"As his Seven-Years Struggle of War may be called super-human, so was there also in his present Labor of Peace something enormous; which appeared to his contemporaries [unless my fancy mislead me] almost preternatural, at times inhuman. It was grand, but also terrible, that the success of the whole was to him, at all moments, the one thing to be striven after; the comfort of the individual of no concern at all. When, in the Marshland of the Wetze, he counted more the strokes of the 10,000 spades, than the sufferings of the workers, sick with the marsh-fever in the hospitals which he had built for them; [Compare PREUSS, iv. 60-71.] when, restless, his demands outran the quickest performance,--there united itself to the deepest reverence and devotedness, in his People, a feeling of awe, as for one whose limbs are not moved by earthly life [fanciful, considerably!]. And when Goethe, himself become an old man, finished his last Drama [Second Part of FAUST], the figure of the old King again rose on him, and stept into his Poem; and his Faust got transformed into an unresting, creating, pitilessly exacting Master, forcing on his salutiferous drains and fruitful canals through the morasses of the Weichsel." [G. Freytag,
These statements and pencillings of Freytag, apart from here and there a flourish of poetic sentiment, I believe my readers can accept as essentially true, and a correct portrait of the fact. And therewith, CON LA BOCCA DOLCE, we will rise from this Supper of Horrors. That Friedrich fortified the Country, that he built an impregnable Graudentz, and two other Fortresses, rendering the Country, and himself on that Eastern side, impregnable henceforth, all readers can believe. Friedrich has been building various Fortresses in this interim, though we have taken no notice of them; building and repairing many things;--trimming up his Military quite to the old pitch, as the most particular thing of all. He has his new Silesian Fortress of Silberberg,--big Fortress, looking into certain dangerous Bohemian Doors (in Tobias Stusche's Country, if readers recollect an old adventure now mythical);--his new Silesian Silberberg, his newer Polish Graudentz, and many others, and flatters himself he is not now pregnable on any side.
A Friedrich working, all along, in Poland especially, amid what circumambient deluges of maledictory outcries, and mendacious shriekeries from an ill-informed Public, is not now worth mentioning. Mere distracted rumors of the Pamphleteer and Newspaper kind: which, after hunting them a long time, through dense and rare, end mostly in zero, and angry darkness of some poor human brain,--or even testify in favor of this Head-Worker, and of the sense he shows, especially of the patience. For example: that of the "Polish Towns and Villages, ordered" by this Tyrant "to deliver, each of them, so many marriageable girls; each girl to bring with her as dowry, furnished by her parents, 1 feather-bed, 4 pillows, 1 cow, 3 swine and 3 ducats,"--in which desirable condition this tyrannous King "sent her into the Brandenburg States to be wedded and promote population." [Lindsey, LETTERS ON POLAND (Letter 2d). p. 61: Peyssonnel (in some. French Book of his, "solemnly presented to Louis XVI. and the Constituent Assembly;" cited in PREUSS, iv. 85); &c. &c.] Feather-beds, swine and ducats had their value in Brandenburg; but were marriageable girls such a scarcity there? Most extraordinary new RAPE OF THE SABINES; for which Herr Preuss can find no basis or source,--nor can I; except in the brain of Reverend Lindsey and his loud LETTERS ON POLAND above mentioned.
Dantzig too, and the Harbor-dues, what a case! Dantzig Harbor, that is to say, Netze River, belongs mainly to Friedrich, Dantzig City not,--such the Czarina's lofty whim, in the late Partition Treatyings; not good to contradict, in the then circumstances; still less afterwards, though it brought chicanings more than enough. "And she was not ill-pleased to keep this thorn in the King's foot for her own conveniences," thinks the King; though, mainly, he perceives that it is the English acting on her grandiose mind: English, who were apprehensive for their Baltic trade under this new Proprietor, and who egged on an ambitious Czarina to protect Human Liberty, and an inflated Dantzig Burgermeister to stand up for ditto; and made a dismal shriekery in the Newspapers, and got into dreadful ill-humor with said Proprietor of Dantzig Harbor, and have never quite recovered from it to this day. Lindsey's POLISH LETTERS are very loud again on this occasion, aided by his SEVEN DIALOGUES ON POLAND; concerning which, partly for extinct Lindsey's sake, let us cite one small passage, and so wind up.
