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Ten years of a great King's life, ten busy years too; and nothing visible in them, of main significance, but a crash of Author's Quarrels, and the Crowning Visit of Voltaire? Truly yes, reader; so it has been ordered. Innumerable high-dressed gentlemen, gods of this lower world, are gone all to inorganic powder, no comfortable or profitable memory to be held of them more; and this poor Voltaire, without implement except the tongue and brain of him,--he is still a shining object to all the populations; and they say and symbol to me, "Tell us of him! He is the man!" Very strange indeed. Changed times since, for dogs barking at the heels of him, and lions roaring ahead,--for Asses of Mirepoix, for foul creatures in high dizenment, and foul creatures who were hungry valets of the same,--this man could hardly get the highways walked! And indeed had to keep his eyes well open, and always have covert within reach,--under pain of being torn to pieces, while he went about in the flesh, or rather in the bones, poor lean being. Changed times; within the Century last past! For indeed there was in that man what far transcends all dizenment, and temporary potency over valets, over legions, treasure-vaults and dim millions mostly blockhead: a spark of Heaven's own lucency, a gleam from the Eternities (in small measure);--which becomes extremely noticeable when the Dance is over, when your tallow-dips and wax-lights are burnt out, and the brawl of the night is gone to bed.
PEEP AT VOLTAIRE AND HIS DIVINE EMILIE (BY CANDLELIGHT) IN THE TIDE OF EVENTS.
Public European affairs require little remembrance; the War burning well to leeward of us henceforth. A huge world of smoky chaos; the special fires of it, if there be anything of fire, are all the more clear far in the distance. Of which sort, and of which only, the reader is to have notice. Marechal de Saxe--King Louis oftenest personally there, to give his name and countenance to things done --is very glorious in the Netherlands; captures, sometimes by surprisal, place after place (beautiful surprisal of Brussels last winter); with sieges of Antwerp, Mons, Charleroi, victoriously following upon Brussels: and, before the end of 1746, he is close upon Holland itself; intent on having Namur and Maestricht; for which the poor Sea-Powers, with a handful of Austrians, fight two Battles, and are again beaten both times. [1. Battle of Roucoux, 11th October, 1746; Prince Karl commanding, English taking mainly the stress of fight;--Saxe having already outwitted poor Karl, and got Namur. 2. Battle of Lawfelt, or Lauffeld, called also of VAL, 2d July, 1747; Royal Highness of Cumberland commanding (and taking most of the stress; Ligonier made prisoner, &c.),--Dutch fighting ill, and Bathyani and his Austrians hardly in the fire at all.] A glorious, ever-victorious Marechal; and has an Army very "high-toned," in more than one sense: indeed, I think, one of the loudest-toned Armies ever on the field before. Loud not with well- served Artillery alone, but with play-actor Thunder-barrels (always an itinerant Theatre attends), with gasconading talk, with orgies, debaucheries,--busy service of the Devil, AND pleasant consciousness that we are Heaven's masterpiece, and are in perfect readiness to die at any moment;--our ELASTICITY and agility ("ELAN" as we call it) well kept up, in that manner, for the time being.
Hungarian Majesty, contrary to hope, neglects the Netherlands, "Holland and England, for their own sake, will manage there!"--and directs all her resources, and her lately Anti-Prussian Armies (General Browne leading them) upon Italy, as upon the grand interest now. Little to the comfort of the Sea-Powers. But Hungarian Majesty is decided to cut in upon the French and Spaniards, in that fine Country,--who had been triumphing too much of late; Maillebois and Senor de Gages doing their mutual exploits (though given to quarrel); Don Philip wintering in Milan even (1745-1746); and the King of Sardinia getting into French courses again.
