NOV, 16th. "Queen told me: When the Court was at Wusterhausen," two months ago, hunting partridges and wild swine, [Fassmann, p. 386.] "Seckendorf and Grumkow intrigued for a match between Wilhelmina and the Prince of Weissenfels," elderly Royal Highness in the Abstract, whom we saw already, "thereby to prevent a closer union between the Prussian and English Courts,—and Grumkow having withal the private view of ousting his antagonist the Prince of Anhalt [Old Dessauer, whom he had to meet in duel, but did not fight], as Weissenfels, once Son-in-law, would certainly be made Commander-in-Chief," [Dubourgay, in State-Paper Office (Prussian Despatches, vol. XXXV.)] to the extrusion of Anhalt from that office. Which notable piece of policy her Majesty, by a little plain speech, took her opportunity of putting an end to, as we saw. For the rest, "the Dutch Minister and also the French Secretaries here," greatly interested about the peace of Europe, and the Congress of Soissons in these weeks, "have had a communication from this Court, of the favorable disposition ours is in with respect to the Double Match,"—beneficent for the Terrestrial Balance, as they and I hope. So that things look well? Alas,—
DECEMBER 25th. "Queen sent for me yesterday: Hopes she does no wrong in complaining of her Husband to her Brother. King shows scruples about the Marriages; does not relish the expense of an establishment for the Prince; hopes, at all events, the Marriage will not take place for a year yet;—would like to know what Dowry the English Princess is to bring?"—"No Dowry with our Princess," the English answer; "nor shall you give any with yours."
NEW-YEAR'S DAY, 1729. "Queen sent for me: King is getting intractable about the Marriages; she reasoned with him from two o'clock till eight," without the least permanent effect. "It is his covetousness," I Dubourgay privately think!—Knyphausen, who knows the King well, privately tells me, "He will come round." "It is his avarice," thinks Knyphausen too; "nay it is also his jealousy of the Prince, who is very popular with the Army. King does everything to mortify him, uses him like a child; Crown-Prince bears it with admirable patience." This is Knyphausen's weak notion; rather a weak creaky official gentleman, I should gather, of a cryptosplenetic turn. "Queen told me some days later, His Majesty ill-used the Crown-Prince, because he did not drink hard enough; makes him hunt though ill;" is very hard upon the poor Crown-Prince,—who, for the rest, "sends loving messages to England," as usual; [Dubourgay, 16th January.] covertly meaning the Princess Amelia, as usual. "Some while ago, I must inform your Lordship, the Prince was spoken to," by Papa as would appear, "to sound his inclination as to the Princess Caroline," Princess likewise of England, and whose age, some eighteen months less than his own, might be suitabler, the Princess Amelia being half a year his elder; [Caroline born 10th June 1713; Amelia, 10th July, 1711.] "but,"—mark how true he stood,—"his Royal Highness broke out into such raptures of love and passion for the Princess Amelia, and showed so much impatience for the conclusion of that Match, as gave the King of Prussia a great deal of surprise, and the Queen as much satisfaction." Truth is, if an old Brigadier Diplomatist may be judge, "The great and good qualities of that young Prince, both of person and mind, deserve a distinct and particular account, with which I shall trouble your Lordship another day;" [Despatch, 25th December, 1728.]—which unluckily I never did; his Lordship Townshend having, it would seem, too little curiosity on the subject.
And so the matter wavers; and in spite of Dubourgay's and Queen Sophie's industry, and the Crown-Prince's willing mind, there can nothing definite be made of it at this time. Friedrich Wilhelm goes on visits, goes on huntings; leaves the matter to itself to mature a little. Thus the negotiation hangs fire; and will do so,—till dreadful waterspouts come, and perhaps quench it altogether?
HIS MAJESTY SLAUGHTERS 3,602 HEAD OF WILD SWINE.
His Majesty is off for a Hunting Visit to the Old Dessauer,—Crown-Prince with him, who hates hunting. Then, "19th January, 1729," says the reverential Fassmann, he is off for a grand hunt at Copenick; then for a grander in Pommern (Crown-Prince still with him): such a slaughter of wild swine as was seldom heard of, and as never occurred again. No fewer than "1,882 head (STUCK) of wild swine, 300 of them of uncommon magnitude," in the Stettin and other Pommern regions; "together with 1,720 STUCK in the Mark Brandenburg, once 450 in a day: in all, 3,602 STUCK." Never was his Majesty in better spirits: a very Nimrod or hunting Centaur; trampling the cobwebs of Diplomacy, and the cares of life, under his victorious hoofs. All this slaughter of swine, 3,602 STUCK by tale, was done in the season 1729. "From which," observes the adoring Fassmann, [p. 387.] "is to be inferred the importance," at least in wild swine, "of those royal Forests in Pommern and the Mark;" not to speak of his Majesty's supreme talent in hunting, as in other things.
What Friedrich Wilhelm did with such a mass of wild pork? Not an ounce of it was wasted, every ounce of it brought money in. For there exist Official Schedules, lists as for a window-tax or property-tax, drawn up by his Majesty's contrivance, in the chief Localities: every man, according to the house he keeps, is bound to take, at a just value by weight, such and such quotities of suddenly slaughtered wild swine, one or so many,—and consume them at his leisure, as ham or otherwise,—cash payable at a fixed term, and no abatement made. [Forster, Beneckendorf (if they had an Index I).] For this is a King that cannot stand waste at all; thrifty himself, and the Cause of thrift.
FALLS ILL, IN CONSEQUENCE; AND THE DOUBLE-MARRIAGE CANNOT GET FORWARD.
This was one of Friedrich Wilhelm's grandest hunting-bouts, this of January, 1729; at all events, he will never have another such. By such fierce riding, and defiance of the winter elements and rules of regimen, his Majesty returned to Potsdam with ill symptoms of health;—symptoms never seen before; except transiently, three years ago, after a similar bout; when the Doctors, shaking their heads, had mentioned the word "Gout."—"NARREN-POSSEN!" Friedrich Wilhelm had answered, "Gout?"—But now, February, 1729, it is gout in very deed. His poor Majesty has to admit: "I am gouty, then! Shall have gout for companion henceforth. I am breaking up, then?" Which is a terrible message to a man. His Majesty's age is not forty-one till August coming; but he has hunted furiously.
Adoring Fassmann gives a quite touching account of Friedrich Wilhelm's performances under gout, now and generally, which were begun on this occasion. How he suffered extremely, yet never neglected his royal duties in any press of pain. Could seldom get any sleep till towards four or five in the morning, and then had to be content with an hour or two; after which his Official Secretaries came in with their Papers, and he signed, despatched, resolved, with best judgment,—the top of the morning always devoted to business. At noon, up if possible; and dines, "in dressing-gown, with Queen and children." After dinner, commonly to bed again; and would paint in oil; sometimes do light joiner-work, chiselling and inlaying; by and by lie inactive with select friends sitting round, some of whom had the right of entry, others not, under penalties. Buddenbrock, Derschau, rough old Marlborough stagers, were generally there; these, "and two other persons,"—Grumkow and Seckendorf, whom Fassmann does not name, lest he get into trouble,—"sat, well within earshot, round the bed. And always at the head was TheirO Majesty the Queen, sometimes with the King's hand laid in hers, and his face turned up to her, as if he sought assuagement"—O my dim old Friend, let us dry our tears!
"Sometimes the Crown-Prince read aloud in some French Book," Title not given; Crown-Prince's voice known to me as very fine. Generally the Princess Louisa was in the room, too; Louisa, who became of Anspach shortly; not Wilhelmina, who lies in fever and relapse and small-pox, and close at death's door, almost since the beginning of these bad days. The Crown-Prince reads, we say, with a voice of melodious clearness, in French more or less instructive. "At other times there went on discourse, about public matters, foreign news, things in general; discourse of a cheerful or of a serious nature," always with some substance of sense in it,—"and not the least smut permitted, as is too much the case in certain higher circles!" says adoring Fassmann; who privately knows of "Courts" (perhaps the GLORWURDIGSTE, Glory-worthiest, August the Great's Court, for one?) "with their hired Tom-Fools," not yet an extinct species attempting to ground wit on that bad basis. Prussian Majesty could not endure any "ZOTEN:" profanity and indecency, both avaunt. "He had to hold out in this way, awake till ten o'clock, for the chance of night's sleep." Earlier in the afternoon, we said, he perhaps does a little in oil-painting, having learnt something of that art in young times;—there is a poor artist in attendance, to mix the colors, and do the first sketch of the thing. Specimens of such Pictures still exist, Portraits generally; all with this epigraph, FREDERICUS WILHELMUS IN TORMENTIS PINXIT (Painted by Friedrich Wilhelm in his torments); and are worthy the attention of the curious. [Fassmann, p. 392; see Forster, &c.] Is not this a sublime patient?
