by these Three grand Heads of Effort; perfect Peace in all his borders: and in 1753 we see how the celestial one of them has gone to wreck. "Understand at last, your Majesty, that there is no Muses'-Heaven possible on Telluric terms; and cast that notion out of your head!"
Friedrich does cast it out, more and more, henceforth,—"ACH, MEIN LIEBER SULZER, what was your knowledge, then, of that damned race?" Casts it out, we perceive,—and in a handsome silently stoical way. Cherishing no wrath in his heart against any poor devil; still, in some sort, loving this and the other of them; Chasot, Algarotti, Voltaire even, who have gone from him, too weak for the place: "Too weak, alas, yes; and I, was I wise to try them, then?" With a fine humanity, new hope inextinguishably welling up; really with a loyalty, a modesty, a cheery brother manhood unexpected by readers.
Eight of the Eleven Peace Years are gone in these courses. The next three, still silent and smooth to the outward eye, were defaced by subterranean mutterings, electric heralds of coming storm. "Meaning battle and wrestle again?" thinks Friedrich, listening intent. A far other than welcome message to Friedrich. A message ominous; thrice unwelcome, not to say terrible. Requires to be scanned with all one's faculty; to be interpreted; to be obeyed, in spite of one's reluctances and lazinesses. To plunge again into the Mahlstrom, into the clash of Chaos, and dive for one's Silesia, the third time;—horrible to lazy human nature: but if the facts are so) it must be done!—
Chapter XIII. ROMISH-KING QUESTION; ENGLISH-PRIVATEER QUESTION.
The public Events so called, which have been occupying mankind during this Voltaire Visit, require now mainly to be forgotten;—and may, for our purposes, be conveniently riddled down to Three. FIRST, King-of-the-Romans Question; SECOND, English-Privateer Question; and then, hanging curiously related to these Two, a THIRD, or "English-French Canada Question." Of some importance all of them; extremely important to Friedrich, especially that Third and least expected of them.
Witty Hanbury Williams, the English Excellency at Berlin, busy intriguing little creature, became distasteful there, long since; and they had to take him away: "recalled," say the Documents, "22d January, 1751." Upon which, no doubt, he made a noise in Downing Street; and got, it appears, "re-credentials to Berlin, 4th March, 1751;" [Manuscript LIST in State-Paper Office.] but I think did not much reside, nor intend to reside; having all manner of wandering Continental duties to do; and a world of petty businesses and widespread intrigues, Russian, German and other, on hand. Robinson, too, is now home; returned, 1748 (Treaty of Aix in his pocket); and an Excellency Keith, more and more famous henceforth, has succeeded him in that Austrian post. Busy people, these and others; now legationing in Foreign parts: able in their way; but whose work proved to be that of spinning ropes from sand, and must not detain us at this time.
The errand of all these Britannic Excellencies is upon a notable scheme, which Royal George and his Newcastle have devised, Of getting all made tight, and the Peace of Aix double-riveted, so to speak, and rendered secure against every contingency,—by having Archduke Joseph at once elected "King of the Romans." King of the Romans straightway; whereby he follows at once as Kaiser, should his Father die; and is liable to no French or other intriguing; and we have taken a bond of Fate that the Balance cannot be canted again. Excellent scheme, think both these heads; and are stirring Germany with all their might, purse in hand, to co-operate, and do it. Inconceivable what trouble these prescient minds are at, on this uncertain matter. It was Britannic Majesty's and Newcastle's main problem in this world, for perhaps four years (1749-1753):—"My own child," as a fond Noodle of Newcastle used to call it; though I rather think it was the other that begot the wretched object, but had tired sooner of nursing it under difficulties.
Unhappily there needs unanimity of all the Nine Electors. The poorer you can buy; "Bavarian Subsidy," or annual pension, is only 45,000 pounds, for this invaluable object; Koln is only—a mere trifle: [Debate on "Bavarian Subsidy" (in Walpole,—George the Second,—i. 49): endless Correspondence between Newcastle and his Brother (curious to read, though of the most long-eared description on the Duke's part), in Coxe's—Pelham,—ii, 338-465 ("31st May, 1750-3d November, 1752"): precise Account (if anybody now wanted it), in—Adelung,—vii. 146, 149, 154, et seq.] trifles all, in comparison of the sacred Balance, and dear Hanover kept scathless. But unfortunately Friedrich, whom we must not think of buying, is not enthusiastic in the cause! Far from it. The now Kaiser has never yet got him, according to bargain, a Reichs-Guarantee for the Peace of Dresden; and needs endless flagitating to do it. [Does it, at length, by way of furtherance to this Romish-King Business, "23d January-14th May, 1751" (—Adelung,—vii. 217).] The chase of security and aggrandizement to the House of Austria is by no means Friedrich's chief aim! This of King of the Romans never could be managed by Britannic Majesty and his Newcastle.
It was very triumphant, and I think at its hopefulest, in 1750, soon after starting,—when Excellency Hanbury first appeared at Berlin on behalf of it. That was Excellency Hanbury's first journey on this errand; and he made a great many more, no man readier; a stirring, intriguing creature (and always with such moneys to distribute); had victorious hopes now and then,—which one and all proved fatuous. ["June, 1750," Hanbury for Berlin (Britannic Majesty much anxious Hanbury were there): Hanbury to Warsaw next (hiring Polish Majesty there); at Dresden, does make victorious Treaty, September, 1751; at Vienna, 1753 (still on the aawe quest). Coxe's—Pelham,—ii. 339, 196, 469.] In 1751 and 1752, the darling Project met cross tides, foul winds, political whirlpools ("Such a set are those German Princes!")—and swam, indomitable, though near desperate, as Project seldom did; till happily, in 1753, it sank drowned:—and left his Grace of Newcastle asking, "Well-a-day! And is not England drowned too?" We hope not.
"Owing mainly to Friedrich's opposition!" exclaimed Noodle and the Political Circles. Which—(though it was not the fact; Friedrich's opposition, once that Reichs-Guarantee of his own was got, being mostly passive, "Push it through the stolid element, then, YOU stolid fellows, if you can!")—awoke considerable outcry in England. Lively suspicion there, of treasonous intentions to the Cause of Liberty, on his Prussian Majesty's part; and—coupled with other causes that had risen—a great deal of ill-nature, in very dark condition, against his Prussian Majesty. And it was not Friedrich's blame, chiefly or at all. If indeed Friedrich would have forwarded the Enterprise:—but he merely did not; and the element was viscous, stolid. Austria itself had wished the thing; but with nothing like such enthusiasm as King George;—to whom the refusal, by Friedrich and Fate, was a bitter disappointment. Poor Britannic Majesty: Archduke Joseph came to be King of the Romans, in due course; right enough. And long before that event (almost before George had ended his vain effort to hasten it), Austria turned on its pivot; and had clasped, not England to its bosom, but France (thanks to that exquisite Kaunitz); and was in arms AGAINST England, dear Hanover, and the Cause of Liberty! Vain to look too far ahead,—especially with those fish-eyes. Smelfungus has a Note on Kaunitz; readable, though far too irreverent of that superlative Diplomatist, and unjust to the real human merits he had.
"The struggles of Britannic George to get a King of the Romans elected were many. Friedrich never would bite at this salutary scheme for strengthening the House of Austria: 'A bad man, is not he?' And all the while, the Court of Austria seemed indifferent, in comparison;—and Graf von Kaunitz-Rietberg, Ambassador at Paris, was secretly busy, wheeling Austria round on its axis, France round on its; and bringing them to embrace in political wedlock! Feat accomplished by his Excellency Kaunitz (Paris, 1752-1753);—accomplished, not consummated; left ready for consummating when he, Kaunitz, now home as Prime Minister, or helmsman on the new tack, should give signal. Thought to be one of the cleverest feats ever done by Diplomatic art.
