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of his predecessors in this agreeable department of literature. Upon doubtful questions, it is delightful to see with what a judicial and upright intention he sums up the evidence on both sides, and leaves the readers, his jury, to form their own decision.
Art. X.- The Life of Frederick the Second, King of Prussia. By Lord
Dover. In Two Volumes. London: Longman and Co. 1831. A well digested and impartial biography of such a hero as Frederick the Great of Prussia, was so desirable an accession to our literature, that we cannot too earnestly applaud the spirit which has induced Lord Dover to endeavour to supply it; although the nature of the subject forbids us to expect any novelty or increase of interest in the performance. Frederick, indeed, was too much favoured by circumstances, to admit of the slightest hazard that any event of his extraordinary career, or any trait of his singular character, should not be faithfully preserved, for the contemplation of future ages. He took care to be surrounded, during his life, by successive circles of men, the most remarkable of their era, for learning, for genius, for the influence which they exercised, through their writings, over the feelings and understandings of their contemporaries. In becoming the host, and sometimes the task-master, of Voltaire, and of some of the principal philosophers of his day; and, in either flattering their vanity, or thwarting their favourite purposes, Frederick knew that he drew upon him
the direct attention of the existing guardians and distributors of historical renown. Either the gratitude, he concluded, of such men, for the favours he had bestowed on them, or their indignation on account of his ill treatment, would equally operate as a security, that his name and actions would occupy the most distinguished station in the annals of his time. If such, indeed, be the true description of the policy of Frederick, the expectations by which he was actuated, were literally fulfilled, at least by Voltaire ; for it is not so much to the partiality of the latter, as it is to his resentment, that the king is in a great measure indebted for that universal interest regarding him, which, to this hour, has experienced no material abatement. Frederick himself was no mean contributor to the literature of his age. The spectacle of a king, at the date to which we refer, renouncing all the delusive distinctions of a crown, and satisfied to contend in the common arena for intellectual honours, was such a striking innovation, as to make the deepest impression throughout the civilized world. And Frederick himself has enjoyed all the benefit of the curiosity which his novel example had excited; for many who would have been indifferent to his actions and his character, were still solicitous to read the writings of a Prussian monarch. From such felicitous accidents and coincidences it has happened, that not one of all the heroes, whom it is the business of modern history to commemorate, stands
more clearly defined, or more faithfully pourtrayed, to our eyes than Frederick the Great.
In searching, as men are naturally inclined to do, for some reasons that will serve to explain the causes of that comparative superiority of mind, which this monarch exhibited over his immediate ancestors, and, indeed, the whole of his successors, we are led, principally, to consider the nature of his early education. He was the great grandson of Frederick William, a man, who from his wisdom, conduct, and prudence, acquired the title of the “ Great Elector.' If we can suppose, that peculiar mental faculties obey the same law of hereditary descent, as that which regulates the transmission of family diseases, and that the genius of the great-grandfather can be passed secretly through two generations, and shine with all its original brightnesss in a third, then we have an intelligible clue to account for the splendid qualities of Frederick the Great. His grandfather was a vain and contemptible creature of pageants and court forms. His father, however, was worse, for all the energy that he possessed, was employed in the service of the basest of
passions. 'It is only amongst the lives of the Roman emperors, that we can find any parallel to the character of the latter king. The least revolting portion of his acts, consist of the various manifestations which he gave, during life, of the greatest eccentricity. Some of bis excesses are too curious to be omitted. His partiality to giants was a principal passion, as we learn from the following anecdotes :
• His fondness for his tall regiment of guards is well known; every country bordering upon his own territories was ransacked in search of giants, and, upon more than one occasion, he was near going to war, rather than be compelled to give up his acquisitions of this kind. Nor was any
class of men, or any profession, sacred from the violence of the Prussian press-gangs. Even priests were actually torn from the altars, as was the case, among others, with the Abbe Bastiani, who was carried off while celebrating mass in a village church in the north of Italy. He subsequently settled at Berlin, and was admitted into the intimate society of Frederick the Great.* The extraordinary desire of Frederick William to recruit this regiment, seems even to have got the better of the passion of avarice, which, on all other occasions, reigned paramount in his breast; for we find instances recorded, in which he gave great sums for single recruits of a gigantic stature. To one called “ the great Joseph," who apparently was a monk, he gave 5000 forins for enlisting, and paid 1500 rix dollars to the monastery he belonged to. In the procuring of an Italian, named Andrea Capra, the charge was as follows :- 1500 rix dollars as bounty money to the recruit himself, and 2000 rix dollars to the
* Bastiani, after being kidnapped, was placed in a regiment as a private soldier, but as his history excited some curiosity, Prince Frederick look much notice of him, and on his accession to the throne, made Bastiani a canon of the cathedral of Breslau, and a constant companion of his own.'
