The Project Gutenberg eBook, The Life and Adventures of Baron Trenck, by Baron Trenck, Edited by Henry Morley, Translated by Thomas Holcroft This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this eBook or online at www.gutenberg.org Title: The Life and Adventures of Baron Trenck Vol. 2 (of 2) Author: Baron Trenck Editor: Henry Morley Release Date: October 16, 2007 [eBook #2669] Language: English Character set encoding: ISO-646-US (US-ASCII) ***START OF THE PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF BARON TRENCK***
Transcribed from the 1886 Cassell & Co. edition by David Price, email email@example.com, proofed by Kenyon, Uzma G., Marie Gilham, L. F. Smith and David.
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Thomas Holcroft, the translator of these Memoirs of Baron Trenck, was the author of about thirty plays, among which one, The Road to Ruin, produced in 1792, has kept its place upon the stage. He was born in December, 1745, the son of a shoemaker who did also a little business in horse-dealing. After early struggles, during which he contrived to learn French, German, and Italian, Holcroft contributed to a newspaper, turned actor, and wrote plays, which appeared between the years 1791 and 1806. He produced also four novels, the first in 1780, the last in 1807. He was three times married, and lost his first wife in 1790. In 1794, his sympathy with ideals of the French revolutionists caused him to be involved with Hardy, Horne Tooke, and Thelwall, in a charge of high treason; but when these were acquitted, Holcroft and eight others were discharged without trial.
Holcroft earned also by translation. He translated, besides these Memoirs of Baron Trenck, Mirabeau’s Secret History of the Court of Berlin, Les Veillées du Château of Madame de Genlis, and the posthumous works of Frederick II., King of Prussia, in thirteen volumes.
The Memoirs of Baron Trenck were first published at Berlin as his Merkwürdige Lebensbeschreibung, in three volumes octavo, in 1786 and 1787. They were first translated into French by Baron Bock (Metz, 1787); more fully by Letourneur (Paris, 1788); and again by himself (Strasbourg, 1788), with considerable additions. Holcroft translated from the French versions.
Blessed shade of a beloved sister! The sacrifice of my adverse and dreadful fate! Thee could I never avenge! Thee could the blood of Weingarten never appease! No asylum, however sacred, should have secured him, had he not sought that last of asylums for human wickedness and human woes—the grave! To thee do I dedicate these few pages, a tribute of thankfulness; and, if future rewards there are, may the brightest of these rewards be thine. For us, and not for ours, may rewards be expected from monarchs who, in apathy, have beheld our mortal sufferings. Rest, noble soul, murdered though thou wert by the enemies of thy brother. Again my blood boils, again my tears roll down my cheeks, when I remember thee, thy sufferings in my cause, and thy untimely end! I knew it not; I sought to thank thee; I found thee in the grave; I would have made retribution to thy children, but unjust, iron-hearted princes had deprived me of the power. Can the virtuous heart conceive affliction more cruel? My own ills I would have endured with magnanimity; but thine are wrongs I have neither the power to forget nor heal.
Enough of this.—
The worthy Emperor, Francis I., shed tears when I afterwards had the honour of relating to him in person my past miseries; I beheld them flow, and gratitude threw me at his feet. His emotion was so great that he tore himself away. I left the palace with all the enthusiasm of soul which such a scene must inspire.
He probably would have done more than pitied me, but his death soon followed. I relate this incident to convince posterity that Francis I. possessed a heart worthy an emperor, worthy a man. In the knowledge I have had of monarchs he stands alone. Frederic and Theresa both died without doing me justice; I am now too old, too proud, have too much apathy, to expect it from their successors. Petition I will not, knowing my rights; and justice from courts of law, however evident my claims, were in these courts vain indeed to expect. Lawyers and advocates I know but too well, and an army to support my rights I have not.
What heart that can feel but will pardon me these digressions! At the exact and simple recital of facts like these, the whole man must be roused, and the philosopher himself shudder.
Once more:—I heard nothing of what had happened for some days; at length, however, it was the honest Gelfhardt’s turn to mount guard; but the ports being doubled, and two additional grenadiers placed before my door, explanation was exceedingly difficult. He, however, in spite of precaution, found means to inform me of what had happened to his two unfortunate comrades.
The King came to a review at Magdeburg, when he visited Star-Fort, and commanded a new cell to be immediately made, prescribing himself the kind of irons by which I was to be secured. The honest Gelfhardt heard the officer say this cell was meant for me, and gave me notice of it, but assured me it could not be ready in less than a month. I therefore determined, as soon as possible, to complete my breach in the wall, and escape without the aid of any one. The thing was possible; for I had twisted the hair of my mattress into a rope, which I meant to tie to a cannon, and descend the rampart, after which I might endeavour to swim across the Elbe, gain the Saxon frontiers, and thus safely escape.
On the 26th of May I had determined to break into the next casemate; but when I came to work at the bricks, I found them so hard and strongly cemented that I was obliged to defer the labour till the following day. I left off, weary and spent, at daybreak, and should any one enter my dungeon, they must infallibly discover the breach. How dreadful is the destiny by which, through life, I have been persecuted, and which has continually plunged me headlong into calamity, when I imagined happiness was at hand!
The 27th of May was a cruel day in the history of my life. My cell in the Star-Fort had been finished sooner than Gelfhardt had supposed; and at night, when I was preparing to fly, I heard a carriage stop before my prison. O God! what was my terror, what were the horrors of this moment of despair! The locks and bolts resounded, the doors flew open, and the last of my poor remaining resources was to conceal my knife. The town-major, the major of the day, and a captain entered; I saw them by the light of their two lanterns. The only words they spoke were, “Dress yourself,” which was immediately done. I still wore the uniform of the regiment of Cordova. Irons were given me, which I was obliged myself to fasten on my wrists and ankles; the town-major tied a bandage over my eyes, and, taking me under the arm, they thus conducted me to the carriage. It was necessary to pass through the city to arrive at the Star-Fort; all was silent, except the noise of the escort; but when we entered Magdeburg I heard the people running, who were crowding together to obtain a sight of me. Their curiosity was raised by the report that I was going to be beheaded. That I was executed on this occasion in the Star-Fort, after having been conducted blindfold through the city, has since been both affirmed and written; and the officers had then orders to propagate this error that the world might remain in utter ignorance concerning me. I, indeed, knew otherwise, though I affected not to have this knowledge; and, as I was not gagged, I behaved as if I expected death, reproached my conductors in language that even made them shudder, and painted their King in his true colours, as one who, unheard, had condemned an innocent subject by a despotic exertion of power.
My fortitude was admired, at the moment when it was supposed I thought myself leading to execution. No one replied, but their sighs intimated their compassion; certain it is, few Prussians willingly execute such commands. The carriage at length stopped, and I was brought into my new cell. The bandage was taken from my eyes. The dungeon was lighted by a few torches. God of heaven! what were my feelings when I beheld the whole floor covered with chains, a fire-pan, and two grim men standing with their smiths’ hammers!
* * * * *
To work went these engines of despotism! Enormous chains were fixed to my ankle at one end, and at the other to a ring which was incorporated in the wall. This ring was three feet from the ground, and only allowed me to move about two or three feet to the right and left. They next riveted another huge iron ring, of a hand’s breadth, round my naked body, to which hung a chain, fixed into an iron bar as thick as a man’s arm. This bar was two feet in length, and at each end of it was a handcuff. The iron collar round my neck was not added till the year 1756.
* * * * *
No soul bade me good night. All retired in dreadful silence; and I heard the horrible grating of four doors, that were successively locked and bolted upon me!
Thus does man act by his fellow, knowing him to be innocent, having received the commands of another man so to act.
O God! Thou alone knowest how my heart, void as it was of guilt, beat at this moment. There sat I, destitute, alone, in thick darkness, upon the bare earth, with a weight of fetters insupportable to nature, thanking Thee that these cruel men had not discovered my knife, by which my miseries might yet find an end. Death is a last certain refuge that can indeed bid defiance to the rage of tyranny. What shall I say? How shall I make the reader feel as I then felt? How describe my despondency, and yet account for that latent impulse that withheld my hand on this fatal, this miserable night?
This misery I foresaw was not of short duration; I had heard of the wars that were lately broken out between Austria and Prussia. Patiently to wait their termination, amid sufferings and wretchedness such as mine, appeared impossible, and freedom even then was doubtful. Sad experience had I had of Vienna, and well I knew that those who had despoiled me of my property most anxiously would endeavour to prevent my return. Such were my meditations! such my night thoughts! Day at length returned; but where was its splendour? Fled! I beheld it not; yet was its glimmering obscurity sufficient to show me what was my dungeon.
In breadth it was about eight feet; in length, ten. Near me once more stood a night-table; in a corner was a seat, four bricks broad, on which I might sit, and recline against the wall. Opposite the ring to which I was fastened, the light was admitted through a semi-circular aperture, one foot high, and two in diameter. This aperture ascended to the centre of the wall, which was six feet thick, and at this central part was a close iron grating, from which, outward, the aperture descended, and its two extremities were again secured by strong iron bars. My dungeon was built in the ditch of the fortification, and the aperture by which the light entered was so covered by the wall of the rampart that, instead of finding immediate passage, the light only gained admission by reflection. This, considering the smallness of the aperture, and the impediments of grating and iron bars, must needs make the obscurity great; yet my eyes, in time, became so accustomed to this glimmering that I could see a mouse run. In winter, however, when the sun did not shine into the ditch, it was eternal night with me. Between the bars and the grating was a glass window, most curiously formed, with a small central casement, which might be opened to admit the air. My night-table was daily removed, and beside me stood a jug of water. The name of TRENCK was built in the wall, in red brick, and under my feet was a tombstone with the name of TRENCK also cut on it, and carved with a death’s head. The doors to my dungeon were double, of oak, two inches thick; without these was an open space or front cell, in which was a window, and this space was likewise shut in by double doors. The ditch, in which this dreadful den was built, was enclosed on both sides by palisades, twelve feet high, the key of the door of which was entrusted to the officer of the guard, it being the King’s intention to prevent all possibility of speech or communication with the sentinels. The only motion I had the power to make was that of jumping upward, or swinging my arms to procure myself warmth. When more accustomed to these fetters, I became capable of moving from side to side, about four feet; but this pained my shin-bones.
The cell had been finished with lime and plaster but eleven days, and everybody supposed it would be impossible I should exist in these damps above a fortnight. I remained six months, continually immersed in very cold water, that trickled upon me from the thick arches under which I was; and I can safely affirm that, for the first three months, I was never dry; yet did I continue in health. I was visited daily, at noon, after relieving guard, and the doors were then obliged to be left open for some minutes, otherwise the dampness of the air put out their candles.
This was my situation, and here I sat, destitute of friends, helplessly wretched, preyed on by all the torture of thought that continually suggested the most gloomy, the most horrid, the most dreadful of images. My heart was not yet wholly turned to stone; my fortitude was sunken to despondency; my dungeon was the very cave of despair; yet was my arm restrained, and this excess of misery endured.
How then may hope be wholly eradicated from the heart of man? My fortitude, after some time, began to revive; I glowed with the desire of convincing the world I was capable of suffering what man had never suffered before; perhaps of at last emerging from this load of wretchedness triumphant over my enemies. So long and ardently did my fancy dwell on this picture, that my mind at length acquired a heroism which Socrates himself certainly never possessed. Age had benumbed his sense of pleasure, and he drank the poisonous draught with cool indifference; but I was young, inured to high hopes, yet now beholding deliverance impossible, or at an immense, a dreadful distance. Such, too, were the other sufferings of soul and body, I could not hope they might be supported and live.
About noon my den was opened. Sorrow and compassion were painted on the countenances of my keepers. No one spoke; no one bade me good morrow. Dreadful indeed was their arrival; for, unaccustomed to the monstrous bolts and bars, they were kept resounding for a full half-hour before such soul-chilling, such hope-murdering impediments were removed. It was the voice of tyranny that thundered.
My night-table was taken out, a camp-bed, mattress, and blankets were brought me; a jug of water set down, and beside it an ammunition loaf of six pounds’ weight. “That you may no more complain of hunger,” said the town-major, “you shall have as much bread as you can eat.” The door was shut, and I again left to my thoughts.
What a strange thing is that called happiness! How shall I express my extreme joy when, after eleven months of intolerable hunger, I was again indulged with a full feast of coarse ammunition bread? The fond lover never rushed more eagerly to the arias of his expecting bride, the famished tiger more ravenously on his prey, than I upon this loaf. I ate, rested; surveyed the precious morsel; ate again; and absolutely shed tears of pleasure. Breaking bit after bit, I had by evening devoured all my loaf.
Oh, Nature! what delight hast thou combined with the gratification of thy wants! Remember this, ye who gorge, ye who rack invention to excite appetite, and yet which you cannot procure! Remember how simple are the means that will give a crust of mouldy bread a flavour more exquisite than all the spices of the East, or all the profusion of land or sea! Remember this, grow hungry, and indulge your sensuality.
Alas! my enjoyment was of short duration. I soon found that excess is followed by pain and repentance. My fasting had weakened digestion, and rendered it inactive. My body swelled, my water-jug was emptied; cramps, colics, and at length inordinate thirst racked me all the night. I began to pour curses on those who seemed to refine on torture, and, after starving me so long, to invite me to gluttony. Could I not have reclined on my bed, I should indeed have been driven, this night, to desperation; yet even this was but a partial relief; for, not yet accustomed to my enormous fetters, I could not extend myself in the same manner I was afterwards taught to do by habit. I dragged them, however, so together as to enable me to sit down on the bare mattress. This, of all my nights of suffering, stands foremost. When they opened my dungeon next day they found me in a truly pitiable situation, wondered at my appetite, brought me another loaf; I refused to accept it, believing I nevermore should have occasion for bread; they, however, left me one, gave me water, shrugged up their shoulders, wished me farewell, as, according to all appearance, they never expected to find me alive, and shut all the doors, without asking whether I wished or needed further assistance.
Three days had passed before I could again eat a morsel of bread; and my mind, brave in health, now in a sick body became pusillanimous, so that I determined on death. The irons, everywhere round my body, and their weight, were insupportable; nor could I imagine it was possible I should habituate myself to them, or endure them long enough to expect deliverance. Peace was a very distant prospect. The King had commanded that such a prison should be built as should exclude all necessity of a sentinel, in order that I might not converse with and seduce them from what is called their duty: and, in the first days of despair, deliverance appeared impossible; and the fetters, the war, the pain I felt, the place, the length of time, each circumstance seemed equally impossible to support. A thousand reasons convinced me it was necessary to end my sufferings. I shall not enter into theological disputes: let those who blame me imagine themselves in my situation; or rather let them first actually endure my miseries, and then let them reason. I had often braved death in prosperity, and at this moment it seemed a blessing.
Full of these meditations, every minute’s patience appeared absurdity, and resolution meanness of soul; yet I wished my mind should be satisfied that reason, and not rashness, had induced the act. I therefore determined, that I might examine the question coolly, to wait a week longer, and die on the fourth of July. In the meantime I revolved in my mind what possible means there were of escape, not fearing, naked and chained, to rush and expire on the bayonets of my enemies.
The next day I observed, as the four doors were opened, that they were only of wood, therefore questioned whether I might not even cut off the locks with the knife that I had so fortunately concealed: and should this and every other means fail, then would be the time to die. I likewise determined to make an attempt to free myself of my chains. I happily forced my right hand through the handcuff, though the blood trickled from my nails. My attempts on the left were long ineffectual; but by rubbing with a brick, which I got from my seat, on the rivet that had been negligently closed, I effected this also.
The chain was fastened to the run round my body by a hook, one end of which was not inserted in the rim; therefore, by setting my foot against the wall, I had strength enough so far to bend this hook back, and open it, as to force out the link of the chain. The remaining difficulty was the chain that attached my foot to the wall: the links of this I took, doubled, twisted, and wrenched, till at length, nature having bestowed on me great strength, I made a desperate effort, sprang forcibly up, and two links at once flew off.
Fortunate, indeed, did I think myself: I hastened to the door, groped in the dark to find the clinkings of the nails by which the lock was fastened, and discovered no very large piece of wood need be cut. Immediately I went to work with my knife, and cut through the oak door to find its thickness, which proved to be only one inch, therefore it was possible to open all the four doors in four-and-twenty hours.
Again hope revived in my heart. To prevent detection I hastened to put on my chains; but, O God! what difficulties had I to surmount! After much groping about, I at length found the link that had flown off; this I hid: it being my good fortune hitherto to escape examination, as the possibility of ridding myself of such chains was in nowise suspected. The separated iron links I tied together with my hair ribbon; but when I again endeavoured to force my hand into the ring, it was so swelled that every effort was fruitless. The whole might was employed upon the rivet, but all labour was in vain.
Noon was the hour of visitation, and necessity and danger again obliged me to attempt forcing my hand in, which at length, after excruciating torture, I effected. My visitors came, and everything had the appearance of order. I found it, however, impossible to force out my right hand while it continued swelled.
I therefore remained quiet till the day fixed, and on the determined fourth of July, immediately as my visitors had closed the doors upon me, I disencumbered myself of my irons, took my knife, and began my Herculean labour on the door. The first of the double doors that opened inwards was conquered in less than an hour; the other was a very different task. The lock was soon cut round, but it opened outwards; there was therefore no other means left but to cut the whole door away above the bar.
Incessant and incredible labour made this possible, though it was the more difficult as everything was to be done by feeling, I being totally in the dark; the sweat dropped, or rather flowed, from my body; my fingers were clotted in my own blood, and my lacerated hands were one continued wound.
Daylight appeared: I clambered over the door that was half cut away, and got up to the window in the space or cell that was between the double doors, as before described. Here I saw my dungeon was in the ditch of the first rampart: before me I beheld the road from the rampart, the guard but fifty paces distant, and the high palisades that were in the ditch, and must be scaled before I could reach the rampart. Hope grew stronger; my efforts were redoubled. The first of the next double doors was attacked, which likewise opened inward, and was soon conquered. The sun set before I had ended this, and the fourth was to be cut away as the second had been. My strength failed; both my hands were raw; I rested awhile, began again, and had made a cut of a foot long, when my knife snapped, and the broken blade dropped to the ground!
God of Omnipotence! what was I at this moment? Was there, God of Mercies! was there ever creature of Thine more justified than I in despair? The moon shone very clear; I cast a wild and distracted look up to heaven, fell on my knees, and in the agony of my soul sought comfort: but no comfort could be found; nor religion nor philosophy had any to give. I cursed not Providence, I feared not annihilation, I dared not Almighty vengeance; God the Creator was the disposer of my fate; and if He heaped afflictions upon me He had not given me strength to support, His justice would not therefore punish me. To Him, the Judge of the quick and dead, I committed my soul, seized the broken knife, gashed through the veins of my left arm and foot, sat myself tranquilly down, and saw the blood flow. Nature, overpowered fainted, and I know not how long I remained, slumbering, in this state. Suddenly I heard my own name, awoke, and again heard the words, “Baron Trenck!” My answer was, “Who calls?” And who indeed was it—who but my honest grenadier Gelfhardt—my former faithful friend in the citadel! The good, the kind fellow had got upon the rampart, that he might comfort me.
“How do you do?” said Gelfhardt. “Weltering in my blood,” answered I; “to-morrow you will find me dead.”—“Why should you die?” replied he. “It is much easier for you to escape here than from the citadel! Here is no sentinel, and I shall soon find means to provide you with tools; if you can only break out, leave the rest to me. As often as I am on guard, I will seek opportunity to speak to you. In the whole Star-Fort, there are but two sentinels: the one at the entrance, and the other at the guard-house. Do not despair; God will succour you; trust to me.” The good man’s kindness and discourse revived my hopes: I saw the possibility of an escape. A secret joy diffused itself through my soul. I immediately tore my shirt, bound up my wounds, and waited the approach of day; and the sun soon after shone through the window, to me, with unaccustomed brightness.
Let the reader judge how far it was chance, or the effect of Divine providence, that in this dreadful hour my heart again received hope. Who was it sent the honest Gelfhardt, at such a moment, to my prison? For, had it not been for him, I had certainly, when I awoke from my slumbers, cut more effectually through my arteries.
Till noon I had time to consider what might further be done: yet what could be done, what expected, but that I should now be much more cruelly treated, and even more insupportably ironed than before—finding, as they must, the doors cut through and my fetters shaken off?
After mature consideration, I therefore made the following resolution, which succeeded happily, and even beyond my hopes. Before I proceed, however, I will speak a few words concerning my situation at this moment. It is impossible to describe how much I was exhausted. The prison swam with blood; and certainly but little was left in my body. With painful wounds, swelled and torn hands, I there stood shirtless, felt an inclination to sleep almost irresistible, and scarcely had strength to keep my legs, yet was I obliged to rouse myself, that I might execute my plan.
With the bar that separated my hands, I loosened the bricks of my seat, which, being newly laid, was easily done, and heaped them up in the middle of my prison. The inner door was quite open, and with my chains I so barricaded the upper half of the second as to prevent any one climbing over it. When noon came and the first of the doors was unlocked, all were astonished to find the second open. There I stood, besmeared with blood, the picture of horror, with a brick in one hand, and in the other my broken knife, crying, as they approached, “Keep off, Mr. Major, keep off! Tell the governor I will live no longer in chains, and that here I stand, if so he pleases, to be shot; for so only will I be conquered. Here no man shall enter—I will destroy all that approach; here are my weapons; lucre will I die in despite of tyranny.” The major was terrified, wanted resolution, and made his report to the governor. I meantime sat down on my bricks, to wait what might happen: my secret intent, however, was not so desperate as it appeared. I sought only to obtain a favourable capitulation.
The governor, General Borck, presently came, attended by the town-major and some officers, and entered the outward cell, but sprang back the moment he beheld a figure like me, standing with a brick and uplifted arm. I repeated what I had told the major, and he immediately ordered six grenadiers to force the door. The front cell was scarcely six feet broad, so that no more than two at a time could attack my intrenchment, and when they saw my threatening bricks ready to descend, they leaped terrified back. A short pause ensued, and the old town-major, with the chaplain, advanced towards the door to soothe me: the conversation continued some time: whose reasons were most satisfactory, and whose cause was the most just, I leave to the reader. The governor grew angry, and ordered a fresh attack. The first grenadier was knocked down, and the rest ran back to avoid my missiles.
The town-major again began a parley. “For God’s sake, my dear Trenck,” said he, “in what have I injured you, that you endeavour to effect my ruin? I must answer for your having, through my negligence, concealed a knife. Be persuaded, I entreat you. Be appeased. You are not without hope, nor without friends.” My answer was—“But will you not load me with heavier irons than before?”
He went out, spoke with the governor, and gave me his word of honour that the affair should be no further noticed, and that everything should be exactly reinstated as formerly.
Here ended the capitulation, and my wretched citadel was taken. The condition I was in was viewed with pity; my wounds were examined, a surgeon sent to dress them, another shirt was given me, and the bricks, clotted with blood, removed. I, meantime, lay half dead on my mattress; my thirst was excessive. The surgeon ordered me some wine. Two sentinels were stationed in the front cell, and I was thus left four days in peace, unironed. Broth also was given me daily, and how delicious this was to taste, how much it revived and strengthened me, is wholly impossible to describe. Two days I lay in a slumbering kind of trance, forced by unquenchable thirst to drink whenever I awoke. My feet and hands were swelled; the pains in my back and limbs were excessive.
On the fifth day the doors were ready; the inner was entirely plated with iron, and I was fettered as before: perhaps they found further cruelty unnecessary. The principal chain, however, which fastened me to the wall, like that I had before broken, was thicker than the first. Except this, the capitulation was strictly kept. They deeply regretted that, without the King’s express commands, they could not lighten my afflictions, wished me fortitude and patience, and barred up my doors.
It is necessary I should here describe my dress. My hands being fixed and kept asunder by an iron bar, and my feet chained to the wall, I could neither put on shirt nor stockings in the usual mode; the shirt was therefore tied, and changed once a fortnight; the coarse ammunition stockings were buttoned on the sides; a blue garment, of soldier’s cloth, was likewise tied round me, and I had a pair of slippers for my feet. The shirt was of the army linen; and when I contemplated myself in this dress of a malefactor, chained thus to the wall in such a dungeon, vainly imploring mercy or justice, my conscience void of reproach, my heart of guilt—when I reflected on my former splendour in Berlin and Moscow, and compared it with this sad, this dreadful reverse of destiny, I was sunk in grief, or roused to indignation, that might have hurried the greatest hero or philosopher to madness or despair. I felt what can only be imagined by him who has suffered like me, after having like me flourished, if such can be found.
Pride, the justness of my cause, the unbounded confidence I had in my own resolution, and the labours of an inventive head and iron body—these only could have preserved my life. These bodily labours, these continued inventions, and projected plans to obtain my freedom, preserved my health. Who would suppose that a man fettered as I was could find means of exercising himself? By swinging my arms, acting with the upper part of my body, and leaping upwards, I frequently put myself in a strong perspiration. After thus wearying myself I slept soundly, and often thought how many generals, obliged to support the inclemencies of weather, and all the dangers of the field—how many of those who had plunged me into this den of misery, would have been most glad could they, like me, have slept with a quiet conscience. Often did I reflect how much happier I was than those tortured on the bed of sickness by gout, stone, and other terrible diseases. How much happier was I in innocence than the malefactor doomed to suffer the pangs of death, the ignominy of men, and the horrors of internal guilt!
In the following part of my history it will appear I often had much money concealed under the ground and in the walls of my den, yet would I have given a hundred ducats for a morsel of bread, it could not have been procured. Money was to me useless. In this I resembled the miser, who hoards, yet hives in wretchedness, having no joy in gentle acts of benevolence. As proudly might I delight myself with my hidden treasure as such misers; nay, more, for I was secure from robbers.
Had fastidious pomp been my pleasure, I might have imagined myself some old field-marshal bedridden, who hears two grenadier sentinels at his door call, “Who goes there?” My honour, indeed, was still greater; for, during my last year’s imprisonment, my door was guarded by no less than four. My vanity also might have been flattered: I might hence conclude how high was the value set upon my head, since all this trouble was taken to hold me in security. Certain it is that in my chains I thought more rationally, more nobly, reasoned more philosophically on man, his nature, his zeal, his imaginary wants, the effects of his ambition, his passions, and saw more distinctly his dream of earthly good, than those who had imprisoned, or those who guarded me. I was void of the fears that haunt the parasite who servilely wears the fetters of a court, and daily trembles for the loss of what vice and cunning have acquired. Those who had usurped the Sclavonian estates, and feasted sumptuously from the service of plate I had been robbed of, never ate their dainties with so sweet an appetite as I my ammunition bread, nor did their high-flavoured wines flow so limpid as my cold water.
Thus, the man who thinks, being pure of heart, will find consolation when under the most dreadful calamities, convinced, as he must be, that those apparently most are frequently least happy, insensible as they are of the pleasures they might enjoy. Evil is never so great as it appears.
“Sweet are the uses of adversity,
Which, like the toad, ugly and venomous,
Wears yet a precious jewel in his head.”
As you Like it.
Happy he who, like me, having suffered, can become an example to his suffering brethren!
Youth, prosperous, and imagining eternal prosperity, read my history attentively, though I should be in my grave! Read feelingly, and bless my sleeping dust, if it has taught thee wisdom or fortitude!
Father, reading this, say to thy children, I felt thus like them, in blooming youth, little prophesied of misfortune, which after fell so heavy on me, and by which I am even still persecuted! Say that I had virtue, ambition, was educated in noble principles; that I laboured with all the zeal of enthusiastic youth to become wiser, better, greater than other men; that I was guilty of no crimes, was the friend of men, was no deceiver of man or woman; that I first served my own country faithfully, and after, every other in which I found bread; that I was never, during life, once intoxicated; was no gamester, no night rambler, no contemptible idler; that yet, through envy and arbitrary power, I have fallen to misery such as none but the worst of criminals ought to feel.
Brother, fly those countries where the lawgiver himself knows no law, where truth and virtue are punished as crimes; and, if fly you cannot, be it your endeavour to remain unknown, unnoticed; in such countries, seek not favour or honourable employ, else will you become, when your merits are known, as I have been, the victim of slander and treachery: the behests of power will persecute you, and innocence will not shield you from the shafts of wicked men who are envious, or who wish to obtain the favour of princes, though by the worst of means.
Sire, imagine not that thou readest a romance. My head is grey, like thine. Read, yet despise not the world, though it has treated me thus unthankfully. Good men have I also found, who have befriended me in misfortunes, and there, where I had least claim, have I found them most. May my book assist thee in noble thoughts; mayest thou die as tranquilly as I shall render up my soul to appear before the Judge of me and my persecutors. Be death but thought a transition from motion to rest. Few are the delights of this world for him who, like me, has learned to know it. Murmur not, despair not of Providence. Me, through storms, it has brought to haven; through many griefs to self-knowledge; and through prisons to philosophy. He only can tranquilly descend to annihilation who finds reason not to repent he has once existed. My rudder broke not amid the rocks and quicksands, but my bark was cast upon the strand of knowledge. Yet, even on these clear shores are impenetrable clouds. I have seen more distinctly than it is supposed men ought to see. Age will decay the faculties, and mental, like bodily sight, must then decrease. I even grew weary of science, and envied the blind-born, or those who, till death, have been wilfully hoodwinked. How often have I been asked, “What didst thou see?” And when I answered with sincerity and truth, how often have I been derided as a liar, and been persecuted by those who determined not to see themselves, as an innovator singular and rash!
Sire, I further say to thee, teach thy descendants to seek the golden mean, and say with Gellert—“The boy Fritz needs nothing;—his stupidity will insure his success, Examine our wealthy and titled lords, what are their abilities and honours, then inquire how they were attained, and, if thou canst, discover in what true happiness consists.”