"Admirable feat, for the Diplomatic art which it needed; not, that I can see, for any other property it had. Feat which brought, as it was intended to do, a Third Silesian War; death of about a million fighting men, and endless woes to France and Austria in particular. An exquisite Diplomatist this Kaunitz; came to be Prince, almost to be God-Brahma in Austria, and to rule the Heavens and Earth (having skill with his Sovereign Lady, too), in an exquisite and truly surprising manner. Sits there sublime, like a gilt crockery Idol, supreme over the populations, for near forty years.
"One reads all Biographies and Histories of Kaunitz: [Hormayr's (in—OEsterreichischer Plutarch,—iv. 3tes, 231-283); &c. &c.] one catches evidence of his well knowing his Diplomatic element, and how to rule it and impose on it. Traits there are of human cunning, shrewdness of eye;—of the loftiest silent human pride, stoicism, perseverance of determination,—but not, to my remembrance, of any conspicuous human wisdom whatever, One asks, Where is his wisdom? Enumerate, then, do me the pleasure of enumerating, What he contrived that the Heavens answered Yes to, and not No to? All silent! A man to give one thoughts. Sits like a God-Brahma, human idol of gilt crockery, with nothing in the belly of it (but a portion of boiled chicken daily, very ill-digested); and such a prostrate worship, from those around him, as was hardly seen elsewhere. Grave, inwardly unhappy-looking; but impenetrable, uncomplaining. Seems to have passed privately an Act of Parliament: 'Kaunitz-Rietberg here, as you see him, is the greatest now alive; he, I privately assure you!'—and, by continued private determination, to have got all men about him to ratify the same, and accept it as valid. Much can be done in that way with stupidish populations; nor is Beau Brummel the only instance of it, among ourselves, in the later epochs.
"Kaunitz is a man of long hollow face, nose naturally rather turned into the air, till artificially it got altogether turned thither. Rode beautifully; but always under cover; day by day, under glass roof in the riding-school, so many hours or minutes, watch in hand. Hated, or dreaded, fresh air above everything: so that the Kaiserinn, a noble lover of it, would always good-humoredly hasten to shut her windows when he made her a visit. Sumptuous suppers, soirees, he had; the pink of Nature assembling in his house; galaxy, domestic and foreign, of all the Vienna Stars. Through which he would walk one turn; glancing stoically, over his nose, at the circumambient whirlpool of nothings,—happy the nothing to whom he would deign a word, and make him something. O my friends!—In short, it was he who turned Austria on its axis, and France on its, and brought them to the kissing pitch. Pompadour and Maria Theresa kissing mutually, like Righteousness and—not PEACE, at any rate! 'MA CHERE COUSINE,' could I have believed it, at one time?"
A SECOND Prussian-English cause of offence had arisen, years ago, and was not yet settled; nay is now (Spring, 1753) at its height or crisis: Offence in regard to English Privateering.
Friedrich, ever since Ost-Friesland was his, has a considerable Foreign Trade,—not as formerly from Stettin alone, into the Baltic Russian ports; but from Embden now, which looks out into the Atlantic and the general waters of Europe and the World. About which he is abundantly careful, as we have seen. Anxious to go on good grounds in this matter, and be accurately neutral, and observant of the Maritime Laws, he had, in 1744, directly after coming to possession of Ost-Friesland, instructed Excellency Andrie, his Minister in London, to apply at the fountain-head, and expressly ask of my Lord Carteret: "Are hemp, flax, timber contraband?" "No," answered Carteret; Andrie reported, No. And on this basis they acted, satisfactorily, for above a year. But, in October, 1745, the English began violently to take PLANKS for contraband; and went on so, and ever worse, till the end of the War. [Adelung, vii. 334.] Excellency Andrie has gone home; and a Secretary of Legation, Herr Michel, is now here in his stead:—a good few dreary old Pamphlets of Michel's publishing (official Declaration, official Arguments, Documents, in French and English, 4to and 8vo, on this extinct subject), if you go deep into the dust-bins, can be disinterred here to this day. Tread lightly, touching only the chief summits. The Haggle stretches through five years, 1748-1753,—and then at last ceases HAGGLING:—
"JANUARY 8th, 1748 [War still on foot, but near ending], Michel applies about injuries, about various troubles and unjust seizures of ships; Secretary Chesterfield answers, 'We have an Admiralty Court; beyond question, right shall be done.' 'Would it were soon, then!' hints Michel. Chesterfield, who is otherwise politeness itself, confidently hopes so; but cannot push Judicial people.
"FEBRUARY, 1748. Admiralty being still silent, Michel applies by Memorial, in a specific case: 'Two Stettin Ships, laden with wine from Bordeaux, and a third vessel,' of some other Prussian port, laden with corn; taken in Ramsgate Roads, whither they had been driven by storm: 'Give me these Ships back!' Memorial to his Grace of Newcastle, this. Upon which the Admiralty sits; with deliberation, decides (June, 1748), 'Yes!' And 'there is hope that a Treaty of Commerce will follow;' [—Gentleman's Magazine,—xviii. (for 1748), pp. 64, 141.] which was far from being the issue just yet!
"On the contrary, his Prussian Majesty's Merchants, perhaps encouraged by this piece of British justice, came forward with more and ever more complaints and instances. To winnow the strictly true out of which, from the half-true or not provable, his Prussian Majesty has appointed a 'Commission,'" fit people, and under strict charges, I can believe, "Commission takes (to Friedrich's own knowledge) a great deal of pains;—and it does not want for clean corn, after all its winnowing. Plenty of facts, which can be insisted on as indisputable. 'Such and such Merchant Ships [Schedules of them given in, with every particular, time, name, cargo, value] have been laid hold of on the Ocean Highway, and carried into English Ports;—OUT of which his Prussian Majesty has, in all Friendliness, to beg that they be now re-delivered, and justice done.' 'Contraband of War,' answer the English; 'sorry to have given your Majesty the least uneasiness; but they were carrying'—'No, pardon me; nothing contraband discoverable in them;' and hands in his verified Schedules, with perfectly polite, but more and more serious request, That the said ships be restored, and damages accounted for. 'Our Prize Courts have sat on every ship of them,' eagerly shrieks Newcastle all along: 'what can we do!' 'Nay a Special Commission shall now [1751, date not worth seeking farther]—special Commission shall now sit, till his Prussian Majesty get every satisfaction in the world!'
"English Special Commission, counterpart of that Prussian one (which is in vacation by this time), sits accordingly: but is very slow; reports for a long while nothing, except, 'Oh, give us time!' and reports, in the end, nothing in the least satisfactory. ["Have entirely omitted the essential points on which the matter turns; and given such confused account, in consequence, that it is not well possible to gather from their Report any clear and just idea of it at all." (Verdict of the PRUSSIAN Commission: which had been re-assembled by Friedrich, on this Report from the English one, and adjured to speak only "what they could answer to God, to the King and to the whole world," concerning it:—Seyfarth,—ii. 183.)] 'Prize Courts? Special Commission?' thinks Friedrich: 'I must have my ships back!' And, after a great many months, and a great many haggles, Friedrich, weary of giving time, instructs Michel to signify, in proper form ('23d November, 1752'), 'That the Law's delay seemed to be considerable in England; that till the fulness of time did come, and right were done his poor people, he, Friedrich himself, would hopefully wait; but now at last must, provisionally, pay his poor people their damages;—would accordingly, from the 23d day of April next, cease the usual payment to English Bondholders on their Silesian Bonds; and would henceforth pay no portion farther of that Debt, principal or interest [about 250,000 pounds now owing], but proceed to indemnify his own people from it, to the just length,—and deposit the remainder in Bank, till Britannic Majesty and Prussian could UNITE in ordering payment of it; which one trusts may be soon!'" [Walpole, i. 295; Seyfarth, ii. 183, 157; Adelung, vii. 331-338;—Gentleman's Magazine;—&c.]
