Part 2 out of 3
Holding these two Pieces well together, and giving the King's
faithfully translated, in a complete state, it will be possible to
satisfy foolish cravings, and make this Strasburg Adventure
KING FRIEDRICH TO VOLTAIRE (from Wesel, 2d September, 1740),
CHIEFLY IN DOGGEREL, CONCERNING THE RUN TO STRASBURG.
Part of it, incorrect, in Voltaire,
(scandalous Piece now called
finally, in Preuss,
xiv. 156-161, the real and complete affair, as fished up by
victorious Preuss and others.
"I have just finished a Journey, intermingled with singular
adventures, sometimes pleasant, sometimes the reverse. You know I
had set out for Baireuth,"--BRUXELLES the beautiful French Editor
wrote, which makes Egyptian darkness of the Piece!--"to see a
Sister whom I love no less than esteem. On the road [thither or
thence; or likeliest, THERE], Algarotti and I consulted the map,
to settle our route for returning by Wesel. Frankfurt-on-Mayn
comes always as a principal stage;--Strasburg was no great
roundabout: we chose that route in preference. The INCOGNITO was
decided, names pitched upon [Comte Dufour, and the others];
story we were to tell: in fine, all was arranged and concerted to
a nicety as well as possible. We fancied we should get to
Strasburg in three days [from Baireuth].
But Heaven, which disposes of all things,
Differently regulated this thing.
With lank-sided coursers,
Lineal descendants from Rosinante,
With ploughmen in the dress of postilions,
Blockheads of impertinent nature;
Our carriages sticking fast a hundred times in the road,
We went along with gravity at a leisurely pace,
Knocking against the crags.
The atmosphere in uproar with loud thunder,
The rain-torrents streaming over the Earth
Threatened mankind with the Day of Judgment [VERY BAD WEATHER],
And in spite of our impatience,
Four good days are, in penance,
Lost forever in these jumblings.
Mais le ciel, qui de tout dispose,
Regla differemment la chose.
Avec de coursiers efflanques,
En ligne droites issus de Rosinante,
Et des paysans en postillons masques,
Dutors de race impertinente,
Notre carrosse en cent lieux accroche,
Nous allions gravement, d'une allure indolente,
Gravitant contre les rochers.
Les airs emus par le bruyant tonnerre,
Les torrents d'eau repandus sur la terre,
Du dernier jour menacaient les humains;
Et malgre notre impatience,
Quatre bons jours en penitence
Sont pour jamais perdus dans les charrains.
"Had all our fatalities been limited to stoppages of speed on the
journey, we should have taken patience; but, after frightful
roads, we found lodgings still frightfuler.
For greedy landlords
Seeing us pressed by hunger
Did, in a more than frugal manner,
In their infernal hovels,
Poisoning instead of feeding,
Steal from us our crowns.
O age different [in good cheer] from that of Lucullus!
Car des hotes interesses,
De la faim nous voyant presses,
D'une facon plus que frugale,
Dans une chaumiere infernale,
En nous empoisonnant,
Nous volaient nos ecus.
O siecle different des temps de Lucullus!
"Frightful roads; short of victual, short of drink: nor was that
all. We had to undergo a variety of accidents; and certainly our
equipage must have had a singular air, for in every new place we
came to, they took us for something different.
Some took us for Kings,
Some for pickpockets well disguised;
Others for old acquaintances.
At times the people crowded out,
Looked us in the eyes,
Like clowns impertinently curious.
Our lively Italian [Algarotti] swore;
For myself I took patience;
The young Count [my gay younger Brother, eighteen at present]
quizzed and frolicked;
The big Count [Heir-apparent of Dessau] silently swung his head,
Wishing this fine Journey to France,
In the bottom of his heart, most christianly at the Devil.
Les uns nous prenaient pour des rois,
D'autres pour des filous courtois,
D'autrespour gens de connaissance;
Parfois le peuple s'attroupait,
Entre les yeux nous regardait
En badauds curieux, remplis d'impertinence.
Notre vif Italien jurait,
Pour moi je prenais patience,
Le jeune Comte folatrait,
Le grand Comte se dandinait,
Et ce beau vogage de France
Dans le fond de son coeur chretiennement damnait.
"We failed not, however, to struggle gradually along; at last we
arrived in that Stronghold, where [as preface to the War of 1734,
known to some of us]--
Where the garrison, too supple,
Surrendered so piteously
After the first blurt of explosion
From the cannon of the French.
Ou a garnison, troupe flasque,
Se rendit si piteusement
Apres la premiere bourasque
Du canon francais foudroyant.
You recognize Kehl in this description. It was in that fine
Fortress,--where, by the way, the breaches are still lying
unrepaired [Reich being a slow corpus in regard to such things],
--that the Postmaster, a man of more foresight than we, asked
If we had got passports?
No, said I to him; of passports
We never had the whim.
Strong ones I believe it would need
To recall, to our side of the limit,
Subjects of Pluto King of the Dead:
But, from the Germanic Empire
Into the gallant and cynical abode
Of Messieurs your pretty Frenchmen,--
A jolly and beaming air,
Rubicund faces, not ignorant of wine,
These are the passports which, legible if you look on us,
Our troop produces to you for that end.
Non, lui dis-je, des passe-ports
Nous n'eumes jamais la folie.
Il en faudrait, je crois, de forts
Pour ressusciter a la vie
De chez Pluton le roi des morts;
Mais de l'empire germanique
Au sejour galant et cynique
De Messieurs vos jolis Francais,
Un air rebondissant et frais,
Une face rouge et bachique,
Sont les passe-ports qu'en nos traits
Vous produit ici notre clique.
"No, Messieurs, said the provident Master of Passports;
no salvation without passport. Seeing then that Necessity
had got us in the dilemma of either manufacturing passports
ourselves or not entering Strasburg, we took the former branch
of the alternative and manufactured one;--in which feat, the
Prussian arms, which I had on my seal, were marvellously
This is a fact, as the old Newspapers and confirmatory Fassmann
more directly apprise us. "The Landlord [or Postmaster] at Kehl,
having signified that there was no crossing without Passport,"
Friedrich, at first, somewhat taken aback, bethought him of his
watch-seal with the Royal Arms on it; and soon manufactured the
necessary Passport, signeted in due form;--which, however, gave a
suspicion to the Innkeeper as to the quality of his Guest.
After which, Tuesday evening, 23d August, "they at once got across
to Strasburg," says my Newspaper Friend, "and put up at the SIGN
OF THE RAVEN, there." Or in Friedrich's own jingle:--
"We arrived at Strasburg; and the Custom-house corsair, with his
inspectors, seemed content with our evidences.
These scoundrels spied us,
With one eye reading our passport,
With the other ogling our purse.
Gold, which was always a resource,
Which brought, Jove to the enjoyment
Of Danae whom he caressed;
Gold, by which Caesar governed
The world happy under his sway;
Gold, more a divinity than Mars or Love;
Wonder-working Gold introduced us
That evening, within the walls of Strasburg."
[Given thus far, with several slight errors, in Voltaire, ii.
24-26;--the remainder, long unknown, had to be fished up, patch by
Ces scelerats nous epiaient,
D'un oeil le passe-port lisaient,
De l'autre lorgnaient notre bourse.
L'or, qui toujours fut de ressource,
Par lequel Jupin jouissait
De Danae, qu'il caressait;
L'or, par qui Cesar gouvernait
Le monde heureux sous son empire;
L'or, plus dieu que Mars et l'Amour,
Le soir, dans les murs de Strasbourg.
Sad doggerel; permissible perhaps as a sample of the Friedrich
manufacture, surely not otherwise! There remains yet more than
half of it; readers see what their foolish craving has brought
upon them! Doggerel out of which no clear story, such story as
there is, can be had; though, except the exaggeration and
contortion, there is nothing of fiction in it. We fly to the
Newspaper, happily at least a prose composition, which begins at
this point; and shall use the Doggerel henceforth as illustration
only or as repetition in the Friedrich-mirror, of a thing
OTHERWISE made clear to us:--
Having got into Strasburg and the RAVEN HOTEL; Friedrich now on
French ground at last, or at least on Half-French, German-French,
is intent to make the most of circumstances. The Landlord, with
one of Friedrich's servants, is straightway despatched into the
proper coffee-houses to raise a supper-party of Officers; politely
asks any likely Officer, "If he will not do a foreign Gentleman
[seemingly of some distinction, signifies Boniface] the honor to
sup with him at the Raven?"--"No, by Jupiter!" answer the most, in
their various dialects: "who is he that we should sup with him?"
Three, struck by the singularity of the thing, undertake; and with
these we must be content. Friedrich--or call him M. le Comte
Dufour, with Pfuhl, Schaffgotsch and such escort as we see--
politely apologizes on the entrance of these officers:
"Many pardons, gentlemen, and many thanks. Knowing nobody;
desirous of acquaintance:--since you are so good, how happy, by a
little informality, to have brought brave Officers to keep me
company, whom I value beyond other kinds of men!"
The Officers found their host a most engaging gentleman:
his supper was superb, plenty of wine, "and one red kind they had
never tasted before, and liked extremely;"--of which he sent some
bottles to their lodging next day. The conversation turned on
military matters, and was enlivened with the due sallies.
This foreign Count speaks French wonderfully; a brilliant man,
whom the others rather fear: perhaps something more than a Count?
The Officers, loath to go, remembered that their two battalions
had to parade next morning, that it was time to be in bed: "I will
go to your review," said the Stranger Count: the delighted
Officers undertake to come and fetch him, they settle with him
time and method; how happy!
On the morrow, accordingly, they call and fetch him; he looks at
the review; review done, they ask him to supper for this evening:
"With pleasure!" and "walks with them about the Esplanade, to see
the guard march by." Before parting, he takes their names, writes
them in his tablets; says, with a smile, "He is too much obliged
ever to forget them." This is Wednesday, the 24th of August, 1740;
Field-Marshal Broglio is Commandant in Strasburg, and these
obliging Officers are "of the regiment Piedmont,"--their names on
the King's tablets I never heard mentioned by anybody (or never
till the King's Doggerel was fished up again). Field-Marshal
Broglio my readers have transiently seen, afar off;--"galloping
with only one boot," some say "almost in his shirt," at the Ford
of Secchia, in those Italian campaigns, five years ago, the
Austrians having stolen across upon him:--he had a furious gallop,
with no end of ridicule, on that occasion; is now Commandant here;
and we shall have a great deal more to do with him within the next
year or two.
"This same day, 24th, while I [the Newspaper volunteer Reporter or
Own Correspondent, seemingly a person of some standing, whose
words carry credibility in the tone of them] was with Field-
Marshal Broglio our Governor here, there came two gentlemen to be
presented to him; 'German Cavaliers' they were called; who, I now
find, must have been the Prince of Prussia and Algarotti.
