HISTORY OF FRIEDRICH II. OF PRUSSIA
FREDERICK THE GREAT
By Thomas Carlyle
BOOK VI.—DOUBLE-MARRIAGE PROJECT, AND CROWN-PRINCE, GOING ADRIFT UNDER THE STORM-WINDS.—1727-1730.
Chapter I. — FIFTH CRISIS IN THE KAISER'S SPECTRE-HUNT.
The Crown-Prince's young Life being, by perverse chance, involved and as it were absorbed in that foolish question of his English Marriage, we have nothing for it but to continue our sad function; and go on painfully fishing out, and reducing to an authentic form, what traces of him there are, from that disastrous beggarly element,—till once he get free of it, either dead or alive. The WINDS (partly by Art-Magic) rise to the hurricane pitch, upon this Marriage Project and him; and as for the sea, or general tide of European Politics—But let the reader look with his own eyes.
In the spring of 1727, War, as anticipated, breaks out; Spaniards actually begin battering at Gibraltar; Kaiser's Ambassador at London is angrily ordered to begone. Causes of war were many:
1. Duke de Ripperda—tumbled out now, that illustrious diplomatic bulldog, at Madrid—sought asylum in the English Ambassador's house; and no respect was had to such asylum: that is one cause.
2. Then, you English, what is the meaning of these war-fleets in the West Indies; in the Mediterranean, on the very coast of Spain? We demand that you at once take them home again:—which cannot be complied with.
3. But above all things, we demand Gibraltar of you:—which can still less be complied with. Termagant Elizabeth has set her heart on Gibraltar: that, in such opportunity as this unexpected condition of the Balances now gives her, is the real cause of the War.
Cession of Gibraltar: there had been vague promises, years ago, on the Kaiser's part; nay George himself, raw to England at that date, is said to have thought the thing might perhaps be done.—"Do it at once, then!" said the Termagant Queen, and repeated, with ever more emphasis;—and there being not the least compliance, she has opened parallels before the place, and begun war and ardent firing there; [22d February, 1727 (Scholl, ii. 212). Salmon, Chronological Historian (London, 1747; a very incorrect dark Book, useful only in defect of better), ii. 173. Coxe, Memoirs of Walpole, i. 260, 261; ii. 498-515.] preceded by protocols, debates in Parliament; and the usual phenomena. It is the Fifth grand Crisis in the Kaiser's spectre-huntings; fifth change in the color of the world-lobster getting boiled in that singular manner;—Second Sputter of actual War.
Which proved futile altogether; and amounts now, in the human memory; to flat zero,—unless the following infinitesimally small fraction be countable again:—
"Sputtering of War; that is to say, Siege of Gibraltar. A siege utterly unmemorable, and without the least interest, for existing mankind with their ungrateful humor,—if it be not; once more, that the Father of TRISTRAM SHANDY was in it: still a Lieutenant of foot, poor fellow; brisk, small, hot-tempered, loving, 'liable to be cheated ten times a day if nine will not suffice you.' He was in this Siege; shipped to the Rock to make stand there; and would have done so with the boldest,—only he got into duel (hot-tempered, though of lamb-like innocence), and was run through the body; not entirely killed, but within a hair's breadth of it; and unable for service while this sputtering went on. Little Lorry is still living; gone to school in Yorkshire, after pranks enough, and misventures,—half-drowning 'in the mill-race at Annamoe in Ireland,' for one. [Laurence Sterne's Autobiography (cited above).] The poor Lieutenant Father died, soldiering in the West Indies; soon after this; and we shall not mention him again. But History ought to remember that he is 'Uncle Toby,' this poor Lieutenant, and take her measures!—The Siege of Gibraltar, we still see with our eyes, was in itself Nothing."
Truly it might well enough have grown to universal flame of War. But this always needs two parties; and pacific George would not be second party in it. George, guided by pacific Walpole, backed by pacific Fleury, answers the ardent firing by phlegmatic patience and protocolling; not by counter-firing, except quite at his convenience, from privateers, from war-ships here and there, and in sulky defence from Gibraltar itself. Probably the Termagant, with all the fire she has, will not do much damage upon Gibraltar? Such was George's hope. Whereby the flame of war, ardent only in certain Spanish batteries upon the point of San Roque, does not spread hitherto,—though all mortals, and Friedrich Wilhelm as much as any, can see the imminent likelihood there is. In such circumstances, what a stroke of policy to have disjoined Friedrich Wilhelm from the Hanover Alliance, and brought him over to our own! Is not Grumkow worth his pension? "Grumkow serves honorably." Let the invaluable Seckendorf persevere.
CROWN-PRINCE SEEN IN DRYASDUST'S GLASS, DARKLY.
To know the special figure of the Crown-Prince's way of life in those years, who his friends, companions were, what his pursuits and experiences, would be agreeable to us; but beyond the outline already given, there is little definite on record. He now resides habitually at Potsdam, be the Court there or not; attending strictly to his military duties in the Giant Regiment; it is only on occasion, chiefly perhaps in "Carnival time," that he gets to Berlin, to partake in the gayeties of society. Who his associates there or at Potsdam were? Suhm, the Saxon Resident, a cultivated man of literary turn, famed as his friend in time coming, is already at his diplomatic post in Berlin, post of difficulty just now; but I know not whether they have yet any intimacy. [Preuss, Friedrich mit seinen Verwandten und Freunden, p. 24.] This we do know, the Crown-Prince begins to be noted for his sprightly sense, his love of literature, his ingenuous ways; in the Court or other circles, whatsoever has intelligence attracts him, and is attracted by him. The Roucoulles Soirees,—gone all to dim backram for us, though once so lively in their high periwigs and speculations,—fall on Wednesday. When the Finkenstein or the others fall,—no doubt his Royal Highness knows it. In the TABAKS-COLLEGIUM, there also, driven by duty, he sometimes appears; but, like Seckendorf and some others, he only affects to smoke, and his pipe is mere white clay. Nor is the social element, any more than the narcotic vapor which prevails there, attractive to the young Prince,—though he had better hide his feelings on the subject.
Out at Potsdam, again, life goes very heavy; the winged Psyche much imprisoned in that pipe-clay element, a prey to vacancy and many tediums and longings. Daily return the giant drill-duties; and daily, to the uttermost of rigorous perfection, they must be done:—"This, then, is the sum of one's existence, this?" Patience, young "man of genius," as the Newspapers would now call you; it is indispensably beneficial nevertheless! To swallow one's disgusts, and do faithfully the ugly commanded work, taking no council with flesh and blood: know that "genius," everywhere in Nature, means this first of all; that without this, it means nothing, generally even less. And be thankful for your Potsdam grenadiers and their pipe-clay!—
Happily he has his Books about him; his flute: Duhan, too, is here, still more or less didactic in some branches; always instructive and companionable, to him. The Crown-Prince reads a great deal; very many French Books, new and old, he reads; among the new, we need not doubt, the Henriade of M. Arouet Junior (who now calls himself VOLTAIRE), which has risen like a star of the first magnitude in these years. [London, 1723, in surreptitious incomplete state, La Ligue the title; then at length, London, 1726, as Henriade, in splendid 4to,—by subscription (King, Prince and Princess of Wales at the top of it), which yielded 8,000 pounds: see Voltaire, OEuvres Completes, xiii. 408.] An incomparable piece, patronized by Royalty in England; the delight of all kindred Courts. The light dancing march of this new "Epic," and the brisk clash of cymbal music audible in it, had, as we find afterwards, greatly captivated the young man. All is not pipe-clay, then, and torpid formalism; aloft from the murk of commonplace rise glancings of a starry splendor, betokening—oh, how much!
Out of Books, rumors and experiences, young imagination is forming to itself some Picture of the World as it is, as it has been. The curtains of this strange life-theatre are mounting, mounting,—wondrously as in the case of all young souls; but with what specialties, moods or phenomena of light and shadow, to this young soul, is not in any point recorded for us. The "early Letters to Wilhelmina, which exist in great numbers," from these we had hoped elucidation: but these the learned Editor has "wholly withheld as useless," for the present. Let them be carefully preserved, on the chance of somebody's arising to whom they may have uses!—
The worst feature of these years is Friedrich Wilhelm's discontent with them. A Crown-Prince sadly out of favor with Papa. This has long been on the growing hand; and these Double-Marriage troubles, not to mention again the new-fangled French tendencies (BLITZ FRANZOSEN!), much aggravate the matter, and accelerate its rate of growth. Already the paternal countenance does not shine upon him; flames often; and thunders, to a shocking degree;—and worse days are coming.
Chapter II. — DEATH OF GEORGE I.
Gibraltar still keeps sputtering; ardent ineffectual bombardment from the one side, sulky, heavy blast of response now and then from the other: but the fire does not spread; nor will, we may hope. It is true, Sweden and Denmark have joined the Treaty of Hanover, this spring; and have troops on foot, and money paid them; But George is pacific; Gibraltar is impregnable; let the Spaniards spend their powder there.
As for the Kaiser, he is dreadfully poor; inapt for battle himself. And in the end of this same May, 1727, we hear, his principal ally, Czarina Catherine, has died;—poor brown little woman, Lithuanian housemaid, Russian Autocrat, it is now all one;—dead she, and can do nothing. Probably the Kaiser will sit still? The Kaiser sits still; with eyes bent on Gibraltar, or rolling in grand Imperial inquiry and anxiety round the world; war-outlooks much dimmed for him since the end of May.