"November 23d, 1752, resolved on by Friedrich;" "consummated April 23d, 1753:" these are the dates of this decisive passage (Michel's biggest Pamphlet, French and English, issuing on the occasion). February 8th, 1753, no redress obtainable, poor Newcastle shrieks, "Can't, must n't; astonishing!" and "the people are in great wrath about it. April 12th, Friedrich replies, in the kindest terms; but sticking to his point." [Adelung, vii. 336-338.] And punctually continued so, and did as he had said. With what rumor in the City, commentaries in the Newspapers and flutter to his Grace of Newcastle, may be imagined. "What a Nephew have I!" thinks Britannic Majesty: "Hah, and Embden, Ost-Friesland, is not his. Embden itself is mine!" A great deal of ill-nature was generated, in England, by this one affair of the Privateers, had there been no other: and in dark cellars of men's minds (empty and dark on this matter), there arose strange caricature Portraitures of Friedrich: and very mad notions—of Friedrich's perversity, astucity, injustice, malign and dangerous intentions—are more or less vocal in the Old Newspapers and Distinguished Correspondences of those days. Of which, this one sample:
To what height the humor of the English ran against Friedrich is still curiously noticeable, in a small Transaction of tragic Ex-Jacobite nature, which then happened, and in the commentaries it awoke in their imagination. Cameron of Lochiel, who forced his way through the Nether-Bow in Edinburgh, had been a notable rebel; but got away to France, and was safe in some military post there. Dr. Archibald Cameron, Lochiel's Brother, a studious contemplative gentleman, bred to Physic, but not practising except for charity, had quitted his books, and attended the Rebel March in a medical capacity,—"not from choice," as he alleged, "but from compulsion of kindred;"—and had been of help to various Loyalists as well; a foe of Human Pain, and not of anything else whatever: in fact, as appears, a very mild form of Jacobite Rebel. He too got, to France; but had left his Wife, Children and frugal Patrimonies behind him,—and had to return in proper concealment, more than once, to look after them. Two Visits, I think two, had been successfully transacted, at intervals; but the third, in 1753, proved otherwise.
March 12th, 1753, wind of him being had, and the slot-hounds uncoupled and put on his trail, poor Cameron was unearthed "at the Laird of Glenbucket's," and there laid hold of; locked in Edinburgh Castle,—thence to the Tower, and to Trial for High Treason. Which went against him; in spite of his fine pleadings, and manful conciliatory appearances and manners. Executed 7th June, 1753. His poor Wife had twice squeezed her way into the Royal Levee at Kensington, with Petition for mercy;—fainted, the first time, owing to the press and the agitation; but did, the second time, fall on her knees before Royal George, and supplicate,—who had to turn a deaf ear, royal gentleman; I hope, not without pain.
The truth is, poor Cameron—-though, I believe, he had some vague Jacobite errands withal—never would have harmed anybody in the rebel way; and might with all safety have been let live. But his Grace of Newcastle, and the English generally, had got the strangest notion into their head. Those appointments of Earl Marischal to Paris, of Tyrconnel to Berlin; Friedrich's nefarious spoiling of that salutary Romish-King Project; and now simultaneous with that, his nefarious oonduct in our Privateer Business: all this, does it not prove him—as the Hanburys, Demon Newswriters and well-informed persons have taught us—to be one of the worst men living, and a King bent upon our ruin? What is certain, though now well-nigh inconceivable, it was then, in the upper Classes and Political Circles, universally believed, That this Dr. Cameron was properly an "Emissary of the King of Prussia's;" that Cameron's errand here was to rally the Jacobite embers into new flame;—and that, at the first clear sputter, Friedrich had 15,000 men, of his best Prussian-Spartan troops, ready to ferry over, and help Jacobitism to do the matter this time! [Walpole,—George the Second,—i. 333, 353; and—Letters to Horace Mann—(Summer, 1753), for the belief held. Adelung, vii. 338-341, for the poor Cameron tragedy itself.]
About as likely as that the Cham of Tartary had interfered in the "Bangorian Controversy" (raging, I believe, some time since,—in Cremorne Gardens fist of all, which was Bishop Hoadly's Place,—to the terror of mitres and wigs); or that, the Emperor of China was concerned in Meux's Porter-Brewery, with an eye to sale of NUX VOMICA. Among all the Kings that then were, or that ever were, King Friedrich distinguished himself by the grand human virtue (one of the most important for Kings and for men) of keeping well at home,—of always minding his own affairs. These were, in fact, the one thing he minded; and he did that well. He was vigilant, observant all round, for weather-symptoms; thoroughly well informed of what his neighbors had on hand; ready to interfere, generally in some judicious soft way, at any moment, if his own Countries or their interests came to be concerned; certain, till then, to continue a speculative observer merely. He had knowledge, to an extent of accuracy which often surprised his neighbors: but there is no instance in which he meddled where he had no business;—and few, I believe, in which he did not meddle, and to the purpose, when he had.
Later in his Reign, in the time of the American War (1777), there is, on the English part, in regard to Friedrich, an equally distracted notion of the same kind brought to light. Again, a conviction, namely, or moral-certainty, that Friedrich is about assisting the American Insurgents against us;—and a very strange and indubitable step is ordered to be taken in consequence. [—OEuvres de Frederic,—xxvi. 394 (Friedrich to Prince Henri, 29th June, 1777.)] As shall be noticed, if we have time. No enlightened Public, gazing for forty or fifty years into an important Neighbor Gentleman, with intent for practical knowledge of him, could well, though assisted by the cleverest Hanburys, and Demon and Angel Newswriters, have achieved less!—
Question THIRD is—But Question Third, so extremely important was it in the sequel, will deserve a Chapter to itself.
Chapter XIV. THERE IS LIKE TO BE ANOTHER WAR AHEAD.
Question Third, French-English Canada Question, is no other than, under a new form, our old friend the inexorable JENKINS'S-EAR QUESTION; soul of all these Controversies, and—except Silesia and Friedrich's Question—the one meaning they have! Huddled together it had been, at the Peace of Aix-la-Chapelle, and left for closed under "New Spanish Assiento Treaty," or I know not what:—you thought to close it by Diplomatic putty and varnish in that manner: and here, by law of Nature, it comes welling up on you anew. For IT springs from the Centre, as we often say, and is the fountain and determining element of very large Sections of Human History, still hidden in the unseen Time.
"Ocean Highway to be free; for the English and others who have business on it?" The English have a real and weighty errand there. "English to trade and navigate, as the Law of Nature orders, on those Seas; and to ponderate or preponderate there, according to the real amount of weight they and their errand have? OR, English to have their ears torn off; and imperious French-Spanish Bourbons, grounding on extinct Pope's-meridians, GLOIRE and other imaginary bases, to take command?" The incalculable Yankee Nations, shall they be in effect YANGKEE ("English" with a difference), or FRANGCEE ("French" with a difference)? A Question not to be closed by Diplomatic putty, try as you will!
By Treaty of Utrecht (1713), "all Nova Scotia [ACADIE as then called], with Newfoundland and the adjacent Islands," was ceded to the English, and has ever since been possessed by them accordingly. Unluckily that Treaty omitted to settle a Line of Boundary to landward, or westward, for their "NOVA SCOTIA;" or generally, a Boundary from NORTH TO SOUTH between the British Colonies and the French in those parts.
The Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle, eager to conclude itself, stipulated, with great distinctness, that Cape Breton, all its guns and furnishings entire, should be restored at once (France extremely anxious on that point); but for the rest had, being in such haste, flung itself altogether into the principle of STATUS-QUO-ANTE, as the short way for getting through. The boundary in America was vaguely defined, as "now to be what it had been before the War." It had, for many years before the War, been a subject of constant altercation. ACADIE, for instance, the NOVA SCOTIA of the English since Utrecht time, the French maintained to mean only "the Peninsula", or Nook included between the Ocean Waters and the Bay of Fundy. And, more emphatic still, on the "Isthmus" (or narrow space, at northwest, between said Bay and the Ocean or the Gulf of St. Lawrence) they had built "Forts:" "Stockades," or I know not what, "on the Missaquish" (HODIE Missiquash), a winding difficult river, northmost of the Bay of Fundy's rivers, which the French affirm to be the real limit in that quarter. The sparse French Colonists of the interior, subjects of England, are not to be conciliated by perfect toleration of religion and the like; but have an invincible proclivity to join their Countrymen outside, and wish well to those Stockades on the Missiquash. It must be owned, too, the French Official People are far from scrupulous or squeamish; show energy of management; and are very skilful with the Indians, who are an important item. Canada is all French; has its Quebecs, Montreals, a St. Lawrence River occupied at all the good military points, and serving at once as bulwark and highway.