Fassmann admits, "there might be spurts of IMpatience now and then; but how richly did Majesty make it good again after reflection! He was also subject to whims even about people whom he otherwise esteemed. One meritorious gentleman, who shall be nameless, much thought of by the King, his Majesty's nerves could not endure, though his mind well did: 'Makes my gout worse to see him drilling in the esplanade there; let another do it!'—and vouchsafed an apologetic assurance to the meritorious gentleman afflicted in consequence."—O my dim old Friend, these surely are sublimities of the sick-bed? "So it lasted for some five weeks long," well on towards the summer of this bad year 1729. Wilhelmina says, in briefer business language, and looking only at the wrong side of the tapestry, "It was a Hell-on-Earth to us, Les peines du Purgatoire ne pouvaient egaler celles que NOUS endurions;" [i. 157.] and supports the statement by abundant examples, during those flamy weeks.
For, in the interim, withal, the English negotiation is as good as gone out; nay there are waterspouts brewing aloft yonder, enough to wash negotiation from the world. Of which terrible weather-phenomena we shall have to speak by and by: but must first, by way of commentary, give a glance at Soissons and the Terrestrial LIBRA, so far as necessary for human objects,—not far, by any means.
Chapter V. — CONGRESS OF SOISSONS, SIXTH CRISIS IN THE SPECTRE-HUNT.
The so-called Spanish War, and dangerous futile Siege of Gibraltar, had not ended at the death of George I.; though measures had already been agreed upon, by the Kaiser and parties interested, to end it,—only the King of Spain (or King's Wife, we should say) made difficulties. Difficulties, she; and kept firing, without effect, at the Fortress for about a year more; after which, her humor or her powder being out, Spanish Majesty signed like the others. Peace again for all and sundry of us: "Preliminaries" of Peace signed at Paris, 31st May, 1727, three weeks before George's death; "Peace" itself finally at the Pardo or at Madrid, the Termagant having spent her powder, 6th March, 1728; [Scholl, ii. 212, 213.] and a "Congress" (bless the mark!) to settle on what terms in every point.
Congress, say at Aix-la-Chapelle; say at Cambrai again,—for there are difficulties about the place. Or say finally at Soissons; where Fleury wished it to be, that he might get the reins of it better in hand; and where it finally was,—and where the ghost or name of it yet is, an empty enigma in the memories of some men. Congress of Soissons did meet, 14th June, 1728; opened itself, as a Corporeal Entity in this world; sat for above a year;—and did nothing; Fleury quite declining the Pragmatic Sanction, though the anxious Kaiser was ready to make astonishing sacrifices, give up his Ostend COMPANY (Paper Shadow of a Company), or what you will of that kind,—if men would have conformed.
These Diplomatic gentlemen,—say, are they aught? They seem to understand me, by each at once his choppy finger laying on his skinny lips! Princes of the Powers of the Air, Shall we define them? It is certain the solid Earth or her facts, except being held in perpetual terror by such workings of the Shadow-world, reaped no effect from those Twenty Years of Congressing; Seckendorf himself might as well have lain in bed, as ridden those 25,000 miles, and done such quantities of double-distillations. No effect at all: only some futile gunpowder spent on Gibraltar, and splinters of shot and shells (salable as old iron) found about the rocks there; which is not much of an effect for Twenty Years of such industry.
The sublime Congress of Soissons met, as we say, at the above date (just while the Polish Majesty was closing his Berlin Visit); but found itself no abler for work than that of Cambrai had been. The Deputies from France I do not mention; nor from Spain, nor from Austria. The Deputies from England were Colonel or now properly Brigadier-General Stanhope, afterwards Lord Harrington; Horace Walpole (who is Robert's Brother, and whose Secretary is Sir Thomas Robinson, "QUOI DONE, CRUSOE?" whom we shall hear of farther); and Stephen Poyntz, a once bright gentleman, now dim and obsolete, whom the readers of Coxe's Walpole have some nominal acquaintance with. Here, for Chronology's sake, is a clipping from the old English newspapers to accompany them: "There is rumor that POLLY PEACHUM is gone to attend the Congress at Soissons; where, it is thought, she will make as good a figure, and do her country as much service, as several others that shall be nameless." [Mist's Weekly Journal, 29th June, 1728.]
Their task seemed easy to the sanguine mind. The Kaiser has agreed with Spain in the Italian-Apanage matter; with the Sea-Powers in regard to his Ostend Company, which is abolished forever: what then is to prevent a speedy progress, and glad conclusion? The Pragmatic Sanction. "Accept my Pragmatic Sanction," said the Kaiser, "let that be the preliminary of all things."—"Not the preliminary," answered Fleury; "we will see to that as we go on; not the preliminary, by any means!" There was the rub. The sly old Cardinal had his private treaties with Sardinia; views of his own in the Mediterranean, in the Rhine quarter; and answered steadily, "Not the preliminary, by any means!" The Kaiser was equally inflexible. Whereupon immensities of protocolling, arguing, and the Congress "fell into complete languor," say the Histories. [Scholl, ii. 215.] Congress ate its dinner heartily, and wrote immensely, for the space of eighteen months; but advanced no hair's-breadth any-whither; no prospect before it, but that of dinner only, for unlimited periods.
Kaiser will have his Pragmatic Sanction, or not budge from the place; stands mulelike amid the rain of cudgellings from the by-standers; can be beaten to death, but stir he will not.—Hints, glances of the eye, pass between Elizabeth Farnese and the other by-standers; suddenly, 9th November, 1729, it is found they have all made a "TREATY OF SEVILLE" with Elizabeth Farnese; France, England, Holland, Spain, have all closed,—Italian Apanages to be at once secured, Ostend to be at once suppressed, with what else behooves;—and the Kaiser is left alone; standing upon his Pragmatic Sanction there, nobody bidding him now budge!
At which the Kaiser is naturally thrice and four times wroth and alarmed;—and Seckendorf in the TABAKS-COLLEGIUM had need to be doubly busy. As we shall find he is (though without effect), when the time comes round:—but we have not yet got to November of this Year 1729; there are still six or eight important months between us and that. Important months; and a Prussian-English "Waterspout," as we have named it, to be seen, with due wonder, in the political sky!—
Congress of Soissons, now fallen mythical to mankind, and as inane as that of Cambrai, is perhaps still memorable in one or two slight points. First, it has in it, as one of the Austrian Deputies, that Baron von Bentenrieder, tallest of living Diplomatists, who was pressed at one time for a Prussian soldier;—readers recollect it? Walking through the streets of Halberstadt, to stretch his long limbs till his carriage came up, the Prussian sentries laid hold of him, "Excellent Potsdam giant, this one!"—and haled him off to their guard-house; till carriage and lackeys came; then, "Thousand humblest pardons, your Excellenz!" who forgave the fellows. Barely possible some lighter readers might wish to see, for one moment, an Excellenz that has been seized by a Press-gang? Which perhaps never happened to any other Excellenz;—the like of which, I have been told, might merit him a soiree from strong-minded women, in some remoter parts of the world. Not to say that he is the tallest of living Diplomatists; another unique circumstance!—Bentenrieder soon died; and had his place at Soissons filled up by an Excellenz of the ordinary height, who had never been pressed. But nothing can rob the Congress of this fact, that it once had Bentenrieder for member; and, so far, is entitled to the pluperfect distinction in one particular.
Another point is humanly interesting in this Congress; but cannot fully be investigated for want of dates. Always, we perceive, according to the news of it that reach Berlin,—of England going right for the Kaiser or going wrong for him,—his Prussian Majesty's treatment of his children varies. If England go right for the Kaiser, well, and his Majesty is in good-humor with Queen, with Crown-Prince and Wilhelmina. If England go wrong for the Kaiser, dark clouds gather on the royal brow, in the royal heart; explode in thunder-storms; and at length crockery goes flying through the rooms, blows descend on the poor Prince's back; and her Majesty is in tears, mere Chaos come again. For as a general rule, unless the English Negotiation have some prospering fit, and produce exceptional phenomena, Friedrich Wilhelm, ever loyal in heart, stands steadfast by his Kaiser; ever ready "to strike out (LOS ZU SCHLAGEN," as he calls it) with his best strength in behalf of a cause which, good soul, he thinks is essentially German;—all the readier if at any time it seem now exclusively German, the French, Spanish, English, and other unlovely Foreign world being clean cut loose from it, or even standing ranked against it. "When will it go off, then (WANN GEHT ES LOS)?" asks Friedrich Wilhelm often; diligently drilling his sixty thousand, and snorting contempt on "Ungermanism (UNDEUTSCHHEIT)," be it on the part of friends or of enemies. Good soul, and whether he will ever get Julich and Berg out of it, is distractingly problematical, and the Tobacco-Parliament is busy with him!
Curious to see, so far as dates go, how Friedrich Wilhelm changes his tune to Wife and Children in exact correspondence to the notes given out at Soissons for a Kaiser and his Pragmatic Sanction. Poor Prussian Household, poor back, and heart, of Crown-Prince; what a concert it is in this world, Smoking Parliament for souffleur! Let the big Diplomatist Bassoon of the Universe go this way, there are caresses for a young Soldier and his behavior in the giant regiment; let the same Bassoon sound that way, bangs and knocks descend on him; the two keep time together,—so busy is the Smoking Parliament with his Majesty of Prussia. The world has seen, with horror and wonder, Friedrich Wilhelm's beating of his grown children: but the pair of MEERKATZEN, or enchanted Demon-Apes, disguised as loyal Councillors, riding along with him the length of a Terrestrial Equator, have not been so familiar to the world. Seckendorf, Grumkow: we had often heard of Devil-Diplomatists; and shuddered over horrible pictures of them in Novels; hoping it was all fancy: but here actually is a pair of them, transcending all Novels;—perhaps the highest cognizable fact to be met with in Devil-Diplomacy. And it may be a kind of comfort to readers, both to know it, and to discern gradually what the just gods make of it withal. Devil-Diplomatists do exist, at least have existed, never doubt it farther; and their astonishingly dexterous mendacities and enchanted spider-webs,—CAN these go any road but one in this Universe?
