Voltaire promptly replied to this letter in corresponding terms of flattery. His letter was dated Cirey, August 26th, 1736:440
At the battle of Sohr, Biche was taken captive with the king’s baggage. The animal manifested so much joy upon being restored to its master that the king’s eyes were flooded with tears.“With twenty-one thousand your beaten and maltreated servant has hindered an army of fifty thousand from attacking him, and has compelled them to retire to Neusatz.”
With great joy Frederick learned that the Austrians had left their camp, and were on the advance to attack him. He immediately put his little army in motion for the perilous and decisive conflict. It was four o’clock Sunday morning, December 4, 1757, when Frederick left Parchwitz on his march toward Breslau. He was familiar with every square mile of the region. The Austrians were so vastly superior in numbers that many of them quite despised the weakness of the Prussian army. Many jokes were tossed about in the Austrian camp respecting the feeble band of Frederick, which they contemptuously called the “Potsdam Guard.”The King of Prussia had an army of two hundred thousand men under perfect discipline. The Old Dessauer was dead, but many veteran generals were in command. It was manifest that war would soon burst forth. In addition to the personal pique of the Duchess of Pompadour, who really ruled France, Louis XV. was greatly exasperated by the secret alliance into which Frederick had entered with England. The brother of the Prussian king, Augustus William, the heir-apparent to the throne, disapproved of this alliance. He said to the French minister, Valori, “I would give a finger from my hand had it never been concluded.”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.
Frederick was a great snuff-taker. He always carried two large snuff-boxes in his pocket. Several others stood upon tables around in his rooms, always ready for use. The cheapest of these boxes cost fifteen hundred dollars. He had some richly studded with gems, which cost seven thousand five hundred dollars. At his death one hundred and thirty snuff-boxes appeared in the inventory of his jewels.
The army of General Daun, with its re-enforcements, amounted to one hundred thousand men. The Prussian garrison in the city numbered but ten thousand. The Prussian officer then in472 command, General Schmettau, emboldened by the approach of Frederick, repelled all proposals for capitulation.The half-intoxicated king gravely suggests that such conduct is hardly seemly among gentlemen; that the duel is the more chivalric way of settling such difficulties. Fassman challenges Gundling. They meet with pistols. It is understood by the seconds that it is to be rather a Pickwickian encounter. The trembling Gundling, when he sees his antagonist before him, with the deadly weapon in his hand, throws his pistol away, which his considerate friends had harmlessly loaded with powder only, declaring that he would not shoot any man, or have any man shoot him. Fassman sternly advances with his harmless pistol, and shoots the powder into Gundling’s wig. It blazes into a flame. With a shriek Gundling falls to the ground as if dead. A bucket of water extinguishes the flames, and roars of laughter echo over the chivalric field of combat.“Till now his majesty has been in especial good-humor. But in Dantzig his cheerfulness forsook him, and it never came back. He arrived about ten o’clock at night in that city, slept there, and was off again next morning at five. He drove only fifty miles this day; stopped in Luppow. From Luppow he went to a poor village near Belgard, and staid there overnight.
“Then,” writes Wilhelmina, “as to his bride, I begged him to tell me candidly if the portrait the queen and my sister had been making of her were the true one.”The king was so impressed by this firm attitude of his physician that he even made an apology for his rudeness. As Frederick William was now convinced that ere long he must appear before the tribunal of God, he gradually became a little more calm and resigned.29 It is, however, evident that the Crown Prince still had his share of earthly annoyances, and certainly his full share of earthly frailties. In a letter to his friend Suhm, written this summer, he says:
By order of the king, Fritz, who had also been condemned to die and was awaiting his doom, was brought down into a lower room of the fortress, before whose window the scaffold was erected, that he might be compelled “to see Katte die.” At his entrance the curtains were closed, shutting out the view of the court-yard. Upon the drawing of the curtains, Fritz, to his horror, beheld the scaffold draped in black on a level with the window, and directly before it.
Voltaire hated M. Maupertuis. He was the president of the Berlin Academy, and was regarded by Voltaire as a formidable rival. This hatred gave rise to a quarrel between Frederick and Voltaire, which was so virulent that Europe was filled with the noise of their bickerings. M. Maupertuis had published a pamphlet, in which he assumed to have made some important discovery upon the law of action. M. K?nig, a member of the Academy, reviewed the pamphlet, asserting not only that the proclaimed law was false, but that it had been promulgated half a century before. In support of his position he quoted from a letter of Leibnitz. The original of the letter could not be produced. M. K?nig was accused of having forged the extract. M. Maupertuis, a very jealous, irritable man, by his powerful influence as president, caused M. K?nig to be expelled from the Academy.详情
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