HISTORY OF FRIEDRICH II. OF PRUSSIA
FREDERICK THE GREAT
By Thomas Carlyle
BOOK XVI.—THE TEN YEARS OF PEACE.—1746-1756.
Friedrich has now climbed the heights, and sees himself on the upper table-land of Victory and Success; his desperate life-and-death struggles triumphantly ended. What may be ahead, nobody knows; but here is fair outlook that his enemies and Austria itself have had enough of him. No wringing of his Silesia from this "bad Man." Not to be overset, this one, by never such exertions; oversets US, on the contrary, plunges us heels-over-head into the ditch, so often as we like to apply to him; nothing but heavy beatings, disastrous breaking of crowns, to be had on trying there! "Five Victories!" as Voltaire keeps counting on his fingers, with upturned eyes,—Mollwitz, Chotusitz, Striegau, Sohr, Kesselsdorf (the last done by Anhalt; but omitting Hennersdorf, and that sudden slitting of the big Saxon-Austrian Projects into a cloud of feathers, as fine a feat as any),—"Five Victories!" counts Voltaire; calling on everybody (or everybody but Friedrich himself, who is easily sated with that kind of thing) to admire. In the world are many opinions about Friedrich. In Austria, for instance, what an opinion; sinister, gloomy in the extreme: or in England, which derives from Austria,—only with additional dimness, and with gloomy new provocations of its own before long! Many opinions about Friedrich, all dim enough: but this, that he is a very demon for fighting, and the stoutest King walking the Earth just now, may well be a universal one. A man better not be meddled with, if he will be at peace, as he professes to wish being.
Friedrich accordingly is not meddled with, or not openly meddled with; and has, for the Ten or Eleven Years coming, a time of perfect external Peace. He himself is decided "not to fight with a cat," if he can get the peace kept; and for about eight years hopes confidently that this, by good management, will continue possible;—till, in the last three years, electric symptoms did again disclose themselves, and such hope more and more died away. It is well known there lay in the fates a Third Silesian War for him, worse than both the others; which is now the main segment of his History still lying ahead for us, were this Halcyon Period done. Halcyon Period counts from Christmas-day, Dresden, 1745,—"from this day, Peace to the end of my life!" had been Friedrich's fond hope. But on the 9th day of September, 1756, Friedrich was again entering Dresden (Saxony some twelve days before); and the Crowning Struggle of his Life was, beyond all expectation, found to be still lying ahead for him, awfully dubious for Seven Years thereafter!—
Friedrich's History during this intervening Halcyon or Peace Period must, in some way, be made known to readers: but for a great many reasons, especially at present, it behooves to be given in compressed form; riddled down, to an immense extent, out of those sad Prussian Repositories, where the grain of perennial, of significant and still memorable, lies overwhelmed under rubbish-mountains of the fairly extinct, the poisonously dusty and forgettable;—ACH HIMMEL! Which indispensable preliminary process, how can an English Editor, at this time, do it; no Prussian, at any time, having thought of trying it! From a painful Predecessor of mine, I collect, rummaging among his dismal Paper-masses, the following Three Fragments, worth reading here:—
1. "Friedrich was as busy, in those Years, as in the generality of his life; and his actions, and salutary conquests over difficulties, were many, profitable to Prussia and to himself. Very well worth keeping in mind. But not fit for History; or at least only fit in the summary form; to be delineated in little, with large generic strokes,—if we had the means;—such details belonging to the Prussian Antiquary, rather than to the English Historian of Friedrich in our day. A happy Ten Years of time. Perhaps the time for Montesquieu's aphorism, 'Happy the People whose Annals are blank in History-Books!' The Prussian Antiquary, had he once got any image formed to himself of Friedrich, and of Friedrich's History in its human lineaments and organic sequences, will glean many memorabilia in those Years: which his readers then (and not till then) will be able to intercalate in their places, and get human good of. But alas, while there is no intelligible human image, nothing of lineaments or organic sequences, or other than a jumbled mass of Historical Marine-Stores, presided over by Dryasdust and Human Stupor (unsorted, unlabelled, tied up in blind sacks), the very Antiquary will have uphill work of it, and his readers will often turn round on him with a gloomy expression of countenance!"
2. "Friedrich's Life—little as he expected it, that day when he started up from his ague-fit at Reinsberg, and grasped the fiery Opportunity that was shooting past—is a Life of War. The chief memory that will remain of him is that of a King and man who fought consummately well. Not Peace and the Muses; no, that is denied him,—though he was so unwilling, always, to think it denied! But his Life-Task turned out to be a Battle for Silesia. It consists of Three grand Struggles of War. And not for Silesia only;—unconsciously, for what far greater things to his Nation and to him!
"Deeply unconscious of it, they were passing their 'Trials,' his Nation and he, in the great Civil-Service-Examination Hall of this Universe: 'Are you able to defend yourselves, then; and to hang together coherent, against the whole world and its incoherencies and rages?' A question which has to be asked of Nations, before they can be recognized as such, and be baptized into the general commonwealth; they are mere Hordes or accidental Aggregates, till that Question come. Question which this Nation had long been getting ready for; which now, under this King, it answered to the satisfaction of gods and men: 'Yes, Heaven assisting, we can stand on our defence; and in the long-run (as with air when you try to annihilate it, or crush it to NOTHING) there is even an infinite force in us; and the whole world does not succeed in annihilating us!' Upon which has followed what we term National Baptism;—or rather this was the National Baptism, this furious one in torrent whirlwinds of fire; done three times over, till in gods or men there was no doubt left. That was Friedrich's function in the world; and a great and memorable one;—not to his own Prussian Nation only, but to Teutschland at large, forever memorable.
"'Is Teutschland a Nation; is there in Teutschland still a Nation?' Austria, not dishonestly, but much sunk in superstitions and involuntary mendacities, and liable to sink much farther, answers always, in gloomy proud tone, 'Yes, I am the Nation of Teutschland!'—but is mistaken, as turns out. For it is not mendacities, conscious or other, but veracities, that the Divine Powers will patronize, or even in the end will put up with at all. Which you ought to understand better than you do, my friend. For, on the great scale and on the small, and in all seasons, circumstances, scenes and situations where a Son of Adam finds himself, that is true, and even a sovereign truth. And whoever does not know it,—human charity to him (were such always possible) would be, that HE were furnished with handcuffs as a part of his outfit in this world, and put under guidance of those who do. Yes; to him, I should say, a private pair of handcuffs were much usefuler than a ballot-box,—were the times once settled again, which they are far from being!"...
"So that, if there be only Austria for Nation, Teutschland is in ominous case. Truly so. But there is in Teutschland withal, very irrecognizable to Teutschland, yet authentically present, a Man of the properly unconquerable type; there is also a select Population drilled for him: these two together will prove to you that there is a Nation. Conquest of Silesia, Three Silesian Wars; labors and valors as of Alcides, in vindication of oneself and one's Silesia:—secretly, how unconsciously, that other and higher Question of Teutschland, and of its having in it a Nation, was Friedrich's sore task and his Prussia's at that time. As Teutschland may be perhaps now, in our day, beginning to recognize; with hope, with astonishment, poor Teutschland!"...
3. "And in fine, leaving all that, there is one thing undeniable: In all human Narrative, it is the battle only, and not the victory, that can be dwelt upon with advantage. Friedrich has now, by his Second Silesian War, achieved Greatness: 'Friedrich the Great;' expressly so denominated, by his People and others. The struggle upwards is the Romance; your hero once wedded,—to GLORY, or whoever the Bride may be,—the Romance ends. Precise critics do object, That there may still lie difficulties, new perils and adventures ahead:—which proves conspicuously true in this case of ours. And accordingly, our Book not being a Romance but a History, let us, with all fidelity, look out what these are, and how they modify our Royal Gentleman who has got his wedding done. With all fidelity; but with all brevity, no less. For, inasmuch as"—
Well, brevity in most cases is desirable. And, privately, it must be owned there is another consideration of no small weight: That, our Prussian resources falling altogether into bankruptcy during Peace-Periods, Nature herself has so ordered it, in this instance! Partly it is our Books (the Prussian Dryasdust reaching his acme on those occasions), but in part too it is the Events themselves, that are small and want importance; that have fallen dead to us, in the huge new Time and its uproars. Events not of flagrant notability (like battles or war-passages), to bridle Dryasdust, and guide him in some small measure. Events rather which, except as characteristic of one memorable Man and King, are mostly now of no memorability whatever. Crowd all these indiscriminately into sacks, and shake them out pell-mell on us: that is Dryasdust's sweet way. As if the largest Marine-Stores Establishment in all the world had suddenly, on hest of some Necromancer or maleficent person, taken wing upon you; and were dancing, in boundless mad whirl, round your devoted head;—simmering and dancing, very much at its ease; no-whither; asking YOU cheerfully, "What is your candid opinion, then?" "Opinion," Heavens!—
You have to retire many yards, and gaze with a desperate steadiness; assuring yourself: "Well, it does, right indisputably, shadow forth SOMEthing. This was a Thing Alive, and did at one time stick together, as an organic Fact on the Earth, though it now dances in Dryasdust at such a rate!" It is only by self-help of this sort, and long survey, with rigorous selection, and extremely extensive exclusion and oblivion, that you gain the least light in such an element. "Brevity"—little said, when little has been got to be known—is an evident rule! Courage, reader; by good eyesight, you will still catch some features of Friedrich as we go along. To SAY our little in a not unintelligible manner, and keep the rest well hidden, it is all we can do for you!—
FRIEDRICH DECLINES THE CAREER OF CONQUERING HERO; GOES INTO LAW-REFORM; AND GETS READY A COTTAGE RESIDENCE FOR HIMSELF.
Friedrich's Journey to Pyrmont is the first thing recorded of him by the Newspapers. Gone to take the waters; as he did after his former War. Here is what I had noted of that small Occurrence, and of one or two others contiguous in date, which prove to be of significance in Friedrich's History.
