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History of Friedrich II of Prussia V 21 by Thomas Carlyle

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Forgery! (NOTE of 1868.)]

From Sans-Souci the King did appear again on horseback; rode out
several times ("Conde," a fine English horse, one of his favorites,
carrying him,--the Conde who had many years of sinecure afterwards,
and was well known to Touring people): the rides were short;
once to the New Palace to look at some new Vinery there, thence to
the Gate of Potsdam, which he was for entering; but finding masons
at work, and the street encumbered, did not, and rode home instead:
this, of not above two miles, was his longest ride of all.
Selle's attendance, less and less in esteem with the King, and less
and less followed by him, did not quite cease till June 4th;
that day the King had said to Selle, or to himself, "It is enough."
That longest of his rides was in the third week after; June 22d,
Midsummer-Day. July 4th, he rode again; and it was for the last
time. About two weeks after, Conde was again brought out; but it
would not do: Adieu, my Conde; not possible, as things are!--

During all this while, and to the very end, Friedrich's Affairs,
great and small, were, in every branch and item, guided on by him,
with a perfection not surpassed in his palmiest days: he saw his
Ministers, saw all who had business with him, many who had little;
and in the sore coil of bodily miseries, as Hertzberg observed with
wonder, never was the King's intellect clearer, or his judgment
more just and decisive. Of his disease, except to the Doctors, he
spoke no word to anybody. The body of Friedrich is a ruin, but his
soul is still here; and receives his friends and his tasks as
formerly. Asthma, dropsy, erysipelas, continual want of sleep; for
many months past he has not been in bed, but sits day and night in
an easy-chair, unable to get breath except in that posture. He said
one morning, to somebody entering, "If you happened to want a
night-watcher, I could suit you well."

His multifarious Military businesses come first; then his three
Clerks, with the Civil and Political. These three he latterly,
instead of calling about 6 or 7 o'clock, has had to appoint for 4
each morning: "My situation forces me," his message said, "to give
them this trouble, which they will not have to suffer long. My life
is on the decline; the time which I still have I must employ. It
belongs not to me, but to the State." [Preuss, iv. 257 n.] About
11, business, followed by short surgical details or dressings
(sadly insisted on in those Books, and in themselves sufficiently
sad), being all done,--his friends or daily company are admitted:
five chiefly, or (NOT counting Minister Hertzberg) four,
Lucchesini, Schwerin, Pinto, Gortz; who sit with him about one hour
now, and two hours in the evening again:--dreary company to our
minds, perhaps not quite so dreary to the King's; but they are all
he has left. And he talks cheerfully with them "on Literature,
History, on the topics of the day, or whatever topic rises, as if
there were no sickness here." A man adjusted to his hard
circumstances; and bearing himself manlike and kinglike among them.

He well knew himself to be dying; but some think, expected that the
end might be a little farther off. There is a grand simplicity of
stoicism in him; coming as if by nature, or by long SECOND-nature;
finely unconscious of itself, and finding nothing of peculiar in
this new trial laid on it. From of old, Life has been infinitely
contemptible to him. In death, I think, he has neither fear nor
hope. Atheism, truly, he never could abide: to him, as to all of
us, it was flatly inconceivable that intellect, moral emotion,
could have been put into HIM by an Entity that had none of its own.
But there, pretty much, his Theism seems to have stopped.
Instinctively, too, he believed, no man more firmly, that Right
alone has ultimately any strength in this world: ultimately, yes;--
but for him and his poor brief interests, what good was it?
Hope for himself in Divine Justice, in Divine Providence, I think
he had not practically any; that the unfathomable Demiurgus should
concern himself with such a set of paltry ill-given animalcules as
oneself and mankind are, this also, as we have often noticed, is in
the main incredible to him.

A sad Creed, this of the King's;--he had to do his duty without fee
or reward. Yes, reader;--and what is well worth your attention, you
will have difficulty to find, in the annals of any Creed, a King or
man who stood more faithfully to his duty; and, till the last hour,
alone concerned himself with doing that. To poor Friedrich that was
all the Law and all the Prophets: and I much recommend you to
surpass him, if you, by good luck, have a better Copy of those
inestimable Documents!--Inarticulate notions, fancies, transient
aspirations, he might have, in the background of his mind. One day,
sitting for a while out of doors, gazing into the Sun, he was heard
to murmur, "Perhaps I shall be nearer thee soon:"--and indeed
nobody knows what his thoughts were in these final months. There is
traceable only a complete superiority to Fear and Hope; in parts,
too, are half-glimpses of a great motionless interior lake of
Sorrow, sadder than any tears or complainings, which are altogether
wanting to it.

