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were not aware, the Euphrasia, while still rapidly advancing,

time:2023-12-01 15:02:17 Source: Originally writtenedit:two

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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!" [ OEuvres de Frederic, xiv. 95 (Verses "A D'ARNAUD," of date December, 1749.)] I hope it was by device; D'Arnaud is such a silly fellow; too absurd, to reckon as morning to anybody's sunset. Except for his involuntary service, for and against, in this Voltaire Journey, his name would not now be mentionable at all. "Sunset?" exclaimed Voltaire, springing out of bed (say the Biographers), and skipping about indignantly in his shirt: "I will show them I am not set yet!" [Duvernet (Second), p. 159.] And instantly resolved on the Berlin Expedition. Went to Compiegne, where the Court then was; to bid his adieus; nay to ask formally the Royal leave,--for we are Historiographer and titular Gentleman of the Chamber, and King's servant in a sense. Leave was at once granted him, almost huffingly; we hope not with too much readiness? For this is a ticklish point: one is going to Prussia "on a Visit" merely (though it may be longish); one would not have the door of France slammed to behind one! The tone at Court did seem a little succinct, something almost of sneer in it. But from the Pompadour herself all was friendly; mere witty, cheery graciosities, and "My Compliments to his Majesty of Prussia,"-- Compliments how answered when they came to hand: "JE NE LA CONNAIS PAS!"

were not aware, the Euphrasia, while still rapidly advancing,

In short, M. de Voltaire made all his arrangements; got under way; piously visited Fontenoy and the Battle-fields in passing: and is here, since July 10th,--in very great splendor, as we see:--on his Fifth Visit to Friedrich. Fifth; which proved his Last,--and is still extremely celebrated in the world. Visit much misunderstood in France and England, down to this day. By no means sorted out into accuracy and intelligibility; but left as (what is saying a great deal!) probably the wastest chaos of all the Sections of Friedrich's History. And has, alone of them, gone over the whole world; being withal amusing to read, and therefore well and widely remembered, in that mendacious and semi-intelligible state. To lay these goblins, full of noise, ignorance and mendacity, and give some true outline of the matter, with what brevity is consistent with deciphering it at all, is now our sad task,--laborious, perhaps disgusting; not impossible, if readers will loyally assist.

were not aware, the Euphrasia, while still rapidly advancing,

Voltaire had taken every precaution that this Visit should succeed, or at least be no loss to one of the parties. In a preliminary Letter from Paris,--prose and verse, one of the cleverest diplomatic pieces ever penned; Letter really worth looking at, cunning as the song of Apollo, Voltaire symbolically intimates: "Well, Sire, your old Danae, poor malingering old wretch, is coming to her Jove. It is Jove she wants, not the Shower of Jove; nevertheless"--And Friedrich (thank Hanbury, in part, for that bit of knowledge) had remitted him in hard money 600 pounds "to pay the tolls on his road." [Walpole, i. 451 ("Had it from Princess Amelia herself"); see Voltaire to Friedrich, "Paris, 9th June, 1750;" Friedrich to Voltaire, "Potsdam, 24th May" ( OEuvres de Voltaire, lxxiv. 158, 155).] As a high gentleman would; to have done with those base elements of the business.

were not aware, the Euphrasia, while still rapidly advancing,

Nay furthermore, precisely two days before those splendors of the Carrousel, Friedrich,--in answer to new cunning croakeries and contrivances ("Sire, this Letter from my Niece, who is inconsolable that I should think of staying here;" where, finding oneself so divinized, one is disposed to stay),--has answered him like a King: By Gold Key of Chamberlain, Cross of the Order of Merit, and Pension of 20,000 francs (850 pounds) a year,--conveyed in as royal a Letter of Business as I have often read; melodious as Apollo, this too, though all in business prose, and, like Apollo, practical God of the SUN in this case. ["Berlin, 23d August, 1750" ( OEuvres de Frederic, xxii. 255);--Voltaire to Niece Denis, "24th August" (misprinted "14th"); to D'Argental, "28th August" ( OEuvres de Voltaire, lxxiv. 185, 196).] Dated 23d August, 1750. This Letter of Friedrich's I fancy to be what Voltaire calls, "Your Majesty's gracious Agreement with me," and often appeals to, in subsequent troubles. Not quite a Notarial Piece, on Friedrich's part; but strictly observed by him as such.

