One of this smoking cabinet was a celebrated adventurer named Gundling, endowed with wonderful encyclopedian knowledge, and an incorrigible drunkard. He had been every where, seen every thing, and remembered all which he had either heard or seen. Frederick William had accidentally picked him up, and, taking a fancy to him, had clothed him, pensioned him, and introduced him to his Tabagie, where his peculiar character often made him the butt of ridicule. He was excessively vain, wore a scarlet coat, and all manner of pranks were cut up by these boon companions, in the midst of their cups, at his expense.The fact was, that the diplomacy of Voltaire had probably not the slightest influence in guiding the action of the king. Frederick had become alarmed in view of the signal successes of the armies of Maria Theresa, under her brother-in-law, Prince Charles of Lorraine. Several Austrian generals, conspicuous among whom was Marshal Traun, were developing great military ability. The armies of Austria had conquered Bohemia and Bavaria. The French troops, discomfited in many battles, had been compelled to retreat to the western banks of the Rhine, vigorously pursued by Prince Charles. The impotent emperor Charles Albert, upon whom France had placed the imperial crown of Germany, was driven from his hereditary realm, and the heart-broken man, in poverty and powerlessness, was an emperor but in name. It was evident that Maria Theresa was gathering her strength to reconquer Silesia. She had issued a decree that the Elector of Bavaria was not legitimately chosen emperor. It was very manifest that her rapidly increasing influence would soon enable her to dethrone the unfortunate Charles Albert, and to place the imperial crown upon the brow of her husband.400 “This polite address put an end to all anger; and, as the singular manner of the man excited my curiosity, I took advantage of the invitation. We sat down and began to speak confidentially with one another.
“I should think myself richer in the possession of your works than in that of all the transient goods of fortune.
“It is impossible for you to imagine the horrible fatigues which we undergo. This campaign is worse than any of the others. I sometimes know not which way to turn. But why weary you with these details of my toils and miseries? My spirits have forsaken me. All my gayety is buried with those dear and noble ones to whom my heart was bound. The end of my life is melancholy and sad; but do not, therefore, my dear marquis, forget your old friend.”155
Preparing for the Battle.—The Surprise.—The Snow-encumbered Plain.—Horror of the Scene.—Flight of Frederick.—His Shame and Despair.—Unexpected Victory of the Prussians.—Letters of Frederick.—Adventures of Maupertuis.
“What you write to me of my sister of Baireuth makes me tremble. Next to my mother, she is the one I have most tenderly loved in this world. She is a sister who has my heart and all my confidence, and whose character is of a price beyond all the crowns in the universe. From my tenderest years I was brought up with her. You can conceive how there reigns between us that indissoluble bond of mutual affection and attachment for life which in many cases were impossible. Would to Heaven that I might die before her!”In the autumn of 1750 Frederick held a famous Berlin carousal, the celebrity of which filled all Europe. Distinguished guests flocked to the city from all the adjoining realms. Wilhelmina came to share in the festivities. Voltaire was also present, “the observed of all observers.” An English gentleman, Sir Jonas Hanway, in the following terms describes the appearance of Frederick at this time:
“My dear Son Fritz,—I am glad you need no more medicine. But you must have a care of yourself some days yet, for the severe weather gives me and every body colds. So pray be on your guard.
“‘See there; that is the way to mark out camps.’”192
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:
After some man?uvring, the hostile forces met upon a wide, dreary, undulating plain, with here and there a hillock, in the vicinity of Rossbach. Frederick had twenty thousand men. The French general, Prince Soubise, had sixty thousand. The allies now felt sure of their prey. Their plan was to surround Frederick, destroy his army, and take him a prisoner. On the morning of the 5th of November the two hostile armies were nearly facing each other, a few miles west of the River Saale. A party of Austrians was sent by the general of the allies to destroy the bridges upon the river in the rear of the Prussians, that their retreat might be cut off. Frederick, from a house-top, eagerly watched the movement of his foes. To his surprise and great431 satisfaction, he soon saw the whole allied army commencing a circuitous march around his left to fall upon him in his rear.This rude, coarse discipline was thoroughly uncongenial to the Crown Prince. He was a boy of delicate feelings and sensitive temperament. The poetic nature very decidedly predominated in him. He was fond of music, played the flute, wrote verses, and was literary in his tastes. He simply hated chasing boars, riding on the sausage car, and being drenched with rain and spattered with mud. The old king, a mere animal with an active intellect, could not appreciate, could not understand even, the34 delicate mental and physical organization of his child. It is interesting to observe how early in life these constitutional characteristics will develop themselves, and how unavailing are all the efforts of education entirely to obliterate them. When Frederick William was a boy, he received, as a present, a truly magnificent dressing-gown, of graceful French fashion, richly embroidered with gold. Indignantly he thrust the robe into the fire, declaring that he would wear no such finery, and demanded instead a jacket of wholesome homespun. Fritz, on the contrary, could not endure the coarse homespun, but, with almost girlish fondness, craved handsome dress. He had no money allowance until he was seventeen years of age. A minute account was kept of every penny expended for him, and the most rigid economy was practiced in providing him with the mere necessaries of life. When Fritz was in the tenth year of his age, his father gave the following curious directions to the three teachers of his son in reference to his daily mode of life. The document, an abridgment of which we give, was dated Wusterhausen, September 3, 1721:详情
Copyright © 2020