Once more to my prison. The failure of my escape, and the recovery of life from this state of despair, led me to moralise deeper than I had ever done before; and in this depth of thought I found unexpected consolation and fortitude, and a firm persuasion I yet should accomplish my deliverance.
Gelfhardt, my honest grenadier, had infused fresh hope, and my mind now busily began to meditate new plans. A sentinel was placed before my door, that I might be more narrowly watched, and the married men of the Prussian states were appointed to this duty, who, as I will hereafter show, were more easy to persuade in aiding my flight than foreign fugitives. The Pomeranian will listen, and is by nature kind, therefore may easily be moved, and induced to succour distress.
I began to be more accustomed to my irons, which I had before found so insupportable; I could comb out my long hair, and could tie it at last with one hand. My beard, which had so long remained unshaven, gave me a grim appearance, and I began to pluck it up by the roots. The pain at first was considerable, especially about the lips; but this also custom conquered, and I performed this operation in the following years, once in six weeks, or two months, as the hair thus plucked up required that length of time before the nails could again get hold. Vermin did not molest me; the dampness of my den was inimical to them. My limbs never swelled, because of the exercise I gave myself, as before described. The greatest pain I found was in the continued unvivifying dimness in which I lived.
I had read much, had lived in, and seen much of the world. Vacuity of thought, therefore, I was little troubled with; the former transactions of my life, and the remembrance of the persons I had known, I revolved so often in my mind, that they became as familiar and connected as if the events had each been written in the order it occurred. Habit made this mental exercise so perfect to me, that I could compose speeches, fables, odes, satires, all of which I repeated aloud, and had so stored my memory with them that I was enabled, after I had obtained my freedom, to commit to writing two volumes of my prison labours. Accustomed to this exercise, days that would otherwise have been days of misery appeared but as a moment. The following narrative will show how munch esteem, how many friends, these compositions procured me, even in my dungeon; insomuch that I obtained light, paper, and finally freedom itself. For these I have to thank the industrious acquirements of my youth; therefore do I counsel all my readers so to employ their time. Riches, honours, the favours of fortune, may be showered by monarchs upon the most worthless; but monarchs can give and take, say and unsay, raise and pull down. Monarchs, however, can neither give wisdom nor virtue. Arbitrary power itself, in the presence of these, is foiled.
How wisely has Providence ordained that the endowments of industry, learning, and science, given by ourselves, cannot be taken from us; while, on the contrary, what others bestow is a fantastical dream, from which any accident may awaken us! The wrath of Frederic could destroy legions, and defeat armies; but it could not take from me the sense of honour, of innocence, and their sweet concomitant, peace of mind—could not deprive me of fortitude and magnanimity. I defied his power, rested on the justice of my cause, found in myself expedients wherewith to oppose him, was at length crowned with conquest, and came forth to the world the martyr of suffering virtue.
Some of my oppressors now rot in dishonourable graves. Others, alas! in Vienna, remain immured in houses of correction, as Krugel and Zeto, or beg their bread, like Gravenitz and Doo. Nor are the wealthy possessors of my estates more fortunate, but look down with shame wherever I and my children appear. We stand erect, esteemed, and honoured, while their injustice is manifest to the whole world.
Young man, be industrious: for without industry can none of the treasures I have described be purchased. Thy labour will reward itself; then, when assaulted by misfortune, or even misery, learn of me and smile; or, shouldst thou escape such trials, still labour to acquire wisdom, that in old age thou mayest find content and happiness.
The years in my dungeon passed away as days, those moments excepted when, thinking on the great world, and the deeds of great men, my ambition was roused: except when, contemplating the vileness of my chains, and the wretchedness of my situation, I laboured for liberty, and found my labours endless and ineffectual; except while I remembered the triumph of my enemies, and the splendour in which those lived by whom I had been plundered. Then, indeed, did I experience intervals that approached madness, despair, and horror: beholding myself destitute of friend or protector, the Empress herself, for whose sake I suffered, deserting me; reflecting on past times and past prosperity; remembering how the good and virtuous, from the cruel nature of my punishment, must be obliged to conclude me a wretch and a villain, and that all means of justification were cut off: O God! How did my heart beat! with what violence! What would I not have undertaken, in these suffering moments, to have put my enemies to shame! Vengeance and rage then rose rebellious against patience; long-suffering philosophy vanished, and the poisoned cup of Socrates would have been the nectar of the gods.
Man deprived of hope is man destroyed. I found but little probability in all my plans and projects; yet did I trust that some of them should succeed, yet did I confide in them and my honest Gelfhardt, and that I should still free myself from my chains.
The greatest of all my incitements to patient endurance was love. I had left behind me, in Vienna, a lady for whom the world still was dear to me; her would I neither desert nor afflict. To her and my sister was my existence still necessary. For their sakes, who had lost and suffered so much for mine, would I preserve my life; for them no difficulty, no suffering was too great; yet, alas! when long-desired liberty was restored, I found them both in their graves. The joy, for which I had borne so much, was no more to be tasted.
About three weeks after my attempt to escape, the good Gelfhardt first came to stand sentinel over me; and the sentinel they had so carefully set was indeed the only hope I could have of escape; for help must be had from without, or this was impossible.
The effort I had made had excited too munch surprise and alarm for me to pass without strict examination; since, on the ninth day after I was confined, I had, in eighteen hours, so far broken through a prison built purposely for myself, by a combination of so many projectors, and with such extreme precaution, that it had been universally declared impenetrable.
Gelfhardt scarcely had taken his post before we had free opportunity of conversing together; for, when I stood with one foot on my bedstead, I could reach the aperture through which light was admitted.
Gelfhardt described the situation of my dungeon, and our first plan was to break under the foundation which he had seen laid, and which he affirmed to be only two feet deep.
Money was the first thing necessary. Gelfhardt was relieved during his guard, and returned bringing within him a sheet of paper rolled on a wire, which he passed through my grating; as he also did a piece of small wax candle, some burning amadone (a kind of tinder), a match, and a pen. I now had light, and I pricked my finger, and wrote with my blood to my faithful friend, Captain Ruckhardt, at Vienna, described my situation in a few words, sent him an acquittance for three thousand florins on my revenues, and requested he would dispose of a thousand florins to defray the expenses of his journey to Gummern, only two miles from Magdeburg. Here he was positively to be on the 15th of August. About noon, on this same day, he was to walk with a letter in his hand; and a man was there to meet him, carrying a roll of smoking tobacco, to whom he must remit the two thousand florins, and return to Vienna.
I returned the written paper to Gelfhardt by the same means it had been received, gave him my instructions, and he sent his wife with it to Gummern, by whom it was safely put in the post.
My hopes daily rose, and as often as Gelfhardt mounted guard, so often did we continue our projects. The 15th of August came, but it was some days before Gelfhardt was again on guard; and oh! how did my heart palpitate when he came and exclaimed, “All is right! we have succeeded.” He returned in the evening, and we began to consider by what means he could convey the money to me. I could not, with my hands chained to an iron bar, reach the aperture of the window that admitted air—besides that it was too small. It was therefore agreed that Gelfhardt should, on the next guard, perform the office of cleaning my dungeon, and that he then should convey the money to me in the water-jug.
This luckily was done. How great was my astonishment when, instead of one, I found two thousand florins! For I had permitted him to reserve half to himself, as a reward for his fidelity; he, however, had kept but five pistoles, which he persisted was enough.
Worthy Gelfhardt! This was the act of a Pomeranian grenadier! How rare are such examples! Be thy name and mine ever united! Live thou while the memory of me shall live! Never did my acquaintance with the great bring to my knowledge a soul so noble, so disinterested!
It is true, I afterwards prevailed on him to accept the whole thousand; but we shall soon see he never had them, and that his foolish wife, three years after, suffered by their means; however, she suffered alone, for he soon marched to the field, and therefore was unpunished.
Having money to carry on my designs, I began to put my plan of burrowing under the foundation into execution. The first thing necessary was to free myself from my fetters. To accomplish this, Gelfhardt supplied me with two small files, and by the aid of these, this labour, though great, was effected.
The cap, or staple, of the foot ring was made so wide that I could draw it forward a quarter of an inch. I filed the iron which passed through it on the inside; the more I filed this away, the farther I could draw the cap down, till at last the whole inside iron, through which the chains passed, was cut quite through! by this means I could slip off the ring, while the cap on the outside continued whole, and it was impossible to discover any cut, as only the outside could be examined. My hands, by continued efforts, I so compressed as to be able to draw them out of the handcuffs. I then filed the hinge, and made a screw-driver of one of the foot-long flooring nails, by which I could take out the screw at pleasure, so that at the time of examination no proofs could appear. The rim round my body was but a small impediment, except the chain, which passed from my hand-bar: and this I removed, by filing an aperture in one of the links, which, at the necessary hour, I closed with bread, rubbed over with rusty-iron, first drying it by the heat of my body; and would wager any sum that, without striking the chain link by link, with a hammer, no one not in the secret would have discovered the fracture.
The window was never strictly examined; I therefore drew the two staples by which the iron bars were fixed to the wall, and which I daily replaced, carefully plastering them over. I procured wire from Gelfhardt, and tried how well I could imitate the inner grating: finding I succeeded tolerably, I cut the real grating totally away, and substituted an artificial one of my own fabricating, by which I obtained a free communication with the outside, additional fresh air, together with all necessary implements, tinder, and candles.
That the light might not be seen, I hung the coverlid of my bed before the window, so that I could work fearless and undetected.
Every thing prepared, I went to work. The floor of my dungeon was not of stone, but oak plank, three inches thick; three beds of which were laid crossways, and were fastened to each other by nails half an inch in diameter, and a foot long. Raving worked round the head of a nail, I made use of the hole at the end of the bar, which separated my hands, to draw it out, and this nail, sharpened upon my tombstone, made an excellent chisel.
I now cut through the board more than an inch in width, that I might work downwards, and having drawn away a piece of board which was inserted two inches under the wall, I cut this so as exactly to fit; the small crevice it occasioned I stopped up with bread and strewed over with dust, so as to prevent all suspicious appearance. My labour under this was continued with less precaution, and I had soon worked through my nine-inch planks. Under them I came to a fine white sand, on which the Star Fort was built. My chips I carefully distributed beneath the boards. If I had not help from without, I could proceed no farther; for to dig were useless, unless I could rid myself of my rubbish. Gelfhardt supplied me with some ells of cloth, of which I made long narrow bags, stuffed them with earth, and passed them between the iron bars, to Gelfhardt, who, as he was on guard, scattered or conveyed away their contents.
Furnished with room to secrete them under the floor, I obtained more instruments, together with a pair of pistols, powder, ball, and a bayonet.
I now discovered that the foundation of my prison, instead of two, was sunken four feet deep. Time, labour, and patience were all necessary to break out unheard and undiscovered; but few things are impossible, where resolution is not wanting.
The hole I made was obliged to be four feet deep, corresponding with the foundation, and wide enough to kneel and stoop in: the lying down on the floor to work, the continual stooping to throw out the earth, the narrow space in which all must be performed, these made the labour incredible: and, after this daily labour, all things were to be replaced, and my chains again resumed, which alone required some hours to effect. My greatest aid was in the wax candles, and light I had procured; but as Gelfhardt stood sentinel only once a fortnight, my work was much delayed; the sentinels were forbidden to speak to me under pain of death: and I was too fearful of being betrayed to dare to seek new assistance.
Being without a stove, I suffered much this winter from cold; yet my heart was cheerful as I saw the probability of freedom; and all were astonished to find me in such good spirits.
Gelfhardt also brought me supplies of provisions, chiefly consisting of sausages and salt meats, ready dressed, which increased my strength, and when I was not digging, I wrote satires and verses: thus time was employed, and I contented even in prison.
Lulled into security, an accident happened that will appear almost incredible, and by which every hope was nearly frustrated.
Gelfhardt had been working with me, and was relieved in the morning. As I was replacing the window, which I was obliged to remove on these occasions, it fell out of my hand, and three of the glass panes were broken. Gelfhardt was not to return till guard was again relieved: I had therefore no opportunity of speaking with him, or concerting any mode of repair. I remained nearly an hour conjecturing and hesitating; for certainly had the broken window been seen, as it was impossible I should reach it when fettered, I should immediately have been more rigidly examined, and the false grating must have been discovered.
I therefore came to a resolution, and spoke to the sentinel (who was amusing himself with whistling), thus: “My good fellow, have pity, not upon me, but upon your comrades, who, should you refuse, will certainly be executed: I will throw you thirty pistoles through the window, if you will do me a small favour.” He remained some moments silent, and at last answered in a low voice, “What, have you money, then?”—I immediately counted thirty pistoles, and threw them through the window. He asked what he was to do: I told him my difficulty, and gave him the size of the panes in paper. The man fortunately was bold and prudent. The door of the pallisadoes, through the negligence of the officer, had not been shut that day: he prevailed on one of his comrades to stand sentinel for him, during half an hour, while he meantime ran into the town, and procured the glass, on the receipt of which I instantly threw him out ten more pistoles. Before the hour of noon and visitation came, everything was once more reinstated, my glaziery performed to a miracle, and the life of my worthy Gelfhardt preserved!—Such is the power of money in this world! This is a very remarkable incident, for I never spoke after to the man who did me this signal service.
Gelfhardt’s alarm may easily be imagined; he some days after returned to his post, and was the more astonished as he knew the sentinel who had done me this good office; that he had five children, and a man most to be depended on by his officers, of any one in the whole grenadier company.
I now continued my labour, and found it very possible to break out under the foundation; but Gelfhardt had been so terrified by the late accident, that he started a thousand difficulties, in proportion as my end was more nearly accomplished; and at the moment when I wished to concert with him the means of flight, he persisted it was necessary to find additional help, to escape in safety, and not bring both him and myself to destruction. At length we came to the following determination, which, however, after eight months’ incessant labour, rendered my whole project abortive.
I wrote once more to Ruckhardt, at Vienna; sent him a new assignment for money, and desired he would again repair to Gummern, where he should wait six several nights, with two spare horses, on the glacis of Klosterbergen, at the time appointed, everything being prepared for flight. Within these six days Gelfhardt would have found means, either in rotation, or by exchanging the guard, to have been with me. Alas! the sweet hope of again beholding the face of the sun, of once more obtaining my freedom, endured but three days: Providence thought proper otherwise to ordain. Gelfhardt sent his wife to Gummern with the letter, and this silly woman told the post-master her husband had a lawsuit at Vienna, that therefore she begged he would take particular care of the letter, for which purpose she slipped ten rix-dollars into his hand.
This unexpected liberality raised the suspicions of the Saxon post-master, who therefore opened the letter, read the contents, and instead of sending it to Vienna, or at least to the general post-master at Dresden, he preferred the traitorous act of taking it himself to the governor of Magdeburg, who then, as at present, was Prince Ferdinand of Brunswick.
What were my terrors, what my despair, when I beheld the Prince himself, about three o’clock in the afternoon, enter my prison with his attendants, present my letter, and ask, in an authoritative voice, who had carried it to Gummern. My answer was, “I know not.” Strict search was immediately made by smiths, carpenters, and masons, and after half an hour’s examination, they discovered neither my hole nor the manner in which I disencumbered myself of my chains; they only saw that the middle grating, in the aperture where the light was admitted, had been removed. This was boarded up the next day, only a small air-hole left, of about six inches diameter.
The Prince began to threaten; I persisted I had never seen the sentinel who had rendered me this service, nor asked his name. Seeing his attempts all ineffectual, the governor, in a milder tone, said, “You have ever complained, Baron Trenck, of not having been legally sentenced, or heard in your own defence; I give you my word of honour, this you shall be, and also that you shall be released from your fetters, if you will only tell me who took your letter.” To this I replied, with all the fortitude of innocence, “Everybody knows, my lord, I have never deserved the treatment I have met with in my country. My heart is irreproachable. I seek to recover my liberty by every means in my power: but were I capable of betraying the man whose compassion has induced him to succour my distress; were I the coward that could purchase happiness at his expense, I then should, indeed, deserve to wear those chains with which I am loaded. For myself, do with me what you please: yet remember I am not wholly destitute: I am still a captain in the Imperial service, and a descendant of the house of Trenck.”
Prince Ferdinand stood for a moment unable to answer; then renewed his threats, and left my dungeon. I have since been told that, when he was out of hearing, he said to those around him, “I pity his hard fate, and cannot but admire his strength of mind!”
I must here remark that, when we remember the usual circumspection of this great man, we are obliged to wonder at his imprudence in holding a conversation of such a kind with me, which lasted a considerable time, in the presence of the guard. The soldiers of the whole garrison had afterwards the utmost confidence, as they were convinced I would not meanly devote others to destruction, that I might benefit myself. This was the way to gain me esteem and intercourse among the men, especially as the Duke had said he knew I must have money concealed, for that I had distributed some to the sentinels.
He had scarcely been gone an hour, before I heard a noise near my prison. I listened—what could it be? I heard talking, and learned a grenadier had hanged himself to the pallisadoes of my prison.
The officer of the town-guard, and the town-major again entered my dungeon to fetch a lanthorn they had forgotten, and the officer at going out, told me in a whisper, “One of your associates has just hanged himself.”
It was impossible to imagine my terror or sensations; I believed it could be only my kind, my honest Gelfhardt. After many gloomy thoughts, and lamenting the unhappy end of so worthy a fellow, I began to recollect what the Prince had promised me, if I would discover the accomplice. I knocked at the door, and desired to speak to the officer; he came to the window and asked me what I wanted; I requested he would inform the governor that if he would send me light, pen, ink, and paper, I would discover my whole secret.
These were accordingly sent, an hour’s time was granted; the door was shut, and I was left alone. I sat myself down, began to write on my night-table, and was about to insert the name of Gelfhardt, but my blood thrilled, and shrank back to my heart. I shuddered, rose, went to the aperture of the window and called, “Is there no man who in compassion will tell me the name of him who has hanged himself, that I may deliver many others from destruction?” The window was not nailed up till the next day; I therefore wrapped five pistoles in a paper, threw them out, called to the sentinel, and said, “Friend, take these, and save thy comrades; or go and betray me, and bring down innocent blood upon thy head!”
The paper was taken up; a pause of silence ensued: I heard sighs, and presently after a low voice said, “his name is Schutz; he belonged to the company of Ripps.” I had never heard the name before, or known the man, but I however immediately wrote Schutz, instead of Gelfhardt. Having finished the letter I called the lieutenant, who took that and the light away, and again barred up the door of my dungeon. The Duke, however, suspected there must be some evasion, and everything remained in the same state: I obtained neither hearing nor court-martial. I learned, in the sequel, the following circumstances, which will display the truth of this apparently incredible story.
While I was imprisoned in the citadel, a sentinel came to the post under my window, cursed and blasphemed, exclaiming aloud against the Prussian service, and saying, if Trenck only knew my mind, he would not long continue in his hole! I entered into discourse with him, and he told me, if I could give him money to purchase a boat, in which he might cross the Elbe, he would soon make my doors fly open, and set me free.
Money at that time I had none; but I gave him a diamond shirt-buckle, worth five hundred ferns, which I had concealed. I never heard more from this man; he spoke to me no more. He often stood sentinel over me, which I knew by his Westphalian dialect, and I as often addressed myself to him, but ineffectually; he would make no answer.
This Schutz must have sold my buckle, and let his riches be seen; for, when the Duke left me, the lieutenant on guard said to him—“You must certainly be the rascal who carried Trenck’s letter; you have, for some time past, spent much money, and we have seen you with louis-d’ors. How came you by them?” Schutz was terrified, his conscience accused him, he imagined I should betray him, knowing he had deceived me. He, therefore, in the first agonies of despair, came to the pallisadoes, and hung himself before the door of my dungeon.
How wonderful is the hand of Providence! The wicked man fell a sacrifice to his crime, after having escaped a whole year, and the faithful, the benevolent-hearted Gelfhardt was thereby saved.
The sentinels were now doubled, that any intercourse with them might be rendered more difficult. Gelfhardt again stood guard, but he had scarcely opportunity, without danger, to speak a few words: he thanked me for having preserved him, wished me better fortune, and told me the garrison, in a few days, would take the field.
This was dreadful news: my whole plan was destroyed at a breath. I, however, soon recovered fresh hopes. The hole I had sunken was not discovered: I had five hundred florins, candles, and implements.
The seven years’ war broke out about a week after, and the regiment took the field. Major Weyner came, for the last time, and committed me to the care of the new major of the militia, Bruckhausen, who was one of the most surly and stupid of men. I shall often have occasion to mention this man.
All the majors and lieutenants of the guard, who had treated me with compassion and esteem, now departed, and I became an old prisoner in a new world. I acquired greater confidence, however, by remembering that both officers and men in the militia were much easier to gain over than in the regulars; the truth of which opinion was soon confirmed.
Four lieutenants were appointed, with their men, to mount guard at the Star Fort in turn, and before a year had passed, three of them were in my interest.
The regiments had scarcely taken the field ere the new governor, General Borck, entered my prison, like what he was, an imperious, cruel tyrant. The King, in giving him the command, had informed him he must answer for my person with his head: he therefore had full power to treat me with whatever severity he pleased.
Borck was a stupid man, of an unfeeling heart, the slave of despotic orders; and as often as he thought it possible I might rid myself of my fetters and escape, his heart palpitated with fear. In addition to this, he considered me as the vilest of men and traitors, seeing his King had condemned me to imprisonment so cruel, and his barbarity towards me was thus the effect of character and meanness of soul. He entered my dungeon not as an officer, to visit a brother officer in misery, but as an executioner to a felon. Smiths then made their appearance, and a monstrous iron collar, of a hand’s breadth, was put round my neck, and connected with the chains of the feet by additional heavy links. My window was walled up, except a small air-hole. He even at length took away my bed, gave me no straw, and quitted me with a thousand revilings on the Empress-Queen, her whole army, and myself. In words, however, I was little in his debt, and he was enraged even to madness.
What my situation was under this additional load of tyranny, and the command of a man so void of human pity, the reader may imagine. My greatest good fortune consisted in the ability I still had to disencumber myself of all the irons that were connected with the ankle-rims, and the provision I had of light, paper, and implements; and though it was apparently impossible I should break out undiscovered by both sentinels, yet had I the remaining hope of gaining some officer, by money, who, as in Glatz, should assist my escape.
Had the commands of the King been literally obeyed escape would have been wholly impossible; for, by this, all communication would have been totally cut off with the sentinels. To this effect the four keys of the four doors were each to be kept by different persons; one with the governor, another with the town-major, the third with the major of the day, and the fourth with the lieutenant of the guard. I never could have found opportunity to have spoken with any one of them singly. These commands at first were rigidly observed, with this exception, that the governor made his appearance only every week. Magdeburg became so full of prisoners that the town-major was obliged to deliver up his key to the major of the day, and the governor’s visitations wholly subsided, the citadel being an English mile and a half distant from the Star Fort.
General Walrabe, who had been a prisoner ever since the year 1746, was also at the Star Fort, but he had apartments, and three thousand rix-dollars a year. The major of the day and officer of the guard dined with him daily, and generally stayed till evening. Either from compassion, or a concurrence of fortunate circumstances, these gentlemen entrusted the keys to the lieutenant on guard, by which means I could speak with each of them alone when they made their visits, and they themselves at length sought these opportunities. My consequent undertakings I shall relate, with all the arts and inventions of a wretched prisoner endeavouring to escape.
Borck had selected three majors and four lieutenants for this service as those he could best trust. My situation was truly deplorable. The enormous iron round my neck pained me, and prevented motion; and I durst not attempt to disengage myself from the pendant chains till I had, for some months, carefully observed the mode of their examination, and which parts they supposed were perfectly secure. The cruelty of depriving me of my bed was still greater: I was obliged to sit upon the bare ground, and lean with my head against the damp wall. The chains that descended from the neck collar were obliged to be supported first with one band, and then with the other; for, if thrown behind, they would have strangled me, and if hanging forward occasioned most excessive headaches. The bar between my hands held one down, while leaning on my elbow; I supported with the other my chains; and this so benumbed the muscles and prevented circulation, that I could perceive my arms sensibly waste away. The little sleep I could have in such a situation may easily be supposed, and, at length, body and mind sank under this accumulation of miserable suffering, and I fell ill of a burning fever.
The tyrant Borck was inexorable; he wished to expedite my death, and rid himself of his troubles and his terrors. Here did I experience what was the lamentable condition of a sick prisoner, without bed, refreshment, or aid from human being. Reason, fortitude, heroism, all the noble qualities of the mind, decay when the corporal faculties are diseased; and the remembrance of my sufferings, at this dreadful moment, still agitates, still inflames my blood, so as almost to prevent an attempt to describe what they were.
Yet hope had not totally forsaken me. Deliverance seemed possible, especially should peace ensue; and I sustained, perhaps, what mortal man never bore, except myself, being, as I was, provided with pistols, or any such immediate mode of despatch.
I continued ill about two months, and was so reduced at last that I had scarcely strength to lift the water-jug to my mouth. What must the sufferings of that man be who sits two months on the bare ground in a dungeon so damp, so dark, so horrible, without bed or straw, his limbs loaded as mine were, with no refreshment but dry ammunition bread, without so much as a drop of broth, without physic, without consoling friend, and who, under all these afflictions, must trust, for his recovery, to the efforts of nature alone!
Sickness itself is sufficient to humble the mightiest mind; what, then, is sickness, with such an addition of torment? The burning fever, the violent headaches, my neck swelled and inflamed with the irons, enraged me almost to madness. The fever and the fetters together flayed my body so that it appeared like one continued wound—Enough! Enough! The malefactor extended living on the wheel, to whom the cruel executioner refuses the last stroke—the blow of death—must yet, in some short period, expire: he suffers nothing I did not then suffer; and these, my excruciating pangs, continued two dreadful months—Yet, can it be supposed? There came a day! A day of horror, when these mortal pangs were beyond imagination increased. I sat scorched with this intolerable fever, in which nature and death were contending; and when attempting to quench my burning entrails with cold water, the jug dropped from my feeble hands, and broke! I had four-and-twenty hours to remain without water. So intolerable, so devouring was my thirst, I could have drank human blood! Ay, in my madness, had it been the blood of my father!
* * * * * *
Willingly would I have seized my pistols, but strength had forsaken me, I could not open the place I was obliged to render so secure.
My visitors next day supposed me gone at last. I lay motionless, with my tongue out of my mouth. They poured water down my throat, and I revived.
Oh, God! Oh, God! How pure, how delicious, how exquisite was this water! My insatiable thirst soon emptied the jug; they filled it anew, bade me farewell, hoped death would soon relieve my mortal sufferings, and departed.
The lamentable state in which I lay at length became the subject of general conversation, that all the ladies of the town united with the officers, and prevailed on the tyrant, Borck, to restore me my bed.
Oh, Nature, what are thy operations? From the day I drank water in such excess I gathered strength, and to the astonishment of every one, soon recovered. I had moved the heart of the officer who inspected my prison; and after six months, six cruel months of intense misery, the day of hope again began to dawn.
One of the majors of the day entrusted his key to Lieutenant Sonntag, who came alone, spoke in confidence, and related his own situation, complained of his debts, his poverty, his necessities; and I made him a present of twenty-five louis-d’ors, for which he was so grateful that our friendship became unshaken.
The three lieutenants all commiserated me, and would sit hours with me, when a certain major had the inspection; and he himself, after a time, would even pass half the day with me. He, too, was poor: and I gave him a draft for three thousand florins; hence new projects took birth.
Money became necessary; I had disbursed all I possessed, a hundred florins excepted, among the officers. The eldest son of Captain K---, who officiated as major, had been cashiered: his father complained to me of his distress, and I sent him to my sister, not far from Berlin, from whom he received a hundred ducats. He returned and related her joy at hearing from me. He found her exceedingly ill; and she informed me, in a few lines, that my misfortunes, and the treachery of Weingarten, had entailed poverty upon her, and an illness which had endured more than two years. She wished me a happy deliverance from my chains, and, in expectation of death, committed her children to my protection. She, however, grew better, and married a second time, Colonel Pape; but died in the year 1758. I shall forbear to relate her history: it indeed does no honour to the ashes of Frederic, and would but less dispose my own heart to forgiveness, by reviving the memory of her oppressions and griefs.
K---n returned happy with the money: all things were concerted with the father. I wrote to the Countess Bestuchef, also to the Grand Duke, afterwards Peter III., recommended the young soldier, and entreated every possible succour for myself.
K---n departed through Hamburg, for Petersburg, where, in consequence of my recommendation, he became a captain, and in a short time major. He took his measures so well that I, by the intervention of his father, and a Hamburg merchant, received two thousand rubles from the Countess, while the service he rendered me made his own fortune in Russia.
To old K---, who was as poor as he was honest, I gave three hundred ducats; and he, till death, continued my grateful friend. I distributed nearly as much to the other officers; and matters proceeded so far that Lieutenant Glotin gave back the keys to the major without locking my prison, himself passing half the night with me. Money was given to the guard to drink; and thus everything succeeded to my wish, and the tyrant Borck was deceived. I had a supply of light; had books, newspapers, and my days passed swiftly away. I read, I wrote, I busied myself so thoroughly that I almost forgot I was a prisoner. When, indeed, the surly, dull blockhead, Major Bruckhausen, had the inspection, everything had to be carefully reinstated. Major Z---, the second of the three, was also wholly mine. He was particularly attached to me; for I had promised to marry his daughter, and, should I die in prison, to bequeath him a legacy of ten thousand florins.
Lieutenant Sonntag got false handcuffs made for me, that were so wide I could easily draw my hands out; the lieutenants only examined my irons, the new handcuffs were made perfectly similar to the old, and Bruckhausen had too much stupidity to remark any difference.
