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Algarotti

History of Friedrich II of Prussia — Volume 16Carlyle, Thomas, 1795-1881

Algarotti is too prudent, politely egoistic and self-contained, to take the trouble of hurting anybody, or get himself into trouble for love or hatred. He fell into disfavor not long after that unsuccessful little mission in the first Silesian War, of which the reader has lost remembrance. Good for nothing in diplomacy, thought Friedrich, but agreeable as company. "Company in tents, in the seat of War, has its unpleasantness," thought Algarotti;--and began very privately sounding the waters at Dresden for an eligible situation; so that there has ensued a quarrel since; then humble apologies followed by profound silence,--till now there is reconcilement. It is admitted Friedrich had some real love for Algarotti; Algarotti, as we gather, none at all for him; but only for his greatness. They parted again (February, 1753) without quarrel, but for the last time; [Algarotti-Correspondence (<italic> OEuvres de Frederic, italic> xviii. 86).]--and I confess to a relief on the occasion.

History of Friedrich II of Prussia — Volume 10Carlyle, Thomas, 1795-1881

Friedrich had not been long home again from Trakehnen and Preussen, when the routine of things at Reinsberg was illuminated by Visitors, of brilliant and learned quality; some of whom, a certain Signor Algarotti for one, require passing mention here. Algarotti, who became a permanent friend or satellite, very luminous to the Prince, and was much about him in coming years, first shone out upon the scene at this time,--coming unexpectedly, and from the Eastward as it chanced.

History of Friedrich II of Prussia — Volume 10Carlyle, Thomas, 1795-1881

It was under escort of Baltimore, "an English Milord," recommended from Potsdam itself, that Algarotti came to Reinsberg; the Signor had much to do with English people now and after. Where Baltimore first picked him up, I know not: but they have been to Russia together; Baltimore by twelve years the elder of the two: and now, getting home towards England again, they call at Reinsberg in the fine Autumn weather;--and considerably captivate the Crown-Prince, Baltimore playing chief, in that as in other points. The visit lasted five days: [20th-25th September, 1739 (<italic> OEuvres de Frederic, italic> xiv. p. xiv).] there was copious speech on many things;--discussion about Printing of the ANTI MACHIAVEL; Algarotti to get it printed in England, Algarotti to get Pine and his Engraved HENRIADE put under way; neither of which projects took effect;--readers can conceive what a charming five days these were. Here, in the Crown-Prince's own words, are some brief glimmerings which will suffice us:--

History of Friedrich II of Prussia — Volume 10Carlyle, Thomas, 1795-1881

On his own score, Algarotti has become a wearisome literary man to modern readers: one of those half-remembered men; whose books seem to claim a reading, and do not repay it you when given. Treatises, of a serious nature, ON THE OPERA; setting forth, in earnest, the potential "moral uses" of the Opera, and dedicated to Chatham; <italic> Neutonianismo per le Donne italic> (Astronomy for Ladies): the mere Titles of such things are fatally sufficient to us; and we cannot, without effort, nor with it, recall the brilliancy of Algarotti and them to his contemporary world.

History of Friedrich II of Prussia — Volume 11Carlyle, Thomas, 1795-1881

"Algarotti, one of the first BEAUX-ESPRITS of this age," as Wilhelmina defines him,--Friend Algarotti, the young Venetian gentleman of elegance, in dusky skin, in very white linen and frills, with his fervid black eyes, "does the expenses of the conversation." He is full of elegant logic, has speculations on the great world and the little, on Nature, Art, Papistry, Anti- Papistry, and takes up the Opera in an earnest manner, as capable of being a school of virtue and the moral sublime. His respectable Books on the Opera and other topics are now all forgotten, and crave not to be mentioned. To me he is not supremely beautiful, though much the gentleman in manners as in ruffles, and ingeniously logical:--rather yellow to me, in mind as in skin, and with a taint of obsolete Venetian Macassar. But to Friedrich he is thrice-dear; who loves the Sharp faceted cut of the man, and does not object to his yellow or Extinct-Macassar qualities of mind. Thanks to that wandering Baltimore for picking up such a jewel and carrying him Northward! Algarotti himself likes the North: here in our hardy climates,--especially at Berlin, and were his loved Friedrich NOT a King,--Algarotti could be very happy in the liberty allowed. At London, where there is no King, or none to speak of, and plenty of free Intelligences, Carterets, Lytteltons, young Pitts and the like, he is also well, were it not for the horrid smoke upon one's linen, and the little or no French of those proud Islanders.

