A third fell into the hands of Prince Augustus Lobkowitz, then a prisoner of war at Magdeburg, who, on his return to Vienna, presented it to the Emperor, who placed it in his museum. Among other devices on this cup, was a landscape, representing a vineyard and husbandmen, and under it the following words:—By my labours my vineyard flourished, and I hoped to have gathered the fruit; but Ahab came. Alas! for Naboth.
The allusion was so pointed, both to the wrongs done me in Vienna, and my sufferings in Prussia, that it made a very strong impression on the Empress-Queen, who immediately commanded her minister to make every exertion for my deliverance. She would probably at last have even restored me to my estates, had not the possessors of them been so powerful, or had she herself lived one year longer. To these my engraved cups was I indebted for being once more remembered at Vienna. On the same cup, also, was another engraving of a bird in a cage, held by a Turk, with the following inscription:—The bird sings even in the storm; open his cage, break his fetters, ye friends of virtue, and his songs shall be the delight of your abodes!
There is another remarkable circumstance attending these cups. All were forbidden under pain of death to hold conversation with me, or to supply me with pen and ink; yet by this open permission of writing what I pleased on pewter, was I enabled to inform the world of all I wished, and to prove a man of merit was oppressed. The difficulties of this engraving will be conceived, when it is remembered that I worked by candle-light on shining pewter, attained the art of giving light and shade, and by practice could divide a cup into two-and-thirty compartments as regularly with a stroke of the hand as with a pair of compasses. The writing was so minute that it could only be read with glasses. I could use but one hand, both, being separated by the bar, and therefore held the cup between my knees. My sole instrument was a sharpened nail, yet did I write two lines on the rim only.
My labour became so excessive, that I was in danger of distraction or blindness. Everybody wished for cups, and I wished to oblige everybody, so that I worked eighteen hours a day. The reflection of the light from the pewter was injurious to my eyes, and the labour of invention for apposite subjects and verses was most fatiguing. I had learnt only architectural drawing.
Enough of these cups, which procured me so much honour, so many advantages, and helped to shorten so many mournful hours. My greatest encumbrance was the huge iron collar, with its enormous appendages, which, when suffered to press the arteries in the back of my neck, occasioned intolerable headaches. I sat too much, and a third time fell sick. A Brunswick sausage, secretly given me by a friend, occasioned an indigestion, which endangered my life; a putrid fever followed, and my body was reduced to a skeleton. Medicines, however, were conveyed to me by the officers, and, now and then, warm food.
After my recovery, I again thought it necessary to endeavour to regain my liberty. I had but forty louis-d'ors remaining, and these I could not get till I had first broken up the flooring.
Lieutenant Sonntag was consumptive, and obtained his discharge. I supplied bins with money to defray the expenses of his journey, and with an order that four hundred florins should be annually paid him from my effects till his death or my release. I commissioned him to seek an audience from the Empress, endeavour to excite her compassion in my behalf, and to remit me four thousand florins, for which I gave a proper acquittance, by the way of Hamburgh. The money-draft was addressed to my administrators, Counsellors Kempf and Huttner.
But no one, alas! in Vienna, wished my return; they had already begun to share my property, of which they never rendered me an account. Poor Sonntag was arrested as a spy, imprisoned, ill treated for some weeks, and, at last, when naked and destitute, received a hundred florins, and was escorted beyond the Austrian confines. The worthy man fell a shameful sacrifice to his honesty, could never obtain an audience of the Empress, and returned poor and miserable on foot to Berlin, where he was twelve months secretly maintained by his brother, and with whom he died. He wrote an account of all this to the good Knoblauch, my Hamburgh agent, and I, from my small store, sent him a hundred ducats.
How much must I despair of finding any place of refuge on earth, hearing accounts like these from Vienna.
A friend, whom I will never name, by the aid of one of the lieutenants, secretly visited me, and supplied me with six hundred ducats. The same friend, in the year 1763, paid four thousand florins to the imperial envoy, Baron Reidt, at Berlin, for the furthering of my freedom, as I shall presently more fully show. Thus I had once more money.
About this time the French army advanced to within five miles of Magdeburg. This important fortress was, at that time, the key of the whole Prussian power. It required a garrison of sixteen thousand men, and contained not more than fifteen hundred. The French might have marched in unopposed, and at once have put an end to the war. The officers brought me all the news, and my hopes rose as they approached. What was my astonishment when the major informed me that three waggons had entered the town in the night, had been sent back loaded with money, and that the French were retreating. This, I can assure my readers, on my honour, is literally truth, to the eternal disgrace of the French general. The major, who informed me, was himself an eye-witness of the fact. It was pretended the money was for the army of the King, but everybody could guess whither it was going; it left the town without a convoy, and the French were then in the neighbourhood. Such were the allies of Maria Theresa; the receivers of this money are known in Paris. Not only were my hopes this way frustrated, but in Russia likewise, where the Countess of Bestuchef and the Chancellor had fallen into disgrace.
I now imagined another, and, indeed, a fearful and dangerous project. The garrison of Magdeburg at this moment consisted but of nine hundred militia, who were discontented men. Two majors and two lieutenants were in my interest. The guard of the Star Fort amounted but to a hundred and fifteen men. Fronting the gate of this fort was the town gate, guarded only by twelve men and an inferior officer; beside these lay the casemates, in which were seven thousand Croat prisoners. Baron K—-y, a captain, and prisoner of war, also was in our interest, and would hold his comrades ready at a certain place and time to support my undertaking. Another friend was, under some pretence, to hold his company ready, with their muskets loaded, and the plan was such that I should have had four hundred men in arms ready to carry it into execution.
The officer was to have placed the two men we most suspected and feared, as sentinels over me; he was to command them to take away my bed, and when encumbered, I was to spring out, and shut them in the prison. Clothing and arms were to have been procured, and brought me into my prison; the town-gate was to have been surprised; I was to have run to the casemate, and called to the Croats, "Trenck to arms!" My friends, at the same instant, were to break forth, and the plan was so well concerted that it could not have failed. Magdeburg, the magazine of the army, the royal treasury, arsenal, all would have been mine; and sixteen thousand men, who were then prisoners of war, would have enabled me to keep possession.
The most essential secret, by which all this was to have been effected, I dare not reveal; suffice it to say, everything was provided for, everything made secure; I shall only add that the garrison, in the harvest months, was exceedingly weakened, because the farmers paid the captains a florin per man each day, and the men for their labour likewise, to obtain hands. The sub-governor connived at the practice.
One Lieutenant G—- procured a furlough to visit his friends; but, supplied by me with money, he went to Vienna. I furnished him with a letter, addressed to Counsellors Kempf and Huttner, including a draft for two thousand ducats; wherein I said that, by these means, I should not only soon be at liberty, but in possession of the fortress of Magdeburg; and that the bearer was entrusted with the rest.
The lieutenant came safe to Vienna, underwent a thousand interrogatories, and his name was repeatedly asked. This, fortunately, he concealed. They advised him not to be concerned in so dangerous an undertaking; told him I had not so much money due to me, and gave him, instead of two thousand ducats, one thousand florins. With these he left Vienna, but with very prudent suspicions which prevented him ever returning to Magdeburg. A month had scarcely passed before the late Landgrave of Hesse-Cassel, then chief governor, entered my prison, showed me my letter, and demanded to know who had carried the letter, and who were to free me and betray Magdeburg. Whether the letter was sent immediately to the King or the governor I know not; it is sufficient that I was once more betrayed at Vienna. The truth was, the administrators of my effects had acted as if I were deceased, and did not choose to refund two thousand ducats. They wished not I should obtain my freedom, in a manner that would have obliged the government to have rewarded me, and restore the effects they had embezzled and the estates they had seized. What happened afterwards at Vienna, which will be related in its place, will incontestably prove this surmise to be well founded.
These bad men did not, it is true, die in the manner they ought, but they are all dead, and I am still living, an honest, though poor man: they did not die so. Be this read and remembered by their luxurious heirs, who refuse to restore my children to their rights.
My consternation on the appearance of the Landgrave, with my letter in his hand, may well be supposed; I had the presence of mind, however, to deny my handwriting, and affect astonishment at so crafty a trick. The Landgrave endeavoured to convict me, told me what Lieutenant Kemnitz had repeated at Vienna concerning my possessing myself of Magdeburg, and thereby showed me how fully I had been betrayed. But as no such person existed as Lieutenant Kemnitz, and as my friend had fortunately concealed his name, the mystery remained impenetrable, especially as no one could conceive how a prisoner, in my situation, could seduce or subdue the whole garrison. The worthy prince left my prison, apparently satisfied with my defence; his heart felt no satisfaction in the misfortunes of others.