The remainder of my chains I could disencumber myself of at pleasure. When I exercised myself, I held them in my hands, that the sentinel might be deceived by their clanking. The neck-iron was the only one I durst not remove; it was likewise too strongly riveted. I filed through the upper link of the pendant chain, however, by which means I could take it off, and this I concealed with bread in the manner before mentioned.
So I could disencumber myself of most of my fetters, and sleep in ease. I again obtained sausages and cold meat, and thus my situation, bad as it still was, became less miserable. Liberty, however, was most desirable: but, alas! not one of the three lieutenants had the courage of a Schell: Saxony, too, was in the hands of the Prussians, and flight, therefore, more dangerous. Persuasion was in vain with men determined to risk nothing, but, if they went, to go in safety. Will, indeed, was not wanting in Glotin and Sonntag; but the first was a poltroon, and the latter a man of scruples, who thought this step might likewise be the ruin of his brother at Berlin.
The sentinels were doubled, therefore my escape through my hole, which had been two years dug, could not, unperceived by them, be effected: still less could I, in the face of the guard, clamber the twelve feet high pallisadoes. The following labour, therefore, though Herculean, was undertaken.
Lieutenant Sonntag, measuring the interval between the hole I had dug and the entrance in the gallery in the principal rampart, found it to be thirty-seven feet. Into this it was possible I might, by mining, penetrate. The difficulty of the enterprise was lessened by the nature of the ground, a fine white sand. Could I reach the gallery my freedom was certain. I had been informed how many steps to the right or left must be taken, to find the door that led to the second rampart: and, on the day when I should be ready for flight, the officer was secretly to leave this door open. I had light, and mining tools, and was further to rely on money and my own discretion.
I began and continued this labour about six months. I have already noticed the difficulty of scraping out the earth with my hands, as the noise of instruments would have been heard by the sentinels. I had scarcely mined beyond my dungeon wall before I discovered the foundation of the rampart was not more than a foot deep; a capital error certainly in so important a fortress. My labour became the lighter, as I could remove the foundation stones of my dungeon, and was not obliged to mine so deep.
My work at first proceeded so rapidly, that, while I had room to throw back my sand, I was able in one night to gain three feet; but ere I had proceeded ten feet I discovered all my difficulties. Before I could continue my work I was obliged to make room for myself, by emptying the sand out of my hole upon the floor of the prison, and this itself was an employment of some hours. The sand was obliged to be thrown out by the hand, and after it thus lay heaped in my prison, must again be returned into the hole; and I have calculated that after I had proceeded twenty feet, I was obliged to creep under ground, in my hole, from fifteen hundred to two thousand fathoms, within twenty-four hours, in the removal and replacing of the sand. This labour ended, care was to be taken that in none of the crevices of the floor there might be any appearance of this fine white sand. The flooring was the next to be exactly replaced, and my chains to be resumed. So severe was the fatigue of one day, in this mode, that I was always obliged to rest the three following.
To reduce my labour as much as possible, I was constrained to make the passage so small that my body only had space to pass, and I had not room to draw my arm back to my head. The work, too, must all be done naked, otherwise the dirtiness of my shirt must have been remarked; the sand was wet, water being found at the depth of four feet, where the stratum of the gravel began. At length the expedient of sand-bags occurred to me, by which it might be removed out and in more expeditiously. I obtained linen from the officers, but not in sufficient quantities; suspicions would have been excited at observing so much linen brought into the prison. At last I took my sheets and the ticking that enclosed my straw, and cut them up for sand-bags, taking care to lie down on my bed, as if ill, when Bruckhausen paid his visit.
The labour, towards the conclusion, became so intolerable as to incite despondency. I frequently sat contemplating the heaps of sand, during a momentary respite from work; and thinking it impossible I could have strength or time again to replace all things as they were, resolved patiently to wait the consequence, and leave everything in its present disorder. Yes! I can assure the reader that, to effect concealment, I have scarcely had time in twenty-four hours to sit down and eat a morsel of bread. Recollecting, however, the efforts, and all the progress I had made, hope would again revive, and exhausted strength return: again would I begin my labours, that I might preserve my secret and my expectations: yet has it frequently happened that my visitors have entered a few minutes after I had reinstated everything in its place.
When my work was within six or seven feet of being accomplished, a new misfortune happened that at once frustrated all further attempts. I worked, as I have said, under the foundation of the rampart near where the sentinels stood. I could disencumber myself of my fetters, except my neck collar and its pendent chain. This, as I worked, though it was fastened, got loose, and the clanking was heard by one of the sentinels about fifteen feet from my dungeon. The officer was called, they laid their ears to the ground, and heard me as I went backward and forward to bring my earth bags. This was reported the next day; and the major, who was my best friend, with the town-major, and a smith and mason, entered my prison. I was terrified. The lieutenant by a sign gave me to understand I was discovered. An examination was begun, but the officers would not see, and the smith and mason found all, as they thought, safe. Had they examined my bed, they would have seen the ticking and sheets were gone.
The town-major, who was a dull man, was persuaded the thing was impossible, and said to the sentinel, “Blockhead! you have heard some mole underground, and not Trenck. How, indeed, could it be, that lee should work underground, at such a distance from his dungeon?” Here the scrutiny ended.
There was now no time for delay. Had they altered their hour of coming, they must have found me at work: but this, during ten years, never happened: for the governor and town-major were stupid men, and the others, poor fellows, wishing me all success, were willingly blind. In a few days I could have broken out, but, when ready, I was desirous to wait for the visitation of the man who had treated me so tyranically, Bruckhausen, that his own negligence might be evident. But this man, though he wanted understanding, did not want good fortune. He was ill for some time, and his duty devolved on K---.
He recovered; and the visitation being over, the doors were no sooner barred than I began my supposed last labour. I had only three feet farther to proceed, and it was no longer necessary I should bring out the sand, I having room to throw it behind me. What my anxiety was, what my exertions were, may well be imagined. My evil genius, however, had decreed that the same sentinel, who had heard me before, should be that day on guard. He was piqued by vanity, to prove he was not the blockhead he had been called; he therefore again laid his ear to the ground, and again heard me burrowing. Ho called his comrades first, next thee major; lee came, and heard me likewise; they then went without the pallisadoes, and heard me working near the door, at which place I was to break into the gallery. This door they immediately opened, entered the gallery with lanthorns, and waited to catch the hunted fox when unearthed.
Through the first small breach I made I perceived a light, and saw the heads of those who were expecting me. This was indeed a thunder-stroke! I crept back, made my way through the sand I had cast behind me, and awaited my fate with shuddering! I had the presence of mind to conceal my pistols, candles, paper, and some money, under the floor which I could remove. The money was disposed of in various holes, well concealed also between the panels of the doors; and under different cracks in the floor I hid my small files and knives. Scarcely were these disposed of before the doors resounded: the floor was covered with sand and sand-bags: my handcuffs, however, and the separating bar, I had hastily resumed that they might suppose I had worked with them on, which they were silly enough to credit, highly to my future advantage.
No man was more busy on this occasion than the brutal and stupid Bruckhausen, who put many interrogatories, to which I made no reply, except assuring him that I should have completed my work some days sooner, had it not been his good fortune to fall sick, and that this only had been the cause of my failure.
The man was absolutely terrified with apprehension; he began to fear me, grew more polite, and even supposed nothing was impossible to me.
It was too late to remove the sand; therefore the lieutenant and guard continued with me, so that this night at least I did not want company. When the morning came, the hole was first filled up; the planking was renewed. The tyrant Borck was ill, and could not come, otherwise my treatment would have been still more lamentable. The smiths had ended before the evening, and the irons were heavier than ever. The foot chains, instead of being fastened as before, were screwed and riveted; all else remained as formerly. They were employed in the flooring till the next day, so that I could not sleep, and at last I sank down with weariness.
The greatest of my misfortunes was they again deprived me of my bed, because I had cut it up for sand-bags. Before the doors were barred Bruckhausen and another major examined my body very narrowly. They often had asked me where I concealed all my implements? My answer was, “Gentlemen, Beelzebub is my best and most intimate friend; he brings me everything I want, supplies me with light: we play whole nights at piquet, and, guard me as you please, he will finally deliver me out of your power.”
Some were astonished, others laughed. At length, as they were barring the last door, I called, “Come back, gentlemen! you have forgotten something of great importance.” In the interim I had taken up one of my hidden files. When they returned, “Look ye, gentlemen,” said I, “here is a proof of the friendship Beelzebub has for me, he has brought me this in a twinkling.” Again they examined, and again they shut their doors. While they were so doing, I took out a knife, and ten louis-d’ors, called, and they re turned, grumbling curses; I then shewed the knife and the louis-d’ors. Their consternation was excessive; and I diverted my misfortunes by jesting at such blundering, short-sighted keepers. It was soon rumoured through Magdeburg, especially among the simple and vulgar, that I was a magician to whom the devil brought all I asked.
One Major Holtzkammer, a very selfish man, profited by this report. A foolish citizen had offered him fifty dollars if he might only be permitted to see me through the door, being very desirous to see a wizard. Holtzkammer told me, and we jointly determined to sport with his credulity. The major gave me a mask with a monstrous nose, which I put on when the doors were opening, and threw myself in an heroic attitude. The affrighted burger drew back; but Holtzkammer stopped him, and said, “Have patience for some quarter of an hour, and you shall see he will assume quite a different countenance.” The burger waited, my mask was thrown by, and my face appeared whitened with chalk, and made ghastly. The burger again shrank back; Holtzkammer kept him in conversation, and I assumed a third farcical form. I tied my hair under my nose, and a pewter dish to my breast, and when the door a third time opened, I thundered, “Begone, rascals, or I’ll set your necks—awry!” They both ran: and the silly burger, eased of his fifty dollars, scampered first.
The major, in vain, laid his injunctions on the burger never to reveal what he had beheld, it being a breach of duty in him to admit any persons whatever to the sight of me. In a few days, the necromancer Trenck was the theme of every alehouse in Magdeburg, and the person was named who had seen me change my form thrice in the space of one hour. Many false and ridiculous circumstances were added, and at last the story reached the governor’s ears. The citizen was cited, and offered to take his oath of what himself and the major had seen. Holtzkammer accordingly suffered a severe reprimand, and was some days under arrest. We frequently laughed, however, at this adventure, which had rendered me so much the subject of conversation. Miraculous reports were the more easily credited, because no one could comprehend how, in despite of the load of irons I carried, and all the vigilance of my guards, I should be continually able to make new attempts, while those appointed to examine my dungeon seemed, as it were, blinded and bewildered. A proof this, how easy it is to deceive the credulous, and whence have originated witchcraft, prophecies, and miracles.
My last undertaking had employed me more than twelve months, and so weakened me that I appeared little better than a skeleton. Notwithstanding the greatness of my spirit, I should have sunk into despondency, at seeing an end like this to all my labours, had I not still cherished a secret hope of escaping, founded on the friends I had gained among the officers.
I soon felt the effects of the loss of my bed, and was a second time attacked by a violent fever, which would this time certainly have consumed me had not the officers, unknown to the governor, treated me with all possible compassion. Bruckhausen alone continued my enemy, and the slave of his orders; on his day of examination rules and commands in all their rigour were observed, nor durst I free myself from my irons, till I had for some weeks remarked those parts on which he invariably fixed his attention. I then cut through the link, and closed up the vacancy with bread. My hands I could always draw out, especially after illness had consumed the flesh off my bones. Half a year had elapsed before I had recovered sufficient strength to undertake, anew, labours like the past.
Necessity at length taught me the means of driving Bruckhausen from my dungeon, and of inducing him to commit his office to another. I learnt his olfactory nerves were somewhat delicate, and whenever I heard the doors unbar, I took care to make a stir in my night-table. This made him give back, and at length he would come no farther than the door. Such are the hard expedients of a poor unhappy prisoner!
One day he came, bloated with pride, just after a courier had brought the news of victory, and spoke of the Austrians, and the august person of the Empress-Queen with so much virulence, that, at last, enraged almost to madness, I snatched the sword of an officer from its sheath, and should certainly have ended him, had he not made a hasty retreat. From that day forward he durst no more come without guards to examine the dungeon. Two men always preceded him, with their bayonets fixed, and their pieces presented, behind whom he stood at the door. This was another fortunate incident, as I dreaded only his examination.
The following anecdote will afford a specimen of this man’s understanding. While digging in the earth I found a cannon-ball, and laid it in the middle of my prison. When he came to examine—“What in the name of God is that?” said he. “It is a part of the ammunition,” answered I, “that my Familiar brings me. The cannon will be here anon, and you will then see fine sport!” He was astonished, told this to others, nor could conceive such a ball might by any natural means enter my prison.
I wrote a satire on him, when the late Landgrave of Hesse-Cassel was governor of Magdeburg; and I had permission to write as will hereafter appear: the Landgrave gave it to him to read himself; and so gross was his conception, that though his own phraseology was introduced, part of his history and his character painted, yet he did not perceive the jest, but laughed heartily with the hearers. The Landgrave was highly diverted, and after I obtained my freedom, restored me the manuscript written in my own blood.
About the time that my last attempt at escaping failed, General Krusemarck came to my prison, whom I had formerly lived with in habits of intimacy, when cornet of the body guard. Without testifying friendship, esteem, or compassion, he asked, among other things, in an authoritative tone, how I could employ my time to prevent tediousness? I answered in as haughty a mood as he interrogated: for never could misfortune bend my mind. I told him, “I always could find sources of entertainment in my own thoughts; and that, as for my dreams, I imagined they would at least be as peaceful and pleasant as those of my oppressors.” “Had you in time,” replied he, “curbed this fervour of yours, had you asked pardon of the King, perhaps you would have been in very different circumstances; but he who has committed an offence in which he obstinately persists, endeavouring only to obtain freedom by seducing men from their duty, deserves no better fate.”
Justly was my anger roused! “Sir,” answered I, “you are a general of the King of Prussia, I am an Austrian captain. My royal mistress will protect, perhaps deliver me, or, at least, revenge my death; I have a conscience void of reproach. You, yourself, well know I have not deserved these chains. I place my hope in time, and the justness of my cause, calumniated and condemned, as I have been, without legal sentence or hearing. In such a situation, the philosopher will always be able to brave and despise the tyrant.”
He departed with threats, and his last words were, “The bird shall soon be taught to sing another tune.” The effects of this courteous visit were soon felt. An order came that I should be prevented sleeping, and that the sentinels should call, and wake me every quarter of an hour; which dreadful order was immediately executed.
This was indeed a punishment intolerable to nature! Yet did custom at length teach me to answer in my sleep. Four years did this unheard of cruelty continue! The noble Landgrave of Hesse-Cassel at length put an end to it a year before I was released from my dungeon, and once again, in mercy, suffered me to sleep in peace.
Under this new affliction, I wrote an Elegy which may be found in the second volume of my works, a few lines of which I shall cite.
Wake me, ye guards, for hark, the quarter strikes!
Sport with my woes, laugh loud at my miseries
Hearken if you hear my chains clank! Knock! Beat!
Of an inexorable tyrant be ye
Th’ inexorable instruments! Wake me, ye slaves;
Ye do but as you’re bade. Soon shall he lie
Sleepless, or dreaming, the spectres of conscience
Behold and shriek, who me deprives of rest.
Wake me: Again the quarter strikes! Call loud
Rip up all my bleeding wounds, and shrink not!
Yet think ’tis I that answer, God that hears!
To every wretch in chains sleep is permitted:
I, I alone, am robb’d of this last refuge
Of sinking nature! Hark! Again they thunder!
Again they iterate yells of Trenck and death.
Peace to thy anger, peace, thou suffering heart!
Nor indignant beat, adding tenfold pangs to pain.
Ye burthened limbs, arise from momentary
Slumbers! Shake your chains! Murmur not, but rise!
And ye! Watch-dogs of Power! let loose your rage:
Fear not, for I am helpless, unprotected.
And yet, not so—The noble mind, within
Itself, resources finds innumerable.
Thou, Oh God, thought’st good me t’ imprison thus:
Thou, Oh God, in Thy good time, wilt me deliver.
Wake me then, nor fear! My soul slumbers not.
And who can say but those who fetter me,
May, ere to-morrow, groan themselves in fetters!
Wake me! For lo! their sleep’s less sweet than mine.
Call! Call! From night to morn, from twilight to dawn,
Incessant! Yea, in God’s name, Call! Call! Call!
Amen! Amen! Thy will, Oh God, be done!
Yet surely Thou at length shalt hear my sighs!
Shalt burst my prison doors! Shalt shew me fair
Creation! Yea, the very heav’n of heav’ns!
With whom these orders originated, unexampled in the history even of tyranny, I shall not venture to say. The major, who was my friend, advised me to persist in not answering. I followed his advice; and it produced this good effect that we mutually forced each other to a capitulation: they restored me my bed, and I was obliged to reply.
Immediately after this regulation, the sub-governor, General Borck, my bitter enemy, became insane, was dispossessed of his post, and Lieutenant-General Reichmann, the benevolent friend of humanity, was made sub-governor.
About the same time the Court fled from Berlin, and the Queen, the Prince of Prussia, the Princess Amelia, and the Margrave Henry, chose Magdeburg for their residence. Bruckhausen grew more polite, probably perceiving I was not wholly deserted, and that it was yet possible I might obtain my freedom. The cruel are usually cowards, and there is reason to suppose Bruckhausen was actuated by his fears to treat me with greater respect.
The worthy new governor had not indeed the power to lighten my chains, or alter the general regulations; what he could, he did. If he did not command, he connived at the doors being occasionally at first, and at length, daily, kept open some hours, to admit daylight and fresh air. After a time, they were open the whole day, and only closed by the officers when they returned from their visit to Walrabe.
Having light, I began to carve, with a nail, on the pewter cup in which I drank, satirical verses and various figures, and attained so much perfection that my cups, at last, were considered as master-pieces, both of engraving and invention, and were sold dear, as rare curiosities. My first attempts were rude, as may well be imagined. My cup was carried to town, and shown to visitors by the governor, who sent me another. I improved, and each of the inspecting officers wished to possess one. I grew more expert, and spent a whole year in this employment, which thus passed swiftly away. The perfection I had now acquired obtained me the permission of candle-light, and this continued till I was restored to freedom.
The King gave orders these cups should all be inspected by government, because I wished, by my verses and devices, to inform the world of my fate. But this command was not obeyed; the officers made merchandise of my cups, and sold them at last for twelve ducats each. Their value increased so much, when I was released from prison, that they are now to be found in various museums throughout Europe. Twelve years ago the late Landgrave of Hesse-Cassel presented one of them to my wife; and another came, in a very unaccountable manner, from the Queen-Dowager of Prussia to Paris. I have given prints of both these, with the verses they contained, in my works; whence it may be seen how artificially they were engraved.
A third fell into the hands of Prince Augustus Lobkowitz, then a prisoner of war at Magdeburg, who, on his return to Vienna, presented it to the Emperor, who placed it in his museum. Among other devices on this cup, was a landscape, representing a vineyard and husbandmen, and under it the following words:—By my labours my vineyard flourished, and I hoped to have gathered the fruit; but Ahab came. Alas! for Naboth.
The allusion was so pointed, both to the wrongs done me in Vienna, and my sufferings in Prussia, that it made a very strong impression on the Empress-Queen, who immediately commanded her minister to make every exertion for my deliverance. She would probably at last have even restored me to my estates, had not the possessors of them been so powerful, or had she herself lived one year longer. To these my engraved cups was I indebted for being once more remembered at Vienna. On the same cup, also, was another engraving of a bird in a cage, held by a Turk, with the following inscription:—The bird sings even in the storm; open his cage, break his fetters, ye friends of virtue, and his songs shall be the delight of your abodes!
There is another remarkable circumstance attending these cups. All were forbidden under pain of death to hold conversation with me, or to supply me with pen and ink; yet by this open permission of writing what I pleased on pewter, was I enabled to inform the world of all I wished, and to prove a man of merit was oppressed. The difficulties of this engraving will be conceived, when it is remembered that I worked by candle-light on shining pewter, attained the art of giving light and shade, and by practice could divide a cup into two-and-thirty compartments as regularly with a stroke of the hand as with a pair of compasses. The writing was so minute that it could only be read with glasses. I could use but one hand, both, being separated by the bar, and therefore held the cup between my knees. My sole instrument was a sharpened nail, yet did I write two lines on the rim only.
My labour became so excessive, that I was in danger of distraction or blindness. Everybody wished for cups, and I wished to oblige everybody, so that I worked eighteen hours a day. The reflection of the light from the pewter was injurious to my eyes, and the labour of invention for apposite subjects and verses was most fatiguing. I had learnt only architectural drawing.
Enough of these cups, which procured me so much honour, so many advantages, and helped to shorten so many mournful hours. My greatest encumbrance was the huge iron collar, with its enormous appendages, which, when suffered to press the arteries in the back of my neck, occasioned intolerable headaches. I sat too much, and a third time fell sick. A Brunswick sausage, secretly given me by a friend, occasioned an indigestion, which endangered my life; a putrid fever followed, and my body was reduced to a skeleton. Medicines, however, were conveyed to me by the officers, and, now and then, warm food.
After my recovery, I again thought it necessary to endeavour to regain my liberty. I had but forty louis-d’ors remaining, and these I could not get till I had first broken up the flooring.
Lieutenant Sonntag was consumptive, and obtained his discharge. I supplied bins with money to defray the expenses of his journey, and with an order that four hundred florins should be annually paid him from my effects till his death or my release. I commissioned him to seek an audience from the Empress, endeavour to excite her compassion in my behalf, and to remit me four thousand florins, for which I gave a proper acquittance, by the way of Hamburgh. The money-draft was addressed to my administrators, Counsellors Kempf and Huttner.
But no one, alas! in Vienna, wished my return; they had already begun to share my property, of which they never rendered me an account. Poor Sonntag was arrested as a spy, imprisoned, ill treated for some weeks, and, at last, when naked and destitute, received a hundred florins, and was escorted beyond the Austrian confines. The worthy man fell a shameful sacrifice to his honesty, could never obtain an audience of the Empress, and returned poor and miserable on foot to Berlin, where he was twelve months secretly maintained by his brother, and with whom he died. He wrote an account of all this to the good Knoblauch, my Hamburgh agent, and I, from my small store, sent him a hundred ducats.
How much must I despair of finding any place of refuge on earth, hearing accounts like these from Vienna.
A friend, whom I will never name, by the aid of one of the lieutenants, secretly visited me, and supplied me with six hundred ducats. The same friend, in the year 1763, paid four thousand florins to the imperial envoy, Baron Reidt, at Berlin, for the furthering of my freedom, as I shall presently more fully show. Thus I had once more money.
About this time the French army advanced to within five miles of Magdeburg. This important fortress was, at that time, the key of the whole Prussian power. It required a garrison of sixteen thousand men, and contained not more than fifteen hundred. The French might have marched in unopposed, and at once have put an end to the war. The officers brought me all the news, and my hopes rose as they approached. What was my astonishment when the major informed me that three waggons had entered the town in the night, had been sent back loaded with money, and that the French were retreating. This, I can assure my readers, on my honour, is literally truth, to the eternal disgrace of the French general. The major, who informed me, was himself an eye-witness of the fact. It was pretended the money was for the army of the King, but everybody could guess whither it was going; it left the town without a convoy, and the French were then in the neighbourhood. Such were the allies of Maria Theresa; the receivers of this money are known in Paris. Not only were my hopes this way frustrated, but in Russia likewise, where the Countess of Bestuchef and the Chancellor had fallen into disgrace.
I now imagined another, and, indeed, a fearful and dangerous project. The garrison of Magdeburg at this moment consisted but of nine hundred militia, who were discontented men. Two majors and two lieutenants were in my interest. The guard of the Star Fort amounted but to a hundred and fifteen men. Fronting the gate of this fort was the town gate, guarded only by twelve men and an inferior officer; beside these lay the casemates, in which were seven thousand Croat prisoners. Baron K---y, a captain, and prisoner of war, also was in our interest, and would hold his comrades ready at a certain place and time to support my undertaking. Another friend was, under some pretence, to hold his company ready, with their muskets loaded, and the plan was such that I should have had four hundred men in arms ready to carry it into execution.
The officer was to have placed the two men we most suspected and feared, as sentinels over me; he was to command them to take away my bed, and when encumbered, I was to spring out, and shut them in the prison. Clothing and arms were to have been procured, and brought me into my prison; the town-gate was to have been surprised; I was to have run to the casemate, and called to the Croats, “Trenck to arms!” My friends, at the same instant, were to break forth, and the plan was so well concerted that it could not have failed. Magdeburg, the magazine of the army, the royal treasury, arsenal, all would have been mine; and sixteen thousand men, who were then prisoners of war, would have enabled me to keep possession.
The most essential secret, by which all this was to have been effected, I dare not reveal; suffice it to say, everything was provided for, everything made secure; I shall only add that the garrison, in the harvest months, was exceedingly weakened, because the farmers paid the captains a florin per man each day, and the men for their labour likewise, to obtain hands. The sub-governor connived at the practice.
One Lieutenant G--- procured a furlough to visit his friends; but, supplied by me with money, he went to Vienna. I furnished him with a letter, addressed to Counsellors Kempf and Huttner, including a draft for two thousand ducats; wherein I said that, by these means, I should not only soon be at liberty, but in possession of the fortress of Magdeburg; and that the bearer was entrusted with the rest.
The lieutenant came safe to Vienna, underwent a thousand interrogatories, and his name was repeatedly asked. This, fortunately, he concealed. They advised him not to be concerned in so dangerous an undertaking; told him I had not so much money due to me, and gave him, instead of two thousand ducats, one thousand florins. With these he left Vienna, but with very prudent suspicions which prevented him ever returning to Magdeburg. A month had scarcely passed before the late Landgrave of Hesse-Cassel, then chief governor, entered my prison, showed me my letter, and demanded to know who had carried the letter, and who were to free me and betray Magdeburg. Whether the letter was sent immediately to the King or the governor I know not; it is sufficient that I was once more betrayed at Vienna. The truth was, the administrators of my effects had acted as if I were deceased, and did not choose to refund two thousand ducats. They wished not I should obtain my freedom, in a manner that would have obliged the government to have rewarded me, and restore the effects they had embezzled and the estates they had seized. What happened afterwards at Vienna, which will be related in its place, will incontestably prove this surmise to be well founded.
These bad men did not, it is true, die in the manner they ought, but they are all dead, and I am still living, an honest, though poor man: they did not die so. Be this read and remembered by their luxurious heirs, who refuse to restore my children to their rights.
My consternation on the appearance of the Landgrave, with my letter in his hand, may well be supposed; I had the presence of mind, however, to deny my handwriting, and affect astonishment at so crafty a trick. The Landgrave endeavoured to convict me, told me what Lieutenant Kemnitz had repeated at Vienna concerning my possessing myself of Magdeburg, and thereby showed me how fully I had been betrayed. But as no such person existed as Lieutenant Kemnitz, and as my friend had fortunately concealed his name, the mystery remained impenetrable, especially as no one could conceive how a prisoner, in my situation, could seduce or subdue the whole garrison. The worthy prince left my prison, apparently satisfied with my defence; his heart felt no satisfaction in the misfortunes of others.
The next day a formal examination was taken, at which the sub-governor Reichmann presided. I was accused as a traitor to my country; but I obstinately denied my handwriting. Proofs or witnesses there were none, and in answer to the principal charge, I said, “I was no criminal, but a man calumniated, illegally imprisoned, and loaded with irons; that the King, in the year 1746, had cashiered me, and confiscated my parental inheritance; that therefore the laws of nature enforced me to seek honour and bread in a foreign service; and that, finding these in Austria, I became an officer and a faithful subject of the Empress-Queen; that I had been a second time unoffendingly imprisoned; that here I was treated as the worst of malefactors, and my only resource was to seek my liberty by such means as I could; were I therefore in this attempt to destroy Magdeburg, and occasion the loss of a thousand lives, I should still be guiltless. Had I been heard and legally sentenced, previous to my imprisonment at Glatz, I should have been, and still continued, a criminal; but not having been guilty of any small, much less of any great crime, equal to my punishment, if such crime could be, I was therefore not accountable for consequences; I owed neither fidelity nor duty to the King of Prussia; for by the word of his power he had deprived me of bread, honour, country, and freedom.”
Here the examination ended, without further discovery; the officers, however, falling under suspicion, were all removed, and thus I lost my best friends; yet it was not long before I had gained two others, which was no difficult matter, as I knew the national character, and that none but poor men were made militia officers. Thus was the governor’s precaution fruitless, and almost everybody secretly wished I might obtain my freedom.
I shall never forget the noble manner in which I was treated on this occasion by the Landgrave. This I personally acknowledged, some years afterwards, in the city of Cassel, when I heard many things which confirmed all my surmises concerning Vienna. The Landgrave received me with all grace, favour, and distinction. I revere his memory, and seek to honour his name. He was the friend of misfortune. When I not long afterwards fell ill, he sent me his own physician, and meat from his table, nor would he suffer me, during two months, to be wakened by the sentinels. He likewise removed the dreadful collar from my neck; for which he was severely reprimanded by the King, as he himself has since assured me.
I might fill a volume with incidents attending two other efforts to escape, but I will not weary the reader’s patience with too much repetition. I shall merely give an abstract of both.
When I had once more gained the officers, I made a new attempt at mining my way out. Not wanting for implements, my chains and the flooring were soon cut through, and all was so carefully replaced that I was under no fear of examination. I here found my concealed money, pistols, and other necessaries, but till I had rid myself of some hundredweight of sand, it was impossible to proceed. For this purpose I made two different openings in the floor: out of the real hole I threw a great quantity of sand into my prison; after which I closed it with all possible care. I then worked at the second with so much noise, that I was certain they must hear me without. About midnight the doors began to thunder, and in they came, detecting me, as I intended they should. None of them could conceive why I should wish to break out under the door, where there was a triple guard to pass. The sentinels remained, and in the morning prisoners were sent to wheel away the sand. The hole was walled up and boarded, and my fetters were renewed. They laughed at the ridiculousness of my undertaking, but punished me by depriving me of my light and bed, which, however, in a fortnight were both restored. Of the other hole, out of which most of the earth had been thrown, no one was aware. The major and lieutenant were too much my friends to remark that they had removed thrice the quantity of sand the false opening could contain. They supposed this strange attempt having failed, it would be my last, and Bruckhausen grew negligent.
