Relationship between frederick the great and voltaire

"King Frederick for his Voltaire" — an annotation to Thomas Carlyle's “Signs of the Times”

relationship between frederick the great and voltaire

Photo - Voltaire at the court of Frederick the Great of Prussia. Emilie saw this as a threat to her relationship with Voltaire. Frederick's goal was to have Voltaire. Frederick strolls with Voltaire through the palace of Sans-Souci Frederick the Great: King of Prussia Tim Blanning south- west of Berlin, and enjoyed 'intimate relations' with young officers, as well as his first valet Fredersdorf. his rank and file, divisions among his enemies, above all his own willpower. In Frederick became King of Prussia, and a new epoch in the relations between the two men began. The next ten years were, on both sides, years of.

Frederick inherited the best disciplined army in Europe. Unlike most other biographers, however, Blanning shows how many battles Frederick lost. His brother Prince Henry was not only a nicer man but also a better general — as the King occasionally acknowledged. Austria often defeated Prussia. Frederick was saved by British subsidies, the sacrifices of and brutal discipline in his rank and file, divisions among his enemies, above all his own willpower. In that case, Europe might have been spared a lot.

In the long term, his reign was also a poisoned chalice. Annexed in without the pretence of consultation, Alsace-Lorraine became another source of wars and tension — the Silesia of the late 19th century. The Prussian monarchy was abolished inthe Prussian state in Today almost no Germans live in Silesia or Prussia.

Breslau is called Wroclau, Konigsberg Kaliningrad. Poland and Russia have the last laugh. The two states were opposites. Despite its excellent performance, the Prussian army became increasingly stretched thin by various costly battles.

He suffered some severe defeats himself and was frequently at the last gasp, but he always managed to recover. His position became even more desperate in when Britain having made gains in India and the Americas ended its financial support for Prussia after the death of King George II, Frederick's uncle.

On 6 Januaryhe wrote to Count Karl-Wilhelm Finck von Finckenstein"We ought now to think of preserving for my nephew, by way of negotiation, whatever fragments of my territory we can save from the avidity of my enemies". Peter III was so enamored of Frederick that he not only offered him the full use of a Russian corps for the remainder of the war against Austria, he also wrote to Frederick that he would rather have been a general in the Prussian army than Tsar of Russia.

While the ensuing Treaty of Hubertusburg simply returned the European borders to what they had been before the Seven Years' War, Frederick's ability to retain Silesia in spite of the odds earned Prussia admiration throughout the German-speaking territories. While Prussia lost no territory, her population and army were severely depleted by constant combat and invasions by Austria, Russia and Sweden. Many of Frederick's closest friends as well as his sister Wilhelmine, his brother Augustus William and his mother and the best of his officer corps died during the war.

relationship between frederick the great and voltaire

Bywith his economy largely recovered, Frederick had managed to bring his army up tomen making it the third-largest army in Europebut almost none of the officers were veterans of his generation, and the King's attitude towards them was extremely harsh.

First Partition of Poland Frederick had despised Polish people since his youth, and numerous statements are known in which he expressed anti-Polish prejudice, [63] calling Polish society "stupid" and stating that "all these people with surnames ending with -ski, deserve only contempt".

The profits exceeded twice the peacetime national budget of Prussia. Scott views this as a continuation of his previous violations of Polish territory in and and raids within Greater Poland until After acquiring dies from which the currency of Poland was struck Prussia issued debased Polish coins, which drove money out of Poland into Hohenzollern territory — this resulted in 25 million thalers in profit, while causing considerable monetary problems for Poland.

The Protestant dissidents were still free to practice their religion, although their schools were shut down. At the same time Frederick opposed Russia, whose troops had been allowed to freely cross the Polish—Lithuanian Commonwealth during the Seven Years' War of — Despite their personal hostility, Frederick and Catherine signed a defensive alliance in that guaranteed Prussian control of Silesia in return for Prussian support for Russia against Austria or the Ottoman Empire.

Frederick became concerned, however, after Russia gained significant influence over Poland in the Repnin Sejm ofa position which also threatened Austria and the Ottoman Turks. In the ensuing Russo-Turkish War —74Frederick supported Catherine with a subsidy ofrubles, albeit with reluctance as he did not want Russia to become even stronger through acquisitions of Ottoman territory.

