On the 19th of December the king wrote, from the vicinity of Glogau, to M. Jordan. Perhaps he would not so frankly have revealed his ambition and his want of principle had he supposed that the private letter would be exposed to the perusal of the whole civilized world.Frederick regarded the Academy as his pet institution, and was very jealous of the illustrious philosopher, whom he had invited to Berlin to preside over its deliberations. Voltaire, knowing this very well, and fully aware that to strike the Academy391 in the person of its president was to strike Frederick, wrote an anonymous communication to a review published in Paris, in which he accused M. Maupertuis—first, of plagiarism, in appropriating to himself a discovery made by another; secondly, of a ridiculous blunder in assuming that said discovery was a philosophical principle, and not an absurdity; and thirdly, that he had abused his position as president of the Academy in suppressing free discussion, by expelling from the institution a member merely for not agreeing with him in opinion. These statements were probably true, and on that account the more damaging.
“You have had the most villainous affair with a Jew. It has made a frightful scandal all over town. For my own part, I have preserved peace in my house until your arrival; and I warn you that, if you have the passion of intriguing and cabaling, you have applied to the wrong person. I like peaceable, quiet people, who do not put into their conduct the violent passions of tragedy. In case you can resolve to live like a philosopher, I shall be glad to see you. But if you abandon yourself to all the violence of your passions, and get into quarrels with all the world, you will do me no good by coming hither, and you may as well stay in Berlin.”
There was not a moment to be lost. General Neipperg was moving resolutely forward with a cloud of skirmishers in the advance and on his wings. With the utmost exertions Frederick immediately rendezvoused all his remote posts, destroying such stores as could not hastily be removed, and by a forced march of twenty-five miles in one day reached Neustadt. General Neipperg was marching by a parallel road about twenty miles west of that which the Prussians traversed. At Neustadt the king was still twenty miles from Neisse. With the delay of but a few hours, that he might assemble all the Prussian bands from the posts in that neighborhood, the king again resumed his march. He had no longer any hope of continuing the siege of Neisse. His only aim was to concentrate all his scattered forces, which had been spread over an area of nearly two thousand square miles, and, upon some well-selected field, to trust to the uncertain issues of a general battle. There was no choice left for him between this course and an ignominious retreat.Again he writes, under the same date, to Cardinal De Fleury, then the most prominent member of the cabinet of Louis XV.:The absolutism of Frederick placed all legislative, judicial, and executive powers in his hands. He was law-maker, judge, and executioner. The liberty, property, and lives of his subjects were at his disposal. He could call others to assist him in the government, but they were merely servants to do his bidding.
Leaving a sufficient force to garrison Glogau, the king ordered247 all the remaining regiments to be distributed among the other important posts; while Prince Leopold, in high favor, joined the king at Schweidnitz, to assist in the siege of Neisse. Frederick rapidly concentrated his forces for the capture of Neisse before the Austrian army should march for its relief. He thought that the Austrians would not be able to take the field before the snow should disappear and the new spring grass should come, affording forage for their horses.
THE FLIGHT ARRESTED.CHAPTER XXIX. THE THIRD CAMPAIGN OF THE SEVEN YEARS’ WAR.
On came the Russians in ever-increasing numbers. Frederick’s484 heavy artillery, each piece drawn by twelve horses, could not be brought forward through the bogs, and the entangling woods, and over the rugged heights. Though the Prussians fought with all the energies mortal valor could inspire, and though the king flew from post to post of peril and of death, animating his troops by voice and gesture, and by his own reckless courage, it was all in vain. Hope soon died in all hearts. The king was heard despairingly to exclaim, “Is there not one bullet which can reach me, then?On the River Maas, a few miles north of the present city of Liege, there was a celebrated castle called Herstal. For many generations feudal lords had there displayed their pomp and power; and it had been the theatre not only of princely revelry, but of many scenes of violence and blood. A surrounding territory of a few thousand acres, cultivated by serfs, who were virtually slaves, was the hereditary domain of the petty lords of the castle. A few miles south of the castle there was a monastery called Liege, which was a dependency of the lords of Herstal.
The king was at first much incensed by these attempts at interference. It was not safe for him to bid defiance to the opinions of the civilized world. Emotions of anger and mortification struggled in the bosom of the king. Captain Guy Dickens, secretary of Dubourgay, writes:
“My dear Voltaire,—You wish to know what I have been about since leaving Berlin. Annexed you will find a description of it.
“You will have passports for the post-horses, and whatever else you may ask. I hope to see you on Wednesday. I shall then profit by the few moments of leisure which remain to me, to enlighten myself by the blaze of your powerful genius. I entreat you to believe I shall always be the same toward you. Adieu.”Early in the morning Frederick’s whole army was on the rapid march for Breslau, which was scarcely twenty miles distant from the battle-field. The Austrians had collected immense military stores in the city. Prince Charles, as he fled through the place with the wreck of his army, left a garrison of seventeen thousand men for its defense. In a siege of twelve days, during which there was an incessant bombardment and continual assaults, the city was carried. A few days after this, Liegnitz, which the Austrians had strongly fortified, was also surrendered to the victor. Frederick had thus reconquered the whole of Silesia excepting the single fortress of Schweidnitz.Frederick had now under his command twenty-four thousand men. They were mostly on the road between Frankfort and Berlin, for the protection of the capital. His brother Henry, in the vicinity of Landshut, with his head-quarters at Schm?ttseifen, was in command of thirty-eight thousand. The Russians and Austrians numbered one hundred and twenty thousand. There was, however, but little cordial co-operation among the allies. Each was accused of endeavoring to crowd the other to the front of the battle against the terrible Frederick.
“I was shut up in my bedchamber, where I saw nobody, and continued always to fast. I was really dying of hunger. I read as long as there was daylight, and made remarks upon what I read. My health began to give way. I became as thin as a skeleton from want of food and exercise. One day Madam De Sonsfeld and myself were at table, looking sadly at one another, having nothing to eat but soup made with salt and water, and a ragout of old bones, full of hairs and other dirt, when we heard a knocking at the window. Surprised, we rose hastily to see what it was. We found a raven with a morsel of bread in its beak, which it laid down on the sill of the window so soon as it saw us, and flew away. Tears came into our eyes at this adventure. ‘Our lot is very deplorable,’ said I to my governess, ‘since it even touches the creatures devoid of reason. They have more compassion for us than men, who treat us with so much cruelty.’”“Leave the cold ashes of Maupertuis in peace. He was noble and faithful. He pardoned you that vile libel of Doctor Akakia which your criminal fury scribbled against him. And what return are you making? Shame on such delirious ravings as those of Voltaire! Shall this grand genius, whom I have admired, soil himself with calumny, and be ferocious on the dead? Shall he, like a vile raven, pounce upon the sepulchre, and make prey upon its corpses?”详情
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