L. Mühlbach.

Berlin and Sans-Souci; or Frederick the Great and his friends online

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for his toilet. Of these things he made a little packet, which he
sealed up, and wrote upon it these lines:

"Je les requs avec tendresse,
Je vous les rends avec douleur;
C'est ainsi qu'un amant, dans sou extreme fureur,
Rend le portrait de sa maitresse."

He called his servant, and commanded him to take this packet to the

Voltaire did not hesitate a moment. He felt not the least regret for
the great pension which he was relinquishing. He felt that there was
no other course open to him; that his honor and his pride demanded
it. At this moment, his expression was noble. He was the proud,
independent, free man. The might of genius reigned supreme, and
subdued the calculating and the pitiful for a brief space. This
exalted moment soon passed away, and the cunning, miserly,
calculating old man again asserted his rights. Voltaire remembered
that he had not only given up orders and titles, but gold, and
measureless anguish and raging pain took possession of him. He
hastened to his writing-desk, and with a trembling hand he wrote a
pleading letter to the king, in which he begged for pardon and
grace - for pity in his unhappy circumstances and his great sorrow.

The king was merciful. He took pity on the old friendship which lay
in ruins at his feet. He felt for it that sort of reverence which a
man entertains for the grave of a lost friend. He returned the
"bagatelles" with a few friendly lines to Voltaire, and invited him
to accompany him to Potsdam. Voltaire accepted the invitation, and
the journals announced that the celebrated French writer had again
received his orders, titles, and pension, and gone to Potsdam with
the king.

But this seeming peace was of short duration. Friendship was dead,
and anger and bitterness had taken the place of consideration and
love. Voltaire felt the impossibility of remaining longer. Impelled
by the cold glance, the ironical and contemptuous laughter of the
king, he begged at last for his dismissal, which the king did not
refuse him.

One day, when Frederick was upon the parade-ground, surrounded by
his generals, he was told that Voltaire asked permission to be
allowed to take leave.

The king turned quietly towards him. "Ah, Monsieur Voltaire, you are
resolved, then, to leave us?"

"Sire, indispensable business and my state of health compel me to do
so," said Voltaire.

The king bowed slightly. "Monsieur, I wish you a happy journey."
[Footnote: Thiebault, p. 271.] Then turning to the old Field-Marshal
Ziethen, he recommenced his conversation with him. Voltaire made a
profound bow, and entered the post-chaise which was waiting for him.

So they parted, and their friendship was in ashes; and no after-
protestations could bring it to life. The great king and the great
poet parted, never to meet again.


Online LibraryL. MühlbachBerlin and Sans-Souci; or Frederick the Great and his friends → online text (page 42 of 42)