The Polish—Lithuanian Commonwealth after the First Partition After Russia occupied the Danubian Principalities in —70, Frederick's representative in Saint Petersburg, his brother Prince Henryconvinced Frederick and Maria Theresa that the balance of power would be maintained by a tripartite division of the Polish—Lithuanian Commonwealth instead of Russia taking land from the Ottomans.

They agreed to the First Partition of Poland inwhich took place without a war. Frederick claimed most of the Polish province of Royal Prussia. Frederick also invited German immigrants to the province, [81] hoping they would displace the Poles.

relationship between frederick the great and voltaire

According to Karin Friedrich these claims were accepted for a long time in German historiography and sometimes still reflected in modern works. Dismissive of contemporary German culture, Frederick instead pursued an imperialist policy, acting on the security interests of his state. Frederick looked upon many of his new Polish citizens with scorn, but carefully concealed that scorn when actually dealing with them. Frederick's long-term goal was to remove all Polish people from his territories, both peasants and nobility.

He sought to expel the nobles through an oppressive tax system and the peasantry by eradicating the Polish national character of the rural population by mixing them with Germans invited in their thousands by promises of free land. By such means, Frederick boasted he would "gradually I have drained the marshes and established a police force where none existed.

Those hitherto in power have destroyed the schools, thinking that the uneducated people are easily oppressed. These provinces cannot be compared with any European country—the only parallel would be Canada.

Frederick the Great

It is a very good and advantageous acquisition, both from a financial and a political point of view. In order to excite less jealousy I tell everyone that on my travels I have seen just sand, pine trees, heath land and Jews. Despite that there is a lot of work to be done; there is no order, and no planning and the towns are in a lamentable condition.

relationship between frederick the great and voltaire

Hedwig's Cathedral in He also advised his successors to learn Polish, a policy followed by the Hohenzollern dynasty until Frederick III decided not to let the future William II learn the language.

She would, it is true, have been willing to accompany Voltaire to Berlin; but such a solution would by no means have suited Frederick. By every post she dreaded to learn at last that he had deserted her for ever. But suddenly Voltaire returned. The spell of Berlin had been broken, and he was at her feet once more. What had happened was highly characteristic both of the Poet and of the King. Each had tried to play a trick on the other, and each had found the other out.

Frederick had not been taken in: Voltaire, to give verisimilitude to his story, had, in his letter to Frederick, loaded the Bishop of Mirepoix with ridicule and abuse; and Frederick now secretly sent this letter to Mirepoix himself. He was naturally very angry. He had been almost induced to stay in Berlin of his own accord, and now he found that his host had been attempting, by means of treachery and intrigue, to force him to stay there whether he liked it or not.

It was a long time before he forgave Frederick. But the King was most anxious to patch up the quarrel; he still could not abandon the hope of ultimately securing Voltaire; and besides, he was now possessed by another and a more immediate desire — to be allowed a glimpse of that famous and scandalous work which Voltaire kept locked in the innermost drawer of his cabinet and revealed to none but the most favoured of his intimates —La Pucelle.

Accordingly the royal letters became more frequent and more flattering than ever; the royal hand cajoled and implored. Frederick eagerly repeated his invitation; and this time Voltaire did not refuse. He was careful to make a very good bargain; obliged Frederick to pay for his journey; and arrived at Berlin in July Six sols le fameux prussien!

The curious drama that followed, with its farcical [Greek: The position of Frederick is comparatively plain. He had now completely thrown aside the last lingering remnants of any esteem which he may once have entertained for the character of Voltaire.

He frankly thought him a scoundrel. There is no ambiguity about this.

'Voltaire and Frederick' looks at lives in letters | BrandeisNOW

Voltaire was a scoundrel; but he was a scoundrel of genius. But as for anything more — as for any real interchange of sympathies, any genuine feeling of friendliness, of respect, or even of regard — all that was utterly out of the question.

The avowal is cynical, no doubt; but it is at any rate straightforward, and above all it is peculiarly devoid of any trace of self-deception. If any man ever acted with his eyes wide open, it was Frederick when he invited Voltaire to Berlin. Yet, though that much is clear, the letter to Algarotti betrays, in more than one direction, a very singular state of mind.

  • Books and Characters, by Lytton Strachey

And Frederick appears to see nothing surprising in this. This is certainly strange; but the explanation of it lies in the extraordinary vogue — a vogue, indeed, so extraordinary that it is very difficult for the modern reader to realise it — enjoyed throughout Europe by French culture and literature during the middle years of the eighteenth century.

