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time：2023-12-01 13:40:26 Source: Originally writtenedit：reading
VOLTAIRE AND THE DIVINE EMILIE APPEAR SUDDENLY, ONE NIGHT, AT SCEAUX.
About the middle of August, 1747, King Friedrich, I find, was at home;--not in his new SANS-SOUCI by any means, but running to and fro; busy with his Musterings, "grand review, and mimic attack on Bornstadt, near Berlin;" INVALIDEN-HAUS (Military Hospital) getting built; Silesian Reviews just ahead; and, for the present, much festivity and moving about, to Charlottenburg, to Berlin and the different Palaces; Wilhelmina, "August 15th," having come to see him; of which fine visit, especially of Wilhelmina's thoughts on it,--why have the envious Fates left us nothing!
While all this is astir in Berlin and neighborhood, there is, among the innumerable other visits in this world, one going on near Paris, in the Mansion or Palace of Sceaux, which has by chance become memorable. A visit by Voltaire and his divine Emilie, direct from Paris, I suppose, and rather on the sudden. Which has had the luck to have a LETTER written on it, by one of those rare creatures, a seeing Witness, who can make others see and believe. The seeing Witness is little Madame de Staal (by no means Necker's Daughter, but a much cleverer), known as one of the sharpest female heads; she from the spot reports it to Madame du Deffand, who also is known to readers. There is such a glimpse afforded here into the actuality of old things and remarkable human creatures, that Friedrich himself would be happy to read the Letter.
Duchesse du Maine, Lady of Sceaux, is a sublime old personage, with whom and with whose high ways and magnificent hospitalities at Sceaux, at Anet and elsewhere, Voltaire had been familiar for long years past. [In
"SCEAUX, TUESDAY, 15th AUGUST, 1747. ... Madame du Chatelet and Voltaire, who had announced themselves as for to-day, and whom nobody had heard of otherwise, made their appearance yesternight, near midnight; like two Spectres, with an odor of embalmment about them, as if just out of their tombs. We were rising from table; the Spectres, however, were hungry ones: they needed supper; and what is more, beds, which were not ready. The Housekeeper (CONCIERGE), who had gone to bed, rose in great haste. Gaya [amiable gentleman, conceivable, not known], who had offered his apartment for pressing cases, was obliged to yield it in this emergency: he flitted with as much precipitation and displeasure as an army surprised in its camp; leaving a part of his baggage in the enemy's hands. Voltaire thought the lodging excellent, but that did not at all console Gaya.
"As to the Lady, her bed turns out not to have been well made; they have had to put her in a new place to-day. Observe, she made that bed herself, no servants being up, and had found a blemish or DEFAUT of"--word wanting: who knows what?--"in the mattresses; which I believe hurt her exact mind, more than her not very delicate body. She has got, in the interim, an apartment promised to somebody else; and she will have to leave it again on Friday or Saturday, and go into that of Marechal de Maillebois, who leaves at that time."
--Yes; Maillebois in the body, O reader. This is he, with the old ape-face renewed by paint, whom we once saw marching with an "Army of Redemption," haggling in the Passes about Eger, unable to redeem Belleisle; marching and haggling, more lately, with a "Middle-Rhine Army," and the like non-effect; since which, fighting his best in Italy,--pushed home last winter, with Browne's bayonets in his back; Belleisle succeeding him in dealing with Browne. Belleisle, and the "Revolt of Genoa" (fatal to Browne's Invasion of us), and the Defence of Genoa and the mutual worryings thereabout, are going on at a great rate,--and there is terrible news out of those Savoy Passes, while Maillebois is here. Concerning which by and by. He is grandson of the renowned Colbert, this Maillebois. A Field-Marshal evidently extant, you perceive, in those vanished times: is to make room for Madame on Friday, says our little De Staal; and take leave of us,--if for good, so much the better!
"He came at the time we did, with his daughter and grand-daughter: the one is pretty, the other ugly and dreary [l'UNE, L'AUTRE; no saying which, in such important case! Madame la Marechale, the mother and grandmother, I think must be dead. Not beautiful she, nor very benignant, "UNE TRES-MECHANTE FEMME, very cat-witted woman," says Barbier; "shrieked like a devil, at Court, upon the Cardinal," about that old ARMY-OF-REDEMPTION business; but all her noise did nothing]. [Barbier, ii, 332 ("November, 1742").]-- M. le Marechal has hunted here with his dogs, in these fine autumn woods and glades; chased a bit of a stag, and caught a poor doe's fawn: that was all that could be got there.
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