Frederick turned upon his heel, and made no answer.“It was but a few years ago,” she wrote, “that this territory wore the most pleasing appearance. The country was cultivated. The peasants looked cheerful. The towns abounded with riches and festivity. What an alteration at present from such a charming scene! I am not expert at description, neither can my fancy add any horrors to the picture. But sure even conquerors themselves would weep at the hideous prospect now before me.On the 10th of October Frederick was attacked by the gout, and for three weeks was confined to his room. This extraordinary man, struggling, as it were, in the jaws of destruction, beguiled the weary hours of sickness and pain by writing a treatise upon Charles XII. and his Military Character. On the 24th of October, the Russian commander, quarreling with General Daun, set out, with his whole force, for home. On the 1st of November the king was carried in a litter to Glogau. Cold weather having now set in, General Daun commenced a march for Bohemia, to seek winter quarters nearer his supplies. Frederick, his health being restored, rejoined his troops under Henry, which were near Dresden. The withdrawal of both the Russians and Austrians from Silesia greatly elated him. On the 15th of November he wrote to D’Argens from Maxen, a village a little south of Dresden:
“Leitmeritz, July 13, 1757.“There came, in those weeks, one of the Duke of Gloucester’s gentlemen to Berlin. The queen had a soiree. He was presented to her as well as to me. He made a very obliging compliment on his master’s part. I blushed and answered only by a courtesy. The queen, who had her eye on me, was very angry that I had answered the duke’s compliments in mere silence, and rated me sharply for it, and ordered me, under pain of her indignation, to repair that fault to-morrow. I retired all in tears to my room, exasperated against the queen and against the duke. I vowed I would never marry him.
“My dear Voltaire,—In spite of myself, I have to yield to the quartan fever, which is more tenacious than a Jansenist. And whatever desire I had of going to Antwerp and Brussels, I find myself not in a condition to undertake such a journey without risk. I would ask of you, then, if the road from Brussels to Cleves would not to you seem too long for a meeting? It is the one means of seeing you which remains to me. Confess that I am unlucky; for now, when I could dispose of my person, and nothing hinders me from seeing you, the fever gets its hand into the business, and seems to intend disputing me that satisfaction.
In one of the letters of the Crown Prince, speaking of the mode of traveling with his father, he says: “We have now been traveling near three weeks. The heat is as great as if we were riding astride upon a ray of the sun. The dust is like a dense cloud, which renders us invisible to the eyes of the by-standers. In addition to this, we travel like the angels, without sleep, and almost without food. Judge, then, what my condition must be.”“The King of Prussia is thought to be dying. I am weary of the political discussions on this subject as to what effects his death must produce. He is better at this moment, but so weak he can not resist long. Physique is gone. But his force and energy of soul, they say, have often supported him, and in desperate crises have even seemed to increase. Liking to him I never had. His ostentatious immorality has much hurt public virtue, and there have been related to me barbarities which excite horror.
At one moment the Russian horse dashed against this line and staggered it. Frederick immediately rushed into the vortex to rally the broken battalions. At the same instant the magnificent squadrons of Seidlitz, five thousand strong, flushed with victory, swept like the storm-wind upon the Russian dragoons. They were whirled back like autumn leaves before the gale. About four o’clock the firing ceased. The ammunition on both sides was nearly expended. For some time the Prussians had been using the cartridge-boxes of the dead Russians.The queen, Maria Theresa, still remained at Presburg, in her Hungarian kingdom. The Aulic Council was with her. On the 15th of August Sir Thomas Robinson had returned to Presburg with the intelligence of his unsuccessful mission, and of the unrelenting determination of Frederick to prosecute the war with the utmost vigor unless Silesia were surrendered to him.Very vigorous measures were immediately adopted to establish an Academy of Sciences. The celebrated French philosopher Maupertuis, who had just obtained great renown from measuring a degree of the meridian at the polar circle, was invited to organize this very important institute. The letter to the philosopher, written by the king but a few days after his accession, was as follows:
FREDERICK ASLEEP IN THE HUT AT OETSCHER.It was a peculiarity quite inexplicable which led Frederick to exclude females from his court. His favorites were all men—men of some peculiar intellectual ability. He sought their society only. With the exception of his sister, and occasionally some foreign princess, ladies were seldom admitted to companionship with him. He was a cold, solitary man, so self-reliant that he seldom asked or took advice.
“Nothing touched me so much as that you had not any trust in me. All this that I was doing for the aggrandizement of the house, the army, and the finances, could only be for you, if you made yourself worthy of it. I here declare that I have done all things to gain your friendship, and all has been in vain.”The bishop denied that Frederick William had any claim to207 Herstal. He brought forward a prior claim of his own in behalf of the Church. The Duke of Lorraine, when proprietor of the castle and its dependencies, had pawned it to the bishop for a considerable sum of money. This money, the bishop averred, had never been repaid. Consequently he claimed the property as still in his possession.
“Tantalus never suffered so much while standing in the river, the waters of which he could not drink, as I when, having received your package of the translation of Wolff, I was unable to read it. All the accidents and all the bores in the world were, I think, agreed to prevent me. A journey to Potsdam, daily reviews, and the arrival of my brother in company with Messrs. De Hacke and De Rittberg, have been my impediments. Imagine my horror, my dear Diaphanes,30 at seeing the arrival of this caravan without my having in the least expected them. They weigh upon my shoulders like a tremendous burden, and never quit my side, in order, I believe, to make me wish myself at the devil.”The chivalry of Europe was in sympathy with the young and beautiful queen, who, inexperienced, afflicted by the death of her father, and about to pass through the perils of maternity, had been thus suddenly and rudely assailed by one who should have protected her with almost a brother’s love and care. Every court in Europe was familiar with the fact that the father of Maria Theresa had not only humanely interceded, in the most earnest terms, for the life of Frederick, but had interposed his imperial authority’ to rescue him from the scaffold, with which he was threatened by his unnatural parent. Frederick found that he stood quite alone, and that he had nothing to depend upon but his own energies and those of his compact, well-disciplined army.
Frederick was soon aware that peace was out of the question without farther fighting. Before the 1st of April he had one hundred and forty-five thousand men ready for the field. Of these, fifty-three thousand were in Silesia. Many of the Austrian deserters were induced to join his standards. But the most important event secured was forming a subsidy treaty with England. The British cabinet, alarmed in view of the power which the successful prosecution of the war on the part of the allies would give to France, after much hesitation, came to the aid of Frederick, whom they hated as much as they feared France. On the 11th of April, 1758, a treaty was signed between the English court and Frederick, containing the following important item:详情
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