Southward and westward, France, in its exuberant humor, claims for itself The whole Basin of the St. Lawrence, and the whole Basin of the Mississippi as well: "Have not we Stockades, Castles, at the military points; Fortified Places in Louisiana itself?" Yes;—and how many Ploughed Fields bearing Crop have you? It is to the good Plougher, not ultimately to the good Cannonier, that those portions of Creation will belong? The exuberant intention of the French is, after getting back Cape Breton, "To restrict those aspiring English Colonies," mere Ploughers and Traders, hardly numbering above one million, "to the Space eastward of the Alleghany Mountains," over which they are beginning to climb, "and southward of that Missiquash, or, at farthest, of the Penobscot and Kennebunk" (rivers HODIE in the State of Maine). [La Gallisonniere, Governor of Canada's DESPATCH, "Quebec, 15th January, 1749" (cited in Bancroft,—History of the United States,—Boston, 1839, et seq.). "The English Inhabitants are computed at 1,051,000; French (in Canada 45,000, in Louisiana 7,000), in all 52,000:"—History of British Dominions in North America—(London, 1773), p. 13. Bancroft (i. 154) counts the English Colonists in "1754 about 1,200,000."] That will be a very pretty Parallelogram for them and their ploughs and trade-packs: we, who are 50,000 odd, expert with the rifle far beyond them, will occupy the rest of the world. Such is the French exuberant notion: and, October, 1745, before signature at Aix-la-Chapelle, much more before Delivery of Cape Breton, the Commandant at Detroit (west end of Lake Erie) had received orders, "To oppose peremptorily every English Establishment not only thereabouts, but on the Ohio or its tributaries; by monition first; and then by force, if monition do not serve."
Establishments of any solidity or regularity the English have not in those parts; beyond the Alleghanies all is desert: "from the Canada Lakes to the Carolinas, mere hunting-ground of the Six Nations; dotted with here and there an English trading-house, or adventurous Squatter's farm:"—to whom now the French are to say: "Home you, instantly; and leave the Desert alone!" The French have distinct Orders from Court, and energetically obey the same; the English have indistinct Orders from Nature, and do not want energy, or mind to obey these: confusions and collisions are manifold, ubiquitous, continual. Of which the history would be tiresome to everybody; and need only be indicated here by a mark or two of the main passages.
In 1749, three things had occurred worth mention. FIRST, Captain Coram, a public-spirited half-pay gentleman in London, originator of the Foundling Hospital there, had turned his attention to the fine capabilities and questionable condition of NOVA SCOTIA, with few inhabitants, and those mostly disaffected; and, by many efforts now forgotten, had got the Government persuaded to despatch (June, 1749) a kind of Half-pay or Military Colony to those parts: "more than 1,400 persons disbanded officers, soldiers and marines, under Colonel Edward Cornwallis," Brother of the since famous Lord Cornwallis. [Coxe's—Pelham,—ii. 113.] Who landed, accordingly, on that rough shore; stockaded themselves in, hardily endeavoring and enduring; and next year, built a Town for themselves; Town of HALIFAX (so named from the then Lord Halifax, President of the Board of Trade); which stands there, in more and more conspicuous manner, at this day. Thanks to you, Captain Coram; though the ungrateful generations (except dimly in CORAM Street, near your Hospital) have lost all memory of you, as their wont is. Blockheads; never mind them.
The SECOND thing is, an "Ohio Company" has got together in Virginia; Governor there encouraging; Britannic Majesty giving Charter (March, 1749), and what is still easier, "500,000 Acres of Land" in those Ohio regions, since you are minded to colonize there in a fixed manner. Britannic Majesty thinks the Country "between the Monongahela and the Kanahawy" (southern feeders of Ohio) will do best; but is not particular. Ohio Company, we shall find, chose at last, as the eligible spot, the topmost fork or very Head of the Ohio,—where Monongahela River from south and Alleghany River from north unite to form "The Ohio;" where stands, in our day, the big sooty Town of Pittsburg and its industries. Ohio Company was laudably eager on this matter; Land-Surveyor in it (nay, at length, "Colonel of a Regiment of 150 men raised by the Ohio Company") was Mr. George Washington, whose Family had much promoted the Enterprise; and who was indeed a steady-going, considerate, close-mouthed Young Gentleman; who came to great distinction in the end.
French Governor (La Gallisonniere still the man), getting wind of this Ohio Company still in embryo, anticipates the birth; sends a vigilant Commandant thitherward, "with 300 men, To trace and occupy the Valleys of the Ohio and of the St. Lawrence, as far as Detroit." That officer "buries plates of lead," up and down the Country, with inscriptions signifying that "from the farthest ridge, whence water trickled towards the Ohio, the Country belonged to France; and nails the Bourbon Lilies to the forest-trees; forbidding the Indians all trade with the English; expels the English traders from the towns of the Miamis; and writes to the Governor of Pennsylvania, requesting him to prevent all farther intrusion." Vigilant Governors, these French, and well supported from home. Duquesne, the vigilant successor of La Gallisonniere (who is now wanted at home, for still more important purposes, as will appear), finding "the lead plates" little regarded, sends, by and by, 500 new soldiers from Detroit into those Ohio parts (march of 100 miles or so);—"the French Government having, in this year 1750, shipped no fewer than 8,000 men for their American Garrisons;"—and where the Ohio Company venture on planting a Stockade, tears it tragically out, as will be seen!
The THIRD thing worth notice, in 1749, and still more in the following year and years, had reference to Nova Scotia again. One La Corne, "a recklessly sanguinary partisan" (military gentleman of the Trenck, INDIGO-Trenck species), nestles himself (winter, 1749-50) on that Missiquash River, head of the Bay of Fundy; in the Village of Chignecto, which is admittedly English ground, though inhabited by French. La Corne compels, or admits, the Inhabitants to swear allegiance to France again; and to make themselves useful in fortifying, not to say in drilling,—with an eye to military work. Hearing of which, Colonel Cornwallis and incipient Halifax are much at a loss. They in vain seek aid from the Governor of Massachusetts ("Assembly to be consulted first, to be convinced; Constitutional rights:—Nothing possible just, at once");—and can only send a party of 400 men, to try and recover Chignecto at any rate. April 20th, 1750, the 400 arrive there; order La Corne instantly to go. Bourbon Flag is waving on his dikes, this side the Missiquash: high time that he and it were gone. "Village Priest [flamingly orthodox, as all these Priests are, all picked for the business], with his own hands, sets fire to the Church in Chignecto; "inhabitants burn their houses, and escape across the river,—La Corne as rear-guard. La Corne, across the Missiquash, declares, That, to a certainty, he is now on French ground; that he will, at all hazards, defend the Territory here; and maintain every inch of it,—"till regular Commissioners [due ever since the Treaty of Aix, had not that ROMISH-KING Business been so pressing] have settled what the Boundary between the two Countries is."—Chignecto being ashes, and the neighboring population gone, Cornwallis and his Four Hundred had to return to Halifax.
It was not till Autumn following, that Chignecto could be solidly got hold of by the Halifax people; nor till a long time after, that La Corne could be dislodged from his stockades, and sent packing. [—Gentleman's Magazine,—xx. 539, 295.] September, 1750, a new Expedition on Chignecto found the place populous again, Indians, French "Peasants" (seemingly Soldiers of a sort); who stood very fiercely behind their defences, and needed a determined on-rush, and "volley close into their noses," before disappearing. This was reckoned the first military bloodshed (if this were really military on the French side). And in November following, some small British Cruiser on those Coasts, falling in with a French Brigantine, from Quebec, evidently carrying military stores and solacements for La Corne, seized the same; by force of battle, since not otherwise,—three men lost to the British, five to the French,—and brought it to Halifax. "Lawful and necessary!" says the Admiralty Court; "Sheer Piracy!" shriek the French;—matters breaking out into actual flashes of flame, in this manner.
