Frederick the great and voltaire relationship

Frederick the Great - Wikipedia

frederick the great and voltaire relationship

The great obstacle to Frederick's desire was Voltaire's relationship with Madame du Châtelet. He had lived with her for more than ten years; he was attached to. Frederick strolls with Voltaire through the palace of Sans-Souci Frederick the Great: King of Prussia Tim Blanning west of Berlin, and enjoyed 'intimate relations' with young officers, as well as his first valet Fredersdorf. My Fair Voltaire: Frederick the Great Meets His Match | Classical music For a time, Voltaire and Frederick's relationship in Potsdam was.

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.

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

The book is published; but then how can he appear in Paris until he is quite sure of its success? And so he lingers on, delaying and prevaricating, until a whole year has passed, and still he lingers on, still he is on the point of going, and still he does not go.

What were his true intentions? Could he himself have said?

frederick the great and voltaire relationship

Had he perhaps, in some secret corner of his brain, into which even he hardly dared to look, a premonition of the future? At times, in this Berlin adventure, he seems to resemble some great buzzing fly, shooting suddenly into a room through an open window and dashing frantically from side to side; when all at once, as suddenly, he swoops away and out through another window which opens in quite a different direction, towards wide and flowery fields; so that perhaps the reckless creature knew where he was going after all.

The elements of the situation were too combustible for any other conclusion. When two confirmed egotists decide, for purely selfish reasons, to set up house together, everyone knows what will happen.

And, with Voltaire and Frederick, the difficulties inherent in all such cases were intensified by the fact that the relationship between them was, in effect, that of servant and master; that Voltaire, under a very thin disguise, was a paid menial, while Frederick, condescend as he might, was an autocrat whose will was law.

Thus the two famous and perhaps mythical sentences, invariably repeated by historians of the incident, about orange-skins and dirty linen, do in fact sum up the gist of the matter. Three months after his arrival in Berlin, the temptation to increase his already considerable fortune by a stroke of illegal stock-jobbing proved too strong for him; he became involved in a series of shady financial transactions with a Jew; he quarrelled with the Jew; there was an acrimonious lawsuit, with charges and countercharges of the most discreditable kind; and, though the Jew lost his case on a technical point, the poet certainly did not leave the court without a stain upon his character.

Among other misdemeanours, it is almost certain — the evidence is not quite conclusive — that he committed forgery in order to support a false oath. Frederick was furious, and for a moment was on the brink of dismissing Voltaire from Berlin. He would have been wise if he had done so.

frederick the great and voltaire relationship

And the beams were decidedly refulgent — so much so, in fact, that they almost satisfied even the vanity of Voltaire. Almost, but not quite. That monarch had surrounded himself with a small group of persons — foreigners for the most part — whose business it was to instruct him when he wished to improve his mind, to flatter him when he was out of temper, and to entertain him when he was bored.

There was hardly one of them that was not thoroughly second-rate. These were the boon companions among whom Frederick chose to spend his leisure hours.

frederick the great and voltaire relationship

Or else he would summon La Mettrie, who would forthwith prove the irrefutability of materialism in a series of wild paradoxes, shout with laughter, suddenly shudder and cross himself on upsetting the salt, and eventually pursue his majesty with his buffooneries into a place where even royal persons are wont to be left alone.

Strangely enough, Frederick was not popular, and one or other of the inmates of his little menagerie was constantly escaping and running away. Darget and Chasot both succeeded in getting through the wires; they obtained leave to visit Paris, and stayed there. As for La Mettrie, he made his escape in a different manner — by dying after supper one evening of a surfeit of pheasant pie.

Maupertuis has had an unfortunate fate: During his life he was chiefly known for his voyage to Lapland, and his observations there, by which he was able to substantiate the Newtonian doctrine of the flatness of the earth at the poles. He possessed considerable scientific attainments, he was honest, he was energetic; he appeared to be just the man to revive the waning glories of Prussian science; and when Frederick succeeded in inducing him to come to Berlin as President of his Academy the choice seemed amply justified.

Maupertuis had, moreover, some pretensions to wit; and in his earlier days his biting and elegant sarcasms had more than once overwhelmed his scientific adversaries.