Four days after which, Collini sees Voltaire serenely shining among the Princes and Princesses of the world; Amphitheatre all whispering with bated breath, "Voltaire! Voltaire!" But let us hear Voltaire himself, from the interior of the Phenomenon, at this its culminating point:--

Voltaire to his D'Argentals,--to Niece Denis even, with whom, if with no other, he is quite without reserve, in showing the bad and the good,--continues radiantly eloquent in these first months: ... "Carrousel, twice over; the like never seen for splendor, for [rather copious on this sublimity]--After which we played ROME SAUVEE [my Anti-Crebillon masterpiece], in a pretty little Theatre, which I have got constructed in the Princess Amelia's Antechamber. I, who speak to you, I played CICERO." Yes; and was manager and general stage-king and contriver; being expert at this, if at anything. And these beautiful Theatricals had begun weeks ago, and still lasted many weeks; [Rodenbeck, "August-October," 1750.]--with such divine consultings, directings, even orderings of the brilliant Royalties concerned.--Duvernet (probably on D'Arget's authority) informs us that "once, in one of the inter-acts, finding the soldiers allowed him for Pretorian Guards not to understand their business here," not here, as they did at Hohenfriedberg and elsewhere, "Voltaire shrilled volcanically out to them [happily unintelligible): 'F----, Devil take it, I asked for men; and they have sent me Germans (J'AI DEMANDE DES HOMMES, ET L'ON M'ENVOIE DES ALLEMANDS)!' At which the Princesses were good-natured enough to burst into laughter." [Duvernet (Second), p. 162,--time probably 15th October.] Voltaire continues: "There is an English Ambassador here who knows Cicero's Orations IN CATILINAM by heart;" an excellent Etonian, surely. "It is not Milord Tyrconnell" (blusterous Irish Jacobite, OUR Ambassador, note him, fat Valori having been recalled); no, "it is the Envoy from England," Excellency Hanbury himself, who knows his Cicero by heart. "He has sent me some fine verses on ROME SAUVEE; he says it is my best work. It is a Piece appropriate for Ministerial people; Madame la Chanceliere," Cocceji's better half, "is well pleased with it. [ OEuvres, lxxiv. (LETTERS, to the D'Argentals and Denis, "20th August-23d September, 1750"), pp. 187, 219, 231, &c. &c.] And then,"--But enough.

In Princess Amelia's Antechamber, there or in other celestial places, in Palace after Palace, it goes on. Gayety succeeding gayety; mere Princesses and Princes doing parts; in ROME SAUVEE, and in masterpieces of Voltaire's, Voltaire himself acting CICERO and elderly characters, LUSIGNAN and the like. Excellent in acting, say the witnesses; superlative, for certain, as Preceptor of the art,--though impatient now and then. And wears such Jewel-ornaments (borrowed partly from a Hebrew, of whom anon), such magnificence of tasteful dress;--and walks his minuet among the Morning Stars. Not to mention the Suppers of the King: chosen circle, with the King for centre; a radiant Friedrich flashing out to right and left, till all kindles into coruscation round him; and it is such a blaze of spiritual sheet-lightnings,--wonderful to think of; Voltaire especially electric. Never, or seldom, were seen such suppers; such a life for a Supreme Man of Letters so fitted with the place due to him. Smelfungus says:--

"And so your Supreme of Literature has got into his due place at last,--at the top of the world, namely; though, alas, but for moments or for months. The King's own Friend; he whom the King delights to honor. The most shining thing in Berlin, at this moment. Virtually a kind of PAPA, or Intellectual Father of Mankind," sneers Smelfungus; "Pope improvised for the nonce. The new Fridericus Magnus does as the old Pipinus, old Carolus Magnus did: recognizes his Pope, in despite of the base vulgar; elevates him aloft into worship, for the vulgar and for everybody! Carolus Magnus did that thrice-salutary feat [sublimely human, if you think of it, and for long centuries successful more or less]; Fridericus Magnus, under other omens, unconsciously does the like, --the best he can! Let the Opera Fiddlers, the Frerons, Travenols and Desfontaines-of-Sodom's Ghost look and consider!"--