British Commissions, two in number, names not worth mention, have, at last, in this Year 1750, gone to Paris; and are holding manifold conferences with French ditto,—to no "purpose, any of them. One reads the dreary tattle of the Duke of Newcastle upon it, in the Years onward: "Just going to agree," the Duke hopes; "some difficulties, but everybody, French and English, wanting mere justice; and our and their Commissioners being in such a generous spirit, surely they will soon settle it." [His Letters, in Coxe's—Pelham,—ii. 407 ("September, 1751"), &c.] They never did or could; and steadily it went on worsening.
That notable private assertion of the French, That Canada and Louisiana mean all America West of the Alleghanies, had not yet oozed out to the English; but it is gradually oozing out, and that England will have to content itself with the moderate Country lying east of that Blue range. "Not much above a million of you", say the French; "and surely there is room enough East of the Alleghanies? We, with our couple of Colonies, are the real America;—counting, it is true, few settlers as yet; but there shall be innumerable; and, in the mean while, there are Army-Detachments, Block-houses, fortified Posts, command of the Rivers, of the Indian Nations, of the water-highways and military keys (to you unintelligible); and we will make it good!"
The exact cipher of the French (guessed to be 50,000), and their precise relative-value as tillers and subduers of the soil, in these Two Colonies of theirs, as against the English Thirteen, would be interesting to know: curious also their little bill, of trouble taken in creating the Continent of America, in discovering it, visiting, surveying, planting, taming, making habitable for man:—and what Rhadamanthus would have said of those Two Documents! Enough, the French have taken some trouble, more or less,—especially in sending soldiers out, of late. The French, to certain thousands, languidly tilling, hunting and adventuring, and very skilful in wheedling the Indian Nations, are actually there; and they, in the silence of Rhadamanthus, decide that merit shall not miss its wages for want of asking. "Ours is America West of the Alleghanies," say the French, openly before long.
"Yours? Yours, of all people's?" answer the English; and begin, with lethargic effort, to awake a little to that stupid Foreign Question; important, though stupid and foreign, or lying far off. Who really owned all America, probably few Englishmen had ever asked themselves, in their dreamiest humors, nor could they now answer; but, that North America does not belong to the French, can be doubtful to no English creature. Pitt, Chatham as we now call him, is perhaps the Englishman to whom, of all others, it is least doubtful. Pitt is in Office at last,—in some subaltern capacity, "Paymaster of the Forces" for some years past, in spite of Majesty's dislike of the outspoken man;—and has his eyes bent on America;—which is perhaps (little as you would guess it such) the main fact in that confused Controversy just now!—
In 1753 (28th August of that Year), goes message from the Home Government, "Stand on your defence, over there! Repel by force any Foreign encroachments on British Dominions." [Holderness, OR Robinson our old friend.] And directly on the heel of this, November, 1753, the Virginia Governor,—urged, I can believe, by the Ohio Company, who are lying wind-bound so long,—despatches Mr. George Washington to inquire officially of the French Commandant in those parts, "What he means, then, by invading the British Territories, while a solid Peace subsists?" Mr. George had a long ride up those desert ranges, and down again on the other side; waters all out, ground in a swash with December rains, no help or direction but from wampums and wigwams: Mr. George got to Ohio Head (two big Rivers, Monongahela from South, Alleghany from North, coalescing to form a double-big Ohio for the Far West); and thought to himself, "What an admirable three-legged place: might be Chief Post of those regions,—nest-egg of a diligent Ohio Company.!" Mr. George, some way down the Ohio River, found a strongish French Fort, log-barracks, "200 river-boats, with more building," and a French Commandant, who cannot enter into questions of a diplomatic nature about Peace and War: "My orders are, To keep this Fort and Territory against all comers; one must do one's orders, Monsieur: Adieu!" And the steadfast Washington had to return; without result,—except that of the admirable Three-legged Place for dropping your Nest-egg, in a commanding and defenceful way!
Ohio Company, painfully restrained so long in that operation, took the hint at once. Despatched, early in 1754, a Party of some Forty or Thirty-three stout fellows, with arms about them, as well as tools, "Go build us, straightway, a Stockade in the place indicated; you are warranted to smite down, by shot or otherwise, any gainsayer!" And furthermore, directly got on foot, and on the road thither, a "regiment of 150 men," Washington as Colonel to it, For perfecting said Stockade, and maintaining it against all comers.
Washington and his Hundred-and-fifty—wagonage, provender and a piece or two of cannon, all well attended to—vigorously climbed the Mountains; got to the top 27th May, 1754; and there MET the Thirty-three in retreat homewards! Stockade had been torn out, six weeks ago (17th April last); by overwhelming French Force, from the Gentleman who said ADIEU, and had the river-boats, last Fall. And, instead of our Stockade, they are now building a regular French Fort,—FORT DUQUESNE, they call it, in honor of their Governor Duquesne:—against which, Washington and his regiment, what are they? Washington, strictly surveying, girds himself up for the retreat; descends diligently homewards again, French and Indians rather harassing his rear. In-trenches himself, 1st July, at what he calls "Fort Necessity," some way down; and the second day after, 3d July, 1754, is attacked in vigorous military manner. Defends himself, what he can, through nine hours of heavy rain; has lost thirty, the French only three;—and is obliged to capitulate: "Free Withdrawal" the terms given. This is the last I heard of the Ohio Company; not the last of Washington, by any means. Ohio Company,—its judicious Nest-egg squelched in this manner, nay become a fiery Cockatrice or "FORT DUQUESNE:"—need not be mentioned farther.
By this time, surely high time now, serious military preparations were on foot; especially in the various Colonies most exposed. But, as usual, it is a thing of most admired disorder; every Governor his own King or Vice-King, horses are pulling different ways: small hope there, unless the Home Government (where too I have known the horses a little discrepant, unskilful in harness!) will seriously take it in hand. The Home Government is taking it in hand; horses willing, if a thought unskilful. Royal Highness of Cumberland has selected General Braddock, and Two Regiments of the Line (the two that ran away at Prestonpans,—ABSIT OMEN). Royal Highness consults, concocts, industriously prepares, completes; modestly certain that here now is the effectual remedy.
About New-year's day, 1755, Braddock, with his Two Regiments and completed apparatus, got to sea. Arrived, 20th February, at Williamsburg in Virginia ("at Hampden, near there," if anybody is particular); found now that this was not the place to arrive at; that he would lose six weeks of marching, by not having landed in Pennsylvania instead. Found that his Stores had been mispacked at Cork,—that this had happened, and also that;—and, in short, that Chaos had been very considerably prevalent in this Adventure of his; and did still, in all that now lay round it, much prevail. Poor man: very brave, they say; but without knowledge, except of field-drill; a heart of iron, but brain mostly of pipe-clay quality. A man severe and rigorous in regimental points; contemptuous of the Colonial Militias, that gathered to help him; thrice-contemptuous of the Indians, who were a vital point in the Enterprise ahead. Chaos is very strong,—especially if within oneself as well! Poor Braddock took the Colonial Militia Regiments, Colonel Washington as Aide-de-Camp; took the Indians and Appendages, Colonial Chaos much presiding: and after infinite delays and confused hagglings, got on march;—2,000 regular, and of all sorts say 4,000 strong.
