The position of Frederick became daily more embarrassing. His forces were continually decreasing. Re-enforcements were swelling the ranks of the Austrians. Elated in becoming the Imperial Army, they grew more bold and annoying, assailing the Prussian outposts and cutting off their supplies.For some unexplained reason, soon after this, the king partially relented, and invited Voltaire to Potsdam. He allowed him to retain his cross and key, and said nothing about the return of the volume of poetry. This was a volume of which twelve copies only had been printed. On the 25th of March, 1753, Voltaire left Potsdam for Dresden.
“I never in my life was in so bad a posture as in this campaign. Miracles are still needed to overcome the difficulties which I foresee. I do my duty as well as I can. But remember, my dear marquis, that I can not command good fortune. I am obliged to leave too much to chance, as I have not the means to render my plans more certain.“‘I know not,’ I answered; ‘but it seems to me, until one knows a man, and is completely acquainted with his situation and his way of thought, one can not possibly determine whether he is happy or unhappy.’
“I got to Berneck at ten. The heat was excessive. I found myself quite worn out with the little journey I had taken. I alighted at the house which had been got ready for my brother. We waited for him, and in vain waited till three in the afternoon. At three we lost patience; had dinner served without157 him. While we were at table there came on a frightful thunder-storm. I have witnessed nothing so terrible. The thunder roared and reverberated among the rocky cliffs which begirdle Berneck, and it seemed as if the world were going to perish. A deluge of rain succeeded the thunder.The king had made many efforts to force his son to surrender his rights of primogeniture, and to sign an act renouncing his claim to the succession of the Prussian throne in favor of his next brother. His only answer was, “Declare my birth illegitimate, and I will give up the throne.” But the king could never consent to fix such a stain upon the honor of his wife.
In the mean time a Venetian embassador, on his way to one of the northern courts, passed a night at a hotel in Berlin. He was immediately arrested, with his luggage, by a royal order. A dispatch was transmitted to Venice, stating that the embassador would be held as a hostage till Barberina was sent to Prussia. “A bargain,” says Frederick, in his emphatic utterance, “is a bargain. A state should have law courts to enforce contracts entered into in their territories.”
Quatre bons jours en pénitence552 “Frederick,” said Kaunitz, “is old and broken. He can not live long. Having suffered so much, he has an absolute horror of war. We need not fear that he will again put his armies in motion.”
“I must have my ships back again,” said Frederick to the British court. “The law’s delay in England is, I perceive, very considerable. My people, who have had their property thus wrested from them, can not conveniently wait. I shall indemnify them from the money due on the Silesian bonds, and shall give England credit for the same. Until restitution is made, I shall not pay either principle or interest on those bonds.”Early on Monday morning the Prussians advanced from Neumarkt, eight miles, to Borne. Here they met the advance-guard of the Austrian cavalry. It was a dark, foggy morning. Frederick, as usual, was with his vanguard. Almost before the Austrians were conscious of the presence of the foe, they were assailed, with the utmost impetuosity, in front and on both their flanks. Instantly they were thrown into utter confusion. The ground was covered with their dead. Their general, Nostitz, was fatally wounded, and died the next day. Five hundred and forty were taken prisoners. The bleeding, breathless remnant fled pell-mell back to the main body, a few miles in the rear.
Destruction of the Army of Prince Charles.—Dismay in Vienna.—Testimony of Napoleon I.—Of Voltaire.—Wretchedness of the King.—Compromise rejected.—New Preparations for War.—Treaty between England and Prussia.—Plan of the Campaign.—Siege of Olmütz.—Death of Prince Augustus William.—The Baggage Train.—The irreparable Disaster.—Anxiety of Frederick for Wilhelmina.—The March against the Russians.—The Battle of Zorndorf.—Anecdotes of Frederick.“Compact as a wall, and with an incredible velocity, Seidlitz, in the blaze of rapid steel, is in upon them.” From the first it was manifest that the destruction of the advance-guard was certain. The Prussian cavalry slashed through it again and again, throwing it into inextricable disorder. In less than half an hour this important portion of the allied troops was put to utter rout, “tumbling off the ground, plunging down hill in full flight, across its own infantry, or whatever obstacle, Seidlitz on the hips of it, and galloping madly over the horizon.”
“This finished, his domestics and preceptor, Duhan, shall come in and perform family worship. Prayer on their knees. Duhan to read a chapter of the Bible, and sing some proper psalm or hymn. All the domestics then withdraw, and Duhan reads my son the Gospel of the Sunday, expounds it a little, adducing the main points of Christianity, and questioning him from Noltenius’s Catechism. It will then be nine o’clock.Again the king interrupted him, saying, “The public will be much obliged to you, sir! But hear me. With respect to Russia, you know how matters stand. From the King of Poland I have nothing to fear. As for the King of England, he is my relation. If he do not attack me, I shall not him. If he do attack me, the Prince of Anhalt, with my army at G?tten, will take care of him.”
General Neipperg had now left Neisse; but he kept himself so surrounded by clouds of skirmishers as to render his march entirely invisible. Frederick, anxious to unite with him his troops under the Prince of Holstein Beck, advanced toward Grottkau to meet that division, which had been ordered to join him. The prince had been stationed at Frankenstein, with a force of about eight thousand, horse and foot; but the Austrian scouts so occupied all the roads that the king had not been able to obtain any tidings from him whatever.Frederick William, through spies, kept himself informed of every thing which was said or done at Reinsberg. Such orgies as the above excited his contempt and abhorrence. But, notwithstanding the above narrative, there is abundant testimony that the prince was not ordinarily addicted to such shameful excesses. The Italian Count Algarotti, distinguished alike for his familiarity with the sciences and his cultivated taste for the fine arts, was an honored guest at Reinsberg. In a letter addressed to Lord Hervey, under date of September 30th, 1739, the count writes:
Thus the employments of every hour were strictly specified for every day in the week. On Wednesday he had a partial36 holiday. After half past nine, having finished his history and “got something by heart to strengthen the memory, Fritz shall rapidly dress himself and come to the king, and the rest of the day belongs to little Fritz.” On Saturday he was to be reviewed in all the studies of the week, “to see whether he has profited. General Finkenstein and Colonel Kalkstein shall be present during this. If Fritz has profited, the afternoon shall be his own. If he has not profited, he shall from two o’clock till six repeat and learn rightly what he has forgotten on the past days. In undressing and dressing, you must accustom him to get out of and into his clothes as fast as is humanly possible. You will also look that he learn to put on and put off his clothes himself, without help from others, and that he be clean, and neat, and not so dirty.”One evening, being too unwell to read his usual devotions, he called upon his valet de chambre to read prayers. In the prayer occurred the words, “May God bless thee.” The servant, not deeming it respectful to use thee in reference to the king, took the liberty to change the phrase, and read it, “May God bless you.” The king, exasperated, hurled something at the head of the speaker, exclaiming, “It is not so; read it again.” The terrified servant, not conceiving in what he had done wrong, read again, “May God bless you.” The irascible monarch, having nothing else he could grasp, took off his night-cap and threw it into the man’s face, exclaiming, “It is not so; read it over again.” The servant, frightened almost out of his senses, read for the third time, “May God bless you.” “Thee, rogue,” shouted the king. “‘May God bless thee.’ Dost thou not know, rascal, that, in the eyes of God, I am only a miserable rascal like thyself?”详情
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