That the Congress of Cambrai was not a myth, we convinced ourselves by a letter of Voltaire's, who actually saw it dining there in the Year 1722, as he passed that way. Here, for Soissons, in like manner, are two Letters, by a less celebrated but a still known English hand; which, as utterances in presence of the fact itself, leave no doubt on the subject. These the afflicted reader will perhaps consent to take a glance of. If the Congress of Soissons, for the sake of memorable objects concerned there, is still to be remembered, and believed in, for a little while,—the question arises, How to do it, then?
The writer of these Letters is a serious, rather long-nosed young English gentleman, not without intelligence, and of a wholesome and honest nature; who became Lord Lyttelton, FIRST of those Lords, called also "the Good Lord," father of "the Bad:" a lineal descendant of that Lyttelton UPON whom Coke sits, or seems to sit, till the end of things: author by and by of a History of Henry the Second and other well-meant books: a man of real worth, who attained to some note in the world. He is now upon the Grand Tour,—which ran, at that time, by Luneville and Lorraine, as would appear; at which point we shall first take him up. He writes to his Father, Sir Thomas, at Hagley among the pleasant Hills of Worcestershire,—date shortly after the assembling of that Congress to rear of him;—and we strive to add a minimum of commentary. The "piece of negligence," the "Mr. D.,"—none of mortals now knows who or what they were:—
TO SIR THOMAS LYTTELTON, BART., AT HAGLEY.
"LUNEVILLE 21st July" 1728.
"DEAR SIR,—I thank you for so kindly forgiving the piece of negligence I acquainted you of in my last. Young fellows are often guilty of voluntary forgetfulness in those affairs; but I assure you mine was quite accidental:"—Never mind it, my Son!
"Mr. D. tells you true that I am weary of losing money at cards; but it is no less certain that without them I shall soon be weary of Lorraine. The spirit of quadrille [obsolete game at cards] has possessed the land from morning till midnight; there is nothing else in every house in Town.
"This Court is fond of strangers, but with a proviso that strangers love quadrille. Would you win the hearts of the Maids of Honor, you must lose your money at quadrille; would you be thought a well-bred man, you must play genteelly at quadrille; would you get a reputation of good sense, show judgment at quadrille. However in summer one may pass a day without quadrille; because there are agreeable promenades, and little parties out of doors. But in winter you are reduced to play at it, or sleep, like a fly, till the return of spring.
"Indeed in the morning the Duke hunts,"—mark that Duke, and two Sons he has. "But my malicious stars have so contrived it, that I am no more a sportsman than a gamester. There are no men of learning in the whole Country; on the contrary, it is a character they despise. A man of quality caught me, the other day, reading a Latin Author; and asked me, with an air of contempt, Whether I was designed for the Church? All this would be tolerable if I was not doomed to converse with a set of English, who are still more ignorant than the French; and from whom, with my utmost endeavors, I cannot be absent six hours in the day. Lord" BLANK—Baltimore, or Heaven-knows-who,—"is the only one among them who has common sense; and he is so scandalously debauched, in his principles as well as practice, that his conversation is equally shocking to my morals and my reason."—Could not one contrive to get away from them; to Soissons, for example, to see business going on; and the Terrestrial Balance settling itself a little?
"My only improvement here is in the company of the Duke," who is a truly distinguished Duke to his bad Country; "and in the exercise of the Academy,"—of Horsemanship, or what? "I have been absent from the latter near three weeks, by reason of a sprain I got in the sinews of my leg. My duty to my dear Mother; I hope you and she continue well. I am, Sir, your dutiful Son.—G. L." [The Works of Lord George Lyttelton, by Ayscough (London, 1776), iii. 215.]
These poor Lorrainers are in a bad way; their Country all trampled to pieces by France, in the Louis-Fourteenth and still earlier times. Indeed, ever since the futile Siege of Metz; where we saw the great Kaiser, Karl V., silently weeping because he could not recapture Metz, [Antea, vol. v. p. 211.] the French have been busy with this poor Country;—new sections of it clipt away by them; "military roads through it, ten miles broad," bargained for; its Dukes oftenest in exile, especially the Father of this present Duke: [A famed Soldier in his day;] under Kaiser Leopold, "the little Kaiser in red stockings," one of whose Daughters he had to wife. He was at the Rescue of Vienna (Sobieski's), and in how many far fiercer services; his life was but a battle and a march. Here is his famed Letter to the Kaiser, when death suddenly called, Halt!
"WELS NEAR LINZ ON THE DONAU, 17th April, 1690.
"SACRED MAJESTY,—According to your Orders, I set out from Innspruck to come to Vienna; but I am stopped here by a Greater Master. I go to render account to Him of a life which I had wholly consecrated to you. Remember that I leave a Wife with whom you are concerned [QUI ROUS TOUCHE,—who is your lawful Daughter]; Children to whom I can bequeath nothing but my sword; and Subjects who are under Oppression.
"CHARLES OF LORRAINE."
(Henault, Abrege Chronologique, Paris, 1775, p. 850).[—Charles "V." the French uniformly call this one; Charles "IV." the Germans, who, I conclude, know better.]—and they are now waiting a good opportunity to swallow it whole, while the people are so busy with quadrille parties. The present Duke, returning from exile, found his Land in desolation, much of it "running fast to wild forest again;" and he has signalized himself by unwearied efforts in every direction to put new life into it, which have been rather successful. Lyttelton, we perceive, finds improvement in his company. The name of this brave Duke is Leopold; age now forty-nine; life and reign not far from done: a man about whom even Voltaire gets into enthusiasm. [Siecle de Louis XIV. (OEuvres, xxvi. 95-97); Hubner, t. 281.]
The Court and Country of Lorraine, under Duke Leopold, will prove to deserve this brief glance from Lyttelton and us. Two sons Duke Leopold has: the elder, Franz, now about twenty, is at Vienna, with the highest outlooks there: Kaiser Karl is his Father's cousin-german; and Kaiser Karl's young Daughter, high beautiful Maria Theresa,—the sublimest maiden now extant,—yes, this lucky Franz is to have her: what a prize, even without Pragmatic Sanction! With the younger son, Karl of Lorraine, Lyttelton may have made acquaintance, if he cared: a lad of sixteen; by and by an Austrian General, as his father had been; General much noised of,—whom we shall often see beaten, in this world, at the head of men.—But let us now get to Soissons itself, skipping an intermediate Letter or two:—
TO SIR THOMAS LYTTELTON, BART., AT HAGLEY.
"SOISSONS, 28th October," 1728.
"I thank you, my dear Sir, for complying so much with my inclinations as to let me stay some time at Soissons: but as you have not fixed how long, I wait for farther orders.
"One of my chief reasons for disliking Luneville was the multitude of English there; who, most of them, were such worthless fellows that they were a dishonor to the name and Nation. With these I was obliged to dine and sup, and pass a great part of my time. You may be sure I avoided it as much as possible; but MALGRE MOI I suffered a great deal. To prevent any comfort from other people, they had made a law among themselves, not to admit any foreigner into their company: so that there was nothing but English talked from June to January.—On the contrary, my countrymen at Soissons are men of virtue and good sense; they mix perpetually with the French, and converse for the most part in that language. I will trouble you no more upon this subject: but give me leave to say that, however capricious I may have been on other subjects, my sentiments in this particular are the strongest proofs I ever gave you of my strong and hereditary aversion to vice and folly.
"Mr. Stanhope," our Minister, the Colonel or Brigadier-General, "is always at Fontainebleau. I went with Mr. Poyntz," Poyntz not yet a dim figure, but a brilliant, who hints about employing me, "to Paris for four days, when the Colonel himself was there, to meet him; he received me with great civility and kindness. We have done expecting Mr. Walpole," fixed he in the Court regions; "who is obliged to keep strict guard over the Cardinal," sly old Fleury, "for fear the German Ministers should take him from us. They pull and haul the poor old gentleman so many ways, that he does not know where to turn, or into whose arms to throw himself." Never fear him!—
"Ripperda's escape to England,"—grand Diplomatic bulldog that was, who took refuge in Colonel Stanhope's at Madrid to no purpose, and kindled the sputtering at Gibraltar, is now got across to England, and will go to Morocco and farther, to no purpose,—"will very much embroil affairs; which did not seem to want another obstacle to hinder them from coming to an accommodation. If the Devil is not very much wanting to his own interests in this Business, it is impossible that the good work of Peace, should go on much longer. After all, most young fellows are of his party; and wish he may bring matters to a War; for they make but ill Ministers at a Congress, but would make good Soldiers in a Campaign.