The next day a formal examination was taken, at which the sub-governor Reichmann presided. I was accused as a traitor to my country; but I obstinately denied my handwriting. Proofs or witnesses there were none, and in answer to the principal charge, I said, "I was no criminal, but a man calumniated, illegally imprisoned, and loaded with irons; that the King, in the year 1746, had cashiered me, and confiscated my parental inheritance; that therefore the laws of nature enforced me to seek honour and bread in a foreign service; and that, finding these in Austria, I became an officer and a faithful subject of the Empress-Queen; that I had been a second time unoffendingly imprisoned; that here I was treated as the worst of malefactors, and my only resource was to seek my liberty by such means as I could; were I therefore in this attempt to destroy Magdeburg, and occasion the loss of a thousand lives, I should still be guiltless. Had I been heard and legally sentenced, previous to my imprisonment at Glatz, I should have been, and still continued, a criminal; but not having been guilty of any small, much less of any great crime, equal to my punishment, if such crime could be, I was therefore not accountable for consequences; I owed neither fidelity nor duty to the King of Prussia; for by the word of his power he had deprived me of bread, honour, country, and freedom."
Here the examination ended, without further discovery; the officers, however, falling under suspicion, were all removed, and thus I lost my best friends; yet it was not long before I had gained two others, which was no difficult matter, as I knew the national character, and that none but poor men were made militia officers. Thus was the governor's precaution fruitless, and almost everybody secretly wished I might obtain my freedom.
I shall never forget the noble manner in which I was treated on this occasion by the Landgrave. This I personally acknowledged, some years afterwards, in the city of Cassel, when I heard many things which confirmed all my surmises concerning Vienna. The Landgrave received me with all grace, favour, and distinction. I revere his memory, and seek to honour his name. He was the friend of misfortune. When I not long afterwards fell ill, he sent me his own physician, and meat from his table, nor would he suffer me, during two months, to be wakened by the sentinels. He likewise removed the dreadful collar from my neck; for which he was severely reprimanded by the King, as he himself has since assured me.
I might fill a volume with incidents attending two other efforts to escape, but I will not weary the reader's patience with too much repetition. I shall merely give an abstract of both.
When I had once more gained the officers, I made a new attempt at mining my way out. Not wanting for implements, my chains and the flooring were soon cut through, and all was so carefully replaced that I was under no fear of examination. I here found my concealed money, pistols, and other necessaries, but till I had rid myself of some hundredweight of sand, it was impossible to proceed. For this purpose I made two different openings in the floor: out of the real hole I threw a great quantity of sand into my prison; after which I closed it with all possible care. I then worked at the second with so much noise, that I was certain they must hear me without. About midnight the doors began to thunder, and in they came, detecting me, as I intended they should. None of them could conceive why I should wish to break out under the door, where there was a triple guard to pass. The sentinels remained, and in the morning prisoners were sent to wheel away the sand. The hole was walled up and boarded, and my fetters were renewed. They laughed at the ridiculousness of my undertaking, but punished me by depriving me of my light and bed, which, however, in a fortnight were both restored. Of the other hole, out of which most of the earth had been thrown, no one was aware. The major and lieutenant were too much my friends to remark that they had removed thrice the quantity of sand the false opening could contain. They supposed this strange attempt having failed, it would be my last, and Bruckhausen grew negligent.
The governor and sub-governor both visited me after some weeks, but far from imitating the brutality of Borck, the Landgrave spoke to me with mildness, promised me his interest to regain my freedom, when peace should be concluded; told me I had more friends than I supposed, and assured me I had not been forgotten by the Court at Vienna.
He promised me every alleviation, and I gave him my word I would no more attempt to escape while he remained governor. My manner enforced conviction and he ordered my neck-collar to be taken off, my window to be unclosed, my doors to be left open two hours every day, a stove to be put in my dungeon, finer linen for my shirts, and paper to amuse myself by writing my thoughts. The sheets were to be numbered when given, and then returned, by the town-major, that I might not abuse this liberty.
Ink was not allowed me, I therefore pricked my fingers, suffered the blood to trickle into a pot; by these means I procured a substitute for ink, both to write and draw.
I now engraved my cups, and versified. I had opportunity to display my abilities to awaken compassion. My emulation was increased by knowing that my works were seen at Courts, that the Princess Amelia and the Queen herself testified their satisfaction. I had subjects to engrave from sent me; and the wretch whom the King intended to bury alive, whose name no man was to mention, never was more famous than while he vented his groans in his dungeon. My writings produced their effect, and really regained my freedom. To my cultivation of the sciences and presence of mind I am indebted for all; these all the power of Frederic could not deprive me of. Yes! This liberty I procured, though he answered all petitions in my behalf—"He is a dangerous man: and so long as I live he shall never see the light!" Yet have I seen it during his life: after his death I have seen it without revenging myself, otherwise than by proving my virtue to a monarch who oppressed because he knew me not, because he would not recall the hasty sentence of anger, or own he might be mistaken. He died convinced of my integrity, yet without affording me retribution! Man is formed by misfortune; virtue is active in adversity. It is indifferent to me that the companions of my youth have their ears gratified, delighted with the titles of General! Field-Marshal I have learned to live without such additions; I am known in my works.
I returned to my dungeon. Here, after my last conference with the Landgrave, I waited my fate with a mind more at ease than that of a prince in a palace. The newspapers they brought me bespoke approaching peace, on which my dependence was placed, and I passed eighteen months calmly, and without further attempt to escape.
The father of the Landgrave died; and Magdeburg now lost its governor. The worthy Reichmann, however, testified for me all compassion and esteem; I had books, and my time was employed. Imprisonment and chains to me were become habitual, and freedom in hope approached.
About this time I wrote the poems, "The Macedonian Hero," "The Dream Realised," and some fables. The best of my poems are now lost to me. The mind's sensibility when the body is imprisoned is strongly roused, nor can all the aids of the library equal this advantage. Perhaps I may recover some in Berlin; if so, the world may learn what my thoughts then were. When I was at liberty, I had none but such as I remembered, and these I committed to writing. On my first visit to the Landgrave of Hesse-Cassel I received a volume of them written in my own blood; but there were eight of these which I shall never regain.
The death of Elizabeth, the deposing of Peter III., and the accession of Catherine II. produced peace. On the receipt of this intelligence I tried to provide for all contingencies. The worthy Captain K—- had opened me a correspondence with Vienna: I was assured of support; but was assured the administrators and those who possessed my estates would throw every impediment in the way of freedom. I tried to persuade another officer to aid my escape, but in vain.
I therefore opened my old hole, and my friends assisted me to disembarrass myself of sand. My money melted away, but they provided me with tools, gunpowder, and a good sword. I had remained so long quiet that my flooring was not examined.
My intent was to wait the peace; and should I continue in chains, then would I have my subterranean passage to the rampart ready for escape. For my further security, an old lieutenant had purchased a house in the suburbs, where I might lie concealed. Gummern, in Saxony, is two miles from Magdeburg; here a friend, with two good horses, was to wait a year, to ride on the glacis of Klosterbergen on the first and fifteenth of each month, and at a given signal to hasten to my assistance.
My passage had to be ready in case of emergency; I removed the upper planking, broke up the two beds, cut the boards into chips, and burnt them in my stove. By this I obtained so much additional room as to proceed half way with my mine. Linen again was brought me, sand-bags made, and thus I successfully proceeded to all but the last operation. Everything was so well concealed that I had nothing to fear from inspection, especially as the new come garrison could not know what was the original length of the planks.
I must here relate a dreadful accident, which I cannot remember without shuddering, and the terror of which has often haunted my very dreams.
While mining under the rampart, as I was carrying out the sand-bag, I struck my foot against a stone which fell down and closed up the passage.
What was my horror to find myself buried alive! After a short reflection, I began to work the sand away from the side, that I might turn round. There were some feet of empty space, into which I threw the sand as I worked it away; but the small quantity of air soon made it so foul that I a thousand times wished myself dead, and made several attempts to strangle myself. Thirst almost deprived me of my senses, but as often as I put my mouth to the sand I inhaled fresh air. My sufferings were incredible, and I imagine I passed eight hours in this situation. My spirits fainted; again I recovered and began to labour, but the earth was as high as my chin, and I had no more space where I might throw the sand. I made a more desperate effort, drew my body into a ball, and turned round; I now faced the stone; there being an opening at the top, I respired fresher air. I rooted away the sand under the stone, and let it sink so that I might creep over; at length I once more arrived in my dungeon!
The morning was advanced; I sat down so exhausted that I supposed it was impossible I had strength to conceal my hole. After half an hour's rest, my fortitude returned: again I went to work, and scarcely had I ended before my visitors approached.
They found me pale: I complained of headache, and continued some days affected by the fatigue I had sustained. After a time strength returned; but perhaps of all my nights of horror this was the most horrible. I repeatedly dreamt I was buried in the centre of the earth; and now, though three and twenty years are elapsed, my sleep is still haunted by this vision.
After this accident, when I worked in my cavity, I hung a knife round my neck, that if I should be enclosed I might shorten my miseries. Over the stone that had fallen several others hung tottering, under which I was obliged to creep. Nothing, however, could deter me from trying to obtain my liberty.
When my passage was ready, I wrote letters to my friends at Vienna, and also a memorial to my Sovereign. When the militia left Magdeburg and the regulars returned, I took leave of my friends who had behaved so benevolently. Several weeks elapsed before they departed and I learnt that General Reidt was appointed ambassador from Vienna to Berlin.