The Field-Marshal,"--a rather high-stalking white-headed old
military gentleman, bordering on seventy, of Piedmontese air and
breed, apt to be sudden and make flounderings, but the soul of
honor, "was very polite to the two Cavaliers, and kept them to
dinner. After dinner there came a so-styled 'Silesian Nobleman,'
who likewise was presented to the Field-Marshal, and affected not
to know the other two: him I now find to have been the Prince
Of his Majesty's supper with the Officers that Wednesday, we are
left to think how brilliant it was: his Majesty, we hear farther,
went to the Opera that night,--the Polichinello or whatever the
"Italian COMODIE" was;--"and a little girl came to his box with
two lottery-tickets fifteen pence each, begging the foreign
Gentleman for the love of Heaven to buy them of her; which he did,
tearing them up at once, and giving the poor creature four
ducats," equivalent to two guineas, or say in effect even five
pounds of the present British currency. The fame of this foreign
Count and his party at The Raven is becoming very loud over
Strasburg, especially in military circles. Our volunteer Own
Correspondent proceeds (whom we mean to contrast with the Royal
Doggerel by and by):--
"Next morning," Thursday, 25th August, "as the Marshal with above
two hundred Officers was out walking on the Esplanade, there came
a soldier of the Regiment Luxemburg, who, after some stiff fugling
motions, of the nature of salutation partly, and partly demand for
privacy, intimated to the Marshal surprising news: That the
Stranger in The Raven was the King of Prussia in person; he, the
soldier, at present of the Regiment Luxemburg, had in other days,
before he deserted, been of the Prussian Crown-Prince's regiment;
had consequently seen him in Berlin, Potsdam and elsewhere a
thousand times and more, and even stood sentry where he was:
the fact is beyond dispute, your Excellency! said this
Whereupon a certain Colonel, Marquis de Loigle, with or without a
hint from Broglio, makes off for The Raven; introduces himself, as
was easy; contrives to get invited to stay dinner, which also was
easy. During dinner the foreign Gentleman expressed some wish to
see their fortress. Colonel Loigle sends word to Broglio;
Broglio despatches straightway an Officer and fine carriage:
"Will the foreign Gentleman do me the honor?" The foreign
Gentleman, still struggling for incognito, declines the uppermost
seat of honor in the carriage; the two Officers, Loigle and this
new one, insist on taking the inferior place. Alas, the incognito
is pretty much out. Calling at some coffee-house or the like on
the road, a certain female, "Madame de Fienne," named the foreign
Gentleman "Sire,"--which so startled him that, though he utterly
declined such title, the two Officers saw well how it was.
"After survey of the works, the two attendant Officers had
returned to the Field-Marshal; and about 4 P.M. the high Stranger
made appearance there. But the thing had now got wind, 'King of
Prussia here incognito!' The place was full of Officers, who came
crowding about him: he escaped deftly into the Marechal's own
Cabinet; sat there, an hour, talking to the Marechal [little
admiring the Marechal's talk, as we shall find], still insisting
on the incognito,"--to which Broglio, put out in his high paces by
this sudden thing, and apt to flounder, as I have heard, was not
polite enough to conform altogether. "What shall I do, in this
sudden case?" poor Broglio is thinking to himself: "must write to
Court; perhaps try to detain--?" Friedrioh's chief thought
naturally is, One cannot be away out of this too soon. "Sha'n't we
go to the Play, then, Monsieur le Marechal? Play-hour is come!"--
Own Correspondent of the Newspaper proceeds:--
"The Marechal then went to the Play, and all his Officers with
him; thinking their royal prize was close at their heels.
Marechal and Officers fairly ahead, coast once clear, their royal
prize hastened back to The Raven, paid his bill; hastily summoning
Schaffgotsch and the others within hearing; shot off like
lightning; and was seen in Strasburg no more. Algarotti, who was
in the box with Broglio, heard the news in the house; regretful
rumor among the Officers, 'He is gone!' In about a quarter of an
hour Algarotti too slipped out; and vanished by extra post"--
straight towards Wesel; but could not overtake the King (whose
road, in the latter part of it, went zigzag, on business as is
likely), nor see him again till they met in that Town.
This is the Prose Truth of those fifty or eight-and-forty hours in
Strasburg, which were so mythic and romantic at that time.
Shall we now apply to the Royal Doggerel again, where we left off,
and see the other side of the picture? Once settled in The Raven,
within Strasburg's walls, the Doggerel continues:--
"You fancy well that there was now something to exercise my
curiosity; and what desire I had to know the French Nation in
There I saw at length those French,
Of whom you have sung the glories;
A people despised by the English,
Whom their sad rationality fills with black bile;
Those French, whom our Germans
Reckon all to be destitute of sense;
Those French, whose History consists of Love-stories,
I mean the wandering kind of Love, not the constant;
Foolish this People, headlong, high-going,
Which sings beyond endurance;
Lofty in its good fortune, crawling in its bad;
Of an unpitying extent of babble,
To hide the vacancy of its ignorant mind.
Of the Trifling it is a tender lover;
The Trifling alone takes possession of its brain.
People flighty, indiscreet, imprudent,
Turning like the weathercock to every wind.
Of the ages of the Caesars those of the Louises are the shadow;
Paris is the ghost, of Rome, take it how you will.
No, of those vile French you are not one:
You think; they do not think at all.
La je vis enfin ces Francais
Dont vous avez chante la gloire;
Peuple meprise' des Anglais,
Que leur triste raison remplit de bile noire;
Ces Francais, que nos Allemands
Pensent tous prives de bon sens;
Ces Francais, do nt l'amour pourrait dicter l'histoire,
Je dis l'amour volage, et non l'amour constant;
Ce peuple fou, brusque et galant,
Superbe en sa fortune, en son malheur rampant,
D'un bavardage impitoyable,
Pour cacher le creux d'un esprit ignorant,
Tendre amant de la bagatelle,
Elle entre seule en sa cervelle;
Leger, indiscret, imprudent,
Comme ume girouette il revire a tout vent.
Des siecles des Cesars ceux des Louis sont l'ombre;
Rome efface Paris en tout sens, en tout point.
Non, des vils Francais vous n'etes pas du nombre;
Vous pensez, ils ne pensent point.
"Pardon, dear Voltaire, this definition of the French; at worst,
it is only of those in Strasburg I speak. To scrape acquaintance,
I had to invite some Officers on our arrival, whom of course I did
Three of them came at once,
Gayer, more content than Kings;
Singing with rusty voice.
In verse, their amorous exploits,
Set to a hornpipe.
Trois d'eux s'en vinrent a la fois,
Plus gais, plus contents que des rois,
Chantant d'une voix enrouee,
En vers, leurs amoureux exploits,
Ajustes sur une bourree.
"M. de la Crochardiere and M. Malosa [two names from the tablets,
third wanting] had just come from a dinner where the wine had not
Of their hot friendship I saw the flame grow,
The Universe would have taken us for perfect friends:
But the instant of good-night blew out the business;
Friendship disappeared without regrets,
With the games, the wine, the table and the viands.
De leur chaude amitie je vis croitre le flamme,
L'univers nous eut pris pour des amis parfaits;
Mais l'instant des adieux en detruisit la trame,
L'amitie disparut, ssns causer des regrets,
Avec le jeu, le vin, et la table, et les mets.
"Next day, Monsieur the Gouverneur of the Town and Province,
Marechal of France, Chevalier of the Orders of the King, &c. &c.,
--Marechal Duc de Broglio, in fact," who was surprised at Secchia
in the late War,--
This General always surprised.
Whom with regret, young Louis [your King]
Saw without breeches in Italy
["With only one boot," was the milder rumor; which we adopted
(supra, vol. vi. p. 472), but this sadder one, too, was current;
and "Broglio's breeches," or the vain aspiration after them, like
a vanished ghost of breeches, often enough turn up in the
Galloping to hide away his life
From the Germans, unpolite fighters;--
Ce general toujours surpris,
Qu'a regret le jeune Louis
Vit sans culottes en Italie,
Courir pour derober sa vie
Aux Germains, guerriers impolis.
this General wished to investigate your Comte Dufour,--foreign
Count, who the instant he arrives sets about inviting people to
supper that are perfect strangers. He took the poor Count for a
sharper; and prudently advised M. de la Crochardiere not to be
duped by him. It was unluckily the good Marechal that proved to
He was born for surprise.
His white hair, his gray beard,
Formed a reverend exterior.
Outsides are often deceptive:
He that, by the binding, judges
Of a Book and its Author
May, after a page of reading,
Chance to recognize his mistake.
Il etait ne pour la surprise.
Ses cheveux blancs, sa barbe grise,
Formaient un sage exterieur.
Le dehors est souvent trompeur;
Qui juge par la reliure
D'un ouvrage et de son auteur
Dans une page de lecture
Peut reconnaitre son erreur.
"That was my own experience; for of wisdom I could find nothing
except in his gray hair and decrepit appearance. His first opening
betrayed him; no great well of wit this Marechal,
Who, drunk with his own grandeur,
Informs you of his name and his titles,
And authority as good as unlimited.
He cited to me all the records
Where his name is registered,
Babbled about his immense power,
About his valor, his talents
So salutary to France;--
He forgot that, three years ago
[Six to a nearness,--"15th September, 1734," if your Majesty will
Men did not praise his prudence.
Qui, de sa grandeur enivre;
Decline son nom et ses titres,
Et son pouvoir a rien borne.
Il me cita tous les registres
Ou son nom est enregistre;
Bavard de son pouvoir immense,
De sa valeur, de ces talents
Si salutaires a la France:
Il oubliait, passe trois ans,
Qu'on ne louait pas sa prudence.
"Not satisfied with seeing the Marechal, I saw the guard mounted
By these Frenchmen, burning with glory,
Who, on four sous a day,
Will make of Kings and of Heroes the memory flourish:
Slaves crowned by the hands of Victory,
Unlucky herds whom the Court
Tinkles hither and thither by the sound of fife and drum.
A ces Francais brulants de gloire,
Dotes de quatre sous par jour,
Qui des rois, des heros font fleurir la memoire,
Esclaves couronnes des mains de la victoire,
Troupeaux malheureux que la cour
Dirige au seul bruit du tambour.
"That was my fated term. A deserter from our troops got eye on me,
recognised me and denounced me.
This wretched gallows-bird got eye on me;
Such is the lot of all earthly things;
And so of our fine mystery
The whole secret came to light."
Ce malheureux pendard me vit,
C'est le sort de toutes les choses;
Ainsi de motre pot aux roses
Tout le secret se decouvrit.
Well; we must take this glimpse, such as it is, into the interior
of the young man,--fine buoyant, pungent German spirit, roadways
for it very bad, and universal rain-torrents falling, yet with
coruscations from a higher quarter;--and you can forget, if need
be, the "Literature" of this young Majesty, as you would a
staccato on the flute by him! In after months, on new occasion
rising, "there was no end to his gibings and bitter pleasantries
on the ridiculous reception Broglio had given him at Strasburg,"
says Valori, [
this Doggerel itself offers specimen.
"Probably the weakest Piece I ever translated?" exclaims one, who
has translated several such. Nevertheless there is a straggle of
pungent sense in it,--like the outskirts of lightning, seen in
that dismally wet weather, which the Royal Party had. Its wit is
very copious, but slashy, bantery, and proceeds mainly by
exaggeration and turning topsy-turvy; a rather barren species of
wit. Of humor, in the fine poetic sense, no vestige. But there is
surprising veracity,--truthfulness unimpeachable, if you will read
well. What promptitude, too;--what funds for conversation, when
needed! This scraggy Piece, which is better than the things people
often talk to one another, was evidently written as fast as the
pen could go.--"It is done, if such a Hand could have DONE it, in
the manner of Bachaumont and La Chapelle," says Voltaire
scornfully, in that scandalous VIE PRIVEE;--of which phrase this
is the commentary, if readers need one:--
"Some seventy or eighty years before that date, a M. Bachaumont
and a M. la Chapelle, his intimate, published, in Prose skipping
off into dancings of Verse every now and then, 'a charming
RELATION of a certain VOYAGE or Home Tour' (whence or whither, or
correctly when, this Editor forgets), ["First printed in 1665,"
say the Bibliographies; "but known to La Fontaine some time
before." Good!--Bachaumont, practically an important and
distinguished person, not literary by trade, or indeed otherwise
than by ennui, was he that had given (some fifteen years before)
the Nickname FRONDE (Bickering of Schoolboys) to the wretched
Historical Object which is still so designated in French annals.]
which they had made in partnership. 'RELATION' capable still of
being read, if one were tolerably idle;--it was found then to be
charming, by all the world; and gave rise to a new fashion in
writing; which Voltaire often adopts, and is supremely good at;
and in which Friedrich, who is also fond of it, by no means
succeeds so well."