The governor and sub-governor both visited me after some weeks, but far from imitating the brutality of Borck, the Landgrave spoke to me with mildness, promised me his interest to regain my freedom, when peace should be concluded; told me I had more friends than I supposed, and assured me I had not been forgotten by the Court at Vienna.
He promised me every alleviation, and I gave him my word I would no more attempt to escape while he remained governor. My manner enforced conviction and he ordered my neck-collar to be taken off, my window to be unclosed, my doors to be left open two hours every day, a stove to be put in my dungeon, finer linen for my shirts, and paper to amuse myself by writing my thoughts. The sheets were to be numbered when given, and then returned, by the town-major, that I might not abuse this liberty.
Ink was not allowed me, I therefore pricked my fingers, suffered the blood to trickle into a pot; by these means I procured a substitute for ink, both to write and draw.
I now engraved my cups, and versified. I had opportunity to display my abilities to awaken compassion. My emulation was increased by knowing that my works were seen at Courts, that the Princess Amelia and the Queen herself testified their satisfaction. I had subjects to engrave from sent me; and the wretch whom the King intended to bury alive, whose name no man was to mention, never was more famous than while he vented his groans in his dungeon. My writings produced their effect, and really regained my freedom. To my cultivation of the sciences and presence of mind I am indebted for all; these all the power of Frederic could not deprive me of. Yes! This liberty I procured, though he answered all petitions in my behalf—“He is a dangerous man: and so long as I live he shall never see the light!” Yet have I seen it during his life: after his death I have seen it without revenging myself, otherwise than by proving my virtue to a monarch who oppressed because he knew me not, because he would not recall the hasty sentence of anger, or own he might be mistaken. He died convinced of my integrity, yet without affording me retribution! Man is formed by misfortune; virtue is active in adversity. It is indifferent to me that the companions of my youth have their ears gratified, delighted with the titles of General! Field-Marshal I have learned to live without such additions; I am known in my works.
I returned to my dungeon. Here, after my last conference with the Landgrave, I waited my fate with a mind more at ease than that of a prince in a palace. The newspapers they brought me bespoke approaching peace, on which my dependence was placed, and I passed eighteen months calmly, and without further attempt to escape.
The father of the Landgrave died; and Magdeburg now lost its governor. The worthy Reichmann, however, testified for me all compassion and esteem; I had books, and my time was employed. Imprisonment and chains to me were become habitual, and freedom in hope approached.
About this time I wrote the poems, “The Macedonian Hero,” “The Dream Realised,” and some fables. The best of my poems are now lost to me. The mind’s sensibility when the body is imprisoned is strongly roused, nor can all the aids of the library equal this advantage. Perhaps I may recover some in Berlin; if so, the world may learn what my thoughts then were. When I was at liberty, I had none but such as I remembered, and these I committed to writing. On my first visit to the Landgrave of Hesse-Cassel I received a volume of them written in my own blood; but there were eight of these which I shall never regain.
The death of Elizabeth, the deposing of Peter III., and the accession of Catherine II. produced peace. On the receipt of this intelligence I tried to provide for all contingencies. The worthy Captain K--- had opened me a correspondence with Vienna: I was assured of support; but was assured the administrators and those who possessed my estates would throw every impediment in the way of freedom. I tried to persuade another officer to aid my escape, but in vain.
I therefore opened my old hole, and my friends assisted me to disembarrass myself of sand. My money melted away, but they provided me with tools, gunpowder, and a good sword. I had remained so long quiet that my flooring was not examined.
My intent was to wait the peace; and should I continue in chains, then would I have my subterranean passage to the rampart ready for escape. For my further security, an old lieutenant had purchased a house in the suburbs, where I might lie concealed. Gummern, in Saxony, is two miles from Magdeburg; here a friend, with two good horses, was to wait a year, to ride on the glacis of Klosterbergen on the first and fifteenth of each month, and at a given signal to hasten to my assistance.
My passage had to be ready in case of emergency; I removed the upper planking, broke up the two beds, cut the boards into chips, and burnt them in my stove. By this I obtained so much additional room as to proceed half way with my mine. Linen again was brought me, sand-bags made, and thus I successfully proceeded to all but the last operation. Everything was so well concealed that I had nothing to fear from inspection, especially as the new come garrison could not know what was the original length of the planks.
I must here relate a dreadful accident, which I cannot remember without shuddering, and the terror of which has often haunted my very dreams.
While mining under the rampart, as I was carrying out the sand-bag, I struck my foot against a stone which fell down and closed up the passage.
What was my horror to find myself buried alive! After a short reflection, I began to work the sand away from the side, that I might turn round. There were some feet of empty space, into which I threw the sand as I worked it away; but the small quantity of air soon made it so foul that I a thousand times wished myself dead, and made several attempts to strangle myself. Thirst almost deprived me of my senses, but as often as I put my mouth to the sand I inhaled fresh air. My sufferings were incredible, and I imagine I passed eight hours in this situation. My spirits fainted; again I recovered and began to labour, but the earth was as high as my chin, and I had no more space where I might throw the sand. I made a more desperate effort, drew my body into a ball, and turned round; I now faced the stone; there being an opening at the top, I respired fresher air. I rooted away the sand under the stone, and let it sink so that I might creep over; at length I once more arrived in my dungeon!
The morning was advanced; I sat down so exhausted that I supposed it was impossible I had strength to conceal my hole. After half an hour’s rest, my fortitude returned: again I went to work, and scarcely had I ended before my visitors approached.
They found me pale: I complained of headache, and continued some days affected by the fatigue I had sustained. After a time strength returned; but perhaps of all my nights of horror this was the most horrible. I repeatedly dreamt I was buried in the centre of the earth; and now, though three and twenty years are elapsed, my sleep is still haunted by this vision.
After this accident, when I worked in my cavity, I hung a knife round my neck, that if I should be enclosed I might shorten my miseries. Over the stone that had fallen several others hung tottering, under which I was obliged to creep. Nothing, however, could deter me from trying to obtain my liberty.
When my passage was ready, I wrote letters to my friends at Vienna, and also a memorial to my Sovereign. When the militia left Magdeburg and the regulars returned, I took leave of my friends who had behaved so benevolently. Several weeks elapsed before they departed and I learnt that General Reidt was appointed ambassador from Vienna to Berlin.
I had seen the world; I knew this General was not averse to a bribe: I wrote him a letter, conjuring him to act with ardour in my behalf. I enclosed a draft for six thousand florins on my effects at Vienna, and he received four thousand from one of my relations. I have to thank these ten thousand florins for my freedom, which I obtained nine months after. My vouchers show the six thousand florins were paid in April, 1763, to the order of General Reidt. The other four thousand I repaid, when at liberty, to my friend.
I received intelligence before the garrison departed that no stipulation had been made on my behalf at the peace of Hubertsberg. The Vienna plenipotentiaries, after the articles were signed, mentioned my name to Hertzberg, with but few assurances of every effort being made to move Frederic, a promise on which I could much better rely than on my protectors at Vienna, who had left me in misfortune. I determined to wait three months longer, and should I still find myself neglected, to owe my escape to myself.
On the change of the garrison, the officers were more difficult to gain than the former. The majors obeyed their orders; their help was unnecessary; but still I sighed for my old friends. I had only ammunition-bread again for food.
My time hung very heavy; everything was examined on the change of the garrison. A stricter scrutiny might occur, and my projects be discovered. This had nearly been effected, as I shall here relate. I had so tamed a mouse that it would eat from my mouth; in this small animal I discovered proofs of intelligence.
This mouse had nearly been my ruin. I had diverted myself with it one night; it had been nibbling at my door and capering on a trencher. The sentinels hearing our amusement, called the officers: they heard also, and thought all was not right. At daybreak the town-major, a smith, and mason entered; strict search was begun; flooring, walls, chains, and my own person were all scrutinised, but in vain. They asked what was the noise they had heard; I mentioned the mouse, whistled, and it came and jumped upon my shoulder. Orders were given I should be deprived of its society; I entreated they would spare its life. The officer on guard gave me his word he would present it to a lady, who would treat it with tenderness.
He took it away and turned it loose in the guardroom, but it was tame to me alone, and sought a hiding place. It had fled to my prison door, and, at the hour of visitation, ran into my dungeon, testifying its joy by leaping between my legs. It is worthy of remark that it had been taken away blindfold, that is to say, wrapped in a handkerchief. The guard-room was a hundred paces from the dungeon.
All were desirous of obtaining this mouse, but the major carried it off for his lady; she put it into a cage, where it pined, and in a few days died.
The loss of this companion made me quite melancholy, yet, on the last examination, I perceived it had so eaten the bread by which I had concealed the crevices I had made in cutting the floor, that the examiners must be blind not to discover them. I was convinced my faithful little friend had fallen a necessary victim to its master’s safety. This accident determined me not to wait the three months.
I have related that horses were to be kept ready, on the first and fifteenth, and I only suffered the first of August to pass, because I would not injure Major Pfuhl, who had treated me with more compassion than his comrades, and whose day of visitation it was. On the fifteenth I determined to fly. This resolution formed, I waited in expectation of the day, when a new and remarkable succession of accidents happened.
An alarm of fire had obliged the major to repair to the town; he committed the keys to the lieutenant. The latter, coming to visit me, asked—“Dear Trenck, have you never, during seven years that you have been under the guard of the militia, found a man like Schell?” “Alas! sir,” answered I, “such friends are rare; the will of many has been good; each knew I could make his fortune, but none had courage enough for so desperate an attempt! Money I have distributed freely, but have received little help.”
“How do you obtain money in this dungeon?” “From a correspondent at Vienna, by whom I am still supplied.” “If I can serve you, command me: I will do it without asking any return.” So saying, I took fifty ducats from between the panels, and gave them to the lieutenant. At first he refused, but at length accepted them with fear. He left me, promised to return, pretended to shut the door, and kept his word. He now said debt obliged him to desert; that this had long been his determination, and that, desirous to assist me at the same time if he could find the means, I had only to show how this might be effected.
We continued two hours in conference: a plan was formed, approved, and a certainty of success demonstrated; especially when I told him I had two horses waiting. We vowed eternal friendship; I gave him fifty ducats, and his debts, not amounting to more than two hundred rix-dollars, which he never could have discharged out of his pay.
He was to prepare four keys to resemble those of my dungeon; the latter were to be exchanged on the day of flight, being kept in the guard-room while the major was with General Walrabe. He was to give the grenadiers on guard leave of absence, or send them into the town on various pretences. The sentinels he was to call from their duty, and those placed over me were to be sent into my dungeon to take away my bed; while encumbered with this, I was to spring out and lock them in, after which we were to mount our horses, which were kept ready, and ride to Gummern. Every thing was to be prepared within a week, when he was to mount guard. We had scarcely formed our project before the sentinels called the major was coming; he accordingly barred the door, and the major passed to General Walrabe.
No man was happier than myself; my hopes of escape were triple; the mediation at Berlin, the mine I had made, and my friend the lieutenant.
When most my mind ought to have been clear, I seemed to have lost my understanding. I came to a resolution which will appear extravagant and pitiable. I was stupid enough, mad enough, to form the design of casting myself on the magnanimity of the Great Frederic! Should this fail, I still thought my lieutenant a saviour.
Having heated my imagination with this scheme, I waited the visitation with anxiety. The major entered, I bespoke him thus:
“I know, sir, the great Prince Ferdinand is again in Magdeburg. Inform him that he may examine my prison, double the sentinels, and give me his commands, stating what hour will please him I should make my appearance on the glacis of Klosterbergen. If I prove myself capable of this, I then hope for the protection of Prince Ferdinand: and that he will relate my proceeding to the King, who may he convinced of my innocence.”
The major was astonished; the proposal he held to be ridiculous, and the performance impossible. I persisted; he returned with the sub-governor, Reichmann, the town-major, Riding, and the major of inspection. The answer they delivered was, that the Prince promised me his protection, the King’s favour, and a release from my chains, should I prove my assertion. I required they would appoint a time; they ridiculed the thing as impossible, and said that it would be sufficient could I prove the practicability of such a scheme; but should I refuse, they would break up the flooring, and place sentinels in my dungeon, adding, the governor would not admit of any breaking out.
After promises of good faith, I disencumbered myself of my chains, raised my flooring, gave them my implements, and two keys, my friends had procured me, to the doors of the subterranean gallery. This gallery I desired them to sound with their sword hilts, at the place through which I was to break, which might be done in a few minutes. I described the road I was to take through the gallery, informed them that two of the doors had not been shut for six months, and to the others they had the keys; adding, I had horses waiting at the glacis, that would be now ready; the stables for which were unknown to them. They went, examined, returned, put questions, which I answered with precision. They left me with seeming friendship, came back, told me the Prince was astonished at what he had heard, that he wished me all happiness, and then took me unfettered, to the guard-house. The major came in the evening, treated us with a supper, assured me everything would happen to my wishes, and that Prince Ferdinand had written to Berlin.
The guard was reinforced next day. The whole guard loaded with ball before my eyes, the drawbridges were raised in open day, and precautions were taken as if I intended to make attempts as desperate as those I had made at Glatz.
I now saw workmen employed on my dungeon, and carts bringing quarry-stones. The officers on guard behaved with kindness, kept a good table, at which I ate; but two sentinels, and an under-officer, never quitted the guard-room. Conversation was cautious, and this continued five or six days; at length, it was the lieutenant’s turn to mount guard; he appeared to be as friendly as formerly, but conference was difficult; he found an opportunity to express his astonishment at my ill-timed discovery, told me the Prince knew nothing of the affair, and that the report through the garrison was, I had been surprised in making a new attempt.
My dungeon was completed in a week. The town-major re-conducted me to it. My foot was chained to the wall with links twice as strong as formerly; the remainder of my irons were never after added.
The dungeon was paved with flag-stones. That part of my money only was saved which I had concealed in the panels of the door, and the chimney of my stove; some thirty louis-d’ors, hidden about my clothes, were taken from me.
While the smith was riveting my chains, I addressed the sub-governor. “Is this the fulfilment of the pledge of the Prince? Think not you deceive me, I am acquainted with the false reports that have been spread; the truth will soon come to light, and the unworthy be put to shame. Nay, I forewarn you that Trenck shall not be much longer in your power; for were you to build your dungeon of steel, it would be insufficient to contain me.”
They smiled at me. Reichmann told me I might soon obtain my freedom in a proper manner. My firm reliance on my friend, the lieutenant, gave me a degree of confidence that amazed them all.
It is necessary to explain this affair. When I obtained my liberty, I visited Prince Ferdinand. He informed me the majors had not made a true report. Their story was, they had caught me at work, and, had it not been for their diligence, I should have made my escape. Prince Ferdinand heard the truth, and informed the King, who only waited an opportunity to restore me to liberty.
Once more I was immured. I waited in hope for the day when my deliverer was to mount guard. What again was my despair when I saw another lieutenant! I buoyed myself up with the hope that accident was the occasion of this; but I remained three weeks, and saw him no more. I heard at length that he had left the corps of grenadiers, and was no longer to mount guard at the Star Fort. He has my forgiveness, and I applaud myself for never having said anything by which he might be injured. He might have repented his promise, he might have trusted another friend with the enterprise, and have been himself betrayed; but, be it as it may, his absence cut off all hope.
I now repented my folly and vanity; I had brought my misfortunes on myself. I had myself rendered my dungeon impenetrable. Death would have followed but for the dependence I placed in the court of Vienna.
The officers remarked the loss of my fortitude and thoughtfulness; the verses I wrote were desponding. The only comfort they could give was—“Patience, dear Trenck; your condition cannot be worse; the King may not live for ever.” Were I sick, they told me I might hope my sufferings would soon have an end. If I recovered they pitied me, and lamented their continuance. What man of my rank and expectations ever endured what I did, ever was treated as I have been treated!
Peace had been concluded nine months. I was forgotten. At last, when I supposed all hope lost, the 25th of December, and the day of freedom, came. At the hour of parade, Count Schlieben, lieutenant of the guards, brought orders for my release!
The sub-governor supposed me weaker in intellect than I was, and would not too suddenly tell me these tidings. He knew not the presence of mind, the fortitude, which the dangers I had seen had made habitual.
My doors for the last time resounded! Several people entered; their countenances were cheerful, and the sub-governor at their head at length said, “This time, my dear Trenck, I am the messenger of good news. Prince Ferdinand has prevailed on the King to let your irons be taken off.” Accordingly, to work went the smith. “You shall also,” continued he, “have a better apartment.” “I am free, then,” said I. “Speak! fear not! I can moderate my transports.”
“Then you are free!” was the reply.
The sub-governor first embraced me, and afterwards his attendants.
He asked me what clothes I would wish. I answered, the uniform of my regiment. The tailor took my measure. Reichmann told him it must be made by the morning. The man excused himself because it was Christmas Eve. “So, then, this gentleman must remain in his dungeon because it is holiday with you.” The tailor promised to be ready.
I was taken to the guard-room, congratulations were universal, and the town-major administered the oath customary to all state prisoners.
1st. That I should avenge myself on no man.
2nd. That I should neither enter the Prussian nor Saxon states.
3rd. That I should never relate by speech or in writing what had happened to me.
4th. And that, so long as the King lived, I should neither serve in a civil nor military capacity.
Count Schlieben delivered me a letter from the imperial minister, General Reidt, to the following purport:—That he rejoiced at having found an opportunity of obtaining my liberty from the King, and that I must obey the requisitions of Count Schlieben, whose orders were to accompany me to Prague.
“Yes, dear Trenck,” said Schlieben, “I am to conduct you through Dresden to Prague, with orders not to suffer you to speak to any one on the road. I have received three hundred ducats, to defray the expenses of travelling. As all things cannot be prepared today, the, sub-governor has determined we shall depart to-morrow night.”
I acquiesced, and Count Schlieben remained with me; the others returned to town, and I dined with the major and officers on guard, with General Walrabe in his prison.
Once at liberty, I walked about the fortifications, to collect the money I had concealed in my dungeon. To every man on guard I gave a ducat, to the sentinels, each three, and ten ducats to be divided among the relief-guard. I sent the officer on guard a present from Prague, and the remainder of my money I bestowed on the widow of the worthy Gelfhardt. He was no more, and she had entrusted the thousand florins to a young soldier, who, spending them too freely, was suspected, betrayed her, and she passed two years in prison. Gelfhardt never received any punishment; he was in the field. Had he left any children, I should have provided for them. To the widow of the man who hung himself before my prison door, in the year 1756, I gave thirty ducats, lent me by Schlieben.
The night was riotous, the guard made merry, and I passed most of it in their company. I was visited by all the generals of the garrison on Christmas morning, for I was not allowed to enter the town. I dressed, viewed myself in the glass, and found pleasure; but the tumult of my passions, the congratulations I received, and the vivacity round me, prevented my remembering incidents minutely.
Yet how wonderful an alteration in the countenances of those by whom I had been guarded! I was treated with friendship, attention, and flattery. And why? Because these fetters had dropped off which I had never justly borne.
Evening came, and with it Count Schlieben, a waggon, and four post-horses. After an affecting farewell, we departed. I shed tears at leaving Magdeburg. It seems strange that I lived here ten years, yet never saw the town.
The duration of my imprisonment at Magdeburg was nearly ten years, and with the term of my imprisonment at Glatz, the time is eleven years. Thus was I robbed of time, my body weakened, my health impaired, so that in my decline of life, a second time, I suffer the gloom and chains of the dungeon at Magdeburg.
The reader would now hope that my calamities were at an end; yet, upon my honour, I would prefer the suffering of the Star Fort to those I have since endured in Austria, especially while Krugel and Zetto were my referendaries and curators.
At this moment I am obliged to be guarded in my expressions. I have put my enemies to shame; but the hope of justice or reward is vain. No rewards are bestowed on him who, with the consciousness of integrity, demands, and does not deplore. The facts I shall relate will seem incredible, yet I have, in my own hands, the vouchers of their veracity.
“If my right hand is guilty of writing untruths in this book, may the executioner sever it from my body, and, in the memory of posterity, may I live a villain!”
I will proceed with my history.
On the 2nd of January I arrived, with Count Schlieben, at Prague; the same day he delivered me to the governor, the Duke of Deuxponts. He received me with kindness; we dined with him two days, and all Prague were anxious to see a man who had surmounted ten years of suffering so unheard of as mine. Here I received three thousand florins, and paid General Reidt his three hundred ducats, which he had advanced Count Schlieben, for my journey, the repayment of which he demanded in his letter, although he had received ten thousand florins. The expense of returning I also paid to Schlieben, made him a present, and provided myself with some necessaries. After remaining a few days at Prague, a courier arrived from Vienna, to whom I was obliged to pay forty florins, with an order from government to bring me from Prague to Vienna. My sword was demanded; Captain Count Wela, and two inferior officers, entered the carriage, which I was obliged to purchase, in company with me, and brought me to Vienna. I took up a thousand florins more, in Prague, to defray these expenses, and was obliged, in Vienna, to pay the captain fifty ducats for travelling charges back.
I was brought back like a criminal, was sent as a prisoner to the barracks, there kept in the chamber of Lieutenant Blonket, with orders that I should be suffered to write to no one, speak to no one, without a ticket from the counsellors Kempt or Huttner.
Thus I remained six weeks; at length, the colonel of the regiment of Poniatowsky, the present field-marshal, Count Alton, spoke to me. I related what I supposed were the reasons of my being kept a prisoner in Vienna; and to the exertions of this man am I indebted that the intentions of my enemies were frustrated, which were to have me imprisoned as insane in the fortress of Glatz. Had they once removed me from Vienna, I should certainly have pined away my life in a madhouse. Yet I could never obtain justice against these men. The Empress was persuaded that my brain was affected, and that I uttered threats against the King of Prussia. The election of a king of the Romans was then in agitation, and the court was apprehensive lest I should offend the Prussian envoy. General Reidt had been obliged to promise Frederic that I should not appear in Vienna, and that they should hold a wary eye over me. The Empress-Queen felt compassion for my supposed disease, and asked if no assistance could be afforded me; to which they answered, I had several times let blood, but that I still was a dangerous man. They added, that I had squandered four thousand florins in six days at Prague; that it would be proper to appoint guardians to impede such extravagancies.
Count Alton spoke of me and my hard destiny to the Countess Parr, mistress of the ceremonies to the Empress-Queen. The late Emperor entered the chamber, and asked whether I ever had any lucid intervals. “May it please your Majesty,” answered Alton, “he has been seven weeks in my barracks, and I never met a more reasonable man. There is mystery in this affair, or he could not be treated as a madman. That he is not so in anywise I pledge my honour.”
The next day the Emperor sent Count Thurn, grand-master of the Archduke Leopold, to speak to me. In him I found an enlightened philosopher, and a lover of his country. To him I related how I had twice been betrayed, twice sold at Vienna, during my imprisonment; to him showed that my administrators had acted in this vile manner that I might be imprisoned for life, and they remain in possession of my effects. We conversed for two hours, during which many things were said that prudence will not permit me to repeat. I gained his confidence, and he continued my friend till death. He promised me protection, and procured me an audience of the Emperor.
I spoke with freedom; the audience lasted an hour. At length the Emperor retired into the next apartment. I saw the tears drop from his eyes. I fell at his feet, and wished for the presence of a Rubens or Apelles, to preserve a scene so honourable to the memory of the monarch, and paint the sensations of an innocent man, imploring the protection of a compassionate prince. The Emperor tore himself from me, and I departed with sensations such as only those can know who, themselves being virtuous, have met with wicked men. I returned to the barracks with joy, and an order the next day came for my release. I went with Count Alton to the Countess Parr, and by her mediation I obtained an audience with the Empress.
I cannot describe how much she pitied my sufferings and admired my fortitude. She told me she was informed of the artifices practised against me in Vienna; she required me to forgive my enemies, and pass all the accounts of my administrators. “Do not complain of anything,” said she, “but act as I desire—I know all—you shall be recompensed by me; you deserve reward and repose, and these you shall enjoy.”
I must either sign whatever was given to sign, or be sent to a madhouse. I received orders to accompany M. Pistrich to Counsellor Ziegler; thither I went, and the next day was obliged to sign, in their presence, the following conditions:—
First—That I acknowledged the will of Trenck to be valid.
Secondly—That I renounced all claim to the Sclavonian estates, relying alone on her Majesty’s favour.
Thirdly—That I solemnly acquitted my accountants and curators. And,
Lastly—That I would not continue in Vienna.
This I must sign, or languish in prison.
How did my blood boil while I signed! This confidence I had in myself assured me I could obtain employment in any country of Europe, by the labours of my mind, and the recital of all my woes. At that time I had no children; I little regretted what I had lost, or the poor portion that remained.
I determined to avoid Austria eternally. My pride would never suffer me, by insidious arts, to approach the throne. I knew no such mode of soliciting for justice, hence I was not a match for my enemies; hence my misfortunes. Appeals to justice were represented as the splenetic effusions of a man never to be satisfied. My too sensitive heart was corroded by the treatment I met at Vienna. I, who with so much fortitude had suffered so much in the cause of Vienna, I, on whom the eyes of Germany were fixed, to behold what should be the reward of these sufferings, I was again, in this country, kept a prisoner, and delivered to those by whom I had been plundered as a man insane!
Before my intended departure to seek my fortune, I fell ill, and sickness almost brought me to the grave. The Empress, in her great clemency, sent one of her physicians and a friar to my assistance, both of whom I was obliged to pay.
At this time I refused a major’s commission, for which I was obliged to pay the fees. Being excluded from actual service, to me the title was of little value; my rank in the army had been equal ten years before in other service. The following words, inserted in my commission, are not unworthy of remark:—“Her Majesty, in consequence of my fidelity for her service, demonstrated during a long imprisonment, my endowments and virtues, had been graciously pleased to grant me, in the Imperial service, the rank of major.”—The rank of major!—From this preamble who would not have expected either the rank of general, or the restoration of my great Sclavonian estates? I had been fifteen years a captain of cavalry, and then was I made an invalid major three-and-twenty years ago, and an invalid major I still remain! Let all that has been related be called to mind, the manner in which I had been pillaged and betrayed; let Vienna, Dantzic, and Magdeburg he remembered; and be this my promotion remembered also! Let it be known that the commission of major might be bought for a few thousand florins! Thirty thousand florins only of the money I had been robbed of would have purchased a colonel’s commission. I should then have been a companion for generals.
During the thirty-six years that I have been in the service of Austria, I never had any man of rank, any great general, my enemy, except Count Grassalkowitz, and he was only my enemy because he had conceived a friendship for my estates.
My character was never calumniated, nor did any worthy man ever speak of me but with respect. Who were, who are, my enemies?—Jesuits, monks, unprincipled advocates, wishing to become my curators, referendaries, who died despicable, or now live in houses of correction. Such as live, live in dread of a similar end, for the Emperor Joseph is able to discover the truth. Alas! the truth is discovered so late; age has now nearly rendered me an invalid. Men with hearts so base ought, indeed, to become the scavengers of society, that, terrified by their example, succeeding judges may not rack the heart of an honest man, seize on the possessions of the orphan and the widow, and expel virtue out of Austria.
I attended the levée of Prince Kaunitz. Not personally known to him, he viewed in me a crawling insect. I thought somewhat more proudly; my actions were upright, and so should my body be. I quitted the apartment, and was congratulated by the mercenary Swiss porter on my good fortune of having obtained an audience!
I applied to the field-marshal, from whom I received this answer—“If you cannot purchase, my dear Trenck, it will be impossible to admit you into service; besides, you are too old to learn our manoeuvres.” I was then thirty-seven. I briefly replied, “Your excellency mistakes my character. I did not come to Vienna to serve as an invalid major. My curators have taken good care I should have no money to purchase; but had I millions, I would never obtain rank in the army by that mode.” I quitted the room with a shrug. The next day I addressed a memorial to the Empress. I did not re-demand my Sclavonian estates, I only petitioned.
First—That those who had carried off quintals of silver and gold from the premises, and had rendered no account to me or the treasury, should refund at least a part.
Secondly—That they should be obliged to return the thirty-six thousand florins taken from my inheritance, and applied to a hospital.
Thirdly—That the thirty-six thousand florins might be repaid, which Count Grassalkowitz had deducted from the allodial estates, for three thousand six hundred pandours who had fallen in the service of the Empress; I not being bound to pay for the lives of men who had died in defence of the Empress.
Fourthly—I required that fifteen thousand florins, which had been deducted from my capital, and applied to the Bohemian fortifications, should likewise be restored, together with the fifteen thousand which had been unduly paid to the regiment of Trenck.
Fifthly—I reclaimed the twelve thousand florins which I had been robbed of at Dantzic by the treachery of the Imperial Resident, Abramson; and public satisfaction from the magistracy of Dantzic, who had delivered me up, so contrary to the laws of nations, to the Prussian power.
I likewise claimed the interest of six per cent, for seventy-six thousand florins, detained by the Hungarian Chamber, which amounted to twenty thousand florins; I having been allowed five per cent., and at last four.
I insisted on the restoration of my Sclavonian estates, and a proper allowance for improvements, which the very sentence of the court had granted, and which amounted to eighty thousand florins.
I petitioned for an arbitrator; I solicited justice concerning rights, but received no answer to this and a hundred other petitions!