"No news from Madam "BLANK" and her beloved Husband. Their unreasonable fondness for each other can never last: they will soon grow as cold to one another as the Town to The Beggars' Opera. And cannot warm again, you think? Pray Heaven I may prove a false prophet; but Married Love and English Music are too domestic to continue long in favor."...
NOVEMBER 20th, SOISSONS still. "This is one of the agreeablest Towns in France. The people are infinitely obliging to strangers: we are of all their parties, and perpetually share with them in their pleasures. I have learnt more French since I came hither, than I should have picked up in a twelvemonth in Lorraine....
"A fool with a majority on his side is the greatest tyrant in the world:—how can I go back to loiter in Lorraine, honored Father, where fools are in such majority? Then the extraordinary civilities I receive from Mr. Poyntz: He has in a manner taken me into his family; will evidently make an Apprentice of me. The first Packet that comes from Fontainebleau, I expect to be employed. Which is no small pleasure to me: and will I hope be of service."...
DECEMBER 20th. "A sudden order to Mr. Poyntz has broken all my measures. He goes to-morrow to Paris, to stay there in the room of Messrs. Stanhope and Walpole, who are on their return for England." Congress falling into complete languor, if we knew it! But ought not I to accompany this friendly and distinguished Mr. Poyntz, "who has already given me papers to copy;"—in fact I am setting off with him, honored Father!...
"Prince Frederick's journey,"—first arrival in England of dissolute Fred from Hanover, who had NOT been to Berlin to get married last summer,—"was very secret: Mr. Poyntz did not hear of it till Friday last; at least he had no public notice of it." Why should he? "There will be fine struggling for places" in this Prince's new Household. "I hope my Brother will come in for one." [Ayscough's Lyttelton, iii. 200-231.]—
But here we pull the string of the curtain upon Lyttelton, and upon his Congress falling into complete languor; Congress destined, after dining for about a year more, to explode, in the Treaty of Seville, and to leave the Kaiser sitting horror-struck, solitary amid the wreck of Political Nature,—which latter, however, pieces itself together again for him and others. Beneficent Treaty of Vienna was at last achieved; Treaty and Treaties there, which brought matters to their old bearing again,—Austria united with the Sea-Powers, Pragmatic Sanction accepted by them, subsidies again to be expected from them; Baby Carlos fitted with his Apanages, in some tolerable manner; and the Problem, with which Creation had groaned for some twenty years past, finally accomplished better or worse.
Lyttelton himself will get a place in Prince Frederick's Household, and then lose it; place in Majesty's Ministry at last, but not for a long while yet. He will be one of Prince Frederick's men, of the Carterets, Chesterfields, Pitts, who "patronize literature," and are in opposition to dark Walpole; one of the "West-Wickham set;"—and will be of the Opposition party, and have his adventures in the world. Meanwhile let him go to Paris with Mr. Poyntz; and do his wisest there and elsewhere.
"Who's dat who ride astride de pony, So long, so lean, so lank and bony? Oh, he be de great orator, Little-ton-y." [Caricature of 1741, on Lyttelton's getting into the Ministry, with Carteret, Chesterfield, Argyll, and the rest: see Phillimore's Lyttelton (London, 1845), i. 110; Johnson's Lives of the Poets, ? Lyttelton; &c. &c.]
For now we are round at Friedrich Wilhelm's Pomeranian Hunting again, in the New-year's time of 1729; and must look again into the magnanimous sick-room which ensued thereon; where a small piece of business is going forward. What a magnanimous patient Friedrich Wilhelm was, in Fassmann's judgment, we know: but, it will be good to show both sides of the tapestry, and let Wilhelmina also speak. The small business is only, a Treaty of Marriage for one of our Princesses: not Wilhelmina, but Louisa the next younger, who has been asked, and will consent, as appears.
Fassmann makes a very touching scene of it. King is in bed, ill of his gout after that slaughter of the 3,602 wild swine: attendants are sitting round his Majesty, in the way we know; Queen Sophie at his head, "Seckendorf and several others" round the bed. Letters arrive; Princess Frederika Louisa, a very young Lady, has also had a Letter; which, she sees by the seal, will be interesting, but which she must not herself open. She steps in with it; "beautiful as an angel, but rather foolish, and a spoilt child of fifteen," says Wilhelmina: trips softly in with it; hands it to the King. "Give it to thy Mother, let her read it," says the King. Mother reads it, with audible soft voice: Formal demand in marriage from the Serenity of Anspach, as foreseen.
"Hearken, Louisa (HORE, LUISE), it is still time," said the King: "Tell us, wouldst thou rather go to Anspach, now, or stay with me? If thou choose to stay, thou shalt want, for nothing, either, to the end of thy life. Speak!"—"At such unexpected question," says Fassmann, "there rose a fine blush over the Princess's face, who seemed to be at a loss for her answer. However, she soon collected herself; kissed his Majesty's hand, and said: 'Most gracious Papa, I will to Anspach!' To which the King: 'Very well, then; God give thee all happiness and thousand blessings!—But, hearken, Louisa,' the King's Majesty was pleased at the same time to add, 'We will make a bargain, thou and I. You have excellent, Flour at Anspach (SCHONES MEHL); but in Hams and Smoked Sausages you don't, come up, either in quality or quantity, to us in this Country. Now I, for my part, like good pastries. So, from time to time, thou shalt send me a box of nice flour, and I will keep thee in hams and sausages. Wilt thou, Louisa?' That the Princess answered Yea," says poor Fassmann with the tear in his eye, "may readily be supposed!" Nay all that heard the thing round the royal bed there—simple humanities of that kind from so great, a King—had almost or altogether tears in their eyes. [Fassmann, pp. 393, 394.]
This surely is a very touching scene. But now listen to Wilhelmina's account of another on the same subject, between the same parties. "At table;" no date indicated, or a wrong one, but evidently after this: in fact, we find it was about the beginning of March, 1729; and had sad consequences for Wilhelmina.
"At table his Majesty told the Queen that he had Letters from Anspach; the young Margraf to be at Berlin in May for his wedding; that M. Bremer his Tutor was just coming with the ring of betrothal for Louisa. He asked my Sister, If that gave her pleasure? and How she would regulate her housekeeping when married? My Sister had got into the way of telling him whatever she thought, and home-truths sometimes, without his taking it ill. She answered with her customary frankness, That she would have a good table, which should be delicately served; and, added she, 'which shall be better than yours. And if I have children, I will not maltreat them like you, nor force them to eat what they have an aversion to.'—'What do you mean by that?' replied the King: 'what is there wanting at my table?'—'There is this wanting,' she said, 'that one cannot have enough; and the little there is consists of coarse potherbs that nobody can eat.' The King," as was not unnatural, "had begun to get angry at her first answer: this last put him quite in a fury; but all his anger fell on my Brother and me. He first threw a plate at my Brother's head, who ducked out of the way; he then let fly another at me, which I avoided in like manner. A hail-storm of abuse followed these first hostilities. He rose into a passion against the Queen; reproaching her with the bad training she gave her children; and, addressing my Brother: 'You have reason to curse your Mother,' said he, 'for it is she that causes your being an ill-governed fellow (UN MAL GOUVERNE). I had a Preceptor,' continued he, 'who was an honest man. I remember always a story he told me in my youth. There was a man, at Carthage, who had been condemned to die for many crimes he had committed. While they were leading him to execution, he desired he might speak to his Mother. They brought his Mother: he came near, as if to whisper something to her;—and bit away a piece of her ear. I treat you thus, said he, to make you an example to all parents who take no heed to bring up their children in the practice of virtue!—Make the application,' continued he, always addressing my Brother: and getting no answer from him, he again set to abusing us till he could speak no longer. We rose from table. As we had to pass near him in going out, he aimed a great blow at me with his crutch; which, if I had not jerked away from it, would have ended me. He chased me for a while in his wheel-chair, but the people drawing it gave me time to escape into the Queen's chamber." [Wilhelmina, i. 159.]
Poor Wilhelmina, beaten upon by Papa in this manner, takes to bed in miserable feverish pain, is ordered out by Mamma to evening party, all the same; is evidently falling very ill. "Ill? I will cure you!" says Papa next day, and makes her swallow a great draught of wine. Which completes the thing: "declared small-pox," say all the Doctors now. So that Wilhelmina is absent thenceforth, as Fassmann already told us, from the magnanimous paternal sick-room; and lies balefully eclipsed, till the paternal gout and some other things have run their course. "Small-pox; what will Prince Fred think? A perfect fright, if she do live!" say the English Court-gossips in the interim. But we are now arrived at a very singular Prussian-English phenomenon; and ought to take a new Chapter.
Chapter VI. — IMMINENCY OF WAR OR DUEL BETWEEN THE BRITANNIC AND PRUSSIAN MAJESTIES.
The Double-Marriage negotiation hung fire, in the end of 1728; but everybody thought, especially Queen Sophie thought, it would come to perfection; old Ilgen, almost the last thing he did, shed tears of joy about it. These fine outlooks received a sad shock in the Year now come; when secret grudges burst out into open flame; and Berlin, instead of scenic splendors for a Polish Majesty, was clangorous with note of preparation for imminent War. Probably Queen Sophie never had a more agitated Summer than this of 1729. We are now arrived at that thrice-famous Quarrel, or almost Duel, of Friedrich Wilhelm and his Britannic Brother-in-law little George II.; and must try to riddle from those distracted Paper-masses some notice of it, not wholly unintelligible to the reader. It is loudly talked of, loudly, but alas also loosely to a degree, in all manner of dull Books; and is at once thrice-famous and extremely obscure. The fact is, Nature intended it for eternal oblivion;—and that, sure enough, would have been its fate long since, had not persons who were then thought to be of no importance, but are now seen to be of some, stood connected with it more or less.
