Readers have not forgotten the handsome, otherwise extremely paltry, young Polack, Stanislaus Poniatowski, whom Excellency Williams took with him 8 or 9 years ago, ostensibly as "Secretary of Legation," unostensibly as something very different? Handsome Stanislaus did duly become Lover of the Grand-Duchess; and has duly, in the course of Nature, some time ago (date uncertain to me), become discarded Lover; the question rising, What is to be done with that elegant inane creature, and his vaporous sentimentalisms and sublime sorrows and disappointments? "Let us make him King of Poland!" said the Czarina, who was always much the gentleman with her discarded Lovers (more so, I should say, than Louis Quatorze with his;--and indeed it is computed they cost her in direct moneys about twenty millions sterling,--being numerous and greedy; but never the least tiff of scolding or ill language): [Castera (
Ingenuous readers are invited to try, in their diffuse vague RULHIERES, and unintelligible shrieky Polish Histories, whether this notion does not rise on them as a possible human explanation, more credible than the feline-diabolic one, which needs withal such a foreknowledge, UNattainable by cat or devil? Poland must not rise to be too strong a Country, and turn its back on Russia. No, truly; nor, except by miraculous suspension of the Laws of Nature, is there danger of that. But neither need Poland lie utterly lame and prostrate, useless to Russia; and be tortured on its sick-bed with Dissident Questions and Anarchies, curable by a strong Sovereign, of whom much is expected by Voltaire and the leading spirits of mankind.
What we shall have to say with perfect certainty, and what alone concerns us in our own affair, is, FIRST, that Catharine did proceed by this method, of crowning, fitting out and otherwise setting up Stanislaus; did attempt settlement (and at one time thought she had settled) the Dissident Question and some curable Anarchies,--but stirred up such legions of incurable, waxing on her hands, day after day, year after year, as were abundantly provoking and astonishing:--and that within the next eight years she had arrived, with Poland and her cargo of anarchies, at results which struck the whole world dumb. Dumb with astonishment, for some time; and then into tempests of vociferation more or less delirious, which have never yet quite ended, though sinking gradually to lower and lower stages of human vocality. Fact FIRST is abundantly manifest. Nor is fact SECOND any longer doubtful, That King Friedrich, in regard to all this, till a real crisis elsewhere had risen, took little or no visible interest whatever; had one unvarying course of conduct, that of punctually following Czarish Majesty in every respect; instructing his Minister at Warsaw always to second and reinforce the Russian one, as his one rule of policy in that Country,--whose distracted procedures, imbecilities and anarchies, are, beyond this point of keeping well with a grandiose Czarina concerned in it, of no apparent practical interest to Prussia or its King.
Friedrich, for a long time, passed with the Public for contriver of the Catastrophe of Poland,--"felonious mortal," "monster of maleficence," and what not, in consequence. Rulhiere, whose notion of him is none of the friendliest nor correctest, acquits him of this atrocity; declares him, till the very end, mainly or altogether passive in it. Which I think is a little more than the truth,--and only a little, as perhaps may appear by and by. Beyond dispute, these Polish events did at last grow interesting enough to Prussia and its King;--and it will be our task, sufficient in this place, to extricate and riddle out what few of these had any cardinal or notable quality, and put them down (dated, if possible, and in intelligible form), as pertinent to throwing light on this distressing matter, with careful exclusion of the immense mass which can throw only darkness.
EX-LOVER PONIATOWSKI BECOMES KING OF POLAND (7th Sept. 1764), AND IS CROWNED WITHOUT LOSS OF HIS HAIR.
WARSAW, 7th SEPTEMBER 1764, Stanislaus Poniatowski, by what management of an Imperial Catharine upon an anarchic Nation readers shall imagine AD LIBITUM, was elected, what they call elected, King of Poland. Of course there had been preliminary Diets of Convocation, much dieting, demonstrating and electing of imaginary members of Diet,--only "ten persons massacred" in the business. There was a Saxon Party; but no counter-candidate of that or any other nation. King Friedrich, solicited by a charming Electress- Dowager, decides to remain accurately passive. Polish emissaries came entreating him. A certain Mockranowski, who had been a soldier under him (never of much mark in that capacity, though now a flamingly conspicuous "General" and Politician, in the new scene he has got into), came passionately entreating (Potsdam, Summer of 1764, is all the date), "DONNEZ NOUS LE PRINCE HENRI, Give us Prince Henri for a King!" the sound of which almost made Friedrich turn pale: "Have you spoken or hinted of this to the Prince?" "No, your Majesty." "Home, then, instantly; and not a whisper of it again to any mortal!" [Rulhiere, ii. 268; Hermann, vi. 355-364.] which, they say, greatly irritated Prince Henri, and left a permanent sore-place in his mind, when he came to hear of it long after.
"A question rises here," says one of my Notes, which perhaps I had better have burnt: "At or about what dates did this glorious Poniatowski become Lover of the Grand-Duchess, and then become Ex-Lover? Nobody will say; or perhaps can? [Preuss (iv. 12) seems to try, but does not succeed.] Would have been a small satisfaction to us, and it is denied! 'Ritter Williams' (that is, Hanbury) must have produced him at Petersburg some time in 1756; '11th January, 1757,' finding it would suit, Poniatowski appeared there on his own footing as 'Ambassador from Warsaw,'"--(easy to get that kind of credential from a devoted Warsaw, if you are succeeding at the Court of Petersburg; "Warsaw watchfully makes that the rule of distributing its honors; and, from freezing-point upwards, is the most delicate thermometer," says Hermann somewhere). And this, is our one date, "Poniatowski in business, SPRING, 1757;" of "Poniatowski fallen bankrupt," date is totally wanting.
"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].
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