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Page:Littell's Living Age - Volume 134.djvu/109

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103
VOLTAIRE IN THE NETHERLANDS.

quired several possessions in the Netherlands, among others the house at Hondsholredijk, and the old court in the Noordeinde. The widow of Prince William IV. of Orange, Princess Anna of England, bought in 1754 all this property — with the exception of Meurs, Lingen, and Montfoort — back from the great Frederick for 700,000 fl., besides 5,000 fl. for furniture.

In consequence of a pressing invitation from the king, Voltaire left the Hague in the beginning of November for Berlin, where he arrived on the 12th or 13th, but we find him again at the Hague on the 27th December. Going from thence in a ship, probably by Antwerp to Brussels, he was delayed by ice and an adverse wind for twelve days on the Zeeland rivers. He dates a letter to Frederick, "Dans un vaisseau sur les côtes de la Zélande, où j'enrage," 31st December 1740, and arrives on the 5th January at Madame du Châtelet's at Brussels. The following years Voltaire spent chiefly at Brussels, though he made occasional excursions to Paris or to the Château de Cirey.

The death of Cardinal de Fleury, in January 1743, made a great change in the court and politics of France. A desire grew up for a closer connection with Prussia, and in order to attain it the minister De Maurepas thought of taking advantage of Voltaire's influence over his royal friend. A secret mission[1] to Berlin was entrusted to Voltaire, who left Paris the 14th June 1743, and went by Brussels to the Hague, where he remained till the end of August, and stopped again at the Old Court, of which he gives a description somewhat similar to the former, on 28th June 1743.

Sous vos magnifiques lambris
Trés-dorés autrefois, maintenant très-pourris,
Emblème et monument des grandeurs de ce monde,
O mon maître, je vous écris
Navré d'une douleur profonde!
Je suis dans votre Vieille Cour;
Mais je veux une cour nouvelle,
Une cour où les arts ont fixé leur séjour,
Une cour où mon roi les suit et les appelle
Et les protége tour à tour.
Envoyez-moi Pégase et je pars dès ce jour.

J'attends donc à la Haye, chez M. de Podewills, les ordres de votre humanité et le forspan de Votre Majesté.
Je suis ici chez votre digne et aimable ministre, qui est inconsolable, et qui ne dort ni ne mange parce que les Hollandais veulent à trop bon marché la terre d'un grand roi. Il faut pourtant, sire, s'accoutumer à voir les Hollandais aimer l'argent autant que je vous aime.

Quand quitterai-je, hélas, cette humide province,
Pour voir mon héros et mon prince?

The negotiation mentioned in this letter probably refers to the sale of Frederick's Dutch possessions, which was accomplished in January 1754. Count Podewills was the successor of M. de Raesfeld. Through the favor of the wife of one of the chief members of the State, with whom he was in love, he succeeded in obtaining copies of all the secret resolutions of their High Mightinesses, which Voltaire forwarded to France.

Frederick answers on the 30th of July:

Je vous envoie le passe-port pour des chevaux avec bien de l'empressement. Ce ne seront pas de Pégases, mais ils amèneront Apollon à Berlin, où vous serez reçu à bras ouverts.

Voltaire mixed a great deal in society at the Hague, and had frequent intercourse, among others, with the celebrated poet William van Haren, a deputy of Friesland in the States-General. The latter, with his brother Onno Zwier, had put himself at the head of the party who wanted to force the government of the republic to assist Maria Theresa, queen of Hungary, with troops as well as with money. A large party, and especially those republicans who dreaded the appointment of a stadtholder, objected to this step, on the ground that it would inevitably lead to a war, not only with Prussia, but with France, and also to a revival of the stadtholdership, a prediction which was in fact verified in 1747. Van Haren, by his eloquent speeches, but especially by his poem,[2] contributed largely to the resolution of their High Mightinesses to assist Austria with twenty thousand men, commanded by the infantry-general, William Maurice, Count of Nassau-Ouwerkerk. Voltaire learnt all the most secret particulars about the equipping and orders for the troops, and communicated them to the French minister of war, D'Argenson. He was perfectly satisfied with his life at the Hague, as he writes to Thieriot: "Je mène ici une vie délicieuse, dont les agrèments ne sont combattus que par le regret que m'inspirent mes amis."

  1. A contemporary writes: "Il va à la Haye; il est chargé de brouiller les Etats-Généraux de Hollande avec le roi de Prusse et de faire recommencer la guerre avec l'Autriche." It is said also that he owed this mission to the influence of Madame de Châteauroux.
  2. He wrote to his cousin Van Grovestius, "J'ai fait lever 20,000 hommes par 3 pièsces en vers."