Now, however, Frederick, in that downward path through which the rejecters of Christianity invariably descend, had reached the point at which he renounced all belief in the immortality of the soul and in the existence of God. In a poetic epistle addressed to Marshal Keith, he declares himself a materialist, and affirms his unwavering conviction that the soul, which he says is but the result of the bodily organization, perishes with that body. He declares suicide to be the only remedy for man in his hour of extremity.481 With the utmost exertions, inspired by terror, thirty thousand dollars were at length raised. The Russian general, Soltikof, naturally a humane man, seeing, at the close of a week of frantic exertions on the part of the magistrates of Frankfort, the impossibility of extorting the required sum, took the thirty thousand dollars, and kept his barbarian hordes encamped outside the gates.
Frederick, as Crown Prince, had been quite methodical in the distribution of his time, and had cultivated rigid habits of industry. Now, fully conscious of the immense duties and cares which would devolve upon him as king, he entered into a very systematic arrangement of the employments of each hour, to which he rigidly adhered during nearly the whole of his reign of forty-six years. He ordered his servants to wake him at four o’clock every morning. Being naturally inclined to sleep, he found it hard to shake off his lethargy. The attendants were therefore directed, every morning, to place upon his forehead a towel dipped in cold water. He thus continued to rise at four o’clock, summer and winter, until an advanced age.England, while endeavoring to subsidize Russia against Frederick, entered secretly into a sort of alliance with Frederick, hoping thus to save Hanover. The Empress Elizabeth, of Russia, heartily united with Maria Theresa against Frederick, whom she personally disliked, and whose encroachments she dreaded. His Prussian majesty, proud of his powers of sarcasm, in his poems spared neither friend nor foe. He had written some very severe things against the Russian empress, which had reached her ears.100
“‘Oh, spare my brother,’ I cried, ‘and I will marry the Duke of Weissenfels.’ But in the great noise he did not hear me. And while I strove to repeat it louder, Madam Sonsfeld clapped99 her handkerchief on my mouth. Pushing aside to get rid of the handkerchief, I saw Katte crossing the square. Four soldiers were conducting him to the king. My brother’s trunks and his were following in the rear. Pale and downcast, he took off his hat to salute me. He fell at the king’s feet imploring pardon.”“He used to say that he would reserve for himself ten thousand crowns a year, and retire with the queen and his daughters to Wusterhausen. ‘There,’ added he, ‘I will pray to God, and manage the farming economy, while my wife and girls take care of the household matters. You, Wilhelmina, are clever; I will give you the inspection of the linen, which you shall mend and keep in order, taking good charge of laundry matters. Frederica, who is miserly, shall have charge of all the stores of the house. Charlotte shall go to market and buy our provisions. My wife shall take charge of the little children and of the kitchen.’
The Russians marched to Poland. The Austrians returned to Saxony. As soon as Frederick heard of their retreat, instead of continuing his march to Berlin, he also turned his columns southward. On the 27th of October he crossed the Elbe, about sixty miles above Dresden, and found himself in the vicinity of General Daun, whose army outnumbered that of Frederick two to510 one. The situation of Frederick was extremely critical. Under these circumstances, he wrote to D’Argens on the 28th:“Archenholtz describes it as a thing surpassable only by doomsday; clangorous rage of noise risen to the infinite; the boughs of the trees raining down upon you with horrid crash; the forest, with its echoes, bellowing far and near, and reverberating in universal death-peal, comparable to the trump of doom.”157
“I have prescribed,” he said, “the conditions of peace to the Queen of Hungary. She accepts them. Having, therefore, all that I want, I make peace. All the world in my situation would do the same.”He rose about five o’clock. After a horseback ride of an hour he devoted the mornings to his books. The remainder of the day was given to society, music, and recreation. The following extract from his correspondence throws additional light upon the employment of his time. The letter was addressed to an intimate friend, Baron Von Suhm, of Saxony:
In a state of great exasperation, Voltaire wrote for a large trunk to be sent to him which contained the book. To save himself from the humiliation of being guarded as a prisoner, he gave his395 parole d’honneur that he would not go beyond the garden of the inn. After a delay of three weeks, Voltaire decided, notwithstanding his parole, to attempt his escape. His reputation was such that M. Freytag had no confidence in his word, and employed spies to watch his every movement.“Sire,—Yesterday I was in terrible alarms. The sound of the cannon heard, the smoke of powder visible from the steeple-tops here, all led us to suspect that there was a battle going on. Glorious confirmation of it this morning. Nothing but rejoicing among all the Protestant inhabitants, who had begun to be in apprehension from the rumors which the other party took pleasure in spreading. Persons who were in the battle can not enough celebrate the coolness and bravery of your majesty. For myself, I am at the overflowing point. I have run about all day announcing this glorious news to the Berliners who are here. In my life I have never felt a more perfect satisfaction. One finds at the corner of every street an orator of the people celebrating the warlike feats of your majesty’s troops. I have often, in my idleness, assisted at these discourses; not artistic eloquence, it must be owned, but gushing full from the heart.”
In burning the suburbs, one of the mansions of the bishop, a few miles from Neisse, had escaped the general conflagration. The Prussians had taken possession of this large and commodious structure, with its ample supply of winter fuel. General Roth employed a resolute butcher, who, under the pretense of supplying the Prussians with beef, visited the bishop’s mansion, and secretly applied the torch. It was a cold winter’s night. The high wind fanned the flames. Scarcely an hour passed ere the whole structure, with all its supplies, was in ashes. The Prussian officers who had found a warm home were driven into the icy fields.516 “This is, I swear to you, such a dog’s life [chienne de vie] as no one but Don Quixote ever led before me. All this tumbling, toiling, bother, and confusion have made me such an old fellow that you would scarcely know me again. The hair on the right side of my head has grown quite gray. My teeth break and fall out. My face is as full of wrinkles as the furbelow of a petticoat. My back is bent like a fiddle-bow, and my spirit is sad and downcast, like a monk of La Trappe.
Frederick angrily replied, “You can have no instructions to ask that question. And if you had, I have an answer ready for you. England has no right to inquire into my designs. Your great sea armaments, did I ask you any question about them? No! I was, and am, silent on that head.”40详情
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