Friedrich Wilhelm, for his own part, had seen in the death of George I. an evil omen from the English quarter; and all along, in spite of transient appearances to the contrary, had said to himself, "If the First George, with his solemnities and tacit sublimities, was offensive now and then, what will the Second George be? The Second George has been an offence from the beginning!" In which notions the Smoking Parliament, vitally interested to do it, in these perilous Soissons times, big with the fate of the Empire and Universe, is assiduous to confirm his Majesty. The Smoking Parliament, at Potsdam, at Berlin, in the solitudes of Wusterhausen, has been busy; and much tobacco, much meditation and insinuation have gone up, in clouds more abstruse than ever, since the death of George I.
It is certain, George II. was a proud little fellow; very high and airy in his ways; not at all the man to Friedrich Wilhelm's heart, nor reciprocally. A man of some worth, too; "scrupulously kept his word," say the witnesses: a man always conscious to himself, "Am not I a man of honor, then?" to a punctilious degree. For the rest, courageous as a Welf; and had some sense withal,—though truly not much, and indeed, as it were, none at all in comparison to what he supposed he had!—One can fancy the aversion of the little dapper Royalty to this heavy-footed Prussian Barbarian, and the Prussian Barbarian's to him. The bloody nose in childhood was but a symbol of what passed through life. In return for his bloody nose, little George, five years the elder, had carried off Caroline of Anspach; and left Friedrich Wilhelm sorrowing, a neglected cub,—poor honest Beast tragically shorn of his Beauty. Offences could not fail; these two Cousins went on offending one another by the mere act of living simultaneously. A natural hostility, that between George II. and Friedrich Wilhelm; anterior to Caroline of Anspach, and independent of the collisions of interest that might fall out between them. Enmity as between a glancing self-satisfied fop, and a loutish thick-soled man of parts, who feels himself the better though the less successful. House-Mastiff seeing itself neglected, driven to its hutch, for a tricksy Ape dressed out in ribbons, who gets favor in the drawing-room.
George, I perceive by the very State-Papers, George and his English Lords have a provoking slighting tone towards Friedrich Wilhelm; they answer his violent convictions, and thoroughgoing rapid proposals, by brief official negation, with an air of superiority,—traces of, a polite sneer perceptible, occasionally. A mere Clown of a King, thinks George; a mere gesticulating Coxcomb, thinks Friedrich Wilhelm. "MEIN BRUDER DER COMODIANT, My Brother the Play-actor" (parti-colored Merry-Andrew, of a high-flying turn)! was Friedrich Wilhelm's private name for him, in after days. Which George repaid by one equal to it, "My Brother the Head-Beadle of the Holy Roman Empire,"—"ERZ-SANDSTREUER," who solemnly brings up the SANDBOX (no blotting-paper yet in use) when the Holy Roman Empire is pleased to write. "ERZ-SANDSTREUER, Arch-Sandbox-Beadle of the HEILIGE ROMISCHE REICH;" it is a lumbering nickname, but intrinsically not without felicity, and the wittiest thing I know of little George.
Special cause of quarrel they had none that was of the least significance; and, at this time, prudent friends were striving to unite them closer and closer, as the true policy for both; English Townshend himself rather wishing it, as the best Prussian Officials eagerly did; Queen Sophie passionate for it; and only a purchased Grumkow, a Seckendorf and the Tobacco-Parliament set against it. The Treaty of Wusterhausen was not known; but the fact of some Treaty made or making, some Imperial negotiation always going on, was too evident; and Friedrich Wilhelm's partialities to the Kaiser and his Seckendorf could be a secret nowhere.
Negotiation always going on, we say; for such indeed was the case,—the Kaiser striving always to be loose again (having excellent reasons, a secret bargain to the contrary, to wit!) in regard to that Julich-and-Berg Succession; proposing "substitutes for Julich and Berg;" and Friedrich Wilhelm refusing to accept any imaginable substitute, anything but the article itself. So that, I believe, the Treaty of Wusterhausen was never perfectly ratified, after all; but hung, for so many years, always on the point of being so. These are the uses of your purchased Grumkow, and of riding the length of a Terrestrial Equator keeping a Majesty in company. If, by a Double-Marriage with England, that intricate web of chicanery had been once fairly slit in two, and new combinations formed, on a basis not of fast-and-loose, could it have been of disadvantage to either of the Countries, or to either of their Kings?—Real and grave causes for agreement we find; real or grave causes for quarrel none anywhere. But light or imaginary causes, which became at last effectual, can be enumerated, to the length of three or four.
CAUSE FIRST: THE HANOVER JOINT-HERITAGES, WHICH ARE NOT IN A LIQUID STATE.
FIRST, the "Ahlden Heritage" was one cause of disagreement, which lasted long. The poor Mother of George II. and of Queen Sophie had left considerable properties; "three million THALERS," that is 900,000 pounds, say some; but all was rather in an unliquid state, not so much as her Will was to be had. The Will, with a 10,000 pounds or so, was in the hands of a certain Graf von Bar, one of her confidants in that sad imprisonment: "money lent him," Busching says, [Beitrage zur Lebensgeschichte denkwurdiger Personen (Halle, 1783-1789), i. 306, ? NUSSLER. Some distracted fractions of Business Correspondence with this Bar, in Memoirs of Sophia Dorothea, —unintelligible as usual there.] "to set up a Wax-Bleachery at Cassel:"—and the said Count von Bar was off with it, Testamentary Paper and all; gone to the REICHSHOFRATH at Vienna, supreme Judges, in the Empire, of such matters. Who accordingly issued him a "Protection," to start with: so that when the Hanover people attempted to lay hold of the questionable wax-bleaching Count, at Frankfurt-on-Mayn,—secretly sending "a lieutenant and twelve men" for that object,—he produces his Protection Paper, and the lieutenant and twelve men had to hasten home again. [Ibid.] Count von Bar had to be tried at law,—never ask with what results;—and this itself was a long story. Then as to the other properties of the poor Duchess, question arises, Are they ALLODIA, or are they FEUDA,—that is to say, shall the Son have them, or the Daughter? In short, there was no end to questions. Friedrich Wilhelm has an Envoy at Hanover, one Kannegiesser, laboring at Hanover, the second of such he has been obliged to send; who finds plenty of employment in that matter. "My Brother the COMODIANT quietly put his Father's Will in his pocket, I have heard; and paid no regard to it (except what he was compelled to pay, by Chesterfield and others): will he do the like with his poor Mother's Will?" Patience, your Majesty: he is not a covetous man, but a self-willed and a proud,—always conscious to himself that he is the soul of honor, this poor Brother King!
Nay withal, before these testamentary bickerings are settled, here has a new Joint-Heritage fallen: on which may rise discussions. Poor Uncle Ernst of Osnabruck—to whom George I., chased by Death, went galloping for shelter that night, and who could only weep over his poor Brother dead—has not survived him many months. The youngest Brother of the lot is now gone too. Electress Sophie's Seven are now all gone. She had six sons: four became Austrian soldiers, three of whom perished in war long since; the other three, the Bishop, the King, the eldest of the Soldiers, have all died within two years (1726-1728): [Michaelis, i. 153. See Feder, Kurfurstinn Sophie; Hoppe, Geschichte der Stadt Hannover; &c.] Sophie Charlotte, "Republican Queen" of Prussia, Friedrich Wilhelm's Mother, whom we knew long since, was the one Daughter. Her also Uncle Ernst saw die, in his youth, as we may remember. They are all dead. And now the Heritages are to settle, at least the recent part of them. Let Kannegiesser keep his eyes open. Kannegiesser is an expert high-mannered man; but said to be subject to sharpness of temper; and not in the best favor with the Hanover people. That is Cause FIRST.
CAUSE SECOND: THE TROUBLES OF MECKLENBURG.
Then, secondly, there is the business of Mecklenburg; deplorable Business for Mecklenburg, and for everybody within wind of it,—my poor readers included. Readers remember—what reader can ever forget?—that extraordinary Duke of Mecklenburg, the "Unique of Husbands," as we had to call him, who came with his extraordinary Duchess, to wait on her Uncle Peter, the Russian (say rather SAMOEIDIC) Czar, at Magdeburg, a dozen years ago? We feared it was in the fates we might meet that man again; and so it turns out! The Unique of Husbands has proved also to be the unluckiest of Misgoverning Dukes in his Epoch; and spreads mere trouble all round him. Mecklenburg is in a bad way, this long while, especially these ten years past. "Owing to the Charles-Twelfth Wars," or whatever it was owing to, this unlucky Duke had fallen into want of more money; and impoverished Mecklenburg alleged that it was in no condition to pay more. Almost on his accession, while the tar-barrels were still blazing, years before we ever saw him, he demanded new subvention from his RITTERS (the "Squires" of the Country); subvention new in Mecklenburg, though common in other sovereign German States, and at one time in Mecklenburg too. The Ritters would not pay; the Duke would compel them: Ritters appeal to Kaiser in Reichshofrath, who proves favorable to the Ritters. Duke still declines obeying Kaiser; asserts that "he is himself in such matter the sovereign:" Kaiser fulminates what of rusty thunder he has about him; to which the Duke, flung on his back by it, still continues contumacious in mind and tongue: and so between thunder and contumacy, as between hammer and stithy, the poor Country writhes painfully ever since, and is an affliction to everybody near it.
