“As Frederick’s seven years’ struggle of war may be called superhuman, so was there also, in his present labor of peace, something enormous, which appeared to his contemporaries almost preternatural, at times inhuman. It was grand, but also terrible, that the success of the whole was to him, at all moments, the one thing to be striven after. The comfort of the individual was of no concern at all.”189
The young king, all unaccustomed to those horrors of war which he had evoked, was swept along with the inundation. The danger of his falling in the midst of the general carnage, or of his capture, which was, perhaps, still more to be dreaded, was imminent. His friends entreated him to escape for his life. Even Marshal Schwerin, the veteran soldier, assured him that the battle was lost, and that he probably could escape capture only by a precipitate flight.
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.
“Is there any battalion which has a mind to follow me to Lissa?“Whereas the Baron De P?llnitz, born of honest parents, so far as we know, having served our grandfather as gentleman of the chamber, Madame D’Orleans in the same rank, the King of Spain as colonel, the deceased Emperor Charles VI. as captain of horse, the pope as chamberlain, the Duke of Brunswick as chamberlain, the Duke of Weimar as ensign, our father as chamberlain, and, in fine, us as grand master of ceremonies, has, notwithstanding such accumulation of honors, become disgusted with the world, and requests of us a parting testimony;
But the exertion, and the emotion occasioned by the interview with his son, prostrated him again. He was taken back into his palace and to his bed more dead than alive. Reviving a little in the afternoon, he dictated to Frederick all the arrangements he wished to have adopted in reference to his funeral. This curious document is characteristic, in every line, of the strange man. His coffin, which was of massive oak carpentry, had been made for some time, and was in the king’s chamber awaiting its occupant. He not unfrequently, with affected or real complacency, fixed his eyes upon it, saying, “I shall sleep right well there.” In the minute directions to his son as to his burial, he said,“Happy, my dear sister, is the obscure man whose good sense, from youth upward, has renounced all sorts of glory; who, in his safe and humble place, has none to envy him, and whose fortune does not excite the cupidity of scoundrels. But these reflections are vain. We have to be what our birth, which decides, has made us in entering upon this world.“Hurl them out,” he wrote. “Gather twenty, thirty thousand men, if need be. Let there be no delay. I will as soon be pitched out of Brandenburg as out of Silesia.”
ATTACK UPON NEISSE.Voltaire, speaking of this conflict, says, “It was the most inconceivable and complete rout and discomfiture of which history433 makes any mention. Thirty thousand French and twenty thousand imperial troops were there seen making a disgraceful and precipitate flight before five battalions and a few squadrons. The defeats of Agincourt, Cressy, and Poitiers were not so humiliating.”110
At Wesel the king met Maupertuis, to whom we have already alluded, who was then one of the greatest of European celebrities. His discovery of the flattening of the earth at the poles had given him such renown that the kings of Russia, France, and Prussia were all lavishing honors upon him. It was a great gratification to Frederick that he had secured his services in organizing the Berlin Academy. While at Wesel the king was seized by a fever, which shut him up for a time in the small chateau of Moyland. He had never yet met Voltaire, and being very anxious to see him, wrote to him as follows, under date of September 6th, 1740:
“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.The king, smothering his wrath, did not immediately seek an interview with his son. But the next day, encountering him, he said, sarcastically, “Ah! you are still here, then; I thought that by this time you would have been in Paris.” The prince, somewhat emboldened by despair, ventured to reply, “I certainly could have been there had I wished it.”详情
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