Regardless himself of comfort, insensible to fatigue, dead to affection, he created perhaps the most potent military machine earth has ever known. Prussia was an armed camp. The king prized his soldiers as a miser prizes his gold coin, and was as unwilling to expose them to any danger as the miser is to hazard his treasures. War would thin his regiments, soil his uniforms, destroy his materiel. He hated war. But his army caused Prussia to be respected. If needful, he could throw one hundred thousand of the best drilled and best furnished troops in Europe, like a thunderbolt, upon any point. Unprincipled monarchs would think twice before they would encroach upon a man thus armed.“Never was there a place in the world where liberty of speech was so fully indulged, or where the various superstitions of men were treated with so much ridicule and contempt. God was respected. But those who, in His name, had imposed on mankind, were not spared. Neither women nor priests ever entered the palace. In a word, Frederick lived without a court, without a council, and without a religion.”
To the summons which Frederick sent to Maria Theresa, demanding the surrender of Silesia, no response could be returned, consistent with the dignity of the crown, but a peremptory refusal. The reply was unanswerable in its logic. Though it was, in general, couched in courteous terms, one sentence crept into it of rather scornful defiance.Indeed, it would seem that, at the time, Voltaire must have been very favorably impressed by the appearance of his royal host. The account he then gave of the interview was very different from that which, in his exasperation, he wrote twenty years afterward. In a letter to a friend, M. De Cideville, dated October 18th, 1740, Voltaire wrote:
“It is not my purpose to lose battles by the base conduct of my generals; wherefore I hereby appoint that you, next year, if I be alive, assemble the army between Breslau and Ohlau; for four days before I arrive in your camp, carefully man?uvre with the ignorant generals, and teach them what their duty is. Regiment Von Arnim and regiment Von Kanitz are to act the enemy; and whoever does not then fulfill his duty shall go to court-martial; for I should think it a shame of any country to keep such people, who trouble themselves so little about their business.
220 “From all persons who return from Reinsberg the unanimous report is that the king works the whole day through with an assiduity which is unique, and then, in the evening, gives himself to the pleasures of society with a vivacity of mirth and sprightly humor, which makes those evening parties charming.The correspondence carried on between Frederick and Voltaire, and their mutual comments, very clearly reveal the relations existing between these remarkable men. Frederick was well aware that the eloquent pen of the great dramatist and historian could give him celebrity throughout Europe. Voltaire was keenly alive to the consideration that the friendship of a monarch could secure to him position and opulence. And yet each privately spoke of the other very contemptuously, while in the correspondence which passed between them they professed for each other the highest esteem and affection. Frederick wrote from Berlin as follows to Voltaire:
This roused Voltaire. He did not venture to attack the king, but he assailed M. Maupertuis again, anonymously, but with greatly increased venom. A brief pamphlet appeared, entitled, “The Diatribe of Doctor Akakia, Physician to the Pope.” It was a merciless satire against M. Maupertuis. Voltaire was entirely unscrupulous, and was perfect master of the language of sarcasm. No moral principle restrained him from exaggerating, misrepresenting, or fabricating any falsehoods which would subserve his purpose. M. Maupertuis was utterly overwhelmed with ridicule. The satire was so keen that few could read it without roars of laughter. Voltaire, the king’s guest, was thus exposing to the contempt of all Europe the president of the Berlin Academy, the reputation of which Academy was dear to the king above almost every thing else. An edition of the pamphlet was printed in Holland, and copies were scattered all over Berlin. Another edition was published in Paris, where thirty thousand copies were eagerly purchased.Again, on the 5th of July, he wrote: “I write to apprise you, my dear sister, of the new grief that overwhelms us. We have no longer a mother. This loss puts the crown on my sorrows. I am obliged to act, and have not time to give free course to my tears. Judge, I pray you, of the situation of a feeling heart put to so severe a trial. All losses in the world are capable of being remedied, but those which death causes are beyond the reach of hope.”“In the midst of fêtes, operas, and suppers, my secret negotiation advanced. The king allowed me to speak to him on all subjects. I often intermingled questions respecting France and Austria in conversations relating to the ?neid and Livy. The discussion was sometimes very animated. At length the king said to me, ‘Let France declare war against England, and I will march.’ This was all I desired. I returned as quickly as possible to the court of France. I gave them the same hopes which I had myself been led to entertain at Berlin, and which did not prove delusive.”
“Monseigneur,—A man must be void of all feeling who were not infinitely moved by the letter which your royal highness has deigned to honor me with. My self-love is only too much flattered by it. But my love of mankind, which I have always nourished in my heart, and which, I venture to say, forms the basis of my character, has given me a very much purer pleasure to see that there is now in the world a prince who thinks as a man—a Philosopher prince, who will make men happy.
“Würben, in the centre, is like a citadel looking down upon Striegau Water. Heavy cannon, plenty of them, we have brought from Schweidnitz. We have four hundred and eighty cannon in all, and one hundred and eighty-two mines. Würben, our citadel and centre, is about five miles from Schweidnitz. Before our lines are palisades and chevaux-de-frise. Woods we have in abundance in our circuit, and axes for carpentries of that kind. There are four intrenched knolls; twenty-four big batteries capable of playing beautifully, all like pieces in a concert.”168In the autumn of 1750 Frederick held a famous Berlin carousal, the celebrity of which filled all Europe. Distinguished guests flocked to the city from all the adjoining realms. Wilhelmina came to share in the festivities. Voltaire was also present, “the observed of all observers.” An English gentleman, Sir Jonas Hanway, in the following terms describes the appearance of Frederick at this time:
“Any room that was large enough, and had height of ceiling and air circulation, and no cloth furniture, would do. And in each palace is one, or more than one, that has been fixed upon and fitted out for that object. A high room, as the engravings give it us; contented, saturnine human figures, a dozen or so of them, sitting around a large, long table furnished for the occasion; a long Dutch pipe in the mouth of each man; supplies of knaster easily accessible; small pan of burning peat, in the Dutch fashion (sandy native charcoal, which burns slowly without smoke), is at your left hand; at your right a jug, which I find to consist of excellent, thin, bitter beer; other costlier materials for drinking, if you want such, are not beyond reach. On side-tables stand wholesome cold meats, royal rounds of beef not wanting, with bread thinly sliced and buttered; in a rustic, but neat and abundant way, such innocent accommodations, narcotic or nutritious, gaseous, fluid, and solid, as human nature can require.47 Perfect equality is the rule; no rising or no notice taken when any body enters or leaves. Let the entering man take his place and pipe without obligatory remarks. If he can not smoke, let him at least affect to do so, and not ruffle the established stream of things. And so puff, slowly puff! and any comfortable speech that is in you, or none, if you authentically have not any.”详情
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