For twenty-seven years this strange man reigned. He was like no other monarch. Great wisdom and shrewdness were blended with unutterable folly and almost maniacal madness. Though a man of strong powers of mind, he was very illiterate. He certainly had some clear views of political economy. Carlyle says of him, “His semi-articulate papers and rescripts on these subjects are still almost worth reading by a lover of genuine human talent in the dumb form. For spelling, grammar, penmanship, and composition they resemble nothing else extant—are as if done by the paw of a bear; indeed, the utterance generally sounds more like the growling of a bear than any thing that could be handily spelled or parsed. But there is a decisive human sense in the heart of it; and there is such a dire hatred of empty bladders, unrealities, and hypocritical forms and pretenses, which he calls wind and humbug, as is very strange indeed.”An eye-witness writes from near Weissenfels, in a report to the King of Poland, whose allies the French were, and whose territories they were ravaging:
A SLIGHT PLEASANTRY.“I am certainly informed that the enemy will make some attempt. I hereby, with all distinctness, command that, so soon as the petards are come, you attack Glogau. And you must make your dispositions for more than one attack, so that if one fail the other shall certainly succeed. I hope you will put off no longer. Otherwise the blame of all the mischief that might arise out of longer delay must lie on you alone.
While Frederick was involved in all these difficulties, he was cheered by the hope that the French would soon come to his rescue. Unutterable was his chagrin when he learned, early in October, that the French had done exactly as he would have done in their circumstances. Appalling, indeed, were the tidings soon brought to him, that Prince Charles, with his army, had marched unmolested into Bohemia; that he had already effected a junction with General Bathyani and his countless swarm of Pandours; and, moreover, that a Saxon army, twenty thousand strong, in alliance with the Queen of Hungary, was on the way to join his already overwhelming foes. It was reported, at the same time, that Prince Charles was advancing upon Budweis, and that his advance-guard had been seen, but a few miles off, on the western side of the Moldau.To his sister, Fritz wrote, about the same time, in a more subdued strain, referring simply to his recent life in Cüstrin: “Thus far my lot has been a tolerably happy one. I have lived quietly in the garrison. My flute, my books, and a few affectionate friends have made my way of life there sufficiently agreeable. They now want to force me to abandon all this in order to marry me to the Princess of Bevern, whom I do not know. Must one always be tyrannized over without any hope of a change? Still, if my dear sister were only here, I should endure all with patience.”
Several well-authenticated anecdotes are given respecting the conduct of Frederick on this occasion, which illustrate the various phases in the character of this extraordinary man. The evening before the battle of Zorndorf, the king, having completed his arrangements for a conflict against vastly unequal numbers, upon whose issue were dependent probably both his throne and his life, sent for a member of his staff of some literary pretensions, and spent some time in criticising and amending one of the poems of Rousseau. Was this an affected display of calmness, the result of vanity? Was it an adroit measure to impress the officers with a conviction of his own sense of security? Was it an effort to throw off the terrible pressure which was upon his mind, as the noble Abraham Lincoln often found it to be a moral necessity to indulge in a jest even amidst scenes of the greatest anguish? Whatever may have been the motive, the fact is worthy of record.
The sun rose clear and cloudless over the plain, soon to be crimsoned with blood and darkened by the smoke of battle. The Prussians took position in accordance with very minute directions given to the young Prince Leopold by Frederick. It was manifest to the most unskilled observer that the storm of311 battle would rage over many miles, as the infantry charged to and fro; as squadrons of strongly-mounted cavalry swept the field; as bullets, balls, and shells were hurled in all directions from the potent enginery of war.
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“Never mind, sire, God Almighty and we will mend this yet.417 The enemy may get a victory for once, but that does not send us to the devil.”
“How is it possible, my lord, to believe things so contradictory? It is mighty fine, all this that you now tell me, on the part of the King of England. But how does it correspond with his last speech in Parliament, and with the doings of his ministers at Petersburg and at the Hague, to stir up allies against me? I have reason to doubt the sincerity of the King of England. Perhaps he means to amuse me. But” (with an oath55)269 “he is mistaken. I will risk every thing rather than abate the least of my pretensions.”详情
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