Got on march; sprawled and haggled up the Alleghanies,—such a Commissariat, such a wagon-service, as was seldom seen before. Poor General and Army, he was like to be starved outright, at one time; had not a certain Mr. Franklin come to him, with charitable oxen, with 500 pounds-worth provisions live and dead, subscribed for at Philadelphia,—Mr Benjamin Franklin, since celebrated over all the world; who did not much admire this iron-tempered General with the pipe-clay brain. [Franklin's AUTOBIOGRAPHY;—Gentleman's Magazine,—xxv. 378.] Thereupon, however, Braddock took the road again; sprawled and staggered, at the long last, to the top; "at the top of the Alleghanies, 15th June;"—and forward down upon FORT DUQUESNE, "roads nearly perpendicular in some places," at the rate of "four miles" and even of "one mile per day." Much wood all about,—and the 400 Indians to rear, in a despised and disgusted condition, instead of being vanward keeping their brightest outlook.
July 8th, Braddock crossed the Monongahela without hindrance. July 9th, was within ten miles of FORT DUQUESNE; plodding along; marching through a wood, when,—Ambuscade of French and Indians burst out on him, French with defences in front and store of squatted Indians on each flank,—who at once blew him to destruction, him and his Enterprise both. His men behaved very ill; sensible perhaps that they were not led very well. Wednesday, 9th July, 1755, about three in the afternoon. His two regiments gave one volley and no more; utterly terror-struck by the novelty, by the misguidance, as at Prestonpans before; shot, it was whispered, several of their own Officers, who were furiously rallying them with word and sword: of the sixty Officers, only five were not killed or wounded. Brave men clad in soldier's uniform, victims of military Chaos, and miraculous Nescience, in themselves and in others: can there be a more distressing spectacle? Imaginary workers are all tragical, in this world; and come to a bad end, sooner or later, they or their representatives here: but the Imaginary Soldier—he is paid his wages (he and his poor Nation are) on the very nail!
Braddock, refusing to fall back as advised, had five horses shot under him; was himself shot, in the arm, in the breast; was carried off the field in a death-stupor,—forward all that night, next day and next (to Fort Cumberland, seventy miles to rear);—and on the fourth day died. The Colonial Militias had stood their ground, Colonel Washington now of some use again;—who were ranked well to rearward; and able to receive the ambuscade as an open fight. Stood striving, for about three hours. And would have saved the retreat; had there been a retreat, instead of a panic rout, to save. The poor General—ebbing homewards, he and his Enterprise, hour after hour—roused himself twice only, for a moment, from his death-stupor: once, the first night, to ejaculate mournfully, "Who would have thought it!" And again once, he was heard to say, days after, in a tone of hope, "Another time we will do better!" which were his last words, "death following in a few minutes." Weary, heavy-laden soul; deep Sleep now descending on it,—soft sweet cataracts of Sleep and Rest; suggesting hope, and triumph over sorrow, after all:—"Another time we will do better;" and in few minutes was dead! [Manuscript JOURNAL OF GENERAL BRADDOCK'S EXPEDITION IN 1755 (British Museum: King's Library, 271 e, King's Mss. 212): raw-material, this, of the Official Account (—London Gazette,—August 26th, 1755), where it is faithfully enough abridged. Will perhaps be printed by some inquiring PITTSBURGHER, one day, after good study on the ground itself? It was not till 1758 that the bones of the slain were got buried, and the infant Pittsburg (now so busy and smoky) rose from the ashes of FORT DUQUESNE.]
The Colonial Populations, who had been thinking of Triumphal Arches for Braddock's return, are struck to the nadir by this news. French and Indians break over the Mountains, harrying, burning, scalping; the Black Settlers fly inward, with horror and despair: "And the Home Government, too, can prove a broken reed? What is to become of us; whose is America to be?"—And in fact, under such guidance from Home Governments and Colonial, there is no saying how the matter might have gone. To men of good judgment, and watching on the spot, it was, for years coming, an ominous dubiety,—the chances rather for the French, "who understand war, and are all under one head." [Governor Pownal's Memorial (of which INFRA), in Thackeray's—Life of Chatham.—] But there happens to be in England a Mr. Pitt, with royal eyes more and more indignantly set on this Business; and in the womb of Time there lie combinations and conjunctures. If the Heavens have so decreed!—
The English had, before this, despatched their Admiral Boscawen, to watch certain War-ships, which they had heard the French were fitting out for America; and to intercept the same, by capture if not otherwise. Boscawen is on the outlook, accordingly; descries a French fleet, Coast of Newfoundland, first days of June; loses it again in the fogs of the Gulf-Stream; but has, June 9th (a month before that of Braddock), come up with Two Frigates of it, and, after short broadsiding, made prizes of them. And now, on this Braddock Disaster, orders went, "To seize and detain all French Ships whatsoever, till satisfaction were had." And, before the end of this Year, about "800 French ships (value, say, 700,000 pounds)" were seized accordingly, where seizable on their watery ways. Which the French ("our own conduct in America being so undeniably proper") characterized as utter piracy and robbery;—and getting no redress upon it, by demand in that style, had to take it as no better than meaning Open War Declared. [Paris, December 21st, 1755, Minister Rouille's Remonstrance, with menace "UNLESS—:" London, January 13th, 1756, Secretary Fox's reply, "WELL THEN, NO!" Due official "Declaration of War" followed: on the English part, "17th May, 1756;" "9th June," on the French part.]
Chapter XV.—ANTI-PRUSSIAN WAR-SYMPTOMS: FRIEDRICH VISIBLE FOR A MOMENT.
The Burning of AKAKIA, and those foolish Maupertuis-Voltaire Duellings (by syringe and pistol) had by no means been Friedrich's one concern, at the time Voltaire went off. Precisely in those same months, Carnival 1752-1753, King Friedrich had, in a profoundly private manner, come upon certain extensive Anti-Prussian Symptoms, Austrian, Russian, Saxon, of a most dangerous, abstruse, but at length indubitable sort; and is, ever since, prosecuting his investigation of them, as a thing of life and death to him! Symptoms that there may well be a THIRD Silesian War ripening forward, inevitable, and of weightier and fiercer quality than ever. So the Symptoms indicate to Friedrich, with a fatally increasing clearness. And, of late, he has to reflect withal: "If these French-English troubles bring War, our Symptoms will be ripe!" As, in fact, they proved to be.
King Friedrich's investigations and decisions on this matter will be touched upon, farther on: but readers can take, in the mean time, the following small Documentary Piece as Note of Preparation. The facts shadowed forth are of these Years now current (1752-1755), though this judicial Deposition to the Facts is of ulterior date (1757).
In the course of 1756, as will well appear farther on, it became manifest to the Saxon Court and to all the world that somebody had been playing traitor in the Dresden Archives. Somebody, especially in the Foreign Department; copying furtively, and imparting to Prussia, Despatches of the most secret, thrice-secret and thrice-dangerous nature, which lie reposited there! Who can have done it? Guesses, researcher, were many: at length suspicion fell on one Menzel, a KANZELLIST (Government Clerk), of good social repute, and superior official ability; who is not himself in the Foreign Department at all; but whose way of living, or the like sign, had perhaps seemed questionable. In 1757, Menzel, and the Saxon Court and its businesses, were all at Warsaw; Menzel dreaming of no disturbance, but prosecuting his affairs as formerly,—when, one day, September 24th (the slot-hounds, long scenting and tracking, being now at the mark), Menzel and an Associate of his were suddenly arrested. Confronted with their crimes, with the proofs in readiness; and next day,—made a clear Confession, finding the matter desperate otherwise, Copy of which, in Notarial form, exact and indisputable, the reader shall now see. As this story, of Friedrich and the Saxon Archives, was very famous in the world, and mythic circumstances are prevalent, let us glance into it with our own eyes, since there is opportunity in brief compass.
"EXTRACTUS PROTOCOLLORUM IN INQUISITIONS-SACHEN,"—THAT IS TO SAY, EXTRACT OF PROTOCOLS IN INQUEST "CONTRA FRIEDRICH WILHELM MENZEL AND JOHANN BENJAMIN ERFURTH."