For ten years past, the unluckiest of Misgoverning Dukes has been in utter controversy with his Ritters;—at law with them before the Courts of the Empire, nay occasionally trying certain of them himself, and cutting off their heads; getting Russian regiments, and then obliged to renounce Russian regiments;—in short, a very great trouble to mankind thereabouts. [Michaelis, ii. 416-435.] So that the Kaiser in Reichshofrath, about the date indicated (Year 1719), found good to send military coercion on him; and intrusted that function to the Hanover-Brunswick people, to George I. more especially; to whom, as "KREIS-HAUPTMANN" ("Captain of the Circle," Circle of Lower-Saxony, where the contumacy had occurred), such function naturally fell. The Hanover Sovereignty, sending 13,000 men, horse, foot and artillery into Mecklenburg, soon did their function, with only some slight flourishes of fighting on the part of the contumacious Duke,—in which his chief Captain, one Schwerin, distinguishes himself: Kurt von Schwerin, whom we shall know better by and by, for he went into the Prussian service shortly after. Colonel von Schwerin did well what was in him; but could not save a refractory Duke, against such odds. The contumacious Duke was obliged to fly his country;—deposed, or, to begin with, suspended, a Brother of his being put in as interim Duke:—and the Unique of Husbands and paragon of Mismanaging Dukes lives about Dantzig ever since, on a Pension allowed him by his interim Brother; contumacious to the last; and still stirring up strife, though now with diminished means, Uncle Peter being now dead, and Russian help much cut off.
The Hanover Sovereignties did their function soon enough: but their "expenses for it," these they have in vain demanded ever since. No money to be got from Mecklenburg; and Mecklenburg owes us "ten tons of gold,"—that is to say, 1,000,000 thalers, "tou" being the tenth part of a million in that coin. Hanover, therefore, holds possession—and has held ever since, with competent small military force—of certain Districts in Mecklenburg: Taxes of these will subsist our soldiery in the interim, and yield interest; the principal once paid, we at once give them up; principal, by these schedules, if you care to count them, is one million thalers (ten TONNEN GOLDES, as above said), or about 150,000 pounds. And so it has stood for ten years past; Mecklenburg the most anarchic of countries, owing to the kind of Ritters and kind of Duke it has. Poor souls, it is evident they have all lost their beaten road, and got among the IGNES FATUI and peat-pools: none knows the necessities and sorrows of this poor idle Duke himself! In his young years, before accession, he once tried soldiering; served one campaign with Charles XII., but was glad to "return to Hamburg" again, to the peaceable scenes of fashionable life there. [See German Spy (London, 1725, by Lediard, Biographer of Marlborough) for a lively picture of the then Hamburg,—resort of Northern Moneyed Idleness, as well as of better things.] Then his Russian Unique of Wives:—his probable adventures, prior and subsequent, in Uncle Peter's sphere, can these have been pleasant to him? The angry Ritters, too, their country had got much trampled to pieces in the Charles-Twelfth Wars, Stralsund Sieges: money seemed necessary to the Duke, and the Ritters were very scarce of it. Add, on both sides, pride and want of sense, with mutual anger going on CRESCENDO; and we have the sad phenomenon now visible: A Duke fled to Dantzig, anarchic Ritters none the better for his going; Duke perhaps threatening to return, and much flurrying his poor interim Brother, and stirring up the Anarchies:—in brief, Mecklenburg become a house on fire, for behoof of neighbors and self.
In these miserable brabbles Friedrich Wilhelm did not hitherto officially interfere; though not uninterested in them; being a next neighbor, and even, by known treaties, "eventual heir," should the Mecklenburg Line die out. But we know he was not in favor with the Kaiser, in those old years; so the military coercion had been done by other hands, and he had not shared in the management at all. He merely watched the course of things; always advised the Duke to submit to Law, and be peaceable; was sometimes rather sorry for him, too, as would appear.
Last year, however (1728),—doubtless it was one of Seckendorf's minor measures, done in Tobacco-Parliament,—Friedrich Wilhelm, now a pet of the Kaiser's, is discovered to be fairly concerned in that matter; and is conjoined with the Hanover-Brunswick Commissioners for Mecklenburg; Kaiser specially requiring that his Prussian Majesty shall "help in executing Imperial Orders" in the neighboring Anarchic Country. Which rather huffed little George,—hitherto, since, his Father's death, the principal, or as good as sole Commissioner,—if so big a Britannic Majesty COULD be huffed by paltry slights of that kind! Friedrich Wilhelm, who has much meditated Mecklenburg, strains his intellect, sometimes to an intense degree, to find out ways of settling it: George, who has never cared to meditate it, nor been able if he had, is capable of sniffing scornfully at Friedrich Wilhelm's projects on the matter, and dismissing them as moonshine. [Dubourgay Despatches and the Answers to them (more than once).] To a wise much-meditative House-Mastiff, can that be pleasant, from an unthinking dizened creature of the Ape species? The troubles of Mecklenburg, and discrepancies thereupon, are capable of becoming a SECOND source of quarrel.
CAUSES THIRD AND FOURTH:—AND CAUSE FIFTH, WORTH ALL THE OTHERS.
Cause THIRD is the old story of recruiting; a standing cause between Prussia and all its neighbors. And the FOURTH cause is the tiniest of all: the "Meadow of Clamei." Meadow of Clamei, some square yards of boggy ground; which, after long study, one does find to exist in the obscurest manner, discoverable in the best Maps of Germany,—some twenty miles south of the Elbe river, on the boundary between Hanover-Luneburg and Prussia-Magdeburg, dubious on which side of the boundary. Lonesome unknown Patch of Meadow, lying far amid peaty wildernesses in those Salzwedel regions: unknown to all writing mortals as yet; but which threatens, in this summer of 1729, to become famous as Runnymead among the Meadows of History! And the FIFTH cause—In short, there was no real "cause" of the least magnitude; the effect was produced by the combination of many small and imaginary ones. For if there is a will to quarrel, we know there is a way. And perhaps the FIFTH namable cause, in efficiency worth all the others together, might be found in the Debates of the Smoking Parliament that season, were the Journal of its Proceedings extant! We gather symptoms, indisputable enough, of very diligent elaborations and insinuations there; and conclude that to have been the really effective cause. Clouds had risen between the two Courts; but except for the Tobacco-Parliament, there never could have thunder come from them.
Very soon after George's accession there began clouds to rise; the perfectly accomplished little George assuming a severe and high air towards his rustic Brother-in-Law. "We cannot stand these Prussian enlistments and encroachments; rectify these, in a high and severe manner!" says George to his Hanover Officials. George is not warm on his throne till there comes in, accordingly, from the Hanover Officials a Complaint to that effect, and even a List of Hanoverian subjects who are, owing to various injustices, now serving in the Prussian ranks: "Your Prussian Majesty is requested to return us these men!"
This List is dated 22d January, 1728; George only a few months old in his new authority as yet. The Prussian Majesty grumbles painfully responsive: "Will, with eagerness, do whatever is just; most surely! But is his Britannic Majesty aware? Hanover Officials are quite misinformed as to the circumstances;"—and does not return any of the men. Merely a pacific grumble, and nothing done in regard to the complaints. Then there is the Meadow of Clamei which we spoke of: "That belongs to Brandenburg, you say? Nevertheless the contiguous parts of Hanover have rights upon it. Some 'eight cart-loads of hay,' worth say almost 5 pounds or 10 pounds sterling: who is to mow that grass, I wonder?"—
Friedrich Wilhelm feels that all this is a pettifogging vexatious course of procedure; and that his little Cousin the COMODIANT is not treating him very like a gentleman. "Is he, your Majesty!" suggests the Smoking Parliament.—About the middle of March, Dubourgay hears Borck, an Official not of the Grumkow party, sulkily commenting on "the constant hostility of the Hanover Ministry to us" in all manner of points;—-inquires withal, Could not Mecklenburg be somehow settled, his Prussian Majesty being somewhat anxious upon it? [Despatch, 17th March, 1729.] Anxious, yes: his poor Majesty, intensely meditative of such a matter in the night-watches, is capable of springing out of bed, with an "Eureka! I have found what will do!" and demanding writing materials. He writes or dictates in his shirt, the good anxious Majesty; despatches his Eureka by estafette on the wings of the wind: and your Townshend, your UNmeditative George, receives it with curt official negative, and a polite sneer. [Dubourgay, 12th-14th April, 1729; and the Answer from St. James's.]
