Frederick William, through spies, kept himself informed of every thing which was said or done at Reinsberg. Such orgies as the above excited his contempt and abhorrence. But, notwithstanding the above narrative, there is abundant testimony that the prince was not ordinarily addicted to such shameful excesses. The Italian Count Algarotti, distinguished alike for his familiarity with the sciences and his cultivated taste for the fine arts, was an honored guest at Reinsberg. In a letter addressed to Lord Hervey, under date of September 30th, 1739, the count writes:Forming his army in two parallel lines, nearly five miles long, facing the foe, he prepared to open the battle along the whole369 extent of the field. While thus engrossing the attention of the enemy, his main attempt was to be directed against the village of Kesselsdorf, which his practiced eye saw to be the key of the position. It was two o’clock in the afternoon ere all his arrangements were completed. The Old Dessauer was a devout man—in his peculiar style a religious man, a man of prayer. He never went into battle without imploring God’s aid. On this occasion, all things being arranged, he reverently uncovered his head, and in presence of the troops offered, it is said, the following prayer:
“His diet was regulated at a sum which made it barely sufficient to prevent actual starvation. His apartment was most miserable, and almost entirely devoid of furniture. He was in great want of linen, and of others of the first necessaries of life. At nine o’clock at night his candle was taken from him, while pen, ink, paper, and books were alike denied him.”Though Fritz wrote a legible business hand, was well instructed in most points of useful knowledge, and had a very decided taste for elegant literature, he never attained correctness in spelling. The father was bitterly opposed to Latin. Perhaps it was the prohibition which inspired the son with an intense desire to learn that language. He took secret lessons. His vigilant father38 caught him in the very act, with dictionary and grammar, and a teacher by his side. The infuriated king, volleying forth his rage, would have caned the teacher had he not in terror fled.5
There is a gloom of the soul far deeper than any gloom with which nature can ever be shrouded. It is not easy to conceive of a mortal placed in circumstances of greater mental suffering than was the proud, ambitious young monarch during the hour in which he waited, in terror and disgrace, by the side of the mill, for the return of his courier. At length the clatter of hoofs was heard, and the messenger came back, accompanied by an adjutant, to announce to the king that the Prussians still held Lowen, and that the Prussian army had gained a signal victory at Mollwitz.“Then,” writes Wilhelmina, “as to his bride, I begged him to tell me candidly if the portrait the queen and my sister had been making of her were the true one.”The Austrian cavalry made an impetuous charge upon the weaker Prussian cavalry on the right of the Prussian line. Frederick commanded here in person. The Prussian right wing was speedily routed, and driven in wild retreat over the plain. The king lost his presence of mind and fled ingloriously with the fugitives. General Schulenberg endeavored, in vain, to rally the disordered masses. He received a sabre slash across his face. Drenched in blood, he still struggled, unavailingly, to arrest the torrent, when a bullet struck him dead. The battle was now raging fiercely all along the lines.
On one occasion, when the king had sent him a manuscript to revise, he sarcastically exclaimed to the royal messenger, “When will his majesty be done with sending me his dirty linen to wash?” This speech was repeated to the king. He did not lose his revenge.At the second repulse, the Saxon grenadiers, greatly elated, gave a shout of “victory,” and rushed from their works to pursue the retreating Prussians. This was their ruin.
The Russians, triumphantly advancing, entered Silesia, and reached Crossen, on the Oder, within a hundred miles of Frederick’s encampment.Two days before Frederick reached Brieg, a column of his army, under General Schwerin, which had advanced by a line parallel to the Oder, but several miles to the west, encountering no opposition, reached Ottmachau, a considerable town with a strong castle on the River Neisse. This was near the extreme southern border of Silesia. The Austrian commander, General Browne, had placed here also a garrison of sixteen hundred men,232 with orders not to yield upon any terms, for that re-enforcements should be speedily sent to them. A slight conflict ensued. Twelve of the Prussians were killed. This was the first blood which was shed. A delay of three days took place, when four cannon were brought up, and the gates, both of the town and of the castle, were blown open. The garrison offered to withdraw upon the terms proposed in the summons to surrender. The king was sent for to obtain his decision. He rebuked the garrison sternly, and held all as prisoners of war. The officers were sent to Cüstrin, the common soldiers to Berlin.
“I respect metaphysical ideas. Rays of lightning they are in the midst of deep night. More, I think, is not to be hoped from metaphysics. It does not seem likely that the first principles of things will ever be known. The mice that nestle in some little holes of an immense building know not whether it is eternal, or who the architect, or why he built it. Such mice are we. And the divine architect has never, that I know of, told his secret to one of us.The decisive battle of Hohenfriedberg, by which victory Frederick probably escaped utter destruction, was fought on the 4th of June, 1745. From early dawn to the evening twilight of the long summer’s day the dreadful work of slaughter had continued without a moment’s intermission. As the Austrians, having lost nearly one fourth of their number, retreated, the Prussians, in utter exhaustion, threw themselves upon the ground for sleep. The field around them was covered with fourteen thousand of the wounded, the dying, and the dead.
“Their king” (Wilhelmina’s grandfather) “was of extreme gravity, and hardly spoke a word to any body. He saluted Madam Sonsfeld, my governess, very coldly, and asked if I was always so serious, and if my humor was of a melancholy turn. ‘Any thing but that, sire,’ answered Madam Sonsfeld; ‘but the respect she has for your majesty prevents her from being as sprightly as she commonly is.’ He shook his head and said nothing. The reception he had given me, and this question, gave me such a chill that I never had the courage to speak to him.”
413 The final and decisive struggle took place on and around two important eminences, called the Sterbohol Hill and the Homoly Hill. Both of these heights the Prussians stormed. In the following glowing words Carlyle pictures the scene:In this frame of mind, the king began to talk seriously of abdicating in favor of Frederick, and of retiring from the cares of state to a life of religious seclusion in his country seat at Wusterhausen. He matured his plan quite to the details. Wilhelmina thus describes it:In the mean time Dr. Villa reached England. In conference with the British cabinet, the members deemed it very desirable, at all events, to effect the marriage of the Prince of Wales with the Prussian princess. The main consideration was that it would tend to detach Prussia from Germany, and secure its alliance with England. It was also a good Protestant match, and would promote the interests of Protestantism. The king desired this marriage. But he was inflexible in his resolve that both marriages should take place or neither. The Prussian king was equally inflexible in his determination that, while he would consent to one marriage, he would not consent to both. Colonel Hotham, a man of good family and of some personal distinction, was accordingly sent, as envoy extraordinary, to Berlin, to make new efforts in favor of the double marriage.
Correspondence between Frederick and Voltaire.—Voltaire’s Visit to Frederick.—Domestic Habits of the King.—Unavailing Diplomacy of Voltaire.—The New Alliance.—The Renewal of War.—The Siege of Prague.—The Advance upon Vienna.—Darkening Prospects.—The Pandours.—Divisions in Council.—Sickness of Louis XV.—Energy of Frederick.—Distress of the Army.In the month of October, 1747, Field-marshal Keith visited his Prussian majesty at Sans Souci. In a letter to his brother he thus describes the results of his observations:详情
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