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been a wife and refpectable measure. But this does not feem to have been the cafe. No principle of this kind is vifible in the direction of either of the two editions. In the one, are man fuppreffions; but the good and the bad have been fuppreffed indifcriminately; and as the latter appears with enormous turpi. tude in many of the letters, which have made their appearance, we know not to what we muft attribute the fuppreffion of the reft, unless it be to negligence, precipitation, or the apprehenfion of rendering the work too voluminous. But then why not make a decent and judicious choice? Why not lop off from the tree the exuberant and rotten branches that blaft its verdure? If this had been done, its dimenfions would have been fufficient for beauty, utility, and even for fize. We fhould have beheld its bloffoms with pleasure, and fed on its fruit with a high relish. In the other edition, nothing is fuppreffed on which the publisher could lay his hands. The apples and horse-dung, as in Swift's fable, fwim together in the current.
The correspondence occupies, in this edition, three large volumes. A very confiderable part of thefe is filled with effufions of mutual adulation, nay of adoration, from the king to the poet, and from the poet to the king; which, though fometimes highly feafoned with agreeable turns of wit and eloquence, become at length fulfome and tirefome, by endless repetition; and often! fhocking, by the divine honours, with which they compliment each other. It was natural and juft, in fuch a judge of literary merit as FREDERIC, to be delighted with the wit and talents of Voltaire; and it was even pardonable to be more or less intoxicated with the sweet-fmelling incense and the harmonious numbers of the French bard, whofe fine poetic vein was but a part of his extenfive literary merit. On the other hand, that Voltair fhould admire a prince, who held the fceptre with fuch dignity, and twined around it the united laurels of Mars and Apollo, to whose favourites he granted a diftinguished protection, is not to be wondered at. There was also another bond of union between the king and the poet, which was their acrimonious enmity against the minifters of religion of every denomination, whom they graciously confounded without diftinétion, exception, or modification, in the clafs of fanatics, hypocrites, tyrants, and perfecutors. This feems to have been one of the important preliminaries of their treaty of friendship; the duration of which,
*This edition bears neither the name of the editor, nor is the place of publication mentioned in the title. Its date is 1789. It is published in thirteen volumes, and contains many good and bad things, which are not in the edition of Berlin. We fhall therefore follow it in our farther accounts of thefe royal, philofophical, literary, and waggifh Mifcellanies.
from the time of their perfonal commerce, was not much more I permanent than its principles were refpectable. Accordingly, on their entrance on an epiftolary correfpondence, the elderly poet addreffes himself to the young monarch (who profeffedly chofe him for his faithful Mentor and guide) in the following
The pretended interpreters of the laws of heaven, I mean the divines or theologians, are the most dangerous of all.' [He had been. fpeaking of the courtiers and the learned.] They are as pernicious in fociety as they are obfcure in their ideas: their fouls are inflated with gall and pride, in proportion as they are void of truth and knowlege. They would involve the world in confufion and calamity for the fake of a fophifm; and are ever ready to call on princes and fovereigns to avenge, by fire and fword, the honour of a fyllogifm in Ferio or in Barbara. All thinking beings, who are not of their opinion, are pronounced atheifts; and every king, who does not diftinguish them by his favour, is devoted to damnation. The beft is, to leave to themselves, these nominal preceptors, who, in effect, are the real enemies of mankind.'
This candid and charitable fketch of Gallo-philofophical paintings is graciously received by the prince, and is, in his anfwer, wrought up with new lines and high colouring, into a finished picture. After celebrating the fublime and difinterefled virtue of the poet, and exalting him above Solon, Lycurgus, and all other lawgivers, the prince fits down to his picture of the divines, and draws them thus:
They are all alike, in all religions, and in all countries. Their great object is to ufurp a defpotic authority over the confciences of men; and this leads them to perfecute, with ardour, all thofe, who, with a noble intrepidity, dare to unveil truth. Their hands are armed with the thunder of excommunication, to crush the phantom of irreligion, which they are always combating, as they pretend; while, in effect, they are only combating, under this name, the enemies of their fury and their infolence. They preach humility, but this is a virtue which they never practife. They call themselves the minifters of the God of peace; but they ferve him with hearts full of hatred and ambition. Their conduct is fo little conformable to their precepts, that this alone would be fufficient to throw difcredit on their doctrine.'