I must here speak of transactions during my imprisonment. I had bought a house in Vienna in the year 1750; the price was sixteen thousand florins, thirteen thousand of which I had paid by instalments. The receipts were among my writings; these writings, with my other effects, were taken from me at Dantzic, in the year 1754; nor have I, to this hour, been able to learn more than that my writings were sent to the administrators of my affairs at Vienna. With respect to my houses and property in Dantzic, in what manner these were disposed of no one could or would say.
After being released at Magdeburg, I inquired concerning my house, but no longer found it mine. Those who had got possession of my writings must have restored the acquittances to the seller, consequently he could re-demand the whole sum. My house was in other hands, and I was brought in debtor six thousand florins for interest and costs of suit. Thus were house and money gone. Whom can I accuse?
Again, I had maintained, at my own expense Lieutenant Schroeder, who had deserted from Glatz, and for whom I obtained a captain’s commission in the guard of Prince Esterhazy, at Eisenstadt. His misconduct caused him to be cashiered. In my administrator’s accounts I found the following
“To Captain Schroeder, for capital, interest, and costs of suit, sixteen hundred florins.”
It was certain I was not a penny indebted to this person; I had no redress, having been obliged to pass and sign all their accounts.
I, four years afterwards, obtained information concerning this affair: I met Schroeder, knew him, and inquired whether he had received these sixteen hundred florins. He answered in the affirmative. “No one believed you would ever more see the light. I knew you would serve me, and that you would relieve my necessities. I went and spoke to Dr. Berger; he agreed we should halve the sum, and his contrivance was, I should make oath I had lent you a thousand florins, without having received your note. The money was paid me by M. Frauenberger, to whom I agreed to send a present of Tokay, for Madam Huttner.”
This was the manner in which my curators took care of my property! Many instances I could produce, but I am too much agitated by the recollection. I must speak a word concerning who and what my curators were.
The Court Counsellor, Kempf, was my administrator, and Counsellor Huttner my referendary. The substitute of Kempf was Frauenberger, who, being obliged to act as a clerk at Prague during the war, appointed one Krebs as a sub-substitute; whether M. Krebs had also a sub-substitute is more than I am able to say.
Dr. Bertracker was fidei commiss-curator, though there was no fidei commissum existing. Dr. Berger, as Fidei Commiss-Advocate, was superintendent, and to them all salaries were to be paid.
Let us see what was the business this company had to transact. I had seventy-six thousand florins in the Hungarian Chamber, the interest of which was to be yearly received, and added to the capital: this was their employment, and was certainly so trifling that any man would have performed it gratis. The war made money scarce, and the discounting of bills with my ducats was a profitable trade to my curators. Had it been honestly employed, I should have found my capital increased, after my imprisonment, full sixty thousand florins. Instead of these I received three thousand florins at Prague, and found my capital diminished seven thousand florins.
Frauenberger and Berger died rich; and I must be confined as a madman, lest this deputy should have been proved a rogue. This is the clue to the acquittal I was obliged to sign:—Madam K--- was a lady of the bedchamber at court; she could approach the throne: her chamber employments, indeed, procured her the keys of doors that to me were eternally locked.
Not satisfied with this, Kempf applied to the Empress, informed her they were acquitted, not recompensed, and that Frauenberger required four thousand florins for remuneration. The Empress laid an interdict on the half of my income and pension. Thus was I obliged to live in poverty; banished the Austrian dominions, where my seventy-six thousand florins were reduced to sixty-three, the interest of which I could only receive; and that burthened by the above interdict, the fidei commissum, and administratorship.
The Empress during my sickness ordered that my captain’s pay, during my ten years’ imprisonment, should be given me, amounting to eight thousand florins; which pay she also settled on me as a pension. By this pension I never profited; for, during twenty-three years, that and more was swallowed by journeys to Vienna, chicanery of courtiers and agents, and costs of suits. Of the eight thousand florins three were stolen; the court physician must be paid thrice as much as another, and what remained after my recovery was sunk in the preparations I had made to seek my fortune elsewhere.
How far my captain’s pay was matter of right or favour, let the world judge, being told I went in the service of Vienna to the city of Dantzic. Neither did this restitution of pay equal the sum I had sent the Imperial Minister to obtain my freedom. I remained nine months in my dungeon after the articles were signed, unthought of; and, when mentioned by the Austrians, the King had twice rejected the proposal of my being set free. The affair happened as follows, as I received it from Prince Henry, Prince Ferdinand of Brunswick, and the Minister, Count Hertzberg:—General Reidt had received my ten thousand florins full six months, and seemed to remember me no more. One gala day, on the 21st of December, the King happened to be in good humour; and Her Majesty the Queen, the Princess Amelia, and the present monarch, said to the Imperial Minister, “This is a fit opportunity for you to speak in behalf of Trenck.” He accordingly waited his time, did speak, and the King replied, “Yes.”
The joy of the whole company appeared so great that Frederic the Great was offended!
Other circumstances which contributed to promote this affair, the reader will collect from my history. That there were persons in Vienna who desired to detain me in prison is indubitable, from their proceedings after my return. My friends in Berlin and my money were my deliverers.
Walking round Vienna, having recovered from my sickness, the broad expanse of heaven inspired a consciousness of freedom and pleasure indescribable. I heard the song of the lark. My heart palpitated, my pulse quickened, for I recollected I was not in chains. “Happen,” said I, “what may, my will and heart are free.”
An incident happened which furthered my project of getting away from Austria. Marshal Laudohn was going to Aix-la-Chapelle to take the waters. He went to take his leave of the Countess Parr; I was present the Empress entered the chamber, and the conversation turning upon Laudohn’s journey, she said to me, “The baths are necessary to the re-establishment of your health, Trenck.” I was ready, and followed him in two days, where we remained about three months.
The mode of life at Aix-la-Chapelle and Spa pleased me, where men of all nations meet, and where princes mingle with persons of all ranks. One day here procured me more pleasure than a whole life in Vienna.
I had scarcely remained a month before the Countess Parr wrote to me that the Empress had provided for me, and would make my fortune as soon as I returned to Vienna. I tried to discover in what it consisted, but in vain. The death of the Emperor Francis at Innsbruck occasioned the return of General Laudohn, and I followed him, on foot, to Vienna.
By means of the Countess Parr I obtained an audience. The Empress said to me, “I will prove to you, Trenck, that I keep my word. I have insured your fortune; I will give you a rich and prudent wife.” I replied, “Most gracious Sovereign, I cannot determine to marry, and, if I could, my choice is already made at Aix-la-Chapelle.”—“How! are you married, then?”—“Not yet, please your Majesty.”—“Are you promised?”
“Yes.”—“Well, well, no matter for that; I will take care of that affair; I am determined on marrying you to the rich widow of M---, and she approves my choice. She is a good, kind woman, and has fifty thousand florins a year. You are in want of such a wife.”
I was thunderstruck. This bride was a canting hypocrite of sixty-three, covetous, and a termagant. I answered, “I must speak the truth to your Majesty; I could not consent did she possess the treasures of the whole earth. I have made my choice, which, as an honest man, I must not break.” The Empress said, “Your unhappiness is your own work. Act as you think proper; I have done.” Here my audience ended. I was not actually affianced at that time to my present wife, but love had determined my choice.
Marshal Laudohn promoted the match. He was acquainted with my heart and the warmth of my passion, and perceived that I could not conquer the desire of vengeance on men by whom I had been so cruelly treated. He and Professor Gellert advised me to take this mode of calming passions that often inspired projects too vast, and that I should fly the company of the great. This counsel was seconded by my own wishes. I returned to Aix-la-Chapelle in December, 1766, and married the youngest daughter of the former Burgomaster De Broe. He was dead; he had lived on his own estate in Brussels, where my wife was born and educated. My wife’s mother was sister to the Vice-Chancellor of Dusseldorf, Baron Robert, Lord of Roland. My wife was with me in most parts of Europe. She was then young, handsome, worthy, and virtuous, has borne me eleven children, all of whom she has nursed herself; eight of them are still living and have been properly educated. Twenty-two years she has borne a part of all my sufferings, and well deserves reward.
During my abode in Vienna I made one effort more. I sought an audience with the present Emperor Joseph, related all that had happened to me, and remarked such defects as I had observed in the regulations of the country. He heard me, and commanded me to commit my thoughts to writing. My memorial was graciously received. I also gave a full account of what had happened to me in various countries, which prudence has occasioned me to express more cautiously in these pages. My memorial produced no effect, and I hastened back to Aix-la-Chapelle.
For some years I lived in peace; my house was the rendezvous of the first people, who came to take the waters. I began to be more known among the very first and best people. I visited Professor Gellert at Leipzig, and asked his advice concerning what branch of literature he thought it was probable I might succeed in. He most approved my fables and tales, and blamed the excessive freedom with which I spoke in political writings. I neglected his advice, and many of the ensuing calamities were the consequence.
I received orders to correspond with His Majesty’s private secretary, Baron Roder; suffice it to say, my attempts to serve my country were frustrated; I saw defects too clearly, spoke my thoughts too frankly, and wanted sufficient humility ever to obtain favour.
In the year 1767 I wrote “The Macedonian Hero,” which became famous throughout all Germany. The poem did me honour, but entailed new persecutions; yet I never could repent: I have had the honour of presenting it to five reigning princes, by none of whom it has been burnt. The Empress alone was highly enraged. I had spoken as Nathan did to David, and the Jesuits now openly became my enemies.
The following trick was played me in 1768. A friend in Brussels was commissioned to receive my pay, from whom I learnt an interdict had been laid upon it by the court called Hofkriegsrath, in Vienna, in which I was condemned to pay seven hundred florins to one Bussy, with fourteen years’ interest.
Bussy was a known swindler. I therefore journeyed, post-haste, to Vienna. No hearing; no satisfactory account was to be obtained. The answer was, “Sentence is passed, therefore all attempts are too late.”
I applied to the Emperor Joseph, pledged my head to prove the falsification of this note; and entreated a revision of the cause. My request was granted and my attorney, Weyhrauch, was an upright man. When he requested a day of revision to be appointed, he was threatened to be committed by the referendary. Zetto, should he interfere and defend the affairs of Trenck. He answered firmly, “His defence is my business: I know my cause to be good.”
Four months did I continue in Vienna before the day was appointed to revise this cause. It now appeared there were erasures and holes through the paper in three places; all in court were convinced the claim ought to be annulled, and the claimant punished. Zetto ordered the parties to withdraw, and then so managed that the judges resolved that the case must be laid before the court with formal and written proofs.
This gave time for new knavery; I was obliged to return to Aix-la-Chapelle, and four years elapsed before this affair was decided. Two priests, in the interim, took false oaths that they had seen me receive money. At length, however, I proved that the note was dated a year after I had been imprisoned at Magdeburg. Further, my attorney proved the writs of the court had been falsified. Zetto, referendary, and Bussy, were the forgers; but I happened to be too active, and my attorney too honest, to lose this case. I was obliged to make three very expensive journeys from Aix-la-Chapelle to Vienna, lest judgement should go by default. Sentence at last was pronounced. I gained my cause, and the note was declared a forgery, but the costs, amounting to three thousand five hundred florins, I was obliged to pay, for Bussy could not: nor was he punished, though driven from Vienna for his villainous acts. Zetto, however, still continued for eleven years my persecutor, till he was deprived of his office, and condemned to the House of Correction.
My knowledge of the world increased at Aix-la-Chapelle, where men of all characters met. In the morning I conversed with a lord in opposition, in the afternoon with an orator of the King’s party, and in the evening with an honest man of no party. I sent Hungarian wine into England, France, Holland, and the Empire. This occasioned me to undertake long journeys, and as my increased acquaintance gave me opportunities of receiving foreigners with politeness an my own house, I was also well received wherever I went.
The income I should have had from Vienna was engulfed by law-suits, attorneys, and the journeys I undertook; having been thrice cited to appear, in person, before the Hofkriegsrath. No hope remained. I was described as a dangerous malcontent, who had deserted his native land. I nevertheless remained an honest man; one who could provide for his necessities without the favour of courts; one whose acquaintance was esteemed. In Vienna alone was I unsought, unemployed, and obscure.
One day an accident happened which made me renowned as a magician, as one who had power over fogs and clouds.
I had a quarrel with the Palatine President, Baron Blankart, concerning a hunting district. I wrote to him that he should repair to the spot in dispute, whither I would attend with sword and pistol, hoping he would there give me satisfaction for the affront I had received. Thither I went, with two huntsmen and two friends, but instead of the baron I found two hundred armed peasants assembled.
I sent one of my huntsmen to the army of the enemy, informing them that, if they did not retreat, I should fire. The day was fine, but a thick and impenetrable fog arose. My huntsman returned, with intelligence that, having delivered his message just as the fog came on, these heroes had all run away with fright.
I advanced, fired my piece, as did my followers, and marched to the mansion of my adversary, where my hunting-horn was blown in triumph in his courtyard. The runaway peasants fired, but the fog prevented their taking aim.
I returned home, where many false reports had preceded me. My wife expected I should be brought home dead; however, not the least mischief had happened.
It soon was propagated through the country that I had raised a fog to render myself invisible, and that the truth of this could be justified by two hundred witnesses. All the monks of Aix-la-Chapelle, Juliers, and Cologne, preached concerning me, reviled me, and warned the people to beware of the arch-magician and Lutheran, Trenck.
On a future occasion, this belief I turned to merriment. I went to hunt the wolf in the forests of Montjoie, and invited the townsmen to the chase. Towards evening I, and some forty of my followers, retired to rest in the charcoal huts, provided with wine and brandy. “My lads,” said I, “it is necessary you should discharge your pieces, and load them anew; that to-morrow no wolf may escape, and that none of you excuse yourselves on your pieces missing fire.” The guns were reloaded, and placed in a separate chamber. While they were merry-making, my huntsman drew the balls, and charged the pieces with powder, several of which he loaded with double charges. Some of their notched balls I put into my pocket.
In the morning away went I and my fellows to the chase. Their conversation turned on my necromancy, and the manner in which I could envelope myself in a cloud, or make myself bullet-proof. “What is that you are talking about?” said I.—“Some of these unbelieving folks,” answered my huntsman, “affirm your honour is unable to ward off balls.”—“Well, then,” said I, “fire away, and try.” My huntsman fired. I pretended to parry with my hand, and called, “Let any man that is so inclined fire, but only one at a time.” Accordingly they began, and, pretending to twist and turn about, I suffered them all to discharge their pieces. My people had carefully noticed that no man had reloaded his gun. Some of them received such blows from the guns that were doubly charged that they fell, terrified at the powers of magic. I advanced, holding in my hand some of the marked balls. “Let every one choose his own,” called I. All stood motionless, and many of them slunk home with their guns on their shoulders; some remained, and our sport was excellent.
On Sunday the monks of Aix-la-Chapelle again began to preach. My black art became the theme of the whole country, and to this day many of the people make oath that they fired upon me, and that, after catching them, I returned the balls.
My invulnerable qualities were published throughout Juliers, Aix-la-Chapelle, Maestricht, and Cologne, and perhaps this belief saved my life; the priests having propagated it from their pulpits, in a country which swarms with highway robbers, and where, for a single ducat, any man may hire an assassin.
It is no small surprise that I should have preserved my life, in a town where there are twenty-three monasteries and churches, and where the monks are adored as deities. The Catholic clergy had been enraged against me by my poem of “The Macedonian Hero;” and in 1772 I published a newspaper at Aix-la-Chapelle, and another work entitled, “The Friend of Men,” in which I unmasked hypocrisy. A major of the apostolic Maria Theresa, writing thus in a town swarming with friars, and in a tone so undaunted, was unexampled.
At present, now that freedom of opinion is encouraged by the Emperor, many essayists encounter bigotry and deceit with ridicule; or, wanting invention themselves, publish extracts from writings of the age of Luther. But I have the honour of having attacked the pillars of the Romish hierarchy in days more dangerous. I may boast of being the first German who raised a fermentation on the Upper Rhine and in Austria, so advantageous to truth, the progress of the understanding, and the happiness of futurity.
My writings contain nothing inimical to the morality taught by Christ. I attacked the sale of indulgences, the avarice of Rome, the laziness, deceit, gluttony, robbery, and blood-sucking of the monks of Aix-la-Chapelle. The arch-priest, and nine of his coadjutors, declared every Sunday that I was a freethinker, a wizard, one whom every man, wishing well to God and the Church, ought to assassinate. Father Zunder declared me an outlaw, and a day was appointed on which my writings were to be burnt before my house, and its inhabitants massacred. My wife received letters warning her to fly for safety, which warning she obeyed. I and two of my huntsmen remained, provided with eighty-four loaded muskets. These I displayed before the window, that all might be convinced that I would make a defence. The appointed day came, and Father Zunder, with my writings in his hand, appeared ready for the attack; the other monks had incited the townspeople to a storm. Thus passed the day and night in suspense.
In the morning a fire broke out in the town. I hastened, with my two huntsmen, well armed, to give assistance; we dashed the water from our buckets, and all obeyed my directions. Father Zunder and his students were there likewise. I struck his anointed ear with my leathern bucket, which no man thought proper to notice. I passed undaunted through the crowd; the people smiled, pulled off their hats, and wished me a good-morning. The people of Aix-la-Chapelle were bigots, but too cowardly to murder a man who was prepared for his own defence.
As I was riding to Maestricht, a ball whistled by my ears, which, no doubt, was a messenger sent after me by these persecuting priests.
When hunting near the convent of Schwartzenbruck, three Dominicans lay in ambush behind a hedge. One of their colleagues pointed out the place. I was on my guard with my gun, drew near, and called out, “Shoot, scoundrels! but do not kill me, for the devil stands ready for you at your elbow.” One fired, and all ran: The ball hit my hat. I fired and wounded one desperately, whom the others carried off.
In 1774, journeying from Spa to Limbourg, I was attacked by eight banditti. The weather was rainy, and my musket was in its case; my sabre was entangled in my belt, so that I was obliged to defend myself as with a club. I sprang from the carriage, and fought in defence of my life, striking down all before me, while my faithful huntsman protected me behind. I dispersed my assailants, hastened to my carriage, and drove away. One of these fellows was soon after hanged, and owned that the confessor of the banditti had promised absolution could they but despatch me, but that no man could shoot me, because Lucifer had rendered me invulnerable. My agility, fighting, too, for life, was superior to theirs, and they buried two of their gang, whom with my heavy sabre I had killed.
To such excess of cruelty may the violence of priests be carried! I attacked only gross abuses—the deceit of the monks of Aix-la-Chapelle, Cologne, and Liége, where they are worse than cannibals. I wished to inculcate true Christian duties among my fellow-citizens, and the attempt was sufficient to irritate the selfish Church of Rome.
From my Empress I had nothing to hope. Her confessor had painted me as a persecutor of the blessed Mother Church. Nor was this all. Opinions were propagated throughout Vienna that I was a dangerous man to the community.
Hence I was always wronged in courts of judicature, where there are ever to be found wicked men. They thought they were serving the cause of God by injuring me. Yet they were unable to prevent my writings from producing me much money, or from being circulated through all Germany. The Aix-la-Chapelle Journal became so famous, that in the second year I had four thousand subscribers, by each of whom I gained a ducat.
The postmasters, who gained considerably by circulating newspapers, were envious, because the Aix-la-Chapelle Journal destroyed several of the others, and they therefore formed a combination.
Prince Charles of Sweden placed confidence in me during his residence at Aix-la-Chapelle and Spa, and I accompanied him into Holland. When I took my leave of him at Maestricht, he said to me, “When my father dies, either my brother shall be King, or we will lose our heads.” The King died, and Prince Charles soon after said, in the postscript of one of his letters, “What we spoke of at Maestricht will soon be fully accomplished, and you may then come to Stockholm.”
On this, I inserted an article in my journal declaring a revolution had taken place in Sweden, that the king had made himself absolute. The other papers expressed their doubts, and I offered to wager a thousand ducats on the truth of the article published in my journal under the title of “Aix-la-Chapelle.” The news of the revolution in Sweden was confirmed.
My journal foretold the Polish partition six weeks sooner than any other; but how I obtained this news must not be mentioned. I was active in the defence of Queen Matilda of Denmark.
The French Ministry were offended at the following pasquinade:—“The three eagles have rent the Polish bear, without losing a feather with which any man in the Cabinet of Versailles can write. Since the death of Mazarin, they write only with goose-quills.”
By desire of the King of Poland, I wrote a narrative of the attempt made to assassinate him, and named the nuncio who had given absolution to the conspirators in the chapel of the Holy Virgin.
The house was now in flames. Rome insisted I should recall my words. Her nuncio, at Cologne, vented poison, daggers, and excommunication; the Empress-Queen herself thought proper to interfere. I obtained, for my justification, from Warsaw a copy of the examination of the conspirators. This I threatened to publish, and stood unmoved in the defence of truth.
The Empress wrote to the Postmaster-General of the Empire, and commanded him to lay an interdict on the Aix-la-Chapelle Journal. Informed of this, I ended its publication with the year, but wrote an essay on the partition of Poland, which also did but increase my enemies.
The magistracy of Aix-la-Chapelle is elected from the people, and the Burghers’ court consists of an ignorant rabble. I know no exceptions but Baron Lamberte and De Witte; and this people assume titles of dignity, for which they are amenable to the court at Vienna. Knowing I should find little protection at Vienna, they imagined they might drive me from their town. I was a spy on their evil deeds, of whom they would have rid themselves. I knew that the two sheriffs, Kloss and Furth, and the recorder, Geyer, had robbed the town-chamber of forty thousand dollars, and divided the spoil. To these I was a dangerous man. For such reasons they sought a quarrel with me, pretending I had committed a trespass by breaking down a hedge, and cited me to appear at the town-house.
The postmaster, Heinsberg, of Aix-la-Chapelle, although he had two thousand three hundred rix-dollars of mine in his possession, instituted false suits against me, obtained verdicts against me, seized on a cargo of wine at Cologne, and I incurred losses to the amount of eighteen thousand florins, which devoured the fortune of my wife, and by which she, with myself and my children, were reduced to poverty.
The Gravenitz himself, in 1778, acknowledged how much he had injured me, affirmed he had been deceived, and promised he would try to obtain restitution. I forgave him, and he attempted to keep his promise; but his power declined; the bribes he had received became too public. He was dispossessed of his post, but, alas! too late for me. Two other of my judges are at this time obliged to sweep the streets of Vienna, where they are condemned to the House of Correction. Had this been their employment instead of being seated on the seat of judgment twenty years ago, I might have been more fortunate. It is a remarkable circumstance that I should so continually have been despoiled by unjust judges. Who would have had the temerity to affirm that their evil deeds should bring them to attend on the city scavenger? I indeed knew them but too well, and fearlessly spoke what I knew. It was my misfortune that I was acquainted with their malpractices sooner than gracious Sovereign.
Let the scene close on my litigations at Aix-la-Chapelle and Vienna. May God preserve every honest man from the like! They have swallowed up my property, and that of my wife. Enough!
From the year 1774 to 1777, I journeyed through England and France. I was intimate with Dr. Franklin, the American Minister, and with the Counts St. Germain and de Vergennes, who made me proposals to go to America; but I was prevented by my affection for my wife and children.
My friend the Landgrave of Hesse-Cassel, who had been Governor of Magdeburg during my imprisonment, offered me a commission among the troops going to America, but I answered—“Gracious prince, my heart beats in the cause of freedom only; I will never assist in enslaving men. Were I at the head of your brave grenadiers. I should revolt to the Americans.”
During 1775 I continued at Aix-la-Chapelle my essays, entitled, “The Friend of Men.” My writings had made some impression; the people began to read; the monks were ridiculed, but my partisans increased, and their leader got himself cudgelled.
They did not now mention my name publicly, but catechised their penitents at confession. During this year people came to me from Cologne, Bonn, and Dusseldorf, to speak with me privately. When I inquired their business, they told me their clergy had informed them I was propagating a new religion, in which every man must sign himself to the devil, who then would supply them with money. They were willing to become converts to my faith, would Beelzebub but give them money, and revenge them on their priests. “My good friends,” answered I, “your teachers have deceived you; I know of no devils but themselves. Were it true that I was founding a new religion, the converts to whom the devil would supply money, your priests, would be the first of my apostles, and the most catholic. I am an honest, moral man, as a Christian ought to be. Go home, in God’s name, and do your duty.”
I forgot to mention that the recorder of the sheriff’s court at Aix-la-Chapelle, who is called Baron Geyer, had associated himself in 1778 with a Jew convert, and that this noble company swindled a Dutch merchant out of eighty thousand florins, by assuming the arms of Elector Palatine, and producing forged receipts and contracts. Geyer was taken in Amsterdam, and would have been hanged, but, by the aid of a servant, he escaped. He returned to Aix-la-Chapelle, where he enjoys his office. Three years ago he robbed the town-chamber. His wife was, at that time, generis communis, and procured him friends at court. The assertions of this gentleman found greater credit at Vienna than those of the injured Trenck! Oh, shame! Oh, world! world!
My wine trade was so successful that I had correspondents and stores in London, Paris, Brussels, Hamburg, and the Hague, and had gained forty thousand florins. One unfortunate day destroyed all my hopes in the success of this traffic.
In London I was defrauded of eighteen hundred guineas by a swindler. The fault was my brother-in-law’s, who parted with the wine before he had received the money. When I had been wronged, and asked my friends’ assistance, I was only laughed at, as if they were happy that an Englishman had the wit to cheat a German.
Finding myself defrauded, I hastened to Sir John Fielding. He told me he knew I had been swindled, and that his friendship would make him active in my behalf; that he also knew the houses where my wine was deposited, and that a party of his runners should go with me, sufficiently strong for its recovery. I was little aware that he had, at that time, two hundred bottles of my best Tokay in his cellar. His pretended kindness was a snare; he was in partnership with robbers, only the stupid among whom he hanged, and preserved the most adroit for the promotion of trade.
He sent a constable and six of his runners with me, commanding them to act under my orders. By good fortune I had a violent headache, and sent my brother-in-law, who spoke better English than I. Him they brought to the house of a Jew, and told him, “Your wine, sir, is here concealed.” Though it was broad day, the door was locked, that he might be induced to act illegally. The constable desired him to break the door open, which he did; the Jews came running, and asked—“What do you want, gentlemen?”—“I want my wine,” answered my brother.—“Take what is your own,” replied a Jew; “but beware of touching my property. I have bought the wine.”
My brother attended the constable and runners into a cellar, and found a great part of my wine. He wrote to Sir John Fielding that he had found the wine, and desired to know how to act. Fielding answered: “It must be taken by the owner.” My brother accordingly sent me the wine.
Next day came a constable with a warrant, saying, “He wanted to speak with my brother, and that he was to go to Sir John Fielding.” When he was in the street, he told him—“Sir, you are my prisoner.”
I went to Sir John Fielding, and asked him what it meant. This justice answered that my brother had been accused of felony. The Jews and swindlers had sworn the wine was a legal purchase. If I had not been paid, or was ignorant of the English laws, that was my fault. Six swindlers had sworn the wine was paid for, which circumstance he had not known, or he should not have granted me a warrant. My brother had also broken open the doors, and forcibly taken away wine which was not his own. They made oath of this, and he was charged with burglary and robbery.
He desired me to give bail in a thousand guineas for my brother for his appearance in the Court of King’s Bench; otherwise his trial would immediately come on, and in a few days he would be hanged.
I hastened to a lawyer, who confirmed what had been told me, advised me to give bail, and he would then defend my cause. I applied to Lord Mansfield, and received the same answer. I told my story to all my friends, who laughed at me for attempting to trade in London without understanding the laws. My friend Lord Grosvenor said, “Send more wine to London, and we will pay you so well that you will soon recover your loss.”
I went to my wine-merchants, who had a stock of mine worth upwards of a thousand guineas. They gave bail for my brother, and he was released.
Fielding, in the interim, sent his runners to my house, took back the wine, and restored it to the Jews. They threatened to prosecute me as a receiver of stolen goods. I fled from London to Paris, where I sold off my stock at half-price, honoured my bills, and so ended my merchandise.
My brother returned to London in November, to defend his cause in the Court of King’s Bench; but the swindlers had disappeared, and the lawyer required a hundred pounds to proceed. The conclusion was that my brother returned with seventy pounds less in his pocket, spent as travelling expenses, and the stock in the hands of my wine-merchants was detained on pretence of paying the bail. They brought me an apothecary’s bill, and all was lost.
The Swedish General Sprengporten came to Aix-la-Chapelle in 1776. He had planned and carried into execution the revolution so favourable to the King, but had left Sweden in discontent, and came to take the waters with a rooted hypochondria.
He was the most dangerous man in Sweden, and had told the King himself, after the revolution, in the presence of his guards, “While Sprengporten can hold a sword, the King has nothing to command.”
It was feared he would go to Russia, and Prince Charles wrote to me in the name of the monarch, desiring I would exert myself to persuade him to return to Sweden. He was a man of pride, which rendered him either a fool or a madman. He despised everything that was not Swedish.
The Prussian Minister, Count Hertzberg, the same year came to Aix-la-Chapelle. I enjoyed his society for three months, and accompanied this great man. To his liberality am I indebted that I can return to my country with honour.
The time I had to spare was not spent in idleness; I attacked, in my weekly writings, those sharpers who attend at Aix-la-Chapelle and Spa to plunder both inhabitants and visitants, under the connivance of the magistracy; nor are there wanting foreign noblemen who become the associates of these pests of society. The publication of such truths endangered my life from the desperadoes, who, when detected, had nothing more to lose. How powerful is an innocent life, nothing can more fully prove than that I still exist, in despite of all the attempts of wicked monks and despicable sharpers.
Though my life was much disturbed, yet I do not repent of my manner of acting; many a youth, many a brave man, have I detained from the gaming-table, and pointed out to them the most notorious sharpers.