A few weeks farther on, this is what the Newspapers report of Mecklenburg, in spite of his Prussian Majesty's desire to have some mercy shown the poor infatuated Duke: "The Elector of Hanover and the Duke of Brunswick-Wolfenbuttel," his Britannic Majesty and Squire in that sad business, "REFUSE to withdraw their forces out of Mecklenburg, or part with the Chest of the Revenues thereof, until an entire satisfaction be given them for the arrears of the Charges they have been at in putting the Sentence of the Aulic Council [Kaiser's REICHSHOFRATH and rusty thunder] into execution against the said Duke." [Salmon's Chronological Historian (London, 1748,—a Book never to be quoted without caution), ii. 216;—date (translated into new style), 10th July, 1729.]
Matters grew greatly worse when George paid his first Visit to Hanover in character of King, early in the Summer of 1729. Part of his road lies through Prussian Territory: "Shall he have free post-horses, as his late Majesty was wont?" asks the Prussian Official person. "If he write to request them, yes," answers Friedrich Wilhelm; "if he don't write, no." George does not write; pays for his post-horses;—flourishes along to Hanover, in absolute silence towards his clownish Brother-in-Law. You would say he looks over the head of him, as if there were no such clown in existence;—he has never yet so much as notified his arrival. "What is this? There exists no Prussia, then, for little George?" Friedrich Wilhelm's inarticulate, interjectionary utterances, in clangorous metallic tone, we can fancy them, now and then; and the Tobacco-Parliament is busy! British Minister Dubourgay, steady old military gentleman, who spells imperfectly, but is intent to keep down mischief, writes at last to Hanover, submissively suggesting, "Could not, as was the old wont, some notification of the King's arrival be sent hither, which would console his Prussian Majesty?" To which my Lord Townshend answers, "Has not been the custom, I am informed [WRONG informed, your Lordship]; not necessary in the circumstances." Which is a high course between neighbors and royal gentlemen and kinsfolk. The Prussian Court hereupon likewise shuts its lips; no mention of the Hanoverian Court, not even by her Majesty and to Englishmen, for several weeks past. [Dubourgay.] Some inarticulate metallic growl, in private, at dinner or in the TABAKS-COLLEGIUM: the rest is truculent silence. Nor are our poor Hanover Recruits (according to our List of Pressed Hanoverians) in the least sent back; nor the Clamei Meadows settled; "Big Meadow" or "Little one," both of which the Brandenburgers have mown in the mean time.
Hanover Pressed men not coming home,—I think, not one of them,—the Hanover Officials decide to seize such Prussian Soldiers as happen to be seizable, in Hanover Territory. The highway in that border-country runs now on this side of the march, now on that;—watch well, and you will get Prussian Soldiers from time to time! Which the Hanover people do; and seize several, common men and even officers. Here is once more a high course of proceeding. Here is coal to raise smoke enough, if well blown upon,—which, with Seckendorf and Grumkow working the bellows, we may well fancy it was! But listen to what follows, independently of bellows.
On the 28th June, 1729, hay lying now quite dry upon the Meadow of Clamei, lo, the Bailiff of Hanoverian Buhlitz, Unpicturesque Traveller will find the peat-smoky little Village of Buhlitz near by a dusty little Town called Luchow, midway from Hamburg to Magdeburg; altogether peaty, mossy country; in the Salzwedel district, where used to be Wendic populations, and a Marck or Border Fortress of Salzwedel set up against them:—Bailiff of Buhlitz, I say, sallies forth with several carts, with all the population of the Village, with a troop of horse to escort, and probably flags flying and some kind of drums beating;—publicly rakes together the hay, defiant of the Prussian Majesty and all men; loads it on his carts, and rolls home with it; leaving to the Brandenburgers nothing but stubble and the memory of having mown for Hanover to eat. This is the 28th June, 1729; King of Prussia is now at Magdeburg, reviewing his troops; within a hundred miles of these contested quag-countries: who can blame him that he flames up now into clear blaze of royal indignation? The correspondence henceforth becomes altogether lively: but in the Britannic Archives there is nothing of it,—Dubourgay having received warning from my Lord Townshend to be altogether ignorant of the matter henceforth, and let the Hanover Officials manage it. His Prussian Majesty returns home in the most tempestuous condition.
We may judge what a time Queen Sophie had of it; what scenes there were with Crown-Prince Friedrich and Wilhelmina, in her Majesty's Apartment and elsewhere! Friedrich Wilhelm is fast mounting to the red-hot pitch. The bullyings, the beatings even, of these poor Children, love-sick one of them, are lamentable to hear of, as all the world has heard:—"Disobedient unnatural whelps, biting the heels of your poor old parent mastiff in his extreme need, what is to be done with you?" Fritz he often enough beats, gives a slap to with his rattan; has hurled a plate at him, on occasion, when bad topics rose at table; nay at Wilhelmina too, she says: but the poor children always ducked, and nothing but a little noise and loss of crockery ensued. Fritz he deliberately detests, as a servant of the Devil, incorrigibly rebelling against the paternal will, and going on those dissolute courses: a silly French cockatoo, suspected of disbelief in Scripture; given to nothing but fifing and play-books; who will bring Prussia aud himself to a bad end. "God grant he do not finish on the gallows!" sighed the sad Father once to Grumkow. The records of these things lie written far and wide, in the archives of many countries as well as in Wilhelmina's Book.
To me there was one undiplomatic reflection continually present: Heavens, could nobody have got a bit of rope, and hanged those two Diplomatic swindlers; clearly of the scoundrel genus, more than common pickpockets are? Thereby had certain young hearts, and honest old ones too, escaped being broken; and many a thing might have gone better than it did. JARNI-BLEU, Herr Feldzeugmeister, though you are an orthodox Protestant, this thousand-fold perpetual habit of distilled lying seems to me a bad one. I do not blame an old military gentleman, with a brow so puckered as yours, for having little of the milk of human kindness so called: but this of breaking, by force of lies merely, and for your own uses, the hearts of poor innocent creatures, nay of grinding them slowly in the mortar, and employing their Father's hand to do it withal; this—Herr General, forgive me, but there are moments when I feel as if the extinction of probably the intensest scoundrel of that epoch might have been a satisfactory event!—Alas, it could not be. Seckendorf is lying abroad for his Kaiser; "the only really able man we have," says Eugene sometimes. Snuffles and lisps; and travels in all, as they count, about 25,000 miles, keeping his Majesty in company. Here are some glimpses into the interior, dull but at first-hand, which are worth clipping and condensing from Dubourgay, with their dates:—
30th JULY, 1729. To the respectable old Brigadier, this day or yesterday, "her Majesty, all in tears, complained of her situation: King is nigh losing his senses on account of the differences with Hanover; goes from bed to bed in the night-time, and from chamber to chamber, 'like one whose brains are turned.' Took a fit, at two in the morning, lately, to be off to Wusterhausen:"—about a year ago Seckendorf and Grumkow had built a Lodge out there, where his Majesty, when he liked, could be snug and private with them: thither his Majesty now rushed, at two in the morning; but seemingly found little assuagement. "Since his return, he gives himself up entirely to drink:—Seckendorf," the snuffling Belial, "is busy, above ground and below; has been heard saying He alone could settle these businesses, Double-Marriage and all, would her Majesty but trust him!"—
"The King will not suffer the Prince-Royal to sit next his Majesty at table, but obliges him to go to the lower end; where things are so ordered," says the sympathetic Dubourgay, "that the poor Prince often rises without getting one bit,"—woe's me! "Insomuch that the Queen was obliged two days ago [28th July, 1729, let us date such an occurrence] to send, by one of the servants who could be trusted, a Box of cold fowls and other eatables for his Royal Highness's subsistence!" [Dubourgay, 30th July, 1729.]
In the first blaze of the outrage at Clamei, Friedrich Wilhelm's ardent mind suggested to him the method of single combat: defiance of George, by cartel, To give the satisfaction of a gentleman. There have been such instances on the part of Sovereigns; though they are rare: Karl Ludwig of the Pfalz, Winter-king's Son, for example, did, as is understood, challenge Turenne for burning the Pfalz (FIRST burning that poor country got); but nothing came of it, owing to Turenne's prudence. Friedrich Wilhelm sees well that it all comes from George's private humor: Why should human blood be shed except George's and mine? Friedrich Wilhelm is decisive for sending off the cartel; he has even settled the particulars, and sees in his glowing poetic mind how the transaction may be: say, at Hildesheim for place; Derschau shall be my second; Brigadier Sutton (if anybody now know such a man) may be his. Seconds, place and general outline he has schemed out, and fixed, so far as depends on one party; will fairly fence and fight this insolent little Royal Gentleman; give the world a spectacle (which might have been very wholesome to the world) of two Kings voiding their quarrel by duel and fair personal fence.
In England the report goes, "not without foundation," think Lord Hervey and men of sarcastic insight in the higher circles, That it was his Britannic Majesty who "sent or would have sent a challenge of single combat to his Prussian Majesty," the latter being the passive party! Report flung into an INVERSE posture, as is liable to happen; "going" now with its feet uppermost; "not without foundation," thinks Lord Hervey. "But whether it [the cartel] was carried and rejected, or whether the prayers and remonstrances of Lord Townshend prevented the gauntlet being actually thrown down, is a point which, to me [Lord Hervey] at least, has never been cleared." [Lord Hervey, Memoirs of George II. (London, 1848), i. 127.]