Such accomplishments suited Frederick admirably. It was the happy — the too happy — President who was the rose-leaf in the bed of Voltaire.

frederick the great and voltaire relationship

The two men had known each other slightly for many years, and had always expressed the highest admiration for each other; but their mutual amiability was now to be put to a severe test. The sagacious Buffon observed the danger from afar: Maupertuis had very little judgment; so far from attempting to conciliate Voltaire, he was rash enough to provoke hostilities.

It was very natural that he should have lost his temper. He had been for five years the dominating figure in the royal circle, and now suddenly he was deprived of his pre-eminence and thrown completely into the shade.

Who could attend to Maupertuis while Voltaire was talking? In his exasperation the President went to the length of openly giving his protection to a disreputable literary man, La Beaumelle, who was a declared enemy of Voltaire.

This meant war, and war was not long in coming. Jourdain has shown in a recent monograph, Maupertuis enunciated it incorrectly without realising its true import, and a far more accurate and scientific statement of it was given, within a few months, by Euler. When Koenig expostulated, Maupertuis decided upon a more drastic step. He summoned a meeting of the Berlin Academy of Sciences, of which Koenig was a member, laid the case before it, and moved that it should solemnly pronounce Koenig a forger, and the letter of Leibnitz supposititious and false.

Voltaire saw at once that his opportunity had come. Maupertuis had put himself utterly and irretrievably in the wrong. He was wrong in attributing to his discovery a value which it did not possess; he was wrong in denying the authenticity of the Leibnitz letter; above all he was wrong in treating a purely scientific question as the proper subject for the disciplinary jurisdiction of an Academy.

If Voltaire struck now, he would have his enemy on the hip. There was only one consideration to give him pause, and that was a grave one: But Voltaire decided to take the risk. He had now been more than two years in Berlin, and the atmosphere of a Court was beginning to weigh upon his spirit; he was restless, he was reckless, he was spoiling for a fight; he would take on Maupertuis singly or Maupertuis and Frederick combined — he did not much care which, and in any case he flattered himself that he would settle the hash of the President.

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As a preparatory measure, he withdrew all his spare cash from Berlin, and invested it with the Duke of Wurtemberg. The President must have turned pale as he read it; but the King turned crimson. Frederick flew to his writing-table, and composed an indignant pamphlet which he caused to be published with the Prussian arms on the title-page.

It was a feeble work, full of exaggerated praises of Maupertuis, and of clumsy invectives against Voltaire: A kind of exaltation seized him; from this moment his course was clear — he would do as much damage as he could, and then leave Prussia for ever. And it so happened that just then an unexpected opportunity occurred for one of those furious onslaughts so dear to his heart, with that weapon which he knew so well how to wield.

It was a singular life, half military, half monastic, rigid, retired, from which all the ordinary pleasures of society were strictly excluded. But, wherever he might be, that was a verb unknown to Voltaire. Shut up all day in the strange little room, still preserved for the eyes of the curious, with its windows opening on the formal garden, and its yellow walls thickly embossed with the brightly coloured shapes of fruits, flowers, birds, and apes, the indefatigable old man worked away at his histories, his tragedies, his Pucelle, and his enormous correspondence.

He was, of course, ill — very ill; he was probably, in fact, upon the brink of death; but he had grown accustomed to that situation; and the worse he grew the more furiously he worked. He was a victim, he declared, of erysipelas, dysentery, and scurvy; he was constantly attacked by fever, and all his teeth had fallen out. But he continued to work. 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. Unlike the rulers of Prussia, the rulers of Saxony were friends of Poland. Saxon troops were often used as opera extras rather than killers: Keith was intelligent, but without education. He served my brother from feelings of real devotion, and kept him informed of all the king's actions.

Because they were army officers who had tried to flee Prussia for Great BritainFrederick William leveled an accusation of treason against the pair.

The king briefly threatened the crown prince with the death penalty, then considered forcing Frederick to renounce the succession in favour of his brother, Augustus Williamalthough either option would have been difficult to justify to the Imperial Diet of the Holy Roman Empire.