I had seen the world; I knew this General was not averse to a bribe: I wrote him a letter, conjuring him to act with ardour in my behalf. I enclosed a draft for six thousand florins on my effects at Vienna, and he received four thousand from one of my relations. I have to thank these ten thousand florins for my freedom, which I obtained nine months after. My vouchers show the six thousand florins were paid in April, 1763, to the order of General Reidt. The other four thousand I repaid, when at liberty, to my friend.
I received intelligence before the garrison departed that no stipulation had been made on my behalf at the peace of Hubertsberg. The Vienna plenipotentiaries, after the articles were signed, mentioned my name to Hertzberg, with but few assurances of every effort being made to move Frederic, a promise on which I could much better rely than on my protectors at Vienna, who had left me in misfortune. I determined to wait three months longer, and should I still find myself neglected, to owe my escape to myself.
On the change of the garrison, the officers were more difficult to gain than the former. The majors obeyed their orders; their help was unnecessary; but still I sighed for my old friends. I had only ammunition-bread again for food.
My time hung very heavy; everything was examined on the change of the garrison. A stricter scrutiny might occur, and my projects be discovered. This had nearly been effected, as I shall here relate. I had so tamed a mouse that it would eat from my mouth; in this small animal I discovered proofs of intelligence.
This mouse had nearly been my ruin. I had diverted myself with it one night; it had been nibbling at my door and capering on a trencher. The sentinels hearing our amusement, called the officers: they heard also, and thought all was not right. At daybreak the town-major, a smith, and mason entered; strict search was begun; flooring, walls, chains, and my own person were all scrutinised, but in vain. They asked what was the noise they had heard; I mentioned the mouse, whistled, and it came and jumped upon my shoulder. Orders were given I should be deprived of its society; I entreated they would spare its life. The officer on guard gave me his word he would present it to a lady, who would treat it with tenderness.
He took it away and turned it loose in the guardroom, but it was tame to me alone, and sought a hiding place. It had fled to my prison door, and, at the hour of visitation, ran into my dungeon, testifying its joy by leaping between my legs. It is worthy of remark that it had been taken away blindfold, that is to say, wrapped in a handkerchief. The guard- room was a hundred paces from the dungeon.
All were desirous of obtaining this mouse, but the major carried it off for his lady; she put it into a cage, where it pined, and in a few days died.
The loss of this companion made me quite melancholy, yet, on the last examination, I perceived it had so eaten the bread by which I had concealed the crevices I had made in cutting the floor, that the examiners must be blind not to discover them. I was convinced my faithful little friend had fallen a necessary victim to its master's safety. This accident determined me not to wait the three months.
I have related that horses were to be kept ready, on the first and fifteenth, and I only suffered the first of August to pass, because I would not injure Major Pfuhl, who had treated me with more compassion than his comrades, and whose day of visitation it was. On the fifteenth I determined to fly. This resolution formed, I waited in expectation of the day, when a new and remarkable succession of accidents happened.
An alarm of fire had obliged the major to repair to the town; he committed the keys to the lieutenant. The latter, coming to visit me, asked—"Dear Trenck, have you never, during seven years that you have been under the guard of the militia, found a man like Schell?" "Alas! sir," answered I, "such friends are rare; the will of many has been good; each knew I could make his fortune, but none had courage enough for so desperate an attempt! Money I have distributed freely, but have received little help."
"How do you obtain money in this dungeon?" "From a correspondent at Vienna, by whom I am still supplied." "If I can serve you, command me: I will do it without asking any return." So saying, I took fifty ducats from between the panels, and gave them to the lieutenant. At first he refused, but at length accepted them with fear. He left me, promised to return, pretended to shut the door, and kept his word. He now said debt obliged him to desert; that this had long been his determination, and that, desirous to assist me at the same time if he could find the means, I had only to show how this might be effected.
We continued two hours in conference: a plan was formed, approved, and a certainty of success demonstrated; especially when I told him I had two horses waiting. We vowed eternal friendship; I gave him fifty ducats, and his debts, not amounting to more than two hundred rix-dollars, which he never could have discharged out of his pay.
He was to prepare four keys to resemble those of my dungeon; the latter were to be exchanged on the day of flight, being kept in the guard-room while the major was with General Walrabe. He was to give the grenadiers on guard leave of absence, or send them into the town on various pretences. The sentinels he was to call from their duty, and those placed over me were to be sent into my dungeon to take away my bed; while encumbered with this, I was to spring out and lock them in, after which we were to mount our horses, which were kept ready, and ride to Gummern. Every thing was to be prepared within a week, when he was to mount guard. We had scarcely formed our project before the sentinels called the major was coming; he accordingly barred the door, and the major passed to General Walrabe.
No man was happier than myself; my hopes of escape were triple; the mediation at Berlin, the mine I had made, and my friend the lieutenant.
When most my mind ought to have been clear, I seemed to have lost my understanding. I came to a resolution which will appear extravagant and pitiable. I was stupid enough, mad enough, to form the design of casting myself on the magnanimity of the Great Frederic! Should this fail, I still thought my lieutenant a saviour.
Having heated my imagination with this scheme, I waited the visitation with anxiety. The major entered, I bespoke him thus:
"I know, sir, the great Prince Ferdinand is again in Magdeburg. Inform him that he may examine my prison, double the sentinels, and give me his commands, stating what hour will please him I should make my appearance on the glacis of Klosterbergen. If I prove myself capable of this, I then hope for the protection of Prince Ferdinand: and that he will relate my proceeding to the King, who may he convinced of my innocence."
The major was astonished; the proposal he held to be ridiculous, and the performance impossible. I persisted; he returned with the sub-governor, Reichmann, the town-major, Riding, and the major of inspection. The answer they delivered was, that the Prince promised me his protection, the King's favour, and a release from my chains, should I prove my assertion. I required they would appoint a time; they ridiculed the thing as impossible, and said that it would be sufficient could I prove the practicability of such a scheme; but should I refuse, they would break up the flooring, and place sentinels in my dungeon, adding, the governor would not admit of any breaking out.
After promises of good faith, I disencumbered myself of my chains, raised my flooring, gave them my implements, and two keys, my friends had procured me, to the doors of the subterranean gallery. This gallery I desired them to sound with their sword hilts, at the place through which I was to break, which might be done in a few minutes. I described the road I was to take through the gallery, informed them that two of the doors had not been shut for six months, and to the others they had the keys; adding, I had horses waiting at the glacis, that would be now ready; the stables for which were unknown to them. They went, examined, returned, put questions, which I answered with precision. They left me with seeming friendship, came back, told me the Prince was astonished at what he had heard, that he wished me all happiness, and then took me unfettered, to the guard-house. The major came in the evening, treated us with a supper, assured me everything would happen to my wishes, and that Prince Ferdinand had written to Berlin.
The guard was reinforced next day. The whole guard loaded with ball before my eyes, the drawbridges were raised in open day, and precautions were taken as if I intended to make attempts as desperate as those I had made at Glatz.
I now saw workmen employed on my dungeon, and carts bringing quarry-stones. The officers on guard behaved with kindness, kept a good table, at which I ate; but two sentinels, and an under-officer, never quitted the guard-room. Conversation was cautious, and this continued five or six days; at length, it was the lieutenant's turn to mount guard; he appeared to be as friendly as formerly, but conference was difficult; he found an opportunity to express his astonishment at my ill-timed discovery, told me the Prince knew nothing of the affair, and that the report through the garrison was, I had been surprised in making a new attempt.
My dungeon was completed in a week. The town-major re-conducted me to it. My foot was chained to the wall with links twice as strong as formerly; the remainder of my irons were never after added.
The dungeon was paved with flag-stones. That part of my money only was saved which I had concealed in the panels of the door, and the chimney of my stove; some thirty louis-d'ors, hidden about my clothes, were taken from me.
While the smith was riveting my chains, I addressed the sub-governor. "Is this the fulfilment of the pledge of the Prince? Think not you deceive me, I am acquainted with the false reports that have been spread; the truth will soon come to light, and the unworthy be put to shame. Nay, I forewarn you that Trenck shall not be much longer in your power; for were you to build your dungeon of steel, it would be insufficient to contain me."
They smiled at me. Reichmann told me I might soon obtain my freedom in a proper manner. My firm reliance on my friend, the lieutenant, gave me a degree of confidence that amazed them all.
It is necessary to explain this affair. When I obtained my liberty, I visited Prince Ferdinand. He informed me the majors had not made a true report. Their story was, they had caught me at work, and, had it not been for their diligence, I should have made my escape. Prince Ferdinand heard the truth, and informed the King, who only waited an opportunity to restore me to liberty.
Once more I was immured. I waited in hope for the day when my deliverer was to mount guard. What again was my despair when I saw another lieutenant! I buoyed myself up with the hope that accident was the occasion of this; but I remained three weeks, and saw him no more. I heard at length that he had left the corps of grenadiers, and was no longer to mount guard at the Star Fort. He has my forgiveness, and I applaud myself for never having said anything by which he might be injured. He might have repented his promise, he might have trusted another friend with the enterprise, and have been himself betrayed; but, be it as it may, his absence cut off all hope.