Friedrich's dismissal of Selle, June 4th, by no means meant that he
had given up hope from medicine; on the contrary, two days after,
he had a Letter on the road for Zimmermann at Hanover; whom he
always remembers favorably since that DIALOGUE we read fifteen
years ago. His first Note to Zimmermann is of June 6th, "Would you
consent to come for a fortnight, and try upon me?"
Zimmermann's overjoyed Answer, "Yes, thrice surely yes," is of June
10th; Friedrich's second is of June 16th, "Come, then!"
And Zimmermann came accordingly,--as is still too well known.
Arrived 23d June; stayed till 10th July; had Thirty-three
Interviews or DIALOGUES with him; one visit the last day;
two, morning and evening, every preceding day;--and published a
Book about them, which made immense noise in the world, and is
still read, with little profit or none, by inquirers into
Friedrich. [Ritter von Zimmermann, Uber Friedrich den
Grossen und meine Unterredungen mit Ihm kurz von seinem Tode italic> (1 vol. 8vo: Leipzig, 1788);--followed by
Fragmente uber Friedrich den Grossen (3 vols. 12mo:
Leipzig, 1790); and by &c. &c.] Thirty-three Dialogues, throwing no
new light on Friedrich, none of them equal in interest to the old
specimen known to us.

In fact, the Book turns rather on Zimmermann himself than on his
Royal Patient; and might be entitled, as it was by a Satirist,
abounding in exaggeration; breaking out continually into extraneous
sallies and extravagancies,--the source of which is too plainly an
immense conceit of oneself. Zimmermann is fifteen years older since
we last saw him; a man now verging towards sixty; but has not grown
wiser in proportion. In Hanover, though miraculously healed of that
LEIBESSCHADE, and full of high hopes, he has had his new
tribulations, new compensations,--both of an agitating character.
"There arose," he says, in reference to some medical Review-article
he wrote, "a WEIBER-EPIDEMIK, a universal shrieking combination of
all the Women against me:"--a frightful accident while it lasted!
Then his little Daughter died on his hands; his Son had disorders,
nervous imbecilities,--did not die, but did worse; went into
hopeless idiotcy, and so lived for many years. Zimmermann, being
dreadfully miserable, hypochondriac, what not, "his friends," he
himself passive, it would seem, "managed to get a young Wife for
him;" thirty years younger than he,--whose performances, however,
in this difficult post, are praised.

Lastly, not many months ago (Leipzig, 1785), the big FINAL edition
of "SOLITUDE" (four volumes) has come out; to the joy and
enthusiasm of all philanthropic-philosophic and other circulating-
library creatures:--a Copy of which came, by course of nature, not
by Zimmermann's help, into the hands of Catharine of Russia.
Sublime imperial Letter thereupon, with 'valuable diamond ring;'
invitation to come to Petersburg, with charges borne (declined, on
account of health); to be imperial Physician (likewise declined);--
in fine, continued Correspondence with Catharine (trying enough for
a vain head), and Knighthood of the Order of St. Wladimir,--so
that, at least, Doctor Zimmermann is RITTER Zimmermann henceforth.
And now, here has come his new Visit to Friedrich the Great;--
which, with the issues it had, and the tempestuous cloud of tumid
speculations and chaotic writings it involved him in, quite upset
the poor Ritter Doctor; so that, hypochondrias deepening to the
abysmal, his fine intellect sank altogether,--and only Death, which
happily followed soon, could disimprison him. At this moment, there
is in Zimmermann a worse "Dropsy" of the spiritual kind, than this
of the physical, which he has come in relief of!

Excerpts of those Zimmermann DIALOGUES lie copiously round me,
ready long ago,--nay, I understand there is, or was, an English
TRANSLATION of the whole of them, better or worse, for behoof of
the curious:--but on serious consideration now, I have to decide,
That they are but as a Scene of clowns in the Elder Dramatists;
which, even were it NOT overdone as it is, cannot be admitted in
this place, and is plainly impertinent in the Tragedy that is being
acted here. Something of Farce will often enough, in this
irreverent world, intrude itself on the most solemn Tragedy;
but, in pity even to the Farce, there ought at least to be closed
doors kept between them.