Alas, in the end of June, what far other Job's-post is this that reaches Berlin and Queen Sophie? That George I., her royal Father, has suddenly sunk dead! With the Solstice, or Summer pause of the Sun, 21st or 22d June, almost uncertain which, the Majesty of George I. did likewise pause,—in his carriage, on the road to Osnabruck,—never to move more. Whereupon, among the simple People, arose rumors of omens, preternaturalisms, for and against: How his desperate Megaera of a Wife, in the act of dying, had summoned him (as was presumable), to appear along with her at the Great Judgment-Bar within year and day; and how he has here done it. On the other hand, some would have it noted, How "the nightingales in Herrenhausen Gardens had all ceased singing for the year, that night he died,"—out of loyalty on the part of these little birds, it seemed presumable. [See Kohler, Munzbelustigungen, x. 88.]
What we know is, he was journeying towards Hanover again, hopeful of a little hunting at the Gorhde; and intended seeing Osnabruck and his Brother the Bishop there, as he passed. That day, 21st June, 1727, from some feelings of his own, he was in great haste for Osnabruck; hurrying along by extra-post, without real cause save hurry of mind. He had left his poor old Maypole of a Mistress on the Dutch Frontier, that morning, to follow at more leisure. He was struck by apoplexy on the road,—arm fallen powerless, early in the day, head dim and heavy; obviously an alarming case. But he refused to stop anywhere; refused any surgery but such as could be done at once. "Osnabruck! Osnabruck!" he reiterated, growing visibly worse. Two subaltern Hanover Officials, "Privy-Councillor von Hardenberg, KAMMERHERR (Chamberlain) von Fabrice, were in the carriage with him;" [Gottfried, Historische Chronik (Frankfurt, 1759), iii. 872. Boyer, The Political State of Great Britain, vol. xxxiii. pp. 545, 546.] King chiefly dozing, and at last supported in the arms of Fabrice, was heard murmuring, "C'EST FAIT DE MOI ('T is all over with me)!" And "Osnabruck! Osnabruck!" slumberously reiterated he: To Osnabruck, where my poor old Brother, Bishop as they call him, once a little Boy that trotted at my knee with blithe face, will have some human pity on me! So they rushed along all day, as at the gallop, his few attendants and he; and when the shades of night fell, and speech had now left the poor man, he still passionately gasped some gurgle of a sound like "Osnabruck;"—hanging in the arms of Fabrice, and now evidently in the article of death. What a gallop, sweeping through the slumber of the world: To Osnabruck, Osnabruck!
In the hollow of the night (some say, one in the morning), they reach Osnabruck. And the poor old Brother,—Ernst August, once youngest of six brothers, of seven children, now the one survivor, has human pity in the heart of him full surely. But George is dead; careless of it now. [Coxe (i. 266) is "indebted to his friend Nathaniel Wraxall" for these details,—the since famous Sir Nathaniel, in whose Memoirs (vague, but NOT mendacious, not unintelligent) they are now published more at large. See his Memoirs of the Courts of Berlin, Dresden, &c. (London. 1799), i. 35-40; also Historical Memoirs (London, 1836), iv. 516-518.] After sixty-seven years of it, he has flung his big burdens,—English crowns, Hanoverian crownlets, sulkinesses, indignations, lean women and fat, and earthly contradictions and confusions,—fairly off him; and lies there.
The man had his big burdens, big honors so called, absurd enough some of them, in this world; but he bore them with a certain gravity and discretion: a man of more probity, insight and general human faculty than he now gets credit for. His word was sacred to him. He had the courage of a Welf, or Lion-Man; quietly royal in that respect at least. His sense of equity, of what was true and honorable in men and things, remained uneffaced to a respectable degree; and surely it had resisted much. Wilder puddle of muddy infatuations from without and from within, if we consider it well,—of irreconcilable incoherences, bottomless universal hypocrisies, solecisms bred with him and imposed on him,—few sons of Adam had hitherto lived in.
He was, in one word, the first of our Hanover Series of English Kings; that hitherto unique sort, who are really strange to look at in the History of the World. Of whom, in the English annals, there is hitherto no Picture to be had; nothing but an empty blur of discordant nonsenses, and idle, generally angry, flourishings of the pen, by way of Picture. The English Nation, having flung its old Puritan, Sword-and-Bible Faith into the cesspool,—or rather having set its old Bible-Faith, MINUS any Sword, well up in the organ-loft, with plenty of revenue, there to preach and organ at discretion, on condition always of meddling with nobody's practice farther,—thought the same (such their mistake) a mighty pretty arrangement; but found it hitch before long. They had to throw out their beautiful Nell-Gwynn Defenders of the Faith; fling them also into the cesspool; and were rather at a loss what next to do. "Where is our real King, then? Who IS to lead us Heavenward, then; to rally the noble of us to him, in some small measure, and save the rest and their affairs from running Devilward?"—The English Nation being in some difficulty as to Kings, the English Nation clutched up the readiest that came to hand; "Here is our King!" said they,—again under mistake, still under their old mistake. And, what was singular, they then avenged themselves by mocking, calumniating, by angrily speaking, writing and laughing at the poor mistaken King so clutched!—It is high time the English were candidly asking themselves, with very great seriousness indeed, WHAT it was they had done, in the sight of God and man, on that and the prior occasion? And above all, What it is they will now propose to do in the sequel of it! Dig gold-nuggets, and rally the IGnoble of us?—
George's poor lean Mistress, coming on at the usual rate of the road, was met, next morning, by the sad tidings. She sprang from her carriage into the dusty highway; tore her hair (or headdress), half-frantic; declared herself a ruined woman; and drove direct to Berlin, there to compose her old mind. She was not ill seen at Court there; had her connections in the world. Fieldmarshal Schulenburg, who once had the honor of fighting (not to his advantage) with Charles XII., and had since grown famous by his Anti-Turk performances in the Venetian service, is a Brother of this poor Maypole's; and there is a Nephew of hers, one of Friedrich Wilhelm's Field-Officers here, whom we shall meet by and by. She has been obliging to Queen Sophie on occasions; they can, and do, now weep heartily together. I believe she returned to England, being Duchess of Kendal, with heavy pensions there; and "assiduously attended divine ordinances, according to the German Protestant form, ever afterwards." Poor foolish old soul, what is this world, with all its dukeries!—
The other or fat Mistress, "Cataract of fluid Tallow," Countess of Darlington, whom I take to have been a Half-Sister rather, sat sorrowful at Isleworth; and kept for many years a Black Raven, which had come flying in upon her; which she somehow understood to be the soul, or connected with the soul, of his Majesty of happy memory. [Horace Walpole, Reminiscences.] Good Heavens, what fat fluid-tallowy stupor, and entirely sordid darkness, dwells among mankind; and occasionally finds itself lifted to the very top, by way of sample!—
Friedrich Wilhelm wept tenderly to Brigadier Dubourgay, the British Minister at Berlin (an old military gentleman, of diplomatic merit, who spells rather ill), when they spoke of this sad matter. My poor old Uncle; he was so good to me in boyhood, in those old days, when I blooded Cousin George's nose! Not unkind, ah, only proud and sad; and was called sulky, being of few words and heavy-laden. Ah me, your Excellenz; if the little nightingales have all fallen silent, what may not I, his Son and nephew, do?—And the rugged Majesty blubbered with great tenderness; having fountains of tears withal, hidden in the rocky heart of him, not suspected by every one. [Dubourgay's Despatches, in the State-Paper Office.]
I add only that the Fabrice, who had poor George in his arms that night, is a man worth mentioning. The same Fabrice (Fabricius, or perhaps GOLDSCHMIDT in German) who went as Envoy from the Holstein-Gottorp people to Charles XII. in his Turkish time; and stayed with his Swedish Majesty there, for a year or two, indeed till the catastrophe came. His Official LETTERS from that scene are in print, this long while, though considerably forgotten; [Anecdotes du Sejour du Roi de Suide a Bender, ou Lettres de M. le Baron de Fabrice pour servir d'elaircissement a l'Histoire de Charles XII. (Hambourg, 1760, 8vo).] a little Volume, worth many big ones that have been published on that subject. The same Fabrice, following Hanover afterwards, came across to London in due course; and there he did another memorable thing: made acquaintance with the Monsieur Arouet, then a young French Exile there, Arouet Junior ("LE JEUNE or L. J."), who,—by an ingenious anagram, contrived in his indignation at such banishment,—writes himself VOLTAIRE ever since; who has been publishing a HENRIADE, and doing other things. Now it was by questioning this Fabrice, and industriously picking the memory of him clean, that M. de Voltaire wrote another book, much more of an "Epic" than Henri IV.,—a HISTORY, namely, OF CHARLES XII.; [See Voltaire, OEuvres Completes, ii. 149, xxx. 7, 127. Came out in 1731 (ib. xxx. Avant-Propos, p. ii).] which seems to me the best-written of all his Books, and wants nothing but TRUTH (indeed a dreadful want) to make it a possession forever. VOLTAIRE, if you want fine writing; ADLERFELD and FABRICE, if you would see the features of the Fact: these three are still the Books upon Charles XII.
HIS PRUSSIAN MAJESTY FALLS INTO ONE OF HIS HYPOCHONDRIACAL FITS.