Enough, Friedrich got to Wesel, back to his business, in a day or
two; and had done, as we forever have, with the Strasburg Escapade
and its Doggerel.
FRIEDRICH FINDS M. DE MAUPERTUIS; NOT YET M. DE VOLTAIRE.
Friedrich got to Wesel on the 29th; found Maupertuis waiting
there, according to appointment: an elaborately polite, somewhat
sublime scientific gentleman; ready to "engraft on the Berlin
crab-tree," and produce real apples and Academics there, so soon
as the King, the proprietor, may have leisure for such a thing.
Algarotti has already the honor of some acquaintance with
Maupertuis. Maupertuis has been at Brussels, on the road hither;
saw Voltaire and even Madame,--which latter was rather a ticklish
operation, owing to grudges and tiffs of quarrel that had risen,
but it proved successful under the delicate guidance of Voltaire.
Voltaire is up to oiling the wheels: "There you are, Monsieur,
like the [don't name What, though profane Voltaire does, writing
to Maupertuis a month ago]--Three Kings running after you!" A new
Pension to you from France; Russia outbidding France to have you;
and then that LETTER of Friedrich's, which is in all the
Newspapers: "Three Kings,"--you plainly great man, Trismegistus of
the Sciences called Pure! Madame honors you, has always done:
one word of apology to the high female mind, it will work wonders;
--come now! [Voltaire,
216, 230 (Hague, 21st July, 1740, and Brussels, 9th Aug. &c).]
No reader guesses in our time what a shining celestial body the
Maupertuis, who is now fallen so dim again, then was to mankind.
In cultivated French society there is no such lion as
M. Maupertuis since he returned from flattening the Earth in the
Arctic regions. "The Exact Sciences, what else is there to depend
on?" thinks French cultivated society: "and has not Monsieur done
a feat in that line?" Monsieur, with fine ex-military manners, has
a certain austere gravity, reticent loftiness and polite
dogmatism, which confirms that opinion. A studious ex-military
man,--was Captain of Dragoons once, but too fond of study,--who is
conscious to himself, or who would fain be conscious, that he is,
in all points, mathematical, moral and other, the man. A difficult
man to live with in society. Comes really near the limit of what
we call genius, of originality, poetic greatness in thinking;--but
never once can get fairly over said limit, though always
struggling dreadfully to do so. Think of it! A fatal kind of man;
especially if you have made a lion of him at any time. Of his
envies, deep-hidden splenetic discontents and rages, with
Voltaire's return for them, there will be enough to say in the
ulterior stages. He wears--at least ten years hence he openly
wears, though I hope it is not yet so flagrant--"a red wig with
yellow bottom (CRINIERE JAUNE);" and as Flattener of the Earth,
is, with his own flattish red countenance and impregnable stony
eyes, a man formidable to look upon, though intent to be amiable
if you do the proper homage. As to the quarrel with Madame take
this Note; which may prove illustrative of some things by
Maupertuis is well known at Cirey; such a lion could not fail
there. All manner of Bernouillis, Clairauts, high mathematical
people, are frequent guests at Cirey: reverenced by Madame,--who
indeed has had her own private Professor of Mathematics; one Konig
from Switzerland (recommended by those Bernouillis), diligently
teaching her the Pure Sciences this good while back, not without
effect; and has only just parted with him, when she left on this
Brussels expedition. A BON GARCON, Voltaire says; though
otherwise, I think, a little noisy on occasion. There has been no
end of Madame's kindness to him, nay to his Brother and him,--sons
of a Theological Professorial Syriac-Hebrew kind of man at Berne,
who has too many sons;--and I grieve to report that this heedless
Konig has produced an explosion in Madame's feelings, such as
little beseemed him. On the road to Paris, namely, as we drove
hitherward to the Honsbruck Lawsuit by way of Paris, in Autumn
last, there had fallen out some dispute, about the monads, the VIS
VIVA, the infinitely little, between Madame and Konig; dispute
which rose CRESCENDO in disharmonious duet, and "ended," testifies
M. de Voltaire, "in a scene TRESDESAGREABLE." Madame, with an
effort, forgave the thoughtless fellow, who is still rather young,
and is without malice. But thoughtless Konig, strong in his
opinion about the infinitely little, appealed to Maupertuis:
"Am not I right, Monsieur?" "HE is right beyond question!" wrote
Maupertuis to Madame; "somewhat dryly," thinks Voltaire: and the
result is, there is considerable rage in one celestial mind ever
since against another male one in red wig and yellow bottom;
and they are not on speaking terms, for a good many months past.
Voltaire has his heart sore ("J'EN AI LE COEUR PERCE") about it,
needs to double-dose Maupertuis with flattery; and in fact has
used the utmost diplomacy to effect some varnish of a
reconcilement as Maupertuis passed on this occasion. As for Konig,
who had studied in some Dutch university, he went by and by to be
Librarian to the Prince of Orange; and we shall not fail to hear
of him again,--once more upon the infinitely little.
(20, 216, 230), lxiii. (229-239), &c. &c.]
Voltaire too, in his way, is fond of these mathematical people;
eager enough to fish for knowledge, here as in all elements, when
he has the chance offered: this is much an interest of his at
present. And he does attain sound ideas, outlines of ideas, in
this province,--though privately defective in the due
transcendency of admiration for it;--was wont to discuss cheerily
with Konig, about VIS VIVA, monads, gravitation and the infinitely
little; above all, bows to the ground before the red-wigged
Bashaw, Flattener of the Earth, whom for Madame's sake and his own
he is anxious to be well with. "Fall on your face nine times, ye
esoteric of only Impure Science!"--intimates Maupertuis to
mankind. "By all means!" answers M. de Voltaire, doing it with
alacrity; with a kind of loyalty, one can perceive, and also with
a hypocrisy grounded on love of peace. If that is the nature of
the Bashaw, and one's sole mode of fishing knowledge from him,
why not? thinks M. de Voltaire. His patience with M. de
Maupertuis, first and last, was very great. But we shall
find it explode at length, a dozen years hence, in a
"Maupertuis had come to us to Cirey, with Jean Bernouilli," says
Voltaire; "and thenceforth Maupertuis, who was born the most
jealous of men, took me for the object of this passion, which has
always been very dear to him." [VIE PRIVEE.] Husht, Monsieur!--
Here is a poor rheumatic kind of Letter, which illustrates the
interim condition, after that varnish of reconcilement
VOLTAIRE TO M. DE MAUPERTUIS (at Wesel, waiting for the King,
or with him rather).
"BRUSSELS, 29th August (1740),
the world flattened.
"How the Devil, great Philosopher, would you have had me write to
you at Wesel? I fancied you gone from Wesel, to seek the King of
Sages on his Journey somewhere. I had understood, too, they were
so delighted to have you in that fortified lodge (BOUGE FORTIFIE)
that you must be taking pleasure there, for he that gives pleasure
"You have already seen the jolly Ambassador of the amiablest
Monarch in the world,"--Camas, a fattish man, on his road to
Versailles (who called at Brussels here, with fine compliments,
and a keg of Hungary Wine, as YOU may have heard whispered).
"No doubt M. de Camas is with you. For my own share, I think it is
after you that he is running at present. But in truth, at the hour
while I say this, you are with the King;"--a lucky guess; King did
return to Wesel this very day. "The Philosopher and the Prince
perceive already that they are made for each other. You and
M. Algarotti will say, FACIAMUS HIC TRIA TABERNACULA: as to me,
I can only make DUO TABERNACULA,"--profane Voltaire!
"Without doubt I would be with you if I were not at Brussels;
but my heart is with you all the same; and is the subject, all the
same, of a King who is, formed to reign over every thinking and
feeling being. I do not despair that Madame du Chatelet will find
herself somewhere on your route: it will be a scene in a fairy
tale;--she will arrive with a SUFFICIENT REASON [as your Leibnitz
says] and with MONADS. She does not love you the less though she
now believes the universe a PLENUM, and has renounced the notion
of VOID. Over her you have an ascendant which you will never lose.
In fine, my dear Monsieur, I wish as ardently as she to embrace
you the soonest possible. I recommend myself to your friendship in
the Court, worthy of you, where you now are."--TOUT A VOUS,
somewhat rheumatic! [Voltaire, lxxii. p. 243.]
Always an anxious almost tremulous desire to conciliate this big
glaring geometrical bully in red wig. Through the sensitive
transparent being of M. de Voltaire, you may see that feeling
almost painfully busy in every Letter he writes to the Flattener
of the Earth.
VOLTAIRE'S FIRST INTERVIEW WITH FRIEDRICH.
At Wesel, in the rear of all this travelling and excitement,
Friedrich falls unwell; breaks down there into an aguish feverish
distemper, which, for several months after, impeded his movements,
would he have yielded to it. He has much business on hand, too,--
some of it of prickly nature just now;--but is intent as ever on
seeing Voltaire, among the first things. Diligently reading in the
Voltaire-Friedrich Correspondence (which is a sad jumble of
misdates and opacities, in the common editions), [Preuss (the
recent latest Editor, and the only well-informed one, as we said)
prints with accuracy; but cannot be read at all (in the sense of
UNDERSTOOD) without other light.] this of the aguish condition
frequently turns up; "Quartan ague," it seems; occasionally very
bad; but Friedrich struggles with it; will not be cheated of any
of his purposes by it.
He had a busy fortnight here; busier than we yet imagine.
Much employment there naturally is of the usual Inspection sort;
which fails in no quarter of his Dominions, but which may be
particularly important here, in these disputed Berg-Julich
Countries, when the time of decision falls. How he does his
Inspections we know;--and there are still weightier matters afoot
here, in a silent way, of which we shall have to speak before
long, and all the world will speak. Business enough, parts of it
grave and silent, going on, and the much that is public,
miscellaneous, small: done, all of it, in a rapid-punctual precise
manner;--and always, after the crowded day, some passages of
Supper with the Sages, to wind up with on melodious terms. A most
alert and miscellaneously busy young King, in spite of the ague.
It was in these Cleve Countries, and now as probably as
afterwards, that the light scene recorded in Laveaux's poor
HISTORY, and in all the Anecdote-Books, transacted itself one day.
Substance of the story is true; though the details of it go all at
random,--somewhat to this effect:--
"Inspecting his Finance Affairs, and questioning the parties
interested, Friedrich notices a certain Convent in Cleve, which
appears to have, payable from the Forest-dues, considerable
revenues bequeathed by the old Dukes, 'for masses to be said on
their behalf.' He goes to look at the place; questions the Monks
on this point, who are all drawn out in two rows, and have broken
into TE-DEUM at sight of him: 'Husht! You still say those Masses,
then?' 'Certainly, your Majesty!'--'And what good does anybody get
of them?' 'Your Majesty, those old Sovereigns are to obtain
Heavenly mercy by them, to be delivered out of Purgatory by
them.'--'Purgatory? It is a sore thing for the Forests, all this
while! And they are not yet out, those poor souls, after so many
hundred years of praying?' Monks have a fatal apprehension, No.
