To his sister, Fritz wrote, about the same time, in a more subdued strain, referring simply to his recent life in Cüstrin: “Thus far my lot has been a tolerably happy one. I have lived quietly in the garrison. My flute, my books, and a few affectionate friends have made my way of life there sufficiently agreeable. They now want to force me to abandon all this in order to marry me to the Princess of Bevern, whom I do not know. Must one always be tyrannized over without any hope of a change? Still, if my dear sister were only here, I should endure all with patience.”
“You are the first who have asked any favor of me on Silesian ground. Your request shall be granted.”
As usual, Frederick wrote a poem upon the occasion. It was vulgar and profane. Carlyle says of it, “The author, with a wild burst of spiritual enthusiasm, sings the charms of the rearward part of certain men. He rises to the height of anti-biblical profanity, quoting Moses on the Hill of Vision; sinks to the bottomless of human or ultra-human depravity, quoting King Nicomedes’s experience on C?sar, happily known only to the learned. A most cynical, profane affair; yet we must say, by way of parenthesis, one which gives no countenance to Voltaire’s atrocities of rumor about Frederick himself in the matter.”111
With the utmost secrecy Frederick matured his plans. It could not be concealed that he was about to embark in some important military enterprise. The embassadors from other courts exerted all their ingenuity, but in vain, to ascertain in what direction the army was to march. Though the French had an embassador at Berlin, still it would seem that Voltaire was sent as a spy, under the guise of friendship, to attempt to ferret out the designs of the king. These men, who did not profess any regard to the principles of religion, seem also to have trampled219 under feet all the instincts of honor. Voltaire endeavored to conceal his treachery beneath smiles and flattery, writing even love verses to the king. The king kept his own secret. Voltaire was not a little chagrined by his want of success. In his billet of leave he wrote:
Fritz went in the royal carriage, with suitable escort, to meet the young marquis on the Prussian frontier, as he came to his bridals. They returned together in the carriage to Potsdam with great military display. The wedding took place on the 30th of May, 1729. It was very magnificent. Fritz was conspicuous on the occasion in a grand review of the giant grenadiers. Wilhelmina, in her journal, speaks quite contemptuously of her new brother-in-law, the Marquis of Anspach, describing him as a foolish young fellow. It was, indeed, a marriage of children. The bridegroom was a sickly, peevish, undeveloped boy of seventeen; and the bride was a self-willed and ungoverned little beauty of fifteen. The marriage proved a very unhappy one. There was no harmony between them. Frederick writes: “They hate one another like the fire” (comme le feu). They, however, lived together in incessant petty quarrelings for thirty years. Probably during all that time neither one of them saw a happy day.Early the next morning Frederick commenced the vigorous pursuit of the retiring foe. A storm arose. For twelve hours the rain fell in torrents. But the Prussian army was impelled onward, through the mud, and through the swollen streams, inspired by the almost supernatural energy which glowed in the bosom of its king. It seemed as if no hardships, sufferings, or perils could induce those iron men, who by discipline had been converted into mere machines, to wander from the ranks or to falter on the way. As we have mentioned, there were throughout all this region two religious parties, the Catholics and the Protestants. They were strongly antagonistic to each other. Under the Austrian sway, the Catholics, having the support of the government, had enjoyed unquestioned supremacy. They had often very cruelly persecuted the Protestants, robbing them of their churches, and, in their zeal to defend what they deemed the orthodox faith, depriving them of their children, and placing them under the care of the Catholic priests to be educated.
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,“Leave the cold ashes of Maupertuis in peace. He was noble and faithful. He pardoned you that vile libel of Doctor Akakia which your criminal fury scribbled against him. And what return are you making? Shame on such delirious ravings as those of Voltaire! Shall this grand genius, whom I have admired, soil himself with calumny, and be ferocious on the dead? Shall he, like a vile raven, pounce upon the sepulchre, and make prey upon its corpses?”
“I observed that the king took a pinch of snuff as the sound of each discharge reached him. And even through that air of intrepidity, which never abandoned this prince, I could perceive the sensations of pity toward that unfortunate town, and an eager impatience to fly to its relief.“Frederick.
“The seventh day after our accession to the throne of all the Russias we received information that the late emperor, Peter III., was attacked with a violent colic. That we might not be wanting in Christian duty, or disobedient to the divine command by which we are enjoined to preserve the life of our neighbor, we immediately ordered that the said Peter should be furnished with every thing that might be judged necessary to restore his health by the aids of medicine. But, to our great regret and affliction, we were yesterday evening apprized that, by permission of the Almighty, the late emperor departed this life.”详情
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