Слике страница
PDF
ePub

THE

PRUSSIAN VASE.

FREDERICK the Second, King of Prussia, after his conquest of Saxony, transported, it is said,* by force, several manufacturers from Dresden to Berlin, where he was very desirous of establishing the manufacture of china. These unfortunate people, separated from their friends, their home, and their native country, were compelled to continue their labours for the profit and for the glory of their conqueror. Among the number of those sufferers was Sophia Mansfeld. She was young, handsome, and possessed considerable talents. Several pieces of porcelain of her design and modelling were shown to Frederick when he visited the manufactory at Meissen, in Saxony; and their taste and workmanship appeared to him so exquisite, that he determined to transport the artist to his capital. But from the time of her arrival at Berlin, Sophia Mansfeld's genius seemed to forsake her. It was her business to sketch designs, and to paint them on the porcelain; but either she could not or would not execute these with her former elegance: the figures were awkward and spiritless; and it was in vain that the overseer of the works attempted to rouse her to exertion: she would sit for hours, with her pencil in her hand, in a sort of revery. It was melancholy to see her. The overseer had compassion upon her; but his compassion was not so great as his dread of the king's displeasure; and he at length declared, that the next time Frederick visited the works he must complain of her obstinate idleness.

The monarch was expected in a few days; for, in the midst of his various occupations, Frederick, who was at this time extremely intent upon the establishment of the

• Vide Wraxall's Memoirs of the Court of Berlin.

porcelain manufactory at Berlin, found leisure frequently to inspect it in person. The king, however, was prevented from coming at the appointed hour by a review at Potsdam. His majesty had formed the singular project of imbodying, and training to the science of arms, the Jews in his dominions.* They were rather awkward in learning the manual exercise; and the Jewish review, though it afforded infinite amusement to the spectators, put Frederick so much out of humour, that, as soon as it was over, he rode to his palace of Sans Souci, and shut himself up for the remainder of the morning. The preceding evening an English traveller, who had passed some time at Paris with the Count de Lauragais, in trying experiments upon porcelain clays, and who had received much instruction on this subject from Mr. Wedgewood, of Etruria, had been presented to the king, and his majesty had invited him to be present at a trial of some new process of importance, which was to be made this morning at his manufactory: The English traveller, who was more intent upon his countryman Mr. Wedgewood's fame than upon the martial maneuvres of the Jews, proceeded, as soon as the review was finished, to exhibit his English specimens to a party of gentlemen who had appointed to meet him at the china-works at Berlin.

of this party was a young man of the name of Augustus Laniska, who was at this time scarcely seventeen years old. He was a Pole by birth—a Prussian by education. He had been bred up at the military school at Potsdam, and being distinguished by Frederick as a boy of bigh spirit and capacity, he was early inspired with enthusiastic admiration of this monarch. His admiration, how. ever, was neither blind nor servile. He saw Frederick's faults as well as his great qualities; and he often expressed himself with more openness and warmth upon this subject than prudence could justify. He had conversed with unusual freedom about Frederick's character with our English traveller; and while he was zealous to display every proof of the king's greatness of mind, he was sometimes forced to acknowledge that “there are disadvantages in living under the power of a despotic sovereign."

“ A despotic sovereign! You will not then call your Frederick'a despot ?" whispered the English traveller to

* Wraxall's Memoirs of the Court of Berlin, &c.

the young Pole, as they entered the china-works at Berlin. “This is a promising manufactory, no doubt,” continued he; "and Dresden china will probably soon be called Berlin china, by which the world in general will certainly be much benefited. But in the mean time look around you, and read your monarch's history in the eyes of those prisoners of war-for such I must call these expatriated manufacturers.”

There were indeed many countenances in which great dejection was visible. “ Look at that picture of melancholy," resumed the Englishman, pointing to the figure of Sophia Mansfeld; "observe even now, while the overseer is standing near her, how reluctantly she works ! 'Tis the way with all slaves. Our English manufacturers (I wish you could see them) work in quite another man ner-for they are free"

“ And are free men, or free women, never sick ?" said Laniska; “ or do you Englishmen blame your king whenever any of his subjects turn pale? The woman at whom you are now looking is evidently ill. I will inquire from the overseer what is the matter with her.”

Laniska then turned to the overseer, and asked him in German several questions, to which he received answers that he did not translate to the English traveller; he was unwilling that any thing unfavourable to the cause of his sovereign should appear; and, returning to his companion, he changed the conversation. When all the company were occupied round the furnaces, attending to the Englishman's experiments, Laniska went back to the apartment where Sophia Mansfeld was at work. “My good girl," said he to her, “what is the matter with you? The overseer tells me that since you came here you have done nothing that is worth looking at; yet this charming piece” (pointing to a bowl of her painting, which had been brought from Saxony) “ is of your design, is not it ?"