I now repented my folly and vanity; I had brought my misfortunes on myself. I had myself rendered my dungeon impenetrable. Death would have followed but for the dependence I placed in the court of Vienna.
The officers remarked the loss of my fortitude and thoughtfulness; the verses I wrote were desponding. The only comfort they could give was—"Patience, dear Trenck; your condition cannot be worse; the King may not live for ever." Were I sick, they told me I might hope my sufferings would soon have an end. If I recovered they pitied me, and lamented their continuance. What man of my rank and expectations ever endured what I did, ever was treated as I have been treated!
Peace had been concluded nine months. I was forgotten. At last, when I supposed all hope lost, the 25th of December, and the day of freedom, came. At the hour of parade, Count Schlieben, lieutenant of the guards, brought orders for my release!
The sub-governor supposed me weaker in intellect than I was, and would not too suddenly tell me these tidings. He knew not the presence of mind, the fortitude, which the dangers I had seen had made habitual.
My doors for the LAST TIME resounded! Several people entered; their countenances were cheerful, and the sub-governor at their head at length said, "This time, my dear Trenck, I am the messenger of good news. Prince Ferdinand has prevailed on the King to let your irons be taken off." Accordingly, to work went the smith. "You shall also," continued he, "have a better apartment." "I am free, then," said I. "Speak! fear not! I can moderate my transports."
"Then you are free!" was the reply.
The sub-governor first embraced me, and afterwards his attendants.
He asked me what clothes I would wish. I answered, the uniform of my regiment. The tailor took my measure. Reichmann told him it must be made by the morning. The man excused himself because it was Christmas Eve. "So, then, this gentleman must remain in his dungeon because it is holiday with you." The tailor promised to be ready.
I was taken to the guard-room, congratulations were universal, and the town-major administered the oath customary to all state prisoners.
1st. That I should avenge myself on no man.
2nd. That I should neither enter the Prussian nor Saxon states.
3rd. That I should never relate by speech or in writing what had happened to me.
4th. And that, so long as the King lived, I should neither serve in a civil nor military capacity.
Count Schlieben delivered me a letter from the imperial minister, General Reidt, to the following purport:—That he rejoiced at having found an opportunity of obtaining my liberty from the King, and that I must obey the requisitions of Count Schlieben, whose orders were to accompany me to Prague.
"Yes, dear Trenck," said Schlieben, "I am to conduct you through Dresden to Prague, with orders not to suffer you to speak to any one on the road. I have received three hundred ducats, to defray the expenses of travelling. As all things cannot be prepared today, the, sub-governor has determined we shall depart to-morrow night."
I acquiesced, and Count Schlieben remained with me; the others returned to town, and I dined with the major and officers on guard, with General Walrabe in his prison.
Once at liberty, I walked about the fortifications, to collect the money I had concealed in my dungeon. To every man on guard I gave a ducat, to the sentinels, each three, and ten ducats to be divided among the relief- guard. I sent the officer on guard a present from Prague, and the remainder of my money I bestowed on the widow of the worthy Gelfhardt. He was no more, and she had entrusted the thousand florins to a young soldier, who, spending them too freely, was suspected, betrayed her, and she passed two years in prison. Gelfhardt never received any punishment; he was in the field. Had he left any children, I should have provided for them. To the widow of the man who hung himself before my prison door, in the year 1756, I gave thirty ducats, lent me by Schlieben.
The night was riotous, the guard made merry, and I passed most of it in their company. I was visited by all the generals of the garrison on Christmas morning, for I was not allowed to enter the town. I dressed, viewed myself in the glass, and found pleasure; but the tumult of my passions, the congratulations I received, and the vivacity round me, prevented my remembering incidents minutely.
Yet how wonderful an alteration in the countenances of those by whom I had been guarded! I was treated with friendship, attention, and flattery. And why? Because these fetters had dropped off which I had never justly borne.
Evening came, and with it Count Schlieben, a waggon, and four post-horses. After an affecting farewell, we departed. I shed tears at leaving Magdeburg. It seems strange that I lived here ten years, yet never saw the town.
The duration of my imprisonment at Magdeburg was nearly ten years, and with the term of my imprisonment at Glatz, the time is eleven years. Thus was I robbed of time, my body weakened, my health impaired, so that in my decline of life, a second time, I suffer the gloom and chains of the dungeon at Magdeburg.
The reader would now hope that my calamities were at an end; yet, upon my honour, I would prefer the suffering of the Star Fort to those I have since endured in Austria, especially while Krugel and Zetto were my referendaries and curators.
At this moment I am obliged to be guarded in my expressions. I have put my enemies to shame; but the hope of justice or reward is vain. No rewards are bestowed on him who, with the consciousness of integrity, demands, and does not deplore. The facts I shall relate will seem incredible, yet I have, in my own hands, the vouchers of their veracity.
"If my right hand is guilty of writing untruths in this book, may the executioner sever it from my body, and, in the memory of posterity, may I live a villain!"
I will proceed with my history.
On the 2nd of January I arrived, with Count Schlieben, at Prague; the same day he delivered me to the governor, the Duke of Deuxponts. He received me with kindness; we dined with him two days, and all Prague were anxious to see a man who had surmounted ten years of suffering so unheard of as mine. Here I received three thousand florins, and paid General Reidt his three hundred ducats, which he had advanced Count Schlieben, for my journey, the repayment of which he demanded in his letter, although he had received ten thousand florins. The expense of returning I also paid to Schlieben, made him a present, and provided myself with some necessaries. After remaining a few days at Prague, a courier arrived from Vienna, to whom I was obliged to pay forty florins, with an order from government to bring me from Prague to Vienna. My sword was demanded; Captain Count Wela, and two inferior officers, entered the carriage, which I was obliged to purchase, in company with me, and brought me to Vienna. I took up a thousand florins more, in Prague, to defray these expenses, and was obliged, in Vienna, to pay the captain fifty ducats for travelling charges back.
I was brought back like a criminal, was sent as a prisoner to the barracks, there kept in the chamber of Lieutenant Blonket, with orders that I should be suffered to write to no one, speak to no one, without a ticket from the counsellors Kempt or Huttner.
Thus I remained six weeks; at length, the colonel of the regiment of Poniatowsky, the present field-marshal, Count Alton, spoke to me. I related what I supposed were the reasons of my being kept a prisoner in Vienna; and to the exertions of this man am I indebted that the intentions of my enemies were frustrated, which were to have me imprisoned as insane in the fortress of Glatz. Had they once removed me from Vienna, I should certainly have pined away my life in a madhouse. Yet I could never obtain justice against these men. The Empress was persuaded that my brain was affected, and that I uttered threats against the King of Prussia. The election of a king of the Romans was then in agitation, and the court was apprehensive lest I should offend the Prussian envoy. General Reidt had been obliged to promise Frederic that I should not appear in Vienna, and that they should hold a wary eye over me. The Empress-Queen felt compassion for my supposed disease, and asked if no assistance could be afforded me; to which they answered, I had several times let blood, but that I still was a dangerous man. They added, that I had squandered four thousand florins in six days at Prague; that it would be proper to appoint guardians to impede such extravagancies.
Count Alton spoke of me and my hard destiny to the Countess Parr, mistress of the ceremonies to the Empress-Queen. The late Emperor entered the chamber, and asked whether I ever had any lucid intervals. "May it please your Majesty," answered Alton, "he has been seven weeks in my barracks, and I never met a more reasonable man. There is mystery in this affair, or he could not be treated as a madman. That he is not so in anywise I pledge my honour."
The next day the Emperor sent Count Thurn, grand-master of the Archduke Leopold, to speak to me. In him I found an enlightened philosopher, and a lover of his country. To him I related how I had twice been betrayed, twice sold at Vienna, during my imprisonment; to him showed that my administrators had acted in this vile manner that I might be imprisoned for life, and they remain in possession of my effects. We conversed for two hours, during which many things were said that prudence will not permit me to repeat. I gained his confidence, and he continued my friend till death. He promised me protection, and procured me an audience of the Emperor.
I spoke with freedom; the audience lasted an hour. At length the Emperor retired into the next apartment. I saw the tears drop from his eyes. I fell at his feet, and wished for the presence of a Rubens or Apelles, to preserve a scene so honourable to the memory of the monarch, and paint the sensations of an innocent man, imploring the protection of a compassionate prince. The Emperor tore himself from me, and I departed with sensations such as only those can know who, themselves being virtuous, have met with wicked men. I returned to the barracks with joy, and an order the next day came for my release. I went with Count Alton to the Countess Parr, and by her mediation I obtained an audience with the Empress.
I cannot describe how much she pitied my sufferings and admired my fortitude. She told me she was informed of the artifices practised against me in Vienna; she required me to forgive my enemies, and pass all the accounts of my administrators. "Do not complain of anything," said she, "but act as I desire—I know all—you shall be recompensed by me; you deserve reward and repose, and these you shall enjoy."