Frederick himself proposed marrying Maria Theresa of Austria in return for renouncing the succession. He had little in common with his bride and resented the political marriage as an example of the Austrian political interference which had plagued Prussia since Frederick bestowed the title of the heir to the throne, "Prince of Prussia", on his brother Augustus William ; despite this, his wife remained devoted to him.

Books and Characters, by Lytton Strachey

Although Frederick gave Elisabeth Christine all the honors befitting her station, he rarely saw her during his reign and never showed her any affection. When Prussia provided a contingent of troops to aid the Army of the Holy Roman Empire during the War of the Polish SuccessionFrederick studied under Reichsgeneralfeldmarschall Prince Eugene of Savoy during the campaign against France on the Rhine ; he noted the weakness of the Imperial Army under the command of the Archduchy of Austriasomething that he would capitalize on at Austria's expense when he later took the throne.

In Rheinsberg, Frederick assembled a small number of musicians, actors and other artists. He spent his time reading, watching dramatic plays, composing and playing music, and regarded this time as one of the happiest of his life. InFrederick finished his Anti-Machiavelan idealistic refutation of Machiavelli. It was written in French and published anonymously inbut Voltaire distributed it in Amsterdam to great popularity.

Frederick and his father were more or less reconciled at the latter's death, and Frederick later admitted, despite their constant conflict, that Frederick William had been an effective ruler: But he was just, intelligent, and skilled in the management of affairs A Prussian population estimated at 2. He was titled King in Prussia because this was only part of historic Prussia; he was to declare himself King of Prussia after acquiring most of the rest in War of the Austrian Succession Frederick's goal was to modernize and unite his vulnerably disconnected lands; toward this end, he fought wars mainly against Austria, whose Habsburg dynasty reigned as Holy Roman Emperors almost continuously from the 15th century until Frederick established Prussia as the fifth and smallest European great power by using the resources his frugal father had cultivated.

Upon succeeding to the throne on 31 May at the death of his father, [30] and desiring the prosperous Austrian province of Silesia which Prussia also had a minor claim toFrederick declined to endorse the Pragmatic Sanction ofa legal mechanism to ensure the inheritance of the Habsburg domains by Maria Theresa of Austriadaughter of Holy Roman Emperor Charles VI.

Thus, upon the death of Charles VI on 29 October[31] Frederick disputed the succession of the year-old Maria Theresa to the Habsburg lands, while simultaneously making his own claim on Silesia. Accordingly, the First Silesian War —, part of the War of the Austrian Succession began on 16 Decemberwhen Frederick invaded and quickly occupied the province.

Therefore, the Prussian king struck preemptively and quickly occupied Silesia, using as justification an obscure treaty from between the Hohenzollern and the Piast dynasty of Brieg Brzeg. Believing that his army had been defeated by the Austrians, Frederick sought to avoid capture and galloped away, [34] leaving Field Marshal Kurt Schwerin in command of the army.

In actuality, the Prussians had won the battle at the very moment that Frederick had fled. Frederick would later admit to humiliation at this breach of discipline [35] and would later state: When Frederick pursued them into Bohemia and blocked their path to Prague, the Austrians attacked him on 17 May However, Frederick's re-trained cavalry proved to be a powerful force and ultimately Prussia claimed victory at the Battle of Chotusitz.

InFrederick also gained the minor territory of East Frisia located on the North Sea coast of Germany after its last ruler died without issue.

Bythe Austrians had subdued Bavaria and driven the French out of Bohemia.

frederick the great and voltaire relationship

Frederick strongly suspected Maria Theresa would resume war with Prussia in an attempt to recover Silesia. Accordingly, he renewed his alliance with the French and preemptively invaded Bohemia in Augustbeginning the Second Silesian War. On 4 JuneFrederick trapped a joint force of Saxons and Austrians that had crossed the mountains to invade Silesia.

After allowing them to cross the mountains "If you want to catch a mouse, leave the trap open," Frederick is quoted as saying at the timeFrederick then pinned the enemy force down and defeated them at the Battle of Hohenfriedberg.

Once again, Frederick's stunning victories on the battlefield caused his enemies to seek peace terms. Under the terms of the Treaty of Dresdensigned on 25 DecemberAustria was forced to adhere to the terms of the Treaty of Breslau giving Silesia to Prussia.