Before this event, his Majesty was in gloomy humor; and special vexations had superadded themselves. Early in the Spring, a difficult huff of quarrel, the consummation of a good many grudges long subsisting, had fallen out with his neighbor of Saxony, the Majesty of Poland, August, whom we have formerly heard of, a conspicuous Majesty in those days; called even "August the Great" by some persons in his own time; but now chiefly remembered by his splendor of upholstery, his enormous expenditure in drinking and otherwise, also by his three hundred and fifty-four Bastards (probably the maximum of any King's performance in that line), and called August DER STARKE, "August the Physically Strong." This exemplary Sovereign could not well be a man according to Friedrich Wilhelm's heart: accordingly they had their huffs and little collisions now and then: that of the Protestant Directorate and Heidelberg Protestants, for instance; indeed it was generally about Protestantism; and more lately there had been high words and correspondings about the "Protestants of Thorn" (a bad tragedy, of Jesuit intrusion and Polish ferocity, enacted there in 1724); [Account of it in Buchholz, i. 98-102.]—in which sad business Friedrich Wilhelm loyally interfered, though Britannic George of blessed memory and others were but lukewarm; and nothing could be done in it. Nothing except angry correspondence with King August; very provoking to the poor soul, who had no hand but a nominal one in the Thorn catastrophe, being driven into it by his unruly Diet alone.
In fact, August, with his glittering eyes and excellent physical constitution, was a very good-humored fellow; supremely pleasant in society; and by no means wishful to cheat you, or do you a mischief in business,—unless his necessities compelled him; which often were great. But Friedrich Wilhelm always kept a good eye on such points; and had himself suffered nothing from the gay eupeptic Son of Belial, either in their old Stralsund copartnery or otherwise. So that, except for these Protestant affairs,—and alas, one other little cause,—Friedrich Wilhelm had contentedly left the Physically Strong to his own course, doing the civilities of the road to him when they met; and nothing ill had fallen out between them. This other little cause—alas, it is the old story of recruiting; one's poor Hobby again giving offence! Special recruiting brabbles there had been; severe laws passed in Saxony about these kidnapping operations: and always in the Diets, when question rose of this matter, August had been particularly loud in his denouncings. Which was unkind, though not unexpected. But now, in the Spring of 1727, here has a worse case than any arisen.
Captain Natzmer, of I know not what Prussian Regiment, "Sachsen-Weimar Cuirassiers" [Militair-Lexikon, iii. 104.] or another, had dropt over into Saxony, to see what could be done in picking up a tall man or two. Tall men, one or two, Captain Natzmer did pick up, nay a tall deserter or two (Saxon soldier, inveigled to desert); but finding his operations get air, he hastily withdrew into Brandenburg territory again. Saxon Officials followed him into Brandenburg territory; snapt him back into Saxon; tried him by Saxon law there;—Saxon law, express in such case, condemns him to be hanged; and that is his doom accordingly.
"Captain Natzmer to swing on the gallows? Taken on Brandenburg territory too, and not the least notice given me?" Friedrich Wilhelm blazes into flaming whirlwind; sends an Official Gentleman, one Katsch, to his Excellenz Baron von Suhm (the Crown-Prince's cultivated friend), with this appalling message: "If Natzmer be hanged, for certain I will use reprisals; you yourself shall swing!" Whereupon Suhm, in panic, fled over the marches to his Master; who bullied him for his pusillanimous terrors; and applied to Friedrich Wilhelm, in fine frenzy of indignant astonishment, "What, in Heaven's name, such meditated outrage on the law of nations, and flat insult to the Majesty of Kings, can have meant?" Friedrich Wilhelm, the first fury being spent, sees that he is quite out of square; disavows the reprisals upon Suhm. "Message misdelivered by my Official Gentleman, that stupid Katsch; never did intend to hang Suhm; oh, no;" with much other correspondence; [In Mauvillon (ii. 189-195) more of it than any one will read.]—and is very angry at himself, and at the Natzmer affair, which has brought him into this bad pass. Into open impropriety; into danger of an utter rupture, had King August been of quarrelsome turn. But King August was not quarrelsome; and then Seckendorf and the Tobacco-Parliament,—on the Kaiser's score, who wants Pragmatic Sanction and much else out of these two Kings, and can at no rate have them quarrel in the present juncture,—were eager to quench the fire. King August let Natzmer go; Suhm returned to his post; [Pollnitz, ii. 254.] and things hustled themselves into some uneasy posture of silence again;—uneasy to the sensitive fancy of Friedrich Wilhelm above all. This is his worst collision with his Neighbor of Saxony; and springing from one's Hobby again!—
These sorrows, the death of George I., with anxieties as to George II. and the course he might take; all this, it was thought, preyed upon his Majesty's spirits;—Wilhelmina says it was "the frequent carousals with Seckendorf," and an affair chiefly of the royal digestive-apparatus. Like enough;—or both might combine. It is certain his Majesty fell into one of his hypochondrias at this time; talked of "abdicating" and other gloomy things, and was very black indeed. So that Seckendorf and Grumkow began to be alarmed. It is several months ago he had Franke the Halle Methodist giving ghostly counsel; his Majesty ceased to have the Newspapers read at dinner; and listened to lugubrious Franke's exhortations instead. Did English readers ever hear of Franke? Let them make a momentary acquaintance with this famous German Saint. August Hermann Franke, a Lubeck man, born 1663; Professor of Theology, of Hebrew, Lecturer on the Bible; a wandering, persecuted, pious man. Founder of the "Pietists," a kind of German Methodists, who are still a famed Sect in that country; and of the WAISENHAUS, at Halle, grand Orphan-house, built by charitable beggings of Franke, which also still subsists. A reverend gentleman, very mournful of visage, now sixty-four; and for the present, at Berlin, discoursing of things eternal, in what Wilhelmina thinks a very lugubrious manner. Well; but surely in a very serious manner! The shadows of death were already round this poor Franke; and in a few weeks more, he had himself departed. [Died 8th June, 1727.] But hear Wilhelmina, what account she gives of her own and the young Grenadier-Major's behavior on these mournful occasions. Seckendorf's dinners she considers to be the cause; all spiritual, sorrows only an adjunct not worth mentioning. It is certain enough.
"His Majesty began to become valetudinary; and the hypochondria which tormented him rendered his humor very melancholy. Monsieur Franke, the famous Pietist, founder of the Orphan-house at Halle University, contributed not a little to exaggerate that latter evil. This reverend gentleman entertained the King by raising scruples of conscience about the most innocent matters. He condemned all pleasures; damnable all of them, he said, even hunting and music. You were to speak of nothing but the Word of God only; all other conversation was forbidden. It was always he that carried on the improving talk at table; where he did the office of reader, as if it had been a refectory of monks. The King treated us to a sermon every afternoon; his valet-de-chambre gave out a psalm, which we all sang; you had to listen to this sermon with as much devout attention as if it had been an apostle's. My Brother and I had all the mind in the world to laugh; we tried hard to keep from laughing; but often we burst out. Thereupon reprimand, with all the anathemas of the Church hurled out on us; which we had to take with a contrite penitent air, a thing not easy to bring your face to at the moment. In a word, this dog of a Franke [he died within few months, poor soul, CE CHIEN DE FRANKE] led us the life of a set of Monks of La Trappe.
"Such excess of bigotry awakened still more gothic thoughts in the King. He resolved to abdicate the crown in favor of my Brother. He used to talk, He would reserve for himself 10,000 crowns a year; and retire with the Queen and his Daughters to Wusterhausen. There, added he, I will pray to God; and manage the farming economy, while my wife and girls take care of the household matters. You are clever, he said to me; I will give you the inspection of the linen, which you shall mend and keep in order, taking good charge of laundry matters. Frederika [now thirteen, married to ANSPACH two years hence], who is miserly, shall have charge of all the stores of the house. Charlotte [now eleven, Duchess of BRUNSWICK by and by] shall go to market and buy our provisions; and my Wife shall take charge of the little children, [says Friedrich Wilhelm], and of the kitchen." [Little children are:
1. Sophie Dorothee, now eight, who married Margraf of Schwedt, and was unhappy;
2. Ulrique, a grave little soul of seven, Queen of Sweden afterwards;
3. August Wilhelm, age now five, became Father of a new Friedrich Wilhelm, who was King by and by, and produced the Kings that still are;
4. Amelia, now four, born in the way we saw; and
5. HENRI, still in arms, just beginning to walk. There will be a Sixth and no more (son of this Sixth, a Berlin ROUE was killed, in 1806, at the Battle of Jena, or a day or two before); but the Sixth is not yet come to hand.]
Poor Friedrich Wilhelm; what an innocent IDYLLIUM;—which cannot be executed by a King. "He had even begun to work at an Instruction, or Farewell Advice, for my Brother; and to point towards various steps, which alarmed Grumkow and Seckendorf to a high degree." [Wilhelmina, Memoires de Bareith, i. 108.]