I must either sign whatever was given to sign, or be sent to a madhouse. I received orders to accompany M. Pistrich to Counsellor Ziegler; thither I went, and the next day was obliged to sign, in their presence, the following conditions:—
First—That I acknowledged the will of Trenck to be valid.
Secondly—That I renounced all claim to the Sclavonian estates, relying alone on her Majesty's favour.
Thirdly—That I solemnly acquitted my accountants and curators. And,
Lastly—That I would not continue in Vienna.
This I must sign, or languish in prison.
How did my blood boil while I signed! This confidence I had in myself assured me I could obtain employment in any country of Europe, by the labours of my mind, and the recital of all my woes. At that time I had no children; I little regretted what I had lost, or the poor portion that remained.
I determined to avoid Austria eternally. My pride would never suffer me, by insidious arts, to approach the throne. I knew no such mode of soliciting for justice, hence I was not a match for my enemies; hence my misfortunes. Appeals to justice were represented as the splenetic effusions of a man never to be satisfied. My too sensitive heart was corroded by the treatment I met at Vienna. I, who with so much fortitude had suffered so much in the cause of Vienna, I, on whom the eyes of Germany were fixed, to behold what should be the reward of these sufferings, I was again, in this country, kept a prisoner, and delivered to those by whom I had been plundered as a man insane!
Before my intended departure to seek my fortune, I fell ill, and sickness almost brought me to the grave. The Empress, in her great clemency, sent one of her physicians and a friar to my assistance, both of whom I was obliged to pay.
At this time I refused a major's commission, for which I was obliged to pay the fees. Being excluded from actual service, to me the title was of little value; my rank in the army had been equal ten years before in other service. The following words, inserted in my commission, are not unworthy of remark:—"Her Majesty, in consequence of my fidelity for her service, demonstrated during a long imprisonment, my endowments and virtues, had been graciously pleased to grant me, in the Imperial service, the rank of major."—The rank of major!—From this preamble who would not have expected either the rank of general, or the restoration of my great Sclavonian estates? I had been fifteen years a captain of cavalry, and then was I made an invalid major three-and-twenty years ago, and an invalid major I still remain! Let all that has been related be called to mind, the manner in which I had been pillaged and betrayed; let Vienna, Dantzic, and Magdeburg he remembered; and be this my promotion remembered also! Let it be known that the commission of major might be bought for a few thousand florins! Thirty thousand florins only of the money I had been robbed of would have purchased a colonel's commission. I should then have been a companion for generals.
During the thirty-six years that I have been in the service of Austria, I never had any man of rank, any great general, my enemy, except Count Grassalkowitz, and he was only my enemy because he had conceived a friendship for my estates.
My character was never calumniated, nor did any worthy man ever speak of me but with respect. Who were, who are, my enemies?—Jesuits, monks, unprincipled advocates, wishing to become my curators, referendaries, who died despicable, or now live in houses of correction. Such as live, live in dread of a similar end, for the Emperor Joseph is able to discover the truth. Alas! the truth is discovered so late; age has now nearly rendered me an invalid. Men with hearts so base ought, indeed, to become the scavengers of society, that, terrified by their example, succeeding judges may not rack the heart of an honest man, seize on the possessions of the orphan and the widow, and expel virtue out of Austria.
I attended the levee of Prince Kaunitz. Not personally known to him, he viewed in me a crawling insect. I thought somewhat more proudly; my actions were upright, and so should my body be. I quitted the apartment, and was congratulated by the mercenary Swiss porter on my good fortune of having obtained an audience!
I applied to the field-marshal, from whom I received this answer—"If you cannot purchase, my dear Trenck, it will be impossible to admit you into service; besides, you are too old to learn our manoeuvres." I was then thirty-seven. I briefly replied, "Your excellency mistakes my character. I did not come to Vienna to serve as an invalid major. My curators have taken good care I should have no money to purchase; but had I millions, I would never obtain rank in the army by that mode." I quitted the room with a shrug. The next day I addressed a memorial to the Empress. I did not re-demand my Sclavonian estates, I only petitioned.
First—That those who had carried off quintals of silver and gold from the premises, and had rendered no account to me or the treasury, should refund at least a part.
Secondly—That they should be obliged to return the thirty-six thousand florins taken from my inheritance, and applied to a hospital.
Thirdly—That the thirty-six thousand florins might be repaid, which Count Grassalkowitz had deducted from the allodial estates, for three thousand six hundred pandours who had fallen in the service of the Empress; I not being bound to pay for the lives of men who had died in defence of the Empress.
Fourthly—I required that fifteen thousand florins, which had been deducted from my capital, and applied to the Bohemian fortifications, should likewise be restored, together with the fifteen thousand which had been unduly paid to the regiment of Trenck.
Fifthly—I reclaimed the twelve thousand florins which I had been robbed of at Dantzic by the treachery of the Imperial Resident, Abramson; and public satisfaction from the magistracy of Dantzic, who had delivered me up, so contrary to the laws of nations, to the Prussian power.
I likewise claimed the interest of six per cent, for seventy-six thousand florins, detained by the Hungarian Chamber, which amounted to twenty thousand florins; I having been allowed five per cent., and at last four.
I insisted on the restoration of my Sclavonian estates, and a proper allowance for improvements, which the very sentence of the court had granted, and which amounted to eighty thousand florins.
I petitioned for an arbitrator; I solicited justice concerning rights, but received no answer to this and a hundred other petitions!
I must here speak of transactions during my imprisonment. I had bought a house in Vienna in the year 1750; the price was sixteen thousand florins, thirteen thousand of which I had paid by instalments. The receipts were among my writings; these writings, with my other effects, were taken from me at Dantzic, in the year 1754; nor have I, to this hour, been able to learn more than that my writings were sent to the administrators of my affairs at Vienna. With respect to my houses and property in Dantzic, in what manner these were disposed of no one could or would say.
After being released at Magdeburg, I inquired concerning my house, but no longer found it mine. Those who had got possession of my writings must have restored the acquittances to the seller, consequently he could re- demand the whole sum. My house was in other hands, and I was brought in debtor six thousand florins for interest and costs of suit. Thus were house and money gone. Whom can I accuse?
Again, I had maintained, at my own expense Lieutenant Schroeder, who had deserted from Glatz, and for whom I obtained a captain's commission in the guard of Prince Esterhazy, at Eisenstadt. His misconduct caused him to be cashiered. In my administrator's accounts I found the following
"To Captain Schroeder, for capital, interest, and costs of suit, sixteen hundred florins."
It was certain I was not a penny indebted to this person; I had no redress, having been obliged to pass and sign all their accounts.
I, four years afterwards, obtained information concerning this affair: I met Schroeder, knew him, and inquired whether he had received these sixteen hundred florins. He answered in the affirmative. "No one believed you would ever more see the light. I knew you would serve me, and that you would relieve my necessities. I went and spoke to Dr. Berger; he agreed we should halve the sum, and his contrivance was, I should make oath I had lent you a thousand florins, without having received your note. The money was paid me by M. Frauenberger, to whom I agreed to send a present of Tokay, for Madam Huttner."
This was the manner in which my curators took care of my property! Many instances I could produce, but I am too much agitated by the recollection. I must speak a word concerning who and what my curators were.
The Court Counsellor, Kempf, was my administrator, and Counsellor Huttner my referendary. The substitute of Kempf was Frauenberger, who, being obliged to act as a clerk at Prague during the war, appointed one Krebs as a sub-substitute; whether M. Krebs had also a sub-substitute is more than I am able to say.
Dr. Bertracker was fidei commiss-curator, though there was no fidei commissum existing. Dr. Berger, as Fidei Commiss-Advocate, was superintendent, and to them all salaries were to be paid.
Let us see what was the business this company had to transact. I had seventy-six thousand florins in the Hungarian Chamber, the interest of which was to be yearly received, and added to the capital: this was their employment, and was certainly so trifling that any man would have performed it gratis. The war made money scarce, and the discounting of bills with my ducats was a profitable trade to my curators. Had it been honestly employed, I should have found my capital increased, after my imprisonment, full sixty thousand florins. Instead of these I received three thousand florins at Prague, and found my capital diminished seven thousand florins.
Frauenberger and Berger died rich; and I must be confined as a madman, lest this deputy should have been proved a rogue. This is the clue to the acquittal I was obliged to sign:—Madam K—- was a lady of the bedchamber at court; she could approach the throne: her chamber employments, indeed, procured her the keys of doors that to me were eternally locked.
Not satisfied with this, Kempf applied to the Empress, informed her they were acquitted, not recompensed, and that Frauenberger required four thousand florins for remuneration. The Empress laid an interdict on the half of my income and pension. Thus was I obliged to live in poverty; banished the Austrian dominions, where my seventy-six thousand florins were reduced to sixty-three, the interest of which I could only receive; and that burthened by the above interdict, the fidei commissum, and administratorship.
The Empress during my sickness ordered that my captain's pay, during my ten years' imprisonment, should be given me, amounting to eight thousand florins; which pay she also settled on me as a pension. By this pension I never profited; for, during twenty-three years, that and more was swallowed by journeys to Vienna, chicanery of courtiers and agents, and costs of suits. Of the eight thousand florins three were stolen; the court physician must be paid thrice as much as another, and what remained after my recovery was sunk in the preparations I had made to seek my fortune elsewhere.