This was so injurious to Spa, that the Bishop of Liége himself, who enjoys a tax on all their winnings, and therefore protects such villains, offered me an annual pension of five hundred guineas if I would not come to Spa; or three per cent. on the winnings, would I but associate myself with Colonel N---t, and raise recruits for the gaming-table. My answer may easily be imagined; yet for this was I threatened to be excommunicated by the Holy Catholic Church!
I and my family passed sixteen summers in Spa. My house became the rendezvous of the most respectable part of the company, and I was known to some of the most respectable characters in Europe.
A contest arose between the town of Aix-la-Chapelle and Baron Blankart, the master of the hounds to the Elector Palatine: it originated in a dispute concerning precedence between the before-mentioned wife of the Recorder Geyer and the sister of the Burgomaster of Aix-la-Chapelle, Kahr, who governed that town with despotism.
This quarrel was detrimental to the town and to the Elector Palatine, but profitable to Kahr, whose office it was to protect the rights of the town, and those persons who defended the claims of the Elector; the latter kept a faro bank, the plunder of which had enriched the town; and the former Kahr, under pretence of defending their cause, embezzled the money of the people; so that both parties endeavoured with all their power to prolong the litigation.
It vexed me to see their proceedings. Those who suffered on each side were deceived; and I conceived the project of exposing the truth. For this purpose I journeyed to the court at Mannheim, related the facts to the Elector, produced a plan of accommodation, which he approved, and obtained power to act as arbitrator. The Minister of the Elector, Bekkers, pretended to approve my zeal, conducted me to an auberge, made me dine at his house, and said a commission was made out for my son, and forwarded to Aix-la-Chapelle—which was false; the moment he quitted me he sent to Aix-la-Chapelle to frustrate the attempt he pretended to applaud. He was himself in league with the parties. In fine, this silly interference brought me only trouble, expense, and chagrin. I made five journeys to Mannheim, till I became so dissatisfied that I determined to quit Aix-la-Chapelle, and purchase an estate in Austria.
The Bavarian contest was at this time in agitation; my own affairs brought me to Paris, and here I learned intelligence of great consequence; this I communicated to the Grand Duke of Florence, on my return to Vienna. The Duke departed to join the army in Bohemia, and I again wrote to him, and thought it my duty to send a courier. The Duke showed my letter to the Emperor; but I remained unnoticed.
I did not think myself safe in foreign countries during this time of war, and purchased the lordship of Zwerbach, with appurtenances, which, with the expenses, cost me sixty thousand florins.
To conclude this purchase, I was obliged to solicit the referendary, Zetto, and his friend whom he had appointed as my curator, for my new estate was likewise made a fidei commissum, as my referendaries and curators would not let me escape contribution. The six thousand florins of which they emptied my purse would have done my family much service.
In May, 1780, I went to Aix-la-Chapelle, where my wife’s mother died in July; and in September my wife, myself, and family, all came to Vienna.
My wife solicited the mistress of the ceremonies to obtain an audience. Her request was granted, and she gained the favour of the Empress. Her kindness was beyond expression: she introduced my wife to the Archduchess, and commanded her mistress of the ceremonies to present her everywhere. “You were unwilling,” said she, “to accompany your husband into my country, but I hope to convince you that you may live happier in Austria than at Aix-la-Chapelle.”
She next day sent me her decree, assuring me of a pension of four hundred florins.
My wife petitioned the Empress to grant me an audience: her request was complied with: and the Empress said to me: “This is the third time in which I would have made your fortune, had you been so disposed.” She desired to see my children, and spoke of my writings. “How much good might you do,” said she, “would you but write in the cause of religion!”
We departed for Zwerbach, where we lived contentedly, but when we were preparing to return to Vienna, and solicited the restitution of part of my lost fortune, during this favour of the court, Theresa died, and all my hopes were overcast.
I forgot to relate that the Archduchess, Maria Anna, desired me to translate a religious work, written in French by the Abbé Baudrand, into German. I replied I would obey Her Majesty’s commands. I began my work, took passages from Baudrand, but inserted more of my own. The first volume was finished in six weeks; the Empress thought it admirable. The second soon followed, and I presented this myself.
She asked me if it equalled the first; I answered, I hoped it would be found more excellent. “No,” said she; “I never in my life read a better book:” and added, “she wondered how I could write so well and so quickly.” I promised another volume within a month. Before the third was ready, Theresa died. She gave orders on her death-bed to have the writings of Baron Trenck read to her; and though her confessor well knew the injustice that had been done me, yet in her last moments he kept silence, though he had given me his sacred promise to speak in my behalf.
After her death the censor commanded that I should print what I have stated in the preface to that third volume, and this was my only satisfaction.
For one-and-thirty years had I been soliciting my rights, which I never could obtain, because the Empress was deceived by wicked men, and believed me a heretic. In the thirty-second, my wife had the good fortune to convince her this was false; she had determined to make me restitution; just at this moment she died.
The pension granted my wife by the Empress in consequence of my misfortunes and our numerous family, we only enjoyed nine months.
Of this she was deprived by the new monarch. He perhaps knew nothing of the affair, as I never solicited. Yet much has it grieved me. Perhaps I may find relief when the sighs wrung from me shall reach the heart of the father of his people in this my last writing. At present, nothing for me remains but to live unknown in Zwerbach.
The Emperor thought proper to collect the moneys bestowed on hospitals into one fund. The system was a wise one. My cousin Trenck had bequeathed thirty-six thousand florins to a hospital for the poor of Bavaria. This act he had no right to do, having deducted the sum from the family estate. I petitioned the Emperor that these thirty-six thousand florins might be restored to me and my children, who were the people whom Trenck had indeed made poor, nothing of the property of his acquiring having been left to pay this legacy, but, on the contrary, the money having been exacted from mine.
In a few days it was determined I should be answered in the same tone in which, for six-and-thirty years past, all my petitions had been answered:—
“The request of the petitioner cannot be granted.”
Fortune persecuted me in my retreat. Within six years two hailstorms swept away my crops; one year was a misgrowth; there were seven floods; a rot among my sheep: all possible calamities befell me and my manor.
The estate had been ruined, the ponds were to drain, three farms were to be put into proper condition, and the whole newly stocked. This rendered me poor, especially as my wife’s fortune had been sunk in lawsuits at Aix-la-Chapelle and Cologne.
The miserable peasants had nothing, therefore could not pay: I was obliged to advance them money. My sons assisted me, and we laboured with our own hands: my wife took care of eight children, without so much as the help of a maid. We lived in poverty, obliged to earn our daily bread.
The greatest of my misfortunes was my treatment in the military court, when Zetto and Krugel were my referendaries. Zetto had clogged me with a curator and when the cow had no more milk to give, they began to torture me with deputations, sequestrations, administrations, and executions. Nineteen times was I obliged to attend in Vienna within two years, at my own expense. Every six years must I pay an attorney to dispute and quarrel with the curator. I, in conclusion, was obliged to pay. If any affair was to be expedited, I, by a third hand, was obliged to send the referendary some ducats. Did he give judgment, still that judgment lay fourteen months inefficient, and, when it then appeared, the copy was false, and so was sent to the upper courts, the high referendary of which said I “must be dislodged from Zwerbach.”
They obliged me at last to purchase my naturalisation. I sent to Prussia for my pedigree; the attestation of this was sent me by Count Hertzberg. Although the family of Trenck had a hundred years been landholders in Hungary, yet was my attorney obliged to solicit the instrument called ritter-diploma, for which, under pain of execution, I must pay two thousand florins.
By decree a Prussian nobleman is not noble in Austria, where every lackey can purchase a diploma, making him a knight of the Empire, for twelve hundred wretched florins!—where such men as P--- and Grassalkowitz have purchased the dignity of a prince!
Tortured by the courts, terrified by hailstorms, I determined to publish my works, in eight volumes, and this history of my life.
Fourteen months accomplished this purpose. My labours found a favourable reception through all Germany, procured me money, esteem, and honour. By my writings only will I seek the means of existence, and by trying to obtain the approbation and the love of men.
On the 22nd of August, 1786, the news arrived that Frederic the Great had left this world!
* * * * *
The present monarch, the witness of my sufferings in my native country, sent me a royal passport to Berlin. The confiscation of my estates was annulled, and my deceased brother, in Prussia, had left my children his heirs.
* * * * *
I journey, within the Imperial permission, back to my country, from which I have been two-and-forty years expelled! I journey—not as a pardoned malefactor, but as a man whose innocence has been established by his actions, has been proved in his writings, and who is journeying to receive his reward.
Here I shall once more encounter my old friends my relations, and those who have known me in the days of my affliction. Here shall I appear, not as my country’s Traitor, but as my country’s Martyr!
Possible, though little probable, are still future storms. For these also I am prepared. Long had I reason daily to curse the rising sun, and, setting, to behold it with horror. Death to me appears a great benefit: a certain passage from agitation to peace, from motion to rest. As for my children, they, jocund in youth, delight in present existence. When I have fulfilled the duties of a father, to live or die will then be as I shall please.
Thou, O God! my righteous Judge, didst ordain that I should be an example of suffering to the world; Thou madest me what I am, gavest me these strong passions, these quick nerves, this thrilling of the blood, when I behold injustice. Strong was my mind, that deeply it might meditate on deep subjects; strong my memory, that these meditations I might retain; strong my body, that proudly it might support all it has pleased Thee to inflict.
Should I continue to exist, should identity go with me, and should I know what I was then, when I was called Trenck; when that combination of particles which Nature commanded should compose this body shall be decomposed, scattered, or in other bodies united; when I have no muscles to act, no brain to think, no retina on which pictures can mechanically be painted, my eyes wasted, and no tongue remaining to pronounce the Creator’s name, should I still behold a Creator—then, oh then, will my spirit mount, and indubitably associate with spirits of the just who expectant wait for their golden harps and glorious crowns from the Most High God. For human weaknesses, human failings, arising from our nature, springing from our temperament, which the Creator has ordained, shall be even thus, and not otherwise; for these have I suffered enough on earth.
Such is my confession of faith; in this have I lived, in this will I die. The duties of a man and of a Christian I have fulfilled; nay, often have exceeded, often have been too benevolent, too generous; perhaps also too proud, too vain. I could not bend, although liable to be broken.
That I have not served the world, in acts and employments where best I might, is perhaps my own fault: the fault of my manner, which is now too radical to be corrected in this, my sixtieth year. Yes, I acknowledge my failing, acknowledge it unblushingly; nay, glory in the pride of a noble nature.
For myself, I ask nothing of those who have read my history; to them do I commit my wife and children. My eldest son is a lieutenant in the Tuscan regiment of cavalry, under General Lasey, and does honour to his father’s principles. The second serves his present Prussian Majesty, as ensign in the Posadowsky dragoons, with equal promise. The third is still a child. My daughters will make worthy men happy, for they have imbibed virtue and gentleness with their mother’s milk. Monarchs may hereafter remember what I have suffered, what I have lost, and what is due to my ashes.
Here do I declare—I will seek no other revenge against my enemies than that of despising their evil deeds. It is my wish, and shall be my endeavour, to forget the past; and having committed no offence, neither will I solicit monarchs for posts of honour; as I have ever lived a free man, a free man will I die.
I conclude this part of my history on the evening preceding my journey to Berlin. God grant I may encounter no new afflictions, to be inserted in the remainder of this history.
This journey I prepared to undertake, but my ever-envious fate threw me on the bed of sickness, insomuch that small hope remained that I ever should again behold the country of my forefathers. I seemed following the Great Frederic to the mansions of the dead; then should I never have concluded the history of my life, or obtained the victory by which I am now crowned.
A variety of obstacles being overcome, I found it necessary to make a journey into Hungary, which was one of the most pleasant of my whole life.
I have no words to express my ardent wishes for the welfare of a nation where I met with so many proofs of friendship. Wherever I appeared I was welcomed with that love and enthusiasm which only await the fathers of their country. The valour of my cousin Trenck, who died ingloriously in the Spielberg, the loss of my great Hungarian estates, the fame of my writings, and the cruelty of my sufferings, had gone before me. The officers of the army, the nobles of the land, alike testified the warmth of their esteem.
Such is the reward of the upright; such too are the proofs that this nation knows the just value of fortitude and virtue. Have I not reason to publish my gratitude, and to recommend my children to those who, when I am no more, shall dare uprightly to determine concerning the rights which have unjustly been snatched from me in Hungary?
Not a man in Hungary but will proclaim I have been unjustly dealt by; yet I have good reason to suspect I never shall find redress. Sentence had been already given; judges, more honest, cannot, without difficulty, reverse old decrees; and the present possessors of my estates are too powerful, too intimate with the governors of the earth, for me to hope I shall hereafter be more happy. God knows my heart; I wish the present possessors may render services to the state equal to those rendered by the family of the Trencks.
There is little probability I shall ever behold my noble friends in Hungary more. Here I bid them adieu, promising them to pass the remainder of any life so as still to merit the approbation of a people with whose ashes I would most willingly have mingled my own. May the God of heaven preserve every Hungarian from a fate similar to mine!
The Croats have ever been reckoned uncultivated; yet, among this uncultivated people I found more subscribers to my writings than among all the learned men of Vienna; and in Hungary, more than in all the Austrian dominions.
The Hungarians, the unlettered Croats, seek information. The people of Vienna ask their confessors’ permission to read instructive books. Various subscribers, having read the first volume of my work, brought it back, and re-demanded their money, because some monk had told them it was a book dangerous to be read. The judges of their courts have re-sold them to the booksellers for a few pence or given them to those who had the care of their consciences to burn.
In Vienna alone was my life described as a romance; in Hungary I found the compassion of men, their friendship, and effectual aid. Had my book been the production of an Englishman, good wishes would not have been his only reward.
We German writers have interested critics to encounter if we would unmask injustice; and if a book finds a rapid sale, dishonest printers issue spurious editions, defrauding the author of his labours.
The encouragement of the learned produces able teachers, and from their seminaries men of genius occasionally come forth. The world is inundated with books and pamphlets; the undiscerning reader knows not which to select; the more intelligent are disgusted, or do not read at all, and thus a work of merit becomes as little profitable to the author as to the state.
I left Vienna on the 5th of January, and came to Prague. Here I found nearly the same reception as in Hungary; my writings were read. Citizens, noblemen, and ladies treated me with like favour. May the monarch know how to value men of generous feelings and enlarged understandings!
I bade adieu to Prague, and continued my journey to Berlin. In Bohemia, I took leave of my son, who saw his father and his two brothers, destined for the Prussian service, depart. He felt the weight of this separation; I reminded him of his duty to the state he served; I spoke of the fearful fate of his uncle and father in Austria, and of the possessors of our vast estates in Hungary. He shrank back—a look from his father pierced him to the soul—tears stood in his eyes—his youthful blood flowed quick, and the following expression burst suddenly from his lips:—“I call God to witness that I will prove myself worthy of my father’s name; and that, while I live, his enemies shall be mine!”
At Peterswald, on the road to Dresden, my carriage broke down: my life was endangered; and my son received a contusion in the arm. The erysipelas broke out on him at Berlin, and I could not present him to the King for a month after.
I had been but a short time at Berlin before the well-known minister, Count Hertzberg, received me with kindness. Every man to whom his private worth is known will congratulate the state that has the wisdom to bestow on him so high an office. His scholastic and practical learning, his knowledge of languages, his acquaintance with sciences, are indeed wonderful. His zeal for his country is ardent, his love of his king unprejudiced, his industry admirable, his firmness that of a man. He is the most experienced man in the Prussian states. The enemies of his country may rely on his word. The artful he can encounter with art; those who menace, with fortitude; and with wise foresight can avert the rising storm. He seeks not splendour in sumptuous and ostentatious retinue; but if he can only enrich the state, and behold the poor happy, he is himself willing to remain poor. His estate, Briess, near Berlin, is no Chanteloup, but a model to those patriots who would study economy. Here he, every Wednesday, enjoys recreation. The services he renders the kingdom cost it only five thousand rix-dollars yearly; he, therefore, lives without ostentation, yet becoming his state, and with splendour when splendour is necessary. He does not plunder the public treasury that he may preserve his own private property.
This man will live in the annals of Prussia: who was employed under the Great Frederic; had so much influence in the cabinets of Europe; and was a witness of the last actions, the last sensations, of his dying king; yet who never asked, nor ever received, the least gratuity. This is the minister whose conversation I had the happiness to partake at Aix-la-Chapelle and Spa, whose welfare is the wish of my heart, and whose memory I shall ever revere.
I was received with distinction at his table, and became acquainted with those whose science had benefited the Prussian states; nor was anything more flattering to my self-love than that men like these should think me worthy their friendship.
Not many days after I was presented to the court by the Prussian chamberlain, Prince Sacken, as it is not customary at Berlin for a foreign subject to be presented by the minister of his own court. Though a Prussian subject, I wore the Imperial uniform.
The King received me with condescension; all eyes were directed towards me, each welcomed me to my country. This moved me the more as it was remarked by the foreign ministers, who asked who that Austrian officer could be who was received with so much affection and such evident joy in Berlin. The gracious monarch himself gave tokens of pleasure at beholding me thus surrounded. Among the rest came the worthy General Prittwitz, who said aloud—
“This is the gentleman who might have ruined me to effect his own deliverance.”
Confused at so public a declaration, I desired him to expound this riddle; and he added—
“I was obliged to be one of your guards on your unfortunate journey from Dantzic to Magdeburg, in 1754, when I was a lieutenant. On the road I continued alone with you in an open carriage. This gave you an opportunity to escape, but you forbore. I afterwards saw the danger to which I had exposed myself. Had you been less noble-minded, had such a prisoner escaped through my negligence, I had certainly been ruined. The King believed you alike dangerous and deserving of punishment. I here acknowledge you as my saviour, and am in gratitude your friend.” I knew not that the generous man, who wished me so well, was the present General Prittwitz. That he should himself remind me of this incident does him the greater honour.
Having been introduced at court, I thought it necessary to observe ceremonies, and was presented by the Imperial ambassador, Prince Reuss, to all foreign ministers, and such families as are in the habit of admitting such visits. I was received by the Prince Royal, the reigning Queen, the Queen-Dowager, and the royal family in their various places, with favour never to be forgotten. His Royal Highness Prince Henry invited me to a private audience, continued long in conversation with me, promised me his future protection, admitted me to his private concerts, and sometimes made me sup at court.
A like reception I experienced in the palace of Prince Ferdinand of Brunswick, where I frequently dined and supped. His princess took delight in hearing my narratives, and loaded me with favour.
Prince Ferdinand’s mode of educating children is exemplary. The sons are instructed in the soldier’s duties, their bodies are inured to the inclemencies of weather; they are taught to ride, to swim, and are steeled to all the fatigue of war. Their hearts are formed for friendship, which they cannot fail to attain. Happy the nation in defence of which they are to act!
How ridiculous these their Royal Highnesses appear who, though born to rule, are not deserving to be the lackeys to the least of those whom they treat with contempt; and yet who swell, strut, stride, and contemplate themselves as creatures essentially different by nature, and of a superior rank in the scale of beings, though, in reality, their minds are of the lowest, the meanest class.
Happy the state whose prince is impressed with a sense that the people are not his property, but he the property of the people! A prince beloved by his people will ever render a nation more happy those he whose only wish is to inspire fear.
The pleasure I received at Berlin was great indeed. When I went to court, the citizens crowded to see me, and when anyone among them said, “That is Trenck,” the rest would cry, “Welcome once more to your country,” while many would reach me their hands, with the tears standing in their eyes. Frequent were the scenes I experienced of this kind. No malefactor would have been so received. It was the reward of innocence; this reward was bestowed throughout the Prussian territories.
Oh world, ill-judging world, deceived by show! Dost thou not blindly follow the opinion of the prince, be he severe, arbitrary, or just? Thy censure and thy praise equally originate in common report. In Magdeburg I lay, chained to the wall, ten years, sighing in wretchedness, every calamity of hunger, cold, nakedness, and contempt. And wherefore? Because the King, deceived by slanderers, pronounced me worthy of punishment. Because a wise King mistook me, and treated me with barbarity. Because a prudent King knew he had done wrong, yet would not have it so supposed. So was his heart turned to stone; nay, opposed by manly fortitude, was enraged to cruelty. Most men were convinced I was an innocent sufferer; “Yet did they all cry out the more, saying, let him be crucified!” My relations were ashamed to hear my name. My sister was barbarously treated because she assisted me in my misfortunes. No man durst avow himself my friend, durst own I merited compassion; or, much less, that the infallible King had erred. I was the most despised, forlorn man on earth; and when thus put on the rack, had I there expired, my epitaph would have been, “Here lies the traitor, Trenck.”
Frederic is dead, and the scene is changed; another monarch has ascended the throne, and the grub has changed to a beautiful butterfly! The witnesses to all I have asserted are still living, loudly now proclaim the truth, and embrace me with heart-felt affection.
Does the worth of a man depend upon his actions? his reward or punishment upon his virtue? In arbitrary states, certainly not. They depend on the breath of a king! Frederic was the most penetrating prince of his age, but the most obstinate also. A vice dreadful to those whom he selected as victims, who must be sacrificed to the promoting of his arbitrary views.
How many perished, the sin offerings of Frederic’s obstinate self-will, whose orphan children now cry to God for vengeance! The dead, alas! cannot plead. Trial began and ended with execution. The few words—It is the king’s command—were words of horror to the poor condemned wretch denied to plead his innocence! Yet what is the Ukase (Imperial order) in Russia, Tel est notre bon plaisir (Such is our pleasure) in France, or the Allergnadigste Hofresolution (The all-gracious sentence of the court), pronounced with the sweet tone of a Vienna matron? In what do these differ from the arbitrary order of a military despot?
Every prayer of man should be consecrated to man’s general good; for him to obtain freedom and universal justice! Together should we cry with one voice, and, if unable to shackle arbitrary power, still should we endeavour to show how dangerous it is! The priests of liberty should offer up their thanks to the monarch who declares “the word of power” a nullity, and “the sentence” of justice omnipotent.
Who can name the court in Europe where Louis, Peter, or Frederic, each and all surnamed The Great, have not been, and are not, imitated as models of perfection? Lettres-de-cachet, the knout, and cabinet-orders, superseding all right, are become law!
No reasoning, says the corporal to the poor grenadier, whom he canes!—No reasoning! exclaim judges; the court has decided.—No reasoning, rash and pertinacious Trenck, will the prudent reader echo. Throw thy pen in the fire, and expose not thyself to become the martyr of a state inquisition.
My fate is, and must remain, critical and undecided. I have six-and-thirty years been in the service of Austria, unrewarded, and beholding the repeated and generous efforts I made effectually to serve that state, unnoticed. The Emperor Joseph supposes me old, that the fruit is wasted, and that the husk only remains. It is also supposed I should not be satisfied with a little. To continue to oppress him who has once been oppressed, and who possess qualities that may make injustice manifest, is the policy of states. My journey to Berlin has given the slanderer further opportunity of painting me as a suspicious character: I smile at the ineffectual attempt.
I appeared in the Imperial uniform and belied such insinuations. To this purpose it was written to court, in November, when I went into Hungary, “The motions of Trenck ought to be observed in Hungary.” Ye poor malicious blood-suckers of the virtuous! Ye shall not be able to hurt a hair of my head. Ye cannot injure the man who has sixty years lived in honour. I will not, in my old age, bring upon myself the reproach of inconstancy, treachery, or desire of revenge. I will betray no political secrets: I wish not to injure those by whom I have been injured.—Such acts I will never commit. I never yet descended to the office of spy, nor will I die a rewarded villain.
Yes, I appeared in Berlin among the upright and the just. Instead of being its supposed enemy, I was declared an honour to my country. I appeared in the Imperial uniform and fulfilled the duties of my station: and now must the Prussian Trenck return to Austria, there to perform a father’s duty.
Yet more of what happened in Berlin.
Some days after I had been presented to the King, I entreated a private audience, and on the 12th of February received the following letter:—
“In answer to your letter of the 8th of this month, I inform you that, if you will come to me to-morrow, at five o’clock in the afternoon, I shall have the pleasure to speak with you; meantime, I pray God to take you into his holy keeping.
“Berlin, Feb. 12, 1787.”
“P.S.—After signing the above, I find it more convenient to appoint to-morrow, at nine in the morning, about which time you will come into the apartment named the Marmor Kammer (marble chamber).”
The anxiety with which I expected this wished-for interview may well be conceived. I found the Prussian Titus alone, and he continued in conversation with me more than an hour.
How kind was the monarch! How great! How nobly did he console me for the past! How entirely did his assurance of favour overpower my whole soul! He had read the history of my life. When prince of Prussia, he had been an eyewitness, in Magdeburg, of my martyrdom, and my attempts to escape. His Majesty parted from me with tokens of esteem and condescension.—My eyes bade adieu, but my heart remained in the marble chamber, in company with a prince capable of sensations so dignified; and my wishes for his welfare are eternal.
I have since travelled through the greater part of the Prussian states. Where is the country in which the people are all satisfied? Many complained of hard times, or industry unrewarded. My answer was:—
“Friends, kneel with the rising sun, and thank the God of heaven that you are Prussians. I have seen and known much of this world, and I assure you, you are among the happiest people of Europe. Causes of complaint everywhere exist; but you have a king, neither obstinate, ambitious, covetous, nor cruel: his will is that his people should have cause of content, and should he err by chance, his heart is not to blame if the subject suffers.”
Prussia is neither wanting in able nor learned men. The warmth of patriots glows in their veins. Everything remains with equal stability, as under the reign of Frederic; and should the thunder burst, the ready conductors will render the shock ineffectual.
Hertzberg still labours in the cabinet, still thinks, writes, and acts as he has done for years. The king is desirous that justice shall be done to his subjects, and will punish, perhaps, with more severity, whenever he finds himself deceived, than from the goodness of his disposition, might be supposed. The treasury is full, the army continues the same, and there is little reason to doubt but that industry, population, and wealth will increase. None but the vile and the wicked would leave the kingdom; while the oppressed and best subjects of other states would fly from their native country, certain of finding encouragement and security in Prussia.
The personal qualities of Fredric William merit description. He is tall and handsome, his mien is majestic, and his accomplishments of mind and body would procure him the love of men, were he not a king. He is affable without deceit, friendly and kind in conversation, and stately when stateliness is necessary. He is bountiful, but not profuse; he knows that without economy the Prussian must sink. He is not tormented by the spirit of conquest, he wishes harm to no nation, yet he will certainly not suffer other nations to make encroachments, nor will he be terrified by menaces.
The wise Frederic, when living, though himself learned, and a lover of the sciences, never encouraged them in his kingdom. Germany, under his reign, might have forgotten her language: he preferred the literature of France. Königsberg, once the seminary of the North, contains, at present, few professors, or students; the former are fallen into disrepute, and are ill paid; the latter repair to Leipsic and Gottingen. We have every reason to suppose the present monarch, though no studious man himself, will encourage the academies of the literati, that men learned in jurisprudence and the sciences may not be wanting: which want is the more to be apprehended as the nobility must, without exception, serve in the army, so that learning has but few adherents, and these are deprived of the means of improvement.
Frederic William is also too much the friend of men to suffer them to pine in prisons. He abhors the barbarity with which the soldiers are beaten: his officers will not be fettered hand and foot; slavish subordination will be banished, and the noble in heart will be the noble of the land. May he, in his people, find perfect content! May his people be ever worthy of such a prince! Long may he reign, and may his ministers be ever enlightened and honourable men!
He sent for me a second time, conversed much with me, and confirmed those ideas which my first interview had inspired.
On the 11th of March I presented my son at another audience, whom I intended for the Prussian service. The King bestowed a commission on him in the Posadowsky dragoons, at my request.
I saw him at the review at Velau, and his superior officers formed great expectations from his zeal. Time will discover whether he who is in the Austrian, or this in the Prussian service, will first obtain the rewards due to their father. Should they both remain unnoticed, I will bestow him on the Grand Turk, rather than on European courts, whence equity to me and mine is banished.
To Austria I owe no thanks; all that could be taken from me was taken. I was a captain before I entered those territories, and, after six-and-thirty years’ service, I find myself in the rank of invalid major. The proof of all I have asserted, and of how little I am indebted to this state is most incontestable, since the history of my life is allowed by the royal censor to be publicly sold in Vienna.
It is remarkable that one only of all the eight officers, with whom I served, in the body guard, in 1745, is dead. Lieutenant-colonel Count Blumenthal lives in Berlin; Pannewitz is commander of the Knights of Malta: both gave me a friendly reception. Wagnitz is lieutenant-general in the service of Hesse-Cassel; he was my tent comrade, and was acquainted with all that happened. Kalkreuter and Grethusen live on their estates, and Jaschinsky is now alive at Königsberg, but superannuated, and tortured by sickness, and remorse. He, instead of punishment, has forty years enjoyed a pension of a thousand rix-dollars. I have seen my lands confiscated, of the income of which I have been forty-two years deprived, and never yet received retribution.
Time must decide; the king is generous, and I have too much pride to become a beggar. The name of Trenck shall be found in the history of the acts of Frederic. A tyrant himself, he was the slave of his passions; and even did not think an inquiry into my innocence worth the trouble. To be ashamed of doing right, because he has done wrong, or to persist in error, that fools, and fools only, can think him infallible, is a dreadful principle in a ruler.
Since I have been at Berlin, and was received there with so many testimonies of friendship, the newspapers of Germany have published various articles concerning me, intending to contribute to my honour or ease. They said my eldest daughter is appointed the governess of the young Princess. This has been the joke of some witty correspondent; for my eldest daughter is but fifteen, and stands in need of a governess herself. Perhaps they may suppose me mean enough to circulate falsehood.