"Abdication," with a Crown-Prince ready to fall into the arms of England, and a sudden finis to our Black-Art, will by no means suit Seckendorf and Grumkow! Yet here is Winter coming; solitary Wusterhausen, with the misty winds piping round it, will make matters worse: something must be contrived; and what? The two, after study, persuade Fieldmarshal Flemming over at Warsaw (August the Strong's chief man, the Flemming of Voltaire's CHARLES XII.; Prussian by birth, though this long while in Saxon service), That if he the Fieldmarshal were to pay, accidentally, as it were, a little visit to his native Brandenburg just now, it might have fine effects on those foolish Berlin-Warsaw clouds that had risen. The Fieldmarshal, well affected in such a case, manages the little visit, readily persuading the Polish Majesty; and dissipates the clouds straightway,—being well received by Friedrich Wilhelm, and seconded by the Tobacco-Parliament with all its might. Out at Wusterhausen everything is comfortably settled. Nay Madam Flemming, young, brilliant, and direct from the seat of fashion; it was she that first "built up" Wilhelmina's hair on just principles, and put some life into her appearance. [Wilhelmina, i. 117.] And now the Fieldmarshal (Tobacco-Parliament suggesting it) hints farther, "If his Prussian Majesty, in the mere greatness of his mind, were to appear suddenly in Dresden when his royal Friend was next there,—what a sunburst after clouds were that; how welcome to the Polish Majesty!"—"Hm, Na, would it, then?"—The Polish Majesty puts that out of question; specially sends invitation for the Carnival-time just coming; and Friedrich Wilhelm will, accordingly, see Dresden and him on that occasion. [Ib. i. 108, 109; Pollnitz, ii. 254; Fassman, p. 374.] In those days, Carnival means "Fashionable Season," rural nobility rallying to head-quarters for a while, and social gayeties going on; and in Protestant Countries it means nothing more.
This, in substance, was the real origin of Friedrich Wilhelm's sudden visit to Dresden, which astonished the world, in January next. It makes a great figure in the old Books. It did kindle Dresden Carnival and the Physically Strong into supreme illumination, for the time being; and proved the seal of good agreement, and even of a kind of friendliness between this heteroclite pair of Sovereigns,—if anybody now cared for those points. It is with our Crown-Prince's share in it that we are alone concerned; and that may require a Chapter to itself.
Chapter III. — VISIT TO DRESDEN.
One of the most important adventures, for our young Crown-Prince, was this visit of his, along with Papa, to Dresden in the Carnival of 1728. Visit contrived by Seckendorf and Company, as we have seen, to divert the King's melancholy, and without view to the Crown-Prince at all. The Crown-Prince, now sixteen, and not in the best favor with his Father, had not been intended to accompany; was to stay at Potsdam and diligently drill: nevertheless an estafette came for him from the gallant Polish Majesty;—Wilhelmina had spoken a word to good Suhm, who wrote to his King, and the hospitable message came. Friedrich made no loitering,—to Dresden is but a hundred miles, one good day;—he arrived there on the morrow after his Father; King "on the 14th January, 1728," dates Fassmann; "Crown-Prince on the 15th," which I find was Thursday. The Crown-Prince lodged with Fieldmarshal Flemming; Friedrich Wilhelm, having come in no state, refused King August's pressings, and took up his quarters with "the General Fieldmarshal Wackerbarth, Commandant in Dresden,"—pleasant old military gentleman, who had besieged Stralsund along with him in times gone. Except Grumkow, Derschau and one or two of less importance, with the due minimum of Valetry, he had brought no retinue; the Crown-Prince had Finkenstein and Kalkstein with him, Tutor and Sub-Tutor, officially there. And he lodges with old Count Flemming and his clever fashionable Madam,—the diligent but unsuccessful Flemming, a courtier of the highest civility, though iracund, and "with a passion for making Treaties," whom we know since Charles XII.'s time.
Amongst the round of splendors now set on foot, Friedrich Wilhelm had, by accident of Nature, the spectacle of a house on fire,—rather a symbolic one in those parts,—afforded him, almost to start with. Deep in the first Saturday night, or rather about two in the morning of Sunday, Wackerbarth's grand house, kindling by negligence somewhere in the garrets, blazed up, irrepressible; and, with its endless upholsteries, with a fine library even, went all into flame: so that his Majesty, scarcely saving his CHATOULLE (box of preciosities), had to hurry out in undress;—over to Flemming's where his Son was; where they both continued thenceforth. This was the one touch of rough, amid so much of dulcet that occurred: no evil, this touch, almost rather otherwise, except to poor Wackerbarth, whose fine House lay wrecked by it.
The visit lasted till February 12th, four weeks and a day. Never was such thrice-magnificent Carnival amusements: illuminations, cannon-salvoings and fire-works; operas, comedies, redoubts, sow-baitings, fox and badger-baiting, reviewing, running at the ring:—dinners of never-imagined quality, this, as a daily item, needs no express mention.
To the young Soldier-Apprentice all this was, of course, in pleasant contrast with the Potsdam Guard-house; and Friedrich Wilhelm himself is understood to have liked at least the dinners, and the airy courteous ways, light table-wit and extreme good humor of the host. A successful visit; burns off like successful fire-works, piece after piece: and what more is to be said? Of all this nothing;—nor, if we could help it, of another little circumstance, not mentioned by the Newspapers or Fassmann, which constitutes the meaning of this Visit for us now. It is a matter difficult to handle in speech. An English Editor, chary of such topics, will let two witnesses speak, credible both, though not eye-witnesses; and leave it to the reader so. Babbling Pollnitz is the first witness; he deposes, after alluding to the sumptuous dinings and drinkings there:—
"One day the two Kings, after dinner, went in domino to the redoubt [RIDOTTO, what we now call ROUT or evening party]. August had a mind to take an opportunity, and try whether the reports of Friedrich Wilhelm's indifference to the fair sex were correct or not. To this end, he had had a young damsel (JUNGE PERSON) of extraordinary beauty introduced into some side-room; where they now entered. She was lying on a bed, in a loose gauzy undress; and though masked, showed so many charms to the eye that the imagination could not but judge very favorably of the rest. The King of Poland approached, in that gallant way of his, which had gained him such favor with women. He begged her to unmask; she at first affected reluctance, and would not. He then told her who he was; and said, He hoped she would not refuse, when two Kings begged her to show them this complaisance. She thereupon took off her mask, and showed them one of the loveliest faces in the world. August seemed quite enchanted; and said, as if it had been the first time he ever saw her, He could not comprehend how so bewitching a beauty had hitherto remained unknown to him.
"Friedrich Wilhelm could not help looking at her. He said to the King of Poland, 'She is very beautiful, it must be owned;'—but at the same instant turned his eyes away from her; and left the room, and the ridotto altogether without delay; went home, and shut himself in his room. He then sent for Herr von Grumkow, and bitterly complained that the King of Poland wanted to tempt him. Herr von Grumkow, who was neither so chaste nor so conscientious as the King, was for making a jest of the matter; but the King took a very serious tone; and commanded him to tell the King of Poland in his name, 'That he begged him very much not to expose him again to accidents of that nature, unless he wished to have him quit Dresden at once.' Herr von Grumkow did his message. The King of Poland laughed heartily at it; went straight to Friedrich Wilhelm, and excused himself. The King of Prussia, however, kept his grim look; so that August ceased joking, and turned the dialogue on some other subject." [Pollnitz, ii. 256.]
This is Pollnitz's testimony, gathered from the whispers of the Tabagie, or rumors in the Court-circles, and may be taken as indisputable in the main. Wilhelmina, deriving from similar sources, and equally uncertain in details, paints more artistically; nor has she forgotten the sequel for her Brother, which at present is the essential circumstance:—
"One evening, when the rites of Bacchus had been well attended to, the King of Poland led the King [my Father], strolling about, by degrees, into a room very richly ornamented, all the furniture and arrangements of which were in a quite exquisite taste. The King, charmed with what he saw, paused to contemplate the beauties of it a little; when, all on a sudden, a curtain rose, and displayed to him one of the most extraordinary sights. It was a girl in the condition of our First Parents, carelessly lying on a bed. This creature was more beautiful than they paint Venus and the Graces; she presented to view a form of ivory whiter than snow, and more gracefully shaped than the Venus de' Medici at Florence. The cabinet which contained this treasure was lighted by so many wax-candles that their brilliancy dazzled you, and gave a new splendor to the beauties of the goddess.
"The Authors of this fine comedy did not doubt but the object would make an impression on the King's heart; but it was quite otherwise. No sooner had he cast his eyes on the beauty than he whirled round with indignation; and seeing my Brother behind him, he pushed him roughly out of the room, and immediately quitted it himself; very angry at the scene they had been giving him, He spoke of it, that same evening, to Grumkow, in very strong terms; and declared with emphasis that if the like frolics were tried on him again, he would at once quit Dresden.
"With my Brother it was otherwise. In spite of the King's care, he had got a full view of that Cabinet Venus; and the sight of her did not inspire in him so much horror as in his father." [Wilhelmina, i. 112.]—Very likely not!—And in fact, "he obtained her from the King of Poland, in a rather singular way (d'une facon assez singuliere)"—describable, in condensed terms, as follows:—
Wilhelmina says, her poor Brother had been already charmed over head and ears by a gay young baggage of a Countess Orzelska; a very high and airy Countess there; whose history is not to be touched, except upon compulsion, and as if with a pair of tongs,—thrice famous as she once was in this Saxon Court of Beelzebub. She was King August's natural daughter; a French milliner in Warsaw had produced her for him there. In due time, a male of the three hundred and fifty-four, one Rutowski, soldier by profession, whom we shall again hear of, took her for mistress; regardless of natural half-sisterhood, which perhaps he did not know of. The admiring Rutowski, being of a participative turn, introduced her, after a while, to his honored parent and hers; by whom next—Heavens, human language is unequal to the history of such things! And it is in this capacity she now shines supreme in the Saxon Court; ogling poor young Fritz, and driving him distracted;—which phenomenon the Beelzebub Parent-Lover noticed with pain and jealousy, it would appear.