History of Friedrich II of Prussia — Volume 12Carlyle, Thomas, 1795-1881

Algarotti, home from Turin (not much of a success there, but always melodious for talk), had travelled with him; Algarotti, and not long after, Jordan and Maupertuis, bear him company, that the vacant moments too be beautiful. We can fancy he has a very busy, very anxious, but not an unpleasant time. He goes rapidly about, visiting his posts,--chiefly about the Neisse Valley; Neisse being the prime object, were the weather once come for siege-work. He is in many Towns (specified in RODENBECK and the Books, but which may be anonymous here); doubtless on many Steeples and Hill-tops; questioning intelligent natives, diligently using his own eyes: intent to make personal acquaintance with this new Country,--where, little as he yet dreams of it, the deadly struggles of his Life lie waiting him, and which he will know to great perfection before all is done!

History of Friedrich II of Prussia — Volume 10Carlyle, Thomas, 1795-1881

What Baltimore said in answer to the EPITRE, we do not know; probably not much: it does not appear he ever saw or spoke to Friedrich a second time. Three weeks after, Friedrich writing to Algarotti, has these words: "I pray you make my friendships to Milord Baltimore, whose character and manner of thinking I truly esteem. I hope he has, by this time, got my EPITRE on the English Liberty of Thought." [29th October 1739, To Algarotti in London (<italic> OEuvres, italic> xviii. 5).] And so Baltimore passes on, silent in History henceforth,--though Friedrich seems to have remembered him to late times, as a kind of type-figure when England came into his head. For the sake of this small transit over the sun's disk, I have made some inquiry about Baltimore; but found very little;--perhaps enough:--

History of Friedrich II of Prussia — Volume 11Carlyle, Thomas, 1795-1881

"The Marechal then went to the Play, and all his Officers with him; thinking their royal prize was close at their heels. Marechal and Officers fairly ahead, coast once clear, their royal prize hastened back to The Raven, paid his bill; hastily summoning Schaffgotsch and the others within hearing; shot off like lightning; and was seen in Strasburg no more. Algarotti, who was in the box with Broglio, heard the news in the house; regretful rumor among the Officers, 'He is gone!' In about a quarter of an hour Algarotti too slipped out; and vanished by extra post"-- straight towards Wesel; but could not overtake the King (whose road, in the latter part of it, went zigzag, on business as is likely), nor see him again till they met in that Town. [From <italic> Helden-Geschichte italic> (i. 420-424), &c.]

History of Friedrich II of Prussia — Volume 10Carlyle, Thomas, 1795-1881

REINSBERG, 10th OCTOBER, 1739 (to Voltaire). "We have had Milord Baltimore and Algarotti here, who are going back to England. This Milord is a very sensible man (HOMME TRESSENSE); who possesses a great deal of knowledge, and thinks, like us, that sciences can be no disparagement to nobility, nor degrade an illustrious rank. I admired the genius of this ANGLAIS, as one does a fine face through a crape veil. He speaks French very ill, yet one likes to hear him speak it; and as for his English, he pronounces it so quick, there is no possibility of following him. He calls a Russian 'a mechanical animal.' He says 'Petersburg is the eye of Russia, with which it keeps civilized countries in sight; if you took this eye from it, Russia would fall again into barbarism, out of which it is just struggling.' [Ib. xxi. 326, 327.] ... Young Algarotti, whom you know, pleased me beyond measure. He promised that he"--But Baltimore, promise or not, is the chief figure at present.

History of Friedrich II of Prussia — Volume 12Carlyle, Thomas, 1795-1881

KING FRIEDRICH TO M. LE COMTE ALGAROTTI (gone on a journey).