How far my captain's pay was matter of right or favour, let the world judge, being told I went in the service of Vienna to the city of Dantzic. Neither did this restitution of pay equal the sum I had sent the Imperial Minister to obtain my freedom. I remained nine months in my dungeon after the articles were signed, unthought of; and, when mentioned by the Austrians, the King had twice rejected the proposal of my being set free. The affair happened as follows, as I received it from Prince Henry, Prince Ferdinand of Brunswick, and the Minister, Count Hertzberg:—General Reidt had received my ten thousand florins full six months, and seemed to remember me no more. One gala day, on the 21st of December, the King happened to be in good humour; and Her Majesty the Queen, the Princess Amelia, and the present monarch, said to the Imperial Minister, "This is a fit opportunity for you to speak in behalf of Trenck." He accordingly waited his time, did speak, and the King replied, "Yes."
The joy of the whole company appeared so great that Frederic the Great was offended!
Other circumstances which contributed to promote this affair, the reader will collect from my history. That there were persons in Vienna who desired to detain me in prison is indubitable, from their proceedings after my return. My friends in Berlin and my money were my deliverers.
Walking round Vienna, having recovered from my sickness, the broad expanse of heaven inspired a consciousness of freedom and pleasure indescribable. I heard the song of the lark. My heart palpitated, my pulse quickened, for I recollected I was not in chains. "Happen," said I, "what may, my will and heart are free."
An incident happened which furthered my project of getting away from Austria. Marshal Laudohn was going to Aix-la-Chapelle to take the waters. He went to take his leave of the Countess Parr; I was present the Empress entered the chamber, and the conversation turning upon Laudohn's journey, she said to me, "The baths are necessary to the re- establishment of your health, Trenck." I was ready, and followed him in two days, where we remained about three months.
The mode of life at Aix-la-Chapelle and Spa pleased me, where men of all nations meet, and where princes mingle with persons of all ranks. One day here procured me more pleasure than a whole life in Vienna.
I had scarcely remained a month before the Countess Parr wrote to me that the Empress had provided for me, and would make my fortune as soon as I returned to Vienna. I tried to discover in what it consisted, but in vain. The death of the Emperor Francis at Innsbruck occasioned the return of General Laudohn, and I followed him, on foot, to Vienna.
By means of the Countess Parr I obtained an audience. The Empress said to me, "I will prove to you, Trenck, that I keep my word. I have insured your fortune; I will give you a rich and prudent wife." I replied, "Most gracious Sovereign, I cannot determine to marry, and, if I could, my choice is already made at Aix-la-Chapelle."—"How! are you married, then?"—"Not yet, please your Majesty."—"Are you promised?"
"Yes."—"Well, well, no matter for that; I will take care of that affair; I am determined on marrying you to the rich widow of M—-, and she approves my choice. She is a good, kind woman, and has fifty thousand florins a year. You are in want of such a wife."
I was thunderstruck. This bride was a canting hypocrite of sixty-three, covetous, and a termagant. I answered, "I must speak the truth to your Majesty; I could not consent did she possess the treasures of the whole earth. I have made my choice, which, as an honest man, I must not break." The Empress said, "Your unhappiness is your own work. Act as you think proper; I have done." Here my audience ended. I was not actually affianced at that time to my present wife, but love had determined my choice.
Marshal Laudohn promoted the match. He was acquainted with my heart and the warmth of my passion, and perceived that I could not conquer the desire of vengeance on men by whom I had been so cruelly treated. He and Professor Gellert advised me to take this mode of calming passions that often inspired projects too vast, and that I should fly the company of the great. This counsel was seconded by my own wishes. I returned to Aix-la-Chapelle in December, 1766, and married the youngest daughter of the former Burgomaster De Broe. He was dead; he had lived on his own estate in Brussels, where my wife was born and educated. My wife's mother was sister to the Vice-Chancellor of Dusseldorf, Baron Robert, Lord of Roland. My wife was with me in most parts of Europe. She was then young, handsome, worthy, and virtuous, has borne me eleven children, all of whom she has nursed herself; eight of them are still living and have been properly educated. Twenty-two years she has borne a part of all my sufferings, and well deserves reward.
During my abode in Vienna I made one effort more. I sought an audience with the present Emperor Joseph, related all that had happened to me, and remarked such defects as I had observed in the regulations of the country. He heard me, and commanded me to commit my thoughts to writing. My memorial was graciously received. I also gave a full account of what had happened to me in various countries, which prudence has occasioned me to express more cautiously in these pages. My memorial produced no effect, and I hastened back to Aix-la-Chapelle.
For some years I lived in peace; my house was the rendezvous of the first people, who came to take the waters. I began to be more known among the very first and best people. I visited Professor Gellert at Leipzig, and asked his advice concerning what branch of literature he thought it was probable I might succeed in. He most approved my fables and tales, and blamed the excessive freedom with which I spoke in political writings. I neglected his advice, and many of the ensuing calamities were the consequence.
I received orders to correspond with His Majesty's private secretary, Baron Roder; suffice it to say, my attempts to serve my country were frustrated; I saw defects too clearly, spoke my thoughts too frankly, and wanted sufficient humility ever to obtain favour.
In the year 1767 I wrote "The Macedonian Hero," which became famous throughout all Germany. The poem did me honour, but entailed new persecutions; yet I never could repent: I have had the honour of presenting it to five reigning princes, by none of whom it has been burnt. The Empress alone was highly enraged. I had spoken as Nathan did to David, and the Jesuits now openly became my enemies.
The following trick was played me in 1768. A friend in Brussels was commissioned to receive my pay, from whom I learnt an interdict had been laid upon it by the court called Hofkriegsrath, in Vienna, in which I was condemned to pay seven hundred florins to one Bussy, with fourteen years' interest.
Bussy was a known swindler. I therefore journeyed, post-haste, to Vienna. No hearing; no satisfactory account was to be obtained. The answer was, "Sentence is passed, therefore all attempts are too late."
I applied to the Emperor Joseph, pledged my head to prove the falsification of this note; and entreated a revision of the cause. My request was granted and my attorney, Weyhrauch, was an upright man. When he requested a day of revision to be appointed, he was threatened to be committed by the referendary. Zetto, should he interfere and defend the affairs of Trenck. He answered firmly, "His defence is my business: I know my cause to be good."
Four months did I continue in Vienna before the day was appointed to revise this cause. It now appeared there were erasures and holes through the paper in three places; all in court were convinced the claim ought to be annulled, and the claimant punished. Zetto ordered the parties to withdraw, and then so managed that the judges resolved that the case must be laid before the court with formal and written proofs.
This gave time for new knavery; I was obliged to return to Aix-la-Chapelle, and four years elapsed before this affair was decided. Two priests, in the interim, took false oaths that they had seen me receive money. At length, however, I proved that the note was dated a year after I had been imprisoned at Magdeburg. Further, my attorney proved the writs of the court had been falsified. Zetto, referendary, and Bussy, were the forgers; but I happened to be too active, and my attorney too honest, to lose this case. I was obliged to make three very expensive journeys from Aix-la-Chapelle to Vienna, lest judgement should go by default. Sentence at last was pronounced. I gained my cause, and the note was declared a forgery, but the costs, amounting to three thousand five hundred florins, I was obliged to pay, for Bussy could not: nor was he punished, though driven from Vienna for his villainous acts. Zetto, however, still continued for eleven years my persecutor, till he was deprived of his office, and condemned to the House of Correction.
My knowledge of the world increased at Aix-la-Chapelle, where men of all characters met. In the morning I conversed with a lord in opposition, in the afternoon with an orator of the King's party, and in the evening with an honest man of no party. I sent Hungarian wine into England, France, Holland, and the Empire. This occasioned me to undertake long journeys, and as my increased acquaintance gave me opportunities of receiving foreigners with politeness an my own house, I was also well received wherever I went.
The income I should have had from Vienna was engulfed by law-suits, attorneys, and the journeys I undertook; having been thrice cited to appear, in person, before the Hofkriegsrath. No hope remained. I was described as a dangerous malcontent, who had deserted his native land. I nevertheless remained an honest man; one who could provide for his necessities without the favour of courts; one whose acquaintance was esteemed. In Vienna alone was I unsought, unemployed, and obscure.
One day an accident happened which made me renowned as a magician, as one who had power over fogs and clouds.
I had a quarrel with the Palatine President, Baron Blankart, concerning a hunting district. I wrote to him that he should repair to the spot in dispute, whither I would attend with sword and pistol, hoping he would there give me satisfaction for the affront I had received. Thither I went, with two huntsmen and two friends, but instead of the baron I found two hundred armed peasants assembled.
I sent one of my huntsmen to the army of the enemy, informing them that, if they did not retreat, I should fire. The day was fine, but a thick and impenetrable fog arose. My huntsman returned, with intelligence that, having delivered his message just as the fog came on, these heroes had all run away with fright.