"His Polish Majesty distinguished her extremely," says Pollnitz, [Memoires, ii.261.] "and was continually visiting her; so that the universal inference was"—to the above unspeakable effect. "She was of fine figure; had something grand in her air and carriage, and the prettiest humor in the world. She often appeared in men's clothes, which became her very well. People said she was extremely open-handed;" as indeed the Beelzebub Parent-Lover was of the like quality (when he had cash about him), and to her, at this time, he was profuse beyond limit. Truly a tempting aspect of the Devil, this expensive Orzelska: something beautiful in her, if there are no Laws in this Universe; not so beautiful, if there are! Enough to turn the head of a poor Crown-Prince, if she like, for some time. He is just sixteen gone; one of the prettiest lads and sprightliest; his homage, clearly enough, is not disagreeable to the baggage. Wherefore jealous August, the Beelzebub-Parent, takes his measures; signifies to Fritz, in direct terms, or by discreet diplomatic hints and innuendoes, That he can have the Cabinet Venus (Formera her name, of Opera-singer kind);—hoping thereby that the Orzelska will be left alone in time coming. A "facon assez singuliere" for a Sovereign Majesty and Beelzebub Parent-Lover, thinks Wilhelmina.
Thus has our poor Fritz fallen into the wake of Beelzebub; and is not in a good way. Under such and no better guidance, in this illicit premature manner, he gets his introduction to the paradise of the world. The Formera, beautiful as painted Chaos; yes, her;—and why not, after a while, the Orzelska too, all the same? A wonderful Armida-Garden, sure enough. And cannot one adore the painted divine beauties there (lovely as certain apples of the Dead Sea), for some time?—The miseries all this brought into his existence,—into his relations with a Father very rigorous in principle, and with a Universe still more so,—for years to come, were neither few nor small. And that is the main outcome of the Dresden visitings for him and us.—
Great pledges pass between the two Kings; Prussian Crown-Prince decorated with the Order of the Saxon Eagle, or what supreme distinction they had: Rutowski taken over to Berlin to learn war and drill, where he did not remain long: in fact a certain liking seems to have risen between the two heteroclite individualities, which is perhaps worth remembering as a point in natural history, if not otherwise. One other small result of the visit is of pictorial nature. In the famed Dresden Gallery there is still a Picture, high up, visible if you have glasses, where the Saxon Court-Painter, on Friedrich Wilhelm's bidding it is said, soon after these auspicious occurrences, represents the two Majesties as large as life, in their respective costumes and features (short Potsdam Grenadier-Colonel and tall Saxon Darius or Sardanapalus), in the act of shaking hands; symbolically burying past grudges, and swearing eternal friendship, so to speak. [Forster, i. 226.] To this Editor the Picture did not seem good for much; but Friedrich Wilhelm's Portrait in it, none of the best, may be of use to travelling friends of his who have no other.
The visit ended on the 12th of February, as the Newspapers testify. Long before daybreak, at three in the morning, Friedrich Wilhelm, "who had smoked after dinner till nine the night before," and taken leave of everybody, was on the road; but was astonished to find King August and the Electoral Prince or Heir-Apparent (who had privately sat up for the purpose) insist on conducting him to his carriage. [Boyer, xxxv. 198.] "Great tokens of affection," known to the Newspapers, there were; and one token not yet known, a promise on King August's part that he would return this ever-memorable compliment in person at Potsdam and Berlin in a few months. Remember, then!—
As for the poor Crown-Prince, whom already his Father did not like, he now fell into circumstances more abstruse than ever in that and other respects. Bad health, a dangerous lingering fit of that, soon after his return home, was one of the first consequences. Frequent fits of bad health, for some years coming; with ominous rumors, consultations of physicians, and reports to the paternal Majesty, which produced small comfort in that quarter. The sad truth, dimly indicated, is sufficiently visible: his life for the next four or five years was "extremely dissolute." Poor young man, he has got into a disastrous course; consorts chiefly with debauched young fellows, as Lieutenants Katte, Keith, and others of their stamp, who lead him on ways not pleasant to his Father, nor conformable to the Laws of this Universe. Health, either of body or of mind, is not to be looked for in his present way of life. The bright young soul, with its fine strengths and gifts; wallowing like a young rhinoceros in the mud-bath:—some say, it is wholesome for a human soul; not we!
All this is too certain; rising to its height in the years we are now got to, and not ending for four or five years to come: and the reader can conceive all this, and whether its effects were good or not. Friedrich Wilhelm's old-standing disfavor is converted into open aversion and protest, many times into fits of sorrow, rage and despair, on his luckless Son's behalf;—and it appears doubtful whether this bright young human soul, comparable for the present to a rhinoceros wallowing in the mud-bath, with nothing but its snout visible, and a dirty gurgle all the sound it makes, will ever get out again or not.
The rhinoceros soul got out; but not uninjured; alas, no; bitterly polluted, tragically dimmed of its finest radiances for the remainder of life. The distinguished Sauerteig, in his SPRINGWURZELN, has these words: "To burn away, in mad waste, the divine aromas and plainly celestial elements from our existence; to change our holy-of-holies into a place of riot; to make the soul itself hard, impious, barren! Surely a day is coming, when it will be known again what virtue is in purity and continence of life; how divine is the blush of young human cheeks; how high, beneficent, sternly inexorable if forgotten, is the duty laid, not on women only, but on every creature, in regard to these particulars? Well; if such a day never come again, then I perceive much else will never come. Magnanimity and depth of insight will never come; heroic purity of heart and of eye; noble pious valor, to amend us and the age of bronze and lacquer, how can they ever come? The scandalous bronze-lacquer age, of hungry animalisms, spiritual impotencies and mendacities, will have to run its course, till the Pit swallow it."—
In the case of Friedrich, it is certain such a day never fully came. The "age of bronze and lacquer," so as it then stood,—relieved truly by a backbone of real Spartan IRON (of right battle STEEL when needed): this was all the world he ever got to dream of. His ideal, compared to that of some, was but low; his existence a hard and barren, though a genuine one, and only worth much memory in the absence of better. Enough of all that.
THE PHYSICALLY STRONG PAYS HIS COUNTER-VISIT.
August the Strong paid his Return-visit in May following. Of which sublime transaction, stupendous as it then was to the Journalistic mind, we should now make no mention, except for its connection with those points,—and more especially for a foolish rumor, which now rose about Prince Fred and the Double-Marriage, on occasion of it. The magnificence of this visit and reception being so extreme,—King August, for one item, sailing to it, with sound of trumpet and hautbois, in silken flotillas gayer than Cleopatra's, down the Elbe,—there was a rush towards Berlin of what we will not call the scum, but must call the foam of mankind, rush of the idle moneyed populations from all countries; and such a crowd there, for the three weeks, as was seldom seen. Foam everywhere is stirred up, and encouraged to get under way.
Prince Frederick of Hanover and England, "Duke of Edinburgh" as they now call him, "Duke of Gloucester" no longer, it would seem, nor "Prince of Wales" as yet; he, foamy as another, had thoughts of coming; and rumor of him rose very high in Berlin,—how high we have still singular proof. Here is a myth, generated in the busy Court-Imagination of Berlin at this time; written down by Pollnitz as plain fact afterwards; and from him idly copied into COXE [Coxe's Walpole (London, 1798), i. 520.] and other English Books. We abridge from watery Pollnitz, taking care of any sense he has. This is what ran in certain high-frizzled heads then and there: and was dealt out in whispers to a privileged few, watery Pollnitz's informers among them, till they got a myth made of it. Frederick Duke of Edinburgh, second hope of England at this time, he is the hero.
It appears, this loose young gentleman, standing in no favor with his sovereign Father, had never yet been across to England, the royal Parent preferring rather not to have him in sight; and was living idle at Hanover; very eager to be wedded to Wilhelmina, as one grand and at present grandest resource of his existence. It is now May, 1728; and Frederick Duke of Edinburgh is twenty-one. He writes to his Aunt and intended Mother-in-law, Queen Sophie (date not ascertainable to a day, Note burnt as soon as read): "That he can endure this tantalizing suspense no longer; such endless higgling about a supreme blessedness, virtually agreed upon, may be sport to others, but is death to him. That he will come privately at once, and wed his Wilhelmina; and so make an end; the big-wigs to adjust it afterwards as they can and may." Whereupon Sophie Dorothee, gladdest of women, sends for Dubourgay the British Ambassador (Brigadier Dubourgay, the respectable old gentleman who spells ill, who is strong for the Double-Marriage always), to tell him what fine news there is, and what answer she has sent. Respectable Dubourgay stands silent, with lengthening face: "Your Majesty, how unfortunate that I of all men now hear it! I must instantly despatch a courier with the news to London!" And the respectable man, stoically deaf to her Majesty's entreaties, to all considerations but that of his evident duty, "sends the courier" (thinks Pollnitz);—nips thereby that fine Hanover speculation in the bud, sees Prince Fred at once summoned over to England, and produces several effects. Nearly the whole of which, on examining the Documents, [Dubourgay's Despatches (1728: 29 May, 1 June, 5 October), in the State-Paper Office here.] proves to be myth.