'When will they be out, and the thing complete?' Monks cannot say.
'Send me a courier whenever it is complete!' sneers the King, and
leaves them to their TE-DEUM." [C. Hildebrandt's Modern Edition
of the (mostly dubious)
dem Leben Friedrichs des Grossen
and careless Edition it is; 6 vols. 12mo, Halberstadt, 1829), ii.
160; Laveaus (whom we already cited),
alone, which are not included in this Hildebrandt Collection, are
of sure authenticity; the rest, occasionally true, and often with
a kind of MYTHIC truth in them worth attending to, are otherwise
of all degrees of dubiety, down to the palpably false and absurd.]
Mournful state of the Catholic Religion so called! How long must
these wretched Monks go on doing their lazy thrice-deleterious
torpid blasphemy; and a King, not histrionic but real, merely
signify that he laughs at them and it? Meseems a heavier whip than
that of satire might be in place here, your Majesty? The lighter
whip is easier;--Ah yes, undoubtedly! cry many men. But horrible
accounts are running up, enough to sink the world at last, while
the heavier whip is lazily withheld, and lazy blasphemy, fallen
torpid, chronic, and quite unconscious of being blasphemous,
insinuates itself into the very heart's-blood of mankind!
Patience, however; the heavy whip too is coming,--unless universal
death be coming. King Friedrich is not the man to wield such whip.
Quite other work is in store for King Friedrich; and Nature will
not, by any suggestion of that terrible task, put him out in the
one he has. He is nothing of a Luther, of a Cromwell; can look
upon fakirs praying by their rotatory calabash, as a ludicrous
platitude; and grin delicately as above, with the approval of his
wiser contemporaries. Speed to him on his own course!
What answer Friedrich found to his English proposals,--answer due
here on the 24th from Captain Dickens,--I do not pointedly learn;
but can judge of it by Harrington's reply to that Despatch of
Dickens's, which entreated candor and open dealing towards his
Prussian Majesty. Harrington is at Herrenhausen, still with the
Britannic Majesty there; both of them much at a loss about their
Spanish War, and the French and other aspects upon it: "Suppose
his Prussian Majesty were to give himself to France against us!"
We will hope, not. Harrington's reply is to the effect, "Hum,
drum:--Berg and Julich, say you? Impossible to answer; minds not
made up here:--What will his Prussian Majesty do for US?"
Not much, I should guess, till something more categorical come
from you! His Prussian Majesty is careful not to spoil anything by
over-haste; but will wait and try farther to the utmost, Whether
England or France is the likelier bargain for him.
Better still, the Prussian Majesty is intent to do something for
himself in that Berg-Julich matter: we find him silently examining
these Wesel localities for a proper "entrenched Camp," Camp say of
40,000, against a certain contingency that may be looked for.
Camp which will much occupy the Gazetteers when they get eye on
it. This is one of the concerns he silently attends to, on
occasion, while riding about in the Cleve Countries. Then there is
another small item of business, important to do well, which is now
in silence diligently getting under way at Wesel; which also is of
remarkable nature, and will astonish the Gazetteer and Diplomatic
circles. This is the affair with the Bishop of Liege, called also
the Affair of Herstal, which his Majesty has had privately laid up
in the corner of his mind, as a thing to be done during this
Excursion. Of which the reader shall hear anon, to great lengths,
--were a certain small preliminary matter, Voltaire's Arrival in
these parts, once off our hands.
Friedrich's First Meeting with Voltaire! These other high things
were once loud in the Gazetteer and Diplomatic circles, and had no
doubt they were the World's History; and now they are sunk wholly
to the Nightmares, and all mortals have forgotten them,--and it is
such a task as seldom was to resuscitate the least memory of them,
on just cause of a Friedrich or the like, so impatient are men of
what is putrid and extinct:--and a quite unnoticed thing,
Voltaire's First Interview, all readers are on the alert for it,
and ready to demand of me impossibilities about it! Patience,
readers. You shall see it, without and within, in such light as
there was, and form some actual notion of it, if you will
co-operate. From the circum-ambient inanity of Old Newspapers,
Historical shot-rubbish, and unintelligible Correspondences, we
sift out the following particulars, of this First Meeting, or
actual Osculation of the Stars.
The Newspapers, though their eyes were not yet of the Argus
quality now familiar to us, have been intent on Friedrich during
this Baireuth-Cleve Journey, especially since that sudden eclipse
of him at Strasburg lately; forming now one scheme of route for
him, now another; Newspapers, and even private friends, being a
good deal uncertain about his movements. Rumor now ran, since his
reappearance in the Cleve Countries, that Friedrich meant to have
a look at Holland before going home, And that had, in fact, been a
notion or intention of Friedrich's. "Holland? We could pass
through Brussels on the way, and see Voltaire!" thought he.
In Brussels this was, of course, the rumor of rumors.
As Voltaire's Letters, visibly in a twitter, still testify to us.
King of Prussia coming! Madame du Chatelet, the "Princess Tour"
(that is, Tour-and-Taxis), all manner of high Dames are on the
tiptoe. Princess Tour hopes she shall lodge this unparalleled
Prince in her Palace: "You, Madame?" answers the Du Chatelet,
privately, with a toss of her head: "His Majesty, I hope, belongs
more to M. de Voltaire and me: he shall lodge here, please
Heaven!" Voltaire, I can observe, has sublime hostelry
arrangements chalked out for his Majesty, in case he go to Paris;
which he does n't, as we know. Voltaire is all on the alert, awake
to the great contingencies far and near; the Chatelet-Voltaire
breakfast-table,--fancy it on those interesting mornings, while
the post comes round! [Voltaire, xxii. 238-256 (Letters 22d
August-22d September, 1740).]
Alas, in the first days of September,--Friedrich's Letter is dated
"Wesel, 2d" (and has the STRASBURD DOGGEREL enclosed in it),--the
Brussels Postman delivers far other intelligence at one's door;
very mortifying to Madame: "That his Majesty is fallen ill at
Wesel; has an aguish fever hanging on him, and only hopes to
come:" VOILA, Madame!--Next Letter, Wesel, Monday, 5th September,
is to the effect: "Do still much hope to come; to-morrow is my
trembling day; if that prove to be off!"--Out upon it, that proves
not to be off; that is on: next Letter, Tuesday, September 6th,
which comes by express (Courier dashing up with it, say on the
Thursday following) is,--alas, Madame!--here it is:--
KING FRIEDRICH TO M. DE VOLTAIRE AT BRUSSELS.
"WESEL, 6th September, 1740.
"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 Cleve
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.
"Let us deceive the fever, my dear Voltaire; and let me at least
have the pleasure of embracing you. Make my best excuses [polite,
rather than sincere] to Madame the MARQUISE, that I cannot have
the satisfaction of seeing her at Brussels. All that are about me
know the intention I was in; which certainly nothing but the fever
could have made me change.
"Sunday next I shall be at a little Place near Cleve,"--Schloss of
Moyland, which, and the route to which, this Courier can tell you
of;--"where I shall be able to possess you at my ease. If the
sight of you don't cure me, I will send for a Confessor at once.
Adieu; you know my sentiments and my heart. [Preuss,
OEuvres de Frederic,
After which the Correspondence suddenly extinguishes itself;
ceases for about a fortnight,--in the bad misdated Editions even
does worse;--and we are left to thick darkness, to our own poor
shifts; Dryasdust being grandly silent on this small interest of
ours. What is to be done?
PARTICULARS OF FIRST INTERVIEW, ON SEVERE SCRUTINY.
Here, from a painful Predecessor whose Papers I inherit, are some
old documents and Studies on the subject,--sorrowful collection,
in fact, of what poor sparks of certainty were to be found
hovering in that dark element;--which do at last (so luminous are
certainties always, or "sparks" that will shine steady) coalesce
into some feeble general twilight, feeble but indubitable;
and even show the sympathetic reader how they were searched out
and brought together. We number and label these poor Patches of
Evidence on so small a matter; and leave them to the curious:--
No. 1. DATE OF THE FIRST INTERVIEW. It is certain Voltaire did
arrive at the little Schloss of Moyland, September llth, Sunday
night,--which is the "Sunday" just specified in Friedrich's
Letter. Voltaire had at once decided on complying,--what else?--
and lost no time in packing himself: King's Courier on Thursday
late; Voltaire on the road on Saturday early, or the night before.
With Madame's shrill blessing (not the most musical in this vexing
case), and plenty of fuss. "Was wont to travel in considerable
style," I am told; "the innkeepers calling him "Your Lordship
(M. LE COMTE)." Arrives, sure enough, Sunday night; old Schloss of
Moyland, six miles from Cleve; "moonlight," I find,--the Harvest
Moon. Visit lasted three days. [Rodenbeck, p. 21; Preuss, &c. &c.]
No. 2. VOLTAIRE'S DRIVE THITHER. Schloss Moyland: How far from
Brussels, and by what route? By Louvain, Tillemont, Tongres to
Maestricht; then from Maestricht up the Maas (left bank) to Venlo,
where cross; through Geldern and Goch to Cleve: between the Maas
and Rhine this last portion. Flat damp country; tolerably under
tillage; original constituents bog and sand. Distances I guess to
be: To Tongres 60 miles and odd; to Maestricht 12 or 15, from
Maestricht 75; in all 150 miles English. Two days' driving?
There is equinoctial moon, and still above twelve hours of
sunlight for "M. le Comte."
No. 3. OF THE PLACE WHERE. Voltaire, who should have known, calls
it "PETIT CHATEAU DE MEUSE;" which is a Castle existing nowhere
but in Dreams. Other French Biographers are still more imaginary.
The little Schloss of Moyland--by no means "Meuse," nor even MORS,
which Voltaire probably means in saying CHATEAU DE MEUSE--was, as
the least inquiry settles beyond question, the place where
Voltaire and Friedrich first met. Friedrich Wilhelm used often to
lodge there in his Cleve journeys: he made thither for shelter, in
the sickness that overtook him in friend Ginkel's house, coming
home from the Rhine Campaign in 1734; lay there for several weeks
after quitting Ginkel's. Any other light I can get upon it, is
darkness visible. Busching pointedly informs me,
of country under one priest], and Till AND it are a Jurisdiction"
(pair of patches under one court of justice):--which does not much
illuminate the inquiring mind. Small patch, this of Moyland, size
not given; "was bought," says he, "in 1695, by Friedrich
afterwards First King, from the Family of Spaen,"--we once knew a
Lieutenant Spaen, of those Dutch regions,--"and was named a Royal
Mansion ever thereafter." Who lived in it; what kind of thing was
it, is it? ALTUM SILENTIUM, from Busching and mankind. Belonged to
the Spaens, fifty years ago;--some shadow of our poor banished
friend the Lieutenant resting on it? Dim enough old Mansion, with
"court" to it, with modicum of equipment; lying there in the
moonlight;--did not look sublime to Voltaire on stepping out.
So that all our knowledge reduces itself to this one point:
of finding Moyland in the Map, with DATE, with REMINISCENCE to us,
hanging by it henceforth! Good. [Stieler's
mile or two northeast from Moyland; Moyland about 5 or 6 southeast
Mors--which is near the Town of Ruhrort, about midway between
Wesel and Dusseldorf--must be some forty miles from Moyland,
forty-five from Cleve; southward of both. So that the place,
"A DEUX LIEUES DE CLEVES," is, even by Voltaire's showing, this
Moyland; were there otherwise any doubt upon it. "CHATEAU DE
MEUSE"--hanging out a prospect of MORS to us--is bad usage to
readers. Of an intelligent man, not to say a Trismegistus of men,
one expects he will know in what town he is, after three days'
experience, as here. But he does not always; he hangs out a mere
"shadow of Mars by moonlight," till we learn better. Duvernet, his
Biographer, even calls it "SLEUS-MEUSE;" some wonderful idea of
Sluices and a River attached to it, in Duvernet's head! [Duvernet
(2d FORM of him,--that is,
par T. J. D. V.), p. 117.]
