Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

THE

QUARTERLY REVIEW.

Art. I.-1. Euvres de Frédéric le Grand, Roi de Prusse.

Nouvelle Edition. Berlin : chez Rodolphe Decker, Imprimeur

du Roi, vols. i., ii., et iii. 1846. 2. Friedrich der Grosse : eine Lebens- Geschichte. Von J. D. E.

Preuss, Berlin, 4 vols. 1832. 3. Urkunden-buch zur Lebens-Geschichte. Von J. D. E. Preuss,

Berlin, 5 vols. 1834. IN Na Convocation held at Oxford on the 1st of July, 1847,

'it was proposed and agreed that the University Seal should be affixed to a Letter of Thanks to His Majesty the King of Prussia for his Majesty's gracious present of the three first volumes of a magnificent edition of the Works of King Frederick the Great. We have no doubt that the good taste of the Royal Donor will limit his gift to the carlier volumes, which comprise such writings as the Mémoires de Brandebourg and L'Histoire de Mon Temps. Were his Majesty to send the complete collection, with what feelings could the Reverend Heads of houses be expected to read-or with what expressions to acknowledge -the Commentaire Théologique sur Barbe Bleue, or the Ode, in the style of Petronius, on the French fugitives after Rosbach!*

This new edition comes forth with a splendour well beseeming, if not the value of the works, yet certainly the rank of the author. No expense has been spared on the paper or the types; and the editor, Dr. Preuss, is eminently qualified for the task from his most full and valuable, and on the whole impartial and discriminating, Life of King Frederick which appeared in 1832.

We shall not be tempted, however, by this opportunity to enter into any minute discussion of the writings of the Prussian monarch. On his general demerits as an author, the department of letterwriting alone excepted, his imperfect mastery of the French in which he chose to write, and his peculiar tediousness both in bis prose and verse, or rather in his two kinds of prose, the rhymed and unrhymed—we imagine that all critics of all countries (unless possibly his own) are entirely agreed. Nor do we propose to descant either upon the freaks of his youth or the glories of his

* Congé de l'Armée des Cercles et des Tonnelliers, Euvres Posthumes, vol. xv.

P. 217.

VOL, LXXXII. NO, CLXIII.

B

wars,

wars. Both are sufficiently well known-the former through his own sister, the Margravine de Bareith, and his favourite, Voltaire; -tlie latter from the pages of more than one historian.

But it seems to us that his system of adıninistration in peace has by no means received the same degree of attention as his military exploits. Nor are the habits of his declining age so familiar to us as those of his early manhood. It is therefore to these—the lise of Frederick public and private since the Peace of Hubertsburgthat we now desire to apply ourselves. For this investigation the biography of Dr. Preuss, with his five volumes of appended documents, will supply our best, though by no means our only, materials.

From the Peace of Hubertsburg in 1763 until his death in 1786, Frederick may be said to have enjoyed uninterrupted peace. For although a declaration of war was called forth by the Bavarian Succession in 1778, it was merely, as he might have termed it in his adopted language, une levée de boucliers ; it led scarcely even to a skirmish, far less to a battle or a siege. But these twenty-three years of public peace were to the King himself very

far from years of repose. A slight sketch of his daily life at Potsdam or Sans Souci will best portray his unremitting activity.

The value of early hours had been felt by Frederick in his campaigns, especially when opposed to indolent and luxurious courtiers like the Prince de Soubise. "Je pense bien,' says Voltaire, 30th March, 1759—(he is addressing Frederick and alluding to Soubise)- que celui qui met ses bottes à quatre heures du matin a un grand avantage au jeu contre celui qui monte en carrosse à midi.' These early habits of Frederick were continued in his years of peace. In summer he usually rose at three, seldom ever after four; in winter he was scarcely an hour later. During the prime of his manhood five or six hours of sleep sufficed him; but in his old

age the term was extended to seven or eight. His ablutions, when performed at all, were slight and few. While still in the hands of his hair-dresser he opened his first packet of letters from Berlin; this packet contained only such letters as, either by their seals or by Post-office notices, were known to come from Prussian nobles. All other letters of subjects not of noble birth were opened by some one of the four Cabinet-Secretaries. How would his Prussian Majesty, thus nice in matters of epistolary etiquette, have stared at Sir Robert Walpole, of whom it is recorded that, whenever a batch of letters reached him from the country, that from his gamekeeper was always the first which he perused! The King next proceeded to dress himself, and put on his hat,

« ZurückWeiter »