"AT WARSAW, 25th SEPTEMBER, 1757: This day, in the King's Name, in presence of Legationsrath von Saul, Hofrath Ferbers and Kriegsrath von Gotze the Undersigned: Examination of the Kabinets-Kanzellist Menzel, arrested yesterday, and now brought from his place of arrest to the Royal Palace;—who, ADMONITUS DE DICENDA VERITATE, made answers, to the effect following:—
"His name is Friedrich Wilhelm Menzel; age thirty-eight; is a son of the late Hofrath and Privy-referendary Menzel, who formerly was in the King's service, and died a few years back. Has been seventeen years Kanzellist at the GEHEIME CABINETS-CANZLEI (Secret Archive); had taken the oath when he entered on his office.
"Acknowledges some Slips of Paper (ZETTEL), now shown to him, to be his handwriting: they contained news intended to be communicated to the Prussian Secretary Benoit, now residing here", at Dresden formerly.
"Confesses that he has employed, here as well as previously in Dresden, his Brother-in-law, the journeyman goldsmith Erfurth (who was likewise arrested yesterday), to convey to the Prussian Secretaries, Plessmann and Benoit, such pieces and despatches from the Secret Cabinet, especially the Foreign department, as he, Menzel, wanted to communicate to said Prussian Secretaries.
"Confesses having received, by degrees, since the year 1752, from the Prussian Minister (ENVOYE) von Mahlzahn, and the Secretaries Plessmann and Benoit, for such communications, the sum of 3,000 thalers (450 pounds) in all.
"Was led into these treasonable practices by the following circumstance: He owed at that time 100 thalers on a Promissory Note, to a certain Rhenitz, who then lived (HIELT SICH AUF) at Dresden, and who pressed him much for payment. As he pleaded inability to pay, Rhenitz hinted that he could put him into the way of getting money; and accordingly, at last, took him to the then Prussian Secretary Hecht, at Dresden; by whom he was at once carried to the Prussian Minister von Mahlzahn; who gave him 100 thalers (15 pounds), with the request to communicate to him, now and then, news from the Archive of the Cabinet. For a length of time Prisoner could not accomplish this; as the said Von Mahlzahn wanted Pieces from the Foreign Office, and especially the Correspondence with the two Imperial Courts of Austria and Russia. These papers were locked in presses, which Prisoner could not get at; moreover, the Court had, in the mean time, gone to Warsaw, Prisoner remaining at Dresden. In that way, many months passed without his being able to communicate anything; till, at last, about December, 1752, the Secretary Plessmann gave him a whole bunch of keys, which were said to be sent by Privy-counsellor Eichel of Potsdam [whom we know], to try whether any of them would unlock the presses of the Foreign Department. But none of them would; and Prisoner returned the keys; pointing out, however, what alterations were required to fit the keyhole.
"And, about three weeks after this, Plessmann provided Prisoner with another set of keys; among which one did unlock said presses. With this key Prisoner now repeatedly opened the presses; and provided Plessmann, whenever required,—oftenest, with Petersburg Despatches. Had also, three years ago (1754), here in Warsaw, communicated Vienna Despatches, three or four times, to Benoit; especially on Sundays and Thursdays, which were slack days, nobody in the Office about noon.
"The actual first of these Communications did not take place till after Easter-Fair, 1753; Prisoner not having, till said Fair, received the second bunch of keys from Plessmann. Now and then he had to communicate French Despatches. Whenever he gave original Despatches, he received them back shortly after, and replaced them in the presses. During this present stay of the Court at Warsaw, has communicated little to Benoit except from the CIRCULARS [Legation NEWS-LETTERS], when he found anything noteworthy in them; also, now and then, the Ponikau Despatches [Ponikau being at the Reich's Diet, in circumstances interesting to us]. Has received, one time and another, several 100 thalers from Benoit, since the Court came hither last."—(And so EXIT Menzel.)
"Hereupon the Second Prisoner was brought in;—who deposed as follows:—
"He is named Johann Benjamin Erfurth; a goldsmith by trade; age thirty-two; the Prisoner Menzel's Brother-in-law.
"Confesses that Menzel had made use of him, at Dresden, during one year: to deliver, several times, sealed papers to the Prussian Secretary Plessmann, or rather mostly to Plessmann's servant. Also that, here in Warsaw, he has had to carry Despatches to Benoit, and to deliver them into his own hands. Latterly he has delivered the Despatches to certain Prussian peasants, who stopped at Benoit's, and who always relieved each other; and every time, the one who went away directed Prisoner, in turn, to him that arrived.
"He received from Menzel, yesterday towards noon, a small sealed packet, which he was to convey to the Prussian peasant who had made an appointment with him at the Prussian Office (HOF) here. But as he was going to take it, and had just got outside of the Palace Court, a corporal took hold of him and arrested him. Confesses having concealed the parcel in his trousers-pocket, and to have denied that he had anything upon him.... ACTUM UT SUPRA."
Signed "GOTZE" (with titles).
"Next day, September 26th, Menzel re-examined; answers in effect following:—
"Plessmann never himself came into the Archive Office at Dresden; except the one time [a time that will be notable to us!] when the Prussians were there to take away the Papers by force; then Plessmann was with them,"—and we will remember the circumstance.
"Before leaving Dresden for Poland, last Year (1756), he, Menzel, had returned the said key to Plessmann; who gave him others for use here. After his arrival here, he returned these keys to Benoit, in the presence of Erfurth; saying, they were of no use to him, and that he could not get at the Despatches here. Prisoner farther declares, that it was the Minister von Mahlzahn who, of his own accord, and quite at the beginning, made the proposal concerning the keys; and when Plessmann brought the keys, he said expressly they were for the Minister, along with fifty thalers, which he, Menzel, received at the same time. ACTUM UT SUPRA." Signed as before. [—Helden-Geschichte,—v. 677 (as BEYLAGE or Appendix to the Kur-Sachsen "PRO MEMORIA to the Reich's Diet;" of date, Regensburg, 31st January, 1758).]
We could give some of the stolen Pieces, too; but they are of abstruse tenor, and would be mere enigmas to readers here. Enough that Friedrich understands them. To Friedrich's intense and long-continued scrutiny, they indicate, what is next to incredible, but is at length fatally undeniable, That the old TREATY, which we called OF WARSAW, "Treaty for Partitioning Prussia," is still (in spite of all subsequent and superincumbent Treaties to the contrary) vigorously alive underground; that Saxon Bruhl and her Hungarian Majesty, to whom is now added Czarish Majesty, are fixed as ever on cutting down this afflictive, too aspiring King of Prussia to the size of a Brandenburg Elector; busy (in these Menzel Documents) considering how it may be done, especially how the bear-skin may be SHARED;—and that, in short, there lies ahead, inevitable seemingly, and not far off, a Third Silesian War.
Which punctually came true. The THIRD SILESIAN WAR—since called SEVEN-YEARS WAR, that proving to be the length of it—is now near. Breaks out, has to break out, August, 1756. The heaviest and direst struggle Friedrich ever had; the greatest of all his Prowesses, Achievements and Endurances in this world. And, on the whole, the last that was very great, or that is likely to be memorable with Posterity. Upon which, accordingly, we must try our utmost to leave some not untrue notion in this place: and that once DONE—Courage, reader!
FRIEDRICH IS VISIBLE, IN HOLLAND, TO THE NAKED EYE, FOR SOME MINUTES (June 23d, 1755).
In 1755 it was that Voltaire wrote, not the first Letter, but the first very notable one, to his Royal Friend, after their great quarrel: [Dated "The DELICES, near Geneva, 4th August, 1755" (in Rodenbeck, i. 287; in—OEuvres de Frederic,—xxiii. 7; not given by any of the French Editors).] seductively repentant, and oh, so true, so tender;—Royal Friend still obstinate, who answers nothing, or answers only through De Prades: "Yes, yes, we are aware!" And it was in the same Year that Friedrich first saw D'Alembert,—Voltaire's successor, in a sense. And farther on (1st November, 1755), that the Earthquake of Lisbon went, horribly crashing, through the thoughts of all mortals,—thoughts of King Friedrich, among others; whose reflections on it, I apprehend, are stingy, snarlingly contemptuous, rather than valiant and pious, and need not detain us here. One thing only we will mention, for an accidental reason: That Friedrich, this Year, made a short run to Holland,—and that actual momentary sight of him happens thereby to be still possible.