Pollnitz himself adds two circumstances, in regard to it, which are pretty impossible: as, first, that Friedrich Wilhelm had joyfully consented to this clandestine marriage, and was eagerly waiting for it; second, that George II. too had privately favored or even instigated the adventure, being at heart willing to escape the trouble of Messages to Parliament, to put his Son in the wrong, and I know not what. [Pollnitz, ii. 272-274.] The particles of fact in the affair are likewise two: First, that Queen Sophie, and from her the Courtier Public generally, expected the Hanover Royal Highness, who probably had real thoughts of seeing Berlin and his Intended, on this occasion; Dubourgay reports daily rumors of the Royal Highness being actually "seen" there in an evanescent manner; and Wilhelmina says, her Mother was so certain of him, "she took every ass or mule for the Royal Highness,"—heartily indifferent to Wilhelmina. This is the first particle of fact. The Second is, that a subaltern Official about the Royal Highness, one Lamothe of Hanover, who had appeared in Berlin about that time, was thrown into prison not long after, for what misbehavior none knew,—for encouraging dissolute Royal Highness in wild schemes, it was guessed. And so the Myth grew, and was found ready for Pollnitz and his followers. Royal Highness did come over to England; not then as the Myth bears, but nine months afterwards in December next; and found other means of irritating his imperative, flighty, irascible and rather foolish little Father, in an ever-increasing degree. "Very coldly received at Court," it is said: ill seen by Walpole and the Powers; being too likely to become a focus of Opposition there.
The Visit, meanwhile, though there came no Duke of Edinburgh to see it, was sublime in the extreme; Polish Majesty being magnificence itself; and the frugal Friedrich Wilhelm lighting up his dim Court into insurpassable brilliancy, regardless of expense; so that even the Smoking Parliament (where August attended now and then) became luminous. The Crown-Prince, who in late months had languished in a state of miserable health, in a manner ominous to his physicians, confined mostly to his room or his bed, was now happily on foot again;—and Wilhelmina notes one circumstance which much contributed to his recovery: That the fair Orzelska had attended her natural (or unnatural) Parent, on this occasion; and seemed to be, as Wilhelmina thinks, uncommonly kind to the Crown-Prince. The Heir-Apparent of Saxony, a taciturn, inoffensive, rather opaque-looking gentleman, now turned of thirty, and gone over to Papistry long since, with views to be King of Poland by and by, which proved effectual as we shall find, was also here: Count Bruhl, too, still in a very subaltern capacity, and others whom we and the Crown-Prince shall have to know. The Heir-Apparent's Wife (actual Kaiser's Niece, late Kaiser Joseph's Daughter, a severe Austrian lady, haughtier than lovely) has stayed at home in Dresden.
But here, at first hand, is a slight view of that unique Polish Majesty, the Saxon Man of Sin; which the reader may be pleased to accept out of idle curiosity, if for no better reason. We abridge from Wilhelmina; [i. 124.] whom Fassmann, kindled to triple accuracy by this grand business, is at hand to correct where needful: [Des glorwurdigsten Fursten und Herrn, Herrn Friedrich Augusti des Grossen Leben und Helden-Thaten (Of that most glorious Prince and Lord, Lord Friedrich August the Great, King of Poland, &c., the Life and Heroic Deeds), by D. F. (David Fassmann), Frankfurt and Leipzig, 1734; 12mo, pp. 1040. A work written with upturned eyes of prostrate admiration for "DERO MAJESTAT ('Theiro' Majesty) AUGUST THE GREAT;" exact too, but dealing merely with the CLOTHES of the matter, and such a matter: work unreadable, except on compulsion, to the stupidest mortal. The same Fassmann, who was at the Fair of St. Germain, who lodged sometimes with the Potsdam Giant, and whose ways are all fallen dark to us.] "The King of Poland arrived upon us at Berlin on the 29th of May," says Wilhelmina; had been at Potsdam, under Friedrich Wilhelm's care, for three days past: Saturday afternoon, 29th May, 1728; that is with exactitude the ever-memorable date.
He paid his respects in her Majesty's apartment, for an instant, that evening; but made his formal visit next day. Very grand indeed. Carried by two shining parti-colored creatures, heyducs so-called, through double rows of mere peerages and sublimities, in a sublime sedan (being lame of a foot, foot lately amputated of two toes, sore still open): "in a sedan covered with red velvet gallooned with gold," says the devout Fassmann, tremblingly exact, "up the grand staircase along the grand Gallery;" in which supreme region (Apartments of the late King Friedrich of gorgeous memory) her Majesty now is for the occasion. "The Queen received him at the door of her third Antechamber," says Wilhelmina; third or outmost Antechamber, end of that grand Gallery and its peerages and shining creatures: "he gave the Queen his hand, and led her in." We Princesses were there, at least the grown ones of us were. All standing, except the Queen only. "He refused to sit, and again refused;" stoically talked graciosities, disregarding the pain of his foot; and did not, till refusal threatened to become uncivil, comply with her Majesty's entreaties. "How unpolite!" smiled he to us young ones. "He had a majestic port and physiognomy; an affable polite air accompanied all his movements, all his actions." Kind of stereotyped smile on his face; nothing of the inner gloom visible on our Charles II. and similar men of sin. He looked often at Wilhelmina, and was complimentary to a degree,—for reasons undivinable to Wilhelmina. For the rest, "much broken for his age;" the terrible debaucheries (LES DEBAUCHES TERRIBLES) having had their effect on him. He has fallen Widower last year. His poor Wife was a Brandenburg-Baireuth Princess; a devout kind of woman; austerely witnessing the irremediable in her lot. He has got far on with his three hundred and fifty-four; is now going fifty-five;—lame of a foot, as we see, which the great Petit of Paris cannot cure, neither he nor any Surgeon, but can only alleviate by cutting off two toes. Pink of politeness, no doubt of it; but otherwise the strangest dilapidated hulk of a two-legged animal without feathers; probably, in fact, the chief Natural Solecism under the Sun at that epoch;—extremely complimentary to us Princesses, to me especially. "He quitted her Majesty's Apartment after an hour's conversation: she rose to reconduct him, but he would by no manner of means permit that,"—and so vanished, carried off doubtless by the shining creatures again. The "Electoral Prince" Heir-Apparent, next made his visit; but he was a dry subject in comparison, of whom no Princess can say much. Prince Friedrich will know him better by and by.
Young Maurice, "Count of Saxony," famed afterwards as MARECHAL DE SAXE, he also is here with his Half-Sister Orzelska and the others, in the train of the paternal Man of Sin; and makes acquaintance with Friedrich. He is son of the female Konigsmark called Aurora ("who alone of mortals could make Charles Twelfth fly his ground"); nephew, therefore, of the male Konigsmark who was cut down long ago at Hanover, and buried in the fireplace. He resembles his Father in strength, vivacity, above all things in debauchery, and disregard of finance. They married him at the due years to some poor rich woman; but with her he has already ended; with her and with many others. Courland, Adrienne Lecouvreur, Anne Iwanowna with the big cheek:—the reader has perhaps searched out these things for himself from the dull History-Books;—or perhaps it was better for him if he never sought them? Dukedom of Courland, connected with Polish sovereignty, and now about to fall vacant, was one of Count Maurice's grand sallies in the world. Adrienne Lecouvreur, foolish French Actress, lent him all the 30,000 pounds she had gathered by holding the mirror up to Nature and otherwise, to prosecute this Courland business; which proved impossible for him. He was adventurous enough, audacious enough; fought well; but the problem was, To fall in love with the Dowager Anne Iwanowna, Cousin of Czar Peter II.; big brazen Russian woman (such a cheek the Pictures give her, in size and somewhat in expression like a Westphalia ham!), who was Widow of the last active Duke:—and this, with all his adventurous audacity, Count Maurice could not do. The big Widow discovered that he did not like Westphalia hams in that particular form; that he only pretended to like them; upon which, in just indignation, she disowned and dismissed him; and falling herself to be Czarina not long afterwards, and taking Bieren the Courlander for her beloved, she made Bieren Duke, and Courland became impossible for Count Maurice.
However, he too is a dashing young fellow; "circular black eyebrows, eyes glittering bright, partly with animal vivacity, partly with spiritual;" stands six feet in his stockings, breaks horse-shoes with his hands; full of irregular ingenuity and audacity; has been soldiering about, ever since birth almost; and understands many a thing, though the worst SPELLER ever known. With him too young Fritz is much charmed: the flower, he, of the illegitimate three hundred and fifty-four, and probably the chief achievement of the Saxon Man of Sin in this world, where he took such trouble. Friedrich and he maintained some occasional correspondence afterwards; but, to judge by Friedrich's part of it (mere polite congratulations on Fontenoy, and the like), it must have been of the last vacuity; and to us it is now absolute zero, however clearly spelt and printed. [Given altogether in OEuvres de Frederic le Grand, xvii. 300-309. See farther, whoever has curiosity, Preuss, Friedrichs Lebensgeschichte, iii. 167-169; Espagnac, Vie du Comte de Saxe (a good little military Book, done into German, Leipzig, 1774, 2 vols.); Cramer, Denkwurdigkeiten der Grafin Aurora von Konigsmark (Leipzig, 1836); &c. &c.]