"MAY 12-17th, 1746," say the old Books, "his Majesty sets out for Pyrmont, taking Brunswick by the way; arrives at Pyrmont May 17th; stays till June 8th;" three weeks good. "Is busy corresponding with the King of France about a General Peace; but, owing to the embitterment of both parties, it was not possible at this time." Taking the waters at least, and amusing himself. From Brunswick, in passing, he had brought with him his Brother-in-law the reigning Duke; Rothenburg was there, and Brother Henri; D'Arget expressly; Flute-player Quanz withal, and various musical people: "in all, a train of above sixty persons." I notice also that Prince Wilhelm of Hessen was in Pyrmont at the time. With whom, one fancies, what speculations there might be: About the late and present War-passages, about the poor Peace Prospects; your Hessian "Siege" so called "of Blair in Athol" (CULLODEN now comfortably done), and other cognate topics. That is the Pyrmont Journey.
It is no surprise to us to hear, in these months, of new and continual attention to Army matters, to Husbandry matters; and to making good, on all sides, the ruins left by War. Of rebuilding (at the royal expense) "the town of Schmiedeberg, which had been burnt;" of rebuilding, and repairing from their damage, all Silesian villages and dwellings; and still more satisfactory, How, "in May, 1746, there was, in every Circle of the Country, by exact liquidation of Accounts [so rapidly got done], exact payment made to the individuals concerned, 1. of all the hay, straw and corn that had been delivered to his Majesty's Armies; 2. of all the horses that had perished in the King's work; 3. of all the horses stolen by the Enemy, and of all the money-contributions exacted by the Enemy: payment in ready cash, and according to the rules of justice (BAAR UND BILLIGMASSIG), by his Majesty." [Seyfarth, ii. 22, 23.]
It was from Pyrmont, May, 1746,—or more definitely, it was "at Potsdam early in the morning, 15th September," following,—that Friedrich launched, or shot forth from its moorings, after much previous attempting and preparing, a very great Enterprise; which he has never lost sight of since the day he began reigning, nor will till his reign and life end: the actual Reform of Law in Prussia. "May 12th, 1746," Friedrich, on the road to Pyrmont, answers his Chief Law-Minister Cocceji's REPORT OF PRACTICAL PLAN on this matter: "Yes; looks very hopeful!"—and took it with him to consider at Pyrmont, during his leisure. Much considering of it, then and afterwards, there was. And finally, September 15th, early in the morning, Cocceji had an Interview with Friedrich; and the decisive fiat was given: "Yes; start on it, in God's name! Pommern, which they call the PROVINCIA LITIGIOSA; try it there first!" [Ranke, ii. 392.] And Cocceji, a vigorous old man of sixty-seven, one of the most learned of Lawyers, and a very Hercules in cleaning Law-Stables, has, on Friedrich's urgencies,—which have been repeated on every breathing-time of Peace there has been, and even sometimes in the middle of War (last January, 1745, for example; and again, express Order, January, 1746, a fortnight after Peace was signed),—actually got himself girt for this salutary work. "Wash me out that horror of accumulation, let us see the old Pavements of the place again. Every Lawsuit to be finished within the Year!"
Cocceji, who had been meditating such matters for a great while, ["1st March, 1738," Friedrich Wilhelm's "Edict" on Law Reform: Cocceji ready, at that time;—but his then Majesty forbore.] and was himself eager to proceed, in spite of considerable wigged oppositions and secret reluctances that there were, did now, on that fiat of September 15th, get his Select Commission of Six riddled together and adjoined to him,—the likeliest Six that Prussia, in her different Provinces, could yield;—and got the STANDE of Pommern, after due committeeing and deliberating, to consent and promise help. December 31st, 1746, was the day the STANDE consented: and January 10th, 1747, Cocceji and his Six set out for Pommern. On a longish Enterprise, in that Province and the others;—of which we shall have to take notice, and give at least the dates as they occur.
To sweep out pettifogging Attorneys, cancel improper Advocates, to regulate Fees; to war, in a calm but deadly manner, against pedantries, circumlocutions and the multiplied forms of stupidity, cupidity and human owlery in this department;—and, on the whole, to realize from every Court, now and onwards, "A decision to all Lawsuits within a Year after their beginning." This latter result, Friedrich thinks, will itself be highly beneficial; and be the sign of all manner of improvements. And Cocceji, scanning it with those potent law-eyes of his, ventures to assure him that it will be possible. As, in fact, it proved;—honor to Cocceji and his King, and King's Father withal. "Samuel von Cocceji [says an old Note], son of a Law Professor, and himself once such,—was picked up by Friedrich Wilhelm, for the Official career, many years ago. A man of wholesome, by no means weakly aspect,—to judge by his Portrait, which is the chief 'Biography' I have of him. Potent eyes and eyebrows, ditto blunt nose; honest, almost careless lips, and deep chin well dewlapped: extensive penetrative face, not pincered together, but potently fallen closed;—comfortable to see, in a wig of such magnitude. Friedrich, a judge of men, calls him 'a man of sterling character (CARACTERE INTEGRE ET DROIT), whose qualities would have suited the noble times of the Roman Republic.'" [—OEuvres,—iv. 2.] He has his Herculean battle, his Master and he have, with the Owleries and the vulturous Law-Pedantries,—which I always love Friedrich for detesting as he does:—and, during the next five years, the world will hear often of Cocceji, and of this Prussian Law-Reform by Friedrich and him.
His Majesty's exertions to make Peace were not successful; what does lie in his power is, to keep out of the quarrel himself. It appears great hopes were entertained, by some in England, of gaining Friedrich over; of making him Supreme Captain to the Cause of Liberty. And prospects were held out to him, quasi-offers made, of a really magnificent nature,—undeniable, though obscure. Herr Ranke has been among the Archives again; and comes out with fractional snatches of a very strange "Paper from England;" capriciously hiding all details about it, all intelligible explanation: so that you in vain ask, "Where, When, How, By whom?"—and can only guess to yourself that Carteret was somehow at the bottom of the thing; AUT CARTERETUS AUT DIABOLUS. "What would your Majesty think to be elected Stadtholder of Holland? Without a Stadtholder, these Dutch are worth nothing; not hoistable, nor of use when hoisted, all palavering and pulling different ways. Must have a Stadtholder; and one that stands firm on some basis of his own. Stadtholder of Holland, King of Prussia,—you then, in such position, take the reins of this poor floundering English-Dutch Germanic Anti-French War, you; and drive it in the style you have. Conquer back the Netherlands to us; French Netherlands as well. French and Austrian Netherlands together, yours in perpetuity; Dutch Stadtholderate as good as ditto: this, with Prussia and its fighting capabilities, will be a pleasant Protestant thing. Austria cares little about the Netherlands, in comparison. Austria, getting back its Lorraine and Alsace, will be content, will be strong on its feet. What if it should even lose Italy? France, Spain, Sardinia, the Italian Petty Principalities and Anarchies: suppose they tug and tussle, and collapse there as they can? But let France try to look across the Rhine again; and to threaten Teutschland, England, and the Cause of Human Liberty temporal or spiritual!"
This is authentically the purport of Herr Ranke's extraordinary Document; [Ranke, iii. 359.] guessable as due to CARTERETUS or DIABOLUS. Here is an outlook; here is a career as Conquering Hero, if that were one's line! A very magnificent ground-plan; hung up to kindle the fancy of a young King,—who is far too prudent to go into it at all. More definite quasi-official offers, it seems, were made him from the same quarter: Subsidies to begin with, such subsidies as nobody ever had before; say 1,000,000 pounds sterling by the Year. To which Friedrich answered, "Subsidies, your Excellency?" (Are We a Hackney-Coachman, then?)—and, with much contempt, turned his back on that offer. No fighting to be had, by purchase or seduction, out of this young man. Will not play the Conquering Hero at all, nor the Hackney-Coachman at all; has decided "not to fight a cat" if let alone; but to do and endeavor a quite other set of things, for the rest of his life.
Friedrich, readers can observe, is not uplifted with his greatness. He has been too much beaten and bruised to be anything but modestly thankful for getting out of such a deadly clash of chaotic swords. Seems to have little pride even in his "Five Victories;" or hides it well. Talks not overmuch about these things; talks of them, so far as we can hear, with his old comrades only, in praise of THEIR prowesses; as a simple human being, not as a supreme of captains; and at times acknowledges, in a fine sincere way, the omnipotence of Luck in matters of War.
One of the most characteristic traits, extensively symbolical of Friedrich's intentions and outlooks at this Epoch, is his installing of himself in the little Dwelling-House, which has since become so celebrated under the name of Sans-Souci. The plan of Sans-Souci—an elegant commodious little "Country Box," quite of modest pretensions, one story high; on the pleasant Hill-top near Potsdam, with other little green Hills, and pleasant views of land and water, all round—had been sketched in part by Friedrich himself; and the diggings and terracings of the Hill-side were just beginning, when he quitted for the Last War. "April 14th, 1745," while he lay in those perilous enigmatic circumstances at Neisse with Pandours and devouring bugbears round him, "the foundation-stone was laid" (Knobelsdorf being architect, once more, as in the old Reinsberg case): and the work, which had been steadily proceeding while the Master struggled in those dangerous battles and adventures far away from it, was in good forwardness at his return. An object of cheerful interest to him; prophetic of calmer years ahead.
It was not till May, 1747, that the formal occupation took place: "Mayday, 1747," he had a grand House-heating, or "First Dinner, of 200 covers: and May 19th-20th was the first night of his sleeping there." For the next Forty Years, especially as years advanced, he spent the most of his days and nights in this little Mansion; which became more and more his favorite retreat, whenever the noises and scenic etiquettes were not inexorable. "SANS-SOUCI;" which we may translate "No-Bother." A busy place this too, but of the quiet kind; and more a home to him than any of the Three fine Palaces (ultimately Four), which lay always waiting for him in the neighborhood. Berlin and Charlottenburg are about twenty miles off; Potsdam, which, like the other two, is rather consummate among Palaces, lies leftwise in front of him within a short mile. And at length, to RIGHT hand, in a similar distance and direction, came the "NEUE SCHLOSS" (New Palace of Potsdam), called also the "PALACE of Sans-Souci," in distinction from the Dwelling-House, or as it were Garden-House, which made that name so famous.
