Such tempest in a teapot is not unexampled, nay rather is very frequent, in that Anarchic Republic called of Letters. Confess, reader, that you too would have needed some patience in M. de Voltaire's place; with such a Heaven's own Inspiration of a MAHOMET in your hands, and such a terrestrial Doggery at your heels. Suppose the bitterest of your barking curs were a Reverend Desfontaines of Sodom, whom you yourself had saved from the gibbet once, and again and again from starving? It is positively a great Anarchy, and Fountain of Anarchies, all that, if you will consider; and it will have results under the sun. You cannot help it, say you; there is no shutting up of a Reverend Desfontaines, which would be so salutary to himself and to us all? No:--and when human reverence (daily going, in such ways) is quite gone from the world; and your lowest blockhead and scoundrel (usually one entity) shall have perfect freedom to spit in the face of your highest sage and hero,--what a remarkably Free World shall we be!
Voltaire, keeping good silence as to all this, and minded for Brussels again, receives the King of Prussia's invitation; lays it at his Eminency Fleury's feet; will not accept, unless his Eminency and my own King of France (possibly to their advantage, if one might hint such a thing!) will permit it. [Ib. lxxii. 555 (Letter to Fleury, "Paris, Aug. 22d").] "By all means; go, and"--The rest is in dumb-show; meaning, "Try to pump him for us!" Under such omens, Voltaire and his divine Emilie return to their Honsbruck Lawsuit: "Silent Brussels, how preferable to Paris and its mad cries!" Voltaire, leaving the divine Emilie at Brussels, September 2d, sets out for Aix,--Aix attainable within the day. He is back at Brussels late in the evening, September 9th:--how he had fared, and what extent of pumping there was, learn from the following Excerpts, which are all dated the morrow after his return:--
THREE LETTERS OF VOLTAIRE, DATED BRUSSELS, 10th SEPT. 1742.
1. TO CIDEVILLE (the Rouen Advocate, who has sometimes troubled us). ... "I have been to see the King of Prussia since I began this Letter [beginning of it dates September 1st]. I have courageously resisted his fine proposals. He offers me a beautiful House in Berlin, a pretty Estate; but I prefer my second-floor in Madame du Chatelet's here. He assures me of his favor, of the perfect freedom I should have;--and I am running to Paris [did not just yet run] to my slavery and persecution. I could fancy myself a small Athenian, refusing the bounties of the King of Persia. With this difference, however, one had liberty [not slavery] at Athens; and I am sure there were many Cidevilles there, instead of one,"--HELAS, my Cideville!
2. TO MARQUIS D'ARGENSON (worthy official Gentleman, not War- Minister now or afterwards; War-Minister's senior brother,-- Voltaire's old school-fellows, both these brothers, in the College of Louis le Grand). ... "I have just been to see the King of Prussia in these late days [in fact, quitted him only yesterday; both of us, after a week together, leaving Aix yesterday]: I have seen him as one seldom sees Kings,--much at my ease, in my own room, in the chimney-nook, whither the same man who has gained two Battles would come and talk familiarly, as Scipio did with Terence. You will tell me, I am not Terence; true, but neither is he altogether Scipio.
"I learned some extraordinary things,"--things not from Friedrich at all: mere dinner-table rumors; about the 16,000 English landing here ("18,000" he calls them, and farther on, "20,000") with the other 16,000 PLUS 6,000 of Hanoverian-Hessian sort, expecting 20,000 Dutch to join them,--who perhaps will not? "M. de Neipperg [Governor of Luxemburg now] is come hither to Brussels; but brings no Dutch troops with him, as he had hoped,"--Dutch perhaps won't rise, after all this flogging and hoisting? "Perhaps we may soon get a useful and glorious Peace, in spite of my Lord Stair, and of M. van Haren, the Tyrtaeus of the States-General [famed Van Haren, eyes in a fine Dutch frenzy rolling, whose Cause-of-Liberty verses let no man inquire after]: Stair prints Memoirs, Van Haren makes Odes; and with so much prose and so much verse, perhaps their High and Slow Mightinesses [Excellency Fenelon sleeplessly busy persuading them, and native Gravitation SLEEPILY ditto] will sit quiet. God grant it!
"The English want to attack us on our own soil [actually Stair's plan]; and we cannot pay them in that kind. The match is too unfair! If we kill the whole 20,000 of them, we merely send 20,000 Heretics to-- What shall I say?--A L'ENFER, and gain nothing; if they kill us, they even feed at our expense in doing it. Better have no quarrels except on Locke and Newton! The quarrel I have on MAHOMET is happily only ridiculous." ... Adieu, M. le Marquis.
3. TO THE CARDINAL DE FLEURY. "Monseigneur, ... to give your Eminency, as I am bound, some account of my journey to Aix-la- Chapelle." Friedrich's guest there; let us hear, let us look.