The Physically Strong, in some three weeks, after kindling such an effulgence about Berlin as was never seen before or since in Friedrich Wilhelm's reign, went his way again,—"towards Poland for the Diet," or none of us cares whither or for what. Here at Berlin he has been sublime enough. Some of the phenomena surpassed anything Wilhelmina ever saw: such floods and rows of resplendent people crowding in to dinner; and she could not but contrast the splendor of the Polish retinues and their plumages and draperies, with the strait-buttoned Prussian dignitaries, all in mere soldier uniform, succinct "blue coat, white linen gaiters," and no superfluity even in the epaulettes and red facings. At table, she says, they drank much, talked little, and bored one another a great deal (S'ENNUYOIENT BEAUCOUP).
OF PRINCESS WHILHELMINA'S FOUR KINGS AND OTHER INEFFECTUAL SUITORS.
Dilapidated Polish Majesty, we observed, was extremely attentive to Wilhelmina; nor could she ascertain, for long after, what the particular reason was. Long after, Wilhelmina ascertained that there had been the wonderfulest scheme concocting, or as good as concocted, in these swearings of eternal friendship: no other than that of marrying her, Wilhelmina, now a slim maiden coming nineteen, to this dilapidated Saxon Man of Sin going (or limping) fifty-five, and broken by DEBAUCHES TERRIBLES (rivers of champagne and tokay, for one item), who had fallen a Widower last year! They had schemed it all out, Wilhelmina understands: Friedrich Wilhelm to advance such and such moneys as dowry, and others furthermore as loan, for the occasions of his Polish Majesty, which are manifold; Wilhelmina to have The Lausitz (LUSATIA) for jointure, Lausitz to be Friedrich Wilhelm's pledge withal; and other intricate conditions; [Wilhelmina, i. 114.] what would Wilhelmina have thought? One shudders to contemplate;—hopes it might mostly be loose brain-web and courtier speculation, never settled towards fact.
It is certain, the dilapidated Polish Majesty having become a Widower, questions would rise, Will not he marry again? And with whom? Certain also, he wants Friedrich Wilhelm's alliance; having great schemes on the anvil, which are like to be delicate and perilous,—schemes of "partitioning Poland," no less; that is to say, cutting off the outskirts of Poland, flinging them to neighboring Sovereigns as propitiation, or price of good-will, and rendering the rest hereditary in his family. Pragmatic Sanction once acceded to, would probably propitiate the Kaiser? For which, and other reasons, Polish Majesty still keeps that card in his hand. Friedrich Wilhelm's alliance, with such an army and such a treasury, the uses of that are evident to the Polish Majesty.—By the blessing of Heaven, however, his marriage with Wilhelmina never came to anything: his Electoral Prince, Heir-Apparent, objected to the jointures and alienations, softly, steadily; and the project had to drop before Wilhelmina ever knew of it.
And this man is probably one of the "Four Kings" she was to be asked by? A Swedish Officer, with some skill in palmistry, many years ago, looked into her innocent little hand, and prophesied, "She was to be in terms of courtship, engagement or as good as engagement, with Four Kings, and to wed none of them." Wilhelmina counts them in her mature days. The FIRST will surprise everybody,—Charles XII. of Sweden;—who never can have been much of a suitor, the rather as the young Lady was then only six gone; but who, might, like enough, be talked of, by transient third-parties, in those old Stralsund times. The SECOND,—cannot WE guess who the second is? The THIRD is this August the dilapidated Strong. As to the SECOND, Wilhelmina sees already, in credulous moments, that it may be Hanover Fred, whom she will never marry either;—and does not see (nor did, at the time of writing her Memoires, "in 1744" say the Books) that Fred never would come to Kingship, and that the Palmistry was incomplete in that point. The FOURTH, again, is clearly young Czar Peter II.; of whom there was transient talk or project, some short time after this of the dilapidated THIRD. But that too came to nothing; the poor young lad died while only fifteen; nay he had already "fallen in love with his Aunt Elizabeth" (INFAME CATIN DU NORD in time coming), and given up the Prussian prospect. [He was the Great Peter's Grandson (Son having gone a tragical road )]; Czar, May, 1727—January, 1730: Anne Iwanowna (Great Peter's Niece, elder Brother's Daughter), our Courland friend with the big cheek, succeeded; till her death, October, 1740: then, after some slight shock of revolution, the Elizabeth just mentioned, who was Daughter of the Great Peter by his little brown Czarina Catherine whom we once met. See Mannstein, Memoirs of Russia (London, 1770), pp. 1-23, for some account of Peter II.; and the rest of the Volume for a really intelligent History of this Anne, at least of her Wars, where Mannstein himself usually had part.
All which would be nothing, or almost less, to Wilhelmina, walking fancy-free there,—were it not for Papa and Mamma, and the importunate insidious by-standers. Who do make a thing of it, first and last! Never in any romance or stage-play was young Lady, without blame, without furtherance and without hindrance of her own, so tormented about a settlement in life;—passive she, all the while, mere clay in the hands of the potter; and begging the Universe to have the extreme goodness only to leave her alone!—
Thus too, among the train of King August in this Berlin visit, a certain Soldier Official of his, Duke of Sachsen Weissenfels, Johann Adolf by name, a poor Cadet Cousin of the Saxon House,—another elderly Royal Highness of small possibility,—was particularly attentive to Wilhelmina; now and on subsequent occasions. Titular Duke of Weissenfels, Brother of the real Duke, and not even sure of the succession as yet; but living on King August's pay; not without capacity of drink and the like, some allege:—otherwise a mere betitled, betasselled elderly military gentleman, of no special qualities, evil or good;—who will often turn up again in this History; but fails always to make any impression on us except that of a Serene Highness in the abstract; unexceptionable Human Mask, of polite turn, behung with titles, and no doubt a stomach in the inside of it: he now, and afterwards, by all opportunities, diligently continued his attentions in the Wilhelmina quarter. For a good while it was never guessed what he could be driving at; till at last Queen Sophie, becoming aware of it, took him to task; with cold severity, reminded him that some things are on one's level, and some things not. To which humbly bowing, in unfeigned penitence, he retired from the audacity, back foremost: Would never even in dreams have presumed, had not his Prussian Majesty authorized; would now, since HER Prussian Majesty had that feeling, withdraw silently, and live forgotten, as an obscure Royal Highness in the abstract (though fallen Widower lately) ought to do. And so at least there was an end of that matter, one might hope,—though in effect it still abortively started up now and then, on Papa's part, in his frantic humors, for years to come.
Then there is the Margraf of Schwedt, Friedrich Wilhelm by name, chief Prince of the Blood, his Majesty's Cousin, and the Old Dessauer's Nephew; none of the likeliest of men, intrinsically taken: he and his Dowager Mother—the Dessauer's Sister, a high-going, tacitly obstinate old Dowager (who dresses, if I recollect, in flagrant colors)—are very troublesome to Wilhelmina. The flagrant Dame—she might have been "Queen-Mother" once forsooth, had Papa and my Brother but been made away with!—watches her time, and is diligent by all opportunities.
Chapter IV. — DOUBLE-MARRIAGE PROJECT IS NOT DEAD.
And the Double-Marriage, in such circumstances, are we to consider it as dead, then? In the soul of Queen Sophie and those she can influence, it lives flame-bright; but with all others it has fallen into a very dim state. Friedrich Wilhelm is still privately willing, perhaps in a degree wishful; but the delays, the supercilious neglects have much disgusted him; and he, in the mean while, entertains those new speculations. George II., never a lover of the Prussian Majesty's nor loved by him, has been very high and distant ever since his Accession; offensive rather than otherwise. He also is understood to be vaguely willing for the thing; willing enough, would it be so kind as accomplish itself without trouble to him. But the settlements, the applications to Parliament:—and all for this perverse Fred, who has become unlovely, and irritates our royal mind? George pushes the matter into its pigeon-holes again, when brought before him. Higher thoughts occupy the soul of little George. Congress of Soissons, Convention of the Pardo, [Or, in effect, "Treaty of Madrid," 6th March, 1728. This was the PREFACE to Soissons; Termagant at length consenting there, "at her Palace of the Pardo" (Kaiser and all the world urging her for ten months past), to accept the Peace, and leave off besieging Gibraltar to no purpose (Coxe, i. 303).] Treaty of Seville; a part to be acted on the world-theatre, with applauses, with envies, almost from the very demi-gods? Great Kaisers, overshadowing Nature with their Pragmatic Sanctions, their preternatural Diplomacies, and making the Terrestrial Balance reel hither and thither;—Kaisers to be clenched perhaps by one's dexterity of grasp, and the Balance steadied again? Prussian Double-Marriage!
One royal soul there is who never will consent to have the Double-Marriage die: Queen Sophie. She had passed her own private act-of-parliament for it; she was a very obstinate wife, to a husband equally obstinate. "JE BOULEVERSERAI L'EMPIRE," writes she once; "I will overturn the German Empire," if they drive me to it, in this matter. [Letter copied by Dubourgay (in Despatch, marked PRIVATE, to Lord Townshend, 3d-14th May, 1729); no clear address given,—probably to Dubourgay himself, CONVEYED by "a Lady" (one of the Queen's Ladies), as he dimly intimates.] What secret manoeuvring and endeavoring went on unweariedly on royal Sophie's part, we need not say; nor in what bad element, of darkness and mendacity, of eavesdropping, rumoring, backstairs intriguing, the affair now moved. She corresponds on it with Queen Caroline of England; she keeps her two children true to it, especially her Son, the more important of them.