The Prussian Ministers, no less than Townshend would, feel well that this of Duel will never do. Astonishment, FLEBILE LULIBRIUM, tragical tehee from gods and men, will come of the Duel! But how to turn it aside? For the King is determined. His truculent veracity of mind points out this as the real way for him; reasoning, entreating are to no purpose. "The true method, I tell you! As to the world and its cackling,—let the world cackle!" At length Borck hits on a consideration: "Your Majesty has been ill lately; hand perhaps not so steady as usual? Now if it should turn out that your Majesty proved so inferior to yourself as to—Good Heavens!" This, it is said, was the point that staggered his Majesty. Tobacco-Parliament, and Borck there, pushed its advantage: the method of duel (prevalent through the early part of July, I should guess) was given up. [Bielfeld, Lettres familieres et autres (Second edition, 2 vols. Leide, 1767), i. 117, 118.] Why was there no Hansard in that Institution of the Country? Patience, idle reader! We shall get some scraps of the Debates on other subjects, by and by.—But hear Dubourgay again, in the absence of Morning Newspapers:—
AUGUST 9th, 1729. "Berlin looks altogether warlike. At Magdeburg they are busy making ovens to bake Ammunition-bread; Artillery is getting hauled out of the Arsenal here;" all is clangor, din of preparation. "It is said the King will fall on Mecklenburg;" can at once, if he like. "These intolerable usages from England [Seckendorf is rumored to have said], can your Majesty endure them forever? Why not marry the Prince-Royal, at once, to another Princess, and have done with them!"—or words to that effect, as reported by Court-rumor to her Majesty and Dubourgay. And there is a Princess talked of for this Match, Russian Princess, little Czar's Sister (little Czar to have Wilhelmina, Double-Marriage to be with Russia, not with England); but the little Czar soon died, little Czar's Sister went out of sight, or I know not what happened, and only brief rumor came of that.
As for the Crown-Prince, he has not fallen desperate; no; but appears to have strange schemes in him, deep under cover. "He has said to a confidant [Wilhelmina, it is probable], 'As to his ill-treatment, he well knew how to free himself of that [will fly to foreign parts, your Highness?], and would have done so long since, were it not for his Sister, upon whom the whole weight of his Father's resentment would then fall. Happen what will, therefore, he is resolved to share with her all the hardships which the King his Father may be pleased to put upon her." [Dubourgay, 11th August, 1729.] Means privately a flight to England, Dubourgay sees, and in a reticent diplomatic way is glad to see.
I possess near a dozen Hanoverian and Prussian Despatches upon this strange Business; but should shudder to inflict them on any innocent reader. Clear, grave Despatches, very brief and just, especially on the Prussian side: and on a matter too, which truly is not lighter than any other Despatch matter of that intrinsically vacant Epoch:—O reader, would I could bury all vacant talk and writing whatsoever, as I do these poor Despatches about the "eight cart-loads of hay"! Friedrich Wilhelm is fair-play itself; will do all things, that Earth or Heaven can require of him. Only, he is much in a hurry withal; and of this the Hanover Officials take advantage, perhaps unconsciously, to keep him in provocation. He lies awake at night, his heart is sore, and he has fled to drink. Towards the middle of August,—here again is a phenomenon,—"he springs out of bed in the middle of night," has again an EUREKA as to this of Clamei: "Eureka, I see now what will bring a settlement!" and sends off post-haste to Kannegiesser at Hanover. To Kannegiesser,—Herr Reichenbach, the special Envoy in this matter, being absent at the moment, gone to the Gohrde, I believe, where Britannic Majesty itself is: but Kannegiesser is there, upon the Ahlden Heritages; acquainted with the ground, a rather precise official man, who will serve for the hurry we are in. Post-haste; dove with olive-branch cannot go too quick;—Kannegiesser applying for an interview, not with the Britannic Majesty, who is at Gohrde, hunting, but with the Hanover Council, is—refused admittance. Here are Herr Kannegiesser's official Reports; which will themselves tell the rest of the story, thank Heaven:—
TO HIS PRUSSIAN MAJESTY (From Herr Kannegiesser).
No. 1. "DONE AT HANOVER, 15th AUGUST, 1729.
"On the 15th day of August, at ten o'clock in the morning, I received Two Orders of Council [these are THE EUREKA, never ask farther what they are]; despatched on the 13th instant at seven in the evening; whereupon I immediately went to the Council-chamber here; and informed the Herr von Hartoff, Private Secretary, who met me in a room adjoining, 'That, having something to propose to his Ministry [now sitting deliberative in the interior here; something to propose to his Ministry] on the part of the Prussian Ministers, it was necessary I should speak to them.' Herr von Hartoff, after having reported my demand, let me know, 'He had received orders from the Ministry to defer what I had to say to another time.'
"I replied, 'That, since I could not be allowed the honor of an audience at that time, I thought myself obliged to acquaint him I had received an Order from Berlin to apply to the Ministry of this place, in the name of the Ministers of Prussia, and make the most pressing instances for a speedy Answer to a Letter lately delivered to them by Herr Hofrath Reichenbath [my worthy Assistant here; Answer to his Letter in the first place]; and to desire that the Answer might be lodged in my hands, in order to remit it with safety.'
"Herr von Hartoff returned immediately to the Council-chamber; and after having told the Ministers what I had said, brought me the following answer, in about half-a-quarter of an hour [seven minutes by the watch]: 'That the Ministers of this Court would not fail answering the said Letter as soon as possible; and would take care to give me notice of it, and send the Answer to me.'"
That was all that the punctual Kannegiesser could get out of them. "But," continues he, "not thinking this reply sufficient, I added, 'That delays being dangerous, I would come again the next day for a more precise answer.'"
Rather a high-mannered positive man, this Kannegiesser, of the Ahlden Heritages; not without sharpness of temper, if the Hanover Officials drive it too far.
No. 2.—"AT HANOVER, 16th AUGUST, 1729.
"According to the orders received from the King my Master, and pursuant of my promise of yesterday, I went at noon this day to the Castle (SCHLOSS), for the purpose, of making appearance in the Council-chamber, where the Ministers were assembled.
"I let them know I was there, by Van Hartoff, Privy Secretary; and, in the mildest terms, desired to be admitted to speak with them. Which was refused me a second time; and the following answer delivered me by Van Hartoff: 'That since the Prussian Ministers had intrusted me with this Commission, the Ministers of this Court had directed him to draw up my yesterday's Proposals in writing, and report them to the Council.'
"Whereupon I said, 'I could not conceive any reason why I was the only person who could not be admitted to audience. That, however, as the Ministers of this Court were pleased to authorize him, Herr von Hartoff, to receive my Proposals, I was obliged to tell him,' as the first or preliminary point of my Commission, 'I had received orders to be very pressing with the said Ministers of this Court, for an Answer to a Letter from the Prussian Ministry, lately delivered by Herr Legationsrath von Reichenbach; and finding that the said Answer was not yet finished, I would stay two days for it, that I might be more secure of getting it. But that then I should come to put them in mind of it, and desire audience in order to acquit myself of the REST of my Commission.'
"The Privy Secretary drew up what I said in writing. Immediately afterwards he reported it to the Ministry, and brought me this answer: 'That the Ministers of this Court would be as good as their word of yesterday, and answer the above-mentioned Letter with all possible expedition.' After which we parted."
No. 3.—"AT HANOVER, 17th AUGUST, 1729
"At two in the afternoon, this day, Herr von Hartoff came to my house; and let me know 'He had business of consequence from the Ministry, and that he would return at five.' By my direction he was told, 'I should expect him.'
"At the time appointed he came; and told me, 'That the Ministers of the Court, understanding from him that I designed to ask audience to-morrow, did not doubt but my business would be to remind them of the Answer which I had demanded yesterday and the day before. That such applications were not customary among sovereign Princes; that they, the Ministers; 'dared not treat farther in that affair with me; that they desired me not to mention it to them again till they had received directions from his Britannic Majesty, to whom they had made their report; and that as soon as they received their instructions, the result of these should be communicated to me.'
"To this I replied, 'That I did not expect the Ministers of this Court would refuse me the audience which I designed to ask to-morrow; and that therefore I would not fail of being at the Council-chamber at eleven, next day,' according to bargain, 'to know their answer to the rest of my Proposals.'—Secretary Von Hartoff would not hear of this resolution; and assured me positively he had orders to listen to nothing more on the subject from me. After which he left me?"
No. 4.—"AT HANOVER, 18th AUGUST, 1729.
"At eleven, this day, I went to the Council-chamber, for the third time; and desired Secretary Hartoff 'To prevail with the Ministry to allow me to speak with them, and communicate what the King of Prussia had ordered me to propose.'
"Herr von Hartoff gave them an account of my request; and brought me for answer, 'That I must wait a little, because the Ministers were not yet all assembled.'" Which I did. "But after having made me stay almost an hour, and after the President of the Council was come, Herr von Hartoff came out to me; and repeated what he had said yesterday, in very positive and absolute terms, 'That the Ministers were resolved not to see me, and had expressly forbid him taking any Paper at my hands.'