“A miserable Bishop of Liege thought it a proud thing to insult the late king. Some subjects of Herstal, which belongs to Prussia, had revolted. The bishop gave them his protection. Colonel Kreutzen was sent to Liege to compose the thing by treaty, with credentials and full power. Imagine it; the bishop would not receive him! Three days, day after day, he saw this envoy apply at his palace, and always denied him entrance. These things had grown past endurance.”Voltaire made himself very merry over the dying scene of Maupertuis. There was never another man who could throw so much poison into a sneer as Voltaire. It is probable that the conversion of Maupertuis somewhat troubled his conscience as the unhappy scorner looked forward to his own dying hour, which could not be far distant. He never alluded to Maupertuis without indulging in a strain of bitter mockery in view of his death as a penitent. Even the king, unbeliever as he was in religion or in the existence of a God, was disgusted with the malignity displayed by Voltaire. In reply to one of Voltaire’s envenomed assaults the king wrote:The Encampment at Brieg.—Bombardment.—Diplomatic Intrigues.—Luxury of the Spanish Minister.—Rising Greatness of Frederick.—Frederick’s Interview with Lord Hyndford.—Plans of France.—Desperate Prospects of Maria Theresa.—Anecdote of Frederick.—Joint Action of England and Holland.—Heroic Character of Maria Theresa.—Coronation of the Queen of Hungary.
“A general discontent,” writes Wilhelmina, “reigned in the country. The love of his subjects was pretty much gone. People spoke of him in no measured terms. Some accused him of caring nothing about those who helped him as Prince Royal. Others complained of his avarice as surpassing that of the late king. He was accused of violence of temper, of a suspicious disposition, of distrust, haughtiness, dissimulation. I would have spoken to him about these had not my brother Augustus William and the queen regnant dissuaded me.”“As you pass through Neisse, please present my compliments to Marshal Neipperg; and you can say, your excellency, that I hope to have the pleasure of calling upon him one of these days.”The morning of a hot August day dawned sultry, the wind breathing gently from the south. Bands of Cossacks hovered around upon the wings of the Prussian army, occasionally riding up to the infantry ranks and discharging their pistols at them. The Prussians were forbidden to make any reply. “The infantry457 pours along like a plowman drawing his furrow, heedless of the circling crows.” The Cossacks set fire to Zorndorf. In a few hours it was in ashes, while clouds of suffocating smoke were swept through the Russian lines.
“They have a daughter, Sophie-Frederike, now near fifteen, and very forward for her age; comely to look upon, wise to listen to. ‘Is not she the suitable one?’ thinks Frederick in regard to this matter. ‘Pier kindred is of the oldest—old as Albert the Bear. She has been frugally brought up, Spartan-like, though as a princess by birth. Let her cease skipping ropes on the ramparts yonder with her young Stettin playmates, and prepare for being a czarina of the Russias,’ thinks he. And communicates his mind to the czarina, who answers, ‘Excellent! How did I never think of that myself!’”
“On quitting me he said, ‘I hope, sir, you will leave me your name. I am very glad to have made your acquaintance. Perhaps we shall see one another again.’ I replied as was fitting to the compliment, and begged him to excuse me for having contradicted him a little. I then told him my name, and we parted.”FREDERICK AND LINSENBARTH.“By no means,” the king replied. “With men like these I shall be sure of victory to-day!”114
At Oppeln there was a bridge across the Oder by which the king hoped to escape with his regiment to the free country beyond. There he intended to summon to his aid the army of thirty-six thousand men which he had sent to G?tten under the “Old Dessauer.” The discharge of the musketry of the Austrians blasted even this dismal hope. It seemed as though Frederick259 were doomed to drain the cup of misery to its dregs; and his anguish must have been intensified by the consciousness that he deserved it all. But a few leagues behind him, the bleak, snow-clad plains, swept by the night-winds, were strewed with the bodies of eight or nine thousand men, the dying and the dead, innocent peasant-boys torn from their homes, whose butchery had been caused by his own selfish ambition.“The king now admitted that my brother was still alive, but vowed horribly that he would put him to death, and lay me fast within four walls for the rest of my life. He accused me of being the prince’s accomplice, whose crime was high treason. ‘I hope now,’ he said, ‘to have evidence enough to convict the rascal Fritz and the wretch Wilhelmina, and to cut their heads off. As for Fritz, he will always, if he lives, be a worthless fellow. I have three other sons, who will all turn out better than he has done.’
“‘The monarchic, if the king is just and enlightened.’“Here is business which I must attend to. I was in a writing vein, but I believe it is better to conclude, lest I should tire you and neglect my own duties. Adieu, my dear marquis. I embrace you.
Voltaire seems to have formed a very different estimate of his329 own diplomatic abilities from those expressed by the King of Prussia. Voltaire writes:“But he interrupted me hastily with the word, ‘Nothing more of kings, sir—nothing more. What have we to do with them? We will spend the rest of our voyage on more agreeable and cheering objects.’ And now he spoke of the best of all possible worlds, and maintained that in our planet, earth, there was more evil than good. I maintained the contrary, and this discussion brought us to the end of the voyage.Frederick withdrew his troops into strong cantonments in the valley of the upper Elbe. This beautiful river takes its rise in romantic chasms, among the ridges and spurs of the Giant Mountains, on the southeastern borders of Silesia. Here the Prussian army was distributed in small towns along a line following the windings of the stream, about forty miles in length. All the troops could be concentrated in forty-eight hours. The encampments faced the south, with the Elbe behind them. At some little distance north of the river, safe from surprise, the magazines were stationed. The mountains of Bohemia rose sublimely306 in the distant background. In a letter to M. Jordan, under date of Chrudim, May 5th, 1742, Frederick expresses his views of this profitless campaign in the following terms:
In the ranks all of the army were equally entitled to distinction. Promotion was conferred upon merit, not upon the accident of birth. This principle, which was entirely ignored in the other European despotisms, probably contributed to the success of Frederick’s armies. A Hanoverian count wrote to him, soliciting a high position in the army for his son, in favor of his exalted birth. Frederick dictated the following reply:BATTLE OF KUNERSDORF, AUGUST 12, 1759.“So saying, he seized me with one hand, striking me several blows in the face with the other fist. One of the blows struck me on the temple, so that I fell back, and should have split my head against a corner of the wainscot had not Madam Sonsfeld caught me by the head-dress and broken the fall. I lay on the floor without consciousness. The king, in his frenzy, proceeded to kick me out of a window which opened to the floor. The queen, my sisters, and the rest, ran between, preventing him. They all ranged themselves around me, which gave Mesdames De Kamecke and Sonsfeld time to pick me up. They put me in a chair in an embrasure of a window. Madam Sonsfeld supported my head, which was wounded and swollen with the blows I had received. They threw water upon my face to bring me to life, which care I lamentably reproached them with, death being a thousand times better in the pass things had come to. The queen was shrieking. Her firmness had entirely abandoned her. She ran wildly about the room, wringing her hands in despair. My brothers and sisters, of whom the youngest was not more than four years old, were on their knees begging for me. The king’s face was so disfigured with rage that it was frightful to look upon.
“I waver between hope and fear of paying my court to you. I hope it might still be at Berneck, if you could contrive a road into the Nürnberg highway again, avoiding Baireuth; otherwise I dare not go. The bearer, Captain Knobelsdorf, will apprise you of every particular. Let him settle something that may be possible. This is how I stand at present: instead of having to expect some favor from the king, I get nothing but chagrin. But what is more cruel upon me than all is that you are ill. God, in his grace, be pleased to help you, and restore that health which I so much wish for you.详情
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