who discovered and watched him, and to those who carried him off by force from his own country. But the most expensive recruit of all appears to have been an Irishman, named James Kirkland, for the procuring of whom the following curious bill was brought in to the King :
£ d. “ For the man himself, on condition of his giving up his person
1000 0 0 For the sending of two spies
18 18 0 The journey from Ireland to Chester
30 0 0 From Chester to Ireland
25 12 0 The man who accompanied him on the journey
10 10 0 To himself on his arrival
1 18 0 Three years of wages promised him
60 0 0 To some of his acquaintance in London, who helped to persuade him
18 18 0 A fortnight's allowance
1 8 0 For a uniform, shoes, &c.
9 6 Journey from London to Berlin
21 0 0 Post horses from Gravesend to London and back
6 6 0 To other persons employed in the business
8 7 0 The two soldiers of the guard who assisted
15 15 0 To some persons for secrecy
12 12 0 Expenses at the inn at Gravesend
4 13 0 To a justice of peace
6 6 0 To a man who accompanied him, and watched him constantly 33 0 For a boat
0 5 0 For letters to Ireland and back
2 10 0" Making in all the enormous sum of 12001. 10s.! paid for a single recruit.' - vol. i. pp. 5–7.
It is no wonder that Frederick William should wish to gratify his taste upon a more economical scale than he seems to have been compelled to adopt. He accordingly set his heart upon a project, for the regular cultivation of a race of giants in his own dominions. Every woman of unusual stature, whom he even casually saw, he compelled to intermarry with one of his guards, quite indifferent whether she was pleased or not with the alliance. He very soon found out, however, by one very curious incident, that kidnapping women required somewhat of a more dexterous sportsman than was sufficient for the capture of the men.
• On one occasion,' says Lord Dover, in going from Potsdam to Berlin, he met a young, handsome, and well-made girl, of an almost gigantic size ; he was struck with her, and having stopped and spoken to her, he learned from herself that she was a Saxon, and not married—that she had come on business to the market at Berlin, and was now returning to her village in Saxony. “ In that case," said Frederick William to her, "you pass before the gate of Potsdam ; and if I give you a note to the commandant, you can deliver it without going out of your way. Take charge, therefore, of the note which I am about to write, and promise me to deliver it yourself to the commandant, and you shall have a dollar for your pains." "The girl, who knew the King's character well, promised all
that he wished. The note was written, sealed, and delivered to her with the dollar: but the Saxon, aware of the fate that attended her at Potsdam, did not enter the town. She found near the gate a very little old woman, to whom she made over the note and the dollar, recommending her to execute the commission without delay, and acquainting her at the same time that it came from the King, and regarded some urgent and pressing business. After this, our gigantic young heroine continued her journey with as much rapidity as possible. The old woman, on the other hand, hastened to the coinmandant, who opened the note, and found in it a positive order to marry the bearer of it without delay to a certain grenadier, whose name was mentioned. The old woman was much surprised at this result: she, however, submitted herself without murmuring to the orders of his Majesty; but it was necessary to employ all the power of authority, mingled with alternate menaces and promises, to overcome the extreme repugnance, and even despair of the soldier. It was not till the next day that Frederick William discovered he had been imposed upon, and that the soldier was inconsolable at his misfortune. No other resource then remained to the King, but to order the immediate divorce of the new-married couple.'-vol. i. pp. 7–9.
