One of Majesty's first acts was to appoint him Finance-Minister; [4th May, 1713: Preuss, i. 349. n.] and there he continued steady, not to be overset by little flaws of wind like this of the Spectre-Scullion's raising. It is certain he did, himself, become rich; and helped well to make his Majesty so. We are to fancy him his Majesty's bottle-holder in that battle with the Finance Nightmares and Imbroglios, when so much had to be subjugated, and drilled into step, in that department. Evidently a long-headed cunning fellow, much of the Grumkow type;--standing very low in Wilhelmina's judgment; and ill-seen, when not avoidable altogether, by the Queen's Majesty. "The man was a poor Country Bailiff's (AMTMANN'S, kind of Tax-manager's) son: from Auditor of a regiment," Papa's own regiment, "he had risen to be Director of Finance, and a Minister of State. His soul was as low as his birth; it was an assemblage of all the vices," [Wilhelmina, i. 16.] says Wilhelmina, in the language of exaggeration.--Let him stand by his budgets; keep well out of Wilhelmina's and the Queen's way;--and very especially beware of coming on Grumkow's field again.
This Siege of Stralsund, the last military scene of Charles XII., and the FIRST ever practically heard of by our little Fritz, who is now getting into his fourth year, and must have thought a great deal about it in his little head,--Papa and even Mamma being absent on it, and such a marching and rumoring going on all round him,--proved to be otherwise of some importance to little Fritz.
Most of his Tutors were picked up by the careful Papa in this Stralsund business. Duhan de Jandun, a young French gentleman, family-tutor to General Count Dohna (a cousin of our Minister Dohna's), but fonder of fighting than of teaching grammar; whom Friedrich Wilhelm found doing soldier's work in the trenches, and liked the ways of; he, as the foundation-stone of tutorage, is to be first mentioned. And then Count Fink von Finkenstein, a distinguished veteran, high in command (of whose qualities as Head-Tutor, or occasional travelling guardian Friedrich Wilhelm had experience in his own young days [
For the rest, here is another little incident. We said it had been a disappointment to Papa that his little Fritz showed almost no appetite for soldiering, but found other sights more interesting to him than the drill-ground. Sympathize, then, with the earnest Papa, as he returns home one afternoon,--date not given, but to all appearance of that year 1715, when there was such war-rumoring, and marching towards Stralsund;--and found the little Fritz, with Wilhelmina looking over him, strutting about, and assiduously beating a little drum.
The paternal heart ran over with glad fondness, invoking Heaven to confirm the omen. Mother was told of it; the phenomenon was talked of,--beautifulest, hopefulest of little drummers. Painter Pesne, a French Immigrant, or Importee, of the last reign, a man of great skill with his brush, whom History yet thanks on several occasions, was sent for; or he heard of the incident, and volunteered his services. A Portrait of little Fritz drumming, with Wilhelmina looking on; to which, probably for the sake of color and pictorial effect, a Blackamoor, aside with parasol in hand, grinning approbation, has been added,--was sketched, and dexterously worked out in oil, by Painter Pesne. Picture approved by mankind there and then. And it still hangs on the wall, in a perfect state, in Charlottenburg Palace; where the judicious tourist may see it without difficulty, and institute reflections on it.
A really graceful little Picture; and certainly, to Prussian men, not without weight of meaning. Nor perhaps to Picture-Collectors and Cognoscenti generally, of whatever couutry,--if they could forget, for a moment, the correggiosity of Correggio, and the learned babble of the Sale-room and varnishing Auctioneer; and think, "Why it is, probably, that Pictures exist in this world, and to what end the divine art of Painting was bestowed, by the earnest gods, upon poor mankind?" I could advise it, once, for a little! Flaying of Saint Bartholomew, Rape of Europa, Rape of the Sabines, Piping and Amours of goat-footed Pan, Romulus suckled by the Wolf: all this, and much else of fabulous, distant, unimportant, not to say impossible, ugly and unworthy, shall pass without undue severity of criticism, in a Household of such opulence as ours, where much goes to waste, and where things are not on an earnest footing for this long while past! As Created Objects, or as Phantasms of such, pictorially done, all this shall have much worth, or shall have little. But I say, Here withal is one not phantasmal; of indisputable certainty, home-grown, just commencing business, who carried it far!
Fritz is still, if not in "long-clothes," at least in longish and flowing clothes, of the petticoat sort, which look as of dark-blue velvet, very simple, pretty and appropriate; in a cap of the same; has a short raven's feather in the cap; and looks up, with a face and eyes full of beautiful vivacity and child's enthusiasm, one of the beautifulest little figures, while the little drum responds to his bits of drumsticks. Sister Wilhelmina, taller by some three years, looks on in pretty marching attitude, and with a graver smile. Blackamoor, and accompaniments elegant enough; and finally the figure of a grenadier, on guard, seen far off through an opening,--make up the background.
We have engravings of this Picture; which are of clumsy poor quality, and misrepresent it much: an excellent Copy in oil, what might be called almost a fac-simile and the perfection of a Copy, is now (1854) in Lord Ashburton's Collection here in England. In the Berlin Galleries,--which are made up, like other Galleries, of goat-footed Pan, Europa's Bull, Romulus's She-Wolf, and the correggiosity of Correggio; and contain, for instance, no Portrait of Frederick the Great; no Likenesses at all, or next to none at all, of the noble series of Human Realities, or of any part of them, who have sprung not from the idle brains of dreaming Dilettanti, but from the Head of God Almighty, to make this poor authentic Earth a little memorable for us, and to do a little work that may be eternal there:--in those expensive Halls of "High Art" at Berlin, there were, to my experience, few Pictures more agreeable than this of Pesne's. Welcome, like one tiny islet of Reality amid the shoreless sea of Phantasms, to the reflective mind, seriously loving and seeking what is worthy and memorable, seriously hating and avoiding what is the reverse, and intent not to play the dilettante in this world.