“As Frederick’s seven years’ struggle of war may be called superhuman, so was there also, in his present labor of peace, something enormous, which appeared to his contemporaries almost preternatural, at times inhuman. It was grand, but also terrible, that the success of the whole was to him, at all moments, the one thing to be striven after. The comfort of the individual was of no concern at all.”189Notwithstanding this letter, Frederick refused to give General Zastrow any further employment, but left him to neglect, obscurity, and poverty. Zastrow wrote to the king imploring a court-martial. He received the following laconic reply:
Sufferings of the Peasantry.—Renown and Peril of Frederick.—New Plan of Maria Theresa.—Despondency of Frederick.—Surprise and Rout of the Austrians.—The “Old Dessauer” enters Saxony.—Battle of Kesseldorf.—Singular Prayer of the Old Dessauer.—Signal Victory of the Prussians.—Elation of Frederick.—The Peace of Dresden.—Death of M. Duhan.
Besides the garrison of fifty thousand there were eighty thousand inhabitants in the city, men, women, and children. Large numbers perished. Some died of starvation; some were burned to death in their blazing dwellings; some were torn to pieces by shot and shell; some were buried beneath the ruins of their houses. In the stillness of the night the wails and groans of the sufferers were borne on the breeze to the ears of the Prussians in their intrenched camp. Starvation brought pestilence, which caused the death of thousands. The inhabitants, reduced to this state of awful misery, entreated the Austrian general to surrender. He refused, but forced out of the gates twelve thousand skeleton, starving people, who consumed the provisions, but could not contribute to the defense. Frederick drove the poor creatures back again at the point of the bayonet, threatening to shoot them all. The cruel act was deemed a necessity of war.But Wilhelmina evaded the oath upon the ground of religious115 scruples. Anxiety, confinement, and bad diet had so preyed upon her health that she was reduced almost to a skeleton. The following extract from her journal gives a graphic account of her painful condition:
“Sunday next I shall be at a little place near Cleves, where I shall be able to possess you at my ease. If the sight of you don’t cure me, I will send for a confessor at once. Adieu. You know my sentiments and my heart.“Munchberg, July 2, 1734.
“My dear Voltaire,—In spite of myself, I have to yield to the quartan fever, which is more tenacious than a Jansenist. And whatever desire I had of going to Antwerp and Brussels, I find myself not in a condition to undertake such a journey without risk. I would ask of you, then, if the road from Brussels to Cleves would not to you seem too long for a meeting? It is the one means of seeing you which remains to me. Confess that I am unlucky; for now, when I could dispose of my person, and nothing hinders me from seeing you, the fever gets its hand into the business, and seems to intend disputing me that satisfaction.
“Have I need of peace? Let those who need it give me what I want, or let them fight me again and be beaten again. Have they not given whole kingdoms to Spain? And to me they can not spare a few trifling principalities. If the queen do not now grant me all I require, I shall, in four weeks, demand four principalities more. I now demand the whole of Lower Silesia, Breslau included. With that answer you can return to Vienna.”
CHARGE OF GENERAL SEIDLITZ AT ZORNDORF.“My heart and my inclination excited in me, from the moment I mounted the throne, the desire of having you here, that you might put our Berlin Academy in the shape you alone are capable of giving it. Come then, come, and insert into this wild crab-tree the sciences, that it may bear fruit. You have shown the figure of the earth to mankind; show also to a king how sweet it is to possess such a man as you.The half-intoxicated king gravely suggests that such conduct is hardly seemly among gentlemen; that the duel is the more chivalric way of settling such difficulties. Fassman challenges Gundling. They meet with pistols. It is understood by the seconds that it is to be rather a Pickwickian encounter. The trembling Gundling, when he sees his antagonist before him, with the deadly weapon in his hand, throws his pistol away, which his considerate friends had harmlessly loaded with powder only, declaring that he would not shoot any man, or have any man shoot him. Fassman sternly advances with his harmless pistol, and shoots the powder into Gundling’s wig. It blazes into a flame. With a shriek Gundling falls to the ground as if dead. A bucket of water extinguishes the flames, and roars of laughter echo over the chivalric field of combat.
A week after the arrival of the prince the Prussian king entered the camp. As it was expected that some remarkable feats of war would be exhibited in the presence of the king, under the leadership of the renowned Prince Eugene, a very large assemblage of princes and other distinguished personages was collected on the field. The king remained for a month, dwelling in a161 tent among his own troops, and sharing all their hardships. He, with his son, attended all the councils of war. Still no attempt was made to relieve Philipsburg. The third day after the king’s arrival the city surrendered to the French. The campaign continued for some time, with unavailing man?uvring on both sides of the Rhine; but the Crown Prince saw but little active service. About the middle of August the king left the camp to return home. His health was seriously impaired, and alarming symptoms indicated that he had not long to live. His journey was slow and painful. Gout tortured him. Dropsy threatened to strangle him. He did not reach home until the middle of September. The alarming state of the king’s health added very much to the importance of the Crown Prince. It was evident that ere long he must come into power. The following characteristic anecdote is related of the king during this illness:Voltaire made himself very merry over the dying scene of Maupertuis. There was never another man who could throw so much poison into a sneer as Voltaire. It is probable that the conversion of Maupertuis somewhat troubled his conscience as the unhappy scorner looked forward to his own dying hour, which could not be far distant. He never alluded to Maupertuis without indulging in a strain of bitter mockery in view of his death as a penitent. Even the king, unbeliever as he was in religion or in the existence of a God, was disgusted with the malignity displayed by Voltaire. In reply to one of Voltaire’s envenomed assaults the king wrote:详情
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