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time：2023-12-01 15:06:49 Source: Originally writtenedit：music
And Amphitheatre and Lamps lapse wholly into darkness, and the thing has finished, for the time being. August 27th, it was repeated by daylight: if possible, more charming than ever; but not to be spoken of farther, under penalties. To be mildly forgotten again, every jot and tittle of it,--except one small insignificant iota, which, by accident, still makes it remarkable. Namely, that Collini and the Barberinas were there; and that not only was Voltaire again there, among the Princes and Princesses; but that Collini saw Voltaire, and gives us transient sight of him,--thanks to Collini. Thursday, 27th August, 1750, was the Daylight version of the Carrouse1; which Collini, if it were of any moment, takes to have PRECEDED that of the 40,000 Lamps. Sure enough Collini was there, with eyes open:--
"Madame de Cocceji [so one may call her, though the known alias is Barberina] had engaged places; she invited me to come and see this Festivity. We went;" and very grand it was. "The Palace-Esplanade was changed" by carpentries and draperies "into a vast Amphitheatre; the slopes of it furnished with benches for the spectators, and at the four corners of it and at the bottom, magnificently decorated boxes for the Court." Vast oval Amphitheatre, the interior arena rectangular, with its Four Entrances, one for each of the Four Quadrilles. "The assemblage was numerous and brilliant: all the Court had come from Potsdam to Berlin.
"A little while before the King himself made appearance, there rose suddenly a murmur of admiration, and I heard all round me, from everybody, the name 'Voltaire! Voltaire!' Looking down, I saw Voltaire accordingly; among a group of great lords, who were walking over the Arena, towards one of the Court Boxes. He wore a modest countenance, but joy painted itself in his eyes: you cannot love glory, and not feel gratefully the prize attached to it,"-- attained as here. "I lost sight of him in few instants," as he approached his Box "the place where I was not permitting farther view." [Collini,
This was Collini's first sight of that great man (DE CE GRAND HOMME). With whom, thanks to Barberina, he had, in a day or two, the honor of an Interview (judgment favorable, he could hope); and before many months, Accident also favoring, the inexpressible honor of seeing himself the great man's Secretary,--how far beyond hope or aspiration, in these Carrousel days!
Voltaire had now been here some Seven Weeks,--arrived 10th July, as we often note;--after (on his own part) a great deal of haggling, hesitating and negotiating; which we spare our readers. The poor man having now become a Quasi-Widower; painfully rallying, with his whole strength, towards new arrangements,--now was the time for Friedrich to urge him: "Come to me! Away from all that dismal imbroglio; hither, I say!" To which Voltaire is not inattentive; though he hesitates; cannot, in any case, come without delay;-- lingers in Paris, readjusting many things, the poor shipwrecked being, among kind D'Argentals and friends. Poor Ishmael, getting gray; and his tent in the desert suddenly carried off by a blast of wind!
To the legal Widower, M. le Marquis, he behaves in money matters like a Prince; takes that Paris Domicile, in the Rue Traversiere, all to himself; institutes a new household there,--Niece Denis to be female president. Niece Denis, widow without encumbrances; whom in her married state, wife to some kind of Commissariat- Officer at Lille, we have seen transiently in that City, her Uncle lodging with her as he passed. A gadding, flaunting, unreasonable, would-be fashionable female--(a Du Chatelet without the grace or genius, and who never was in love with you!)--with whom poor Uncle had a baddish life in time coming. All which settled, he still lingers. Widowed, grown old and less adventurous! 'That House in the Rue Traversiere, once his and Another's, now his alone,--for the time being, it is probably more like a Mausoleum than a House to him. And Versailles, with its sulky Trajans, its Crebillon cabals, what charm is in Versailles? He thinks of going to Italy for a while; has never seen that fine Country: of going to Berlin for a while: of going to-- In fact, Berlin is clearly the place where he will land; but he hesitates greatly about lifting anchor. Friedrich insists, in a bright, bantering, kindly way; "You were due to me a year ago; you said always, 'So soon as the lying-in is over, I am yours:'--and now, why don't you come?"
Friedrich, since they met last, has had some experiences of Voltaire, which he does not like. Their roads, truly--one adulating Trajan in Versailles, and growing great by "Farces of the Fair;" the other battling for his existence against men and devils, Trajan and Company included--have lain far apart. Their Correspondence perceptibly languishing, in consequence, and even rumors rising on the subject, Voltaire wrote once: "Give me a yard of ribbon, Sire [your ORDER OF MERIT, Sire], to silence those vile rumors!" Which Friedrich, on such free-and-easy terms, had silently declined. "A meddlesome, forward kind of fellow; always getting into scrapes and brabbles!" thinks Friedrich. But is really anxious, now that the chance offers again, to have such a Levite for his Priest, the evident pink of Human Intellect; and tries various incitements upon him;--hits at last (I know not whether by device or by accident) on one which, say the French Biographers, did raise Voltaire and set him under way.
A certain M. Baculard d'Arnaud, a conceited, foolish young fellow, much patronized by Voltaire, and given to write verses, which are unknown to me, has been, on Voltaire's recommending, "Literary Correspondent" to Friedrich (Paris Book-Agent and the like) for some time past; corresponding much with Potsdam, in a way found entertaining; and is now (April, 1750) actually going thither, to Friedrich's Court, or perhaps has gone. At any rate, Friedrich--by accident or by device--had answered some rhymes of this D'Arnaud, "Yes; welcome, young sunrise, since Voltaire is about to set!" [
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