I daily receive letters from all parts of Germany, wherein the sensations of the feeling heart are evident. Among these letters was one which I received from Bahrdt, Professor at Halle, dated April 10, 1787 wherein he says, “Receive, noble German, the thanks of one who, like you, has encountered difficulties; yet, far inferior to those you have encountered. You, with gigantic strength, have met a host of foes, and conquered. The pests of men attacked me also. From town to town, from land to land, I was pursued by priestcraft and persecution; yet I acquired fame. I fled for refuge and repose to the states of Frederic, but found them not. I have eight years laboured under affliction with perseverance, but have found no reward. By industry have I made myself what I am; by ministerial favour, never. Worn out and weak, the history of your life, worthy sir, fell into my hands, and poured balsam into my wounds. There I saw sufferings immeasurably greater; there, indeed, beheld fortitude most worthy of admiration. Compared to you, of what could I complain? Receive, noble German, my warmest thanks; while I live they shall flow. And should you find a fortunate moment, in the presence of your King, speak of me as one consigned to poverty; as one whose talents are buried in oblivion. Say to him—‘Mighty King! stretch forth thy hand, and dry up his tears.’ I know the nobleness of your mind, and doubt not your good wishes.”
To the Professor’s letter I returned the following answer:—
“I was affected, sir, by your letter. I never yet was unmoved, when the pen was obedient to the dictates of the heart. I feel for your situation; and if my example can teach wisdom even to the wise, I have cause to triumph. This is the sweetest of rewards. At Berlin I have received much honour, but little more. Men are deaf to him who confides only in his right. What have I gained? Shadowy fame for myself, and the vapour of hope for my heirs!
“Truth and Trenck, my good friend, flourish not in courts. You complain of priestcraft. He who would disturb their covetousness, he who speaks against the false opinions they scatter, considers not priests, and their aim, which is to dazzle the stupid and stupefy the wise. Deprecate their wrath! avoid their poisoned shafts, or they will infect tiny peace: will blast thy honour. And wherefore should we incur this danger. To cure ignorance of error is impossible. Let us then silently steal to our graves, and thus small we escape the breath of envy. He who should enjoy all even thought could grasp, should yet have but little. Having acquired this knowledge, the passions of the soul are lulled to apathy. I behold error, and I laugh; do thou, my friend, laugh also. If that can comfort us, men will do our memory justice—when we are dead! Fame plants her laurels over the grave, and there they flourish best.
“Schangulach, near Königsberg,
April 30th, 1787.”
“P.S—I have spoken, worthy Professor, the feelings of my heart, in answer to your kind panegyric. You will but do me justice, when you believe I think and act as I write with respect to my influence at court, it is as insignificant at Berlin as at Vienna or at Constantinople”
Among the various letters I have received, as it may answer a good purpose, I hope the reader will not think the insertion of the following improper.
In a letter from an unknown correspondent, who desired me to speak for this person at Berlin, eight others were enclosed. They came from the above person in distress, to this correspondent: and I was requested to let them appear in the Berlin Journal. I selected two of them, and here present them to the world, as it can do me injury, while they describe an unhappy victim of an extraordinary kind: and may perhaps obtain him some relief.
Should this hope be verified, I am acquainted with him who wishes to remain concealed, can introduce him to the knowledge of such as might wish to interfere in his behalf. Should they not, the reader will still find them well-written and affecting letters; such as may inspire compassion. The following is the first of those I selected.
“Neuland, Feb 12th, 1787.
“I thought I had so satisfactorily answered you by my last, that you would have left me in peaceful possession of my sorrows! but your remarks, entreaties, and remonstrances, succeed each other with such rapidity, that I am induced to renew the contest. Cowardice, I believe, you are convinced, is not a native in my heart, and should I now yield, you might suppose that age and the miseries I have suffered, had weakened my powers of mind as well as body; and that I ought to have been classed among the unhappy multitudes whose sufferings have sunk them to despondency.
“Baron Trenck, that man of many woes, once so despised, but who now is held in admiration, where he was before so much the object of hatred; who now speaks so loudly in his own defence, where, formerly, the man who had but whispered his name would have lived suspected; Baron Trenck you propose as an example of salvation for me. You are wrong. Have you considered how dissimilar our past lives have been; how different, too, are our circumstances? Or, omitting these, have you considered to whom you would have me appeal?
“In 1767, I became acquainted, in Vienna, with this sufferer of fortitude, this agreeable companion. We are taught that a noble aspect bespeaks a corresponding mind; this I believe him to possess. But what expectations can I form from Baron Trenck?
“I will briefly answer the questions you have put. Baron Trenck was a man born to inherit great estates; this and the fire of his youth, fanned by flattering hopes from his famous kinsman, rendered him too haughty to his King; and this alone was the origin of all his future sufferings. I, on the contrary, though the son of a Silesian nobleman of property, did not inherit so much as the pay of a common soldier; the family having been robbed by the hand of power, after being accused by wickedness under the mask of virtue. You know my father’s fate, the esteem in which he was held by the Empress Theresa; and that a pretended miracle was the occasion of his fall. Suddenly was he plunged from the height to which industry, talents, and virtue had raised him, to the depth of poverty. At length, at the beginning of the seven years’ war, one of the King of Prussia’s subjects represented him to the Austrian court as a dangerous correspondent of Marshal Schwerin’s. Then at sixty years of age, my father was seized at Jagerndorf, and imprisoned in the fortress of Gratz, in Styria. He had an allowance just sufficient to keep him alive in his dungeon; but, for the space of seven years, never beheld the sun rise or set. I was a boy when this happened, however, I was not heard. I only received some pecuniary relief from the Empress, with permission to shed my blood in her defence. In this situation we first vowed eternal friendship; but from this I soon was snatched by my father’s enemies. What the Empress had bestowed, her ministers tore from me. I was seized at midnight, and was brought, in company with two other officers, to the fortress of Gratz. Here I remained immured six years. My true name was concealed, and another given me.
“Peace being restored, Trenck, I, and my father were released; but the mode of our release was very different. The first obtained his freedom at the intercession of Theresa, she, too, afforded him a provision. We, on the contrary, according to the amnesty, stipulated in the treaty of peace, were led from our dungeons as state prisoners, without inquiry concerning the verity or falsehood of our crimes. Extreme poverty, wretchedness, and misery, were our reward for the sufferings we had endured.
“Not only was my health destroyed, but my jawbone was lost, eaten away by the scurvy. I laid before Frederic the Great the proofs of the calamities I had undergone, and the dismal state to which I was reduced, by his foe, and for his sake; entreated bread to preserve me and my father from starving, but his ear was deaf to my prayer, his heart insensible to my sighs.
“Providence, however, raised me up a saviour,—Count Gellhorn was the man. After the taking of Breslau, he had been also sent a state prisoner to Gratz. During his imprisonment, he had heard the report of my sufferings and my innocence. No sooner did he learn I was released, than he became my benefactor, my friend, and restored me to the converse of men, to which I had so long been dead.
“I defer the continuance of my narrative to the next post. The remembrance of past woes inflict new ones. I am eternally.”
“February 24, 1787.
“Dear Friend,—After an interval of silence, remembering my promise, I again continue my story.
“My personal sufferings have not been less than those of Trenck. His, I am acquainted with only from the inaccurate relations I have heard: my own I have felt. A colonel in the Prussian service, whose name was Hallasch, was four years my companion; he was insane, and believed himself the Christ that was to appear at the millennium: he persecuted me with his reveries, which I was obliged to listen to, and approve, or suffer violence from one stronger than myself.
“The society of men or books, everything that could console or amuse, were forbidden me; and I considered it as wonderful that I did not myself grow mad, in the company of this madman. Four hard winters I existed without feeling the feeble emanation of a winter sun, much less the warmth of fire. The madman felt more pity than my keeper, and lent me his cloak to cover my body, though the other denied me a truss of straw, notwithstanding I had lost the use of my hands and feet. The place where we were confined was called a chamber; it rather resembled the temple of Cloacina. The noxious damps and vapours so poisoned my blood that an unskilful surgeon, who tortured me during nine months, with insult as a Prussian traitor, and state criminal, I lost the greatest part of my jaw.
“Schottendorf was our governor and tyrant; a man who repaid the friendship he found in the mansion of my fathers—with cruelty. He was ripe for the sickle, and Time cut him off. Tormentini and Galer were his successors in office, by them we were carefully watched, but we were treated with commiseration. Their precautions rendered imprisonment less wretched. Ever shall I hold their memory sacred. Yet, benevolent as they were, their goodness was exceeded by that of Rottensteiner, the head gaoler. He considered his prisoners as his children; and he was their benefactor. Of this I had experience, during two years after the release of Hallasch.
“Here I but cursorily describe misery, at which the monarch shall shudder, if the blood of a tyrant flow not in his veins. Theresa could not wish these things. But she was fallible, and not omniscient.
“From the above narrative, you will perceive how opposite the effects must be which the histories of Baron Trenck and of myself must produce.
“Trenck left his dungeon shielded from contempt; the day of freedom was the day of triumph. I, on the contrary, was exposed to every calamity. The spirit of Trenck again raised itself. I have laboured many a night that I might neither beg nor perish the following day: working for judges who neither knew law nor had powers of mind to behold the beauty of justice: settling accounts that, item after item, did not prove that the lord they were intended for, was an imbecile dupe.
“Trenck remembers his calamities, but the remembrance is advantageous to himself and his family; while with me, the past did but increase, did but agonise, the present and the future. He was not like me, obliged to crouch in presence of those vulgar, those incapable minds, that do but consider the bent back as the footstool of pride. Every man is too busy to act in behalf of others; pity me therefore, but advise me not to hope assistance, by petitioning princes at second hand. I know your good wishes, and, for these, I have nothing to return but barren thanks.—I am, &c.”
The reasons why I published the foregoing letters are already stated, and will appear satisfactory to the reader. Once more to affairs that concern myself.
I met at Berlin many old friends of both sexes; among others, an aged invalid came to see me, who was at Glatz, in 1746, when I cut my way through the guard. He was one of the sentinels before my door, whom I had thrown down the stairs.
The hour of quitting Berlin, and continuing my journey into Prussia, towards Königsberg, approached. On the eve of my departure, I had the happiness of conversing with her Royal Highness the Princess Amelia, sister of Frederic the Great. She protected me in my hour of adversity; heaped benefits upon me, and contributed to gain my deliverance. She received me as a friend, as an aged patriot; and laid her commands upon me to write to my wife, and request that she would come to Berlin, in the month of June, with her two eldest daughters. I received her promise that the happiness of the latter should be her care; nay, that she would remember my wife in her will.
At this moment, when about to depart, she asked me if I had money sufficient for my journey: “Yes, madam,” was my reply; “I want nothing, ask nothing; but may you remember my children!”
The deep feeling with which I pronounced these words moved the princess; she showed me how she comprehended my meaning, and said, “Return, my friend, quickly: I shall be most happy to see you.”
I left the room: a kind of indecision came over me. I was inclined to remain longer at Berlin. Had I done so, my presence would have been of great advantage to my children. Alas! under the guidance of my evil genius, I began my journey. The purpose for which I came to Berlin was frustrated: for after my departure, the Princess Amelia died!
Peace be to thy ashes, noble princess! Thy will was good, and be that sufficient. I shall not want materials to write a commentary on the history of Frederic, when, in company with thee, I shall wander on the banks of Styx; there the events that happened on this earth may be written without danger.
So proceed we with our story.
On the 22nd of March I pursued my journey to Königsberg, but remained two days at the court of the Margrave of Brandenburg, where I was received with kindness. The Margrave had bestowed favours on me, during my imprisonment at Magdeburg.
I departed thence through Soldin to Schildberg, here to visit my relation Sidau, who had married the daughter of my sister, which daughter my sister had by her first husband, Waldow, of whom I have before spoken. I found my kinsman a worthy man, and one who made the daughter of an unfortunate sister happy. I was received at his house within open arms; and, for the first time after an interval of two-and-forty years, beheld one of my own relations.
On my journey thither, I had the pleasure to meet with Lieutenant-General Kowalsky: This gentleman was a lieutenant in the garrison of Glatz, in 1745, and was a witness of my leap from the wall of the rampart. He had read my history, some of the principal facts of which he was acquainted with. Should anyone therefore doubt concerning those incidents, I may refer to him, whose testimony cannot be suspected.
From Schildberg I proceeded to Landsberg, on the Warta. Here I found my brother-in-law, Colonel Pape, commander of the Gotz dragoons, and the second husband of my deceased sister: and here I passed a joyous day. Everybody congratulated me on my return into my country.
I found relations in almost every garrison. Never did man receive more marks of esteem throughout a kingdom. The knowledge of my calamities procured me sweet consolation; and I were insensible indeed, and ungrateful, did my heart remain unmoved on occasions like these.
In Austria I never can expect a like reception; I am there mistaken, and I feel little inclination to labour at removing mistakes so rooted. Yet, even there am I by the general voice, approved. Yes, I am admired, but not known; pitied but not supported; honoured, but not rewarded.
When at Berlin, I discovered an error I had committed in the commencement of my life. At the time I wrote I believed that the postmaster-general of Berlin, Mr Derschau, was my mother’s brother, and the same person who, in 1742, was grand counsellor at Glogau, and afterwards, president in East Friesland. I was deceived; the Derschau who is my mother’s brother is still living, and president at Aurich in East Friesland. The postmaster was the son of the old Derschau who died a general, and who was only distantly related to my mother. Neither is the younger Derschau, who is the colonel of a regiment at Burg, the brother of my mother, but only her first cousin; one of their sisters married Lieut.-Colonel Ostau, whose son, the President Ostau, now lives on his own estate, at Lablack in Prussia.
I was likewise deceived in having suspected a lieutenant, named Mollinie, in the narrative I gave of my flight from Glatz, of having acted as a spy upon me at Braunau, and of having sent information to General Fouquet. I am sorry. This honest man is still alive, a captain in Brandenburg. He was affected at my suspicion, fully justified himself, and here I publicly apologise. He then was, and again is become my friend.
I have received a letter from one Lieutenant Brodowsky. This gentleman is offended at finding his mother’s name in my narrative, and demands I should retract my words.
My readers will certainly allow the virtue of Madame Brodowsky, at Elbing, is not impeached. Although I have said I had the fortune to be beloved by her, I have nowhere intimated that I asked, or that she granted, improper favours.
By the desire of a person of distinction, I shall insert an incident which I omitted in a former part. This person was an eye-witness of the incident I am about to relate, at Magdeburg, and reminded me of the affair. It was my last attempt but one at flight.
The circumstances were these:—
As I found myself unable to get rid of more sand, after having again cut through the planking, and mined the foundation, I made a hole towards the ditch, in which three sentinels were stationed. This I executed one night, it being easy, from the lightness of the sand, to perform the work in two hours.
No sooner had I broken through, than I threw one of my slippers beside the palisades, that it might be supposed I had lost it when climbing over them. These palisades, twelve feet in length, were situated in the front of the principal fosse, and my sentinels stood within. There was no sentry-box at the place where I had broken through.
This done, I returned into my prison, made another hole under the planking, where I could hide myself, and stopped up the passage behind me, so that it was not probable I could be seen or found.
When daylight came, the sentinel saw the hole and gave the alarm, the slipper was found, and it was concluded that Trenck had escaped over the palisades, and was no longer in prison.
Immediately the sub-governor came from Magdeburg, the guns were fired, the horse scoured the country, and the subterranean passages were all visited: no tidings came; no discovery was made, and the conclusion was I had escaped. That I should fly without the knowledge of the sentinels, was deemed impossible; the officer, and all the guard, were put under arrest, and everybody was surprised.
I, in the meantime, sat quiet in my hole, where I heard their searches, and suppositions that I was gone.
My heart bounded with joy, and I held escape to be indubitable. They would not place sentinels over the prison the following night, and I should then really have left my place of concealment, and, most probably have safely arrived in Saxony. My destiny, however, robbed me of all hope at the very moment when I supposed the greatest of my difficulties were conquered.
Everything seemed to happen as I could wish. The whole garrison came, and visited the casemates, and all stood astonished at the miracle they beheld. In this state things remained till four o’clock in the afternoon. At length, an ensign of the militia came, a boy of about fifteen or sixteen years of age, who had more wit than any or all of them. He approached the hole, examined the aperture next the fosse, thought it appeared small, tried to enter it himself, found he could not, therefore concluded it was impossible a man of my size could have passed through, and accordingly called for a light.
This was an accident I had not foreseen. Half stifled in my hole, I had opened the canal under the planking. No sooner had the youth procured a light, than he perceived my shirt, examined nearer, felt about, and laid hold of me by the arm. The fox was caught, and the laugh was universal. My confusion may easily be imagined. They all came round me, paid me their compliments, and finding nothing better was to be done, I laughed in company with them, and, thus laughing was led back with an aching heart to be sorrowfully enchained in my dungeon.
I continued my journey, and arrived, on the fourth of April, at Königsberg, where my brother expected my arrival. We embraced as brothers must, after the absence of two-and-forty years. Of all the brothers and sisters I had left in this city, he only remained. He lived a retired and peaceable life on his own estates. He had no children living. I continued a fortnight within him and his wife.
Here, for the first time, I learned what had happened to my relations, during their absence. The wrath of the Great Frederic extended itself to all my family. My second brother was an ensign in the regiment of cuirassiers at Kiow, in 1746, when I first incurred disgrace from the King. Six years he served, fought at three battles, but, because his name was Trenck, never was promoted. Weary of expectation he quitted the army, married, and lived on his estates at Meicken, where he died about three years ago, and left two sons, who are an honour to the family of the Trencks.
Fame spoke him a person capable of rendering the state essential service, as a military man; but he was my brother, and the King would never suffer his name to be mentioned.
My youngest brother applied himself to the sciences; it was proposed that he should receive some civil employment, as he was an intelligent and well-informed man; but the King answered in the margin of the petition,
“No Trenck is good for anything.”
Thus have all my family suffered, because of my unjust condemnation. My last-mentioned brother chose the life of a private man, and lived at his ease, in independence, among the first people of the kingdom. The hatred of the monarch extended itself to my sister, who had married the son of General Waldow, and lived in widowhood, from the year 1749, to her second marriage. The misfortunes of this woman, in consequence of the treachery of Weingarten, and the aid she sent to me in my prison at Magdeburg, I have before related. She was possessed of the fine estate of Hammer, near Landsberg on the Warta. The Russian army changed the whole face of the country, and laid it desert. She fled to Custrin, where everything was destroyed during the siege. The Prussian army also demolished the fine forests.
After the war, the King assisted all the ruined families of Brandenburg; she alone obtained nothing, because she was my sister. She petitioned the King, who repined she must seek for redress from her dear brother. She died, in the flower of her age, a short time after she had married her second husband, the present Colonel Pape: her son, also, died last year. He was captain in the regiment of the Gotz dragoons. Thus were all my brothers and sisters punished because they were mine. Could it be believed that the great Frederic would revenge himself on the children and the children’s children? Was it not sufficient that he should wreak his wrath on my head alone? Why has the name of Trenck been hateful to him, to the very hour of his death?
One Derschau, captain of horse, and brother of my mother, addressed himself to the King, in 1753, alleging he was my nearest relation and feudal heir, and petitioned that he would bestow on him my confiscated estates of Great Sharlack. The King demanded that the necessary proofs should be sent from the chamber at Königsberg. He was uninformed that I had two brothers living, that Great Sharlack was an ancient family inheritance, and that it appertained to my brothers, and not to Derschau. My brothers then announced themselves as the successors to this fief, and the King bestowed on them the estate of Great Sharlack conformable to the feudal laws. That it might be properly divided, it was put up to auction, and bought by the youngest of my brothers, who paid surplus to the other, and to my sister. He likewise paid debts charged upon it, according to the express orders of the court. The persons who called themselves my creditors were impostors, for I had no creditors; I was but nineteen when my estates were confiscated, consequently was not of age. By what right therefore, could such debts be demanded or paid? Let them explain this who can.
The same thing happened when an account was given in to the Fiscus of the guardianship, although I acknowledge my guardians were men of probity. One of them was eight years in possession, and when he gave it up to my brothers he did not account with them for a single shilling. At present, therefore, the affair stands thus:—Frederic William has taken off the sentence of confiscation, and ordered me to be put in possession of my estates, by a gracious rescript: empowered by this I come and demand restitution; my brother answers, “I have bought and paid for the estate, am the legal possessor, have improved it so much that Great Sharlack, at present, is worth three or four times the sum it was at the time of confiscation. Let the Fiscus pay me its actual value, and then let them bestow it on whom they please. If the reigning king gives what his predecessor sold to me, I ought not thereby to be a loser.”
This is a problem which the people of Berlin must resolve. My brother has no children, and, without going to law, will bequeath Great Sharlack to mine, when he shall happen to die. If he is forced in effect to restore it without being reimbursed, the King instead of granting a favour, has not done justice. I do not request any restitution like this, since such restitution would be made without asking it as a favour of the King. If his Majesty takes off the confiscation because he is convinced it was originally violent and unjust, then have I a right to demand the rents of two-and-forty years. This I am to require from the Fiscus, not from my brother. And should the Fiscus only restore me the price for which it then sold, it would commit a manifest injustice, since all estates in the province of Prussia have, since 1746, tripled and quadrupled their value. If the estates descend only to my children after my death, I receive neither right nor favour; for, in this case, I obtain nothing for myself, and shall remain deprived of the rents, which, as the estate is at present farmed by my brother amount to four thousand rix-dollars per annum. This estate cannot be taken from him legally, since he enjoys it by right of purchase.
Such is the present state of the business. How the monarch shall think proper to decide, will be seen hereafter. I have demanded of the Fiscus that it shall make a fair valuation of Great Sharlack, reimburse my brother, and restore it to me. My brother has other estates. These he will dispose of by testament, according to his good pleasure. Be these things as they may, the purpose of my journey is accomplished.
Thou, great God, has preserved me amidst my trouble. The purest gratitude penetrates my heart. Oh, that thou wouldst shield man from arbitrary power, and banish despotism from the earth!
May this my narration be a lesson to the afflicted, afford hope to the despairing, fortitude to the wavering, and humanise the hearts of kings. Joyfully do I journey to the shores of death. My conscience is void of reproach, posterity shall bless my memory, and only the unfeeling, the wicked, the confessor of princes and the pious impostor, shall vent their rage against my writings. My mind is desirous of repose, and should this be denied me, still I will not murmur. I now wish to steal gently towards that last asylum, whither if I had gone in my youth, it must have been with colours flying. Grant, Almighty God, that the prayer I this day make may be heard, and that such may be the conclusion of my eventful life!
Francis Baron Trenck was born in 1714, in Calabria, a province of Sicily. His father was then a governor and lieutenant-colonel there, and died in 1743, at Leitschau, in Hungary, lord of the rich manors of Prestowacz, Pleternitz, and Pakratz, in Sclavonia, and other estates in Hungary. His christian name was John; he was my father’s brother, and born in Königsberg in Prussia.
The name of his mother was Kettler; she was born in Courland. Trenck was a gentleman of ancient family; and his grandfather, who was mine also, was of Prussia. His father, who had served Austria to the age of sixty-eight, a colonel, and bore those wounds to his grave which attested his valour.
Francis Baron Trenck was his only son; he had attained the rank of colonel during his father’s life, and served with distinction in the army of Maria Theresa. The history of his life, which he published in 1747, when he was under confinement at Vienna, is so full of minute circumstances, and so poorly written, that I shall make but little use of it. Here I shall relate only what I have heard from his enemies themselves, and what I have myself seen. His father, a bold and daring soldier, idolised his only son, and wholly neglected his education, so that the passions of this son were most unbridled. Endowed with extraordinary talents, this ardent youth was early allowed to indulge the impetuous fire of his constitution. Moderation was utterly unknown to him, and good fortune most remarkably favoured all his enterprises. These were numerous, undertaken from no principle of virtue, nor actuated by any motives of morality. The love of money, and the desire of fame, were the passions of his soul. To his warlike inclination was added the insensibility of a heart natively wicked: and he found himself an actor, on the great scene of life, at a time when the earth was drenched with human gore, and when the sword decided the fate of nations: hence this chief of pandours, this scourge of the unprotected, became an iron-hearted enemy, a ferocious foe of the human race, a formidable enemy in private life, and a perfidious friend.
Constitutionally sanguinary, addicted to pleasures, sensual, and brave; he was unappeased when affronted, prompt to act, in the moment of danger circumspect, and, when under the dominion of anger, cruel even to fury; irreconcilable, artful, fertile in invention, and ever intent on great projects. When youth and beauty inspired love, he then became supple, insinuating, amiable, gentle, respectful; yet, ever excited by pride, each conquest gave but new desires of adding another slave over whom he might domineer; and, whenever he encountered resistance, he then even ceased to be avaricious. A prudent and intelligent woman, turning this part of his character to advantage, might have formed this man to virtue, probity, and the love of the human race: but, from his infancy, his will had never suffered restraint, and he thought nothing impossible. As a soldier, he was bold even to temerity; capable of the most hazardous enterprise, and laughing at the danger he provoked. His projects were the more elevated because the acquirement of renown was the intent of all his actions. In council he was dangerous; everything must be conceded to his views. To him the means by which his end was to be obtained were indifferent.
The Croats at this time were undisciplined, prone to rapine, thirsting for human blood, and only taught obedience by violence; these had been the companions of his infancy: these he undertook to subject, by servitude and fear, to military subordination, and from banditti to make them soldiers.
With respect to his exterior, Nature had been prodigal of her favours. His height was six feet three inches, and the symmetry of his limbs was exact; his form was upright, his countenance agreeable, yet masculine, and his strength almost incredible. He could sever the head from the body of the largest ox with one stroke of his sabre, and was so adroit at this Turkish practice, that he at length could behead men in the manner boys do nettles. In the latter years of his life, his aspect had become terrible; for, during the Bavarian war, he had been scorched by the explosion of a powder-barrel, and ever after his face remained scarred and impregnated with black spots. In company he rendered himself exceedingly agreeable, spoke seven languages fluently, was jocular, possessed wit, and in serious conversation, understanding; had learned music, sung with taste, and had a good voice, so that he might have been well paid as an actor, had that been his fate. He could even, when so disposed, become gentle and complaisant.
His look told the man of observation that he was cunning and choleric; and his wrath was terrible. He was ever suspicious, because he judged others by himself. Self-interest and avarice constituted his ruling passion, and, whenever he had an opportunity of increasing his wealth, he disregarded the duties of religion, the ties of honour, and human pity. In the thirty-first year of his age, when he was possessed of nearly two millions, he did not expend a florin per day.
As he and his pandours always led the van, and as he thence had an opportunity to ravage the enemy’s country, at the head of troops addicted to rapine, we must not wonder that Bavaria, Silesia, and Alsatia were so plundered. He alone purchased the booty from his troops at a low price, and this he sent by water to his own estates. If any one of his officers had made a rich capture, Trenck instantly became his enemy. He was sent on every dangerous expedition till he fell, and the colonel became his universal heir, for Trenck appropriated all he could to himself. He was reputed to be a man most expert in military science, an excellent engineer, and to possess an exact eye in estimating heights and distances. In all enterprises he was first; inured to fatigue, his iron body could support it without inconvenience. Nothing escaped his vigilance, all was turned to account, and what valour could not accomplish, cunning supplied. His pride suffered him not to incur an obligation, and thus he was unthankful; his actions all centred in self, and as he was remarkably fortunate in whatever he undertook, he ascribed even that, which accident gave, to foresight and genius.
Yet was he ever, as an officer, a most useful and inestimable man to the state. His respect for his sovereign, and his zeal in her service, were unbounded; whenever her glory was at stake, he devoted himself her victim. This I assert to be truth: I knew him well. Of little consequence is it to me, whether the historians of Maria Theresa have, or have not, misrepresented his talents and the fame he deserved.
The life of Trenck I write for the following reasons. He had the honour first to form, and command, regular troops, raised in Sclavonia. The soldiers acquired glory under their leader, and sustained the tottering power of Austria: they made libations of their blood in its defence, as did Trenck, in various battles. He served like a brave warrior, with zeal, loyalty, and effect. The vile persecutions of his enemies at Vienna, with whom he refused to share the plunder he had made, lost him honour, liberty, and not only the personal property he had acquired, but likewise the family patrimony in Hungary. He died like a malefactor, illegally sentenced to imprisonment; and knaves have affirmed, and fools have believed, and believe still, he took the King of Prussia prisoner, and that he granted him freedom in consequence of a bribe. So have the loyal Hungarians been led to suppose that an Hungarian had really been a traitor.
By my writings, I wish to prove to this noble nation on the contrary, that Trenck, for his loyalty deserved compassion, esteem, and honour in his country. This I have already done in the former part of my history. The dead Trenck can speak no more; but it is the duty of the living ever to speak in defence of right.
Trenck wrote his own history while he was confined in the arsenal at Vienna; and, in the last two sheets he openly related the manner in which he had been treated by the council of war, of which Count Loewenwalde, his greatest enemy, was president. The count, however, found supporters too powerful, and these sheets were torn from the book and publicly burnt at Vienna. Defence after this became impossible: he groaned under the grip of his adversaries.
I have given a literal copy of these sheets in the first part of this history; and I again repeat I am able to prove the truth of what is there asserted, by the acts, proceedings, and judicial registers which are in my possession. He was confined in the Spielberg, because much was to be dreaded from an injured man, whom they knew capable of the most desperate enterprises. He died defenceless, the sacrifice of iniquity and unjust judges. He died, and his honour remained unprotected. I am by duty his defender: although he expired my personal enemy, the author of nearly all the ills I have suffered. I came to the knowledge of his persecutors too late for the unfortunate Trenck. And who are those who have divided his spoils—who slew him that they might fatten themselves? Your titles have been paid for from the coffers of Trenck! Yet neither can your cabals, your wealthy protectors, your own riches, nor your credit at court, deprive me of the right of vindicating his fame.
