“Adieu! my adorable sister. I am so tired I can not stir, having left on Tuesday night, or rather Wednesday morning, at three o’clock, from a ball at Monbijou, and arrived here this Friday morning at four. I recommend myself to your gracious remembrance, and am, for my own part, till death, dearest sister, yourThe king and Voltaire soon became involved in a very serious quarrel. Voltaire had employed a Jew, by the name of Hirsch, to engage fraudulently in speculating in the funds. The transaction was so complicated that few of our readers would have the patience to follow an attempt at its disentanglement. Voltaire and his agent quarreled. The contention rang through all the court circles, as other conspicuous names were involved in the meshes of the intrigue. A lawsuit ensued, which created excitement almost inconceivable. The recent law reform caused the process to be pushed very rapidly to its conclusion. Voltaire emerged from the suit with his character sadly maimed. He was clearly convicted of both falsehood and forgery. The king, annoyed by the clamor, retired from Berlin to Sans Souci. Voltaire was not invited to accompany him, but was left in the Berlin palace. In a letter which Frederick wrote to D’Arget, dated April, 1752, he says:
A bomb bursting in the room could scarcely have created a greater panic. Katte and Quantz seized the flutes and music-books, and rushed into a wood-closet, where they stood quaking with terror. Fritz threw off his dressing-gown, hurried on his military coat, and sat down at the table, affecting to be deeply engaged with his books. The king, frowning like a thunder-cloud—for he always frowned when he drew near Fritz—burst into the room. The sight of the frizzled hair of his son “kindled the paternal wrath into a tornado pitch.” The king had a wonderful command of the vocabulary of abuse, and was heaping epithets of vituperation upon the head of the prince, when he caught sight of the dressing-gown behind a screen. He seized the glittering garment, and, with increasing outbursts of rage, crammed it into the fire. Then searching the room, he collected all the French books, of which Fritz had quite a library, and, sending for a bookseller near by, ordered him to take every volume away, and sell them for what they would bring. For more than an hour the king was thus raging, like a maniac, in the apartment of his son. Fortunately he did not look into the wood-closet. Had he done so, both Quantz and Katte would have been terribly beaten, even had they escaped being sent immediately to the scaffold.“My dear Voltaire,—France has been considered thus far as the asylum of unfortunate monarchs. I wish that my capital should become the temple of great men. Come to it, then, my dear Voltaire, and give whatever orders can tend to render a residence in it agreeable to you. My wish is to please you, and wishing this, my intention is to enter entirely into your views.Frederick.”
There was no end to the panegyrics which Voltaire, in his correspondence with Frederick, now lavished upon him. He greeted him with the title of Frederick the Great.
“My Cousin,—Knowing all the assaults made by you upon my indisputable rights over my free barony of Herstal, and how the seditious ringleaders there, for several years past, have been countenanced by you in their detestable acts of disobedience against me, I have commanded my privy counselor, Rambonet, to repair to your presence, and in my name to require from you, within two days, a distinct and categorical answer to this question:“And then, grumbling and blaming, would alter the camp till it was all out of rule, and then say,The Queen of Prussia had recently given birth to another prince. She was on a bed of languor. The king was somewhat mollified, and was anxious to be relieved from these protracted difficulties. Colonel Hotham reached the palace of Charlottenburg on the 2d of April, 1730, and was graciously received by the king. The next day quite a splendid dinner was given in honor of the British envoy. All the notables who surrounded the table, the English and the Prussian, in accordance with the degrading custom of those times, drank deeply. Hotham, in his dispatch, without any apparent sense of shame, writes, “We all got immoderately drunk.”
