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“ The weighty bullion of one sterling line
Voltaire. " That is because the English are not sufficiently “ acquainted with the French tongue to feel the beauties of “ Racine's style, or the harmony of his versification. Corneille “ ought to please them more because he is more striking; but “ Racine pleases the French because he has more softness and “ tenderness.”
Sherlock. “How did you find” (like) “ the English fare (la “ chère Anglaise ?”—which Voltaire mischievously takes for “the dear English woman”). Voltaire. “I found her very fresh " and white,"—truly! (' It should be remembered, that when he made this pun upon Women, he was in his eighty-third year).' Sherlock. “ Their language ?"
Voltaire. “Energetic, precise and barbarous; they are the only Nation that pronounces their a as e."
(And some time afterwards) “ Though I cannot perfectly pronounce English, my ear is sen“sible of the harmony of your language and of your versifica“ tion. Pope and Dryden have the most harmony in Poetry; “ Addison in Prose.” (Takes now the interrogating side.)
Voltaire.“ How have you found (avez-vous trouvé) the 66 French ?” Sherlock. “ Amiable and witty. I only find one fault with them: they imitate the English too much.”
Voltaire. “ How! Do you think us worthy to be originals « ourselves ?” Sherlock. “ Yes, Sir.”
Voltaire. “So do I too :—but it is of your Government that < we are envious.”
Sherlock. “ I have found the French freër than I expected.”
Voltaire. “Yes, as to walking, or eating whatever he pleases, or lolling in his elbow-chair, a Frenchman is free enough; but “ as to taxes—Ah, Monsieur, you are a lucky Nation; you can “ do what you like; poor we are born in slavery: we cannot
even die as we will; we must have a Priest” (can't get buried otherwise; am often thinking of that !). “Well, if the
English do sell themselves, it is a proof that they are worth
April 1776. “ something: we French don't sell ourselves, probably because we are worth nothing.”
Sherlock. “What is your opinion of the Éloïse” (Rousseau's immortal Work)? Voltaire. “That it will not be read “twenty years hence.”
Sherlock. “Mademoiselle de l'Enclos wrote some good Letters?” Voltaire. “ She never wrote one; they were by the “ wretched Crébillon” (my beggarly old “Rival in the Pompadour epoch)!
Voltaire. “ The Italians are a Nation of brokers. Italy is an “ Old-Clothes shop; in which there are many Old Dresses of “ exquisite taste. But we are still to know, Whether the
subjects of the Pope or of the Grand Turk are the more ab“ ject.” (We have now gone to the Drawing-room, I think, though it is not jotted.)
• He talked of England and of Shakespeare; and explained to Madame Denis part of a Scene in Henry Fifth, where the King makes love to Queen Catherine in bad French; and of • another in which that Queen takes a lesson in English from her "Waiting-woman, and where there are several very gross doubleentendres’—but, I hope, did not long dwell on these.
Voltaire. “When I see an Englishman subtle and fond of “ law-suits, I say, 'There is a Norman, who came in with Wil“ liam the Conqueror.' When I see a man good-natured and “polite, ‘That is one who came with the Plantagenets;' a brutal “ character, “That is a Dane::—for your Nation, Monsieur, as “ well as your Language, is a medley of many others."
• After dinner, passing through a little Parlour where there was a head of Locke, another of the Countess of Coventry, 6 and several more, he took me by the arm and stopped me: “Do you know this Bust” (bust of Sir Isaac Newton)? “It “ is the greatest genius that ever existed: if all the geniuses of “the Universe were assembled, he should lead the band."
* It was of Newton, and of his own Works, that M. de Vol"taire always spoke with the greatest warmth.4.(Erit Sherlock, to jot down the above, and thence into Infinite Space.)
* Sherlock, Letters (London, 1802), i. 98-106.
General or Fieldmarshal Conway, direct from the
London Circles, attends one of Friedrich's Reviews (August-September 1774).