In Summer, 1755, after the West-Country Reviews, and a short Journey into Ost-Friesland, whence to Wesel on the Rhine,—whither Friedrich had invited D'Alembert to meet him, whom he finds "UN TRES-AIMABLE GARCON," likely for the task in hand,—Friedrich decided on a run into Holland: strictly INCOGNITO, accompanied only by Balbi (Engineer, a Genoese) and one page. Bade his D'Alembert adieu; and left Wesel thitherward June 19th. [Rodenbeck, i. 287.] At Amsterdam he viewed the Bramkamp Picture-Gallery, the illustrious Country-house of Jew Pinto at TULPENBURG (Tulip-borough!)... "I saw nothing but whim-whams (COLIFICHETS)," says he: "I gave myself out for a Musician of the King of Poland;" wore a black wig moreover, "and was nowhere known:" [—OEuvres,—xxvii. i. 268 ("Potsdam, 28th June, 1755;" and ib. p. 270), to Wilhelmina, who is now on the return from her Italian Journey. UNCERTAIN Anecdotes of adventures among the whim-whams, in Rodenbeck, &c.]—and, for finis, got into the common Passage-Boat (TREKSCHUIT, no doubt) for Utrecht, that he might see the other fine Country-houses along the Vechte. Fine enough Country-houses,—not mud and sedges the main thing, as idle readers think. To Arnheim up the Vechte in this manner; Wesel and his own Country just at hand again.
Now it happened that a young Swiss—poor enough in purse, but not without talent and eyesight, assistant Teacher in some Boarding-school thereabouts; name of him De Catt, age twenty-seven, "born at Morges near Geneva 1728"—had got holiday, or had got errand, poor good soul; had decided, on this same day (23d June, 1755), to go to Utrecht, and so stept into the very boat where Friedrich was. He himself (in a Letter written long after to Editor LAVEAUX) shall tell us the rest:—
"As I could n't get into the ROEF (cabin) because it was all engaged, I stayed with the other passengers in the Steerage (DANS LA BARQUE MEME), and the weather being fine, came up on deck. After some time, there stept out of the Cabin a man in cinnamon-colored coat with gold button-HOLES; in black wig; face and coat considerably dusted with Spanish snuff. He looked fixedly at me, for a while; and then said, without farther preface, 'Who are you, Monsieur?' This cavalier tone from an unknown person, whose exterior indicated nothing very important, did not please me; and I declined satisfying his curiosity. He was silent. But, some time after, he took a more courteous tone, and said: 'Come in here to me, Monsieur! You will be better here than in the Steerage, amid the tobacco-smoke.' This polite address put an end to all anger; and as the singular manner of the man excited my curiosity, I took advantage of his invitation. We sat down, and began to speak confidentially with one another.
"Do you see the man in the garden yonder, sitting smoking his pipe?' said he to me: 'That man, you may depend upon it, is not happy.'—'I know not,' answered I: 'but it seems to me, until one knows a man, and is completely acquainted with his situation and his way of thought, one cannot possibly determine whether he is happy or unhappy.'
"My gentleman admitted this [very good-natured!]; and led the conversation on the Dutch Government. He criticised it,—probably to bring me to speak. I did speak; and gave him frankly to know that he was not perfectly instructed in the thing he was criticising.—'You are right,' answered he; 'one can only criticise what one is thoroughly acquainted with.'—He now began to speak of Religion; and with eloquent tongue to recount what mischief Scholastic Philosophy had brought upon the world; then tried to prove 'That Creation was impossible.' At this last point I stood out in opposition. 'But how can one create Something out of Nothing?' said he. 'That is not the question,' answered I; 'the question is, Whether such a Being as God can or cannot give existence to what has yet none.' He seemed embarrassed, and added, 'But the Universe is eternal.'—'You are in a circle,' said I; 'how will you get out of it?'—'I skip over it" said he, laughing; and then began to speak of other things.
"'What form of Government do you reckon the best?' inquired he, among other things. 'The monarchic, if the King is just and enlightened.'—'Very well,' answered he; 'but where will you find Kings of that sort?' And thereupon went into such a sally upon Kings, as could not in the least lead me to the supposition that he was one. In the end he expressed pity for them, that they could not know the sweets of friendship; and cited on the occasion these verses (his own, I suppose):—
—'Amitie, plaisir des grandes ames; Amitie, que les Rois, ces illustres ingrats, Sont assez malheureux de ne connaitre pas!'—
'I have not the honor to be acquainted with Kings,' said I; 'but to judge by what one has read in History of several of them, I should believe, Monsieur, that you, on the whole, are right.'—'AH, OUI, OUI, I am right; I know the gentlemen!'
"We now got to speak of Literature. The stranger expressed himself with enthusiastic admiration of Racine. A droll incident happened during our dialogue. My gentleman wanted to let down a little sash-window, and could n't manage it. 'You don't understand that,' said I; 'let me do that.' I tried to get it down; but succeeded no better than he. 'Monsieur,' said he, 'allow me to remark, on my side, that you, upon my honor, understand as little of it as I!'—'That is true; and I beg your pardon; I was too rash in accusing you of want of expertness.'—'Were you ever in Germany?' he now asked me. 'No; but I should like to make that journey: I am very curious to see the Prussian States, and their King, of whom one hears so much.' And now I began to launch out on Friedrich's actions; but he interrupted me rapidly, with the words: 'Nothing more of Kings, Monsieur! What have we to do with them? We will spend the rest of our voyage on more agreeable and cheering objects.' And now he spoke of the best of all possible worlds; and maintained that, in our Planet Earth, there was more Evil than Good. I maintained the contrary; and this dispute brought us to the end of our voyage.
"On quitting me, he said, 'I hope, Monsieur, you will leave me your name: I am very glad to have made your acquaintance; perhaps we shall see one another again.' I replied, as was fitting, to the compliment; and begged him to excuse me for contradicting him a little. 'Ascribe this,' I concluded, 'to the ill-humor which various little journeys I had to make in these days have given me.' I then told him my name, and we parted." [Laveaux,—Histoire de Frederic—(2d edition, Strasbourg, 1789, and blown now into SIX vols. instead of four; dead all, except this fraction), vi. 365. Seyfarth, ii. 234, is right; ib. 170, wrong, and has led others wrong.] Parted to meet again; and live together for about twenty years.
Of this honest Henri de Catt, whom the King liked on this Interview, and sent for soon after, and at length got as "LECTEUR DU ROI," we shall hear again. ["September, 1755," sent for (but De Catt was ill and couldn't); "December, 1757" got (Rodenbeck, i. 285).] He did, from 1757 onwards, what De Prades now does with more of noise, the old D'Arget functions; faithfully and well, for above twenty years;—left a Note-Book (not very Boswellian) about the King, which is latterly in the Royal Archives at Berlin; and which might without harm, or even with advantage, be printed, but has never yet been. A very harmless De Catt. And we are surely obliged to him for this view of the Travelling Gentleman "with the cinnamon-colored coat, snuffy nose and black wig," and his manner of talking on light external subjects, while the inner man of him has weights enough pressing on it. Age still under five-and-forty, but looks old for his years.
"June 23d, 1755:" it is in the very days while poor Braddock is staggering down the Alleghanies; Braddock fairly over the top;—and the Fates waiting him, at a Fortnight's distance. Far away, on the other side of the World. But it is notable enough how Pitt is watching the thing; and will at length get hand laid on it, and get the kingship over it for above four years. Whereby the JENKINS'S-EAR QUESTION will again, this time on better terms, coalesce with the SILESIAN, or PARTITION-OF-PRUSSIA QUESTION; and both these long Controversies get definitely closed, as the Eternal Decrees had seen good.