I advanced, fired my piece, as did my followers, and marched to the mansion of my adversary, where my hunting-horn was blown in triumph in his courtyard. The runaway peasants fired, but the fog prevented their taking aim.
I returned home, where many false reports had preceded me. My wife expected I should be brought home dead; however, not the least mischief had happened.
It soon was propagated through the country that I had raised a fog to render myself invisible, and that the truth of this could be justified by two hundred witnesses. All the monks of Aix-la-Chapelle, Juliers, and Cologne, preached concerning me, reviled me, and warned the people to beware of the arch-magician and Lutheran, Trenck.
On a future occasion, this belief I turned to merriment. I went to hunt the wolf in the forests of Montjoie, and invited the townsmen to the chase. Towards evening I, and some forty of my followers, retired to rest in the charcoal huts, provided with wine and brandy. "My lads," said I, "it is necessary you should discharge your pieces, and load them anew; that to-morrow no wolf may escape, and that none of you excuse yourselves on your pieces missing fire." The guns were reloaded, and placed in a separate chamber. While they were merry-making, my huntsman drew the balls, and charged the pieces with powder, several of which he loaded with double charges. Some of their notched balls I put into my pocket.
In the morning away went I and my fellows to the chase. Their conversation turned on my necromancy, and the manner in which I could envelope myself in a cloud, or make myself bullet-proof. "What is that you are talking about?" said I.—"Some of these unbelieving folks," answered my huntsman, "affirm your honour is unable to ward off balls."—"Well, then," said I, "fire away, and try." My huntsman fired. I pretended to parry with my hand, and called, "Let any man that is so inclined fire, but only one at a time." Accordingly they began, and, pretending to twist and turn about, I suffered them all to discharge their pieces. My people had carefully noticed that no man had reloaded his gun. Some of them received such blows from the guns that were doubly charged that they fell, terrified at the powers of magic. I advanced, holding in my hand some of the marked balls. "Let every one choose his own," called I. All stood motionless, and many of them slunk home with their guns on their shoulders; some remained, and our sport was excellent.
On Sunday the monks of Aix-la-Chapelle again began to preach. My black art became the theme of the whole country, and to this day many of the people make oath that they fired upon me, and that, after catching them, I returned the balls.
My invulnerable qualities were published throughout Juliers, Aix-la-Chapelle, Maestricht, and Cologne, and perhaps this belief saved my life; the priests having propagated it from their pulpits, in a country which swarms with highway robbers, and where, for a single ducat, any man may hire an assassin.
It is no small surprise that I should have preserved my life, in a town where there are twenty-three monasteries and churches, and where the monks are adored as deities. The Catholic clergy had been enraged against me by my poem of "The Macedonian Hero;" and in 1772 I published a newspaper at Aix-la-Chapelle, and another work entitled, "The Friend of Men," in which I unmasked hypocrisy. A major of the apostolic Maria Theresa, writing thus in a town swarming with friars, and in a tone so undaunted, was unexampled.
At present, now that freedom of opinion is encouraged by the Emperor, many essayists encounter bigotry and deceit with ridicule; or, wanting invention themselves, publish extracts from writings of the age of Luther. But I have the honour of having attacked the pillars of the Romish hierarchy in days more dangerous. I may boast of being the first German who raised a fermentation on the Upper Rhine and in Austria, so advantageous to truth, the progress of the understanding, and the happiness of futurity.
My writings contain nothing inimical to the morality taught by Christ. I attacked the sale of indulgences, the avarice of Rome, the laziness, deceit, gluttony, robbery, and blood-sucking of the monks of Aix-la-Chapelle. The arch-priest, and nine of his coadjutors, declared every Sunday that I was a freethinker, a wizard, one whom every man, wishing well to God and the Church, ought to assassinate. Father Zunder declared me an outlaw, and a day was appointed on which my writings were to be burnt before my house, and its inhabitants massacred. My wife received letters warning her to fly for safety, which warning she obeyed. I and two of my huntsmen remained, provided with eighty-four loaded muskets. These I displayed before the window, that all might be convinced that I would make a defence. The appointed day came, and Father Zunder, with my writings in his hand, appeared ready for the attack; the other monks had incited the townspeople to a storm. Thus passed the day and night in suspense.
In the morning a fire broke out in the town. I hastened, with my two huntsmen, well armed, to give assistance; we dashed the water from our buckets, and all obeyed my directions. Father Zunder and his students were there likewise. I struck his anointed ear with my leathern bucket, which no man thought proper to notice. I passed undaunted through the crowd; the people smiled, pulled off their hats, and wished me a good- morning. The people of Aix-la-Chapelle were bigots, but too cowardly to murder a man who was prepared for his own defence.
As I was riding to Maestricht, a ball whistled by my ears, which, no doubt, was a messenger sent after me by these persecuting priests.
When hunting near the convent of Schwartzenbruck, three Dominicans lay in ambush behind a hedge. One of their colleagues pointed out the place. I was on my guard with my gun, drew near, and called out, "Shoot, scoundrels! but do not kill me, for the devil stands ready for you at your elbow." One fired, and all ran: The ball hit my hat. I fired and wounded one desperately, whom the others carried off.
In 1774, journeying from Spa to Limbourg, I was attacked by eight banditti. The weather was rainy, and my musket was in its case; my sabre was entangled in my belt, so that I was obliged to defend myself as with a club. I sprang from the carriage, and fought in defence of my life, striking down all before me, while my faithful huntsman protected me behind. I dispersed my assailants, hastened to my carriage, and drove away. One of these fellows was soon after hanged, and owned that the confessor of the banditti had promised absolution could they but despatch me, but that no man could shoot me, because Lucifer had rendered me invulnerable. My agility, fighting, too, for life, was superior to theirs, and they buried two of their gang, whom with my heavy sabre I had killed.
To such excess of cruelty may the violence of priests be carried! I attacked only gross abuses—the deceit of the monks of Aix-la-Chapelle, Cologne, and Liege, where they are worse than cannibals. I wished to inculcate true Christian duties among my fellow-citizens, and the attempt was sufficient to irritate the selfish Church of Rome.
From my Empress I had nothing to hope. Her confessor had painted me as a persecutor of the blessed Mother Church. Nor was this all. Opinions were propagated throughout Vienna that I was a dangerous man to the community.
Hence I was always wronged in courts of judicature, where there are ever to be found wicked men. They thought they were serving the cause of God by injuring me. Yet they were unable to prevent my writings from producing me much money, or from being circulated through all Germany. The Aix-la-Chapelle Journal became so famous, that in the second year I had four thousand subscribers, by each of whom I gained a ducat.
The postmasters, who gained considerably by circulating newspapers, were envious, because the Aix-la-Chapelle Journal destroyed several of the others, and they therefore formed a combination.
Prince Charles of Sweden placed confidence in me during his residence at Aix-la-Chapelle and Spa, and I accompanied him into Holland. When I took my leave of him at Maestricht, he said to me, "When my father dies, either my brother shall be King, or we will lose our heads." The King died, and Prince Charles soon after said, in the postscript of one of his letters, "What we spoke of at Maestricht will soon be fully accomplished, and you may then come to Stockholm."
On this, I inserted an article in my journal declaring a revolution had taken place in Sweden, that the king had made himself absolute. The other papers expressed their doubts, and I offered to wager a thousand ducats on the truth of the article published in my journal under the title of "Aix-la-Chapelle." The news of the revolution in Sweden was confirmed.
My journal foretold the Polish partition six weeks sooner than any other; but how I obtained this news must not be mentioned. I was active in the defence of Queen Matilda of Denmark.
The French Ministry were offended at the following pasquinade:—"The three eagles have rent the Polish bear, without losing a feather with which any man in the Cabinet of Versailles can write. Since the death of Mazarin, they write only with goose-quills."
By desire of the King of Poland, I wrote a narrative of the attempt made to assassinate him, and named the nuncio who had given absolution to the conspirators in the chapel of the Holy Virgin.
The house was now in flames. Rome insisted I should recall my words. Her nuncio, at Cologne, vented poison, daggers, and excommunication; the Empress-Queen herself thought proper to interfere. I obtained, for my justification, from Warsaw a copy of the examination of the conspirators. This I threatened to publish, and stood unmoved in the defence of truth.
The Empress wrote to the Postmaster-General of the Empire, and commanded him to lay an interdict on the Aix-la-Chapelle Journal. Informed of this, I ended its publication with the year, but wrote an essay on the partition of Poland, which also did but increase my enemies.
The magistracy of Aix-la-Chapelle is elected from the people, and the Burghers' court consists of an ignorant rabble. I know no exceptions but Baron Lamberte and De Witte; and this people assume titles of dignity, for which they are amenable to the court at Vienna. Knowing I should find little protection at Vienna, they imagined they might drive me from their town. I was a spy on their evil deeds, of whom they would have rid themselves. I knew that the two sheriffs, Kloss and Furth, and the recorder, Geyer, had robbed the town-chamber of forty thousand dollars, and divided the spoil. To these I was a dangerous man. For such reasons they sought a quarrel with me, pretending I had committed a trespass by breaking down a hedge, and cited me to appear at the town-house.