CROWN-PRINCE FRIEDRICH WRITES CERTAIN LETTERS.
Queen Sophie did not overturn the Empire, but she did almost overturn her own and her family's existence, by these courses; which were not wise in her case. It is certain she persuaded Crown-Prince Friedrich, who was always his Mother's boy, and who perhaps needed little bidding in this instance, "to write to Queen Caroline of England;" Letters one or several: thrice-dangerous Letters; setting forth (in substance), His deathless affection to that Beauty of the world, her Majesty's divine Daughter the Princess Amelia (a very paragon of young women, to judge by her picture and one's own imagination); and likewise the firm resolution he, Friedrich Crown-Prince, has formed, and the vow he hereby makes, Either to wed that celestial creature when permitted, or else never any of the Daughters of Eve in this world. Congresses of Soissons, Smoking Parliaments, Preliminaries of the Pardo and Treaties of Seville may go how they can. If well, it shall be well: if not well, here is my vow, solemn promise and unchangeable determination, which your gracious Majesty is humbly entreated to lay up in the tablets of your royal heart, and to remember on my behalf, should bad days arise!—
It is clear such Letters were sent; at what date first beginning, we do not know;—possibly before this date? Nor would matters rise to the vowing pitch all at once. One Letter, supremely dangerous should it come to be known, Wilhelmina has copied for us, [Wilhelmina, i. 183.]—in Official style (for it is the Mother's composition this one) and without date to it:—the guessable date is about two years hence; and we will give the poor Document farther on, if there be place for it.
Such particulars are yet deeply unknown to Friedrich Wilhelm; but he surmises the general drift of things in that quarter; and how a disobedient Son, crossing his Father's will in every point, abets his Mother's disobedience, itself audacious enough, in regard to this one. It is a fearful aggravation of Friedrich Wilhelm's ill-humor with such a Son, which has long been upon the growing hand. His dislikes, we know, were otherwise neither few nor small. Mere "disLIKES" properly so called, or dissimilarities to Friedrich Wilhelm, a good many of them; dissimilarities also to a Higher Pattern, some! But these troubles of the Double-Marriage will now hurry them, the just and the unjust of them, towards the flaming pitch. The poor youth has a bad time; and the poor Father too, whose humor we know! Surly gusts of indignation, not unfrequently cuffs and strokes; or still worse, a settled aversion, and rage of the chronic kind; studied neglect and contempt,—so as not even to help him at table, but leave him fasting while the others eat; [Dubourgay, SCAPIUS.] this the young man has to bear. The innumerable maltreatments, authentically chronicled in Wilhelmina's and the other Books, though in a dateless, unintelligible manner, would make a tragic sum!—Here are two Billets, copied from the Prussian State-Archives, which will show us to what height matters had gone, in this the young man's seventeenth year.
TO HIS MAJESTY (from the Crown-Prince).
"WUSTERHAUSEN, 11th September, 1728.
MY DEAR PAPA,—I have not, for a long while, presumed to come to my dear Papa; partly because he forbade me; but chiefly because I had reason to expect a still worse reception than usual: and, for fear of angering my dear Papa by my present request, I have preferred making it in writing to him.
I therefore beg my dear Papa to be gracious to me; and can here say that, after long reflection, my conscience has not accused me of any the least thing with which I could reproach myself. But if I have, against my will and knowledge, done anything that has angered my dear Papa, I herewith most submissively beg forgiveness; and hope my dear Papa will lay aside that cruel hatred which I cannot but notice in all his treatment of me. I could not otherwise suit myself to it; as I always thought I had a gracious Papa, and now have to see the contrary. I take confidence, then, and hope that my dear Papa will consider all this, and again be gracious to me. And, in the mean while, I assure him that I will never, all my days, fail with my will; and, notwithstanding his disfavor to me, remain
"My dear Papa's
"Most faithful and obedient Servant and Son,
To which Friedrich Wilhelm, by return of messenger, writes what follows. Very implacable, we may perceive;—not calling his Petitioner "Thou," as kind Paternity might have dictated; infinitely less by the polite title "They (SIE)," which latter indeed, the distinguished title of "SIC," his Prussian Majesty, we can remark, reserves for Foreigners of the supremest quality, and domestic Princes of the Blood; naming all other Prussian subjects, and poor Fritz in this place, "He (ER)," in the style of a gentleman to his valet,—which style even a valet of these new days of ours would be unwilling to put up with. "ER, He," "His" and the other derivatives sound loftily repulsive in the German ear; and lay open impassable gulfs between the Speaker and the Spoken-to. "His obstinate"—But we must, after all, say THY and THOU for intelligibility's sake:—
"Thy obstinate perverse disposition [KOPF, head], which does not love thy Father,—for when one does everything [everything commanded] and really loves one's Father, one does what the Father requires, not while he is there to see it, but when his back is turned too [His Majesty's style is very abstruse, ill-spelt, intricate, and in this instance trips itself, and falls on its face here, a mere intricate nominative without a verb!]—For the rest, thou know'st very well that I can endure no effeminate fellow (EFEMINIRTEN KERL), who has no human inclination in him; who puts himself to shame, cannot ride nor shoot; and withal is dirty in his person; frizzles his hair like a fool, and does not cut it off. And all this I have, a thousand times, reprimanded; but all in vain, and no improvement in nothing (KEINE BESSERUNG IN NITS IST). For the rest, haughty, proud as a churl; speaks to nobody but some few, and is not popular and affable; and cuts grimaces with his face, as if he were a fool; and does my will in nothing unless held to it by force; nothing out of love;—and has pleasure in nothing but following his own whims [own KOPF],—no use to him in anything else. This is the answer.
[Preuss, i. 27; from Cramer, pp. 33, 34.]
DOUBLE-MARRIAGE PROJECT RE-EMERGES IN AN OFFICIAL SHAPE.
These are not favorable outlooks for the Double-Marriage. Nevertheless it comes and goes; and within three weeks later, we are touched almost with a kind of pity to see it definitely emerging in a kind of Official state once more. For the question is symbolical of important political questions. The question means withal, What is to be done in these dreadful Congress-of-Soissons complexities, and mad reelings of the Terrestrial Balance? Shall we hold by a dubious and rather losing Kaiser of this kind, in spite of his dubieties, his highly inexplicit, procedures (for which he may have reasons) about the Promise of Julich and Berg? Or shall we not clutch at England, after all,—and perhaps bring him to terms? The Smoking Parliament had no Hansard; but, we guess its Debates (mostly done in dumb-show) were cloudy, abstruse and abundant, at this time! The Prussian Ministers, if they had any power, take different sides; old Ilgen, the oldest and ablest of them, is strong for England.
Enough, in the beginning of October, Queen Sophie, "by express desire of his Majesty," who will have explicit, Yes or No on that matter, writes to England, a Letter "PRIVATE AND OFFICIAL," of such purport,—Letter (now invisible) which Dubourgay is proud to transmit. [Despatch, 5th October, 1728, in State-Paper Office.] Dubourgay is proud; and old Ilgen, her Majesty informed me on the morrow, "wept for joy," so zealous was he on that side. Poor old gentleman,—respectable rusty old Iron Safe with seven locks, which nobody would now care to pick,—he died few weeks after, at his post as was proper; and saw no Double-Marriage, after all. But Dubourgay shakes out his feathers; the Double-Marriage being again evidently alive.
For England answers, cordially enough, if not, with all the hurry Friedrich Wilhelm wanted, "Yea, we are willing for the thing;"—and meets, with great equanimity and liberality, the new whims, difficulties and misgivings, which arose on Friedrich Wilhelm's part, at a wearisome rate, as the negotiation went on; and which are always frankly smoothed away again by the cooler party. Why did not the bargain close, then? Alas, one finds, the answer YEA had unfortunately set his Prussian Majesty on viewing, through magnifiers, what advantages there might have been in NO: this is a difficulty there is no clearing away! Probably, too, the Tobacco-Parliament was industrious. Friedrich Wilhelm, at last, tries if Half will not do; anxious, as we all too much are, "to say Yes AND No;" being in great straits, poor man:—"Your Prince of Wales to wed Wilhelmina at once; the other Match to stand over?" To which the English Government answers always briefly, "No; both the Marriages or none!"—Will the reader consent to a few compressed glances into the extinct Dubourgay Correspondence; much compressed, and here and there a rushlight stuck in it, for his behoof. Dubourgay, at Berlin, writes; my Lord Townshend, in St. James's reads, usually rather languid in answering:—
BERLIN, 9th NOVEMBER, 1728. "Prussian Majesty much pleased with English Answers" to the Yes-or-No question: "will send a Minister to our Court about the time his Britannic Majesty may think of coming over to his German Dominions. Would Finkenstein (Head Tutor), or would Knyphausen (distinguished Official here), be the agreeable man?" "Either," answer the English; "either is good."
BERLIN, SAME DATE. "Queen sent for me just now; is highly content with the state of things. 'I have now,' said her Majesty, 'the pleasure to tell you that I am free, God be blessed, of all the anguish I have labored under for some time past, which was so great that I have several times been on the point of sending for you to procure my Brother's protection for my Son, who, I thought, ran the greatest danger from the artifices of Seckendorf and'"—Poor Queen!