俄罗斯举行胜利日空中阅兵彩排

Another severe fit of coughing ensued, and the king, having with difficulty got rid of the phlegm, said, The mountain is passed; we shall be better now. These were his last words. The expiring monarch sat in his chair, but in a state of such extreme weakness that he was continually sinking down, with his chest and neck so bent forward that breathing was almost impossible. One of his faithful valets took the king upon his knee and placed his left arm around his waist, while the king threw his right arm around the valets neck. Sieges, skirmishes, battles innumerable ensued. The Russians and the Austrians, in superior numbers and with able leaders, were unwearied in their endeavors to annihilate their formidable foe. The conflict was somewhat analogous to that which takes place between the lion at bay in the jungle and a pack of dogs. The details could scarcely be made intelligible to the reader, and would certainly prove tedious.153

His Prussian majesty requires nothing for himself. He has taken up arms simply and solely with the view of restoring to the empire its freedom, to the emperor his imperial crown, and to all Europe the peace which is so desirable.

The battle of Torgau is to be numbered among the most bloody of the Seven Years War. The Austrians lost twelve thousand in killed and wounded, eight thousand prisoners, forty-five cannon, and twenty-nine flags. The Prussian loss was also very heavy. There were fourteen thousand killed or wounded, and four thousand taken prisoners. I represented to him that perhaps it was not altogether prudent to print his Anti-Machiavel just at the time that the world might reproach him with having violated the principles he taught. He permitted me to stop the impression. I accordingly took a journey into Holland purposely to do him this trifling service. But the bookseller demanded so much money that his majesty, who was not in the bottom of his heart vexed to see210 himself in print, was better pleased to be so for nothing, than to pay for not being so. I could not avoid feeling some remorse at being concerned in printing this Anti-Machiavelian book at the very moment that the King of Prussia, who had a hundred millions in his coffers, was robbing the poor people of Liege of another, by the hand of the privy counselor Rambonet.35

A few days ago I happened to take a very early walk about a mile from Potsdam, and seeing some soldiers under arms in a field at a small distance from the road, I went toward them. An officer on horseback, whom I took to be the major, for he gave the word of command, was uncommonly active, and often rode among the ranks to reprimand or instruct the common men. When I came nearer I was much surprised to find that this was the king himself. In a pet Frederick left the room. The heroic general, who had flatly refused to obey a positive command, found it necessary to resign his commission. The next day another officer plundered the castle. Seventy-five thousand dollars of the proceeds of the sale were appropriated to the field hospitals. The remainder, which proved to be a large sum, was the reward of the plundering general.

You speak of my personal safety. You ought to know, as I do, that it is not necessary for me to live. But while I do live I must fight for my country, and save it if it be possible. In many little things I have had luck; I think of taking for my motto, Maximus in minimis, et minimus in maximis.154 Indeed, it would seem that, at the time, Voltaire must have been very favorably impressed by the appearance of his royal host. The account he then gave of the interview was very different from that which, in his exasperation, he wrote twenty years afterward. In a letter to a friend, M. De Cideville, dated October 18th, 1740, Voltaire wrote:

I have hardly strength enough to trace these lines. My state is altogether worthy of pity. It is not through any menaces, however violent they may have been, that I have yielded my consent to the kings wishes. An interest still more dear to me has determined me to this sacrifice. I have been till now the innocent cause of all the unhappiness which your majesty has endured. My too sensible heart has been penetrated by the touching details you have latterly made of them.

Louis XV. wrote a very unsatisfactory letter in reply. He stated, with many apologies, that his funds were terribly low,359 that he was exceedingly embarrassed, that it was impossible to send the sum required, but that he would try to furnish him with a hundred thousand dollars a month.

The fact was, that the diplomacy of Voltaire had probably not the slightest influence in guiding the action of the king. Frederick had become alarmed in view of the signal successes of the armies of Maria Theresa, under her brother-in-law, Prince Charles of Lorraine. Several Austrian generals, conspicuous among whom was Marshal Traun, were developing great military ability. The armies of Austria had conquered Bohemia and Bavaria. The French troops, discomfited in many battles, had been compelled to retreat to the western banks of the Rhine, vigorously pursued by Prince Charles. The impotent emperor Charles Albert, upon whom France had placed the imperial crown of Germany, was driven from his hereditary realm, and the heart-broken man, in poverty and powerlessness, was an emperor but in name. It was evident that Maria Theresa was gathering her strength to reconquer Silesia. She had issued a decree that the Elector of Bavaria was not legitimately chosen emperor. It was very manifest that her rapidly increasing influence would soon enable her to dethrone the unfortunate Charles Albert, and to place the imperial crown upon the brow of her husband.