Enough for us to say, That Ritter Zimmermann--who is a Physician
and a Man of Literary Genius, and should not have become a Tragic
Zany--did, with unspeakable emotions, terrors, prayers to Heaven,
and paroxysms of his own ridiculous kind, prescribe "Syrup of
Dandelion" to the King; talked to him soothingly, musically,
successfully; found the King a most pleasant Talker, but a very
wilful perverse kind of Patient; whose errors in point of diet
especially were enormous to a degree. Truth is, the King's appetite
for food did still survive:--and this might have been, you would
think, the one hopeful basis of Zimmermann's whole treatment, if
there were still any hope: but no; Zimmermann merely, with uncommon
emphasis, lyrically recognizes such amazing appetite in an old man
overwhelmed by diseases,--trumpets it abroad, for ignorant persons
to regard as a crime, or perhaps as a type generally of the man's
past life, and makes no other attempt upon it;--stands by his
"Extract of Dandelion boiled to the consistency of honey;" and on
the seventeenth day, July 10th, voiceless from emotion, heart just
breaking, takes himself away, and ceases. One of our Notes says:--

"Zimmermann went by Dessau and Brunswick; at Brunswick, if he made
speed thither, Zimmermann might perhaps find Mirabeau, who is still
there, and just leaving for Berlin to be in at the death:--but if
the Doctor and he missed each other, it was luckier, as they had
their controversies afterwards. Mirabeau arrived at Berlin, July
21st: [Mirabeau, HISTOIRE SECRETE DE LA COUR DE BERLIN, tome iii.
of OEuvres de Mirabeau: Paris, 1821, LETTRE
v. p. 37.] vastly diligent in picking up news, opinions, judgments
of men and events, for his Calonne;--and amazingly accurate, one
finds; such a flash of insight has he, in whatever element, foul
or fair.

"JULY 9th, the day before Zimmerman's departure, Hertzberg had come
out to Potsdam in permanence. Hertzberg is privately thenceforth in
communication with the Successor; altogether privately, though no
doubt Friedrich knew it well enough, and saw it to be right.
Of course, all manner of poor creatures are diligent about their
own bits of interests; and saying to themselves, 'A New Reign is
evidently nigh!' Yes, my friends;--and a precious Reign it will
prove in comparison: sensualities, unctuous religiosities,
ostentations, imbecilities; culminating in Jena twenty
years hence."

Zimmermann haggles to tell us what his report was at Brunswick;
says, he "set the Duke [ERBPRINZ, who is now Duke these six years
past] sobbing and weeping;" though towards the Widow Duchess there
must have been some hope held out, as we shall now see.
The Duchess's Letter or Letters to her Brother are lost; but this
is his Answer:--


"SANS-SOUCI, 10th August, 1786.

"MY ADORABLE SISTER,-The Hanover Doctor has wished to make himself
important with you, my good Sister; but the truth is, he has been
of no use to me (M'A ETE INUTILE). The old must give place to the
young, that each generation may find room clear for it: and Life,
if we examine strictly what its course is, consists in seeing one's
fellow-creatures die and be born. In the mean while, I have felt
myself a little easier for the last day or two. My heart remains
inviolably attached to you, my good Sister. With the highest
consideration,-- My adorable Sister,--Your faithful Brother and
Servant, "FRIEDRICH."
[ OEuvres de Frederic, xxvii. i. 352.]

This is Friedrich's last Letter;--his last to a friend. There is
one to his Queen, which Preuss's Index seems to regard as later,
though without apparent likelihood; there being no date whatever,
and only these words: "Madam,--I am much obliged by the wishes you
deign to form: but a heavy fever I have taken (GROSSE FIEVRE QUE
J'AI PRISE) hinders me from answering you." [Ib. xxvi. 62.]

On common current matters of business, and even on uncommon, there
continue yet for four days to be Letters expressly dictated by
Friedrich; some about military matters (vacancies to be filled, new
Free-Corps to be levied). Two or three of them are on so small a
subject as the purchase of new Books by his Librarians at Berlin.
One, and it has been preceded by examining, is, Order to the
Potsdam Magistrates to grant "the Baker Schroder, in terms of his
petition, a Free-Pass out of Preussen hither, for 100 bushels of
rye and 50 of wheat, though Schroder will not find the prices much
cheaper there than here." His last, of August 14th, is to De
Launay, Head of the Excise: "Your Account of Receipts and
Expenditures came to hand yesterday, 13th; but is too much in
small: I require one more detailed,"--and explains, with brief
clearness, on what points and how. Neglects nothing, great or
small, while life yet is.