The postmaster, Heinsberg, of Aix-la-Chapelle, although he had two thousand three hundred rix-dollars of mine in his possession, instituted false suits against me, obtained verdicts against me, seized on a cargo of wine at Cologne, and I incurred losses to the amount of eighteen thousand florins, which devoured the fortune of my wife, and by which she, with myself and my children, were reduced to poverty.
The Gravenitz himself, in 1778, acknowledged how much he had injured me, affirmed he had been deceived, and promised he would try to obtain restitution. I forgave him, and he attempted to keep his promise; but his power declined; the bribes he had received became too public. He was dispossessed of his post, but, alas! too late for me. Two other of my judges are at this time obliged to sweep the streets of Vienna, where they are condemned to the House of Correction. Had this been their employment instead of being seated on the seat of judgment twenty years ago, I might have been more fortunate. It is a remarkable circumstance that I should so continually have been despoiled by unjust judges. Who would have had the temerity to affirm that their evil deeds should bring them to attend on the city scavenger? I indeed knew them but too well, and fearlessly spoke what I knew. It was my misfortune that I was acquainted with their malpractices sooner than gracious Sovereign.
Let the scene close on my litigations at Aix-la-Chapelle and Vienna. May God preserve every honest man from the like! They have swallowed up my property, and that of my wife. Enough!
From the year 1774 to 1777, I journeyed through England and France. I was intimate with Dr. Franklin, the American Minister, and with the Counts St. Germain and de Vergennes, who made me proposals to go to America; but I was prevented by my affection for my wife and children.
My friend the Landgrave of Hesse-Cassel, who had been Governor of Magdeburg during my imprisonment, offered me a commission among the troops going to America, but I answered—"Gracious prince, my heart beats in the cause of freedom only; I will never assist in enslaving men. Were I at the head of your brave grenadiers. I should revolt to the Americans."
During 1775 I continued at Aix-la-Chapelle my essays, entitled, "The Friend of Men." My writings had made some impression; the people began to read; the monks were ridiculed, but my partisans increased, and their leader got himself cudgelled.
They did not now mention my name publicly, but catechised their penitents at confession. During this year people came to me from Cologne, Bonn, and Dusseldorf, to speak with me privately. When I inquired their business, they told me their clergy had informed them I was propagating a new religion, in which every man must sign himself to the devil, who then would supply them with money. They were willing to become converts to my faith, would Beelzebub but give them money, and revenge them on their priests. "My good friends," answered I, "your teachers have deceived you; I know of no devils but themselves. Were it true that I was founding a new religion, the converts to whom the devil would supply money, your priests, would be the first of my apostles, and the most catholic. I am an honest, moral man, as a Christian ought to be. Go home, in God's name, and do your duty."
I forgot to mention that the recorder of the sheriff's court at Aix-la- Chapelle, who is called Baron Geyer, had associated himself in 1778 with a Jew convert, and that this noble company swindled a Dutch merchant out of eighty thousand florins, by assuming the arms of Elector Palatine, and producing forged receipts and contracts. Geyer was taken in Amsterdam, and would have been hanged, but, by the aid of a servant, he escaped. He returned to Aix-la-Chapelle, where he enjoys his office. Three years ago he robbed the town-chamber. His wife was, at that time, generis communis, and procured him friends at court. The assertions of this gentleman found greater credit at Vienna than those of the injured Trenck! Oh, shame! Oh, world! world!
My wine trade was so successful that I had correspondents and stores in London, Paris, Brussels, Hamburg, and the Hague, and had gained forty thousand florins. One unfortunate day destroyed all my hopes in the success of this traffic.
In London I was defrauded of eighteen hundred guineas by a swindler. The fault was my brother-in-law's, who parted with the wine before he had received the money. When I had been wronged, and asked my friends' assistance, I was only laughed at, as if they were happy that an Englishman had the wit to cheat a German.
Finding myself defrauded, I hastened to Sir John Fielding. He told me he knew I had been swindled, and that his friendship would make him active in my behalf; that he also knew the houses where my wine was deposited, and that a party of his runners should go with me, sufficiently strong for its recovery. I was little aware that he had, at that time, two hundred bottles of my best Tokay in his cellar. His pretended kindness was a snare; he was in partnership with robbers, only the stupid among whom he hanged, and preserved the most adroit for the promotion of trade.
He sent a constable and six of his runners with me, commanding them to act under my orders. By good fortune I had a violent headache, and sent my brother-in-law, who spoke better English than I. Him they brought to the house of a Jew, and told him, "Your wine, sir, is here concealed." Though it was broad day, the door was locked, that he might be induced to act illegally. The constable desired him to break the door open, which he did; the Jews came running, and asked—"What do you want, gentlemen?"—"I want my wine," answered my brother.—"Take what is your own," replied a Jew; "but beware of touching my property. I have bought the wine."
My brother attended the constable and runners into a cellar, and found a great part of my wine. He wrote to Sir John Fielding that he had found the wine, and desired to know how to act. Fielding answered: "It must be taken by the owner." My brother accordingly sent me the wine.
Next day came a constable with a warrant, saying, "He wanted to speak with my brother, and that he was to go to Sir John Fielding." When he was in the street, he told him—"Sir, you are my prisoner."
I went to Sir John Fielding, and asked him what it meant. This justice answered that my brother had been accused of felony. The Jews and swindlers had sworn the wine was a legal purchase. If I had not been paid, or was ignorant of the English laws, that was my fault. Six swindlers had sworn the wine was paid for, which circumstance he had not known, or he should not have granted me a warrant. My brother had also broken open the doors, and forcibly taken away wine which was not his own. They made oath of this, and he was charged with burglary and robbery.
He desired me to give bail in a thousand guineas for my brother for his appearance in the Court of King's Bench; otherwise his trial would immediately come on, and in a few days he would be hanged.
I hastened to a lawyer, who confirmed what had been told me, advised me to give bail, and he would then defend my cause. I applied to Lord Mansfield, and received the same answer. I told my story to all my friends, who laughed at me for attempting to trade in London without understanding the laws. My friend Lord Grosvenor said, "Send more wine to London, and we will pay you so well that you will soon recover your loss."
I went to my wine-merchants, who had a stock of mine worth upwards of a thousand guineas. They gave bail for my brother, and he was released.
Fielding, in the interim, sent his runners to my house, took back the wine, and restored it to the Jews. They threatened to prosecute me as a receiver of stolen goods. I fled from London to Paris, where I sold off my stock at half-price, honoured my bills, and so ended my merchandise.
My brother returned to London in November, to defend his cause in the Court of King's Bench; but the swindlers had disappeared, and the lawyer required a hundred pounds to proceed. The conclusion was that my brother returned with seventy pounds less in his pocket, spent as travelling expenses, and the stock in the hands of my wine-merchants was detained on pretence of paying the bail. They brought me an apothecary's bill, and all was lost.
The Swedish General Sprengporten came to Aix-la-Chapelle in 1776. He had planned and carried into execution the revolution so favourable to the King, but had left Sweden in discontent, and came to take the waters with a rooted hypochondria.
He was the most dangerous man in Sweden, and had told the King himself, after the revolution, in the presence of his guards, "While Sprengporten can hold a sword, the King has nothing to command."
It was feared he would go to Russia, and Prince Charles wrote to me in the name of the monarch, desiring I would exert myself to persuade him to return to Sweden. He was a man of pride, which rendered him either a fool or a madman. He despised everything that was not Swedish.
The Prussian Minister, Count Hertzberg, the same year came to Aix-la-Chapelle. I enjoyed his society for three months, and accompanied this great man. To his liberality am I indebted that I can return to my country with honour.
The time I had to spare was not spent in idleness; I attacked, in my weekly writings, those sharpers who attend at Aix-la-Chapelle and Spa to plunder both inhabitants and visitants, under the connivance of the magistracy; nor are there wanting foreign noblemen who become the associates of these pests of society. The publication of such truths endangered my life from the desperadoes, who, when detected, had nothing more to lose. How powerful is an innocent life, nothing can more fully prove than that I still exist, in despite of all the attempts of wicked monks and despicable sharpers.
Though my life was much disturbed, yet I do not repent of my manner of acting; many a youth, many a brave man, have I detained from the gaming- table, and pointed out to them the most notorious sharpers.
This was so injurious to Spa, that the Bishop of Liege himself, who enjoys a tax on all their winnings, and therefore protects such villains, offered me an annual pension of five hundred guineas if I would not come to Spa; or three per cent. on the winnings, would I but associate myself with Colonel N—-t, and raise recruits for the gaming-table. My answer may easily be imagined; yet for this was I threatened to be excommunicated by the Holy Catholic Church!
I and my family passed sixteen summers in Spa. My house became the rendezvous of the most respectable part of the company, and I was known to some of the most respectable characters in Europe.
A contest arose between the town of Aix-la-Chapelle and Baron Blankart, the master of the hounds to the Elector Palatine: it originated in a dispute concerning precedence between the before-mentioned wife of the Recorder Geyer and the sister of the Burgomaster of Aix-la-Chapelle, Kahr, who governed that town with despotism.