WHAT VOLTAIRE THOUGHT OF THE INTERVIEW TWENTY YEARS AFTERWARDS
Of the Interview itself, with general bird's-eye view of the Visit
combined (in a very incorrect state), there is direct testimony by
Voltaire himself. Voltaire himself, twenty years after, in far
other humor, all jarred into angry sarcasm, for causes we shall
see by and by,--Voltaire, at the request of friends, writes down,
as his Friedrich Reminiscences, that scandalous VIE PRIVEE above
spoken of, a most sad Document; and this is the passage referring
to "the little Place in the neighborhood of Cleve," where
Friedrich now waited for him: errors corrected by our laborious
Friend. After quoting something of that Strasburg Doggerel, the
whole of which is now too well known to us, Voltaire proceeds:--
"From Strasburg he," King Friedrich, "went to see his Lower German
Provinces; he said he would come and see me incognito at Brussels.
We prepared a fine house for him,"--were ready to prepare such
hired house as we had for him, with many apologies for its slight
degree of perfection (ERROR FIRST),--"but having fallen ill in the
little Mansion-Royal of Meuse (CHATEAU DE MEUSE), a couple of
leagues from Cleve,"--fell ill at Wesel; and there is no Chateau
de MEUSE in the world (ERRORS 2d AND 3d),--"he wrote to me that he
expected I would make the advances. I went, accordingly, to
present my profound homages. Maupertuis, who already had his
views, and was possessed with the rage of being President to an
Academy, had of his own accord,"--no, being invited, and at my
suggestion (ERROR 4th),--"presented himself there; and was lodged
with Algarotti and Keyserling [which latter, I suppose, had come
from Berlin, not being of the Strasburg party, he] in a garret of
"At the door of the court, I found, by way of guard, one soldier.
Privy-Councillor Rambonet, Minister of State--[very subaltern man;
never heard of him except in the Herstal Business, and here] was
walking in the court; blowing in his fingers to keep them warm."
Sunday night, 11th September, 1740; world all bathed in moonshine;
and mortals mostly shrunk into their huts, out of the raw air.
"He" Rambonet "wore big linen ruffles at his wrists, very dirty
[visibly so in the moonlight? ERROR 5th extends AD LIBITUM over
all the following details]; a holed hat; an old official
periwig,"--ruined into a totally unsymmetric state, as would
seem,--"one side of which hung down into one of his pockets, and
the other scarcely crossed his shoulder. I was told, this man was
now intrusted with an affair of importance here; and that proved
true,"--the Herstal Affair.
"I was led into his Majesty's apartment. Nothing but four bare
walls there. By the light of a candle, I perceived, in a closet, a
little truckle-bed two feet and a half broad, on which lay a man
muffled up in a dressing-gown of coarse blue duffel: this was the
King, sweating and shivering under a wretched blanket there, in a
violent fit of fever. I made my reverence, and began the
acquaintance by feeling his pulse, as if I had been his chief
physician. The fit over, he dressed himself, and took his place at
table. Algarotti, Keyserling, Maupertuis, and the King's Envoy to
the States-General"--one Rasfeld (skilled in HERSTAL matters, I
could guess),--"we were of this supper, and discussed, naturally
in a profound manner, the Immortality of the Soul, Liberty, Fate,
the Androgynes of Plato [the ANDROGYNOI, or Men-Women, in Plato's
CONVIVIUM; by no means the finest symbolic fancy of the divine
Plato],--and other small topics of that nature." [Voltaire,
ii. 26, 27.]
This is Voltaire's account of the Visit,--which included three
"Suppers," all huddled into one by him here;--and he says nothing
more of it; launching off now into new errors, about HERSTAL, the
ANTI-MACHIAVEL, and so forth: new and uglier errors, with much
more of mendacity and serious malice in them, than in this
harmless half-dozen now put on the score against him.
Of this Supper-Party, I know by face four of the guests:
Maupertuis, Voltaire, Algarotti, Keyserling;--Rasfeld, Rambonet
can sit as simulacra or mute accompaniment. Voltaire arrived on
Sunday evening; stayed till Wednesday. Wednesday morning, 14th of
the month, the Party broke up: Voltaire rolling off to left hand,
towards Brussels, or the Hague; King to right, on inspection
business, and circuitously homewards. Three Suppers there had
been, two busy Days intervening; discussions about Fate and the
Androgynoi of Plato by no means the one thing done by Voltaire and
the rest, on this occasion. We shall find elsewhere, "he declaimed
his MAHOMET" (sublime new Tragedy, not yet come out), in the
course of these three evenings, to the "speechless admiration" of
his Royal Host, for one; and, in the daytime, that he even drew
his pen about the Herstal Business, which is now getting to its
crisis, and wrote one of the Manifestoes, still discoverable.
And we need not doubt, in spite of his now sneering tone, that
things ran high and grand here, in this paltry little Schloss of
Moyland; and that those three were actually Suppers of the Gods,
for the time being.
"Councillor Rambonet,', with the holed hat and unsymmetric wig,
continues Voltaire in the satirical vein, "had meanwhile mounted a
hired hack (CHEVAL DE LOUAGE;" mischievous Voltaire, I have no
doubt he went on wheels, probably of his own): "he rode all night;
and next morning arrived at the gates of Liege; where he took Act
in the name of the King his Master, whilst 2,000 men of the Wesel
Troops laid Liege under contribution. The pretext of this fine
Marching of Troops,"--not a pretext at all, but the assertion,
correct in all points, of just claims long trodden down, and now
made good with more spirit than had been expected,--"was certain
rights which the King pretended to, over a suburb of Liege.
He even charged me to work at a Manifesto; and I made one, good or
bad; not doubting but a King with whom I supped, and who called me
his friend, must be in the right. The affair soon settled itself
by means of a million of ducats,"--nothing like the sum, as we
shall see,--"which he exacted by weight, to clear the costs of the
Tour to Strasburg, which, according to his complaint in that
Poetic Letter [Doggerel above given], were so heavy."
That is Voltaire's view; grown very corrosive after Twenty Years.
He admits, with all the satire: "I naturally felt myself attached
to him; for he had wit, graces; and moreover he was a King, which
always forms a potent seduction, so weak is human nature.
Usually it is we of the writing sort that flatter Kings: but this
King praised me from head to foot, while the Abbe Desfontaines and
other scoundrels (GREDINS) were busy defaming me in Paris at least
once a week."
WHAT VOLTAIRE THOUGHT OF THE INTERVIEW AT THE TIME.
But let us take the contemporary account, which also we have at
first hand; which is almost pathetic to read; such a contrast
between ruddy morning and the storms of the afternoon! Here are
two Letters from Voltaire; fine transparent human Letters, as his
generally are: the first of them written directly on getting back
to the Hague, and to the feeling of his eclipsed condition.
VOLTAIRE TO M. DE MAUPERTUIS (with the King).
"THE HAGUE, 18th September, 1740.
"I serve you, Monsieur, sooner than I promised; and that is the
way you ought to be served. I send you the answer of M. Smith,"--
probably some German or Dutch SCHMIDT, spelt here in English,
connected with the Sciences, say with water-carriage, the
typographies, or one need not know what; "you will see where the
"When we both left Cleve,"--14th of the month, Wednesday last;
18th is Sunday, in this old cobwebby Palace, where I am correcting
ANTI-MACHIAVEL,--"and you took to the right,"--King, homewards,
got to HAM that evening,--"I could have thought I was at the Last
Judgment, where the Bon Dieu separates the elect from the damned.
DIVUS FREDERICUS said to you, 'Sit down at my right hand in the
Paradise of Berlin;' and to me, 'Depart, thou accursed, into
"Here I am accordingly in this phlegmatic place of punishment, far
from the divine fire which animates the Friedrichs, the
Maupertuis, the Algarottis. For God's love, do me the charity of
some sparks in these stagnant waters where I am,"--stiffening,
cooling,--"stupefying to death. Instruct me of your pleasures, of
your designs. You will doubtless see M. de Valori,"--readers know
de Valori; his Book has been published; edited, as too usual, by a
Human Nightmare, ignorant of his subject and indeed of almost all
other things, and liable to mistakes in every page; yet partly
readable, if you carry lanterns, and love "MON GROS VALORI:"--
"offer him, I pray you, my respects. If I do not write to him, the
reason is, I have no news to send: I should be as exact as I am
devoted, if my correspondence could be useful or agreeable to him.
"Won't you have me send you some Books? If I be still in Holland
when your orders come, I will obey in a moment. I pray you do not
forget me to M. de Keyserling,"--Caesarion whom we once had at
Cirey; a headlong dusky little man of wit (library turned topsy-
turvy, as Wilhelmina called him), whom we have seen.
"Tell me, I beg, if the enormous monad of Volfius--[Wolf, would
the reader like to hear about him? If so, he has only to speak!]
is arguing at Marburg, at Berlin, or at Hall [HALLE, which is a
very different place].
"Adieu, Monsieur: you can address your orders to me 'At the
Hague:' they will be forwarded wherever I am; and I shall be,
anywhere on earth,--Yours forever (A VOUS POUR JAMAIS)."
[Voltaire, lxxii. 252.]
Letter Second, of which a fragment may be given, is to one
Cideville, a month later; all the more genuine as there was no
chance of the King's hearing about this one. Cideville, some kind
of literary Advocate at Rouen (who is wearisomely known to the
reader of Voltaire's Letters), had done, what is rather an
endemical disorder at this time, some Verses for the King of
Prussia, which he wished to be presented to his Majesty.
The presentation, owing to accidents, did not take place;
hear how Voltaire, from his cobweb Palace at the Hague, busy with
ANTI-MACHIAVEL, Van Duren and many other things,--18th October,
1740, on which day we find him writing many Letters,--explains the
VOLTAIRE TO M. DE CIDEVILLE (at Rouen).
"AT THE HAGUE, KING OF PRUSSIA'S PALACE,
18th October, 1740.
"... This is my case, dear Cideville. When you sent me, enclosed
in your Letter, those Verses (among which there are some of
charming and inimitable turn) for our Marcus Aurelius of the
North, I did well design to pay my court to him with them. He was
at that time to have come to Brussels incognito: we expected him
there; but the Quartan Fever, which unhappily he still has,
deranged all his projects. He sent me a courier to Brussels,"--
mark that point, my Cideville;--"and so I set out to find him in
the neighborhood of Cleve.
"It was there I saw one of the amiablest men in the world, who
forms the charm of society, who would be everywhere sought after
if he were not King; a philosopher without austerity; full of
sweetness, complaisance and obliging ways (AGREMENS);
not remembering that he is King when he meets his friends; indeed
so completely forgetting it that he made me too almost forget it,
and I needed an effort of memory to recollect that I here saw
sitting at the foot of my bed a Sovereign who had an Army of
100,000 men. That was the moment to have read your amiable Verses
to him:"--yes; but then?--"Madame du Chatelet, who was to have
sent them to me, did not, NE L'A PA FAIT." Alas, no, they are
still at Brussels, those charming Verses; and I, for a month past,
am here in my cobweb Palace! But I swear to you, the instant I
return to Brussels, I, &c. &c. [Voltaire, lxii. 282.]