Strong cuts her Hungarian Majesty does inflict, on the Italian side; tumbles Infant Philip out of Milan and his Carnival gayeties, in plenty of hurry; besieges Genoa, Marquis Botta d'Adorno (our old acquaintance Botta) her siege-captain, a native of this region; brings back the wavering Sardinian Majesty; captures Genoa, and much else. Captures Genoa, we say,--had not Botta been too rigorous on his countrymen, and provoked a revolt again, Revolt of Genoa, which proved difficult to settle. In fine, Hungarian Majesty has, in the course of this year 1746, with aid of the reconfirmed Sardinian Majesty, satisfactorily beaten the French and Spaniards. Has--after two murderous Battles gained over the Maillebois-Gages people--driven both French and Spaniards into corners, Maillebois altogether home again across the Var;--nay has descended in actual Invasion upon France itself. And, before New-year's day, 1747, General Browne is busy besieging Antibes, aided by English Seventy- fours; so that "sixty French Battalions" have to hurry home, from winter-quarters, towards those Provencal Countries; and Marechal de Belleisle, who commands there, has his hands full. Triumphant enough her Hungarian Majesty, in Italy; while in the Netherlands, the poor Sea-Powers have met with no encouragement from the Fates or her. ["Battle of Piacenza" (Prince Lichtenstein, with whom is Browne, VERSUS Gages and Maillebois), 16th June, 1746 (ADELUNG, v. 427); "Battle of Rottofreddo" (Botta chief Austrian there, and our old friend Barenklau getting killed there), 12th August, 1746 (IB. 462); whereupon, 7th SEPTEMBER, Genoa (which had declared itself Anti-Austrian latterly, not without cause, and brought the tug of War into those parts) is coerced by Botta to open its gates, on grievous terms (IB. 484-489); so that, NOVEMBER 30th, Browne, no Bourbon Army now on the field, enters Provence (crosses the Var, that day), and tries Antibes: 5th-11th DECEMBER, Popular Revolt in Genoa, and Expulsion of proud Botta and his Austrians (IB. 518-523); upon which surprising event (which could not be mended during the remainder of the War), Browne's enterprise became impossible. See Buonamici,
1. M. DE VOLTAIRE HAS, IN 1745, MADE WAY AT COURT. Divine Emilie picked up her Voltaire from that fine Diplomatic course, and went home with him out of our sight, in the end of 1743; the Diplomatic career gradually declaring itself barred to him thenceforth. Since which, nevertheless, he has had his successes otherwise, especially in his old Literary course: on the whole, brighter sunshine than usual, though never without tempestuous clouds attending. Goes about, with his divine Emilie, now wearing browner and leaner, both of them; and takes the good and evil of life, mostly in a quiet manner; sensible that afternoon is come.
The thrice-famous Pompadour, who had been known to him in the Chrysalis state, did not forget him on becoming Head-Butterfly of the Universe. By her help, one long wish of his soul was gratified, and did not hunger or thirst any more. Some uncertain footing at Court, namely, was at length vouchsafed him:--uncertain; for the Most Christian Majesty always rather shuddered under those carbuncle eyes, under that voice "sombre and majestious," with such turns lying in it:--some uncertain footing at Court; and from the beginning of 1745, his luck, in the Court spheres, began to mount in a wonderful and world-evident manner. On grounds tragically silly, as he thought them. On the Dauphin's Wedding,--a Termagant's Infanta coming hither as Dauphiness, at this time,--there needed to be Court-shows, Dramaticules, Transparencies, Feasts of Lanterns, or I know not what. Voltaire was the chosen man; Voltaire and Rameau (readers have heard of RAMEAU'S NEPHEW, and musical readers still esteem Rameau) did their feat; we may think with what perfection, with what splendor of reward. Alas, and the feat done was, to one of the parties, so unspeakably contemptible! Voltaire pensively surveying Life, brushes the sounding strings; and hums to himself, the carbuncle eyes carrying in them almost something of wet:-- "MON Henri Quatre ET MA Zaire, ET MON AMERICAIN Alzire, NE M'ONT VALU JAMAIS UN SEUL REGARD DU ROI; J'AVAIS MILLE ENNEMIS AVEC TRES PEU DE GLOIRE: LES HONNEURS ET LES BIENS PLEUVENT ENFIN SUR MOI POUR UN FARCE DE LA FOIRE." ["My HENRI QUATRE, my ZAIRE, my ALZIRE [high works very many], could never purchase me a single glance of the King; I had multitudes of enemies, and very little fame:--honors and riches rain on me, at last, for a Farce of the Fair" (
2. AND GOT INTO THE ACADEMY NEXT YEAR, IN CONSEQUENCE. In 1746, the Academy itself, Pompadour favoring, is made willing; Voltaire sees himself among the Forty: soul, on that side too, be at ease, and hunger not nor thirst anymore. ["May 9th, 1746, Voltaire is received at the Academy; and makes a very fine Discourse" (BARBIER, ii. 488).
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