now stood, for a few moments, motionless, and covered with
"MY ADORABLE SISTER,-The Hanover Doctor has wished to make himself important with you, my good Sister; but the truth is, he has been of no use to me (M'A ETE INUTILE). The old must give place to the young, that each generation may find room clear for it: and Life, if we examine strictly what its course is, consists in seeing one's fellow-creatures die and be born. In the mean while, I have felt myself a little easier for the last day or two. My heart remains inviolably attached to you, my good Sister. With the highest consideration,-- My adorable Sister,--Your faithful Brother and Servant, "FRIEDRICH." [
This is Friedrich's last Letter;--his last to a friend. There is one to his Queen, which Preuss's Index seems to regard as later, though without apparent likelihood; there being no date whatever, and only these words: "Madam,--I am much obliged by the wishes you deign to form: but a heavy fever I have taken (GROSSE FIEVRE QUE J'AI PRISE) hinders me from answering you." [Ib. xxvi. 62.]
On common current matters of business, and even on uncommon, there continue yet for four days to be Letters expressly dictated by Friedrich; some about military matters (vacancies to be filled, new Free-Corps to be levied). Two or three of them are on so small a subject as the purchase of new Books by his Librarians at Berlin. One, and it has been preceded by examining, is, Order to the Potsdam Magistrates to grant "the Baker Schroder, in terms of his petition, a Free-Pass out of Preussen hither, for 100 bushels of rye and 50 of wheat, though Schroder will not find the prices much cheaper there than here." His last, of August 14th, is to De Launay, Head of the Excise: "Your Account of Receipts and Expenditures came to hand yesterday, 13th; but is too much in small: I require one more detailed,"--and explains, with brief clearness, on what points and how. Neglects nothing, great or small, while life yet is.
TUESDAY, AUGUST 15th, 1786, Contrary to all wont, the King did not awaken till 11 o'clock. On first looking up, he seemed in a confused state, but soon recovered himself; called in his Generals and Secretaries, who had been in waiting so long, and gave, with his old precision, the Orders wanted,--one to Rohdich, Commandant of Potsdam, about a Review of the troops there next day; Order minutely perfect, in knowledge of the ground, in foresight of what and how the evolutions were to be; which was accordingly performed on the morrow. The Cabinet work he went through with the like possession of himself, giving, on every point, his Three Clerks their directions, in a weak voice, yet with the old power of spirit,--dictated to one of them, among other things, an "Instruction" for some Ambassador just leaving; "four quarto pages, which," says Hertzberg, "would have done honor to the most experienced Minister;" and, in the evening, he signed his Missives as usual. This evening still,--but--no evening more. We are now at the last scene of all, which ends this strange eventful History.
Wednesday morning, General-Adjutants, Secretaries, Commandant, were there at their old hours; but word came out, "Secretaries are to wait:" King is in a kind of sleep, of stertorous ominous character, as if it were the death-sleep; seems not to recollect himself, when he does at intervals open his eyes. After hours of this, [Selle (ut sup.); Anonymous (Kletschke), LETZTE STUNDEN UND LEICHENBEGANGNISS FRIEDRICHS DES ZWEYTEN, (Potsdam, 1786); Preuss, iv. 264 et seq.; Rodenbeck, iii. 363-366.] on a ray of consciousness, the King bethought him of Rohdich, the Commandant; tried to give Rohdich the Parole as usual; tried twice, perhaps three times; but found he could not speak;--and with a glance of sorrow, which seemed to say, "It is impossible, then!" turned his head, and sank back into the corner of his chair. Rohdich burst into tears: the King again lay slumberous;--the rattle of death beginning soon after, which lasted at intervals all day. Selle, in Berlin, was sent for by express; he arrived about three of the afternoon: King seemed a little more conscious, knew those about him, "his face red rather than pale, in his eyes still something of their old fire." Towards evening the feverishness abated (to Selle, I suppose, a fatal symptom); the King fell into a soft sleep, with warm perspiration; but, on awakening, complained of cold, repeatedly of cold, demanding wrappage after wrappage ("KISSEN," soft QUILT of the old fashion); --and on examining feet and legs, one of the Doctors made signs that they were in fact cold, up nearly to the knee. "What said he of the feet?" murmured the King some time afterwards, the Doctor having now stepped out of sight. "Much the same as before," answered some attendant. The King shook his head, incredulous.
He drank once, grasping the goblet with both hands, a draught of fennel-water, his customary drink; and seemed relieved by it;--his last refection in this world. Towards nine in the evening, there had come on a continual short cough, and a rattling in the breast, breath more and more difficult. Why continue? Friedrich is making exit, on the common terms; you may HEAR the curtain rustling down. For most part he was unconscious, never more than half conscious. As the wall-clock above his head struck 11, he asked: "What o'clock?" "Eleven," answered they. "At 4" murmured he, "I will rise." One of his dogs sat on its Stool near him; about midnight he noticed it shivering for cold: "Throw a quilt over it," said or beckoned he; that, I think, was his last completely conscious utterance. Afterwards, in a severe choking fit, getting at last rid of the phlegm, he said, "LA MONTAGNE EST PASSEE, NOUS IRONS MIEUX, We are over the hill, we shall go better now."
Attendants, Hertzberg, Selle and one or two others, were in the outer room; none in Friedrich's but Strutzki, his Kammerhussar, one of Three who are his sole valets and nurses; a faithful ingenious man, as they all seem to be, and excellently chosen for the object. Strutzki, to save the King from hustling down, as he always did, into the corner of his chair, where, with neck and chest bent forward, breathing was impossible,--at last took the King on his knee; kneeling on the ground with his other knee for the purpose,-- King's right arm round Strutzki's neck, Strutzki's left arm round the King's back, and supporting his other shoulder; in which posture the faithful creature, for above two hours, sat motionless, till the end came. Within doors, all is silence, except this breathing; around it the dark earth silent, above it the silent stars. At 20 minutes past 2, the breathing paused,--wavered; ceased. Friedrich's Life-battle is fought out; instead of suffering and sore labor, here is now rest. Thursday morning, 17th August, 1786, at the dark hour just named. On the 31st of May last, this King had reigned 46 years. "He has lived," counts Rodenbeck, "74 years, 6 months and 24 days."
His death seems very stern and lonely;--a man of such affectionate feelings, too; "a man with more sensibility than other men!" But so had his whole life been, stern and lonely; such the severe law laid on him. Nor was it inappropriate that he found his death in that poor Silesian Review; punctually doing, as usual, the work that had come in hand. Nor that he died now, rather than a few years later. In these final days of his, we have transiently noticed Arch- Cardinal de Rohan, Arch-Quack Cagliostro, and a most select Company of Persons and of Actions, like an Elixir of the Nether World, miraculously emerging into daylight; and all Paris, and by degrees all Europe, getting loud with the DIAMOND-NECKLACE History. And to eyes of deeper speculation,--World-Poet Goethe's, for instance,--it is becoming evident that Chaos is again big. As has not she proved to be, and is still proving, in the most teeming way! Better for a Royal Hero, fallen old and feeble, to be hidden from such things.