Frederick was merely an extreme instance of a universal fact. Like all Germans of any education, he habitually wrote and spoke in French; like every lady and gentleman from Naples to Edinburgh, his life was regulated by the social conventions of France; like every amateur of letters from Madrid to St. Petersburg, his whole conception of literary taste, his whole standard of literary values, was French.

To him, as to the vast majority of his contemporaries, the very essence of civilisation was concentrated in French literature, and especially in French poetry; and French poetry meant to him, as to his contemporaries, that particular kind of French poetry which had come into fashion at the court of Louis XIV.

For this curious creed was as narrow as it was all-pervading. But Frederick was not content with mere appreciation; he too would create; he would write alexandrines on the model of Racine, and madrigals after the manner of Chaulieu; he would press in person into the sacred sanctuary, and burn incense with his own hands upon the inmost shrine.

It was true that he was a foreigner; it was true that his knowledge of the French language was incomplete and incorrect; but his sense of his own ability urged him forward, and his indefatigable pertinacity kept him at his strange task throughout the whole of his life.

Atheist and gay, Frederick the Great was more radical than most leaders today

He filled volumes, and the contents of those volumes afford probably the most complete illustration in literature of the very trite proverb —Poeta nascitur, non fit. The spectacle of that heavy German Muse, with her feet crammed into pointed slippers, executing, with incredible conscientiousness, now the stately measure of a Versailles minuet, and now the spritely steps of a Parisian jig, would be either ludicrous or pathetic — one hardly knows which — were it not so certainly neither the one nor the other, but simply dreary with an unutterable dreariness, from which the eyes of men avert themselves in shuddering dismay.

Frederick himself felt that there was something wrong — something, but not really very much. Voltaire, there could be no doubt, would do just what was needed; he would know how to squeeze in a little further the waist of the German Calliope, to apply with his deft fingers precisely the right dab of rouge to her cheeks, to instil into her movements the last nuances of correct deportment.

And, if he did that, of what consequence were the blemishes of his personal character? It never seems to have occurred to Frederick that the possession of genius might imply a quality of spirit which was not that of an ordinary man. This was his great, his fundamental error. It was the ingenuous error of a cynic. He innocently imagined that the capacity for great writing was something that could be as easily separated from the owner of it as a hat or a glove. But he was wrong: A devil — or perhaps an angel?

One cannot be quite sure. For, amid the complexities of that extraordinary spirit, where good and evil were so mysteriously interwoven, where the elements of darkness and the elements of light lay crowded together in such ever-deepening ambiguity, fold within fold, the clearer the vision the greater the bewilderment, the more impartial the judgment the profounder the doubt.

But one thing at least is certain: Frederick had failed to realise this; and indeed, though Voltaire was fifty-six when he went to Berlin, and though his whole life had been spent in a blaze of publicity, there was still not one of his contemporaries who understood the true nature of his genius; it was perhaps hidden even from himself.

Was he, in the depths of his consciousness, aware that this was so? Did some obscure instinct urge him forward, at this late hour, to break with the ties of a lifetime, and rush forth into the unknown?

What his precise motives were in embarking upon the Berlin adventure it is very difficult to say. It is true that he was disgusted with Paris — he was ill-received at Court, and he was pestered by endless literary quarrels and jealousies; it would be very pleasant to show his countrymen that he had other strings to his bow, that, if they did not appreciate him, Frederick the Great did.

Nor was he personally attached to Frederick; he was personally attached to no one on earth. Certainly he had never been a man of feeling, and now that he was old and hardened by the uses of the world he had grown to be completely what in essence he always was — a fighter, without tenderness, without scruples, and without remorse.

No, he went to Berlin for his own purposes — however dubious those purposes may have been. And it is curious to observe that in his correspondence with his niece, Madame Denis, whom he had left behind him at the head of his Paris establishment and in whom he confided — in so far as he can be said to have confided in anyone — he repeatedly states that there is nothing permanent about his visit to Berlin. The autumn comes, and the roads are too muddy to travel by; he must wait till the winter, when they will be frozen hard.

Winter comes, and it is too cold to move; but he will certainly return in the spring.

relationship between frederick the great and voltaire

The book is published; but then how can he appear in Paris until he is quite sure of its success?