This method of incorporating all the minifters of religion into one portrait, puts us in mind of the famous bed of the tyrant, which was made to accommodate every ftranger in a way well known; and more especially of the faying of a Roman emperor, who wished that all the people of Rome had but one head that he might ftrike it off at a fingle blow.It would not be fair to confider all cenfures of the clergy as proofs of difaffection to religion, though general cenfures afford a very ftrong prefumption of fuch difaffection. But, in the cafe before us, there is no room to doubt of the motive, that guided the pencil in the two portraits above mentioned. Chriftianity was
not only difbelieved, but was moreover an object of hatred both to the prince and his brother-poet and lawgiver; and it is perfonified, in this correfpondence, in a variety of places, under the denomination of the infamous;-an amazing epithet, indeed, which fhews that if there is a fine frenzy in a poetic genius, there is a hideous one in bad philofophy.-- -But to proceed : : The friendship of the two illuftrious correfpondents had hitherto been nourished only by an epiftolary intercourfe. It was a connexion founded on paper-credit, which fometimes proves fallacious. The fublime morality of the Henriade, the loud cries against fuperftition and intolerance, with which Voltaire had charmed the ears of humanity and juftice, and consequently thofe of the Pruffian hero, rendered the latter impatient to enjoy the pleasure of perfonal intercourfe with this prodigy of univerfal virtue. Accordingly, he was invited to Berlin, lodged in the king's palace, and fed at his table. He had been but a thort time in this fplendid fituation, when perfonal acquaintance and the public voice drew from the king the following teftimony to his merit, in a letter from his majesty to his fecretary D'Arget, dated in the month of June 1752:- Voltaire has behaved here (at Berlin) like an arrant Scoundrel and a confummate knave. I have taken him roundly to tafk. He is a worthless wretch! I am afhamed for the honour of human nature, that a man, who has fo much wit and genius, fhould be fo full of malevolence.' Some weeks before the date of this, the king had sent to the poet the following letter, which fhews the difference between the characters of these two men with refpect to civil and focial life.
Sir,-(it is no longer divine Voltaire!) I was very glad to have you near my perfon: I efteemed your wit, your talents, and your knowlege; and I had reafon to think, that, at your years, being heartily tired of literary contentions and quarrels with authors and bookfellers, you would have come hither chiefly to enjoy an agreeable fhelter from the ftorm in a peaceful, harbour. But you fet out, at your very arrival, fingularly enough, by requiring that I fhould not employ Freron in writing for me literary news: I was fo weak or complaifant as to grant your requeft, though it did not belong to you to decide, what perfons I fhould appoint to ferve me. You held conferences with the Ruffian minifter on affairs in which you had no fort of vocation to meddle, and it was believed, that you did this in confequence of a commiffion from me. You played the bufy-body in the affairs of Madam Bentinck, which were certainly out of your line. You had a most villainous law-fuit with a Jew, which has made a fcandalous noife, and of which the whole city of Berlin is full. I have received heavy complaints of you from Drefden, for your manner of stock-jobbing in the Saxon funds, which is well known.
*Voltaire had cheated a Jew in Berlin, in a manner that amounted to felony.
With refpect to myfelf, I can fay that there was always peace in my houfe, before you came among us; and I must tell you, that if intriguing and caballing be your favourite paffion, you are not here in your place. I love good-natured and peaceable people; if you can refolve to live like a philofopher, I fhall ftill be glad to fee you; but if you give yourfelf up to all the intemperance of your paflions, and are determined to quarrel with every body, you will do me no fort of pleasure by coming here (to Potsdam), and you may as well remain at Berlin.'-(And in the following letter) I am glad that your fcandalous affair with the Jew is finished; and I hope that you will not have any more quarrels either with the Old or with the New Teftament. To expose yourself to fuch difcuffions and contefts, will at length imprint fuch a ftain on your reputation, as your fuperior wit and talents will be unable to efface. A bookfeller, Gale, an opera fiddler, a jeweller of the circumcifion, are thefe names which ought to be feen in conflict with the name of Voltaire ?-I fpeak plainly, like a blunt German-it is your business to profit by the leffon.'