Certainly it is a significant feature of Friedrich; and discloses the inborn proclivity he had to retirement, to study and reflection, as the chosen element of human life. Why he fell upon so ambitious a title for his Royal Cottage? "No-Bother" was not practically a thing he, of all men, could consider possible in this world: at the utmost perhaps, by good care, "LESS-Bother"! The name, it appears, came by accident. He had prepared his Tomb, and various Tombs, in the skirts of this new Cottage: looking at these, as the building of them went on, he was heard to say, one day (Spring 1746), D'Argens strolling beside him: "OUI, ALORS JE SERAI SANS SOUCI (Once THERE, one will be out of bother)!" A saying which was rumored of, and repeated in society, being by such a man. Out of which rumor in society, and the evident aim of the Cottage Royal, there was gradually born, as Venus from the froth of the sea, this name, "Sans-Souci;"—which Friedrich adopted; and, before the Year was out, had put upon his lintel in gold letters. So that, by "Mayday, 1747," the name was in all men's memories; and has continued ever since. [Preuss, i. 268, &c.; Nicolai, iii. 1200.] Tourists know this Cottage Royal: Friedrich's "Three Rooms in it; one of them a Library; in another, a little Alcove with an iron Bed" (iron, without curtains; old softened HAT the usual royal nightcap)—altogether a soldier's lodging:—all this still stands as it did. Cheerfully looking down on its garden-terraces, stairs, Greek statues, and against the free sky:—perhaps we may visit it in time coming, and take a more special view. In the Years now on hand, Friedrich, I think, did not much practically live there, only shifted thither now and then. His chief residence is still Potsdam Palace; and in Carnival time, that of Berlin; with Charlottenburg for occasional festivities, especially in summer, the gardens there being fine.
This of Sans-Souci is but portion of a wider Tendency, wider set of endeavors on Friedrich's part, which returns upon him now that Peace has returned: That of improving his own Domesticities, while he labors at so many public improvements. Gazing long on that simmering "Typhoon of Marine-stores" above mentioned, we do trace Three great Heads of Endeavor in this Peace Period. FIRST, the Reform of Law; which, as above hinted, is now earnestly pushed forward again, and was brought to what was thought completion before long. With much rumor of applause from contemporary mankind. Concerning which we are to give some indications, were it only dates in their order: though, as the affair turned out not to be completed, but had to be taken up again long after, and is an affair lying wide of British ken,—there need not, and indeed cannot, be much said of it just now. SECONDLY, there is eager Furthering of the Husbandries, the Commerces, Practical Arts,—especially at present, that of Foreign Commerce, and Shipping from the Port of Embden. Which shall have due notice. And THIRDLY, what must be our main topic here, there is that of Improving the Domesticities, the Household Enjoyments such as they were;—especially definable as Renewal of the old Reinsberg Program; attempt more strenuous than ever to realize that beautiful ideal. Which, and the total failure of which, and the consequent quasi-abandonment of it for time coming, are still, intrinsically and by accident, of considerable interest to modern readers.
Curious, and in some sort touching, to observe how that old original Life-Program still re-emerges on this King: "Something of melodious possible in one's poor life, is not there? A Life to the Practical Duties, yes; but to the Muses as well!"—Of Friedrich's success in his Law-Reforms, in his Husbandries, Commerces and Furtherances, conspicuously great as it was, there is no possibility of making careless readers cognizant at this day. Only by the great results—a "Prussia QUADRUPLED" in his time, and the like—can studious readers convince themselves, in a cold and merely statistic way. But in respect of Life to the Muses, we have happily the means of showing that in actual vitality; in practical struggle towards fulfillment,—and how extremely disappointing the result was. In a word, Voltaire pays his Fifth and final Visit in this Period; the Voltaire matter comes to its consummation. To that, as to one of the few things which are perfectly knowable in this Period of TEN-YEARS PEACE, and in which mankind still take interest, we purpose mostly to devote ourselves here.
Ten years of a great King's life, ten busy years too; and nothing visible in them, of main significance, but a crash of Author's Quarrels, and the Crowning Visit of Voltaire? Truly yes, reader; so it has been ordered. Innumerable high-dressed gentlemen, gods of this lower world, are gone all to inorganic powder, no comfortable or profitable memory to be held of them more; and this poor Voltaire, without implement except the tongue and brain of him,—he is still a shining object to all the populations; and they say and symbol to me, "Tell us of him! He is the man!" Very strange indeed. Changed times since, for dogs barking at the heels of him, and lions roaring ahead,—for Asses of Mirepoix, for foul creatures in high dizenment, and foul creatures who were hungry valets of the same,—this man could hardly get the highways walked! And indeed had to keep his eyes well open, and always have covert within reach,—under pain of being torn to pieces, while he went about in the flesh, or rather in the bones, poor lean being. Changed times; within the Century last past! For indeed there was in that man what far transcends all dizenment, and temporary potency over valets, over legions, treasure-vaults and dim millions mostly blockhead: a spark of Heaven's own lucency, a gleam from the Eternities (in small measure);—which becomes extremely noticeable when the Dance is over, when your tallow-dips and wax-lights are burnt out, and the brawl of the night is gone to bed.
Chapter II.—PEEP AT VOLTAIRE AND HIS DIVINE EMILIE (BY CANDLELIGHT) IN THE TIDE OF EVENTS.
Public European affairs require little remembrance; the War burning well to leeward of us henceforth. A huge world of smoky chaos; the special fires of it, if there be anything of fire, are all the more clear far in the distance. Of which sort, and of which only, the reader is to have notice. Marechal de Saxe—King Louis oftenest personally there, to give his name and countenance to things done—is very glorious in the Netherlands; captures, sometimes by surprisal, place after place (beautiful surprisal of Brussels last winter); with sieges of Antwerp, Mons, Charleroi, victoriously following upon Brussels: and, before the end of 1746, he is close upon Holland itself; intent on having Namur and Maestricht; for which the poor Sea-Powers, with a handful of Austrians, fight two Battles, and are again beaten both times. [1. Battle of Roucoux, 11th October, 1746; Prince Karl commanding, English taking mainly the stress of fight;—Saxe having already outwitted poor Karl, and got Namur. 2. Battle of Lawfelt, or Lauffeld, called also of VAL, 2d July, 1747; Royal Highness of Cumberland commanding (and taking most of the stress; Ligonier made prisoner, &c.),—Dutch fighting ill, and Bathyani and his Austrians hardly in the fire at all.] A glorious, ever-victorious Marechal; and has an Army very "high-toned," in more than one sense: indeed, I think, one of the loudest-toned Armies ever on the field before. Loud not with well-served Artillery alone, but with play-actor Thunder-barrels (always an itinerant Theatre attends), with gasconading talk, with orgies, debaucheries,—busy service of the Devil, AND pleasant consciousness that we are Heaven's masterpiece, and are in perfect readiness to die at any moment;—our ELASTICITY and agility ("ELAN" as we call it) well kept up, in that manner, for the time being.
Hungarian Majesty, contrary to hope, neglects the Netherlands, "Holland and England, for their own sake, will manage there!"—and directs all her resources, and her lately Anti-Prussian Armies (General Browne leading them) upon Italy, as upon the grand interest now. Little to the comfort of the Sea-Powers. But Hungarian Majesty is decided to cut in upon the French and Spaniards, in that fine Country,—who had been triumphing too much of late; Maillebois and Senor de Gages doing their mutual exploits (though given to quarrel); Don Philip wintering in Milan even (1745-1746); and the King of Sardinia getting into French courses again.
Strong cuts her Hungarian Majesty does inflict, on the Italian side; tumbles Infant Philip out of Milan and his Carnival gayeties, in plenty of hurry; besieges Genoa, Marquis Botta d'Adorno (our old acquaintance Botta) her siege-captain, a native of this region; brings back the wavering Sardinian Majesty; captures Genoa, and much else. Captures Genoa, we say,—had not Botta been too rigorous on his countrymen, and provoked a revolt again, Revolt of Genoa, which proved difficult to settle. In fine, Hungarian Majesty has, in the course of this year 1746, with aid of the reconfirmed Sardinian Majesty, satisfactorily beaten the French and Spaniards. Has—after two murderous Battles gained over the Maillebois-Gages people—driven both French and Spaniards into corners, Maillebois altogether home again across the Var;—nay has descended in actual Invasion upon France itself. And, before New-year's day, 1747, General Browne is busy besieging Antibes, aided by English Seventy-fours; so that "sixty French Battalions" have to hurry home, from winter-quarters, towards those Provencal Countries; and Marechal de Belleisle, who commands there, has his hands full. Triumphant enough her Hungarian Majesty, in Italy; while in the Netherlands, the poor Sea-Powers have met with no encouragement from the Fates or her. ["Battle of Piacenza" (Prince Lichtenstein, with whom is Browne, VERSUS Gages and Maillebois), 16th June, 1746 (ADELUNG, v. 427); "Battle of Rottofreddo" (Botta chief Austrian there, and our old friend Barenklau getting killed there), 12th August, 1746 (IB. 462); whereupon, 7th SEPTEMBER, Genoa (which had declared itself Anti-Austrian latterly, not without cause, and brought the tug of War into those parts) is coerced by Botta to open its gates, on grievous terms (IB. 484-489); so that, NOVEMBER 30th, Browne, no Bourbon Army now on the field, enters Provence (crosses the Var, that day), and tries Antibes: 5th-11th DECEMBER, Popular Revolt in Genoa, and Expulsion of proud Botta and his Austrians (IB. 518-523); upon which surprising event (which could not be mended during the remainder of the War), Browne's enterprise became impossible. See Buonamici,—Histoire de la derniere Revolution de Genes;—Adelung, v. 516; vi. 31, &c. &c.] All which the reader may keep imagining at his convenience;—but will be glad rather, for the present, to go with us for an actual look at M. de Voltaire and the divine Emilie, whom we have not seen for a long time. Not much has happened in the interim; one or two things only which it can concern us to know;—scattered fragments of memorial, on the way thus far:—
1. M. DE VOLTAIRE HAS, IN 1745, MADE WAY AT COURT. Divine Emilie picked up her Voltaire from that fine Diplomatic course, and went home with him out of our sight, in the end of 1743; the Diplomatic career gradually declaring itself barred to him thenceforth. Since which, nevertheless, he has had his successes otherwise, especially in his old Literary course: on the whole, brighter sunshine than usual, though never without tempestuous clouds attending. Goes about, with his divine Emilie, now wearing browner and leaner, both of them; and takes the good and evil of life, mostly in a quiet manner; sensible that afternoon is come.