While these scenes were transpiring the Crown Prince was habitually residing at Potsdam, a favorite royal residence about seventeen miles west from Berlin. Here he was rigidly attending to his duties in the giant regiment. We have now, in our narrative, reached the year 1727. Fritz is fifteen years of age. He is attracting attention by his vivacity, his ingenuous, agreeable manners, and his fondness for polite literature. He occasionally is summoned by his father to the Smoking Cabinet. But the delicacy of his physical organization is such that he loathes tobacco, and only pretends to smoke, with mock gravity puffing from his empty, white clay pipe. Neither has he any relish for the society which he meets there. Though faithful to the mechanical duties of the drill, they were very irksome to him. His books and his flute were his chief joy. Voltaire was just then rising to celebrity in France. His writings began to attract the attention of literary men throughout Europe. Fritz, in his youthful enthusiasm, was charmed by them. In the latter part of June, 1729, a courier brought the intelligence to Berlin that George I. had suddenly died of apoplexy. He was on a journey to Hanover when he was struck down on the road. Almost insensible, he was conveyed, on the full gallop, to Osnabrück, where his brother, who was a bishop, resided, and where medical aid could be obtained. But the shaft was fatal. At midnight his carriage reached Osnabrück. The old man, sixty-seven years of age, was heard to murmur, “It is all over with me,” and his spirit passed away to the judgment.
While affairs were in this posture, the English, eager to crush their hereditary rivals, the French, were very anxious to detach the Prussians from the French alliance. The only way to do360 this was to induce Maria Theresa to offer terms of peace such as Frederick would accept. They sent Sir Thomas Robinson to Sch?nbrunn to endeavor to accomplish this purpose. He had an interview with her Hungarian majesty on the 2d of August, 1745. The queen was very dignified and reticent. Silently she listened to the proposals of Sir Thomas. She then said, with firmness which left no room for further argument,The prince was withdrawn, and placed in a room where two sentries watched over him with fixed bayonets. The king malignantly assumed that the prince, being a colonel in the army and attempting to escape, was a deserter, whose merited doom was death. General Mosel urged the king not to see his son again, as his presence was sure to inflame his anger to so alarming a pitch. The father did not again see him for a year and three days.A few months after, in May, 1750, there was a grand review at Berlin. An Austrian officer who chanced to be there was invited by his friend, a Prussian officer, Lieutenant Colonel Chasot, to attend. The Austrian was not willing to ride upon the parade-ground without the permission of the king. Colonel Chasot called upon Frederick and informed him that an Austrian officer would be happy, with his majesty’s permission, to be present at the review.
Frederick therefore decided to march down the river twenty miles farther, to Lowen, where there was a good bridge. To favor the operation, Prince Leopold, with large divisions of the army and much of the baggage, was to cross the Neisse on pontoons at Michelau, a few miles above Lowen. Both passages were successfully accomplished, and the two columns effected a junction on the west side of the river on the 8th of April. The blockade of Brieg was abandoned, and its blockading force united with the general army.
“Even Gustavus Adolphus never did such great things. One must, indeed, pardon Frederick his verses, his sarcasms, and his little malices. All the faults of the man disappear before the glory of the hero.“I hope to speak to you with open heart at Berlin. You may think, too, how I shall be embarrassed in having to act the lover without being it, and to feign a passion for mute ugliness; for I have not much faith in Count Seckendorf’s taste in this article. Monsieur, once more get this princess to learn by heart the Ecole des Maris and the Ecole des Femmes. That will do her much more good than True Christianity by the late Arndt. If, beside, she would learn steadiness of humor, learn music, become rather too free than too virtuous—ah! then, my dear general, then I should feel some liking for her; and a Colin marrying a Phillis, the couple would be in accordance. But if she is stupid, naturally I renounce the devil and her.
“No threats, sir, if you please, no threats.”
Some of our readers may think that the above narrative is quite incredible; that a young sovereign, who had just written the Anti-Machiavel, and who knew that the eyes of the world were upon him, could not be guilty of such perfidy. But, unhappily, there is no possible room for doubt. The documentary evidence is ample. There is no contradictory testimony.On the 6th of July, the trunk having arrived, the volume of poems was recovered and Voltaire was allowed to go on his way. His pen, dipped in gall, was an instrument which even a monarch might fear. It inflicted wounds upon the reputation of Frederick which will probably never be healed. Four years passed away, during which Voltaire and Frederick were almost entirely strangers to each other.“You speak of Maupertuis. Do not trouble the ashes of the dead. Let the grave, at least, put an end to your unjust hatreds. Reflect that even kings make peace after long battling. Can not you ever make it? I think you would be capable, like Orpheus, of descending to hell, not to soften Pluto, and bring back your beautiful Emilie, but to pursue into that abode of woe an enemy whom your wrath has only too much persecuted in this world. For shame!”144详情
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