Such were the character and habits of the man, to whose taste and discretion, the education of the young mind of Frederick the Great, was intrusted. He naturally tried to infuse into his young charge, a partiality for those pursuits which he himself was induced by choice to adopt. He gave the young prince, at eight years of age, an arsenal of small arms, and made him colonel of a regiment of boys, whom it should be his principal study to improve in discipline. But Frederick appeared to comply with the prescribed course of duty with reluctance, and showed an unequivocal preference for his Aute and his books. About the time when he reached his fourteenth year, he had the misfortune to incur the dislike of his parent, who thenceforth treated him with a degree of tyranny that is absolutely atrocious. In the Memoirs of the Margravine of Bareith, the sister of Frederick, and a sharer in the persecution inflicted ly her father, the details of his barbarous treatment are related without exaggeration. It was during his fits of the gout that Frederick William exhibited all the ferocity of his temper, and appeared more like a demon than a man. Among the occupations of this king during the paroxysms of his disease, was painting in oils, of which accomplishment he is represented to have been ridiculously vain.
* For the most part,' observes Lord Dover, one of his own grenadiers was the model from which he copied : and when the portrait had more or less colour in it than the original, or was not as the King thought sufficiently resembling, he was in the habit of colouring the cheeks of the soldier to correspond with the picture. At other times, when painting, he would fall asleep; and while in this situation it not unfrequently happened, that the brush in falling, trailed along the canvas and disfigured it. When he awoke he attributed this to the paiuter, whom he kept in the room with him to mix his colours, and who he said had done it from jea
lousy of his talents. On these occasions, the sitting concluded with the caning of the poor painter. Enchanted with the fruits of his genius, he shewed them to his courtiers, and asked their opinion concerning them; but as he would have been very angry with any one who had criticized them, he was quite sure of being gratified with admiration. “Well," said he one day to an attendant who was extolling the beauties of one of his pictures, how much do you think that picture would bring at a sale?”
Sire, it would be cheap at a hundred ducats.” “ You shall have it for fifty,” said the King, “ because you are a good judge, and I am therefore anxious to do you a favour.” The poor courtier, obliged to become the possessor of this miserable performance, and to pay so dear for it, determined for the future to be more circumspect in his admiration.'-vol. i. pp. 62, 63.
Not only Frederick himself, but those who succoured him, or showed him the least sympathy in his sufferings, were the objects of the father's direst hostility. But his personal treatment grew every day more insupportable. As he could not indulge his musical propensities at home, he was in the habit of frequenting the house of a citizen of Potsdam, whose daughter was a proficient on the harpsichord, but whose deficiencies of external form rendered it quite improbable that Frederick could have any other motive for his visits than the love of music. But as soon as the King found out the scene of his son's clandestine enjoyment, he caused the unfortunate young girl to be publicly whipped through the streets of the town, by the executioner. Frederick was resolved to bear his persecution no longer; and as his father proposed that he should accompany him on an expedition to Dresden, the young prince conceived that this would be a fair opportunity to put his intentions of escape into execution. But he was dissuaded from it by his sister; and after having performed the journey to Dresden, he returned to undergo fresh persecutions from his father. Shortly after their arrival at Potsdam, the following terrible scene, described by Frederick himself, took place between them.
"“ As I entered the King's room this morning, he first seized me by the hair, and then threw me on the ground, along which, after having exercised the vigour of his arm upon my unhappy person, he dragged me in spite of all my resistance to a neighbouring window; his intention apparently was to perform the office of the mutes of the seraglio, for seizing the cord belonging to the curtain, he placed it round my neck. I had, fortunately for myself, had the time to place myself upon my legs, and I seized hold of both his hands and began to cry out. A servant came immediately to my assistance, and delivered me from his hands.” He then adds “ I am daily exposed to similar dangers, and my enemies are so excessive, and so desperate, that it is only violent remedies which can put an end to them.”— vol. i. p. 75.
Frederick now resolved that nothing should prevent him from attempting to get out of the way. In conjunction with two trusty friends, Katt and Keith, he arranged to take flight from a place