The thrice-famous Pompadour, who had been known to him in the Chrysalis state, did not forget him on becoming Head-Butterfly of the Universe. By her help, one long wish of his soul was gratified, and did not hunger or thirst any more. Some uncertain footing at Court, namely, was at length vouchsafed him:—uncertain; for the Most Christian Majesty always rather shuddered under those carbuncle eyes, under that voice "sombre and majestious," with such turns lying in it:—some uncertain footing at Court; and from the beginning of 1745, his luck, in the Court spheres, began to mount in a wonderful and world-evident manner. On grounds tragically silly, as he thought them. On the Dauphin's Wedding,—a Termagant's Infanta coming hither as Dauphiness, at this time,—there needed to be Court-shows, Dramaticules, Transparencies, Feasts of Lanterns, or I know not what. Voltaire was the chosen man; Voltaire and Rameau (readers have heard of RAMEAU'S NEPHEW, and musical readers still esteem Rameau) did their feat; we may think with what perfection, with what splendor of reward. Alas, and the feat done was, to one of the parties, so unspeakably contemptible! Voltaire pensively surveying Life, brushes the sounding strings; and hums to himself, the carbuncle eyes carrying in them almost something of wet:—
"MON Henri Quatre ET MA Zaire, ET MON AMERICAIN Alzire, NE M'ONT VALU JAMAIS UN SEUL REGARD DU ROI; J'AVAIS MILLE ENNEMIS AVEC TRES PEU DE GLOIRE: LES HONNEURS ET LES BIENS PLEUVENT ENFIN SUR MOI POUR UN FARCE DE LA FOIRE."
["My HENRI QUATRE, my ZAIRE, my ALZIRE [high works very many], could never purchase me a single glance of the King; I had multitudes of enemies, and very little fame:—honors and riches rain on me, at last, for a Farce of the Fair" (—OEuvres,—ii. 151). The "Farce" (which by no means CALLED itself such) was PRINCESSE DE NAVARRE (—OEuvres,—lxxiii. 251): first acted 23d February, 1745, Day of the Wedding. Gentlemanship of the Chamber thereupon (which Voltaire, by permission, sold, shortly after, for 2,500 pounds, with titles retained), and appointment as Historiographer Royal. Poor Dauphiness did not live long; Louis XVI.'s Mother was a SECOND Wife, Saxon-Polish Majesty's Daughter.] Yes, my friend; it is a considerable ass, this world; by no means the Perfectly Wise put at the top of it (as one could wish), and the Perfectly Foolish at the bottom. Witness—nay, witness Psyche Pompadour herself, is not she an emblem! Take your luck without criticism; luck good and bad visits all.
2. AND GOT INTO THE ACADEMY NEXT YEAR, IN CONSEQUENCE. In 1746, the Academy itself, Pompadour favoring, is made willing; Voltaire sees himself among the Forty: soul, on that side too, be at ease, and hunger not nor thirst anymore. ["May 9th, 1746, Voltaire is received at the Academy; and makes a very fine Discourse" (BARBIER, ii. 488).—OEuvres de Voltaire,—lxxiii. 355, 385, and i. 97.] This highest of felicities could not be achieved without an ugly accompaniment from the surrounding Populace. Desfontaines is dead, safe down in Sodom; but wants not for a successor, for a whole Doggery of such. Who are all awake, and giving tongue on this occasion. There is M. Roi the "Poet," as he was then reckoned; jingling Roi, who concocts satirical calumnies; who collects old ones, reprints the same,—and sends Travenol, an Opera-Fiddler, to vend them. From which sprang a Lawsuit, PROCES-TRAVENOL, of famous melancholy sort. As Voltaire had rather the habit of such sad melancholy Lawsuits, we will pause on this of Travenol for a moment:—
3. SUMMARY OF TRAVENOL LAWSUIT. "Monday, 9th May, 1746, was the Day or reception at the Academy; reception and fruition, thrice-savory to Voltaire. But what an explosion of the Doggeries, before, during and after that event! Voltaire had tried to be prudent, too. He had been corresponding with Popes, with Cardinals; and, in a fine frank-looking way, capturing their suffrages:—not by lying, which in general he wishes to avoid, but by speaking half the truth; in short, by advancing, in a dexterous, diplomatic way, the uncloven foot, in those Vatican precincts. And had got the Holy Father's own suffrage for MAHOMET (think of that, you Ass of Mirepoix!), among other cases that might rise. When this seat among the Forty fell vacant, his very first measure—mark it, Orthodox reader—was a Letter to the Chief Jesuit, Father Latour, Head of one's old College of Louis le Grand. A Letter of fine filial tenor: 'My excellent old Schoolmasters, to whom I owe everything; the representatives of learning, of decorum, of frugality and modest human virtue:—in what contrast to the obscure Doggeries poaching about in the street-gutters, and flying at the peaceable passenger!' [In—Voltairiana, ou Eloges Amphigouriques,—&c. (Paris, 1748), i. 150-160, the LETTER itself, "Paris, 7th February, 1746;" omitted (without need or real cause on any side) in the common Collections of—OEuvres de Voltaire.—] Which captivated Father Latour; and made matters smooth on that side; so that even the ANCIEN DE MIREPOIX said nothing, this time: What could he say? No cloven foot visible, and the Authorities strong.
"Voltaire had started as Candidate with these judicious preliminaries. Voltaire was elected, as we saw; fine Discourse, 9th May; and on the Official side all things comfortable. But, in the mean while, the Doggeries, as natural, seeing the thing now likely, had risen to a never-imagined pitch; and had filled Paris, and, to Voltaire's excruciated sense, the Universe, with their howlings and their hyena-laughter, with their pasquils, satires, old and new. So that Voltaire could not stand it; and, in evil hour, rushed downstairs upon them; seized one poor dog, Travenol, unknown to him as Fiddler or otherwise; pinioned Dog Travenol, with pincers, by the ears, him for one;—proper Police-pincers, for we are now well at Court;—and had a momentary joy! And, alas, this was not the right dog; this, we say, was Travenol a Fiddler at the Opera, who, except the street-noises, knew nothing of Voltaire; much less had the least pique at him; but had taken to hawking certain Pasquils (Jingler Roi's COLLECTION, it appears), to turn a desirable penny by them.
"And mistakes were made in the Affair Travenol,—old FATHER Travenol haled to prison, instead of Son,—by the Lieutenant of Police and his people. And Voltaire took the high-hand method (being well at Court):—and thereupon hungry Advocates took up Dog Travenol and his pincered ears: 'Serene Judges of the Chatelet, Most Christian Populace of Paris, did you ever see a Dog so pincered by an Academical Gentleman before, merely for being hungry?' And Voltaire, getting madder and madder, appealed to the Academy (which would not interfere); filed Criminal Informations; appealed to the Chatelet, to the Courts above and to the Courts below; and, for almost a year, there went on the 'PROCES-TRAVENOL:' [About Mayday, 1746, Seizure of Travenol; Pleadings are in vigor August, 1746; not done April, 1747. In—Voltairiana,—ii. 141-206, Pleadings, &c., copiously given; and most of the original Libels, in different parts of that sad Book (compiled by Travenol's Advocate, a very sad fellow himself): see also—OEuvres de Voltaire,—lxxiii. 355 n., 385 n.; IB. i. 97; BARBIER, ii. 487. All in a very jumbled, dateless, vague and incorrect condition.] Olympian Jove in distressed circumstances VERSUS a hungry Dog who had eaten dirty puddings. Paris, in all its Saloons and Literary Coffee-houses (figure the ANTRE DE PROCOPE, on Publication nights!), had, monthly or so, the exquisite malign banquet; and grinned over the Law Pleadings: what Magazine Serial of our day can be so interesting to the emptiest mind!
"Lasted, I find, for above a year. From Spring, 1746, till towards Autumn, 1747: Voltaire's feelings being—Haha, so exquisite, all the while!—Well, reader, I can judge how amusing it was to high and low. And yet Phoebus Apollo going about as mere Cowherd of Admetus, and exposed to amuse the populace by his duels with dogs that have bitten him? It is certain Voltaire was a fool, not to be more cautious of getting into gutter-quarrels; not to have a thicker skin, in fact."
PROCES-TRAVENOL escorting one's Triumphal Entry; what an adjunct! Always so: always in your utmost radiance of sunshine a shadow; and in your softest outburst of Lydian or Spheral symphonies something of eating Care! Then too, in the Court-circle itself, "is Trajan pleased," or are all things well? Readers have heard of that "TRAJAN EST-IL CONTENT?" It occurred Winter, 1745 (27th November, 1745, a date worth marking), while things were still in the flush of early hope. That evening, our TEMPLE DE LA GLOIRE (Temple of Glory) had just been acted for the first time, in honor of him we may call "Trajan," returning from a "Fontenoy and Seven Cities captured:" [Seven of them; or even eight of a kind: Tournay, Ghent, Bruges, Nieuport, Dendermond, Ath, Ostend; and nothing lost but Cape Breton and one's Codfishery.]—
"Reviens, divin Trajan, vainqueur doux et terrible; Le monde est mon rival, tous les coeurs sont a toi; Mais est-il un coeur plus sensible, Et qui t'adore plus que moi?" [TEMPLE DE LA GLOIRE, Acte iv. (—OEuvres,—xii. 328).]
"Return, divine Trajan, conqueror sweet and terrible; The world is my rival, all hearts are thine; But is there a heart more loving, Or that adores thee more than I?"