TUESDAY, AUGUST 15th, 1786, Contrary to all wont, the King did not
awaken till 11 o'clock. On first looking up, he seemed in a
confused state, but soon recovered himself; called in his Generals
and Secretaries, who had been in waiting so long, and gave, with
his old precision, the Orders wanted,--one to Rohdich, Commandant
of Potsdam, about a Review of the troops there next day;
Order minutely perfect, in knowledge of the ground, in foresight of
what and how the evolutions were to be; which was accordingly
performed on the morrow. The Cabinet work he went through with the
like possession of himself, giving, on every point, his Three
Clerks their directions, in a weak voice, yet with the old power of
spirit,--dictated to one of them, among other things, an
"Instruction" for some Ambassador just leaving; "four quarto pages,
which," says Hertzberg, "would have done honor to the most
experienced Minister;" and, in the evening, he signed his Missives
as usual. This evening still,--but--no evening more. We are now at
the last scene of all, which ends this strange eventful History.

Wednesday morning, General-Adjutants, Secretaries, Commandant, were
there at their old hours; but word came out, "Secretaries are to
wait:" King is in a kind of sleep, of stertorous ominous character,
as if it were the death-sleep; seems not to recollect himself, when
he does at intervals open his eyes. After hours of this, [Selle (ut
FRIEDRICHS DES ZWEYTEN, (Potsdam, 1786); Preuss, iv. 264 et seq.;
Rodenbeck, iii. 363-366.] on a ray of consciousness, the King
bethought him of Rohdich, the Commandant; tried to give Rohdich the
Parole as usual; tried twice, perhaps three times; but found he
could not speak;--and with a glance of sorrow, which seemed to say,
"It is impossible, then!" turned his head, and sank back into the
corner of his chair. Rohdich burst into tears: the King again lay
slumberous;--the rattle of death beginning soon after, which lasted
at intervals all day. Selle, in Berlin, was sent for by express;
he arrived about three of the afternoon: King seemed a little more
conscious, knew those about him, "his face red rather than pale, in
his eyes still something of their old fire." Towards evening the
feverishness abated (to Selle, I suppose, a fatal symptom);
the King fell into a soft sleep, with warm perspiration; but, on
awakening, complained of cold, repeatedly of cold, demanding
wrappage after wrappage ("KISSEN," soft QUILT of the old fashion);
--and on examining feet and legs, one of the Doctors made signs
that they were in fact cold, up nearly to the knee. "What said he
of the feet?" murmured the King some time afterwards, the Doctor
having now stepped out of sight. "Much the same as before,"
answered some attendant. The King shook his head, incredulous.

He drank once, grasping the goblet with both hands, a draught of
fennel-water, his customary drink; and seemed relieved by it;--his
last refection in this world. Towards nine in the evening, there
had come on a continual short cough, and a rattling in the breast,
breath more and more difficult. Why continue? Friedrich is making
exit, on the common terms; you may HEAR the curtain rustling down.
For most part he was unconscious, never more than half conscious.
As the wall-clock above his head struck 11, he asked:
"What o'clock?" "Eleven," answered they. "At 4" murmured he,
"I will rise." One of his dogs sat on its Stool near him;
about midnight he noticed it shivering for cold: "Throw a quilt
over it," said or beckoned he; that, I think, was his last
completely conscious utterance. Afterwards, in a severe choking
fit, getting at last rid of the phlegm, he said, "LA MONTAGNE EST
PASSEE, NOUS IRONS MIEUX, We are over the hill, we shall go
better now."

Attendants, Hertzberg, Selle and one or two others, were in the
outer room; none in Friedrich's but Strutzki, his Kammerhussar, one
of Three who are his sole valets and nurses; a faithful ingenious
man, as they all seem to be, and excellently chosen for the object.
Strutzki, to save the King from hustling down, as he always did,
into the corner of his chair, where, with neck and chest bent
forward, breathing was impossible,--at last took the King on his
knee; kneeling on the ground with his other knee for the purpose,--
King's right arm round Strutzki's neck, Strutzki's left arm round
the King's back, and supporting his other shoulder; in which
posture the faithful creature, for above two hours, sat motionless,
till the end came. Within doors, all is silence, except this
breathing; around it the dark earth silent, above it the silent
stars. At 20 minutes past 2, the breathing paused,--wavered;
ceased. Friedrich's Life-battle is fought out; instead of suffering
and sore labor, here is now rest. Thursday morning, 17th August,
1786, at the dark hour just named. On the 31st of May last, this
King had reigned 46 years. "He has lived," counts Rodenbeck,
"74 years, 6 months and 24 days."