A rupture enfued between FREDERIC and his favourite Bard, as all the world knows. It is alfo univerfally known, that the infupportable humour, jealoufy, and avarice of Voltaire, and, particularly, his envious averfion to Maupertuis, troubled the harmony of the felect fociety with which the king paffed his evenings at Potfdam in witty converfation, convivial pleasure, and philofophical difcuffion, fuch as it was.On the poet's retreat to Switzerland, in 1753 or 1754, the correspondence was fufpended for a few years. It was renewed, in confequence of a patched-up reconciliation, in the year 1757; and was carried on till 1778, evidently not with fincere affection on either fide, but with a multitude of polite and flattering compliments on both fides. The king, who really loved a virtuous character, could never forget the fordid obliquity which he had discovered in Voltaire; and the latter, whofe fpirit was implacably vindictive, could never forget the opprobrious treatment which he had defervedly received from the king. But they both diffembled; the monarch, perhaps, from an apprehenfion of the bard's fatirical mufe; and the bard, not improbably, from a defire of being reftored to his former place under the monarch's aufpicious roof. There are many letters in which Voltaire complains of his difagreeable fituation at Ferney; and, in a manner rather abject, laments his removal and diftance from Berlin. He even fometimes hints a defire of tranfplanting his Ferney colony to the Dutchy of Cleves, that he might have the confolation of living and dying, near the greateft of kings, philofophers, and men, whom he calls his Meffiah. But to all this, FREDERIC was abfolutely deaf; and refolved never to encourage the approach of fuch a troublesome gueft to his domeftic fociety: fo they went on careffing one another at arm's length, to the end of their line.
It must be confeffed, that an amazing spirit, and an unaffected flow of eafy wit and humour, run through the letters of Voltaire*, though written at an age when, generally fpeaking, fire and fancy are totally extinguifhed. The letters of the monarch are alfo brilliant; and lofe much lefs than might be expected, by comparison. It is only when he gets into the sphere of philo fophy, that he appears much inferior, even to Voltaire, in that line. I am a material animal (fays the Royal Metaphyfician), which is animated, organized, and thinks; whence I conclude that animated matter may think, as well as become electrical.' This is wonderfully luminous and decifive! But how is matter animated? and whence does life proceed? From heat and motion, replies our Solomon; whence we, Reviewers, conclude, that a pot of boiling water may be an animated, thinking being.
I attribute thought or thinking (fays the king, in fome lines▸ farther on) to the five fenfes, which nature (who is that?) has given us; the knowlege or notions, which these fenfes impart Lo us, are imprinted on the nerves, which are their meffengers. Thefe impreffions, which we call memory, furnish us with ideas; the heat of the elementary fire, which keeps the blood in a perpetual agitation, awakens thefe ideas, and occafions imagination. In fleep the nerves of the understanding are relaxed,' and fo on.All this is, furely, in a great ftyle of analyfis, and is remarkable for its perfpicuity and precifion!
In a word, the letters of this correfpondence, taken together, form a ftrange medley, in which we find wit and folly, urbanity and fcurrility, warm expreffions of benevolence and bitter effufions of malevolent partiality, gleams of reafon and violent gufts of paffion, moral maxims and fallies of licentioufnefs and impiety, in the most fhocking modes of expreffion. These alternately gratify and wound the feelings of the moral reader; and are perpetually allaying, with pain and disgust, the pleasure, which the perufal of thefe letters muft fo often produce, They, indeed, perplex our judgment with refpect to the character, not of the worthless poet, whofe profligacy is but too palpably afcertained, but of the great monarch, whom we wish to revere,but cannot-without the most painful restrictions. If thefe royal productions defcend to pofterity, for which they are intended, they will excite wonder, but not veneration; unless the time fhould come, when there will be no more faith, morals, nor fo ber fenfe on earth.
[To be concluded in a fubfequent article.]
We mean fuch of his letters as are decent; for it is fingularly remarkable, that the diffolute and impious paffages of his letters, are, almost always, as infipid as they are flagitious.