An allegoric Dramatic Piece; naturally very admirable at Versailles. Issuing radiant from Fall of the Curtain, Voltaire had the farther honor to see his Majesty pass out; Majesty escorted by Richelieu, one's old friend in a sense: "Is Trajan pleased?" whispered Voltaire to his Richelieu; overheard by Trajan,—who answered in words nothing, but in a visible glance of the eyes did answer, "Impertinent Lackey!"—Trajan being a man unready with speech; and disliking trouble with the people whom he paid for keeping his boots in polish. O my winged Voltaire, to what dunghill Bubbly-Jocks (COQS D'INDE) you do stoop with homage, constrained by their appearance of mere size!—
Evidently no perfect footing at Court, after all. And then the Pompadour, could she, Head-Butterfly of the Universe, be an anchor that would hold, if gales rose? Rather she is herself somewhat of a gale, of a continual liability to gales; unstable as the wind! Voltaire did his best to be useful, as Court Poet, as director of Private Theatricals;—above all, to soothe, to flatter Pompadour; and never neglected this evident duty. But, by degrees, the envious Lackey-people made cabals; turned the Divine Butterfly into comparative indifference for Voltaire; into preference of a Crebillon's poor faded Pieces: "Suitabler these, Madame, for the Private Theatricals of a Most Christian Majesty." Think what a stab; crueler than daggers through one's heart: "Crebillon?" M. de Voltaire said nothing; looked nothing, in those sacred circles; and never ceased outwardly his worship, and assiduous tuning, of the Pompadour: but he felt—as only Phoebus Apollo in the like case can!"Away!" growled he to himself, when this atrocity had culminated. And, in effect, is, since the end of 1746 or so, pretty much withdrawn from the Versailles Olympus; and has set, privately in the distance (now at Cirey, now at Paris, in our PETIT PALAIS there), with his whole will and fire, to do Crebillon's dead Dramas into living oues of his own. Dead CATILINA of Crebillon into ROME SAUVEE of Voltaire, and the other samples of dead into living,—that stupid old Crebillon himself and the whole Universe may judge, and even Pompadour feel a remorse!—Readers shall fancy these things; and that the world is coming back to its old poor drab color with M. de Voltaire; his divine Emilie and he rubbing along on the old confused terms. One face-to-face peep of them readers shall now have; and that is to be enough, or more than enough:—
VOLTAIRE AND THE DIVINE EMILIE APPEAR SUDDENLY, ONE NIGHT, AT SCEAUX.
About the middle of August, 1747, King Friedrich, I find, was at home;—not in his new SANS-SOUCI by any means, but running to and fro; busy with his Musterings, "grand review, and mimic attack on Bornstadt, near Berlin;" INVALIDEN-HAUS (Military Hospital) getting built; Silesian Reviews just ahead; and, for the present, much festivity and moving about, to Charlottenburg, to Berlin and the different Palaces; Wilhelmina, "August 15th," having come to see him; of which fine visit, especially of Wilhelmina's thoughts on it,—why have the envious Fates left us nothing!
While all this is astir in Berlin and neighborhood, there is, among the innumerable other visits in this world, one going on near Paris, in the Mansion or Palace of Sceaux, which has by chance become memorable. A visit by Voltaire and his divine Emilie, direct from Paris, I suppose, and rather on the sudden. Which has had the luck to have a LETTER written on it, by one of those rare creatures, a seeing Witness, who can make others see and believe. The seeing Witness is little Madame de Staal (by no means Necker's Daughter, but a much cleverer), known as one of the sharpest female heads; she from the spot reports it to Madame du Deffand, who also is known to readers. There is such a glimpse afforded here into the actuality of old things and remarkable human creatures, that Friedrich himself would be happy to read the Letter.
Duchesse du Maine, Lady of Sceaux, is a sublime old personage, with whom and with whose high ways and magnificent hospitalities at Sceaux, at Anet and elsewhere, Voltaire had been familiar for long years past. [In—OEuvres de Voltaire,—lxxiii. 434 n, x. 8, &c., "Clog." and others represent THIS Visit as having been to Anet,—though the record otherwise is express.] This Duchess, grand-daughter of the great Conde, now a dowager for ten years, and herself turned of seventy, has been a notable figure in French History this great while: a living fragment of Louis le Grand, as it were. Was wedded to Louis's "Legitimated" Illegitimate, the Duc du Maine; was in trouble with the Regent d'Orleans about Alberoni-Cellamare conspiracies (1718), Regent having stript her husband of his high legitimatures and dignities, with little ceremony; which led her to conspire a good deal, at one time. [DUC DU MAINE with COMTE DE TOULOUSE were products of Louis XIV. and Madame de Montespan:—"legitimated" by Papa's fiat in 1673, while still only young children; DISlegitimated again by Regent d'Orleans, autumn, 1718; grand scene, "guards drawn out" and the like, on this occasion (BARBIER, i. 8-11, ii. 181); futile Conspiracies with Alberoni thereupon; arrest of Duchess and Duke (29th December, 1718), and closure of that poor business. Duc du Maine died 1736; Toulouse next year; ages, each about sixty-five. "Duc de Penthievre," Egalite's father-in-law, was Toulouse's son; Maine has left a famous Dowager, whom we see. Nothing more of notable about the one or the other.] She was never very beautiful; but had a world of grace and witty intelligence; and knew a Voltaire when she saw him. Was the soul of courtesy and benignity, though proud enough, and carrying her head at its due height; and was always very charming, in her lofty gracious way, to mankind. Interesting to all, were it only as a living fragment of the Grand Epoch,—kind of French Fulness of Time, when the world was at length blessed with a Louis Quatorze, and Ne-plus-ultra of a Gentleman determined to do the handsome thing in this world. She is much frequented by high people, especially if of a Literary or Historical turn. President Henault (of the ABREGE CHRONOLOGIQUE, the well-frilled, accurately powdered, most correct old legal gentleman) is one of her adherents; Voltaire is another, that may stand for many: there is an old Marquis de St. Aulaire, whom she calls "MON VIEUX BERGER (my old shepherd," that is to say, sweetheart or flame of love); [BARBIER, ii. 87; see ib. (i. 8-11; ii. 181, 436; &c.) for many notices of her affairs and her.] there is a most learned President de Mesmes, and others we have heard of, but do not wish to know. Little De Staal was at one time this fine Duchess's maid; but has far outgrown all that, a favorite guest of the Duchess's instead; holds now mainly by Madame du Deffand (not yet fallen blind),—and is well turned of fifty, and known for one of the shrewdest little souls in the world, at the time she writes. Her Letter is addressed "TO MADAME DU DEFFAND, at Paris;" most free-flowing female Letter; of many pages, runs on, day after day, for a fortnight or so;—only Excerpts of it introducible here:—
"SCEAUX, TUESDAY, 15th AUGUST, 1747.... Madame du Chatelet and Voltaire, who had announced themselves as for to-day, and whom nobody had heard of otherwise, made their appearance yesternight, near midnight; like two Spectres, with an odor of embalmment about them, as if just out of their tombs. We were rising from table; the Spectres, however, were hungry ones: they needed supper; and what is more, beds, which were not ready. The Housekeeper (CONCIERGE), who had gone to bed, rose in great haste. Gaya [amiable gentleman, conceivable, not known], who had offered his apartment for pressing cases, was obliged to yield it in this emergency: he flitted with as much precipitation and displeasure as an army surprised in its camp; leaving a part of his baggage in the enemy's hands. Voltaire thought the lodging excellent, but that did not at all console Gaya.
"As to the Lady, her bed turns out not to have been well made; they have had to put her in a new place to-day. Observe, she made that bed herself, no servants being up, and had found a blemish or DEFAUT of"—word wanting: who knows what?—"in the mattresses; which I believe hurt her exact mind, more than her not very delicate body. She has got, in the interim, an apartment promised to somebody else; and she will have to leave it again on Friday or Saturday, and go into that of Marechal de Maillebois, who leaves at that time."
—Yes; Maillebois in the body, O reader. This is he, with the old ape-face renewed by paint, whom we once saw marching with an "Army of Redemption," haggling in the Passes about Eger, unable to redeem Belleisle; marching and haggling, more lately, with a "Middle-Rhine Army," and the like non-effect; since which, fighting his best in Italy,—pushed home last winter, with Browne's bayonets in his back; Belleisle succeeding him in dealing with Browne. Belleisle, and the "Revolt of Genoa" (fatal to Browne's Invasion of us), and the Defence of Genoa and the mutual worryings thereabout, are going on at a great rate,—and there is terrible news out of those Savoy Passes, while Maillebois is here. Concerning which by and by. He is grandson of the renowned Colbert, this Maillebois. A Field-Marshal evidently extant, you perceive, in those vanished times: is to make room for Madame on Friday, says our little De Staal; and take leave of us,—if for good, so much the better!
"He came at the time we did, with his daughter and grand-daughter: the one is pretty, the other ugly and dreary [l'UNE, L'AUTRE; no saying which, in such important case! Madame la Marechale, the mother and grandmother, I think must be dead. Not beautiful she, nor very benignant, "UNE TRES-MECHANTE FEMME, very cat-witted woman," says Barbier; "shrieked like a devil, at Court, upon the Cardinal," about that old ARMY-OF-REDEMPTION business; but all her noise did nothing]. [Barbier, ii, 332 ("November, 1742").]—M. le Marechal has hunted here with his dogs, in these fine autumn woods and glades; chased a bit of a stag, and caught a poor doe's fawn: that was all that could be got there.
