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That evening, a few hurried lines arrived from Henry, written

time:2023-12-01 14:27:32 Source: Originally writtenedit:world

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'Day after to-morrow,' added he, taking the o5cial tone, (in honor of your laurels [gained already, since you resolve on gaining them], we will have the honor of presenting'--such and such a gay Farce, to as many of you as remain alive! which was received with gay clapping of hands: admirable to the Universe, at least to the Parisian UNIVERS and oneself. Such a prodigality of light daring is in these French gentlemen, skilfully tickled by the Marechal; who uses this Playwright, among other implements, for keeping them at the proper pitch. Was there ever seen such radiancy of valor? Very radiant indeed;--yet, it seems to me, gone somewhat into the phosphorescent kind; shining in the dark, as fish will do when rotten! War has actually its serious character; nor is Death a farcical transaction, however high your genius may go. But what then? it is the Marechal's trade to keep these poor people at the cutting pitch, on any terms that will hold for the moment.

That evening, a few hurried lines arrived from Henry, written

"I know not which was the most dissolute Army ever seen in the world; but this of Saxe's was very dissolute. Playwright Favart had withal a beautiful clever Wife,--upon whom the courtships, munificent blandishments, threatenings and utmost endeavors of Marechal de Saxe (in his character of goat-footed Satyr) could not produce the least impression. For a whole year, not the least. Whereupon the Goat-footed had to get LETTRE DE CACHET for her; had to--in fact, produce the brutalest Adventure that is known of him, even in this brutal kind. Poor Favart, rushing about in despair, not permitted to run him through the belly, and die with his Wife undishonored, had to console himself, he and she; and do agreeable theatricalities for a living as heretofore. Let us not speak of it!

That evening, a few hurried lines arrived from Henry, written

"Of Saxe's Generalship, which is now a thing fallen pretty much into oblivion, I have no authority to speak. He had much wild natural ingenuity in him; cunning rapid whirls of contrivance; and gained Three Battles and very many Sieges, amid the loudest clapping of hands that could well be. He had perfect intrepidity; not to be flurried by any amount of peril or confusion; looked on that English Column, advancing at Fontenoy with its FUE INFERNAL, steadily through his perspective; chewing his leaden bullet: 'Going to beat me, then? Well--!' Nobody needed to be braver. He had great good-nature too, though of hot temper and so full of multifarious veracities; a substratum of inarticulate good sense withal, and much magnanimity run wild, or run to seed. A big- limbed, swashing, perpendicular kind of fellow; haughty of face, but jolly too; with a big, not ugly strut;--captivating to the French Nation, and fit God of War (fitter than 'Dalhousie,' I am sure!) for that susceptive People. Understood their Army also, what it was then and there; and how, by theatricals and otherwise, to get a great deal of fire out of it. Great deal of fire;--whether by gradual conflagration or not, on the road to ruin or not; how, he did not care. In respect of military 'fame' so called, he had the great advantage of fighting always against bad Generals, sometimes against the very worst. To his fame an advantage; to himself and his real worth, far the reverse. Had he fallen in with a Friedrich, even with a Browne or a Traun, there might have been different news got. Friedrich (who was never stingy in such matters, except to his own Generals, where it might do hurt) is profuse in his eulogies, in his admirations of Saxe; amiable to see, and not insincere; but which, perhaps, practically do not mean very much.

That evening, a few hurried lines arrived from Henry, written

"It is certain the French Army reaped no profit from its experience of Marechal de Saxe, and the high theatricalities, ornamental blackguardisms, and ridicule of death and life. In the long-run a graver face would have been of better augury. King Friedrich's soldiers, one observes, on the eve of battle, settle their bits of worldly business; and wind up, many of them, with a hoarse whisper of prayer. Oliver Cromwell's soldiers did so, Gustaf Adolf's; in fact, I think all good soldiers: Roucoux with a Prince Karl, Lauffeld with a Duke of Cumberland; you gain your Roucoux, your Lauffeld, Human Stupidity permitting: but one day you fall in with Human Intelligence, in an extremely grave form;--aud your 'ELAN,' elastic outburst, the quickest in Nature, what becomes of it? Wait but another decade; we shall see what an Army this has grown. Cupidity, dishonesty, floundering stupidity, indiscipline, mistrust; and an elastic outspurt (ELAN) turned often enough iuto the form of SAUVE-QUI-PEUT!

"M. le Marechal survived Aix-la-Chapelle little more than two years. Lived at Chambord, on the Loire, an Ex-Royal Palace; in such splendor as never was. Went down in a rose-pink cloud, as if of perfect felicity; of glory that would last forever,--which it has by no means done. He made despatch; escaped, in this world, the Nemesis, which often waits on what they call 'fame.' By diligent service of the Devil, in ways not worth specifying, he saw himself, November 21st, 1750, flung prostrate suddenly: 'Putrid fever!' gloom the doctors ominously to one another: and, November 30th, the Devil (I am afraid it was he, though clad in roseate effulgence, and melodious exceedingly) carried him home on those kind terms, as from a Universe all of Opera. 'Wait till 1759,--till 1789!' murmured the Devil to himself."


About two months after those Saxe-Friedrich hospitalities at Sans-Souci, Voltaire, writing, late at night, from the hospitable Palace of Titular Stanislaus, has these words, to his trusted D'Argental:--

LUNEVILLE, 4th SEPTEMBER, 1749. ... "Madame du Chatelet, this night, while scribbling over her NEWTON, felt a little twinge; she called a waiting-maid, who had only time to hold out her apron, and catch a little Girl, whom they carried to its cradle. The Mother arranged her papers, went to bed; and the whole of that (TOUT CELA) is sleeping like a dormouse, at the hour I write to you." My guardian angels, "poor I sha'n't have so easy a delivery of my CATILINA" (my ROME SAVED, for the confusion of old Crebillon and the cabals)! [ OEuvres, lxxiv. 57 (Voltaire to D'Argental).] ...