"Poniatowski's age is 32 gone;--how long out of Russia, readers have to guess. Made his first public appearance on the streets of Warsaw, in the late Election time, as a Captain of Patriot Volunteers,--'Independence of Poland! Shall Poland be dictated to!" cried Stanislaus and an indignant Public at one stage of the affair. His Uncles Czartoryski were piloting him in; and in that mad element, the cries, and shiftings of tack, had to be many. [In HERMANN, v. 362-380 (still more in RULHIERE, ii. 119-289), wearisome account of every particular.] He is Nephew, by his mother, of these Czartoryskis; but is not by the father of very high family. 'Ought he to be King of Poland?' argued some Polish Emissary at Petersburg: 'His Grandfather was Land-steward to the Sapiehas.' 'And if he himself had been it!' said the Empress, inflexible, though with a blush.--It seems the family was really good, though fallen poor; and, since that Land-steward phasis, had bloomed well out again. His Father was conspicuous as a busy, shifting kind of man, in the Charles-Twelfth and other troubles; had died two years ago, as 'Castellan of Cracow;' always a dear friend of Stanislaus Leczinski, who gets his death two years hence [in 1766, as we have seen].
"King Stanislaus Poniatowski had five Brothers: two of them dead long before this time; a third, still alive, was Bishop of Something, Abbot of Something; ate his revenues in peace, and demands silence from us. The other two, Casimir and Andreas, are better worth naming,--especially the Son of one of them is. Casimir, the eldest, is 'Grand Crown-Chamberlain' in the days now coming, is also 'Starost of Zips [a Country you may note the name of!]--and has a Son,' who is NOT the remarkable one. Andreas, the second Brother (died 1773), was in the Austrian Service, 'Ordnance- Master,' and a man of parts and weight;--who has been here at Warsaw, ardently helping, in the late Election time. He too had a Son (at this time a child in arms),--who is really the remarkable 'Nephew of King Stanislaus,' and still deserves a word from us.
"This Nephew, bred as an Austrian soldier, like his Father, is the JOSEPH PONIATOWSKI, who was very famous in the Newspapers fifty years ago. By all appearance, a man of some real patriotism, energy and worth. He had tried to believe (though, I think, never rightly able) what his omnipotent Napoleon had promised him, that extinct Poland should be resuscitated; and he fought and strove very fiercely, his Poles and he, in that faith or half-faith. And perished, fiercely fighting for Napoleon, fiercely covering Napoleon's retreat when his game was lost: horse and man plunged into the Elster River (Leipzig Country, October 19th, 1813, evening of the 'Battle of the Nations' there), and sank forever;--and the last gleam of Poland along with him. [
"Besides these three Brothers, King Stanislaus had two Sisters still living: one of them Wife of a very high Zamoiski; the other of a ditto Branicki (pronounce BraniTZki)--him whom our German Books call KRON-GROSSFELDHERR; (Grand Crown-General,' if the Crown have any soldiers at all; the sublime, debauched old Branicki, of whom Rulhiere is continually talking, and never reports anything but futilities in a futile manner. So much is futile, and not worth reporting, in this Polish element!--King Stanislaus himself was born 17th January, 1732; played King of shreds and patches till 1790,--or even farther (not till 1795 did Catharine pluck the paper tabard quite off him); he died in Petersburg, February 11th or 12th) 1798." After such a life!--
Stanislaus was crowned 25th November, 1764. He needs, as preliminary, to be anointed, on the bare scalp of him, with holy oil before crowning; ought to have his head close-shaved with that view. Stanislaus, having an uncommonly fine head of hair, shuddered at the barbarous idea; absolutely would not: whereupon delay, consultation; and at length some artificial scalp, or second skull, of pasteboard or dyed leather, was contrived for the poor man, which comfortably took the oiling in a vicarious way, with the ambrosial locks well packed out of sight under it, and capable of flowing out again next day, as if nothing had happened. [Rulhiere.] Not a sublime specimen of Ornamental Human Nature, this poor Stanislaus! Ornamental wholly: the body of him, and the mind of him, got up for representation; and terribly plucked to pieces on the stage of the world. You may try to drop a tear over him, but will find mostly that you cannot.
FOR SEVERAL YEARS THE DISSIDENT QUESTION CANNOT BE GOT SETTLED; CONFEDERATION OF RADOM (23d June, 1767-5th March, 1768) PUSHES IT INTO SETTLEMENT.
For several years after this feat of the false scalp, through long volumes, wearisome even in RULHIERE, there turns up nothing which can now be called memorable. The settling of the Dissident Question proves extremely tedious to an impatient Czarina; as to curing of the other curable Anarchies, there is absolutely nothing but a knitting up by A, with a ravelling-out again by B, and no progress discernible whatever. Impatient Czarina ardently pushes on some Dissident settlement,--seconded by King Friedrich and the chief Protestant Courts, London included, and by the European leading spirits everywhere,--through endless difficulties: finds native Orthodoxy an unexpectedly stiff matter; Bishops generally having a fanaticism which is wonderful to think of, and which keeps mounting higher and higher. Till at length there will Images of the Virgin take to weeping,--as they generally do in such cases, when in the vicinity of brew-houses and conveniences; [Nicolai, in his TRAVELS OVER GERMANY, doggedly undertook to overhaul one of those weeping Virgins (somewhere in Austria, I think); and found her, he says, to depend on subterranean percolation of steam from a Brewery not far off.]--a Carmelite Monk go about the country working miracles; and, in short, an extremely ugly phasis of religious human nature disclose itself to the afflicted reader. King Friedrich thinks, had it not been for this Dissident Question, things would have taken their old Saxon complexion, and Poland might have rotted on as heretofore, perhaps a good while longer.
As to the knitting-up and ravelling-out again, which is called curing of the other anarchies, no reader can or need say anything: it seems to be a most painful knitting-up, by the Czartoryskis chiefly, then an instant ravelling out by malign Opposition parties of various indistinct complexion; the knitting, the ravelling, and the malign Opposition parties, alike indistinct and without interest to mankind. A certain drunken, rather brutal Phantasm of a Prince Radzivil, who hates the Czartoryskis, and is dreadfully given to drink, to wasteful ambitions and debaucheries, figures much in these businesses; is got banished and confiscated, by some Confederation formed; then, by new Confederations, is recalled and reinstated,--worse if possible than ever. The thing is reality; but it reads like a Phantasmagory produced by Lapland Witches, under presidency of Diabolus (very certainly the Devil presiding, as you see at all turns),--and is not worth understanding, were it even easy.
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