"Our new Guests will make better sport: they are going to have their Comedy acted again [Comedy of THE EXCHANGE, much an entertainment with them]: Vanture [conceivable, not known] is to do the Count de Boursoufle (DE BLISTER or DE WINDBAG); you will not say this is a hit, any more than Madame du Chatelet's doing the Hon. Miss Piggery (LA COCHONNIERE), who ought to be fat and short." [L'ECHANGE, The Exchange, or WHEN SHALL I GET MARRIED? Farce in three acts:—OEuvres, x. 167-222; used to be played at Cirey and elsewhere (see plenty of details upon it, exact or not quite so, IB. 7-9).]—Little De Staal then abruptly breaks off, to ask about her Correspondent's health, and her Correspondent's friend old President Henault's health; touches on those "grumblings and discords in the Army (TRACASSERIES DE L'ARMEE)," which are making such astir; how M. d'Argenson, our fine War-Minister, man of talent amid blockheads, will manage them; and suddenly exclaims: "O my queen, what curious animals men and women are! I laugh at their manoeuvres, the days when I have slept well; if I have missed sleep, I could kill them. These changes of temper prove that I do not break off kind. Let us mock other people, and let other people mock us; it is well done on both sides.—[Poor little De Staal: to what a posture have things come with you, in that fast-rotting Epoch, of Hypocrisies becoming all insolvent!]
"WEDNESDAY, 16th. Our Ghosts do not show themselves by daylight. They appeared yesterday at ten in the evening; I do not think we shall see them sooner to-day: the one is engaged in writing high feats [SIECLE DE LOUIS XV., or what at last became such]; the other in commenting Newton. They will neither play nor walk: they are, in fact, equivalent to ZEROS in a society where their learned writings are of no significance.—[Pauses, without notice given: for some hours, perhaps days; then resuming:] Nay, worse still: their apparition to-night has produced a vehement declamation on one of our little social diversions here, the game of CAVAGNOLE: ["Kind of BIRIBI," it would appear; in the height of fashion then.] it was continued and maintained," on the part of Madame du Chatelet, you guess, "in a tone which is altogether unheard of in this place; and was endured," on the part of Serene Highness, "with a moderation not less surprising. But what is unendurable is my babble"—And herewith our nimble little woman hops off again into the general field of things; and gossips largely, How are you, my queen, Whither are you going, Whither we; That the Maillebois people are away, and also the Villeneuves, if anybody knew them now; then how the Estillacs, to the number of four, are coming to-morrow; and Cousin Soquence, for all his hunting, can catch nothing; and it is a continual coming and going; and how Boursoufle is to be played, and a Dame Dufour is just come, who will do a character. Rubrics, vanished Shadows, nearly all those high Dames and Gentlemen; LA PAUVRE Saint-Pierre, "eaten with gout," who is she? "Still drags herself about, as well as she can; but not with me, for I never go by land, and she seems to have the hydrophobia, when I take to the water. [Thread of date is gone! I almost think we must have got to Saturday by this time:—or perhaps it is only Thursday, and Maillebois off prematurely, to be out of the way of the Farce? Little De Staal takes no notice; but continues gossiping rapidly:]
"Yesterday Madame du Chatelet got into her third lodging: she could not any longer endure the one she had chosen. There was noise in it, smoke without fire:—privately meseems, a little the emblem of herself! As to noise, it was not by night that it incommoded her, she told me, but by day, when she was in the thick of her work: it deranges her ideas. She is busy reviewing her PRINCIPLES"—NEWTON'S PRINCIPIA, no doubt, but De Staal will understand it only as PRINCIPES, Principles in general:—"it is an exercise she repeats every year, without which the Principles might get away, and perhaps go so far she would never find them again [You satirical little gypsy!]. Her head, like enough, is a kind of lock-up for them, rather than a birthplace, or natural home: and that is a case for watching carefully lest they get away. She prefers the high air of this occupation to every kind of amusement, and persists in not showing herself till after dark. Voltaire has produced some gallant verses [unknown to Editors] which help off a little the bad effect of such unusual behavior.
"SUNDAY, 27th. I told you on Thursday [no, you did n't; you only meant to tell] that our Spectres were going on the morrow, and that the Piece was to be played that evening: all this has been done. I cannot give you much of Boursoufle [done by one Vanture]. Mademoiselle Piggery [DE LA COCHONNIERE, Madame du Chatelet herself] executed so perfectly the extravagance of her part, that I own it gave me real pleasure. But Vanture only put his own fatuity into the character of Boursoufle, which wanted more: he played naturally in a Piece where all requires to be forced, like the subject of it."—What a pity none of us has read this fine Farce! "One Paris did the part of MUSCADIN (Little Coxcomb), which name represents his character: in short, it can be said the Farce was well given. The Author ennobled it by a Prologue for the Occasion; which he acted very well, along with Madame Dufour as BARBE (Governess Barbara),—who, but for this brilliant action, could not have put up with merely being Governess to Piggery. And, in fact, she disdained the simplicity of dress which her part required;—as did the chief actress," Du Chatelet herself (age now forty-one); "who, in playing PIGGERY, preferred the interests of her own face to those of the Piece, and made her entry in all the splendor and elegant equipments of a Court Lady,"—her "PRINCIPLES," though the key is turned upon them, not unlike jumping out of window, one would say! "She had a crow to pluck" [MAILLE A PARTIR, "clasp to open," which is better] with Voltaire on this point: but she is sovereign, and he is slave. I am very sorry at their going, though I was worn out with doing her multifarious errands all the time she was here.
"WEDNESDAY, 30th. M. le President [Henault] has been asked hither; and he is to bring you, my Queen! Tried all I could to hinder; but they would not be put off. If your health and disposition do suit, it will be charming. In any case, I have got you a good apartment: it is the one that Madame du Chatelet had seized upon, after an exact review of all the Mansion. There will be a little less furniture than she had put in it; Madame had pillaged all her previous apartments to equip this one. We found about seven tables in it, for one item: she needs them of all sizes; immense, to spread out her papers upon; solid, to support her NECESSAIRE; slighter, for her nicknacks (POMPONS), for her jewels. And this fine arrangement did not save her from an accident like that of Philip II., when, after spending all the night in writing, he got his despatches drowned by the oversetting of an ink-bottle. The Lady did not pretend to imitate the moderation of that Prince; at any rate, he was only writing on affairs of state; and the thing they blotted, on this occasion, was Algebra, much more difficult to clean up again.
"This subject ought to be exhausted: one word more, and then it does end. The day after their departure, I receive a Letter of four pages, and a Note enclosed, which announces dreadful burly-burly: M. de Voltaire has mislaid his Farce, forgotten to get back the parts, and lost his Prologue: I am to find all that again [excessively tremulous about his Manuscripts, M. de Voltaire; of such value are they, of such danger to him; there is LA PUCELLE, for example,—enough to hang a man, were it surreptitiously launched forth in print!]—I am to send him the Prologue instantly, not by post, because they would copy it; to keep the parts for fear of the same accident, and to lock up the Piece 'under a hundred keys.' I should have thought one padlock sufficient for this treasure! I have duly executed his orders." [—Madame de Graffigny (Paris, 1820), pp. 283-291.]
And herewith EXPLICIT DE STAAL. Scene closes: EXEUNT OMNES; are off to Paris or Versailles again; to Luneville and the Court of Stanislaus again,—where also adventures await them, which will be heard of!
"Figure to yourself," says some other Eye-witness, "a lean Lady, with big arms and long legs; small head, and countenance losing itself in a cloudery of head-dress; cocked nose [RETROUSSE, say you? Very slightly, then; quite an unobjectionable nose!] and pair of small greenish eyes; complexion tawny, and mouth too big: this was the divine Emilie, whom Voltaire celebrates to the stars. Loaded to extravagance with ribbons, laces, face-patches, jewels and female ornaments; determined to be sumptuous in spite of Economics, and pretty in spite of Nature:" Pooh, it is an enemy's hand that paints! "And then by her side," continues he, "the thin long figure of Voltaire, that Anatomy of an Apollo, affecting worship of her," [From Rodenbeck (quoting somebody, whom I have surely seen in French; whom Rodenbeck tries to name, as he could have done, but curiously without success), i. 179.]—yes, that thin long Gentleman, with high red-heeled shoes, and the daintiest polite attitudes and paces; in superfine coat, laced hat under arm; nose and under-lip ever more like coalescing (owing to decay of teeth), but two eyes shining on you like carbuncles; and in the ringing voice, such touches of speech when you apply for it! Thus they at Sceaux and elsewhere; walking their Life-minuet, making their entrances and exits.
One thing is lamentable: the relation with Madame is not now a flourishing one, or capable again of being: "Does not love me as he did, the wretch!" thinks Madame always;—yet sticks by him, were it but in the form of blister. They had been to Luneville, Spring, 1747; happy dull place, within reach of Cirey; far from Versailles and its cabals. They went again, 1748, in a kind of permanent way; Titular Stanislaus, an opulent dawdling creature, much liking to have them; and Father Menou, his Jesuit,—who is always in quarrel with the Titular Mistress,—thinking to displace HER (as you, gradually discover), and promote the Du Chatelet to that improper dignity! In which he had not the least success, says Voltaire; but got "two women on his ears instead of one." It was not to be Stanislaus's mistress; nor a TITULAR one at all, but a real, that Madame was fated in this dull happy place! Idle readers know the story only too well;—concerning which, admit this other Fraction and no more:—
"Stanislaus, as a Titular King, cannot do without some kind of Titular Army,—were it only to blare about as Life-guard, and beat kettle-drums on occasion. A certain tall high-sniffing M. de St. Lambert, a young Lorrainer of long pedigree and light purse, had just taken refuge in this Life-guard [Summer 1748, or so], I know not whether as Captain or Lieutenant, just come from the Netherlands Wars: of grave stiff manners; for the rest, a good-looking young fellow; thought to have some poetic genius, even;—who is precious, surely, in such an out-of-the-way place. Welcome to Voltaire, to Madame still more. Alas, readers know the History,—on which we must not dwell. Madame, a brown geometric Lady, age now forty-two, with a Great Man who has scandalously ceased to love her, casts her eye upon St. Lambert: 'Yes, you would be the shoeing-horn, Monsieur, if one had time, you fine florid fellow, hardly yet into your thirties—' And tries him with a little coquetry; I always think, perhaps in this view chiefly? And then, at any rate, as he responded, the thing itself became so interesting: 'Our Ulysses-bow, we can still bend it, then, aha! 'And is not that a pretty stag withal, worth bringing down; florid, just entering his thirties, and with the susceptibilities of genius! Voltaire was not blind, could he have helped it,—had he been tremulously alive to help it. 'Your Verses to her, my St. Lambert,—ah, Tibullus never did the like of them. Yes, to you are the roses, my fine young friend, to me are the thorns:' thus sings Voltaire in response; [—OEuvres,—xvii. 223 (EPITRE A M. DE ST. LAMBERT, 1749); &c. &c. In—Memoires sur Voltaire par Longchamp et Wagniere—(Paris, 1826), ii. 229 et seq., details enough and more.] perhaps not thinking it would go so far. And it went,—alas, it went to all lengths, mentionable and not mentionable: and M. le Marquis had to be coaxed home in the Spring of 1749,—still earlier it had been suitabler;—and in September ensuing, M. de St. Lambert looking his demurest, there is an important lying-in to be transacted! Newton's PRINCIPIA is, by that time, drawing diligently to its close;—complicated by such far abstruser Problems, not of the geometric sort! Poor little lean brown woman, what a Life, after all; what an End of a Life!"—
WAR-PASSAGES IN 1747.