His death seems very stern and lonely;--a man of such affectionate
feelings, too; "a man with more sensibility than other men!" But so
had his whole life been, stern and lonely; such the severe law laid
on him. Nor was it inappropriate that he found his death in that
poor Silesian Review; punctually doing, as usual, the work that had
come in hand. Nor that he died now, rather than a few years later.
In these final days of his, we have transiently noticed Arch-
Cardinal de Rohan, Arch-Quack Cagliostro, and a most select Company
of Persons and of Actions, like an Elixir of the Nether World,
miraculously emerging into daylight; and all Paris, and by degrees
all Europe, getting loud with the DIAMOND-NECKLACE History. And to
eyes of deeper speculation,--World-Poet Goethe's, for instance,--it
is becoming evident that Chaos is again big. As has not she proved
to be, and is still proving, in the most teeming way! Better for a
Royal Hero, fallen old and feeble, to be hidden from such things.

"Yesterday, Wednesday, August 16th," says a Note which now strikes
us as curious, "Mirabeau, smelling eagerly for news, had ridden out
towards Potsdam; met the Page riding furiously for Selle ('one
horse already broken down,' say the Peasants about); and with beak,
powerful beyond any other vulture's, Mirabeau perceived that here
the end now was. And thereupon rushed off, to make arrangements for
a courier, for flying pigeons, and the other requisites.
And appeared that night at the Queen's Soiree in Schonhausen [Queen
has Apartment that evening, dreaming of nothing], 'where,' says he,
'I eagerly whispered the French Minister,' and less eagerly 'MON
AMI Mylord Dalrymple,' the English one;--neither of whom would
believe me. Nor, in short, what Calonne will regret, but nobody
else, could the pigeons be let loose, owing to want of funds.'"
[Mirabeau, HISTOIRE SECRETE, &c. (LETTRE xiv.), pp. 58-63.]--
Enough, enough.

Friedrich was not buried at Sans-Souci, in the Tomb which he had
built for himself; why not, nobody clearly says. By his own express
will, there was no embalming. Two Regiment-surgeons washed the
Corpse, decently prepared it for interment: "At 8 that same
evening, Friedrich's Body, dressed in the uniform of the First
Battalion of Guards, and laid in its coffin, was borne to Potsdam,
in a hearse of eight horses, twelve Non-commissioned Officers of
the Guard escorting. All Potsdam was in the streets; the Soldiers,
of their own accord, formed rank, and followed the hearse; many a
rugged face unable to restrain tears: for the rest, universal
silence as of midnight, nothing audible among the people but here
and there a sob, and the murmur, 'ACH, DER GUTE KONIG!'

"All next day, the Body lay in state in the Palace;
thousands crowding, from Berlin and the other environs, to see that
face for the last time. Wasted, worn; but beautiful in death, with
the thin gray hair parted into locks, and slightly powdered. And at
8 in the evening [Friday, 18th], he was borne to the Garnison-
Kirche of Potsdam; and laid beside his Father, in the vault behind
the Pulpit there," [Rodenbeck, iii. 365 (Public Funeral was not
till September 9th).] where the two Coffins are still to be seen.

I define him to myself as hitherto the Last of the Kings;--when the
Next will be, is a very long question! But it seems to me as if
Nations, probably all Nations, by and by, in their despair,--
blinded, swallowed like Jonah, in such a whale's-belly of things
brutish, waste, abominable (for is not Anarchy, or the Rule of what
is Baser over what is Nobler, the one life's misery worth
complaining of, and, in fact, the abomination of abominations,
springing from and producing all others whatsoever?)--as if the
Nations universally, and England too if it hold on, may more and
more bethink themselves of such a Man and his Function and
Performance, with feelings far other than are possible at present.
Meanwhile, all I had to say of him is finished: that too, it seems,
was a bit of work appointed to be done. Adieu, good readers;
bad also, adieu.

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