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"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.
"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."
TRAGIC NEWS, THAT CONCERN US, OF VOLTAIRE AND OTHERS.
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)! [
And then, six clays later, hear another Witness present there:--
LUNEVILLE PALACE, 10th SEPTEMBER. "For the first three or four days, the health of the Mother appeared excellent; denoting nothing but the weakness inseparable from her situation. The weather was very warm. Milk-fever came, which made the heat worse. In spite of remonstrances, she would have some iced barley-water; drank a big glass of it;--and, some instants after, had great pain in her head; followed by other bad symptoms." Which brought the Doctor in again, several Doctors, hastily summoned; who, after difficulties, thought again that all was comiug right. And so, on the sixth night, 10th September, inquiring friends had left the sick-room hopefully, and gone down to supper, "the rather as Madame seemed inclined to sleep. There remained none with her but M. de St. Lambert, one of her maids and I. M. de St. Lambert, as soon as the strangers were gone, went forward and spoke some moments to her; but seeing her sleepy, drew back, and sat chatting with us two. Eight or ten minutes after, we heard a kind of rattle in the throat, intermixed with hiccoughs: we ran to the bed; found her, senseless; raised her to a sitting posture, tried vinaigrettes, rubbed her feet, knocked into the palms of her hands;--all in vain; she was dead!
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