The War, since Friedrich got out of it, does not abate in animosity, nor want for bloodshed, battle and sieging; but offers little now memorable. March 18th, 1747, a ghastly Phantasm of a Congress, "Congress of Breda," which had for some months been attempting Peace, and was never able to get into conference, or sit in its chairs except for moments, flew away altogether; [In September, 1746, had got together; but would not take life, on trying and again trying, and fell forgotten: February, 1747, again gleams up into hope: March 18th and the following days, vanishes for good (ADELUNG, v. 50; vi. 6, 62).] and left the War perhaps angrier than ever, more hopelessly stupid than ever. Except, indeed, that resources are failing; money running low in France, Parlements beginning to murmur, and among the Population generally a feeling that glory is excellent, but will not make the national pot boil. Perhaps all this will be more effective than Congresses of Breda? Here are the few Notes worth giving:
APRIL 23d-30th, 1747, THE FRENCH INVADE HOLLAND; WHEREUPON, SUDDENLY, A STADTHOLDER THERE. "After Fontenoy there has been much sieging and capturing in that Netherlands Country, a series of successes gloriously delightful to Marechal de Saxe and the French Nation: likewise (in bar of said sieging, in futile attempt to bar it) a Battle of Roucoux, October, 1746; with victory, or quasi-victory, to Saxe, at least with prostration to the opposite part."
And farther on, there is a Battle of Lauffeld coming, 2d July, 1747; with similar results; frustration evident, retreat evident, victory not much to speak of. And in this gloriously delightful manner Saxe and the French Nation have proceeded, till in fact the Netherlands Territory with all strongholds, except Maestricht alone, was theirs,—and they decided on attacking the Dutch Republic itself. And (17th April, 1747) actually broke in upon the frontier Fortresses of Zealand; found the same dry-rotten everywhere; and took them, Fortress after Fortress, at the rate of a cannon salvo each: 'Ye magnanimous Dutch, see what you have got by not sitting still, as recommended!' To the horror and terror of the poor Zealanders and general Dutch Population. Who shrieked to England for help;—and were, on the very instant, furnished with a modicum of Seventy-fours (Dutch Courier returning by the same); which landed the Courier April 23d, and put Walcheren in a state of security. [Adelung, vi. 105, 125-134.]
"Whereupon the Dutch Population turned round on its Governors, with a growl of indignation, spreading ever wider, waxing ever higher: 'Scandalous laggards, is this your mode of governing a free Republic? Freedom to let the State go to dry-rot, and become the laughing-stock of mankind. To provide for your own paltry kindred in the State-employments; to palaver grandly with all comers; and publish melodious Despatches of Van Hoey? Had not Britannic Majesty, for his dear Daughter's sake, come to the rescue in this crisis, where had we been? We demand a Stadtholder again; our glorious Nassau Orange, to keep some bridle on you!' And actually, in this way, Populus and Plebs, by general turning out into the streets, in a gloomily indignant manner, which threatens to become vociferous and dangerous,—cowed the Heads of the Republic into choosing the said Prince, with Princess and Family, as Stadtholder, High-Admiral, High-Everything and Supreme of the Republic. Hereditary, no less, and punctually perpetual; Princess and Family to share in it. In which happy state (ripened into Kingship latterly) they continue to this day. A result painfully surprising to Most Christian Majesty; gratifying to Britannic proportionately, or more;—and indeed beneficial towards abating dry-rot and melodious palaver in that poor Land of the Free. Consummated, by popular outbreak of vociferation, in the different Provinces, in about a week from April 23d, when those helpful Seventy-fours hove in sight. Stadtholdership had been in abeyance for forty-five years. [Since our Dutch William's death, 1702.] The new Stadtholder did his best; could not, in the short life granted him, do nearly enough.—Next year there was a SECOND Dutch outbreak, or general turning into the streets; of much more violent character; in regard to glaringly unjust Excises and Taxations, and to 'instant dismissal of your Excise-Farmers,' as the special first item. [Adelung, vi. 364 et seq.; Raumer, 182-193 ("March-September, 1748"); or, in—Chesterfield's Works,—Dayrolles's Letters to Chesterfield: somewhat unintelligent and unintelligible, both Raumer and he.] Which salutary object being accomplished (new Stadtholder well aiding, in a valiant and judicious manner), there has no third dose of that dangerous remedy been needed since.
"JULY 19th, FATE OF CHEVALIER DE BELLEISLE. At the Fortress of Exilles, in one of those Passes of the Savoy Alps,—Pass of Col di Sieta, memorable to the French Soldier ever since,—there occurred a lamentable thing;" doubtless much talked of at Sceaux while Voltaire was there. "The Revolt of Genoa (popular outburst, and expulsion of our poor friend Botta and his Austrians, then a famous thing, and a rarer than now) having suddenly recalled the victorious General Browne from his Siege of Antibes and Invasion of Provence,—Marechal Duc de Belleisle, well reinforced and now become 'Army of Italy' in general, followed steadfastly for 'Defence of Genoa' against indignant Botta, Browne and Company. For defence of Genoa; nay for attack on Turin, which would have been 'defence' in Genoa and everywhere,—had the captious Spaniard consented to co-operate. Captious Spaniard would not; Couriers to Madrid, to Paris thereupon, and much time lost;—till, at the eleventh hour, came consent from Paris, 'Try it by yourself, then!' Belleisle tries it; at least his Brother does. His Brother, the Chevalier, is to force that Pass of Exilles; a terrible fiery business, but the backbone of the whole adventure: in which, if the Chevalier can succeed, he too is to be Marechal de France. Forward, therefore, climb the Alpine stairs again; snatch me that Fort of Exilles.
"And so, July 19th, 1747, the Chevalier comes in sight of the Place; scans a little the frowning buttresses, bristly with guns; the dumb Alps, to right and left, looking down on him and it. Chevalier de Belleisle judges that, however difficult, it can and must be possible to French valor; and storms in upon it, huge and furious (20,000, or if needful 30,000);—but is torn into mere wreck, and hideous recoil; rallies, snatches a standard, 'We must take it or die,'—and dies, does not take it; falls shot on the rampart, 'pulling at the palisades with his own hands,' nay some say 'with his teeth,' when the last moments came. Within one hour, he has lost 4,000 men; and himself and his Brother's Enterprise lie ended there. [Voltaire, xxv. 221 et seq. (SIECLE DE LOUIS QUINZE, c. 22); Adelung, vi 174.] Fancy his poor Brother's feelings, who much loved him! The discords about War-matters (TRACASSERIES DE L'ARMEE) were a topic at Sceaux lately, as De Staal intimated. 'Why starve our Italian Enterprises; heaping every resource upon the Netherlands and Saxe?' Diligent Defence of Genoa (chiefly by flourishing of swords on the part of France, for the Austrians were not yet ready) is henceforth all the Italian War there is; and this explosion at Exilles may fitly be finis to it here. Let us only say that Infant Philip did, when the Peace came, get a bit of Apanage (Parma and Piacenza or some such thing, contemptibly small to the Maternal heart), and that all things else lapsed to their pristine state, MINUS only the waste and ruin there had been."
JULY 12th-SEPTEMBER 18th: SIEGE OF THE CHIEF DUTCH FORTRESS. "Unexpected Siege of Bergen-op-Zoom; two months of intense excitement to the Dutch Patriots and Cause-of-Liberty Gazetteers, as indifferent and totally dead as it has now become. Marechal de Saxe, after his victory at Lauffeld, 2d July, did not besiege Maestricht, as had been the universal expectation; but shot off an efficient lieutenant of his, one Lowendahl, in due force, privately ready, to overwhelm Bergen-op-Zoom with sudden Siege, while he himself lay between the beaten enemy and it. Bergen is the heart, of Holland, key of the Scheld, and quite otherwise important than Maestricht. 'Coehorn's masterpiece!' exclaim the Gazetteers; 'Impregnable, you may depend!' 'We shall see,' answered Saxe, answered Lowendahl the Dane (who also became Marechal by this business); and after a great deal of furious assaulting and battering, took the Place September 18th, before daylight," by a kind of surprisal or quasi-storm;—"the Commandant, one Cronstrom, a brave old Swede, age towards ninety, not being of very wakeful nature! 'Did as well as could be expected of him,' said the Court-Martial sitting on his case, and forbore to shoot the poor old man."
[Adelung, vi. 184, 206;—"for Cronstrom," if any one is curious, "see Schlotzer,—Schwedische Biographie,—ii. 252 (in voce)."] A sore stroke, this of Bergen, to Britannic Majesty and the Friends of Liberty; who nevertheless refuse to be discouraged."
DECEMBER 25th, RUSSIANS IN BEHALF OF HUMAN LIBERTY. "March of 36,000 Russians from the City of Moscow, this day; on a very long journey, in the hoary Christmas weather! Most, Christian Majesty is ruinously short of money; Britannic Majesty has still credit, and a voting Parliament, but, owing to French influence on the Continent, can get no recruits to hire. Gradually driven upon Russia, in such stress, Britannic Majesty has this year hired for himself a 35,000 Russians; 30,000 regular foot; 4,000 ditto horse, and 1,000 Cossacks;—uncommonly cheap, only 150,000 pounds the lot, not, 4 pounds per head by the year. And, in spite of many difficulties and hagglings, they actually get on march, from Moscow, 25th December, 1747; and creep on, all Winter, through the frozen peats wildernesses, through Lithuania, Poland, towards Bohmen, Mahren: are to appear in the Rhine Countries, joined by certain Austrians; and astonish mankind next Spring. Their Captain is one Repnin, Prince Repnin, afterwards famous enough in those Polish Countries;"—which is now the one point interesting to us in the thing.