Now that Friedrich's Military Department is got completely into trim again, which he reckons to have been about 1770, his annual Reviews are becoming very famous over Europe; and intelligent Officers of all Countries are eager to be present, and instruct themselves there. The Review is beautiful as a Spectacle; but that is in no sort the intention of it. Rigorous business, as in the strictest of Universities examining for Degrees, would be nearer the definition. Sometimes, when a new maneuvre or tactical invention of importance is to be tried by experiment, you will find for many
miles the environs of Potsdam, which is usually the scene of such experiments, carefully shut in; sentries on every road, no unfriendly eye admitted; the thing done as with closed doors. Nor at any time can you attend without leave asked; though to Foreign Officers, and persons that have really business there, there appears to be liberality enough in granting it. The concourse of military strangers seems to keep increasing every year, till Friedrich's death.45 French, more and more in quantity, present themselves ; multifarious German names; generally a few English too,—Burgoyne (of Saratoga finally), Cornwallis, Duke of York, Marshal Conway,-of which last we have something farther to say at present.
In Summer 1774, Conway, the Marshal Conway, of whom Walpole is continually talking as of a considerable Soldier and Politician, though he was not in either
Aug.-Sept. 1774. character considerable, but was Walpole's friend, and an honest modest man,-had made up his mind, perhaps partly on domestic grounds (for I have noticed glimpses of a “ Lady C.” much out of humour), to make a Tour in Germany, and see the Reviews, both Austrian and Prussian, Prussian especially. Two immense Letters of his on that subject have come into my hands, 46 and elsewhere incidentally there is printed record of the Tour;47 unimportant as possible, both Tour and Letters, but capable, if squeezed into compass, of still being read without disadvantage here.
Sir Robert Murray Keith, -that is, the younger Excellency Keith, now Minister at Dresden, whom we have sometimes heard of,—accompanies Conway on this Tour, or flies alongside of him, with frequent intersections at the principal points; and there is printed record by Sir Robert, but still less interesting than this of Conway, and perfectly conformable to it:-so that, except for some words about the Lord Marischal, which shall be given, Keith must remain silent, while the diffuse Conway strives to become intelligible. Indeed, neither Conway nor Keith tell us the least thing that is not abundantly, and even wearisomely known from German sources; but to readers here, a pair of English eyes looking on the matter (put straight in places by the help there is), may give it a certain freshness of meaning. Here are Conway's Two Letters, with the nine-parts of water charitably squeezed out of them, by a skilful friend of mine and his.
46 Kindly presented me by Charles Knight, Esq., the well-known Author and Publisher (who possesses a Collection by the same hand): these Two run to fourteen large pages in my Copy!
47 In Keith (Sir Robert Murray), Memoirs and Correspondence, ii. 21
Conway to his Brother, Marquis of Hertford (in London).
“Berlin, July 17th, 1774. “Dear Brother,—In the hurry I live in”. “Leaving “ Brunswick, where, in absence of most of the Court, who are “ visiting at Potsdam, my old Commander,” Duke Ferdinand, now estranged from Potsdam,* and living here among works of Art, and speculations on Free Masonry," was very kind to me, “I went to Celle, in Hanover, to pay my respects to the Queen “ of Denmark" (unfortunate divorced Matilda, saved by my friend Keith,-innocent, I will hope !) ... “She is
“She is grown extremely “ At Magdeburg, the Prussian Frontier on this side, one is not allowed, without a permit, even to walk on the ram
parts,—such the strictness of Prussian rule.” ...“Driving “ through Potsdam, on my way to Berlin, I was stopped by “ servant of the good old Lord Marischal, who had spied me as “ I passed under his window. He came out in his nightgown, " and insisted upon our staying to dine with him”—(worthy old man; a word of him, were this Letter done). “We ended, on “ consultation about times and movements of the King, by stay“ing three days at Potsdam, mostly with this excellent old Lord.
“On the third day” (yesterday evening, in fact), “I went, “ by appointment, to the New Palace, to wait upon the King of “ Prussia. There was some delay: his Majesty had gone, in “ the interim, to a private Concert, which he was giving to the “ Princesses” (Duchess of Brunswick and other high guests49); “but the moment he was told I was there, he came out from his
company, and gave me a most flattering gracious audience of
more than half an hour'; talking on a great variety of things, “ with an ease and freedom the very reverse of what I had been “ made to expect.” ...“I asked, and received permission, to “6 visit the Silesian Camps next month, his Majesty most graciously “ telling me the particular days they would begin and end” (27th August—30 September, Schmelwitz near Breslau, are time and
" Had a kind of quarrel with Friedrich in 1766 (rough treatment by Adjutant von Anhalt, not tolerable to a Captain now become so eminent), and quietly withdrew,-still on speaking terms with the King, but never his Officer more.
" Rödenbeck (in die), iii. 98.