MARCH 2d, 1775, in answer to Voltaire, Friedrich writes: ... "The POLISH DIALOGUES you speak of are not known to me. I think of such Satires, with Epictetus: 'If they tell any truth of thee, correct thyself; if they are lies, laugh at them.' I have learned, with years, to become a steady coach-horse; I do my stage, like a diligent roadster, and pay no heed to the little dogs that will bark by the way." And then, three weeks after:--
"I have at length got the SEVEN DIALOGUES ON POLAND; and the whole history of them as well. The Author is an Englishman named Lindsey, Parson by profession, and Tutor to the young Prince Poniatowski, the King of Poland's Nephew,"--Nephew Joseph, Andreas's Son, NOT the undistinguished Nephew: so we will believe for poor loud Lindsey's sake! "It was at the instigation of the Czartoryskis, Uncles of the King, that Lindsey composed this Satire,--in English first of all. Satire ready, they perceived that nobody in Poland would understand it, unless it were translated into French; which accordingly was done. But as their translator was unskilful, they sent the DIALOGUES to a certain Gerard at Dantzig, who at that time was French Consul there, and who is at present a Clerk in your Foreign Office under M. de Vergennes. This Gerard, who does not want for wit, but who does me the honor to hate me cordially, retouched these DIALOGUES, and put them into the condition they were published in. I have laughed a good deal at them: here and there occur coarse things (GROSSIERETES), and platitudes of the insipid kind: but there are traits of good pleasantry. I shall not go fencing with goose-quills against this sycophant. As Mazarin said, 'Let the French keep singing, provided they let us keep doing.'" [
After Neustadt, Kaiser Joseph and the King had no more Interviews. Kaunitz's procedures in the subsequent Pacification and Partition business had completely estranged the two Sovereigns: to friendly visiting, a very different state of mutual feeling had succeeded; which went on, such "the immeasurable ambition" visible in some of us, deepening and worsening itself, instead of improving or abating. Friedrich had Joseph's Portrait hung in conspicuous position in the rooms where he lived; somebody noticing the fact, Friedrich answered: "Ah, yes, I am obliged to keep that young Gentleman in my eye." And, in effect, the rest of Friedrich's Political Activity, from this time onwards, may be defined as an ever-vigilant defence of himself, and of the German Reich, against Austrian Encroachment: which, to him, in the years then running, was the grand impending peril; and which to us in the new times has become so inexpressibly uninteresting, and will bear no narrative, Austrian Encroachment did not prove to be the death-peril that had overhung the world in Friedrich's last years!--
These, accordingly, are years in which the Historical interest goes on diminishing; and only the Biographical, were anything of Biography attainable, is left. Friedrich's industrial, economic and other Royal activities are as beautiful as ever; but cannot to our readers, in our limits, be described with advantage. Events of world-interest, after the Partition of Poland, do not fall out, or Friedrich is not concerned in them. It is a dim element; its significance chiefly German or Prussian, not European. What of humanly interesting is discoverable in it,--at least, while the Austrian Grudge continues in a chronic state, and has no acute fit,--I will here present in the shape of detached Fragments, suitably arranged and rendered legible, in hopes these may still have some lucency for readers, and render more conceivable the surrounding masses that have to be left dark. Our first Piece is of Winter, or late Autumn, 1771,--while the solution of the Polish Business is still in its inchoative stages; perfectly complete in the Artist's own mind; Russia too adhering; but Kaunitz so refractory and contradictory.
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