"Their Captain WAS, first, to be Lacy, old Marshal Lacy; then, failing Lacy, 'Why not General Keith?'—but proves to be Repnin, after much hustling and intriguing:" Repnin, not Keith, that is the interesting point.
"Such march of the Russians, on behalf of Human Liberty, in pay of Britannic Majesty, is a surprising fact; and considerably discomposes the French. Who bestir themselves in Sweden and elsewhere against Russia and it: with no result,—except perhaps the incidental one, of getting our esteemed old friend Guy Dickens, now Sir Guy, dismissed from Stockholm, and we hope put on half-pay on his return home." [Adelung, vi. 250, 302:—Sir Guy, not yet invalided, "went to Russia," and other errands.]
MARSHAL KEITH COMES TO PRUSSIA (September, 1747).
"Much hustling and intriguing," it appears, in regard to the Captaincy of these Russians. Concerning which there is no word worthy to be said,—except for one reason only, That it finished off the connection of General Keith with Russia. That this of seeing Repnin, his junior and inferior, preferred to him, was, of many disgusts, the last drop which made the cup run over;—and led the said General to fling it from him, and seek new fields of employment. From Hamburg, having got so far, he addresses himself, 1st September, 1747, to Friedrich, with offer of service; who grasps eagerly at the offer: "Feldmarschall your rank; income, $1,200 a year; income, welcome, all suitable:"—and, October 28th, Feldmarschall Keith finishes, at Potsdam, a long Letter to his Brother Lord Marischal, in these words, worth giving, as those of a very clear-eyed sound observer of men and things:—
"I have now the honor, and, which is still more, the pleasure, of being with the King at Potsdam; where he ordered me to come," 17th current, "two days after he declared me Fieldmarshal: Where I have the honor to dine and sup with him almost every day. He has more wit than I have wit to tell you; speaks solidly and knowingly on all kinds of subjects; and I am much mistaken if, with the experience of Four Campaigns, he is not the best Officer of his Army. He has several persons," Rothenburg, Winterfeld, Swedish Rudenskjold (just about departing), not to speak of D'Argens and the French, "with whom he lives in almost the familiarity of a friend,—but has no favorite;—and shows a natural politeness for everybody who is about him. For one who has been four days about his person, you will say I pretend to know a great deal of his character: but what I tell you, you may depend upon. With more time, I shall know as much of him as he will let me know;—and all his Ministry knows no more." [Varnhagen van Ense,—Leben des Feldmarschalls Jakob Keith—(Berlin, 1844,) p. 100; Adelung, vi. 244.]
A notable acquisition to Friedrich;—and to the two Keiths withal; for Friedrich attached both of them to his Court and service, after their unlucky wanderings; and took to them both, in no common degree. As will abundantly appear.
While that Russia Corps was marching out of Moscow, Cocceji and his Commissions report from Pommern, that the Pomeranian Law-stables are completely clear; that the New Courts have, for many months back, been in work, and are now, at the end of the Year, fairly abreast with it, according to program;—have "decided of Old-Pending Lawsuits 2,400, all that there were (one of them 200 years old, and filling seventy Volumes); and of the 994 New ones, 772; not one Lawsuit remaining over from the previous Year." A highly gratifying bit of news to his Majesty; who answers emphatically, EUGE! and directs that the Law Hercules proceed now to the other Provinces,—to the Kur-Mark, now, and Berlin itself,—with his salutary industries. Naming him "Grand Chancellor," moreover; that is to say, under a new title, Head of Prussian Law,—old Arnim, "Minister of Justice," having shown himself disaffected to Law-Reform, and got rebuked in consequence, and sulkily gone into private life. [Stenzel, iv. 321; Ranke, iii. 389.]
In February of this Year, 1747, Friedrich had something like a stroke of apoplexy; "sank suddenly motionless, one day," and sat insensible, perhaps for half an hour: to the terror and horror of those about him. Hemiplegia, he calls it; rush of blood to the head;—probably indigestion, or gouty humors, exasperated by over-fatigue. Which occasioned great rumor in the world; and at Paris, to Voltaire's horror, reports of his death. He himself made light of the matter: [To Voltaire, 22d February, 1747 (—OEuvres de Frederic,—xxii. 164); see IB. 164 n.] and it did not prove to have been important; was never followed by anything similar through his long life; and produced no change in his often-wavering health, or in his habits, which were always steady. He is writing MEMOIRS; settling "Colonies" (on his waste moors); improving Harbors. Waiting when this European War will end; politely deaf to the offers of Britannic Majesty as to taking the least personal share in it.
Chapter III.—EUROPEAN WAR FALLS DONE: TREATY OF AIX-LA-CHAPELLE.
The preparations for Campaign 1748 were on a larger scale than ever. Britannic Subsidies, a New Parliament being of willing mind, are opulent to a degree; 192,000 men, 60,000 Austrians for one item, shall be in the Netherlands;—coupled with this remarkable new clause, "And they are to be there in fact, and not on paper only," and with a tare-and-tret of 30 or 40 per cent, as too often heretofore! Holland, under its new Stadtholder, is stanch of purpose, if of nothing else. The 35,000 Russians, tramping along, are actually dawning over the horizon, towards Teutschland,—King Friedrich standing to arms along his Silesian Border, vigilant "Cordon of Troops all the way," in watch of such questionable transit. [In ADELUNG, vi. 110, 143, 167, 399 ("April, 1747-August, 1748"), account of the more and more visible ill-will of the Czarina: "jealousy" about Sweden, about Dantzig, Poland, &c. &c.] Britannic Majesty and Parliament seem resolute to try, once more, to the utmost, the power of the breeches-pocket in defending this sacred Cause of Liberty so called.
Breeches-pocket MINUS most other requisites: alas, with such methods as you have, what can come of it? Royal Highness of Cumberland is a valiant man, knowing of War little more than the White Horse of Hanover does;—certain of ruin again, at the hands of Marechal de Saxe. So think many, and have their dismal misgivings. "Saxe having eaten Bergen-op-Zoom before our eyes, what can withstand the teeth of Saxe?" In fact, there remains only Maestricht, of considerable; and then Holland is as good as his! As for King Louis, glory, with funds running out, and the pot ceasing to boil, has lost its charm to an afflicted France and him. King Louis's wishes are known, this long while;—and Ligonier, generously dismissed by him after Lauffeld, has brought express word to that effect, and outline of the modest terms proposed in one's hour of victory, with pot ceasing to boil.
On a sudden, too, "March 18th,"—wintry blasts and hailstorms still raging,—Marechal de Saxe, regardless of Domestic Hunger, took the field, stronger than ever. Manoeuvred about; bewildering the mind of Royal Highness and the Stadtholder ("Will he besiege Breda? Will he do this, will he do that?")—poor Highness and poor Stadtholder; who "did not agree well together," and had not the half of their forces come in, not to speak of handling them when come! Bewilderment of these two once completed, Marechal de Saxe made "a beautiful march upon Maestricht;" and, April 15th, opened trenches, a very Vesuvius of artillery, before that place; Royal Highness gazing into it, in a doleful manner, from the adjacent steeple-tops. Royal Highness, valor's self, has to admit: "Such an outlook; not half of us got together! The 60,000 Austrians are but 30,000; the—In fact, you will have to make Peace, what else?" [His Letters, in Coxe's—Pelham—("March 29th-April 2d, 1748"), i. 405-410.] Nothing else, as has been evident to practical Official People (especially to frugal Pelham, Chesterfield and other leading heads) for these two months last past.
In a word, those 35,000 Russians are still far away under the horizon, when thoughts of a new Congress, "Congress of Aix-la-Chapelle," are busying the public mind: "Mere moonshine again?" "Something real this time?"—And on and from March 17th (Lord Sandwich first on the ground, and Robinson from Vienna coming to help), the actual Congress begins assembling there. April 24th, the Congress gets actually to business; very intent on doing it; at least the three main parties, France, England, Holland, are supremely so. Who, finding, for five diligent days, nothing but haggle and objection on the part of the others, did by themselves meet under cloud of night, "night of April 29th-30th;" and—bring the Preliminaries to perfection. And have them signed before daybreak; which is, in effect, signing, or at least fixing as certain, the Treaty itself; so that Armistice can ensue straightway, and the War essentially end.
A fixed thing; the Purseholders having signed. On the safe rear of which, your recipient Subsidiary Parties can argue and protest (as the Empress-Queen and her Kaunitz vehemently did, to great lengths), and gradually come in and finish. Which, in the course of the next six months, they all did, Empress-Queen and Excellency Kaunitz not excepted. And so, October 18th, 1748, all details being, in the interim, either got settled, or got flung into corners as unsettleable (mostly the latter),—Treaty itself was signed by everybody; and there was "Peace of Aix-la-Chapelle." Upon which, except to remark transiently how inconclusive a conclusion it was, mere end of war because your powder is run out, mere truce till you gather breath and gunpowder again, we will spend no word in this place. [Complete details in ADELUNG, vi. 225-409: "October, 1747," Ligonier returning, and first rumor of new Congress (226); "17th March, 1748," Sandwich come (323); "April 29th-30th," meet under cloud of night (326); Kaunitz protesting (339): "2d August," Russians to halt and turn (397); "are over into the Oberpfalz, magazines ahead at Nurnberg;" in September, get to Bohmen again, and winter there: "18th October, 1748," Treaty finished (398, 409); Treaty itself given (IB., Beylage, 44). See—Gentleman's Magazine,—and OLD NEWSPAPERS of 1748; Coxe's—Pelham,—ii. 7-41, i. 366-416.]