I have boldly written, have openly shown, that Trenck was pillaged by you; that he served the house of Austria as a worthy man, with zeal; not in court-martials and committees of inquiry, but fighting for his country, sharing the soldier’s glory, falling the victim of envy and power; falling by the hands of those who are unworthy of judging merit. He take the King of Prussia! They might as well say he took the Emperor of Morocco.
Yes, he is dead. But should any man dare affirm that the Hungarian or the Prussian Trenck were capable of treason, that either of them merited punishment for having betrayed their country, he will not have long to seek before he will be informed that he has done us both injustice. After this preface, I shall continue my narrative on the plan I proposed. Trenck, the father, was a miser, yet a well-meaning man. Trenck the son, was a youthful soldier, who stood in need of money to indulge his pleasures. Many curious pranks he played, when an ensign in I know not what regiment of foot. He went to one of the collectors of his father’s rents, and demanded money; the collector refused to give him any, and Trenck clove his skull with his sabre. A prosecution was entered against him, but, war breaking out in 1756, between the Russians and the Turks, he raised a squadron of hussars, and went with it into the Russian service, contrary to the will of his father.
In this war he distinguished himself highly, and acquired the protection of Field-marshal Munich. He was so successful as a leader against the Tartars, that he became very famous in the army, and at the end of the campaign, was appointed major.
It happened that flying parties of Turks approached his regiment when on march, and Trenck seeing a favourable moment for attacking them, went to Colonel Rumin, desiring the regiment might be led to the charge, and that they might profit by so fair an opportunity. The colonel answered, “I have no such orders.” Trenck then demanded permission to charge the Turks only with his own squadron; but this was refused. He became furious, for he had never been acquainted with contradiction or subordination, and cried aloud to the soldiers, “If there be one brave man among you, let him follow me.” About two hundred stepped from the ranks; he put himself at their head, routed the enemy, made a horrible carnage, and returned intoxicated with joy, accompanied by prisoners, and loaded with dissevered heads. Once more arrived in presence of the regiment, he attacked the colonel, treated him like the rankest coward, called him opprobrious names, without the other daring to make the least resistance. The adventure, however, became known; Trenck was arrested, and ordered to be tried. His judges condemned him to be shot, and the day was appointed, but the evening before execution, Field-marshal Munich passed near the tent in which he was confined, Trenck saw him, came forward, and said, “Certainly your excellency will not suffer a foreign cavalier to die an ignominious death because he has chastised a cowardly Russian! If I must die, at least give me permission to saddle my horse, and with my sabre in my hand, let me fall surrounded by the enemy.”
The Tartars happened to be at this time harassing the advanced posts; the Field-marshal shrugged his shoulders, and was silent. Trenck, not discouraged, added, “I will undertake to bring your excellency three heads or lose my own. Will you, if I do, be pleased to grant me my pardon?” The Field-marshal replied, “Yes.” The horse of Trenck was brought: he galloped to the enemy, and returned within four heads knotted to the horse’s mane, himself only slightly wounded in the shoulder. Munich immediately appointed him major in another regiment. Various and almost incredible were his feats: among others, a Tartar ran him through the belly with his lance: Trenck grasped the projecting end with his hands, exerted his prodigious strength, broke the lance, set spurs to his horse, and happily escaped. Of this wound, dreadful as it was, he was soon cured. I myself have seen the two scars, and can affirm the fact; I also learned this, and many others in 1746, from officers who had served in the same army.
During this campaign he behaved with great honour, was wounded by an arrow in the leg, and gained the affection of Field-marshal Munich, but excited the envy of all the Russians. Towards the conclusion of the war he had a new misfortune; his regiment was incommoded on all sides by the enemy: he entreated his colonel, for leave to attack them. The colonel was once more a Russian, and he was refused. Trenck gave him a blow, and called aloud to the soldiers to follow him. They however being Russians, remained motionless, and he was put under arrest. The court-martial sentenced him to death, and all hope of reprieve seemed over. The general would have granted his pardon, but as he was himself a foreigner, he was fearful of offending the Russians. The day of execution came, and he was led to the place of death, Munich so contrived it that Field-marshal Löwenthal should pass by, at this moment, in company within his lady. Trenck profited by the opportunity, spoke boldly, and prevailed. A reprieve was requested, and the sentence was changed into banishment and labour in Siberia.
Trenck protested against this sentence. The Field-marshal wrote to Petersburg, and an order came that he should be broken, and conducted out of the Russian territories. This order was executed, and he returned into Hungary to his father. At this period he espoused the daughter of Field-marshal Baron Tillier, one of the first families in Switzerland. The two brothers of his wife each became lieutenant-general, one of whom died honourably during the seven years’ war. The other was made commander-general in Croatia, where he is still living, and is at the head of a regiment of infantry that bears his name. Trenck did not live long with his lady. She was pregnant, and he took her to hunt with him in a marsh: she returned ill, and died without leaving him an heir.
Having no opportunity to indulge his warlike inclination, because of the general peace, he conceived the project of extirpating the Sclavonian banditti.
Trenck, to execute this enterprise, employed his own pandours. The contest now commenced and activity and courage were necessary to ensure success in such a war. Trenck seemed born for this murderous trade. Day and night he chased them like wild beasts, killing now one, then another, and without distinction, treating them with the utmost barbarity.
Two incidents will sufficiently paint the character of this unaccountable man. He had impaled alive the father of a Harum-Bashaw. One evening he was going on patrol, along the banks of a brook, which separated two provinces. On the opposite shore was the son of this impaled father, with his Croats. It was moonlight, and the latter called aloud—“I heard thy voice, Trenck! Thou hast impaled my father! If thou hast a heart in thy body, come hither over the bridge, I will send away my followers; leave thy firearms, come only with thy sabre, and we will then see who shall remain the victor.” The agreement was made—and the Harum-Bashaw sent away his Croats, and laid down his musket. Trenck passed the wooden bridge, both drew their sabres; but Trenck treacherously killed his adversary with a pistol, that he had concealed, after which he severed his head from his body, took it with him, and stuck it upon a pole.
One day, when hunting, he heard music in a lone house which belonged to one of his vassals. He was thirsty, entered, and found the guests seated at table. He sat down and ate within them, not knowing this was a rendezvous for the banditti. As he was seated opposite the door, he saw two Harum-Bashaws enter. His musket stood in a corner; he was struck with terror, but one of them addressed him thus:—“Neither thee, nor thy vassals, Trenck, have we ever injured, yet thou dost pursue us with cruelty. Eat thy fill. When thou hast satisfied thy hunger, we will then, sabre in thy hand, see who has most justice on his side, and whether thou art as courageous as men speak thee.”
Hereupon they sat down and began to eat and drink and make merry. The situation of Trenck could not be very pleasant. He recollected that besides these, there might be more of their companions, without, ready to fall upon him; he, therefore, privately drew his pistols, held them under the table while he cocked them, presented each hand to the body of a Harum-Bashaw, fired them both at the same instant, overset the table on the guests, and escaped from the house. As he went he had time to seize on one of their muskets, which was standing at the door. One of the Croats was left weltering in his blood; the other disengaged himself from the table, and ran after Trenck, who suffered him to approach, killed him within his own gun, struck off his head and brought it home in triumph. By this action the banditti were deprived of their two most valorous chiefs.
War broke out about this time, in 1740, when all the Hungarians took up arms in defence of their beloved queen. Trenck offered to raise a free corps of pandours, and requested an amnesty for the banditti who should join his troops. His request was granted, he published the amnesty, and began to raise recruits; he therefore enrolled his own vassals, formed a corps of 500 men, went in search of the robbers, drove them into a strait between the Save and Sarsaws, where they capitulated, and 300 of them enrolled themselves with his pandours. Most of these men were six feet in height, determined, and experienced soldiers. To indulge them on certain occasions in their thirst of pillage were means which he successfully employed to lead them where he pleased, and to render them victorious. By means like these Trenck became at once the terror of the enemies of Austria, and rendered signal services to his Empress.
In 1741, while he was exercising his regiment, a company fired upon Trenck, and killed his horse, and his servant that stood by his side. He ran to the company, counted one, two, three, and beheaded the fourth. He was continuing this, when a Harum-Bashaw left the ranks, drew his sword, and called aloud, “It is I who fired upon thee, defend thyself.” The soldiers stood motionless spectators. Trenck attacked him and hewed him down. He was proceeding to continue the execution of the fourth man, but the whole regiment presented their arms. The revolt became general, and Trenck, still holding his drawn sabre, ran amidst them, hacking about him on all sides. The excess of his rage was terrific; the soldiers all called “Hold!” each fell on their knees, and promised obedience. After this he addressed them in language suitable to their character, and from that time they became invincible soldiers whenever they were headed by himself. Let the situation of Trenck be considered; he was the chief of a band of robbers who supposed they were authorised to take whatever they pleased in an enemy’s country, a banditti that had so often defied the gallows, and had never known military subordination. Let such men be led to the field and opposed to regular troops. That they are never actuated by honour is evident: their leader is obliged to excite their avidity by the hope of plunder to engage them in action; for if they perceive no personal advantage, the interest of the sovereign is insufficient to make them act.
Trenck had need of a particular species of officers. They must be daring, yet cautious. They are partisans, and must be capable of supporting fatigue, desirous of daily seeking the enemy, and hazarding their lives. As he was himself never absent at the time of action, he soon became acquainted with those whom he called old women, and sent them from his regiment. These officers then repaired to Vienna, vented their complaints, and were heard. His avarice prevented him from making any division of his booty with those gentlemen who constituted the military courts, thus neglecting what was customary at Vienna: and in this originated the prosecution to which he fell a victim. Scarcely had he entered Austria with his troops before he found an opportunity of reaping laurels. The French army was defeated at Lintz. Trenck pursued them, treated his prisoners with barbarity; and, never granting quarter in battle, the very appearance of his pandours inspired terror.
Trenck was a great warrior, and knew how to profit by the slightest advantage. From this time he became renowned, gained the confidence of Prince Charles, and the esteem of the Field-marshal Count Kevenhuller, who discovered the worth of the man. No partisan had ever before obtained so much power as Trenck; he everywhere pursued the enemy as far as Bavaria, carrying fire and sword wherever he went. As it was known Trenck gave no quarter, the Bavarians and the French flew at the sight of a red mantle. Pillage and murder attended the pandours wherever they went, and their colonel bought up all the booty they acquired. Chamb, in particular, was a scene of a dreadful massacre. The city was set on fire and the people perished in the flames; women and children who endeavoured to fly, were obliged to pass over a bridge, where they were first stripped, and afterwards thrown into the water. This action was one of the accusations brought against Trenck when he was prosecuted, but he alleged his justification.
The banks of the Iser to this day reverberate groans for the barbarities of Trenck. Deckendorf and Filtzhofen felt all his fury. In the first of these towns 600 French prisoners capitulated, although his forces were four miles distant; but he formed a kind of straw men, on which he put pandour caps and cloaks, and set them up as sentinels; and the garrison, deceived by this stratagem, signed the capitulation. The services he rendered the army during the Bavarian war are well known in the history of Maria Theresa. The good he has done has been passed over in silence, because he died under misfortunes, and did not leave his historian a legacy. He was informed that either at Deckendorf or Filtzhofen there was a barrel containing 20,000 florins, concealed at the house of an apothecary. Impelled by the desire of booty, Trenck hastened to the place, with a candle in his hand, searching everywhere, and, in his hurry, dropped a spark into a quantity of gunpowder, by the explosion of which he was dreadfully scorched. They carried him off, but the scars and the gunpowder with which his skin was blackened rendered his countenance terrific.
The present Field-marshal Laudohn was at that time a lieutenant in his regiment, and happened to be at the door when his colonel was burnt. Scarcely was Trenck cured before his spies informed him that Laudohn had plenty of money. Immediately he suspected that Laudohn had found the barrel of florins, and from that moment he persecuted him by all imaginable arts. Wherever there was danger he sent him, at the head of 30 men, against 300, hoping to have him cut off, and to make himself his heir. This was so often repeated that Laudohn returned to Vienna, where, joining the crowd of the enemies of Trenck, he became instrumental in his destruction. Yet it is certain that, in the beginning, Trenck had shown a friendship for Laudohn, had given him a commission, and that this great man learned, under the command of Trenck, his military principles. General Tillier was likewise formed in this nursery of soldiers, where officers were taught activity, stratagem, and enterprise. And who are more capable of commanding a Hungarian army than Tillier and Laudohn? I, one day said to Trenck, when he was in Vienna, embarrassed by his prosecution, and when he had published a defamatory writing against all his accusers, excepting no man,—“You have always told me that Laudohn was one of the most capable of your officers, and that he is a worthy man. Wherefore then do you class him among such wretches?” He replied, “What! would you have me praise a man who labours, at the head of my enemies, to rob me of honour, property, and life!” I have related this incident to prove by the testimony of so honourable a man, that Trenck was a great soldier, and a zealous patriot, and that he never took the King of Prussia prisoner, as has been falsely affirmed, and as is still believed by the multitude. Had such a thing happened, Laudohn must have been present, and would have supported this charge.
Bavaria was plundered by Trenck; barges were loaded with gold, silver, and effects, which he sent to his estates in Sclavonia; Prince Charles and Count Kevenhuller countenanced his proceedings; but when Field-marshal Neuperg was at the head of the army, he had other principles. He was connected with Baron Tiebes, a counsellor of the Hofkriegsrath who was the enemy of Trenck. Persecution was at that time instituted against him, and Trenck was imprisoned; but he defended himself so powerfully that in a month he was set at liberty. Mentzel, meanwhile, had the command of the pandours; and this man appropriated to himself the fame that Trenck had acquired by the warriors he himself had formed. Mentzel never was the equal of Trenck. Trenck now increased the number of his Croats to 4,000, from whom, in 1743, a regiment of Hungarian regulars was formed, but who still retained the name of pandours. It was a regiment of infantry. Trenck also had 600 hussars and 150 chasseurs, whom he equipped at his own expense. Yet, when this corps was reduced, all was sold for the profit of the imperial treasury, without bringing a shilling to account.
With a corps so numerous, he undertook great enterprises. The enemy fled wherever he appeared. He led the van, raised contributions which amounted to several millions, delivered unto the Empress, in five years, 7,000 prisoners, French and Bavarian, and more than 3,000 Prussians. He never was defeated. He gained confidence among his troops, and will remain in history the first man who rendered the savage Croats efficient soldiers. This it was impossible to perform among a bloodthirsty people without being guilty himself of cruel acts. The necessity of the excesses he committed, when the army was in want of forage, was so evident that he received permission of Prince Charles, though for this he was afterwards prosecuted; while the plunders of Brenklau, Mentzel, and the whole army, were never once questioned. That Trenck advanced more than 100,000 florins to his regiment, I clearly proved, in 1750. This proof came too late. He was dead. The evidence I brought occasioned a quartermaster, Frederici, to be imprisoned. He confessed the embezzlement of this money, yet found so many friends among the enemies of Trenck that he refunded nothing, but was released in the year 1754, when I was thrown into the dungeon of Magdeburg.
My cousin, who had lived like a miser, did not, at his death, leave half of the property he had inherited from his father, and which legally descended to me; it was torn from me by violence.
In 1744 he obliged the French to retire beyond the Rhine, seized on a fort near Phillipsburg, swam across the river with 70 pandours, attacked the fortifications, slew the Marquis de Crevecoeur, with his own hand manned the post, traversed the other arm of the Rhine, surprised two Bavarian regiments of cavalry, and by this daring manoeuvre, secured the passage of the Rhine to the whole army, which, but for him, would not have been effected. Wherever he came, he laid the country under contribution, and, at this moment of triumph for the Austrian arms, opened himself a passage to enter the territories of France. In September, 1744, war having broken out between Austria and Prussia, the imperial army was obliged to return, abandon Alsatia, and hasten to the succour of the Austrian states. Trenck succeeded in covering its retreat. The history of Maria Theresa declares the damages he did the enemy, during this campaign. He gave proof of his capacity at Tabor and Budweis. With 300 men he attacked one of these towns, which was defended by the two Prussian regiments of Walrabe and Kreutz. He found the water in the moats was deeper than his spies had declared, and the scaling ladders too short: most of those led to the attack were killed, or drowned in the water, and the small number that crossed the moats were made prisoners. The garrison of Tabor, of Budweis, and of the castle of Frauenburg, were, nevertheless, induced to capitulate, and yield themselves prisoners, although the main body under Trenck was more than five miles distant. His corps did not come up till the morrow, and it was ridiculous enough to see the pandours dressed in the caps of the Prussian fusiliers and pioneers, which they wore instead of their own, and which they afterwards continued to wear.
The campaign to him was glorious, and the enemy’s want of light troops gave free scope to his enterprises, highly to their prejudice. He never returned without prisoners. He passed the Elbe near Pardubitz, took the magazines, and was the cause of the great dearth and desertion among the Prussians, and of that hasty retreat to which they were forced. The King was at Cohn with his headquarters, where I was with him, when Trenck attacked the town, which he must have carried, had he not been wounded by a cannon-ball, which shattered his foot. He was taken away, the attack did not succeed, and his men, without him, remained but so many ciphers.
In 1745, he went to Vienna, where his entrance resembled a triumph. The Empress received him with distinction. He appeared on crutches; she, by her condescending speech, inflamed his zeal to extravagance. Who would have supposed that the favourite of the people would that year be abandoned to the power of his enemies; who had not rendered, during their whole lives, so much essential service to the state as Trenck had done in a single day? He returned to his estate, raised eight hundred recruits that he might aid in the next campaign, and gather new laurels. He rejoined the army. At the battle of Sorau he fell upon the Prussian camp, and seized upon the tent of the King, but he came too late to attack the rear, as had been preconcerted. Frederic gave up his camp to be plundered, for the Croats could not be drawn off to attack the army, and the King was prepared to receive them, even if they should. In the meantime, the imperial army was defeated.
Here was a field for the enemies of Trenck to incite the people against him. They accused him of having made the King of Prussia a prisoner in his tent; that he also pillaged the camp instead of attacking the rear of the army. After having ended the campaign, he returned to Vienna to defend himself. Here he found twenty-three officers, whom he expelled his regiment, most of them for cowardice or mean actions. They were ready to bear false testimony. Counsellor Weber and Gen. Loewenwalde, had sworn his downfall, which they effected. Trenck despised their attacks. While things remained thus, they instructed one of the Empress’s attendants to profit by every opportunity to deprive him of her confidence. It was affirmed, Trenck is an atheist! who never prayed to the holy Virgin! The officers, whom he had broken, whispered it in coffee-houses, that Trenck had taken and set free the King of Prussia! This raised the cry among the fanatical mob of Vienna. Teased by their complaints, and at the requisition of Trenck himself, the Empress commanded that examination should be undertaken of these accusations. Field-marshal Cordova was chosen to preside over this inquiry. He spoke the truth, and drew up a statement of the case; it was presented to the Court, and which I shall here insert.
“The complaints brought against him did not require a court-martial. Trenck had broken some officers by his own authority; their demands ought to be satisfied by the payment of 12,000 florins. The remaining accusations were all the attempts of revenge and calumny, and were insufficient to detain at Vienna, entangled in law-suits, a man so necessary to the army. Moreover, it would be prudent not to inquire into trifles, in consideration of his important services.”
Trenck, dissatisfied by this sentence, and animated by avarice and pride, refused to pay a single florin, and returned to Sclavonia. His presence was necessary at Vienna, to obtain other advantages against his enemies. They gave the Empress to understand, that being a man excessively dangerous, whenever he supposed himself injured, Trenck had spread pernicious views in Sclavonia, where all men were dependent on him. He raised six hundred more men, with whom he made a campaign in the Netherlands, and in October, 1746, returned to Vienna. After the peace of Dresden, his regiment was incorporated among the regulars, and served against France.
Scarcely had he arrived at Vienna, before an order came from the Empress that he must remain under arrest in his chamber. Here he rendered himself guilty by the most imprudent action of his whole life. He ordered his carriage and horses, despising the imperial mandate, went to the theatre, when the Empress was present. In one of the boxes he saw Count Gossau, in company with a comrade of his own, whom he had cashiered: these persons were among the foremost of his accusers. Inflamed with the desire of revenge, he entered the box, seized Count Gossau, and would have thrown him into the pit in the presence of the Sovereign herself. Gossau drew his sword, and tried to run him through, but the latter seizing it, wounded himself in the hand. Everybody ran to save Gossau, who was unable to defend himself. After this exploit, the colonel of the pandours returned foaming home.
Such an action rendered it impossible for Maria Theresa to declare herself the protectress of a man so rash. Sentinels were placed over him, and his enemies profiting by his imprudence and passion, he was ordered to be tried by a court-martial. General Loewenwalde intrigued so successfully, that he procured himself to be named, by the Hofkriegsrath, president of the court-martial, and to be charged with the sequestration of the property of Trenck. In vain did the latter protest against his judge. The very man, whom the year before he had kicked out of the ante-chamber of Prince Charles, received full power to denounce him guilty. Then was it that public notice was given that all those who would prefer complaints against Colonel Baron Trenck should receive a ducat per day while the council continued to sit. They soon amounted to fifty-four, who, in a space of four months, received 15,000 florins from the property of Trenck. The judge himself purchased the depositions of false witnesses; and Count Loewenwalde offered me one thousand ducats, if I would betray the secrets of my cousin, and promised me I should be put in possession of my confiscated estates in Prussia, and have a company in a regiment.
That the indictment and the examinations of the witnesses were falsified, has already been proved in the revision of the cause; but as the indictment did not contain one article that could affect his life, they invented the following stratagem. A courtesan, a mistress of Baron Rippenda, who was a member of the court-martial, was bribed, and made oath she was the daughter of Count Schwerin, Field-marshal in the Prussian service, and that she was in bed with the King of Prussia, when Trenck surprised the camp at Sorau, made her and the King prisoners, and restored them their freedom. She even ventured to name Baron Hilaire, aide-de-camp to Frederic, whom she affirmed was then present. Hilaire, who afterwards married the Baroness Tillier, and who consequently was brother-in-law to Trenck, fortunately happened to be in Vienna. He was confronted with this woman, and through her falsehoods, the gentleman was obliged to remain in prison, where they offered him bribes, which be refused to accept; and, to prevent his speaking, he continued in prison some weeks, and was not released till this shameful proceeding was made public.
Count Loewenwalde invented another artifice; he drew up a false indictment; and, that he might be prevented all means of justification, he chose a day to put it in practice, when the Emperor and Prince Charles were hunting at Holitzsch. Loewenwalde’s court-martial had already signed a sentence of death, and every preparation for the erection of a scaffold was made. His intention was then to go to the Empress and induce her to sign the sentence, under a pretence that there was some imminent peril at hand, if a man so dangerous to the state was not immediately put out of the way, and that it would be necessary to execute the sentence of death before the Emperor could return. He well knew the Emperor was better acquainted with Trenck, and had ever been his protector.
Had this succeeded, Trenck would have died like a traitor; Miss Schwerin would have espoused the aide-de-camp of Loewenwalde, with fifty thousand florins, taken from the funds of Trenck, and his property would have been divided between his judges and his accusers. As it happened, however, the valet-de-chambre of Count Loewenwalde, who was an honest man, and who had an intimacy with a former mistress of Trenck, confided the whole secret to her. She immediately flew to Colonel Baron Lopresti, who was the sincere friend of my kinsman, and, being then powerful at Court, was his deliverer. The Emperor and Prince Charles were informed of what was in agitation, but they thought proper to keep it secret. The hunting at Holitzsch took place on the appointed day. Count Loewenwalde made his appearance before the Empress, and solicited her to sign the sentence. She, however, had been pre-informed, the Emperor having returned on the same day, and their abominable project proved abortive. Miss Schwerin was imprisoned; Loewenwalde was deprived of his power, as well as of the sequestration of the effects of Trenck; a total revision of the proceedings of the court-martial, and of the prosecution of my cousin, was ordered, which was an event, that, till then, was unexampled at Vienna.
Trenck was freed from his fetters, removed to the arsenal, an officer guarded him, and he had every convenience he could wish. He was also permitted the use of a counsellor to defend his cause. I obtained by the influence of the Emperor leave to visit him and to aid him in all things. It was at this epoch that I arrived at Vienna, and, at this very instant, when the revision of the prosecution was commanded and determined on. Count Loewenwalde, supposing me a needy, thoughtless youth, endeavoured to bribe me, and prevail on me to betray my kinsman. Prince Charles of Lorraine then desired me seriously to represent to Trenck that his avarice had been the cause of all these troubles, for he hind refused to pay the paltry sum of 12,000 florins, by which he might have silenced all his accusers; but that, as at present, affairs had become so serious, he ought himself to secure his judges for the revision of the suit; to spare no money, and then he might be certain of every protection the prince could afford.
The respectable Field-marshal Konigseck, governor of Vienna, was appointed president; but, being an old man, he was unable to preside at any one sitting of the court. Count S--- was the vice-president, a subtle, insatiable judge, who never thought he had money enough. I took 3,000 ducats, which Baron Lopresti gave me, to this most worthy counsellor. The two counsellors, Komerkansquy and Zetto, each received 4,000 rix-dollars, with a promise of double the sum if Trenck were acquitted; there was a formal contract drawn up, which a certain noble lord secretly signed. Trenck was defended by the advocate Gerhauer and by Berger. They began with the self-created daughter of Marshal Schwerin; and, to conceal the iniquitous proceedings of the late court-martial, it was thought proper that she should appear insane, and return incoherent answers to the questions put by the examiners. Trenck insisted that a more severe inquiry should be instituted; but they affirmed that she had been conducted out of the Austrian territories.
Trenck was accused of having ordered a certain pandour, named Paul Diack, to suffer the bastinado of 1,000 blows, and that he had died under the punishment. This was sworn to by two officers, now great men in the army, who said they were eye-witnesses of the fact. When the revision of the suit began, Trenck sent me into Sclavonia, where I found the dead Paul Diack alive, and brought him to Vienna. He was examined by the court, where it appeared that the two officers, who had sworn they were present when he expired, and had seen him buried, were at that time 160 miles from the regiment, and recruiting in Sclavonia. Paul Diack had engaged in plots, and had mutinied three times. Trenck had pardoned him, but afterwards mutinying once more, with forty others, he was condemned to death. At the place of execution he called to his colonel: “Father, if I receive a thousand blows, will you pardon me?” Trenck replied in the affirmative. He received the punishment, was taken to the hospital, and cured.
I brought fourteen more witnesses from Sclavonia, who attested the falsity of other articles of accusation which were not worthy of attention. The cause wore a new aspect; and the wickedness of those who were so desirous to have seen Trenck executed became apparent.
One of the chief articles in the prosecution, which for ever deprived him of favour from his virtuous and apostolic mistress, and for which alone he was condemned to the Spielberg, was, that he had ravished the daughter of a miller in Silesia. This was made oath of, and he was not entirely cleared of the charge in the revision, because his accusers had excluded all means of justification. Two years after his death, I discovered the truth of this affair. Mainstein accused him of this crime that he might prevent his return to the regiment; his motive was, because he, in conjunction with Frederici, had appropriated to their own purposes 8,000 florins of regimental money.
This miller’s daughter was the mistress of Mainstein, before she had been seen by Trenck. Maria Theresa, however, would never forgive him; and, to satisfy the honour of this damsel, he was condemned to pay 8,000 florins to her, and 15,000 to the chest of the invalids, and to suffer perpetual imprisonment. Sixty-three civil suits had I to defend, and all the appeals of his accusers to terminate after his death. I gained them all and his accusers were condemned in costs, also to refund the so much per day which had been paid them by General Loewenwalde; but they were all poor, and I might seek the money where I could. In justice, Loewenwalde ought to have reimbursed me. The total of the sum they received was 15,000 florins.
Most of the other articles of accusation consisted in Trenck’s having beheaded some mutinous pandours, and broken his officers without a court-martial; that he had bought of his soldiers, and melted down the holy vessels of the church, chalices, and rosaries; had bastinadoed some priests, had not heard mass every Sunday, and had dragged malefactors from convents, in which they had taken refuge. When the officers were no longer protected by Loewenwalde, or Weber, they decamped, but did not cease to labour to gain their purpose, which they attained by the aid of the Court-confessor. This monk found means to render Maria Theresa insensible of pity towards a man who had been so prodigal of his blood in her defence. Loewenwalde knew how to profit by the opportunity. Gerhauer discovered the secret proceedings; and Loewenwalde, now deeply interested in the ruin of Trenck, went to the Empress, related the manner in which the judges had been bribed, and threatened that should he, through the protection of the Emperor and Prince Charles, be declared innocent, he would publicly vindicate the honour of the court-martial.
Had my cousin followed my advice and plan of flight he would not have died in prison nor should I have lain in the dungeon of Magdeburg. With respect to individuals whom he robbed, innocent men whom he massacred, and many other worthy people whom he made miserable; with respect to his father, aged eighty-four, and his virtuous wife, whom he treated with barbarity; with respect to myself, to the duties of consanguinity and of man, he merited punishment, the pursuit of the avenging arm of justice, and to be extirpated from all human society.
Thomas Carlyle’s opinion of the author of this History is expressed in the following passages from his History of Friedrich II. of Prussia: “‘Frederick Baron Trenck,’ loud sounding phantasm, once famous in the world, now gone to the nurseries as mythical, was of this carnival (1742-3.) . . . A tall actuality in that time, swaggering about in sumptuous Life Guard uniform in his mess-rooms and assembly-rooms; much in love with himself, the fool! And I rather think, in spite of his dog insinuations, neither Princess had heard of him till twenty years hence, in a very different phasis of his life! The empty, noisy, quasi-tragic fellow; sounds throughout quasi-tragical, like an empty barrel; well-built, longing to be filled.”—Book xiv., ch. 3.
***END OF THE PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF BARON TRENCK***