In short, the French and even the English invaded Spain; English Byng and others sank Spanish ships: Termagant was obliged to pack away her Alberoni, and give in. She had to accede to "Quadruple Alliance," after all; making it, so to speak, a Quintuple one; making Peace, in fact, [17th February, 1720.]-- general Congress to be held at Cambrai and settle the details.
Congress of Cambrai met accordingly; in 1722,--"in the course of the year," Delegates slowly raining in,--date not fixable to a day or month. Congress was "sat," as we said,--or, alas, was only still endeavoring to get seated, and wandering about among the chairs,--when George I. came to Charlottenburg that evening, October, 1723, and surveyed Wilhelmina with a candle. More inane Congress never met in this world, nor will meet. Settlement proved so difficult; all the more, as neither of the quarrelling parties wished it. Kaiser and Termagant, fallen as if exhausted, had not the least disposition to agree; lay diplomatically gnashing their teeth at one another, ready to fight again should strength return. Difficult for third parties to settle on behalf of such a pair. Nay at length the Kaiser's Ostend Company came to light: what will third parties, Dutch and English especially, make of that?
This poor Congress---let the reader fancy it--spent two years in "arguments about precedencies," in mere beatings of the air; could not get seated at all, but wandered among the chairs, till "February, 1724." Nor did it manage to accomplish any work whatever, even then; the most inane of Human Congresses; and memorable on that account, if on no other. There, in old stagnant Cambrai, through the third year and into the fourth, were Delegates, Spanish, Austrian, English, Dutch, French, of solemn outfit, with a big tail to each,--"Lord Whitworth" whom I do not know, "Lord Polwarth" (Earl of Marchmont that will be, a friend of Pope's), were the English Principals: [Scholl, ii. 197.]--there, for about four years, were these poor fellow-creatures busied, baling out water with sieves. Seen through the Horn-Gate of Dreams, the figure of them rises almost grand on the mind.
A certain bright young Frenchman, Francois Arouet,--spoiled for a solid law-career, but whose OEDIPE we saw triumphing in the Theatres, and who will, under the new name of VOLTAIRE, become very memorable to us,--happened to be running towards Holland that way, one of his many journeys thitherward; and actually saw this Congress, then in the first year of its existence. Saw it, probably dined with it. A Letter of his still extant, not yet fallen to the spiders, as so much else has done, testifies to this fact. Let us read part of it, the less despicable part,--as a Piece supremely insignificant, yet now in a manner the one surviving Document of this extraordinary Congress; Congress's own works and history having all otherwise fallen to the spiders forever. The Letter is addressed to Cardinal Dubois;--for Dubois, "with the face like a goat," [Herzogin von Orleans, BRIEFE.] yet lived (first year of this Congress); and Regent d'Orleans lived, intensely interested here as third party:--and a goat-faced Cardinal, once pimp and lackey, ugliest of created souls, Archbishop of this same Cambrai "by Divine permission" and favor of Beelzebub, was capable of promoting a young fellow if he chose:--
"TO HIS EMINENCE CARDINAL DUBOIS (from Arouet Junior).
". . . We are just arrived in your City, Monseigneur; where, I think, all the Ambassadors and all the Cooks in Europe have given one another rendezvous. It seems as if all the Ministers of Germany had assembled here for the purpose of getting their Emperor's health drunk. As to Messieurs the Ambassadors of Spain, one of them hears two masses a day, and the other manages the troop of players. The English Ministers [a LORD POLWARTH and a LORD WHITWORTH] send many couriers to Champagne, and few to London. For the rest, nobody expects your Eminence here; it is not thought you will quit the Palais-Royal to visit the sheep of your flock in these parts [no!], it would be too bad for your Eminence and for us all. . . . Think sometimes, Monseigneur, of a man who [regards your goat-faced Eminence as a beautiful ingenious creature; and such a hand in conversation as never was). The one thing I will ask [of your goat-faced Eminence] at Paris will be, to have the goodness to talk to me." [
Alas, alas!--The more despicable portions of this Letter we omit, as they are not history of the Congress, but of Arouet Junior on the shady side. So much will testify that this Congress did exist; that its wiggeries and it were not always, what they now are, part of a nightmare-vision in Human History.--
Elizabeth Farnese, seeing at what rate the Congress of Cambrai sped, lost all patience with it; and getting more and more exasperations there, at length employed one Ripperda, a surprising Dutch Black-Artist whom she now had for Minister, to pull the floor from beneath it (so to speak), and send it home in that manner. Which Ripperda did. An appropriate enough catastrophe, comfortable to the reader; upon which perhaps he will not grudge to read still another word?