Finally, here is what Friedrich thought of it, ten days after
parting with Voltaire. We will read this also (though otherwise
ahead of us as yet); to be certified on all sides, and sated for
the rest of our lives, concerning the Friedrich-Voltaire
KING FRIEDRICH TO M. JORDAN (at Berlin).
POTSDAM, 24th September, 1740.
"Most respectable Inspector of the poor, the invalids, orphans,
crazy people and Bedlams,--I have read with mature meditation the
very profound Jordanic Letter which was waiting here;"--and do
accept your learned proposal.
"I have seen that Voltaire whom I was so curious to know; but I
saw him with the Quartan hanging on me, and my mind as unstrung as
my body. With men of his kind one ought not to be sick; one ought
even to be specially well, and in better health than common, if
"He has the eloquence of Cicero, the mildness of Pliny, the wisdom
of Agrippa; he combines, in short, what is to be collected of
virtues and talents from the three greatest men of Antiquity.
His intellect is at work incessantly; every drop of ink is a trait
of wit from his pen. He declaimed his MAHOMET to us, an admirable
Tragedy which he has done,"--which the Official people smelling
heresies in it ("toleration," "horrors of fanaticism," and the
like) will not let him act, as readers too well know:--"he
transported us out of ourselves; I could only admire and hold my
tongue. The Du Chatelet is lucky to have him: for of the good
things he flings out at random, a person who had no faculty but
memory might make a brilliant Book. That Minerva has just
published her Work on PHYSICS: not wholly bad. It was Konig"--whom
we know, and whose late tempest in a certain teapot--"that
dictated the theme to her: she has adjusted, ornamented here and
there with some touch picked from Voltaire at her Suppers.
The Chapter on Space is pitiable; the"--in short, she is still raw
in the Pure Sciences, and should have waited. ...
"Adieu, most learned, most scientific, most profound Jordan,--or
rather most gallant, most amiable, most jovial Jordan;--I salute
thee, with assurance of all those old feelings which thou hast the
art of inspiring in every one that knows thee. VALE.
"I write the moment of my arrival: be obliged to me, friend; for I
have been working, I am going to work still, like a Turk, or like
a Jordan." [
This is hastily thrown off for Friend Jordan, the instant after
his Majesty's circuitous return home. Readers cannot yet attend
his Majesty there, till they have brought the Affair of Herstal,
and other remainders of the Cleve Journey, along with them.
AFFAIR OF HERSTAL.
This Rambonet, whom Voltaire found walking in the court of the old
Castle of Moyland, is an official gentleman, otherwise unknown to
History, who has lately been engaged in a Public Affair; and is
now off again about it, "on a hired hack" or otherwise,--with very
good instructions in his head. Affair which, though in itself but
small, is now beginning to make great noise in the world, as
Friedrich wends homewards out of his Cleve Journey. He has set it
fairly alight, Voltaire and he, before quitting Moyland; and now
it will go of itself. The Affair of Herstal, or of the Bishop of
Liege; Friedrich's first appearance on the stage of politics.
Concerning which some very brief notice, if intelligible, will
suffice readers of the present day.
Heristal, now called Herstal, was once a Castle known to all
mankind; King Pipin's Castle, who styled himself "Pipin of
Heristal," before he became King of the Franks and begot
Charlemagne. It lies on the Maas, in that fruitful Spa Country;
left bank of the Maas, a little to the north of Liege;
and probably began existence as a grander place than Liege
(LUTTICH), which was, at first, some Monastery dependent on
secular Herstal and its grandeurs:--think only how the race has
gone between these two entities; spiritual Liege now a big City,
black with the smoke of forges and steam-mills; Herstal an
insignificant Village, accidentally talked of for a few weeks in
1740, and no chance ever to be mentioned again by men.
Herstal, in the confused vicissitudes of a thousand years, had
passed through various fortunes, and undergone change of owners
often enough. Fifty years ago it was in the hands of the Nassau-
Orange House; Dutch William, our English Protestant King, who
probably scarce knew of his possessing it, was Lord of Herstal
till his death. Dutch William had no children to inherit Herstal:
he was of kinship to the Prussian House, as readers are aware;
and from that circumstance, not without a great deal of
discussion, and difficult "Division of the Orange Heritage," this
Herstal had, at the long last, fallen to Friedrich Wilhelm's
share; it and Neuchatel, and the Cobweb Palace, and some other
places and pertinents.
For Dutch William was of kin, we say; Friedrich I. of Prussia, by
his Mother the noble Wife of the Great Elector, was full cousin to
Dutch William: and the Marriage Contracts were express,--though
the High Mightinesses made difficulties, and the collateral Orange
branches were abundantly reluctant, when it came to the fulfilling
point. For indeed the matter was intricate. Orange itself, for
example, what was to be done with the Principality of Orange?
Clearly Prussia's; but it lies imbedded deep in the belly of
France, that will be a Caesarean-Operation for you! Had not
Neuchatel happened just then to fall home to France (or in some
measure to France) and be heirless, Prussia's Heritage of Orange
would have done little for Prussia! Principality of Orange was, by
this chance, long since, mainly in the First King's time, got
settled: [Neuchatel, 3d November, 1707, to Friedrich I., natives
preferring him to "Fifteen other Claimants;" Louis XIV. loudly
protesting: not till Treaty of Utrecht (14th March 1713, first
month of Friedrich Wilhelm's reign) would Louis XIV., on cession
of Orange, consent and sanction.] but there needed many years more
of good waiting, and of good pushing, on Friedrich Wilhelm's part;
and it was not till 1732 that Friedrich Wilhelm got the Dutch
Heritages finally brought to the square: Neuchatel and Valengin,
as aforesaid, in lieu of Orange; and now furthermore, the Old
Palace at Loo (that VIEILLE COUR and biggest cobwebs), with
pertinents, with Garden of Honslardik; and a string of items,
bigger and less, not worth enumerating. Of the items, this Herstal
was one;--and truly, so far as this went, Friedrich Wilhelm often
thought he had better never have seen it, so much trouble did it
HOW THE HERSTALLERS HAD BEHAVED TO FRIEDRICH WILHELM.
The Herstal people, knowing the Prussian recruiting system and
other rigors, were extremely unwilling to come under Friedrich
Wilhelm's sway, could they have helped it. They refused fealty,
swore they never would swear: nor did they, till the appearance,
or indubitable foreshine, of Friedrich Wilhelm's bayonets
advancing on them from the East, brought compliance. And always
after, spite of such quasi-fealty, they showed a pig-like
obstinacy of humor; a certain insignificant, and as it were
impertinent, deep-rooted desire to thwart, irritate and contradict
the said Friedrich Wilhelm. Especially in any recruiting matter
that might arise, knowing that to be the weak side of his Prussian
Majesty. All this would have amounted to nothing, had it not been
that their neighbor, the Prince Bishop of Liege, who imagined
himself to have some obscure claims of sovereignty over Herstal,
and thought the present a good opportunity for asserting these,
was diligent to aid and abet the Herstal people in such their
mutinous acts. Obscure claims; of which this is the summary,
should the reader not prefer to skip it:--
"The Bishop of Liege's claims on Herstal (which lie wrapt from
mankind in the extensive jungle of his law-pleadings, like a
Bedlam happily fallen extinct) seem to me to have grown mainly
from two facts more or less radical.
"FACT FIRST. In Kaiser Barbarossa's time, year 1171, Herstal had
been given in pawn to the Church of Liege, for a loan, by the then
proprietor, Duke of Lorraine and Brabant. Loan was repaid, I do
not learn when, and the Pawn given back; to the satisfaction of
said Duke, or Duke's Heirs; never quite to the satisfaction of the
Church, which had been in possession, and was loath to quit, after
hoping to continue. 'Give us back Herstal; it ought to be ours!'
Unappeasable sigh or grumble to this effect is heard thenceforth,
at intervals, in the Chapter of Liege, and has not ceased in
Friedrich's time. But as the world, in its loud thoroughfares,
seldom or never heard, or could hear, such sighing in the Chapter,
nothing had come of it,--till--
"FACT SECOND. In Kaiser Karl V.'s time, the Prince Bishop of Liege
happened to be a Natural Son of old Kaiser Max's;--and had friends
at headquarters, of a very choice nature. Had, namely, in this
sort, Kaiser Karl for Nephew or Half-Nephew; and what perhaps was
still better, as nearer hand, had Karl's Aunt, Maria Queen of
Hungary, then Governess of the Netherlands, for Half-Sister.
Liege, in these choice circumstances, and by other good chances
that turned up, again got temporary clutch or half-clutch of
Herstal, for a couple of years (date 1546-1548, the Prince of
Orange, real proprietor, whose Ancestor had bought it for money
down, being then a minor); once, and perhaps a second time in like
circumstance; but had always to renounce it again, when the Prince
of Orange came to maturity. And ever since, the Chapter of Liege
sighs as before, 'Herstal is perhaps in a sense ours. We had once
some kind of right to it!'--sigh inaudible in the loud public
thoroughfares. That is the Bishop's claim. The name of him, if
anybody care for it, is 'Georg Ludwig, titular COUNT OF BERG,' now
a very old man: Bishop of Liege, he, and has been snatching at
Herstal again, very eagerly by any skirt or tagrag that might
happen to fly loose, these eight years past, in a rash and
provoking manner; [
ii. 57-62.]--age eighty-two at present; poor old fool, he had
better have sat quiet. There lies a rod in pickle for him, during
these late months; and will be surprisingly laid on, were the
"I have Law Authority over Herstal, and power of judging there in
the last appeal," said this Bishop:--"You!" thought Friedrich
Wilhelm, who was far off, and had little time to waste.--
"Any Prussian recruiter that behaves ill, bring him to me!" said
the Bishop, who was on the spot. And accordingly it had been done;
one notable instance two years ago: a Prussian Lieutenant locked
in the Liege jail, on complaint of riotous Herstal; thereupon a
Prussian Officer of rank (Colonel Kreutzen, worthy old Malplaquet
gentleman) coming as Royal Messenger, not admitted to audience,
nay laid hold of by the Liege bailiff instead; and other unheard-
of procedures. [
63-73.] So that Friedrich Wilhelm had nothing but trouble with
this petty Herstal, and must have thought his neighbor Bishop a
very contentious high-flying gentleman, who took great liberties
with the Lion's whiskers, when he had the big animal at
The episcopal procedures, eight years ago, about the First
Homaging of Herstal, had been of similar complexion; nor had other
such failed in the interim, though this last outrage exceeded them
all. This last began in the end of 1738; and span itself out
through 1739, when Friedrich Wilhelm lay in his final sickness,
less able to deal with it than formerly. Being a peaceable man,
unwilling to awaken conflagrations for a small matter, Friedrich
Wilhelm had offered, through Kreutzen on this occasion, to part
with Herstal altogether; to sell it, for 100,000 thalers, say
16,000 pounds, to the high-flying Bishop, and honestly wash his
hands of it. But the high-flying Bishop did not consent, gave no
definite answer; and so the matter lay,--like an unsettled
extremely irritating paltry little matter,--at the time Friedrich
The Gazetteers and public knew little about these particulars, or
had forgotten them again; but at the Prussian Court they were in
lively remembrance. What the young Friedrich's opinion about them
had been we gather from this succinct notice of the thing, written
seven or eight years afterwards, exact in all points, and still
carrying a breath of the old humor in it. "A miserable Bishop of
Liege thought it a proud thing to insult the late King.