“Yes, sir,” replied Sophia, “ I painted it-to my sorrow. If the king had never seen or liked it, I should now be” The recollection of her home, which at this instant rushed full upon her mind, overpowered her, and she paused.

“ You would now be in Saxony,” resumed Laniska; " but forget Saxony, and you will be happy at Berlin.”

“I cannot forget Saxony, sir,” answered the young woman, with modest firmness; I cannot forget a father and mother whom I love, who are old and infirm, and who

[ocr errors]

depended on me for their support. I cannot forget every thing-everybody that I have ever loved : I wish I could."

“Sir," whispered a Prussian workman who stood by; “sir, she has a lover in Saxony, to whom she was just going to be married, when she was carried off from her cottage, and brought hither."

“ Cannot her lover follow her ?" said Laniska.

“He is in Berlin, in concealment," replied the workman, in a whisper; "you won't betray him, I am sure."

“Not I.” said Laniska; “I never betrayed any one, and I never shall-much less the unfortunate. But why is her lover in concealment ?"

“Because it is the king's pleasure,” replied the Prussian, “that she should no longer consider him as her lover. You know, sir, several of these Saxon women have been compelled, since their arrival at Berlin, to marry Prussians. Sophia Mansfeld has fallen to the lot of a Prussian soldier, who swears that if she delays another month to marry him, he will complain to the king of her obstinacy. Our overseer, too, threatens to complain of her idleness. She is ruined if she go on in this way: we tell her so; but she seems to have lost all sense; for she sits as she does now, like one stupified, half the day, let us say what we will to her. We pity her; but the king knows best: the king must be obeyed.”

“Slave !” exclaimed Laniska, bursting into a sudden transport of indignation : "slave! you are fit to live only under a tyrant. The king knows best! the king must be obeyed! What! when his commands are contrary to reason, to justice, to humanity!" Laniska stopped short, but not before the high tone of his voice, and the boldness of the words he uttered, had astonished and dismayed all present,--all except Sophia Mansfeld: her whole countenance became suddenly illuminated; she started up, rushed forward, threw herself at the feet of Laniska, and exclaimed, “Save me! you can save me! you have courage; and you are a powerful lord, and you can speak to the king. Save me from this detested marriage !"

The party of gentlemen who had been in the next chamber now entered the room, curious to know what had drawn thither such a crowd of workmen. On seeing them enter, Sophia, recollecting herself, rose, and returned to her work quietly; while Laniska, much agitated, seized hold of the Englishman's arm, and hurried out of the manufactory.

* You are right, you are right,” cried he; " Frederick 8 a tyrant! But how can I save his victim ?"

* Not by violence, my Augustus; not by violence !" replied a young man of the name of Albert, who followed Laniska, anxious to restrain the impetuosity of his friend's temper, with which he was well acquainted. “By imprudence,” said he, "you will but expose yourself to danger; you will save, you will serve no one.”

"Tame prudence will neither save nor serve any one, however it may prevent its possessor from exposing himself to danger," retorted Laniska, casting upon Albert a look of contemptuous reproach.

(« Prudence be your virtue,-courage mine.”

Are they incompatible ?" said Albert, calmly. “I know not,” replied Laniska; “but this I know, that I am in no humour to reason that point, or any other, according to all those cursed forms of logic which, Í believe, you love better than any thing else.”

“ Not better than I love you, as I prove by allowing you to curse them as much and as often as you think proper,” replied Albert, with a smile, which could not, however, force one from his angry friend.

“ You are right to practise logic and rhetoric,” resumed Laniska, “ as much and as often as you can, since in your profession you are to make your bread by your tongue and your pen. I am a soldier, or soon to be a soldier, and have other arms and other feelings."

“ I will not dispute the superiority of your arms," replied Albert; "I will only beg of you to remember, that mine will be at your service whenever you want or wish for them."

This temperate and friendly reply entirely calmed Laniska. “What would become of Augustus Laniska,” said he, giving Albert his hand, “ if he had not such a friend as you are! My mother may well say this, as she does ten times a day; but now take it in your sober manner, what can we do for this poor woman ?-for something must be done.”

After some consideration, Albert and Laniska determined to draw up a petition for Sophia, and to present it to the king, who was known to pay ready and minute attention to every application made to him in writing, even by the meanest of his subjects. The petition was presented, and an answer anxiously expected. Frederick, when at Potsdam, often honoured the Countess Laniska

« ПретходнаНастави »