Poor Valori, the French embassador, was placed in a very embarrassing situation. The anger of the Prussian king vented itself upon him. He was in complete disgrace. It was his duty daily to wait upon Frederick. But the king would seldom speak to him, or even look upon him; and if he did favor him with a glance, it was with an expression of scorn.
The next morning the princess received the following cruel epistle from her mother:If these words are true, which Milton places in the lips of the apostate fiend, it is appalling to think of the ungoverned and ungovernable spirit with which the king entered the unseen world. We know not that there is any power in the alembic of death to transform the character; and certain it is that if Frederick William carried with him to the abode of spirits the same character which he cherished in this world, there are but few who could be rendered happy by his society. But we must leave him with his God, and return to the stormy scenes upon which his son now entered.
“It would be easier for me to make peace with France than with Prussia. What good could possibly result now from peace with Prussia? I must have Silesia again. Without Silesia the imperial sceptre would be but a bauble. Would you have us sway that sceptre under the guardianship of Prussia? Prince Charles is now in a condition to fight the Prussians again. Until after another battle, do not speak to me of peace. You say that if we make peace with Prussia, Frederick will give his vote for the grand-duke as emperor. The grand-duke is not so ambitious of an empty honor as to engage in it under the tutelage of Prussia. Consider, moreover, is the imperial dignity consistent with the loss of Silesia? One more battle I demand. Were I compelled to agree with Frederick to-morrow, I would try him in a battle to-night.”85a a. Austrian Army, b b. Prussian Army. c. Ziethen’s Hussars. d. Nadasti’s Hussars. e. The Oak Wood.
“All is lost, my dear daughter. The king is determined, at all hazards, upon your marriage. I have sustained several dreadful contests on this subject, but neither my prayers nor my tears have had any effect. Eversman has orders to make the purchases necessary for your marriage. You must prepare yourself to lose Madam Sonsfeld. The king is determined to have her degraded with infamy if you do not obey him. Some one will be sent to persuade you. In God’s name consent to nothing, and God will support you in it. A prison is better than a bad marriage. Adieu, my dear daughter! I expect every thing from your firmness.While Frederick William was confined to his room, tormented by the gout, he endeavored to beguile the hours in painting in oil. Some of these paintings still exist, with the epigraph, “Painted by Frederick William in his torments.” Wilhelmina writes:“The queen made me a sign to follow her, and passed into a neighboring apartment, where she had the English and Germans of King George’s suite successively presented to her. After some talk with these gentlemen she withdrew, leaving me to entertain them, and saying, ‘Speak English to my daughter; you will find she speaks it very well.’ I felt much less embarrassed when the queen was gone, and, picking up a little courage, entered into conversation with these English. As I spoke their language like my mother tongue I got pretty well out of the affair, and every body seemed charmed with me. They made my eulogy to the queen; told her I had quite the English air, and was made to be their sovereign one day. It was saying a great deal on their part; for these English think themselves so much above all other people that they imagine that they are paying a high compliment when they tell any one he has got English manners.
For some unexplained reason, soon after this, the king partially relented, and invited Voltaire to Potsdam. He allowed him to retain his cross and key, and said nothing about the return of the volume of poetry. This was a volume of which twelve copies only had been printed. On the 25th of March, 1753, Voltaire left Potsdam for Dresden.At the earliest dawn the whole army was in motion. Ranked in four columns, they cautiously advanced toward Ohlau, ready to deploy instantly into line of battle should the enemy appear. Scouts were sent out in all directions. But, toiling painfully through the drifts, they could obtain no reliable information. The spy-glass revealed nothing but the winding-sheet of crisp and sparkling snow, with scarcely a shrub or a tree to break the dreary view. There were no fences to be seen—nothing but a smooth, white plain, spreading for miles around. The hamlet of Mollwitz, where General Neipperg had established his head-quarters, was about seven miles north from Pogerell, from which point Frederick was marching. At the distance of a few miles from each other there were several wretched little255 hamlets, consisting of a few low, thatched, clay farm-houses clustered together.
“It is in such moments that I have felt how small are those advantages of birth, those vapors of grandeur, with which vanity would solace us. They amount to little, properly to nothing. Ah! would glory but make use of me to crown your successes!The Russians, triumphantly advancing, entered Silesia, and reached Crossen, on the Oder, within a hundred miles of Frederick’s encampment.
“I write from a place where there lived once a great man,27 which is now the Prince of Orange’s house. The demon of ambition sheds its unhappy poisons over his days. He might be the most fortunate of men, and he is devoured by chagrins in his beautiful palace here, in the middle of his gardens and of a brilliant court.”Thus deprived of all the ordinary comforts of life, the prince, in the nineteenth year of his age, was consigned to an imprisonment of absolute solitude. For weeks and months he was left to his own agitating thoughts, with the apparent blighting of every earthly hope, awaiting whatever doom his merciless father might award to him. His jailers, not unmindful of the embarrassing fact that their captive might yet become King of Prussia,102 with their fate in his hands, gradually treated him with all the secret kindness which they dared to exhibit.13
This despondency lasted, however, but a moment. Concealing his emotions, he smoothed his furrowed brow, dressed his face in smiles, and wrote doggerel verses and jocose letters as if he were merely a fashionable man of pleasure. At the same time he rallied all his marvelous energies, and prepared to meet the exigency366 with sagacity and intrepidity rarely surpassed. Orders were immediately dispatched to the Old Dessauer to marshal an army to oppose Grüne and Rutowski, while the king hastened to Silesia to attack Prince Charles. Leopold, though he had nearly numbered his threescore years and ten, according to Frederick, was very glad to fight once again before he died. The veteran general ventured to make some suggestions in reference to the orders he had received. The king sternly replied,
It seems that in England there were two parties in reference to the war. Sir Horace Walpole, in a letter under date of December 5th, 1760, wrote to Sir Horace Mann, at Florence:
Deceptive Measures of Frederick.—Plans for the Invasion of Silesia.—Avowed Reasons for the Invasion.—The Ball in Berlin.—The March of the Army.—Hardships and Successes.—Letter to Voltaire.—Capture of Glogau.—Capture of Brieg.—Bombardment of Neisse.On the 18th of September, when the rejoicing Austrians at K?niggr?tz were firing salutes, drinking wine, and feasting in honor of the election of the grand-duke to the imperial dignity, Frederick, availing himself of the carousal in the camp of his foes, crossed the Elbe with his whole army, a few miles above K?niggr?tz, and commenced his retreat to Silesia. His path led through a wild, sparsely inhabited country, of precipitous rocks, hills, mountain torrents, and quagmires. One vast forest spread along the banks of the Elbe, covering with its gloom an extent of sixty square miles. A few miserable hamlets were scattered over this desolate region. The poor inhabitants lived mainly upon the rye which they raised and the swine which ranged the forest.详情
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