Some subjects of Herstal, which belongs to Prussia, had revolted;
the Bishop gave them his protection. Colonel Kreutzen was sent to
Liege, to compose the thing by treaty; credentials with him, full
power, and all in order. Imagine it, the Bishop would not receive
him! Three days, day after day, he saw this Envoy apply at his
Palace, and always denied him entrance. These things had grown
past endurance." [Preuss,
Brandebourg), end italic> ii. 53.] And Friedrich had taken note of
Herstal along with him, on this Cleve Journey; privately intending
to put Herstal and the high-flying Bishop on a suitabler footing,
before his return from those countries.
For indeed, on Friedrich's Accession, matters had grown worse, not
better. Of course there was Fealty to be sworn; but the Herstal
people, abetted by the high-flying Bishop, have declined swearing
it. Apology for the past, prospect of amendment for the future,
there is less than ever. What is the young King to do with this
paltry little Hamlet of Herstal? He could, in theory, go into some
Reichs-Hofrath, some Reichs-Kammergericht (kind of treble and
tenfold English Court-of-Chancery, which has lawsuits 250 years
old),--if he were a theoretic German King. He can plead in the
Diets, and the Wetzlar Reichs-Kammergericht without end:
"All German Sovereigns have power to send their Ambassador
thither, who is like a mastiff chained in the back-yard [observes
Friedrich elsewhere] with privilege of barking at the Moon,"--
unrestricted privilege of barking at the Moon, if that will avail
a practical man, or King's Ambassador. Or perhaps the Bishop of
Liege will bethink him, at last, what considerable liberty he is
taking with some people's whiskers? Four months are gone;
Bishop of Liege has not in the least bethought him: we are in the
neighborhood in person, with note of the thing in our memory.
FRIEDRICH TAKES THE ROD OUT OF PICKLE.
Accordingly the Rath Rambonet, whom Voltaire found at Moyland that
Sunday night, had been over at Liege; went exactly a week before;
with this message of very peremptory tenor from his Majesty:--
TO THE PRINCE BISHOP OF LIEGE.
"WESEL, 4th September, 1740.
"MY COUSIN,--Knowing all the assaults (ATTEINTES) made by you upon
my indisputable rights over my free Barony of Herstal; and how the
seditious ringleaders there, for several years past, have been
countenanced (BESTARKET) by you in their detestable acts of
disobedience against me,--I have commanded my Privy Councillor
Rambonet to repair to your presence, and in my name to require
from you, within two days, a distinct and categorical answer to
this question: Whether you are still minded to assert your
pretended sovereignty over Herstal; and whether you will
protect the rebels at Herstal, in their disorders and
"In case you refuse, or delay beyond the term, the Answer which I
hereby of right demand, you will render yourself alone
responsible, before the world, for the consequences which
infallibly will follow. I am, with much consideration,--
"Your very affectionate Cousin,
Rambonet had started straightway for Liege, with this missive;
and had duly presented it there, I guess on the 7th,--with notice
that he would wait forty-eight hours, and then return with what
answer or no-answer there might be. Getting no written answer, or
distinct verbal one; getting only some vague mumblement as good as
none, Rambonet had disappeared from Liege on the 9th; and was home
at Moyland when Voltaire arrived that Sunday evening,--just
walking about to come to heat again, after reportiag progress to
the above effect.
Rambonet, I judge, enjoyed only one of those divine Suppers at
Moyland; and dashed off again, "on hired hack" or otherwise, the
very next morning; that contingency of No-answer having been the
anticipated one, and all things put in perfect readiness for it.
Rambonet's new errand was to "take act," as Voltaire calls it, "at
the Gates of Liege,"--to deliver at Liege a succinct Manifesto,
Pair of Manifestoes, both in Print (ready beforehand), and bearing
date that same Sunday, "Wesel, 11th September;" much calculated to
amaze his Reverence at Liege. Succinct good Manifestoes, said to
be of Friedrich's own writing; the essential of the two is this:--
the King of Prussia to make just Reprisals on the Prince Bishop of
"His Majesty the King of Prussia, being driven beyond bounds by
the rude proceedings of the Prince Bishop of Liege, has with
regret seen himself forced to recur to the Method of Arms, in
order to repress the violence and affront which the Bishop has
attempted to put upon him. This resolution has cost his Majesty
much pain; the rather as he is, by principle and disposition, far
remote from whatever could have the least relation to rigor
"But seeing himself compelled by the Bishop of Liege to take new
methods, he had no other course but to maintain the justice of his
rights (LA JUSTICE DE SES DROITS), and demand reparation for the
indignity done upon his Minister Von Kreuzen, as well as for the
contempt with which the Bishop of Liege has neglected even to
answer the Letter of the King.
"As too much rigor borders upon cruelty, so too much patience
resembles weakness. Thus, although the King would willingly have
sacrificed his interests to the public peace and tranquillity, it
was not possible to do so in reference to his honor; and that is
the chief motive which has determined him to this resolution, so
contrary to his intentions.
"In vain has it been attempted, by methods of mildness, to come to
a friendly agreement: it has been found, on the contrary, that the
King's moderation only increased the Prince's arrogance;
that mildness of conduct on one side only furnished resources to
pride on the other; and that, in fine, instead of gaining by soft
procedure, one was insensibly becoming an object of vexation
"There being no means to have justice but in doing it for oneself,
and the King being Sovereign enough for such a duty,--he intends
to make the Prince of Liege feel how far he was in the wrong to
abuse such moderation so unworthily. But in spite of so much
unhandsome behavior on the part of this Prince, the King will not
be inflexible; satisfied with having shown the said Prince that he
can punish him, and too just to overwhelm him. FREDERIC.
"WESEL, September 11th, 174O."
Friedrich himself (Stenzel, iv. 59).]
Whether Rambonet insinuated his Paper-Packet into the Palace of
Seraing, left it at the Gate of Liege (fixed by nail, if he saw
good), or in what manner he "took act," I never knew; and indeed
Rambonet vanishes from human History at this point: it is certain
only that he did his Formality, say two days hence;--and that the
Fact foreshadowed by it is likewise in the same hours, hour after
hour, getting steadily done.
For the Manifestoes printed beforehand, dated Wesel, 11th
September, were not the only thing ready at Wesel; waiting, as on
the slip, for the contingency of No-answer. Major-General Borck,
with the due Battalions, squadrons and equipments, was also ready.
Major-General Borck, the same who was with us at Baireuth lately,
had just returned from that journey, when he got orders to collect
2,000 men, horse and foot, with the due proportion of artillery,
from the Prussian Garrisons in these parts; and to be ready for
marching with them, the instant the contingency of No-answer
arrives,--Sunday, 11th, as can be foreseen. Borck knows his route:
To Maaseyk, a respectable Town of the Bishop's, the handiest
for Wesel; to occupy Maaseyk and the adjoining "Counties of Lotz
and Horn;" and lie there at the Bishop's charge till his
Reverence's mind alter.
Borck is ready, to the last pontoon, the last munition-loaf;
and no sooner is signal given of the No-answer come, than Borck,
that same "Sunday, 11th," gets under way; marches, steady as
clock-work, towards Maaseyk (fifty miles southwest of him,
distance now lessening every hour); crosses the Maas, by help of
his pontoons; is now in the Bishop's Territory, and enters
Maaseyk, evening of "Wednesday, 14th,"--that very day Voltaire and
his Majesty had parted, going different ways from Moyland; and
probably about the same hour while Rambonet was "taking act at the
Gate of Liege," by nail-hammer or otherwise. All goes punctual,
swift, cog hitting pinion far and near, in this small Herstal
Business; and there is no mistake made, and a minimum of
Borck's management was throughout good: punctual, quietly exact,
polite, mildly inflexible. Fain would the Maaseyk Town-Baths have
shut their gates on him; desperately conjuring him, "Respite for a
few hours, till we send to Liege for instructions!" But it was to
no purpose. "Unbolt, IHR HERREN; swift, or the petard will have to
do it!" Borck publishes his Proclamation, a mild-spoken rigorous
Piece; signifies to the Maaseyk Authorities, That he has to exact
a Contribution of 20,000 thalers (3,000 pounds) here, Contribution
payable in three days; that he furthermore, while he continues in
these parts, will need such and such rations, accommodations,
allowances,--"fifty LOUIS (say guineas) daily for his own private
expenses," one item;--and, in mild rhadamanthine language, waves
aside all remonstrance, refusal or delay, as superfluous
considerations: Unless said Contribution and required supplies
come in, it will be his painful duty to bring them in.
The high-flying Bishop, much astonished, does now eagerly answer
his Prussian Majesty, "Was from home, was ill, thought he had
answered; is the most ill-used of Bishops;" and other things of a
hysteric character. [Ib. ii. 85, 86 (date, 16th September).]
And there came forth, as natural to the situation, multitudinous
complainings, manifestoings, applications to the Kaiser, to the
French, to the Dutch, of a very shrieky character on the Bishop of
Liege's part; sparingly, if at all noticed on Friedrich's:
the whole of which we shall consider ourselves free to leave
undisturbed in the rubbish-abysses, as henceforth conceivable to
the reader. "SED SPEM STUPENDE FEFELLIT EVENTUS," shrieks the poor
old Bishop, making moan to the Kaiser: "ECCE ENIM, PRAEMISSA
DUNTAXAT UNA LITERA, one Letter," and little more, "the said King
of Borussia has, with about 2,000 horse and foot, and warlike
engines, in this month of September, entered the Territory of
is an undeniable truth, but an unavailing. Borck is there, and
"2,000 good arguments with him," as Voltaire defines the
phenomenon. Friedrich, except to explain pertinently what my
readers already know, does not write or speak farther on the
subject; and readers and he may consider the Herstal Affair, thus
set agoing under Borck's auspices, as in effect finished; and that
his Majesty has left it on a satisfactory footing, and may safely
turn his back on it, to wait the sure issue at Berlin before long.
WHAT VOLTAIRE THOUGHT OF HERSTAL.
Voltaire told us he himself "did one Manifesto, good or bad," on
this Herstal business:--where is that Piece, then, what has become
of it? Dig well in the realms of Chaos, rectifying stupidities
more or less enormous, the Piece itself is still discoverable;
and, were pieces by Voltaire much a rarity instead of the reverse,
might be resuscitated by a good Editor, and printed in his WORKS.
Lies buried in the lonesome rubbish-mountains of that
the surface, mark where. [Ib. ii. 98-98.] Apparently that is the
Piece by Voltaire? Yes, on reading that, it has every internal
evidence; distinguishes itself from the surrounding pieces, like a
slab of compact polished stone, in a floor rammed together out of
ruinous old bricks, broken bottles and mortar-dust;--agrees, too,
if you examine by the microscope, with the external indications,
which are sure and at last clear, though infinitesimally small;
and is beyond doubt Voltaire's, if it were now good for much.
It is not properly a Manifesto, but an anonymous memoir published
in the Newspapers, explaining to impartial mankind, in a legible
brief manner, what the old and recent History of Herstal, and the
Troubles of Herstal, have been, and how chimerical and "null to
the extreme of nullity (NULLES DE TOUT NULLITE)" this poor
Bishop's pretensions upon it are. Voltaire expressly piques
himself on this Piece; [Letter to Priedrich: dateless, datable
"soon after 17th September;" which the rash dark Editors have by
guess misdated "August; "or, what was safer for them, omitted it
1818, 40 vols.) gives the Letter, xxxix. 442 (see also ibid. 453,
463); later Editors, and even Preuss, take the safer course.]
brags also how he settled "M. de Fenelon [French Ambassador at the
Hague], who came to me the day before yesterday," much out of
square upon the Herstal Business, till I pulled him straight.
And it is evident (beautifully so, your Majesty) how Voltaire
busied himself in the Gazettes and Diplomatic circles, setting
Friedrich's case right; Voltaire very loyal to Friedrich and his
Liege Cause at that time;--and the contrast between what his
contemporary Letters say on the subject, and what his ulterior
Pasquil called VIE PRIVEE says, is again great.
The dull stagnant world, shaken awake by this Liege adventure,
gives voice variously; and in the Gazetteer and Diplomatic circles
it is much criticised, by no means everywhere in the favorable
tone at this first blush of the business. "He had written an ANTI-
Machiavel," says the Abbe St. Pierre, and even says Voltaire (in
the PASQUIL, not the contemporary LETTERS), "and he acts thus!"
Truly he does, Monsieur de Voltaire; and all men, with light upon
the subject, or even with the reverse upon it, must make their
criticisms. For the rest, Borck's "2,000 arguments" are there;
which Borck handles well, with polite calm rigor: by degrees the
dust will fall, and facts everywhere be seen for what they are.
As to the high-flying Bishop, finding that hysterics are but
wasted on Friedrich and Borck, and produce no effect with their
2,000 validities, he flies next to the Kaiser, to the Imperial
Diet, in shrill-sounding Latin obtestations, of which we already
gave a flying snatch: "Your HUMILISSIMUS and FIDELISSIMUS
VASSALLUS, and most obsequient Servant, Georgius Ludovicus;
meek, modest, and unspeakably in the right: Was ever Member of the
Holy Roman Empire so snubbed, and grasped by the windpipe, before?
Oh, help him, great Kaiser, bid the iron gripe loosen itself!"
does so, in heavy Latin rescripts, in German DEHORTATORIUMS more
than one, of a sulky, imperative, and indeed very lofty tenor;
"Let Georgius Ludovicus go, foolish rash young Dilection (LIEBDEN,
not MAJESTY, we ourselves being the only Majesty), and I will
judge between you; otherwise--!" said the Kaiser, ponderously
shaking his Olympian wig, and lifting his gilt cane, or sceptre of
mankind, in an Olympian manner. Here are some touches of his
second sublimest DEHORTATORIUM addressed to Friedrich, in a very
compressed state: [
ii. 127; a FIRST and milder (ibid. 73).]--
We Karl the Sixth, Kaiser of (TITLES ENOUGH), ... "Considering
these, in the Holy Roman Reich, almost unheard-of violent Doings
(THATLICHKEITEN), which We, in Our Supreme-Judge Office, cannot
altogether justify, nor will endure ... We have the trust that you
yourself will magnanimously see How evil counsellors have misled
your Dilection to commence your Reign, not by showing example of
Obedience to the Laws appointed for all members of the Reich, for
the weak and for the strong alike, but by such Doings
(THATHANDLUNGEN) as in all quarters must cause a great surprise.
"We give your Dilection to know, therefore, That you must
straightway withdraw those troops which have broken into the Liege
Territory; make speedy restitution of all that has been extorted;
--especially General von Borck to give back at once those 50 louis
d'or daily drawn by him, to renounce his demand of the 20,000
thalers, to make good all damage done, and retire with his whole
military force (MILITZ) over the Liege boundaries;--and in brief,
that you will, by law or arbitration, manage to agree with the
Prince Bishop of Liege, who wishes it very much. These things We
expect from your Dilection, as Kurfurst of Brandenburg, within the
space of Two Months from the Issuing of this; and remain,"--
Yours as you shall demean yourself,--KARL.
"Given at Wien, 4th of October, 1740."--The last Dehortatorium
ever signed by Karl VI. In two weeks after he ate too many
mushrooms,--and immense results followed!
Dehortatoriums had their interest, at Berlin and elsewhere, for
the Diplomatic circles; but did not produce the least effect on
Borck or Friedrich; though Friedrich noted the Kaiser's manner in
these things, and thought privately to himself, as was evident to
the discerning, "What an amount of wig on that old gentleman!"
A notable Kaiser's Ambassador, Herr Botta, who had come with some
Accession compliments, in these weeks, was treated slightingly by
Friedrich; hardly admitted to Audience; and Friedrich's public
reply to the last Dehortatorium had almost something of sarcasm in
it: Evil counsellors yourself, Most Dread Kaiser! It is you that
are "misled by counsellors, who might chance to set Germany on
fire, were others as unwise as they!" Which latter phrase was
remarkable to mankind.--There is a long account already run up
between that old gentleman, with his Seckendorfs, Grumkows, with
his dull insolencies, wiggeries, and this young gentleman, who has
nearly had his heart broken and his Father's house driven mad by
them! Borck remains at his post; rations duly delivered, and fifty
louis a day for his own private expenses; and there is no answer
to the Kaiser, or in sharp brief terms (about "chances of setting
Germany on fire"), rather worse than none.
Readers see, as well as Friedrich did, what the upshot of this
affair must be;--we will now finish it off, and wash our hands of
it, before following his Majesty to Berlin. The poor Bishop had
applied, shrieking, to the French for help;--and there came some
colloquial passages between Voltaire and Fenelon, if that were a
result. He had shrieked in like manner to the Dutch, but without
result of any kind traceable in that quarter: nowhere, except from
the Kaiser, is so much as a DEHORTATORIUM to be got. Whereupon the
once high-flying, now vainly shrieking Bishop discerns clearly
that there is but one course left,--the course which has lain wide
open for some years past, had not his flight gone too high for
seeing it. Before three weeks are over, seeing how Dehortatoriums
go, he sends his Ambassadors to Berlin, his apologies, proposals:
[Ambassadors arrived 28th September; last Dehortatorium not yet
out. Business was completed 20th October (Rodenbeck, IN DIEBUS).]
"Would not your Majesty perhaps consent to sell this Herstal, as
your Father of glorious memory was pleased to be willing once?"--
Friedrich answers straightway to the effect: "Certainly! Pay me
the price it was once already offered for: 100,000 thalers, PLUS
the expenses since incurred. That will be 180,000 thalers, besides
what you have spent already on General Borck's days' wages.
To which we will add thatwretched little fraction of Old Debt,
clear as noon, but never paid nor any part of it; 60,000 thalers,
due by the See of Liege ever since the Treaty of Utrecht; 60,000,
for which we will charge no interest: that will make 240,000
thalers,--36,000 pounds, instead of the old sum you might have had
it at. Produce that cash; and take Herstal, and all the dust that
has risen out of it, well home with you." [Stenzel, iv. 60, who
counts in gulden, and is not distinct.] The Bishop thankfully
complies in all points; negotiation speedily done ("20th Oct." the
final date): Bishop has not, I think, quite so much cash on hand;
but will pay all he has, and 4 per centum interest till the whole
be liquidated. His Ambassadors "get gold snuffboxes;" and return
And thus, in some six weeks after Borck's arrival in those parts,
Borck's function is well done. The noise of Gazettes and
Diplomatic circles lays itself again; and Herstal, famous once for
King Pipin, and famous again for King Friedrich, lapses at length
into obscurity, which we hope will never end. Hope;--though who
can say? ROUCOUX, quite close upon it, becomes a Battle-ground in
some few years; and memorabilities go much at random in
RETURNS BY HANOVER; DOES NOT CALL ON HIS ROYAL UNCLE THERE.
Friedrich spent ten days on his circuitous journey home;
considerable inspection to be done, in Minden, Magdeburg, not to
speak of other businesses he had. The old Newspapers are still
more intent upon him, now that the Herstal Affair has broken into
flame: especially the English Newspapers; who guess that there are
passages of courtship going on between great George their King and
him. Here is one fact, correct in every point, for the old London
Public: "Letters from Hanover say, that the King of Prussia passed
within a small distance of that City the 16th inst. N.S., on his
return to Berlin, but did not stop at Herrenhausen;"--about which
there has been such hoping and speculating among us lately.
other London Newspapers from July 31st downwards.] A fact which
the extinct Editor seems to meditate for a day or two; after which
he says (partly in ITALICS), opening his lips the second time,
like a Friar Bacon's Head significant to the Public: "Letters from
Hanover tell us that the Interview, which it was said his Majesty
was to have with the King of Prussia, did not take place, for
certain PRIVATE REASONS, which our Correspondent leaves us to
It is well known Friedrich did not love his little Uncle, then or
thenceforth; still less his little Uncle him: "What is this
Prussia, rising alongside of us, higher and higher, as if it would
reach our own sublime level!" thinks the little Uncle to himself.
At present there is no quarrel between them; on the contrary, as
we have seen, there is a mutual capability of helping one another,
which both recognize; but will an interview tend to forward that
useful result? Friedrich, in the intervals of an ague, with
Herstal just broken out, may have wisely decided, No. "Our sublime
little Uncle, of the waxy complexion, with the proudly staring
fish-eyes,--no wit in him, not much sense, and a great deal of
pride,--stands dreadfully erect, 'plumb and more,' with the
Garter-leg advanced, when one goes to see him; and his remarks are
not of an entertaining nature. Leave him standing there: to him
let Truchsess and Bielfeld suffice, in these hurries, in this ague
that is still upon us." Upon which the dull old Newspapers, Owls
of Minerva that then were, endeavor to draw inferences.
The noticeable fact is, Friedrich did, on this occasion, pass
within a mile or two of his royal Uncle, without seeing him;
and had not, through life, another opportunity; never saw the
sublime little man at all, nor was again so near him.
I believe Friedrich little knows the thick-coming difficulties of
his Britannic Majesty at this juncture; and is too impatient of
these laggard procedures on the part of a man with eyes A FLEUR-
DE-TETE. Modern readers too have forgotten Jenkins's Ear; it is
not till after long study and survey that one begins to perceive
the anomalous profundities of that phenomenon to the poor English
Nation and its poor George II.
The English sent off, last year, a scanty Expedition, "six ships
of the line," only six, under Vernon, a fiery Admiral, a little
given to be fiery in Parliamentary talk withal; and these did
proceed to Porto-Bello on the Spanish Main of South America; did
hurl out on Porto-Bello such a fiery destructive deluge, of
gunnery and bayonet-work, as quickly reduced the poor place to the
verge of ruin, and forced it to surrender with whatever navy,
garrison, goods and resources were in it, to the discretion of
fiery Vernon,--who does not prove implacable, he or his, to a
petitioning enemy. Yes, humble the insolent, but then be merciful
to them, say the admiring Gazetteers. "The actual monster," how
cheering to think, "who tore off Mr. Jenkins's Ear, was got hold
of [actual monster, or even three or four different monsters who
each did it, the "hold got" being mythical, as readers see], and
naturally thought he would be slit to ribbons; but our people
magnanimously pardoned him, magnanimously flung him aside out of
(date of the Event is 3d December N.S., 1739).] impossible to
shoot a dog in cold blood.
Whereupon Vernon returned home triumphant; and there burst forth
such a jubilation, over the day of small things, as is now
astonishing to think of. Had the Termagant's own Thalamus and
Treasury been bombarded suddenly one night by red-hot balls,
Madrid City laid in ashes, or Baby Carlos's Apanage extinguished
from Creation, there could hardly have been greater English joy
(witness the "Porto-Bellos" they still have, new Towns so named);
so flamy is the murky element growing on that head. And indeed had
the cipher of tar-barrels burnt, and of ale-barrels drunk, and the
general account of wick and tallow spent in illuminations and in